Monday, January 31, 2011
Jan 28: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, Case Nos. 10-5080 & 10-5090. The case concerns two sites on Navajo tribal lands that the Navajo Nation alleges were contaminated by World War II and Cold War era uranium mining. Pursuant to the Uranium Mill Tailings Remediation and Control Act (UMTRCA), which created a mechanism to cleanup after such activities, the Navajo Nation asked the Department of Energy to remediate both sites. The department refused, and the district court declined to review that decision, relying on a provision of UMTRCA stating that "designations made, and priorities established, by the Secretary under this section shall be final and not subject to judicial review." The Appeals Court affirmed the district court decision saying, ". . .this action falls squarely within UMTRCA's bar on judicial review. . ."
The Appeals Court said the Navajo Nation. urged the court to employ the "canon of statutory interpretation directing courts to liberally construe statutes in favor of Native Americans." The Appeals Court said, "This canon, however, has force only where a statute is ambiguous. . . and as we have explained, section 7912(d), read in light of UMTRCA's other provisions, is unambiguous."
Access the complete opinion (click here).
Posted by JPMcJ at 4:38 PM
Friday, January 28, 2011
Jan 26: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Case No. 08-15780, appealed from United States District Court for the Northern District of California. Northern California River Watch (River Watch) appeals the district court's grant of summary judgment to the Schellinger defendants and three employees of the California Department of Fish and Game (collectively Defendants). River Watch contends that Defendants violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Specifically, River Watch argues that Defendants dug up and removed the endangered plant species, Sebastopol meadowfoam (Limnanthes vinculans) and, therefore, violated § 9 of the ESA, which makes it unlawful for anyone to "take" a listed plant on areas under federal jurisdiction.
The district court granted Defendants' motion for summary judgment, concluding that River Watch could not establish, as a matter of law, that the areas in which the Sebastopol meadowfoam plants were growing were "areas under Federal jurisdiction." The Appeals Court consider the meaning of the term "areas under Federal jurisdiction" as used in ESA § 9. River Watch argued that the term encompasses privately-owned wetlands adjacent to navigable waters that have been designated as "waters of the United States" by the Army Corps of Engineers.
The United States, representing the interests of the Department of the Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service as amicus curiae, argues that § 9 is ambiguous, that the Appeals Court must apply the deference principles set forth in Chevron, U.S.A.,
Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Counsel, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (1984), and that under Chevron the privately-owned land at issue in this case is not an "area[ ] under Federal jurisdiction."
The Appeals Court indicates that, "Although we agree that the term 'areas under Federal jurisdiction' is ambiguous, we are not convinced that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the agency with rule making authority, has interpreted the term. Nonetheless, for the reasons set forth in this opinion, we hold that 'areas under Federal jurisdiction' does not include the privately-owned land at issue here. We therefore agree with the district court's ultimate legal conclusion in this case and affirm the grant of summary judgment to Defendants."
The Appeals Court said additionally, "We agree with the United States that the term is ambiguous, but we conclude that, thus far, the FWS has not promulgated regulations or offered any guidance materials specifically addressing this issue to which we must defer. We thus interpret 'areas under Federal jurisdiction' as not including all of the 'waters of the United States' as defined by the CWA and its regulations. Although our ruling will constitute 'binding law,' we recognize that under Brand X, we are not the 'authoritative interpreter' of 'areas under Federal jurisdiction.' See 545 U.S. at 983. The FWS might have good reason to issue regulations or guidance that more thoroughly addresses this issue at some later date, and our decision does not foreclose the possibility that the FWS might adopt some version of the statutory construction set forth by River Watch. See id. After all, the objective of the ESA, to provide a program and means to conserve endangered species and their ecosystems, 16 U.S.C. § 1531(b), is surely intertwined with that of the CWA, 'to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation's waters.'
