Justia Environmental Law Opinion Summaries

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Petitioners sought review of the EPA's federal implementation plan (FIP) under the Clean Air Act (CAA), 42 U.S.C. 7401, for the Navajo Generating Station in Arizona. The FIP was promulgated under the EPA's Tribal Authority Rule (TAR) that governs CAA requirements on tribal lands. The court concluded that the federal government's partial ownership of the Station does not eliminate any deference to the EPA's interpretation of the CAA and its implementing regulations; the EPA reasonably interpreted the TAR and the Regional Haze Regulations to conclude that the emission reductions deadline in 40 C.F.R. 51.308(e)(2)(iii) does not apply to FIPs for regional haze that are promulgated in place of tribal implementation plans (TIPs); the court deferred to the EPA's determination that the FIP alternative was "better than BART" for nitrous oxide emissions; and the EPA's decision not to determine best available retrofit technology (BART) for particulate matter was a reasonable exercise of the EPA's discretion under the TAR. Accordingly, the court denied the petitions for review. View "Yazzie v. USEPA" on Justia Law

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The Tribe petitioned for review of the EPA's federal implementation plan (FIP) under the Clean Air Act (CAA), 42 U.S.C. 7401, for the Navajo Generating Station in Arizona. The FIP was promulgated under the EPA's Tribal Authority Rule that governs CAA requirements on tribal lands. The Tribe claimed that it was not adequately consulted about its interests before the plan was promulgated and objected to a proposed closure of the Station in 2044. The court concluded that no authority allowed it to treat this as a duty to consult, stemming from the general trust relationship with the Indian tribes. In this case, the record showed that the EPA did, in fact, consult with the Hopi Tribe throughout the rulemaking process. Furthermore, while the EPA did not participate in the Technical Working Group (TWG) negotiations, the DOI did. The court also concluded that the record belies the Tribe's contention that the EPA failed to analyze each of the five best available retrofit technology (BART) factors. Because the TWG proposal was an alternative to BART, the court concluded that there was no error in the EPA not analyzing the BART factors under the TWG alternative. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review. View "The Hopi Tribe v. USEPA" on Justia Law

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In 2010, The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) issued a prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) construction permit to Sunflower Electric Power Corporation that authorized Sunflower to build a coal-fired electric generating unit at a site where Sunflower already operates a coal-fired station. In Sierra Club I, the Supreme Court held that KDHE had failed to comply with the federal Clean Air Act and remanded the permit to KDHE. On remand, KDHE issued an addendum to the 2010 permit. Sierra Club sought judicial review of that action, arguing, inter alia, that KDHE was required to conduct an entirely new permitting process rather than simply crafting an addendum to the 2010 permit. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) KDHE did not err in adding an addendum to the 2010 permit; and (2) Sierra Club failed to establish any other basis for invalidating Sunflower’s PSD permit. View "Sierra Club v. Mosier" on Justia Law

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Friends of Great Salt Lake (Friends) challenged the decision of the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands (Division) granting a mining lease covering a small portion of the Great Salt Lake. Friends made three simultaneous attempts to halt the lease in requests and petitions submitted to the Division or to the Utah Department of Natural Resources (Department). The Division and Department issued a single agency order denying all three. Friends appealed and sought leave to amend its complaint to raise additional constitutional and statutory arguments. The district court affirmed the rejection of Friends’ requests and petitions, denied in part Friends’ attempt to amend its complaint, and subsequently dismissed Friends’ remaining arguments on summary judgment. Friends appealed and, alternatively, sought extraordinary relief. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed in large part and denied Friends’ request for extraordinary relief; and (2) reversed to a limited extent, holding that the Division was required to engage in “site-specific planning” under the applicable provisions of the Utah Administrative Code. Remanded to allow the Department to decide on the appropriate remedy for the failure to perform such planning. View "Friends of Great Salt Lake v. Utah Department of Natural Resources" on Justia Law

