Articles Posted in Environmental Law

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This case involves a challenge to the Bureau of Reclamation's (BOR) release of Trinity River water from the Lewiston Dam, above and beyond the amount designated in the applicable water release schedule. The Water Contractors filed an amended complaint, alleging that the Federal Defendants violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA), 16 U.S.C. 1531; the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321; the Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA) section 3411(a) and 43 U.S.C. 383; and CVPIA section 3406(b)(23). The district court granted summary judgment for the Federal Defendants. The court concluded that the broad language of the Act of August 12, 1955 (the 1955 Act) authorized BOR to implement the 2013 flow augmentation release—an appropriate measure—to protect fish downstream from the Lewiston Dam, which includes the lower Klamath River; subsequent legislation did not clearly alter or limit the expansive scope of the authority granted by the 1955 Act; and because the BOR acted within its statutory authority, the court reversed as to this issue. The court concluded that, because the BOR intended to aid the lower Klamath River (and not the Trinity River) in implementing the 2013 flow augmentation release, the release did not violate section 3406(b)(23). The court also concluded that the Water Contractors have failed to establish standing to pursue a claim under the ESA. Finally, the BOR neither violated California water law nor the Reclamation Act in implementing the 2013 flow augmentation release, and thus the BOR did not violate section 3411(a). Accordingly, the court affirmed in part and reversed in part. View "San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority v. Haugrud" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law

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CBD filed suit alleging that EPA violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA), 16 U.S.C. 1531, when it reregistered certain pesticide active ingredients and pesticide products without undertaking consultation with the Service as required by section 1536(a)(2) of the ESA (Section 7). The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), 7 U.S.C. 136(u), charges EPA with the obligation to register and reregister pesticide active ingredients and pesticide products. At issue are the 31 failure-to-consult Claims for Relief. In regard to the category one sub-claims, the court assumed, but did not hold, that EPA's issuance of a Reregistration Eligibility Decision (RED) is an agency action that triggers Section 7 consultation. The court need not decide whether the issuance of a RED is a triggering action because the court held that all category one sub-claims were properly dismissed by the district court as either time-barred or jurisdictionally barred. In regard to the category two sub-claims, the court concluded that these claims failed to identify an affirmative agency action that would trigger Section 7 consultation and affirmed the district court's dismissal of these claims. In regard to the category three sub-claims, the court agreed with the district court that the completion of pesticide product reregistration is simply a fact, and therefore it cannot trigger Section 7 consultation. Finally, in regard to the category four sub-claims, the court agreed with the district court that pesticide product reregistration is an affirmative agency action, but disagreed that those claims are barred by the collateral attack doctrine and require further amendments to the Second Amended Complaint. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded. View "Center for Biological Diversity v. EPA" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law

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Plaintiffs challenge the BLM's approval of the Mt. Hope Project, a proposed molybdenum mining operation near Eureka, Nevada. Plaintiffs argue that the BLM’s review of the Project under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq., was inadequate and that the approval of the Project violated the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA), 43 U.S.C. 1732(b), and the laws governing lands withdrawn under the executive order known as Public Water Reserve No. 107 (PWR 107). The court agreed with plaintiffs' assertion that the BLM’s selection of baseline levels of certain air pollutants was unreasonable and that the BLM’s analysis of cumulative impacts was deficient. The court declined to address plaintiffs' PWR 107 claims because the BLM should be given an opportunity to fix the errors in its analysis of the Project under NEPA before challenges to the approval of the Project itself are entertained, and the proper analysis of the PWR 107 claim turns in large part on whether four springs in the area of the Project are “covered” by PWR 107, but the BLM’s position on that question is unclear. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, vacated in part, and remanded with instructions to vacate the record of decision and remand to the BLM. View "Great Basin Resource Watch v. BLM" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law

