Articles Posted in Oregon Supreme Court

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The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review centered on the standard of liability for violations of two provisions of the hazardous waste laws: 40 CFR section 263.20(a)(1), as adopted by OAR 340-100-0002(1), and ORS 466.095(1)(c). The Department of Environmental Quality (the department) assessed civil penalties against petitioner, Oil Re-Refining Company (ORRCO), after it determined that ORRCO had accepted hazardous waste without a proper manifest form and treated hazardous waste without a proper permit. ORRCO conceded the factual basis for those allegations but asserted a reasonable-reliance defense: namely, that it reasonably relied on assurances by the generator of the waste that the material ORRCO transported and treated was not a hazardous waste, and, therefore, did not require the manifest and permit at issue. The Environmental Quality Commission (the commission) refused to consider ORRCO’s defense, because it interpreted the relevant provisions as imposing a strict liability standard. The Court of Appeals agreed with the commission’s interpretations and affirmed its final order finding various violations and imposing civil penalties. On appeal to the Supreme Court ORRCO argued that the commission should have considered its reasonable reliance defense and that the commission had erred in interpreting the relevant provisions as imposing a standard of strict liability. The Supreme Court rejected ORRCO’s argument because it ignored statutory and regulatory context indicating that a transporter’s or operator’s level of culpability is immaterial to establishing a violation of the relevant provisions. View "Oil Re-Refining Co. v. Environmental Quality Comm." on Justia Law

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Petitioners were a group of miners who operated small suction dredges in Oregon waterways. They challenged the lawfulness of an order of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) adopting a general five-year permit that regulated that type of mining. By the time the challenge reached the Court of Appeals, however, the permit had expired. The agency then moved to dismiss petitioners’ challenge on mootness grounds. The Court of Appeals agreed and dismissed. Petitioners sought review of the dismissal arguing that their case was not moot, or in the alternative, their challenge nevertheless was justiciable under ORS 14.175 because it is the sort of action that is capable of repetition and likely to evade judicial review. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded that the petitioners’ challenge to the now-expired permit was moot. But the Court agreed with petitioners that it was justiciable under ORS 14.175. The Court therefore reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and remanded for further proceedings. View "Eastern Oregon Mining Association v. Dept. of Env. Quality" on Justia Law

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Petitioners sought review of the Attorney General's certified ballot title for Initiative Petition 26 (2012), arguing that the ballot title did not satisfy the requirements of ORS 250.035(2). Initiative Petition 26 would amend a number of statutory provisions pertaining to the commercial harvest and sale of fish caught in Oregon waters. As the Supreme Court noted in reviewing the ballot title for a different initiative petition concerning commercial fishing, those statutes "exist[ed] as part of a complex web of laws," including an interstate compact between Oregon and Washington, statutes and regulations of both states, federal law, treaties with Native American tribes, and various court orders. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that the initiative's caption overstated the effect of the proposed measure by asserting that it would eliminate "non-tribal commercial fishing." Petitioners argued, and the Attorney General did not appear to disagree, that some commercial fishing -- of some species, in some Oregon waters, using some gear -- has occurred or was then occurring and that it would not be prohibited by Initiative Petition 26. Accordingly, the reference in the caption to the "elimination" of non-tribal commercial fishing needed to be changed. The caption also referred to only the Columbia River, thus understating the scope of the proposed measure, which would ban non-tribal commercial gillnetting of all fish in all Oregon "inland waters." That description, too, needed to be changed. The Court did not address petitioners' other challenges to the caption, and remanded the matter back to the Attorney General for modification. View "Girod v. Kroger" on Justia Law

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Petitioners, Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods and Coalition for a Livable Future, sought direct review under Oregon Laws 1996, chapter 12, of a decision by the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) that affirmed in relevant part a land use final order by Respondent METRO. The land use final order at issue concerned the Columbia River Crossing Project, which (among other things) would extend a light rail line from Oregon to Washington. Petitioners contended Metro either exceeded its statutory authority in adopting the order or that its decisions in the order were not supported by substantial evidence. Respondents Metro and Tri-County Metropolitan Transit District of Oregon (TriMet) opposed the petition. Finding that Petitioners failed to show that METRO either exceeded its statutory authority or made a decision about the highway improvements that was not supported by substantial evidence on the whole record, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Weber Coastal Bells v. METRO" on Justia Law