Justia Environmental Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals
Ackerman v. ExxonMobil Corp.
This case concerned a class action filed against defendants for contamination of plaintiffs' properties by gasoline and a gasoline additive (the Koch action). Former Koch class members subsequently filed a new class action (the Ackerman action). On appeal, defendants challenged the district court's order abstaining from exercising jurisdiction under the Colorado River doctrine. The court held that 28 U.S.C. 1446(d) affected only the jurisdiction of the state court only with regard to the case actually removed to federal court; because Koch was not removed, the state court maintained jurisdiction over it, and the amendment to the complaint in that case was not void ab initio; and the district court was correct to consider the amended Koch complaint in determining whether the Koch and Ackerman actions were parallel, and the district court did not abuse its discretion when concluding that exceptional circumstances warranted abstention in favor of the pending Koch action. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Ackerman v. ExxonMobil Corp." on Justia Law
Angelex Ltd. v. United States
The government appealed the district court's order which altered the terms of a bond the Coast Guard had fixed for the release of a detained ship that was under investigation and restricted the types of penalties the government could seek for the ship's potential violations of certain ocean pollution prevention statutes. The ship at issue, the Pappadakis, an ocean-going bulk cargo carrier carrying a shipment of coal to Brazil, was detained by the Coast Guard because the vessel had likely been discharging bilge water overboard. The court reversed and remanded for dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) where the matter was not subject to review in the district court because the Coast Guard's actions were committed to agency discretion by law. Consequently, the district court lacked jurisdiction to consider the petition. View "Angelex Ltd. v. United States" on Justia Law
Waldburger v. CTS Corp.
Plaintiffs brought a nuisance action against CTS because their well water contained solvents that had carcinogenic effects. The district court dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6), concluding that North Carolina's ten-year limitation on the accrual of real property claims barred the suit. The court reversed and remanded, holding that the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Liability, and Compensation Act (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. 9601-9675, preempted North Carolina's ten-year limitation. In so holding, the court furthered Congress's intent that victims of toxic waste not be hindered in their attempts to hold accountable those who have strewn such waste in their land. View "Waldburger v. CTS Corp." on Justia Law
Ohio Valley Environmental v. U.S. Army Corps
Plaintiffs commenced this action to challenge the fill permit issued under section 404 of the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. 1344(a), contending, inter alia, that the Corps, in conducting its analysis for the section 404 permit, "materially misapprehended" the baseline conditions in the relevant watershed, thus corrupting its analysis of the cumulative impact that the Reylas mine would have on the streams in the watershed. The court found no merit to plaintiffs' claim that the Corps "misapprehended" the baseline conditions where the Corps considered the relevant factors, evaluating both the impact site and the entire watershed. Because the Corps' analysis satisfied the National Environmental Policy Act's, 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq., procedural requirements, the Corps' finding of cumulative insignificance was neither arbitrary nor capricious. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Ohio Valley Environmental v. U.S. Army Corps" on Justia Law
Village of Bald Head Island v. U. S. Army Corps
The Village commenced this action against the Corps to require it to honor commitments made to the Village and other North Carolina towns when developing its plan to widen, deepen, and realign portions of the Cape Fear River navigation channel. The district court dismissed the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court agreed with the district court's holding that the Corps' failure to implement "commitments" made to the Village during development of the plans for the project was not final agency action subject to judicial review. The court also concluded that the alleged contracts on which the Village relied for its contract claims were not maritime contracts that justified the exercise of admiralty jurisdiction. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Village of Bald Head Island v. U. S. Army Corps" on Justia Law
PSC Nitrogen Inc. v. Ashley II of Charleston
These appeals arose from disputes as to liability for cleanup of hazardous substances at a former fertilizer manufacturing site in Charleston, South Carolina. After incurring response costs, Ashley, the current owner of a portion of the site, brought a cost recovery action against PCS under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. 9601-9675. PCS counterclaimed and also brought third-party contribution actions against parties with past and current connections to the site. The district court bifurcated the trial. The district court found at the first bench trial that PCS was a potentially responsible party jointly and severally liable for response costs at the site. The district court found at the second trial that some of the other parties, including Ashley, were potentially responsible parties, each liable for an allocated portion of the site's response costs. The parties appealed but the court affirmed the district court's judgment in all respects. View "PSC Nitrogen Inc. v. Ashley II of Charleston" on Justia Law
Dow AgroSciences LLC v. National Marine Fisheries Serv.
Plaintiffs, three manufacturers of certain pesticides at issue, commenced this action challenging the biological opinion (BiOp) issued by the Service. The BiOp, which the Service provided as part of the EPA's process of reregistering the pesticides at issue, concluded that these pesticides would jeopardize the viability of certain Pacific salmonids and their habitat and that the pesticides could not be reregistered and therefore used without substantial restriction. The court concluded that the BiOp was not the product of reasoned decisionmaking in that the Service failed to explain or support several assumptions critical to its opinion. To enable a renewed agency process, the court vacated the BiOp and remanded for further proceedings. View "Dow AgroSciences LLC v. National Marine Fisheries Serv." on Justia Law
Webster v. USDA
Over thirty-five years ago, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), working with local sponsors, devised a project to provide watershed protection, flood prevention, and recreation along the Lost River Subwatershed. In 1974, the NRCS issued an environmental impact statement relating to the project, and since that time, three dams and most of the land treatment measures have been completed. After preparing a supplemental environmental impact statement in 2009, the NRCS issued a record of decision that eliminated one of the remaining dams from the project and authorized construction of the final dam for the added purpose of providing water supply. Appellants, seven individuals who alleged that their land will be adversely affected by this final dam's construction, filed this action contending that the NRCS failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). They appealed the district court's order granting Appellees' motion for summary judgment. Because the Fourth Circuit determined that the NRCS complied with the procedures mandated by the NEPA and took a hard look at the project's environmental effects, the Court affirmed. View "Webster v. USDA" on Justia Law
Huggins v. Prince George’s County, MD
Plaintiff Jane Huggins, trading as SADISCO of Maryland (SADISCO) sued Prince George’s County, Maryland and five County officials after the County shut down the salvage automobile wholesaling business operated by SADISCO on a parcel of land that SADISCO owned within the County. SADISCO’s complaint alleged one count under federal law and four counts under Maryland’s common law. The district court dismissed certain counts pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and granted summary judgment in favor of the County and officials with respect to the remaining counts. Plaintiff appealed, and after review, the Fourth Circuit found that the district court correctly rejected Plaintiff's arguments. View "Huggins v. Prince George's County, MD" on Justia Law
Friends of Back Bay, et al. v. US Army Corps of Engineers, et al.
Plaintiffs challenged the Corps' decision to approve a permit under section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA), 33 U.S.C. 1344, and section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (RHA), 33 U.S.C. 403, to build a mooring facility and concrete boat ramp about 3,000 feet from the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia Beach. Plaintiffs appealed the district court's award of summary judgment to defendants. Having concluded that the Corps' grant of the permit violated the applicable National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4332(2)(C), procedural requirements, the court was not inclined to decide whether it should not have issued on different grounds. Therefore, the court vacated the judgment, remanded for preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and remanded for further proceedings. View "Friends of Back Bay, et al. v. US Army Corps of Engineers, et al." on Justia Law