California Environmental Law and Policy Update - September 2014 #2

Allen Matkins

Environmental and Policy Focus

House GOP bill would speed up environmental reviews

KPCC - Sep 9

As negotiations over compromise drought legislation flounder in Congress, House Republicans are pursuing an alternative path to expediting reservoir construction: a bill that fast tracks environmental reviews. The newest measure surfaced late last week and will be the subject of a hearing Wednesday by the Natural Resources Water and Power Subcommittee. The bill would shorten the allowable time for review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and would limit rights of members of the public to sue. According to Republican Tom McClintock, the Subcommittee chairman, the purpose of the bill is to guide the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation back to its original mission, "which is to build dams to store water in wet years so that we have plenty in dry years."

Congressman introduces bill to block Delta tunnel funding

Sacramento Business Journal - Sep 10

Representative Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, has introduced legislation in Congress to block some $4 billion in federal funding in fiscal 2015 for the $25 billion Delta tunnels project, a part of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. The plan calls for construction of two 40-foot-wide underground tunnels to move water from the Sacramento River into Central Valley farms and Southern California cities. Supporters say the project is necessary to create a reliable water supply for the state and restore the Delta’s delicate ecosystem. According to Bera, the tunnel would "hurt countless farmers and small businesses in our region." Other opponents say the project would hurt the environment and salmon populations, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has formally critiqued the environmental impact statement supporting the project and opined that the project as designed could, among other things, result in Clean Water Act violations and damage water quality to the detriment of farms and municipalities along the Delta.

Kern County approves state's biggest 'oil train' project

Fresno Bee - Aug 28

The Kern County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a controversial plan to ship millions of gallons of crude oil daily on trains through California to a refinery in Bakersfield. Under the plan, Alon USA could ship two 100-car oil trains to the refinery daily by late 2015, making it the largest “crude by rail” project in the state. Opponents criticized the environmental review supporting the project, and announced that they likely would sue to enjoin it.

Judge says suit to stop Richmond oil shipments filed too late - Sep 5

On Friday, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Peter Busch dismissed a lawsuit by environmental groups over shipments of crude oil to the Kinder Morgan Richmond rail terminal, holding that they had waited too long to challenge regulators' approval of the project without preparing an environmental impact report. The approval was accomplished in July 2013, when the Bay Area Air Quality Management District approved amendment of a Kinder Morgan permit to allow shipments of crude instead of ethanol, which had been shipped to the terminal since 2009. The environmental groups claimed they learned of the approval in March 2014 and sued promptly thereafter, but the court held that a six month limitation period barred the action. The plaintiffs indicated that they were considering an appeal.

Suit to keep Drakes Bay Oyster Co. open suffers setback - Sep 9

On Tuesday, a federal judge rejected an 11th-hour attempt to prevent the closure of Drake's Bay Oyster Company, a Marin County oyster farm. In the action, another oyster company and restaurants claimed they would lose seafood supplies and customers as a result of the closure, which occurred when the Department of the Interior denied renewal of its offshore lease. U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers held that the arguments presented in this case - that the Interior Department had violated environmental laws and ignored the public interest when it refused to renew the lease - were the same as those she had heard and rejected in March 2013 in a suit brought directly against the Department by Drakes Bay's owners.

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Allen Matkins

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