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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court striking down the Public Waters Access Act (PWAA), Utah Code 73-29-101 to 73-29-208, under “public trust” principles set forth in Utah Const. art. XX, 1, holding that the district court erred in treating the easement established by Conaster v. Johnson, 194 P.3d 897 (2008), as a matter beyond the legislature’s power to revise or revisit. The Supreme Court held in Conaster that the incidental right of touching the privately-owned bed of state waters is reasonably necessary to the public right to float on the water and to wade in the waters for recreation. Thereafter, the legislature enacted the PWAA, which restricted the scope of the Conaster easement by foreclosing the right to touch a streambed for purposes other than flotation. The Utah Stream Access Coalition then filed this lawsuit asserting a constitutional right of its members to wade in waters of the Provo River flowing through land owned by VR Acquisitions. The district court granted relief. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that its analysis in Conaster was based only on common-law easement principles, and because common-law decisions are subject to adaptation or reversal by the legislature, the district court erred in treating the Conaster easement as a right rooted in constitutional soil. View "Utah Stream Access Coalition v. VR Acquisitions, LLC" on Justia Law

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Hany Dimitry obtained a coastal development permit (CDP) from the City of Laguna Beach (the City) to demolish his Laguna Beach house. Mark Fudge challenged the permit, appealing to the California Coastal Commission (the Commission), and at court, to attach the merits of the City’s decision to grant Dimitry the CDP. The Commission accepted Fudge’s appeal, which meant it would hear that appeal “de novo.” Because the Commission’s hearing would be “de novo,” the trial court followed Kaczorowski v. Mendocino County Bd. of Supervisors, 88 Cal.App.4th 564 (2001) and McAllister v. County of Monterey, 147 Cal.App.4th 253 (2007) in concluding that there was no relief that Fudge might be able to obtain in his court action. The trial court concluded Fudge’s challenge to Dimitry’s CDP was entirely in the hands of the Commission, and dismissed the civil action. Fudge appealed, arguing the Commission’s hearing was not going to be truly “de novo” because the Commission would use different rules and procedures than the City used. When it comes to a local coastal entity’s decision on a CDP, the Court of Appeal determined the Legislature constructed a system in which appeals to the Commission would be heard de novo under the Coastal Act even though the original local decision was decided under CEQA. “Fudge’s mistake lies in his belief the Legislature was bound by the Collier court’s observation about de novo hearings being conducted in ‘the same manner’ as the original. We must disagree. It’s the other way around.” The Court determined the Legislature was not bound by the California Supreme Court’s observation about the common law nature of “de novo” hearings. Rather the courts were bound by the intent of the Legislature as to what the hearings would look like – plainly expressed in Public Resources Code section 21080.5. Therefore, the Court affirmed dismissal of the state court action. View "Fudge v. City of Laguna Beach" on Justia Law

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The city approved the agreement with Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), authorizing the removal of up to 272 trees within its local natural gas pipeline rights-of-way. The staff report explains that this is a Major Tree Removal Project, requiring a tree removal permit and mitigation for the removed trees. PG&E was willing to provide requested information and mitigation but claimed to be exempt from obtaining any discretionary permits. “To ensure that the [community pipeline safety initiative] can move forward and to protect the public safety, PG&E and City staff have agreed to process the ... project under [Code] section 6-1705(b)(S). This section allows the city to allow removal of a protected tree ‘to protect the health, safety and general welfare of the community.’“ Opponents sued, alleging violation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) (Pub. Resources Code 21000), the planning and zoning law, the general plan, and the tree ordinance, and the due process rights of the petitioners by failing to provide sufficient notice of the hearing. PG&E argued that the suit was barred by Government Code 65009(c)(1)(E), which requires an action challenging a decision regarding a zoning permit to be filed and served within 90 days of the decision. The original petition was timely filed but not served until after the deadline. The trial court dismissed without leave to amend. The court of appeal affirmed as to the ordinance claims but reversed with respect to CEQA. View "Save Lafayette Trees v. City of Lafayette" on Justia Law

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In these consolidated appeals, the First Circuit affirmed the judgments of the district court finding that Thomas & Betts was “liable to” New Albertson’s and other parties were “liable to” Thomas & Betts for certain portions of “response costs” that had been incurred in the cleanup of Mother Brook, a canal in Boston, Massachusetts, following the canal’s contamination by polychlorinated biphenyls. The canal’s cleanup resulted in a lawsuit in which Thomas & Betts and New Albertson’s brought Massachusetts law claims against each other and various third parties. The claims were primarily brought under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 21E, 4 seeking reimbursement for the money each party had spent on the cleanup. The jury allocated the percentage of the response costs that each of the various parties were responsible for reimbursing to, respectively, New Albertson’s and Thomas & Betts. The district court awarded prejudgment interest to New Albertson’s and Thomas & Betts on the funds that had been awarded to each of them on their chapter 4 claims and then awarded New Albertson’s attorney’s fees. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that no reversible error occurred in the proceedings below. View "Thomas & Betts Corp. v. Alfa Laval Inc." on Justia Law