Posted by JPMcJ at 5:03 PM
Jan 25: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit, Case No. 09-2239. Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, at Norfolk. As explained by the Appeals Court, the appeal arises out of a determination made by the Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) that it has jurisdiction, under the Clean Water Act (CWA), over 4.8 acres of wetlands located on Precon Development Corporation's (Precon's) property, approximately seven miles from the nearest navigable water. The Corps subsequently denied Precon's application for a CWA permit to impact the wetlands through development.
Precon appealed the determinations to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. § 702, and the parties crossmoved for summary judgment. The district court granted
summary judgment to the Corps on September 4, 2009, upholding both its jurisdictional determination and its permit denial.
On appeal, Precon challenged only the Corps' jurisdictional determination. The Appeals Court said, "Because we find the Corps' administrative record inadequate to support its conclusion that it had jurisdiction over Precon's wetlands, we vacate the district court's grant of summary judgment and remand to the district court with instructions to remand to the Corps for reconsideration of its jurisdiction over the wetlands in question."
The Appeals Court explained further, ". . .we reverse the district court's holding that the Corps' administrative record adequately demonstrated that a significant nexus existed here, and remand to the Corps for reconsideration of its significant nexus determination. Cf. Motor Vehicle Mfrs. Ass'n of U.S., Inc. v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 463 U.S. 29, 52, 57 (1983) (remanding for further agency consideration when the agency's view of the facts was accepted but the Court 'appreciate[d] the limitations of th[e] record in supporting the agency's decision'); Cook v. Heckler, 783 F.2d 1168, 1174 (4th Cir. 1986) (remanding for further consideration where it was 'impossible to conclude that there [was] substantial evidence to support the Secretary's determination'). In doing so, we do not intend to place an unreasonable burden on the Corps. We ask only that in cases like this one, involving wetlands running alongside a ditch miles from any navigable water, the Corps pay particular attention to documenting why such wetlands significantly, rather than insubstantially, affect the integrity of navigable waters. Such documentation need not take the form of any particular measurements, but should include some comparative information that allows us to meaningfully review the significance of the wetlands' impacts on downstream water quality."
Posted by JPMcJ at 5:02 PM
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Jan 14: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Case No. 09-35200. In this high interest case with many industry, agriculture, conservation and tribe intervenors, the Appeals Court indicated that it was revisiting its so-called "federal defendant" rule, which categorically prohibits private parties and state and local governments from intervening of right on the merits of claims brought under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA. The Appeals Court said, "Because the rule is at odds with the text of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(a)(2) and the standards we apply in all other intervention of right cases, we abandon it here. When construing motions to intervene of right under Rule 24(a)(2), courts need no longer apply a categorical prohibition on intervention on the merits, or liability phase, of NEPA actions."
The Appeals Court indicates that to determine whether a putative intervenor demonstrates the "significantly protectable" interest necessary for intervention of right in a NEPA action, the operative inquiry should be, as in all cases, whether "the interest is protectable under some law," and whether "there is a relationship between the legally protected interest and the claims at issue." [citing: Sierra Club v. EPA, 995 F.2d 1478, 1484 (9th Cir. 1993)].
The case addresses squarely the issue of "intervention of right in NEPA cases." Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(a)(2) requires a court, upon timely motion, to permit intervention of right by anyone who "claims an interest relating to the property or
transaction that is the subject of the action, and is so situated that disposing of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede the movant's ability to protect its interest, unless existing parties adequately represent that interest."
The Appeals Court explains, "When analyzing a motion to intervene of right under Rule 24(a)(2), we apply a four-part test: (1) the motion must be timely; (2) the applicant must claim a 'significantly protectable' interest relating to the property or transaction which is the subject of the action; (3) the applicant must be so situated that the disposition of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede its ability to protect that interest; and (4) the applicant's interest must be inadequately
represented by the parties to the action."
The Appeals Court explains further, "Our 'federal defendant' rule categorically precludes private parties and state and local governments from intervening of right as defendants on the merits of NEPA actions." [Citing: Churchill County v. Babbitt, 150 F.3d 1072, 1082, as amended by 158 F.3d 491 (9th Cir. 1998); Forest Conservation Council, 66 F.3d at 1499 n.11].
