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

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CCA filed suit challenging Amendment 40 to the Reef Fish Fishery Management Plan and the Final Rule implementing that amendment. Amendment 40 was proposed as a means to address problems that had arisen with the red snapper fishery, and the Final Rule contains measures to establish two components within the recreational sector for Gulf of Mexico red snapper: a federal charter component and a private angling component. The district court granted summary judgment for defendants and intervenors. The court concluded that Amendment 40 does not create a separate quota for charter fishing. Rather, Amendment 40 subdivides the recreational sector into private and charter components. The court also concluded that, although the Council’s analysis does not offer quantitative predictions of the effects that Amendment 40 might have on the fishing community, the Council used the best available data to reasonably “assess, specify, and analyze” the likely economic and social effects of Amendment 40. Finally, the court concluded that the selection of data ranges used to calculate quota allocations was not arbitrary and capricious. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Coastal Conservation Association v. U.S. Department of Commerce" on Justia Law

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The Commission issued two citations to Noranda and assessed penalties for the citations. Noranda's upper management and counsel later realized that the assessment had been paid even though Noranda apparently had intended to contest the citations rather than pay the assessment. Noranda petitions for review of the Commission's order denying a motion to reopen, seeking to adjudicate the citation and penalty on the merits. Because the Commission has not applied its "internal processing system" rule consistently, the court found that the Commission abused its discretion by arbitrarily denying Noranda’s motion to reopen. Accordingly, the court granted the petition and remanded for further proceedings. On remand, the court noted that the Commission may very well deny Noranda’s motion to reopen, but it must do so with more clarity than it showed in the first instance. View "Noranda Alumina, LLC. v. Perez" on Justia Law

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After Hurricane Katrina, Congress directed the Corps to close the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet (MR-GO) as a federal navigation project and restore the surrounding ecosystem. The Corps sought a cost-sharing arrangement with Louisiana. Louisiana objected and filed suit under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 706(2), contending that the Corps’ decision, expressed in two Corps reports to Congress, was arbitrary and capricious and an abuse of discretion because the relevant statutes require the federal government to bear 100 percent of the costs. The district court agreed with Louisiana and rejected a statute of limitations challenge to the suit and concluded that the relevant statutes unambiguously require the Corps to bear all of the costs of deauthorizing the MR-GO. The court bifurcated the limitations issue and found Louisiana’s APA challenge to the closure portion of the deauthorization project timely filed, but dismissed the challenge to the Corps’ decision concerning the ecosystem restoration project because the agency has not taken final action under the APA. On the merits, the court reversed the district court’s judgment that overturned the required cost-sharing between Louisiana and the Corps, which constitutes a reasonable interpretation of ambiguous statutes. View "Louisiana State v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers" on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenge the EPA's action disapproving Oklahoma’s and Texas’s plans for controlling regional haze and imposing EPA’s own plans instead. The court denied EPA’s motion to dismiss or transfer because the Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. 7401, gives jurisdiction over petitions for review to the courts of appeal generally and because the Act’s forum selection clause designates the regional circuit as the appropriate venue for this challenge. The court granted the motion for a stay pending resolution of the petitions for review on the merits because petitioners have demonstrated a strong likelihood of success on the merits, because they are likely to suffer irreparable injury in the absence of a stay while EPA has not shown similar injury from the issuance of a stay, and because the public interest weighs in favor of a stay. View "State of Texas v. EPA" on Justia Law

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Landowners challenged the Service's final designation of critical habitat for the dusky gopher frog. The district court granted summary judgment for Landowners on the issue of standing and granted summary judgment for the Service on the merits. The court concluded that Landowners have standing to challenge the Service’s critical-habitat designation. The court also concluded that the designation of Unit 1 as critical habitat was not arbitrary and capricious nor based upon an unreasonable interpretation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), 16 U.S.C. 1531, where the Service reasonably determined (1) that designating occupied habitat alone would be inadequate to ensure the conservation of the dusky gopher frog and (2) that Unit 1 is essential for the conservation of the frog. Even if the court assumed that Landowners are correct that the economic benefits of exclusion outweigh the conservation benefits of designation, the Service is still not obligated to exclude Unit 1. That decision is committed to the agency’s discretion and is not reviewable. Because Landowners concede that the critical habitat provision of the ESA is a valid exercise of Congress’s Commerce Clause authority, the court can likewise conclude that the application of the ESA’s critical habitat provision to Unit 1 is a constitutional exercise of the Commerce Clause power. Finally, the court concluded that the Service was not required to complete an environmental impact statement before designating Unit 1 as critical habitat for the dusky gopher frog, and Landowners lack standing to sue to enforce the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Markle Interests v. US Fish & Wildlife Serv." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against Exxon, alleging that Exxon violated the federal permits governing operations at the Baytown industrial complex thousands of times over a nearly eight year period. The district court issued findings of fact and conclusions of law denying most of plaintiffs’ claims and declining to order any relief. Exxon's Baytown industrial complex is governed by the five federal operating permits issued under Title V of the the Clean Air Act (CCA), 42 U.S.C. 7661a-7661d. The court concluded that the district court erred in its analysis of Exxon’s liability under Counts I through IV and abused its discretion in assessing three of the CAA’s mandatory penalty factors. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's judgment and remanded for assessment of penalties based on the violations that are properly considered “actionable” in light of this opinion. View "Environment Texas Citizen Lobby v. ExxonMobil" on Justia Law