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On February 26, 2019, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a joint memorandum (Memo) clarifying how state transportation departments that have been delegated responsibility under National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) should implement federal directives to streamline the environmental review and approvals of major infrastructure projects. While the Memo establishes no new affirmative duties on these state agencies, it reflects yet another step in the Trump administration’s continued efforts to ensure collective adherence to its goal of expediting environmental review under NEPA.

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The U.S. has experienced a large number of natural disasters requiring the immediate assistance that only the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) can provide. In Barbosa, et al., v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security and FEMA, decided March 1, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit provided a very informative discussion of the FEMA administrative review process, and held that a fundamental provision of the Stafford Act creates a jurisdictional bar to judicial review of administrative appeals of FEMA eligibility and assistance determinations. That bar is located at 42 U.S.C. § 5148.

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Today, Pillsbury attorneys Glenn Sweatt and Julia Judish published their Client Alert titled OFCCP Conducts Town Hall Meetings for Tech Industry Contractors and Implements Program Changes. Takeaways from the Alert include:

  1. The Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has made several high-profile pro-contractor changes in the last 18 months
  2. As relationships with technology industry firms have not always reflected a “kinder and gentler” OFCCP, OFCCP held a town hall “listening session” in Silicon Valley for tech contractors to express their concerns
  3. Notwithstanding the outreach and public relations efforts, speaking points during these sessions were weighted between enforcement and voluntary compliance, and attendees had mixed reactions to OFCCP comments

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On February 27, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and held that international organizations, such as the World Bank, while being protected by the International Organizations Immunities Act of 1945 (IOIA), are not absolutely immune from lawsuits filed in federal court because the protections afforded by the IOIA are tempered by the 1976 Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). The case is Jam, et al. v. International Finance Corp.

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On March 1, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia decided National Parks Conservation Assoc. v. Todd T. Simonite, Lieutenant General, et al. The case involves an application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) for a construction permit to build electric power lines over the “historic James River, from whose waters Captain John Smith explored the New World.”

The Corps concluded after reviewing the thousands of comments submitted to it in connection with this application, and after considering the views of several government agencies and conservation groups, that an Environment Impact Statement (EIS) was not required, and that its Environmental Assessment assured the Corps that the project would not result is significant environmental impacts. The Court of Appeals has concluded that, based on this evidence, the Corps’ refusal to prepare an EIS thoroughly discussing all these points was arbitrary and capricious. The Corps has been ordered to prepare the EIS and to take special note of its obligations under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), the Clean Water Act (CWA) and its obligations under the National Historic Preservation Act.

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On February 15, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit decided Norfolk Southern Railway Co. v. City of Roanoke, et al.; the Chesapeake Bay Foundation was an Intervenor-Defendant. The Fourth Circuit held that a large stormwater management fee (stated to be $417,000.00 for the year 2017) levied by the City of Roanoke against the railroad to assist in the financing of the City’s permitted municipal stormwater management system was a permissible fee and not a discriminatory tax placed on the railroad.

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Prior to deciding whether to review an important February 1, 2018, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decision involving the jurisdictional reach of the Clean Water Act (CWA), Hawai’i Wildlife Fund, et al., v. County of Maui, the Supreme Court asked the Solicitor General for the views of the U.S. on the holdings of this case and the April 12, 2018 U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit decision, Upstate Forever, et al., v. Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, L.P., et al.

On February 19, the Supreme Court confirmed that certiorari was granted to Question 1 presented by the Petition,

Whether the CWA requires a permit when pollutants originate from a point source but are conveyed to navigable waters by a nonpoint source, such as groundwater. (33 U.S.C. § 1362 (12)

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On February 14, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed the complaint of the National American Butterfly Association (NABA) alleging that the U.S. Government’s border wall preparation and law enforcement activities at NABA’s National Butterfly Center, located in South Texas along the Rio Grande River, violated federal environmental laws (National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA)) as well as NABA’s constitutional rights. The case is National American Butterfly Association v. Nielsen, et al.

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Most companies have been involved in a situation where they want to end their relationship with another company, or with an employee, and to permanently terminate their mutual obligations (e.g., a settlement agreement resolving end-of-project litigation). In 1992, a California Court of Appeals, in Winet v. Price, confirmed that upholding general releases is “in harmony… with a beneficial principle of contract law: that general releases can be so constructed as to be completely enforceable.”

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Today, our colleagues David Dixon, Meghan Doherty and Toghrul Shukurlu published their Client Alert titled FAR’s Professional Compensation Clause and Keeping Things Real. The Alert discusses the U.S. Court of Federal Claims’ recent decision in Sparksoft Corp. v. U.S., an action involving Sparksoft Corp.’s protest of a pre-award decision of the Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (DHS) not conduct a realism analysis on the professional compensation rates embedded within the firm-fixed-price (FFP) component of bids submitted under the solicitation.

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