Articles 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

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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