by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Forest Service in an action challenging the agency's designation of at-risk forest lands and its approval of the Sunny South Project. The panel held that the landscape-scale area designation under section 6591a(b)(2) did not trigger a requirement for National Environmental Policy Act analysis. In this case, the Forest Service's designation of the areas did not require an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement under the Act. The panel also held that the Forest Service's finding that the project did not involve "extraordinary circumstances" was not arbitrary or capricious. View "Center for Biological Diversity v. Ilano" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court quashed the judgment of the superior court upholding the decision of the Administrative Adjudication Division (AAD) of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) denying Plaintiffs' request for reasonable litigation expenses in this case alleging violations of the Rhode Island Water Pollution Act (Act) and other regulations, holding that Plaintiffs were entitled to reasonable litigation expenses. Plaintiffs appealed from a notice of violation issued by the DEM alleging ten violations of the Act, the Rhode Island Oil Pollution Control Act, and DEM's regulations. After a hearing before the AAD, Plaintiffs prevailed on all but two of the alleged violations. Plaintiffs requested reasonable litigation expenses under the Equal Access to Justice for Small Businesses and Individuals Act (EAJA), but the AAD hearing officer denied the request. The superior court affirmed. The Supreme Court quashed the superior court's decision, holding that DEM Acted without substantial justification in pursuing charges against Plaintiffs and that this was the type of unjust action by the State that the EAJA was designed to ameliorate. The Court remanded the case with directions to enter a judgment in favor of Plaintiffs in the amount of $69,581.25 for attorneys' fees. View "Rollingwood Acres, Inc. v. Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management" on Justia Law

by
In 2010, the Illinois General Assembly directed the Pollution Control Board to adopt rules for the use of clean construction or demolition debris (CCDD) and uncontaminated soil (US) as fill material at clean construction or demolition debris fill operations. The rules were to include “standards and procedures necessary to protect groundwater.” The legislature provided “an inexhaustive list of 12 ways to do so that the Board may consider,” including groundwater monitoring. The rules ultimately promulgated by the Board required stronger “front-end” testing and certification requirements for CCDD and US but not a “back-end” groundwater monitoring requirement. The appellate court and Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the Board’s decision. Objectors failed to establish that the Board’s decision was arbitrary and capricious for relying upon an improper factor when it considered whether CCDD and US are waste. The courts rejected an argument that the Board ignored the costs of groundwater monitoring and the hazards of older and noncompliant fill. When acting in its quasi-legislative capacity, the Board has no burden to support its conclusions with a given quantum of evidence; the court rejected an argument that the Board’s decision was arbitrary and capricious for offering an explanation that was counter to the evidence or implausible. View "County of Will v. Pollution Control Board" on Justia Law

by
After years of investigation, the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Board), issued a cleanup and abatement order (CAO) to San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E) and several other entities, in connection with a power plant’s operations that discharged waste into the San Diego Bay. The Regional Board found that SDG&E caused or permitted waste to be discharged into the Bay and thereby created, or threatened to create, pollution and nuisance conditions. SDG&E contested its designation as a responsible "person" under Water Code section 13304 (a), and petitioned for a writ of mandate to have the CAO vacated. The superior court denied the writ. SDG&E argued then, as it did before the Court of Appeal, that shipyard companies comparatively discharged greater amounts of pollutants into the Bay and that two appellate opinions required application of the "substantial factor" causation test to determine whether SDG&E created or threatened to create a condition of pollution or nuisance. The Court of Appeal found it was undisputed that SDG&E directly discharged and thus "caused or permitted" waste to enter the Bay, distinguishing the aforementioned appellate cases. Further, the Regional Board adequately demonstrated that the waste discharged by SDG&E created, or threatened to create, a condition of pollution or nuisance. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the judgment. View "San Diego Gas & Electric Co. v. San Diego Regional Water etc." on Justia Law

by
The company wants to mine raw uranium ore from a site near Coles Hill, Virginia. Virginia law completely prohibits uranium mining. The company alleged that, under the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, the Atomic Energy Act (AEA) preempts state uranium mining laws like Virginia’s and makes the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) the lone regulator. The district court, the Fourth Circuit, and the Supreme Court rejected the company’s argument. The AEA does not preempt Virginia’s law banning uranium mining; the law grants the NRC extensive and sometimes exclusive authority to regulate nearly every aspect of the nuclear fuel life cycle except mining, expressly stating that the NRC’s regulatory powers arise only “after [uranium’s] removal from its place of deposit in nature,” 42 U.S.C. 2092. If the federal government wants to control uranium mining on private land, it must purchase or seize the land by eminent domain and make it federal land, indicating that state authority remains untouched. Rejecting “field preemption: and “conflict preemption” arguments, the Court stated that the only thing a court can be sure of is what can be found in the law itself and the compromise that Congress actually struck in the AEA leaves mining regulation on private land to the states. View "Virginia Uranium, Inc. v. Warren" on Justia Law

