Articles Posted in Environmental Law

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The Supreme Court held that Ariz. Rev. Stat. 45-108 does not require the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) to consider unquantified federal reserved water rights when it determines whether a developer has an adequate water supply for purposes of the statute. This case stemmed from the ADWR’s 2013 adequate water supply approving Pueblo Del Sol Water Company’s application to supply water to a proposed development in Cochise County. The superior court vacated ADWR’s decision, concluding that the agency erred in determining that Pueblo’s water supply was “legally available” because ADWR was required to consider potential and existing legal claims that might affect the availability of the water supply, including the Bureau of Land Management’s unquantified federal water right. The Supreme Court vacated the superior court’s decision and affirmed ADWR’s approval of Pueblo’s application, holding that ADWR is not required to consider unquantified federal reserved water rights under its physical availability or legal availability analysis. View "Silver v. Pueblo Del Sol Water Co" on Justia Law

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The Arizona Department of Revenue (ADOR) is not authorized to value solar panels owned by SolarCity Corporation and Sunrun, Inc. (collectively, Taxpayers) and leased to residential and commercial property owners. For tax year 2015, ADOR notified Taxpayers that their panels had been assigned full cash values and that taxes would be assessed. Taxpayers sought a declaratory judgment that the panels were considered to have no value under Ariz. Rev. Stat. 42-11054(C)(2) and were not subject to valuation. The tax court ruled that the panels were “general property” that must be valued by county assessors pursuant to section 42-13051(A) and that the county assessors cannot assign a zero value because applying section 42-11054(c)(2)’s zero value provision to the panels would violate the Exemptions Clause and the Uniformity Clause of the Arizona Constitution. The Supreme Court affirmed the tax court’s judgment to the extent it concluded that ADOR lacked statutory authority to value Taxpayers’ leased solar panels but reversed the remainder of the judgment and remanded for a determination as to whether section 42-13054 authorizes county assessors to value the solar panels and, if so, whether section 42-11054(C)(2) requires a zero valuation. If section 42-11054(C)(2) applies, the tax could should determine whether that provision violates the Exemptions Clause or Uniformity Clause. View "SolarCity Corp. v. Arizona Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Arizona Department of Revenue (ADOR) is not authorized to value solar panels owned by SolarCity Corporation and Sunrun, Inc. (collectively, Taxpayers) and leased to residential and commercial property owners. For tax year 2015, ADOR notified Taxpayers that their panels had been assigned full cash values and that taxes would be assessed. Taxpayers sought a declaratory judgment that the panels were considered to have no value under Ariz. Rev. Stat. 42-11054(C)(2) and were not subject to valuation. The tax court ruled that the panels were “general property” that must be valued by county assessors pursuant to section 42-13051(A) and that the county assessors cannot assign a zero value because applying section 42-11054(c)(2)’s zero value provision to the panels would violate the Exemptions Clause and the Uniformity Clause of the Arizona Constitution. The Supreme Court affirmed the tax court’s judgment to the extent it concluded that ADOR lacked statutory authority to value Taxpayers’ leased solar panels but reversed the remainder of the judgment and remanded for a determination as to whether section 42-13054 authorizes county assessors to value the solar panels and, if so, whether section 42-11054(C)(2) requires a zero valuation. If section 42-11054(C)(2) applies, the tax could should determine whether that provision violates the Exemptions Clause or Uniformity Clause. View "SolarCity Corp. v. Arizona Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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Freeport Minerals Corporation (Freeport) filed applications with the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) to sever certain water rights appurtenant to land in Mohave County and transfer them to a wellfield to be used at a mining complex in Yavapai county. As required by Ariz. Rev. Stat. 45-172(A)(7), ADWR published notice of Freeport’s severance and transfer applications, stating that “any interested person” could file written objections. Mohave County filed objections. ADWR rejected the County’s objections. The superior court vacated ADWR’s final decision on the grounds that it was arbitrary and capricious and an abuse of discretion. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court and affirmed ADWR’s final decision, holding (1) section 45-172 defines the only grounds on which ADWR can deny a properly filed application to sever and transfer a water right; (2) the “interested persons” entitled to object to a proposed severance and transfer are limited to those with an interest that is protected by section 45-172; and (3) ADWR in this case properly denied the County’s objections to the proposed transfers because those objections did not identify any violation of section 45-172 and because the County did not qualify as an “interested person.” View "Ariz. Dep’t of Water Res. v. Hon. Crane McClennen" on Justia Law

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The State of Arizona filed an interlocutory appeal from an order issued in the general stream adjudications of the Gila River System and Source and the Little Colorado System and Source. At issue was whether federal water rights were impliedly reserved on lands granted by the United States government to the State of Arizona to support education and other public institutions (State Trust Lands). The Supreme Court accepted review and affirmed the superior court's ruling that there was no withdrawal, no reservation for a federal purpose, and no congressional intent to reserve water rights for the State Trust Lands. View "In re Water Rights to Gila / Little Colorado" on Justia Law