by
CBD filed suit challenging the FWS's decision not to list the arctic grayling as an endangered or threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Ninth Circuit reversed in part the district court's grant of summary judgment to FWS, holding that FWS acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner. The panel held that the 2014 Finding's decision that listing the arctic grayling was "not warranted" was arbitrary and capricious because it ignored the DeHaan study's evidence that shows decreasing numbers of breeders and instead heavily relied on a contrary finding showing increasing population; did not provide a reasoned explanation for relying on the existence of cold water refugia in the Big Hole River; failed to consider the synergistic effects of climate change solely because of "uncertainty"; and concluded that the Ruby River population was viable based on data collected over a shorter period than that underlying the 2010 Finding and FWS's own established criteria for viability. View "Center for Biological Diversity v. Zinke" on Justia Law

by
At issue in this appeal was whether the EPA had authority under Sections 307(d)(7)(B) and 112(r)(7) of the Clean Air Act (CAA) to delay the effective date of the Chemical Disaster Rule of January 13, 2017, for twenty months for the purpose of reconsideration, and, if so, whether it properly exercised that authority. The DC Circuit held that, where EPA has exercised its Section 7607(d)(7)(B) authority to delay the effectiveness of a final rule, it cannot avoid that statute's express limitations by invoking general rulemaking authority under a different statutory provision. The court also held that, in any event, EPA's promulgation of the Delay Rule was arbitrary and capricious where EPA's explanations for its changed position on the appropriate effective and compliance dates were inadequate. Therefore, the court granted the petitions for review and vacated the Delay Rule. View "Air Alliance Houston v. EPA" on Justia Law

by
Quaker Valley Farms, LLC (Quaker Valley) owned approximately 120 acres of deed-restricted farmland in Hunterdon County, New Jersey. As part of New Jersey’s Farmland Preservation Program, the State purchased an easement on the property that prohibited any activity on the property that was detrimental to soil conservation, but permitted the construction of new buildings for agricultural purposes. Quaker Valley excavated and leveled twenty acres of the farm previously used for the production of crops, to erect hoop houses (temporary greenhouses) in which it would grow flowers. In the process, Quaker Valley destroyed the land’s prime quality soil. At issue before the New Jersey Supreme Court was whether Quaker Valley’s excavation activities violated its deed of easement and the Agriculture Retention and Development Act (ARDA). The Supreme Court determined Quaker Valley had the right to erect hoop houses, but did not have the authority to permanently damage a wide swath of premier quality soil in doing so. Accordingly, the judgment of the Appellate Division, which overturned the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the State Agriculture Development Committee, was reversed. “Those who own deed-restricted farmland must have well delineated guidelines that will permit them to make informed decisions about the permissible limits of their activities.” View "New Jersey v. Quaker Valley Farms, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The issue at the center of this decades-long water rights case involved the Pojoaque Basin of New Mexico. A settlement was reached among many of the parties involved. The district court overruled the objectors and entered a final judgment. The objecting parties appealed, arguing the settlement was contrary to law because it altered the state-law priority system, and the New Mexico Attorney General could not agree to enforce the settlement without the state legislature's approval. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals determined, as provided in the agreement, the State Engineer promulgated rules for the administration of water rights in the Basin. Those rules explicitly provided that non-settling parties “have the same rights and benefits that would be available without the settlement agreement” and that those rights “shall only be curtailed . . . to the extent such curtailment would occur without the settlement agreement.” However, though the settlement preserved their rights, it did not confer the objector-appellants standing to challenge it. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded the case for dismissal of the objections for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "New Mexico v. Aamodt" on Justia Law

by
The Center sought a writ of mandate directing the California Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources to order the immediate closure of oil and gas wells injecting fluids into certain underground aquifers. The Center argued the Department had a mandatory duty to do so under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, 42 U.S.C. 330f, federal regulations, and a memorandum of agreement (MOA) executed by the Department setting forth its responsibilities under the Act. The court of appeal affirmed the denial of the petition, first holding that the appeal was not moot, in light of evidence that injections into nonexempt aquifers continued past a 2017 deadline. While the Act is preventative in nature, and injections may be prohibited absent proof that they will harmfully contaminate the aquifer, those principles inform the Department’s performance of its duty to protect drinking water sources but do not, in this unusual case, impose a mandatory duty to immediately cease all injections into nonexempt aquifers, nor do they render the Department’s considered refusal to do so an abuse of discretion. The MOA prohibits the Department from permitting injections into nonexempt aquifers, but the EPA approved a nonsubstantial program revision that temporarily suspended this prohibition in limited, specified circumstances, so the MOA does not entitle the Center to a writ of mandate. View "Center for Biological Diversity v. Department of Conservation" on Justia Law

