Justia Environmental Law Opinion Summaries

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The United States District Court for the District of New Hampshire certified two questions of law for the New Hampshire Supreme Court's consideration. Plaintiffs, individuals who presently or formerly lived in the Merrimack area, brought tort claims, including negligence, nuisance, trespass, and negligent failure to warn, alleging that defendants’ manufacturing process at its facility in the Town of Merrimack used chemicals that included perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). They alleged PFOA was a toxic chemical that was released into the air from the Merrimack facility and has contaminated the air, ground, and water in Merrimack and nearby towns. As a result, plaintiffs alleged the wells and other drinking water sources in those places were contaminated, exposing them to PFOA, placing them at risk of developing health problems, including testicular cancer, kidney cancer, immunotoxicity, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, and pregnancy induced hypertension. The first question from the federal circuit court asked whether New Hampshire recognized “a claim for the costs of medical monitoring as a remedy or as a cause of action” in plaintiffs' context. Depending on the answer to the first question, the second question asked, “what are the requirements and elements of a remedy or cause of action for medical monitoring” under New Hampshire law. Because the Supreme Court answered the first question in the negative, it did not address the second question. View "Brown, et al. v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corporation, et al." on Justia Law

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In 2019, Western Watersheds Project sued to challenge the issuance of permits that expired in 2018. The district court dismissed the case for lack of Article III standing. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with that decision: Western Watersheds Project’s claims were brought against expired permits that had already been renewed automatically by 43 U.S.C. § 1752(c)(2). And the timing of a new environmental analysis of the new permits was within the Secretary’s discretion under 43 U.S.C. § 1752(i). Western Watersheds Project, therefore, lacked Article III standing because its claims were not redressable. View "Western Watersheds Project v. Interior Board of Land Appeals, et al." on Justia Law

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Some of the practices that have made California's Central Valley an "agricultural powerhouse" have also adversely impacted the region’s water quality and environmental health. Respondents State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) and Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (Central Valley Water Board) are responsible for regulating waste discharges from irrigated agricultural operations in the Central Valley. The State Water Board adopted order WQ 2018-0002 (Order) in February 2018. Environmental Law Foundation (Foundation), Monterey Coastkeeper (Coastkeeper), and Protectores del Agua Subterranea (Protectores) (collectively, appellants) brought petitions for writs of mandate challenging various aspects of the Order. The trial court consolidated the cases and granted a motion for leave to intervene by the East San Joaquin Water Quality Coalition (Coalition) and others (cumulatively, the Coalition). Following a hearing on the merits, the trial court denied the petitions. Appellants appealed, advancing numerous claims of error. Ultimately, the Court of Appeal rejected these arguments and affirmed the judgments. View "Environmental Law Foundation v. State Water Resources Control Bd." on Justia Law

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In this case challenging the constitutionality of administrative rules governing access to Mauna Kea's summit under Haw. Const. art XII, 7, the Supreme Court answered questions reserved by the Circuit Court of the Third Circuit by holding (1) in a challenge to the constitutionality of administrative rules based on a violation of Haw. Const. art. XII, 7, the burden of proof does not shift to the government agency defendant and instead remains with the challenging party; and (2) the framework set forth in Ka Pa'akai O Ka'Aina v. Land Use Comm'n, 7 P.3d 1068 (Haw. 2000), applies to challenges to the constitutionality of an administrative rule based on an alleged violation of article XII, section 7, in addition to contested case hearings. View "Flores-Case 'Ohana v. University of Haw." on Justia Law

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The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission conditionally approved Adelphia’s application under 15 U.S.C. 717f(c), the Natural Gas Act, to acquire, construct, and operate an interstate natural gas pipeline system. As part of that project, Adelphia sought to construct a compressor station in West Rockhill Township and applied to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to demonstrate compliance with the Federal Clean Air Act and Pennsylvania’s Air Pollution Control Act. The DEP granted Plan Approval.Adelphia successfully moved to dismiss appeals to the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board, arguing that federal courts of appeals have original and exclusive jurisdiction over challenges to environmental permits issued by the DEP. The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania reversed, reasoning that administrative proceedings are not “civil actions” and that the Natural Gas Act did not preempt the Board from exercising its jurisdiction. Adelphia then filed suit in the Middle District of Pennsylvania requesting that it enjoin the Board from acting. Adelphia also appealed to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.The district court dismissed Adelphia’s suit, holding that the issue preclusion doctrine bars Adelphia from bringing a federal action premised on arguments the Commonwealth Court rejected. The Third Circuit affirmed. Adelphia’s challenge impermissibly seeks to relitigate an issue decided by the Commonwealth Court. View "Adelphia Gateway LLC v. Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board" on Justia Law

