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South San Francisco approved a conditional-use permit allowing an office building to be converted to a medical clinic for use by Planned Parenthood Mar Monte. The city determined that its consideration of the permit was categorically exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act, Public Resources Code section 21000 (CEQA). Respect Life challenged the determination. The trial court and court of appeal upheld the determination, rejecting arguments that the permit’s consideration is not exempt from CEQA because the unusual circumstances exception to CEQA’s categorical exemptions applies. By pointing only to evidence that the permit will lead to protests, Respect Life failed to establish that the city prejudicially abused its discretion by making an implied determination that there are no unusual circumstances justifying further CEQA review. View "Respect Life South San Francisco v. City of South San Francisco" on Justia Law

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This case presented a question of whether a large-scale excavation project constituted “mining” under the pertinent federal regulations that address mineral development on Indian land. When an entity engages in “mining” of minerals owned by the Osage Nation, a federally approved lease must be obtained from the tribe. The Osage Mineral Council (OMC), acting on behalf of the Osage Nation, appealed the award of summary judgment to Defendant Osage Wind, LLC (Osage Wind), arguing that Osage Wind engaged in “mining” without procuring a federally approved mineral lease. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) has defined “mining” as the “science, technique, and business of mineral development[.]” The Tenth Circuit held the term “mineral development” had a broad meaning, including commercial mineral extractions and offsite relocations, but also encompass action upon the extracted minerals for the purpose of exploiting the minerals themselves on site. The Court held Osage Wind’s extraction, sorting, crushing, and use of minerals as part of its excavation work constituted “mineral development,” thereby requiring a federally approved lease which Osage Wind failed to obtain. Accordingly, the Court reversed the award of summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "United States v. Osage Wind" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-Appellants WildEarth Guardians and Sierra Club challenged the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) decision to approve four coal leases in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. Plaintiffs brought an Administrative Procedure Act (APA) claim arguing that the BLM failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when it concluded that issuing the leases would not result in higher national carbon dioxide emissions than would declining to issue them. The district court upheld the leases. The Tenth Circuit held the BLM’s Environmental Impact Studies and Records Of Decisions were arbitrary and capricious because they omitted data pertinent to its choice with respect to issuing the leases, and thereby informing the public of its rationale. The Tenth Circuit remanded with instructions to the BLM to revise its Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) and Records of Decision (RODs). The Court did not vacate the resulting leases. View "WildEarth Guardians v. Bureau of Land Management" on Justia Law

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Walker Brothers Investment, Inc., and James Walker (collectively, "Walker Brothers") appealed a circuit court order granting a motion for a summary judgment in favor of the City of Mobile ("the City"). In 2012, the City filed a complaint against Walker Brothers seeking a preliminary and a permanent injunction, alleging Walker Brothers owned a building, known as the Tobin Building, located in a historic district in downtown Mobile and that Walker Brothers had allowed the building to deteriorate in violation of the Mobile City Code. The City asked the circuit court to enter an order requiring Walker Brothers to "mothball" the Tobin Building in accordance with plans submitted by Walker Brothers and subsequently approved by the Board. Walker Brothers argued that the City, through the HDC and the Board, had treated Walker Brothers unequally from other developers of historic properties, and it alleged that the City had engaged in selective enforcement of the City's rules and regulations in a manner that "amounted to malicious prosecution and abuse of process." Walker Brothers filed an objection to the City's motion to dismiss, stating that it had intentionally left part of the mothballing plan uncomplete so that it could file a counterclaim against the City. The circuit court purported to grant the City's motion to dismiss later the same day. The Alabama Supreme Court dismissed Walker Brothers’ appeal, finding the City's "motion to dismiss" was a valid notice of dismissal pursuant to Rule 41(a)(1)(i), and, the circuit court was without the power to act on Walker Brothers' attempt to reinstate the City's action so that Walker Brothers could file a counterclaim. Accordingly, any order entered after the City filed its notice of dismissal was void, including the summary judgment in favor of the City that was the basis of Walker Brothers' appeal to the Supreme Court. View "Walker Brothers Investment, Inc. v. City of Mobile" on Justia Law

