Justia Environmental Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals
State of North Dakota v. EPA
The State, in consolidated petitions for review, challenged the EPA's final rule approving in part and disapproving in part two state implementation plans (SIPs) submitted by the State to address its obligations under sections 110 and 169A of the Clean Air Act (CAA), 42 U.S.C. 7401-7671q. The final rule also promulgated a federal implementation plan (FIP) to address those portions of the SIPs that were disapproved. The court concluded that, even assuming that the State's interpretation of section 7607(d)(3) was correct, the State has failed to demonstrate that the EPA's error in this regard was so serious and related to matters of such central relevance to the rule that there was a substantial likelihood that the rule would have been significantly changed if the error had not been made; the EPA's refusal to consider the existing pollution control technology in use at the Coal Creek Station because it had been voluntarily installed was arbitrary and capricious and its FIP promulgating selective non-catalytic reduction (SNCR) as the best available retrofit technology (BART) for the Coal Creek Station was therefore vacated; the State's petition for review of the EPA's disapproval of the State's SIP and promulgating of a FIP was denied because the EPA properly disapproved the State's reasonable progress determination; the Environmental Groups' motion to dismiss their petition for review was moot; and the State's petition for review of the EPA's disapproval of the interstate transport SIP was denied because the EPA properly disapproved portions of the State's regional haze SIP. Accordingly, the court granted the State's and Great River Energy's petitions for review to the extent that they challenged the EPA's BART determination for the Coal Creek Station promulgated in EPA's FIP; vacated and remanded that portion of the final rule to the EPA for further proceedings; and denied the remainder of the State's, Great River Energy's, and the Environmental Groups' petitions for review, as well as the Environmental Groups' motion for voluntary dismissal under Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 42(b). View "State of North Dakota v. EPA" on Justia Law
Land O’Lakes, Inc. v. Employers Ins. Co., et al.
The EPA filed suit under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. 9601 et seq. against Land O'Lakes, alleging that Land O'Lakes was responsible for cleanup costs at a contaminated refinery site. Land O'Lakes subsequently filed suit against its insurers, Wausau and Travelers, seeking payment of defense costs and indemnification under commercial general liability (CGL) policies that the insurers issued in connection with the CERCLA suit. The court concluded that Land O'Lakes's 2009 duty-to-defend claims were barred by the Minnesota statute of limitations where the 2001 Potentially Responsible Party (PRP) letter was a "suit" for arguably-covered damages as contemplated under the pertinent CGL policies. The court also concluded that Land O'Lakes's costs to remediate the refinery site fell within the owned-property exclusion. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Land O'Lakes, Inc. v. Employers Ins. Co., et al." on Justia Law
Doe Run Resources Corp. v. Lexington Ins. Co.
Doe Run commenced a declaratory action seeking to enforce Lexington's contractual duty to defend Doe Run per its Commercial General Liability (CGL) policies in two underlying lawsuits (the Briley Lawsuit and the McSpadden Lawsuit). These underlying lawsuits sought damages arising out of Doe Run's operation of a five-hundred-acre waste pile (Leadwood Pile). The court concluded that the pollution exclusions in the CGL policies precluded a duty to defend Doe Run in the Briley Lawsuit. The court concluded, however, that the McSpadden Lawsuit included allegations and claims that were not unambiguously barred from coverage by the pollution exclusions in the policies. The McSpadden Lawsuit alleged that the distribution of toxic materials harmed plaintiffs, without specifying how that harm occurred. The McSpadden complaint also alleged that Doe Run caused bodily injury or property damage when it left the Leadwood Pile open and available for use by the public without posting warning signs. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Doe Run Resources Corp. v. Lexington Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Iowa League of Cities v. EPA
The League sought direct appellate review of two letters sent by the EPA to Senator Charles Grassley, arguing that these letters effectively set forth new regulatory requirements with respect to water treatment processes at municipally owned sewer systems. The League argued that the EPA lacked statutory authority to impose these regulations and violated the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 500 et seq., by implementing them without first proceeding through the notice and comment procedures for agency rulemaking. The court concluded that the case was ripe for judicial review and the League had standing to assert its claims; the court vacated both the mixing zone rule in the June 2011 letter and the blending rule in the September 2011 letter as procedurally invalid; and the court vacated the blending rule as an excess of statutory authority insofar as it would impose the effluent limitations of the secondary treatment regulations internally, rather than at the point of discharge into navigable waters. The court remanded to the EPA for further consideration. View "Iowa League of Cities v. EPA" on Justia Law
Herden, et al. v. United States
Plaintiffs, cattle producers, appealed the district court's dismissal of their Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 1346(b)(1), complaint, alleging that a government employee negligently caused illness and death within their cattle herd by mandating a toxic plant mixture on pasture land enrolled in a conservation program. The district court held that the allegations of negligence involved the employee's exercise of protected discretion and therefore fell within the discretionary function exception to the FTCA's waiver of sovereign immunity. The court held that the employee's selection of a seeding plan was discretionary but that it was not the type of discretionary action Congress intended to shield from suit. View "Herden, et al. v. United States" on Justia Law
Pattison Sand Co., LLC v. Fed. Mine Safety & Health Review Comm’n
Pattison Sand Company operated a sandstone mine in Iowa. After part of the mine roof collapsed near where a miner was working, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) issued an order under the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act prohibiting any activity in much of the mine. Pattison challenged the order before the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission. An ALJ determined that the order was valid and that the Commission lacked authority to modify it. Pattison moved for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction preventing MSHA from enforcing parts of the order. The federal district court denied relief. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals granted in part and denied in part Pattison's petition for review and affirmed the judgment of the district court, holding (1) substantial evidence supported the ALJ's determination that the roof fall was an accident within the meaning of the Act; (2) the ALJ's determination that he lacked the authority to modify the order was in error; and (3) the district court's conclusion that it lacked jurisdiction to consider the company's request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction was not in error. View "Pattison Sand Co., LLC v. Fed. Mine Safety & Health Review Comm'n" on Justia Law
