Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 80-C-3072 -- Hubert L. Will, Judge.
Before Sprecher, Cudahy,**fn** and Eschbach, Circuit Judges.
The defendants in this suit are the United States Department of Transportation and the State of Illinois.*fn1 Plaintiffs allege that defendants' action, relating to the proposed construction of the 35 million dollar Central Illinois Expressway and a bridge across the Illinois River, exceeded their authority. Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief. Plaintiffs' amended complaint: 1) challenges the use of federal funds for the construction of the proposed bridge, under the Highway Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation Program, 23 C.F.R. § 650.405; 2) alleges that a proper Environmental Impact Statement was not prepared, thus violating the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. § 4331(b), the Federal-Aid Highway Act, 23 U.S.C. §§ 109, 138, 23 C.F.R. § 771.5, and the Federal Department of Transportation Act, 49 U.S.C. § 1653(f); 3) alleges that the bridge project violates the Federal Department of Transportation Act, 49 U.S.C. § 1651 et seq., and the Federal-Aid Highway Act, 23 U.S.C. § 138 as the proposed construction site involves an area of plaintiffs' farm eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places and involves a state conservation area, and there are prudent alternatives to the proposed construction site which would cause less environmental damage; and 4) alleges that the project would endanger migratory birds found on plaintiffs' farm and in the conservation area, in violation of a U. S.-Japan Treaty, 25 U.S.T. 3329.
The district court granted a temporary restraining order and later a preliminary injunction enjoining the defendants from awarding a contract for construction of the proposed bridge. The trial date has been set for February 22, 1982.
In this appeal we review the district court's denial of the proposed intervenors'*fn2 motion to intervene as defendants. The district court's order denying intervention as of right and denying permissive intervention is appealable.*fn3 E.E.O.C. v. United Airlines, Inc., 515 F.2d 946, 949 (7th Cir. 1975).
It is critical to the determination of the propriety of granting a motion to intervene for us to crystalize the relevant scope of the trial in which applicants seek to intervene. Our review of an intervention order does not involve an examination of the theoretical interests of proposed intervenors that would justify the initiation or the defense of a lawsuit in appropriate circumstances. "In the context of intervention the question is not whether a lawsuit should be begun (or defended), but whether already initiated litigation should be extended to include additional parties." Smuck v. Hobson, 132 U.S. App. D.C. 372, 408 F.2d 175, 179 (D.C.Cir.1969).
The essence of plaintiffs' amended complaint is that the defendants violated applicable federal requirements which impose on federal agencies essentially procedural duties. Given the posture of this case "once an agency has made a decision subject to NEPA's procedural requirements (as well as those of the other federal statutes relied on by the plaintiffs), the only role for a court is to insure that the agency has considered the environmental consequences." Strycker's Bay Neighborhood Council v. Karlen, 444 U.S. 223, 227, 100 S. Ct. 497, 499, 62 L. Ed. 2d 433 (1980). As the Supreme Court has emphasized "NEPA was designed "to insure a fully informed and well considered decision,' but not necessarily "a decision the judges of the Court of Appeals or of this Court would have reached had they been members of the decision making unit of the agency.' ... (The Court) cannot " "interject itself within the area of discretion of the executive as to the choice of the action to be taken." " " Id. at 227-28, 100 S. Ct. at 499-500 (citation omitted).
In the proceedings pending before the lower court, the record clearly indicates that the district court recognizes that its role in reviewing the Federal Department of Transportation decision is defined by the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A), which provides that agency action should be set aside if found to be "arbitrary, capricious, or abuse of discretion or otherwise not in accordance with law...." The district court recognizes that it may not decide where the funded highway and bridge will eventually be constructed. Rather, the issue is narrowly circumscribed, namely: did the agency abide by the statutory procedural requirements in reaching its decision? If procedural requirements were followed then the agency will be permitted to implement the project as proposed. If the statutory requirements were not followed then the agency, not the courts, will be required to make a determination as to the place of construction of the project, after fully abiding by the statutorily required procedural requirements.
With the foregoing in mind we now proceed to examine whether applicants met the requirements for intervention of right pursuant to Rule 24(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.*fn4 Clause 2 of Rule 24(a) permits intervention of right: (1) upon timely application, (2) "when the applicant claims an interest relating to the property or transaction which is the subject of the action and (3) he is so situated that the disposition of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede his ability to protect that interest, (4) unless the applicant's interest is adequately represented by existing parties."
Initially we will focus on the nature of the interests asserted by proposed intervenors because their consideration is relevant to much of Rule 24(a)(2) analysis. Proposed intervenors allege: economic interests in the reduction of cost to local farmers and businesses which would result if the project were to be constructed on the location originally proposed; personal and environmental interests because, it is argued, that "(rerouting) of the bridge would triangularly bisect farms making them substantially more difficult to cultivate and wasting valuable farm land, disrupt already established drainage districts, and destroy environmentally significant land belonging to applicants"; safety interests because the existing bridge is extremely dangerous (Applicants' Reply Brief at 4-5).
Rule 24(a)(2) requires a direct, significant legally protectable interest in the property or transaction subject to the action. Donaldson v. United States, 400 U.S. 517, 531, 91 S. Ct. 534, 542, 27 L. Ed. 2d 580 (1971); Airlines Stewards, etc. v. American Airlines, Inc., 455 F.2d 101, 105 (7th Cir. 1972), later app., 490 F.2d 636 (7th Cir. 1973), cert. denied, Airlines Stewards, etc. v. Zipes, 416 U.S. 993, 94 S. Ct. 2406, 40 L. Ed. 2d 773 (1974). None of the actions taken, nor the statutory authority called into question in this case, involves the proposed intervenors who seek to intervene as defendants. The only interest involved is of the named defendants, governmental bodies. As we emphasized in Part II the only focus that the ongoing litigation in the district court can have is whether the governmental bodies charged with compliance, defendants, have satisfied the federal statutory procedural requirements in making the administrative decisions regarding the construction which would directly affect plaintiffs' property. In a suit such as this, brought to require compliance with federal statutes regulating governmental projects, the governmental bodies charged with compliance can be the only defendants. As to the determination involved in this suit, all other entities have no right to intervene as defendants. Thus we hold that the proposed intervenors' ...