On December 13, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that the Forest Service was not authorized by the Mineral Leasing Act to grant a pipeline right-of-way under the Appalachian Trail to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline involving a small stretch of the Appalachian Scenic Trail.
With estimates that sea levels could rise two to six feet over the next century, states are incorporating adaptation and coastal resiliency into their planning and permitting regimes. In “INSIGHT: States Shift From Seawalls to Living Shorelines,” colleagues Eric Moorman, Norman Carlin and Ashleigh Acevedo examine the different strategies being considered and deployed by coastal states.
Ordinance 52-19 became effective in April 2019 and expands upon existing San Francisco Building Code registration requirements for “Vacant or Abandoned” “Commercial Storefronts.”
A storefront becomes “Vacant or Abandoned” once it has been unoccupied for 30 days (among other earlier triggers for blighted or unsecured storefronts). A “Commercial Storefront” is broadly defined as “any area within a building that may be individually leased or rented for any purpose other than Residential Use as defined in Planning Code.” (See § 103.A.5.1 of the San Francisco Building Code.) So, a building that is 97% leased could still contain a Vacant or Abandoned Commercial Storefront, which would technically require registration under the Building Code.
On Tuesday, April 23, 2019, in a development of interest to practically anyone who operates a plant or business, EPA published its Interpretive Statement in the Federal Register. (See 84 FR 16810 (April 23, 2019).) After considering the thousands of comments it received in response to a February 20, 2018, Federal Register notice, EPA has concluded that “the Clean Water Act (CWA) is best read as excluding all releases of pollutants from a point source to groundwater from a point source from NPDES program coverage, regardless of a hydrological connection between the groundwater and jurisdictional surface water.”
The California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) recently posted final adopted text for amendments to the CEQA Guidelines. The result of over five years of development efforts by the Governor’s Office of Planning & Research and CNRA, the amendments are the most comprehensive update to the CEQA Guidelines since 1998. In “Natural Resources Agency Finalizes Updates to the CEQA Guidelines,” Pillsbury environmental attorneys Norman F. Carlin, Kevin Ashe and Eric Moorman explore the wide range of issues covered in the amendments, including the new Vehicle-Miles-Traveled (VMT) methodology for analyzing transportation impacts; use of regulatory standards as significance thresholds; environmental baselines; and numerous procedural and technical improvements.
On June 28, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decided the case of Center for Biological Diversity, et al., v. Export-Import Bank of the U.S., affirming the ruling of the District Court, which granted Export-Import Bank of the United States’ (Ex-Im Bank) summary judgement motion finding that, “as a threshold matter,” the plaintiff environmental groups lacked standing to pursue either of their National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) or Endangered Species Act (ESA)] claims. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit held “that the action is not moot [but] affirm the district court on the question of standing.”
At the end of April, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service issued new guidance regarding the evaluation and negotiation of Endangered Species Act Section 10(a)(1)(b) incidental take permits (ITPs). The guidance has significant implications for private project proponents considering whether to undertake the often time-consuming and costly process of seeking an ITP and preparing a habitat conservation plan (HCP) in support of that application. In a recent article for Law360, colleagues Wayne M. Whitlock, Norman F. Carlin and Eric Moorman examined the background and legal framework of the ESA and the implications of the FWS guidance memorandum for prospective permittees.
On November 21, the California Fifth District Court of Appeal issued its decision in Association of Irritated Residents v. Kern County Board of Supervisors, 2017 WL 5590096, a challenge to the County’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and approval for modifications at the Alon Bakersfield Refinery. Among other things, the Association of Irritated Residents (AIR) claimed that, since crude oil processing was shut down when work on the EIR began, the EIR should have considered the refinery’s inactive condition as the “baseline,” treating impacts of resuming typical operation as impacts of the new project. Rejecting AIR’s argument, the court held that, since refinery operations fluctuated over time, the use of data from operations in a representative prior year to identify the baseline level of activity was appropriate under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Continue reading
On October 19, 2017, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) released a draft Strategic Plan (the Plan) for public comment. The Plan establishes goals and long-term objectives for increasing investment and streamlining federal environmental review and approval of transportation infrastructure projects over the next five years (Fiscal Years 2018-2022). Comments on the draft Plan are due by November 13, 2017. Continue reading
On August 2, 2017, the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (“OPR”) released its first update to the General Plan Guidelines (the “Guidelines”) since 2003. The Guidelines provide guidance to cities and counties throughout California on the preparation and content of their General Plans, which govern land uses and zoning within their jurisdictions. The updated Guidelines contain new recommended policies, information resources, and reflect recent legislation regarding General Plans.