Plans to rule on the case before construction starts
Planning and design work for the Monroe Bypass can go on as scheduled, a judge in U.S. District Court ruled Dec. 30. Judge James Dever III denied the request for a temporary injunction against the Bypass, filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center.
“(The) plaintiffs have failed to make a clear showing that they will suffer irreparable harm before the court has an opportunity to resolve the case,” Dever wrote in his ruling.
The injunction request was filed Nov. 2, arguing the Bypass would do little to reduce the region’s air quality problems, as opposed to alternative solutions. Clean Air Carolina, the North Carolina Wildlife Federation and the Yadkin Riverkeeper all signed on to the injunction request. This is in addition to a lawsuit filed by the group earlier this year, requesting a permanent shutdown of Bypass construction. Dever said there was no evidence that planning and design work would create problems, stating he expects to hear the full case before the fall. In court documents, the Turnpike Authority stated they don’t plan to break ground on the Bypass until October.
“This court intends to resolve this case on the merits well before October,” Dever said. “If defendants have violated NEPA, the court will not hesitate to issue a permanent injunction.”
NEPA or the National Environmental Policy Act, is the article cited by the Law Center, as they argue building the Bypass would endanger the environment.
In their request for an injunction, the Southern Environmental Law Center alleges only information collected from the western end of the road was submitted to the state, giving a skewed picture of the project’s potential impact.
SELC lawyer Chandra Taylor said the Turnpike Authority didn’t complete the process for environmental studies, only assessing the impacts of one fifth of the Bypass. Additionally, SELC alleges the NCTA used inconsistent data in assessing the impact on streams in the Yadkin River water basin.
Dever said while he rejected the request, the group could refile if state agencies obtain permits for the project and prepare to issue financing bonds.
“We’re very pleased the judge is committed to hearing our case quickly and that he will allow us to renew our motion for a temporary halt if permits are issued,” Taylor said.
“Traffic on U.S. 74 is bad, but building this costly and environmentally unsound toll road is not the answer,” Taylor said. “NCDOT failed in numerous ways to conduct a full and honest assessment of alternatives and environmental impacts, as required by law. We look forward to presenting our case.”
A status conference on the case is set for Feb. 4.