Articles Posted in Environmental Law

by
Plaintiffs brought this action under the Administrative Procedure Act seeking review of two biological opinions (BiOps) issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) evaluating requested modifications of existing licenses to operate four hydropower dams on the Kennebec River in Maine. FERC was required to obtain BiOps from the Fisheries Service on whether operating the dams under the proposed license modifications would jeopardize survival of the salmon species. The Fisheries Service issued an “incidental take statement,” finding that the proposed modifications would result in the incidental taking of individual fish among the protected population. Plaintiffs, environmental organizations participating in the licensing proceedings, challenged the statements. While the case was pending, FERC granted the license modifications. The district court dismissed the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that circumstances eliminated whatever claims of district court jurisdiction to review the BiOps Plaintiffs might have raised when this action was filed. View "Maine Council of the Atlantic Salmon Federation v. National Marine Fisheries Service" on Justia Law

by
Municipal ordinances banning coal combustion residuals from landfills were preempted by Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board’s approval of the disposal. AES Puerto Rico, a coal-fired power plant owner, claimed that two municipal (Humacao and Peñuelas) ordinances banning the approved handling of "coal combustion residuals" (CCRs) were preempted by federal and Commonwealth law and violated various provisions of the federal and Puerto Rico constitutions. The Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board (EQB) had authorized disposal of coal ash at the El Coquí and Peñuelas Valley landfills within those municipalities. The district court granted summary judgment for the municipalities on AES's federal claims and declined to exercise jurisdiction over the Commonwealth claims. The First Circuit reversed, holding that the local ordinances may not be enforced to the extent they directly conflict with Commonwealth law as promulgated by the EQB. View "AES Puerto Rico, L.P. v. Trujillo-Panisse" on Justia Law

by
At issue in this dispute was a piece of real estate, called Long Wharf, that juts into Boston Harbor. The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) wished to develop the Long Wharf pavilion, which stands at the northern side of the Wharf, for commercial purposes, but the National Park Service (NPS) refused to grant the BRA permission to do so on the ground that the land remain open for recreational use. The BRA sued NPS and the Secretary of the Interior under the Land and Water Conservation Funds Act. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the decision of the NPS was supported by substantial evidence and was neither arbitrary nor capricious. View "Boston Redevelopment Auth. v. Nat'l Park Serv." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs brought a citizen enforcement action under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act against Defendants, the owner of a neighboring parcel of land and the business operating on it, alleging that contaminated stormwater runoff from the property was being discharged into United States waters, contaminating Plaintiffs’ property, and that Defendants lacked a valid Rhode Island Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit. After a trial, the district court concluded that Plaintiffs failed to meet their burden of proof. Thereafter, the trial court granted Defendants’ motion for attorney’s fees. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the trial judge did not err in excluding from evidence a portion of certain expert witness testimony as a result of Plaintiffs’ tardiness in filing the witness’s revised expert report; (2) the district court did not err in granting judgment for Defendants; and (3) the district court’s award of attorney’s fees was not a clear error of judgment. View "Paolino v. JF Realty, LLC" on Justia Law

by
A few decades ago, an oil spill occurred on property in Salem, Massachusetts that was owned by Peabody Essex Museum. The pollution from the spill migrated to the land of a down gradient neighbor, Heritage Plaza. In 2003, Heritage Plaza discovered the subsurface contamination and notified the Museum. The Museum, in turn, gave prompt notice to state environmental authorities and to its insurer, United States Fire Insurance Company (U.S. Fire). The Museum filed a coverage suit against U.S. Fire and, in 2013, secured a judgment requiring U.S. Fire to pay the Museum over $1.5 million, including punitive damages under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A. In this appeal, the parties challenged multiple district court rulings. The First Circuit affirmed the challenged rulings related to insurance coverage but reversed the finding of Chapter 93A liability and vacated the district court’s associated award of punitive damages, holding that U.S. Fire’s conduct under these circumstances was not the kind that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has condemned as egregious settlement misconduct that is actionable under Chapter 93A. View "Peabody Essex Museum, Inc. v. U.S. Fire Ins. Co." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff, a Maine dairy farmer, had a business dispute with Defendant, his neighbor, and the former Commissioner of the Maine Department of Agriculture (DOA). Soon after taking office, the Commissioner recused himself from regulatory matters involving Plaintiff. The DOA eventually took four adverse regulatory actions against Plaintiff, including the action of ceasing to protect Plaintiff from the regulatory authority of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The DEP then issued several notices of violation of Plaintiff’s license conditions. As a result, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began administrative and judicial proceedings against Plaintiff that resulted in Plaintiff losing his farm. Plaintiff brought this suit for damages against Defendant, claiming that Defendant had violated his First Amendment rights through the adverse actions taken by the DOA. The district court awarded summary judgment against Plaintiff. The First Circuit reversed in part, holding (1) summary judgment was correctly granted with respect tot he three adverse regulatory actions that the DOA was alleged to have taken after the Commissioner’s purported recusal; but (2) there was a genuine issue of material fact with respect to whether the Commissioner’s retaliatory intent was a substantial or motivating factor in the one alleged adverse action that occurred prior to the recusal. Remanded. View "McCue v. Bradstreet" on Justia Law

