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The City of Pomona appealed a jury judgment that SQM was not liable for causing perchlorate contamination in Pomona's water system. The Ninth Circuit held that the district court abused its discretion by limiting the testimony of one of Pomona's experts and failing to make sufficient findings before admitting the testimony of one of SQM's experts. In this case, the record demonstrated that the science of stable isotope analysis evolved significantly during this case's first journey through the appellate system. The panel explained that, by constraining Dr. Sturchio to his 2011 report, the district court abused its discretion. The panel further held that the district court's failure to make any findings regarding the reliability of Dr. Laton's testimony, despite Pomona's Daubert motion, was an abuse of discretion. Therefore, these errors, in combination, were prejudicial. Accordingly, the panel reversed the district court's judgment and remanded for a new trial. View "City of Pomona v. SQM North America Corp." on Justia Law

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Tetrachloroethylene (also known as perchloroethylene or PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE), were detected in groundwater drawn from a drinking water well in the South Basin area operated by the Irvine Ranch Water District (IRWD). The Orange County Water District (District) undertook efforts to identify the source of groundwater contamination and engaged consultants to recommend further avenues of investigation. Although the District's investigation has continued, it had not yet developed a final treatment plan or remediated any contamination by the time of the underlying litigation. During its investigation, the District filed suit against various current and former owners and operators of certain sites in the South Basin area that it believed were in some way responsible for groundwater contamination. The District asserted statutory claims for damages under the Carpenter-Presley Tanner Hazardous Substance Account Act (HSAA) and the Orange County Water District Act (OCWD Act) and for declaratory relief. The District also asserted common law claims for negligence, nuisance, and trespass. Following numerous motions for summary judgment and summary adjudication, and a limited bench trial on the District's ability to bring suit under the HSAA, the trial court entered judgments in favor of the defendants on all of the District's claims. The District appealed, challenging the judgments on numerous grounds. The Court of Appeal confirmed that the HSAA allowed the District to bring suit under the circumstances here, and that the District could recover certain remediation-related investigatory costs under the OCWD Act. The Court also addressed the HSAA's nonretroactivity provision and concluded its requirements were not satisfied here. Furthermore, the Court concluded the theory of continuous accrual applies to the District's negligence cause of action, such that no defendant except one has shown the statute of limitations barred that claim. As to the District's causes of action for trespass and nuisance, the Court concluded the District raised a triable issue of fact regarding its potential groundwater rights in the South Basin. In doing so, the Court addressed the State’s potential interests in groundwater (as allegedly delegated to the District), the District's regulatory powers over groundwater, and its rights based on its groundwater replenishment or recharge activities. The Court concluded the District's potential rights in groundwater were insufficient, on the current record in this case, to maintain a trespass cause of action. However, triable issues of fact precluded summary judgment on the District's nuisance claim for all defendants except one. Finally, the Court concluded most of defendants' site-specific arguments (primarily based on causation) did not entitle them to summary adjudication of any causes of action. The judgments will therefore be affirmed in part and reversed in part. View "Orange Co. Water Dist. v. Sabic Innovative Plastics" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that the Service's revamping of the territorial lines of the Devil's Garden Wild Horse Territory section of the Modoc National Forest violated numerous federal laws. The D.C. Circuit held that the Service's decision to eliminate the Middle Section of the Wild Horse Territory Plan was arbitrary and capricious in two respects: (1) the Service failed to acknowledge and adequately explain its change in policy regarding the management of wild horses in the Middle Section as part of a single, contiguous protected Wild Horse Territory, and (2) the Service failed to consider adequately whether an Environmental Impact Statement was required under the National Environmental Policy Act. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in part and remanded for further consideration. View "American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign v. Perdue" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a preliminary injunction in an action regarding the North Fork Mill Creek A to Z Project in the Colville National Forest. The panel held that Alliance has not demonstrated serious questions, much less a likelihood of success, with respect to the merits of any of its National Forest Management Act (NFMA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) claims. Therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion for a preliminary injunction. In this case, Alliance has not shown either serious questions or a likelihood of success on the merits of a NFMA or NEPA claim based on the Forest Service's use of the "habitat as a proxy" approach for assessing the viability of the pine marten; the "proxy-as-proxy" approach for assessing the viability of fisher; the Forest Service's snow-intercept cover analysis; the open road density analysis; and the sediment analysis. View "Alliance for the Wild Rockies v. Pena" on Justia Law

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The Human Society challenged a rule that removes from federal protection a sub-population of gray wolves inhabiting all or portions of nine states in the Western Great Lakes region of the United States. The Human Society alleged that the rule violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA), 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq., and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 551 et seq. The D.C. Circuit affirmed the district court's decision vacating the rule, holding that the government failed to reasonably analyze or consider two significant aspects of the rule: the impacts of partial delisting and of historical range loss on the already listed species. View "Humane Society v. Zinke" on Justia Law

