its FONSI arbitrary and capricious for having done so.
b. Impact on Traffic Patterns
The July 1990 EA contains an expanded study of the facility's projected impact on local traffic patterns, which forms the basis for its finding that the facility will have no significant impact in that regard. Nonetheless, Palatine contends that the survey fails adequately to assess this issue on several grounds. Palatine urges that, according to the survey itself, upon opening, the facility will render traffic patterns on the Northwest Highway only minimally acceptable during certain peak periods.
Palatine further urges that the survey grossly distorts the number of employees who can be expected to enter and exit the site during peak hours, and that the peak hours themselves have been distorted because they do not directly correspond to shift changes.
Palatine's arguments are without merit. In Palatine I, we deemed it appropriate for the Postal Service to evaluate the facility's impact on traffic by comparing the impact of building on the McDade site with that arising from anticipated alternative uses proposed by Palatine. The traffic survey utilized in the July 1990 EA has done this, evaluating the impact of the facility on the McDade site, the Brandt site, the Brandt site with the Mitroff development on the McDade site, and with no action at all. Although, as Palatine contends, placing the facility on the McDade site will have an impact on the Northwest Highway, the survey indicates that the impact of building the facility on the Brandt site will be just as great, and the impact of building the facility on the Brandt site with the Mitroff development on the McDade site will be even greater.
The traffic survey utilized by the July 1990 EA based its estimate of the number of employees entering and exiting the site, as well as its determination of peak hours of movement, on surveys of actual movements at the Postal Service's current mail processing facility in River Grove, which apparently employs comparable numbers of employees on shifts compatible with those anticipated for the Palatine facility. Palatine fails to see how information for River Grove, involving different employees at a different facility in a different community, can provide a reliable indicator of the amount and timing of traffic to be expected for the Palatine facility. These are, however, distinctions without a difference. The survey's reliance on empirical data gathered at a comparable facility was reasonable; the only alternative of which this court can conceive would have been to engage in pure guesswork. In light of the survey's conclusions, this court cannot label the Postal Service's FONSI arbitrary and capricious in this regard.
c. Additional Factors
With regard to additional factors the Postal Service must consider, Palatine contends that the Postal Service failed to adequately assess the impact to the human environment that will result from the facility's 1) impact on Palatine's long-range development; 2) inconsistency with commercial zoning of the McDade site; 3) impact on the local tax base; 4) interference with nearby landowners' efforts to enjoy the use of their property; and 5) interference with development potential of undeveloped or underdeveloped land. This court, in Palatine I, declared the Postal Service's May 1988 assessment of the facility's impact on land use, zoning, and the local tax base to be adequate. 742 F. Supp. at 1390-91. A different result is not warranted here.
Remaining, therefore, are Palatine's contentions, really one single contention, that the Postal Service has failed to assess adequately the impact of the facility on adjacent parcels of land. Specifically, Palatine asserts that the nearby Mayfair site, which is commercially developed and currently tied in to a septic system, may never be linked to a sanitary sewer because the Postal Service has not extended existing sewer lines to the boundaries of its property; that the facility will leave the Brandt site virtually landlocked, accessible only by two residential roads; and that the facility will frustrate redevelopment of the businesses currently along Consumers Avenue on the McDade site's eastern edge.
Palatine's assertions raise questionable concerns. As the facility's designer indicates, it is contrary to customary practice to require developers to extend sanitary sewers through their sites to accommodate future development of adjacent developed parcels; if necessary, the Mayfair site will be able to connect to Palatine's system by constructing a sewer line to an existing line located west of Route 53 (Talbot aff. at para. 19). Nor will construction on the McDade site have an impact on the Brandt site, which will be accessible by the same two residential roads previously used to reach it. Finally, Palatine's claim that the facility will hinder redevelopment of the businesses along Consumers Avenue, without any indication that any redevelopment is foreseeable, is insufficient to state a claim.
In conclusion, the Postal Service has taken the requisite hard look at the relevant factors in its July 1990 EA. Its finding that building the facility on the McDade site would not create a significant impact on the environment was neither arbitrary nor capricious. Palatine is not entitled to injunctive relief on the basis of Counts IV and II of its amended complaint.
B. Count III: Consideration of Alternative Sites
As we held in Palatine I, both NEPA § 102(2)(E) and the Postal Service regulations contained in Handbook RE-6 require the Postal Service to study alternative locations and to evaluate them in its environmental assessment. Moreover, because the Postal Service had agreed to consider the Brandt site at a stage at which it still had "a meaningful opportunity to weigh" the environmental consequences of alternatives, Marsh, 109 S. Ct. at 1858 (quoting TVA v. Hill, 437 U.S. 153, 188 n. 34, 57 L. Ed. 2d 117, 98 S. Ct. 2279 (1978)), its consideration of that alternative was governed by § 102(2)(E) as well. As we emphasized, the obligations imposed upon the Postal Service with regard to assessment of alternative sites are not overly burdensome:
It may well be that by late 1987 the McDade site was the only site that met the Postal Service's operational needs. We do not mean to suggest that the Postal Service is obligated to prepare a full environmental assessment or otherwise catalog all the strengths and weaknesses of each site that Postal Service officials looked at and rejected. It is enough that the Postal Service set forth enough of an explanation to enable a reviewing court to understand the basis and rationality of the rejection. Public resources need not be committed to belaboring the obvious.
