California Supreme Court Watch

Dec 11, 2019
County of Butte v. Department of Water Resources, S258574.

#19-209 County of Butte v. Department of Water Resources, S258574. (C071785; 39 Cal.App.5th 708; Yolo County Superior Court; VCV091258.) Petition for review after the Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal in an action for writ of administrative mandate. This case presents the following issues: (1) To what extent does the Federal Power Act (16 U.S.C. § 791a et seq.) preempt application of the California Environmental Quality Act (Pub. Resources Code, § 21000 et seq.) when the state is acting on its own behalf and exercising its discretion in deciding to pursue licensing for a hydroelectric dam project? (2) Does the Federal Power Act preempt state court challenges to an environmental impact report prepared under the California Environmental Quality Act in order to comply with the federal water quality certification under the federal Clean Water Act?

Review granted and issues limited: 12/11/2019

Opinion filed: Affirmed in part, reversed in part: 8/01/2022

See the California Court of Appeal Dismissal with Directions.

See the Petition for Review.

See the Oral Argument.

See the California Supreme Court Opinion.  (County of Butte v. Department of Water Resources (2022) 13 Cal.5th 612.)

“The Court of Appeal held that the FPA preempts the Counties’ challenge to the environmental sufficiency of the settlement agreement DWR prepared as part of FERC proceedings. We agree that the Counties’ claims are preempted to the extent they attempt to unwind the terms of the settlement agreement reached through a carefully established federal process and seek to enjoin DWR from operating the Oroville Facilities under the proposed license….  [But] we conclude that the Court of Appeal erred in finding the Counties’ CEQA claims entirely preempted.”

“We affirm the decision of the Court of Appeal in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”

Justice Liu authored the opinion of the Court, in which Justices Kruger, Groban, Jenkins, and Guerrero concurred.

Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye filed a concurring and dissenting opinion, in which Justice Corrigan concurred.