Alliance v. Salazar, No. 1:09–CV–01201 OWW.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
Writing for the CourtMEMORANDUM DECISION RE CROSS MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON CLAIMS TWO AND THREE (DOCS. 54 & 60)
Citation749 F.Supp.2d 1083
PartiesFAMILY FARM ALLIANCE, Plaintiff,v.Kenneth Lee SALAZAR, as Secretary of the United States Department of the Interior, et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberNo. 1:09–CV–01201 OWW.
Decision Date26 October 2010

749 F.Supp.2d 1083

FAMILY FARM ALLIANCE, Plaintiff,
v.
Kenneth Lee SALAZAR, as Secretary of the United States Department of the Interior, et al., Defendants.

No. 1:09–CV–01201 OWW.

United States District Court, E.D. California.

Oct. 26, 2010.


[749 F.Supp.2d 1086]

Brenda Washington Davis, Leslie R. Wagley, The Brenda Davis Law Group, Sacramento, CA, Gary William Sawyers, Sawyers & Holland, Fresno, CA, for Plaintiff.Ethan Carson Eddy, U.S. Dept. of Justice, Wildlife & Marine Resources Section, James A. Maysonett, Department of Justice, Washington, DC, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM DECISION RE CROSS MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON CLAIMS TWO AND THREE (DOCS. 54 & 60)
OLIVER W. WANGER, District Judge.
I. INTRODUCTION

Before the Court for decision are cross motions for summary judgment on two of Plaintiff's, Family Farm Alliance's (“FFA”), three claims.1 The Second Claim alleges that Defendant, Kenneth Salazar, Secretary of the United States Department of the Interior, through the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (“FWS”) failed to timely respond to FFA's appeal filed under the Information Quality Act (“IQA”), Pub. L. No. 106–554, § 515(a) (2000), 44 U.S.C. § 3516, and Guidelines issued by the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) and FWS to implement the IQA. That appeal disputed FWS's IQA compliance in connection with FWS's issuance of a 2008 Biological Opinion under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”), addressing the impact of the coordinated operations of the federal Central Valley Project (“CVP”) and State Water Project (“SWP”) on the threatened Delta smelt ( hypomesus transpacificus ) (“2008 Smelt BiOp”). The Third Claim alleges that the peer review FWS commissioned to review the 2008 Smelt BiOp violated National Academy of Sciences (“NAS”) standards governing peer reviewer conflicts of interest, incorporated by reference into FWS's IQA Guidelines.

FFA moves for summary judgment, arguing: (1) its IQA claims are judicially reviewable; (2) it has standing to maintain these claims in federal court; and (3) it is entitled to judgment on the merits of its Second and Third claims. Doc. 54. Federal Defendants filed a combined cross

[749 F.Supp.2d 1087]

motion/opposition, arguing: (1) Plaintiff lacks standing; (2) there is no right to judicial review of Plaintiff's IQA claims; (3) the Second Claim is moot because FWS responded to FFA's appeal; and, in the alternative, (4) Federal Defendants are entitled to summary judgment on the merits. Doc. 61. FFA filed a combined reply/opposition. Doc. 67. Federal Defendants replied. Doc. 68.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On December 14, 2008, FFA submitted to FWS a “Request for Correction” of information in the draft effects analysis of the 2008 Smelt BiOp (“Request”), which asserted that the 2008 Smelt BiOp did not comply with the IQA and the ESA and requested that the 2008 Smelt BiOp be withdrawn and corrected under the IQA. The Request contained twenty-five specific demands, including but not limited to primary requests that: (1) assumptions contained in the analysis regarding the decline in Delta smelt be replaced with actual data and analysis supporting those assumptions; (2) all statements, assumptions, and assertions which are not supported by the best available scientific data and/or are contradicted by data and analysis be removed and replaced with statements that are supported by the best available scientific data and analysis; (3) all statements which are predicated on speculation, hypothesis, or supposition, rather than data, be removed; (4) the degree of uncertainty regarding the cause of the decline of delta smelt be fully disclosed; (5) well-supported data and analysis which demonstrates that water project pumping operations have no important effects on abundance of delta smelt be acknowledged; and (6) the 2008 Smelt BiOp be appropriately peer reviewed. See Request, AR 200001–200018.

On December 23, 2008, FWS sent FFA an interim response, acknowledging receipt of the Request on December 15, 2008. AR 800195. On March 12, 2009, seventy-nine days after FWS confirmed receipt of the Request for Correction, FWS transmitted its formal Response to the FFA. AR 200019. The Response stated that no correction was needed as to any of FFA's requests. AR 200019.