Palatine I, 742 F. Supp. at 1395. Because the May 1988 EA had failed to provide any reasons for rejecting each particular site, however, we concluded that the Postal Service had failed to meet these obligations.
The Postal Service's July 1990 assessment of alternative sites has expanded beyond the 28 sites initially considered to encompass a total of 43 sites. Having redesigned the facility to fit onto 27.2 acres, the Postal Service reconsidered all sites previously rejected as too small (July 1990 EA at iii). The EA now contains a 22-page site evaluation summary giving the Postal Service's reasons for rejecting each site on the basis of certain preliminary factors, including site control, location and economic viability. Environmental factors are then considered, with the level of analysis varying with each site's ranking after the preliminary considerations are assessed.
Palatine contends that this analysis is nothing more than unsworn, post hoc rationalization. Again, this " post hoc " element is unavoidable when a reviewing court requests an administrative agency to explain further the reasons for its actions. Overton Park, 401 U.S. at 420. Viewing the July 1990 assessment of alternative sites with a critical eye, this court is satisfied the Postal Service took a hard look at all of the alternatives before determining that only the McDade and Brandt sites merited further evaluation.
As noted, the Postal Service referred the Brandt site along with the McDade site for more detailed environmental analysis in the July 1990 EA. According to the analysis, the Postal Service ultimately found the Brandt site not to be viable because: 1) the only way to access the Brandt site without driving through residential neighborhoods would be to extend Consumers Drive through 1.5 acres of floodplain in violation of Executive Order 11988;
2) increased truck, employee, and customer traffic from the facility would create a safety hazard to young people frequenting the Consumers Drive sports complex, and would be exacerbated by the increased traffic from the Mitroff development; 3) relocating the facility to the Brandt site would have an around-the-clock adverse impact in terms of noise and glare on the 21 homes that abut the site; and 4) Palatine and the Postal Service never were able to resolve their economic differences.
Asserting that the Postal Service never mentioned the floodplain issue in negotiations over the Brandt site, Palatine questions the veracity of the Postal Service's purported reliance, at least in part, on this issue in its July 1990 EA. We do not share Palatine's suspicions. A December 20, 1989 letter from Robert Hill, Acting Director of the Facilities Service Center to Mitroff indicates that the Postal Service was, in fact, concerned about building an access road in the floodplain when it evaluated the Mitroff plan for placing the facility on the Brandt site (July 1990 EA, App. A). Even if this were not the case, we would not label specious the fact that the detailed analysis of the Brandt site in the July 1990 EA identified an additional impact on the physical environment. Palatine's concern, so clearly expressed with regard to the McDade site, that the Postal Service exhibit leadership in floodplain management, should extend to the Brandt site as well.
C. Count I: Necessity of an Environmental Impact Statement
Inasmuch as the Postal Service was neither arbitrary nor capricious in finding that constructing the facility on the McDade site will not significantly affect the human environment, no environmental impact statement was necessary under NEPA.
D. Count V: Compliance with the Intergovernmental Cooperation Act
Palatine's Count V alleges that the Postal Service failed to comply with the Intergovernmental Cooperation Act, Executive Order 12372, and corresponding postal regulations. As we explained in Palatine I, each state has an individual designated as its single point of contact (SPOC) who informs federal agencies when their plans raise concerns among state or local planning officials that fall within the scope of the ICA. The ICA requires agencies to try to accommodate these concerns; if they cannot, federal officials must explain the basis for their decision. Executive Order 12372, § 2(c), 3 C.F.R. § 197 (1982). Postal Service regulations require that this explanation to the SPOC be in writing. Handbook RE-6, para. 733.22.
On November 17, 1987, Tom Berkshire, the SPOC for Illinois, informed the Postal Service that the facility was inconsistent with local planning. In Palatine I, we agreed with Palatine that the Postal Service had failed to provide the SPOC with the required written explanation for its decision to proceed with construction on the McDade site. Recognizing that the SPOC had acted as "a surrogate who merely relayed the concerns voiced by local planning officials," however, we held that the Postal Service could be deemed to have satisfied the concerns underlying the ICA by its direct dealings with local planning officials.
What remained was for us to assess the record to determine whether the Postal Service had fulfilled this mandate. Pursuant to the ICA,
the agency has an affirmative obligation to develop a reviewable record, including a list of the factors which support its decision to act in disharmony with local planning objectives, so that a reviewing court can determine whether the agency has acted arbitrarily or capriciously in claiming it has fully considered, but rejected, local planning objectives.