Articles Posted in Environmental Law

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CBD filed suit challenging the FWS's decision not to list the arctic grayling as an endangered or threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Ninth Circuit reversed in part the district court's grant of summary judgment to FWS, holding that FWS acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner. The panel held that the 2014 Finding's decision that listing the arctic grayling was "not warranted" was arbitrary and capricious because it ignored the DeHaan study's evidence that shows decreasing numbers of breeders and instead heavily relied on a contrary finding showing increasing population; did not provide a reasoned explanation for relying on the existence of cold water refugia in the Big Hole River; failed to consider the synergistic effects of climate change solely because of "uncertainty"; and concluded that the Ruby River population was viable based on data collected over a shorter period than that underlying the 2010 Finding and FWS's own established criteria for viability. View "Center for Biological Diversity v. Zinke" on Justia Law

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The alliance filed suit alleging that the Forest Service violated the National Forest Resource Management Plan after approving the Lost Creek Project, which proposed landscape restoration activities on approximately 80,000 acres of the Payette National Forest. The Alliance also raised claims under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The panel held that the final Record of Decision (ROD) for the Lost Creek Project was arbitrary and capricious because the standards, guidelines, and desired conditions that determine the forest conditions for Management Prescription Categories (MPC) 5.1 were different from those for MPC 5.2. The panel also held that the Forest Service's decision to adopt a new definition of "old forest habitat" for the Lost Creek Project area was arbitrary and capricious, and a violation of the National Forest Management Act. The panel held, however, that the Project's minimum road system designation was not arbitrary or capricious where the Forest Service fully explained its decision in selecting an alternative and considered each of the factors listed under 36 C.F.R. 212.5; the Forest Service did not violate NEPA by improperly incorporating, or "tiering to," the Wildlife Conservation Strategy (WCS) amendments or the WCS draft environmental impact statement; and challenges to the Forest Service's failure to reinitiate consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the endangered bull trout under Section 7 of the ESA was moot. Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Alliance for the Wild Rockies v. USFS" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law

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The Ninth Circuit granted a petition for review of the EPA's 2017 order maintaining a tolerance for the pesticide chlorpyrifos. In this case, the EPA did not defend the order on the merits but argued that despite petitioners having properly-filed administrative objections to the order more than a year ago and the statutory requirement that the EPA respond to such objections "as soon as practicable," the EPA's failure to respond to the objections deprived the panel of jurisdiction to adjudicate whether the EPA exceeded its statutory authority in refusing to ban use of chlorpyrifos on food products. The panel held that obtaining a response to objections before seeking review by this court was a claim-processing rule that did not restrict federal jurisdiction, and that could, and here should, be excused. Accordingly, the court vacated the order and remanded to the EPA with directions to revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for chlorpyrifos within 60 days. View "League of United Latin American Citizens v. New York" on Justia Law

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Alliance filed suit against Federal Defendants to enjoin implementation of the East Reservoir Project on the Kootenai National Forest in northwest Montana. While this appeal was pending, the Forest Service reinitiated consultation with the FWS and subsequently issued a new biological opinion for the Lynx Amendment, completing a reconsultation process. Therefore, the panel rejected Alliance's assertion that the Forest Service's decision to approve the Project was arbitrary and capricious because it improperly relied on the Lynx Amendment in determining the impact of Project activities on lynx and lynx critical habitat. The panel dismissed the claim and remanded to the district court with directions to vacate the part of its summary judgment ruling that addressed this lynx related claim and to dismiss it as moot. However, the panel held that Alliance was entitled to summary judgment on its claim that the Forest Service failed to comply with the Motorized Vehicle Access Act (Access Amendments). In this case, the Forest Service's failure to analyze whether the Project will increase the total linear miles of permanent roads within the Tobacco BORZ polygon (the overlapping area in which Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bears were sometimes found) beyond the baseline did not satisfy the plain terms of the Access Amendments and was therefore arbitrary and capricious. The panel reversed the district court's judgment as to this claim and remanded for further proceedings. View "Alliance for the Wild Rockies v. Savage" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied the government's petition for a writ of mandamus, asking the court to direct the district court to dismiss a case seeking various environmental remedies, or to stay all discovery and trial. The court denied the government's first mandamus petition, concluding that it had not met the high bar for relief at that stage of the litigation. The court held that no new circumstances justified the second petition where the government failed to satisfy the Bauman factors at this stage of the litigation, because the government's fear of burdensome or improper discovery did not warrant mandamus relief in the absence of a single specific discovery order; the government's arguments as to the violation of the Administrative Procedure Act and the separation of powers failed to establish that they would suffer prejudice not correctable in a future appeal; and the merits of the case could be resolved by the district court or in a future appeal. View "United States v. United States District Court for the District of Oregon" on Justia Law