by
The Center for Biological Diversity appealed the denial of its petition for a writ of mandate challenging an environmental impact report (EIR) prepared by the California Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (Department) pursuant to a law known as Senate Bill No. 4. (Stats. 2013, ch. 313, sec. 2, enacting Sen. Bill No. 4; hereafter, Senate Bill No. 4.) Senate Bill No. 4 added sections 3150 through 3161 to the Public Resources Code to address the need for additional information about the environmental effects of well stimulation treatments such as hydraulic fracturing and acid well stimulation. As relevant here, Senate Bill No. 4 required the Department to prepare an EIR “pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act ([Public Resources Code] Division 13 (commencing with Section 21000) [CEQA]), to provide the public with detailed information regarding any potential environmental impacts of well stimulation in the state.” The Department prepared and certified an EIR. The Center filed a petition for writ of mandate and complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief, challenging the EIR under CEQA and Senate Bill No. 4. The trial court sustained a demurrer to the Center’s cause of action for violations of CEQA, and subsequently denied the petition for a writ of mandate. The Court of Appeal found no reversible error in the denial of mandamus relief and affirmed. View "Center for Biological Diversity v. CA Dept. of Conservation" on Justia Law

by
This appeal centered on the distribution of water to water right 95-0734 in the Twin Lakes-Rathdrum Creek Drainage Basin. Sylte Ranch, LLC, was the current claimant on water right 95- 0734, which dated from 1875 and provided natural flow stockwater from Rathdrum Creek. In September 2016, Idaho Department of Water Resources (IDWR) issued a letter of instructions to the local watermaster in response to a complaint that he was releasing storage water from Twin Lakes contrary to a 1989 Final Decree that established all existing rights to Twin Lakes’ surface waters, tributaries, and outlets. These instructions led Sylte to file a Petition for Declaratory Ruling, arguing that IDWR should set aside and reverse the instructions because they improperly limited water right 95-0734 to Twin Lakes’ natural tributary inflow. Twin Lakes Improvement Association, et al., and Twin Lakes Flood Control District intervened in the case. Following cross motions for summary judgment, IDWR issued a Final Order, in which it upheld the instructions and granted intervenors’ motion for summary judgment. Sylte then sought judicial review and the district court affirmed IDWR’s Final Order. Sylte timely appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s determination to uphold IDWR’s Final Order because the instructions complied with the plain language of the 1989 Final Decree. View "Sylte v. IDWR" on Justia Law

by
Sierra Club filed a petition for the Administrator of the EPA to object to a renewal of an operating permit under Title V of the Clean Air Act issued by the State of Utah for the Hunter Power Plant. After the Administrator denied the petition for objection without examining the merits of Sierra Club's claim, Sierra Club sought vacatur and remand. The DC Circuit held that venue was not proper in this court, because the order denying the petition or objection was neither a nationally applicable regulation nor determined by the Administrator to have nationwide scope or effect. Accordingly, the court dismissed the petition for review under section 307(b)(1) of the Clean Air Act. View "Sierra Club v. EPA" on Justia Law

by
The Town of Lincoln, New Hampshire, appealed a Water Court order upholding a decision by the Department of Environmental Services (DES) ordering the town to repair the Pemigewasset River Levee. The Water Counsel determined the Town owned the levee pursuant to RSA 482:11-a(2013), and therefore was obligated to maintain and repair the levee. In support of its position, DES contends that, in the Assurance, the Town “agreed to take responsibility for the [l]evee’s ongoing maintenance and repair.”1 However, the fact that the Town undertook certain maintenance obligations in the Assurance does not mean that the additional obligations of “ownership” under RSA 482:11-a can or should be imposed upon the Town. The New Hampshire Supreme Court determined that the Water Council’s conclusion the Town “owned” the levee under RSA 482:11-a was dependent on flawed reasoning that Appeal of Michele, 168 N.H. 98 (2015) controlled the outcome of this case. The Supreme Court concluded the Town met its burden to show the Water Council was unreasonable. The Court did not decide the precise degree of ownership that made a person or entity an “owner” for the purposes of RSA 482:11-a, it held that the limited access easement held by the Town in this case fell short of that threshold. Because the Court’s holding on this issue was dispositive of this case, it declined to address the parties’ other arguments. View "Appeal of Town of Lincoln" on Justia Law

by
Petitioners sought review of FERC's decision authorizing the construction and operation of a new natural gas compression facility in Davidson County. The DC Circuit denied the petition and held that FERC did not violate the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by failing to adequately assess alternatives to the proposed action. In this case, the environmental assessment reflected that the Commission considered twelve alternatives and evaluated each with respect to eighteen different environmental factors. Despite the court's misgivings regarding the Commission's decidedly less-than-dogged efforts to obtain the information it says it would need to determine that downstream greenhouse gas emissions qualify as a reasonably foreseeable indirect effect of the project, the court held that petitioners failed to raise this record-development issue in the proceedings before the Commission. Accordingly, the court lacked jurisdiction to decide whether the Commission acted arbitrarily or capriciously and violated NEPA by failing to further develop the record in this case. View "Birckhead v. FERC" on Justia Law