Justia Military Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Environmental Law
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TWA challenged the Navy's decision to relocate troops to Guam and construct training facilities on the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). The U.S.-Japan Alliance Agreement was entered into by the United States and Japan to adapt their alliance to the changing regional and global security environment, resulting in the determination to move Marine troops from Okinawa to Guam.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Navy and rejected TWA's procedural challenges under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), holding that the Marine relocation and the placing of training facilities on Tinian are not connected for the purposes of an environmental impact statement (EIS). Furthermore, the Navy did not violate NEPA's mandate by deferring consideration of the cumulative impacts to a future EIS. The panel also held that TWA's remaining claim—that the Navy failed to consider stationing alternatives beyond Guam and the CNMI for Marines relocating out of Okinawa—also fails based on lack of standing because TWA's claim is not redressable by the judicial branch. Therefore, the panel affirmed the dismissal of this claim. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying TWA's request for leave to amend. View "Tinian Women Ass'n v. United States Department of the Navy" on Justia Law

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Ground Zero filed suit challenging the Navy's expansion of a TRIDENT nuclear submarine operating center pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq. The Ninth Circuit held that the Navy violated NEPA's public disclosure requirement by not revealing that the Safety Board withheld approval of its plan for the construction of a second Explosives Handling Wharf (EHW-2), and by withholding the now-disclosed portions of the appendices to the environmental impact statement (EIS). However, such errors were harmless. In all other respects, the Navy satisfied NEPA's requirements. Therefore, the panel affirmed summary judgment for the Navy. The panel narrowly construed the district court's order restricting Ground Zero's use of portions of the record. Even with this reading, it was not clear that the district court's order comports with the First Amendment. Therefore, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action v. US Department of the Navy" on Justia Law

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Following the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, each of the Oil Companies entered into contracts with the government to provide high-octane aviation gas (avgas) to fuel military aircraft. The production of avgas resulted in waste products such as spent alkylation acid and “acid sludge.” The Oil Companies contracted to have McColl, a former Shell engineer, dump the waste at property in Fullerton, California. More than 50 years later, California and the federal government obtained compensation from the Oil Companies under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. 9601, for the cost of cleaning up the McColl site. The Oil Companies sued, arguing the avgas contracts require the government to indemnify them for the CERCLA costs. The Court of Federal Claims granted summary judgment in favor of the government. The Federal Circuit reversed with respect to breach of contract liability and remanded. As a concession to the Oil Companies, the avgas contracts required the government to reimburse the Oil Companies for their “charges.” The court particularly noted the immense regulatory power the government had over natural resources during the war and the low profit margin on the avgas contracts. View "Shell Oil Co. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Indian Harbor sought reimbursement under the National Defense Authorization Act of 1993, 106 Stat. 2315, 2371; 107 Stat. 1547, 1745 for environmental cleanup costs associated with the development of the former Marine Corps Air Station Tustin military base in southern California. The Court of Federal Claims determined that Indian Harbor failed to identify a “claim for personal injury or property” that triggered the government’s duty to indemnify and dismissed. The Federal Circuit reversed, relying on the purposes of the Act, to encourage cleanup and redevelopment of former military installations. View "Indian Harbor Ins. v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Georgia Parties, Gwinnett County, Georgia, and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) appealed from a grant of summary judgment in this consolidated suit arising from more than 20 years of litigation between the parties. All of the underlying cases related to the Corps' authority to operate the Buford Dam and Lake Lanier, the reservoir it created, for local water supply. On appeal, the parties raised several jurisdictional matters and asserted a number of substantive claims. The court held that the district court erred in finding that it had jurisdiction to hear certain parties because the Corps had not taken final agency action. The court also held that the district court and the Corps erred in concluding that water supply was not an authorized purpose of the Buford Project under the Rivers and Harbors Act (RHA), Pub. L. No. 79-525, 60 Stat. 634. The court also held that the district court erred in finding that the 1956 Act expired after 50 years. The court also provided certain instructions to the Corps on remand and the Corps shall have one year to make a final determination of its authority to operate the Buford Project under the RHA and the Water Supply Act, 43 U.S.C. 390b(a). View "In Re: MDL-1824 Tri-State Water Rights Litigation" on Justia Law