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In these consolidated appeals requiring the Supreme Court to interpret various provisions of the West Virginia Surface Coal Mining and Reclamation Rule (WVSCMRR), W.Va. CSR 38-2-1, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the order of the circuit court. The Supreme Court held that the circuit court (1) did not err in finding that the WVSCMRR does not require a coal company, in its application for modification of its mining permit, to demonstrate compliance with the Utility Protection Standard found at W.Va. 38-2-14.17; (2) did not err in ruling that the permit application sufficiently described how the coal operator would comply with the Utility Protection Standard; but (3) erred in finding that the WVSCMRR applied regardless of a coal operator’s common law property rights. View "Texas Eastern Transmission v. W. Va. Department of Environmental Protection" on Justia Law

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The state acquired land on the Upper Truckee River in the Lake Tahoe Basin: 608 acres for Washoe Meadows State Park plus the 169-acre Lake Valley State Recreation Area, to continue operation of an existing golf course. Golf courses are not allowed in state parks. Erosion of the River’s bed raised concerns about wildlife habitat, water table, and sedimentation of Lake Tahoe. Studies identified the state land among the worst contributors. The golf course's layout had altered the river's course, CEQA review (Pub. Resources Code 21000) commenced on the “Upper Truckee River Restoration and Golf Course Reconfiguration Project,” identifying four alternatives: no project; river restoration with reconfiguration of the 18-hole golf course; river restoration with a nine-hole golf course; river stabilization with continuation of the existing golf course; and restoration of the ecosystem and decommissioning the golf course. Relocating some holes inside the Park would necessitate adjustment of the Park/Recreation Area boundary. A draft environmental impact report (DEIR) did not identify a preferred alternative but analyzed the alternatives in detail. The final EIR identified river restoration with a reconfigured 18-hole golf course as the preferred alternative, taking about 40 acres from the Park. The court of appeal affirmed an order directing reversal of approval of the project. The DEIR did not identify a proposed project, but described five very different alternatives; the public was not provided with “an accurate, stable and finite” project description on which to comment. View "Washoe Meadows Community v. Department of Parks and Recreation" on Justia Law

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The State of California prevailed in a representative public nuisance action against ConAgra, NL, and Sherwin-Williams. The trial court ordered the defendants to pay $1.15 billion into a fund to be used to abate the public nuisance created by interior residential lead paint in the ten counties represented by the state. The court of appeal affirmed in part, noting that the absence of a regulation or statute declaring interior residential lead paint to be unlawful does not bar a court from declaring it to be a public nuisance. The court reversed in part, holding that substantial evidence did not support causation as to residences built after 1950, and remanded to the trial court with directions to recalculate the amount of the abatement fund to limit it to the amount necessary to cover the cost of remediating pre-1951 homes, and hold an evidentiary hearing regarding the appointment of a suitable receiver. View "People v. ConAgra Grocery Products Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the water court that largely adopted the water master’s report dividing the four water rights for irrigation from Nevada Creek between James and Linda Quigley and Richard Beck based on a ratio of the irrigated acres owned by each party. The court held (1) the water court did not err in its interpretation of the 1909 Geary v. Raymond decree as decreeing water rights for irrigation to all of Finn Ranch, which was since divided into adjoining ranches owned by the Quigley and Beck; and (2) the water court did not err in applying the clear error standard to the water master’s findings of fact. View "Quigley v. Beck" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the constitutionality of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Water Compact, holding that Mont. Const. art. II, section 18 did not require the Montana Legislature to approve the Compact or its administrative provisions. The Compact, negotiated between the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, provided a unified system for the administration of water rights and the resolution of disputes on the reservation. The Compact was approved by the Montana Legislature in 2015. The Flathead Board of Joint Control brought suit against the State seeking to invalidate the Compact. The district court ruled (1) the challenged section of the Compact did not contravene Article II, Section 18 because it did not enact any new immunities from suit; but (2) the challenged section of the administrative provision provided new immunity to the State and, therefore, was covered by Article II, Section 18, and because the provision did not pass by a two-thirds majority of each house, it is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) none of the Compact’s provisions grant any state governmental agency new immunities from a potential lawsuit; and (2) the Legislature’s majority vote to approve and adopt the contract was consistent with subject provisions of the Montana Constitution. View "Flathead Joint Board of Control v. State" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit challenging the Park Service's decision authorizing recreational hunting of elk in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park. In regards to plaintiffs' claim under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321, the DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the Park Service. The court held that all the environmental effects seen during the years after the promulgation of the 2007 Plan and environmental impact study (EIS) had been anticipated and analyzed in the original environmental assessment, and thus the Park Service had no duty to prepare a supplemental or new EIS; plaintiffs failed to show that the Park Service acted arbitrarily or capriciously; and the Park Service has implemented the elk-reduction program in the manner envisioned by the 2007 Plan and analyzed in the 2007 EIS. Finally, the court vacated the district court's judgment in regard to the claim under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), 50 C.F.R. pt. 17, based on mootness grounds because the grizzly bear was no longer listed as a threatened species under the ESA. View "Mayo v. Reynolds" on Justia Law

