Articles Posted in Environmental Law

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The Bowers Wind Project proposed to place sixteen wind turbines within the boundary of an expedited permitting area, making them visible from multiple scenic resources of state or national significance. Champlain Wind, LLC filed an application with the Department of Environmental Protection seeking permits to construct the Project. The Department denied Champlain’s application, concluding that the Project did not satisfy the statutory scenic standard. The Board of Environmental Protection affirmed the Department’s denial of Champlain’s permit application, concluding that the Project would “unreasonably adversely affect scenic character and existing uses related to scenic character.” The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the Board did not act unlawfully or arbitrarily in its determination that the visual impact of the Project would have an unreasonable adverse effect on the existing scenic character or existing uses related to scenic character of nine affected great ponds. View "Champlain Wind, LLC v. Bd. of Envtl. Prot." on Justia Law

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Brian Bailey filed a Me. R. Civ. P. 80C appeal from a decision of the Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) setting Bailey’s 2014 elver fishing quota at four pounds. The basis for the quota was confirmed on March 31, 2014 by issuance of a 2014 elver transaction card. No appeal was filed within thirty days after Bailey’s receipt of the 2014 elver transaction card. After the close of the 2014 elver season on May 31, 2014, Bailey filed this appeal on July 10, 2014. The superior court dismissed the appeal. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the issues in this case present an exception to the jurisprudence that would ordinarily require the Court to dismiss this appeal for mootness; and (2) DMR’s issuance of Bailey’s 2014 elver transaction card constituted a final agency action, and therefore, Bailey’s appeal was not timely filed. View "Bailey v. Dep’t of Marine Res." on Justia Law

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The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) approved Fox Islands Wind’s (Fox Island) application for certification to build and operate a small-scale wind energy development project and issued a certification with a condition requiring Fox Island to implement a noise-reduction operation plan. After some neighbors, organized as Fox Island Wind Neighbors (FIWN), complained about the noise from the turbines, DEP demanded that Fox Island submit a revised operation protocol for approval. DEP subsequently issued a condition compliance order (CCO) accepting the revised protocol. FIWN filed a Rule 80C petition challenging the CCO, complaining that DEP’s action did not go far enough. The superior court reversed the CCO and remanded to DEP but denied FIWN’s constitutional claims. DEP and Fox Island appealed, and FIWN cross-appealed. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court, holding (1) the CCO was a judicially reviewable enforcement action; (2) the issuance of the CCO was supported by substantial record evidence and was within the discretion of the DEP; and (3) FIWN's First Amendment retaliation claim failed because there was no adverse action taken by DEP against FIWN that would deter FIWN from further exercising its constitutional rights. View "Fox Islands Wind Neighbors v. Dep’t of Envtl. Protection" on Justia Law

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Passadumkeag Windpark, LLC (PW) sought approval to construct a wind farm on property owned by Penobscot Forest, LLC (PF) located in Grand Falls Township. The Department of Environmental Protection denied the requested permit. On review, the Board of Environmental Protection (Board) granted the permit. Passadumkeag Mountain Friends (PMF), a Maine nonprofit corporation, and Alexander and Rhonda Cuprak appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Board, holding (1) the decision of the Board was operative for purposes of appellate review; (2) the Board’s findings and conclusion were supported by substantial evidence in the record; and (3) certain communications between the Board, PW, and PF during the application process did not affect the Cupraks’ due process rights. View "Passadumkeag Mountain Friends v. Bd. of Envtl. Prot." on Justia Law

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Dozens of suits were filed against Irving Oil Limited (IOL) alleging environmental contamination by methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) occurring from 1979 to the present. At the time of this opinion, all of the MTBE suits against IOL had been settled. In 2009, IOL filed a complaint asking the superior court to declare that ACE INA Insurance (ACE) had a duty to defend and indemnify in the MTBE suits. The superior court granted IOL’s motion for summary judgment in part and denied it in part, concluding that it could not declare that IOL was entitled a judgment on the duty-to-defend count as a matter of law. IOL appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed IOL’s appeal and ACE’s cross-appeal, holding that although a decision that an insurer does not have a duty to defend its insured is ordinarily immediately appealable under the death knell exception to the final judgment rule, the exception did not apply in this case because there were no MTBE cases pending against IOL.View "Irving Oil Ltd. et al. v. ACE INA Ins." on Justia Law

