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Georgetown was a "quaint unincorporated Gold Rush-era hamlet" in rural El Dorado County (the County, including defendant Board of Supervisors). Developer SimonCRE Abbie, LLC and its principals wanted to erect a Dollar General chain discount store on three vacant Main Street lots. Local residents acting through plaintiff Georgetown Preservation Society (Society) objected, claiming this would impair the look of their town. After the real parties slightly modified the project, the County adopted a mitigated negative declaration, finding there was no basis to require an environmental impact report (EIR). In response to the Society’s mandamus petition, the trial court duly applied Pocket Protectors v. City of Sacramento, 124 Cal.App.4th 903 (2004), and found the Society’s evidence supported a fair argument that the project may have a significant aesthetic effect on the environment, but rejected the Society’s claims about traffic impacts and pedestrian safety, and declined to address the Society’s claim the project was inconsistent with planning and zoning norms. Accordingly, the court issued a writ of mandate compelling the County to require an EIR. On appeal, the County and real parties, supported by the League of California Cities and the California State Association of Counties (which together filed one amicus curiae brief), contended the trial court erred in finding an EIR was needed. They principally relied on the fact that the County applied its Historic Design Guide principles and found the project met aesthetic standards. The Court of Appeal disagreed with this proposed method of bypassing CEQA and instead reinforced Pocket Protectors, holding that the Society’s evidence of aesthetic impacts was sufficient to trigger the need for an EIR. "A planning or zoning decision may be entitled to greater deference than a mitigated negative declaration, but such a determination is no more than it purports to be and is not a CEQA determination." View "Georgetown Preservation Society v. County of El Dorado" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit vacated the district court's grant of defendants' motion to dismiss an action brought by the Sierra Club under the Clean Water Act, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. Sierra Club alleged that Construx was engaged in "industrial activity" within the meaning of the Act without a permit. The court held that Construx's business activity, which involved recycling debris and waste and subsequently wholesaling aggregate materials it has crushed from that debris and waste, was "industrial activity" within the meaning of the Act. Therefore, Sierra Club's allegations were sufficient to demonstrate, at the pleading stage, that Construx was engaged in "industrial activity," notwithstanding that part of its business could also be classified as activity not subject to the Act. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Sierra Club v. Con-Strux, LLC" on Justia Law

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Advanced Disposal Services South, LLC; Advanced Disposal Services Alabama Holdings, LLC; Tallassee Waste Disposal Center, Inc.; Advanced Disposal Services, Inc.; and Stone's Throw Landfill, LLC (collectively, "Advanced Disposal"), petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Circuit Court either to join the City of Tallassee ("the City") as a necessary and indispensable party to the underlying action filed by Jerry Tarver, Sr., or, alternatively, to dismiss the action in its entirety, pursuant to Rule 19, Ala. R. Civ. P. The Supreme Court granted the petition and issued the writ, making no determination whether joinder would be feasible or whether the City was an indispensable party. Tarver filed an application for rehearing, arguing in its September 28, 2018 opinion, the Supreme Court "recast" his claims to reach the conclusion that the City was a necessary party to this action. He argued that the Court's reasoning on original submission was dependent on the notion that he sought to address the whole of the effluent the City discharges into the Tallapoosa River ("the river") when, he claimed, he sought to enjoin only the quantity of the leachate Advanced Disposal deposited into the City's stabilization pond. Tarver then argued that not only did the Court's analysis depend on a recasting of his claims, but the Court also relied on facts not before the circuit court in support of that recasting, namely, "facts as to the percentage of the effluent attributable to [Advanced Disposal's] leachate compared to the percentage of the effluent attributable to other sources." In overruling Tarver's application, the Supreme Court held Tarver's arguments misapprehended its opinion; the figures cited in note 5 of the opinion on original submission were consistent with the allegations in the complaint that the stabilization pond treats "substantial amounts" of waste from parties other than Advanced Disposal. View "Ex parte Advanced Disposal Services South, LLC, et al." on Justia Law

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The State appealed a circuit court order that, among other things, dismissed its claims against Volkswagen AG ("VWAG"). The State had filed a complaint claiming VWAG and other defendants, violated the Alabama Environmental Management Act ("the AEMA"), and the Alabama Air Pollution Control Act of 1971 ("the AAPCA") when cars VWAG produced had "defeat devices" installed, designed to alter emissions readings on cars with diesel engines. In other words, the complaint alleged defendants had tampered with the emission-control systems or ordered third parties to tamper with the emission-control systems of vehicles that were licensed and registered in the State of Alabama. Giving its reasons for dismissal, the Supreme Court determined that given the unique factual situation involved in this case, and based on reasoning set by the multi-district litigation court, allowing the State to proceed would "stand as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress." Therefore, the trial court properly granted VWAG's motion to dismiss. View "Alabama v. Volkswagen AG" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit granted a petition for review of the Forest Service's Special Use Permit and Record of Decision authorizing Atlantic, the project developer, to construct the Atlantic Coast Pipeline through parts of the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests and granting a right of way across the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. The court held that the Forest Service's decisions in its 2012 Planning Rule and the 2016 Amendment to the 2012 Planning Rule violated the National Forest Management Act and the court remanded for further proceedings. The court also held that the Forest Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act, and that the Forest Service lacked statutory authority pursuant to the Mineral Leasing Act to grant a pipeline right of way across the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. The court concluded that the Forest Service abdicated its responsibility to preserve national forest resources, and noted that the Forest Service's serious environmental concerns were suddenly, and mysteriously, assuaged in time to meet a private pipeline company's deadlines. View "Cowpasture River Preservation Association v. Forest Service" on Justia Law

