Justia Environmental Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals

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This appeal concerned the EPA's decision in 2012 that it needed further studies before it could set a new, joint, "secondary" national ambient air quality standard for oxides of nitrogen and oxides of sulphur, and other related compounds found in the ambient air and considered precursors of acid deposits on the land and in the waters of the continental United States. At issue was whether EPA's decision to defer adopting a new standard at this time, pending further scientific study, violated the Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. 7409(d)(1). The court concluded that, because the Act requires a reasoned judgment, and because EPA found it could not form one, EPA's explanation conformed to the authorizing statute. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review. View "Center for Biological Diversity, et al. v. EPA, et al." on Justia Law

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Guardians and other environmental groups petitioned the EPA to add coal mines to the regulated list of statutory source categories under the Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. 7411(b)(1)(A). EPA denied the petition, explaining that it must prioritize its actions in light of limited resources and ongoing budget uncertainties. The court found that the EPA's action easily passed muster under the "extremely limited" and "highly deferential" standard that governed the court's review of an agency's denial of a rulemaking petition. The reasons given were consistent with the agency's delegated authority and supported by the record. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review. View "WildEarth Guardians v. EPA, et al." on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged the EPA's Final Rule regarding the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for fine particulate matter under Section 307(b)(1) of the Clean Air Act (CAA), 42 U.S.C. 7607(b)(1), 7607(d)(9). The court concluded that the EPA did not fail to request comment on whether to revise the NAAQS where the preamble to the EPA's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking requested comments on "all issues" related to the agency's proposal to lower the level of the particulate matter NAAQS; the EPA offered reasoned explanations for how it approached and weighed the evidence, and why the scientific evidence supported revision of the NAAQS; and the court rejected petitioners' contention that the EPA did not respond when petitioners' comments cited certain studies that supported retention of the existing particulate matter NAAQS because the EPA acted within its discretion by addressing the more significant comments. The court also concluded that the EPA fulfilled its obligation to reasonably explain its decision not to employ spatial averaging. The court rejected petitioners' challenge to the EPA's new requirement that States place monitors near heavily trafficked roads in large metropolitan areas where the statutory scheme granted the EPA substantial discretion and the EPA's decision and explanation were at least reasonable. Finally, the court rejected petitioners' argument that the EPA should not have issued, or at least should not require compliance with, the 2013 NAAQS without first providing States and regulated certain implementation guidance. Accordingly, the court denied the petitions for review. View "Nat'l Assoc. of Manufacturers v. EPA, et al." on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged the 2013 Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) issued under section 211(o) of the Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. 7545(o). The court held that Monroe Energy had Article III standing to challenge the Final Rule. On the merits, the court concluded that, in the absence of any express or implied statutory directive to consider particular factors, EPA reasonably concluded that it enjoyed broad discretion regarding whether and in what circumstances to reduce the advanced biofuel and total renewable fuel volumes under the cellulosic biofuel waiver provision. The court rejected Monroe Energy's arguments regarding vacatur of the Final Rule because it was untimely issued. EPA's decision to preserve the 2013 fuel standards while extending the compliance deadline to June 30, 2014 was reasonable. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Monroe Energy, LLC v. EPA" on Justia Law

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After the Forest Service denied Ark's Emergency Petition seeking "roadless" designation for roughly 1,000 acres on Burnt Mountain and suspension of the Aspen Skiing Company's authorization to cut trees on that land, Ark filed suit against the Service in district court. The district court granted summary judgment to the Service and denied reconsideration. As a threshold matter, the court concluded that Ark had Article III standing to challenge the Service's final action denying the Emergency Petition. On the merits, the court concluded that the Service's denial of the Emergency Petition was not arbitrary or capricious or contrary to law, and Ark failed to show an abuse of discretion on reconsideration. View "Ark Initiative, et al. v. Tidwell, et al." on Justia Law

