Justia U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Environmental Law
RRVSG Assoc. v. Michael Regan
Facing a tight deadline from the Ninth Circuit, the Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of chlorpyrifos on food crops. Two environmental groups petitioned the EPA in 2007 to have all tolerances revoked. In denying the petition, the EPA concluded that their objections were “not supported by valid, complete, and reliable evidence.” The Eighth Circuit granted the petitions, finding that the EPA’s decision was arbitrary and capricious. The court explained that in this case, the EPA believed it lacked discretion or at least acted that way. The Ninth Circuit’s opinion had already narrowed its options down to two: revoke the tolerances or modify them. With little time to act, the agency ruled out the second option, leaving only revocation by default. In doing so, however, it misread the statute and misunderstood the “scope of its discretion”. Therefore, the court set aside the decision as arbitrary and capricious. Further, the court explained that a partial ban was a real alternative for the EPA. It could have canceled some registrations and retained others that satisfied the statutory safety margin. View "RRVSG Assoc. v. Michael Regan" on Justia Law
EEE Minerals, LLC v. State of North Dakota
EEE Minerals, LLC, and a Trustee for The Vohs Family Revocable Living Trust, sued the State of North Dakota, the Board of University and School Lands, and the Board’s commissioner in a dispute over mineral interests in McKenzie County, North Dakota. Plaintiffs alleged that state law related to mineral ownership was preempted by federal law and that the defendants had engaged in an unconstitutional taking of the plaintiffs’ mineral interests. Plaintiffs sought damages, an injunction, and declaratory relief. The district court dismissed the action. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. Plaintiffs contend that the Flood Control Act impliedly preempts the North Dakota statute because the state law “stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress.” The court explained that it is not convinced that the State’s determination of a high-water mark, and the attendant settling of property rights under state law, stands as an obstacle to accomplishing the objectives of the Flood Control Act. The court wrote that the interests of the United States and the goals of the Flood Control Act are unaffected by a dispute between the State and a private party over mineral rights that were not acquired by the federal government. Further, the court explained that Plaintiffs have not established that the United States will be prevented from flooding or inundating any land covered by the 1957 deed in which the State claims ownership of mineral interests under state law. The Flood Control Act would not dictate that property rights be assigned to Plaintiffs. View "EEE Minerals, LLC v. State of North Dakota" on Justia Law
City of Burnsville v. Koppers, Inc.
Several cities in Minnesota alleged that a chemical in refined coal tar that was used in pavement sealants contaminated their stormwater ponds. They filed an action seeking damages from refiners and manufacturers of the tar. The “refiner” defendants take raw coal tar and refine it into a product used by the “manufacturer” defendants to create pavement sealants. The district court dismissed all of the claims against the refiners and dismissed all but three of the claims against the manufacturers. The Cities moved under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) for entry of final judgment against the refiners. The district court, however, denied the motion because the Cities had not “demonstrated a danger of hardship or injustice through delay which would be alleviated by immediate appeal.” The Cities then entered into an agreement with the manufacturers, which provided that the Cities would conditionally dismiss their claims against the manufacturers. The Cities then appealed the district court’s decision dismissing claims against the refiners, and some of the refiners cross-appealed. The Eighth Circuit dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The court concluded that this conditional dismissal of the Cities’ claims against the manufacturers does not create a final decision under 28 U.S.C. Section 1291. The whole purpose of pairing the voluntary dismissal with the tolling agreement was to provide for reinstatement of the claims in the event of reversal—that is, to make the dismissal conditional. The court wrote that its only power to prevent the manipulation of appellate jurisdiction is a rigorous application of the final judgment requirement. View "City of Burnsville v. Koppers, Inc." on Justia Law
Northern Oil and Gas, Inc. v. EOG Resources, Inc.
