Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Environmental Law
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A nonprofit entity representing commercial fishers sued the Alaska Board of Fisheries and the Department of Fish and Game, alleging that the State’s fishery management practices in Cook Inlet were unjustified and violated federal law and national standards. The nonprofit sought to depose two current Fish and Game employees but the State opposed, arguing that all material facts necessary for a decision of the case were in the administrative record. The superior court agreed with the State and quashed the nonprofit’s deposition notices. The court also granted summary judgment in favor of the State, deciding that the Cook Inlet fishery was not governed by federal standards and that none of the nonprofit’s disagreements with the State’s fishery management practices stated a violation of statute or regulation. The nonprofit appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the superior court judgment. View "Cook Inlet Fisherman’s Fund v. Alaska Dept. of Fish & Game, et al." on Justia Law

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Chevron U.S.A. Inc. intends to decommission two oil platforms located off the coast of California. The activity of those platforms is generally subject to the Clean Air Act. Chevron asked the Environmental Protection Agency for guidance on whether, as the process of decommissioning the two oil platforms moves forward, the platforms will cease to qualify as regulated sources under the Clean Air Act. EPA responded in a letter to Chevron. Unsatisfied with the views set out in EPA’s letter, Chevron now seeks judicial review of EPA’s response.The DC Circuit dismissed Chevron’s petition for review. The court wrote that it does not reach the merits of Chevron’s petition for review. In the circumstances of this case, the Clean Air Act’s venue provision allows for judicial review in this court only if EPA’s challenged action is “nationally applicable,” as opposed to “locally or regionally applicable.” 42 U.S.C. Section 7607(b)(1). The court concluded that EPA’s response letter is locally or regionally applicable, and that venue over Chevron’s challenge lies exclusively in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. View "Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. EPA" on Justia Law

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For nearly forty years, there has been ongoing efforts to environmentally remediate the Reilly Tar & Chemical Corporation site in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. In 2019, the site’s original consent decree and remedial action plan were amended in a fashion that some neighboring parties oppose. At issue is whether the neighboring parties may intervene to oppose the amended consent decree.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling and held that neighboring parties may not intervene because the neighboring parties lack Article III standing. The court explained that even assuming the Proposed Intervenors show a concrete injury by having to spend money to remediate their property, there are causality issues that preclude Article III standing. The Proposed Intervenors’ contention that the 2019 Consent Decree will increase the migration of CVOC contaminants from the Reilly Tar Site to their own property is based on two unfounded assumptions: (1) it presumes that the CVOC contaminants were subject to remediation by the 1986 Consent Decree, and (2) the 2019 Consent Decree significantly changes CVOC remediation at the Reilly Tar Site.Given this assurance and the conclusion that the 2019 Consent Decree does not alter Reilly Tar’s CVOC remediation obligations, the Proposed Intervenors have not shown a traceable or redressable injury, which are requirements for Article III standing. Because the Proposed Intervenors lack standing, the court has no authority to analyze their remaining claims. View "United States v. Daikin Applied Americas" on Justia Law

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Appellants Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, Candelas Glows/Rocky Flats Glows, Rocky Flats Right to Know, Rocky Flats Neighborhood Association, and Environmental Information Network (EIN) Inc. (collectively, “the Center”) were organizations that challenged the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s (the “Service”) 2018 decision to modify trails in the Refuge that were designated for public use. They sued the Service and others, claiming they failed to comply with various federal statutes and regulations, including the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (“NEPA”) and the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (“ESA”). The Center also moved for a preliminary injunction and for the district court to supplement the administrative record and consider evidence from outside the record. The district court denied the Center’s NEPA claims, dismissed its ESA claim for lack of standing, and denied its motions. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Rocky Mountain Peace & Justice Center, et al. v. United States Fish and Wildlife Service, et al." on Justia Law

