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Whitney Hodges is a partner in the Real Estate, Energy, Land Use & Environmental Practice Group in the firm's San Diego office. She is the leader of the firm’s Cannabis Industry Team and serves on the firm's Pro Bono, Recruiting and Diversity & Inclusion committees, as well as numerous industry specific teams.

California has positioned itself as a leader on emerging cannabis policy. While federal law still prohibits cannabis-related activities within the State’s borders, several largely progressive laws in California permit the possession, cultivation, transportation, and distribution of cannabis. The effects of the burgeoning cannabis industry are far-reaching, and have already proven to significantly impact the real estate industry. This Article addresses the history of cannabis regulation within California, the legality of various land use approaches employed by jurisdictions throughout the state and some of the nuances a property owner should consider when negotiating a commercial lease with a tenant who intends to use the premises for a cannabis-related use.
Continue Reading Cannabis Regulation is the New Frontier in Real Estate and Land Use Control

The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (“OPR”) has spent five years drafting a comprehensive update to 30 sections of the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) Guidelines.[1] The updated text[2] (“Final Text”) ensures the Guidelines are consistent with recent court decisions, implements legislative changes, clarifies rules governing the CEQA process, and eliminates duplicative analysis. Several changes to the Guidelines address two hot button topics: global climate change and statewide affordable housing shortages. During the deliberative process, the Agency also released its “Final Statement of Reasons for the Regulatory Action Amendment to the State Guidelines” to give more history and context to each change to the Final Text.[3]


Continue Reading Five Years in the Making: California is One Step Closer to a Comprehensive Update to the CEQA Guidelines

Makah Indian Tribe, et al. v. Quileute Indian Tribe et al., 813 F.3d 1157 (9th Cir. 2017).

Defying the universal notion that whales and seals are, in fact, mammals, the Ninth Circuit recently affirmed in part, and reversed in part, the Western District Court of Washington’s judgment determining that such species qualify as fish in limited circumstances relating to tribal fishing rights in western Washington. Id. at 1159. While the direct determination that the use of the word “fish” may occasionally include some marine mammals may not be universally enlightening, this case painstakingly details the rules to be utilized when interpreting sovereign treaties—a tool helpful to almost any jurisdiction. (The opinion also quotes from the television show “Seinfeld,” validating George Costanza’s proclamation that whales are fish.)
Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Determines That George Costanza Was Right!—In Limited Circumstances, Whales And Seals Are Fish (Not Mammals)

TDY Holdings v. United States, et al., 872 F.3d 1004 (9th Cir. 2017).

TDY brought suit for contribution under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) against the U.S. government relating to environmental contamination at TDY’s manufacturing plant. The district court granted judgment in favor of the government after a 12-day bench trial and allocated 100 percent of past and future CERCLA costs to TDY. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit held that the district court sharply deviated from the two most “on point” decisions regarding allocation of cleanup costs between military contractors and the U.S. government when it determined the cases were not comparable, clarified the applicability of those cases, and remanded the case to reconsider the appropriate allocation of cleanup costs between TDY and the U.S. government.
Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Finds District Court Sharply Deviated from Existing Authority on CERCLA Cleanup Costs Between Military Contractor and U.S. Government When it Allocated 100 Percent of Liability to Military Contractor

Sturgeon v. Frost, et al., 872 F.3d 927 (9th Cir. 2017).

In September 2011, moose hunter John Sturgeon brought an action against the National Park Service (“Park Service”), alleging it inappropriately banned him from using a hovercraft to hunt moose on the Nation River in the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve (“National Preserve”). Id. at 929. On remand from the Supreme Court, the decision analyzes which entity is permitted to decide this matter after the Supreme Court rejected an earlier circuit decision supporting the ban. The court’s ruling affirms congressional intent to permit Park Services authority to manage navigable waters in Alaska’s national parks, especially those parks meant to preserve wild rivers, and describes the balance between state and federal jurisdiction.
Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Holds National Park Service Has the Authority to Regulate Navigable Waters in Alaska’s National Parks and Prohibit the Use of Hovercraft (Again)

