STATE OF MO., ETC. v. Coleman, Civ. A. No. 76-1683.

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
Writing for the CourtAUBREY E. ROBINSON, Jr.
Citation427 F. Supp. 1252
PartiesThe STATE OF MISSOURI ex rel. The MISSOURI-ST. LOUIS METROPOLITAN AIRPORT AUTHORITY, and Thomas F. Eagleton, United States Senator for Missouri, Plaintiffs, v. William T. COLEMAN, Jr., Secretary of Transportation of the United States, Defendant.
Decision Date08 February 1977
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 76-1683.

427 F. Supp. 1252

The STATE OF MISSOURI ex rel. The MISSOURI-ST. LOUIS METROPOLITAN AIRPORT AUTHORITY, and Thomas F. Eagleton, United States Senator for Missouri, Plaintiffs,
v.
William T. COLEMAN, Jr., Secretary of Transportation of the United States, Defendant.

Civ. A. No. 76-1683.

United States District Court, District of Columbia.

February 8, 1977.


427 F. Supp. 1253
COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED
427 F. Supp. 1254
Erwin N. Griswold, L. Welch Pogue, Peter B. Work, Suellen T. Keiner, Bruce J. Terris, Washington, D. C., for plaintiffs

Irwin L. Schroeder, Gary B. Randall, Land and Natural Resources Div., Dept. of Justice, Washington, D. C., Elroy H. Wolff, Washington, D. C., Robert B. Donin, Dept. of Transp., Washington, D. C., for defendant.

AUBREY E. ROBINSON, Jr., District Judge.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

The issue in this case is whether the Secretary of Transportation exceeded his statutory authority or acted arbitrarily and capriciously in approving on September 1, 1976, subject to a number of conditions and limitations, an application for federal funds to acquire land for an airport in the area of Columbia-Waterloo, Illinois. Plaintiffs and intervening plaintiffs include the State of Missouri, United States Senator Thomas F. Eagleton, the City of St. Louis, St. Louis, St. Charles, Jefferson and Franklin Counties, and numerous municipalities in Missouri (the "Missouri Parties").1 Defendant and intervening defendant are Secretary of Transportation William T. Coleman, Jr. (the "Secretary") and the St. Louis Metropolitan Area Airport Authority ("SMAAA").

On November 17, 1976, this Court denied Plaintiffs' Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction and imposed a stay on discovery. The matter is presently before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and on Plaintiffs' motions for Leave to Conduct Discovery and Deferral of Consideration of Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, Temporary Restraining Order, and Preliminary Injunction, and in Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.

The Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, located in St. Louis County, Missouri, is currently the major air carrier airport for the St. Louis Metropolitan area. In 1968, the Federal Aviation Agency recognized, in the National Airport System Plan, the need for additional commercial aviation capacity beyond that provided by Lambert Field in order to adequately serve the St. Louis metropolitan area in the foreseeable future.

In 1970, the Illinois legislature created SMAAA to undertake airport development.

427 F. Supp. 1255
Later that year, the Illinois Authority announced that the Columbia-Waterloo site in Illinois was the preferred location for a new airport. In January 1972, the State of Illinois applied for federal funds to begin land acquisition near Columbia-Waterloo. During this period, the State of Missouri was studying various sites located in Missouri and in February, 1972, the State of Missouri created the Missouri-St. Louis Metropolitan Airport Authority to further examine the situation. In March 1972, while the Illinois project application was pending, former Secretary of Transportation John A. Volpe advised local authorities that an additional large airport was required for the St. Louis area and directed his Regional Representative to bring together the interested jurisdictions to agree upon a site. No agreement was reached

In 1974, federal funds were awarded under the FAA's Planning Grant Program to Lambert Field authorities to conduct a master planning study of Lambert Airport to determine its potential to meet the region's future air carrier airport needs. The terms of the grant restricted examination of Lambert's future capacity to the year 1995. The first phases of this study, by the Ralph M. Parsons Company/Gruen Associates ("Parsons"), were completed in January 1975.2 In order to compare the alternatives of remaining at an expanded Lambert Field or transferring to Columbia-Waterloo, the Department of Transportation commissioned a study by Peat, Marwick, Mitchell and Company ("PMM"), which was completed in November 1975. This study was restricted to an examination of Lambert's capacity up to the year 2000 with no consideration accorded replacement sites other than Columbia-Waterloo and with no consideration given to possible improvements in air traffic control technology and procedures.3

On January 13, 1976, Secretary Coleman held a public hearing in St. Louis to discuss the Illinois application for project assistance. At the public hearing, representatives of State and local government (including some of the plaintiffs here),4 the business community civic groups and other elected officials and interested citizens addressed a series of issues relevant to the Illinois application. Written presentations were submitted to the public docket, which remained open until January 30, 1976. Each side was then given until February 9, 1976, to respond to the written submissions of the other side. After February 9, 1976, the Secretary received correspondence on the application, which became a part of the public file.

On September 1, 1976, Secretary Coleman released a Final Environmental Impact Statement. He also released a detailed written decision approving the Illinois application for a grant for land acquisition for a new major air carrier airport at the Columbia-Waterloo site.

