California Environmental Law and Policy Update - August 2014 #5


Environmental and Policy Focus

The California Supreme Court further limits the scope of CEQA review for voter-sponsored initiatives

Allen Matkins - Aug 11

Voter-driven initiatives meeting California Elections Code requirements may be adopted directly by local governments without first conducting a full review under the California Environmental Quality Act ("CEQA"), according to a unanimous decision issued on August 7, 2014, by the California Supreme Court. The decision in Tuolumne Jobs & Small Business Alliance v. Superior Court, No. S207173, resolves a split of opinion in the appellate courts, and establishes a further limitation on the application of CEQA review to the voter-sponsored initiative process.

California may waive environmental rules for Tesla battery factory

Los Angeles Times - Aug 12

The state would exempt Tesla Motors Inc. from some of its toughest environmental regulations as part of an incentive package being discussed with the automaker to build a massive battery factory in California, Senator Ted Gaines said. The plan being negotiated in the office of Governor Jerry Brown could grant the automaker waivers for significant portions of CEQA, Gaines said. The proposal is alarming some environmentalists.

Ninth Circuit rejects permit for San Joaquin Valley power plant

Courthouse News - Aug 12

Federal regulators lacked "unbounded discretion" to waive new air-quality rules for a proposed natural gas-fired power plant in California's San Joaquin Valley, the 9th Circuit ruled Tuesday. In 2011, the EPA issued Avenal Power Center a permit to build a 600-megawatt facility near the largely agricultural communities of Avenal, Huron, and Kettleman City, California. The terms of the permit were based upon regulations that had been superseded by more stringent standards by the time the permit was issued. Complicating the case was the fact that EPA had missed a one-year deadline to either grant or deny the permit. Had EPA complied with the one-year deadline, the former, less stringent rules would have applied to the project. Avenal wanted the agency to grandfather the permit under the old guidelines, and EPA agreed. Environmental groups challenging that decision persuaded the appellate court to conclude that the "Clean Air Act unambiguously requires Avenal Power to demonstrate that the Avenal Energy Project complies with the regulations in effect at the time the permit is issued."

Water bond headed to voters

Sacramento Bee - Aug 13

California voters will be asked to authorize $7.5 billion to bolster the state’s water supply, infrastructure and ecosystems in November, as lawmakers and Governor Jerry Brown on Wednesday struck a long-sought deal to move a new water bond to the ballot. The extraordinary drought that has strained California’s water supply spurred a concerted push for a new water bond. Lawmakers moved to replace an $11.1 billion bond previously slated for the ballot, convinced that voters would reject it.

California expands lead soil testing area near Exide plant in Vernon

Los Angeles Times - Aug 12

State regulators have greatly expanded the area of homes, schools and parks that will be tested for lead-tainted soil near a troubled battery recycling plant in Vernon, about five miles from downtown Los Angeles. California toxic waste regulators blame air pollution from the Exide Technologies plant for the elevated levels of lead detected last fall at 39 homes and a preschool in Maywood and Boyle Heights, prompting officials to issue health warnings for pregnant women and children, and to require additional testing. The expanded test area will include at least 144 homes in a two-square mile area of southeast Los Angeles County.

California's high-speed rail gets approval for 114-mile stretch

Reuters - Aug 12

California's high-speed passenger rail project won approval from federal officials at the Surface Transportation Board on Tuesday to construct a 114-mile section from Fresno to Bakersfield. The line will be the second section of a larger statewide high-speed rail line plan, which runs 500 miles from San Francisco to the Los Angeles basin. The Central Valley stretch will be subject to environmental considerations, noted the Surface Transportation Board, which regulates railroad and transportation matters.

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