June 20, 2014

Boyle rules against CHAPA in lawsuit to stop ORV rule


Federal District Court Judge Terrence Boyle of the Eastern District of North Carolina today ruled against the Cape Hatteras Access Preservation Alliance in its lawsuit to try to overturn the National Park Service's off-road vehicle law and final rule for the seashore, which became effective in February 2012.

The lawsuit was filed the same month the ORV plan became effective against the Secretary of Interior, Director of the National Park Service, and superintendent of Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The Defenders of Wildlife and the National Parks Conservation Association, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, were allowed as defendant-intervenors.

The lawsuit was filed in federal district court in Washington, D.C., but was handed back to Boyle, who handled the original lawsuit, filed in 2007 by environmental groups, against the Park Service for its lack of an ORV plan. That lawsuit was settled by a consent decree in 2008.

The lawsuit claimed, among other things, that the federal government had not taken into account the seashore's Enabling Legislation, the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act, and other administrative and regulatory laws when it prepared its Environmental Impact Statement. It also challenged the Park Service's preparation of a socioeconomic study that was part of the EIS and claimed that the EIS was not supported by science

The plaintiffs asked for a summary judgment in their favor based upon the briefs  submitted to the court.  The defendants and the defendant-intervenors also asked for summary judgment based on their briefs to the court.

Boyle heard oral arguments in the case on March 24.

In his order today, he denied the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and granted the motions of the defendants and intervenors to dismiss the case.

He found in favor of the defendants and intervenors on every point that was raised, except one. Therefore, the language in the order that their requests for summary judgment were "granted in part and denied in part."

The defendants and intervenors had argued that CHAPA did not have standing to file the lawsuit.  Boyle ruled that the group did have standing.

"At bottom," Boyle wrote in his order, "CHAPA asks this Court to flyspeck NPS's environmental analysis in order to identify any minor deficiency to propound as a basis to reject the final rule, which this court cannot and will not do."

The Island Free Press will have more coverage of Boyle's ruling in the next few days.


Click here to read Judge Boyle's 23-page decision.

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