California Environmental Law and Policy Update - March 27, 2013

Environmental and Policy Focus

California lawmakers propose bills to halt fracking

Bloomberg - Mar 27

California lawmakers introduced legislation to impose a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing to produce oil until the state deals with public- health and environmental concerns. Three measures, offered in the state Assembly last week, are the first to arrive this year that would halt fracking. Their introduction comes at the same time that the state Department of Conservation is developing draft fracking regulations that would impose strict requirements for fracking but would not ban the practice outright. California’s Monterey Shale formation contains an estimated 15.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil.

Bureau of Reclamation ordered to prepare full environmental impact statement for Central Valley Project water contracts

CourtHouse News - Mar 20

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation must prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) before it can approve the renewal of five contracts for delivery of water from California's Central Valley Project, Federal District Judge Lawrence O'Neill ruled last week. The enormous Central Valley Project runs nearly 400 miles through California's Central Valley, from the Cascade Mountains near Redding to the semi-arid but fertile plains along the Kern River in the south. The Bureau had approved the contracts based on a finding under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that they caused no significant impact to the environment. Two commercial fishing organizations challenged the approval, relying on arguments that had been presented to the Bureau by environmental groups. The court held that the organizations had exhausted their administrative remedies and agreed that NEPA required a full-blown EIS.

Bill proposed to exempt UC and CSU systems from cap and trade

The Orange County Register - Mar 26

California's cash-strapped public universities would save millions of dollars under legislation proposed by Orange County state Sen. Mimi Walters. Walters' proposal seeks to exempt University of California and California State University campuses from the new cap-and-trade program established under the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, otherwise known as Assembly Bill 32 or AB32, which requires reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from California sources.

Court affirms protection for Pacific Fisher

YubaNet.com - Mar 21

A California Superior Court affirmed last week that the Pacific Fisher, a rare, forest-dwelling carnivorous mammal related to the weasel, is protected as candidate species under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). The candidate status means that Fishers are protected from logging and other activities that threaten their well-being while the California Fish and Game Commission decides whether to protect them permanently as threatened or endangered. The ruling comes in a lawsuit filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity.

California to rely on more conservation amid extended nuclear outage

Reuters - Mar 20

California's Independent System Operator, the state's electric grid agency, warned last week that a second summer without output from the damaged San Onofre nuclear plant in northern San Diego County presents more challenges than last year, and will force the agency to rely on voluntary conservation to avert rolling blackouts. The 2,150-megawatt San Onofre nuclear station, owned by Edison International and Sempra Energy, has been shut down since January 2012 after the discovery of premature tube wear that damaged thousands of tightly packed tubes inside the large steam generators.

Group says it will keep up logging road challenge

Modesto Bee - Mar 20

A conservation group said Wednesday it will continue pushing federal authorities to more closely regulate muddy logging roads, despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that sided with the timber industry. Activists believe the ruling left room to press the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate runoff from the roads through specific permits, rather than broad recommendations, said Paul Kampmeier, a lawyer representing the Northwest Environmental Defense Center.