On April 1, 2009, FFA appealed FWS's denial of its Request (the “Appeal”) pursuant to FWS IQA Guidelines, alleging deficiencies in FWS's Response. On April 27, 2009, FWS sent an interim response letter to FFA, acknowledging receipt of the Appeal on April 1, 2009 and advising that, although the IQA Guidelines provide that the Acting Director has sixty days to respond to an Appeal, due to the “series of complex scientific and legal issues” raised in the Appeal, the final determination may not be completed within that time. AR 800361.

On May 18, 2009, FFA sent correspondence to FWS regarding the discovery by another organization that FWS did not possess certain data sets on which it relied in preparing the 2008 Biological Opinion. AR 800364. On June 8, 2009, FWS responded, indicating that the agency viewed FFA's May 18, 2009 correspondence as a supplemental request for correction, which is not provided for under the IQA, and would treat it as a revised appeal (which also is not provided for under the IQA), extending the FWS's time to decide FFA's Appeal by another 60 days. AR 800371. On June 11, 2009, FFA responded, disputing the FWS's classification of the May 18, 2009 letter as a revised appeal and offering to withdraw the letter. AR 800373.

FFA filed this lawsuit on July 10, 2009, claiming FWS:

(1) Failed to comply with the IQA, the IQA Guidelines, and the ESA in promulgating the 2008 Biological Opinion;

(2) Was unreasonably delaying responding to FFA's IQA Appeal; and

(3) Failed to conduct an adequate peer review of the 2008 Smelt BiOp, because

[749 F.Supp.2d 1088]

the peer reviewers engaged by FWS to review the Biological Opinion did not meet NAS standards for independence.

Doc. 1.

On November 20, 2009, FWS sent FFA a document entitled: “U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Response to the Family Farm Alliance Information Quality Act (IQA) Appeal of the Draft Effects Analysis of the Biological Opinion on the Continued Long–Term Operations of the Central Valley Project (CVP) and the State Water Project (SWP) April 1, 2009” (“Appeal Response”). AR 800460. The Appeal Response contains a report entitled “Independent Expert Panel Review of the Family Farm Alliance's Information Quality Act Request for Corrections” (“Panel Review”), conducted by Post, Buckley, Shuh & Jernigan (“PBS & J”). 2 On March 16, 2010, Deputy Secretary of the Interior, David J, Hayes, sent a letter to FFA, stating Mr. Hayes's belief that FWS “fully complied” with the IQA. See Declaration of Brenda W. Davis, Doc. 54–2, Exhibit B.

In response, FFA sent Mr. Hayes a letter alleging that the Appeal Response was deficient and not in compliance with the IQA. Id., Exhibits A and C. Among other things, FFA asserted that the Appeal Response did not respond to the actual requests contained in the Request for Correction and Appeal, and instead summarizes, repurposes, and essentially rewrites FFA's requests. See id. Exhibit A; see also Request for Correction, AR 200001–200018.

III. LEGAL FRAMEWORK
A. Summary Judgment.

Summary judgment is proper where the pleadings, discovery and affidavits show that there is “no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Summary judgment is an appropriate mechanism for resolving challenges to final agency action. See Occidental Eng' Co. v. INS, 753 F.2d 766, 770 (9th Cir.1985).

B. Information Quality Act.

The IQA provides in its entirety:

(a) IN GENERAL.—The Director of the Office of Management and Budget shall, by not later than September 30, 2001, and with public and Federal agency involvement, issue guidelines under sections 3504(d)(1) and 3516 of title 44, United States Code, that provide policy and procedural guidance to Federal agencies for ensuring and maximizing the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information (including statistical information) disseminated by Federal agencies in fulfillment of the purposes and provisions of chapter 35 of title 44, United States Code, commonly referred to as the Paperwork Reduction Act.

(b) CONTENT OF GUIDELINES.—The guidelines under subsection (a) shall—

(1) apply to the sharing by Federal agencies of, and access to, information disseminated by Federal agencies; and

(2) require that each Federal agency to which the guidelines apply—

(A) issue guidelines ensuring and maximizing the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information (including statistical information) disseminated by the agency, by not later than 1 year after the date of issuance of the guidelines under subsection (a);

(B) establish administrative mechanisms allowing affected persons to

[749 F.Supp.2d 1089]

seek and obtain correction of information maintained and disseminated by the agency that does not comply with the guidelines issued under subsection (a); and

(C) report periodically to the Director—

(i) the number and nature of complaints received by the agency regarding the accuracy of information disseminated by the agency; and

(ii) how such complaints were handled by the agency.

