Charlotte, NC— Today the Southern Environmental Law Center filed suit on behalf of Conservation groups in United States District Court challenging the environmental review for the controversial Garden Parkway toll highway. The Catawba Riverkeeper and Clean Air Carolina allege that the North Carolina Turnpike Authority and the Federal Highway Administration performed a defective analysis of the proposed toll road and presented a misleading picture of the costs and benefits of the project. The lawsuit comes just months after conservation groups were successful in challenging the Monroe Bypass, another NC Turnpike Authority Project.
The proposed twenty-two mile toll highway would run through Gaston County at a cost of $930 million, only a fraction of which could be recovered by toll revenue. The toll road has long been deeply unpopular with a majority of Gaston County residents who have been vociferous in their opposition since the project’s inception. The highway would destroy numerous homes and communities, fragment wildlife habitat, pollute the Catawba River basin, and add to the area’s air pollution.
Despite its enormous costs, the North Carolina Turnpike Authority has failed to demonstrate that the Garden Parkway will benefit anyone other than the current and former elected officials who purchased property along the highway’s proposed path. The environmental documents show that construction of the road will do nothing to improve congestion on existing roadways, such as I-85, and far from increasing economic development, will actually shift job growth out of state to South Carolina.
“The Charlotte region continues to be plagued with air pollution problems affecting the health of our residents” said June Blotnick, Executive Director of Clean Air Carolina. “As we work to improve the quality of life in the region, the one thing we don’t need is a 22-mile highway bursting through our rural countryside increasing vehicle emissions and sprawl.”
Catawba Riverkeeper Richard Gaskins stated that “the proposed tollway would significantly increase pollution of the Catawba River and particularly Lake Wylie as a result of construction activities, run-off from the highway and increased sprawl. Lake Wylie already has problems with trash, sediment, and various pollutants, and the proposed tollway would make the situation much worse.”
In their complaint, conservation groups raise many of the same concerns that were the basis of the recent victory challenging the Monroe Bypass. In May, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit strongly rebuked the Authority after finding that it had made fundamental blunders in its environmental review and repeatedly misrepresented key facts to the public.
“Once again, the NC Turnpike Authority has failed to be honest with the public” said Senior Attorney, Frank Holleman of the Southern Environmental Law Center. The Center also brought the case that successfully challenged the Monroe Bypass. “In an effort to justify an outdated highway project, the agency has not been straight with the public and is ignoring the plain facts. The agency has not explained why the taxpayers and their children are being saddled with generations of debt to pay for this destructive leviathan that serves none of the purposes claimed by the project proponents.”
The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional conservation organization using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC’s team of 50 legal experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use.
The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation advocates for the health, protection and enjoyment of the Catawba-Wateree River watershed. The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation provides education, processes and programs to protect your drinking water and the many resources of the entire Catawba-Wateree River watershed. Catawba Riverkeeper’s experienced network includes a diverse community of members, engaged volunteers and professional staff whose dedication of time, talent and resources protect and enhance our river today and for future generations. The vision of Catawba Riverkeeper is for the waters of the entire Catawba-Wateree River basin to always be of high quality and abundant quantity to sustain and enhance the lives of all the humans, the wildlife and the ecosystems that depend on it.
Clean Air Carolina is a non-profit organization based in Charlotte, NC. Our mission is to ensure cleaner air quality by educating the community about how air quality affects our health, advocating for stronger clean air policies, and partnering with other organizations committed to cleaner air and sustainable practices.
For more information visit: www.cleanaircarolina.org