Articles Posted in Environmental Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to PG&E and denial of summary judgment to EcoRights with respect to a stormwater pathway. The panel held that the district court erred in applying the antiduplication provision of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), 42 U.S.C. 1006(a), with respect to the stormwater pathway; the absence of a Clean Water Act (CWA), 33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq., permit requirement did not trigger RCRA's anti-duplication provision; and PG&E failed to identify any legal requirements under municipal permits applicable to it and inconsistent with EcoRights' requested RCRA relief. The panel remanded for the district court to consider EcoRights' arguments with respect to the stormwater pathway that the relevant wastes were "solid wastes" and that PG&E's actions presented an imminent and substantial endangerment to health or the environment under RCRA. Finally, the panel affirmed the district court's grant of partial summary judgment as to the tire-tracking pathway. View "Ecological Rights Foundation v. PG&E" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law

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TDY filed a complaint under the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. 9613(f)(1), seeking contribution from the government for its equitable share of the cleanup costs. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of judgment in favor of the United States, which allocated 100 percent of past and future CERCLA costs to TDY. The panel agreed with the district court that some deviation from the allocation affirmed in Shell Oil Co., 294 F.3d at 1049, and Cadillac Fairview, 299 F.3d at 1022–23, was warranted by distinguishing facts. However, the panel held that encumbering a military contractor with 100 percent of CERCLA cleanup costs that were largely incurred during war-effort production was a 180 degree departure from the panel's prior case law, and the out-of-circuit authority that the district court relied upon did not warrant such a sharp deviation. In this case, the district court did not adequately consider the parties' lengthy course of dealings and the government's requirement that TDY use two of the hazardous chemicals at issue. Accordingly, the court remanded for additional proceedings. View "TDY Holdings v. United States" on Justia Law

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On remand from the Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit held that the federal government properly exercised its authority to regulate hovercraft use on the rivers within conservation system units in Alaska. The panel held that section 103(c) of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), 16 U.S.C. 3101 et seq., does not limit the Park Service from applying the hovercraft ban on the Nation River in Yukon-Charley because, under the panel's Katie John precedent, Alaska v. Babbitt, 72 F.3d 698 (9th Cir. 1995), the United States has an implied reservation of water rights, rendering the river public lands. Accordingly, the panel affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to defendants. View "Sturgeon v. Frost" on Justia Law

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Wild Wilderness, a group representing non-motorized users, filed suit challenging the Forest Service's approval of the building of Kapka Sno-Park, alleging that the Forest Service had violated both the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The panel held that the case was neither moot nor lacking redressability; the Forest Service did not violate the NFMA because Kapka Sno-Park was not inconsistent with the Deschutes Forest Plan; and the Forest Service did not violate NEPA because the agency complied with the relevant regulations, completed an environmental assessment, and issued a finding of no significant impact. The panel rejected Wild Wilderness's remaining NEPA challenges. View "Wild Wilderness v. Allen" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's approval of a consent decree between the EPA and the Sierra Club that set a schedule for the EPA to promulgate designations whether geographic areas met national ambient air quality standards for sulfur dioxide under the Clean Air Act (CAA), 42 U.S.C. 7401. The panel rejected the States' objections to the consent decree, holding that as long as the EPA sticks to the schedule in the consent decree, the Sierra Club will not advance its lawsuit against the EPA. Therefore, the consent decree did not prohibit the EPA from promulgating designations prior to those deadlines, nor did it otherwise constrain the agency's discretion. The panel explained that, because the consent decree did not bind the States to do nor not to do anything, imposed no legal duties or obligations on them at all, and did not purport to resolve any claims they might have, the States could not block the consent decree by merely withholding their consent. View "North Dakota v. Pruitt" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the FWS in an action challenging the FWS's determination that the Sonoran Desert Area bald eagle was not a distinct population segment eligible for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), 16 U.S.C. 1533. The panel held that FWS reasonably concluded that, while the combination of unusual characteristics in a discrete population was sufficient to satisfy the persistence factor, those characteristics did not by themselves necessarily require a conclusion that the desert eagle population segment was ecologically or biologically significant for the bald eagle taxon as a whole; FWS reasonably concluded that if the desert eagle population segment were "extirpated," this would not create a significant gap in the range of the taxon; and FWS directly addressed climate change in its 2012 decision. View "Center for Biological Diversity v. Zinke" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs challenged the Government's approval of the location, construction, and specifications for a military base in Okinawa, Japan. Plaintiffs sought claims for declaratory and injunctive relief based on the Government's alleged violations of Section 402 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), 54 U.S.C. 307101(e), and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 701 et seq. The Ninth Circuit held that plaintiffs have standing to bring declaratory relief claims limited to whether the Government's evaluation, information gathering, and consultation process discharged the Government's obligations under the NHPA and otherwise satisfied the requirements of the APA. The panel also held that plaintiffs' injunctive relief claim did not present a political question. Accordingly, the panel affirmed the district court's conclusion that plaintiffs' claims for declaratory and injunctive relief did not present a political question; reversed the district court's conclusion that plaintiffs lacked standing to seek declaratory relief; and reversed the district court's conclusion that plaintiffs' claim for injunctive relief presented a political question. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Center for Biological Diversity v. Mattis" on Justia Law

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A settlement agreement entered into under an authority other than the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) may give rise to a CERCLA contribution action. A "corrective measure" under a different environmental statute, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), qualifies as a "response" action under CERCLA. In this case, the Ninth Circuit held that Asarco did not resolve its liability under the 1998 RCRA Decree. Therefore, Asarco could not have brought its contribution action in 1998, and the statute of limitations did not begin to run with entry of the 1998 RCRA Decree. Accordingly, the district court erred in dismissing Asarco's action on statute of limitations grounds. The panel vacated and remanded for further proceedings to determine whether Asarco was entitled to contribution for the response costs it incurred under the 2009 agreement. View "Asarco LLC V. Atlantic Richfield Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law

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A settlement agreement entered into under an authority other than the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) may give rise to a CERCLA contribution action. A "corrective measure" under a different environmental statute, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), qualifies as a "response" action under CERCLA. In this case, the Ninth Circuit held that Asarco did not resolve its liability under the 1998 RCRA Decree. Therefore, Asarco could not have brought its contribution action in 1998, and the statute of limitations did not begin to run with entry of the 1998 RCRA Decree. Accordingly, the district court erred in dismissing Asarco's action on statute of limitations grounds. The panel vacated and remanded for further proceedings to determine whether Asarco was entitled to contribution for the response costs it incurred under the 2009 agreement. View "Asarco LLC V. Atlantic Richfield Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law

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The City of Pomona appealed a jury judgment that SQM was not liable for causing perchlorate contamination in Pomona's water system. The Ninth Circuit held that the district court abused its discretion by limiting the testimony of one of Pomona's experts and failing to make sufficient findings before admitting the testimony of one of SQM's experts. In this case, the record demonstrated that the science of stable isotope analysis evolved significantly during this case's first journey through the appellate system. The panel explained that, by constraining Dr. Sturchio to his 2011 report, the district court abused its discretion. The panel further held that the district court's failure to make any findings regarding the reliability of Dr. Laton's testimony, despite Pomona's Daubert motion, was an abuse of discretion. Therefore, these errors, in combination, were prejudicial. Accordingly, the panel reversed the district court's judgment and remanded for a new trial. View "City of Pomona v. SQM North America Corp." on Justia Law