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Appellants appeal the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Appellees on Appellants' claims under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321. Appellants argue that Appellees' environment impact analysis for a new underground light rail line project in downtown Los Angeles was inadequate. As a preliminary matter, the court declined to take judicial notice of the three documents on Metro’s website. The court declined to consider Japanese Village’s argument that the mitigation monitoring and report plan (MMRP) was not properly attached to the Record of Decision (ROD). The court rejected Japanese Village's challenges to the adequacy of the mitigation plan included in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) regarding construction-related noise and vibration; operational noise and vibration; subsidence; and parking. The court also rejected Bonaventure's claims that Appellees (1) failed to analyze Closed-Face TBM construction as a reasonable alternative tunneling method for the Lower Flower portion of the Project in the FEIS; (2) failed to adequately analyze certain impacts and impermissibly deferred certain mitigation analyses in the FEIS; and (3) failed to prepare a Supplemental EIS to analyze nighttime construction. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Japanese Village, LLC v. FTA" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit challenging the environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Regional Plan Update (RPU) of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA). The RPU generally restricts future development to areas that are already developed, and sets forth the amount of further development that will be permitted in those areas in the future. As a preliminary matter, the court held that plaintiffs have standing to assert claims that are ripe. On the merits, the court concluded that the district court properly entered summary judgment in favor of TRPA where the final EIS for the RPU adequately addressed localized impacts on soil conservation and water quality. Therefore, the EIS’s analysis of the effects of concentrating development was not arbitrary or capricious, and did not violate Regional Planning Compact article VII(a)(2)(A) by failing to address significant environmental impacts of the RPU. The court also held that TRPA reasonably concluded that, in light of anticipated improvements in best management practices (BMP) maintenance, the development permitted in the RPU would have less than a significant effect on water quality. Thus, the TRPA’s assumptions regarding BMPs were supported by substantial evidence and are entitled to deference. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment, including the district court's imposition of costs and denial of reimbursement to plaintiffs. Plaintiffs’ request for judicial notice was denied as moot. View "Sierra Club v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against the County Defendants in 2008, alleging that the County Defendants were discharging polluted stormwater in violation of the terms of their National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, issued pursuant to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (the Clean Water Act), 33 U.S.C.1251 et seq. The court held in 2013 that as a matter of law, the County Defendants had violated their permit. In 2012, during the pendency of appellate proceedings, the County Defendants sought and received a new NPDES permit from the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board (the Regional Board), which now governs the County Defendants’ stormwater discharges. In January 2015, the County Defendants filed a motion to dismiss plaintiffs’ entire lawsuit on mootness grounds, arguing that the 2012 Permit supplanted the 2001 Permit and therefore relief was not available to plaintiffs. Plaintiffs filed an interlocutory appeal from the district court's dismissal of their claims for injunctive relief. The court held that it has jurisdiction over the appeal under 28 U.S.C. 1292(a)(1). The court also held that plaintiffs' injunctive claims are not moot because the County Defendants are still subject to receiving water limitations, which are substantially the same as the limitations in the 2001 Permit. The County Defendants have not met their burden of making it “absolutely clear” that no violation will recur in the future. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment. View "NRDC V. County of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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The NMFS used climate projections to determine that the loss of sea ice over shallow waters in the Arctic would leave the Pacific bearded seal subspecies endangered by the year 2095. Plaintiffs filed separate suits challenging the NMFS's listing decision regarding the Okhotsk and Beringia distinct population segments (DPS) of the Pacific bearded seal subspecies under the Endangered Species Act's (ESA), 16 U.S.C. 1540(g), citizen suit provision, and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 706. The district court denied relief with respect to the Okhotsk DPS for lack of Article III standing, but granted summary judgment to plaintiffs on their challenge to NMFS’s decision to list the Beringia DPS as a threatened species. The district court vacated the Listing Rule. The court held that, in light of the robustness of NMFS’s rulemaking process, as well as the court's highly deferential standard of review, NMFS’s final rule listing the Beringia DPS as threatened was not arbitrary or capricious, and its listing decision was supported by substantial evidence. Finally, the court concluded that NMFS clearly fulfilled its procedural and substantive obligations under Section 4(i) of the ESA to provide Alaska with a written justification. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment. View "Alaska Oil & Gas Ass'n v. Pritzker" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law

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United Cook filed suit challenging Amendment 12, which removed three historic net fishing areas from the Salmon fishery management plan (FMP), and its implementing regulations as contrary to the Magnuson-Stevens Act's requirement that a Council prepare an FMP “for each fishery under its authority that requires conservation and management,” 16 U.S.C. 1852(h)(1). United Cook also alleged that Amendment 12 was arbitrary and capricious and contrary to the National Environmental Policy Act, 42 U.S.C. 4332(2)(C). At issue on appeal is whether NMFS can exempt a fishery under its authority that requires conservation and management from an FMP because the agency is content with State management. The court concluded that the Magnuson-Stevens Act unambiguously requires a Council to create an FMP for each fishery under its authority that requires conservation and management. The Act allows delegation to a state under an FMP, but does not excuse the obligation to adopt an FMP when a Council opts for state management. Therefore, the court concluded that Amendment 12 is contrary to law to the extent it removes Cook Inlet from the FMP. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded with instructions that judgment be entered in favor of United Cook. View "United Cook Inlet Drift Ass'n. V. NMFS" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law

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Petitioners seek review of the EPA's rule approving Arizona’s Five Percent Plan for airborne particulate matter around Maricopa County. The court upheld the EPA’s determination that the control measures in Arizona’s Five Percent Plan did not need to be updated, and that the 135 exceedances were exceptional events that are excluded from consideration under the EPA’s regulation and guidance documents. The court concluded, however, that it will not defer to the EPA’s interpretation of the contingency measures requirement because, under the plain language of 42 U.S.C. 7502(c)(9), contingency measures are measures that will be taken in the future, not measures that have already been implemented. Accordingly, the court granted in part and denied in part the petition for review. View "Bahr v. EPA" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law

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Helping Hand and the Center petition for review of the EPA's final decision granting Sierra Pacific a prevent of significant deterioration (PSD) permit for construction of a new biomass-burning power plant at its lumber mill in California. Because EPA properly took the requisite hard look at Sierra Pacific’s proposed design and the key purpose of burning its own biomass waste, the court held that EPA reasonably concluded that consideration of solar or increased natural gas would disrupt that purpose and redefine the source. Therefore, the EPA did not act arbitrarily or capriciously and Helping Hand’s petition is denied. Because EPA was largely relying on its own guidance, acting at the frontiers of science, the court deferred to the agency’s determination regarding the supplemental greenhouse best available control technology (BACT) analysis. In this case, Sierra Pacific’s application went through an extensive process to issue a reasoned PSD permit for its new biomass burning boiler. EPA properly defined the project and rejected control technologies that redefined the project with thoughtful and reasonable explanations. The Bioenergy BACT Guidance EPA applied to the greenhouse gas emissions from Sierra Pacific’s new facility is rational and thoroughly consistent with EPA’s prior guidance. View "Helping Hand Tools v. EPA" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law