Articles Posted in U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals

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Imperial County and Air District filed suit against the Secretary, claiming that the environmental impact statement (EIS) regarding the Salton Sea did not comply with either the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq., or the Clean Air Act (CAA), 42 U.S.C. 7401. Imperial Irrigation, San Diego Water, Coachella, and Metropolitan intervened as defendants. The district court granted summary judgment to defendants, finding that neither plaintiff had standing to sue. Although the court concluded that plaintiffs had Article III standing to sue, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court where the district court correctly found in the alternative that the Secretary did not violate NEPA and the record made plain that the Secretary did not violate the CAA. View "People of the State of Cal. v. U.S. D.O.I." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants regarding the roundup, or "gather," of approximately 1,600 wild horses and 160 burros from the Twin Peaks Herd Management Area (HMA). Plaintiffs claimed that the gather violated the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, 16 U.S.C. 1331-1340, and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321-4370. The court held that the BLM did not violate the Act by implementing the 2010 gather on the Twin Peaks HMA; the BLM did not violate NEPA when it decided not to issue an environmental impact statement; and the BLM did not act arbitrarily and capriciously when it responded to comments highlighting the possibility of scientific dissent regarding the administration of the immunocontraceptive PZP. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "In Defense of Animals v. Dep't of the Interior" on Justia Law

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Using a methodology known as "stable isotope analysis," an expert hired by the city determined that the most likely dominant source of the perchlorate found in the city's groundwater was sodium nitrate that had been used as fertilizer. The city sued SQM, the company that imported sodium nitrate into the United States. Before trial, the district court held an evidentiary hearing under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and excluded the city's expert. The court reversed the district court's exclusion of the expert's testimony. The district court should not have made credibility determinations that were reserved for the jury; the Federal Rules of Evidence did not require an endorsement from the EPA approving the expert's results and the district court's conclusion to the contrary was an abuse of discretion; the district court erroneously ruled that the expert's methodologies have not been and cannot be tested; and the district court's resolution of the reference database was an abuse of discretion and sufficient grounds for reversal where the matter was for the jury to decide. The court affirmed the district court's denial of SQM's motion for summary judgment where SQM failed to show that there was no genuine factual dispute as to whether the city's claims were barred by the economic loss rule or by the applicable statute of limitations. View "City of Pomona v. SQM" on Justia Law

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The USDA decided to change its rules to allow roads to be built through an Alaskan forest it had previously ruled should be roadless. The district court held invalid the 2003 Record of Decision (ROD) that temporarily exempted the Tongass National Forest from application of the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule. Alaska appealed the order. The court concluded that the USDA's actions in settling the lawsuit and its reasoned explanation in the ROD supported the finding that the USDA believed that promulgating the Tongass exception would decrease litigation over the Roadless Rule. Under FCC v. Fox Television Stations' deferential standard, the USDA's ROD was not arbitrary and capricious. Further, it was not arbitrary and capricious for the USDA to promulgate the Roadless Rule exception to increase timber production to meet predicted future demand. Another reason for the USDA's promulgation of the ROD was because of its appreciation of the socioeconomic hardships created by the Roadless Rule. The court held that all of the USDA's reasons were acceptable under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 701-706. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Organized Village of Kake v. USDA" on Justia Law

