Justia Environmental Law Opinion Summaries

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HERO appealed the trial court's denial of their petition for writ of mandate, seeking to set aside actions taken by the City in approving a proposal by the owner to convert a vacant 18-unit apartment building into a boutique hotel. At issue was whether the City erred in failing to prepare an environmental impact report (EIR) to assess the loss of affordable housing and displacement of tenants that would result from the conversion of the former apartment building into a hotel. The Court of Appeal held that there were no housing-related impacts or displacement of tenants for the City to address in an EIR, because the building at issue had been withdrawn from the rental market years before the City commenced environmental review for the hotel project. The court also rejected HERO's other contentions and affirmed the judgment. View "Hollywoodians Encouraging Rental Opportunities v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied a petition for review challenging the EPA's February 2018 decision not to issue financial responsibility requirements for the hardrock mining industry. The court deferred to the EPA's interpretation that it should set financial responsibility regulations based on financial risks, not risks to health and the environment, because the use of "risk" in section 9608(b) in the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), in the general mandate and amount clauses, was ambiguous and the EPA's interpretation was reasonable. Furthermore, nothing in section 9608(b) mandates the EPA to promulgate financial responsibility requirements for the hardrock mining industry, authorizing the EPA to decline to do so. The court also held that the EPA's financial risk analysis and economic analysis were neither arbitrary nor capricious. Finally, under Circuit and Supreme Court precedent, the court held that the EPA's Final Action not to adopt financial responsibility requirements for the hardrock mining industry constitutes a logical outgrowth of the Proposed Rule. View "Idaho Conservation League v. Wheeler" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Sacramentans for Fair Planning contended the City of Sacramento violated zoning law and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) when it approved entitlements for real party 2500 J Owners, LLC, to construct a high-rise condominium building in the City’s Midtown area. The project was not consistent with the general plan and zoning code standards for building intensity and height. But the City approved it pursuant to a general plan policy authorizing more intense development than zoning otherwise allowed if the project provided a significant community benefit. The City also conducted a streamlined CEQA review. CEQA authorized the less intense review for a type of residential mixed-use development such as the proposed project which, because of its proximity to mass transit services, may help reduce regional greenhouse gas emissions by generating less use of motor vehicles. In a petition for writ of mandate, plaintiff argued that approving the project under the general plan policy violated constitutional law and an implied-in-law zoning contract that required identical uses in a zoning district to be treated uniformly and prohibited a delegation of legislative authority without sufficient standards to govern its use. Plaintiff also claimed the City violated CEQA because the streamlined review did not analyze all of the project’s environmental effects. The trial court denied plaintiff’s petition. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s order and judgment. View "Sacramentans for Fair Planning v. City of Sacramento" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing the petition filed by the Missouri Coalition for the Environment and one of its members (collectively, the Coalition) seeking a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief against the State and the Clean Water Commission, holding that the Commission lacked standing. In its petition, the Coalition challenged the validity of Mo. Rev. Stat. 644.021, as amended by House Bill No. 1713. The State filed a motion to dismiss, asserting that the Coalition did not have taxpayer standing. The Coalition conceded that it had not shown taxpayer standing but argued that it had standing pursuant to Mo. Rev. Stat. 516.500. The circuit court dismissed the petition with prejudice for lack of standing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 516.500 did not provide standing to the Coalition nor did it eliminate the requirement that the Coalition have standing to bring this action. View "Missouri Coalition for Environment v. State" on Justia Law

