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Constitution petitioned for review of the Department's decision denying its application for certification pursuant to Section 401 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, more commonly known as the Clean Water Act (CWA), 33 U.S.C. 1341. Constitution sought certification that its proposed interstate natural gas pipeline would comply with New York State water quality standards. NYSDEC denied the application on the ground that Constitution had not provided sufficient information. The Second Circuit held that, to the extent Constitution challenged the timeliness of the NYSDEC decision, the petition was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. On the merits, the court held that NYSDEC's actions were within its statutory authority and that its decision was not arbitrary or capricious. The court deferred to NYSDEC's expertise as to the significance of the information requested from Constitution, given the record evidence supporting the relevance of that information to NYSDEC's certification determination. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review. View "Constitution Pipeline Co. v. New York Sate Department of Environmental Conservation" on Justia Law

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The Oak Ridge, Tennessee uranium-enrichment facilities for the Manhattan Project, the World War II effort to build the first atomic bomb, have been inactive since the mid-1980s. The Department of Energy has worked to clean up the hazardous waste and hired Bechtel, a global engineering and construction firm. Bechtel hired Eagle to help decontaminate the complex, which required the demolition of buildings and equipment across the 2,200-acre complex and removal of radioactive nuclear waste, followed by decontamination of the soil and groundwater to make the site safe for redevelopment. Eagle’s work proved significantly more challenging and expensive than either party anticipated. Their contract allowed Bechtel to make changes; if those changes caused Eagle’s costs to increase, Bechtel was to make equitable adjustments in price and time for performance. Eight years after completing its work, Eagle filed suit, seeking compensation for its extra work and for excess waste that Eagle removed. The district court awarded Eagle the full amount of each request, plus interest and attorney’s fees. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the award of damages and attorney’s fees, but remanded so that the court can recalculate the interest to which Eagle is entitled under the Tennessee Prompt Pay Act. View "Eagle Supply & Manufacturing L.P. v. Bechtel Jacobs Co." on Justia Law

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In an amendment to the Clean Air Act (CAA), Congress directed the EPA to operate a Renewable Fuel Standards Program (the RFS Program) to increase oil refineries’ use of renewable fuels. But for small refineries that would suffer a “disproportionate economic hardship” in complying with the RFS Program, the statute required the EPA to grant exemptions on a case-by-case basis. Petitioner Sinclair Wyoming Refining Company owned and operated two refineries in Wyoming: one in Sinclair, and another in Casper. Both fell within the RFS Program’s definition of “small refinery” and were exempt from the RFS requirements until 2011. Those exemptions were extended until 2013 after the Department of Energy found Sinclair’s Wyoming refineries to be among the 13 of 59 small refineries that would continue to face “disproportionate economic hardship” if required to comply with the RFS Program. Sinclair then petitioned the EPA to extend their small-refinery exemptions. The EPA denied Sinclair’s petitions in two separate decisions, finding that both refineries appeared to be profitable enough to pay the cost of the RFS Program. Sinclair filed a timely petition for review with the Tenth Circuit court, which concluded the EPA exceeded its statutory authority under the CAA in interpreting the hardship exemption to require a threat to a refinery’s survival as an ongoing operation. Because the Court found the EPA exceeded its statutory authority, it vacated the EPA’s decisions and remanded to the EPA for further proceedings. View "Sinclair Wyoming Refining v. EPA" on Justia Law

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Sierra Club challenged the Department's grant of an application to export liquified natural gas (LNG) using terminals and liquefaction facilities (Freeport Terminal) on Quintana Island. On the merits, the DC Circuit held that the Department did not fail to fulfill its obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by declining to make specific projections about environmental impacts stemming from specific levels of export-induced gas production; the Department did not fail to fulfill its obligations with respect to the potential for the U.S. electric power sector to switch from gas to coal in response to higher gas prices; the court rejected Sierra Club's challenges to the Department's examination of the potential greenhouse-gas emissions resulting from the indirect effects of exports; and Sierra Club has given the court no reason to question the Department's judgment that the FLEX application was not inconsistent with the public interest. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review. View "Sierra Club v. DOE" on Justia Law

