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Santa Rosa decided to turn a 69-bed defunct hospital into the "Dream Center" to house 63 people, ages 18-24, and provide individual and family counseling, education and job training, a health and wellness center serving the community for ages five through 24, and activities for residents, including a pottery throwing area, a half-court basketball area, and a garden. Neighbors challenged the project under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) (Pub. Resources Code 21000), arguing that noise impacts required preparation of an environmental impact report (EIR). The city issued a negative declaration, indication that the project would not have a significant environmental effect and an EIR would not be required. On appeal, the neighbors focused on traffic noise from the south parking lot adjacent to the Dream Center, and noise from the residents’ outdoor recreational activities. The court of appeal affirmed, finding no substantial evidence that there would be a significant noise impact from those sources. The predicted parking lot noise impacts are largely hypothetical, given the city’s parking restrictions in that lot; neighbors' impact calculations were based on data from a different project that cannot reasonably be applied to the Dream Center. An argument that the noise from residents’ outdoor activities would constitute a significant environmental impact was also based on a flawed analysis. View "Jensen v. City of Santa Rosa" on Justia Law

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Between 1853 and 1995, the Port Gamble Bay facility in Kitsap County, Washington operated as a sawmill and forest products manufacturing facility by Pope & Talbot and its corporate predecessors. Close to four decades after Puget Mill Co., predecessor to Pope & Talbot, began operating the sawmill, the legislature authorized the disposal of certain occupied state-owned aquatic lands, including the tidal lands within Port Gamble Bay. The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued the first lease for Pope & Talbot's use of the Port Gamble Bay submerged lands in 1974. In 1985, Pope & Talbot transferred 71,363 acres of its timberlands, timber, land development, and resort businesses in the State of Washington to Pope Resources, LP, which in turn leased the mill area to Pope & Talbot. Pope & Talbot ceased mill operations in 1995. Pope sought to develop their Port Gamble holdings for a large, high-density community with a marina. However, the Port Gamble site was contaminated, in part from the operation of sawmill buildings to saw logs for lumber, operation of chip barge loading facilities and a log-transfer facility, particulate sawmill emissions from wood and wood waste burning, in-water log rafting and storage, and creosote treated pilings placed throughout the bay to facilitate storage and transport of logs and wood products. After entering into a consent decree with the Washington Department of Ecology in 2013 for remediation of portions of the site exposed to hazardous substances, Pope/OPG filed a complaint in 2014 seeking a declaration that DNR was liable for natural resources damages and remedial costs, and for contribution of costs. The Superior Court granted summary judgment in favor of DNR in 2016. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that DNR was an "owner or operator" with potential liability under the Washington Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA). DNR appealed, and the Washington Supreme Court reversed, finding DNR was neither an "owner" nor an "operator" of the Port Gamble Bay facility for purposes of MTCA. View "Pope Res., LP v. Dep't of Nat. Res." on Justia Law

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Farmers filed suit alleging injury to their water rights after the Nevada State Engineer and the California State Water Resources Control Board approved change applications for a voluntary water rights leasing program managed by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation in the Walker River Basin. The Ninth Circuit principally held that the Decree court failed to defer to the findings and conclusions of the state agencies and, to the extent the Decree court entered its own findings, those findings were clear error. In this case, the Engineer properly found that a transfer to the Foundation limited to the consumption portion would avoid conflict and injury to other existing water rights, the findings were supported by substantial evidence, and the Engineer applied the correct legal rule. The panel also held that the export restriction of the Walker River Decree did not prohibit delivering water to Walker Lake because Walker Lake was part of the Walker River Basin. View "United States v. U.S. Board of Water Commissioners" on Justia Law

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The Jim Hutton Educational Foundation, a surface-water user, claimed that a statute prohibiting any challenge to a designated groundwater basin that would alter the basin’s boundaries to exclude a permitted well was unconstitutional. The water court dismissed that claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, concluding that the surface-water user had to first satisfy the Colorado Groundwater Commission that the water at issue was not designated groundwater. The Colorado Supreme Court affirmed that dismissal, because jurisdiction vests in the water court only if the Colorado Groundwater Commission first concludes that the water at issue is designated groundwater. Therefore, the water court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the Foundation's claim. View "Jim Hutton Educ. Found. v. Rein" on Justia Law