In June 1949, Axel Anderson conveyed to L.S. Youngblood a ½ mineral interest in several tracts of land in Mountrail County, North Dakota (“the Disputed Lands”)In 2011, with the Andersons and Henry Johnson now deceased, grantee Johnson’s successors filed a quiet title action in state court against Nancy Finkle and grantor Andersons’ other successors to resolve the over conveyance, seeking title to a ½ mineral interest in the Disputed Lands (“the Finkle Litigation”).inkle appealed the quiet title order and judgment, arguing that an exception to the Duhig rule that is not at issue in this appeal applied and therefore the trial court should have awarded each side a 1/4 mineral interest in the Disputed Lands. In January 2008, Finkle, a successor to grantor Andersons’ mineral interests, conveyed by oil and gas lease her mineral interest leasehold and operating rights in the Disputed Lands to Montana Oil Properties, Inc. Northern Oil did not participate while Finkle defended the Johnson successors’ quiet title claim and asserted her own deed reformation counterclaim in state court. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court correctly granted summary judgment to the defendant on the ground that due to an over-conveyance of rights, Plaintiff had not obtained any mineral rights in the subject property when it acquired its interest in a leasehold. Further, the court held that the district court granted summary judgment dismissing Northern Oil’s reformation claim as time-barred by the ten-year statute of limitations in N.D.C.C. Section 28-01-15(2), applying a Supreme Court of North Dakota decision issued after the Finkle Litigation, Western Energy Corp. v. Stauffer, 921 N.W.2d 431, 434-35 (N.D. 2019). View "Northern Oil and Gas, Inc. v. EOG Resources, Inc." on Justia Law
State of Missouri v. U.S. Department of Interior
In September 2018, the United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation (“the Bureau”) decided to move forward with a water project in North Dakota. The State of Missouri challenged the decision under the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), 5 U.S.C. Sections 701–706, the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), 42 U.S.C. Sections 4321–4347, and the Water Supply Act of 1958 (“Water Supply Act”). The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Defendants. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the Water Supply Act itself. Simply put, Congressional approval is Congressional approval. If the Bureau and the other defendants had sufficient project-specific authorization, they need not seek additional approval again under the Water Supply Act. The court further concluded that Missouri has not met its burden to show the Bureau’s reliance on the Garrison Diversion Act was erroneous here. First, Missouri has not shown the Central North Dakota Project is outside the scope of the 1984 Garrison Diversion Final Report. Second, Missouri’s only argument that the Central North Dakota Project involves an out-of-basin transfer is to point to its connection with the Red River Valley Project’s main transmission pipeline. View "State of Missouri v. U.S. Department of Interior" on Justia Law
Arlen Foster v. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture
The Swampbuster Act and United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) regulations work together to provide farmers with the right to request reviews of wetland certifications. The Swampbuster Act’s review provision (“Swampbuster Review Provision”) provides that a prior wetland certification “shall remain valid and in effect . . . until such time as the person affected by the certification requests review of the certification by the Secretary.” In turn, a regulation (“Review Regulation”) provides procedural requirements a farmer must follow to make an effective review request. Appellant filed an action alleging that: (1) the Review Regulation contravenes the Swampbuster Review Provision; (2) the Review Regulation was never submitted to Congress or the Comptroller General as required by the Congressional Review Act (“CRA”); and (3) the NRCS’s decisions to refuse to consider Appellants 2017 and 2020 review requests violated the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”). The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Appellees. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court held that the Review Regulation imposes reasonable procedural requirements a farmer must follow to make an effective review request and thereby delimit a prior wetland certification. Because the Swampbuster Review Provision is silent as to the nature of an effective review request, the Review Regulation does not conflict with the Swampbuster Review Provision. Further, the court wrote that the CRA’s judicial review provision precludes review of Appellant’s CRA claim. Finally, the court held that the NRCS’s decisions to refuse to consider Appellant’s review requests were not arbitrary and capricious because Appellant failed to comply with the Review Regulation. View "Arlen Foster v. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture" on Justia Law
State of Missouri v. Joseph Biden, Jr.
