Articles Posted in Environmental Law

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The DC Circuit denied Big Bend's petitions for review of FERC's two orders authorizing facilities to export natural gas from the United States to Mexico. The court held that it lacked jurisdiction to consider Big Bend's argument that the Trans-Pecos Pipeline is an export facility because Big Bend failed to present this argument to FERC on rehearing. The court also held that substantial evidence supported FERC's finding that the Trans-Pecos Pipeline was a non-jurisdictional intrastate pipeline subject to regulation by the State of Texas; the Trans-Pecos Pipeline was not subject to federal jurisdiction; and the court declined to adopt the theory that FERC's involvement in authorizing the Export Facility was enough to federalize the pipeline. View "Big Bend Conservation Alliance v. FERC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law

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In 2015, PennEast Pipeline sought a certificate to build a natural gas pipeline running through Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Riverkeeper intervened to oppose the project. In 2016, while the Commission was still reviewing the proposal, Riverkeeper filed suit seeking declaratory relief against the Commission and its members, alleging that FERC's funding structure creates structural bias, in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, by incentivizing the Commission to approve new pipelines in order to secure additional sources for its future funding. Riverkeeper also challenged the Commission's use of tolling orders to satisfy its 30-day deadline for acting on rehearing applications. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. The DC Circuit held that Riverkeeper properly filed this case in the district court; Riverkeeper established Article III standing; and Riverkeeper had a viable cause of action. On the merits, the court held that the Environmental Rights Amendment did not create federally protected liberty or property interests, much less ones that FERC could infringe; and regardless of whether any protected liberty or property interests were implicated, the Commission was not a structurally biased adjudicator, and its use of tolling orders was not facially unconstitutional. View "Delaware Riverkeeper Network v. FERC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law

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The DC Circuit denied Delaware's petition for review of the EPA's grant of an extension for a multistate region to comply with national ozone standards. After determining that Delaware may petition the court for review of the EPA's decision, the court held on the merits that the EPA had authority under 42 U.S.C. 7511(a)(5) to grant three states' requests to extend the Philadelphia Area's attainment date, even though Delaware was not among them. The court also held that the EPA did not act arbitrarily or capriciously when requiring New Jersey to comply only with its EPA-approved state implementation plans (SIP). Finally, the court rejected Delaware's contention that Maryland and Pennsylvania could not submit certifications of compliance with their SIPs without evidence to substantiate the certifications. View "Delaware Department of Natural Resources v. EPA" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law

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Petitioners challenged FERC's grant of a 30 year license to continue power generation on a portion of the Coosa River. The DC Circuit held that the Commission's environmental review and a biological opinion it relied on were unreasoned and unsupported by substantial evidence, and thus its issuance of the license was arbitrary and capricious. In this case, a review of the licensed project's impact on the environment and endangered species documented that the project would cause a 100% take of multiple endangered species; the Commission concluded that licensing the generation project would have no substantial impact on either the River's ecological condition or endangered species; and thus the Commission declined to factor in the decades of environmental damage already wrought by exploitation of the waterway for power generation and that damage's continuing ecological effects. The court dismissed the first petition, granted the second petition, vacated the licensing decision, and remanded for further proceedings. View "American Rivers and Alabama Rivers Alliance v. FERC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law

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Petitioners challenged the EPA's final rule entitled "NESHAP for Brick and Structural Clay Products Manufacturing; and NESHAP for Clay Ceramics Manufacturing" and the EPA's partial denial of reconsideration of the rule. Environmental petitioners contended that the EPA erred in its use of health-based standards for acid gas emissions, failed to properly explain its methodology in setting maximum achievable control technology-based (MACT) standards, and improperly allowed brick plants to meet alternative emissions floors. Industry petitioners contended that the EPA made multiple errors in its methodology in the rule. The DC Circuit denied the industry petitioners' petitions for review and granted the environmental petitioners' petition for review as to the EPA's use of a health threshold to set the emissions limit for acid gases; the EPA's ad hoc adjustments of upper prediction limit calculations; and the EPA's provision of alternative MACT floors for brick plants. The court denied the environmental petitioners' petition for review as to the general application of the upper prediction limit to limited datasets as defined by the EPA. The court remanded the rule for further proceedings. View "Sierra Club v. EPA" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit claiming that the Secretary's failure to supplement the Federal Coal Management Program's programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) violated both the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of the Secretary's motion to dismiss, holding that neither NEPA nor the APA required the Secretary to update the PEIS for the Program. Accordingly, the court lacked jurisdiction to compel the Secretary to update the PEIS. View "Western Organization of Resource Councils v. Zinke" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied petitions for review challenging the Amendments to Regional Consistency Regulations adopted by the EPA pursuant to section 7601 of the Clean Air Act (CAA), 42 U.S.C. 7601. The Amended Regulations were issued in response to the court's decision in National Environmental Development Association's Clean Air Project v. EPA (NEDACAP I), 752 F.3d 999 (D.C. Cir. 2014). The court held that the Amended Regulations reflect permissible and sensible solutions to issues emanating from intercircuit conflicts and agency nonacquiescence. Accordingly, the court deferred to the EPA's reasonable construction of the statute. View "National Environmental Development Association's Clean Air Project v. EPA" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law

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Petitioners challenged EPA's final rule listing the West Vermont Drinking Water Contamination Site on the National Priorities List (NPL) of hazardous waste sites that are high priorities for remedial action. The DC Circuit held that the listing of the site was arbitrary and capricious where EPA failed to consider an important aspect of the problem regarding the treatment of two aquifers by entirely failing to address evidence that runs counter to the agency's decision. The court also held that EPA has failed to offer substantial evidence to support its finding of an interconnection between the aquifers, it has ignored evidence undercutting its conclusion, and it has failed to state a reasoned basis for overcoming the regulatory presumption of non-interconnection. The court rejected petitioners' claim that the rule should be vacated based on EPA's failure to take into account the direction of ground water flow. Therefore, the court granted the petitions for review, vacated the rule to the extent that it placed the Site on the NPL, and remanded to EPA for further proceedings. View "Genuine Parts Co. v. EPA" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law

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Conservation petitioners challenged the portion of the EPA's Final Rule, which implemented Congress's effort to restore air quality and visibility in certain national parks and wilderness areas (Class I areas), allowing states to treat Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) compliance as a better-than-BART (Best Available Retrofit Technology) alternative. State and Industry petitioners challenged EPA's disapproval of State Implementation Plans (SIPs) relying on the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) as a better-than-BART alternative. The DC Circuit held that conservation petitioners' first main challenge was moot; the attack on EPA's use of presumptive BART was jurisdictionally foreclosed; EPA's rule requires aggregate average improvement, and its comparison of the CSAPR-region Class I areas as well as all Class I areas nationwide was reasonable; and the remaining claims failed. Because the court found no merit in the conservation petitioners' arguments and could afford no relief to the state and industry petitioners, the court denied the petitions. View "Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA" on Justia Law

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Sierra Club challenged EPA's reconsideration of rules under the Clean Air Act that govern emissions to toxic pollutants from industrial boilers. The DC Circuit held that EPA did not adequately justify its change of direction on the carbon monoxide limits because it failed to explain how the revised limits would minimize the targeted pollutants to the extent the Act required. The court held, however, that EPA's startup and shutdown work practice standards were permissible because, consistent with the Act, they reasonably approximated what the best performing boilers could achieve. View "Sierra Club v. EPA" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law