California Environmental Law and Policy Update - June 2014 #2

by Allen Matkins
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Environmental and Policy Focus

Kings County lawsuit challenges Fresno-Bakersfield high-speed rail

Fresno Bee - Jun 5

The Kings County Board of Supervisors, the Farm Bureau, and a group of county residents filed suit last week in Sacramento County Superior Court challenging the approval of a high-speed rail route through the county between Fresno and Bakersfield. The lawsuit alleges that the California High-Speed Rail Authority violated the California Environmental Quality Act and other state laws last month when its board certified an environmental impact report and formally approved the 114-mile stretch of the rail route through the southern San Joaquin Valley. It is the first of several lawsuits that are anticipated against the rail authority over the Fresno-Bakersfield approval.

Antioch explores building desalination plant

Contra Costa Times - Jun 8

City officials are exploring whether Antioch can turn the salty Delta water off its shoreline into a liquid asset by building a desalination plant. The idea is for the city to take the brackish water it draws from the San Joaquin River and convert it into quality water for residents to drink, potentially luring businesses that need a consistent water supply. Antioch has rights dating before 1914 to pump water without the need for a state permit, and through an agreement with the state's Department of Water Resources that dates to 1968, it can draw water from the San Joaquin River 208 days a year.

California enters race for Tesla battery 'Gigafactory'

Sacramento Business Journal - Jun 5

California lawmakers and the Brown administration introduced legislation last week that seeks to lift regulatory and financial barriers to lure a proposed $5 billion Tesla Motors factory to the Golden State. The legislation takes a two-pronged approach by committing the state to offer a mix of financial incentives as well as easing “regulatory and environmental processes." The legislation does not call out by name the California Environmental Quality Act, but some modification to the controversial law can be easily inferred, said a Capitol staffer.

Northern California leaders ask for help in drought

Reuters - Jun 9

With California facing its worst drought in decades, farmers, environmentalists, and government officials asked lawmakers Monday to invest in projects to shore up the state's water supply. The demands from Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, The Nature Conservancy, and Northern California water districts are an effort to break a deadlock in the state legislature over how to prevent future water shortages. Governor Brown is hesitant to ask voters to approve the sale of billions in bonds to finance new projects after pushing them successfully last year to raise taxes. A water bond is already slated to go before voters in November, but at $11 billion it is unpopular. The bill’s sponsor intends to amend the bill with the aim of replacing it with a consensus measure.

Environmental group sues to halt California refinery revamp

Oil & Gas Journal - Jun 6

A California-based environmental group has filed a lawsuit requesting a state superior court to revoke a permit that would allow Chevron Corp. to proceed with its long-delayed plan for a $1 billion modernization project at the Richmond, California refinery. Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) filed the suit on June 5 against the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), the public agency responsible for regulating stationary sources of air pollution in the nine counties that surround San Francisco Bay. The lawsuit alleges that BAAQMD violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) when it initially granted and subsequently renewed an air permit to Chevron for construction of the Richmond project before a final environmental impact report (EIR) was made available for a public review and commentary period. In addition to its request that the air permit be invalidated, CBE also has asked the court to direct BAAQMD to refrain from granting Chevron any further approvals to advance the Richmond modernization project until the company has fully complied with all applicable requirements under both state and federal law.

LA Mayor Garcetti endorses funding mass transit with cap-and-trade revenue

Los Angeles Times - Jun 6

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti joined two leading state Senate Democrats on Friday to support a plan to invest the state's cap-and-trade revenue in mass transit and affordable housing. In 2006, AB 32 created a cap-and-trade program in California in which companies can sell their unused greenhouse gas emission credits. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and Sen. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) are pushing for the cap-and-trade revenue -- which they say could total between $3 billion and $5 billion a year -- to fund mass transit projects in California.

 

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Allen Matkins
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