A split Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel has remanded the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) finding of no significant impact in the proposed construction of a new runway at Hillsboro Airport near Portland, Oregon. Barnes v. U.S. Dep’t of Transp., No. 10-70718 (9th Cir. 8/25/11). According to the court’s majority, the environmental assessment (EA), conducted by the FAA and the Port of Portland, failed to take into account the possibility that a new runway would induce growth, thereby (i) failing to consider the cumulative environmental impacts of adding the new runway and (ii) violating NEP A. The remand orders the FAA and port to redo their EA, taking future growth caused by the new runway into consideration.
The dissenting judge wrote, “here a federal agency is trying to reduce airport delays and the concomitant negative environmental effects by commencing a project in anticipation of future growth, and the majority sides with delay and air pollution by imposing pointless paperwork on the agency before the necessary project can go forward.” According to press reports, the airport, which serves private planes and corporate jets, is the busiest in the state, surpassing Portland International Airport in takeoffs and landings. See BNA Daily Environmental Report, August 31, 2011.