A three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit unanimously overturned a lower court ruling that barred a coalition of national construction associations from intervening in a Sierra Club lawsuit challenging a major Utah highway project. The ruling marked the first time a federal appellate court has said in a written opinion that construction industry associations have a legal right to a seat at the table in environmentally based litigation seeking to stop transportation plans.
The American Road & Transportation Builders Association, the National Association of Home Builders and the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association--together forming the "Advocates for Safe & Efficient Transportation" (ASET)--were seeking to intervene on behalf of their members in litigation challenging construction of the Legacy Highway and other projects in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The Sierra Club sued federal transportation agencies in February 2001 asserting their final approval of the project after years of study, review and extensive public comment violated provisions of the federal Clean Air Act. ASET wanted to participate, but were challenged by the Sierra Club. A lower court denied ASET's request in May of 2001 but the group appealed the decision.
"With ASET's interest in the transportation plans . . . we have no hesitation in concluding that the Sierra Club's action may as a practical matter impair or impede ASET's ability to protect its members' interest," the U.S. Court of Appeals said.