Finally, the Appeals Court notes that, ". . .our application of the 'federal defendant' rule is out of step with all but one of our sister circuits that have addressed whether private parties may intervene of right on the merits of NEPA claims. [the various cases are cited].
The Appeals Court concludes, "We now abandon the 'federal defendant' rule. When considering motions to intervene of right under Rule 24(a)(2), courts need no longer apply a categorical prohibition on intervention on the merits, or liability phase, of NEPA actions. To determine whether putative intervenors demonstrate the 'significantly protectable' interest necessary for intervention of right in a NEPA case, the operative inquiry should be whether the 'interest is protectable under some law' and whether 'there is a relationship between the legally protected interest and the claims at issue.' [citing: Sierra Club, 995 F.2d at 1484]. A putative intervenor will generally demonstrate a sufficient interest for intervention of right in a NEPA action, as in all cases, if 'it will suffer a practical impairment of its interests as a result of the pending litigation.' [Citing: California ex rel. Lockyer, 450 F.3d at 441]."
The Appeals Court rules, "Since the district court applied the 'federal defendant' rule to prohibit intervention of right on the merits in this NEPA case, we reverse and remand so that it may reconsider the putative intervenors' motion to intervene."
Jan 14: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, Case No. 09-1269. On Petition for Review of a Final Action of U.S. EPA. The case concerns the NPL listing of a magnesium plant located in Tooele County, Utah, approximately 40 miles west of Salt Lake City and adjacent to the Great Salt Lake. The plant, which is now owned by petitioner US Magnesium LLC (USM), has produced molten magnesium since 1972, creating chlorine gas and hydrochloric acid as by-products. A network of ditches carries waste from the plant to an active waste pool. Just beyond that pool is an inactive waste pool, which was previously a recipient of waste.
The EPA completed a Hazard Ranking System (HRS) evaluation for the US Magnesium site in 2008. The HRS requires the agency to analyze four "pathways": ground water migration, surface water migration, soil exposure, and air migration, and to plug the resulting individual pathway scores into a formula to obtain the site score. EPA calculated scores for two out of these four possible "pathways" -- air migration and soil exposure. Based on these, EPA computed a total HRS score of 59.18 for the site and subsequently added the site to the NPL.
USM challenges the NPL listing as "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law." It claims that the EPA made four errors in calculating an HRS score and that if these errors were corrected, the USM site's
HRS score would fall below the 28.5 threshold for listing on the NPL.
The Appeals Court indicates, "USM would have to prevail on its first alleged error and some combination of the other three alleged errors in order for the NPL listing to be arbitrary or capricious. (If we were to remand based on all the other three alleged errors, the site would still receive a total score of at least 5021.5 more than the minimum score for inclusion on the NPL.). . . We are not persuaded that the EPA in fact erred in the first decision element claimed by USM to have been erroneousthe scoring of multiple "sources" for the air pathway."
Finally, the Appeals Court concluded, "Because the EPA followed the HRS precisely in scoring the air migration pathway and affirmation of the EPA on that first issue results in a score above the cut off for inclusion on the NPL, listing of the USM site on the NPL was not arbitrary or capricious. The petition for review is therefore denied."
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Jan 7: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, Case No. 09-40187, Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas. The Appeals Court explains the depth of entanglement of the case saying, before 1963, there was no Padre Island National Park off the coast of the State of Texas. It took a lot of maneuvering between the State of Texas and the United States to create the national park out of these coastal island lands, much belonging to the State of Texas, some belonging to private parties. The Texas Consent Statute, the deeds of conveyance, the federal Enabling Act of 1962, and the Oil and Gas Management Plan of 2001, as well as the Energy Policy Act of 2005, are all involved in this appeal.
Now, almost fifty years later, the case presents a conflict between the National Park Service (the Service) and owners of certain mineral estates in the Padre Island National Seashore (the Seashore), with respect to those mineral owners' rights of ingress and egress over the Seashore's surface; such rights, if recognized, would allow the owners to exploit the subsurface minerals contained on the Island.
