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Natural Resources Defense Council v. Norton

ELR Citation: 36 ELR 20091
Nos. No. 1:05-CV-01207 OWW TAG, (E.D. Cal., 05/13/2006)

The court grants a local water authority's motion to intervene in a case brought by environmental groups challenging the validity of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's biological opinion concerning the coordinated operation of the federally managed Central Valley Project (CVP) and California's State Water Project (SWP). The California Bay Delta, from which the CVP and SWP facilities draw water, is home to a number of endangered and threatened species. There is no dispute that the authority's motion was timely. Moreover, as the authority possesses contract rights to receive over one million acre-feet of water annually from the SWP—25% of all SWP water—it clearly has a significantly protectable interest in the matter, and disposition of the action could impair or impede its ability to protect that interest. It was less clear whether its interests were adequately protected by other defendants or defendant-intervenors, but ultimately the court ruled they were not because the authority intends to advance at the remedies stage a defense based on the U.S. Commerce Clause that no other party is willing to pursue. The court, therefore, granted its motion to intervene as a matter of right, conditioned upon strictly limiting its participation to presenting the Commerce Clause defense.