Friends of the Columbia Gorge's Current Legal Docket

Friends' legal work emphasizes protection of the Columbia Gorge's resources and enforcement of Scenic Area land use laws and rules

Friends of the Columbia Gorge's Current Legal Docket
Springtime view from Coyote Wall in the Catherine Creek area of the eastern Gorge. (photographer: Annette Hadaway)


We focus on litigation and administrative proceedings that will help protect the Gorge's sensitive and unique scenic, natural, cultural, and recreational resources and establish positive precedent for future decisionmaking.

See a list of past cases involving the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.
 

Energy Development

1. Friends v. Energy Facility Siting Council (Oregon Supreme Court)

Friends and allies have challenged EFSC's revisions to its rules governing amendments to energy project site certificates. In adopting the rule revisions, EFSC violated the Oregon Administrative Procedures Act's mandatory rulemaking procedures. In addition, several of the specific rule revisions violate state laws governing energy siting. 

Status: Currently awaiting court's decision. Oral argument took place on December 5, 2018.
Counsel: Gary Kahn, Nathan Baker (Friends), Steve McCoy (Friends), Peter Broderick (NEDC), Mac Lacy (ONDA)
 

Railroad Development

1. Union Pacific Railroad Company v. Wasco County Board of Comm'rs (Oregon Court of Appeals)

Friends and allies are defending a decision by the Columbia River Gorge Commission affirming Wasco County's denial of Union Pacific's proposal to construct approximately four miles of second mainline track in the vicinity of Mosier, Oregon. The project would interfere with tribal treaty rights and would violate the Scenic Area Act's treaty rights protections.

Status: The appeal is on hold while the parties pursue mediation.
Counsel: Gary Kahn, Steve McCoy (Friends)
 

2. Union Pacific Railroad Company v. Runyon (U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals)

Friend and allies intervened in a lawsuit filed by Union Pacific in which the railroad company sought to enjoin the National Scenic Area permitting and appeals processes for its proposal to construct approximately four miles of second mainline track in the vicinity of Mosier, Oregon. The U.S. District Court of Oregon dismissed the case because Union Pacific had failed to name several Northwest Indian Treaty Tribes as defendants in the case. Union Pacific then appealed to the Ninth Circuit.

Status: The appeal is on hold while the parties pursue mediation.
Counsel: Gary Kahn, Steve McCoy and Nathan Baker (Friends)
 

3. BNSF Railway Co. v. Clark County (W.D. Wash.) 

BNSF deliberately constructed a new second-track rail line through Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge without seeking or obtaining the required National Scenic Area permits. In an attempt to avoid accountability for its land use violations, BNSF sued Clark County in federal district court, arguing that no Scenic Area permits were required.

Status: Summary judgment briefing is ongoing.
Counsel: Gary Kahn, Steve McCoy and Nathan Baker (Friends) 
 

Coal Transport

1. Millenium Bulk Terminals-Longview, LLC v. Wash. State Dep't of Ecology (Cowlitz County Superior Court)

Friends and allies intervened in the applicant's appeal of a denial by the Washington Department of Ecology of a water quality permit for a proposed coal export terminal in Cowlitz County, Washington. The denial of the permit was within the Department of Ecology's authority under the State Environmental Policy Act.

Status: The Department of Ecology has filed a motion for  discretionary review by the Washington Court of Appeals. The motion will be argued on April 10, 2019.
Counsel: Earthjustice (Marisa Ordonia, Kristen Boyles, Jan Hasselman)
 

2. Millenium Bulk Terminals-Longview, LLC v. Cowlitz County (Washington Court of Appeals)

Friends and allies intervened in the applicant's appeal of Cowlitz County's denial of shoreline development permits for a proposed coal export terminal in Cowlitz County, Washington. The Cowlitz County Hearing Examiner properly concluded that the proposed project fails to reasonably mitigate ten unavoidable, significant adverse environmental impacts identified in the final environmental impact statement; fails to satisfy the environmental standards of the Cowlitz County Code; does not recognize and protect the statewide interest over local interest; does not result in long term over short term benefit; does not protect the resources and ecology of the shoreline; and is not consistent with the policies of the Shoreline Management Act and Cowlitz County Shoreline Master Program.