In 2001, the Service attempted to strike this balance through its Oil and Gas Management Plan (the Plan). In this Federal action, three related companies (collectively, Dunn-McCampbell) sought declaratory relief under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), arguing that the Plan exceeded the Service's regulatory power over the Seashore because it denies Dunn-McCampbell its rights of ingress and egress as provided by the special provisions of state and Federal law that established the Seashore. The district court agreed and entered a declaratory judgment in Dunn-McCampbell's favor.
The Service appealed. The Appeal Court said, "Although we assume that the Service's normally broad regulatory authority over park lands is limited by the agreements between Texas and the Service that were made when the Seashore was established, we hold that these limitations do not provide the relief Dunn-McCampbell seeks today. We reverse, vacate, and remand." The Appeals Court said further, "We thus conclude that because Dunn-McCampbell does not fall under any of the special protections provided in the Enabling Act, the trial court erred in granting Dunn-McCampbell summary judgment, and accordingly we thus reverse and vacate the district court's declaratory judgment and remand for entry of judgment in favor of the Service."
Posted by JPMcJ at 4:16 PM
Monday, January 10, 2011
Jan 7: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit, Case No. 09-5388, Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky at Owensboro. As explained by the Appeals Court, the case presents a question of venue, specifically, the appropriate district in which to prosecute a charge of willful failure to "immediately notify" the Coast Guard of a "hazardous condition" aboard a vessel [citing 33 U.S.C. § 1232(b)(1); 33 C.F.R. § 160.215]. The crime is a continuing offense rather than a point-in-time offense, and therefore the location of the crime continued into the Western District of Kentucky as the vessel in question proceeded from the Mississippi River to the Ohio. In a split opinion, the majority Appeals Court ruled that, "The district court in this case therefore erred in acquitting defendants on the ground that there was no criminal venue in the Western District of Kentucky."
The case involves a barge carrying 400,000 gallons of benzene down the Mississippi River that sprang a leak near St. Louis, Missouri. The leak was temporarily stopped with a make shift patch for several days and then began to leak again. The
Coast Guard was not notified of the leak until several days after the original leak.
The majority indicated that, "Defendants urge that they are entitled to a new trial because the weight of the evidence does not support a finding of a hazardous condition, and because the evidence does not establish that the defendants' failure to notify the Coast Guard was knowing and willful. The defendants argue that the leak was not a 'hazardous condition' because 'the product did not get into the water.' This was disputed at trial. But even if none of the benzene had actually spilled into the river, that was not the only risk presented by the leaking barge. Because benzene is highly explosive, the risk in this case was not just that the liquid would spill overboard and contaminate the river, but that the leaking fuel would ignite and blow up the barge. The district court acted well within its discretion in concluding that the evidence did not preponderate heavily against the jury's finding that a hazardous condition existed aboard the barge on June 16. Likewise. . . the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the evidence did not preponderate heavily against the jury's finding that the defendants' failure to notify the Coast Guard was knowing and willful." The majority reverse the district court's judgment of acquittal for improper venue, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
The dissenting justice concurred in part and dissented in part and said, "The majority opinion correctly concludes that there was sufficient evidence to convict Defendants. The evidence in favor of conviction was more than sufficient to withstand the limited scrutiny which we give such matters on appeal. I therefore concur in the majority opinion's affirmance of the district court's denial of Defendants' motions for judgment of acquittal and for a new trial. However, I must vigorously dissent from the majority opinion's conclusion that the failure to 'immediately' notify the Coast Guard is a continuing offense.
Access the complete opinion and dissent (click here).
Posted by JPMcJ at 4:31 PM
Thursday, January 6, 2011
Jan 5: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit, Case No. 06-1714. Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, at Columbia. In the appeal, the Appeals Court considered whether Friends of the Earth, Inc. (FOE) and Citizens Local Environmental Action Network, Inc. (CLEAN), (collectively, the plaintiffs), maintained standing to prosecute a citizen suit asserting violations of the Clean Water Act against Gaston Copper Recycling Corporation (Gaston). The Appeals Court concluded that the plaintiffs established standing to sue through FOE and CLEAN member Guy Jones.
