Justia Environmental Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
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The DC Circuit denied the Refinery's motion to proceed under a pseudonym. The court weighed the markedly thin showing of potential injury by the Refinery against the substantial public interest in transparency and openness in cases involving the government's administration of an important statutory and regulatory scheme, holding that the Refinery has not overcome the customary and constitutionally-impeded presumption of openness in judicial proceedings.In this case, the Refinery has failed to demonstrate that requiring it to proceed in its own name will risk the disclosure of sensitive and highly personal information; the Refinery itself faces no risk of physical or mental harm; and the Refinery has chosen to sue a government agency regarding the operation of a statutory program and, in particular, applications for special exemptions from the law's obligations. The court held that none of the factors commonly involved in analyzing a request to proceed anonymously weigh in the Refinery's favor. Furthermore, the Refinery's additional arguments add nothing to its side of the scale either. View "In re: Sealed Case" on Justia Law

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The EPA issued a regulation known as the Pathways II Rule, allowing renewable-fuel producers to use a measurement method "certified by a voluntary consensus standards body" (VCSB), or a method "that would produce reasonably accurate results as demonstrated through peer reviewed references." EPA then issued the Cellulosic Guidance to explain its interpretation of the applicable regulatory requirements and clarify the types of analyses and demonstrations that might meet them.The DC Circuit dismissed in part and denied in part POET's petition for review of the Cellulosic Guidance. The court held that POET's challenge to the Guidance's treatment of VCSB-certified methods is unripe because no such method yet exists and POET's registration efforts rely on the peer-reviewed alternative. In regard to POET's challenge to the Guidance's discussion of peer-reviewed methods, the court held that the Guidance announces a final, interpretive rule that lawfully construes the underlying regulation. View "POET Biorefining, LLC v. Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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Meritor filed suit challenging the EPA's listing of the Rockwell facility and surrounding areas to the National Priorities List, alleging that the listing is arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to governing regulations. The National Priorities List identifies hazardous waste sites in most urgent need of cleanup based on the threat that they pose to public and environmental health and to the public welfare.The DC Circuit denied the petition for review, holding that the EPA did not act arbitrarily and capriciously by evaluating the Rockwell Site based on measurements taken before the sub-slab depressurization system was installed; by relying on a residential health benchmark when evaluating the "targets" metrics; and in calculating the "waste characteristics" component of the subsurface intrusion pathway. View "Meritor, Inc. v. Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit granted a petition for review of the EPA's denial of New York's petition challenging the EPA's asserted failure to address cross-border pollution under the Clean Air Act's Good Neighbor Provision, 42 U.S.C. 7410(a)(2)(D)(i). New York petitioned the EPA to find that power-generating and other facilities in nine different States were violating the Good Neighbor Provision by producing emissions that contributed significantly to New York's difficulty attaining or maintaining compliance with the 2008 and 2015 National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone.The court held that the EPA offered insufficient reasoning for the convoluted and seemingly unworkable showing it demanded of New York's petition. The court also held that the EPA's finding that New York did not have an air quality problem under the 2008 National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone relied on two faulty interpretations of the Clean Air Act that have since been invalidated. Accordingly, the court vacated the EPA's decision and remanded for further proceedings. View "New York v. Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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In these consolidated petitions, petitioners challenged area designations promulgated by the EPA for the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) applicable to ground-level ozone, i.e., smog.The court found that at least one petitioner has standing to challenge each of the designations at issue. In this case, Government Petitioners have adequately demonstrated standing based on direct injuries rather than parens patriae status. On the merits, the court granted Jefferson County's petition and held that EPA has, without explanation, treated similarly situated areas—Jefferson and Boles—differently and drawn conflicting conclusions from the same data. Therefore, such inconsistent treatment is the hallmark of arbitrary agency action and requires further explanation from the EPA. The court also granted petitions for review for Monroe County, Ottawa County, Weld County, Door County, and Sheboygan County. The court denied Lake County's petition for review and granted EPA's motion to remand. View "Clean Wisconsin v. Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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Appellants, conservative organizations and a safari guide, filed suit challenging the Service's actions governing the import of sport-hunted animal trophies from Africa. Initially, appellants challenged certain findings the Service made, the Service then withdrew some findings following the outcome of a similar case, and then the Service announced that in the future it would proceed by informal adjudication.The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's rejection of appellants' claims on appeal, holding that appellants' challenges to the 2017 Zimbabwe findings are moot because the March Memo had already eliminated their legal effects. The court rejected appellants' challenges to the March Memo's withdrawal of more than twenty prior enhancements and on-detriment findings, and held that the district court's approach of evaluating the effect of each withdrawal in the March Memo individually was proper under the circumstances. Finally, the court rejected appellants' argument that it was unlawful for the Service to announce it would proceed in the future to implement the Endangered Species Act through informal adjudication. View "Friends of Animals v. Bernhardt" on Justia Law