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This case was the second appeal arising out of a dispute over the operation of a commercial self-storage facility (Treelake Storage) within a planned unit development in Granite Bay (Treelake Village). Silversword Properties, LLC (Silversword) owned the property upon which K.H. Moss Company and Moss Equity (collectively, Moss) operated Treelake Storage. In a separate but related lawsuit filed in 2017, Parkford Owners for a Better Community (Parkford) challenged Placer County’s (County) issuance of a building permit for the construction of an expansion of Treelake Storage, arguing that the County failed to comply with both the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the Planning and Zoning Law. The trial court concluded: (1) the County’s issuance of the building permit was ministerial rather than discretionary, and therefore CEQA did not apply; and (2) Parkford’s challenge under the Planning and Zoning Law was barred by the statute of limitations. Parkford appealed. In August 2020, a different panel of the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal, concluding that completion of the challenged expansion of Treelake Storage prior to entry of judgment rendered moot Parkford’s challenge to the County’s issuance of a building permit authorizing construction of the expansion. In June 2021, the trial court concluded that the lawsuit here, filed by Parkford in 2018 and challenged the County’s issuance of a business license for the operation of Treelake Storage, was barred by both aspects of the doctrine of res judicata--claim and issue preclusion. The Court of Appeal concluded “Parkford I” was not a final judgment “on the merits,” therefore res judicata did not operate to bar this suit. Accordingly, judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Parkford Owners for a Better Community v. Windeshausen" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff regularly used Roundup on his lawn for about 30 years. Plaintiff was diagnosed with malignant fibrous histiocytoma, which he believes was linked to the main chemical ingredient in Roundup. Plaintiff filed against Monsanto, the manufacturer of Roundup®. In his four-count complaint, he alleged strict liability for a design defect under Georgia law (Count I); strict liability for failure to warn under Georgia law (Count II); negligence under Georgia law (Count III); and breach of implied warranties under Georgia law (Count IV). The district court granted Defendant’s motion, thereby eliminating Counts I and III from the Complaint. Plaintiff timely appealed the district court’s judgment on the pleadings as to Count II.   The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s ruling and remanded. The court held that Plaintiff’s failure to warn claim is not preempted by the federal requirements under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (“FIFRA”) or the Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA”) actions pursuant to it. The court explained that sometimes IFRA or the EPA’s actions pursuant to FIFRA may preempt state law. But only federal action with the force of law has the capacity to preempt state law. Here, the problem for Monsanto is that the EPA’s registration process is not sufficiently formal to carry with it the force of law under Mead. Further, Monsanto cannot wave the “formality” wand on EPA actions to accomplish compliance with the Mead standard. None of them are the product of “notice-and-comment rulemaking” or “formal adjudication.” Nor do the EPA letters Monsanto points to “bespeak the legislative type of activity that would naturally bind” Monsanto. View "John D. Carson v. Monsanto Company" on Justia Law

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A nonprofit organization called California River Watch claimed that the City of Vacaville, California was violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”). River Watch claimed the City’s water wells were contaminated by a carcinogen called hexavalent chromium. That carcinogen, River Watch says, was in turn transported to the City’s residents through its water-distribution system. River Watch’s argument on appeal was that because the hexavalent chromium originated from the Wickes site, it was “discarded material” under RCRA, and thus the City was liable for its transportation through its water-distribution system. The parties cross-moved for summary judgment. The district court granted the City’s motion and denied River Watch’s motion because, as it explained, River Watch hadn’t demonstrated how the City’s water-processing activities could qualify as discarding “solid waste” under RCRA. Thus, the district court explained, RCRA’s “fundamental requirement that the contaminant be ‘discarded’” was not satisfied. River Watch appealed. The Ninth Circuit was satisfied that hexavalent chromium met RCRA's definition of "solid waste." However, the Court found RCRA’s context makes clear that mere conveyance of hazardous waste cannot constitute “transportation” under the endangerment provision. Under the facts presented, the Court found the City did not move hexavalent chromium in direct connection with its waste disposal process. Under River Watch’s theory of liability, hexavalent chromium seeped through groundwater into the City’s wells and the City incidentally carried the waste through its pipes when it pumps water to its residents. The Court concluded City did not have the necessary connection to the waste disposal process to be held liable for “transportation” under § 6972(a)(1)(B) of the Act. Because the City could not be held liable under RCRA, the district court’s grant of summary judgment for the City was affirmed. View "California River Watch v. City of Vacaville" on Justia Law

