Justia Environmental Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals
North Carolina Wildlife, et al. v. North Carolina Dept. of Transp., et al.
After the Agencies approved the construction of a new 20-mile toll road in North Carolina, the Conservation Groups filed suit, seeking to enjoin construction on the toll road, contending that the process by which the Agencies approved the road violated the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq. The district court granted summary judgment to the Agencies. Because the Agencies failed to disclose critical assumptions underlying their decision to build the road and instead provided the public with incorrect information, they did indeed violate NEPA. Accordingly, the court vacated the judgment of the district court and remanded for further proceedings. View "North Carolina Wildlife, et al. v. North Carolina Dept. of Transp., et al." on Justia Law
Shenandoah Valley Network v. Capka, et al.
Appellants challenged the Agencies' execution of a tiered review process related to planning improvements to Virginia's Interstate 81 corridor. The district court rejected appellants' challenge which alleged various constitutional and statutory violations. On appeal, appellants claimed that the Agencies were attempting to foreclose consideration of environmentally friendly alternatives for specific sections of I-81 by choosing a corridor-wide improvement concept in the first stage of the review process. The court held, however, that appellants misapprehended the Agencies' position where the Agencies planned to comply with the Stipulation in this case and the National Environment Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq., by considering site-specific alternatives to the corridor-wide concept in subsequent stages. Because there was no actual dispute here, and because appellants could not show any injury or imminent threat of injury, this suit was not justiciable. Accordingly, the court dismissed the appeal. View "Shenandoah Valley Network v. Capka, et al." on Justia Law
National Electrical Manufacturers Assoc. v. U.S. Dept. of Energy, et al.
The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) petitioned for review of a final rule promulgated by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) setting forth energy conservation standards for electric induction motors ranging in power output from .25 to 3 horsepower (Final Rule). In promulgating the Final Rule, the DOE invoked its authority to establish energy conservation standards for "small electric motor[s]," a term defined by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA), 42 U.S.C. 6311(13)(G). NEMA contended that the relevant statutory definition unambiguously excluded all such motors exceeding 1 horsepower, as well as certain motors rated at and less than 1 horsepower, from being regulated as small electric motors. The court held that the Final Rule embodied a permissible interpretation of the statutory definition and therefore, denied the petition for review.
Genon Mid-Atlantic, LLC v. Montgomery County, Maryland
Plaintiff, operator of an electricity plant, sued defendant ("the county"), seeking to enjoin Expedited Bill 29-10, which imposed a levy on large stationary emitters of carbon dioxide within the county, on the ground that it violated the United States and Maryland Constitutions. At issue was whether a Montgomery County exaction on carbon dioxide emissions, levied only upon plaintiff's electricity-generating facility, was a tax or a fee. The court held that the carbon charge, which targeted a single emitter and was located squarely within the county's own "programmatic efforts to reduce" greenhouse gas emissions, was a punitive and regulatory fee over which the federal courts retained jurisdiction. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings.
Southern Alliance for Clean En v. Duke Energy Carolinas, LLC
Plaintiffs filed a complaint against defendant alleging that defendant was violating the Clean Air Act ("Act") by constructing a coal-fired power plant without a determination that the power plant would achieve a level of air pollution control that satisfied the Act's Maximum Achievable Control Technology provisions. At issue was whether the district court erred in awarding attorneys' fees to plaintiffs based on the merits of an order that granted summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs. The court held that attorneys' fees were properly awarded based on plaintiffs' success in the litigation where defendant was subject to state administrative proceedings as a consequence of plaintiffs' suit. The court also held that defendant's merits argument was irrelevant to the court's determination where plaintiffs achieved success supporting the fee award.