California Environmental Law and Policy Update - February 21, 2014

Environmental and Policy Focus

White House proposes new fuel efficiency rules to reduce emissions from heavy trucks

Los Angeles Times - Feb 18

President Obama moved ahead Tuesday with plans to further tighten restrictions on carbon emissions from trucks and buses, saying the new fuel efficiency rules will reduce pollution, save consumers money and help cut back on oil imports.

California considers easing regulations for gas-fired power plants in wake of closing San Onofre nuclear plant

Reuters - Feb 12

California, grappling with how to keep the lights on and meet environmental goals after closing a major nuclear power plant, is considering allowing owners to delay retiring some older gas-fired generators. The loss of more than 2 gigawatts of electricity generation from the San Onofre nuclear power plant in Southern California has led energy regulators to re-examine the timelines for phasing out so-called once-through cooling.

Study concludes methane from hydraulic fracturing exceeds EPA estimates but natural gas still superior to coal

SFGate - Feb 13

A major study on hydraulic fracturing concludes the federal government is vastly underestimating a potent greenhouse gas seeping into the atmosphere from oil and gas hydraulic fracturing operations. Researchers from Stanford University, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and others conclude that actual emissions of methane gas are probably about 50 percent higher than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's estimates. The difference is especially significant because methane has about 30 times the global warming potential as carbon dioxide. Nevertheless, the study also concludes that the emissions are not high enough to cancel out the environmental benefits of using natural gas instead of coal to fuel power plants.

Feds approve more hydraulic fracturing off the California coast

SFGate - Feb 12

The federal government has approved three new hydraulic fracturing projects off the shores of California even as state coastal regulators voiced concerns about potential environmental impacts.

Fearing higher costs, Santa Rosa appeals wastewater ruling

North Bay Business Journal - Feb 14

Santa Rosa is appealing new rules regulating the discharge of treated wastewater from its Laguna Wastewater Treatment Plant, arguing that guidelines issued last November could undermine existing efforts to recycle the vast majority of treated waste for agriculture and electricity and ultimately lead to higher ratepayer costs. In the appeal, Santa Rosa contends in part that the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board went too far in setting a “no net loading” policy regarding the release of phosphorus into the sensitive habitat of the Laguna de Santa Rosa. The city also claims that the rules would make treated wastewater it sells to farmers for irrigation less cost-competitive in comparison to potable water.

Hawaii rail opponents lose 9th Circuit appeal

CourtHouse News - Feb 18

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday that a $5 billion high-speed railway project under construction in Honolulu does not violate federal environmental and preservation laws. The ruling deals a further blow to project opponents, who worry that the 20-mile elevated transit system will destroy Native Hawaiian burial sites and other cultural resources. When complete, the rail system is planned to run from the University of Hawaii campus through downtown Honolulu, connecting several of the island city's historic, tourist and business districts with suburban neighborhoods. The project aims to alleviate traffic problems in what Time magazine called the second-most congested metropolitan area in the nation.