February 19, 2014

Court of Appeals grants oral
arguments in Bonner Bridge case

BY IRENE NOLAN

IThe 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.

The 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 phases.

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 arguments.

The request says that the plaintiffs “likewise believe that the issues on appeal merit oral argument.”

The 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 summer recess.

Yesterday, both plaintiffs and defendants also filed yesterday their final opening briefs.

SELC 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 INFORMATION

Click here to read the SELC’s final opening brief.

Click here to read the final opening brief of DOT and FWHA.
 

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