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At issue in this case is whether the Environmental Protection Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (“EPD”) properly issued a permit to the City of Guyton to build and operate a land application system (“LAS”) that would apply treated wastewater to a tract of land through spray irrigation. Craig Barrow III challenged the issuance of that permit, arguing that, among other things, EPD issued the permit in violation of a water quality standard, Ga. Comp. R. & Regs., r. 391-3-6-.03 (2) (b) (ii) (the “antidegradation rule”), because it failed to determine whether any resulting degradation of water quality in the State waters surrounding the proposed LAS was necessary to accommodate important economic or social development in the area. An administrative law judge rejected Barrow’s argument, finding that the rule required an antidegradation analysis only for point source discharges of pollutants and the LAS at issue was a nonpoint source discharge. The superior court affirmed the administrative ruling. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that the plain language of the antidegradation rule required EPD to perform the antidegradation analysis for nonpoint source discharges, and that EPD’s internal guidelines to the contrary did not warrant deference. The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari review in this matter to consider what level of deference courts should afford EPD's interpretation of the antidegradation rule, and whether that regulation required an antidegradation analysis for nonpint source discharges. The Court concluded the Court of Appeals was correct that the antidegradation rule was unambiguous: the text and legal context of the regulation showed that an antidegradation analysis was required only for point sources, not nonpoint sources. Therefore, the Court reversed. View "City of Guyton v. Barrow" on Justia Law

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In certified appeal arising from a consolidated zoning appeal and enforcement action relating to a manufacturing facility the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Appellate Court reversing the judgment of the superior court denying proposed intervenors' motions to intervene and remanding the case for further proceedings, holding that the trial court erred in denying the motions to intervene as untimely. Since 1997, the manufacturing facility at issue had been subject to a stipulated judgment imposing various restrictions on its operation. In 2015, the trial court opened and modified the 1997 stipulated judgment by agreement of the parties. The public, however, had been informed that the parties' joint motion to open and modify the judgment would not be heard until one week later. Two proposed intervenors sought to intervene, alleging environmental harm. The trial court denied the motions to intervene as untimely. The Appellate Court reversed, concluding that the trial court's expedited consideration of the motion to open and modify the stipulated judgment violated the proposed intervenors' right to timely, accurate notice and their statutory right to intervene and to participate in the hearing on the stipulated judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, adopting the Appellate Court's opinion as a proper statement of the issues and applicable law concerning those issues. View "Griswold v. Camputaro" on Justia Law

