The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) need not adopt U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) comments challenging an FAA air-quality analysis of a planned Philadelphia International Airport expansion. Tinicum Twp. v. U.S. Dep’t of Transp., No. 11-1472 (3rd Cir. 7/6/12). The petitioner, a township that borders the airport expansion area, accused FAA of violating the National Environmental Policy Act (NE PA) by failing to adopt EPA comments calling for additional data to be evaluated in the project’s air-quality analysis.
The city of Philadelphia sought FAA approval in 2003 to expand its international airport. FAA designated the project as high priority and proceeded to perform an expedited environmental review under the Aviation Streamlining Approval Process Act. On multiple occasions during the draft environmental impactstatement process, EPA submitted comments, some of which FAA adopted. The petitioners argued that the environmental review was inadequate under NEPA, pointing to comments submitted by EPA but not implemented by FAA.
According to the three-judge panel, FAA appropriately considered all of EPA’s comments and was within its authority to disagree with some of them. The court found that FAA gave the required “serious consideration and reasonable responses” to each of EPA’s concerns and was under no obligation to “slavishly” follow EPA’s comments.