Justia Environmental Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Virginia Supreme Court
Friends of the Rappahannock v. Caroline County Bd. of Supervisors
The Caroline County Board of Supervisors issued a special exception permit that approved the use of land adjacent to the Rappahannock River for a sand and gravel mining operation. Complainants, the Friends of the Rappahannock and several local landowners and one lessee, challenged the issuance of the permit by filing this declaratory judgment action. The circuit court dismissed the complaint, finding that Complainants lacked standing to bring the suit because the claims alleged were not supported by sufficient facts and because the allegations did not show a loss of a personal or property right different from that "suffered by the public generally." The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not erroneously apply the aggrieved party standard in determining standing in this case; and (2) based on the insufficiency of allegations in their complaint, the individual complainants did not have standing to proceed. View "Friends of the Rappahannock v. Caroline County Bd. of Supervisors" on Justia Law
Lynnhaven Dunes Condo. Ass’n v. City of Virginia Beach
At issue in this appeal was (1) whether an ordinance authorizing the acquisition of an easement by condemnation also confers the authority to acquire the easement by an action to quiet title, and (2) whether the evidence in this case was sufficient to support the circuit court's ruling that the City of Virginia Beach proved an implied dedication of the disputed easements and whether the court erred in ruling that Lynnhaven Dunes Condominium Association was not entitled to compensation for its loss of riparian rights. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding (1) the authorizing ordinance fully encompassed the City's actions in bringing this condemnation proceeding, and the evidence was sufficient to support the circuit court's ruling that the City had proven it had acquired the easements by implied dedication; but (2) the circuit court erred in ruling that Lynnhaven's loss of riparian rights was non-compensable. View "Lynnhaven Dunes Condo. Ass'n v. City of Virginia Beach" on Justia Law
Appalachian Power Co. v. State Corp. Comm’n
In this appeal, Appalachian Power Company (APCO) sought rate adjustment clause recovery of $33.3 million in environmental compliance costs that the State Corporation Commission denied. The Supreme Court reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded, holding (1) APCO was entitled to a rate adjustment clause for recovery of actual costs it directly incurred for environmental compliance in 2009 and 2010 but did not recover through its base rates, and the portion of the Commission's decision denying recovery of environmental compliance costs on the basis that those costs were connected with projects included in APCO's base rates which APCO had the opportunity to recover was reversed; and (2) the portion of the Commission's decision denying APCO recovery of environmental compliance costs alleged to be embedded in the capacity equalization charges APCO paid to its affiliates in 2009 and 2010 was affirmed. Remanded. View "Appalachian Power Co. v. State Corp. Comm'n" on Justia Law
Cuccinelli v. Rector & Visitors of Univ. of Va.
This case arose from two civil investigative demands (CIDs) issued to the University of Virginia and the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia (collectively, UVA) by the attorney general, pursuant to the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act (FATA). The CIDs sought information relating to the research of a climate scientist that had taught at UVA, received a series of grants to fund his research, and, with other climate scientists, had allegedly falsified data to indicate an upturn in the earth's surface temperatures due to the use of fossil fuels. UVA petitioned the circuit court to set aside the CIDs, arguing that the attorney general had no statutory authority to serve CIDs upon agencies of the Commonwealth and that the CIDs were defective because they failed to state the nature of the conduct alleged. The circuit court granted the petition and set aside the CIDs, without prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court, but, unlike the circuit court, set aside the CIDs with prejudice, holding that the University of Virginia, as an agency of the Commonwealth, did not constitute a "person" under the FATA and therefore could not be the proper subject of a CID. View "Cuccinelli v. Rector & Visitors of Univ. of Va." on Justia Law
Campbell County v. Royal
In this action, the trial court granted summary judgment against a locality, holding it liable to landowners under the State Water Control Law, Va. Code Ann. 62.1-44.2 through -44.34:28, in particular Code 62.1-44.34:18(C) of the Oil Discharge Law, for the contamination of groundwater by leachate and landfill gas. The Supreme Court reversed the trial court's judgment, holding that the trial court erred in awarding summary judgment to the landowners and finding the locality liable under the Oil Discharge Law, as the Oil Discharge Law does not apply to the passive, gradual seepage of leachate and landfill gas into groundwater. View "Campbell County v. Royal" on Justia Law
Blue Ridge Envtl. Defense League v. Commonwealth
At issue in this case was whether the court of appeals erred in (1) reversing a circuit court's judgment and applying the arbitrary and capricious standard of review to the State Water Control Board's decision to reissue a Virginia pollutant discharge elimination system permit to Virginia Electric and Power Company for its nuclear power station; and (2) reversing the circuit court and affirming the Board's determination that the discharge of heated water from the station into a waste heat treatment facility, classified as a "waste treatment facility" under state and federal regulations, did not require a separate discharge permit. For the reasons stated in Commonwealth v. Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Inc., the Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals. View "Blue Ridge Envtl. Defense League v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law
AES Corp. v. Steadfast Ins. Co.
Kivalina, a native community located on an Alaskan barrier island, filed a lawsuit (Complaint) in a California district court against The AES Corporation, a Virginia-based energy company, and numerous other defendants for allegedly damaging the community by causing global warming through emission of greenhouse gases. Steadfast Insurance, which provided commercial general liability (CGL) to AES, provided AES a defense under a reservation of rights. Later AES filed a declaratory judgment action, claiming it did not owe AES a defense or indemnity coverage in the underlying suit. The circuit court granted Steadfast's motion for summary judgment, holding that the Complaint did not allege an "occurrence" as that term was defined in AES's contracts of insurance with Steadfast, and that Steadfast, therefore, did not owe AES a defense or liability coverage. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Kivalina did not allege that its property damage was the result of a fortuitous event or accident, but rather that its damages were the natural and probable consequence of AES's intentional actions, and such loss was not covered under the relevant CGL policies.