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At its LASI site, Varlen plated locomotive engine parts in chrome. At its Silvis site, Varlen’s operations included refueling diesel engines. Varlen discovered groundwater contamination at both sites, spent millions of dollars in damages and remediation expenses, and sought indemnification from its insurer. Liberty Mutual denied coverage based on a policy exclusion for property damage arising out of chemical leaks or discharges. Varlen cited a policy provision stating that, despite the exclusion, Liberty would cover chemical leaks or discharges that were “sudden and accidental.” Varlen proffered the expert testimony of a geologist (Rogers) that the LASI contaminants were released because the concrete sump leaked and that the releases were “sudden and accidental” because they were not intended and occurred in sudden spurts when the sump failed. Rogers explained that he had experience working with sumps and had personal knowledge of these sumps in particular. Rogers testified that the Silvis releases were likely “sudden and accidental” because the contamination around the refueling area was too large to have occurred by minor leakage and was “consistent with overfills of diesel locomotives.” Rogers claimed that contamination at the chlorinated solvent storing area was “indicative of a drum overturning and suddenly leaking out.” The district court struck Rogers’s opinions as unreliable and speculative under Federal Rule of Evidence 702. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. To satisfy Daubert, Rogers needed to explain how the evidence led to his conclusions; Rogers failed to demonstrate that his conclusions were anything more than guesses. View "Varlen Corp. v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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In 1988, defendant United States Forest Service designated a 2,380 acre portion of the Manti-La Sal National Forest’s highest elevations, namely the summits and ridges of Mt. Peale, Mt. Mellenthin, and Mt. Tukuhnikivatz, as the Mt. Peale Research Natural Area (RNA). In June 2013, the Utah Wildlife Board approved UDWR’s “Utah Mountain Goat Statewide Management Plan.” Among other things, UDWR’s plan anticipated the release of a target population of 200 mountain goats into the La Sal Mountains adjacent to the Manti-La Sal National Forest for the express purposes of hunting and viewing. The FS, concerned the goats might adversely affect the habitat of the higher alpine regions of the national forest, asked the Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources (UWDR) to delay implementation of its plan while the FS in coordination with UDWR studied the plan’s expected impact on the national forest and the RNA. UDWR rejected the FS’s request for an outright delay, and indicated it would begin implementing its plan by transplanting a small number of goats into the mountains, but would work cooperatively with the FS to assess impacts and develop a strategy to prevent overutilization of the habitat. In September 2013, UDWR released twenty mountain goats on State lands adjacent to the Manti-La Sal National Forest. A year later, UDWR released an additional fifteen mountain goats on the same State lands. The goats moved into the La Sal Mountains’ higher elevations, wallowing and foraging within the national forest and more particularly within the Mt. Peale RNA. Plaintiff Grand Canyon Trust demanded the FS: (1) prohibit UDWR from introducing additional mountain goats onto State lands adjacent to the national forest; (2) regulate UDWR’s occupancy and use of the national forest by requiring it to obtain special use authorization before releasing additional mountain goats on State lands; and (3) immediately remove the mountain goats already in the national forest. Determining UDWR did not release the goats on federal lands, the FS elected to "wait and see" before initiating any action against UDWR, and to "gather and evaluate data sufficient to determine whether action was warranted." GCT thereafter filed for declaratory and injunctive relief. The Tenth Circuit upheld the district court's dismissal of GCT's complaint, concurring with the trial court that GCT "cleverly amalgamated federal law in an attempt to find some pathway to judicial review." The Tenth Circuit concluded GCT failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, and affirmed dismissal of the complaint. View "Utah Native Plant Society v. U.S. Forest Service" on Justia Law

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The issue presented for the Tenth Circuit's review centered on whether the Bureau of Land Management violated the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in granting more than 300 applications for permits to drill horizontal, multi-stage hydraulically fracked wells in the Mancos Shale area of the San Juan Basin in northeastern New Mexico. Appellants, four environmental advocacy groups) sued the Secretary of the Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Secretary of the BLM, alleging that the BLM authorized the drilling without fully considering its indirect and cumulative impacts on the environment or on historic properties. The district court denied Appellants a preliminary injunction, and the Tenth Circuit affirmed that decision in 2016. After merits briefing, the district court concluded that the BLM had not violated either NHPA or NEPA and dismissed Appellants’ claims with prejudice. Appellants appealed, and this time, the Tenth Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. The Tenth Circuit determined that, as to five EAs, Appellants have demonstrated that the BLM needed to, but did not, consider the cumulative impacts of water resources associated with 3,960 reasonably foreseeable horizontal Mancos Shale wells. The BLM’s issuance of FONSIs and approval of APDs associated with these EAs was therefore arbitrary and capricious and violated NEPA. The matter was remanded for the district court to vacate the FONSIs and APDs associated with those five environmental analyses; the Tenth Circuit affirmed as to all other issues. View "Dine Citizens v. Bernhardt" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Forest Service in an action brought by environmental groups challenging travel management plans permitting limited motorized big game retrieval in three Ranger Districts in the Kaibab National Forest. The panel held that the plans did not violate the Travel Management Rule where the new restrictions constitute a "limited" use of motorized vehicles; the Forest Service complied with the rule by limiting motor vehicle use to a defined set of roads in each District; and the Forest Service did not violate the plain terms of the Travel Management Rule. Determining that plaintiffs have standing, the panel held that the Forest Service did not violate the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), because the Forest Service's determination that no environmental impact statements (EIS) were needed as to the Districts' travel management plans was reasonable. Finally, the Forest Service did not violate the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), because the Forest Service conducted the required prefield work, consulted with the appropriate entities, and reached a determination consistent with the evidence before it. View "WildEarth Guardians v. Provencio" on Justia Law