by
The alliance filed suit alleging that the Forest Service violated the National Forest Resource Management Plan after approving the Lost Creek Project, which proposed landscape restoration activities on approximately 80,000 acres of the Payette National Forest. The Alliance also raised claims under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The panel held that the final Record of Decision (ROD) for the Lost Creek Project was arbitrary and capricious because the standards, guidelines, and desired conditions that determine the forest conditions for Management Prescription Categories (MPC) 5.1 were different from those for MPC 5.2. The panel also held that the Forest Service's decision to adopt a new definition of "old forest habitat" for the Lost Creek Project area was arbitrary and capricious, and a violation of the National Forest Management Act. The panel held, however, that the Project's minimum road system designation was not arbitrary or capricious where the Forest Service fully explained its decision in selecting an alternative and considered each of the factors listed under 36 C.F.R. 212.5; the Forest Service did not violate NEPA by improperly incorporating, or "tiering to," the Wildlife Conservation Strategy (WCS) amendments or the WCS draft environmental impact statement; and challenges to the Forest Service's failure to reinitiate consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the endangered bull trout under Section 7 of the ESA was moot. Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Alliance for the Wild Rockies v. USFS" on Justia Law

by
Fremont approved a development project in its Niles historical district, which is characterized by unusual trees and historic buildings. The historic overlay district was intended to preserve its “small town character.” The six-acre site was vacant; the developer proposed building 85 residential townhomes in its southern portion and mixed residential and retail in the northern portion. Opponents objected that some three-story buildings might block hill views; to the architectural style and choice of colors and materials on building exteriors; and to the Project’s density as a generator of traffic and parking problems. The city adopted a mitigated negative declaration under the California Environmental Quality Act, rather than prepare an environmental impact report, finding the Project as mitigated would have no significant adverse environmental impact. The trial court granted the objectors’ petition and ordered the city to vacate its approvals "absent compliance with CEQA in the preparation of an EIR.” The court of appeal affirmed, stating the Project’s compatibility with the historical district is properly analyzed as aesthetic impacts. Substantial evidence supports a fair argument of a significant aesthetic impact and a fair argument of significant traffic impacts, notwithstanding a professional traffic study concluding the anticipated adverse impacts fell below the city’s predetermined thresholds of significance. View "Protect Niles v. City of Fremont" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit granted a petition for review of the EPA's 2017 order maintaining a tolerance for the pesticide chlorpyrifos. In this case, the EPA did not defend the order on the merits but argued that despite petitioners having properly-filed administrative objections to the order more than a year ago and the statutory requirement that the EPA respond to such objections "as soon as practicable," the EPA's failure to respond to the objections deprived the panel of jurisdiction to adjudicate whether the EPA exceeded its statutory authority in refusing to ban use of chlorpyrifos on food products. The panel held that obtaining a response to objections before seeking review by this court was a claim-processing rule that did not restrict federal jurisdiction, and that could, and here should, be excused. Accordingly, the court vacated the order and remanded to the EPA with directions to revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for chlorpyrifos within 60 days. View "League of United Latin American Citizens v. New York" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court held that Ariz. Rev. Stat. 45-108 does not require the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) to consider unquantified federal reserved water rights when it determines whether a developer has an adequate water supply for purposes of the statute. This case stemmed from the ADWR’s 2013 adequate water supply approving Pueblo Del Sol Water Company’s application to supply water to a proposed development in Cochise County. The superior court vacated ADWR’s decision, concluding that the agency erred in determining that Pueblo’s water supply was “legally available” because ADWR was required to consider potential and existing legal claims that might affect the availability of the water supply, including the Bureau of Land Management’s unquantified federal water right. The Supreme Court vacated the superior court’s decision and affirmed ADWR’s approval of Pueblo’s application, holding that ADWR is not required to consider unquantified federal reserved water rights under its physical availability or legal availability analysis. View "Silver v. Pueblo Del Sol Water Co" on Justia Law

by
The Lieutenant Governor of Alaska declined to certify a proposed ballot initiative that would establish a permitting requirement for activities that could harm anadromous fish habitat, reasoning that the initiative effected an appropriation of state assets in violation of article XI, section 7 of the Alaska Constitution. The initiative sponsors filed suit, and the superior court approved the initiative, concluding that the proposal would not impermissibly restrict legislative discretion. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded the initiative would encroach on the discretion over allocation decisions delegated to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game by the legislature, and that the initiative as written effected an unconstitutional appropriation. But the Court concluded the offending sections could be severed from the remainder of the initiative. Accordingly, the Court reversed the judgment of the superior court and remanded for that court to direct the Lieutenant Governor to sever the offending provisions but place the remainder of the initiative on the ballot. View "Mallott v. Stand for Salmon" on Justia Law