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In this dispute between parties that both had water rights in the Beaver River the Supreme Court affirmed the portion of the judgment of the district court against Rocky Ford Irrigation Company on its claims against Kents Lake Reservoir Company seeking clarification regarding priority of rights and Kents Lake's obligations as to river administration but reversed the district court's decision not to clarify Kents Lake's measurement obligations, holding that Rocky Ford was entitled to clarification in this regard. As changed occurred both in water rights and in irrigation techniques and the administration of the Beaver River grew more complex, Rocky Ford brought this action against Kents Lake. The district court declined all of Rocky Ford's claims and awarded attorney fees to Kents Lake and Beaver City sua sponte. The Supreme Court held (1) the trial court properly denied Rocky Ford's motion for summary judgment; (2) the trial court did not err when it refused to enter a declaratory judgment that Kents Lake cannot store the water it saves through increased efficiency; (3) the district court erred in refusing to enter a declaratory judgment regarding Kents Lake's measurement obligations; and (4) Kents Lake and Beaver City were not entitled to attorney fees. View "Rocky Ford Irrigation Co. v. Kents Lake Reservoir Co." on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged EPA's promulgation of a final rule that treated material transferred from a waste generator to a third-party reclaimer as legitimately recycled, rather than "discarded" and subject to Subtitle C regulation, if several conditions were met (the Transfer-Based Exclusion). The DC Circuit denied the petition for review and held that the Transfer-Based Exclusion was not arbitrary or capricious. The court held that EPA did not act contrary to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA) in adopting the Transfer-Based Exclusion because hazardous secondary materials are not necessarily "discarded" each time they are transferred from a generator to a reclaimer along with payment. The court also held that EPA has provided a reasoned explanation for applying different standards to materials that are not yet part of the waste disposal problem RCRA addresses where they meet conditions EPA concluded were adequate for safe transfer and legitimate recycling. View "California Communities Against Toxics v. EPA" on Justia Law

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The purpose of the "1940 Agreement" at issue in this appeal was to resolve the parties’ disputes regarding seepage and evaporation losses from three of the City and County of Denver’s streambed reservoirs located on the South Platte River. Under the 1940 Agreement, in lieu of making releases from the streambed reservoirs to replace seepage and evaporation losses, Denver agreed not to reuse or successively use return flows from water imported from the western slope and used in Denver’s municipal water system. Earlier litigation in Case No. 81CW405 established that this reuse prohibition in the 1940 Agreement applied only to return flows derived from decreed water rights from Colorado River sources with appropriation dates before May 1, 1940 (the date Denver entered into the agreement); Denver could therefore use return flows derived from sources that were appropriated or acquired after that date. The question in this appeal was whether the 1940 Agreement prohibited Denver from using return flows from water imported from the Blue River system under exchange and substitution operations that use water stored in the Williams Fork Reservoir under a 1935 priority as a substitute supply. In a written order, the water court resolved competing motions in Denver’s favor, ruling that Denver’s Blue River system water, which was decreed in 1955 with an appropriation date of June 24, 1946, was a source of water that was not owned, appropriated, or acquired by Denver prior to May 1, 1940, and therefore was not subject to the 1940 Agreement. The water court thus held that Denver could reuse or successively use imported water attributed to the Blue River system. Consolidated Ditches and other opposers appealed. The Colorado Supreme Court concurred with the water court, finding the return flows were not subject to the 1940 Agreement and Denver could reuse or successively use those return flows. View "City & Cty. of Denver v. Consol. Ditches of Water Dist. No. 2" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's order granting summary judgment to the Metropolitan Council on LPA's claim that the Council violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other federal and state laws. In this case the Council is the sole defendant and LPA filed suit prior to a final agency action. The court held that the district court lacked jurisdiction to hear LPA's claim, because Eighth Circuit precedent expressly rejects the viability of a NEPA cause of action outside of the Administrative Procedure Act framework, especially when the only defendant is a state agency. Therefore, LPA has no cause of action through which it could state a plausible claim. The court remanded with instructions to dismiss the case. View "Lakes and Parks Alliance of Minneapolis v. The Metropolitan Council" on Justia Law

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Because the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 contains a citation to nowhere, the EPA issued a document setting forth its interpretation of the periodic-review provision of renewable fuel requirements and explaining why it believes it has complied. Valero petitioned for review of the EPA's document. The DC Circuit dismissed Valero's petition based on lack of jurisdiction, because the EPA document did not constitute final agency action. View "Valero Energy Corp. v. EPA" 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 challenging the agency's designation of at-risk forest lands and its approval of the Sunny South Project. The panel held that the landscape-scale area designation under section 6591a(b)(2) did not trigger a requirement for National Environmental Policy Act analysis. In this case, the Forest Service's designation of the areas did not require an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement under the Act. The panel also held that the Forest Service's finding that the project did not involve "extraordinary circumstances" was not arbitrary or capricious. View "Center for Biological Diversity v. Ilano" on Justia Law