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Plaintiffs appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the FCC and the Government, in an action alleging that part of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA) contravenes the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. In relevant part, the Act prohibits calls to cell phones by use of an automated dialing system or an artificial or prerecorded voice, subject to three statutory exemptions. Specifically, plaintiffs alleged that one of the statutory exemptions to the automated call ban — created by a 2015 TCPA amendment — is facially unconstitutional under the Free Speech Clause. Although the Fourth Circuit agreed with the district court that strict scrutiny review applied in this case, it held that the debt collection exemption fails to satisfy strict scrutiny, constitutes an unconstitutional content-based restriction on speech, and therefore violates the Free Speech Clause. The court concluded that the flawed exemption could be severed from the automatic call ban. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded. View "American Association of Political Consultants, Inc. v. FCC" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's order granting summary judgment for the FAA in an action seeking information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). In this case, plaintiff made a FOIA request after the FAA notified him that he was ineligible for an Air Traffic Control Specialist position based on his performance on a screening test called the Biographical Assessment. The panel held that the FAA failed to show that it undertook an adequate search of the relevant documents; the records at issue were not intra-agency documents and thus not subject to Exemption 5; and the panel rejected the consultant corollary theory, which uses a functional interpretation of Exemption 5 that treats documents produced by an agency's third-party consultant as "intra-agency" memorandums. Finally, the panel rejected plaintiff's challenge to the district court and the FAA's interpretation of his FOIA request. The panel held that the FAA was not obligated under FOIA to retrieve and responsive documents, such as the underlying data to the summaries, held by APTMetrics. View "Rojas v. FAA" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, small scale solar producers, filed suit alleging that CPUC's programs did not comply with the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA), because CPUC incorrectly defined the amount that PURPA requires utilities to pay qualifying facilities (QFs). The district court dismissed plaintiffs' claims for equitable damages and attorney fees, entering summary judgment for CPUC on the PURPA challenges. The panel held that the district court erred in not interpreting FERC's regulations to require state utility commissions to consider whether a Renewables Portfolio Standard changed the calculation of avoided cost. Accordingly, the panel reversed as to this issue. The panel affirmed in all other respects, holding that utilities did not violate PURPA in not compensating QFs for Renewable Energy Credits and the Net Energy Metering Program did not violate PURPA's interconnection requirement. The panel also affirmed the dismissal of equitable damages and attorney fees claims. View "Californians for Renewable Energy v. California Public Utilities Commission" on Justia Law

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This case involved issuance of a revised permit for the Potrero Hills Landfill in Solano County, pursuant to the California Integrated Waste Management Act. Appellant Sustainability, Parks, Recycling and Wildlife Defense Fund (SPRAWLDEF) contended the revised permit was improper because it allowed expanded operations not in conformance with the “countywide siting element” of Solano County’s countywide integrated waste management plan (CIWMP). SPRAWLDEF claimed the California Integrated Waste Management Board, as an administrative body, had no right to invoke the judicial doctrine of failure to exhaust administrative remedies to decline to hear SPRAWLDEF’s administrative appeal. SPRAWLDEF also contended the Board deliberated in closed session, in violation of the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded SPRAWLDEF failed to preserve the conformance issue at all stages of the administrative proceedings. The Board was not required to entertain the administrative appeal. To the extent the Board nevertheless addressed the merits, given the statutory language, SPRAWLDEF failed to demonstrate reversible error. As to the open meeting law, the Court of Appeal concluded that even if closed session deliberations were improper, SPRAWLDEF failed to show prejudice warranting the nullification remedy it sought. View "SPRAWLDEF v. Dept. of Resources Recycling and Recovery" on Justia Law

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The Division of Recycling within the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) granted Carolina Poncio a probationary certificate to run a recycling center. CalRecycle revoked her probationary certificate after Poncio’s husband attempted to bribe a CalRecycle employee assigned to audit Poncio’s recycling center. After a CalRecycle hearing officer upheld the revocation, Poncio filed a petition for writ of administrative mandamus under Code of Civil Procedure section 1094.5. Poncio included in her petition an assertion that she was entitled to a traditional writ of mandamus under Code of Civil Procedure section 1085. However, because she sought review of a quasi-judicial adjudication, her exclusive remedy was a petition for writ of administrative mandamus under Code of Civil Procedure section 1094.5. The trial court denied