The Appeals Court also considered Gaston's argument challenging the district court's imposition of penalties. Gaston argued that the district court erred: (1) in imposing penalties against Gaston for violations not contained in the plaintiffs'
pre-suit "notice letter" required by 33 U.S.C. § 1365(b); and (2) in imposing penalties against Gaston for violations allegedly "wholly past," contrary to the requirement set forth in Gwaltney of Smithfield, Ltd. v. Chesapeake Bay Found., Inc., 484 U.S. 49, 64 (1987), that citizen suits brought under the Clean Water Act may only assert ongoing violations.
The Appeals Court held that, "the district court erred in imposing certain penalties against Gaston. We affirm in part and reverse in part the district court's judgment, and remand the case." In its conclusion the Appeals Court said, "In conclusion, we hold that the plaintiffs maintained standing throughout their suit in the district court; that based on the legal insufficiency of portions of the notice letter, the district court erred in finding violations and imposing penalties for all but the three violations for pH and copper . . . and that the district court erred in assessing penalties for 54 days of violations that were 'wholly past' when the plaintiffs filed their complaint. Accordingly, we affirm the part of the district court's judgment relating to the Phase II violation for pH occurring on October 15, 1993, and to the Phase II violations for copper occurring on October 5, 1993 and March 22, 1994, and the accompanying penalties imposed for those three violations; we reverse the balance of the district court's findings of violations and the court's imposition of penalties for those violations; and we remand the case for further proceedings consistent with our opinion."
Posted by JPMcJ at 4:39 PM
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Jan 4: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, Case No. 07-4895. In this case, which was argued over two years ago (December 10, 2008), the United States of America appeals from two orders of the United States District Court
for the Southern District of New York which denied its applications for a restitution award in favor of the Republic of South Africa, pursuant to, first, the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act of 1996 (MVRA), and second, the Victim and Witness Protection Act of 1982 (VWPA). The Appeals Court ruled that South Africa: (1) has a property interest in rock lobsters unlawfully harvested from its waters, and (2) is a victim, as defined by the MVRA and VWPA, eligible to receive restitution. Accordingly, the Appeals Court said, "restitution is owed to South Africa."
The case involves the fact that from 1987 to 2001, Arnold Bengis, Jeffrey Noll and David Bengis (jointly, defendants) engaged in an elaborate scheme to illegally harvest large quantities of South Coast and West Coast rock lobsters in South African waters for export to the United States in violation of both South African and U.S. law. The district court held that South Africa had no property interest in either the lobsters that the defendants took from South African waters; that the government failed to prove that the illegally harvested lobsters were the property of South Africa; and finally that even if restitution was permissible as a matter of law, "the complication and prolonging of the sentencing process resulting from the fashioning of the order of restitution under this section would outweigh the need to provide restitution to the Republic of South Africa."
The Appeals Court reversed and remanded the district court orders and said, ". . .we hold that South Africa: (1) has a property interest in rock lobsters unlawfully harvested from its waters, (2) is a victim for restitution purposes, as defined by the MVRA and VWPA, and (3) whatever the complexity in fashioning a restitution order in this case, it is insufficient to preclude entry of such an order under the MVRA. Accordingly, the judgments of the district court are vacated and the case is remanded to the district court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion."
Posted by JPMcJ at 4:22 PM
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Dec 22: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, First Circuit, Case No. 09-2403. Appealed from the District Court of Rhode Island, Providence. According to the Appeals Court, this appeal by Southern Union, a natural gas company convicted by a jury of storing hazardous waste without a permit, raises two issues of initial impression. First, the case tests whether Federal criminal enforcement may be used under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), where certain Federally approved state regulations as to hazardous waste storage have been violated. Second, the case also raises the important question of whether a criminal fine must be vacated under Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), where a judge, and not a jury, determined the facts as to the number of days of violation under a schedule of fines.
