Environmental and Policy Focus

Greenhouse Gas Dispute Dismissed Over Lack of Standing to Sue

CourtHouse News - Oct 17

Environmental groups lack standing to challenge the Washington state Ecology Department's refusal to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from oil refineries, the Ninth Circuit ruled. The Washington Environmental Council and the Sierra Club filed a citizen suit under the Clean Air Act (CAA) in 2011, hoping to force the state to set limits on the amount of greenhouse gases emitted from five refineries. They claimed that the state's failure to apply "reasonably available control technology" (RACT) standards to the refineries violated Washington's CAA implementation plan. The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) intervened in the case on the side of the state and the refineries, which are responsible for about six percent of the state's greenhouse gas emissions. U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman ruled for the environmental groups on the RACT claim and ordered the state to impose "reasonably available control technologies" on the refineries by May 2014. But the federal appeals court in Seattle stopped that effort in ruling that the plaintiffs failed to show a "causal connection" between the state's failure to regulate the refineries and the impacts of climate change.

California Appellate Court Rejects Local Governments' Bid for Reimbursement of Storm Water Compliance Costs

Metropolitan News - Oct 18 The State of California is not required to reimburse local governments for the costs of preventing storm water pollution required by the federal Clean Water Act, a California appellate court ruled on October 16. In State Department of Finance v. Commission on State Mandates (County of Los Angeles), a panel of the state Court of Appeal held that the costs of compliance with four specified requirements of a municipal stormwater sewer permit were not reimbursable by the state under Proposition 4. Proposition 4, enacted in 1979, amended the state Constitution to provide, subject to specified exceptions, that if the state Legislature “mandates a new program or higher level of service on any local government,” the state must provide the funds necessary to comply. The Court reasoned that the costs of compliance with the permit mandates are not reimbursable by the state because they are imposed by the federal government, not the state.

 

A Fight Over Vineyards Pits Redwoods Against Red Wine

NPR - Oct 18

A coalition of environmental groups is suing to stop a winery from leveling 154 acres of coast redwoods and Douglas firs to make way for grapevines. Redwoods only grow in the relatively cool coastal region of Northern California and southern Oregon. Parts of this range, such as northwestern Sonoma County, have become increasingly coveted by winemakers. California's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or CalFire, approved the redwood-clearing project in May 2012.

California Environmental Protection Agency Report Helps California Prepare for Extreme Heat

Sierra Sun Times - Oct 18 With climate models projecting a significant increase in the frequency and duration of extreme heat, a workgroup led by the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) developed recommendations to help the state become better prepared and more resilient to increasing temperature and extreme heat events. The recommendations were released in a new report, “Preparing California for Extreme Heat.” During a 10-day heat wave in 2006, more than 650 Californians died due to heat-related conditions. “Extreme heat is one of the deadliest natural hazards and we must take action to reduce the negative health impacts on Californians,” said California Department of Public Health Director and State Health Officer Dr. Ron Chapman.

 

California Bullet Train Construction Begins, Locals Angry

The Huffington Post - Oct 21

Engineering work has begun in the Fresno area on the first 30-mile track segment of California’s high-speed rail line, a system that planners expect will eventually link Northern and Southern California. Though construction jobs and future improved access to economic opportunity could help Fresno’s economy, opposition to the project in the region has grown fierce.