In Department of Water Resources Environmental Impact Cases (2022) 79 Cal.App.5th 556, the Third District Court of Appeal held that the trial court abused its discretion in denying motions for attorney’s fees arising out of the voluntary dismissal of coordinated petitions following project changes and decertification of the challenged EIR under pressure from Governor Newsom.
The Department of Water Resources (DWR) initially proposed two tunnels to convey fresh water from the Sacramento River to pumping stations in the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta (Project). Lawsuits were brought by a number of organizations (Plaintiffs) challenging the Project. The suits were coordinated at the trial court level. While the coordinated proceeding was pending, newly elected Governor Newsom announced that he did not support the dual-tunnel proposal, and directed DWR to pursue a single-tunnel conveyance instead. DWR decertified its EIR and rescinded its Project approvals, and the various lawsuits were voluntarily dismissed.