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The State of Alaska Department of Fish and Game brought this action against the Board and several federal officials, alleging that the changes violated the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (“ANILCA”) and the Administrative Procedure Act. Before the district court issued its decision, the Kake Hunt ended, and the district court deemed the challenge to it moot. And while this appeal was pending, the partial Unit 13 closure expired.   The Ninth Circuit reversed in part and vacated in part the district court’s decision in an action challenging the Federal Subsistence Board’s approval in 2020 of two short-term changes to hunting practices on federal public lands in Alaska, specifically (1) the Board’s opening of an emergency hunt for Intervenor, the Organized Village of Kake; and (2) the Board’s partial temporary closure of public lands in game management Unit 13 to nonsubsistence users.   The panel first held that Alaska’s claim that the Board violated ANILCA by opening the 60-day emergency Kake hunt without statutory authority was not moot because it fit within the mootness exception of being capable of repetition yet evading review. Alaska’s claim that ANICLA did not authorize the federal government to open emergency hunting seasons raised a question of first impression in this circuit and required resolution of complicated issues of statutory interpretation. Noting that the district court had not reached the merits, the panel remanded this claim to the district court. With regard to Alaska’s partial Unit 13 closure claim, the panel vacated the part of the district court’s order that addressed the claim. View "STATE OF ALASKA DEPARTMENT OF V. FEDERAL SUBSISTENCE BOARD, ET AL" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Midwest Ozone Group (MOG), an association of companies, trade organizations, and individual entities maintaining a collective interest in air quality petitioned for review of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) final action, entitled the Revised Cross-State Air Pollution Update Rule (Revised Rule) for the 2008 Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), which EPA promulgated in response to this Court’s remand in Wisconsin v. EPA, 938 F.3d 303 (D.C. Cir. 2019) In the Revised Rule, EPA addresses its failure to balance emissions obligations in accordance with 2008 ozone NAAQS and its prescribed date of attainment. On appeal, MOG contends that the Revised Rule is arbitrary and capricious and that EPA failed to conduct a legally and technically appropriate assessment as required by the Good Neighbor Provision of the Clean Air Act (CAA).   The DC Circuit denied the petition and held that the Revised Rule is an appropriate exercise of EPA’s statutory authority under the “Good Neighbor Provision.” The court explained that EPA appears to have chosen analytical techniques rationally connected to the Revised Rule and appropriately explained its use of the linear interpolation and subsequent methods for establishing the Revised Rule. In addition, EPA’s methodology did also incorporate photochemical modeling, MOG’s preferred technique, as the “foundation for its projections” and “merely layered an additional mathematical function, linear interpolation” over the original projected data to generate 2021 ozone concentrations. Further, MOG has not established that EPA’s linear interpolation method is oversimplified or that the agency has produced unreasonable results. View "Midwest Ozone Group v. EPA" on Justia Law

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The Regional Water Quality Control Board, Los Angeles Region (Regional Board) renewed permits allowing four publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) to discharge millions of gallons of treated wastewater daily into the Los Angeles River and Pacific Ocean. The Regional Board issued the permits over the objections of Los Angeles Waterkeeper (Waterkeeper), an environmental advocacy organization. Waterkeeper sought a review of the permits before the State Water Resources Control Board (State Board), and the State Board declined to review. Waterkeeper then filed petitions for writs of mandate against the State and Regional Boards (collectively, the Boards), naming the cities that owned the four POTWs as real parties in interest.   The Second Appellate District affirmed judgments of dismissal in favor of the Regional Board. The court dismissed the judgments and writs of mandate. Finally, the court reversed the order granting Los Angeles Waterkeeper attorney fees. The court wrote that Waterkeeper has failed adequately to plead causes of action under Article C, section 2 and Water Code Sections 100 and 275. Further, the court explained that the Regional Board does not have a duty to evaluate whether discharges of treated wastewater are an unreasonable use of water. Moreover, Waterkeeper has not adequately pleaded a cause of action against the State Board. Additionally, the court found that Public Resources Code Section 21002 does not apply to wastewater discharge permits. View "L.A. Waterkeeper v. State Wat. Resources Control Bd." on Justia Law

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Objectors challenged the adequacy of an environmental impact report (EIR) for the long-range development plan for the University of California, Berkeley through the 2036-2037 academic year and the university’s immediate plan to build student housing on the site of People’s Park, a historic landmark and the well-known locus of political activity and protest.The court of appeal remanded. The court rejected arguments that the EIR was required to analyze an alternative to the long-range development plan that would limit student enrollment; that the EIR improperly restricted the geographic scope of the plan to the campus and nearby properties, excluding several more distant properties; and that the EIR failed to adequately assess and mitigate environmental impacts related to population growth and displacement of existing residents. However, the EIR failed to justify the decision not to consider alternative locations to the People’s Park project and failed to assess potential noise impacts from student parties in residential neighborhoods near campus, a longstanding problem. The court noted that its decision does not require the abandonment of the People’s Park project and that the California Environmental Quality Act allows an agency to approve a project, even if the project will cause significant environmental harm if the agency discloses the harm and makes required findings. View "Make UC a Good Neighbor v. Regents of University of California" on Justia Law

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To comply with their duties under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the FAA issued an Environmental Assessment (EA) that evaluated the environmental effects of the construction and operation of an Amazon air cargo facility at the San Bernardino International Airport (the “Project”). In evaluating the environmental consequences of the Project, the FAA generally utilized two “study areas” – the General Study Area and the Detailed Study Area. Petitioners are the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice and others (collectively “CCA”) and the State of California. In attacking the parameters of the study areas, the CCA asserted that the FAA did not conform its study areas to the FAA’s Order 1050.1F Desk Reference.   The Ninth Circuit filed (1) an order amending the opinion initially filed on November 18, 2021, and amended on October 11, 2022; and (2) an amended opinion denying a petition for review challenging the FAA’s Record of Decision, which found no significant environmental impact stemming from the Project. The panel held that the FAA’s nonadherence to the Desk Reference could not alone serve as the basis for holding that the FAA did not take a “hard look” at the environmental consequences of the Project. Instead, the CCA must show that the FAA’s nonadherence to the Desk Reference had some sort of EA significance aside from simply failing to follow certain Desk Reference instructions. The panel held that the CCA had not done so here. The panel rejected Petitioners’ argument that the EA failed to assess whether the Project met California’s greenhouse gas emissions standards. View "CENTER FOR COMMUNITY ACTION, ET AL V. FAA, ET AL" on Justia Law