the petition. On appeal to the Court of Appeal, Poncio argued: (1) the hearing officer and the trial court misapplied Public Resources Code section 14591.2 (the statute providing for disciplinary action against certificate holders); (2) CalRecycle violated Poncio’s constitutional and statutory due process rights; and (3) the evidence of the attempted bribe was insufficient to revoke Poncio’s probationary certificate for dishonesty. Concluding that each contention lacked merit, the Court affirmed judgment. View "Poncio v. Dept. of Resources Recycling & Recovery" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of an action brought by conservationist groups to enjoin the federal government's participation in the killing of gray wolves in Idaho pending additional analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). The panel held that the conservationist groups had Article III standing because declarations from members described how USDA Wildlife Services's wolf-killing activities threatened their aesthetic and recreational interests. Therefore, the members established that the interests fell within the scope of NEPA's protections and they established an injury-in-fact. The panel noted that causation was established under the relaxed standard for procedural injuries. Finally, the panel held that the district court erred in finding that plaintiffs' injuries were not redressable and in relying on an unpublished opinion that lacked precedential value. View "Western Watersheds Project v. Grimm" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied the States' petition for review of the EPA's decision to refuse to expand the Northeast Ozone Transport Region to include the upwind States of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, West Virginia, and the remaining portions of Virginia. The court held that EPA's denial of the States' petition complied with the Clean Air Act and was a reasonable exercise of the agency's discretion. The court held that many of the States' arguments against EPA's denial derive from a fundamental misunderstanding of the scope of EPA's discretion; even if the States were correct that EPA's other Clean Air Act tools will not on their own completely solve the interstate ozone transport problem, this would not make enlargement of the transport region mandatory; EPA adequately explained the facts and policy concerns it relied on, recounted its historical use of the good-neighbor provision and the ongoing downward trend in ozone pollution, and therefore had a sufficient basis in the record for predicting that improvement would continue under the current regulatory scheme; and, with respect to the Northeast Region, EPA did not find equity irrelevant, as the States contend, but rather determined that any equitable concerns could not alone dictate the disposition of the petition. View "State of New York v. EPA" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit denied petitions for review of the FAA's decision that payments of the Portland International Airport's utility charges for off-site stormwater drainage and Superfund remediation did not constitute diversion of airport revenues or violate the Anti-Head Tax Act. The court held that Congress expressly authorized the use of airport revenues for "operating costs . . . of the airport" and the FAA has properly determined that the general expenses of a utility are such "operating costs." Therefore, the court rejected petitioner's contention that the FAA's decision was based on erroneous statutory interpretations and that the FAAs findings were not supported by substantial evidence. View "Air Transport Association of America v. FAA" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed two orders of the Public Service Commission (PSC) interpreting and applying regulations it adopted to give effect to the federal Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA), 16 U.S.C. 2601 et seq., holding that there was no error in the PSC's decision. In the orders at issue, the PSC interpreted its PURPA-based regulations as applying to ad agreement between a small power plant and a traditional electric utility and applied the regulations to find that the agreement, with modification, was "just and reasonable" to the electric utility's consumers. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the PSC's decision was not contrary to the evidence, without evidence to support it, or arbitrary and that the PSC's approach was within the bounds of PURPA's requirement. View "Sierra Club v. Public Service Commission of West Virginia" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decisions of the Court of Appeals and the Kansas Board of Workers Compensation concluding that Kan. Stat. Ann. 44-523(f)(1) unambiguously requires a claimant to move for extension within three years of filing an application for hearing for the claim to survive a proper motion to dismiss, holding that the statute unambiguously prohibits an ALJ from granting an extension unless a motion for extension has been filed within three years of filing the application for hearing. Appellant filed an application for hearing with the Kansas Division of Workers Compensation asserting that he fell and injured himself while working for Employer. Approximately three years later, Employer filed an application for dismissal, arguing that the ALJ should dismiss Appellant's claim under section 44-523(f) because Appellant had failed to move the claim toward a hearing or settlement within three years of filing his application for hearing. The ALJ granted Employer's application to dismiss. The Board and Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Court of Appeals' interpretation of the statute was correct. View "Glaze v. J.K. Willliams, LLC" on Justia Law