Articles Posted in U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals

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Petitioner WildEarth Guardians challenged an Environmental Protection Agency order that denied in part its petition for an objection to a Title V operating permit issued by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to Intervenor Public Service Company of Colorado (d/b/a Xcel Energy), for a coal-fired power station in Morgan County, Colorado. Petitioner argued that the permit should have included a plan to bring the station into compliance with the Clean Air Act. The EPA denied Petitioner's petition for an objection despite the EPA's issuing a citation to Public Service for violating the act in 2002. The EPA concluded that Petitioner's evidence failed to demonstrate a violation, and that the state agency adequately responded to Petitioner's comments before it issued the permit. Petitioner petitioned the Tenth Circuit on appeal. The Court saw no error in the EPA's persuasive interpretation of the demonstration requirement. Furthermore, the Court concluded the agency did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in concluding that Petitioner failed to demonstrate noncompliance with the Act. Therefore the Court affirmed the EPA's order denying in part the petition to object. View "WildEarth v. EPA" on Justia Law

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Petitioner-Appellant Western Watersheds Project (WWP) challenged a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) decision to grant a 10-year grazing permit to LHS Split Rock Ranch, LLC for four federal public land allotments in central Wyoming. WWP asserted that BLM?s decision to grant the grazing permit was arbitrary and capricious because BLM had previously concluded that past grazing was a substantial cause of serious environmental degradation on the allotments. The district court granted summary judgment to BLM. WWP appealed. Finding that the agency did not act arbitrarily or capriciously, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Western Watersheds Project v. BLM" on Justia Law

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In consolidated cases for review, petitioners challenged a rule by the United States Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Air Act. Petitioners argued that the EPA impermissibly rejected Oklahoma’s plan to limit the emissions of sulfur dioxide at Oklahoma Gas and Electric Company power plants and replaced it with its own more stringent regulations, which petitioners contended usurped the state’s authority and would require sizable expenditures on unnecessary technology. The Tenth Circuit concluded the EPA has authority to review the state’s plan and that it lawfully exercised that authority in rejecting it and promulgating its own. Accordingly, the Court denied the petitions. View "Oklahoma v. EPA" on Justia Law

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The Rural Water District Number 4 of Douglas County, Kansas and the City of Eudora were in a dispute over water rights. The District contended that Eudora was trying to poach its customers. Because the District was burdened by a USDA-guaranteed loan, Eudora's actions potentially implicated federal law which prohibits municipalities from poaching rural water district customers while the federal loan is in repayment. The District sued the City under 42 U.S.C. 1983; the case went to trial and a jury awarded damages to the District. On appeal, the Tenth Circuit vacated the verdict, finding that the District violated a Kansas statute that prevented rural water district from obtaining USDA loan guarantees unless the guarantee was "necessary." Soon after the appeal, the Kansas legislature amended the statute and removed the "necessary" requirement. The district court then ruled that the amendment did not apply retroactively, and denied summary judgment to both parties. The retroactivity question was certified to the Tenth Circuit, who upheld the district court's conclusion that the amended state statute did not apply retroactively. Therefore, the District was still bound by the "necessary" requirement. View "Rural Water District No. 4 v. City of Eudora" on Justia Law

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The issue on appeal in this case concerned WildEarth Guardians’ challenge to the National Park Service’s (NPS) elk and vegetation management plan for Rocky Mountain National Park. WildEarth filed suit in federal district court challenging the plan and the final environmental impact statement the NPS prepared in conjunction with the plan. WildEarth contended the NPS violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by failing to include the reintroduction of a naturally reproducing wolf population as one of the alternatives considered in the environmental impact statement. WildEarth also challenged the agency’s proposal to allow volunteers to assist the agency in reducing the elk population. The district court affirmed the agency action, and WildEarth appealed. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit found that the record supported the agency’s decision to exclude consideration of a natural wolf alternative from its environmental impact statement. The Court also found the agency’s interpretation of the National Parks Organic Act and Rocky Mountain National Park Enabling Act persuasive, and that its elk management plan did not violate those statutes. View "WildEarth Guardians v. National Park Service" on Justia Law

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This case concerned the construction of a new Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) rail/truck terminal outside Kansas City, Kansas. Because the preferred site contained streams and wetlands protected under federal law, several groups (collectively, "Hillsdale") brought challenges to a dredge and fill permit issued by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) under the Clean Water Act. The district court denied Hillsdale's motion for an injunction and granted summary judgment for the Corps and BNSF. On appeal, Hillsdale requested that the Tenth Circuit set aside the Corps's decision to grant the permit because the Corps inadequately considered alternatives to the selected site under the Clean Water Act and violated the National Environmental Policy Act by preparing an inadequate environmental assessment and failing to prepare a full environmental impact statement. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit concluded the Corps's decision was supported by the record, and was not an arbitrary and capricious exercise of its approval powers under federal law. View "Hillside Environmental Loss, et al v. United States Army Corps, et al" on Justia Law

