Case 96



Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation v. Interstate Commerce Commission, 841 F.2d 479 (2d Cir. 1988).

The Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, a statewide preservation organization, and other environmental groups filed a petition for review of the Interstate Commerce Commission's (ICC) decision granting permission to the Boston & Maine Corporation to abandon a portion of the Farmington Canal Branch Rail Line. The complaint alleged that ICC violated the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the National Trails Systems Act, in addition to related regulations. The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation took the position that ICC had foreclosed its opportunity to comment on the abandonment as a whole, although ICC had not foreclosed comments on any known historic properties the abandonment would affect.

Without considering the comments and requests for imposition of a public use condition made by the State of Connecticut's departments of environmental protection and transportation, the Sierra Club, the local government, and the Connecticut Trust, ICC issued an order allowing the abandonment of the railroad. ICC later reopened the case, considered the environmental and historical effects and, once again, allowed the abandonment.

As a preliminary matter, the court determined it would consider as final the decision ICC issued upon reopening the case, rather than regard the initial order as the final decision. 841 F.2d at 482. The court found that once the case had been reopened, the comments in question received thorough consideration by ICC, as did comments submitted by the Connecticut State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO), local governments, and citizens. In finding that ICC had, indeed, made an informed decision, the court noted that both NHPA and NEPA stipulate only that agencies acquire information before acting. Id. at 484. In this instance, an environmental assessment rather than an environmental impact statement was appropriate. Id. at 483.

Further, the court of appeals rejected the allegation that ICC had foreclosed the Council's opportunity to comment, since ICC had formally solicited the Council's comments well in advance of making its final decision. The court also rejected petitioners' argument that it was deprived of an opportunity to purchase the entire line, finding that defects in ICC procedures did not prevent the Connecticut Trust from purchasing the line, particularly in light of the Trust's failure to make an offer.

With respect to the claim under the National Trails System Act, the court found that that law does not empower ICC to order trail use. Similarly, the court determined that the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976 did not mandate imposition of public use conditions. Even if it did, private parties such as the petitioners were not the intended beneficiaries of such conditions. In any event, the court noted approvingly that the city of New Haven was negotiating with the railroad company to purchase large portions of the line and that a public use condition had in fact been imposed. Thus, the court of appeals denied the petition for review.

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