Justia Ohio Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Environmental Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the orders of the Power Siting Board granting a motion filed by Black Fork Wind Energy, LLC requesting a two-year extension of Black Fork’s certificate to construct a proposed wind farm, holding the Board’s extension of the certificate constituted an “amendment” under Ohio Rev. Code 4906.06(E) and 4906.07(B) and, therefore, the Board erred by granting Black Fork’s motion rather than following the statutory procedures for amending a certificate.On appeal, Appellants argued that extending Black Fork’s certificate was an “amendment” because it modified a material condition of the original certificate. The Supreme Court agreed, holding (1) the two-year extension of the certificate amount to an “amendment,” and therefore, the Board acted unlawfully by failing to comply with the statutory process for amending a certificate; and (2) because there was the possibility of a different outcome but for the Board’s error, Appellants established that they were prejudiced by the Board’s orders. View "In re Application of Black Fork Wind Energy, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied the writ of mandamus sought by six Columbus electors (Relators) to compel members of the Franklin County Board of Elections (Respondents) to place a proposed city ordinance on the November 6, 2018 ballot, holding that Respondents did not abuse their discretion in excluding the measure from the ballot.If adopted, the proposal would establish a “Community Bill of Rights” related to water, soil, and air protection and prohibit certain oil and gas extraction activities within the City of Columbus. Respondents found that the proposed ordinance was beyond the city’s legislative power because it would create new causes of action. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that Respondents did not abuse their discretion in concluding that the proposed ballot measure was beyond the scope of the city’s legislative power. View "State ex rel. Bolzenius v. Preisse" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals granting summary judgment to the chief of the oil-and-gas resources-management division of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), the director of ODNR, the state, and the governor of Ohio (collectively, Appellees) on the grounds that Food and Water Watch (FWW) and FreshWater Accountability Project (FWAP) lacked standing to bring this action for a writ of mandamus to compel the ODNR to promulgate rules relating to the storage, recycling, treatment, processing, and disposal of waste substances associated with oil and gas drilling. The court held (1) because FWAP did not demonstrate that its individual members would have standing in their own right, its claim for associational standing failed; (2) this court declines to extend State ex rel. Ohio Academy of Trial Lawyers v. Sheward, 715 N.E.2d 1062 (Ohio 1999); and (3) FWAP waived other arguments regarding standing and did not otherwise demonstrate that it had standing to proceed in this mandamus action. View "State ex rel. Food & Water Watch v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted in part a writ of prohibition requested by Relators - Rocky Ridge Development, LLC and Stanley Industries, Inc. - against common laws court judge Bruce Winters after Judge Winters issued a temporary restraining order against Relators enjoining them from operating in Benton Township until “they are in compliance with the Benton Township Zoning Resolution and the laws of the State of Ohio.” Benton Township had filed a compliant for declaratory and injunctive relief against Relators, alleging that the companies were violating the terms of a Land Application Management Plan (LAMP), were in violation of local zoning ordinances and state law, and were creating a public nuisance. The Supreme Court (1) granted a limited writ of prohibition to prevent the judge from deciding any issues that properly belong to the Environmental Review Appeals Commission, such as the wisdom or propriety of issuing the LAMP or Rocky Ridge’s compliance with the LAMP; but (2) denied the writ as to all claims involving alleged violations of Benton Township’s local ordinances or allegations that Rocky Ridge’s operations were creating a public nuisance. View "State ex rel. Rocky Ridge, LLC v. Winters" on Justia Law

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The Ohio Power Siting Board granted a certificate to Champaign Wind, LLC to construct a wind farm in Champaign County. Appellants, a collection of local governmental entities and residents, appealed the Board’s decision, challenging various discovery and evidentiary rulings by the Board and the Board’s determination that the proposed wind farm meets the statutory criteria for siting a major utility facility. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellants failed to demonstrate that the Board’s decision was unreasonable or unlawful or that the Board’s discovery and evidentiary rulings meaningfully affected the outcome of the proceeding. View "In re Application of Champaign Wind, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Ohio Power Siting Board granted a certificate to Champaign Wind, LLC to construct a wind farm in Champaign County. Appellants, a collection of local governmental entities and residents, appealed the Board’s decision, challenging various discovery and evidentiary rulings by the Board and the Board’s determination that the proposed wind farm meets the statutory criteria for siting a major utility facility. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellants failed to demonstrate that the Board’s decision was unreasonable or unlawful or that the Board’s discovery and evidentiary rulings meaningfully affected the outcome of the proceeding. View "In re Application of Champaign Wind, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Tussing Road Water Reclamation Facility in Fairfield County is required to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA). The Fairfield County Board of Commissioners challenged the validity of new phosphorus limitations added on to the Tussing Road plant’s renewed NPDES permit, alleging that Ohio EPA ignored the administrative rulemaking procedures required by the Ohio Administrative Procedure Act (the Act) and imposed the new limits solely on a federally approved total maximum daily load (TMDL) report previously issued for the watershed in question. Specifically, the County contended that it should have had a full and fair opportunity to be heard and the right to review and challenge the TMDL before it was submitted to United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA). The Court of Appeals vacated the NPDES phosphorus limitations. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a TMDL established by Ohio EPA is a rule that is subject to the requirements of the Act, and therefore, Ohio EPA must follow the rulemaking procedure in the Act before submitting a TMDL to U.S. EPA for its approval and before the TMDL may be implemented in an NPDES permit. View "Fairfield Cty. Bd. of Comm’rs v. Nally" on Justia Law

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Appellants owned the mineral rights and the State owned the surface rights to a certain tract of land. When the property was transferred to the State, the seller reserved all mineral rights and “reasonable surface right privileges.” Appellants filed a complaint for declaratory judgment seeking a determination that they were entitled to surface-mine a reasonable portion of the property. The court of common pleas granted summary judgment for the State, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the contract entitled Appellants to surface-mine the property, subject to the reasonableness standard of the contract. Remanded. View "Snyder v. Ohio Dep’t of Natural Res." on Justia Law

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The Power Siting Board issued a certificate to Black Fork Wind Energy, LLC to construct a proposed wind farm in Richland and Crawford counties. Appellants, who lived near or within the boundaries of the project area, appealed, arguing, among other things, that the Board violated their right to procedural due process by prohibiting Appellants from cross-examining Board staff members and by "prohibiting the presentation of evidence" at the evidentiary hearing on the application to site the project. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellants failed to sustain their burden of showing that the Board's order was unlawful or unreasonable. View "In re Application of Black Fork Wind Energy, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Shelly Company, an Ohio corporation engaged in the business of surfacing roads, owned several subsidiaries, including appellants Shelly Materials, Inc. and Allied Corporation (collectively, Shelly). The hot-mix asphalt facilities were regulated by the Ohio EPA pursuant to air-pollution-control permits issued to Shelly. In July 2007, the State filed suit against Shelly, alleging that the companies had violated state law and Ohio's federally approved plan for the implementation, maintenance, and enforcement of air-quality standards as required by the federal Clean Air Act. The court found for the state on some, but not all, claims for relief, and issued a civil penalty. At issue on appeal was the proper method of calculating the civil penalty to be levied against the industrial facility with the terms of its air-pollution-control permit. The appellate court concluded that according to the terms of the permit, the penalty was to be calculated from the initial date of noncompliance until the facility demonstrated that it no longer violated the permit. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the appellate court reached the proper conclusion in this matter. View "State ex rel. Ohio Attorney Gen. v. Shelly Holding Co." on Justia Law