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The district court invalidated a biological opinion (BiOp) by the FWS concluding that the Central Valley and State Water Projects jeopardized the continued existence of the delta smelt, a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq. As a preliminary matter, the court concluded that the district court overstepped its bounds by not limiting itself to court-appointed experts. The court concluded that the 2008 BiOp's reliance on raw salvage figures to set the upper and lower OMR (Old and Middle Rivers) flow limits was not arbitrary and capricious; the 2008 BiOp's determination of X2 (the point in the Bay-Delta at which the salinity is less than two parts per thousand) was not arbitrary and capricious; the BiOp's incidental take statements was now flawed; the record supported the BiOp's conclusions regarding the indirect effects of project operations; and the FWS was not required to support the "non-jeopardy" elements of the reasonable and prudent alternatives. The court agreed with the district court's analysis that Home Builders v. Defenders of Wildlife did not require the FWS to segregate discretionary from non-discretionary actions when it considered the environmental baseline; reclamation did not violate the ESA by accepting the 2008 BiOp; under these circumstances, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq., did not require the FWS to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) in conjunction with the issuance of the BiOp; and Reclamation's provisional adoption and implementation of the BiOp triggered its obligation to comply with NEPA. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "San Luis v. Jewell" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs challenged the construction of a high-speed rail system (the "Project") that will run through the downtown area of Honolulu under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321-4347, the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), 16 U.S.C. 470 to 470x-6, and Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act, 49 U.S.C. 303. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants on most of the claims and enjoined construction of the fourth phase of the Project pending a remand to the agency on the remaining Section 4(f) claims. The court concluded that plaintiffs timely appealed the dismissal of the remainder of their claims; the court had jurisdiction under either 28 U.S.C. 1292(a)(1) or 1291; the Environmental Impact Statement's (EIS's) identification of the project objectives and analysis of alternatives satisfied NEPA's requirements. Further, defendants have not violated Section 4(f) where they considered a Managed Lanes Alternative as well as other alternatives, and where they have made a good faith and reasonable effort to identify known archaeological sites along the proposed Project route and have developed an appropriate plan for dealing with sites that may be discovered during construction. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "HonoluluTraffic.com, et al. v. FTA, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs challenged BOEM's Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) analyzing the environmental effects of proposed oil and gas development in the Chukchi Sea off the coast of Alaska. The court concluded that BOEM has reasonably concluded that the missing information from the FEIS and Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) was not "essential" to informed decisionmaking at the lease sale stage. The court concluded, however, that BOEM acted arbitrarily and capriciously by estimating that one billion barrels of oil would be economically recoverable where BOEM did not provide an adequate explanation of its selection. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Native Village of Point Hope v. Jewell" on Justia Law

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Woodlands challenged several aspects of the Corps' Environmental Assessment (EA), and issuance of a "Finding of No Significant Impact" (FONSI) in lieu of preparing a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) concerning ORC's application for a permit to mine valuable mineral sands in Oregon. The court concluded that the Corps complied with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321, because the Corps properly considered the risks of hexavalent chromium generation; concluded that the risk of hexavalent chromium generation did not warrant a full EIS; and declined to consider cumulative impacts of future chromium mining. Further, the Corps' alternative analysis did not violate the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. 1251. The court rejected Woodlands' arguments and affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Corps. View "Jones v. Nat'l Marine Fisheries" on Justia Law

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This case involved EPA's conditional registration of two pesticides, AGS-20 and AGS-20 U, that HeiQ Materials sought to apply to manufactured textiles. NRDC petitioned the court to vacate EPA's decision to conditionally register the pesticides. The court held that NRDC had Article III standing; EPA's decision not to use the body weight and other characteristics of infants in determining whether the pesticides placed consumers at risk, and instead using the characteristics of a three-year-old toddler, was supported by substantial evidence; and EPA's decision not to consider additional sources of exposure to nanosilver other than the pesticides in concluding that the product would not have unreasonable adverse effects on consumers was supported by substantial evidence. The court vacated EPA's decision insofar as it concluded that there was no risk concern requiring mitigation for short- and intermediate-term aggregate oral and dermal exposure to textiles that were surface coated with the pesticide. Accordingly, the court granted in part and denied in part NRDC's petition for review. View "NRDC v. EPA" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit under the Clean Air Act (CAA), 42 U.S.C. 7401-7671q, seeking to compel the Agencies to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from the state's five oil refineries under the CAA. On appeal, Intervenor WSPA argued that plaintiffs lacked Article III standing. The court concluded that the district court lacked jurisdiction to hear the parties' dispositive motions on the merits because plaintiffs have not met their burden in satisfying the "irreducible constitutional minimum" requirements for Article III standing under either the causality or redressability prong discussed in Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's order on the parties' dispositive motions and remanded with instructions that the action be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "Wash. Envtl. Council v. Bellon" on Justia Law