California Environmental Law and Policy Update - May 9, 2013

Environmental and Policy Focus

Gov. Brown joins move to rewrite California's Prop. 65

The Sacramento Bee - May 7

Gov. Jerry Brown is throwing his weight behind a push to update Proposition 65, California's defense against exposure to toxic chemicals. Passed by voters in 1986, Proposition 65 sought to shield the state's water supply from contamination and to protect consumers by requiring companies to post clear warnings about harmful chemicals in products. The law has been "a resounding success" as a consumer safeguard, California Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Matthew Rodriquez said. But it is time to amend the law, he said, citing a proliferation of profit-seeking lawsuits and scientific strides that render obsolete some of the standards set 27 years ago.

Bill to change California's environmental review law advances

The Sacramento Bee - May 1

A bill that would make changes to California's landmark environmental review law moved forward in the state Senate Wednesday, as Democrats rejected a GOP-backed proposal as "too broad and comprehensive a change." Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg defended his Senate Bill 731, which passed the Senate Environmental Quality Committee Wednesday, as an attempt to cut down on project delays the business community has long blamed on the California Environmental Quality Act without undermining the environmental protections the 1970 law provides. He acknowledged that the current bill is a work in progress.

BLM postpones oil, gas lease auctions in Calif.

Yahoo U.S. News - May 7

Federal land managers have postponed all oil and gas lease auctions in California until October, citing budget problems and low staffing as well as the toll of environmental litigation. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management recently announced it would put off an auction planned for later this month for leases to drill almost 1,300 acres of prime public lands near the Monterey Shale, home to one of the largest deposits of shale oil in the nation. Another auction for about 2,000 acres that had been in the works in Colusa County, about 75 miles northwest of Sacramento, also was put on hold until the end of the fiscal year.

In California, cargo ships must plug in to power up to reduce emissions starting in 2014

The Huffington Post - May 7

In less than a year, many of the towering cargo ships loading and unloading goods at California ports won't just tie up at dock — they'll also plug in. In January, the state will become the first government body in the world to require container fleets docking at its major ports to shut off their diesel engines and use electricity for 50 per cent of their visits — or face crippling fines. The requirements also include slashing fleet emissions by half, and those requirements rise to 80 per cent in 2020.

San Francisco accepts defeat in cell phone radiation case

Consumer Affairs - May 6

Back in August 2011, San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee signed an ordinance aimed at protecting the consumer’s right to know about the potential risks of cell phone radiation. Proclaimed the first of its kind nationwide, the ordinance required retail shops to display posters and distribute fact sheets to inform cell phone buyers about cell phone radiation and how to reduce their exposure to those emissions. That didn't happen. Instead the cell phone industry's trade association, the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, sued the city, claiming the ordinance violated retailers' free speech rights. The legal fight dragged on ended officially on May 7, when the San Francisco Board of Supervisors accepts a settlement that lets it off the hook for $500,000 in legal fees the CTIA ran up litigating the suit.

Los Angeles fails with dust pollution claims

Courthouse News - May 6

California and federal agencies should not face claims over their demand for Los Angeles to improve air quality at Owens Lake, a federal judge ruled. In 2011, the Great Basin Air Pollution Control District ordered the city of Los Angeles to improve reduction efforts against dust storms and air pollution in the arid Owens Lake bed, or playa. The city and its Department of Water and Power responded in October 2012 with a federal complaint that said the orders were illegal and placed an unreasonable burden on its taxpayers.