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Robert and Carin Diercks, residents of a subdivision located in Escambia County Alabama, purchased a vacant lot in the subdivision located directly behind their house and began constructing a garage. A group of homeowners in the subdivision ("the plaintiffs") sued the Dierckses contending that construction of the garage violated various restrictive covenants applicable to the lot. The trial court agreed and entered a summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, enjoined the Dierckses from further construction on the garage, and ordered the removal of what had been constructed on the lot. On direct appeal, the Court of Civil Appeals reversed the judgment of the trial court, finding that the trial court had not properly applied the restrictive covenants. The Alabama Supreme Court applied the covenant at issue here as originally intended by the parties at the time the covenant was created: it was clear that the intent of the covenant was to prohibit a garage or carport located on lot 58 from opening onto Brooks Boulevard. The Dierckses could not unilaterally reverse the meaning of this covenant by the subsequent combination of the two lots into a single parcel. Thus, the Dierckses' garage violated the restrictive covenant prohibiting garages and carports from opening onto the front of the lot. With respect to restrictive covenant 1.C., the Alabama Supreme Court found the trial court correctly entered a summary judgment. To the extent the Court of Civil Appeals' decision was to the contrary, that decision was reversed, and the case was remanded for further proceedings. The Court pretermitted discussion as to the remaining restrictive covenants. View "Ex parte Phillip D. Odom, et al." on Justia Law

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Landowners from the Buffalo area appealed a district court judgment affirming the Department of Health's decision to issue Rolling Green Family Farms an animal feeding operation (AFO) permit. The landowners argued the Department erred by issuing Rolling Green an AFO permit and by failing to reopen the public comment period after Rolling Green provided further information to supplement its permit application. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Coon v. N.D. Dep't of Health" on Justia Law

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The Attards own an undeveloped 5-acre parcel in unincorporated Contra Costa County (Fish Ranch Road) on the north side of Highway 24, near the east portal of the Caldecott Tunnel, approximately one mile west of Orinda. The property is designated open space in the county’s general plan, its zoning allows the construction of one single family home. They also own two parcels constituting the 3-acre Old Tunnel Road property near the tunnel's east portal, on the opposite side of Highway 24. The chief barrier to the development of the properties was sewage treatment. In 2005, the Attards contracted with the state Department of Transportation, agreeing to reconstruct the tunnel’s sewage disposal system and pay for upkeep, in return for the right to connect the properties. The tunnel then had a single restroom, served by a septic system. Although they failed to obtain the necessary regulatory approvals, the county issued a permit for construction of an 8400-square-foot home. Before the county discovered its error and notified the Attards, they made substantial progress toward installing a foundation. The county revoked the permits. The court of appeal affirmed the rejection of their petition for mandamus, rejecting claims of vested rights and equitable estoppel; that the Attards were exempt from local regulatory authority because of sovereign immunity; and that they were denied due process by the evident bias of one Board member. View "Attard v. Board of Supervisors of Contra Costa County" on Justia Law

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This appeal involved a dispute between two neighbors over the construction of a pergola on the shore of Lake Champlain in Swanton. The Environmental Division consolidated three related proceedings concerning this dispute and concluded that the Town of Swanton was equitably estopped from enforcing its zoning regulations and that the pergola, which did not comply with those regulations, could remain. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "In re Langlois/Novicki Variance Denial" on Justia Law

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In 2010, Omni, the landowner and developer, sought approval for construction of a shopping center on 11 acres of property zoned commercial, to consist of 10 retail buildings. Monterey County approved the project. An association of community members challenged the approval under the California Environmental Quality Act, Public Resources Code 21000 (CEQA). The trial court denied the petition as to the claimed CEQA violations but ordered an interlocutory remand to allow the county to clarify whether the project was consistent with the county’s general plan requirement that the project have a long-term, sustainable water supply. On remand, the Board of Supervisors clarified that the project “has a long-term sustainable water supply, both in quality and quantity to serve the development in accordance with the 2010 Monterey County General Plan Policies. The court entered judgment in favor of the county and Omni. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting claims that the county violated the association’s right to procedural due process on interlocutory remand and violated CEQA because the water supply analysis was inadequate, the analysis of the project’s consistency with the general plan was inadequate, the environmental impact report’s traffic analysis was inadequate, and environmental review of Omni’s project was improperly segmented. View "Highway 68 Coalition v. County of Monterey" on Justia Law

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About 99.5% of the Orion Project, 12.9 miles of pipeline looping that would transport an additional 135,000 dekatherms per day of natural gas through Pennsylvania, would run alongside existing pipelines. According to Riverkeeper, construction will lead to deforestation, destruction of wetland habitats, and other forms of environmental damage. Riverkeeper asserts that such damage can be avoided by building or upgrading a compressor station. The Army Corps of Engineers, which administers certain provisions of the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. 1344(a), 1362(7) issued a Section 404 permit approving the project. The Third Circuit rejected Riverkeeper’s challenge. The Corps considered the compression alternative but rejected it for reasons supported by the record. While the compression alternative would disturb less land, its impact would be mostly permanent. The pipeline project would disturb more land, but its impact would be mostly temporary. In making a policy choice between those environmental tradeoffs, the agency’s discretion “was at its apex.” View "Delaware Riverkeeper Network v. United States Army Corps of Engineers" on Justia Law