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Under the federal environmental laws, the owner of property contaminated with hazardous substances or a person who arranges for the disposal of hazardous substances may be strictly liable for subsequent clean-up costs. The United States owned national forest lands in New Mexico that were mined over several generations by Chevron Mining Inc. The question presented for the Tenth Circuit’s review was whether the United States is a “potentially responsible party” (PRP) for the environmental contamination located on that land. The Tenth Circuit concluded that under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), the United States is an “owner,” and, therefore, a PRP, because it was strictly liable for its equitable portion of the costs necessary to remediate the contamination arising from mining activity on federal land. The Court also concluded the United States cannot be held liable as an “arranger” of hazardous substance disposal because it did not own or possess the substances in question. The Court reversed the district court in part and affirmed in part, remanding for further proceedings to determine the United States’ equitable share, if any, of the clean-up costs. View "Chevron Mining v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Surface Water Withdrawal, Permitting, Use, and Reporting Act regulated surface water withdrawals in South Carolina. Surface water is defined as "all water that is wholly or partially within the State . . . or within its jurisdiction, which is open to the atmosphere and subject to surface runoff, including, but not limited to, lakes, streams, ponds, rivers, creeks, runs, springs, and reservoirs . . . ." Agricultural users are treated differently under the Act. Plaintiffs jointly filed this action against DHEC in Barnwell County, challenging the Act's registration system for agricultural users, contending, amongst other things, that the Act’s provisions were an unconstitutional taking, a violation of due process, and a violation of the public trust doctrine. The circuit court granted summary judgment against the plaintiffs on the grounds the case did not present a justiciable controversy, both because the plaintiffs lacked standing and the dispute was not ripe for judicial determination. Finding no reversible error with that holding, the South Carolina Supreme Court affirmed. View "Jowers v. SCDHEC" on Justia Law

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Sierra Club petitioned for review of EPA's determination that EPA satisfied its responsibilities under 42 U.S.C. 7412(c)(6) to establish "maximum achievable control technology" (MACT) standards for emissions of certain hazardous air pollutants (HAPs). The DC Circuit held that the petition was timely and EPA did not adequately respond to petitioners' comments raising the issues concerning the use of surrogacy in the administrative proceedings. Accordingly, the court denied EPA's motion to dismiss and ordered the matter remanded to EPA for further proceedings. View "Sierra Club v. EPA" on Justia Law

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Seneca, an oil and natural gas exploration and production company, sought to convert a natural gas well in Highland Township into a Class II underground injection control well in which to store waste from fracking. Highland Township, in Elk County, Pennsylvania, enacted an ordinance that, among other things, prohibited “disposal injection wells” from existing within Highland. In Seneca’s lawsuit, challenging the ordinance, the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund sought to intervene on the side of the Township to represent the interests of underlying environmental groups (appellants). The district court denied its motion to intervene, holding that the Township adequately represented underlying interests in defending the ordinance. While a motion for reconsideration was pending, the Township repealed the ordinance and entered into a settlement with Seneca that culminated in a consent decree adopted by the district court. The Third Circuit affirmed, finding that original motion to intervene was moot because there is no longer an ordinance to defend. The Consent Decree does not bind any of the appellants nor does it deprive them of any rights after the ordinance has been repealed. Because the appellants are nonparties, they cannot appeal the Consent Decree. View "Seneca Resources Corp v. Township of Highland" on Justia Law

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The Attorney General and various environmental groups challenged on several grounds an EIR accompanying a regional development plan for the San Diego area that was intended to guide the area’s transportation infrastructure from 2010 to 2050. As relevant to this appeal, Plaintiffs claimed that the EIR failed adequately to analyze the plan’s impacts on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. The superior court issued a writ of mandate in Plaintiffs’ favor, concluding that the EIR failed to fulfill its role as an informational document and did not adequately address mitigation measures for significant emission impacts. The court of appeal affirmed the trial court’s judgment setting aside the EIR certification. The Supreme Court reversed insofar as the court of appeal determined that the EIR’s analysis of greenhouse gas emission impacts rendered the EIR inadequate and required revision, holding that the regional planning agency that issued the EIR, in analyzing greenhouse gas impacts at the time of the EIR, did not abuse its discretion by declining to adopt Executive Order No. S-3-05 as a measure of significance or to discuss the Executive Order more than it did. View "Cleveland National Forest Foundation v. San Diego Ass’n of Governments" on Justia Law