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In 2011, the City of Aspen adopted an ordinance which imposed a regulatory scheme designed to meet the city council’s “duty to protect the natural environment and the health of its citizens and visitors.” Under the ordinance, grocery stores within Aspen’s city limits were prohibited from providing disposable plastic bags to customers, though they could still provide paper bags to customers, but each bag is subject to a $0.20 “waste reduction fee,” unless the customer was a participant in a “Colorado Food Assistance Program.” This case presented the question of whether Aspen’s $0.20 paper bag charge was a tax subject to voter approval under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (“TABOR”). The trial court held that this charge was not subject to TABOR because it was not a tax, but a fee. The court of appeals concurred with this holding. The Colorado Supreme Court also agreed, finding the bag charge was not a tax subject to TABOR. View "Colorado Union of Taxpayers Found. v City of Aspen" on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged EPA's final rule listing the West Vermont Drinking Water Contamination Site on the National Priorities List (NPL) of hazardous waste sites that are high priorities for remedial action. The DC Circuit held that the listing of the site was arbitrary and capricious where EPA failed to consider an important aspect of the problem regarding the treatment of two aquifers by entirely failing to address evidence that runs counter to the agency's decision. The court also held that EPA has failed to offer substantial evidence to support its finding of an interconnection between the aquifers, it has ignored evidence undercutting its conclusion, and it has failed to state a reasoned basis for overcoming the regulatory presumption of non-interconnection. The court rejected petitioners' claim that the rule should be vacated based on EPA's failure to take into account the direction of ground water flow. Therefore, the court granted the petitions for review, vacated the rule to the extent that it placed the Site on the NPL, and remanded to EPA for further proceedings. View "Genuine Parts Co. v. EPA" on Justia Law

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Due process requires junior water rights holders in the Diamond Valley Hydrographic Basin No. 153 (Diamond Valley) be given notice and an opportunity to participate in the district court’s consideration of the request of a vested, senior water rights holder to order the State Engineer to curtail junior water rights in Diamond Valley. Because water in Diamond Valley has been over-appropriated and pumped at a rate exceeding its perennial yield for more than four decades, groundwater levels in southern Diamond Valley have fallen over 100 feet. Sadler Ranch, which claims to be a vested, senior water rights holder in Diamond Valley, petitioned the district court to order the State Engineer to initiate curtailment proceedings regarding junior water rights in Diamond Valley. The Supreme Court granted this writ petition, holding that an upcoming show cause hearing may result in a court order to begin curtailment proceedings, resulting in possible deprivation of property rights. Therefore, due process required junior water rights holders in Diamond Valley to be given notice and an opportunity to be heard before the district court conducted the hearing. View "Eureka County v. Seventh Judicial District Court" on Justia Law

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The State Water Resources Control Board’s adoption of a permit fee schedule was proper and violated neither Cal. Water Code 13260(d)(1)(B) or (f)(1) nor Cal. Const. art. XIII A. By statute, the Board has five members. At the time of the meeting at which the Board members voted to approve the fee schedule, two of those seats were vacant. Two of the three members voted to approve one of the proposed fee schedules, and the third member abstained. Based on that vote, the Board adopted emergency regulations retroactively revising the fee schedule. Plaintiff challenged the Board’s approval of the fee schedule. The trial court entered judgment for the Board. The court of appeal affirmed. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) procedural challenge; (2) the fee schedule did not violate section 13260(d)(1)(B) or (f)(1); and (3) the fees did not violate constitutional restrictions contained in article XIII A. View "California Building Industry Association v. State Water Resources Control Board" on Justia Law

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Petitioner N. Miles Cook, III, appealed a Wetlands Council (Council) ruling upholding the decision of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) denying his request for a permit to reconstruct and extend his dock on the Piscataqua River. Because DES did not have the benefit of the New Hampshire Supreme Court’s interpretation of the term “need” as used in Env-Wt 302.01(a) and Env-Wt 302.04(a)(1) for determining whether an applicant has met the permit requirements, and because, as the Council noted, the central issue was whether petitioner “could justify the expanded dock proposal based on his ‘need’ to access navigable water on a more frequent basis than he currently experiences with the existing dock,” the Supreme Court vacated DES’s decision and remanded to the Council with instructions to remand to DES for further consideration in light of the definition the Court adopted for the purposes of this opinion. View "Appeal of N. Miles Cook, III" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-homeowners alleged the copper piping in their homes was damaged by a chemical the defendant water districts added to tap water. Adding the chemical was authorized by regulation, however, and it was undisputed that the water districts complied with all statutory and regulatory standards. After a bifurcated bench trial on certain legal issues, the trial court entered judgment for the water districts, finding plaintiffs’ causes of action for nuisance and inverse condemnation were preempted by federal and state laws, and otherwise insufficient on the merits. The plaintiff homeowners appealed. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded plaintiffs’ causes of action failed on the merits, and thus affirmed. View "Williams v. Moulton Niguel Water Dist." on Justia Law