Justia Environmental Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Wyoming Supreme Court
Fisher v. Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality
The Supreme Court dismissed this appeal from the decision of the district court reversing the decision of the director of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (WDEQ) and the Environmental Quality Council (EQC) denying Brook Mining Company's application for a permit to develop and operate a new surface coal mine, holding that the issues presented in this appeal were moot.The EQC concluded that the permit application was deficient and denied Brook Mining Company's application. The Director of the WDEQ then denied the permit. The district court reversed. While this appeal was pending, Brook Mining Company submitted a revised permit application. The Director issued a decision that approved the revised permit application. Also while the appeal was pending, the legislature changed the regulatory structure for the approval of new coal mine applications by removing the opportunity for an EQC contested case hearing prior to the Director's decision. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that the issues in this appeal do not continue to present a justiciable controversy and have thus become moot. View "Fisher v. Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality" on Justia Law
Berenergy Corp. v. BTU Western Resources, Inc.
At issue was whether this case presented a justiciable issue when the Supreme Court could not render a decision binding on a federal agency and could only offer an advisory opinion that may or may not ultimately bind the parties.Berenergy Corporation, which produced oil from several sites under oil and gas leases granted by the United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), sought a declaratory judgment that the terms of its BLM oil leases provided it with rights superior to any obtained by Peabody Energy Corporation through its coal leases. The district court granted in part and denied in part both parties’ motions for summary judgment. Both parties appealed. The Supreme Court remanded the case for further proceedings before the district court, holding (1) Congress intended that the issues raised by Berenergy be decided by the Secretary of the Interior or its BLM designees; (2) there was no express consent by the federal government for the Secretary or the BLM to be made a party to suits such as this for the purpose of informing a congressionally approved decision by the district court; but (3) the court nonetheless remands this case for an evaluation of whether a federal agency may participate in this suit. View "Berenergy Corp. v. BTU Western Resources, Inc." on Justia Law
Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Wyo. Oil & Gas Conservation Comm’n
The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission approved Cimarex Energy Company's plan to reinject waste carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide into a producing natural gas formation in southwest Wyoming over the objection of Exxon Mobil Corporation. Exxon appealed. The district court affirmed the Commission's decision. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding (1) the Commission properly denied Exxon's petition for a rehearing; but (2) the Commission failed to provide sufficient findings of fact as to whether Cimarex's plan to reinject carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide would result in waste of natural gas and improperly interfere with Exxon's correlative rights. Remanded to the Commission to make appropriate findings of both basic and ultimate facts. View "Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Wyo. Oil & Gas Conservation Comm'n" on Justia Law
N. Laramie Range Found. v. Converse County Bd. of County Comm’rs
The case involved two permitting actions for a wind energy project in the mountains of Converse County. Objectors included the Northern Laramie Range Alliance (NLRA) and Northern Laramie Range Foundation (NLRF). In the first case (Case 1), Objectors challenged the district court's affirmance of the County Board of County Commissioners (Board) decision to grant Wasatch Wind Intermountain, LLC's (Wasatch) application for a Wind Energy Conversion System Permit (WECS permit). They also challenged the court's rulings that NLRA and NLRF did not have standing to appeal the Board's decision. In the second case (Case 2), Objectors challenged the district court's affirmance of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, Industrial Siting Council's (ISC) decision to grant a state industrial siting permit for construction of the project. In Case 1, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) NLRA had standing but NLRF did not; and (2) the Board properly granted Wasatch's application for a WECS permit. In Case 2, the Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the ISC acted within its authority in granting the industrial siting permit, and there was sufficient evidence to justify its decision. View "N. Laramie Range Found. v. Converse County Bd. of County Comm'rs" on Justia Law
Wyo. Dep’t of Env’t Quality v. Wyo. Outdoor Council
This appeal involved the issuance by the Wyoming Department of Environmental Qualify (DEQ) of two general permits for the discharge of produced water from coal bed methane operations. A petroleum corporation and oil company (Appellants) appealed the DEQ's decision to the Environmental Quality Council (EQC). The Wyoming Outdoor Council (WOC) also sought review of the DEQ's decision to issue the general permits. The EQC rejected WOC's claim that general permits were rules and had to be promulgated through the rulemaking procedures set forth in the Wyoming APA. The district court reversed, determining that DEQ was required to promulgate the general permits as rules. The district court also rejected the argument by Appellants that WOC was not entitled to seek EQC review of the DEQ's decision to issue the general permits, ruling that the Wyoming Environmental Quality Act did allow WOC to seek administrative review by the EQC. The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part, holding (1) DEQ was not required to promulgate the general permits as administrative rules; and (2) WOC was entitled to EQC review of DEQ's decision to issue the general permits. View "Wyo. Dep't of Env't Quality v. Wyo. Outdoor Council " on Justia Law
Garber v. Wagonhound Livestock & Land Company, LLC
Applicants Wagonhound Land and Livestock Company, LLC, VenJohn Oil, Inc., and Steven M. VenJohn filed a petition with the Wyoming State Board of Control seeking to change the place of use, point of diversion and means of conveyance for water appropriations attached to 174.8 acres. VenJohn owned the appropriations from the North Platte River and requested that the point of diversion and place of use of the rights be moved upstream to Wagonhound’s land. Vic and Jane Garber and several others who were intervening water right holders, objected to the petition, and the Board held a contested case hearing. The Board granted the Applicants’ petition but reduced the transferred rights to 152.5 acres. The Objectors unsuccessfully petitioned the district court for review of the Board decision. On appeal to the Supreme Court, they challenged: the sufficiency of the evidence presented in the Board's record; and whether the final decision was in violation of Wyo. Stats. 41-3-104 and 41-3-114. Although the Objectors claimed the defects in the original petition required reversal of the Board’s decision, the Supreme Court found that they did not sufficiently explain why the amendment process was inappropriate or how it violated statute or board rules. The Objectors also did not demonstrate how the other landowners were injured by the petition or the process employed by the Board. Without further explanation, the Court could not accept their argument, and affirmed the Board's decision. View "Garber v. Wagonhound Livestock & Land Company, LLC" on Justia Law
Rageth v. Sidon Irrigation Dist.
The Rageths filed suit against the Sidon Irrigation District seeking a declaration of their conveyance rights in the Sidon Canal, reimbursement of water delivery fees paid to the District for past irrigation seasons, and the establishment of a reasonable annual water delivery fee in future years. The parties executed a stipulation that the Rageths have a perpetual right, as defined by their adjudicated water rights, to divert water from the District's diversion structure and convey such water through the Sidon Canal to their property, subject to an annual payment to the District. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the District on the Rageths' remaining claims. At issue on appeal was, in the absence of an agreement, what water delivery fee may an irrigation district charge a non-member who has a perpetual right to convey that non-member's adjudicated appropriation to that non-member's land outside the irrigation district's boundaries using the irrigation district's canal and related facilities. The Supreme Court reversed the district court, finding that genuine issues of material fact existed and holding that the Rageths' proportionate share of the requisite expenses must be based on an equitable apportionment determined after consideration of the various relevant factors. Remanded.