Articles Posted in Environmental Law

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Dunn County appealed a judgment declaring the Industrial Commission had exclusive jurisdiction to determine the location of oil and gas waste treating plants. The Supreme Court affirmed, concluding the County lacked the power to veto the Commission's approval of the location for an oil and gas waste treating plant. View "Environmental Driven Solutions v. Dunn County" on Justia Law

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This case stemmed from plaintiff-appellant Leona Kuhn's improper disposal of debris from her house in the Napoleon city dump in late June 2013, after her house had been severely damaged by fire. The City of Napoleon maintains an "inert waste landfill" for its residents, located about two miles southeast of the city. The landfill was subject to the North Dakota Department of Health's rules and regulations, which permits only certain types of garbage in the landfill sorted into separate piles, some of which is burned or buried under the regulations. Kuhn appealed a district court judgment entered after an appeal from a municipal court conviction finding her guilty of violating a City ordinance for improperly disposing of refuse, and a subsequent court order denying her request for a written restitution order. The Supreme Court affirmed in part, concluding sufficient evidence supported Kuhn's conviction, but reversed Kuhn's sentence and remanded for clarification. View "City of Napoleon v. Kuhn" on Justia Law

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Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, on behalf of the State, appealed, and the National Audubon Society cross-appealed from a district court judgment dismissing the Attorney General's corporate farming enforcement action against Audubon and upholding the constitutionality of North Dakota's Corporate Farming Law, N.D.C.C. ch. 10-06.1. Upon review of the dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment, concluding the equitable defense of laches barred the State's divestiture claim. The Court declined to address the constitutionality of the Corporate Farming Law because the affirmative defense of laches provided an alternative basis upon which the case may be disposed.View "Stenehjem, ex rel. v. National Audubon Society, Inc." on Justia Law

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John Miller and J.D. Miller Farming Association (collectively "Miller") appealed an order that affirmed the Walsh County Water Resource District's decision requiring Miller to remove unpermitted dikes from his property located in Forest River Township. Upon review of the matter, the Supreme Court affirmed, concluding Miller failed to establish that the District acted arbitrarily, capriciously or unreasonably, that there was not substantial evidence to support its decision, or that the District was estopped from requiring removal of the dikes. View "Miller v. Walsh County Water Resource District" on Justia Law

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The Dakota Resource Council (DRC) appealed a district court judgment that affirmed a North Dakota Public Service Commission (PSC) order. DRC argued: (1) the PSC's decision was not in accordance with the law; and, (2) the PSC's conclusions of law and order were not supported by its findings of fact. In 2008, Falkirk Mining Company filed an application with the PSC requesting revision of a surface mining permit. Falkirk proposed changing the postmining use of 428 acres of land from agricultural and industrial use to recreational use. The purpose of the revision was to facilitate the transfer of approximately 730 acres of land from Falkirk to the North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT). NDDOT planned to use the land as mitigation acres to eliminate "no mow" areas within the rights-of-way of the state highway system in McLean County. PSC granted the revision subject to the right of adversely affected parties to request a formal hearing. DRC asserted 86 acres located in noncontiguous parcels throughout the proposed wildlife management area should remain designated for agricultural use. Game and Fish planned to allow local farmers to grow crops on the 86 acres, harvesting 70 percent and leaving the remaining 30 percent standing as food for wildlife. McLean County, NDDOT and Game and Fish petitioned to intervene. The PSC then held a public hearing. The PSC affirmed its conditional approval of the revision to Falkirk's permit. DRC appealed to the district court. The district court affirmed the PSC's decision. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed: “[w]hen considered together, the PSC's findings of fact do not indicate its decision to grant the revision was based on the desire to facilitate the land transfer agreement rather than on consideration of the higher and better use of the land. ... The PSC's conclusions and order affirming its decision granting the revision to recreational use were supported by its findings of fact.” View "Dakota Resource Council v. N.D. Public Service Comm'n" on Justia Law

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Defendants Andrew and Ricky Mittleider appealed a district court's judgment entered on their conditional guilty pleas relating to to illegal hunting, taking (or attempting to take) possession of big game, and hunting in a closed or restricted area. The Mittleiders moved to suppress all evidence entered against them at trial, arguing that the Game Warden and other law enforcement officials violated their reasonable expectation of privacy by entering their property to confiscate the weapon used to shoot the deer, photos taken of the deer and the deer itself because they had "no trespassing" signs posted. Defendants also filed a motion in limine to offer an affirmative defense of "mistake of fact": that they reasonably believed they were not hunting on a refuge because signs were not properly posted. The district court denied their motions, and Defendants appealed. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that Defendants' "no trespassing" signs did not created a reasonable expectation of privacy in the entrance of their property. As such, their right to a reasonable expectation of privacy was not violated. The Court affirmed the district court in all other respects. View "North Dakota v. Mittleider" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Alvin Peterson appealed and the State Engineer, Todd Sando, cross-appealed a district court judgment affirming in part and reversing in part a State Engineer order that determined there was an unauthorized dam on Petitioner's property in Walsh County and required Petitioner to construct a drainage ditch to maintain water impounded by the dam at a level of 1543.5 feet mean sea level. The primary issue in this case involved the determination of the natural elevation of land at the site of the dam for purposes of deciding if the land impounded sufficient water to necessitate a water or construction permit. Petitioner owned land in Walsh County, which, along with other land in the area, contains a slough in a closed basin. Sometime before 1973, Petitioner dug a ditch to drain the slough. In 1973, the United States Department of Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, the holder of wetland conservation easement for the slough, required Petitioner to restore the drained wetland. In 2009, Petitioner's neighbor filed a complaint with the State Engineer alleging an unauthorized dam existed on Petitioner's land. The neighbor claimed Petitioner had raised the height of the ditch plug above the slough's natural overflow elevation, which resulted in the impoundment of additional water in the slough without necessary water or construction permits. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court's judgment in part, and reversed in part, and affirmed the State Engineer's order. Specifically, the Court found that the district court's decision pertaining to costs was "a boilerplate, conclusory statement awarding the State Engineer 'costs as allowed by law,' and the State thereafter caused entry of a judgment that awarded [the Engineer] costs" without any delineation of those costs, or discussion of whether costs are allowed. "Under our jurisprudence disfavoring piecemeal appeals, [the Supreme Court] conclude[d] the State Engineer's failure to include any further delineation for costs in the final judgment constitutes a waiver of any costs it may have been entitled to in a proceeding before a district court acting as an appellate court in an administrative proceeding." Accordingly, the Court reversed the district court's order pertaining to costs, and declined the State Engineer's request to remand for a determination of the costs, if any, to which it may be entitled in the Engineer's cross-appeal. The Court affirmed the district court's order in all other respects. View "Peterson v. Sando" on Justia Law