Justia Environmental Law Opinion Summaries

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The DC Circuit denied petitions for review challenging the Commission's orders permitting Transcontinental Gas to move forward with a pipeline expansion called the Atlantic Sunrise Project. The court held that the administrative record foreclosed the Homeowners' and Environmental Associations' three arguments under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA); the Commission's market-need determination did not violate the Natural Gas Act; and circuit precedent foreclosed the Environmental Associations' and Homeowners' argument that the Commission's authorization for construction to go forward while their rehearing petitions were still pending—and thus before the Commission's decision was final and judicially reviewable—denied them due process. View "Allegheny Defense Project v. FERC" on Justia Law

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The Energy Facility Siting Council modified its rules that govern amending site certificates. Petitioners challenged the validity of the new rules, arguing that the council failed to comply with required rulemaking procedures and that the rules exceeded the council’s statutory authority. FAfter review of petitioners' challenges, the Oregon Supreme Court agreed with some, but not all, of those grounds and concluded that the rules were invalid. View "Friends of Columbia Gorge v. Energy Fac. Siting Coun." on Justia Law

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Appellants petitioned the Commission to revoke a coastal development permit (CDP), alleging that MVF's CDP application contained intentional misrepresentations regarding approvals it received from the Los Angeles County Environmental Review Board (ERB), the California Water Resources Control Board (Water Board), and the California Department of Fish and Game (Fish and Game). After the Commission denied the petition, appellants petitioned the superior court for a writ of administrative mandate to set aside the Commission's decision. The Court of Appeal affirmed the superior court's denial of the petition and held that substantial evidence supported the Commission's determination that accurate or complete information would not have caused the Commission to act differently in ruling on MVF's CDP application. In this case, the Commission correctly interpreted and applied section 13105, subdivision (a), and substantial evidence supported the Commission's determination that although MVF's application contained intentional misrepresentations regarding the approvals by the ERB, Fish and Game, and the Water Board, the Commission would not have imposed additional conditions or denied the CDP if accurate information had been provided. View "Hubbard v. Coastal Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order entered by the Montana Water Court determining the volume of water to which the City of Fort Peck was entitled pursuant to its Claim 40E 182897-00 in Missouri River Basin between the Musselshell River and Fort Peck Dam, holding that the Water Court did not violate Ford Peck's due process right and that the Water Court's conclusions were correct. On appeal, Fort Peck argued that the Water Court erred by entering conclusions in contradiction to a pretrial order and that its due process rights were violated because it was not provided notice or an opportunity to present evidence concerning current use or abandonment of historical volume. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that Fort Peck had adequate notice and an opportunity to be heard before the Water Court entered its final order, both for purposes of the pretrial order and for due process and that the Water Court's conclusions were without error. View "United States Army Corps of Engineers; City of Fort Peck" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit granted a petition for review of the FWS's new 2018 Biological Opinion and Incidental Take Statement in connection with the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The court held that FWS arbitrarily reached its no-jeopardy conclusions and failed to correct the deficiencies in the take limits that the court identified in the previous appeal. In this case, the Biological Opinion's conclusion that the pipeline will not jeopardize the rusty patched bumble bee (RPBB) in Bath County, Virginia was arbitrary and capricious because it runs counter to available evidence, relies on data without providing a meaningful basis for that reliance, fails to consider the species’s status as a whole, and fails to consider the pipeline’s impacts on RPBB recovery. Furthermore, the Biological Opinion's finding that the clubshell's continued survival will not be jeopardized by the pipeline construction was not in accordance with the law and failed to consider important aspects of the issue before the agency. The court also held that the Biological Opinion failed to create enforceable take limits for the Indiana bat and the Madison Cave isopod. Accordingly, the court vacated the 2018 Biological Opinion and Incidental Take Statement. View "Defenders of Wildlife v. U.S. Department of the Interior" on Justia Law