Pub. L. 106–554, 114 Stat. 2763, 2763A–153–2763A–154 (2000) (codified at 44 U.S.C. § 3516). The IQA has no legislative history.

Subsection (a) mandates that the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) issue, by no later than September 30, 2001, government-wide guidelines to ensure the “quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information” disseminated by federal agencies. See Pub. L. No. 106–554, § 515(a) (2000). The statute itself contains no substantive provisions regarding information quality, leaving the structure and design of any such requirements to OMB. Nor is there any relevant legislative history disclosing...

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6 practice notes
  • Ohio Stands Up! v. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, CASE NO. 3:20 CV 2814
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Ohio
    • September 28, 2021
    ...no legal rights in any third parties[ ]’ ".) (quoting Salt Inst. , 440 F.3d at 159 ); see also Family Farm Alliance v. Salazar , 749 F. Supp. 2d 1083, 1090 (E.D. Cal. 2010) ("It is undisputed that the IQA provides no private right of action.").Plaintiffs attempt to get around this caselaw b......
  • Styrene Info. & Research Ctr., Inc. v. Sebelius, Civil Action No. 11–1079 (RBW).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • May 15, 2013
    ...aff'd sub nom. on other grounds, Salt Inst. v. Leavitt, 440 F.3d 156 (4th Cir.2006); accord Family Farm Alliance v. Salazar, 749 F.Supp.2d 1083, 1095 (E.D.Cal.2010) (holding that “[t]he IQA itself contains no standards concerning peer review, committing such matters to agency discretion,” a......
  • Ohio Stands Up! v. U.S. Dep't of Health & Human Servs., 3:20 CV 2814
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Ohio
    • September 28, 2021
    ...‘creates no legal rights in any third parties[]'”.) (quoting Salt Inst., 440 F.3d at 159); see also Family Farm Alliance v. Salazar, 749 F.Supp.2d 1083, 1090 (E.D. Cal. 2010) (“It is undisputed that the IQA provides no private right of action.”). Plaintiffs attempt to get around this casela......
  • Harkonen v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, No. C 12-629 CW
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • December 3, 2012
    ...and the appellate court did not, consider whether judicial review was also available under the APA. Family Farm Alliance v. Salazar, 749 F. Supp. 2d 1083, 1096-1100 (E.D. Cal. 2010); see Prime Time, 599 F.3d at 686 ("USDA's determination of Prime Time's assessments for three quarters of FYP......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
6 cases
  • Ohio Stands Up! v. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, CASE NO. 3:20 CV 2814
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Ohio
    • September 28, 2021
    ...no legal rights in any third parties[ ]’ ".) (quoting Salt Inst. , 440 F.3d at 159 ); see also Family Farm Alliance v. Salazar , 749 F. Supp. 2d 1083, 1090 (E.D. Cal. 2010) ("It is undisputed that the IQA provides no private right of action.").Plaintiffs attempt to get around this caselaw b......
  • Styrene Info. & Research Ctr., Inc. v. Sebelius, Civil Action No. 11–1079 (RBW).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • May 15, 2013
    ...aff'd sub nom. on other grounds, Salt Inst. v. Leavitt, 440 F.3d 156 (4th Cir.2006); accord Family Farm Alliance v. Salazar, 749 F.Supp.2d 1083, 1095 (E.D.Cal.2010) (holding that “[t]he IQA itself contains no standards concerning peer review, committing such matters to agency discretion,” a......
  • Ohio Stands Up! v. U.S. Dep't of Health & Human Servs., 3:20 CV 2814
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Ohio
    • September 28, 2021
    ...‘creates no legal rights in any third parties[]'”.) (quoting Salt Inst., 440 F.3d at 159); see also Family Farm Alliance v. Salazar, 749 F.Supp.2d 1083, 1090 (E.D. Cal. 2010) (“It is undisputed that the IQA provides no private right of action.”). Plaintiffs attempt to get around this casela......
  • Harkonen v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, No. C 12-629 CW
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • December 3, 2012
    ...and the appellate court did not, consider whether judicial review was also available under the APA. Family Farm Alliance v. Salazar, 749 F. Supp. 2d 1083, 1096-1100 (E.D. Cal. 2010); see Prime Time, 599 F.3d at 686 ("USDA's determination of Prime Time's assessments for three quarters of FYP......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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