California Environmental Law and Policy Update - March 22, 2013

Environmental and Policy Focus

U.S. top court rules for timber industry over road runoff

Reuters - Mar 20

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday endorsed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's long-standing decision not to require Clean Water Act permits for stormwater that runs off logging roads. The nine-member court ruled on a 7-1 vote, with Justice Stephen Breyer recused, that the EPA's conclusion was a reasonable interpretation of the law.

U.S. Supreme Court grants review of plan by forest service to manage Sierra Nevada

Bloomberg BNA - Mar 18

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed March 18 to review a long-running battle over a 2004 management plan for 11 national forests in California's Sierra Nevada Range (U.S. Forest Service v. Pacific Rivers Council, U.S., No. 12-623, 3/18/13). The Forest Service had sought review of a February 2012 ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that was reaffirmed by the court in June. The appeals court held that the Forest Service failed to adequately evaluate the management plan's impact on fish species.

Federal Appeals Court denies Chubb's Superfund subrogation claim

Claims Journal - Mar 19

The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed last week that Chubb Custom Insurance Co., part of the Chubb Group of Insurance Cos., cannot recoup $2.4 million from its subrogation suit under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), commonly known as Superfund. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the decision from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. In that ruling, which was issued last year, the district court held that the two CERCLA sections that Chubb cited — Sections 107(a) and 112(c) — do not support the insurer’s subrogation claim to recoup from former site owners some $2.4 million the insurer paid out to the policyholder, Taube-Koret Campus for Jewish Life.

Los Angeles public utility says will be free of coal by 2025

CNBC - Mar 19

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the nation's largest municipal-owned utility, will eliminate its reliance on coal-fired power by 2025, the city's mayor said on Tuesday. The effort comes as the utility is working to comply with aggressive California laws aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

Calif. SC refuses to hear appeal of planned Walmart distribution center

Legal NewsLine - Mar 14

The California Supreme Court last week declined to hear an appeal filed by opponents of a planned Walmart distribution center in a Northern California city. The court’s denial ends a nearly four-year-long court battle over the project, a 1.2 million square-foot warehouse and distribution center on Childs Avenue in the University Industrial Park in Merced.

Related Story:
Walmart expansion in Antioch OKd

California fracking fight has $25 billion taxes at stake

Bloomberg News - Mar 17

California’s reputation for environmental protection may be jeopardized by the lure of a $25 billion tax windfall that depends on how the state permits oil companies to take advantage of vast deposits lying two miles beneath its golden hills. The Monterey Shale formation running through the center of the state may hold 15.4 billion barrels of oil -- equivalent to five years of U.S. petroleum imports, according to a state report. Releasing it requires drillers to smash the rock by forcing millions of gallons of water and chemicals underground, a technique known as fracking. While New York and others have moratoriums on fracking as potential pollution risks are assessed, California -- the fourth-largest oil-producing state -- is working on industry- backed standards that allow it. With fracking, the Monterey Shale may yield 2.8 million jobs and $24.6 billion in state and local taxes by 2020, the University of Southern California said last week.

California Governor Brown says state needs to look at "fracking"

Reuters - Mar 13

California Governor Jerry Brown, a prominent environmentalist, said on Wednesday the state should consider the use of "fracking" technology to develop its massive shale oil reserves and reduce reliance on imported oil.

Support grows for modifying CEQA

Sacramento CBS Local - Mar 16

California’s four-decade-old environmental protection law has been credited with saving habitat, reducing air pollution and giving residents a voice against deep-pocketed developers. Yet this year, the California Environmental Quality Act has become a target for sweeping changes in the Legislature. Democrats who typically align with environmental groups are taking seriously the concerns that have long been raised by business leaders.

EPA threatens to sue fuel-storage facility in San Pedro

Los Angeles Times - Mar 17

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has notified the owners of a 40-year-old San Pedro tank farm, which has up to 25 million gallons of highly flammable butane, that it is prepared to sue to ensure compliance with federal law.