Justia Environmental Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in California Supreme Court
State v. Cont’l Ins. Co.
This case considered complex questions of insurance policy coverage interpretation in connection with a federal court-ordered cleanup of the state's Stringfellow Acid Pits waste site. The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeal's judgment, holding (1) the "continuous injury trigger" and "all sums" rule announced in Montrose Chemical Corp. v. Admiral Ins. Co. and Aerojet-General Corp. v. Transport Indemnity Co. applied to the State's successive property or long-tail first party property loss, triggering the duty to indemnify here; and (2) the court of appeal correctly applied the "all-sums-with-stacking" allocation rule in allocating the indemnity duty among the insurers responsible for covering the property loss. View "State v. Cont'l Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Am. Coatings Ass’n v. S. Coast Air Quality Dist.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District is charged with regulating nonvehicular air pollution emissions in regions that have some of the worst air pollution in the country. This case concerned the District's 2002 amendments to its Rule 1113, which limits certain pollution-causing substances in paints and coatings. The American Coatings Association challenged the amendments on the ground they exceeded the District's regulatory authority under statutes requiring the use of "best available retrofit control technology." At issue was whether the technology was "available" under the statute. The superior court held that the rule was within the District's authority. The court of appeal reversed in part, concluding that the statutory phrase "best available retrofit control technology" meant technology that was available or capable of being readily assembly when the amendments were promulgated. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the relevant statutes give the District the authority to promulgate pollution standards based on technologies that do not currently exist but are reasonably anticipated to exist by the compliance deadline; and (2) the District sufficiently demonstrated that its challenged emissions limits were achievable in each paint and coating category in Rule 1113 and that the categories were reasonably drawn. View "Am. Coatings Ass'n v. S. Coast Air Quality Dist." on Justia Law
Tomlinson v. Co. of Alameda
This case stemmed from the county's determination that a proposed building project was categorically exempt from compliance with environmental law requirements. At issue was a statutory provision stating that a public agency's approval of a proposed project could be challenged in court only on grounds that were "presented to the public agency orally or in writing by any person during the public comment period...or prior to the close of the public hearing on the project before the issuance of the notice of determination." Pub. Resources Code, 21177, subd.(a). The court held that this exhaustion-of-administrative-remedies provision applied to a public agency's decision that a project was categorically exempt from environmental law requirements. Therefore, the judgment of the Court of Appeal was reversed, and the matter was remanded to that court so it could address petitioners' remaining contentions that, although raised by petitioners, were not resolved by that court because of its conclusion that section 21177's exhaustion-of-administrative remedies requirement was inapplicable. View "Tomlinson v. Co. of Alameda" on Justia Law
Voices of the Wetlands v. CA State Water Resources Control Bd., et al.
Plaintiff, an environmental organization, filed this administrative mandamus action to challenge the issuance of a federally required permit authorizing the Moss Landing Powerplant (MLPP) to draw cooling water from the adjacent Moss Landing Harbor and Elkhorn Slough. This case presented issues concerning the technological and environmental standards, and the procedures for administrative and judicial review, that apply when a thermal powerplant, while pursuing the issuance or renewal of a cooling water intake permit from a regional board, also sought necessary approval from the State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission (Energy Commission), of a plan to add additional generating units to the plant, with related modifications to the cooling intake system. The court held that the superior court had jurisdiction to entertain the administrative mandamus petition here under review. The court also held that the trial court erred when it deferred a final judgment, ordered an interlocutory remand to the board for further "comprehensive" examination of that issue, then denied mandamus after determining that the additional evidence and analysis considered by the board on remand supported the board's reaffirmed findings. The court further held that recent Supreme Court authority confirmed that, when applying federal Clean Water Act (CWA), 33 U.S.C. 1326(b), standards for the issuance of this permit, the Regional Water Board properly utilized cost-benefit analysis. The court declined to address several other issues discussed by the parties. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals.
Save the Plastic Bag Coalition v. City of Manhattan Beach
This case stemmed from the City of Manhattan Beach's adoption of an ordinance banning the use of "point-of-sale plastic carry-out bags" in the city. Plaintiff, a coalition of plastic bag manufacturers and distributors, claimed standing to maintain a citizen suit to vindicate the public interest in environmental quality. At issue was what were the standing requirements for a corporate entity to challenge a determination on the preparation of an environmental impact report (EIR) and whether the city was required to prepare an EIR on the effects of the ordinance. The court held that plaintiff would qualify for public interest standing here and disapproved Waste Management of Alameda County, Inc. v. County of Alameda's holding that corporations were subject to heightened scrutiny when they filed citizen suits. The court also held that plaintiff, which represented businesses directly affected by the ordinance, had standing in its own right to challenge the city's analysis of environmental impacts. On the merits, the court held that substantial evidence and common sense support the city's determination that its ordinance would have no significant environmental effect. Therefore, a negative declaration was sufficient to comply with the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), Pub. Resources Code, section 21000 et seq. Accordingly, the judgment was reversed.
People v. Maikhio
Defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence, a spiny lobster, obtained by a game warden on the ground that the warden had engaged in an unconstitutional search and seizure in stopping defendant's car a few blocks from a pier where the warden had observed, through a spotting telescope, defendant fishing with a handline. At issue was whether a game warden, who reasonably believed that a person had recently been fishing or hunting, but lacked reasonable suspicion that the person had violated an applicable fish or game statute or regulation, could stop a vehicle in which the person was riding to demand that the person display all fish or game the person had caught or taken. The court held that when, as in this case, the vehicle stop was made reasonably close in time and location to the fishing or hunting activity, the encroachment upon an angler's or hunter's reasonable expectation of privacy resulting from a brief vehicle stop and demand was nonetheless rather modest, and no more intrusive than other actions by game wardens that have been upheld in past California cases. In weighing the special need of the state to stop persons who choose to fish or hunt in the state and to demand such persons display all fish or game that had been taken against the intrusion upon such persons' reasonable expectation of privacy entailed by such a stop and demand, the court held that the vehicle stop and demand at issue constituted a reasonable procedure under the Fourth Amendment. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals upholding the suppression of evidence obtained by the game warden and subsequent dismissal of the charges against defendant.