Apr 132015
 

Citing "the interest of justice, particularly the interest of Alabama’s citizens in deciding this controversy at home," U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta has transferred Gulf Restoration Network's challenge to the approval of the Gulf State Park Enhancement Project to the Southern District of Alabama (Gulf Restoration Network v. Jewell, 14- 1773 APM, D.D.C., 4/9/15).

"This case could have been brought in the Southern District of Alabama, and the court has considered the relevant private- and public-interest factors," the judge said. "Ultimately, the localized interest of Alabama’s citizens in having this controversy decided in Alabama tips the scales in favor of transfer."

EXCERPTS

Plaintiff alleges that the decision to approve the project, which is to be located in the State of Alabama’s Gulf State Park, violated the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 and the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969.

The Gulf State Park Enhancement Project was among the projects that the Alabama Trustees identified. The Project contemplated the construction of a hotel, a convention center, and facilities for environmental research and education, along with various recreational and ecological enhancements. Id. at 55-56. All aspects of the Project were to be located in Gulf State Park, which is located on state-owned land in southern Alabama on the coast bordering the Gulf of Mexico.

The facts in Otay Mesa Property L.P. v. U.S. Dep’t of Interior and Stand Up are also distinguishable from those of the instant case, because in neither case was there an interested “local population,” like the people of Alabama. In Otay Mesa, the litigation regarded “private property that is not accessible by the public” and therefore “directly affect[ed] only the [p]laintiffs.” 58 F. Supp. 2d 122, 128 (D.D.C. 2008). The court explicitly distinguished the facts of its case from that of cases, such as this one, where, “the local population faced specific injury of a particularly local nature either as a result of, or upon enjoinment of, a challenged action.” Id. at 127

And here's the conclusion:

In summary, the question whether to transfer is a close one. The plaintiff’s choice of forum is entitled only to some deference because the District of Columbia is not its home forum. Defendants’ choice of forum is afforded some countervailing weight. The remaining private- and public-interest factors, save one, are neutral. What then tips the balance in favor of transfer is the substantial local interest in deciding local controversies at home. Defendants’ motion to transfer this case to the Southern District of Alabama is therefore granted.

Links

Information from Univ. of Alabama

Description from NOAA (winter 2013/2014)

Gulf Restoration Network, Official statement on Deepwater Horizon NRDA early projects (12/6/13)

Earlier from GRN (May 6, 2013):

"The other states are proposing an unsettling combination of tourism ‘enhancement’ construction projects with a few pennies being thrown at ecosystem restoration. Alabama, for example, is spending 80% of their funds on hotel and conference center in a state park. This project violates the public trust because it will restrict access to the resources in this area to those who can afford to stay at this hotel and attend conferences here. This construction will also destroy habitat, further endangering habitat for protected species like the beach mouse and threatened and endangered sea turtles. This obscene amount of money being pumped into an economic development project dwarfs the $8 million Alabama will spend on true restoration of oyster reefs."