Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

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Environmental groups requested records from the EPA that the agency had previously obtained from power plants under Section 308 of the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. 1318(a), (b). The records requested are exempt from disclosure under Exemption 4 of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552(b)(4), but seemingly must be disclosed under Section 308. At issue was what statute prevailed. The DC Circuit held that the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 559, directly addressed the issue. Section 559 provides that FOIA exemptions apply unless a later statute expressly supersedes or modifies those exemptions. In this case, section 308 is the later statute. Because section 308 does not expressly supersede Exemption 4, EPA impermissibly invoked Exemption 4 to deny the FOIA requests. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Environmental Integrity Project v. EPA" on Justia Law

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Riverkeeper petitioned for review of FERC's Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity conditionally approving the Leidy Project. The DC Circuit denied the petition and held that it had jurisdiction to consider Riverkeeper's challenge to the Certificate Order on the ground that FERC violated the sequencing requirement of the Clean Water Act (CWA) by issuing its Certificate Order before Pennsylvania issued its section 401 certification; the sequencing requirement of section 401 was not triggered because the Commission's conditional approval of the Leidy Project construction did not authorize any activity which might result in a discharge in navigable waters; the court need not decide whether the letter orders impermissibly approved activity that might have resulted in a discharge before Pennsylvania issued its section 401 certification; FERC did not violate the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by misclassifying wetlands; even if FERC technically erred in some of its classifications, Riverkeeper has not shown any prejudice; and FERC's NEPA review of the Leidy Project's proposed gas flow velocities appeared to be fully informed and well-considered. View "Delaware Riverkeeper Network v. FERC" on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged the Commissions' determinations following compliance filings by the regional transmission organization for New England's electric grid. The court concluded that the Transmission Owners have standing to bring their challenges, but concluded that the Commission's orders were not inconsistent with its past decisions; the Commission did not apply the wrong legal standard for measuring whether the Mobile-Sierra presumption had been overcome; and the Commission's determination was in accord with the evidence before it. In regard to State Petitioner's challenges, the court concluded that, in light of the clarifications made by the Commission, there is no inconsistency with Order No. 1000. The court also concluded that the Commission did not exceed its bounds of authority under the Federal Power Act (FPA), 16 U.S.C. 824(a). Accordingly, the court denied the petitions for review. View "Emera Maine v. FERC" on Justia Law

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The Services issued a Final Rule in 2012 designating 9.5 million acres of federal forest lands in California, Oregon, and Washington as critical habitat for the northern spotted owl. The Council filed suit challenging the legality of the critical habitat designation. The court concluded, in light of its decision in Mountain States Legal Foundation v. Glickman, that the Council had standing to challenge the designation because it has demonstrated a substantial probability that the critical habitat designation will cause a decrease in the supply of timber from the designated forest lands, that Council members obtain their timber from those forest lands, and that Council members will suffer economic harm as a result of the decrease in the timber supply from those forest lands. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's decision stating otherwise and remanded for further proceedings. View "Carpenters Industrial Council v. Zinke" on Justia Law

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The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. 9603, and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986 (EPCRA), 42 U.S.C. 11004, require parties to notify authorities when large quantities of hazardous materials are released into the environment. In 2008, the EPA issued a final rule that generally exempts farms from CERCLA and EPCRA reporting requirements for air released from animal waste. The EPA reasoned that the reports were unnecessary because, in most cases, federal response was impractical and unlikely. The court concluded that petitioners have informational standing and proceeded to the merits. The court granted the petition for review and vacated the Final Rule, concluding that the EPA's action cannot be justified either as a reasonable interpretation of any statutory ambiguity or implementation of a de minimis exception. The Pork Producers' challenge was moot and the court dismissed their petition. View "Waterkeeper Alliance v. EPA" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, individuals who breed and sell animals, filed the underlying action in district court, challenging a 2012 rule in which the Fish and Wildlife Service designated as injurious four species of snakes. At issue on appeal was the shipment clause in the Lacey Act, 18 U.S.C. 42(a)(1), which bars "any shipment" of certain injurious species of animals "between the continental United States, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or any possession of the United States." Plaintiffs argued that the Service lacks authority under the Lacey Act to prohibit transportation of the listed species between the 49 continental States. The court agreed with the district court that the shipment clause has no bearing on shipments of animals from one of the 49 continental States to another. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of plaintiffs. View "U.S. Assoc. of Reptile Keepers v. Zinke" on Justia Law

