Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

by
An action to recover civil penalties for violation of the preconstruction requirements for major emitting facilities under 42 U.S.C. 7475(a) must be brought within five years of the first day of the alleged construction period. The Government filed suit against Luminant, alleging that the company violated the Clean Air Act by failing to obtain a statutorily mandated preconstruction permit for the modification of their facilities. The district court dismissed the government's civil penalty and injunctive relief claims as time barred, and held that the injunctive relief claims were subject to dismissal for lack of jurisdiction. The Fifth Circuit held that the government, in its sovereign capacity, was exempted from the concurrent remedies doctrine; the statute of limitations did not apply to the government's claims for injunctive relief that were not civil fines, penalties, or forfeitures; there was no support for the district court's assumption that it was without jurisdiction to entertain any injunctive relief based on past violations of section 7475(a); and thus the district court was not barred by the statute of limitations, nor by the absence of jurisdiction, from further considering whether equitable relief may in some form be available to the government. Accordingly, the court remanded the injunctive relief claims for further consideration. View "United States v. Luminant Generation Co." on Justia Law

by
PRP Group, an association cooperating with the EPA to pay costs associated with cleanup of a superfund site in Pasadena, Texas, filed suit against 1200 parties they believed should be responsible for part of the environmental remediation costs. PRP Group filed claims under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), and its state law counterpart, the Texas Solid Waste Disposal Act (TSWDA). The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's order denying the state agency and university defendants' motion to dismiss, holding that the agencies and universities were entitled to state sovereign immunity. Therefore, the district court erred when it concluded that state sovereign immunity did not bar PRP Group's CERCLA claims. The court likewise reversed as to PRP's state law claims. View "US Oil Recovery Site Potentially Responsible Parties Group v. Railroad Commission of Texas" on Justia Law

by
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision holding that Texas complied with the National Environment Protection Act (NEPA) in planning for three highway projects in Austin. The court held that TxDot complied with NEPA by studying the three highway projects as separate projects, instead of as a single project, to determine their environmental impacts. The court also held that, given the overpass project's limited scope and location over busy urban intersections, it was not arbitrary and capricious for TxDot to limit its cumulative impact analysis where the record supported its finding that the project would have no significant direct or indirect impact. View "Fath v. Texas Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

by
The Corps and Bayou Bridge appealed the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction preventing Bayou Bridge from constructing a pipeline in part through the Atchafalaya Basin of southern Louisiana. The Fifth Circuit vacated the preliminary injunction, holding that the district court misperceived the applicable regulations, and the Corps' analysis, properly understood, vindicated its decision that an environmental assessment sufficed under these circumstances. In this case, the environmental assessments concerning the permit did not exhibit the Supreme Court's criteria for an arbitrary and capricious decision. Furthermore, the district court abused its discretion by misapplying applicable legal principles and by inadvertently but critically overlooking the Louisiana Wetland Rapid Assessment Method. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Atchafalaya Basinkeeper v. U.S. Army Corps" on Justia Law

by
Front Street filed a citizen suit under the Clean Air Act (CAA), 42 U.S.C. 7604, to enjoin Mississippi Silicon from constructing a silicon plant. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the claim against Mississippi Silicon where section 7604(a)(3) did not authorize suits against facilities that have either obtained a permit or were in the process of doing so, and thus it did not apply here. The court held, however, that the district court should not have dismissed the claims against MDEQ based on the time-of-filing rule. In this case, Front Street has cited no decision in which the Supreme Court or a Circuit Court has held that the time-of-filing rule applies to facts like those in the present case. The court rejected Mississippi Silicon's argument that Front Street lacked standing to appeal their claim against MDEQ. Finally, the court denied Mississippi Silicon's motion for attorneys' fees. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "16 Front Street, LLC v. Mississippi Silicon, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Front Street filed a citizen suit under the Clean Air Act (CAA), 42 U.S.C. 7604, to enjoin Mississippi Silicon from constructing a silicon plant. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the claim against Mississippi Silicon where section 7604(a)(3) did not authorize suits against facilities that have either obtained a permit or were in the process of doing so, and thus it did not apply here. The court held, however, that the district court should not have dismissed the claims against MDEQ based on the time-of-filing rule. In this case, Front Street has cited no decision in which the Supreme Court or a Circuit Court has held that the time-of-filing rule applies to facts like those in the present case. The court rejected Mississippi Silicon's argument that Front Street lacked standing to appeal their claim against MDEQ. Finally, the court denied Mississippi Silicon's motion for attorneys' fees. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "16 Front Street, LLC v. Mississippi Silicon, LLC" on Justia Law

by
ExxonMobil’s 859-mile long Pegasus Pipeline transports crude oil from Patoka, Illinois to Nederland, Texas. In March 2013, it ruptured, spilling several thousand barrels of oil near Mayflower, Arkansas. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, within the U.S. Department of Transportation, conducted an investigation and concluded that ExxonMobil violated several pipeline safety regulations under the Pipeline Safety Act, 49 U.S.C. 60101. Specifically, the agency found that the integrity management program (IMP) plan had not properly accounted for the risk of longitudinal seam failure and that this was a contributing factor in the Mayflower release. The agency assessed a $2.6 million civil penalty and ordered ExxonMobil to take certain actions to ensure compliance with those regulations. The Fifth Circuit vacated certain items in the order. Finding that it owed no deference to the agency’s interpretation of the regulation, the court concluded that ExxonMobil reasonably applied 49 CFR 195.452(e)(1)’s instruction to “consider” all relevant risk factors in making its pipeline susceptibility determination. The court remanded with an instruction to reevaluate the basis for the penalty associated with another violation. View "ExxonMobil Pipeline Co. v. United States Department of Transportation" on Justia Law