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Petitioner sought an administrative writ and declaratory relief, contending that the lease replacement between PG&E and the Commission should not have been subject to the existing facilities exemption, and that even if it was, the unusual circumstances exception to the exemption should apply. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's rejection of petitioner's contentions and denied the writ and declaratory relief. The court held that the record supported the Commission's application of the existing facilities exemption where the lease replacement would not expand the existing use of the plant. In this case, PG&E has leased the same land from the Commission for nearly 50 years, and the lease replacement maintained rather than expanded the plant's current operational capacity. The court also held that the Commission properly applied the fair argument standard in considering possible effects on the environment due to any unusual circumstances. The court rejected petitioner's remaining arguments. View "World Business Academy v. California State Lands Commission" on Justia Law

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The state formed BBGHAD to restore 46 acres of Malibu's Broad Beach. The project requires 300,000 cubic yards of sand initially, with subsequent deposits at five-year intervals, and supplemental deposits as needed. Each of the five major deposits will generate 44,000 one-way truck trips, primarily from quarries adjacent to State Highway 23 between Fillmore and Moorpark. Moorpark officials expressed concern that truck traffic would negatively impact residents. A settlement prohibited sand trucks from using certain roads and from stopping in specific areas. The Coastal Commission approved a coastal development permit, including the settlement agreement. The trial court found the project exempt from environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), Pub. Resources Code, 21000(a) but that BBGHAD improperly contracted away to Moorpark its police power in prohibiting BBGHAD from modifying haul routes in response to changed circumstances. The court of appeal held that the beach restoration, including the agreement, is a single “project” that is exempt from CEQA review as an “improvement” (section 26505) undertaken by a geologic hazard abatement district “necessary to prevent or mitigate an emergency.” The agreement's traffic restrictions are not preempted by the Vehicle Code, nor do they constitute extraterritorial regulations; they represent a valid exercise of Moorpark’s contracting authority. The court agreed that BBGHAD abdicated its police power in portions of the agreement. View "County of Ventura v. City of Moorpark" on Justia Law

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In 2007, Canadian National Railway (CN) sought approval from the Surface Transportation Board of its acquisition of the EJ & E rail line near Chicago. The Board considered the impact of the acquisition on 112 railroad crossings throughout the area, including the intersection at U.S. Highway 14 in Barrington. Crossings projected to be “substantially affected” were eligible for mitigation measures imposed by the Board as a condition to its approval, up to and including grade separation between the roadway and rail line. The Board approved CN’s acquisition, finding that U.S. 14 would neither be substantially affected nor warrant a grade separation. Barrington unsuccessfully petitioned the Board to reopen its decision three times. The Seventh Circuit denied a petition for review. Barrington did not present new evidence or substantially changed circumstances that mandate a different result, 49 U.S.C. 1322(c). The Board conducted an environmental review (National Environmental Policy Act, 42 U.S.C. 4321–4370m‐12) and concluded that U.S. 14 did not exceed any of the three congestion thresholds for substantially affected crossings because “the major source of congestion” at U.S. 14 is “excess vehicle demand at existing major thoroughfare intersections” and “existing traffic signals in proximity to one another,” not CN’s acquisition of the EJ & E line. View "Village of Barrington v. Surface Transportation Board" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied petitions for review challenging the Amendments to Regional Consistency Regulations adopted by the EPA pursuant to section 7601 of the Clean Air Act (CAA), 42 U.S.C. 7601. The Amended Regulations were issued in response to the court's decision in National Environmental Development Association's Clean Air Project v. EPA (NEDACAP I), 752 F.3d 999 (D.C. Cir. 2014). The court held that the Amended Regulations reflect permissible and sensible solutions to issues emanating from intercircuit conflicts and agency nonacquiescence. Accordingly, the court deferred to the EPA's reasonable construction of the statute. View "National Environmental Development Association's Clean Air Project v. EPA" on Justia Law

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In 1989, the predecessor to the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), the agency charged with implementing California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act (Proposition 65) (Health & Saf. Code 25249.5), adopted a regulation setting a “maximum allowable dose level” (MADL) for lead as a reproductive toxicant. In 2015, Mateel sought to compel OEHHA to repeal regulations setting a MADL for lead as a reproductive toxicant and to invalidate the “safe harbor” level for lead. The court of appeal affirmed judgment in favor of OEHHA, rejecting Mateel’s argument that OEHHA failed to comply with Proposition 65's mandate that the MADL be based on an exposure having “no observable effect” when it utilized a “surrogate” “no observable effect level” (NOEL) derived from the “permissible exposure limit” (PEL) for lead set by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The court also rejected arguments that even if the OSHA blood lead level should be maintained for people who wished to plan pregnancies were appropriate to consider as a NOEL, thHA PEL was not set at a level to achieve this target; that OEHHA failed to make a downward adjustment to account for this disconnect between the PEL and the target NOEL; and that nothing in the record indicates OEHHA considered this issue in setting the MADL. View "Mateel Environmental Justice Foundation v. Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment" on Justia Law

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Wisconsin proposes to renovate 7.5 miles of Highway 164 (formerly Highway J), a two-lane Washington County road, with repaving, reconstruction near hill crests to improve visibility, widening lanes and shoulders, updating guardrails, and adding rumble strips, turn, and bypass lanes. A 141-page environmental report concluded that the renovation would not cause any significant environmental effects but would reduce the accident and injury rate. Accidents are 63% more likely, per mile traveled, on this stretch than on Wisconsin’s other rural highways. The Federal Highway Administration approved the report and federal funding, finding an environmental impact statement unnecessary. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the rejection of opponents’ challenges. The National Environmental Policy Act requires an environmental impact statement for “major Federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment,” 42 U.S.C. 4332(2)(C). Renovating 7.5 miles of an existing road does not stand out as a major cause of a significant effect and qualifies for the “categorical exclusion” of projects that are not “major.” The Administration (23 C.F.R. 771.117) believes that renovating existing roads generally does “not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment.” The years-long, 141-page study concluded that the project would not have a significant environmental effect; the state will create new wetlands at another site and no threatened or endangered species will be adversely affected. View "Highway J Citizens Group v. United States Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

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The California Court of Appeal consolidated cases to address a novel question regarding jurisdiction under the unique and complex cooperative federalism scheme of the federal Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7401 et seq.) (Act). The Act authorized the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (Agency) to promulgate national primary and secondary ambient air quality standards. States, however, have the “primary responsibility for assuring air quality” and must each devise, adopt, and implement a state implementation plan (SIP) specifying how the state will achieve and maintain the national air quality standards. The SIP is submitted to the Agency’s administrator (Administrator) for approval. The cases here sought the same relief and practical objective: to invalidate and render unenforceable, in whole or in part (albeit on different grounds), a state regulation known as the Truck and Bus Regulation (Regulation), which was approved by the Administrator as part of and incorporated into California’s SIP. Plaintiff Jack Cody argued the Regulation violated the dormant commerce clause of the United States Constitution because it discriminated against out-of-state truckers by imposing a disproportionate compliance burden on them. Plaintiff Alliance for California Business (Alliance) argued the Regulation was unlawful because part of its mandate conflicted with state and federal safety laws. Defendants, including the California Air Resources Board (Board), raised lack of subject matter jurisdiction under section 307(b)(1) of the Act in both cases on appeal. The issue this case presented for the Court of Appeal's review centered on whether section 307(b)(1) vested exclusive and original jurisdiction over these challenges to the Regulation incorporated into and approved as part of California’s SIP in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court concluded it did and affirmed the judgments for lack of jurisdiction. View "Alliance for Calif. Business v. State Air Resources Bd." on Justia Law

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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