One of the most valuable and tangible benefits of ARTBA membership is found in the association’s aggressive legal advocacy program.
From the halls of Congress to the halls of justice, ARTBA regularly takes action to defend transportation design and construction industry market interests when threatened by dubious regulation or litigation.
Since 1993, ARTBA has invested more than $1 million in environmental litigation on the industry’s behalf. And the return on that investment? ARTBA’s legal advocacy has allowed nearly $52 billion in approved, yet challenged, U.S. transportation projects and plans to move forward.
Among ARTBA’s most notable legal victories on the industry’s behalf:
- Preventing no-growth groups from using the Clean Air Act’s transportation conformity process to delay or stop state and local highway projects.
- Successfully challenging EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers attempts to unlawfully expand federal wetlands jurisdiction. By limiting the jurisdiction of these agencies, ARTBA has helped to allow numerous construction projects to proceed without unnecessary federal intervention.
- Obtaining the first-ever federal court decision in 2000 which prevented the Sierra Club and its allies from challenging a regional transportation plan under the “citizen’s suit” provision of the Clean Air Act. The provision had been used routinely to file cases blocking highway projects across the country. It had also allowed them to collect attorney’s fees if successful. These fees were then used to fund additional anti-road litigation.
- Beating back a proposed injunction to stop dozens of road projects in California, setting potential legal precedent for other similar cases across the nation.
- Creating legal pressure that sped up a court settlement in Atlanta, Ga., allowing dozens of highway projects to move forward.
- Setting legal precedent guaranteeing construction industry associations a legal right to a seat at the table in environmentally-based litigation seeking to stop regional, state or local transportation plans.
Current Advocacy Efforts
EPA “Waters of the U.S.” Rule
ARTBA and 11 other industry associations July 2, 2015, sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), alleging the agency disregarded important administrative law requirements and exceeded its jurisdiction when it released a rule defining “waters of the United States.” The rule would require additional burdensome permitting requirements and likely be also used as a litigation tool by project opponents, both of which would result in delays to key transportation improvements and ultimately cost taxpayers more money, according to ARTBA. In fighting in the rule in the legislative and regulatory arenas for nearly a decade, ARTBA has repeatedly warned EPA that roadside ditches play an important role in the public health and safety of the nation by dispersing water, and they should not be regulated like wetlands. The new rule, however, did not categorically exempt roadside ditches from federal jurisdiction. Instead, the EPA set forth a myriad of qualifications for a ditch to be exempt from permitting requirements. Such a piecemeal approach, ARTBA noted when the rule was released in May 2015, creates confusion and delays.
Illinois DBE Lawsuit
ARTBA filed a “friend of the court” brief June 20, 2014, with the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in the case of Dunnet Bay Construction Company v. Gary Hanning. At issue is a lower court ruling dismissing Dunnet Bay’s claim that the state of Illinois improperly administered the federal DBE program in a manner which undermined the DBE programs’ goals and caused the program to be administered as an unconstitutional, quota-based system. ARTBA stressed that if, allowed to stand, the lower court’s holding would effectively eliminate the ability of contractors to challenge misapplication of the DBE program as well as cause otherwise proper bids on transportation construction projects to be rejected.
Unfortunately, the Seventh Circuit Court decided against the contractor in this case. ARTBA is currently examining further course of action on how to address the court’s decision.
Select Past Litigation Victories
Virginia P3 Lawsuit
ARTBA has mounted a vigorous defense in support of Virginia’s public private partnership (P3) enabling legislation. In a July 19, 2013, brief submitted to the Virginia Supreme Court in the case of Elizabeth River Crossings OPCO, LLC, and Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) v. Danny Meeks,ARTBA urged the court to overturn a prior ruling holding Virginia’s P3 law unconstitutional because it gave VDOT the authority to collect tolls on a tunnel expansion project in southeastern Virginia. ARTBA warned that if the ruling is allowed to stand it could endanger current P3 projects in Virginia and put existing projects relying on tolls at risk. Additionally, ARTBA noted allowing Virginia’s law to be struck down could foster challenges to similarly structured P3 laws in other states. On Oct. 31, 2013, the Supreme Court of Virginia issued a decision siding with ARTBA and overturning the lower court’s decision.