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The Environmental Protection Agency designated Williamson County, Illinois, as a nonattainment area for national air quality standards for sulfur dioxide. The rule is not limited to Williamson County; it makes attainment designations for 61 geographic areas spanning 24 states. Southern Illinois Power Cooperative sought judicial review. The EPA moved to dismiss or transfer the petition to the D.C. Circuit under the terms of the judicial-review provision of the Clean Air Act, which designates that circuit as the exclusive venue for review of “nationally applicable” agency actions. 42 U.S.C. 7607(b)(1). The Seventh Circuit agreed that the challenged rule is nationally applicable and transferred the petition to the D.C. Circuit. The court noted that its decision conflicts with its 1993 decision, Madison Gas & Electric Co. v. EPA, which it overruled. View "Southern Illinois Power Cooperative v. Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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Environmental and Industry Petitioners challenged the EPA's promulgation of a final rule, pursuant to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), 42 U.S.C. 6901-6992k, governing when certain hazardous materials qualify as "discarded" and are thus subject to the agency's regulatory authority. The D.C. Circuit upheld Factor 3; vacated Factor 4 insofar as it applied to all hazardous secondary materials via 40 C.F.R. 261.2(g); vacated the Verified Recycler Exclusion except for its emergency preparedness provisions and its expanded containment requirement; and reinstated the Transfer-Based Exclusion. Consequently, the removal of the Transfer-Based Exclusion's bar on spent catalysts was vacated, subject to such arguments as the parties may raise supporting a different outcome. View "American Petroleum Institute v. EPA" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Chelan Basin Conservancy (Conservancy) sought the removal of six acres of fill material that respondent GBI Holding Co. added to its property in 1961 to keep the formerly dry property permanently above the artificially raised seasonal water fluctuations of Lake Chelan. At issue was whether the State consented to the fill's impairment of that right and, if so, whether such consent violated the public trust doctrine. After review, the Washington Supreme Court found the Court of Appeals correctly concluded that the legislature consented to the fill's impairment of navigable waters under RCW 90.58.270 (the Savings Clause), but the Court of Appeals prematurely concluded such consent did not violate the public trust doctrine. Because the trial court never reached the highly factual public trust issue, the Court reversed and remanded to the trial court to determine in the first instance whether RCW 90.58.270 violated the public trust doctrine. View "Chelan Basin Conservancy v. GBI Holding Co." on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged the EPA's decision to stay implementation of portions of a final rule concerning methane and other greenhouse gas emissions. The DC Circuit held that, although absent a stay, it would have no authority to review the agency's decision to grant reconsideration, because EPA chose to impose a stay suspending the rule's compliance deadlines, the court must review its reconsideration decision to determine whether the stay was authorized under section 307(d)(7)(B) of the Clean Air Act (CAA), 42 U.S.C. 7607(d)(7)(B). The court also held that the 90-day stay was unauthorized by section 307(d)(7)(B) and was thus unreasonable. View "Clean Air Council v. Pruitt" on Justia Law

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Conservation Groups filed a complaint in the district court under the citizen suit provision of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq., and a petition for review in the DC Circuit pursuant to the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), 7 U.S.C. 136 et seq. The court granted the Conservation Groups' petition, holding that FIFRA grants the court of appeals exclusive jurisdiction to review an ESA claim that is "inextricably intertwined" with a challenge to a pesticide registration order. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Center for Biological Diversity v. EPA" on Justia Law