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City of Los Angeles v. Federal Aviation Administration

March 12, 1998

CITY OF LOS ANGELES, PETITIONER,
v.
FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION, RESPONDENT, BURBANK GLENDALE PASADENA AIRPORT AUTHORITY, RESPONDENT-INTERVENOR. CITY OF BURBANK, PETITIONER,
v.
FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION, RESPONDENT, BURBANK GLENDALE PASADENA AIRPORT AUTHORITY, RESPONDENT-INTERVENOR.



Petitions to Review a Decision of the Federal Aviation Administration Argued and Submitted December 1, 1997--Pasadena, California

Before: Mary M. Schroeder and Alex Kozinski, Circuit Judges, and Ronald M. Whyte,*fn* District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Opinion by Judge Kozinski

FOR PUBLICATION

FAA No. None

FAA No. None

SUMMARY

COUNSEL

KOZINSKI, Circuit Judge.

The Federal Aviation Administration has approved the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport's plan to double the size of its terminal. This being a "major federal action" the FAA prepared an environmental impact statement which asserts, inter alia, that building a larger terminal won't materially affect the number of people who use the airport." `f you build it, they will come,' " the appellants parry and scoff at their opponents for the " ` Field of Dreams' Conclusion: `if you don't build it, they will come anyway.' " Blue brief at 5-6.

I.

For years the FAA and the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority (the Authority) have planned to expand and modernize the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport. The fed- eral government would help fund an expansion which would nearly double the number of gates, triple the number of park- ing spaces, and quadruple the size of the terminal. The project would also move the terminal, now perilously close to Run- way 8.

The FAA and the Authority drafted an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) as the National Environmental Policy Act requires, see 42 U.S.C. S 4332, and an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) as California law requires, see Cal. Pub. Res. Code S 21100. The draft versions were revised after receiving public comment, resulting in the oxymoronic Pre- liminary Final EIS.*fn1 The EIS projects that passenger demand for the Airport will grow rapidly regardless of whether the project is completed; terminal expansion will barely affect usage. The City of Los Angeles challenged this Conclusion in state court. The Superior Court ordered the Authority to con- sider the environmental impact on the assumption that the project will cause significantly increased demand. The Authority prepared a Supplemental EIR reflecting this assumption and approved the project anyway. Satisfied, the Superior Court held that the revised EIR complies with state requirements. That decision is currently on appeal. The FAA made no similar changes in the Final EIS and issued a Record of Decision approving the project. Los Angeles and the City of Burbank appeal.

II.

[1] When reviewing an environmental impact statement, it doesn't matter whether we agree with the agency's conclu- sions. Rather, the EIS acts as a procedural safeguard: Drafting a statement, one hopes, will force an agency to consider a project's effects on the environment. If the agency discusses the main environmental effects reasonably thoroughly, that's enough. See City of Carmel-by-the-Sea v. United States Dep't of Transp., 123 F.3d 1142, 1150 (9th Cir. ...


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