California Environmental Law and Policy Update - October 17, 2013

Environmental and Policy Focus

Federal Shutdown Impacts EPA Staff

The Guardian - Oct 2

Nearly all of the 16,205 employees of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) across the country, with oversight of air quality, industrial waste, water, and sewage treatment plants, have been sent on leave of absence as part of the U.S. government shutdown. Only 1,069 essential staff – such as emergency personnel who deal with events posing an "imminent threat to human life" like chemical spills or rail derailments – remained on duty. A few workers also stayed behind to feed lab animals and water test plants. EPA officials said the shutdown would disrupt monitoring of air and water quality. It could also set back the agency's efforts to advance the President's climate change agenda.

Brown Signs Law Amending Proposition 65

Los Angeles Times - Oct 5

Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday signed into law changes to Proposition 65 that aim to reduce lawsuits and fines for businesses. The initiative, which voters approved in 1986, requires businesses to post notices about the presence of possibly dangerous chemicals, which include alcohol, carcinogens found in parking garages, and byproducts of coffee roasting. Some business owners, particularly owners of bars and coffee shops, complained the law had spawned a wave of frivolous lawsuits and excessive fines over improper signage. The measure by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) gives businesses that are in violation of the law two weeks to post the required notices before they are subject to lawsuits or steep fines.

California Reaches Deal With Vernon Battery Recycler

Los Angeles Times - Oct 7

State regulators have reached a deal with a Vernon battery recycler accused of toxic air emissions that may have threatened the health of more than 100,000 people, company and state officials said Monday. Exide Technologies has agreed to set aside $7.7 million to pay for new filters to lower its arsenic emissions and new piping for a stormwater system. The money will also fund previously announced tests for lead and arsenic in the soil and dust in the neighborhood around the plant, as well as voluntary blood tests made available to a quarter of a million people who might have been affected by emissions. The deal means that the state Department of Toxic Substances Control will drop its effort to temporarily close the plant, which officials moved to do in March after reports that elevated arsenic emissions posed an increased cancer risk to 110,000 people. Because Exide filed for bankruptcy this spring, the plan still must be approved by a judge in that case.

Mandatory GMO Labeling Law Controversy Looms In Washington State

Politico - Oct 8

Washington state voters look ready to deliver the country’s first mandatory labeling law for food containing genetically modified organisms (GMO) early next month. But the food and biotechnology industries are far from giving up in their battle against labeling requirements for food containing GMOs and, in fact, have several more arrows in their quill — including a bill to preempt all state laws. The call for a law that requires foods to be labeled when they contain genetically engineered ingredients has been growing louder in recent years as the public has been subjected to a handful of controversial studies and worrisome reports about the health risks associated with the consumption of GMOs and the repeated message that the food industry has something to hide. Twenty-six states considered GMO labeling legislation last year, and many of those that didn’t pass laws are expected to revive the issue in 2014.

Multiple Bills Passed Aiming To Tackle California's Water Crisis

Reuters - Oct 8

California Governor Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed more than a dozen bills aimed at easing access to water in the state, where drought is common and tension is high over the competing needs of residents, agriculture, and the environment. The new laws attempt to address some of the most immediate concerns, including the difficulty faced by small communities when local groundwater becomes polluted or is over-pumped. The measures also address growing interest in California in finding ways to safely recycle wastewater so that it can be used again for drinking and cooking.

Growers Grapple With New Groundwater Rules

Hanford Sentinel - Oct 8

Kings County farmers had a chance this week to hear firsthand how best to adjust to sweeping new groundwater pollution rules. The new regulations, adopted last month by the Central Valley Water Quality Control Board, require most commercial growing operations in Kings County to keep track of how much nitrogen fertilizer they apply, submit groundwater quality assessment reports, and show evidence of erosion and sediment control plans.


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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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