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On August 15, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit decided the case of Sierra Club v. U.S. Department of Energy. The Sierra Club challenged the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) grant of a license to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) from new Texas LNG terminals and liquefaction facilities. The Court of Appeals concluded that

Sierra Club has standing but that its challenges to the Commission’s orders fail on the merits, largely for the reasons stated in the companion case, Sierra Club v. FERC (Freeport), No. 14-1275 (D.C. Cir June 28, 2016), and otherwise the court lacks jurisdiction over challenges to the Commission’s cumulative impacts analysis due to Sierra Club’s failure to exhaust its administrative remedies. Accordingly, we dismiss the petition in part and deny the petition in part.

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On August 9, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in an unpublished opinion, decided the case of Friends of Lydia Ann Channel v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, vturtle-1-300x225acating the preliminary injunction issued by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in March of 2017. The injunction halted the operation of a barge mooring facility that had been authorized by the U.S. Corps of Engineers to operate in the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway near Port Aransas and the City of Corpus Christi, TX.

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On August 15, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit decided the case of Sinclair Wyoming Refining Company, et al., v. U.S. EPA. In a split decision, the Tenth Circuit vacated a final order of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which denied the plaintiff small refiners’ request for an exemption from the strictures of EPA’s Renewable Fuels Standards (RFS) Program.

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On August 11, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit decided the case of BC Ranch II, LP, et al., v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, which involved charitable tax deductions based on the creation of conservation easements. After reviewing the record, the Fifth Circuit, in a split decision, disagreed with both the Commissioner and the Tax Court, placing heavy stress on the Internal Revenue Code’s public policy goals:

[T]he hope of adding untold thousands of acres of primarily rural property for various conservation purposes – acreage that would never become available for conservation if land-owning potential donors were limited to the traditional method of conveyance.

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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.

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The Texas Legislature meets every two years, and, as befits a large state with varied interest and concerns, typically enacts texas-300x200hundreds of new laws during these sessions. The 85th Regular Session of the Legislature has concluded, and over 1000 laws, dealing with matters large and small were passed and signed by the Governor. Most of these new laws will take effect on September 1, 2017.

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On August 10, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decided the case of ASARCO LLC v. Atlantic Richfield Company, which involves the ongoing liability to clean up the East Helena Superfund Site, located “in and around an industrial area in Lewis and Clark County, Montana.” The Ninth Circuit, vacating the U.S. District Court in Montana’s grant of summary judgment, held that

[Ansarco’s] 1998 RCRA Decree did not resolve Asarco’s liability for at least some of its response obligations under that agreement. It therefore did not give rise to a right to contribution under CERCLA § 113(f)(3)(B). By contrast, the 2009 CERCLA Decree did resolve Asarco’s liability, and Asarco has brought a timely action for contribution under that agreement.

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In the case of Plains All American Pipeline L.P. v. Cook, et al., decided on August 9, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit largely affirmed the dismissal of Plains All American Pipeline L.P.’s (Plains) complaint that the State of Delaware’s proposed escheat audit of the pipeline is unconstitutional. The Third Circuit held that, at present, Plains’s claims are unripe and not suitable to be decided by the courts. Except that it reversed the District Court’s dismissal of Plains’s procedural due process claim, and remanded it to the District Court for further consideration.

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On August 4, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee issued a very significant ruling in the case of Tennessee Clean Water Network, et al., v. Tennessee Valley Authority. The District Court has ordered the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to excavate huge quantities of coal ash waste generated over many years by the TVA’s coal-fired power plant located in Gallatin, Tennessee, and adjacent to the Cumberland River.

Two large unlined surface impoundments have been used to store this waste: the Non-Registered Site and the Ash Pond Complex. According to the District Court, these waste pits are located in an area with “karst geological features, with sinking streams, shallow bedrock, and sinkholes.” These site characteristics caused the District Court to note that “it is difficult to imagine why anyone would choose to build an unlined ash pond in karst terrain immediately adjacent to a river.”

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In Americans for Clean Energy, et al v. EPA, decided July 28, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Corn-300x225Circuit upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2015 rule establishing renewable fuel volume obligations for the years 2014 through 2017, with one exception: the court held that EPA cannot consider demand-side constraints in setting annual renewable fuel volumes.

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