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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 Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals affirming the circuit court’s judgment entered in favor of Plaintiffs regarding their asserted right to install a pier and to access the Sailor Creek Flowage directly from their shoreline property. Defendants, who owned the waterbed of the Flowage where Plaintiffs’ property met the water, appealed, arguing that the presence of navigable water over their property did not affect their right to prohibit Plaintiffs from installing a pier into or over the portion of the waterbed of the Flowage that Plaintiffs owned. The Supreme Court held (1) Plaintiffs’ private property rights are not sufficient to place a pier into or over the waterbed of the Flowage without Defendants’ permission based on the rights attendant to their shoreline property; (2) the public trust doctrine conveys no private property rights, regardless of the presence of navigable water; and (3) as long as Plaintiffs are using the flowage waters for purposes consistent with the public trust doctrine, their own property rights are sufficient to access and exit the Flowage directly from their shoreline property. View "Movrich v. Lobermeier" on Justia Law

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The Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. 1362, prohibits “any addition of any pollutant to navigable waters,” defined as “the waters of the United States.” Section 1311(a) contains exceptions, including permitting schemes under the EPA's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program and an Army Corps of Engineers program, which encompass the “waters of the United States.” The EPA and the Corps proffered the “Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule,” which “imposes no enforceable duty on any state, local, or tribal governments, or the private sector,” 80 Fed. Reg. 37102 and “does not establish any regulatory requirements.” Objectors challenged the Rule in district courts. Many filed “protective” petitions in Circuit Courts to preserve their challenges should their district court lawsuits be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction under 33 U.S.C. 1369(b), which enumerates EPA actions for which review lies directly and exclusively in the federal courts of appeals. Such actions include EPA actions “approving or promulgating any effluent limitation or other limitation under section 1311, 1312, 1316, or 1345,” and EPA actions “issuing or denying any permit under section 1342.” The Sixth Circuit denied motions to dismiss consolidated actions. The Supreme Court reversed. The Rule falls outside section 1369(b)(1), so challenges must be filed in district courts. It is not an “effluent limitation,” “on quantities, rates, and concentrations” of pollutants, nor is it an “other limitation under section 1311; it simply announces a regulatory definition. The Rule was promulgated under section 1361(a), which grants the EPA general rulemaking authority. The Rule neither issues nor denies NPDES permits under section 1342. View "National Association of Manufacturers. v. Department of Defense" on Justia Law

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The Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. 1362, prohibits “any addition of any pollutant to navigable waters,” defined as “the waters of the United States.” Section 1311(a) contains exceptions, including permitting schemes under the EPA's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program and an Army Corps of Engineers program, which encompass the “waters of the United States.” The EPA and the Corps proffered the “Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule,” which “imposes no enforceable duty on any state, local, or tribal governments, or the private sector,” 80 Fed. Reg. 37102 and “does not establish any regulatory requirements.” Objectors challenged the Rule in district courts. Many filed “protective” petitions in Circuit Courts to preserve their challenges should their district court lawsuits be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction under 33 U.S.C. 1369(b), which enumerates EPA actions for which review lies directly and exclusively in the federal courts of appeals. Such actions include EPA actions “approving or promulgating any effluent limitation or other limitation under section 1311, 1312, 1316, or 1345,” and EPA actions “issuing or denying any permit under section 1342.” The Sixth Circuit denied motions to dismiss consolidated actions. The Supreme Court reversed. The Rule falls outside section 1369(b)(1), so challenges must be filed in district courts. It is not an “effluent limitation,” “on quantities, rates, and concentrations” of pollutants, nor is it an “other limitation under section 1311; it simply announces a regulatory definition. The Rule was promulgated under section 1361(a), which grants the EPA general rulemaking authority. The Rule neither issues nor denies NPDES permits under section 1342. View "National Association of Manufacturers. v. Department of Defense" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the trial court rendering judgment on a jury’s verdict finding that Plaintiffs’ claim for damages to Plaintiffs’ property under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 21E, 5(a)(iii) was barred by the applicable statute of limitations, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 21E, 11A(4). Plaintiffs filed their claims against the city of Lowell for the release of hazardous materials at a condominium site. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) a plaintiff must be on notice that he or she has a claim under section 5(a)(iii) before that claim may be time barred, and such notice is separate from a plaintiff’s notice that environmental contamination has occurred; and (2) Plaintiffs in this case could not know that they had a claim under section 5 before the date the City filed its Phase II/Phase III report pursuant to the Massachusetts Contingency Plan, and therefore, the statute of limitations issues should not have been presented to the jury. View "Grand Manor Condominium Ass’n v. City of Lowell" on Justia Law

