A federal judge in North Carolina has ruled that a proposed beltway in Winston-Salem does not violate NEPA. N.C. Alliance for Transp. Reform, Inc. v. DOT, No. 99-134 (M.D.N.C. 05/19/10). The lawsuit was originally filed in 1999 to block the proposed beltway, which was part of a larger $4 billion highway project approved by the state in 1989. In 2001, the federal court issued an injunction blocking the beltway until defendants completed a new analysis of the project’s environmental impacts. N.C. Alliance for Transp. Reform v. DOT, 151 F. Supp. 2d 661 (M.D.N.C. 2001). After defendants completed a second environmental analysis, plaintiffs sued again in 2008, alleging that the project would violate NEPA, in part because the analysis failed to evaluate greenhouse gases (GHG).

Because there were no national standards for evaluating the environmental impact of GHG emissions and rules proposed by EPA at the time did not apply to highway projects, the court concluded that the project did not violate NEPA.