Environmental Law Clinic students traveled throughout the bay area for several court appearances near the start of the winter quarter, two of which resulted in wins for clinic clients. Read on for the highlights:
On January 14, 2014 Pete DeMarco ’14 appeared on behalf of clinic client, Monterey Coastkeeper, at a status conference hearing in Monterey County Superior Court. Monterey Coastkeeper has sued the defendant, Monterey County Water Resources Agency, in an effort to get the Agency to regulate or otherwise take responsibility for its role in transporting and discharging heavily polluted agricultural waters in the Salinas Valley. At the hearing, Pete successfully argued that our case against the Water Resources Agency should go forward. Briefing is scheduled for this summer and a trial for September 22, 2014.
Chris Jones ’14, delivered oral arguments in the California Court of Appeal in San Francisco on February 13, 2014 on behalf of clinic client, Salmon Protection and Watershed Network. This case concerns a challenge under the California Environmental Quality Act to a general plan adopted by Marin County. The plan would allow development in the Lagunitas Creek watershed, which serves as one of the last – and the most critical – spawning grounds for the Central California Coast coho salmon. The trial court denied our petition to require the County to do more comprehensive environmental review, and we appealed. On March 5, 2014, the appellate court issued a decision holding that the County violated the statute by failing to adequately consider cumulative impacts and potential mitigation measures and reversed the trial court’s ruling.
A few days later, Jackie Iwata ’14 appeared in U.S. District Court in Oakland on behalf of our clients, a group of individuals, at a hearing on motions to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the Pacific Shores Property Owners Association. The Association is trying to block a plan to purchase and permanently conserve lots in a subdivision near Crescent City, California, to mitigate impacts to wetlands from a safety project for the City’s airport. The subdivision, which abuts the largest coastal lagoons in the lower 48 and is naturally flooded during the winter, cannot be developed because it is located on sand dunes and coastal wetlands. Our clients, who own lots in the subdivision, are supporting the airport’s plan to buy lots from willing sellers and permanently protect them as state park lands. On March 7, 2014, the district court granted the motion, dismissing the case and clearing the way for the purchase program to go forward.