Environmental Groups, Local Residents Express Disappointment in Court Ruling on Intercounty Connector, Vow to Consider Legal Options

November 8, 2007
Contact: Mike Harold, Audubon Naturalist Society, 202.256.4041-c, MHarold@audubonnaturalist.org
Sean Crowley, Environmental Defense, 202.572.3331, scrowley@environmentaldefense.org
(Greenbelt, MD – November 8, 2007) Environmental groups and local residents living near the proposed Intercounty Connector (ICC) expressed disappointment at a federal judge’s ruling today that the government’s rationale for approving the Intercounty Connector (ICC) was not arbitrary and capricious and followed the proper procedures.
However, the groups vowed to consider their legal options before deciding whether to continue their battle. They maintain that ICC approvals were premised on flawed and outcome-determinative project objectives, inadequate assessment of reasonable transportation alternatives, inadequate consideration of environmental and other impacts and insufficient mitigation of those impacts, and inadequate assessment of air quality and public health impacts - among other deficiencies.
Judge Alexander Williams, Jr. of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, Greenbelt Division, ruled in favor of the Federal Highway Administration and related federal and state agencies and officers responsible for approving the six lane, 18 mile toll highway connecting I-95 and US-1 in Prince George’s County with I-270/I-370 at Shady Grove in Montgomery County. The ruling was a setback in two suits against the ICC with two categories of claims. The first category, raised by the Audubon Naturalist Society, Environmental Defense, Maryland Native Plant Society, Sierra Club, and two Derwood, Maryland residents - includes claims that the environmental impact statement and related ICC approvals violate the National Environmental Policy Act and other federal laws. The second category includes claims by Environmental Defense and the Sierra Club that approval of the ICC violates the Clean Air Act.
“Unfortunately, this decision means that the health of thousands of people living close to the ICC and I-95 will remain at risk,” said Michael Replogle, a civil engineer and transportation director for Environmental Defense who is a former consultant for the Federal Highway Administration. “Common sense and science dictate that this project’s environmental impact statement is fatally flawed since it’s based on air pollution levels 1.5 miles from I-95, so it vastly underestimates the exposure levels for people living next to it and the proposed ICC. We will study our legal options before deciding what to do.”
“We believe the judge was wrong to dismiss our case after hearing how skewed the planning process for this toll highway was,” said Neal Fitzpatrick, executive director of the Audubon Naturalist Society. “We will be reviewing the details of today’s ruling with our legal team as we consider our options. We will also continue to support the growing number of elected officials in their opposition to the $3 billion ICC and remain committed to seeking real solutions for Maryland’s congested transportation system.”