Justia U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
Center for Biological Diversity v. EPA, et al.
In a May 2022 final rule, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved a revision to Colorado’s State Implementation Plan (SIP) certifying Colorado’s existing, EPA-approved Nonattainment New Source Review (NNSR) permit program regulating new or modified major stationary sources of air pollution in the Denver Metro-North Front Range area met the requirements for attaining the 2015 National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone. The Center for Biological Diversity challenged the final rule on procedural and substantive grounds. Procedurally, the Center argued the EPA violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by failing to include the state regulations that comprised Colorado’s permit program in the rulemaking docket during the public-comment period. And substantively, the Center argued the EPA acted contrary to law when it approved Colorado’s SIP revision because Colorado’s permit program excluded all “temporary emissions” and “emissions from internal combustion engines on any vehicle” in determining whether a new or modified stationary source was “major” and therefore subject to the permit process. The Tenth Circuit found the EPA’s notice of proposed rulemaking was adequate under the APA, but agreed with the Center that the EPA acted contrary to law in allowing Colorado to exclude all temporary emissions under its permit program. The Court found the federal regulation the EPA relied on in approving this exclusion plainly did not authorize such an exclusion. But the Center identified no similar problem with the EPA allowing Colorado to exclude emissions from internal combustion engines on any vehicle. The Court therefore granted the Center’s petition in part, vacated a portion of the EPA’s final rule, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Center for Biological Diversity v. EPA, et al." on Justia Law
Deer Creek Water Corporation, et al. v. City of Oklahoma City, et al.
Plaintiff Deer Creek Water Corporation filed suit against Oklahoma City and Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust (together, the City) seeking a declaratory judgment that the City could not provide water service to a proposed development on land owned by Thomas and Gina Boling (together, the developers), who later intervened in the action. In support, Deer Creek invoked 7 U.S.C. § 1926(b), a statute that generally prohibited municipalities from encroaching on areas served by federally indebted rural water associations, so long as the rural water association made water service available to the area. The district court granted the developers’ motion for summary judgment after concluding that Deer Creek had not made such service available, and Deer Creek appealed. Although the Tenth Circuit rejected Deer Creek’s arguments related to subject-matter jurisdiction, the Court agreed that the district court erred in finding it dispositive that Deer Creek’s terms of service required the developers to construct the improvements necessary to expand Deer Creek’s existing infrastructure to serve the proposed development, reasoning that because Deer Creek itself would not be doing the construction, it had not made service available. The Court found nothing in the statute or in caselaw to support stripping a federally indebted rural water association of § 1926(b) protection solely because it placed a burden of property development on the landowner seeking to develop property. The district court therefore erred in placing determinative weight on Deer Creek’s requirement that the developers construct the needed improvements. The judgment was reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings on whether Deer Creek made service available. View "Deer Creek Water Corporation, et al. v. City of Oklahoma City, et al." on Justia Law
Knezovich, et al. v. United States
Victims of the 2018 Roosevelt Fire in Wyoming sued the United States Forest Service, alleging it negligently delayed its suppression response. The Forest Service moved to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that it was not liable for the way it handled the response to the fire. Under the Federal Tort Claims Act, a government actor could not be sued for conducting a so-called “discretionary function,” where the official must employ an element of judgment or choice in responding to a situation. The government contended that responding to a wildfire required judgment or choice, and its decisions in fighting the fire at issue here met the discretionary function exception to the Act. The district court agreed and dismissed the suit. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals also concluded the Forest Service was entitled to the discretionary function exception to suit, and the district court lacked jurisdiction to hear the complaint. View "Knezovich, et al. v. United States" on Justia Law
Monsalvo Velazquez v. Garland
Petitioner Hugo Abisai Monsalvo Velazquez petitioned for review of a Board of Immigration Appeals’ (BIA) denial of his motion for reconsideration of the BIA’s dismissal of his motion to reopen proceedings. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals denied review because Velazquez failed to voluntarily depart or file an administrative motion within 60 calendar days, the maximum period provided by statute. 8 U.S.C. § 1229c(b)(2). View "Monsalvo Velazquez v. Garland" on Justia Law
American Petroleum, et al. v. U.S. Department of Interior, et al.
After the Department of the Interior amended regulations in 2016, the American Petroleum Institute (API) challenged several of the regulations that governed the calculation of royalties for oil and natural gas produced on federal lands. The district court rejected these challenges at summary judgment, and API appealed. Because API did not show that the agency acted arbitrarily and capriciously in enacting the challenged provisions of the 2016 regulations, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. View "American Petroleum, et al. v. U.S. Department of Interior, et al." on Justia Law
Aguayo v. Garland
Petitioner Angel Aguayo filed a motion to terminate his removal proceedings, contending his state detention and transfer to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody was unlawful. Aguayo was a native and citizen of Mexico. In 1992, he entered the United States unlawfully. For over twenty-five years, Aguayo and his wife lived in Utah and raised four children. In March 2018, Aguayo’s daughter - a United States citizen - filed a visa petition on her father’s behalf. After U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approved the visa petition, Aguayo lawfully remained in Utah and applied to become a legal permanent resident. In 2019, state law enforcement officers arrested Aguayo in Springville, Utah. He was later charged with two counts of possession of a forged document, use or possession of drug paraphernalia, and having an open container in a vehicle. At the time of his arrest, Aguayo also had pending misdemeanor state charges for issuing a bad check, shoplifting, possession or use of a controlled substance, and use or possession of drug paraphernalia. Aguayo was detained at the Utah County Jail. The day after his arrest, agents from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) encountered Aguayo during a routine jail check. DHS then issued an immigration detainer (an “ICE hold”) for Aguayo. He remained at the Utah County Jail for about five months. In June 2019, Aguayo pled guilty to some of the pending state charges. He was sentenced to thirty days in the county jail. He would be later sentenced to 364 days’ imprisonment on the forgery convictions, and an indeterminate term of imprisonment not to exceed five years on the bad check conviction. DHS initiated removal proceedings; Aguayo contested his removability. The Tenth Circuit denied Aguayo's petition: he did not show he was prejudiced—under any applicable standard—by the denial of his motion to terminate removal proceedings. View "Aguayo v. Garland" on Justia Law
Wyoming v. EPA, et al.
