Justia U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Environmental Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Appellant filed suit against Appellee, an oil company, seeking to compel Appellee to remediate environmental contamination at a gas station he owned. After Appellee allegedly conceded that it would clean up Appellant's gas station, Appellant filed a motion for voluntary dismissal. After settlement negotiations were ultimately unsuccessful, the district court granted Appellant's motion and dismissed the case with prejudice, assessing attorneys' fees and costs against him. The First Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the dismissal order and remanded, holding that the district court abused its discretion by dismissing the case with prejudice based on Appellant's refusal to accept Appellee's settlement offers. Remanded. View "Colon-Cabrera v. Esso Standard Oil Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought two citizen enforcement actions under the Clean Water Act (CWA) against Defendants pursuant to 33 U.S.C. 1365(a). The suits were dismissed without prejudice due to defects in the service or contents of earlier pre-suit notices. Plaintiffs then brought their most recent citizen suit, which the district court dismissed without prejudice, finding that Plaintiffs had failed to allege or establish several mandatory prerequisites to a citizen suit under the CWA in their pre-suit notice. The First Circuit Court of Appeals reversed in part, holding that the district court erred in dismissing the case, as (1) Plaintiffs' pre-suit notice satisfied the requirement that the notice identify the potential plaintiffs, provide basic contact information, and allow the putative defendants to identify and remedy the alleged violations; and (2) therefore, the enforcement action may proceed. View "Paolino v. JF Realty, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff here was Boston Gas Company and Defendant was Century Indemnity Company, one of Boston Gas's insurers. Environmental contamination was later found at many of Boston Gas's former gas plant sites. Boston Gas filed this action seeking a declaratory judgment as to Century's obligations under policies issued to Boston Gas. Jury trials were held with respect to two sites included in the cleanup, the Everett and Commercial Point sites. The Everett site litigation first went to trial. Before the parties reached a settlement, the supreme judicial court (SJC) found a pro rata allocation method applied for allocating liability for the contamination where Century had provided coverage for the risk for only a portion of the time during which the contamination took place. Meanwhile, the jury found Century liable for $1,699,145 in the Commercial Point litigation. The trial judge deferred entry of final judgment pending the outcome of the Everett appeal. The district court ultimately (1) concluded that in the wake of the SJC ruling in the Everett litigation, by allocating damages across a 121-year span in the case of the Commercial Point site, this reduced Century's share of damages from 100 percent to less than fifteen percent; and (2) vacated the damages award and ordered a new trial on the issue of which of the costs were subject to an exclusion in the GCL policy. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. View "Boston Gas Com. v. Century Indem. Co." on Justia Law

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NextEra Energy Seabrook, LLC, which operated a nuclear power plant in Seabrook, New Hampshire, applied to renew its operating license. NextEra submitted a required environmental report that concluded that offshore wind electric generation was not a reasonable alternative to the extended licensing of Seabrook. Several environmental groups (collectively, Petitioners) questioned and sought a hearing on NextEra's environmental report. The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board admitted the contention, but the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) denied the admission of the contention, which resulted in Petitioners not being entitled to have a hearing on the merits about their contention that generation of electricity from offshore wind was a reasonable alternative source of baseload energy to the relicensing of Seabrook. The First Circuit Court of Appeals denied Petitioners' petition for review, holding (1) the NRC did not misapply case law interpreting the National Environmental Policy Act in formulating its contention-admissibility standard; and (2) NRC's conclusion that the contention was inadmissible was not arbitrary or capricious, and there was no basis in law to set it aside. View "Beyond Nuclear v. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Comm'n" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff owned a home on Grassy Pond Road in Hopkinton, Rhode Island. The Hopkinton Planning Board granted a developer's application to develop a residential subdivision on a tract adjacent to Plaintiff's land on the condition that Grassy Pond Road be reconfigured and reconstructed. The reconstruction required a permit from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM), which was issued. Plaintiff attempted to appeal the issuance of the permit. In the meantime, the developer sold its land, and the DEM permit expired. The subdivision proposal was subsequently abandoned, and Plaintiff's state-court appeal was dismissed as moot. Plaintiff, however, filed suit in federal district court against the State of Rhode Island, the DEM, the town of Hopkinton, the Board, the developer, and others, alleging various constitutional and pendent state-law claims, including a takings claim. The district court granted Defendants' motions to dismiss, holding, among other things, that it lacked jurisdiction to entertain Plaintiff's takings claim because Plaintiff failed to pursue available state procedures in an endeavor to secure just compensation. The First Circuit Court of affirmed for substantially the reasons limned in the district court's opinion. View "Marek v. State of Rhode Island" on Justia Law

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This case involved legal challenges to recent federal management actions taken in New England's sensitive Multispecies Groundfish Fishery (Fishery). The challenges centered on the promulgation of a new groundfish Fishery Management Plan (FMP), Amendment Sixteen, which altered and expanded the Fishery's preexisting "sector allocation program" and established new restrictions on fishing activities to end and prevent overfishing. Plaintiffs filed suit in federal court alleging that Amendment Sixteen conflicted with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act's provisions governing "limited access privilege programs," with the ten "national standards" applicable to all FMPs, and with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Plaintiffs unsuccessfully sought to enjoin implementation of Amendment Sixteen. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants as to all claims. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed entry of judgment for Defendants, holding (1) Amendment Sixteen was implemented with the protections required by the Reauthorization Act; (2) Amendment Sixteen was consistent with the ten national standards; and (3) Amendment Sixteen was implemented in accordance with the requirements of NEPA. View "City of New Bedford v. Locke" on Justia Law