Plaintiffs challenge the Secretary's decision on two general grounds, attacking the administrative procedure that produced the decision as well as the statutory base upon which the Secretary's actions are premised. Plaintiffs claim that the Secretary did not act upon a complete and proper administrative record and that his decision consequently is arbitrary and capricious. They contend that the basis of the Secretary's decision was limited by restrictions imposed upon the Lambert Field studies and by mistaken interpretations of the date which was available. Thus Plaintiffs ask that either they be allowed to conduct discovery in this

427 F. Supp. 1256
litigation to explicate these alleged gaps in the administrative record, or in the alternative that the matter be remanded to the Secretary in order that he might reconsider his decision in light of these alleged deficiencies in the record

Plaintiffs also contend that the Secretary disregarded a series of statutory and regulatory provisions which Plaintiffs say are designed to ensure consideration of, and in some instances, deference to local views on airport matters. Plaintiffs assert that the Secretary's actions are violative of the Airport and Airway Development Act of 1970, as amended (the "ADAP Act"),5 the National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA")6 and Office of Management and Budget Circular A-95 ("OMB Circular A-95").7 Relying upon these contentions Plaintiffs ask for a preliminary injunction staying the Secretary's decisions and for Summary Judgment in their favor.

Defendants respond to the arguments of Plaintiffs by contending that mere disagreement with the Secretary's decision is insufficient to invalidate that decision; that the record upon which the Secretary's decision is based is complete and sufficient to support the Secretary's judgment; that the actions of the Secretary cannot be termed arbitrary and capricious; that the Secretary acted within his statutory authority in approving the Illinois application; and that there exists no genuine issue of material fact which would preclude the Court from granting summary judgment in favor of the Defendants. For the reasons discussed below, this Court agrees with Defendant's position.

It is important to the resolution of the issues posed in this litigation to set out the scope of review under which the Court must decide the issues. Simply stated, the standard of review as set forth in the Administrative Procedure Act 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A)(1970), requires that the ". . reviewing court shall—

(2) hold unlawful and set aside agency action, findings, and conclusions found to be—
(A) arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law; . . ."

To sustain administrative action reviewable under this standard requires a finding that the choice made was not arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion. To make this finding the Court must consider whether the decision was based on a consideration of the relevant factors and whether there has been a clear error of judgment. Citizens Committee to Preserve Overton Park v. Volpe, 401 U.S. 402, 416, 91 S.Ct. 814, 28 L.Ed.2d 136 (1971).

The standard of arbitrary and capricious does not license the Court to embark upon wide ranging searches for "clear errors of judgment," Ethyl Corp. v. EPA, 541 F.2d 1 at 35 n. 74 (D.C.D.C.1976). It is in fact an extremely narrow standard, considerably narrower than the "substantial evidence" test. Abbott Laboratories v. Gardner, 387 U.S. 136, 143, 87 S.Ct. 1507, 18 L.Ed.2d 681 (1967). See Ethyl Corp. v. EPA, supra, for the proposition that Overton Park reaffirmed the standard of review.

Plaintiffs allege that in reaching his decision, the Secretary failed to consider various factors and failed to study the questions of alternative site selection, airport noise and the problem of general aviation traffic. Additionally, it is claimed that there might have been improper influence on the part of an FAA official with regard to a site selection study then being conducted. The effect of all this, the Missouri parties contend, was to predetermine the decision before the Secretary acted on Illinois' request for funds. Essentially, Plaintiffs claim that the record was "distorted" and was therefore an inappropriate basis for a decision.

427 F. Supp. 1257
The Missouri parties request that discovery be allowed as to these matters so that a "thorough, probing, in-depth" review of the Secretary's decision may be accomplished by the Court

The Missouri parties' position does...

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2 practice notes
  • Philadelphia Council of Neighborhood Organizations v. Coleman, Civ. A. No. 77-180.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • September 12, 1977
    ...capricious or an abuse of discretion should confine its inquiry to the administrative record. 437 F. Supp. 1349 In Missouri v. Coleman, 427 F.Supp. 1252 (D.D.C.1977), vacated as moot, State ex rel. Missouri St. Louis Airport Authority v. Adams, 184 U.S.App.D.C. ___, 564 F.2d 600 (Filed July......
  • State of Missouri ex rel. Missouri-St. Louis Airport Authority v. Adams
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • July 5, 1977
    ...Missouri-St. Louis Airport Authority v. Adams 77-1336 United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit. 7/5/77 D.C.D.C., 427 F.Supp. 1252 VACATED AND...
2 cases
  • Philadelphia Council of Neighborhood Organizations v. Coleman, Civ. A. No. 77-180.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • September 12, 1977
    ...capricious or an abuse of discretion should confine its inquiry to the administrative record. 437 F. Supp. 1349 In Missouri v. Coleman, 427 F.Supp. 1252 (D.D.C.1977), vacated as moot, State ex rel. Missouri St. Louis Airport Authority v. Adams, 184 U.S.App.D.C. ___, 564 F.2d 600 (Filed July......
  • State of Missouri ex rel. Missouri-St. Louis Airport Authority v. Adams
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • July 5, 1977
    ...Missouri-St. Louis Airport Authority v. Adams 77-1336 United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit. 7/5/77 D.C.D.C., 427 F.Supp. 1252 VACATED AND...

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