9th Circuit Rejects NEPA Challenges To Planned 1.9-Mile Underground Light Rail Extension Project in Downtown LA


On December 6, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in the case of Japanese Village, LLC v. Federal Transit Administration, et al., affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgement to the government defendants following a painstaking review of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) arguments lodged by Japanese Village, LLC and Today’s IV, Inc. dba Westin Bonaventure Hotel (Bonaventure) against the construction of the Regional Connector Transit Corridor Project, a 1.9-mile light rail extension line in downtown Los Angeles.

NEPA applies not only to major federal actions, but also to “state transportation projects with significant federal funding.” A draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was published by the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) in September 2010, and the ongoing NEPA review appears to have proceeded at a reasonably rapid pace. The FTA’s record of decision (ROD) approving federal funding, which included a mitigation monitoring and report plan, was issued in June 2012. The lawsuit challenging the government appellees’ NEPA compliance and, in particular, the FTA’s environmental impact analysis for the proposed  line project was filed in January 2013, and the final ruling of the district court was made in February 2016, granting summary judgment in favor of the government appellees.