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Solenex challenged the Secretary's cancellation of its oil and gas lease in the Badger-Two Medicine Area. The district court ruled in favor of Solenex, concluding that the amount of time that had elapsed between the lease's issuance and its cancellation violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and the Secretary failed to consider Solenex's reliance interests before cancelling the lease.The DC Circuit held that delay by itself is not enough to render the lease cancellation arbitrary and capricious. The court also held that the Secretary did consider, and in fact compensated, Solenex's identified reliance interests. Therefore, the district court's determinations were erroneous and the court vacated the judgment. View "Solenex LLC v. Bernhardt" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit granted Maryland's petition for review of the EPA's denial of its Clean Air Act section 126(b) petition requesting that the EPA impose additional limitations on certain upwind sources that were purportedly contributing to the state's nonattainment of the national ozone standards. The EPA applied the same four-step framework it developed in the implementation of section 110 and denied the section 126(b) petition at Step Three. The EPA concluded that Maryland failed to identify further cost-effective emission reductions at sources operating with catalytic controls. For the remaining sources named in Maryland's petition, the EPA explained that non-catalytic controls were not cost-effective in this context.The court held that the EPA's determination was inadequate with respect to non-catalytic controls and therefore granted Maryland's petition for review in part, remanding the issue to the EPA. The court denied all other petitions for review from Delaware and a coalition of environmental groups. The court rejected some of the EPA's Step One determinations, but found, with one exception, that it reasonably denied the petitions at Step Three. View "Maryland v. Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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Hall filed suit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), seeking records from the EPA related to the agency's purported adoption of a "nonacquiescence decision." The judgment at issue is that of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in Iowa League of Cities v. EPA, 711 F.3d 844 (8th Cir. 2013).The DC Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment to the EPA, holding that the date on which the EPA reached a final decision to not acquiesce remains a genuine issue of disputed material fact. In this case, the issue of whether the EPA settled on its nonacquiescence position at the time of that press statement on November 19, 2013, or in the days leading up to it, determines whether the documents regarding that nonacquiescence decision are predecisional and, as such, may qualify for withholding under the EPA's deliberative process privilege. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Hall & Assoc. v. EPA" on Justia Law

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When the EPA promulgated the emission standard for pulp mill combustion sources in 2001, EPA addressed some but not all the hazardous air pollutants they are known to emit. In 2017, EPA conducted its first section 112(d)(6) of the Clean Air Act review and revision of the 2001 standard, but decided only to review the standard's limits on emissions of the toxics the standard already controlled, leaving unlimited several other hazardous toxics that the sources are known to emit but that were left out of the 2001 Rule. Petitioners challenged the 2017 Rule's failure to correct the standard's acknowledged under-inclusiveness during the section 112(d)(6) review.The DC Circuit held that, because the Act necessitates section 112-compliant emission standards for each source category, and section 112(d)(6) requires EPA at least every eight years to review and revise emission standards "as necessary," EPA's section 112(d)(6) review of a source category's emission standard must address all listed air toxics the source category emits. Because the 2017 Rule failed to do this, the court granted the petition for review, remanding the rule without vacatur and directing the EPA to set limits on the listed air toxics that pulp mill combustion sources are known to emit but that EPA has yet to control. The court dismissed as moot the denial of the petition for reconsideration. View "Louisiana Environmental Action Network v. EPA" on Justia Law