One of this year's most significant transportation-related environmental cases will soon come before the U.S. Supreme Court and the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) is making sure the Court hears the views of the U.S. transportation construction industry.
The association, in partnership with the Nationwide Public Projects Coalition, filed a "friend-of-the-court" brief Feb. 20 in potentially precedent-setting litigation involving the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
At issue is a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that could severely impact the decision-making process for many vital transportation projects by elevating ESA considerations above all other factors.
"If the Ninth Circuit's reasoning is allowed to stand, the ESA will be greatly broadened. The statute will, in effect, become a 'trump card' in relation to the other environmental requirements of the transportation planning process," the ARTBA brief said.
"ESA considerations will have to be not only examined in terms of transportation construction projects, but also any future development that may be linked to those projects. This type of prediction would be impossible to measure. As a result, transportation projects could face a substantial increase in ESA-related delays because planners would not be able to forecast indirect impacts to species caused by their projects," the brief argued.
ARTBA also highlighted the negative public health and safety-impact concerns associated with delaying transportation projects.
If the U.S. Supreme Court allows the Ninth Circuit Court's decision to stand, ARTBA said, "the ESA will become the driving force behind a review process driven more by speculation over future land-use impacts on species' habitat than scientific certainty governed by reason."
The case will be argued April 17 with a decision anticipated sometime later in the year.