WildEarth Guardians v. United States Bureau of Land Management, et al., 870 F.3d 1222 (10th Cir. 2017). WildEarth Guardians and the Sierra Club (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) brought a claim under the Administrative Procedure Act (the “Act”) against the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM), challenging the BLM’s decision to grant four coal leases in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. The basin accounts for almost 40 percent of the United States’ total coal production, and the subject leases would extend the life of two mines that provide almost 20 percent of the United States’ annual domestic coal production. Id. at 1227. Plaintiffs alleged the BLM’s determination that the leases would not have a significant effect on national carbon dioxide emissions, as compared to the “No Action” alternative, was arbitrary and capricious because (1) it was not supported by the administrative record and (2) the BLM failed to acquire information “essential to a reasoned choice among alternatives.” Id. at 1233–34. The Tenth Circuit agreed the decision was not supported by the record and remanded to the district court with instructions to enter an order requiring the BLM to revise its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Records of Decision, but refused to vacate the leases themselves. Id. at 1240.
Continue Reading Tenth Circuit Holds Bureau of Land Management Improperly Relied On Unsupported and Irrational Assumption in Analyzing Environmental Impacts of Coal Mining Leases

United States of America v. Osage Wind, LLC et al., 871 F.3d 1078 2017 WL 4109940 (10th Cir. Sept. 18, 2017). Causing heartburn for project applicants developing on tribal land, the Tenth Circuit reversed the District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma’s grant of summary judgment and determined that the defendants’ large-scale excavation project, involving site modification and the use of excavated rock and soil in the installation of wind turbines, constituted “mining” under federal regulations addressing mineral development on Native American land. Id. at *1. This decision creates new obligations for developers, which could result in delay and additional costs.
Continue Reading Tenth Circuit Takes Expansive View of the Definition of the Term “Mining,” Holding Wind Farm Project Needs Permit Prior to Commencement of Excavation in Tribal Mineral Estate

Asarco, LLC v. Atlantic Richfield Company, 866 F.3d 1108 (9th Cir. 2017). In a Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) contribution case, the Ninth Circuit addressed three issues of first impression for the circuit related to the ability to pursue contribution after settlement and the application of the statute of limitation. Specifically, the court looked at (1) whether a settlement agreement entered into under an authority other than CERCLA may give rise to a CERCLA contribution claim; (2) whether a “corrective” measure under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), qualifies as a “response” action under CERCLA; and (3) what it means for a party to “resolve its liability” in a settlement agreement. Id. at 1113. The Ninth Circuit concluded that a settlement under RCRA may give rise to a CERCLA contribution claim and that corrective measures under a RCRA decree may constitute response costs under CERCLA. Id. at 1113–14. The court found that the CERCLA contribution claim at issue was not barred by the statute of limitation because plaintiff Asarco, LLC (Asarco) did not “resolve its liability” under a 1998 RCRA consent decree, and, therefore, could not have brought its contribution action until a subsequent CERCLA consent decree was issued. Id.
Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Weighs In On Circuit Split Regarding CERCLA Contribution Claims After Settlement and The Statute of Limitation

Summary

Prop 65 Plaintiffs routinely file most Prop 65 cases in Alameda County, presumably because they believe it is a plaintiff-friendly forum. However, the California Court of Appeal recently issued a victory for Prop 65 defendants, finding that Prop 65 matters may be transferred to the venue where the cause arose. Dow Agrosciences LLC v. Superior Court (2017 1st Dist.)16 Cal.App.5th 1067.[1]
Continue Reading Prop 65 Victory For Defendants – Defendants Are Entitled To Have Their Cases Heard In the County Where the Claim Arose

Natural Resources Defense Council v. E.P.A., __ F.3d ___, 2017 WL 2324714 (9th Cir. May 30, 2017). The Ninth Circuit Court has vacated the conditional registration of the pesticide NSPWL30SS (“NSPW”)—an antimicrobial materials preservative that uses nanosilver as its active ingredient—on the grounds that the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) failed to provide substantial evidence that the use of the ingredient was in the public interest. Id. at *2.
Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Vacates Condition Registration for Nanosilver-containing Pesticide Due to Lack of Evidence that its Use is in The Public Interest