NINTH CIRCUIT FINDS “THREATENED” DESIGNATION FOR BEARDED SEALS PROPER BASED ON NEW LONG-TERM PROJECTIONS
Alaska Oil and Gas Ass’n et al. v. Pritzker et al., 840 F.3d 671, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 19084 (9th Cir. 2016). Plaintiffs Alaska Oil and Gas Association, the state of Alaska, and North Slope Borough (collectively, Plaintiffs) challenged the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (the Service) determination that a subspecies of Pacific bearded seal, known as the “Beringia distinct population segment” (Beringia DPS), is threatened and entitled to protection under the Endangered Species Act (the Act). The state of Alaska also claimed the Service failed to adequately respond to its public comments, as required by the Act’s state cooperation provisions. The Ninth Circuit rejected Plaintiffs’ claims, finding that the Service’s decision to list the Beringia DPS as threatened was not arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise in contravention of the applicable law, and that the Service complied with its obligations to respond to the state of Alaska’s public comments.
DISTRICT COURT FINDS CLEAN WATER ACT LAWSUIT MAY PROCEED FOR DISCHARGES TO WATERWAYS FROM PASSING RAIL CARS
Sierra Club et al. v. BNSF Railway Co., 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 147786 (W.D. Wash. Oct. 25, 2016). Environmental advocacy organizations (collectively, Plaintiffs) brought a Clean Water Act citizen suit against BNSF Railway Co. (BNSF) seeking relief for BNSF’s alleged unpermitted discharge of coal pollutants from its railcars into protected waterways. Plaintiffs alleged that “each time a BNSF train carrying coal travels through the state of Washington it discharges coal pollutants ‘through holes in the bottoms and sides of the rail cars and by spillage or ejection from the open tops of the rail cars and trains.’” Id. at *3–4. Both sides sought summary judgment, which the court denied. Id. at *2. The court rejected BNSF’s argument that Plaintiffs lacked standing, and determined that there were disputed issues of fact as to whether BNSF had committed Clean Water Act violations.
CALIFORNIA COURT OF APPEAL HOLDS ORDINANCE REGULATING MARIJUANA DISPENSARIES NOT SUBJECT TO ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY ACT REVIEW
Union of Medical Marijuana Patients, Inc. v. City of San Diego, 4 Cal. App. 4th 103 (2016). The Union of Medical Marijuana Patients, Inc. (UMMP) brought a petition for writ of mandate against the City of San Diego (City), claiming the City failed to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) when it enacted an Ordinance (No. O20356) regulating the establishment and location of medical marijuana cooperatives within the City. UMMP argued that the Ordinance was a project under CEQA as a matter of law, and that the City failed to consider the reasonably foreseeable environmental impacts of the Ordinance prior to its adoption. The court of appeal rejected UMMP’s arguments, finding that the Ordinance was not a project under CEQA and that the alleged environmental impacts were not reasonably foreseeable.