Justia Civil Procedure Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Environmental Law
Connecticut ex rel. Tong v. Exxon Mobil Corp.
il”) in Connecticut state court, alleging that Exxon Mobil had engaged in a decades-long campaign of deception to knowingly mislead and deceive Connecticut consumers about the negative climatological effects of the fossil fuels that Exxon Mobil was marketing to those consumers. Based on these allegations, Connecticut asserted eight claims against Exxon Mobil, all under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (“CUTPA”). Exxon Mobil removed the case to federal district court, invoking subject-matter jurisdiction under the federal-question statute, the federal-officer removal statute, and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (the “OCSLA”), as well as on other bases no longer pressed in this appeal. The district court rejected each of Exxon Mobil’s theories of federal subject-matter jurisdiction and thus remanded the case to state court. Exxon Mobil appealed. The Second Appellate affirmed the district court’s order. The court explained that there are only three exceptions to the “general rule” that “absent diversity jurisdiction, a case will not be removable if the complaint does not affirmatively allege a federal claim.” The court reasoned that Exxon Mobil cannot establish Grable jurisdiction simply by gesturing toward ways in which “this case” loosely “implicates” the same subject matter as “the federal common law of transboundary pollution.” The court wrote that because no federal issue is necessarily raised by any of Connecticut’s CUTPA claims, the Grable/Gunn exception from the well-pleaded complaint rule is inapplicable here. View "Connecticut ex rel. Tong v. Exxon Mobil Corp." on Justia Law
Center for Biological Diversity v. EPA, et al.
In a May 2022 final rule, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved a revision to Colorado’s State Implementation Plan (SIP) certifying Colorado’s existing, EPA-approved Nonattainment New Source Review (NNSR) permit program regulating new or modified major stationary sources of air pollution in the Denver Metro-North Front Range area met the requirements for attaining the 2015 National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone. The Center for Biological Diversity challenged the final rule on procedural and substantive grounds. Procedurally, the Center argued the EPA violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by failing to include the state regulations that comprised Colorado’s permit program in the rulemaking docket during the public-comment period. And substantively, the Center argued the EPA acted contrary to law when it approved Colorado’s SIP revision because Colorado’s permit program excluded all “temporary emissions” and “emissions from internal combustion engines on any vehicle” in determining whether a new or modified stationary source was “major” and therefore subject to the permit process. The Tenth Circuit found the EPA’s notice of proposed rulemaking was adequate under the APA, but agreed with the Center that the EPA acted contrary to law in allowing Colorado to exclude all temporary emissions under its permit program. The Court found the federal regulation the EPA relied on in approving this exclusion plainly did not authorize such an exclusion. But the Center identified no similar problem with the EPA allowing Colorado to exclude emissions from internal combustion engines on any vehicle. The Court therefore granted the Center’s petition in part, vacated a portion of the EPA’s final rule, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Center for Biological Diversity v. EPA, et al." on Justia Law
City of Jacksonville v. Jacksonville Hospitality Holdings, L.P., et al
After eight years of litigation involving ten different parties, Continental Holdings, Inc. (Continental) appealed the district court’s denial of its November 2015 motion to voluntarily dismiss Houston Pipe Line Company, L.P. and HPL GP, LLC (collectively, Houston) from the case pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(2). Continental argues that we should reverse the district court’s Rule 41(a)(2) decision and vacate all of the subsequent orders governing its dispute with Houston. The Eleventh Circuit dismissed the appeal. The court explained that over the course of this litigation, many parties filed motions pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(1)(A)(ii) in an attempt to voluntarily dismiss their claims against another party. For each motion, fewer than all parties involved in the litigation provided a signature. Yet, Rule 41(a)(1)(A)(ii) only permits a plaintiff to dismiss an action without a court order by filing “a stipulation of dismissal signed by all parties who have appeared. The court explained that because multiple motions made under this Rule were not signed by all parties who appeared in the lawsuit, they were ineffective, and the claims they purported to dismiss remain pending before the district court. Consequently, there has not been a final judgment below, and the court explained that it lacks jurisdiction to consider the merits of this appeal. View "City of Jacksonville v. Jacksonville Hospitality Holdings, L.P., et al" on Justia Law
EARTH ISLAND INSTITUTE V. CICELY MULDOON, ET AL