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Petitioners filed suit challenging EPA's promulgation of a Final Rule setting several renewable fuel requirements for the years 2014 through 2017. The D.C. Circuit rejected all challenges except for one: the court agreed with Americans for Clean Energy that EPA erred in how it interpreted the "inadequate domestic supply" waiver provision. The court held that the "inadequate domestic supply" provision authorizes EPA to consider supply-side factors affecting the volume of renewable fuel that is available to refiners, blenders, and importers to meet the statutory volume requirements. It does not allow EPA to consider the volume of renewable fuel that is available to ultimate consumers or the demand-side constraints that affect the consumption of renewable fuel by consumers. Accordingly, the court granted Americans for Clean Energy's petition for review of the Final Rule, vacated EPA's decisions to reduce the total renewable fuel volume requirements for 2016 through use of its "inadequate domestic supply" waiver authority, and remanded for further consideration. View "Americans for Clean Energy v. EPA" on Justia Law

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Flint, which previously obtained water from DWSD, decided to join the Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA). The DWSD contract terminated in 2014. Because KWA would take years to construct, Flint chose the Flint River as an interim source. A 2011 Report had determined that river water would need to be treated to meet safety regulations; the cost of treatment was less than continuing with DWSD. Genesee County also decided to switch to KWA but continued to purchase DWSD water during construction. Flint did not upgrade its treatment plants or provide additional safety measures before switching. Residents immediately complained that the water “smelled rotten, looked foul, and tasted terrible.” Tests detected coliform and E. coli bacteria; the water was linked to Legionnaire’s disease. General Motors discontinued its water service, which was corroding its parts. Eventually, the city issued a notice that the drinking water violated standards, but was safe to drink. Subsequent testing indicated high levels of lead and trihalomethane that did not exceed the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) Lead and Copper Rule’s “action level.” The tests indicated that corrosion control treatment was needed to counteract lead levels. The City Council voted to reconnect with DWSD; the vote was overruled by the state-appointed Emergency Manager. The EPA warned of high lead levels; officials distributed filters. Genesee County declared a public health emergency in Flint, advising residents not to drink the water. The Emergency Manager ordered reconnection to DWSD but the supply pipes' protective coating had been damaged by River water. Flint remains in a state of emergency but residents have been billed continuously for water. The Michigan Civil Rights Commission determined that the response to the crisis was “the result of systemic racism.” The Sixth Circuit reversed dismissal, as preempted by SDWA, of cases under 42 U.S.C. 1983. SDWA has no textual preemption of section 1983 claims and SDWA’s remedial scheme does not demonstrate such an intention. The rights and protections found in the constitutional claims diverge from those provided by SDWA. The court affirmed dismissal of claims against state defendants as barred by the Eleventh Amendment. View "Boler v. Earley" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the circuit court’s affirmance of the Board of Minerals and Environment’s determination that it had subject matter jurisdiction over a petition regarding mine permit Nos. 445 and 460. Robert Fowler and Harlan Schmidt, intervenors in LAC Mineral USA, LLC’s petition, brought this appeal. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) mining application requirements and mining permit amendment application requirements are not requirements that need to be met for the Board to obtain subject matter jurisdiction over a mining permit or permit amendment application, and therefore, the circuit court correctly found that the Board had jurisdiction over the matter; (2) the intervenors waived the issue whether S.D. Codified Laws 45-6B-44 and S.D. Codified Laws 45-6B-45 denied Fowler due process; but (3) the circuit court and Board erred in determining that Fowler was not a landowner, as that issue was not properly before the circuit court or Board. View "In re LAC Minerals (USA), LLC’s Petitioner for Release of Reclamation Liability" on Justia Law

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The land underlying the 100-unit condominium project was owned and used by Shell as a fuel distribution terminal from 1925-1980, then owned by others. Petroleum products were delivered to the property and stored in aboveground and underground storage tanks. The Estuary Owners Association (EOA) and individual unit owners sued, alleging contamination of the soil and groundwater at the site and improper construction of the condominiums. After the plaintiffs settled with developers and other defendants, the court granted Shell summary judgment, reasoning that the causes of action for negligence and nuisance were barred by a 10-year statute of repose; the negligence claims also were barred by a three-year statute of limitations; and Shell did not owe a duty of care to the plaintiffs. The court of appeal affirmed as to negligence and reversed as to nuisance. The trial court erred in finding the statute of repose applicable but was correct with respect to the statute of limitations. Any claim of negligence causing damage to real property accrued in favor of prior landowners and cannot be pursued by plaintiffs now. Rejecting Shell’s assertion that the plaintiffs were only claiming construction defects as the basis of nuisance, the court noted a possible argument that Shell‘s negligent mishandling of petroleum products and subsequent failure to remediate created a continuing nuisance. View "Estuary Owners Association. v. Shell Oil Co." on Justia Law

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Under the federal environmental laws, the owner of property contaminated with hazardous substances or a person who arranges for the disposal of hazardous substances may be strictly liable for subsequent clean-up costs. The United States owned national forest lands in New Mexico that were mined over several generations by Chevron Mining Inc. The question presented for the Tenth Circuit’s review was whether the United States is a “potentially responsible party” (PRP) for the environmental contamination located on that land. The Tenth Circuit concluded that under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), the United States is an “owner,” and, therefore, a PRP, because it was strictly liable for its equitable portion of the costs necessary to remediate the contamination arising from mining activity on federal land. The Court also concluded the United States cannot be held liable as an “arranger” of hazardous substance disposal because it did not own or possess the substances in question. The Court reversed the district court in part and affirmed in part, remanding for further proceedings to determine the United States’ equitable share, if any, of the clean-up costs. View "Chevron Mining v. United States" on Justia Law