Clean Water Act (CWA), 33 U.S.C. § 1251 et seq., section 4(f) of
the Department of Transportation Act (DOT Act),
49 U.S.C. § 303(c), and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA),
42 U.S.C. § 4321 et seq. Defendants included Secretary of the
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Bradley L. Mallory,
Secretary of the U.S. Army Louis Caldera, the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation
Rodney Slater, and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
On March 21, 2000, plaintiffs filed an amended complaint,
designated the First Amended Complaint, adding as defendants the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its Administrator,
Carol M. Browner. Answers to the complaint and amended complaint
have been filed, as has the administrative record.
While plaintiffs indicated in the complaint and amended
complaint that they sought injunctive relief, no motion therefor
was filed, and so no injunction has issued. See Fed.R.Civ.P.
65(d) (describing form for order granting injunction); Fed.
R.Civ.P. 7(b)(1) (application for order must be by written motion
unless made during trial or hearing).
At issue is a stretch of highway which will connect the Tyrone
Expressway north of Altoona, Pennsylvania, to the Mount Nittany
Expressway outside of State College, Pennsylvania. The project is
part of the Interstate Highway System and has been designated
"I-99." The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT)
and the U.S. Department of Transportation have selected a route
for the project which will run along Bald Eagle Ridge for
approximately eight miles. In simple terms, plaintiffs want the
highway to run along Bald Eagle Valley in contrast to defendants'
selection of the ridge.
Of course, differences of opinion over highway construction
projects are not uncommon and serve as a fertile ground for
litigation under federal environmental statutes. What sets this
case apart from the usual dispute is Congress' apparent attempt
to exempt the I-99 project from the operation of otherwise
applicable statutes, using an appropriations bill as its vehicle.
The issue is whether the language of the appropriations bill,
which has been signed into law, has that effect. Before the court
is defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings, through
which defendants argue that the environmental laws do not apply
"After the pleadings are closed but within such time as not to
delay the trial, any party may move for judgment on the
pleadings." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). A motion for judgment on the
pleadings is analyzed under the same standard as a motion to
dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Prima v. Darden
Restaurants, Inc., 78 F. Supp.2d 337, 342 (D.N.J. 2000); DeBraun
v. Meissner, 958 F. Supp. 227, 229 (E.D.Pa. 1997). The primary
difference is that a Rule 12(c) motion is filed after an answer
while a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is filed before an answer. Prima
A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) admits the well pleaded
allegations of the complaint, but denies their legal sufficiency.
Hospital Building Co. v. Trustees of the Rex Hosp.,
425 U.S. 738, 740, 96 S.Ct. 1848, 48 L.Ed.2d 338 (1976). The complaint
must be construed in favor of the plaintiff with every doubt
resolved in the plaintiff's favor. In re Arthur Treacher's
Franchise Litig., 92 F.R.D. 398, 422 (E.D.Pa. 1981). That is,
the court must accept as true all factual allegations set forth
in the complaint as well as all reasonable inferences that can be
drawn from them. Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996);
Jordan v. Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel, 20 F.3d 1250,
1261 (3d Cir. 1994). The court looks only to the facts alleged in
the complaint and any attachments, without reference to any other
parts of the record. Jordan at 1261.
"[A] case should not be dismissed unless it clearly appears that
no relief can be granted under any set of facts that could be
proved consistently with the plaintiff's allegations." Id.
(citing, inter alia, Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69,
73, 104 S.Ct. 2229, 81 L.Ed.2d 59 (1984)). Whether a plaintiff
will ultimately prevail is not a consideration for review of a
motion under Rule 12(b)(6). Nami at 65.
II. STATEMENT OF FACTS
Plaintiffs do not contest the summary of the allegations of the
amended complaint provided by defendants, and we find it to be an
accurate summary which is sufficient for present purposes. We
therefore restate that summary, without citations.
The Bald Eagle Valley is a narrow valley in Blair and Centre
Counties within the Susquehanna-Chesapeake Watershed. The valley
is bordered to the northwest by the Allegheny Front and to the
southeast by the Bald Eagle Ridge. Existing U.S. Route 220 runs
along the valley floor, roughly paralleling the courses of North
and South Bald Eagle Creeks. Most of the commercial and
residential development in the area has occurred on the Bald
Eagle Valley floor adjacent to existing roads.
Bald Eagle Ridge itself has remained in its relatively natural
state. It is covered by an extensive tract of largely undeveloped
forested land. The hardwood forest ecosystem supports a diversity
of wildlife and plant life. There are more than 500 spring seeps
and wetlands and 66 perennial and intermittent streams scattered
along the west slopes of Bald Eagle Ridge.
In an attempt to relieve congestion and traffic safety problems
on existing Route 220, PennDOT and FHWA plan to build a section
of I-99 that would lead from the Tyrone Expressway north of
Altoona to the Mount Nittany Expressway outside of State College.
PennDOT and FHWA have chosen a route that would run eight miles
along the Bald Eagle Ridge. Plaintiffs allege that constructing
the highway along the Bald Eagle Ridge will irreparably harm the
ecosystem of the ridge.
As necessary, other factual and procedural matters will be
discussed in the appropriate context. We omit the allegations
relating directly to the merits of the complaint as recited by
both defendants and plaintiffs in their briefs.
III. RELEVANT STATUTORY PROVISION
Defendants contend that the various statutory provisions, and
particularly the environmental statutes, on which plaintiffs rely
are not applicable because Congress has so stated. Specifically,
defendants rely on the following statutory provision:
(o) CLARIFICATION. — Notwithstanding any other
provision of law, the Secretary shall approve, and
the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is authorized to
proceed with, engineering, final design, and
construction of Corridor O of the Appalachian
development highway system between Bald Eagle and
Interstate Route 80 (as redefined by this Act). All
records of decision relating to Corridor O issued
prior to the date of enactment of this Act shall
remain in effect.
Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, Pub.L. No.
105-178, § 1212(o), 112 Stat. 107, 198 (1998), as amended, TEA
21 Restoration Act, Pub.L. No. 105-206, Title IX, § 1226(e), 112
Stat. 834, 840 (1998).