California Environmental Law and Policy Update - April 25, 2013

by Allen Matkins

Environmental and Policy Focus

Bills to create CEQA courts hinge on funding question

Law360 (Subscription Required) - Apr 18

California lawmakers are considering legislation that would assign specialized judges to hear California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) cases, in a move some attorneys say would speed the resolution of real estate development fights, but the fate of the bills may turn on whether lawmakers can scrape together funds for the state’s cash-strapped judicial branch to create these specialty courts. In a 4-3 vote, the state Senate Judiciary Committee passed S.B. 123, which would create environmental and land use divisions in at least 12 superior courts across the state — specifically, at least two within each of the state’s six appellate districts.

California to pay $5 million to resolve high-speed rail case

Bloomberg News - Apr 18

The California High-Speed Rail Authority will provide $4 million for an agriculture preservation fund to resolve a challenge under CEQA to part of its $86 billion bullet train project. The accord resolves a lawsuit challenging the agency’s approval of environmental impact reports for a section of the planned railway that will cut though farmland in two counties of central California. The authority will also pay about $1 million in attorneys' fees to county farm bureaus and other groups that sued, according to documents filed in state court in Sacramento.

California failed to spend $455M on water projects, EPA says

Fox News - Apr 22

California has failed to spend $455 million of federal money meant to improve water infrastructure in the state, while thousands of people rely on groundwater laced with nitrates and other contaminants, federal regulators said Friday. The state has received more than $1.5 billion for its Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund over the past 15 years, but has failed to spend a large part of it in a timely manner, according to a noncompliance letter from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the California Department of Public Health. The amount is the program's largest unspent sum in the nation, the EPA said.

California carbon credits will soon be good in Quebec

Rewire - Apr 22

The California Air Resources Board announced Friday that greenhouse gas emission allowances acquired as part of California's cap and trade auction program can soon be traded along with those issued under a similar program in the Canadian province of Quebec. As of January 1, 2014, the carbon emissions markets in California and Quebec will essentially merge; though each government will retain control over its program, the two will share a compliance protocol, an online auction platform, and administrative management by contractor WCI, Inc. Allowances purchased in California will be usable to offset greenhouse gas emissions in Quebec, and vice versa.

FDA must set new deadline to put delayed food safety reforms in place

San Francisco Chronicle - Apr 23

A federal judge is siding with two California advocacy groups in ruling that the Food and Drug Administration must set a new timetable to implement delayed food safety reforms.

States threaten to sue EPA over failure to finalize power plant emissions rules

The Huffington Post - Apr 18

Ten states have threatened to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which missed an April 13 deadline to finalize rules on new power plant emissions, unless it issues guidelines promptly. New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued a statement on Wednesday criticizing the agency for failing to complete its New Source Performance Standards to curb greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants. The attorneys general of nine other states, the District of Columbia and New York City joined Schneiderman in his threat to sue and gave the EPA 60 days to respond. The EPA failed to meet an April 13 deadline to finalize the rule, which would have required any new power plant being built to emit no more than 1,000 lbs of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour, the rate of an efficient natural gas plant. Most analysts said the standard would effectively rule out the construction of new coal power plants unless they installed carbon capture and storage technology, which has not yet been developed on a commercial scale.


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Allen Matkins

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