by
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued Frontier Fishing a notice of violation and assessment and a notice of permit sanction after determining that Frontier Fishing was liable for trawling in a restricted gear area in violation of regulations promulgated under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishing Conservation and Management Act. Frontier Fishing denied liability. On appeal, Frontier Fishing argued that the record lacked substantial evidence for a rational finding that its vessel trawled in the restricted area. The district court upheld the NOAA Administrator’s final decision. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that substantial evidence supported the NOAA’s finding. View "Frontier Fishing Corp. v. Pritzker" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs, two conservation groups, brought two citizen enforcement suits alleging that endangered fish pass through the turbines of four hydroelectric dams operated by Defendants on the Kennebec River, resulting in injury and death to some of the fish. Among their claims, Plaintiffs contended that the Defendants were in violation of the Clean Water Act (CWA) because they had not conducted “site-specific qualitative studies” in accordance with a settlement agreement Defendants entered into in 1998 with various federal and state agencies. The studies are required if Defendants “desire” passage of the endangered fish through the turbines. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants as to the CWA claims in both cases. The First Circuit vacated the district court’s rulings on the narrow procedural grounds that the court failed to consider all relevant evidence in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs. Remanded. View "Friends of Merrymeeting Bay v. Hydro Kennebec, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law

by
Because Munce's Superior Petroleum Products, Inc. (MSPP) failed to comply with a state court order compelling it to bring its facilities into compliance with New Hampshire environmental law, $194,220 in contempt fines was levied against MSPP. The state court orders were issued after MSPP filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition, although the violations of New Hampshire law began before MSPP filed its Chapter 11 petition. The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services filed a motion to give the fines administrative expense priority, which the bankruptcy court granted. The district court affirmed. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, the post-petition contempt fine assessed by the New Hampshire state court against MSPP, a debtor-in-possession, was entitled to administrative expense priority. View "Munce's Superior Petroleum Prods., Inc. v. N.H. Dep't of Envtl. Servs." on Justia Law

by
Cadlerocks Centennial Drive, LLC entered into a loan secured by a mortgage on its property. Daniel Cadle executed a personal guaranty on the loan. The original lender subsequently assigned the mortgage and related documents to Wells Fargo Bank as trustee for registered holders ("Trust"). ORIX Capital Markets, LLC was the special servicer of the Trust and began servicing the loan. Cadlerocks later defaulted on its loan, after which the Trust commenced foreclosure proceedings. ORIX then filed this lawsuit against Cadlerocks and Cadle, alleging breaches of the various agreements related to the loan. Among those documents was an indemnity agreement, under which Cadle and Cadlerocks agreed to indemnify the original lender and its assignees for liabilities "sought from or asserted against" the indemnitees connected with the presence of hazardous material on or around the property. ORIX conducted environmental tests on the property, and the district court held that ORIX was entitled to recover the majority of the costs associated with the environmental testing under the indemnity agreement. The First Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the part of the district court's order awarding costs associated with environmental testing, holding that the cost of the tests that ORIX conducted fell outside the scope of the indemnity agreement. Remanded. View "ORIX Capital Markets, LLC v. Cadlerocks Centennial Drive, LLC" on Justia Law