Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., today agreed to hear
oral arguments in a case that pits environmental groups against the N.C
Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration
over the plan to replace the aging Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet.
The oral arguments will tentatively be heard during the May 13-16 session of the court.
Southern Environment Law Center on behalf of the Defenders of Wildlife
and National Wildlife Refuge Association filed the appeal last October
against the DOT and the FWHA over its plan to replace the bridge with a
short span over the inlet and deal with other Highway 12 hotspots in
The Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative were approved as
intervenors on the side of the defendants because the cost of power to
the island will greatly increase with the environmental groups’
preferred option – a 17-mile long bridge into the Pamlico Sound
from Oregon Inlet to Rodanthe.
On Sept. 16, the defendants in
the case won a round when federal Judge Louise Flanagan of the Eastern
District of North Carolina issued a 42-page order, denying all claims
that NCDOT and FWHA violated federal law when the department studied
and selected the parallel bridge.
SELC originally asked for the
oral arguments in the appeal, and on Monday, Feb. 17, the plaintiffs
and defendants filed a joint motion to expedite the scheduling of oral
The request says that the plaintiffs “likewise believe that the issues on appeal merit oral argument.”
request is based on the “important nature” of the case and the fact
that oral arguments may not otherwise be scheduled prior to the court’s
Yesterday, both plaintiffs and defendants also filed yesterday their final opening briefs.
asks that if the defendants win in the appeal, the court vacate the ROD
and enjoin the defendants from proceeding with the project until they
have complied with the requirements of the National Environmental
Policy Act and other environmental regulations.
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals is comprised of 16 judges. Oral arguments will be heard by a three-judge panel.
FOR MORE INFORMATIONClick here to read the SELC’s final opening brief.
Click here to read the final opening brief of DOT and FWHA.