A Court-Side Seat: January 2020 Environmental Rulings Of Interest

Author:Mr Anthony B. Cavender
Profession:Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP

January has been a busy month for the Fifth Circuit, which has issued a number of significant rulings.

Building the Border Wall. On January 8, 2020, in El Paso County, Texas, et al. v. Donald J. Trump, et al., a divided panel of the court quickly granted a stay of the lower court's injunction against using appropriated DOD funds to build a section of the "border wall" in the El Paso area. The court noted that a similar stay was granted by the Supreme Court last year in Trump v. Sierra Club, 140 S. Ct. 1 (2019), and the Government is "entitled to the same relief" here. In addition, the court suggested that the plaintiffs lacked Article III standing. Judge Higginson dissented because, without further discussion, he was unable to conclude that the Government has shown a likelihood of success on the merits or irreparable harm in the absence of a stay. More Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Damage Cases. On January 14, 2020, the court upheld the lower court's denial of BP's request for "discretionary review" of several claims for damages resulting from the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and fire that released millions of gallons of crude oil into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. (BP negotiated a Settlement Agreement and implementing procedures with representatives of many parties claiming they suffered economic damages from the spill.) In this case, BP Exploration and Production, Inc. v. Claimant ID 100354107, the claimants were the operators of Walmart stores located along the Gulf Coast. Their claims were accepted, and awards totaling over $15 million were granted. BP argued that a change in Walmart's accounting system made it very difficult to determine the scope of the damages suffered by these stores. However, the court, as has done in many of these cases, rejected BP's arguments after the Claims Administrator, the Appeals Panel and the district court agreed that there was sufficient evidence under the terms of the Settlement Agreement to uphold these awards. The Endangered Species Act Status of the Golden-Cheeked Warbler. On January 15, 2020, the court decided the case of the General Land Office of Texas v. The US Department of the Interior, et al. The Fish and Wildlife Service initially listed the Warbler as an endangered species in 1990but did not designate a critical habitatand many years later the General Land Office (GLO) challenged the original listing and also submitted a petition for to reconsider that listing. Agreeing with...

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