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In 2008, defendant-appellees Roger Brooks and Veryl Goodnight (together “Brooks”) filed an application in the water court to change the point of diversion of their water right from the Giles Ditch to the Davenport Ditch. The application and the required notice published in the local newspaper misidentified the section and range in which the Davenport Ditch headgate was located. However, both referred repeatedly to the Davenport Ditch. Brooks successfully moved to amend the application with the correct section and range shortly afterward. The water court, finding that “no person [would] be injured by the amendment,” concluded that republication of the notice was unnecessary. Eight years later, plaintiff-appellant Gary Sheek filed this action in the water court, seeking judgment on five claims for relief: (1) declaratory judgment that Brooks’ decree was void for insufficient notice; (2) quiet title to a prescriptive access easement for the Davenport Ditch, including ancillary access rights; (3) trespass; (4) theft and interference with a water right; and (5) a permanent injunction prohibiting Brooks from continued use of the Davenport Ditch. After concluding that sufficient notice was provided, the water court granted Brooks’ motion for summary judgment and deemed the trespass and injunction claims moot in light of that ruling. The court then dismissed the prescriptive easement claim as well as the theft and interference claim for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Colorado Supreme Court agreed with the water court’s conclusion that the published notice was sufficient. As a result, all of the remaining claims should have been dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. View "Sheek v. Brooks" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's judgment granting summary judgment and dismissing Plaintiffs' claims challenging the decisions of a county board of supervisors approving a wind energy ordinance and a specific wind energy project, holding that Plaintiffs' claims were matters for the board of supervisors, and not the courts, to resolve. The board unanimously passed and approved a "wind energy conversion systems ordinance" and then granted conditional approval for the wind energy project at issue in this case. Plaintiffs then filed a petition for declaratory and injunctive relief and for a writ of certiorari against the board seeking a declaration that the ordinance was arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable, void and unenforceable and a writ determining that the approval of the project should be set aside as illegal, arbitrary and capricious, unreasonable and void. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the board did not act illegally, arbitrarily, or capriciously. View "Mathis v. Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors" on Justia Law

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In this case concerning an Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) legal standard for when a series of wind turbines constitute an "electric power generating plant or combination of plants at a single site" within the meaning of Iowa Code 476A.1(5), the Supreme Court affirmed the district court's judgment upholding the IUB's declaratory order declining to require a certificate of public convenience, use, and necessity for a large 170-turbine wind project, holding that the IUB did not err in interpreting Iowa Code 476A.1(5). Since 1997, the IUB has ruled that for wind energy purposes all turbines connected to a single gathering line shall be considered a "single site" or "facility" within the meaning of section 476A.1(5) and that turbines connected to separate gathering lines shall be treated as different sites or facilities. Landowners in Palo Alto County in this case argued that the IUB should have exercised jurisdiction over the turbine wind project at issue in this case because, under the common gathering line standard, it did not exceed the minimum power output requirements. The district court upheld the IUB's position declining to require a certificate for the facility. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the phrase "single site" is ambiguous and that the IUB's interpretation of section 476A.1(5) is not erroneous. View "Mathis v. Iowa Utilities Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the State Engineer granting Intermountain Water Supply Ltd., which held water rights permits to transmit water to Lemmon Valley for municipal use, an extension of time in which to apply the water to beneficial use, holding that the anti-speculation doctrine applies to requests for extensions of time and that Intermountain failed to show reasonable diligence to apply the water to beneficial use. In its extension request, Intermountain submitted an affidavit claiming that it had an option agreement with two unidentified "worldwide engineering and construction firms." The Supreme Court held (1) a generic option contract does not save an applicant from the anti-speculation doctrine, and the State Engineer abused his discretion in determining that Intermountain's averred option agreements satisfied the anti-speculation doctrine; and (2) there was insufficient evidence in the record to demonstrate reasonable diligence under Nev. Rev. Stat. 533.380(3)-(4) and Desert Irrigation, Ltd. v. State, 944 P.2d 835, 841 (Nev. 1997). View "Sierra Pacific Industries v. Wilson" on Justia Law