Status: Briefing at the Washington Court of Appeals is ongoing.
Counsel: Earthjustice (Marisa Ordonia, Kristen Boyles, Jan Hasselman)
 

3. Lighthouse Resources Inc. v. Inslee (U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington)

Friends and allies will seek to intervene in a lawsuit filed by several companies seeking to develop a proposed coal export terminal in Cowlitz County, Washington. The State of Washington lawfully denied two key permits for the proposed terminals consistent with the agencies' statutory and constitutional authority. The state's authority over the proposed coal terminal is not preempted by federal law governing railroads and ports.

Status: Motion practice is ongoing. A trial is scheduled to begin May 13, 2019.
Counsel: Earthjustice
 

Climate Change

1. Chernaik v. Brown (Oregon Supreme Court)

Friends joined with several dozen organizations, entities, Oregon legislators, elected officials, and other persons in seeking amici status to file an amicus brief with the Oregon Supreme Court, urging the court to accept review of a decision by the Oregon Court of Appeals. The court of appeals erroneously held that Governor Brown and the State of Oregon do not have a fiduciary duty to affirmatively protect Oregon's public trust resources from the effects of climate change.

Status: The motion seeking amici status and the proposed amicus brief were filed on March 22, 2019.
Counsel: Elisabeth Holmes (proposed amici)
 

Land Use and Zoning

1. Akers v. Clark County (Columbia River Gorge Commission)

Friends intervened in an appeal of a Clark County land use enforcement decision. The appeal was filed by fifteen neighbors of an unpermitted gravel quarry within the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The Clark County Hearing Examiner erred in preventing Friends and the neighbors from participating in the appeals below, and in concluding that mining activities on the property are lawful and permitted.

Status: The owners and operators of the quarry have filed motions to dismiss the appeals. The motions will be argued on April 9, 2019.
Counsel: Gary Kahn (neighbors) and Nathan Baker (Friends)
 

2. Friends v. Clark County (Columbia River Gorge Commission)

Friends appealed a Clark County land use enforcement decision involving an unpermitted gravel quarry within the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The Clark County Hearing Examiner erred in preventing Friends and the neighbors from participating in the appeals below, and in concluding that mining activities on the property are lawful and permitted.

Status: See above.
Counsel: Nathan Baker (Friends) and Gary Kahn (neighbors)
 

3. Save Our Scenic Area v. Skamania County (Clark County Superior Court)

Save Our Scenic Area and Friends of the Columbia Gorge filed suit against Skamania County for failing to zone thousands of acres of unzoned, forested lands. The County is in violation of state law for failing to adopt zoning and failing to protect forest lands for commercial forestry.

Status: In July 2015, the Washington Supreme Court remanded the case to the Clark County Superior Court. Settlement discussions between the parties are ongoing. A trial has been scheduled for August 2019.
Counsel: J. Richard Aramburu (Save Our Scenic Area), Gary Kahn and Nathan Baker (Friends)

4. Reynier v. Skamania County (Skamania County Superior Court)

Friends intervened in support of Skamania County in an appeal by a landowner of a county decision that approved a proposed dwelling and denied a second proposed dwelling. The subject property consists of one legal lot that is eligible for only one dwelling.

Status:  A settlement was reached in 2012 but has not yet been implemented.
Counsel: Gary Kahn


5. Reynier v. Skamania County (Skamania County Superior Court)

Friends and adjacent neigbors intervened on behalf of Skamania County in an appeal of a county decision denying a third dwelling on a parcel eligible for only one new single-family dwelling.

Status: See above.
Counsel: Gary Kahn


This page was last updated on March 25, 2019 by Nathan Baker.