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The unconstitutional legislative veto embedded in section 204(c)(1) of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA), 43 U.S.C. 1714, is severable from the large-tract withdrawal authority delegated to the Secretary in that same subsection. Invalidating the legislative veto provision does not affect the Secretary's withdrawal authority. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision rejecting challenges to the decision of the Secretary to withdraw from new uranium mining claims, up to twenty years, over one million acres of land near Grand Canyon National Park. In this case, the panel held that the environmental impact statement (EIS) did take existing legal regimes into account but reasonably concluded that they were inadequate to meet the purposes of the withdrawal; the Establishment Clause challenge failed under Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, 612–13 (1971); and the panel rejected challenges under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4332, and the National Forest Management Act, 16 U.S.C. 1604(e). View "National Mining Ass'n v. Zinke" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision rejecting challenges to the Forest Service's determination that EFR had a valid existing right to operate a uranium mine on land within a withdrawal area of public lands around Grand Canyon National Park that the Secretary of the Interior withdrew from new mining claims. The panel held that the Mineral Report was a major federal action under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4332, and that the district court correctly held that Center for Biological Diversity v. Salazar, 706 F.3d 1085 (9th Cir. 2013), not Pit River Tribe v. U.S. Forest Service, 469 F.3d 768 (9th Cir. 2006), governed this case; that action was complete when the plan was approved; resumed operation of Canyon Mine did not require any additional government action; and thus the EIS prepared in 1988 satisfied NEPA. The panel also held that the Mineral Report approved an "undertaking" under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA), 54 U.S.C. 306108; the Mineral Report did not permit, license, or approve resumed operations at Canyon Mine; and the original approval was the only "undertaking" requiring consultation under the NHPA. Finally, the environmental groups did not have prudential standing to challenge the Mineral Report. View "Havasupai Tribe v. Provencio" on Justia Law

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The New York State Department of Health (DOH) complied with its responsibilities under the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) in assessing Jewish Home Lifecare’s (JHL) application to construct a new residential facility in New York City. Petitioners, parents of students attending a public elementary school next door to the proposed construction site and tenants living in apartment buildings surrounding the site, brought these two article 78 proceedings seeking to annul, vacate and set aside DOH’s determination, arguing that DOH relied on flawed assessment methodologies and failed adequately to mitigate the environmental dangers associated with the construction. Supreme Court vacated and annulled DOH’s approval of JHL’s application, concluding that DOH followed proper SEQRA procedures but failed adequately to consider all relevant mitigation measures. The appellate division reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that DOH complied with its SEQRA responsibilities by identifying and assessing relevant environmental hazards and imposed mitigation measures to protect public health and safety. View "Friends of P.S. 163, Inc. v. Jewish Home Lifecare, Manhattan" on Justia Law

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Black Hills Trucking, Inc. appealed a judgment affirming a North Dakota Industrial Commission order assessing a $950,000 civil penalty and costs and expenses against it for illegally dumping saltwater on roads in Williams County, North Dakota. Black Hills was a Wyoming corporation in the business of transporting crude oil, produced saltwater, petroleum products, oilfield equipment and other materials. In 2014, Black Hills owned and operated trucks in North Dakota for the purpose of transporting oilfield waste. The Commission received a report from a security officer for Continental Resources, Inc., that he had photos and video of a Black Hills truck dumping substantial amounts of fluids onto roads near a saltwater disposal well. Commission staff examined the affected roads and collected a soil sample. The Commission also collected logs from the well which indicated a Black Hills driver had transported saltwater to the well on February 8, 2014. Black Hills challenged the penalty, arguing the Commission lacked jurisdiction over a discharge of produced saltwater on a public road occurring away from an oil and gas well site, disposal site, treatment plant, or other facility. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the Commission regularly pursued its authority and its findings and conclusions were sustained by the law and by substantial and credible evidence, and affirmed. View "Black Hills Trucking, Inc. v. N.D. Industrial Commission" on Justia Law

