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The Judicial Council of California (Government Code 70321) prepared an environmental impact report (EIR, California Environmental Quality Act (Pub. Resources Code, 21000)) in connection with the consolidation of El Dorado County courthouse operations from two buildings, one of which is a historic building in downtown Placerville, into a single new building on the city’s outskirts, less than two miles away. Although the draft EIR addressed the possible economic impact of moving judicial activities from the downtown courthouse, it concluded the impact was not likely to be severe enough to cause urban decay in downtown Placerville. The League contended this conclusion was not supported by substantial evidence, given the importance of the courthouse to downtown commerce. The trial court and court of appeal upheld certification of the EIR. The court noted that the new construction will not result in a competitor to siphon business from downtown, but will leave behind a building that can be filled with other activities producing a level of commerce similar to that removed by the relocation, thereby mitigating the impact of the relocation. There was substantial evidence to support the draft EIR’s conclusion that urban decay is not a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the project. View "Placerville Historic Preservation League v. Judicial Council of California" on Justia Law

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The 7,517-square-foot lot, on the south side of Telegraph Hill bordering the Filbert Street steps, was unimproved except for a small uninhabitable 1906 cottage. Four other buildings were demolished in 1997. The developers intend to restore the existing 1.000-square-foot cottage and build a three-story over basement building with three units ranging from 3,700-4,200 square feet apiece. A new curb cut along Telegraph Boulevard will provide access to a basement with three off-street parking spaces. The front of the building, bordering the Filbert Street steps, is designed to appear as three separate single-family homes, each below the 40-foot height limit as they step down the hill. The San Francisco Planning Department determined the project was statutorily exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act, Public Resources Code, 21000 (CEQA), because it fell within classes of projects that were determined not to have significant effects on the environment: restoration or rehabilitation of deteriorated structures; a residential structure totaling no more than four dwelling units. The Planning Commission approved a conditional use authorization. The Board of Supervisors, superior court, and court of appeal upheld the approvals. No CEQA review was necessary because the project was categorically exempt from review and no unusual circumstances exist to override the exemptions on the basis the project will have a significant effect on the environment. View "Protect Telegraph Hill v. City & County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether the district court properly dismissed the petition brought by Frenchman-Cambridge Irrigation District (FCID) challenging certain integrated management plans (IMPs). The district court found that there was subject matter jurisdiction but dismissed the petition for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The Supreme Court vacated the order of the district court for lack of jurisdiction, holding (1) FCID lacked standing to challenge the IMPs because it failed to show that the IMPs caused an injury-in-fact; and (2 )because FCID failed to establish standing, the district court lacked jurisdiction over the case. View "Frenchman-Cambridge Irrigation District v. Department of Natural Resources" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted a writ of prohibition requested by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in connection with an order of the circuit court compelling the DEP to direct Eastern Associated Coal, LLC (Eastern) to provide emergency drinking water, temporary potable water, and, ultimately, permanent water replacement to Respondent-residents pursuant to the provisions of the West Virginia Surface Coal Mining and Reclamation Act (SMCRA). The court held that the prerequisites for mandamus relief were not present in this case because the circuit court lacked the authority to direct the DEP to obtain water replacement for Respondents under the provisions of SMCRA. View "State ex rel. ERP Environmental Fund v. Honorable Warren D. McGraw" on Justia Law

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TDY filed a complaint under the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. 9613(f)(1), seeking contribution from the government for its equitable share of the cleanup costs. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of judgment in favor of the United States, which allocated 100 percent of past and future CERCLA costs to TDY. The panel agreed with the district court that some deviation from the allocation affirmed in Shell Oil Co., 294 F.3d at 1049, and Cadillac Fairview, 299 F.3d at 1022–23, was warranted by distinguishing facts. However, the panel held that encumbering a military contractor with 100 percent of CERCLA cleanup costs that were largely incurred during war-effort production was a 180 degree departure from the panel's prior case law, and the out-of-circuit authority that the district court relied upon did not warrant such a sharp deviation. In this case, the district court did not adequately consider the parties' lengthy course of dealings and the government's requirement that TDY use two of the hazardous chemicals at issue. Accordingly, the court remanded for additional proceedings. View "TDY Holdings v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the Water Court’s order regarding Danreuther Ranches Water Right Claims. Specifically, the court held (1) the Water Court did not err in its orders regarding Danreuther Claim Nos. 41O 156802-00, a right to water stock directly from the Teton River; 41O 156804-00, which represents a claim to the right to divert water from the Teton River for irrigation; and 41O 156805-00, a right to irrigate on certain property north of the Teton River; but (2) the Water Court erred in its orders regarding Danreuther Claim No. 41O 156804-00, the right to irrigate from the Teton River based on certain appropriations. View "Danreuther Ranches v. Farmers Cooperative Canal Co." on Justia Law