The hazardous waste at issue is mercury, which the Appeals Court says "can poison and kill those exposed to it" In this case 140 pounds of mercury became the "play toy of young vandals who spread it about, including at their homes in a local apartment complex, after they spilled it around Southern Union's largely abandoned and ill-guarded Tidewater site in Pawtucket, Rhode Island."
The Appeals Court affirmed the district court's rulings on Southern Union's conviction, as set forth in United States v. Southern Union. The Appeals Court concluded that: "(1) Southern Union is precluded by 42 U.S.C. § 6976(b) from challenging the EPA's 2002 Immediate Final Rule authorizing Rhode Island's RCRA regulations. Having failed to use the statutory procedure for judicial review, Southern Union may not raise the issue by collateral attack; (2) the 2002 Rule, in any event, is valid and was within the EPA's authority to adopt; and (3) the conviction does not violate Southern Union's right to fair notice under the Due Process Clause.
The Appeals Court also affirmed the fine imposed saying, "The Apprendi issue is close but the Supreme Court's recent decision in Oregon v. Ice, 129 S. Ct. 711 (2009), leads us to hold that the Apprendi rule does not apply to the imposition of statutorily prescribed fines. If, however, we were wrong in our assessment of the Apprendi issue, we would find that any error under Apprendi was not harmless and that the issue of the fine would need to be remanded. Finally, we also hold that the financial penalties imposed did not constitute an abuse of the district court's discretion."
Southern Union claimed the $18 million penalty was substantively unreasonable, arguing that it was grossly excessive in comparison to the penalties of $75,000-$250,000 imposed in what it describes "as cases of more egregious RCRA violations." However, on the penalty issue the Appeals Court said, ". . .the district court made 'an individualized assessment based on the facts presented,' and 'adequately explain[ed] the chosen sentence.' [Citing Gall, 552 U.S. at 50]. The district court explained why the statutory factors justified the penalties, noting that Congress measured the seriousness of long-term RCRA violations by imposing a high, per day statutory maximum fine; that Southern Union's willingness to put a densely-populated residential community, local public safety employees, and its own employees at risk by storing hazardous waste under deplorable conditions in their midst indicated great culpability; and that there was a need for a penalty substantial enough to attract the attention of large corporations, thereby achieving not only specific, but also general, deterrence. . ."
Dec 28: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, Case No. 09-1134. The Appeals Court indicates that one of the modern U.S. government's major regulatory tasks is to reconcile competing demands on the Nation's natural resources. The dispute in this case concerns water resources in the Pacific Northwest, where a hydroelectric plant provides power to some citizens but interferes with the food needs and recreational desires of others.
The Klamath Hydroelectric Project is located on the Klamath River in Oregon and California. The Project serves as a source of electricity for customers in a six-state area of the Pacific Northwest. From 1956 to 2006, a power company known as PacifiCorp operated the Klamath Hydroelectric Project pursuant to a 50-year license granted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Since the original license expired in 2006, PacifiCorp has operated the Project under successive annual licenses granted by FERC.
The Hoopa Valley Tribe of American Indians holds fishing rights in the Klamath River and subsists in part on the River's trout. In 2007, the Tribe requested that FERC impose conditions on PacifiCorp's annual licenses so as to preserve the Klamath River's trout fishery. FERC declined to do so. In this Court, the Tribe has challenged FERC's refusal as contrary to the Commission's regulations and precedents, and as unsupported by substantial evidence. The Appeals Court said it disagreed and denied the Tribe's petition.
The Appeals Court ruled, "This controversy presents "a classic example of a factual dispute the resolution of which implicates substantial agency expertise.' Marsh v. Or. Natural Res. Council, 490 U.S. 360, 376 (1989). FERC acknowledged conflicting evidence and weighed the testimony of dueling experts. There was evidence on both sides; we thus have no basis to overturn the Commission's resolution of this debate. The Commission's conclusion is based on substantial evidence. Cf. Wis. Valley Improvement Co. v. FERC, 236 F.3d 738, 746-47 (D.C. Cir. 2001)."