N. Pac. Ctr., Inc. v. BNSF Ry. Co.
The Northern Pacific Center incurred costs to reduce pollution on a property it owned in Minnesota, which had formerly been owned by BNSF Railway and used as a railcar construction and maintenance facility. The Center sued BNSF under the Minnesota Environmental Response and Liability Act (MERLA) to recover its costs. BNSF moved for summary judgment on the basis of MERLA's statute of limitations, which the district court denied. The district court subsequently granted summary judgment to BNSF on the merits, concluding that the type of costs the Center had incurred were not recoverable under MERLA. The Center appealed the adverse grant of summary judgment and BNSF cross appealed the district court's denial of summary judgment on statute of limitations grounds. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals (1) affirmed the grant of summary judgment to BNSF, holding that the costs the Center sought to recover were not removal costs and thus were not recoverable; and (2) dismissed BNSF's cross appeal as moot. View "N. Pac. Ctr., Inc. v. BNSF Ry. Co." on Justia Law
Friends of the Norbeck, et al. v. United States Forest Service, et al.
The district court dismissed plaintiff's complaint, concluding in relevant part that plaintiffs failed to exhaust the administrative remedies for their National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq., claim and that the Norbeck Wildlife Project was not arbitrary, capricious, or contrary to the Norbeck Organic Act (NOA), 16 U.S.C. 675. On appeal, plaintiffs argued that defendants violated NEPA and NOA by approving the project. The court held that because the court determined that plaintiffs did not exhaust their administrative remedies, it did not reach additional arguments raised by defendants and intervenors. The court also held that defendants' decision to approve the project was neither arbitrary nor capricious because defendants considered the direct and indirect effects of the project on the preserve's focus species, the management indicator species for the Black Hills National Forest, and species of local concern; defendants considered the habitat needs of various game animals and birds as well as the effects of the burning and logging activities; the district ranger adjusted the parameters of the approved project to try to mitigate the adverse impact on game animals and birds; and defendants seriously considered the no action alternative and provided ample explanation for why that option was inadequate.
Minch Family LLLP v. Estate of Gladys I. Norby, et al.
The Minch Family sued the Estate of the Norbys in diversity, seeking injunctive relief and damages for flooding of the Minch Family's property, allegedly caused by a field dike built on the Norbys' land. At issue was whether the district court erred in concluding that the Minch Family's claims were time-barred and whether the magistrate judge abused its discretion by denying the Minch Family's motion to amend its complaint to allege a claim for punitive damages and the Minch Family's motion to amend the scheduling order. The court held that the Minch Family had failed to meet its burden of showing that the applicable two year-statute of limitations should be tolled and its claims were untimely. The court held that because it had affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Minch Family's claims as time-barred, the issue of punitive damages was moot. The court further held that because the Minch Family's motion only related to its claim for punitive damages, the court need not address the issue of whether the magistrate judge abused its discretion in denying its motion to amend the court's scheduling order. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court.
Sierra Club, et al. v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, et al.; Hempstead County Hunting Club, Inc. v. Southwestern Elec. Power Co., et al.
The Sierra Club and several related parties brought this action against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) seeking to set aside a Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq., permit (the section 404 permit) the Corps had issued to the Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) which planned to construct a new power plant. SWEPCO subsequently appealed the preliminary injunctions ordered by the district court, arguing that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction and that the district court abused its discretion in granting the preliminary injunction. The court held that the district court did not err in concluding that the Sierra Club and Hunting Club had Article III standing. The court also held that plaintiffs have shown a likelihood of success where there was ample evidence in the record to show that plaintiffs were likely to succeed on at least three of their claims; that there was a likelihood of irreparable harm; that the balance of harms weighed in favor of an injunction; and that the public interest that might be injured by a preliminary injunction did not outweigh the public interest that would be served by the injunction. Accordingly, the court affirmed the preliminary injunction.