California Environmental Law and Policy Update - January 17, 2014


Environmental and Policy Focus

Judge recommends approval of California natural gas plant

UT San Diego - Jan 7

An administrative law judge has urged the California Public Utilities Commission to authorize construction of the Pio Pico Energy Center, a new natural gas power plant at Otay Mesa, just south of San Diego. Environmental groups oppose the project because they say it would impede efforts to meet energy goals through conservation, rooftop solar and energy efficiency programs, which are already paid for by utility customers. San Diego Gas & Electric asserts that the natural gas power plants will be needed to offset solar and wind energy generation that varies with the weather. Utilities are required to generate one-third of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

Air quality officials OK strict new rules for battery plant emissions

Los Angeles Times - Jan 10

Air quality officials voted unanimously to adopt strict new rules on emissions of arsenic, benzene and other toxic chemicals from lead-acid battery facilities. The rules, which will go into effect next month, apply to Exide Technologies in Vernon and Quemetco in the City of Industry — the only two battery recyclers west of the Rocky Mountains.

Drake's Bay Oyster Co.'s options are running out

SF Gate - Jan 14

A federal appeals court took a step toward closing a Marin County oyster farm at the center of a heated environmental and political controversy by reaffirming its ruling that the federal government legally refused to renew the company's lease in waters designated by Congress as a wilderness area. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco denied Drakes Bay Oyster Co.'s request for a rehearing by a larger panel of judges after a 2-1 ruling last September that upheld the Obama administration's decision to let the company's lease at the Point Reyes National Seashore expire in November 2012.

Lawsuit challenges Coastal Commission’s decision on Del Mar Fairgrounds

Del Mar Times - Jan 15

A lawsuit filed by an environmental group could overturn a deal struck by the California Coastal Commission that cleared the way for a multi-million-dollar habitat restoration project at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. The Commission reached the agreement in 2012 with the 22nd District Agricultural Association (DAA), which runs the state-owned fairgrounds, and then approved permits for the work in November. Under the agreement, the 22nd DAA will spend more than $5 million to restore a 9.5-acre dirt lot along the San Dieguito River to wetlands habitat. In return, it was to be allowed to continue using its east overflow lot along Interstate 5 – which also is unpaved — for parking, seasonal pumpkin and Christmas tree sales, and other activities. But at hearings in October and November, environmental groups, including the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority, argued that a portion of the east overflow lot should also be preserved for future habitat restoration because a study identified it as a wetland area.

Lawsuit asserts Lake Tahoe fireworks displays violate Clean Water Act

Sacramento CBS Local - Jan 12

A federal lawsuit accusing the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority of polluting the alpine lake with debris from Fourth of July and Labor Day fireworks says the tourism agency and its contractor should be subject to up to $75 million in fines for failing to obtain permits under the federal Clean Water Act for discharges to the lake resulting from the fireworks displays. Joseph and Joan Truxler of Zephyr Cove, Nev., on the lake’s southeast shore, insist their suit is not intended to halt the spectacular, boat-launched displays, but to instead protect Lake Tahoe from the debris and chemical pollutants generated by these fireworks activities.

Vineyard CEQA suit looms large

North Bay Business Journal - Jan 13

A group is hoping to slow a vineyard expansion project at Paul Hobbs Winery near Sebastopol by arguing that the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) should apply, a position that many in the wine industry believe could lead to unintended consequences by usurping what they say is an important local provision. The winery asserts that the permit to authorize the expansion was properly issued to it by the Sonoma County Agricultural Commission for the 45-acre expansion under the Sonoma County Grading, Drainage and Vineyard and Orchard Site Development Ordinance ("VESCO"), which is exempt from CEQA.


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