This case involved Wyoming’s plan to regulate emissions from powerplants within its borders that produce pollutants that contribute to regional haze, reducing visibility in and the aesthetics to national parks and wilderness areas. Wyoming produced a state implementation plan (SIP) in 2011. In a 2014 final rule, the EPA approved the SIP in part (as to Naughton) and disapproved it in part (as to Wyodak). Through a federal implementation plan (FIP), the EPA also substituted its determination of the proper technology to install at Wyodak, replacing Wyoming’s SIP. Wyoming and PacifiCorp petitioned for review, arguing the SIP should be entirely approved and claiming the EPA failed to grant Wyoming the deference required by federal law when it disapproved the Wyodak portion. Several conservation groups also challenged the rule, arguing the Naughton 1 and 2 portion should have been disapproved because the EPA failed to require the best available technology to reduce regional haze in a timely manner. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals granted the petition as to Wyodak and vacated that portion of the final rule. The Court found the EPA erred in evaluating the Wyodak portion of the SIP because it treated non-binding agency guidelines as mandatory in violation of the Clean Air Act. The Court remanded that part of the final rule to the agency for further review. But because the EPA properly approved Wyoming’s determination of the best technology for Naughton, the Court denied the petition as to those units and upheld that portion of the final rule. View "Wyoming v. EPA, et al." on Justia Law
Heal Utah, et al. v. EPA, et al.
The issue this case presented for appellate review centered on the air pollution controls on certain coal-fired power plants in Utah that contributed to regional haze. This haze impaired visibility in national parks and wilderness areas across the United States (known as Class I areas). Following Congress’s direction in the Clean Air Act (the CAA or Act) to regulate regional haze, EPA promulgated the Regional Haze Rule to restore natural background visibility conditions in Class I areas by the year 2064. To comply with the CAA’s regional haze requirements, states with Class I areas, or states releasing emissions that may affect visibility in those areas, had to implement the best available retrofit technology (BART) on certain existing sources of air pollution or, alternatively, adopt measures that achieved greater reasonable progress towards improving visibility than BART. The Act required each state to develop a state implementation plan (SIP) for mitigating emissions that contribute to regional haze. The EPA then reviewed the SIP to determine if it satisfied the Act. EPA twice disapproved Utah’s SIPs addressing visibility-impairing emissions at power plants operated by Respondent-Intervenor PacifiCorp. Eventually, EPA approved Utah’s July 2019 revised SIP. In the Final Rule, EPA endorsed Utah’s decision to adopt an alternative measure instead of BART to control for visibility-impairing emissions at the power plants. Petitioners Heal Utah, National Parks Conservation Association, Sierra Club, and Utah Physicians sought review of the Final Rule. According to Petitioners, EPA abused its discretion by approving Utah’s revised SIP because Utah’s alternative measure did not satisfy the CAA’s national visibility goals. They also argued EPA failed to respond to certain comments Petitioners submitted during the rulemaking process. Finding no abuse of discretion, the Tenth Circuit denied the petition for review. View "Heal Utah, et al. v. EPA, et al." on Justia Law
Western Watersheds Project, et al. v. United States Bureau of Land Management, et al.
Three conservation groups challenged the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s approval of Jonah Energy’s development project on state and federal land in Wyoming. The project was designed to drill exploratory wells on land for which Jonah possessed development rights. The conservation groups argued the district court erred in upholding the BLM’s approval under the National Environmental Protection Act and the Federal Land Polocy and Management Act. Specifically, they contended the BLM inadequately considered the impact of the project on the sage-grouse and pronghorn antelope migration and grazing patterns. The Tenth Circuit concluded the BLM adequately collected and considered information on the sage-grouse and pronghorn, and selected a development plan that met statutory requirements. View "Western Watersheds Project, et al. v. United States Bureau of Land Management, et al." on Justia Law
Arostegui-Maldonado v. Garland
Petitioner Dennis Arostegui-Maldonado, a citizen of Costa Rica and El Salvador, was removed from the United States in 2008. In 2021, he reentered. The Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) reinstated his removal order. Arostegui-Maldonado told an asylum officer that he feared persecution or torture in Costa Rica and El Salvador. The officer referred his case to an Immigration Judge (“IJ”) for “withholding-only proceedings” to decide whether to forbid his removal to those countries. The IJ denied relief. The Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) affirmed. Arostegui-Maldonado challenged the agency’s rulings on the merits, arguing: (1) the IJ misapplied the “under color of law” element to his Convention Against Torture (“CAT”) claim; (2) the BIA ignored his CAT claim; (3) the IJ failed to fully develop the record; and (4) the IJ and the BIA violated his due process rights. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Arostegui-Maldonado that the IJ misapplied “under color of law” to his CAT claim, and granted the petition on that ground. The Court otherwise denied the petition and remanded for further proceedings. View "Arostegui-Maldonado v. Garland" on Justia Law