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Cal Fire’s investigation of the 2007 Moonlight Fire determined that the fire started on property owned by landowner defendants and managed by Beaty. Sierra Pacific purchased the standing timber on the property, and contracted with Howell, a licensed timber operator, to cut the timber. On the day the Moonlight Fire began, two of Howell’s employees, Bush and Crismon, were working on the property installing water bars. Cal Fire’s investigators concluded the fire began when the bulldozer Crismon was operating struck a rock or rocks, causing superheated metal fragments from the bulldozer’s track to splinter off and eventually to ignite surrounding plant matter, and that the fire was permitted to spread when Bush and Crismon failed to timely complete a required inspection of the area where they had been working that day. On the eve of trial in July 2013, consolidated actions were dismissed following a hearing after the trial court concluded Cal Fire could not as a matter of law state a claim against Sierra Pacific, Beaty, or landowner defendants, and that no plaintiff had presented a prima facie case against any defendant. After judgment was entered, the trial court awarded defendants costs without apportionment amongst plaintiffs. It also ordered Cal Fire to pay to defendants attorney fees and expert fees totaling more than $28 million because defendants as prevailing parties were entitled to recover attorney fees on either a contractual basis or as private attorneys general, or alternatively as discovery sanctions. The trial court additionally imposed terminating sanctions against Cal Fire. Plaintiffs appealed, challenging both the judgment of dismissal (case No. C074879) and the postjudgment awards (case No. C076008). Plaintiffs also requested that any hearings on remand be conducted by a different judge. In the published portion of its opinion, the Court of Appeal concluded the trial court’s order dismissing the case as to all plaintiffs based on their failure to present a prima facie case at a pretrial hearing should have been reversed because the hearing was fundamentally unfair: Plaintiffs were not provided adequate notice of the issues on which they would be asked to present their prima facie case. However, the Court concluded the trial court did properly award judgment on the pleadings against Cal Fire. In light of these conclusions, in the unpublished portion of its opinion, the Court found the trial court’s award of costs to defendants as prevailing parties as to any plaintiff but Cal Fire was vacated, and because the trial court did not apportion costs, the costs award was remanded to determine which costs Sierra Pacific, Beaty, and landowner defendants could recover from Cal Fire. Furthermore, the Court determined the trial court erred in awarding attorney fees to the prevailing parties, and that the award of monetary discovery sanctions should have been reversed and remanded for further proceedings. The imposition of terminating sanctions against Cal Fire was affirmed. Plaintiffs' requests for a new judge was rejected. View "Dept. of Forestry and Fire Protection v. Howell" on Justia Law

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Monterey County Water Resources Agency (MCWRA) is a flood control and water agency. Coastkeeper sued, alleging that MCWRA had violated the Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act (Wat. Code 13000) by failing to report to the regional water quality board its discharges of agricultural pollutants into the Reclamation Ditch and the Blanco Drain and breach of fiduciary duty under the public trust doctrine. The trial court granted the petition as to the claim of failure to report waste discharge and denied it as to breach of fiduciary duty, commanding MCWRA “to prepare and file a report of waste discharge ... with the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.” The court of appeal reversed, finding that Coastkeeper failed to exhaust its administrative remedy under the Act, which provides that any person aggrieved by a regional water board’s action or failure to act is entitled to administrative review by the State Water Board, and then by petition for administrative mandamus in the superior court. The regional board was apparently investigating MCWRA's actions; Coastkeeper failed to file a petition for review with the State Water Board of the regional board’s action or failure to act with regard to MCWRA’s alleged waste discharges. View "Monterey Coastkeeper v. Monterey County Water Resources Agency" on Justia Law

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In this second appeal, challenging the environmental impact report (EIR) and related project approvals for two natural resource plans for the proposed Newhall Ranch development, the Court of Appeal affirmed the post-remand judgment and accompanying writ. The court held that both actions were legally permissible under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and rejected plaintiffs' claim that Public Resources Code section 21168.9 prohibits partial decertification of an EIR, and that the same section prohibits leaving project approvals in place while decertifying an EIR. The court held that a trial court has authority to partially decertify an EIR; a trial court has the power to leave some project approvals in place after partial decertification of an EIR; the trial court did not abuse its discretion in issuing the limited writ; and the writ provided an adequate remedy for a Fish and Game Code section 5515 violation. View "Center for Biological Diversity v. California Department of Fish and Wildlife" on Justia Law

