California Environmental Law and Policy Update - August 2017 #4

by Allen Matkins

Environmental and Policy Focus

Interior Department identifies 'a handful' of national monuments to shrink in its report to Trump

San Diego Union-Tribune - Aug 24 The White House is getting ready to move on a contentious plan to shrink national monuments, which could involve the redrawing of borders at several that are home to unique geological formations, rare archaeological artifacts, and pristine landscapes. The report sent to the White House on Thursday by the Department of Interior — but not yet shared with the public — does not recommend elimination of any monuments, but it suggests the president make changes at “a handful,” according to comments Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke made to the Associated Press. California has more monuments on the review list than any other state, including San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, Giant Sequoia National Monument, Carrizo Plain National Monument, and Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument. White House officials said the report may not be released publicly for weeks, as they review and consider changes to Zinke’s plan. The plan is rooted in a provision of the 1906 Antiquities Act that the Trump administration argues limits presidents to protecting the smallest possible amount of land needed to preserve historic artifacts and ecologically significant landscapes.

California’s cap and trade program permits sell at highest price ever

ABC News - Aug 22 California raised more than $640 million this month auctioning off allowances for businesses to emit greenhouse gases as part of the state’s cap and trade program, according to data released Tuesday. The allowance sale price was nearly $1 higher than the price last quarter. Last week's auction was the state's first since lawmakers voted last month to extend the program through 2030. It requires businesses, oil refineries, and other polluters to obtain allowances (essentially, permits) to be able to emit carbon, with the overall goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in order to fight climate change. Money raised through the auctions goes to projects such as high-speed rail, public transit, and housing. Demand for the allowances rebounded in this month's auction after more than a year of flagging interest as businesses waited to see if the program would be extended and how a pending lawsuit challenging the program would be resolved.

Sacramento County and others sue to block Delta tunnels

Sacramento Bee - Aug 18 Sacramento County led a group of area governments in suing the state in an effort to block the Delta tunnels, saying the $17 billion project would harm local farmers, endangered fish, and low-income communities at the south end of the county. The lawsuits challenge the Department of Water Resources’ July decision to approve the project’s environmental impact report (EIR) under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Elected officials in the Sacramento area have formed an alliance, called the Delta Counties Coalition, dedicated to fighting the tunnels. Sacramento County filed its lawsuit Thursday, as did the Placer County Water Agency, the cities of Stockton and Antioch, and a consortium of commercial fishermen’s groups. At least 58 groups opposing the tunnels had sued the state as the legal deadline for filing a CEQA suit against the project approached Monday afternoon.

First-ever tax on California drinking water proposed for contaminated groundwater clean-up

San Jose Mercury News - Aug 23 Californians would for the first time pay a tax on drinking water under a bill being considered by the Legislature to clean up contaminated water throughout the state, particularly in rural areas plagued by agricultural runoff. Senate Bill 623, backed by an unusual alliance of agricultural industries and environmental groups, but opposed by water districts, would charge the average urban water user about 95 cents per month, according to its author, Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel). The bill creates a fund for long-term fixes and emergency drinking water replacement in areas where tap water is not safe to drink. The bill, which has been advancing through the Legislature for months, was recently just amended to include the water-user tax for residences and businesses. The Assembly Appropriations Committee must decide by September 1 whether to move the bill to the Assembly floor for a vote.

More restrictions announced for toxic pesticide

Los Angeles Times - Aug 18 California moved a step closer Friday to banning the widely used agricultural pesticide chlorpyrifos, openly departing from the Trump administration’s decision to walk back an Obama-era effort to ban the chemical. The California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) will proceed with plans to list the chemical, as a known hazard to humans, under Proposition 65. The agency also updated its scientific assessment of the chemical, which has been linked to birth defects and reproductive maladies. Growers and other users will be asked to increase the buffer zone between fields where they spray the pesticide and inhabited areas such as homes and schools, CalEPA announced Friday.

L.A. County hit with lawsuit over Newhall Ranch project

Los Angeles Daily News - Aug 21 Two environmental groups sued Los Angeles County and developer FivePoints last Thursday for moving ahead with plans to build 5,500 homes and apartments as part of the Newhall Ranch development in the Santa Clarita Valley. The County Board of Supervisors’ approval last month of two of five villages that make up the 21,500-unit development cleared the way for the start of construction on what has been called the largest subdivision of its kind in the nation. In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs challenge the Supervisors’ decision to allow the project to move forward, alleging that there remain unresolved questions about potential harm to plants and wildlife, destruction of Native American burial sites, and encroachment of the Santa Clara River.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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