United States District Court, District of Columbia
FRIENDS OF THE CAPITAL CRESCENT TRAIL, et al. Plaintiffs,
FEDERAL TRANSIT ADMINISTRATION, Federal Defendants.
STATE OF MARYLAND, Defendant-Intervenor.
MEMORANDUM OPINION [DKTS. ##47, 54, 56]
RICHARD J. LEON United States District Judge.
Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail ("FCCT"),
John MacKnight Fitzgerald, and Christine Real de Azua
("plaintiffs") challenge the March 19, 2014 Record
of Decision ("ROD") by the Federal Transit
Administration ("FTA") and related approvals by the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ("FWS, " and
together with FTA and the Department of Transportation and
the Department of Interior, "federal defendants")
for the Purple Line Project, a 16.2-mile light rail transit
project in Montgomery and Prince George's Counties,
Maryland. Plaintiffs raise multiple claims under the National
Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA"), 42 U.S.C. §
4321 et seq., the Federal Transit Act, 49 U.S.C.
§ 5309, Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation
Act, 23 U.S.C. § 138, the Endangered Species Act, 16
U.S.C. §§ 1531 et seq., and the Migratory
Bird Treaty Act, 16 U.S.C. § 703. See generally
Am. Compl. [Dkt. #20]; First Supp. Compl. [Dkt # 33]; Second
Supp. Compl. [Dkt #42]. Following the filing of the
complaint, the State of Maryland joined the federal
defendants as an intervenor-defendant. See Minute
Order, July 15, 2015. Currently before the Court are
cross-motions for summary judgment filed by plaintiffs,
federal defendants, and defendant-intervenor. See
Pis.' Mot. for Summ. J. [Dkt. #47]; Federal Defs.'
Cross-Mot, for Summ. J. [Dkt. #54]; Def.-Intervenor's
Cross-Mot. for Summ. J. [Dkt. #56]. Upon consideration of the
pleadings, record, and relevant law, I find that the recent
revelations regarding Washington Metropolitan Area Transit
Authority's ("WMATA") ridership and safety
concerns merit a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement
under NEPA and reserve judgment as to the remaining issues.
Accordingly, plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment is
GRANTED in part, and federal defendants' and
defendant-intervenors' cross-motions for summary judgment
are DENIED in part.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), summary judgment is
warranted "if the movant shows that there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).
The Court's review "is based on the agency record
and limited to determining whether the agency acted
arbitrarily or capriciously." Rempfer v.
Sharfstein, 583 F.3d 860, 865 (D.C. Cir. 2009). Whereas
"the role of the agency [is] to resolve factual issues,
" the sole "function of the district court is to
determine whether or not as a matter of law the evidence in
the administrative record permitted the agency to make the
decision it did." Sierra Club v. Mainella, 459
F.Supp.2d 76, 90 (D.D.C. 2006) (internal citation and
quotation marks omitted). The Court must determine
"whether the agency acted within the scope of its legal
authority, . . . explained its decision, . . . relied [on
facts that] have some basis in the record, and . . .
considered the relevant factors." Fund for Animals
v. Babbitt, 903 F.Supp. 96, 105 (D.D.C. 1995).
requires that federal agencies consider the environmental
effects of proposed actions by requiring them to
"carefully consider detailed information concerning
significant environmental impacts." Robertson v.
