Justia Environmental Law Opinion Summaries

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Corps, holding that the district court properly determined that it was reasonable for the Corps to conclude that environmental effects of phosphogypsum production and storage fell outside the scope of its National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) review. The court held that the Corps otherwise complied with NEPA by issuing an area-wide environmental-impact statement, which served as the mine-specific impact statement for each of the four proposed mine sites, and following that up with a supplemental environmental assessment of the South Pasture Mine Extension, before issuing the Section 404 permit related to that mine in a record of decision. Finally, the court held that the Corps did not violate section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act, which requires each agency to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service before taking an "action" to ensure that such action was not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species or its habitat. View "Center for Biological Diversity v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers" on Justia Law

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Three cases were consolidated by the Idaho Supreme Court for the purposes of appeal. The cases involved three separate actions: one brought by First Security Corporation and two others brought by Richard Fosbury to quiet title to their purported ownership of irrigation water rights to land owned by Belle Ranch, LLC. All parties agreed that partial decrees for the water rights were issued in the Snake River Basin Adjudication (SRBA) in the name of South County Estates, LLC. As South County’s successors in interest, First Security and Fosbury argued their interests in the water rights are senior and therefore superior to the interest of Belle Ranch, LLC. Notwithstanding these claims, the district court quieted title to the water rights in question to Belle Ranch, LLC. First Security and Fosbury appeal. The Idaho Supreme Court determined First Security and Fosbury’s claims were precluded by res judicata: the claims were the same claims that were adjudicated in the SRBA. The Supreme Court found it was appropriate for the district court to quiet title in favor of Belle Ranch, LLC, because Belle Ranch, LLC, filed a notice of a change in ownership during the pendency of the SRBA. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the district court’s judgment. View "First Security v. Belle Ranch" on Justia Law

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States, environmental groups, and industry representatives challenged the EPA's announcement that it would reconsider the appropriateness of, and conduct a rulemaking to potentially alter, greenhouse gas emission standards adopted in 2012 for model year 2022 to 2025 motor vehicles (Revised Determination). The DC Circuit dismissed the petitions for review based on lack of jurisdiction, holding that the EPA has not engaged in final action under the Clean Air Act. The court held that the Revised Determination was akin to an agency's grant of a petition for reconsideration of a rule. In this case, the Revised Determination neither determines rights or obligations or imposes any legal consequences, nor alters the baseline upon which any departure from the currently effective 2012 emission standards must be explained. View "California v. EPA" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the challenged portion of the order of the Appellate Division affirming Supreme Court's upholding the determination of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) that permits seasonal snowmobile use on an existing roadway on property recently acquired by the state and added to the Adirondack Forest Preserve, holding that DEC did not exceed its authority to approve limited seasonal snowmobile use on the property. In this N.Y. C.P.L.R. 78 proceeding, Petitioners, environmental groups, argued that the DEC's determination contravened controlling motor vehicle use restrictions in the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (Master Plan) and Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers System Act (Rivers Act), ECL 15-2701 et seq., and was otherwise irrational. The lower courts disagreed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the challenged portion of DEC's determination was not irrational, arbitrary and capricious, or contrary to law. View "Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve v. New York State Adirondack Park Agency" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting the motion to dismiss filed by the City of Bozeman, holding that Mont. Code Ann. 85-2-114 does not provide an implied private right of action for judicial enforcement of the Montana Water Use Act. Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging that the City was in violation of the Act due to unpermitted water use and seeking injunctive relief and attorney fees. The City filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, arguing that the Act does not create a private right of action for enforcement through injunctive relief, nor does it create a private right of action. The district court granted the City's motion to dismiss, concluding that section 85-2-114, which allows for judicial enforcement of the Act, doesn't support an implied private right of action for enforcement. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the provisions of section 85-2-114 preclude the possibility that the Act provides an implied private right of enforcement of the Act. View "Lyman Creek, LLC v. City of Bozeman" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) filed a petition in June 2014 to overturn a March 2014 order of defendant Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control District1 (Water Board) that sought to impose liability for remediation of metallic and acidic water pollution from an abandoned mine, the owner of which was the subsidiary of ARCO’s predecessors in interest. The trial court granted the petition in January 2018. The Water Board appealed, contending the trial court applied the wrong legal standard to determine whether the ARCO predecessors incurred direct liability for control over activities resulting in the hazardous waste that the mine discharges. The Court of Appeal agreed the trial court employed too restrictive a standard in evaluating the evidence, and therefore reversed and remanded for reconsideration of the record under the proper standard. View "Atlantic Richfield v. Central Valley Regional Water Quality etc." on Justia Law