EPA Clean Water Act Point Source Lawsuit
ARTBA, as part of a coalition of 15 industry trade associations filed a “friend of the court” brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Oct. 13, 2011, in the case of Ecological Rights Foundation (ERF) v. Pacific Gas and Electric Co and Pacific Bell Telephone Co. In the case, ERF is arguing that the companies must obtain federal Clean Water Act (CWA) and solid waste disposal permits in order to use wood utility poles treated with a federally registered preservative. Though the case involves wood utility poles, it has broad implications for any building or construction (including transportation construction) materials that can release chemicals into the environment during their intended use. This case is relevant particularly because if ERF prevails, the definition of what is considered a “point source” under the CWA would be expanded considerably, leading to increased and unnecessary regulatory requirements for transportation construction projects.
EPA Wetlands Jurisdiction Supreme Court Lawsuit
ARTBA, as part of a coalition of twelve industry trade associations, filed a brief Sept. 30, 2011, with the Supreme Court in the case of Sackett v. the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The case concerns a decision by the EPA to assert jurisdiction over a half-acre parcel on private property in Idaho. The landowner’s contend they are placed in a “catch-22” situation where they are forced to apply for a permit they do not feel they need and at great cost in order to challenge the EPA’s claim of jurisdiction. This case could set a precedent capable of affecting the transportation construction community. As transportation projects frequently have to confront issues of federal wetlands jurisdiction, it would be helpful if jurisdiction could be challenged up front in the planning process rather than waiting for the EPA to assert a violation after the fact.
Clean Water Act Navigability Supreme Court Lawsuit
ARTBA, as part of a coalition of eight different trade associations, is urging the Supeme Court not to unnecessarily expand the concept of “navigability” under the federal Clean Water Act (CWA). Once something is considered “navigable” it is under federal control, and subject to the permitting authority of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). If the lower court’s decision in this case is upheld, a water body will be deemed to be navigable simply because someone can use it for a “recreational purpose.” For purposes of transportation construction, such a severely weakened or nonexistent concept of “navigability” could lead to a scenario where the EPA and Corps would have the option of exerting jurisdiction over roadside ditches.
ARTBA is the only organization in the United States that exclusively focuses legal activities on helping ensure that approved state, regional and local transportation plans and projects move forward expeditiously.
It monitors and becomes involved in environmental and business issues that have the potential to impact the planning, design and/or construction of transportation infrastructure projects.
ARTBA recognizes successful legal advocacy and education must be implemented in a variety of ways. Its effectiveness on behalf of the transportation design and construction industry derives from a comprehensive, five-part program:
- First, when appropriate, ARTBA initiates litigation as a party plaintiff, taking on difficult cases that others might be reluctant to file or that no single organization or business could fight alone, head-to-head against government agencies and/or well-funded project opponents.
- Second, ARTBA issues “amicus curiae” briefs to present compelling legal arguments and policy perspectives that often surpass the argumentation that lawyers for the involved parties are able to provide. ARTBA “friend-of-the-court” brief serves as a valuable tool in persuading courts about the integrity of the transportation planning and approval process and the resulting safety, mobility and economic benefits that come from highway and bridge improvement projects.
- Third, ARTBA files detailed issue briefs and public comments with federal and state regulatory agencies on environmental and business-related issues that might adversely impact transportation development. ARTBA ensures that a reasoned voice is heard on behalf of transportation development proponents.
- Fourth, ARTBA features a media outreach program to ensure that the views of transportation advocates are accurately portrayed in the general, business and construction media.
- Fifth, ARTBA conducts seminars and produces reports and publications to keep its members, the legal community and the media informed of litigation and regulatory developments that impact transportation development in the United States.
Support ARTBA’s Legal Advocacy Efforts
ARTBA relies on the financial support from transportation design and construction industry firms, industry executives, corporations, civic and business groups, chambers of commerce, associations and any other entities that support transportation development. Contact Nick Goldstein for more information on how to make a donation.