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The Councils petitioned for review of the Commission's decision to issue a license to Strata to mine uranium in Crook County, Wyoming. The DC Circuit denied the petition and rejected the Councils' claims that the Board was at fault for refusing to migrate Contention No. 4/5A and to admit Contention No. 6, and the Councils' challenge to the final environmental impact statement. The court held that, although the procedure followed by the Commission in this matter was not ideal, the Commission did not violate the National Environmental Procedure Act, 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq., nor the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 706(2)(A). Furthermore, the Councils have not identified any substantive flaws in the Commission's decisions. View "Natural Resources Defense Council v. NRC" on Justia Law

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BNSF Railway proposed a new railyard approximately four miles from the Port of Los Angeles. Environmental analysis of the project began no later that 2005. The final environmental impact report (FEIR) prepared pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) (Pub. Resources Code 21000) exceeds 5,000 pages. The trial court held that the Attorney General, who intervened in the City of Long Beach petition, was entitled to assert objections to the sufficiency of the FEIR that were not raised by any party in the administrative proceedings. BNSF challenged the trial court’s conclusion that the FEIR was deficient for failing to analyze the impact of rendering capacity at BNSF’s existing Hobart yard in the City of Commerce, 24 miles from the port, available to handle additional traffic. The court of appeal affirmed, first holding that the exhaustion requirement that generally apply to parties contesting the adequacy of an environmental impact report do not apply to the Attorney General. The FEIR failed to adequately consider air quality impacts of the project, particularly impacts to ambient air pollutant concentrations and cumulative impacts of such pollutant concentrations. View "City of Long Beach v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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Halus owned land in a San Leandro industrial zone, where it designed and manufactured wind turbines. It proposed to install a 100-foot-tall wind turbine to generate energy and conduct research and development; it sought a variance from zoning restrictions on height. San Leandro conducted an analysis under the California Environmental Quality Act (Pub. Resources Code 21000) (CEQA). The turbine would have been within the San Francisco Bay Estuary, a major refuge for many species, including threatened or endangered species, and 500 feet from a residential development. The city proposed a mitigated negative declaration (MND) allowing the project to go forward with mitigation measures. In response to comments and objections, San Leandro released a revised MND adding mitigation or monitoring recommended by the Department of Fish and Game, without requiring an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). HOA filed suit. The court held that San Leandro failed to comply with CEQA. San Leandro set aside its approval. The project did not proceed. The court granted HOA attorneys’ fees, Code of Civil Procedure 1021.5. The court of appeal affirmed, finding that the action resulted in the enforcement of an important right affecting the public interest, a significant benefit was conferred on the general public or a large class of persons, and the necessity and financial burden of private enforcement made the award appropriate. View "Heron Bay Homeowners Association v. City of San Leandro" on Justia Law

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The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), 16 U.S.C. 4321 et seq., did not limit the United States government from issuing a permit to remove birds of one species for scientific purposes if its intent was principally to benefit another species. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Service in an action challenging a permit allowing the taking of the barred owl. The panel held that the MBTA imposed few substantive conditions itself and delegated to the Secretary of the Interior broad discretion to implement the Act, discretion the Secretary has used to promulgate the regulation at issue that has no text directly supporting Friends' proposed same-species theory. The panel held that the "used for scientific purposes" exception in Article II(A) of the Mexico Convention included taking birds to study whether their absence benefits another protected bird species; even if the canon of noscitur a sociis applied in this case, the panel did not believe that it supported plaintiff's same-species theory; and the Canada, Japan, and Russia Conventions did not support the same-species theory. View "Friends of Animals v. USFWS" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Clews Land and Livestock, LLC; Barbara Clews; and Christian Clews (collectively, CLL) appealed a judgment in favor of defendant City of San Diego (City) on CLL's petition for writ of mandate and complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief, violation of procedural due process, and equitable estoppel. CLL challenged the City's approval of a project to build a private secondary school on land neighboring CLL's commercial horse ranch and equestrian facility and the City's adoption of a mitigated negative declaration (MND) regarding the project. CLL contended the City should not have adopted the MND because the Cal Coast Academy project would cause significant environmental impacts in the areas of fire hazards, traffic and transportation, noise, recreation, and historical resources, and because the MND identified new impacts and mitigation measures that were not included in the draft MND. CLL further argued the City should not have approved the project because it is situated in designated open space under the applicable community land use plan and because the City did not follow the provisions of the San Diego Municipal Code (SDMC) applicable to historical resources. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded CLL's challenge to the MND was barred because it did not exhaust its administrative remedies in proceedings before the City. In doing so, the Court rejected CLL's argument that the City's process for administrative appeals (at least as implicated by this project) violated the California Environmental Quality Act by improperly splitting the adoption of an environmental document (e.g., the MND) from the project approvals. In addition, the City complied with all applicable requirements of the SDMC regarding historical resources and the City's approval of the project did not conflict with the open space designation because the project would be located on already-developed land. View "Clews Land & Livestock, LLC v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law