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Philip Hudson appealed a district court’s grant of partial summary judgment in favor of the State of Idaho, the Idaho State Board of Land Commissioners and the Idaho Department of Lands (collectively, the “State”). The district court found that Hudson violated the Idaho Lake Protection Act (the “LPA”) when he placed fill in the bed of Priest Lake without a permit. Hudson disputed the location of the Ordinary High Water Mark (the “OHWM”) and argued the fill was placed on his own property to protect it from erosion. Hudson argued that there was an issue of material fact regarding the location of the OHWM, which made summary judgment improper. Finding the dispute regarding the OHWM was not a material fact in determining whether Hudson violated the LPA, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed summary judgment. View "Idaho Board of Land v. Hudson" on Justia Law

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The broad waiver of sovereign immunity found in section 702 of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) waived sovereign immunity for all non-monetary claims, and section 704 of the APA's final agency action requirement constrained only actions brought under the APA, 5 U.S.C. 702, 704. The Navajo Nation filed suit challenging Interior's published guidelines clarifying how it would make surplus and shortage determinations for delivery to Western states of the waters of the Colorado River. The panel affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Nation's claims under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq., based on lack of standing where the challenged guidelines did not present a reasonable probability of threat to either the Nation's adjudicated water rights or its practical water needs. The panel also held that the Nation's breach of trust claim sought relief other than money damages, and the waiver of sovereign immunity in section 702 applied squarely to the claim. Therefore, the panel reversed and remanded as to this issue. Finally, the district court acted within its discretion in refusing post-judgment leave to amend. View "Navajo Nation v. Department of the Interior" on Justia Law

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At issue in this matter was landowners’ recourse against an irrigation district for diverting a portion of their water source to other landowners within the district. The appellants-landowners owned farms in Jerome County; A&B Irrigation District (the “District”) distributed water to these farms and others throughout its service area in Jerome and Minidoka Counties. The District serves two distinct sub-areas in its district: Unit A and Unit B. The water the District distributes comes from two sources: (1) surface water from the Snake River and associated reservoirs, and (2) groundwater from the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer. These two water sources were historically what separated Units A and B, and many owners based their land choices in the 1950s on the water source. Unit A farms have received surface water exclusively since the District’s inception. For decades Unit B farms received only groundwater, but the District converted approximately 1400 Unit B acres to surface water in the 1990s in response to decreasing groundwater supply. Appellants claimed the Project primarily benefited Unit B landowners at the expense of Unit A by diverting a portion of Unit A’s sole water source (surface water) onto Unit B land and “diluting” their annual water supply. Additionally, the District divided Project costs equally among all landowners despite what Appellants claim was the Project’s primary purpose: to help sustain Unit B farms as their groundwater supply continues to decline. The landowners brought an action for a declaratory judgment regarding their constitutional water and property rights. They also sought injunctive relief against the irrigation district for a breach of fiduciary duty. The district court granted the irrigation district’s motion to dismiss on all three of the landowners’ claims. The landowners’ appeal centered on two issues with respect to their three claims against the District: the legal standard under which the district court dismissed Appellants’ claims, and the court’s substantive determinations under that standard. Appellants contend the district court erred both procedurally and substantively in dismissing all three counts in its amended complaint. Procedurally, they claimed the district court improperly considered matters outside the pleadings in dismissing all three claims under Rule 12(b)(6), rather than converting to the Rule 56 summary judgment standard. Substantively, Appellants contended that Counts I and III were justiciable as presented on the face of their amended complaint, and that res judicata did not bar relief under Count II. The Idaho Supreme Court found after review that the landowners failed to demonstrate justiciable claims in their Counts I and III, and that the district court erred in dismissing their property rights claim in Count II by considering matters outside the pleadings under Rule 12(b)(6). View "Paslay v. A&B Irrigation District" on Justia Law