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In this climate-change case, the First Circuit once more affirmed the order of the federal district court allowing Rhode Island's motion to return to state court its state court complaint against oil and gas companies for damages caused by fossil fuels, holding that Rhode Island's complaint did not give rise to federal removal jurisdiction.Rhode Island originally brought this complaint in state court, alleging state-law causes of action for, inter alia, public nuisance. After the energy companies removed the case to federal district court Rhode Island moved for the case to be remanded to state court. The district court granted the motion and ordered the case remanded to state court. The First Circuit affirmed the remand order. On certiorari, the Supreme Court instructed that the First Circuit give further consideration in light of recent caselaw. The First Circuit received supplemental briefs and then affirmed once more the judge's remand order, holding that removal based on federal-question jurisdiction and on other jurisdictional and removal statutes was not proper. View "State of Rhode Island v. Shell Oil Products Co., LLC" on Justia Law

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Crystal Geyser Water Company bought a closed water bottling facility and sought to revive it. Both the County and the City ultimately granted the necessary permits. This appeal concerned one of two lawsuits challenging these approvals, brought pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In one suit, Appellants We Advocate Thorough Environmental Review and Winnehem Wintu Tribe alleged that the County’s environmental review for the bottling facility was inadequate under CEQA. In another, they alleged that the City’s decision to issue the wastewater permit for the bottling plant was also improper under CEQA. In this case, the County served as the lead agency and considered the potential environmental impacts of permitting the bottling facility before it or any other public agency issued a permit for the facility. But in Appellants’ view, the County’s analysis was inadequate. Appellants alleged the County: (1) provided a misleading description of the project; (2) defined the project’s objectives in an impermissibly narrow manner; (3) improperly evaluated the project’s impacts to aesthetics, air quality, climate change, noise, and hydrology; and (4) approved the project even though it would result in violations of the County’s and the City’s general plans. The trial court rejected all Appellants’ arguments. But the Court of Appeal found two contentions had merit: (1) the County defined the project’s objectives in an overly narrow manner; and (2) the process for evaluating the project’s impacts to climate change was flawed. Relevant to this point, the County initially informed the public that the bottling project would result in greenhouse gas emissions of one amount, but, after the period for public comments had ended, the County disclosed that the project would actually result in emissions nearly double what it initially estimated. Under the circumstances of this case, the appellate court found the County should have allowed the public further opportunity to comment on the project after this late disclosure. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "We Advocate Through etc. v. County of Siskiyou" on Justia Law

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Crystal Geyser Water Company bought a closed water bottling facility and sought to revive it. Both the County and the City ultimately granted the necessary permits. This appeal concerned one of two lawsuits challenging these approvals, brought pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In one suit, Appellants We Advocate Thorough Environmental Review and Winnehem Wintu Tribe alleged that the County’s environmental review for the bottling facility was inadequate under CEQA. In another, they alleged that the City’s decision to issue the wastewater permit for the bottling plant was also improper under CEQA. The Court of Appeal addressed Appellants’ challenge to the City’s approval of the wastewater permit. The County served as the lead agency and the City served as one of several responsible agencies for the proposed bottling facility. According to Appellants, the City failed to comply with its obligations as a responsible agency for three reasons: (1) the City failed to make certain findings that were required under CEQA before issuing the wastewater permit for the bottling facility; (2) the City should have adopted mitigation measures to address some of the bottling facility’s environmental impacts before approving the permit; and (3) the City should have performed additional environmental review following a late revision to the permit. The trial court rejected all Appellants’ arguments. But the Court of Appeal agreed with Appellants on one point: The City should have made certain findings under CEQA before issuing the wastewater permit. Apart from needing to make one or more of these findings for each significant impact, the City also needed to supply a brief explanation of the rationale for each finding. The City, however, never complied with these requirements. “It instead, in a single sentence, said only this: The City has reviewed the County’s report on the project and ‘finds no unmitigated adverse environmental impacts relating to the alternate waste discharge disposal methods.’” Because the Court found this brief statement inadequate to satisfy CEQA, judgment was reversed. View "We Advocate Through Environmental Review v. City of Mt. Shasta" on Justia Law