Methow Valley Citizens Council, 490 U.S. 332, 349
(1989). Under NEPA, a federal agency must prepare an
Environmental Impact Statement ("EIS") whenever a
proposed government action qualifies as a "major Federal
action significantly affecting the quality of the human
environment." 42 U.S.C. § 4332(2)(C). The EIS
"shall state how alternatives considered in it and
decisions based on it will or will not achieve the
requirements of [NEPA] and other environmental laws and
policies, " 40 C.F.R. § 1502.2(d), discuss
"[p]ossible conflicts between the proposed action and
the objectives of Federal . . . land use plans, policies and
controls for the area concerned, " id. §
1502.16(c), and "present the environmental impacts of
the proposal and the alternatives in comparative form, thus
sharply defining the issues and providing a clear basis for
choice among options by the decisionmaker and the public,
" id. § 1502.14. The idea is that
"[s]uch information may cause the agency to modify its
proposed action." Citizens Against Rails-to-Trails
v. Surface Transp. Bd, 267 F.3d 1144, 1151 (D.C. Cir.
after preparation of an EIS, an agency is obligated to
undertake a supplemental EIS ("SEIS") when
presented with "substantial changes in the proposed
action that are relevant to environmental concerns" or
"new and significant circumstances or information
relevant to environmental concerns and bearing on the
proposed action or its impacts." 10 C.F.R. §
51.92(a)(1)-(2). "[A]n agency need not supplement an EIS
every time new information comes to light, " Marsh
v. Oregon Nat. Res. Council, 490 U.S. 360, 373 (1989),
but rather only when "new information provides a
seriously different picture of the environmental
landscape, '" Nat'l Comm. for the New River
v. FERC, 373 F.3d 1323, 1330 (D.C. Cir. 2004) (citation
omitted). Courts review an agency's decision whether to
undertake an SEIS under the arbitrary and capricious
standard. City of Olmsted Falls v. FA A, 292 F.3d
261, 274 (D.C. Cir. 2002).
scope of review under the "arbitrary and
capricious" standard "is narrow, " and "a
court is not to substitute its judgment for that of the
agency." Motor Vehicle Mfrs. Ass'n v. State Farm
Mut. Auto Ins. Co., 463 U.S. 29, 43 (1983).
Nevertheless, the agency must examine the relevant data and
articulate a satisfactory explanation for its action
including a "rational connection between the facts found
and the choice made." Burlington Truck Lines v.
United States, 371 U.S. 156, 168 (1962). An agency's
action is arbitrary and capricious if it "has relied on
factors which Congress has not intended it to consider,
entirely failed to consider an important aspect of the
problem, offered an explanation for its decision that runs
counter to the evidence before the agency, or is so
implausible that it could not be ascribed to a difference in
view or the product of agency expertise." Motor
Vehicle Mfrs. Ass 463 U.S. at 43.
WMATA's Ridership and Safety Concerns Merits an
bring various claims against defendants challenging agency
actions involving the Purple Line, but today I will only
address plaintiffs' NEPA claim challenging
defendants' failure to prepare an SEIS based on recent
events that raise substantial concerns about WMATA's
safety and in turn its possible decline in future ridership.
I find that defendants' failure to adequately consider
WMATA's ridership and safety issues was arbitrary and
capricious, and that these conditions create the
"seriously different picture" that warrant an SEIS.
submitted a letter on October 9, 2015, requesting that the
agencies prepare an SEIS based on WMATA's recent safety
concerns and declines in ridership in the Metrorail system,
which, as a consequence, called the ridership forecasts for
the Purple Line into question. AR5006470-71. Plaintiffs
pointed to a "series of incidents that have raised
questions about passenger safety, " explained that the
National Transportation Safety Board had found that the
"FTA and WMATA's Tri-State Oversight Commission are
incapable of restoring and ensuring the safety of WMATA's
subway system, " and emphasized how these developments
directly undermined the rationale for the Purple Line,
[R]idership on the WMATA subway has declined every year since
2009. That is the year after the [draft Environmental Impact
Statement] last reviewed ridership projections for the Purple
Line and alternatives to it. . . . The news of [declining
Metrorail ridership] . . . casts a[n] additional shadow over
the rosy projections of ever-increasing ridership for the
Purple Line, which is inextricably linked to and dependent
upon the use of several subway stops from beginning to end.
Id. (footnotes omitted). Amazingly, the response
from the Maryland Transit Authority("MTA")
consisted solely of the ...