Attorneys representing Martin County and Indian River County who are opposed to the All Aboard Florida (AAF) project had the opportunity to argue their requests for a preliminary injunction yesterday morning in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. The injunction is related to the U.S. Department of Transportation decision to approve the allocation of $1.75 billion in tax-exempt bonds to fund what author and columnist Carl Hiaasen refers to as the ‘Boondoggle Express’.
Counsel Steve Ryan and County Attorney Michael Durham appeared on behalf of Martin County. Mr. Ryan explained to the Court Martin County’s two main legal theories to the Court:
First, that it was unlawful for the U.S. Department of Transportation to ‘green light’ the tax exempt bonds that will cost the Federal government hundreds of millions of dollars, before completion of the environmental and historic resource review process for the project. Unless this is stopped, the federal agencies will no longer be in a position to fairly weigh the project against its alternatives (including taking no action) under the National Environmental Policy Act and the other federal statutes. Indian River County made largely identical claims.
Second, Mr. Ryan also described why Martin County believes AAF did not qualify for bonding under the relevant congressional statutes. In particular, he described a 2011 Obama Administration proposal that would have added passenger railroad projects like AAF to the bonding statute, but which was never introduced or passed by Congress as proof of the argument.
Although attorneys for the U.S. Department of Transportation and All Aboard Florida argued vociferously that the Counties had no legal standing, the County lawyers demonstrated that such arguments were clearly contradictory to All Aboard Florida’s own prior statements made to obtain the Federal benefits. Mr. Ryan argued the project is not
financially feasible without such federal aid.
As Mr. Ryan noted, the sale of the tax-exempt bonds at this time would cause irreparable harm to Martin County, the other plaintiffs and the residents of Florida, because once almost $2 billion of investors’ money have been spent on the project, it would make their investment a major issue in the case.
After the arguments, the Judge told the parties that he would take the decision under advisement but make it soon.