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CEH filed a complaint in Alameda County alleging violation of the California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, Health and Safety Code section 25249.5 (Proposition 65) by failing to warn individuals who live or work in the Kern County town of Shafter that a soil fumigant manufactured by Dow contains a chemical known to cause cancer. Dow moved to transfer the case to Kern County, where the cause of action arose, citing Code of Civil Procedure section 393(a). The trial court denied held that venue is proper in any county under section 395(a) because Dow is a nonresident defendant with no principal place of business in California. The court of appeal disagreed, concluding that section 393(a) establishes that proper venue is in Kern County, where the cause of action arose.The “main relief rule” does not apply because the complaint allegations do not implicate real property rights; it is not necessary to determine whether the relief sought is primarily local and governed by section 392. A Proposition 65 private enforcement action does not fit within the class of cases characterized as transitory because the plaintiff is not seeking recompense for personal harm. An action for equitable relief under such a statute falls within the express language of section 393(a) when, as here, the plaintiff seeks a statutory penalty. View "Dow Agrosciences LLC v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to PG&E and denial of summary judgment to EcoRights with respect to a stormwater pathway. The panel held that the district court erred in applying the antiduplication provision of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), 42 U.S.C. 1006(a), with respect to the stormwater pathway; the absence of a Clean Water Act (CWA), 33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq., permit requirement did not trigger RCRA's anti-duplication provision; and PG&E failed to identify any legal requirements under municipal permits applicable to it and inconsistent with EcoRights' requested RCRA relief. The panel remanded for the district court to consider EcoRights' arguments with respect to the stormwater pathway that the relevant wastes were "solid wastes" and that PG&E's actions presented an imminent and substantial endangerment to health or the environment under RCRA. Finally, the panel affirmed the district court's grant of partial summary judgment as to the tire-tracking pathway. View "Ecological Rights Foundation v. PG&E" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit dismissed the petition for review of the EPA's modification, without notice and comment, of prior understandings of how to measure a proposed transportation project’s impact on ambient levels of PM2.5 and PM10. PM2.5 is particulate matter 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter and PM10 is particulate matter 10 micrometers or less in diameter. In regard to PM2.5, the court held that it lacked standing because petitioners have shown no instance where the change would be likely to have any adverse effect on them or their members. In regard to PM10, the court held that the EPA's new provisions were not binding on the agency or affected parties and therefore did not constitute a final action within the meaning of the Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. 7607(b)(1). View "Sierra Club v. EPA" on Justia Law

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The Judicial Council of California (Government Code 70321) prepared an environmental impact report (EIR, California Environmental Quality Act (Pub. Resources Code, 21000)) in connection with the consolidation of El Dorado County courthouse operations from two buildings, one of which is a historic building in downtown Placerville, into a single new building on the city’s outskirts, less than two miles away. Although the draft EIR addressed the possible economic impact of moving judicial activities from the downtown courthouse, it concluded the impact was not likely to be severe enough to cause urban decay in downtown Placerville. The League contended this conclusion was not supported by substantial evidence, given the importance of the courthouse to downtown commerce. The trial court and court of appeal upheld certification of the EIR. The court noted that the new construction will not result in a competitor to siphon business from downtown, but will leave behind a building that can be filled with other activities producing a level of commerce similar to that removed by the relocation, thereby mitigating the impact of the relocation. There was substantial evidence to support the draft EIR’s conclusion that urban decay is not a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the project. View "Placerville Historic Preservation League v. Judicial Council of California" on Justia Law