California Environmental Law and Policy Update - February 27, 2013

Environmental and Policy Focus

Bill seeks changes to California Environmental Quality Act

San Jose Mercury News - Feb 22

California lawmakers on Friday positioned themselves to tackle changes to the state's landmark environmental regulatory law—the California Environmental Quality Act ("CEQA")—which has long been a source of conflict among business, environmentalists, labor groups and local governments.

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California puts McCoy Solar Project on the fast track

eSolar Energy News - Feb 25

Taking action to cut red tape, create new jobs and generate clean energy, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. has certified a second project for fast-tracked judicial and legislative review under the terms of his 2011 CEQA reforms. The McCoy Solar Project, a billion-dollar renewable solar facility that will be located in Riverside County, is now eligible for expedited review under the Jobs and Economic Improvement Act of 2011 (AB 900). AB 900, signed by Governor Brown in September 2011, sends CEQA litigation for certain large projects directly to the Court of Appeal and requires that decisions on the merits are made in a short timeframe. Governor Brown certified the first project, Apple’s new Cupertino campus, for AB 900 streamlining in June 2012. AB 900 projects are not exempt from CEQA review.

California Carbon Permits Sell Above Expected Clearing Price

Bloomberg News - Feb 27

Taking another step in the implementation of its landmark cap-and-trade program, the Air Resources Board last week conducted its second auction of greenhouse gas emission allowances. The auction price was $13.62 each, more than a dollar above analysts' expectations.

Feds, states explore fracking regulation

Legal NewsLine - Feb 22

As the debate over hydraulic fracturing becomes a central energy policy issue, a key question emerges for the Obama administration and the next Environmental Protection Agency administrator: what do they plan to do about it? Steve Everley, a spokesman for Energy in Depth, a research and public education program of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, finds in President Barack Obama’s recent State of the Union address a clear indication that the federal government plans to promote hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking.

Fracking Bubble? Report Warns Shale Gas And Oil Won't Solve Energy Crunch

ThinkProgress - Feb 25

Governments and financial analysts who think unconventional fossil fuels such as bitumen, shale gas and shale oil can usher in an era of prosperity and energy plenty are deluded, concludes a groundbreaking report by one of Canada’s top energy analysts. In a 181 page study for the Post Carbon Institute, geologist David Hughes concludes that the U.S. “is highly unlikely to achieve energy independence unless energy consumption declines substantially.”

Enron-Era Ruling Signals $1.6 Billion California Refunds

Bloomberg News - Feb 21

California energy regulators said that a preliminary ruling by a U.S. agency may bring as much as $1.6 billion in refunds for consumers harmed during the state’s electricity crisis more than a decade ago. An administrative law judge at the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Feb. 15 determined that companies including Powerex Corp. and a unit of Royal Dutch Shell Plc violated market rules in 2000, when California’s electricity prices reached their peak.

Ruling stands in UCSC water case: Appeals court holds environmental report flawed

Santa Cruz Sentinel - Feb 20

A three-judge panel of the state's 6th District Court of Appeal has reaffirmed an earlier ruling invalidating Santa Cruz's environmental analysis of a proposed water expansion to UC Santa Cruz.

Beverly Hills Fights L.A. Subway Extension

CourtHouse News - Feb 20

Beverly Hills sued two federal agencies for approving a 9-mile subway extension beneath homes and 80-year old Beverly Hills High School. The City of Beverly Hills sued the Federal Transit Administration for approving funding for the subway, and the U.S. Department of Transportation, in Federal Court. It alleges violations of environmental, administrative and transit laws.

Judge hears case against Ocotillo wind project

National Wind Watch - Feb 23

A Federal District Court judge heard arguments last week that construction on Pattern Energy’s Ocotillo Express Wind facility, already delivering power in the western Imperial Valley, should be halted until the BLM addresses alleged deficiencies in its approval of the project. The lawsuit, filed in 2012 by the San Diego-based Desert Protective Council, argues that the Interior Department inadequately addressed the project’s impacts to Peninsular bighorn sheep and golden eagles when it amended the California Desert Conservation Area plan.

Settlement is announced in lawsuit challenging approval of industrial project in Mira Loma Village, located south of Fontana

The Fontana Herald - Feb 21

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris recently announced a settlement in a lawsuit challenging the approval of an industrial project in Riverside County that would cause additional diesel truck traffic near a community already disproportionately affected by diesel exhaust and noise pollution.