Justia Environmental Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
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In 1996, when she was an infant, Cynthia's family moved to the "Acreage" in Palm Beach County, Florida, about 10 miles from undeveloped land that Pratt used for tests that contaminated the soil. By 1993, most of the soil at the site required removal. Cynthia’s parents allege that in 1993-2000, Pratt excavated contaminated soil that was sold as “fill” for the Acreage and that runoff from the contaminated soil leached into the Acreage’s water supply. In 2009, the Florida Department of Health found a cluster of pediatric brain cancer cases in the Acreage. In 2009, doctors diagnosed Cynthia with ependymoma brain cancer, which metastasized to her spine. Doctors detected thorium-230 in Cynthia’s spine hundreds of times higher than would normally be expected. Cynthia turned 18 in 2014 and filed suit, alleging she was unaware of the contamination until 2014. Cynthia died in 2016. Her Florida law wrongful death by negligence and trespass claims were untimely under Florida's four-year limitations period. With respect to claims under the Price-Anderson Act, 42 U.S.C. 2210(n)(2), her parents cited the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. 9601, which tolls the statute of limitations until a plaintiff knows (or reasonably should have known) her injury was caused by a hazardous substance, or until the plaintiff reaches the age of majority.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit CERCLA’s discovery-tolling provision applies only to actions “brought under State law.” Actions under the Price-Anderson Act borrow from the state where the incident occurred, so Florida’s four-year statute of limitations governs. View "Santiago v. Raytheon Technologies Corp." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Corps, holding that the district court properly determined that it was reasonable for the Corps to conclude that environmental effects of phosphogypsum production and storage fell outside the scope of its National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) review. The court held that the Corps otherwise complied with NEPA by issuing an area-wide environmental-impact statement, which served as the mine-specific impact statement for each of the four proposed mine sites, and following that up with a supplemental environmental assessment of the South Pasture Mine Extension, before issuing the Section 404 permit related to that mine in a record of decision.Finally, the court held that the Corps did not violate section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act, which requires each agency to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service before taking an "action" to ensure that such action was not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species or its habitat. View "Center for Biological Diversity v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers" on Justia Law

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The EPA has discretion not to commence withdrawal proceedings under 40 C.F.R. 123.64(b) even if it finds that a state's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program has not always complied with the requirements of the Clean Water Act (CWA).The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the EPA's decision affirming its previous refusal to commence withdrawal proceedings against Alabama. In regard to the four alleged violations, the court held that the EPA reasonably construed the statutory and regulatory text. The court also held that the EPA's decision not to commence withdrawal proceedings in the face of these alleged violations was not arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law. View "Cahaba Riverkeeper v. Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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The panel denied the petition for panel rehearing and rehearing en banc, affirming the panel's January 12, 2018 opinion affirming the district court. In the January opinion, the panel determined that no reasonable fact finder could conclude that the injuries of a killer whale held in captivity, Lolita, presented a "threat of serious harm" sufficient to trigger liability under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The opinion reflected the panel's determination that the law would be better served by announcing the "threat of serious harm" rule, without defining its contours, and allowing district courts the flexibility to apply that rule to future circumstances with which they are presented. The panel held that the January opinion aligned with Congress's intent in drafting the ESA: to prevent extinction. Finally, the panel rejected PETA's alternative argument that the panel's reading of the ESA conflicted with regulatory definitions. View "People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc. v. Miami Seaquarium" on Justia Law

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Conservationists filed suit under the Clean Water Act and Florida law, challenging the Corps' decisions about when and how to release water from certain locks along the Okeechobee Waterway. The district court dismissed the complaint based on the Corps' sovereign immunity. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, holding that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19(b) required the dismissal of this case regardless of whether the court agreed with the Water District's sequencing argument on cross-appeal or the Corps' sovereign immunity argument. The court need not reach those matters because the Water District was an indispensable party under Rule 19(b) and thus the action may not proceed without the Water District. View "Florida Wildlife Federation Inc. v. US Army Corps of Engineers" on Justia Law