Justia Civil Procedure Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Environmental Law
RMS of Georgia, LLC v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, et al.
Under the Clean Air Act, Congress gave the Courts of Appeals jurisdiction to hear petitions for review of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) actions. But it mandated that petitions for review of “nationally applicable” actions be heard in the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.Here, Petitioner challenges the EPA’s allocation of permits to consume hydrofluorocarbons—a type of chemical refrigerant—under the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act. Specifically, RMS argues that it received fewer permits than it was entitled to because the EPA improperly allocated some historic HFC usage to RMS’s competitors.Finding that the EPA’s action was nationally applicable, the Eleventh Circuit transferred the petition to the D.C. Circuit. The court reasoned that the Allocation Notice at issue allocated permits nationwide and was not restricted in geographic scope; therefore, it was nationally applicable. View "RMS of Georgia, LLC v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, et al." on Justia Law
County of Butte, et al. v. Dept. of Water Resources
This case concerned California’s efforts to relicense its hydropower facilities at Oroville Dam. Before the license expired, California’s Department of Water Resources (DWR) began the process for relicensing these facilities. It also, in connection with this effort, prepared a statement of potential environmental impacts, known as an environmental impact report or EIR, under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Three local governments - Butte County, Plumas County, and Plumas County Flood Control and Water Conservation District (together, the Counties) - filed writ petitions challenging the sufficiency of DWR’s EIR. The trial court found none of the Counties' arguments persuasive and entered judgment in DWR’s favor. On appeal, the Court of Appeal considered this case for the third time. In its first decision, the Court found the Counties’ challenge largely preempted by the Federal Power Act, but the California Supreme Court vacated that decision and asked the appellate court to reconsider in light of one of its precedents. In the appeals court's second decision, it again found the Counties’ challenge largely preempted. But the Supreme Court, taking up the case a second time, reversed the appellate court's decision in part. While the Supreme Court agreed that some of the remedies the Counties sought were preempted, it found they could still challenge the sufficiency of DWR’s EIR. It thus remanded the matter to the appeals court for further consideration. Turning to the merits for the first time since this appeal was filed over a decade ago, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "County of Butte, et al. v. Dept. of Water Resources" on Justia Law
California Manufacturers etc. v. Off. of Environmental Health etc.
At issue here was the 2015 “public health goal” (PHG) defendant Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) set for the contaminant perchlorate, a chemical found in rocket fuel. After OEHHA set the PHG for perchlorate at 1 part per billion (ppb), plaintiff California Manufacturers & Technology Association (CMTA) filed a petition for a writ of mandate ordering OEHHA to withdraw the PHG. The trial court denied the petition. On appeal, CMTA argued: (1) OEHHA violated the statutory mandate in arriving at the PHG; and (2) the PHG was void based on the common law conflict of interest doctrine because its author, Dr. Craig Steinmaus, had a conflict of interest. The Court of Appeal concluded OEHHA complied with the statutory requirements under Health & Safety Code section 116365 (c)(1)(A), and that the common law conflict of interest doctrine did not apply here. View "California Manufacturers etc. v. Off. of Environmental Health etc." on Justia Law
Western Watersheds Project v. Interior Board of Land Appeals, et al.
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
Environmental Law Foundation v. State Water Resources Control Bd.
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
Adelphia Gateway LLC v. Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board
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
Committee to Relocate Marilyn v. City of Palm Springs
The City of Palm Springs closed off one of its downtown streets to all vehicular traffic for a period of three years to allow a tourism organization to install and display a large statue of Marilyn Monroe in the middle of the street. A citizens’ group called the Committee to Relocate Marilyn ("the Committee") petitioned for a writ of administrative mandate challenging the street closure, alleging the City did not have the statutory authority to close the street. Additionally, the Committee alleged the City erroneously declared the street closure categorically exempt from environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The City demurred to the petition for writ of administrative mandate, arguing it had the authority to close the street for three years under Vehicle Code section 21101(e), and its local equivalent, Palm Springs Municipal Code section 12.80.010. The City claimed the street closure was temporary, and therefore permissible. Further, the City argued the CEQA cause of action was untimely. The trial court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend and entered a judgment of dismissal in favor of the City. After its review, the Court of Appeal concluded the Committee pleaded allegations sufficient to establish: (1) the City exceeded its authority under the Vehicle Code and Municipal Code; and (2) the timeliness of its CEQA cause of action. After the notice of exemption was filed, the City abandoned its plan to vacate vehicular access to the street and elected to close the street instead. Because the City materially changed the project after it filed its notice of exemption, and it did not afford the public an opportunity to consider the revised project or its environmental effects, the notice of exemption did not trigger a 35-day statute of limitations. Instead, the CEQA cause of action was subject to a default statute of limitations of 180 days, measured from the date the Committee knew or should have known about the changed project. The Court determined the Committee timely filed its CEQA cause of action. In light of these conclusions, the Court reversed the judgment of dismissal, vacated the demurrer ruling, and instructed the trial court to enter a new order overruling the demurrer as to these three causes of action. View "Committee to Relocate Marilyn v. City of Palm Springs" on Justia Law