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This case stemmed from a dispute over the regulatory schemes of the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) and the energy facilities site locations act (EFSLA), and how those schemes applied to a lease agreement between respondents, the Port of Vancouver USA and its board of commissioners (Port), and Tesoro Corporation and Savage Companies (Tesoro). The lease agreement permitted Tesoro to construct a petroleum based energy facility on the Port's property. The agreement remained contingent on review by, and certification from, the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC), the primary decision-making authority in the field of energy facilities siting and regulation under EFSLA. EFSLA incorporated by reference numerous regulations from SEPA, including WAC 197-11-714(3) and -070(1)(b) which precluded agencies "with jurisdiction" from taking actions that would "[l]imit the choice of reasonable alternatives" prior to the issuance of an environmental impact statement (EIS). The Port entered into the lease agreement with Tesoro prior to EFSEC's issuance of an EIS. Columbia Riverkeeper, Sierra Club, and Northwest Environmental Defense Center (collectively, “Riverkeeper”) sued the Port, alleging, among other things, that the lease agreement limited the choice of reasonable alternatives available to the Port, thereby violating SEPA. The trial court summarily dismissed Riverkeeper's SEPA claims in favor of the Port, holding that the contingencies contained within the lease preserved reasonable alternatives available to the Port. The Court of Appeals affirmed. After review, the Washington Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals, finding the Port's lease with Tesoro did not violate SEPA. However, the Court affirmed only the outcome; the Court adopted the trial court’s reasoning and affirmed. View "Columbia Riverkeeper v. Port of Vancouver USA" on Justia Law

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In 2013 and 2014, the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued orders and closing notices to holders of surface water permits for natural flow and storage in the Republic River Basin. Several appropriators, on behalf of themselves and a class of farmers who irrigate with water delivered by the Frenchman-Cambridge Irrigation District, subject to Nebraska’s allocation of water under the Republican River Compact, brought these actions alleging regulatory takings claims against the State and the DNR. The district court consolidated the claims and granted the State and the DNR’s motions to dismiss both of the appropriators’ causes of action. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the DNR’s streamflow administration did not result in a taking under the Nebraska Constitution because the Compact, as federal law, supersedes the appropriators’ property interests; and (2) the alleged failure of DNR to regulate ground water pumping did not amount to a taking because DNR does not have a duty to regulate ground water. View "Hill v. State" on Justia Law

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Medicine Creek LLC filed a request for a variance from the Middle Republican Natural Resources District’s (MRNRD) moratorium on new well drilling. MRNRD voted to deny the variance. Medicine Creek sought judicial review pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. 46-750 and the Administrative Procedure Act. The district court reversed, concluding that MRNRD’s decision was not supported by the evidence, did not conform to the law, and was therefore arbitrary. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the order denying Medicine Creek’s request for a variance was judicial in nature and was appealable to the district court; and (2) the district court committed plain error by applying the wrong standard of review rather than the de novo standard. Remanded. View "Medicine Creek LLC v. Middle Republican Natural Resources District" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit 15 years after Consolidation Coal began its dewatering operation into Beatrice Mine, alleging that Consolidation Coal damaged plaintiffs' property interests in the exhausted Beatrice Mine and unjustly enriched itself. The district court granted defendants' motion for summary judgment. The court concluded that, because Consolidation Coal's water transfer was permitted by a state agency that had been delegated authority by federal law, it amounted to a federally permitted transfer and could not serve as a basis for a cause of action under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. 9601-9675; even if plaintiffs were to have the benefit of section 9658's discovery rule, they still could not satisfy the applicable statutes of limitations; the level of public notice and publicity that occurred with respect to Consolidation Coal's dewatering activities should reasonably have informed plaintiffs of those activities more than five years before plaintiffs commenced their lawsuits; and the court declined to toll the statutes of limitations under Virginia law in light of the record in this case. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Blankenship v. Consolidation Coal" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit seeking to move or extend the Brick-Kiln Dock to improve its accessibility. Plaintiffs argued that the deed by which plaintiffs conveyed the island property to the government and reserved the right to continue to use the dock permitted them to relocate the dock. Alternatively, plaintiffs contend that the Park Service's denial of permission to relocate or extend the dock was arbitrary and capricious. The court affirmed the district court's determination that, under the plain language of the deed, plaintiffs have no reserved right to unilaterally relocate or extend the dock. The court also concluded that the Park Service's denial of permission to relocate or extend the Dock was not arbitrary or capricious and did not exceed its authority. In this case, the Wilderness Act, 16 U.S.C. 1131(a), foreclosed relocation of the Dock, and the Park Service was authorized to regulate the marshlands. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "High Point, LLLP v. National Park Service" on Justia Law

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Dunn County appealed a judgment declaring the Industrial Commission had exclusive jurisdiction to determine the location of oil and gas waste treating plants. The Supreme Court affirmed, concluding the County lacked the power to veto the Commission's approval of the location for an oil and gas waste treating plant. View "Environmental Driven Solutions v. Dunn County" on Justia Law