Articles 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

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Three federal agencies and intervenor-defendants challenged injunctions issued by the district court to protect salmon and steelhead species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), 16 U.S.C. 1531-1544. The Ninth Circuit held that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) did not bar plaintiffs' January 2017 injunction motions; the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting the spring spill injunction; the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting the PIT tag monitoring injunction; and the district court's National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321-4347, disclosure was not properly before the panel. Therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting injunctive relief to plaintiffs. The panel dismissed intervenor-defendants' appeal of the district court's NEPA disclosure order. View "National Wildlife Federation v. NMFS" on Justia Law

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Pipes, ditches, and channels that discharge pollutants from non-concentrated aquatic animal production facilities are point sources within the meaning of 33 U.S.C. 1362(14). The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a motion to dismiss an action under the Clean Water Act, alleging that discharges from Coast Seafoods' hatchery required a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. The panel held that, assuming the allegations in the complaint were true, there were discharges of chlorine from the hatchery's pipes, ditches, and channels that required an NPDES permit. View "Olympic Forest Coalition v. Coast Seafoods Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied without prejudice a petition for a writ of mandamus where federal defendants sought an order directing the district court to dismiss a case seeking various environmental remedies. Plaintiffs, twenty-one young individuals, filed suit alleging defendants have contributed to climate change in violation of plaintiffs' constitutional rights. Defendants argued that allowing the case to proceed would result in burdensome discovery obligations on the federal government that would threaten the separation of powers. The panel held that defendants did not not satisfy the Bauman factors at this stage of the litigation, and the issues that defendants raised on mandamus were better addressed through the ordinary course of litigation. In this case, the district court had not issued a single discovery order, plaintiffs have not filed a single motion seeking to compel discovery, any merits errors were correctable through the ordinary course of litigation, and there was no controlling Ninth Circuit authority on any of the theories asserted by plaintiff. Therefore, the panel declined to exercise its discretion in granting mandamus relief. View "United States v. USDC-ORE" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied without prejudice a petition for a writ of mandamus where federal defendants sought an order directing the district court to dismiss a case seeking various environmental remedies. Plaintiffs, twenty-one young individuals, filed suit alleging defendants have contributed to climate change in violation of plaintiffs' constitutional rights. Defendants argued that allowing the case to proceed would result in burdensome discovery obligations on the federal government that would threaten the separation of powers. The panel held that defendants did not not satisfy the Bauman factors at this stage of the litigation, and the issues that defendants raised on mandamus were better addressed through the ordinary course of litigation. In this case, the district court had not issued a single discovery order, plaintiffs have not filed a single motion seeking to compel discovery, any merits errors were correctable through the ordinary course of litigation, and there was no controlling Ninth Circuit authority on any of the theories asserted by plaintiff. Therefore, the panel declined to exercise its discretion in granting mandamus relief. View "United States v. USDC-ORE" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's decisions in favor of the Service in consolidated cases brought by fishing industry groups challenging the Service's decision to end a 1987 sea otter translocation program. After determining that plaintiffs had standing, the panel held that the Service acted lawfully in terminating the southern sea otter relocation program authorized by Public Law 99-625. The panel explained that, in light of the expressly stated goals of Public Law 99-625, it was reasonable to interpret the "mandatory" language in the statute as conditioned on an ongoing successful translocation program. The panel also held that, in the circumstances here, where the agency has discretion to implement an experimental program, it can reasonably interpret the statute to allow it to terminate that program if the statute's purpose was no longer being served. View "California Sea Urchin Commission v. Bean" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's decisions in favor of the Service in consolidated cases brought by fishing industry groups challenging the Service's decision to end a 1987 sea otter translocation program. After determining that plaintiffs had standing, the panel held that the Service acted lawfully in terminating the southern sea otter relocation program authorized by Public Law 99-625. The panel explained that, in light of the expressly stated goals of Public Law 99-625, it was reasonable to interpret the "mandatory" language in the statute as conditioned on an ongoing successful translocation program. The panel also held that, in the circumstances here, where the agency has discretion to implement an experimental program, it can reasonably interpret the statute to allow it to terminate that program if the statute's purpose was no longer being served. View "California Sea Urchin Commission v. Bean" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of the Forest Service's motion to dissolve an injunction enjoining the Lonesome Wood 2 Project. The Project was designed to reduce the threat of wildfire in a populated area of the Gallatin National Forest in Montana. The panel declined to overrule the Forest Service's determination that a thesis outlining important predictors for overall lynx reproductive success did not require the Forest Service to reevaluate its approval of the project. The panel rejected the argument that the Forest Service failed to comply with the obligation to ensure species viability and that the Forest Service failed to comply with its Gallatin Forest Plan obligation to monitor population trends for two management indicator species. Finally, the panel held that the Forest Service took a "hard look" at the project and did not act arbitrarily or capriciously. View "Native Ecosystems Council v. Marten" on Justia Law