Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

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Sierra Club filed a petition for the Administrator of the EPA to object to a renewal of an operating permit under Title V of the Clean Air Act issued by the State of Utah for the Hunter Power Plant. After the Administrator denied the petition for objection without examining the merits of Sierra Club's claim, Sierra Club sought vacatur and remand. The DC Circuit held that venue was not proper in this court, because the order denying the petition or objection was neither a nationally applicable regulation nor determined by the Administrator to have nationwide scope or effect. Accordingly, the court dismissed the petition for review under section 307(b)(1) of the Clean Air Act. View "Sierra Club v. EPA" on Justia Law

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Petitioners sought review of FERC's decision authorizing the construction and operation of a new natural gas compression facility in Davidson County. The DC Circuit denied the petition and held that FERC did not violate the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by failing to adequately assess alternatives to the proposed action. In this case, the environmental assessment reflected that the Commission considered twelve alternatives and evaluated each with respect to eighteen different environmental factors. Despite the court's misgivings regarding the Commission's decidedly less-than-dogged efforts to obtain the information it says it would need to determine that downstream greenhouse gas emissions qualify as a reasonably foreseeable indirect effect of the project, the court held that petitioners failed to raise this record-development issue in the proceedings before the Commission. Accordingly, the court lacked jurisdiction to decide whether the Commission acted arbitrarily or capriciously and violated NEPA by failing to further develop the record in this case. View "Birckhead v. FERC" on Justia Law

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After the DC Circuit held that the Corps violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when it issued a permit to the Dominion to construct the Surry-Skiffes Creek-Whealton project and vacated the permit, the Corps and Dominion sought panel rehearing solely on the issue of remedy. Neither petitioner bothered to advise the court that construction on the project had been completed and the transmission lines electrified the week before the court issued its opinion. The court remanded the case to the district court to consider whether vacatur remains the appropriate remedy, including whether petitioners have forfeited or are judicially estopped from now opposing vacatur. View "National Parks Conservation Assoc. v. Semonite" on Justia Law

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Sierra Club challenged the EPA's adoption of a final rule modifying its regulations for air monitoring networks. The DC Circuit held that Sierra Club was barred from seeking review of the claimed legal requirement that monitoring plans be assessed under the same procedures as state implemented plans (SIPS) because the new rule and EPA's preamble did no more than echo a prior EPA regulation; Sierra Club lacked standing to attack the sampling frequency changes; and Sierra Club failed to make a showing that the asserted non-response on quality assurance issues manifested any failure to consider factors relevant to the changes. Accordingly, the court dismissed Sierra Club's first two claims and denied the third. View "Sierra Club v. EPA" on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged the EPA's 2017 rule establishing a process for updating the inventory of chemicals manufactured or processed in the United States under the Toxic Substances Control Act, alleging that the rule unlawfully shields information from public disclosure. The DC Circuit affirmed the petition for review in part and held that petitioner correctly determined that the EPA's elimination of questions pertaining to reverse engineering was arbitrary and capricious. Accordingly, the court ordered a limited remand, without vacatur, for the EPA to address its arbitrary elimination of substantiation questions regarding reverse engineering. The court otherwise denied the petition. View "Environmental Defense Fund v. EPA" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied the States' petition for review of the EPA's decision to refuse to expand the Northeast Ozone Transport Region to include the upwind States of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, West Virginia, and the remaining portions of Virginia. The court held that EPA's denial of the States' petition complied with the Clean Air Act and was a reasonable exercise of the agency's discretion. The court held that many of the States' arguments against EPA's denial derive from a fundamental misunderstanding of the scope of EPA's discretion; even if the States were correct that EPA's other Clean Air Act tools will not on their own completely solve the interstate ozone transport problem, this would not make enlargement of the transport region mandatory; EPA adequately explained the facts and policy concerns it relied on, recounted its historical use of the good-neighbor provision and the ongoing downward trend in ozone pollution, and therefore had a sufficient basis in the record for predicting that improvement would continue under the current regulatory scheme; and, with respect to the Northeast Region, EPA did not find equity irrelevant, as the States contend, but rather determined that any equitable concerns could not alone dictate the disposition of the petition. View "State of New York v. EPA" on Justia Law

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Oceana challenged the Standardized Bycatch Reporting Methodology adopted in 2015 by the Fisheries Service, claiming that the methodology violated the Magnuson–Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Fisheries Service, holding that the Fisheries Service has met its obligation under the Sustainable Fisheries Act to establish a standardized methodology. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by not requiring that the agency produce or include on a privilege log documents covered by the deliberative-process privilege. View "Oceana, Inc. v. Ross" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit held that the Corps' grant of a permit allowing a utility company to build a series of electrical transmission towers across the historic James River was arbitrary and capricious. In this case, the Corps granted the permit without preparing an environmental impact statement (EIS), based on its finding that the project had "no significant impact" on historic treasures along the river. The court reversed and held that important questions about the Corps' chosen methodology and the scope of the project's impact remained unanswered. The court also held that federal and state agencies with relevant expertise had serious misgivings about locating a project of this magnitude in a region of such singular importance to the nation's history. Therefore, the court remanded with instructions to vacate the permit and directed the Corps to prepare an EIS. View "National Parks Conservation Assoc. v. Semonite" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit granted a petition for review of FERC's orders finding that California and Oregon had not waived their water quality certification authority under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and that PacifiCorp had diligently prosecuted its relicensing application for the Klamath Hydroelectric Project. At issue was whether states waive Section 401 authority by deferring review and agreeing with a licensee to treat repeatedly withdrawn and resubmitted water quality certification requests as new requests. The court held that the withdrawal-and-resubmission of water quality certification requests did not trigger new statutory periods of review. Therefore, California and Oregon have waived their Section 401 authority with regard to the Project. Furthermore, the court disagreed that a finding of waiver was futile. View "Hoopa Valley Tribe v. FERC" on Justia Law

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Industry and environmental petitioners challenged EPA's determination that it could not, on the basis of "available information," classify three of the 61 areas under the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for sulfur dioxide as meeting or not meeting the air quality standard, and that it must therefore designate them as "unclassifiable." The DC Circuit dismissed the Board's petition for review and held that the Board failed to demonstrate that EPA's "unclassifiable" designation, compared to the "attainment" designation the Board claimed to have been required, subjected it to any cognizable injury. The court denied Sierra Club's petition for review and held that Sierra Club's sole objection was not raised during the period for public comment and thus EPA's resolution of a petition for reconsideration was not before the court. Finally, the court denied Samuel Masias' petition and held that the EPA acted reasonably by issuing an "unclassifiable" designation for Colorado Springs. View "Masias v. EPA" on Justia Law