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The Inholders own patented mining and homestead claims within the Santa Fe National Forest. The 2011 Las Conchas Fire caused widespread destruction of vegetation within the forest. Forest Roads 89 and 268, which the Inholders had used to access their properties, were severely damaged by subsequent flooding. The Forest Service notified them that the roads were “impassible” and that it would provide them with limited access: “a combination of driving and hiking over specific routes and under specific weather conditions.” Later, the Service sent a letter stating that “public safety would be highly threatened by use of” the roads; that it would close the roads to public access for the foreseeable future; that because of continuing terrain instability, any reconstruction would likely be destroyed by future flooding; and, even if reconstruction were possible, the Service could not justify expending public funds when there is no general public need. The Service suggested that the Inholders work “collectively” to reconstruct the roads. The Inholders claimed that they held statutorily-granted easements. The USDA disagreed, citing 90 Stat. 2743, but acknowledged that the Inholders had a right to access their properties, “subject to reasonable regulations.” The Inholders claimed a compensable taking. The Federal Circuit affirmed the Claims Court’s dismissal, finding that the Inholders had not adequately pled a physical taking and that any regulatory taking claim was not ripe because the Inholders had not applied for a permit to reconstruct the roads. View "Martin v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 2015, PennEast Pipeline sought a certificate to build a natural gas pipeline running through Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Riverkeeper intervened to oppose the project. In 2016, while the Commission was still reviewing the proposal, Riverkeeper filed suit seeking declaratory relief against the Commission and its members, alleging that FERC's funding structure creates structural bias, in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, by incentivizing the Commission to approve new pipelines in order to secure additional sources for its future funding. Riverkeeper also challenged the Commission's use of tolling orders to satisfy its 30-day deadline for acting on rehearing applications. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. The DC Circuit held that Riverkeeper properly filed this case in the district court; Riverkeeper established Article III standing; and Riverkeeper had a viable cause of action. On the merits, the court held that the Environmental Rights Amendment did not create federally protected liberty or property interests, much less ones that FERC could infringe; and regardless of whether any protected liberty or property interests were implicated, the Commission was not a structurally biased adjudicator, and its use of tolling orders was not facially unconstitutional. View "Delaware Riverkeeper Network v. FERC" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied Delaware's petition for review of the EPA's grant of an extension for a multistate region to comply with national ozone standards. After determining that Delaware may petition the court for review of the EPA's decision, the court held on the merits that the EPA had authority under 42 U.S.C. 7511(a)(5) to grant three states' requests to extend the Philadelphia Area's attainment date, even though Delaware was not among them. The court also held that the EPA did not act arbitrarily or capriciously when requiring New Jersey to comply only with its EPA-approved state implementation plans (SIP). Finally, the court rejected Delaware's contention that Maryland and Pennsylvania could not submit certifications of compliance with their SIPs without evidence to substantiate the certifications. View "Delaware Department of Natural Resources v. EPA" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit upheld the decision of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to impose a limit - through a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit - on the amount of nitrogen that the Taunton Wastewater Treatment Plant may discharge. After the final permit issued, the City of Taunton, Massachusetts appealed to the Environmental Appeals Board (EAB), challenging both the need for any nitrogen limit and the specific limit that the permit imposed. The EAB denied the City’s administrative appeal on the merits. The City then appealed to the First Circuit, challenging the final agency action on various procedural and substantive grounds. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that none of the City’s procedural or substantive challenges had merit. View "City of Taunton v. United States Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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The Corps and Bayou Bridge appealed the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction preventing Bayou Bridge from constructing a pipeline in part through the Atchafalaya Basin of southern Louisiana. The Fifth Circuit vacated the preliminary injunction, holding that the district court misperceived the applicable regulations, and the Corps' analysis, properly understood, vindicated its decision that an environmental assessment sufficed under these circumstances. In this case, the environmental assessments concerning the permit did not exhibit the Supreme Court's criteria for an arbitrary and capricious decision. Furthermore, the district court abused its discretion by misapplying applicable legal principles and by inadvertently but critically overlooking the Louisiana Wetland Rapid Assessment Method. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Atchafalaya Basinkeeper v. U.S. Army Corps" on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged FERC's grant of a 30 year license to continue power generation on a portion of the Coosa River. The DC Circuit held that the Commission's environmental review and a biological opinion it relied on were unreasoned and unsupported by substantial evidence, and thus its issuance of the license was arbitrary and capricious. In this case, a review of the licensed project's impact on the environment and endangered species documented that the project would cause a 100% take of multiple endangered species; the Commission concluded that licensing the generation project would have no substantial impact on either the River's ecological condition or endangered species; and thus the Commission declined to factor in the decades of environmental damage already wrought by exploitation of the waterway for power generation and that damage's continuing ecological effects. The court dismissed the first petition, granted the second petition, vacated the licensing decision, and remanded for further proceedings. View "American Rivers and Alabama Rivers Alliance v. FERC" on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged the EPA's final rule entitled "NESHAP for Brick and Structural Clay Products Manufacturing; and NESHAP for Clay Ceramics Manufacturing" and the EPA's partial denial of reconsideration of the rule. Environmental petitioners contended that the EPA erred in its use of health-based standards for acid gas emissions, failed to properly explain its methodology in setting maximum achievable control technology-based (MACT) standards, and improperly allowed brick plants to meet alternative emissions floors. Industry petitioners contended that the EPA made multiple errors in its methodology in the rule. The DC Circuit denied the industry petitioners' petitions for review and granted the environmental petitioners' petition for review as to the EPA's use of a health threshold to set the emissions limit for acid gases; the EPA's ad hoc adjustments of upper prediction limit calculations; and the EPA's provision of alternative MACT floors for brick plants. The court denied the environmental petitioners' petition for review as to the general application of the upper prediction limit to limited datasets as defined by the EPA. The court remanded the rule for further proceedings. View "Sierra Club v. EPA" on Justia Law

