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The Supreme Court reaffirmed its decision in Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment v. Executive Director of Utah Department of Environmental Quality, 391 P.3d 148 (Utah 2016) (Utah Physicians I) and dismissed the petition for review in this case for reasons set forth in the court’s decision in that case. In both cases the Director of the Utah Division of Air Quality approved a permit for a new project at an oil refinery, and the Executive Director of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality affirmed the issuance of the permit. In both cases, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment and others (collectively, Petitioners) sought to challenge the Executive Director’s final action in a judicial proceeding. In Utah Physicians I, the Supreme Court dismissed the petition on procedural grounds because Petitioners failed to identify specific parts of the Executive Director’s final order they believed were incorrect. Because Petitioners made the same error in this case, the Supreme Court dismissed the petition for review. View "Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment v. Executive Director of Utah Department of Environmental Quality" on Justia Law

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In this case, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court examined the contours of the 1971 Environmental Rights Amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution in light of a declaratory judgment action brought by the Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation (“Foundation”) challenging, inter alia, the constitutionality of statutory enactments relating to funds generated from the leasing of state forest and park lands for oil and gas exploration and extraction. Because state parks and forests, including the oil and gas minerals therein, were part of the corpus of Pennsylvania’s environmental public trust, the Supreme Court held that the Commonwealth, as trustee, had to manage them according to the plain language of Section 27, which imposed fiduciary duties consistent with Pennsylvania trust law. The Court further found that the constitutional language controlled how the Commonwealth may dispose of any proceeds generated from the sale of its public natural resources. View "PA Env. Defense Fdn. v. Wolf" on Justia Law

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Because the state proposed to use federal highway funds to widen Wisconsin Route 23, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) issued an environmental impact statement (EIS). USDOT made a record of decision (ROD) permitting the use of federal funds. Opponents filed suit. The court denied a request for an injunction because Wisconsin can proceed using its own money regardless of whether USDOT satisfied the requirements for a federal contribution, but set aside the ROD, finding that the statement projecting 2035 traffic loads had not adequately disclosed all assumptions. USDOT issued a revised EIS with additional details about how the traffic estimates had been generated. The district court reiterated the order vacating USDOT’s ROD. The judge stated that plaintiff was entitled to a declaratory judgment but neglected to issue one. The order setting aside the ROD was appealed by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. The Seventh Circuit dismissed an appeal. USDOT did not appeal. Wisconsin remains free to continue the project at the state’s expense. The National Environmental Policy Act, on which the suit rests, applies only to the national government, 42 U.S.C. 4332(2)(C). Wisconsin cannot seek relief against a judgment that does not bind it. Wisconsin does not contend that USDOT had a statutory duty to fund the project, to prepare a better EIS, or to appeal the decision. View "1000 Friends of Wisconsin, Inc v. Wisconsin Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

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The Colorado Supreme Court’s decision in this matter addressed appeals from two related cases: Gallegos Family Properties, LLC’s petition to de-designate a portion of the Upper Crow Creek Designated Ground Water Basin, and an order awarding the Well Owners a portion of their litigation costs. At issue was whether Gallegos satisfied the statutory standard for de-designating a portion of the Basin set forth in section 37-90-106(1)(a), C.R.S. (2003), and as interpreted by this the Court in Gallegos v. Colorado Ground Water Commission, 147 P.3d 20 (Colo. 2006), and whether Gallegos should have bourne the Well Owners’ costs. The designated groundwater court concluded that Gallegos had failed to make new showings sufficient to justify de-designating a portion of the Basin and taxed Gallegos for a portion of the Well Owners’ costs. The Supreme Court concluded that Gallegos failed to prove by evidence not before the 1987 Commission that the Well Owners were pumping water connected to Crow Creek such that future conditions and factual data justify de-designating a portion of the Basin. Because a party must show connectivity to prove impact, Gallegos failed to meet its burden, and de-designation was improper. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the designated groundwater court’s order denying Gallegos’s petition. Furthermore, because the designated groundwater court properly denied Gallegos’s petition for de-designation, the Supreme Court concluded that the court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the Well Owners were prevailing parties for purposes of C.R.C.P. 54(d), that the costs awarded were reasonable and necessary, and that Gallegos should pay these costs pursuant to Rule 54(d). View "Gallegos Family Properties, LLC v. Colorado Groundwater Commission" on Justia Law

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Conservationists filed suit under the Clean Water Act and Florida law, challenging the Corps' decisions about when and how to release water from certain locks along the Okeechobee Waterway. The district court dismissed the complaint based on the Corps' sovereign immunity. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, holding that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19(b) required the dismissal of this case regardless of whether the court agreed with the Water District's sequencing argument on cross-appeal or the Corps' sovereign immunity argument. The court need not reach those matters because the Water District was an indispensable party under Rule 19(b) and thus the action may not proceed without the Water District. View "Florida Wildlife Federation Inc. v. US Army Corps of Engineers" on Justia Law