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The Clean Air Act did not grant movant an "unconditional right" to intervene in the government's suit. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a motion to intervene in the government's Clean Air Act enforcement action against Volkswagen. The panel held that the Act's citizen suit provision did not grant movant an unconditional right to intervene under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(a)(1) where 42 U.S.C. 7604(b)(1)(B)'s diligent prosecution bar circumscribed a citizen's right to intervene in an enforcement action under that same provision; a citizen who retained the right to file suit on his own, despite a government enforcement action, had no statutory right to intervene in that action; and the government was not suing to enforce a "standard, limitation, or order" within the meaning of the Act, and thus the diligent prosecution bar did not preclude movant's claims and he was free to bring his own citizen suit. In the alternative, movant's proposed complaints-in-intervention demonstrated that he was not seeking to enforce the provisions invoked by the government, and thus he could have filed his own suit and was not entitled to intervene in the government's action. View "Hill v. Volkswagen, AG" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Bank in an action challenging the Bank's authorization of nearly $4.8 billion in financing for two liquid natural gas projects near the Great Barrier Reef. The panel held that events occurring after the district court's ruling did not make environmental group plaintiff's claims moot. However, plaintiffs lacked standing because, even under the relaxed redressability standards applicable in this case, plaintiffs failed to show that performance of the additional procedures required under the Endangered Species Act and the National Historic Preservation Act could redress the alleged environmental injury. View "Center for Biological Diversity v. Export-Import Bank of the United States" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law

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Farmers filed suit alleging injury to their water rights after the Nevada State Engineer and the California State Water Resources Control Board approved change applications for a voluntary water rights leasing program managed by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation in the Walker River Basin. The Ninth Circuit principally held that the Decree court failed to defer to the findings and conclusions of the state agencies and, to the extent the Decree court entered its own findings, those findings were clear error. In this case, the Engineer properly found that a transfer to the Foundation limited to the consumption portion would avoid conflict and injury to other existing water rights, the findings were supported by substantial evidence, and the Engineer applied the correct legal rule. The panel also held that the export restriction of the Walker River Decree did not prohibit delivering water to Walker Lake because Walker Lake was part of the Walker River Basin. View "United States v. U.S. Board of Water Commissioners" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Westside in an action under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980. The panel held that Westside, a defendant who buys real property at a tax sale, did not have a "contractual relationship" with the previous owner of the property within the meaning of CERCLA. The panel reasoned that the previous owner caused contamination "in connection with" its contractual relationship with Westside and thus Westside was not entitled to CERCLA's third-party defense. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Cal. DTSC v. Westside Delivery, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s summary judgment in favor of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and intervenor Newhall Land and Farming in an action challenging the Corps’ issuance of a permit, pursuant to Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, to Newhall Land, authorizing the discharge of materials into the Santa Clara River as part of the Newhall Ranch project in Los Angeles County near Santa Clarita, California. The Court rejected challenges under the Clean Water Act to the Corp’s permit issuance. The Court concluded that the Corps complied with its obligations under the Clean Water Act because the Corps properly considered practicability as required under the Section 404(b) Guidelines. Furthermore, the Court concluded concluded that the Corps complied with the Endangered Species Act (ESA) because its determination that Southern California steelhead would not be affected by the Project, and its corresponding decision not to consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service, were not arbitrary and capricious. For similar reasons, the panel concluded that the Corps reasonably assessed the Project’s potential impacts to the steelhead and provided sufficient discussion to satisfy its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) obligations. View "Friends of the Santa Clara River v. US Army Corps of Engineers" on Justia Law