Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

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The First Circuit upheld the decision of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to impose a limit - through a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit - on the amount of nitrogen that the Taunton Wastewater Treatment Plant may discharge. After the final permit issued, the City of Taunton, Massachusetts appealed to the Environmental Appeals Board (EAB), challenging both the need for any nitrogen limit and the specific limit that the permit imposed. The EAB denied the City’s administrative appeal on the merits. The City then appealed to the First Circuit, challenging the final agency action on various procedural and substantive grounds. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that none of the City’s procedural or substantive challenges had merit. View "City of Taunton v. United States Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Plaintiffs’ two suits against the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), holding that the EPA’s role in developing and approving several total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) in Massachusetts and Rhode Island did not constitute a decision that required the EPA to send notices under 40 C.F.R. 124.52(b), a regulation promulgated under the Clean Water Act (Act). In this case, Plaintiffs argued that, in helping to develop and in approving the TDMLs at issue, the EPA made certain determinations that triggered a duty to send notices in compliance with 40 C.F.R. 124.52(b). The lower courts found that these suits had no toehold in the Act’s limited authorization of citizen suits against the EPA, which is otherwise entitled to sovereign immunity. The First Circuit disagreed, holding (1) the EPA’s approval of the TMDLs was not a decision that an individual permit was required within the meaning of the statute; (2) the EPA’s approval of the TMDLs did not therefore trigger the notice requirement; and (3) consequently, the complaints alleged no failure by the EPA to perform a nondiscretionary duty. View "Conservation Law Foundation v. Pruitt" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Plaintiffs’ two suits against the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), holding that the EPA’s role in developing and approving several total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) in Massachusetts and Rhode Island did not constitute a decision that required the EPA to send notices under 40 C.F.R. 124.52(b), a regulation promulgated under the Clean Water Act (Act). In this case, Plaintiffs argued that, in helping to develop and in approving the TDMLs at issue, the EPA made certain determinations that triggered a duty to send notices in compliance with 40 C.F.R. 124.52(b). The lower courts found that these suits had no toehold in the Act’s limited authorization of citizen suits against the EPA, which is otherwise entitled to sovereign immunity. The First Circuit disagreed, holding (1) the EPA’s approval of the TMDLs was not a decision that an individual permit was required within the meaning of the statute; (2) the EPA’s approval of the TMDLs did not therefore trigger the notice requirement; and (3) consequently, the complaints alleged no failure by the EPA to perform a nondiscretionary duty. View "Conservation Law Foundation v. Pruitt" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part a district court order dismissing claims brought by Ironshore Specialty Insurance Company, the entity that paid the clean-up costs after a large military vessel spilled over 11,000 gallons of fuel next to Boston Harbor, against American Overseas Marine Company, LLC (AMSEA) and the United States. Ironshore sought cleanup costs and damages under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) of 1990, a declaratory judgment finding AMSEA and the United States to be strictly liable under the OPA, and damages sounding in general admiralty and maritime law as a result of AMSEA’s and the United States’ alleged negligence. The district court dismissed all claims. The First Circuit (1) affirmed the dismissal of all of Ironshore’s claims against AMSEA; (2) affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Ironshore’s OPA claims against the United States; but (3) reversed the district court’s dismissal of Ironshore’s general admiralty and maritime negligence claims brought against the United States under the Suits in Admiralty Act because these claims were not foreclosed by the OPA. View "Ironshore Specialty Insurance Co. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought this action under the Administrative Procedure Act seeking review of two biological opinions (BiOps) issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) evaluating requested modifications of existing licenses to operate four hydropower dams on the Kennebec River in Maine. FERC was required to obtain BiOps from the Fisheries Service on whether operating the dams under the proposed license modifications would jeopardize survival of the salmon species. The Fisheries Service issued an “incidental take statement,” finding that the proposed modifications would result in the incidental taking of individual fish among the protected population. Plaintiffs, environmental organizations participating in the licensing proceedings, challenged the statements. While the case was pending, FERC granted the license modifications. The district court dismissed the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that circumstances eliminated whatever claims of district court jurisdiction to review the BiOps Plaintiffs might have raised when this action was filed. View "Maine Council of the Atlantic Salmon Federation v. National Marine Fisheries Service" on Justia Law