New Filing in Bridges Lawsuit Says Greenhouse Gases Should Be Considered

A Louisville non-profit has filed to amend its pending lawsuit against the Ohio River Bridges Project, arguing the federal government should have taken greenhouse gases into consideration.

The Coalition for the Advancement of Regional Transportation, or CART, filed the amendment in federal court on Saturday. It argues that existing studies and analyses have shown that greenhouse gas emissions are a significant concern in Louisville, and the Bridges Project should have been evaluated with that in mind. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide and methane, and are both naturally-occurring and released by burning fossil fuels (which is what’s going on when cars burn gasoline or diesel). The Environmental Protection Agency has determined the gases pose a danger to human health, and they contribute to global warming.

When comments were accepted for the project, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) officer in charge of evaluating the project’s environmental impact declined to take greenhouse gases into account.

“While [the Federal Highway Administration] acknowledges the global significance of climate change, it does not believe it is informative at this point to consider greenhouse gas emissions in an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The climate impacts of [greenhouse gas] emissions are global in nature. Analyzing how alternatives evaluated in an EIS might vary in their relatively small contribution to a global problem will not better inform decisions,” wrote the Federal Highway Administration in the agency’s analysis of the project.

But CART attorney Bud Hixson says new documents show that greenhouse gases are a big enough concern that they should have been taken into consideration.

“This is a significant impact and them just passing it off as ‘not informative’ to decision-makers is a complete abdication of their duty under NEPA,” he said.

Hixson stumbled upon the documents earlier this month. They include a greenhouse gas emissions inventory report that Metro Government commissioned in 2008, which found that Louisville’s per capita greenhouse gas emissions were higher than the national average.  

“They left out a significant environmental impact that should have been used in the decision-making regarding the project modes,” Hixson said. “They rejected mass transportation and they shouldn’t have. They should have looked at greenhouse gas when considering that.”

If approved, the new filings will amend a previously-filed lawsuit that alleges the Ohio River Bridges Project violates Title VI by intentionally discriminating on the basis of race, ignoring the needs of Louisville’s West End and imposing disproportionate negative impacts.

CART is also asking for an additional analysis to reconsider the inclusion of tolling in the project, because both bridges are estimated to come in under cost.

A spokesman for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet says the cabinet doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

Erica Peterson

Erica Peterson reports on energy and the environment for WFPL.

@ericampeterson

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