Arcadians for Environmental Preservation v. City of Arcadia
After the Arcadia City Council approved J.W.’s application to expand the first story of her single-family home and add a second story (“the project”), Arcadians for Environmental Preservation (AEP), a grassroots organization led by J.W.’s next-door neighbor, filed a petition for writ of administrative mandamus challenging the City’s decision. AEP’s petition primarily alleged the city council had erred in finding the project categorically exempt from the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and CEQA’s implementing guidelines. The superior court denied the petition, ruling as a threshold matter that AEP had failed to exhaust its administrative remedies. The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court held that AEP failed to exhaust its administrative remedies on the question of whether the project fell within the scope of the class 1 exemption. Further, the court found that AEP’s general objections to project approval did not satisfy the exhaustion requirement. Moreover, the court wrote that AEP has not demonstrated the City failed to proceed in a manner required by law when it impliedly found no exception to the exemption applied. Finally, the court held that AEP has not demonstrated the City erred in concluding the cumulative effects exception did not apply. View "Arcadians for Environmental Preservation v. City of Arcadia" on Justia Law
Balderas, et al. v. United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, et al.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission granted a license to Interim Storage Partners to store spent nuclear fuel near the New Mexico border. New Mexico challenged the grant of this license, invoking the Administrative Procedure Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act. The Commission moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. Objecting to the motion, New Mexico invoked jurisdiction under the combination of the Hobbs Act, and the Atomic Energy Act. The Tenth Circuit determined these statutes could combine to trigger jurisdiction only when the petitioner was an aggrieved party in the licensing proceeding. This limitation applied here because New Mexico didn’t participate in the licensing proceeding or qualify as an aggrieved party. "New Mexico just commented to the Commission about its draft environmental impact statement. Commenting on the environmental impact statement didn’t create status as an aggrieved party, so jurisdiction isn’t triggered under the combination of the Hobbs Act and Atomic Energy Act." The Court found the Nuclear Waste Policy Act governed the establishment of a federal repository for permanent, not temporary storage by private parties like Interim Storage. And even when an agency acts ultra vires, the Court lacked jurisdiction when the petitioner had other available remedies: New Mexico had other available remedies by seeking intervention in the Commission’s proceedings. So the Commission’s motion to dismiss the petition was granted for lack of jurisdiction. View "Balderas, et al. v. United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, et al." on Justia Law
Dine Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, et al. v. Haaland, et al.
Citizen groups challenged the Bureau of Land Management’s (“BLM”) environmental assessments (“EAs”) and environmental assessment addendum analyzing the environmental impact of 370 applications for permits to drill (“APDs”) for oil and gas in the Mancos Shale and Gallup Sandstone formations in the San Juan Basin of New Mexico. These challenges came after a separate but related case in which the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals remanded to the district court with instructions to vacate five EAs analyzing the impacts of APDs in the area because BLM had failed to consider the cumulative environmental impacts as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”). BLM prepared an EA Addendum to remedy the defects in those five EAs, as well as potential defects in eighty-one other EAs that also supported approvals of APDs in the area. Citizen Groups argued these eighty-one EAs and the EA Addendum violated NEPA because BLM: (1) improperly predetermined the outcome of the EA Addendum; and (2) failed to take a hard look at the environmental impacts of the APD approvals related to greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions, water resources, and air quality. BLM disagreed, contending the challenges to some of the APDs were not justiciable because the APDs had not yet been approved. The district court affirmed the agency action, determining: (1) Citizen Groups’ claims based on APD’s that had not been approved were not ripe for judicial review; (2) BLM did not unlawfully predetermine the outcome of the EA Addendum; and (3) BLM took a hard look at the environmental impacts of the APD approvals. The Tenth Circuit agreed with BLM and the district court that the unapproved APDs were not ripe and accordingly, limited its review to the APDs that had been approved. Turning to Citizen Groups’ two primary arguments on the merits, the appellate court held: (1) BLM did not improperly predetermine the outcome of the EA Addendum, but, even considering that addendum; (2) BLM’s analysis was arbitrary and capricious because it failed to take a hard look at the environmental impacts from GHG emissions and hazardous air pollutant emissions. However, the Court concluded BLM’s analysis of the cumulative impacts to water resources was sufficient under NEPA. View "Dine Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, et al. v. Haaland, et al." on Justia Law