Justia Environmental Law Opinion Summaries

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The Baptistes filed suit on behalf of a class of homeowner-occupants and renters (about 8,400 households) claiming interference with the use and enjoyment of their homes and loss in property value caused by noxious odors and other air contaminants emanating from the 224-acre Bethlehem Landfill. The Third Circuit reversed the dismissal of the suit. While everyone in the community—including visitors, commuters, and residents—may suffer from having to breathe polluted air in public spaces, the Baptistes have identified cumulative harms that are unique to residents, such as the inability to use and enjoy their outdoor spaces. These injuries are above and beyond any injury to the public; the Baptistes sufficiently alleged a “particular damage” to sustain a private claim for public nuisance. They also stated a claim for private nuisance. Pennsylvania law does not reject a private nuisance claim on the ground that the property affected was too far from the source of the alleged nuisance. Nor does Pennsylvania law condition an individual’s right to recover private property damages on a nuisance theory on the size of the nuisance or the number of persons harmed, as opposed to the nature of the rights affected or the degree of the harm suffered. The question remains whether the Baptistes have sufficiently pleaded a cognizable injury to state an independent negligence claim. View "Baptiste v. Bethlehem Landfill Co." on Justia Law

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In these consolidated petitions, petitioners challenged area designations promulgated by the EPA for the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) applicable to ground-level ozone, i.e., smog. The court found that at least one petitioner has standing to challenge each of the designations at issue. In this case, Government Petitioners have adequately demonstrated standing based on direct injuries rather than parens patriae status. On the merits, the court granted Jefferson County's petition and held that EPA has, without explanation, treated similarly situated areas—Jefferson and Boles—differently and drawn conflicting conclusions from the same data. Therefore, such inconsistent treatment is the hallmark of arbitrary agency action and requires further explanation from the EPA. The court also granted petitions for review for Monroe County, Ottawa County, Weld County, Door County, and Sheboygan County. The court denied Lake County's petition for review and granted EPA's motion to remand. View "Clean Wisconsin v. Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for federal agencies and officials and ConocoPhillips in an action brought under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) challenging the BLM's 2017 offer and sale of oil and gas leases in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. The panel first held that plaintiffs' actions are not entirely time barred by the Naval Petroleum Reserves Production Act (NPRPA). To the extent plaintiffs argued that the 2017 lease sale was a distinct federal action requiring a tiered or stand-alone NEPA analysis, the panel found that their challenge is justiciable. Because the panel can reasonably construe the defined scope of the 2012 environmental impact statement (EIS) to include the 2017 lease sale, the panel deferred to BLM's position that the 2012 EIS was the EIS for the 2017 lease sale. Therefore, the panel found that the BLM met the NEPA requirement for the 2017 lease sale of preparing at least an initial EIS, any challenge to the adequacy of which is now time barred. Furthermore, although plaintiffs alleged significant new information and circumstances known to BLM before the 2017 lease sale, the panel stated that the appropriate rubric for considering these allegations—given the existence of an initial EIS—is supplementation, and plaintiffs have waived any supplementation claim. View "Northern Alaska Environmental Center v. Department of the Interior" on Justia Law

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The dispute in this case arose from an Environmental Quality Commission order, which concluded that petitioners were persons “controlling” an inactive landfill site and imposed liability on them for failing to per- form the statutory closure requirements. At issue here was whether the legislature intended that the category of persons “controlling” the landfill site would extend to those having the legal authority to control the site, as the commission concluded, or would be limited to “those persons actively involved in the operation or management of a landfill site,” as the Court of Appeals concluded. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded the legislature intended the category of persons “controlling” the site to include persons having the authority to control the site, regardless of whether that authority has been exercised. The matter was remanded to the Court of Appeals to consider petitioners’ remaining challenges to the order in light of the correct legal standard. View "Kinzua Resources v. DEQ" on Justia Law

