Justia New York Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Environmental Law
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The Court of Appeals affirmed the challenged portion of the order of the Appellate Division affirming Supreme Court's upholding the determination of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) that permits seasonal snowmobile use on an existing roadway on property recently acquired by the state and added to the Adirondack Forest Preserve, holding that DEC did not exceed its authority to approve limited seasonal snowmobile use on the property. In this N.Y. C.P.L.R. 78 proceeding, Petitioners, environmental groups, argued that the DEC's determination contravened controlling motor vehicle use restrictions in the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (Master Plan) and Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers System Act (Rivers Act), ECL 15-2701 et seq., and was otherwise irrational. The lower courts disagreed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the challenged portion of DEC's determination was not irrational, arbitrary and capricious, or contrary to law. View "Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve v. New York State Adirondack Park Agency" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law
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In this N.Y. C.P.L.R. 78 proceeding, the Court of Appeals held that the Appellate Division erred in foreclosing the possibility that title 9 of article 27 of the Environmental Conservation Law authorized the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) action unilaterally remediating the significant threat posed by hazardous wastes FMC Corporation (FMC) had released into neighboring properties. Moreover, the Court held that the interpretation of title 13 of article 27 adopted by both parties authorized DEC’s unilateral remediation effort, and therefore, any disputes over title 9 need not be resolved. View "FMC Corp. v. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the Appellate Court affirming the judgment of Supreme Court granting Petitioners’ petition asserting that the decision of the New York City Water Board and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) adopting a resolution approving a rate increase and bill credit and publishing a rate schedule was arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion. Petitioners commenced this N.Y. C.P.L.R. article 78 proceeding against the Water Board and DEP challenging the resolution and rate schedule. Supreme Court granted the petition, ruling that the resolution and rate schedule were ultra vires, exceeded the Water Board’s statutory authority, and were unreasonable, arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Respondents’ actions were not utterly arbitrary or unsupported by economic or public policy goals and that Respondents did not act ultra vires or levy a tax. View "Prometheus Realty Corp. v. New York City Water Board" on Justia Law

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The New York State Department of Health (DOH) complied with its responsibilities under the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) in assessing Jewish Home Lifecare’s (JHL) application to construct a new residential facility in New York City. Petitioners, parents of students attending a public elementary school next door to the proposed construction site and tenants living in apartment buildings surrounding the site, brought these two article 78 proceedings seeking to annul, vacate and set aside DOH’s determination, arguing that DOH relied on flawed assessment methodologies and failed adequately to mitigate the environmental dangers associated with the construction. Supreme Court vacated and annulled DOH’s approval of JHL’s application, concluding that DOH followed proper SEQRA procedures but failed adequately to consider all relevant mitigation measures. The appellate division reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that DOH complied with its SEQRA responsibilities by identifying and assessing relevant environmental hazards and imposed mitigation measures to protect public health and safety. View "Friends of P.S. 163, Inc. v. Jewish Home Lifecare, Manhattan" on Justia Law

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Ranco Sand and Stone Corporation, the owner of two parcels of contiguous property in an area zoned for residential use, applied to rezone one parcel to heavy industrial use. The Town of Smithtown’s Planning Board, acting as the lead agency under State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), adopted a resolution issuing a positive declaration that rezoning the parcel may have a significant effect on the environment and required Ranco to prepare a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS). Ranco commenced this N.Y. C.P.L.R. 78 proceeding against the Town and the members of the Town Board, seeking to annul the positive declaration and requesting mandamus relief directing the Town to process the rezoning application without a DEIS. Supreme Court dismissed the petition, finding the matter not ripe for judicial review. The Appellate Division affirmed, concluding that the SEQRA positive declaration was the initial step in the decision-making process and did not give rise to a justiciable controversy. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the Town’s SEQRA positive determination was not ripe for judicial review. View "Ranco Sand & Stone Corp. v. Vecchio" on Justia Law