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Berkeley approved the construction of three houses on adjacent parcels in the Berkeley Hills, citing the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), Pub. Resources Code, 21000 exemption for “up to three single-family residences” in urbanized areas. Plaintiffs opposed the approval, citing the “location” exception: “a project that is ordinarily insignificant in its impact ... may in a particularly sensitive environment be significant … where the project may impact on an environmental resource of hazardous or critical concern where designated.” The projects were within the Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zone and in a potential earthquake-induced landslide area mapped by the California Geologic Survey. The court of appeal affirmed the denial of the petition for writ of mandate. Giving meaning to the phrase “environmental resource,” the location exception was not intended to cover all areas subject to such potential natural disasters as a matter of law; it applies “where the project may impact on an environmental resource.” The exception reflects a concern with the effect of the project on the environment, not the impact of existing environmental conditions (such as seismic and landslide risks) on the project or future residents Plaintiffs produced no evidence that construction of the three proposed residences would exacerbate existing hazardous conditions or harm the environment View "Berkeley Hills Watershed Coalition v. Berkeley" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit granted a petition for review of FERC's orders finding that California and Oregon had not waived their water quality certification authority under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and that PacifiCorp had diligently prosecuted its relicensing application for the Klamath Hydroelectric Project. At issue was whether states waive Section 401 authority by deferring review and agreeing with a licensee to treat repeatedly withdrawn and resubmitted water quality certification requests as new requests. The court held that the withdrawal-and-resubmission of water quality certification requests did not trigger new statutory periods of review. Therefore, California and Oregon have waived their Section 401 authority with regard to the Project. Furthermore, the court disagreed that a finding of waiver was futile. View "Hoopa Valley Tribe v. FERC" on Justia Law

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SOS challenged the agencies' decision to replace a segment of North Carolina Highway 12 (NC-12) with a bridge across the Pamlico Sound. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of the agencies' motion for summary judgment, holding that they did not violate the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or the Department of Transportation Act (DTA) when they approved the bridge. In this case, the agencies were not required to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement to consider the alignment of the Jug-Handle Bridge or to consider beach nourishment alternatives; the agencies adequately considered the effects of construction traffic as a result of the Jug-Handle Bridge in the 2016 record of decision; and the agencies' choice of the Jug-Handle Bridge was not impermissibly predetermined. The court also affirmed the district court's denial of SOS's motion to amend its complaint. View "Save Our Sound OBX, Inc. v. North Carolina Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review centered on whether a water court had jurisdiction to consider a claim for inverse condemnation alleging a judicial taking of shares in a mutual ditch company. The water court dismissed plaintiff-appellant Sam Allen’s inverse condemnation claim, concluding that his claim was “grounded in ownership and the conveyance of that ownership, not use,” and therefore the claim was not a water matter within the exclusive jurisdiction of the water court. The Supreme Court agreed, and thus affirmed the water court’s dismissal order. View "Allen v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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In 2007, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) brought charges before the Pollution Control Board against EOR Energy and AET Environmental under the Illinois Environmental Protection Act, 415 ILCS 5/1–5/58, for transporting hazardous‐waste acid into Illinois, storing that waste, and then injecting it into EOR’s industrial wells. EOR unsuccessfully argued in state courts that the IEPA and the Board did not have jurisdiction over EOR’s acid dumping. EOR asserted that it was not injecting “waste” into its wells but was merely injecting an acid that was used to treat the wells and aid in petroleum extraction so that the Illinois Department of Natural Resources had exclusive jurisdiction under the Illinois Oil and Gas Act, 225 ILCS 725/1. EOR then sought a federal declaratory judgment. The district court dismissed the case, citing the Eleventh Amendment and issue preclusion. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, “emphatically” rejecting the “undisguised attempt to execute an end‐run around the state court’s decision.” View "EOR Energy, LLC v. Illinois Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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Mittelstadt’s Richland County, Wisconsin land was enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), administered by the Department of Agriculture (USDA), from 1987-2006. CRP participants agree to remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production in return for annual rental payments from the USDA. In 2006, the agency denied Mittelstadt’s application to re-enroll. After exhausting his administrative appeals, he sued under the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 701, and asserting a breach of contract. The district court entered judgment in favor of the agency. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Under the regulations governing the CRP, the USDA has broad discretion to evaluate offers of enrollment in the program on a competitive basis by considering the environmental benefits of a producer’s land relative to its costs. Given the agency’s wide latitude, the Farm Services Agency did not abuse its discretion when it denied re-enrollment of Mittelstadt’s land under a new definition of “mixed hardwoods.” Because he never entered a new contract with the agency, there was no breach of contract. View "Mittelstadt v. Perdue" on Justia Law