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On remand from the Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit held that the federal government properly exercised its authority to regulate hovercraft use on the rivers within conservation system units in Alaska. The panel held that section 103(c) of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), 16 U.S.C. 3101 et seq., does not limit the Park Service from applying the hovercraft ban on the Nation River in Yukon-Charley because, under the panel's Katie John precedent, Alaska v. Babbitt, 72 F.3d 698 (9th Cir. 1995), the United States has an implied reservation of water rights, rendering the river public lands. Accordingly, the panel affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants. View "Sturgeon v. Frost" on Justia Law

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The State of California sued to recover from various insurers the costs of cleaning up the Stringfellow hazardous waste site, pending since 1993. The only remaining insurers were the Continental Insurance Company and Continental Casualty Company (collectively Continental), and the only remaining issues related to prejudgment interest. In 2015, Continental paid the State its full policy limits of $12 million. The trial court ruled that the State was entitled to mandatory prejudgment interest on that amount at seven percent, dating back to 1998. In the alternative, it also ruled that the State was entitled to discretionary prejudgment interest, at seven percent, dating back to 2002. Continental appealed. In the published portion of its opinion, the Court of Appeal addressed Continental’s contentions that the award of mandatory prejudgment interest was erroneous because: (1) the award was premised on the trial court’s erroneous ruling as to when Continental’s policies attached; and (2) the State was not entitled to mandatory prejudgment interest because the amount of its damages was uncertain. Continental further contended the award of discretionary prejudgment interest was erroneous because the trial court used an inapplicable interest rate. Finding no error affecting the award of mandatory prejudgment interest, the Court of Appeal affirmed. The Court did not review the award of discretionary prejudgment interest. View "California v. Continental Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Conecuh Timber, Inc., Ayres Forestry, Inc., BAR Forest Products, LLC, Dry Creek Loggers, Inc., Pea River Timber Company, Inc., Pineville Timber Co., LLC, and THE Timber Company, LLC ("TTC") (collectively referred to as "the wood dealers"), sued Alabama River Group, Inc. ("ARG"), and ARG's chairman and chief executive officer George Landegger, asserting various claims arising from transactions between the wood dealers and ARG's predecessors; the transactions were affected by a short-lived subsidy program administered by the United States Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency ("the FSA") known as the Biomass Crop Assistance Program ("BCAP"). Following a jury trial, a judgment was entered against the ARG defendants awarding the wood dealers $1,092,692.71 in compensatory damages and $7,000,000 in punitive damages. The trial court reduced the punitive-damages award by virtue of the statutory cap in section 6- 11-21, Ala. Code 1975, resulting in a total judgment of $6,395,489.37. The ARG defendants filed post-trial motions, which, after a hearing, the trial court denied. The ARG defendants appealed. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment as to liability and compensatory damages. The Court affirmed the punitive damages awarded to Dry Creek Loggers, Inc., and to Conecuh Timber, Inc. With respect to the punitive-damages awards of the remaining wood dealers, the judgment of the trial court was affirmed on the condition that those wood dealers file a remittitur of the punitive-damages awards to a 3:1 ratio to the Supreme Court. Should any wood dealer fail to timely file the respective remittitur, the judgment as to that wood dealer would be reversed and the cause remanded for a new trial. View "Alabama River Group, Inc. v. Conecuh Timber, Inc. et al" on Justia Law

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The State Water Resources Control Board (Wat. Code, 174(a)) has permitting authority, limited to surface water and to “subterranean streams flowing through known and definite channels.” It does not have authority over “percolating groundwater” that is not part of a subterranean stream, which is regulated by local agencies. It has authority to prevent the unreasonable or wasteful use of water regardless of its source. Living Rivers unsuccessfully sought a writ of mandate to compel the Board to rescind its approval of a policy designed to maintain instream flows in coastal streams north of San Francisco. Living Rivers alleged several violations of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA; Public Res. Code, 21000) relating to the indirect environmental effects of surface water users switching to groundwater pumping as a result of the policy. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting arguments that a revised supplemental environmental declaration’s (RSED) conclusion that increased groundwater pumping was uncertain or unlikely was in conflict with the Board’s finding that groundwater pumping could have significant effects on the environment; the RSED did not adequately describe or discuss the adoption of the Subterranean Stream Delineations as a mitigation measure; and the RSED’s stated reasons for finding the Subterranean Stream Delineations infeasible were erroneous as a matter of law. View "Living Rivers Council v. State Water Resources Control Board" on Justia Law