LRPA practices extensively in environmental law and our attorneys have decades of experience in environmental law matters.
LRPA has been, and continues to be, involved in precedent-setting cases involving a broad range of federal environmental laws including the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act, the Federal Power Act, Administrative Procedure Act, the Federal Power Act, and the Clean Air Act.
Endangered Species Act
LRPA is involved with local, regional and national ESA developments through ongoing cases, speaking engagements and article publications. On behalf of various clients, LRPA's Attorneys in recent years have been involved with ESA issues relating to the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse, Chiricahua leopard frog, Jemez Mountains salamander, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Dunes Sagebrush lizard, Southwestern Willow flycatcher and the Rio Grande silvery minnow. On behalf of California's Imperial Irrigation District, LRPA provided legal assistance with ESA compliance issues, specifically with Sections 9 and 10 of the ESA.
LRPA’s Attorneys successfully challenged the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s overly broad critical habitat designation for the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow. LRPA challenged Service's failure to consider the economic effects on farmers. The ruling was affirmed on appeal to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. Middle Rio Grande Conservancy Dist. v. Norton, 294 F.3d 1220, 32 Envtl. L. Rep. 20,734 (10th Cir. 2002). LRPA’s Attorneys were also successful in obtaining attorney fee and cost awards on behalf of the MRGCD in these matters from the federal government.
The late Senior Judge Mechem recognized the special litigation expertise of LRPA’s attorneys in making the highest ESA / NEPA fee and cost award we are aware of anywhere in the country. In his Order Awarding Attorney Fees Senior Judge Mechem wrote:
“counsel for the MRGCD [LRPA] needed an understanding beyond environmental law and water law. Counsel needed, in addition to several areas of the law, to be conversant in, if not hold a thorough understanding of stream morphology, river management, biology, history, other endangered species in the area, Indian water rights and interstate compacts committing the distribution of Rio Grande water. Thus, in order to direct this case toward a successful end, more than one well-experienced counsel of considerable skill was required . . . . The law involved in the case included developing aspects of environmental, endangered species and water law, as well as administrative and constitutional law; and it was critical at all stages of the case to be well-versed in the most recent cases in the field. Plaintiff’s [MRGCD] briefs and letters indicated an impressive professionalism and competence in each of the fields of law required to pursue their interests, and the briefs from a legal, as well as scientific perspective, were well-done in all regards.”
. . .
“Without question, Plaintiff MRGCD has prevailed on the merits. I consider MRGCD as a prevailing party not only on ESA claims, but also on causes of action grounded in NEPA and the APA. Additionally, MRGCD has contributed substantially to judicial review and to the implementation of the Endangered Species Act in accordance with its goals, and MRGCD is clearly entitled to attorneys’ fees and costs pursuant both to the ESA and the EAJA. With regard to the latter [EAJA], MRGCD has succeeded on the merits (a) against the government, (b) when the government’s position was neither reasonable nor justified. The Memorandum Opinion and Order which terminated this litigation expressly concludes that Defendants’ actions were arbitrary and capricious and that the position taken by Defendants which precipitated the case was not substantially justified.”
Mem. Op and Order Awarding Attorneys’ Fees, 6-7, Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District v. Norton, No. CIV 99-870, 99-872, and 99-1445 M/RLP (Cons.) (D.N.M. June 18, 2001).
LRPA represents one of the West’s largest water districts in major CEQA and NEPA litigation in State and Federal Court. The Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA) Coordinated Civil Cases, JCCP 4353 (Sacramento Superior Court, Judgment Issued June 2013), addressed environmental compliance challenges to a Client’s approval and execution of a complex of agreements effectuating the Nation’s largest agricultural-to-urban water transfers, which implicated significant environmental impacts and massive environmental mitigation obligations on the part of IID, its transfers partners, and the State of California. In a sensitive political environment, LRPA developed a broad and incisive legal and operational strategy, the QSA Plan B for Protecting Water Rights, the Environment, and the People of the Imperial Valley (2012), to allow IID to optimize its implementation of its QSA conservation commitments while ensuring the integrity of its water rights and minimizing its exposure to liability for the unaddressed environmental risks of the transfers, at the same time strengthening its litigation posture in defense of the QSA. In concluding the district court litigation, LRPA successfully argued for modification of the Court’s tentative Statement of Decision to strengthen IID’s authority to proceed with the water transfers, while in the subsequent on-going Appellate proceeding, LRPA has defended IID’s CEQA compliance from multiple environmental and procedural challenges, all the while advancing a position allowing for subsequent reinforcement of the QSA transfers’ environmental protections.
In related Federal litigation, LRPA represented IID in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals as Intervenors in defense of Federal agencies’ NEPA compliance in approving the Colorado River Water Delivery Agreement, People of the State of California v. U.S. Department of Interior, Case no. 12-55856 (9th Cir. 2014) as well as in the District Court for Arizona in defense of NEPA compliance related to the Colorado River Interim Surplus Guidelines, Interim Guidelines for Lower Basin Shortages and related agreements, Navajo Nation v. U.S. Department of Interior, Case No. CV-03-507 PCT-GMS (D. Ariz. 2014).
Clean Water Act