public trust doctrine

Holmes, Brandeis, and the ‘Great Ponds’ Debate

Some issues are perennial, like property rights v. public rights in water.

I suppose most of you, like me, have never heard of the Watuppa Ponds.  But in 1888, a battle broke out over the legality of their use to supply drinking water for a nearby city.  The issue closely divided Massachusetts’s highest court, and led to a heated debate in the recently launched  Harvard Law Review …

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What’s Wrong with Juliana (and What’s Right?)

The odds against the “children’s case” are bad and getting worse. But there’s a valid insight at its core.

Juliana v. United States, often called the “children’s case,” is an imaginative effort to make the federal government responsible for its role in promoting the production and use of fossil fuels and its failure to control carbon emissions.  They ask the court to “declare the United States’ current environmental policy infringes their fundamental rights, direct the …

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The Public Trust Doctrine as an Anti-Corruption Weapon

Everything Old Is New Again

As Rick noted a couple of weeks ago, the California Court of Appeal has recently decided that the public trust doctrine applies to groundwater resources — a long overdue holding that flows (so to speak) pretty much directly from the landmark Mono Lake decision that applied the PTD to surface water. (Since surface and groundwater …

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Climate Change in the Courts

What’s next in climate change litigation?

There are three important climate lawsuits pending in federal court. Here’s the state of play and what to expect next. In the first case, Oakland and San Francisco sued leading oil companies. They claim that the companies’ production and sale of fossil fuels is a public nuisance under California state law. They seek an abatement …

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Center for Ocean Solutions Releases Consensus Statement and Report on the Public Trust Doctrine, Sea Level Rise, and Coastal Land Use in California

Report Analyzes State Public Trust Responsibilities on the Coastline, Coincides With Coastal Commission Staff’s Release of Draft Residential Adaptation Policy Guidance

UPDATE (September 1, 2017):  The statement’s drafters have provided a link (shared at the end of the post) for California attorneys who wish to sign on to the statement discussed here. Last month, a group of public trust and coastal land use experts, working under the auspices of the Center for Ocean Solutions, released two …

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Trump Administration Seeks Ninth Circuit Review in Pioneering “Atmospheric Trust” Case

U.S. District Judge Has Denied Government’s Effort to Dismiss Cutting-Edge Public Trust/Climate Change Case

Back in August 2015, I blogged on a then newly-filed federal lawsuit in which a coalition of children and their legal guardians sued the federal government to challenge the government’s proposed approval of a controversial liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal proposed to be located on the Oregon coast.  That lawsuit contends that approval of the project would …

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California Members of Congress Seek to Eviscerate State Water & Environmental Laws

H.R. 23 Would Preempt California State Water Law & Supersede Federal, State Environmental Statutes

Quite understandably, the attention of the media, environmental organizations and the general public has been focused on the myriad misadventures of the Trump Administration, now rumbling and stumbling through its fifth month.  And, as recounted on Legal Planet since mid-January, those contretemps include a great deal of environmental mischief emanating from the Executive Branch. But it …

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It’s a Wonderful Law?

A thought experiment about the role of the ESA in California water management

[This post is co-authored by A. Dan Tarlock, Distguished Professor of Law, IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law.] Remember the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” which shows up on TV every year at Christmas season? In it George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart, gets a great gift from Clarence, an angel-in-training who intervenes as George is …

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Climate Change Adaptation Strategy: Can California Do More?

Is Increased Reliance on the Public Trust Doctrine an Essential Part of Effective State Adaptation Policy?

I often tell students in my Climate Change Law and Policy course that adaptation–that is, how we can best adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change–is the poor stepchild of the debate over greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.  By that I mean that climate change mitigation (i.e., how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions) generates far more …

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Groundwater and the public trust doctrine, California style

California trial court rules that public trust doctrine applies to pumping that reduces flow in a navigable waterway

If you follow California water law or environmental law, you probably have been aware that the Environmental Law Foundation has been pursuing a public trust claim based on groundwater pumping that affects the Scott River. Last week they gained a victory at the trial court level, with a ruling that endorses the principle that groundwater …

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