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The EPA promulgated emission standards for a number of listed hazardous air pollutants emitted by coal- and oil-fired electric utility steam generating units. In this complex case, the court addressed the challenges to the EPA's Final Rule by State, Industry, and Labor petitioners, by Industry petitioners to specific aspects of the Final Rule, by Environmental petitioners, and by Julander Energy Company. The court held that the EPA's finding in the Final Rule was substantively and procedurally valid, and consequently any purported defects in the 2000 finding have been cured, rendering petitioners' challenge to the December 2000 "appropriate and necessary," finding moot; because the EPA's approach was based on a permissible construction of section 112(n)(1)(A) of the Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. 7412(n)(1)(A), it was entitled to deference and must be upheld; the EPA reasonably concluded it need not consider costs in making its "appropriate and necessary" determination; the EPA did not err in considering environmental effects alongside health effects for purposes of the "appropriate and necessary" determination; the EPA did find, as petitioners contended that it was required to do, that electric utility steam generating units (EGUs) emissions alone would cause health hazards; the EPA reasonably concluded that the framework set forth in section 112(c) and 112(d) provided the appropriate mechanism for regulating EGUs under section 112 after the "appropriate and necessary" determination was made; and the EPA's conclusion that it may regulate all hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) emissions from EGUs must be upheld. The court also concluded that the EPA's "appropriate and necessary" determination in 2000, and its reaffirmation of that determination in 2012, were amply supported by EPA's findings regarding the health effects of mercury exposure; the EPA reasonably declined to interpret section 112 as mandating classification of EGUs as major sources and area sources; the EPA's data-collection process when calculating the maximum achievable control technology (MACT) floor for mercury emissions from existing coal-fired EGUs was reasonable, even if it may not have resulted in a perfect dataset; the court rejected UARG's petition to remove coal-fired EGUs from the list of sources regulated under section 112; the EPA did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in relying on the chromium emissions data to which petitioners objected; Industry petitioners' circulating fluidized bed EGUs-related arguments were unavailing; the court rejected Industry petitioners' arguments regarding lignite-fired EGUs; and the EPA's decision not to issue a blanket deadline extension was not arbitrary and capricious. Finally, the court rejected challenges by Environmental petitioners and Julander Energy Company. Accordingly, the court denied the petitions challenging the Final Rule. View "White Stallion Energy Center v. EPA" on Justia Law

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Petitioners, three non-profit environmental and wildlife organizations, filed suit challenging EPA's decisions concerning both the primary and secondary standards for carbon monoxide. The primary standards for carbon monoxide have remained the same since 1971 and there has not been a secondary standard for carbon monoxide since EPA revoked a secondary standard in 1985. In 2011, EPA decided to keep things as they were: to retain the same primary standards and to continue without a secondary standard. The court concluded that EPA acted reasonably in retaining the same primary standards for carbon monoxide, and that petitioners lacked Article III standing to challenge EPA's decision not to set a secondary standard for carbon monoxide. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review of the primary standards and dismissed the petition for review of the secondary standard for lack of standing. View "Communities for a Better Environment, et al. v. EPA" on Justia Law

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This case involved numerous claims concerning environmental hazards at three sites on Navajo land in Arizona. El Paso, the successor-in-interest to the corporation that mined uranium at the Mill, filed suit against the United States and others, raising claims under the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act of 1978, 42 U.S.C. 7901-7942, and the Solid Waste Disposal Act, commonly referred to as the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA), 42 U.S.C. 6901-6992k. The Tribe intervened and asserted parallel claims under these acts, as well as additional claims against the Government. The court reversed the dismissal "with prejudice" of El Paso's RCRA claims that related to the Dump; remanded with instructions to the district court to enter judgment against El Paso "without prejudice;" vacated the district court's dismissal of El Passo's RCRA claims as to the Highway 160 Site; remanded the case so that these claims could be considered on the merits; and the court affirmed the judgment of the district court in all other respects. View "El Paso Natural Gas Co. v. United States, et al." on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged 2009 and 2012 final rules issued by EPA revising the new source performance standards for steam generating units. The court concluded that, because EPA has not yet resolved petitioners' petitions for reconsideration, the only objections that were properly before the court were those the petitioners made during the public comment periods. The court concluded that EPA reasonably concluded that a unit emitting more than 0.03 lb/MMBtu should remain "subject to an opacity limit" and "use a COMS or perform periodic visual inspections to comply with the opacity standard" to verify that the pollution control and monitoring systems were operating properly; UARG's procedural objection to the allegedly inadequate notice and opportunity to comment was moot; UARG's contention that EPA failed to respond to comments on the 2008 proposal was moot; and the court rejected Texas' challenges to EPA's refusal to allow state-law affirmative defenses against the enforcement of new source performance standards. Accordingly, the court denied the petitions for review. View "Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA" on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged the FAA's no hazard determinations in 2012 for proposed wind turbines in Nantucket Sound. The court concluded that the FAA could reasonably view its Handbook procedures implementing the Secretary's regulations to establish a threshold finding necessary to trigger a further "adverse effects" analysis; given the record evidence and the level of FAA expertise involved in drawing factual conclusions from the reports, conducting the aeronautical study, and responding to comments, petitioners failed to show that the FAA findings were unsupported by substantial evidence; and petitioners' contention that the FAA was required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4332, to perform or participate in an analysis of the environmental impacts of its no hazard determinations was based on a flawed premise. Accordingly, the court denied the petitions for review. View "Town of Barnstable, MA v. FAA" on Justia Law