Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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The Ninth Circuit granted CPUC's petition for review of FERC's determination that PG&E was eligible for an incentive adder for remaining a member of the California Independent System Operator Corporation (Cal-ISO) when state law prevented PG&E's departure without authorization. The panel held that FERC's determination that PG&E was entitled to incentive adders for remaining in the Cal-ISO was arbitrary and capricious, because FERC did not reasonably interpret Order 679 as justifying summary grants of adders for remaining in a transmission organization. The panel explained that, because FERC's interpretation was unreasonable, FERC's grants of adders to PG&E were an unexplained departure from longstanding policy. Furthermore, FERC created a generic adder in violation of the order. View "CPUC V. FERC" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision rejecting challenges to the Forest Service's determination that EFR had a valid existing right to operate a uranium mine on land within a withdrawal area of public lands around Grand Canyon National Park that the Secretary of the Interior withdrew from new mining claims. The panel held that the Mineral Report was a major federal action under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4332, and that the district court correctly held that Center for Biological Diversity v. Salazar, 706 F.3d 1085 (9th Cir. 2013), not Pit River Tribe v. U.S. Forest Service, 469 F.3d 768 (9th Cir. 2006), governed this case; that action was complete when the plan was approved; resumed operation of Canyon Mine did not require any additional government action; and thus the EIS prepared in 1988 satisfied NEPA. The panel also held that the Mineral Report approved an "undertaking" under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA), 54 U.S.C. 306108; the Mineral Report did not permit, license, or approve resumed operations at Canyon Mine; and the original approval was the only "undertaking" requiring consultation under the NHPA. Finally, the environmental groups did not have prudential standing to challenge the Mineral Report. View "Havasupai Tribe v. Provencio" on Justia Law

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The unconstitutional legislative veto embedded in section 204(c)(1) of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA), 43 U.S.C. 1714, is severable from the large-tract withdrawal authority delegated to the Secretary in that same subsection. Invalidating the legislative veto provision does not affect the Secretary's withdrawal authority. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision rejecting challenges to the decision of the Secretary to withdraw from new uranium mining claims, up to twenty years, over one million acres of land near Grand Canyon National Park. In this case, the panel held that the environmental impact statement (EIS) did take existing legal regimes into account but reasonably concluded that they were inadequate to meet the purposes of the withdrawal; the Establishment Clause challenge failed under Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, 612–13 (1971); and the panel rejected challenges under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4332, and the National Forest Management Act, 16 U.S.C. 1604(e). View "National Mining Ass'n v. Zinke" on Justia Law

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The broad waiver of sovereign immunity found in section 702 of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) waived sovereign immunity for all non-monetary claims, and section 704 of the APA's final agency action requirement constrained only actions brought under the APA, 5 U.S.C. 702, 704. The Navajo Nation filed suit challenging Interior's published guidelines clarifying how it would make surplus and shortage determinations for delivery to Western states of the waters of the Colorado River. The panel affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Nation's claims under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq., based on lack of standing where the challenged guidelines did not present a reasonable probability of threat to either the Nation's adjudicated water rights or its practical water needs. The panel also held that the Nation's breach of trust claim sought relief other than money damages, and the waiver of sovereign immunity in section 702 applied squarely to the claim. Therefore, the panel reversed and remanded as to this issue. Finally, the district court acted within its discretion in refusing post-judgment leave to amend. View "Navajo Nation v. Department of the Interior" on Justia Law

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A tribe qualifies to have land taken into trust for its benefit under 25 U.S.C. 5108 of the Indian Reorganization Act if it (1) was "under Federal jurisdiction" as of June 18, 1934, and (2) is "recognized" at the time the decision is made to take land into trust. The Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the Interior and the Ione Band of Miwok Indians in a case involving a dispute over a proposed casino in the County. The panel held that the Interior's reading of the ambiguous phrase "under Federal jurisdiction" was the best interpretation and the Interior did not err in adopting that interpretation for purposes of deciding whether the Ione Band was "under Federal jurisdiction" as of 1934. Finally, the Interior did not err in allowing the Band to conduct gaming operations on the Plymouth Parcels under the "restored tribe" exception of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), 25 U.S.C. 2719(a). View "County of Amador v. USDOI" on Justia 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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Plaintiff, the treasurer of the National Border Patrol Council, the union for Border Patrol agents, filed suit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to compel the disclosure of the names of 149 non-citizens who were released from detention pending a final determination whether they will be removed.The Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the United States and the district court's finding that the government properly withheld former detainees' names. The panel held that the released detainees have a substantial privacy interest that outweighs the public interest in the disclosure of their names. View "Tuffley v. USDHS" 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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Plaintiff filed suit against defendants under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552, seeking records identifying CIA personnel or affiliates that have engaged in torture. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, holding that, although the FOIA request failed to reasonably describe the records sought, this failure bears on the merits of plaintiff's claim rather than the district court's subject matter jurisdiction. In this case, the district court erred by concluding that plaintiff's request constituted a question rather than a request for records; plaintiff cannot compel defendants to disclose documents on the basis of his vague request; but, ultimately, any failure to exhaust did not bear on the district court's subject matter jurisdiction. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Yagman v. Pompeo" on Justia Law