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This appeal involved an attorney’s fees dispute following a superior court decision upholding Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell’s certification of the “Bristol Bay Forever” ballot initiative. The initiative was approved to be placed on the November 2014 ballot. It required additional legislative approval for “a large-scale metallic sulfide mining operation located within the watershed of the Bristol Bay Fisheries Reserve.” Richard Hughes, Alaska Miners Association, and Council of Alaska Producers (Hughes plaintiffs) challenged the certification of the initiative. It was undisputed that this initiative, if passed, would impact the Pebble Project, a potential large-scale mining project in the Bristol Bay region. The initiative’s sponsors, John Holman, Mark Niver, and Christina Salmon (Holman intervenors), intervened on Alaska's side, and the State and intervenors moved for summary judgment to establish the legality of the initiative. The superior court granted the State’s and the Holman intervenors’ motions for summary judgment. The Alaska Supreme Court affirmed on the merits. The Holman intervenors then moved for full reasonable attorney’s fees as constitutional claimants under AS 09.60.010. The Hughes plaintiffs opposed, arguing that they themselves were constitutional claimants and that the Holman intervenors were not constitutional claimants because they were intervenor-defendants. The superior court determined that the Holman intervenors were constitutional claimants. It also found that because Pebble Limited Partnership (Pebble) financed at least part of the litigation for the Hughes plaintiffs, Pebble was the real party in interest; the court further found that Pebble did not qualify as a constitutional claimant because it had sufficient economic incentive to bring the action. The court therefore awarded the Holman intervenors full reasonable attorney’s fees. The Hughes plaintiffs appealed. The Supreme Court held that because this case was fundamentally about constitutional limits on the ballot-initiative process and not whether the Pebble Project should go forward, the Hughes plaintiffs did not have sufficient economic incentive to remove them from constitutional-claimant status, and therefore reversed the award of attorney’s fees. View "Alaska Miners Association v. Holman" on Justia Law

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The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) lacked statutory authority to issue an emergency order that imposed a quarantine on land used as a whitetail deer-hunting preserve. Landowners challenged an emergency order issued by the DNR to order Landowners to quarantine land formerly used as a whitetail deer preserve for five years after the deer harvested on the property tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD). An administrative law judge found that the DNR lacked the statutory authority to issue the emergency order, but the Iowa Natural Resources Commission (NRC) reversed. The district court reversed the NRC, holding that, in issuing the quarantine order, the DNR was acting outside the legislature’s grant of authority. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the DNR lacked the authority to issue the emergency order and that the emergency order did not amount to an impermissible taking under the United States or Iowa Constitutions. View "Brakke v. Iowa Department of Natural Resources" on Justia Law

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Grist Creek owns property in Mendocino County on which it has aggregate and asphalt processing operations. The County Air Quality Management District approved a permit to construct a “Crumb Rubber Heating and Blending Unit” for the production of rubberized asphalt, on the property. The District Hearing Board’s four members who considered an appeal split evenly on their vote; the Board stated no further action would be taken, leaving the permit in place. Oponents filed a petition for writ of administrative mandate, claiming that Grist Creek should have conducted an environmental review and that the District and Hearing Board violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA, Pub. Resources Code, 21000) and District regulations by failing to require one. The trial court dismissed the action against the Board with leave to amend, finding the tie vote was not a decision, so there was nothing to review. The court of appeals reversed. The Board’s tie vote, in this context, resulted in the denial of the administrative appeal, subject to judicial review. View "Grist Creek Aggregates, LLC v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Respondents filed an amended complaint joining separate claims of seventy-nine individual plaintiffs, who alleged that they or their family members were injured by exposure to Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR) generated at the General James M. Gavin Power Plant and disposed of at the associated Gavin Landfill (collectively, Gavin Landfill). Twelve plaintiffs (the NWDC Plaintiffs) alleged that they suffered injury as a result of take-home exposure to CCR. The Mass Litigation Panel (MLP) denied Petitioners’ motion to dismiss the claims of the NWDC Plaintiffs, concluding that the doctrine of lex loci delicti required the application of Ohio law to the claims of the NWDC Plaintiffs. The court further found that the application of the Ohio Mixed Dust Statute was contrary to the public policy of West Virginia and, applying West Virginia’s public policy exception to the rule of lex loci delicti, declined to apply Ohio law to the NWDC Plaintiffs’ claims. The Supreme Court granted Petitioners’ requested writ of prohibition, holding that the MLP’s application of the public policy exception to the doctrine of lex loci delicti was clearly erroneous in this case, and therefore, under Ohio’s Mixed Dust Statute, Petitioners’ motion to dismiss should have been granted as to the twelve NWDC Plaintiffs. View "State ex rel. American Electric Power Co. v. Hon. Derek C. Swope" on Justia Law

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This dispute involved two water rights claims filed by the City of Helena for the waters of Tenmile Creek, which passes through Rimini. Andy Skinner owned junior water rights on Tenmile Creek. Both Skinner and the Community of Rimini objected to Helena’s water right claims. On remand, the water judge adopted the Water Master’s finding that the City had abandoned 7.35 cubic feet per second (cfs) of its water rights claims but that the City did not intend to abandon the 7.35 cfs. The water court also found that the City abandoned 0.60 cfs in the Rimini Pipeline. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) Mont. Code Ann. 85-2-227(4), as applied to the City’s water rights claim, is not impermissibly retroactive; (2) the water court did not err in reinstating 7.35 cfs of Helena’s Tenmile Creek water rights; (3) the water court erred in determining that the City had abandoned 0.60 cfs of its Tenmile Creek water rights; and (4) the water court did not err in imposing specific place of use restrictions on Helena’s decreed Tenmile Creek water rights. View "City of Helena v. Community of Rimini" on Justia Law