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The Clean Air Act did not grant movant an "unconditional right" to intervene in the government's suit. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a motion to intervene in the government's Clean Air Act enforcement action against Volkswagen. The panel held that the Act's citizen suit provision did not grant movant an unconditional right to intervene under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(a)(1) where 42 U.S.C. 7604(b)(1)(B)'s diligent prosecution bar circumscribed a citizen's right to intervene in an enforcement action under that same provision; a citizen who retained the right to file suit on his own, despite a government enforcement action, had no statutory right to intervene in that action; and the government was not suing to enforce a "standard, limitation, or order" within the meaning of the Act, and thus the diligent prosecution bar did not preclude movant's claims and he was free to bring his own citizen suit. In the alternative, movant's proposed complaints-in-intervention demonstrated that he was not seeking to enforce the provisions invoked by the government, and thus he could have filed his own suit and was not entitled to intervene in the government's action. View "Hill v. Volkswagen, AG" on Justia Law

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Wayne Land and Mineral Group, wanting to obtain natural gas by fracking reserves, sought a declaratory judgment that an interstate compact does not give the Delaware River Basin Commission authority to review Wayne’s proposal. The district court dismissed the case after determining that Wayne’s proposed activities constituted a “project” subject to the Commission’s oversight, according to the Compact's unambiguous terms. The Third Circuit vacated, concluding that the meaning of the word “project” is ambiguous. The court remanded the case for fact-finding on the intent of the Compact's drafters. The Compact defines “project” as “any work, service or activity which is separately planned, financed, or identified by the [C]ommission, or any separate facility undertaken or to be undertaken within a specified area, for the conservation, utilization, control, development or management of water resources which can be established and utilized independently or as an addition to an existing facility, and can be considered as a separate entity for purposes of evaluation” and requires approval for any project having a substantial effect on the water resources of the Basin. In 2009 the Commission imposed a moratorium on fracking. View "Wayne Land and Mineral Group LLC v. Delaware River Basin Commission" on Justia Law

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The river basin is formed by the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers, which flow south through Georgia and converge at Lake Seminole, just north of Florida, where the Apalachicola River begins and flows south into the Gulf of Mexico. Florida sued, seeking a decree equitably apportioning the basin’s waters. The Supreme Court agreed to exercise its original jurisdiction and appointed a Special Master. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers declined to waive sovereign immunity. The Master recommended that the Court dismiss Florida’s complaint, concluding that Florida did not present clear and convincing evidence that its injuries could be redressed by a decree capping Georgia’s upstream water consumption if the decree does not bind the Corps. The Supreme Court remanded, concluding that the Special Master applied too strict a standard. In interstate water disputes raising questions beyond the interpretation of an interstate compact's language, the doctrine of equitable apportionment applies. Equitable apportionment is flexible and requires consideration of physical and climatic conditions, the consumptive use of water in the several sections of the river, the character and rate of return flows, the extent of established uses, the availability of storage water, the practical effect of wasteful uses, and the damage to upstream areas as compared to the benefits to downstream areas if a limitation is imposed. Extensive, specific factual findings are essential. Until the Master makes the findings necessary to determine the nature and scope of likely harm caused by the absence of water and the amount of additional water necessary to ameliorate that harm significantly, Florida should not have to prove the details of a workable decree by “clear and convincing” evidence but only that, applying the principles of “flexibility” and “approximation,” it is likely to prove possible to fashion such a decree. At this stage and in light of certain assumptions, Florida made a sufficient showing that the extra water that would result from its proposed consumption cap would lead to increased streamflow in Florida’s Apalachicola River and significantly redress the economic and ecological harm that Florida has alleged. The United States has indicated that the Corps will cooperate. View "Florida v. Georgia" on Justia Law