In response to President Biden's Executive Order 13990, the State of Missouri and twelve other States ("the States") then filed this action against President Biden, the Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases and other agencies, asserting four causes of action: (1)“Violation of the Separation of Powers;” (2) “Violation of Agency Statutes;” (3)“Procedural Violation of the APA”; and (4) “Substantive Violation of the APA.”The district court concluded the States lack Article III standing and their claims are not ripe for adjudication, granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and denied Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction as moot. The States appealed.The Eighth Circuit affirmed, finding that the States' request for the court to grant injunctive relief that directs “the current administration to comply with prior administrations’ policies on regulatory analysis [without] a specific agency action to review,” is “outside the authority of the federal courts” under Article III of the Constitution. View "State of Missouri v. Joseph Biden, Jr." on Justia Law
United States v. City of Fort Smith, Arkansas
The district court entered a Consent Decree between the City of Fort Smith, Arkansas (the City), and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) along with the State of Arkansas. The Consent Decree imposed various sewer system improvement requirements on the City over an initial 12-year period. The Consent Decree’s requirements generally include (1) assessing the condition of the sewer system, (2) identifying control measures to address certain defects, and (3) developing a plan to ensure adequate capacity in the sewer system. The City filed a motion for judicial resolution. The district court granted the City’s motion and issued two orders on March 19, 2021, and April 30, 2021. The City appealed those two orders, challenging the court’s ruling that certain severe structural defects had to be repaired by a date certain. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that nothing in the Consent Decree or in Appendix D explicitly indicates that the decision tree only applies to defects with Grades 1 to 3 and not to Grades 4 and 5. But assuming arguendo that it applies to all defects identified in the City’s SSA irrespective of grade, Appendix D conflicts with Paragraph 18. Paragraph 18 provides that all Grade 4 and 5 defects must be included in the RMP. Accordingly, the court affirmed the conclusion of the district court that “the Consent Decree requires the City to resolve the defects in Grade 4 and 5 manholes and sewer lines, and this cannot be accomplished solely by monitoring and maintenance analysis.” View "United States v. City of Fort Smith, Arkansas" on Justia Law
Posted in: Environmental Law
Casey Voigt v. U.S. E.P.A.
Petitioners, the owners of a large ranch in rural North Dakota, filed this petition for review related to their challenge of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) renewal of a Clean Air Act (CAA) Title V operating permit for Coyote Station, a coal-fired electric generating plant that is serviced by the nearby Coyote Creek Mine. Petitioners petitioned the EPA Administrator to object to the renewal of the permit, and the Administrator denied the petition on the basis that Petitioners failed to carry their burden of demonstrating that the permitting decision was contrary to the CAA. The Eighth Circuit denied the petition for review. The court explained that in response to Petitioners’ petition, the EPA has interpreted the term “demonstrates” in Section 7661d(b)(2) to include an obligation to discuss the specific points in the NDDOH permit or reasoning to which Petitioners objected. The Administrator determined that because Petitioners failed “to engage with the facts that [the NDDOH] deemed to be most relevant, the [Petitioners] . . . failed to demonstrate that [the NDDOH’s] justification was unreasonable, or that its ultimate decision was contrary to the CAA.” The court concluded that this interpretation is entitled to deference under either Chevron or Skidmore because it is both reasonable and persuasive, a conclusion other courts have similarly reached. The court thus concluded that the Administrator’s interpretation of “demonstrates” in Section 7661d(b)(2) is entitled to deference. Finally, Petitioners’ arguments about the lack of a notice and comment period did not change the court’s conclusion View "Casey Voigt v. U.S. E.P.A." on Justia Law
Posted in: Environmental Law
United States v. Daikin Applied Americas
For nearly forty years, there has been ongoing efforts to environmentally remediate the Reilly Tar & Chemical Corporation site in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. In 2019, the site’s original consent decree and remedial action plan were amended in a fashion that some neighboring parties oppose. At issue is whether the neighboring parties may intervene to oppose the amended consent decree.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling and held that neighboring parties may not intervene because the neighboring parties lack Article III standing. The court explained that even assuming the Proposed Intervenors show a concrete injury by having to spend money to remediate their property, there are causality issues that preclude Article III standing. The Proposed Intervenors’ contention that the 2019 Consent Decree will increase the migration of CVOC contaminants from the Reilly Tar Site to their own property is based on two unfounded assumptions: (1) it presumes that the CVOC contaminants were subject to remediation by the 1986 Consent Decree, and (2) the 2019 Consent Decree significantly changes CVOC remediation at the Reilly Tar Site.Given this assurance and the conclusion that the 2019 Consent Decree does not alter Reilly Tar’s CVOC remediation obligations, the Proposed Intervenors have not shown a traceable or redressable injury, which are requirements for Article III standing. Because the Proposed Intervenors lack standing, the court has no authority to analyze their remaining claims. View "United States v. Daikin Applied Americas" on Justia Law