Justia Environmental Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Ohio
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Ohio Power Siting Board to approve the application of Icebreaker Windpower, Inc. for a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need to build a six-turbine wind-powered electric-generation facility in Lake Erie, holding that Appellants did not meet their burden of demonstrating that the Board's decision was against the manifest weight of the evidence.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) there was sufficient evidence in the record before the Board for it to determine the nature of the probable environmental impact of the project under Ohio Rev. Code 4906.10(A)(2) and whether the project represented the minimum adverse environmental impact under Ohio Rev. Code 4906.10(A)(3); and (2) the Board did not err in determining that it lacked jurisdiction to consider the residents' public-trust argument. View "In re Application of Icebreaker Windpower, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the trial court dismissing this complaint brought by the Attorney General alleging that Defendants, including Rover Pipeline, LLC, had illegally discharged millions of gallons of drilling fluids into Ohio's waters, causing pollution and degrading water quality, holding that the lower courts erred.Rover sought a license to construct an interstate pipeline that cross several counts in Ohio. As required by 33 U.S.C. 1341(a)(1) - section 401 of the Clean Water Act - Rover applied for certification for the state that any discharge into the state's navigable waters would comply with federal law. The state later brought this action against Rover and other companies involved in building the pipeline. The Supreme Court reversed the dismissal of this lawsuit, holding (1) the state waived its ability to participate in the certification process when it did not respond to Rover's application within one year; but (2) the waiver applies only to issues that are related to the section 401 certification, and therefore, remand was required for a determination of whether any of the state's allegations address issues outside the contours of the section 401 certification. View "State ex rel. Yost v. Rover Pipeline, L.L.C." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals concluding that the federal Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. 7401 et seq., did not preempt the State's in-use motor vehicle emission control system tampering claims against Volkswagen, holding that the Clean Air Act did not preempt Ohio law and preclude an anti-tampering claim under Ohio's Air Pollution Control Act, Ohio Rev. Code 3704.01 et seq.After the United States Environmental Protection Agency discovered Volkswagen's scheme to enable its vehicles to perform better than they otherwise would have on federal emissions tests, the State of Ohio sued Volkswagen for its vehicle-emissions tampering, alleging that Volkswagen's conduct violated Ohio's Air Pollution Control Act. The trial court granted Volkswagen's motion to dismiss, concluding that Ohio's anti-tampering statute was preempted by the federal Clean Air Act. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the federal Clean Air Act neither expressly nor impliedly preempts section 3704.16(C)(3) or precludes an anti-tampering claim under the state Air Pollution Control Act for a manufacturer's post-sale tampering with a vehicle's emissions-control system. View "State ex rel. Yost v. Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaf" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted a writ of mandamus sought by Omni Energy Group, LLC as to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management chief Eric Vendel ordering him to rule upon the validity of objections that were submitted concerning Omni's two saltwater injection well permit applications, holding that Omni was entitled to the writ.When the division chief did not render a decision on Omni's applications Omni filed a complaint against the division, Vendel, and department director Mary Mertz, sought a writ of mandamus compelling them to either issue or deny the permits. The Supreme Court granted a writ of mandamus, but instead of ordering Vendel immediately to render a decision on the applications, the Court ordered him to rule upon the validity of objections as required under Ohio Adm.Code 1501:9-3-06(H)(2)(c), holding (1) Omni had a clear legal right to, and Vendel had a clear legal duty to provide, a ruling on the validity of objections submitted against the applications; and (2) Omni did not suggest a basis for granting a writ of mandamus as to the division or to Mertz. View "State ex rel. Omni Energy Group, LLC v. Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Oil & Gas Resources Management" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the orders of the Power Siting Board granting a motion filed by Black Fork Wind Energy, LLC requesting a two-year extension of Black Fork’s certificate to construct a proposed wind farm, holding the Board’s extension of the certificate constituted an “amendment” under Ohio Rev. Code 4906.06(E) and 4906.07(B) and, therefore, the Board erred by granting Black Fork’s motion rather than following the statutory procedures for amending a certificate.On appeal, Appellants argued that extending Black Fork’s certificate was an “amendment” because it modified a material condition of the original certificate. The Supreme Court agreed, holding (1) the two-year extension of the certificate amount to an “amendment,” and therefore, the Board acted unlawfully by failing to comply with the statutory process for amending a certificate; and (2) because there was the possibility of a different outcome but for the Board’s error, Appellants established that they were prejudiced by the Board’s orders. View "In re Application of Black Fork Wind Energy, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied the writ of mandamus sought by six Columbus electors (Relators) to compel members of the Franklin County Board of Elections (Respondents) to place a proposed city ordinance on the November 6, 2018 ballot, holding that Respondents did not abuse their discretion in excluding the measure from the ballot.If adopted, the proposal would establish a “Community Bill of Rights” related to water, soil, and air protection and prohibit certain oil and gas extraction activities within the City of Columbus. Respondents found that the proposed ordinance was beyond the city’s legislative power because it would create new causes of action. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that Respondents did not abuse their discretion in concluding that the proposed ballot measure was beyond the scope of the city’s legislative power. View "State ex rel. Bolzenius v. Preisse" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals granting summary judgment to the chief of the oil-and-gas resources-management division of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), the director of ODNR, the state, and the governor of Ohio (collectively, Appellees) on the grounds that Food and Water Watch (FWW) and FreshWater Accountability Project (FWAP) lacked standing to bring this action for a writ of mandamus to compel the ODNR to promulgate rules relating to the storage, recycling, treatment, processing, and disposal of waste substances associated with oil and gas drilling. The court held (1) because FWAP did not demonstrate that its individual members would have standing in their own right, its claim for associational standing failed; (2) this court declines to extend State ex rel. Ohio Academy of Trial Lawyers v. Sheward, 715 N.E.2d 1062 (Ohio 1999); and (3) FWAP waived other arguments regarding standing and did not otherwise demonstrate that it had standing to proceed in this mandamus action. View "State ex rel. Food & Water Watch v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted in part a writ of prohibition requested by Relators - Rocky Ridge Development, LLC and Stanley Industries, Inc. - against common laws court judge Bruce Winters after Judge Winters issued a temporary restraining order against Relators enjoining them from operating in Benton Township until “they are in compliance with the Benton Township Zoning Resolution and the laws of the State of Ohio.” Benton Township had filed a compliant for declaratory and injunctive relief against Relators, alleging that the companies were violating the terms of a Land Application Management Plan (LAMP), were in violation of local zoning ordinances and state law, and were creating a public nuisance. The Supreme Court (1) granted a limited writ of prohibition to prevent the judge from deciding any issues that properly belong to the Environmental Review Appeals Commission, such as the wisdom or propriety of issuing the LAMP or Rocky Ridge’s compliance with the LAMP; but (2) denied the writ as to all claims involving alleged violations of Benton Township’s local ordinances or allegations that Rocky Ridge’s operations were creating a public nuisance. View "State ex rel. Rocky Ridge, LLC v. Winters" on Justia Law

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The Ohio Power Siting Board granted a certificate to Champaign Wind, LLC to construct a wind farm in Champaign County. Appellants, a collection of local governmental entities and residents, appealed the Board’s decision, challenging various discovery and evidentiary rulings by the Board and the Board’s determination that the proposed wind farm meets the statutory criteria for siting a major utility facility. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellants failed to demonstrate that the Board’s decision was unreasonable or unlawful or that the Board’s discovery and evidentiary rulings meaningfully affected the outcome of the proceeding. View "In re Application of Champaign Wind, LLC" on Justia Law