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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the Forest Service in an action challenging travel management plans implemented by the Forest Service to permit limited motorized big game retrieval in three Ranger Districts of the Kaibab National Forest. The panel held that the Forest Service did not violate the plain terms of the Travel Management Rule absent authority requiring a strictly geographic interpretation of the words "limited" and "sparingly." Determining that plaintiffs had standing to bring their claims under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the panel held that the Forest Service took the requisite hard look and its determinations were neither arbitrary nor capricious. In this case, the Forest Service did not violate NEPA by declining to prepare environmental impact statements based on the plans' environmental impacts. Finally, the panel held that the Forest Service satisfied its procedural obligations under the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) by conducting the required prefield work, consulting the appropriate entities, and reaching a determination consistent with the evidence before it. View "WildEarth Guardians v. Provencio" on Justia Law

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The Sanitary Board challenged the EPA's decision disapproving a revised standard for the receiving waters of the Board's wastewater treatment facility along the Kanawha River. The district court dismissed the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) claims as moot following the issuance of a new permit to the Board. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of the EPA on the merits, finding that the agency did not violate the APA. The court held that, on the record, it was evident that the EPA reached a justified conclusion and its decision was not arbitrary, capricious, nor contrary to law. In this case, the EPA employed the scientific expertise and grounded judgment that the Clean Water Act contemplates. View "Sanitary Board of the City of Charleston v. Wheeler" on Justia Law

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The Liebharts own three houses on a block in Watertown, Wisconsin. Part of the block was previously occupied by a factory, built in 1920 and last owned by SPX. The factory manufactured power transformers containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a carcinogenic chemical banned by the EPA in 1979. Studies revealed that the factory's concrete floor was generally contaminated. In 2014, SPX demolished the building with the assistance of the defendants. The Liebharts sued, alleging that dust and debris containing toxic chemicals migrated onto their properties, contaminating their yards and jeopardizing their health and the health of their tenants. Following discovery and the submission of expert witness reports, the district court granted the defendants summary judgment with costs. The Seventh Circuit vacated. Although the district court adequately evaluated the expert witnesses and did not abuse its discretion in its procedural decisions, the court set the bar unnecessarily high for the plaintiffs to show a violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), 42 U.S.C. 6901, and the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), 15 U.S.C. 2601. RCRA requires only that harm “may” be imminent; similarly, TSCA does not impose a heightened standard. The parties should have another opportunity to litigate whether a substantial and imminent endangerment to health exists. View "Liebhart v. SPX Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs purchased land near a former GE manufacturing plant that had operated in Morrison, Illinois for 60 years. The plant leached toxic chemicals that seeped into the groundwater. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency filed suit under state law against GE in 2004 and has been working with the company since then to investigate and develop a plan to address the contamination. In 2013, plaintiffs filed suit under the citizen suit provision of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, 42 U.S.C. 6901, seeking a mandatory injunction ordering GE to conduct additional investigation into the scope of the contamination and ordering the company to remove the contamination. The district court found the company liable for the contamination on summary judgment but denied injunctive relief because, despite the many opportunities, plaintiffs did not offer evidence establishing a need for injunctive relief beyond what the company had already done in the state action. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The district court had the discretion to award injunctive relief under the RCRA but was not required to order relief after a finding of liability. Plaintiffs did not carry their burden to establish mandatory injunctive relief was necessary under the RCRA. View "Conway v. General Electric Co." on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit held that the Corps' grant of a permit allowing a utility company to build a series of electrical transmission towers across the historic James River was arbitrary and capricious. In this case, the Corps granted the permit without preparing an environmental impact statement (EIS), based on its finding that the project had "no significant impact" on historic treasures along the river. The court reversed and held that important questions about the Corps' chosen methodology and the scope of the project's impact remained unanswered. The court also held that federal and state agencies with relevant expertise had serious misgivings about locating a project of this magnitude in a region of such singular importance to the nation's history. Therefore, the court remanded with instructions to vacate the permit and directed the Corps to prepare an EIS. View "National Parks Conservation Assoc. v. Semonite" on Justia Law

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Intervenor-respondent Riverbend Landfill Co. sought to expand its solid waste landfill in Yamhill County, Oregon on land zoned for exclusive farm use (EFU). Respondent Yamhill County determined for a second time that, with conditions of approval, the landfill expansion would not create a significant change in accepted farm practices or significantly increase the cost of those practices on surrounding agricultural lands, thereby meeting the "farm impacts test." But petitioners Stop the Dump Coalition, Willamette Valley Wineries Association, and Ramsey McPhillips and petitioner-intervenor Friends of Yamhill County (collectively, petitioners) contended Riverbend’s applications failed the farm impacts test. Broadly, the parties disputed what the farm impacts test measured and whether some of the conditions that the county imposed for approval are proper under ORS 215.296(2). On review of the Oregon Supreme Court, petitioners took issue with both the latest order of the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) in Stop the Dump Coalition v. Yamhill County, 74 Or LUBA 1 (2016) (SDC II), and the decision of the Court of Appeals upholding that order in Stop the Dump Coalition v. Yamhill County, 391 P3d 932 (2017) (SDC III). Petitioners challenged some of the county’s conditions of approval, which LUBA and the Court of Appeals approved, and the Court of Appeals’ articulation of how the county must evaluate impacts of the landfill expansion on farm practices and their costs. Ultimately, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the Court of Appeals and affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the final opinion and order of the Land Use Board of Appeals. View "Stop the Dump Coalition v. Yamhill County" on Justia Law

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The question presented by this appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court was a 1909 water rights decree adjudicated an enforceable water right for the Campbell Ditch in nine springs. Yamasaki Ring, LLC, which owned some of the Campbell Ditch’s water rights, asked the Court to answer the question in the affirmative. The Dills and the Pearces, who owned properties where water from the springs had been put to beneficial use since as early as 1903, urged the Court to answer the question in the negative. In two orders issued in 2016, the water court agreed with the Dills/Pearces and determined that the 1909 decree did not adjudicate a water right in the springs’ water because it did not set forth “the necessary information” for adjudication, including an appropriation date, a priority number, or quantification details. Therefore, the water court concluded the Campbell Ditch’s unquantifiable entitlement to “receive and conduct water” from the springs could not be enforced or administered against any adjudicated water rights. The Supreme Court agreed and therefore affirmed the water court’s judgment. View "Concerning the Application for Water Rights of Donald E. Dill, Cathie G. Dill, Jerry R. Pearce, and Frances M. Pearce in Fremont County" on Justia Law

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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