The National Park Service adopted a comprehensive plan for fire management in Yosemite National Park. In 2021 and 2022, the National Park Service approved two projects to thin vegetation in Yosemite in preparation for controlled burns. Those projects comported with the fire management plan except for minor alterations. The Earth Island Institute sued under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), arguing that it was unlawful for the National Park Service to approve the projects without conducting a full review of their expected environmental impacts. The Institute then moved for a preliminary injunction to halt parts of the projects. The district court denied the motion for a preliminary injunction holding that the National Park Service had sufficiently evaluated the environmental impact of the projects. The Ninth Circuit affirmed. Applying the arbitrary and capricious standard, the panel upheld the Agency’s determination that the projects fell under a categorical exclusion called the “minor-change exclusion” that exempted them from the requirement that the Agency prepare an environmental assessment or an environmental impact statement. The projects fell under that categorical exclusion because they were “changes or amendments” to the 2004 Fire Management Plan that would cause “no or only minimal environmental impact.” The panel held that the projects were consistent with the Fire Management Plan, contributing to its goals and using its methods, with only minor modifications. The panel acknowledged that even if a proposed project fits within a categorical exclusion, an agency may not rely on that exclusion if there are “extraordinary circumstances in which a normally excluded action may have a significant effect” on the environment. View "EARTH ISLAND INSTITUTE V. CICELY MULDOON, ET AL" on Justia Law
Self v. B P X Operating
Louisiana oil and gas law authorizes the state Commissioner of Conservation to combine separate tracts of land and appoint a unit operator to extract the minerals. Plaintiffs own unleased mineral interests in Louisiana that are part of a forced drilling unit. BPX is the operator. Plaintiffs alleged on behalf of themselves and a named class that BPX has been improperly deducting post-production costs from their pro rata share of production and that this practice is improper per se. The district court granted BPX’s motion to dismiss Plaintiffs’ per se claims, holding that the quasi-contractual doctrine of negotiorum gestio provides a mechanism for BPX to properly deduct postproduction costs. Plaintiffs filed this action as purported representatives of a named class of unleased mineral owners whose interests are situated within forced drilling units formed by the Louisiana Office of Conservation and operated by BPX. BPX removed this action to the district court based on both diversity and federal question jurisdiction. BPX sought dismissal of the Plaintiffs’ primary claim. The district court granted BPX’s motion to dismiss. The district court certified its ruling for interlocutory appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 1292(b).The Fifth Circuit wrote that no controlling Louisiana case resolves the parties’ issue. Accordingly, the court certified the following determinative question of law to the Louisiana Supreme Court: 1) Does La. Civ. Code art. 2292 applies to unit operators selling production in accordance with La. R.S. 30:10(A)(3)? View "Self v. B P X Operating" on Justia Law
EEE Minerals, LLC v. State of North Dakota
EEE Minerals, LLC, and a Trustee for The Vohs Family Revocable Living Trust, sued the State of North Dakota, the Board of University and School Lands, and the Board’s commissioner in a dispute over mineral interests in McKenzie County, North Dakota. Plaintiffs alleged that state law related to mineral ownership was preempted by federal law and that the defendants had engaged in an unconstitutional taking of the plaintiffs’ mineral interests. Plaintiffs sought damages, an injunction, and declaratory relief. The district court dismissed the action. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. Plaintiffs contend that the Flood Control Act impliedly preempts the North Dakota statute because the state law “stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress.” The court explained that it is not convinced that the State’s determination of a high-water mark, and the attendant settling of property rights under state law, stands as an obstacle to accomplishing the objectives of the Flood Control Act. The court wrote that the interests of the United States and the goals of the Flood Control Act are unaffected by a dispute between the State and a private party over mineral rights that were not acquired by the federal government. Further, the court explained that Plaintiffs have not established that the United States will be prevented from flooding or inundating any land covered by the 1957 deed in which the State claims ownership of mineral interests under state law. The Flood Control Act would not dictate that property rights be assigned to Plaintiffs. View "EEE Minerals, LLC v. State of North Dakota" on Justia Law
State of Texas v. NRC
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has asserted that it has authority under the Atomic Energy Act to license temporary, away from reactor storage facilities for spent nuclear fuel. Based on that claim of authority, the Commission issued a license for Interim Storage Partners, LLC, to operate a temporary storage facility on the Permian Basin.Fasken Land and Minerals, Ltd., and Permian Basin Land and Royalty Owners (“PBLRO”) petitioned for review of the license. As did the State of Texas, arguing that the Atomic Energy Act doesn’t confer authority on the Commission to license such a facility.The Fifth Circuit granted Texas’ petition for review and vacated the license, finding that the Atomic Energy Act does not confer on the Commission the broad authority it claims to issue licenses for private parties to store spent nuclear fuel away from the reactor. And the Nuclear Waste Policy Act establishes a comprehensive statutory scheme for dealing with nuclear waste generated from commercial nuclear power generation, thereby foreclosing the Commission’s claim of authority. View "State of Texas v. NRC" on Justia Law
