Articles Posted in Environmental Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of an action brought by conservationist groups to enjoin the federal government's participation in the killing of gray wolves in Idaho pending additional analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). The panel held that the conservationist groups had Article III standing because declarations from members described how USDA Wildlife Services's wolf-killing activities threatened their aesthetic and recreational interests. Therefore, the members established that the interests fell within the scope of NEPA's protections and they established an injury-in-fact. The panel noted that causation was established under the relaxed standard for procedural injuries. Finally, the panel held that the district court erred in finding that plaintiffs' injuries were not redressable and in relying on an unpublished opinion that lacked precedential value. View "Western Watersheds Project v. Grimm" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the Forest Service in an action challenging travel management plans implemented by the Forest Service to permit limited motorized big game retrieval in three Ranger Districts of the Kaibab National Forest. The panel held that the Forest Service did not violate the plain terms of the Travel Management Rule absent authority requiring a strictly geographic interpretation of the words "limited" and "sparingly." Determining that plaintiffs had standing to bring their claims under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the panel held that the Forest Service took the requisite hard look and its determinations were neither arbitrary nor capricious. In this case, the Forest Service did not violate NEPA by declining to prepare environmental impact statements based on the plans' environmental impacts. Finally, the panel held that the Forest Service satisfied its procedural obligations under the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) by conducting the required prefield work, consulting the appropriate entities, and reaching a determination consistent with the evidence before it. View "WildEarth Guardians v. Provencio" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit withdrew its prior opinion filed December 12, 2017, and substituted the following opinion. In National Mining Association v. Zinke, 877 F.3d 845 (9th Cir. 2017), the panel upheld the decision of the Secretary of the Interior to withdraw, for twenty years, more than one million acres of public lands around Grand Canyon National Park from new mining claims. The panel held that that withdrawal did not extinguish "valid existing rights." The panel affirmed, with one exception, the district court's judgment in an action filed by the Tribe and three environmental groups challenging the Forest Service's determination that Energy Fuels had a valid existing right to operate a uranium mine on land within the withdrawal area. The panel held that the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, and not the Mining Act, formed the legal basis of plaintiffs' claim that Canyon Mine should not be exempt from the withdrawal because the valid existing right determination was in error. The panel vacated as to this claim and remanded for reconsideration on the merits. View "Havasupai Tribe v. Provencio" on Justia Law

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Language in a 1993 appropriations act does not require the Corps to continue to use a 1987 guidance manual for delineating wetlands under the Clean Water Act. In an action seeking to set aside the Corps' decision for an excavation permit in Alaska, the Ninth Circuit held that the 1993 Budget Act prohibited the Corps from using the 1987 Manual during fiscal year 1993, and Congress included a second paragraph to explain what it expected the Corps to do instead. Accordingly, the panel affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Corps. View "Tin Cup, LLC v. US Army Corps of Engineers" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment for plaintiffs in an action under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). This case involved Teck Metals' liability for dumping several million tons of industrial waste into the Columbia River. Determining that it had jurisdiction, the panel held that the district court properly awarded the Colville Tribes all investigation expenses as costs of removal, even though many of these activities played double duty supporting both cleanup and litigation efforts; the district court properly awarded the Colville Tribes their attorney's fees, and the panel did not disturb the finding that approximately $4.86 million was a reasonable award in this case; and Teck did not make a sufficient showing to establish that liability for environmental harm to the Site was theoretically capable of apportionment. View "Pakootas v. Teck Cominco Metals, Ltd." on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law

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Oregon's restrictions on the use of motorized mining equipment in rivers and streams containing essential salmon habitat, adopted into law as Senate Bill 3, were not preempted by federal law. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the state, and held, assuming without deciding that federal law preempts the extension of state land use plans onto unpatented mining claims on federal lands, Senate Bill 3 was not preempted because it constituted an environmental regulation, not a state land use planning law. Moreover, Senate Bill 3 did not stand as an obstacle to the accomplishment of the full purposes and objectives of Congress. View "Bohmker v. Oregon" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a complaint challenging Oregon's Clean Fuels Program, alleging that it violated the Commerce Clause and was preempted by section 211(c) of the Clean Air Act (CAA). The Program regulates the production and sale of transportation fuels based on greenhouse gas emissions. Determining that Rocky Mountain Farmers Union v. Corey, 730 F.3d 1070, 1081 (9th Cir. 2013), was controlling as to the Commerce Clause claim, the panel held that, like the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard at issue in Rocky Mountain, the Oregon Program discriminated against fuels based on lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions, not state of origin. The panel also held that the complaint failed to plausibly allege that the Oregon Program was discriminatory in purpose, and the Program did not violate the Commerce Clause and principles of interstate federalism by attempting to control commerce occurring outside the boundaries of the state. The panel also held that the EPA's decision not to regulate methane was not preemptive under the CAA. View "American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers v. O'Keeffe" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied a petition for review challenging the EPA's approval of a 1994 revision to Montana's State Implementation Plan. The panel held that the EPA's interpretation of "a 2-year period which precedes the particular date" was a permissible one. Therefore, the EPA's approval of Montana's 2015 Implementation Plan was neither arbitrary nor capricious, and Information Center's comment regarding Montana's interpretation of the language in question raised a question of implementation, better addressed at a different time. View "Montana Environmental Information Center v. Thomas" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law

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The Ninth Circuit amended the certification order in an appeal challenging Nevada state water law. The panel certified the following questions to the Supreme Court of Nevada: Does the public trust doctrine apply to rights already adjudicated and settled under the doctrine of prior appropriation and, if so, to what extent? If the public trust doctrine applies and allows for reallocation of rights settled under the doctrine of prior appropriation, does the abrogation of such adjudicated or vested rights constitute a "taking" under the Nevada Constitution requiring payment of just compensation? View "Mineral County v. Walker River Irrigation District" on Justia 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