Articles Posted in Environmental Law

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The parties in this case disputed who had rights to certain spring waters. The state engineer adjudicated the parties’ rights and entered a final order of determination. Both parties filed exceptions to the state engineer’s final order. Before the matter was heard before the district court, Respondent filed a motion to supplement his earlier filed exceptions to include property access claims arising from its water rights. The district court granted Respondent’s request. The district court then affirmed the state engineer’s order of determination, as modified. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court properly considered the notice of supplemental exceptions in affirming the state engineer’s order of determination, as modified, including Respondent’s supplemental request that the district court’s judgment confirm Respondent’s right of access to certain property to repair and maintain the facilities necessary to convey water; and (2) the district court’s findings were based on substantial evidence. View "Jackson v. Groenendyke" on Justia Law

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Nev. Rev. Stat. 533.3705(1) allows the State Engineer to subject newly approved water applications to an incremental use process. The statute was enacted in 2007. In 1989, Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) filed various water permit applications with the State Engineer. Many entities, including the Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (CPB), opposed SNWA’s applications. Ultimately, in 2012, the State Engineer denied some of SNWA’s applications and granted others. The State Engineer subjected SNWA’s approved applications to three stages of incremental development and monitoring. CPB and others petitioned the district court for review. The district court rejected CPB’s argument that the State Engineer gave section 533.3705(1) an improper retroactive effect but reversed and remanded the State Engineer’s ruling on other grounds. CPB subsequently petitioned the Supreme Court for an extraordinary writ barring the State Engineer from applying section 533.3705(1) to SNWA’s applications. The Supreme Court denied the petition, holding that the State Engineer applied section 533.3705(1) prospectively to applications approved in 2012, and therefore, the State Engineer did not apply section 533.3705(1) retroactively in this case. View "Corp. of the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints v. Seventh Judicial Dist. Court" on Justia Law

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The State Water Engineer granted the applications of Kobeh Valley Ranch, LLC to change the point of diversion, place of use, and manner of use of other of its existing rights in Eureka County. Eureka County and other appellants holding existing senior rights in Kobeh Valley petitioned the district court for judicial review of the State Engineer’s decision. The district court denied the petition. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that the State Engineer’s decision to grant KVR’s applications, when the result of the appropriations would conflict with existing rights, and based upon unsupported findings that mitigation would be sufficient to rectify the conflict, violated the Legislature’s directive that the State Engineer must deny use or change applications when the use or change would conflict with existing rights. View "Eureka County v. State Engineer" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law

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The Provincial Government of Marinduque (the Province), was a political subdivision of the Republic of the Philippines. Placer Dome Inc. (PDI), was incorporated under the laws of British Columbia, Canada. A predecessor of PDI formed Marcopper Mining Corp. to undertake mining activities in the Province. The predecessor and PDI controlled all aspects of Marcopper’s operations. During the course of the corporation’s operations, Marcopper caused significant environmental degradation and health hazards to the people living in the Province. The Province filed its complaint in a Nevada district court. Shortly thereafter, PDI and another business entity amalgamated under the laws of Ontario, Canada to form Barrick Gold Corporation. Barrick’s subsidiaries had substantial mining operations in Nevada. Barrick and PDI moved to dismiss for forum non conveniens. The district court found that dismissal for form non conveniens was warranted. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that dismissal for forum non conveniens was proper because this case lacked any bona fide connection to the state, adequate alternative fora existed, and the burdens of litigating in Nevada outweighed any convenience to the Province. View "Provincial Gov't of Marinduque v. Placer Dome, Inc." on Justia Law

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This appeal was taken from a district court order in a quiet title action. While the appeal was pending, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) declared twenty-seven unpatented mining claims asserted by Appellant forfeit and void by operation of law because Appellant failed to comply with the statutory mining claim maintenance requirement. Consequently, Respondent filed a motion to dismiss the appeal, arguing that the appeal was rendered moot when the BLM declared Appellant's asserted claims forfeit and void. The Supreme Court granted the motion to dismiss, holding that the appeal was moot because the controversy that existed at the beginning of this litigation concerning superior title was no longer at issue, and Appellant's claims did not exist as a matter of law. View "Majuba Mining, Ltd. v. Pumpkin Copper, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case concerned State Engineer Ruling 5823, which allocated groundwater rights in the Dayton Valley Hydrographic Basin, which lay wholly within Lyon County. Appellants Churchill County and the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe protested the applications, maintaining that the Basin was severely over-appropriated. The State Engineer rejected both Appellant's protests and granted all pending applications. Appellants filed a petition for judicial review pursuant to Nev. Rev. Stat. 533.540(1), which affords judicial review in the nature of an appeal to any person feeling aggrieved by an order or decision of the State Water Engineer affecting the person's interests. The appeal "must be initiated in the proper court of the county in which the matters affected or a portion thereof are situated." The district court dismissed the petition because the Petitioners filed their appeals in Churchill County, where their rights or interests allegedly would be affected, as opposed to Lyon County, where the applicants' groundwater appropriations lay. By then, section 533.450(1)'s thirty-day limit on seeking judicial review had passed. The Supreme Court vacated the jurisdictional dismissal, holding that the district court read the statute too restrictively. Remanded. View "In re State Engineer Ruling No. 5823" on Justia Law

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Redrock Valley Ranch (RVR) proposed to export water from one hydrographic basin to another in northern Nevada. Both basins lie in Washoe County. The state engineer approved the transfer applications. The county, however, declined to grant RVR a special use permit for the pipelines, pump houses, and other infrastructure needed to make the water exportation plan a reality after determining that the issuance of the special use permit could potentially be detrimental to the public, adjacent properties, or surrounding area. The district court upheld the denial of the special use permit, concluding that substantial evidence supported the county's decision and that the denial did not amount to an abuse of discretion. RVR appealed, arguing that the county did not have authority to deny the special use permit application. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the state engineer's ruling neither preempted nor precluded the county from denying RVR's application for a special use permit for the reasons it did and that substantial relevant evidence supported the county's denial of the permit. View "Redrock Valley Ranch v. Washoe County" on Justia Law

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The Nevada legislature amended a law to require the Colorado River Commission (CRC) to transfer land to Clark County. The state land registrar refused to deed a portion of the land to the county, believing the land, which was adjacent to the Colorado River, was nontransferable under the public trust doctrine. Clark County filed a complaint for declaratory relief, and Lawrence filed a counterclaim for declaratory judgment. Clark County then filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings. The district court granted the county's motion and ordered Lawrence to deed the disputed land to the county. Lawrence appealed. At issue was whether state-owned land once submerged under a waterway can be freely transferred to the county or whether the public trust doctrine prohibits the transfer. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that judgment on the pleadings was improper. The Court concluded that whether the formerly submerged land is alienable turns on the unanswered questions of whether the stretch of water that once covered the land was navigable at the time of Nevada's statehood, whether the land became dry by reliction or by avulsion, and whether transferring the land contravenes the public trust. View "Lawrence v. Clark County" on Justia Law