California Environmental Law and Policy Update

by Allen Matkins
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Supreme Court upholds EPA's power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from large stationary sources – but scolds EPA for overreaching in its regulatory approach

Allen Matkins - Jun 24

On Monday, June 23, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its long-awaited ruling in Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency, in which it partially invalidated and partially upheld U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") regulations of greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources. By a narrow 5-4 majority, the Court, in an opinion authored by Justice Antonin Scalia, struck down EPA's effort to require a facility to obtain a Clean Air Act permit solely because of its potential to emit greenhouse gases. In the same decision, however, a larger 7-2 majority of the Justices upheld EPA's regulations to the extent they require a category of sources -- those that must obtain a Clean Air Act permit anyway on account of their emissions of other regulated air pollutants -- to take steps to control their greenhouse gas emissions as well.

California Senate deadlocks on $10.5-billion water bond

Los Angeles Times - Jun 23

The state Senate deadlocked Monday on a $10.5-billion water bond measure proposed for the November ballot when the opposition criticized it for not providing enough funding for water storage and for the protection of water rights. Supporters of SB 848 could not muster the two-thirds vote needed to put the measure on the November ballot as a replacement for an $11.1-billion water bond that senators believe will not win voter approval. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said a key feature of the bond measure voted on Monday is that it is neutral about building expensive tunnels to divert water from the Sacramento delta to benefit Southern California.

Lawsuit contests high-speed rail air pollution money plan

San Mateo Daily Journal - Jun 24

A San Rafael-based group that opposes California’s high-speed rail project filed a lawsuit Monday contesting the state’s plan to spend cap-and-trade pollution money on the $68 billion project, arguing that building the bullet train would create more pollution than it would reduce for at least a decade. The Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund filed the lawsuit in Fresno County Superior Court against the California Air Resources Board, alleging that the board downplayed the harmful effects on the environment and exaggerated the potential environmental benefits of high-speed rail in its scoping plan.

Bird conservancy sues Interior over extension of eagle ‘take’ permits to 30 years

Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition - Jun 20

A leading bird conservation group today filed a federal lawsuit against the Obama administration challenging a rule for wind and other energy projects that permits injuring, killing, or disturbing bald eagles for up to 30 years. The American Bird Conservancy filed the lawsuit against the Interior Department and the Fish and Wildlife Service in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco, challenging the new rule allowing Fish and Wildlife to grant programmatic incidental take permits to wind farms, transmission projects, and other long-term energy operations for a much longer period than the previous five-year term.

Environmentalists contest two of Long Beach Harbor Commission’s lease approvals

Long Beach Press-Telegram - Jun 23

The Sierra Club, Communities for a Better Environment, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Earthjustice filed an appeal on June 23, seeking to overturn the Port of Long Beach harbor commission’s June 9 decision to approve a 15-year lease for Oxbow Energy Solutions LLC, led by founder and CEO Bill Koch, and a 20-year lease for Metropolitan Stevedore Co. to use a 5.4-acre site with a coal barn on Pier G. The shed stores coal and petroleum coke bound for export to nations such as China and Japan. The environmental groups contend the commission failed to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by not examining the alleged environmental impacts of the project, and in particular, the effect of greenhouse gas emissions from the product exported under the leases. Harbor officials say the project was exempt from CEQA.

Big fines could be imposed on those who don’t stop diverting river water

Merced Sun-Star - Jun 23

Few of the 7,910 landowners who were ordered last month to stop diverting water from California’s rivers have complied. So the state is proposing to “put some teeth” into its emergency drought regulations. The State Water Resources Control Board next week will consider imposing hefty fines on farmers and other water users to “ensure timely compliance” with curtailment orders. Those fines could impact thousands of San Joaquin Valley irrigators who hold what are known as "junior rights" to water that normally flows down river and streams.

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Allen Matkins
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