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The Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection issued a compliance order requiring Mallinckrodt US LLC and United States Surgical Corporation (collectively, Mallinckrodt) to excavate material containing mercury and other contaminants from five landfills located on a site adjacent to the Penobscot River and to transfer the material to off-site landfills. After a hearing, the Board of Environmental Protection modified and affirmed the order by requiring that Mallinckrodt excavate only two of the landfills and that it secure and monitor the others. Mallinckrodt appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Commissioner was statutorily authorized to issue the compliance order; (2) the Board did not err in conducting the proceedings in accordance with statutorily provided rules rather than promulgating its own; (3) the Board did not err by precluding Mallinckrodt from cross-examining two consultants who assisted the Board in evaluating technical evidence because the consultants did not offer testimony; and (4) the Board did not abuse its discretion in excluding evidence relating to the Commissioner’s possible political bias.View "Mallinckrodt US LLC v. Dep’t of Envtl. Prot." on Justia Law

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Clifford Lippitt was a certified geologist employed at S.W. Cole, Inc. Worcester Associates retained S.W. Cole to provide the necessary technical assistance in order to complete the closure of a landfill Worcester owned. After S.W. Cole drilled bedrock wells and collected data from them, Lippitt submitted a report presenting the results of the tests and concluding that there was no evidence the landfill was impacting neighboring residential wells. The Board of Certification for Geologists and Soil Scientists determined that Lippitt had violated the Code of Ethics applicable to geologists and soil scientists because he had provided a professional opinion “without being as thoroughly informed as might be reasonably expected.” The Supreme Court vacated the superior court’s judgment affirming the Board’s decision, holding (1) the Board’s disagreement with a geologist’s opinion, without a concurrent determination that the opinion is false, is based on false data, or reflects the geologist’s incompetence, cannot be the basis for a determination that the opinion constitutes a violation of the geologists’ Code of Ethics; and (2) the Board erred in determining that Lippitt violated the Code of Ethics on the grounds that Lippitt’s opinion was not “reasonable” in light of the underlying data.View "Lippitt v. Bd. of Certification for Geologists & Soil Scientists" on Justia Law

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In 2011, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued an order approving water quality certification (WQC) under the Clean Water Act for the continued operation of the Eel Weir Hydropower Project. The project includes Eel Weir Bypass, a stretch of water that connects Sebago Lake to the Presumpscot River. Douglas Watts, a recreational user of Sebago Lake and the Presumpscot River, appealed the WQC to the Maine Board of Environmental Protection (BEP). The BEP affirmed the DEP’s order. The Business and Consumer Docket affirmed. The Supreme Court also affirmed, holding that the BEP did not err in approving the WQC and in finding that the WQC complies with Maine’s water quality standards governing the Eel Weir Bypass and Sebago Lake. View "Watts v. Bd. of Envtl. Prot." on Justia Law

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The Department of Environmental Protection granted DCP Midstream Partners, LP, a permit to construct a liquefied petroleum gas terminal near Searsport. Thanks But No Tank and several individuals (collectively TBNT) sought review of the Department's decision. The superior court affirmed. Four months after TBNT filed its notice of appeal, DCP withdrew its municipal application and petitioned the Department to surrender the permits. The Department granted DCP's petition. The Supreme Court subsequently dismissed this appeal as moot and (1) declined to vacate the judgment of the superior court, and (2) denied TBNT's motion for costs, as it was not a prevailing party pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 1501. View "Thanks But No Tank v. Dep't of Envtl. Prot." on Justia Law

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The Department of Environmental Protection approved an application of Saddleback Ridge Wind, LLC for a permit to construct the Saddleback Ridge Wind Project, a wind energy development. The Board of Environmental Protection affirmed. Friends of Maine's Mountains, Friends of Saddleback Mountain, and several individuals appealed, arguing, among other things, that the Board abused its discretion when determining which nighttime sound level limit to apply to the applications. The Supreme Court vacated the Board's order related to nighttime sound requirements and remanded, holding that the Board failed to meet its statutory obligation to protect the health and welfare of the Project's neighbors and thus abused its discretion in approving Saddleback's permit applications. View "Friends of Maine's Mountains. v. Bd. of Envtl. Prot." on Justia Law