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In 2007, the FWS first issued a rule declaring the Yellowstone grizzly population a "distinct population segment" within the meaning of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and removing it from the protections of the ESA. The Ninth Circuit upheld the district court's determination that further agency consideration was required and remanded, which resulted in a second delisting rule, Rule 2017, which the district court again vacated and remanded. In the remand order, the district court found three important deficiencies in the FWS's analysis. As a preliminary matter, the panel held that a remand of an agency's rulemaking is a final order as to the government and thus appealable. Furthermore, the panel has jurisdiction to consider the intervenors' appeals regarding recalibration. On the merits, the panel affirmed the district court in all respects, with the exception of the order requiring the FWS to conduct a "comprehensive review" of the remnant grizzly population. As to that order, the panel remanded for the district court to order further examination of the delisting's effect on the remnant grizzly population. View "Crow Indian Tribe v. United States" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Tenth Circuit's review centered on whether federal court was the proper forum for a suit filed in Colorado state court by local governmental entities for the global warming-related damage allegedly caused by oil and gas companies in Colorado. Suncor Energy and ExxonMobil advanced seven bases for federal subject matter jurisdiction in removing the action to federal court, each of which the district court rejected in its remand order. Suncor Energy and ExxonMobil appealed, reiterating six of those bases for federal jurisdiction. After review, the Tenth Circuit held that 28 U.S.C. 1447(d) limited its appellate jurisdiction to just one of them: federal officer removal under 28 U.S.C. 1442(a)(1). And because the Court concluded ExxonMobil failed to establish grounds for federal officer removal, the Court affirmed the district court’s order on that basis and dismissed the remainder of this appeal. View "Boulder County Commissioners v. Suncor Energy" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Tenth Circuit's review involved an interpretation of an environmental regulation addressing the renewal of permits under Title V of the Clean Air Act. The statute and accompanying regulation allowed renewal of these permits only if they ensured “compliance with” all of the “applicable requirements.” The term “applicable requirements” was defined in the regulation, but not the statute. The Sierra Club interpreted the regulatory definition to require compliance with all existing statutory requirements; the EPA interpretd the regulatory definition more narrowly, arguing that the applicability of certain requirements was determined by the state permit issued under a separate part of the Clean Air Act (Title I). The Tenth Circuit agreed with the Sierra Club’s interpretation: the regulatory definition of “applicable requirements” included all requirements in the state’s implementation plan, and Utah’s implementation plan broadly required compliance with the Clean Air Act. So, the Court concluded, all of the Act’s requirements constituted “applicable requirements” under the regulation. View "Sierra Club v. EPA" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants in an action alleging that the BLM's geld and release plan for wild horses violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. The panel held that the BLM did not act arbitrarily or capriciously when it chose to geld and release some of the male horses that would otherwise be permanently removed. The panel also held that the BLM permissibly determined that the intensity factors, whether considered individually or collectively, did not show that the Gather Plan would have a significant effect on the environment; the BLM considered and addressed the relevant factor that the Gelding Study raised and explained why additional information was not available, which meets NEPA's "hard look" standard; the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act does not require the BLM to discuss explicitly all expert opinions submitted during the public-comment period; and by addressing the concerns and factors that the NAS Report raised, the BLM complied with the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act's requirement that the BLM "consult" the National Academy of Sciences. View "American Wild Horse Campaign v. Bernhardt" on Justia Law

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Granite Northwest sought to expand its mining operations in Yakima County, Washington. The Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation (Yakama) opposed the expansion, arguing it would disturb ancient burial grounds and a dedicated historical cemetery. Despite these objections, Yakima County issued a conditional use permit and a State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), ch. 43.21C RCW, mitigated determination of nonsignificance to Granite Northwest. Yakama challenged both in superior court. The court later stayed the SEPA challenge while Yakama exhausted its administrative appeal of the conditional use permit as required by the Yakima county code. In Yakama’s administrative appeal, the hearing officer modified the conditional use permit to require a separate permit from the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation but affirmed Yakima County’s issuance of the permit. Yakama appealed the hearing examiner’s decision to the county board of commissioners. On April 10, 2018, at a public meeting where Yakama representatives were present, the board passed a resolution affirming the hearing officer’s decision and denying Yakama’s appeal. Three days later, a county planner sent an e-mail and letter to Yakama with the resolution attached. The letter noted the county code required written notification of the decision and stated that the administrative appeal had been exhausted. On May 2, 2018, 22 days after the resolution was adopted and 19 days after the county planner’s letter, Yakama filed a new petition in superior court. Yakima County and Granite Northwest (collectively, Granite NW) moved to dismiss the second petition as untimely under RCW 36.70C.040(4)(b) because the 21-day filing period began on the date the board of commissioners passed its resolution and Yakama’s petition was 1 day late. Granite NW also moved to dismiss the previously stayed petition, arguing the stay was conditional on Yakama timely filing its administrative appeal. Yakama responded that RCW 36.70C.040(4)(b) was inapplicable and instead RCW 36.70C.040(4)(a) governed the filing period, which began when the county planner transmitted the written resolution to Yakama. The superior court agreed with Yakama, finding Yakama’s land use petition was timely filed, and accordingly, did not dismiss Yakama’s earlier petition. The Court of Appeals reversed in an unpublished decision, concluding the later petition was not timely and did not address the previously stayed petition. After review, the Washington Supreme Court concluded Yakama's petition was timely filed. The Court of Appeals was reversed. View "Confederated Tribes & Bands of the Yakama Nation v. Yakima County" on Justia Law

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National Parks Conservation Association (“NPCA”) appealed a judgment affirming a final permit decision by the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality, formerly the Department of Health Environmental Health Section, to issue Meridian Energy Group, Inc. an air quality permit to construct a refinery. In October 2016, Meridian submitted its initial application and supporting documentation to the Department for a permit to construct the Davis Refinery, as required under North Dakota’s air pollution control rules implementing the federal Clean Air Act. The Department received over 10,000 comments, with most of the substantive comments coming from NPCA, the National Park Service, and the Environmental Protection Agency. NPCA filed comments with the Department supported by its two experts’ opinions, asserting that Meridian’s oil refinery would be a “major source,” rather than a “minor source,” of air pollution and that the permit does not contain “practically enforceable” emissions limits under the federal Clean Air Act and North Dakota’s air pollution control rules implementing the Clean Air Act. After considering public comments and Meridian’s responses, the Department’s Air Quality Division recommended to the State Health Officer that the Department issue a final permit because the Davis Refinery’s emissions are expected to comply with the applicable North Dakota air pollution control rules. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the Department did not act arbitrarily, capriciously, or unreasonably in issuing the permit. View "Nat'l Parks Conservation Assn., et al. v. ND Dept. of Env. Quality, et al." on Justia Law