People of the State of Cal. v. U.S. D.O.I.

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Environmental Law
  • Date Filed: 05-19-2014
  • Case #: 12-55856; 12-55956
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Hurwitz for the Court; Chief District Judge Smith and Circuit Judge Watford
  • Full Text Opinion

The Secretary of the Interior does not abuse his or her discretion when electing to not create an Environmental Impact Statement when redistributing a water allotment.

The Salton Sea water access has long been divided amongst Arizona, Nevada, and California. Arizona and Nevada have been using their full entitlements of the water but California has been taking a surplus amount from the reserves. The Secretary of the Interior (“Secretary”) is charged with the duty to distribute the allotment of water amongst the different regions within the states and has recently implemented a new water plan within Southern California in order to conserve the dwindling water resources. Imperial County and Imperial County Air Pollution Control District (“plaintiffs”) brought suit against the Secretary arguing that she did not comply with several environmental standards. The district court granted summary judgment to the Secretary on the ground that the plaintiffs had a lack of standing to sue. On appeal, the Secretary argued that plaintiffs did not have enough facts to justify standing. The Ninth Circuit disagreed and determined that there was sufficient standing. Plaintiffs argued that the Secretary had improperly segregated the water and failed to provide an Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”). The panel disagreed and held that the Secretary did not abuse her discretion when she did not prepare an EIS. Additionally, the panel determined that the Secretary did not abuse her discretion when concluding that the Interior Department would not be the cause of harmful emissions of gas that would be released into the air because of the new water delivery equipment that needed to be provided to implement the new water plan. The panel therefore, affirmed the judgment of the district court on other grounds than standing. AFFIRMED.

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