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Defendant-Appellant Tim DeChristopher entered a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) oil and gas lease auction in Salt Lake City, Utah, by representing he was a bidder. His purpose was to disrupt the auction and call attention to the potential environmental harms of drilling on the leases. He proceeded to drive up the auction prices and ultimately won almost $1.8 million in bids, for which he was unable to pay. A jury convicted Defendant of interfering with the provisions of Chapter 3A of the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act, and making a false statement or representation. He appealed, raising eight separate issues related to his conviction. Upon review of each, the Tenth Circuit determined they had no merit and affirmed Defendant's conviction and sentence. View "United States v. DeChristopher" on Justia Law

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Appellants in this case are companies that submitted high bids on certain oil and gas leases at a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) auction (collectively, the Energy Companies). After the auction but before the leases were issued, newly appointed Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar decided not to lease the parcels at issue. Salazar announced his decision at a February 4, 2009, press conference and memorialized his determination in a February 6 memorandum to the BLM’s Utah State Director. On February 12, 2009, a subordinate BLM official mailed letters to the high bidders indicating that the leases would not be issued. Exactly ninety days later, the Energy Companies filed suit challenging the Secretary’s authority to withdraw the leases. The district court dismissed their suit as time-barred under the Mineral Leasing Act (MLA), which provides that “[n]o action contesting a decision of the Secretary involving any oil and gas lease shall be maintained unless such action is commenced or taken within ninety days after the final decision of the Secretary relating to such matter.” A majority of the Tenth Circuit agreed with the district court that the Secretary’s final decision in this matter occurred no later than February 6, and thus, the suit was time-barred. The panel majority also agreed with the district court that the Energy Companies were not entitled to equitable tolling in this matter: the BLM notified the high bidders just six days after the Secretary made his decision. And the government notified the Energy Companies of its position that February 6 was the operative date during agency proceedings. Although the Energy Companies had time to prepare their claims before the limitations period expired, they gambled that a court would accept their proffered limitations theory. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the district court. View "Impact Energy Resources, LLC, et al v. Salazar, et al" on Justia Law

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Congress authorized the State of Colorado to regulate hazardous wasted in the state. Invoking that regulatory authority, Plaintiff-Appellant Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division (“Colorado” or “CDPHE”), declared the chemical weapons stored at an Army weapons depot near Pueblo awaiting destruction to be hazardous waste. In this action, Colorado sought to enforce its regulation prohibiting storage of any hazardous waste against the Depot. The specific question presented by this appeal was whether Congress’s mandate that the Army destroy these chemical weapons at the Depot by 2017 preempted Colorado’s enforcement against the Depot of its regulation prohibiting storage of any hazardous waste. Ultimately, the Tenth Circuit was persuaded by the "detailed manner with which Congress has addressed and mandated the destruction of the chemical weapons stored at the Depot to conclude that that federal law preempts Colorado’s attempt to regulate that destruction process by enforcing its prohibition of the storage of hazardous waste against the Depot." View "Colorado Department of Public v. United States, et al" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellant WildEarth Guardians sued Public Service Company of Colorado (PSCo) pursuant to the Clean Air Act's citizen-suit provisions seeking civil penalties and an injunction to halt construction for a new coal-fired power plant in Pueblo, Colorado. WildEarth's principal argument was that PSCo failed to obtain a valid construction permit. Although the project initially complied with all applicable federal and state laws when construction commenced in 2005, the regulatory landscape changed in 2008. A decision of the D.C. Circuit required regulators to impose additional Clean Air Act requirements upon new power plant construction. While litigation was pending, PSCo finished constructing the plant and came into compliance with the new regulatory regime. The district court dismissed the suit, reasoning that to find a Clean Air violation under the circumstances would be to give unwarranted retroactive effect to the decision of the D.C. Circuit. The question before the Tenth Circuit was whether WildEarth's allegations that PSCo violated the Act became moot. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit concluded that "under the unusual circumstances of this case . . . PSCo's violations could nto reasonably be expected to recur, and thus no deterrent effect could be achieved." Accordingly, the Court dismissed the appeal as moot. View "WildEarth Guardians v. Public Service Company" on Justia Law