In Re Jefferson Parish
Several collections of residents near Jefferson Parish Landfill sued the landfill’s owner (Jefferson Parish) and its operators (four companies). This mandamus action arises out of the Eastern District of Louisiana’s case management of two of those lawsuits: the Ictech-Bendeck class action and the Addison mass action. The Ictech-Bendeck class action plaintiffs seek damages on a state-law nuisance theory under Louisiana Civil Code articles 667, 668, and 669. The Addison mass action plaintiffs seek damages from the same defendants, although they plead claims for both nuisance and negligence. The district court granted in part and denied in part Petitioners’ motion for summary judgment against some of the Addison plaintiffs. Then on April 17 the district court adopted a new case management order drafted by the parties that scheduled a September 2023 trial for several of the Addison plaintiffs. The Fifth Circuit denied Petitioners' petition for mandamus relief. The court explained that mandamus is an extraordinary form of relief saved for the rare case in which there has been a “usurpation of judicial power” or a “clear abuse of discretion.” The court explained that mandamus relief is not for testing novel legal theories. The court wrote that Petitioners’ theory is not merely new; it is also wrong. Rule 23 establishes a mechanism for plaintiffs to pursue their claims as a class. It does not cause the filing of a putative class action to universally estop all separate but related actions from proceeding to the merits until the class-certification process concludes in the putative class action, after years of motions practice. View "In Re Jefferson Parish" on Justia Law
Wyoming v. EPA, et al.
This case involved Wyoming’s plan to regulate emissions from powerplants within its borders that produce pollutants that contribute to regional haze, reducing visibility in and the aesthetics to national parks and wilderness areas. Wyoming produced a state implementation plan (SIP) in 2011. In a 2014 final rule, the EPA approved the SIP in part (as to Naughton) and disapproved it in part (as to Wyodak). Through a federal implementation plan (FIP), the EPA also substituted its determination of the proper technology to install at Wyodak, replacing Wyoming’s SIP. Wyoming and PacifiCorp petitioned for review, arguing the SIP should be entirely approved and claiming the EPA failed to grant Wyoming the deference required by federal law when it disapproved the Wyodak portion. Several conservation groups also challenged the rule, arguing the Naughton 1 and 2 portion should have been disapproved because the EPA failed to require the best available technology to reduce regional haze in a timely manner. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals granted the petition as to Wyodak and vacated that portion of the final rule. The Court found the EPA erred in evaluating the Wyodak portion of the SIP because it treated non-binding agency guidelines as mandatory in violation of the Clean Air Act. The Court remanded that part of the final rule to the agency for further review. But because the EPA properly approved Wyoming’s determination of the best technology for Naughton, the Court denied the petition as to those units and upheld that portion of the final rule. View "Wyoming v. EPA, et al." on Justia Law
Grant Park Neighborhood Assn. Advocates v. Dept. of Public Health
Grant Park Neighborhood Association Advocates and four individuals (together, Grant Park) challenged Department of Public Health's (the Department) approval of an entity’s application to operate a needle and syringe distribution program in Santa Cruz County. Grant Park argued the Department’s approval was flawed for four reasons: (1) Department failed to consult with local law enforcement before approving the application; (2) the Department failed to notify three of the affected local law enforcement agencies about the comment period; (3) the Department provided only 45 days for public comment even though its regulations at the time required 90 days; and (4) the Department failed to conduct the environmental review required under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). After Grant Park filed suit, the California Legislature amended Health & Safety Code section 121349 to exempt approvals under the statute from CEQA; Grant Park contended this amendment did not apply retroactively. On Grant Park’s appeal of the trial court’s decision in the Department’s favor, the Court of Appeal found the Department failed to engage in the required consultation, failed to provide the required notice to three local police departments about the comment period, and failed to provide the required 90 days for comment. The Court also found these failures to comply with section 121349 prejudicial. But the Court found it unnecessary to consider Grant Park’s final claim premised on CEQA, because the only relief it sought under CEQA was relief the Court already agreed was appropriate because of the Department’s failures to comply with section 121349. The Court therefore directed the trial court to grant Grant Park’s petition. View "Grant Park Neighborhood Assn. Advocates v. Dept. of Public Health" on Justia Law