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North Dakota filed a motion to modify an injunction governing the Northwest Area Water Supply Project, but the district court stated that North Dakota did not present either changes in law or facts sufficient to warrant modifying the injunction and summarily denied the motion. The court concluded that, without a more nuanced explanation, the district court's acceptance of nonmovants' arguments in toto constituted an abuse of discretion. The court further concluded that North Dakota met its burden of presenting two significant changed circumstances that warranted modifying the 2005 injunction, and also requested a modification suitably tailored to those circumstances. First, issuance of the final supplemental Environmental Impact Statement and record of decision constituted a significant change, and second, the increase in arsenic levels over the course of the injunction's lifespan constituted a significant change. Therefore, the court remanded to the district court with instructions to grant the motion. View "Government of the Province of Manitoba v. Zinke" on Justia Law

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The Secretary and the State of Wyoming appealed the district court's judgment vacating a rule delisting the gray wolf in Wyoming as a protected species. The Secretary and the State principally argued that the district court erred by failing to defer to the Service's reasonable interpretation of "regulatory mechanisms" to include the State's management plan for a wolf population buffer, which although not itself legally binding, was a practical entailment of the State's statutory population minima. Environmental groups cross-appealed the district court's conclusions that the Rule includes adequate provisions on genetic connectivity between wolf subpopulations and did not imperil the wolves in a "significant portion" of their range. The court concluded that the record demonstrated that the Service reasonably and adequately responded to concerns about the reliability of Wyoming's management plan, and that the district court did not err by rejecting the Environmental groups' contentions. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment vacating the Rule and otherwise affirmed. View "Defenders of Wildlife v. Zinke" on Justia Law

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In 2011, EPA issued policy letters that explained and arguably changed two EPA policies with respect to publicly owned water treatment facilities. A group representing interests of municipalities prevailed in the Eighth Circuit on their challenge to the new EPA policy letters. In 2013, EPA made statements indicating that it would not acquiesce in or follow the Eighth Circuit's decision outside of that circuit. Petitioner filed suit raising multiple challenges to EPA's non-acquiescence statement's legality. The court explained that the non-acquiescence letter merely articulates how EPA will interpret the Eighth Circuit's decision. To the extent petitioner seeks to directly challenge EPA's non-acquiescence statement, it must first sue in district court under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 702-704. To the extent petitioner seeks to directly challenge the 2011 policy letters, petitioner was well outside the 120-day window to directly challenge the letters in this court. To the extent petitioner believed EPA was violating the Eighth Circuit's mandate, the proper course of action was to seek mandamus or other appropriate relief in the Eighth Circuit. Accordingly, the court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to directly review EPA's non-acquiescence statement and dismissed the petition. View "Center for Regulatory Reasonableness v. EPA" on Justia Law

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In 2013, the Department of Justice issued a guidance memorandum, the Cole Memorandum, that addresses enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), 21 U.S.C. 801 et seq., in cases involving marijuana. Plaintiff filed a pro se suit against state officials claiming that the Cole Memorandum unconstitutionally commandeers state officials and institutions, and claiming that all defendants violated the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq., by failing to prepare an environmental impact statement before publishing the memorandum. The court agreed with the district court's dismissal of the complaint based on plaintiff's lack of standing because he has not sufficiently alleged that setting aside the Cole Memorandum would redress his alleged injuries from the wider availability of recreational marijuana and new restrictions on medical marijuana, and that any adverse environmental effects of recreational marijuana on his own particularized interests are traceable to the memorandum. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "West v. Lynch" on Justia Law