Environmental Law

Supreme Court opens federal courts to a floodgate of takings cases

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court overruled Williamson County Regional Planning Comm'n v. Hamilton Bank of Johnson City, 473 U.S. 172 (1985) and held that owners aggrieved by state regulations they believe took their property without just compensation can immediately sue for relief in federal courts under 42 U.S.C. §1983 even if state law would have provided just compensation through administrative procedures....

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Regulatory taking of water rights

In a prior post, I explained the holding of a Texas Supreme Court opinion that held that regulation of water rights might constitute a regulatory taking. The text of that post is at the end of this one. A subsequent case involving similar facts actually held that limits on withdrawal of groundwater designed to preserve water for drinking purposes actually took the property rights of water rights owners who had received permits to use the water to irrigate their pecan crops. That case is...

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Nuisance claim against nuclear weapons plant proceeds

The Tenth Circuit is allowing a nuisance claim to proceed against a nuclear power plant, finding it not to be preempted by the Price-Anderson Act, 42 U.S.C. §2014, a federal regulatory statute. Cook v. Rockwell Intl Corp., 2015 WL 3853593 (10th Cir. 2015). Property owners claimed damage from the nuclear weapons manufacturing plant causes by releases of plutonium and other hazardous substances from the plant.

Groundwater ownership in Texas

The Texas Supreme Court has issued a somewhat confusing opinion holding that landowners own the groundwater beneath the surface of their land. In Edwards Aquifer Auth. v. Day, No. 08-0964 (Feb.24, 2012), the Texas Supreme Court held that a water regulation commission may have taken an owner's groundwater rights without just compensation under the Penn Central test when it limited an owner's groundwater rights to the amounts of water he had historically taken from the land. The court...

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Two Circuits allow global warming lawsuits against power companies

A federal court in California refused to allow the Native Village of Kivalina to sue 24 energy and utility companies for causing global warming and causing environmental changes that may well require the entire village to relocate. The court held, in Native Village of Kivalina v. Exxon Mobil Corp., 2009 WL 3326113 (N.D. Cal. 2009), that the question was nonjusticiable because it was impossible to prove causation.

However, both the Second and Fifth...

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Back yard windmill controversy on Cape Cod, Massachusetts

The Planning Board in Bourne, Massachusetts rejected an application from a home owner to install a 132-foot tall windmill in her back yard that would have generated enough electricity to power her home. Some people in other towns, including Vineyard Haven, Mass. have succeeded to getting permission to install these devices. read article