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ExxonMobil’s 859-mile long Pegasus Pipeline transports crude oil from Patoka, Illinois to Nederland, Texas. In March 2013, it ruptured, spilling several thousand barrels of oil near Mayflower, Arkansas. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, within the U.S. Department of Transportation, conducted an investigation and concluded that ExxonMobil violated several pipeline safety regulations under the Pipeline Safety Act, 49 U.S.C. 60101. Specifically, the agency found that the integrity management program (IMP) plan had not properly accounted for the risk of longitudinal seam failure and that this was a contributing factor in the Mayflower release. The agency assessed a $2.6 million civil penalty and ordered ExxonMobil to take certain actions to ensure compliance with those regulations. The Fifth Circuit vacated certain items in the order. Finding that it owed no deference to the agency’s interpretation of the regulation, the court concluded that ExxonMobil reasonably applied 49 CFR 195.452(e)(1)’s instruction to “consider” all relevant risk factors in making its pipeline susceptibility determination. The court remanded with an instruction to reevaluate the basis for the penalty associated with another violation. View "ExxonMobil Pipeline Co. v. United States Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, visited the Cherokee Bear Zoo. Plaintiffs observed bear pits containing four bears, identified by signs as grizzly bears. The pits were compact and made entirely of concrete. Each pit had a small pool of water, but neither had any vegetation nor any shade. Plaintiffs observed the bears in listless form, pacing and begging for food. Patrons fed the bears apples and dry bread sold by the Zoo. Plaintiffs brought a citizen suit, alleging that the Zoo’s practice of keeping the bears in the described living conditions constituted a “tak[ing]” of and possession of a taken threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. 1538(a)(1). Plaintiffs’ argued that the Zoo’s conduct is a form of “harass[ment]” of, and “harm” to, its bears. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s rulings in favor of Plaintiffs on the issues of standing and the bears’ status as protected but vacated the court’s ruling against Plaintiffs on the issue of whether the Zoo is committing an unlawful taking. To establish harassment, Plaintiffs must prove that the Zoo’s husbandry practices fall within 50 C.F.R. 17.3’s definition of harass and that those practices do not fall within the enumerated exclusion. The district court did not reach the first issue and improperly declined to ask whether the Zoo’s animal husbandry practices are “generally accepted.” View "Hill v. Coggins" on Justia Law

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Before appellants purchased Martins Beach, the public was permitted to access the coast by driving down Martins Beach Road and parking along the coast, usually upon payment of a fee. Because it is sheltered by high cliffs, Martins Beach lacks lateral land access. In 2008, appellants purchased Martins Beach and adjacent land including Martins Beach Road. A year or two later, appellants closed the only public access to the coast at that site. Surfrider, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of access for recreation, brought suit. The trial court held the California Coastal Act (Pub. Res. Code, 30000–30900) applied and the appellants were required to apply for a coastal development permit (CDP) before closing public access. The court issued an injunction that requires appellants to allow public coastal access at the same level that existed when appellants bought the Martins Beach property. The court of appeal affirmed. Appellants‘ conduct is “development” requiring a CDP under section 30106 of the Coastal Act. Appellants‘ constitutional challenge to the Coastal Act‘s permitting requirement under the state and federal takings clauses is not ripe, The injunction is not a per se taking. The court affirmed an award of attorney fees to Surfrider. View "Surfrider Foundation v. Martins Beach 1, LLC" on Justia Law

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A settlement agreement entered into under an authority other than the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) may give rise to a CERCLA contribution action. A "corrective measure" under a different environmental statute, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), qualifies as a "response" action under CERCLA. In this case, the Ninth Circuit held that Asarco did not resolve its liability under the 1998 RCRA Decree. Therefore, Asarco could not have brought its contribution action in 1998, and the statute of limitations did not begin to run with entry of the 1998 RCRA Decree. Accordingly, the district court erred in dismissing Asarco's action on statute of limitations grounds. The panel vacated and remanded for further proceedings to determine whether Asarco was entitled to contribution for the response costs it incurred under the 2009 agreement. View "Asarco LLC V. Atlantic Richfield Co." on Justia Law

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This case arose from a community college’s decision to buy a plot of vacant land from a regional park district for potential future use as the site of a new campus. Plaintiffs-appellants Martha Bridges and John Burkett, residents of Wildomar (where the land was located) sued respondent Mt. San Jacinto Community College District (the community college, or the college) alleging it violated California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by failing to prepare an environmental impact report (EIR) before executing a purchase agreement for the property. Appellants also alleged the community college violated CEQA by failing to adopt local CEQA implementing guidelines. The trial court dismissed the action in its entirety, and the Court of Appeal affirmed: (1) appellants did not exhaust their administrative remedies before filing this suit and did not demonstrate they were excused from doing so; and (2) even if the exhaustion doctrine did not bar appellants’ suit, the Court would have affirmed the trial court’s ruling because both of their CEQA claims lacked merit. View "Bridges v. Mt. San Jacinto Community College Dist." on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged whether EPA had statutory authority to issue a 2015 Rule regulating the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). As statutory authority for the 2015 Rule, EPA relied on Section 612 of the Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. 7671k, which requires manufacturers to replace ozone-depleting substances with safe substitutes. The DC Circuit held that the fundamental problem for EPA was that HFCs were not ozone-depleting substances. Because EPA's novel reading of Section 612 was inconsistent with the statute as written, the court vacated the 2015 Rule to the extent it required manufacturers to replace HFCs and remanded for further proceedings. View "Mexichem Fluor, Inc. v. EPA" on Justia Law