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Case Name Californians for Renewable Energy v. United States Environmental Protection Agency EJ-CA-0001
Docket / Court 4:15-cv-03292 ( N.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Environmental Justice
Attorney Organization Earthjustice
Case Summary
On July 15, 2015, five non-profit organizations concerned with environmental justice filed this lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. Represented by Earthjustice, the plaintiffs sued under the ... read more >
On July 15, 2015, five non-profit organizations concerned with environmental justice filed this lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. Represented by Earthjustice, the plaintiffs sued under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The plaintiffs claimed that the EPA violated the APA by failing to enforce Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq. (“Title VI”). (The plaintiffs did not bring a Title VI claim.) They sought declaratory and injunctive relief along with attorney’s fees.

Specifically, the plaintiffs singled out five specific cases in which they said the EPA violated the APA by failing to issue preliminary findings in response to Title VI complaints they had filed between 1994 and 2003 alleging that environmental harm disproportionately affected people of color. The plaintiffs also claimed that the EPA's pattern and practice of failing to issue preliminary findings violated the APA. The plaintiffs sought a declaration that the EPA’s failure to meet its mandatory duty and comply with the deadline set forth in 40 C.F.R. § 7.115, which requires the EPA to issue preliminary findings and recommendations for voluntary compliance within 180 days of initiating its investigation into a Title VI complaint, constituted agency action “unlawfully withheld or unreasonably delayed” under the APA. The plaintiffs also sought an injunction compelling the EPA to issue preliminary findings and recommendations for voluntary compliance for the investigations into each of plaintiffs’ Title VI complaints within ninety days of this Court’s order and complete the complaint investigation procedures in response to each of plaintiffs’ Title VI complaints in compliance with the timelines set forth in the federal regulations.

The case was initially assigned to Magistrate Judge Kandis A. Westmore. On September 3, 2015, the case was reassigned to Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong.

On January 19, 2017, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint but did not alter any of their claims or prayer for relief. The EPA filed a motion to dismiss and, in the alternative, a motion for summary judgment on January 26, 2017; the plaintiffs also filed a motion for summary judgment.

On March 30, 2018, Judge Armstrong ruled on the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment and the defendants’ motion to dismiss. The court found that the defendant had a mandatory duty to issue preliminary findings within 180 days after accepting a complaint for investigation, and that the defendant failed to comply with that duty. While declaratory relief was available to the plaintiffs, the court found that there could be no injunctive relief awarded with respect to the underlying Title VI complaints because the EPA had resolved them. However, the court stated that it could issue a prospective injunction requiring the defendant to timely process plaintiffs’ future Title VI complaints that are accepted for investigation by the defendant. Based on these findings, the court granted the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment in part. The court also granted summary judgment for the EPA on the plaintiffs' pattern or practice claim. However, the court did not determine the remedy; it requested that the plaintiffs submit proposed prospective injunctive relief. 2018 WL 1586211.

On July 11, 2018, the defendants filed a motion to alter the judgment, arguing that Judge Armstrong’s orders regarding prospective injunctive relief were overbroad and unwarranted by the plaintiff’s claims. On the same day, noting that the defendants were “apparently dissatisfied with the Court’s resolution,” Judge Armstrong referred the case to Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler for settlement conferences.

Due to budget constraints and appropriations withholdings by the federal government, the EPA filed a motion to stay proceedings on December 26, 2018, which Judge Beeler granted. Appropriations were restored on January 29, 2019, and the settlement conference, which had originally been scheduled for January 10, was rescheduled to April 9, 2019. While the parties had originally agreed to update the court by April 30 with the results of their settlement efforts, they were still unable to reach a consensus by May 17. In light of the parties’ continued inability to come to a settlement, the court invited both parties to respond to the defendants’ July 11 motion to alter judgment. As of August 14, 2019, the plaintiffs had filed a response to which defendants had replied, and the case is ongoing.

Anna Belkin - 12/03/2018
Elizabeth Helpling - 11/13/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
General
Government Services (specify)
Pattern or Practice
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Non-profit religious organization
Causes of Action Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.
Defendant(s) U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Plaintiff Description Californians for Renewable energy - 501(c)3 organization that advocates for new renewable energy supplies Ashurst Bar/Smith Community Organization - an organization dedicated to environmental justice Citizens for Alternatives to Radioactive Dumping (“CARD”) - 501(c)3 organization that addresses environmental injustice Saint Francis Prayer Center (“Prayer Center”) - 501(c)(3) nonprofit that serves many communities Sierra Club - 501(c)(4) organization dedicated to environmental justice
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Earthjustice
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filing Year 2015
Case Ongoing Yes
Docket(s)
4:15-cv-3292 (N.D. Cal.)
EJ-CA-0001-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/14/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
EJ-CA-0001-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/15/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Seconded Amended Complaint [ECF# 90]
EJ-CA-0001-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/19/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment; and Denying Defendants' Rule 12 Motion to Dismiss and Granting Alternative Motion for Summary Judgment as to the Sixth Claim for Relief [ECF# 114] (2018 WL 1586211) (N.D. Cal.)
EJ-CA-0001-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 03/30/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
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Judges Armstrong, Saundra Brown (N.D. Cal.) show/hide docs
EJ-CA-0001-0003 | EJ-CA-0001-9000
Beeler, Laurel (N.D. Cal.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
EJ-CA-0001-9000
Laporte, Elizabeth D. (N.D. Cal.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
EJ-CA-0001-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Gutierrez, Irene V. (California) show/hide docs
EJ-CA-0001-0001 | EJ-CA-0001-9000
Lado, Marianne Leslie Engelman (Connecticut) show/hide docs
EJ-CA-0001-0001 | EJ-CA-0001-0002 | EJ-CA-0001-9000
Lewis, Heather Mudford (California) show/hide docs
EJ-CA-0001-0002 | EJ-CA-0001-9000
Novak, Suzanne (New York) show/hide docs
EJ-CA-0001-0002 | EJ-CA-0001-9000
Smith, Johnathan James (New York) show/hide docs
EJ-CA-0001-0001 | EJ-CA-0001-0002 | EJ-CA-0001-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Lawrence, Matthew A. (Maryland) show/hide docs
EJ-CA-0001-9000
Robinson, Stuart Justin (California) show/hide docs
EJ-CA-0001-9000
Zee, Michael Andrew (California) show/hide docs
EJ-CA-0001-9000

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