California Environmental Law and Policy Update - July 2014


Environmental and Policy Focus

Second leg of California bullet-train line approved - Jun 27

On June 27, 2014, the U.S. Department of Transportation gave its approval for work to begin on the second leg of California's proposed $68 billion high-speed rail line. The decision allows the state to begin acquiring land along the 114-mile route from Fresno and Bakersfield, although the state is still waiting for approval from the federal Surface Transportation Board before it can begin construction on this segment. The California High-Speed Rail Authority asked the board to issue a decision by the end of the summer.

California rice farmers could get pollution credit for shortening duration of field flooding

Sacramento Bee - Jul 2

California’s evolving cap-and-trade market may soon have a new player: rice farmers. A proposal by the California Air Resources Board staff, up for board review in September, would allow rice farmers in the Sacramento Valley to sell carbon emission offsets as part of the state’s effort to combat climate change. Rice farmers would flood their fields for shorter periods, which would reduce the decomposition process that emits methane, a greenhouse gas.

California toughens enforcement of water violations

Fresno Bee - Jul 2

On July 2, 2014, California’s State Water Resources Control Board approved emergency drought regulations aimed at forcing water users to act swiftly when told to stop diverting water from streams. After meeting for nearly 12 hours over two days, the Board voted unanimously to approve the new rules package. The emergency regulations mean that for the next nine months, the Board can follow a streamlined process to force some water-rights holders to stop diverting from rivers and streams.

Governor Jerry Brown's proposal intensifies water bond negotiations

Los Angeles Times - Jun 25

Governor Jerry Brown's call for a drastically cheaper water bond set off a fresh round of negotiations in the Capitol last week, as lawmakers and stakeholders seek to craft a plan that addresses the state's myriad water needs without a bloated price tag. Brown's $6-billion bond proposal, which was fleshed out in greater detail last Wednesday, marks a significant step up in the governor's engagement with the effort to pass a water bond to replace the $11.1-billion measure now on the November ballot.

U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear challenge to California global warming rule - Jun 30

An attempt to block one of California’s key climate change regulations, designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions from fuel, failed when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case on June 30, 2014. The regulation, known as the low carbon fuel standard, requires oil companies to reduce the emissions associated with the fuels they sell in California, lowering emissions 10 percent by 2020.

Developers seek end to federal protections for California gnatcatcher

Los Angeles Times - Jun 29

Developers citing new scientific evidence are pressing to end federal protections for the California gnatcatcher, whose status as a threatened species has barred development in many coastal areas of Southern California for two decades. Developers argue that DNA analyses show that the coastal California gnatcatcher is no different from other gnatcatchers flourishing from the Palos Verdes Peninsula to the southern tip of Baja California. If the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agrees, it could remove federal protections it extended to the bird in 1993 — opening the way to development on an estimated 197,000 acres of largely coastal land in Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Ventura, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties.

Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta water project heads to California Supreme Court

Contra Costa Times - Jun 30

The California Supreme Court is set to decide if the state must buy thousands of acres of private property to perform preliminary tests for two massive water tunnels in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The dispute stems from Governor Jerry Brown's proposal, which would send river water around the delta system to farms and communities in Central and Southern California. The state's Department of Water Resources asked the court to weigh in after an appellate ruling in March said officials were not allowed to enter private property without permission from landowners, who oppose the project.

U.S. Supreme Court won’t hear Drakes Bay Oyster Co.’s appeal of shutdown order

KQED - Jun 30

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal from Marin County’s Drakes Bay Oyster Co., the Point Reyes business that has been fighting for a decade to renew its lease at Point Reyes National Seashore. Drakes Bay has lost successive rounds in its attempt to persuade federal courts that, by denying the oyster farm’s attempt to renew a lease that ran out in late 2012, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar had violated both federal environmental and administrative law.


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