California Environmental Law and Policy Update - August 16, 2013

Environmental and Policy Focus

Court rules Los Angeles County liable for storm water pollution

CourtHouse News - Aug 16

Years of monitoring data from Los Angeles County's labyrinthine storm-drain system are enough to hold the county liable for polluting local rivers, the 9th Circuit ruled. Reconsidering the long-running case over storm water runoff in light of a recent U.S. Supreme Court reversal, the federal appeals court found that some 140 separate violations of the water quality standards set in the county's Clean Water Act permit establish liability "as a matter of law." The Natural Resources Defense Council and Santa Monica Baykeeper sued Los Angeles County and its Flood Control District in 2008 for violating the permit. Some 2,800 miles of storm drains and 500 miles of open channels make up the system that carries storm water runoff.

Climate change impacts already widespread in California, study says

Los Angeles Times - Aug 16

California is feeling the effects of climate change far and wide as heat-trapping greenhouse gases reduce spring runoff from the Sierra Nevada, make the waters of Monterey Bay more acidic, and shorten winter chill periods required to grow fruit and nuts in the Central Valley, a new report says. Though past studies have offered grim projections of a warming planet, the report released Thursday by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment takes an inventory of three dozen shifts that are already happening.

California cap-and-trade system issues offset credits

Biz Journal - Aug 8

California’s controversial cap-and-trade system may be fighting two different lawsuits, but the state is still forging ahead with important changes to the program. Earlier this week the American Carbon Registry issued the state’s first compliance offset credits to a company called Environmental Credit Corp. Each offset credit counts toward one metric ton of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere. Companies can buy the offsets to meet emissions limits set by the California Air Resources Board.

Lead paint manufacturers facing California challenge

Los Angeles Daily News - Aug 10

In April, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raised to 535,000 its estimate of the number of American children with potentially dangerous levels of lead in their blood. But for U.S. communities combating the lead hazards, there might not be any money from the group some say is most responsible for creating the problem: The companies that made lead pigment used in the old, flaking paint still coating millions of dwellings. In a bench trial underway in San Jose, the industry is defending a case brought by 10 public agencies, including Los Angeles and Santa Clara counties and the cities of San Francisco, Oakland and San Diego. The suit seeks to force the defendants to inspect more than 3 million California homes, and to remove any lead paint hazards that are discovered, at an estimated cost of more than $1 billion.

Federal Surface Transportation Board says CEQA does not apply to California high speed rail

Contra Costa Times - Aug 12

California's high-speed rail project is no longer subject to the state's rigorous environmental review law after a federal transportation board ruled that it has oversight of the project, the state attorney general's office argues in a brief filed Friday. The June decision by the federal Surface Transportation Board -- which was sought by opponents of the bullet train -- pre-empts the authority of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the state argued in the filing made on behalf of the California High-Speed Rail Authority. Opponents of the project could lose one of their most significant legal tools if a federal judge agrees with the state's argument. Critics of the rail line have repeatedly sued the state alleging violations of CEQA. The state asked the court to dismiss a 5-year-old lawsuit filed by the San Francisco Bay Area cities of Atherton, Menlo Park and Palo Alto seeking to block the bullet train through the Pacheco Pass south of San Francisco.


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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