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The 86-acre Knights Valley parcel in rural Sonoma County is zoned “Land Extensive Agriculture,” which allows wineries and tasting rooms as conditional uses. The project is a two-story, 5,500-square-foot winery building with a 17,500-square-foot wine cave, wastewater treatment, water storage facilities, fire protection facilities, and mechanical areas, covering approximately 2.4 acres. The site contains two residences and 46 acres of vineyards. The nearby area is primarily vineyards. County staff reviewed reports considering impacts on geology, groundwater, wastewater, and biological resources, and concluded that, with recommended mitigation, the project would not have a significant effect on the environment. The county approved the use permit with conditions and adopted a mitigated negative declaration under the California Environmental Quality Act (Pub. Resources Code 21000) and a mitigation monitoring program. The court of appeal upheld the approval. Opponents did not provide evidence that the project is reasonably likely to cause landslides or otherwise generate environmentally harmful releases of debris; that erosion from the project, particularly runoff from the cave spoils, will cause significant effects on Bidwell Creek and degrade the habitat for salmonids; or that the project’s groundwater use will significantly affect salmonids, groundwater supply in neighboring wells, and fire suppression. There was no substantial evidence that the winery will have a significant aesthetic impact or that there is a reasonable possibility the project, as conditioned, will significantly increase the risk of wildfires. View "Maacama Watershed Alliance v. County of Sonoma" on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged EPA's 2017 Final Rule approving Louisiana's state implementation plan (SIP) for controlling regional haze. Environmental Petitioners contend that Louisiana's SIP does too little to curb regional haze at federally protected areas. Industry Petitioners contend that Louisiana's SIP overestimates the amount of pollution that their power plants produce. The Fifth Circuit denied Industry Petitioners' petition, holding that EPA did not act arbitrarily and capriciously in relying on the CALPUFF model to approve Louisiana's "subject to BART" determinations. The court applied deferential standards of review and held that, although Environmental Petitioners' challenge presented a closer question, the court denied the petition because EPA's approval of Louisiana's SIP was not arbitrary and capricious. Even though the court noted that Louisiana’s explanation of its BART determination for the Nelson power plant omitted two of the five mandatory factors and failed to compare—or even set out—the numbers for the costs and benefits of the control options Louisiana considered. Furthermore, Louisiana failed to explain how its decision accounted for the EPA-submitted analyses that pointed out substantial flaws in other analyses in the administrative record. View "Sierra Club v. EPA" on Justia Law

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The Jackson Redevelopment Authority (JRA) leased several parcels along Farish Street in Jackson, Mississippi to the Farish Street Group (FSG). In exchange for a long-term lease and other favorable terms, FSG was given a set period of time to renovate the properties and to sublet them to retail establishments. Watkins Development, which owned half of FSG, contracted with FSG to do the renovations. The plan was to build an entertainment district on Farish Street, but after a few years only a fraction of the renovations were done, and none of the properties were occupied by tenants. JRA terminated the lease, and this litigation followed. The Chancery Court ultimately found that the lease was properly terminated, that no party had shown it was entitled to money damages, and that Watkins Development could not take a mechanic’s lien on the property. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Watkins Development, LLC v. Jackson Redevelopment Authority" on Justia Law

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At issue in appeal was a challenge under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to a project proposing to expand an existing Walmart store by approximately 64,000 square feet (the Project). Years earlier, Walmart Stores, Inc. (Walmart), had proposed a larger expansion project that would have increased the size of the store by approximately 98,000 square feet. In 2009, the City of Chico (City) declined to approve that project. In 2015, Walmart returned to the City seeking approval of the current Project. After preparing a new environmental impact report (EIR), which showed the Project would have a significant and unavoidable traffic impact, the City certified the EIR and approved the Project. The City also adopted a statement of overriding considerations, concluding that the benefits of the Project outweighed its one unavoidable environmental impact. Plaintiff Chico Advocates for a Responsible Economy (CARE) filed a petition for writ of mandate challenging the City’s environmental review and approval of the Project, but the trial court denied the petition. CARE appealed, arguing the trial court erred in denying the petition because: (1) the EIR failed to adequately evaluate the Project’s urban decay impacts; and (2) the City’s statement of overriding considerations is deficient. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Chico Advocates for a Responsible Economy v. City of Chico" on Justia Law