San Francisco, Calif.— Environmental plaintiffs represented by Gross & Klein LLP one another major victory in their fight against Caltran’s controversial proposal to expand Highway 101 through the ancient redwoods of Richardson Grove State Part. Judge William Alsup of the Northern District Court of California, in a scathing order, ruled that Caltrans must a prepare from scratch a full-Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”) of the proposed project, rather than correct the more circumscribed Environmental Assess (“EA”) it had previously prepared.
This most recent order by Judge Alsup follows his previous decision from May 2019 in which he found that the agency’s EA, omitted consideration of key elements of the proposed project and thus failed to take the “hard look” required under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”). His most recent order enjoins Caltrans from doing any further work on the proposed project until it has satisfied the rigorous requirements of a full EIS.
This represents the sixth time in eight years that plaintiffs represented by Gross & Klein have attained rulings that stop the project.
“Caltrans may not see the value of these ancient redwoods, but thankfully the court does,” said Peter Galvin, co-founder and director of programs of the Center for Biological Diversity. “This strong ruling should convince Caltrans to abandon this destructive project once and for all. Long live the ancient redwoods of Richardson Grove.”
In his forceful order, Judge Alsup found, “After eight years of litigation, the Court is convinced and so finds that Caltrans has been bound and determined from the outset, regardless of the source, to arrive at a FONSI [(Finding of No Significant Impact)] and thus avoid the scrutiny of an EIS….Caltrans never gave the fair “hard look” required by NEPA but resorted to cherry picking the science to arrive at a preordained conclusion.” Judge Alsup sent the project back to the agency with a specific order: “At long last, the Court now orders that Caltrans stop trying to skate by with an EA/FONSI and that Caltrans prepare a valid EIS. Please do not try to systematically minimize the adverse environmental consequences and to cherry-pick the science.”
“It’s taken almost a decade, but today we have won what we have long sought: a court order mandating that Caltrans do a real and meaningful environmental review, said Tom Wheeler, executive director of the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC). “The ancient redwoods of Richardson Grove State Park are now protected from bad science and bulldozers.”
Plaintiff David Spreen remarked, “I hope Caltrans will take a fresh look at this project. Businesses, residents, and politicians along the North Coast corridor have made it clear that the HWY 101 Last Chance Grade section is far more important and needs to be prioritized by Caltrans now. Times have changed. Let's move forward.”
The case is titledBair, et al. v. Caltrans, et al., No. 17-6419-WHA (N.D. Cal.)
A copy of the order can be found here: