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BNSF Railway proposed a new railyard approximately four miles from the Port of Los Angeles. Environmental analysis of the project began no later that 2005. The final environmental impact report (FEIR) prepared pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) (Pub. Resources Code 21000) exceeds 5,000 pages. The trial court held that the Attorney General, who intervened in the City of Long Beach petition, was entitled to assert objections to the sufficiency of the FEIR that were not raised by any party in the administrative proceedings. BNSF challenged the trial court’s conclusion that the FEIR was deficient for failing to analyze the impact of rendering capacity at BNSF’s existing Hobart yard in the City of Commerce, 24 miles from the port, available to handle additional traffic. The court of appeal affirmed, first holding that the exhaustion requirement that generally apply to parties contesting the adequacy of an environmental impact report do not apply to the Attorney General. The FEIR failed to adequately consider air quality impacts of the project, particularly impacts to ambient air pollutant concentrations and cumulative impacts of such pollutant concentrations. View "City of Long Beach v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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Halus owned land in a San Leandro industrial zone, where it designed and manufactured wind turbines. It proposed to install a 100-foot-tall wind turbine to generate energy and conduct research and development; it sought a variance from zoning restrictions on height. San Leandro conducted an analysis under the California Environmental Quality Act (Pub. Resources Code 21000) (CEQA). The turbine would have been within the San Francisco Bay Estuary, a major refuge for many species, including threatened or endangered species, and 500 feet from a residential development. The city proposed a mitigated negative declaration (MND) allowing the project to go forward with mitigation measures. In response to comments and objections, San Leandro released a revised MND adding mitigation or monitoring recommended by the Department of Fish and Game, without requiring an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). HOA filed suit. The court held that San Leandro failed to comply with CEQA. San Leandro set aside its approval. The project did not proceed. The court granted HOA attorneys’ fees, Code of Civil Procedure 1021.5. The court of appeal affirmed, finding that the action resulted in the enforcement of an important right affecting the public interest, a significant benefit was conferred on the general public or a large class of persons, and the necessity and financial burden of private enforcement made the award appropriate. View "Heron Bay Homeowners Association v. City of San Leandro" on Justia Law

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The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), 16 U.S.C. 4321 et seq., did not limit the United States government from issuing a permit to remove birds of one species for scientific purposes if its intent was principally to benefit another species. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Service in an action challenging a permit allowing the taking of the barred owl. The panel held that the MBTA imposed few substantive conditions itself and delegated to the Secretary of the Interior broad discretion to implement the Act, discretion the Secretary has used to promulgate the regulation at issue that has no text directly supporting Friends' proposed same-species theory. The panel held that the "used for scientific purposes" exception in Article II(A) of the Mexico Convention included taking birds to study whether their absence benefits another protected bird species; even if the canon of noscitur a sociis applied in this case, the panel did not believe that it supported plaintiff's same-species theory; and the Canada, Japan, and Russia Conventions did not support the same-species theory. View "Friends of Animals v. USFWS" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Clews Land and Livestock, LLC; Barbara Clews; and Christian Clews (collectively, CLL) appealed a judgment in favor of defendant City of San Diego (City) on CLL's petition for writ of mandate and complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief, violation of procedural due process, and equitable estoppel. CLL challenged the City's approval of a project to build a private secondary school on land neighboring CLL's commercial horse ranch and equestrian facility and the City's adoption of a mitigated negative declaration (MND) regarding the project. CLL contended the City should not have adopted the MND because the Cal Coast Academy project would cause significant environmental impacts in the areas of fire hazards, traffic and transportation, noise, recreation, and historical resources, and because the MND identified new impacts and mitigation measures that were not included in the draft MND. CLL further argued the City should not have approved the project because it is situated in designated open space under the applicable community land use plan and because the City did not follow the provisions of the San Diego Municipal Code (SDMC) applicable to historical resources. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded CLL's challenge to the MND was barred because it did not exhaust its administrative remedies in proceedings before the City. In doing so, the Court rejected CLL's argument that the City's process for administrative appeals (at least as implicated by this project) violated the California Environmental Quality Act by improperly splitting the adoption of an environmental document (e.g., the MND) from the project approvals. In addition, the City complied with all applicable requirements of the SDMC regarding historical resources and the City's approval of the project did not conflict with the open space designation because the project would be located on already-developed land. View "Clews Land & Livestock, LLC v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law

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In 1998, Modesto, its Sewer District, and its Redevelopment Agency (RDA) sued retail dry cleaning businesses operating in Modesto, the manufacturers of dry cleaning equipment used at those establishments, and the manufacturers and distributors of dry cleaning solvent, alleging that the city’s groundwater, sewer system and easements, and the soil of property within the RDA project area were contaminated with perchloroethylene, a “toxic chlorinated solvent” and seeking recovery for past, present and future costs of investigation and remediation. The Polanco Redevelopment Act (Health & Saf. Code, 33459), which authorized redevelopment agencies to remediate contamination found in property, including private property, located in a redevelopment project area, and to recover costs from the “responsible parties” was central to the suit. After 14 years of litigation, with three appeals, a final judgment awarded damages with respect to three dry cleaning sites, including an award of punitive damages against three defendants; as to all other claims, judgment was entered in favor of defendants. The court of appeal vacated, holding that no special causation standard applies to Polanco Act claims. The court also: remanded with directions to deny motions for summary adjudication on the nuisance claims; reversed a punitive damages award; and vacated a directed verdict regarding property damage. View "City of Modesto v. Dow Chemical Co." on Justia Law

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Respondents-petitioners Central Coast Forest Association and Big Creek Lumber Company asked the Fish and Game Commission to remove (delist) coho salmon south of San Francisco from the list of endangered species in California. Petitioners owned and harvested timber from lands in the area of the coho salmon spawning streams in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Timber harvesting is in part responsible for declining coho salmon populations. The petitioners argued: (1) there never were wild, native coho salmon in streams south of San Francisco, a requirement of being listed as endangered; (2) if there were, they were extirpated by environmental conditions unfavorable to the species; and (3) the salmon currently present in the streams are hatchery plants, implying that the fish are not members of the CCC ESU, and consequently are not deemed wild or native to California. They tender evidence in support of the petition, which they claim “may . . . warrant[]” delisting by the Commission. If sufficient scientific evidence contained in the petition, considered in the light of the department’s scientific report and the department’s expertise, would justify delisting of the species, then the Commission might consider delisting. The Court of Appeal concluded, however, that the evidence presented here did not meet that threshold. The Court concluded the petition did not contain sufficient scientific evidence, considered in light of the department’s scientific report and expertise, to justify delisting the coho salmon south of San Francisco; therefore, there was insufficient evidence that the delisting may be warranted. View "Central Coast Forest Assn. v. Fish & Game Com." on Justia Law

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At issue was whether this case presented a justiciable issue when the Supreme Court could not render a decision binding on a federal agency and could only offer an advisory opinion that may or may not ultimately bind the parties. Berenergy Corporation, which produced oil from several sites under oil and gas leases granted by the United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), sought a declaratory judgment that the terms of its BLM oil leases provided it with rights superior to any obtained by Peabody Energy Corporation through its coal leases. The district court granted in part and denied in part both parties’ motions for summary judgment. Both parties appealed. The Supreme Court remanded the case for further proceedings before the district court, holding (1) Congress intended that the issues raised by Berenergy be decided by the Secretary of the Interior or its BLM designees; (2) there was no express consent by the federal government for the Secretary or the BLM to be made a party to suits such as this for the purpose of informing a congressionally approved decision by the district court; but (3) the court nonetheless remands this case for an evaluation of whether a federal agency may participate in this suit. View "Berenergy Corp. v. BTU Western Resources, Inc." on Justia Law

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This water rights appeal stemmed from two consolidated subcases, litigated in the Snake River Basin Adjudication (SRBA). The subcases concerned the United States’ late claims (Late Claims) filed in January 2013, which asserted “supplemental beneficial use storage water rights” claims under the constitutional method of appropriation to store water in priority after flood-control releases. The special master recommended that the State’s motion for summary judgment be granted, concluding the Late Claims should be disallowed because, as the Director of the Idaho Department of Water Resources (Director) recommended, the Late Claims asserted rights that had not been claimed when the underlying water rights were adjudicated and decreed. Alternatively, the special master concluded the Late Claims should be disallowed because, as intervenor Black Canyon Irrigation District (BCID) asserted, the decreed water rights already authorized the rights the Late Claims were asserting, thus, unnecessary. The district court agreed with the special master insofar as the Late Claims were precluded. However, the district court rejected the special master’s alternative recommendation that the Late Claims were duplicative of the rights already decreed and unnecessary. The district court entered judgment reflecting these conclusions. BCID timely appeals and the Idaho Supreme Court affirm the district court’s conclusion the special master exceeded the district court’s orders of reference by making the “alternative basis” recommendation. View "Black Canyon Irrig Dist v. State / Suez Water" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Atlantic Richfield Company (“ARCO”) petitioned the Montana Supreme Court seeking reversal of five district court orders. Relevant here, the underlying action concerned a claim for restoration damages brought by property owners in and around the town of Opportunity, Montana. As part of ARCO’s cleanup responsibility relating to the Anaconda Smelter, EPA required ARCO to remediate residential yards within the Smelter Site harboring levels of arsenic exceeding 250 parts per million in soil, and to remediate all wells used for drinking water with levels of arsenic in excess of ten parts per billion. The Property Owners, a group of ninety-eight landowners located within the bounds of the Smelter Site, sought the opinion of outside experts to determine what actions would be necessary to fully restore their properties to pre-contamination levels. The experts recommended the Property Owners remove the top two feet of soil from affected properties and install permeable walls to remove arsenic from the groundwater. Both remedies required restoration work in excess of what the EPA required of ARCO in its selected remedy. The Property Owners sued, seeking restoration damages. ARCO conceded that the Property Owners could move forward on their first four claims, but contended that the claim for restoration damages was preempted by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (“CERCLA”). The Supreme Court agreed with the district court that the Property Owners’ claims for restoration damages was barred by CERCLA. View "Atlantic Richfield v. 2nd Jud. Dist" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit granted a petition for writ of mandamus in an action filed by environmental groups seeking to compel the EPA to act upon a rulemaking petition it granted eight years ago concerning dust-lead hazard and lead-paint standards. The panel held that the EPA had a duty to act under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and the amendments to it from the Paint Hazard Act, as well as the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). Furthermore, the TRAC factors (Telecomms. Research & Action Ctr. v. FCC, 750 F.2d 70, 75 (D.C. Cir. 1984)) favor issuance of the writ in this case. The panel ordered that the EPA issue a proposed rule within ninety days of the date that this decision becomes final; EPA promulgate the final rule within one year after the promulgation of the proposed rule; and the deadlines for both the proposed rule and the final rule will only be modified if EPA presents new information showing modification is required. View "A Community Voice v. EPA" on Justia Law