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Acting under authority delegated by the EPA, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued a general permit in 2010 for the discharge of certain pollutants resulting from suction dredge mining. Petitioners filed this proceeding arguing, among other things, that only the Army Corps of Engineers had authority under the Clean Water Act to permit the discharge of materials resulting from suction dredge mining. The Court of Appeals disagreed and affirmed the trial court’s order upholding DEQ’s permit. Finding no reversible error, the Oregon Supreme Court affirmed. View "Eastern Oregon Mining Assoc. v. DEQ" on Justia Law

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HERO appealed the trial court's denial of their petition for writ of mandate, seeking to set aside actions taken by the City in approving a proposal by the owner to convert a vacant 18-unit apartment building into a boutique hotel. At issue was whether the City erred in failing to prepare an environmental impact report (EIR) to assess the loss of affordable housing and displacement of tenants that would result from the conversion of the former apartment building into a hotel. The Court of Appeal held that there were no housing-related impacts or displacement of tenants for the City to address in an EIR, because the building at issue had been withdrawn from the rental market years before the City commenced environmental review for the hotel project. The court also rejected HERO's other contentions and affirmed the judgment. View "Hollywoodians Encouraging Rental Opportunities v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied a petition for review challenging the EPA's February 2018 decision not to issue financial responsibility requirements for the hardrock mining industry. The court deferred to the EPA's interpretation that it should set financial responsibility regulations based on financial risks, not risks to health and the environment, because the use of "risk" in section 9608(b) in the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), in the general mandate and amount clauses, was ambiguous and the EPA's interpretation was reasonable. Furthermore, nothing in section 9608(b) mandates the EPA to promulgate financial responsibility requirements for the hardrock mining industry, authorizing the EPA to decline to do so. The court also held that the EPA's financial risk analysis and economic analysis were neither arbitrary nor capricious. Finally, under Circuit and Supreme Court precedent, the court held that the EPA's Final Action not to adopt financial responsibility requirements for the hardrock mining industry constitutes a logical outgrowth of the Proposed Rule. View "Idaho Conservation League v. Wheeler" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Sacramentans for Fair Planning contended the City of Sacramento violated zoning law and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) when it approved entitlements for real party 2500 J Owners, LLC, to construct a high-rise condominium building in the City’s Midtown area. The project was not consistent with the general plan and zoning code standards for building intensity and height. But the City approved it pursuant to a general plan policy authorizing more intense development than zoning otherwise allowed if the project provided a significant community benefit. The City also conducted a streamlined CEQA review. CEQA authorized the less intense review for a type of residential mixed-use development such as the proposed project which, because of its proximity to mass transit services, may help reduce regional greenhouse gas emissions by generating less use of motor vehicles. In a petition for writ of mandate, plaintiff argued that approving the project under the general plan policy violated constitutional law and an implied-in-law zoning contract that required identical uses in a zoning district to be treated uniformly and prohibited a delegation of legislative authority without sufficient standards to govern its use. Plaintiff also claimed the City violated CEQA because the streamlined review did not analyze all of the project’s environmental effects. The trial court denied plaintiff’s petition. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s order and judgment. View "Sacramentans for Fair Planning v. City of Sacramento" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing the petition filed by the Missouri Coalition for the Environment and one of its members (collectively, the Coalition) seeking a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief against the State and the Clean Water Commission, holding that the Commission lacked standing. In its petition, the Coalition challenged the validity of Mo. Rev. Stat. 644.021, as amended by House Bill No. 1713. The State filed a motion to dismiss, asserting that the Coalition did not have taxpayer standing. The Coalition conceded that it had not shown taxpayer standing but argued that it had standing pursuant to Mo. Rev. Stat. 516.500. The circuit court dismissed the petition with prejudice for lack of standing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 516.500 did not provide standing to the Coalition nor did it eliminate the requirement that the Coalition have standing to bring this action. View "Missouri Coalition for Environment v. State" on Justia Law