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By a stipulated decree issued in 1920, the Tehama County Superior Court adjudicated water rights in Mill Creek. It declared the natural flow of the water up to a total rate of 203 cfs had been appropriated by the parties appearing before it for use upon their and other persons’ lands. The decree entitled these original owners of the water rights and their successors to continue diverting from Mill Creek a total of 203 cfs of water, and it allotted them shares in the amount of water each could divert. It entitled the owners to use or dispose of their share of water in any manner, at any place, or for any purpose, or in accordance with whatever agreement the owners may make with any other person or entity. As part of the decree, the court also appointed a water master of Mill Creek to implement its order. The decree gave the water master exclusive authority to divert and apportion the water during the irrigation season according to the decree’s terms, measure the diversions, and control and superintend the diversions and the gates and ditches used to divert the water. The owner of an appropriative right to water in Mill Creek sought declaratory relief to determine whether, under the judicial decree that established the right, it could: (1) use water appropriated to it on a year around basis and not only during the irrigation season; (2) use or transfer its water outside of the creek’s watershed; and (3) make these changes in the use and location of use without obtaining prior approval of the creek’s water master or the superior court. The trial court declared the decree did not give the owner these rights. The Court of Appeal agreed with the Orange Grove Irrigation District that the trial court’s holding was incorrect: the court created a condition that did not exist in the decree, and it did so based on a misunderstanding of the extent of control the decree granted to Los Molinos Mutual Water Company and of the operation of Water Code section 1706. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded the trial court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Orange Cove Irrigation Dist. v. Los Molinos Mutual Water Co." on Justia Law

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In this water use case, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the State of Hawaii Commission on Water Resource Management (Commission) concluding that Appellants waived the right to proceed on the contested case, holding that the Commission’s finding that Appellants waived the right to continue the case was not clearly erroneous or wrong. More than a decade ago, the Supreme Court vacated the issuance of two water use permits and remanded the matter to the Commission. On remand, the parties claiming to be the applicant’s successors in interest submitted a letter to the Commission stating that they did not have the financial resources to continue to pursue the case. Years later, Appellants filed a new water use application. The Commission treated the application as a continuation of the remanded case and then concluded that the letter constituted a waiver of Appellants’ right to continue the original proceedings. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Commission did not err in finding that Appellants expressly waived their right to proceed with the contested case by their letter. View "In re Contested Case Hearing on the Water Use Permit Application Originally Filed by Kukui, Inc." on Justia Law

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At issue was the geographic scope of the permitting authority delegated to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife over hydraulic projects. A coalition of counties challenged the Department's statutory authority to regulate the construction or performance of work to occur exclusively above the ordinary high-water line. The Washington Supreme Court held the plain language of the statute at issue looked to the "reasonably certain" (not "absolutely certain") effects of hydraulic projects on state waters in determining the scope of the Department's permitting authority, and at least some projects above the ordinary high-water line were reasonably certain to affect those waters. An examination of relevant legislative history confirmed that the legislature intended the Department's regulatory jurisdiction to include projects above the ordinary high-water line that affected state waters. View "Spokane County v. Dep't of Fish & Wildlife" on Justia Law

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In 1998, the State Lands Commission granted Hanson’s predecessor 10-year leases, authorizing commercial sand mining from sovereign lands, owned by the state subject to the public trust, and managed by the Commission, under the Central San Francisco Bay, Suisun Bay, and the western Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. In 2006, Hanson requested extensions of several leases, but they expired before the Commission made its decision. The Commission granted four new 10-year leases covering essentially the same parcels in the San Francisco Bay. In 2012, opponents sought a writ of mandate to compel the Commission to set aside its approval of the project. In 2015, a different panel of the court of appeal found that the Commission’s environmental review of the project complied with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) (Pub. Resources Code 21000), but that the Commission violated the public trust doctrine by approving the project without considering whether the sand mining leases were a proper use of public trust lands. The Commission reapproved the project; the court discharged a writ of mandate. The court of appeal affirmed. While the Commission erred by concluding that private commercial sand mining constitutes a public trust use of sovereign lands, there is substantial evidence that the project will not impair the public trust. View "San Francisco Baykeeper, Inc. v. State Lands Commission" on Justia Law

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The 42-inch diameter natural gas Mountain Valley Pipeline proposes to run 304 miles through Virginia and West Virginia, In the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Huntington District, the Pipeline and related roads will cross 591 federal water bodies, including four major rivers three of which are navigable-in-fact rivers regulated by the Rivers and Harbors Act, 33 U.S.C. 403. Because construction will involve the discharge of fill material into federal waters, the Clean Water Act requires clearance from the Corps, 33 U.S.C. 1344(a). The Act provides for individual permits or “interested parties can try to fit their proposed activity within the scope of an existing general permit,” in this case Clean Water Act Nationwide Permit (NWP) 12, “which acts as a standing authorization for developers to undertake an entire category of activities deemed to create only minimal environmental impact.” The Corps verified that the Pipeline can proceed under NWP 12 rather than an individual permit. The Fourth Circuit vacated, holding that the Corps lacked statutory authority to substitute its own special condition for a different special condition imposed by West Virginia as part of its certification of NWP 12. Without completion of the notice-and-comment procedures required by the Act, a state cannot waive a special condition previously imposed as part of its certification of a nationwide permit. West Virginia did not follow federally-mandated notice-and-comment procedures in waiving another special condition imposed as part of its certification of NWP 12. View "Sierra Club v. United States Army Corps of Engineers" on Justia Law