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Petitioners, including individual residents of the Village of Painted Post, commenced this N.Y. C.P.L.R. 78 proceeding against the Village and others (collectively, Respondents), asserting that the Village failed to comply with the strict procedural mandates of the State Environmental Quality Review Act by entering into a bulk water sale agreement with a subsidiary of Shell Oil Co. providing for the sale of 314 million gallons of water from the village water system and by approving a lease agreement with a railroad for the construction of a water transloading facility. Respondents moved to dismiss the petition, asserting that Petitioners lacked standing and failed to state a cause of action. Supreme Court denied Respondents’ motion to dismiss for lack of standing after finding that one of the individual petitions had standing. The Appellate Division reversed and dismissed the petition on the ground that the individual petitioner lacked standing. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the Appellate Division, in concluding that the individual petitioner at issue lacked standing, applied an overly restrictive analysis of the requirement to show harm “different from that of the public at large.” View "Sierra Club v. Village of Painted Post" on Justia Law

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James Pyne, who died during these proceedings, was the founder and sole stockholder of Remet Corporation. Pyne sold Remet’s stock and facilities, along with real property he had been leasing to Remet, to Burmah Castro Holding, Inc. The sales agreement contained an indemnification provision obligating Pyne to indemnify, defendant, and holder the buyer harmless for certain environmental losses. Remet later received a letter from the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) notifying Remet that it was a potentially responsible party for environmental contamination at the Erie Canal Site adjacent to Remet’s real property. Remet filed notices of claim against Pyne’s estate seeking indemnification for environmental liabilities under the sales agreement. Remet then brought this action against the Estate asserting claims for contractual and common-law indemnification. Supreme Court granted Remet summary judgment on liability. The Appellate Division reversed, concluding that DEC’s letter did not require Remet to take action. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the letter was sufficiently coercive and adversarial as to require action in connection with any environmental law pursuant to the sales agreement; and (2) Remet was entitled to contractual indemnification for past and future environmental losses arising out of DEC’s investigation and remediation of the Erie Canal Site. View "Remet Corp. v. Estate of Pyne" on Justia Law

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The 2010 General Permit requires municipal storm sewer systems to develop and implement a Stormwater Management Program in compliance with specifications developed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to limit the introduction of pollutants into stormwater. After the 2010 General Permit took effect, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. (NRDC) and other environmental advocacy groups (collectively, NRDC) brought this hybrid N.Y. C.P.L.R. 78 proceeding/declaratory judgment action against DEC challenging certain aspects of the 2010 General Permit. The Appellate Division rejected NRDC’s federal and state law challenges to the 2010 General Permit. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that NRDC’s challenges to the lawfulness of the 2010 General Permit were without merit. View "Natural Res. Defense Council, Inc. v. N.Y. State Dep’t of Envtl. Conservation" on Justia Law

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In 2010, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) adopted amendments to regulations pertaining to the protection of endangered and threatened species. The amendments established a formal process through which individuals could obtain a permit to allow for the incidental taking of a threatened or endangered species. Before the agency implemented the regulations at issue, the Town of Riverhead and Twon of Riverhead Community Development Agency (collectively, Riverhead) challenged the amendments. Supreme Court dismissed the proceeding, finding that Petitioners did not have standing. The Appellate Division affirmed, concluding that Petitioners lacked standing based on their failure to allege an injury in fact and that Petitioners’ substantive challenges were not yet ripe. The Court of Appeals held that Petitioners could proceed with three of their procedural claims, as they alleged a sufficient injury regarding these claims, but Petitioners lacked standing with respect to the substantive causes of action, as those claims were not yet ripe. View "In re Ass’n for a Better Long Island" on Justia Law

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In 2012, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation executed a written license agreement with Chef Driven Market, LLC (CDM), which permitted CDM to operate a seasonal restaurant in the Union Square Park pavilion. Plaintiffs, Union Square Park Community Coalition, Inc. and several individuals, brought an action against the Department, its commissioner, the City, and CDM (collectively, the Department), seeking a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief restraining the Department from altering the park pavilion to accommodate the restaurant under the public trust doctrine. The Appellate Division denied the motion for a preliminary injunction and dismissed the complaint, concluding that the seasonal restaurant did not violate the public trust doctrine. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the Department’s grant of a license to CDM to operate the restaurant in the pavilion was lawful.View "Union Square Park Cmty. Coal., Inc. v. N.Y. City Dep’t of Parks & Recreation" on Justia Law