Dec 28: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Case No. 09-36026. Appeal from the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho. The Lands Council and Wild West Institute challenged the United States Forest Service's (Forest Service) decision to thin 277 acres of old-growth forest in the Mission Brush Project (Project) area, located in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest (IPNF), claiming that the Project violates the National Forest Management Act (NFMA), the IPNF Plan, and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Forest Service and denied Lands Council and Wild West Institute's motion for summary judgment. Lands
Council appeals. The Appeals Court affirmed the decisions of the district court.
Posted by JPMcJ at 4:46 PM
Dec 21: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Case No. 08-17406. Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Arizona. The Kofa National Wildlife Refuge and Wilderness in
southwest Arizona contains a desert ecosystem that is home to, among other species, bighorn sheep. After an unexpected decline in the population of the sheep, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) built two water structures (the Yaqui and McPherson tanks) within the wilderness area.
Plaintiffs Wilderness Watch, Inc., et al brought suit against the Service. Plaintiffs allege that the Service's actions violated the express prohibition on the development of structures in the Wilderness Act, The district court granted summary judgment
to the Service, and Plaintiffs appealed. Reviewing de novo, High Sierra Hikers Ass'n v. Blackwell, 390 F.3d 630, 638 (9th Cir. 2004), the Appeals Court reversed and remanded the district court decision.
Posted by JPMcJ at 4:45 PM
Dec 24: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Case No. 09-35729, 09-35753. Appealed from the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho. The Appeals Court indicates that Greater Yellowstone appeal the district court grant of summary judgment on Greater Yellowstone's action claiming that the expansion of the J .R. Simplot Smoky Canyon Mine would violate the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Clean Water Act (CWA), and the National Forest Management Act (NFMA). The Appeals Court, in a split decision, affirmed district court decision.
The majority opinion said, "The agencies did not act arbitrarily and capriciously in their review and approval of Simplot's proposed mine expansion project. The agencies complied with NEPA's procedural requirements by fully evaluating the environmental impacts of the mine and disclosing those results to the public. Simplot was not required to obtain a § 401 certification. The district court properly granted summary judgment to the agencies.
The dissent indicated that, "Although I concur in Part II.C of the majority opinion, I cannot agree with the majority that the federal agencies acted neither arbitrarily nor capriciously when approving the Smoky Canyon Mine expansion project. The majority violates both the letter and the spirit of the applicable federal environmental standards by approving agency action despite currently lacking critical information and by deferring key evaluations to some unspecified future date."
Access the complete opinion and dissent (click here).
Posted by JPMcJ at 4:44 PM
Monday, January 3, 2011
Dec 21: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, Case No. 10-1070. The Appeals Court explains that in 2007, Congress enacted the Energy Independence and Security Act (the EISA), Pub. L. No. 110140. It expanded the renewable fuel program under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Pub. L. No. 10958, which required that set volumes of renewable fuel be incorporated into gasoline sold in the United States each year. The EISA increased the volume requirements for renewable fuel and added new volume requirements for advanced biofuels, biomass-based diesel, and cellulosic biofuel.
Congress thus sought "[t]o move the United States toward greater energy independence and security, to increase the production of clean renewable fuels, to protect consumers, to increase the efficiency of products, buildings, and vehicles, to promote research on and deploy greenhouse gas capture and storage options, and to improve the energy performance of the Federal Government." Pub. L. No. 110140, 121 Stat. 1492 (2007). EPA posted notice of the final revisions to the regulations promulgated under the 2005 Act on its website on February 3, 2010 and published the revised regulations in the Federal Register on March 26, 2010. Regulation of Fuels and Fuel Additives: Changes to Renewable Fuel Standard Program, 75 Fed. Reg. 14,670 (Mar. 26, 2010) (Final Rule).
Petitioners, the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association and the American Petroleum Institute, challenge the Final Rule on three grounds. They contend that it violates statutory requirements setting separate biomass-based diesel volume requirements for 2009 and 2010; it is impermissibly retroactive; and it violates statutory lead time and compliance provisions. The Appeals Court denied the petitions for review.
Posted by JPMcJ at 5:11 PM