California Environmental Law and Policy Update - September 27, 2013

by Allen Matkins

Environmental and Policy Focus

Governor Brown signs bill to regulate hydraulic fracturing in California

Reuters - Sep 20

California's first legislatively-mandated regulations on hydraulic fracturing and related oil production practices will go into effect next year under S.B. 4, a bill signed into law on Friday by Governor Jerry Brown. Hydraulic fracturing is the practice of injecting water, sand and chemicals underground to crack rock formations and free up oil and natural gas. The technology makes it possible for oil companies to unlock California's vast Monterey Shale deposit, estimated to hold 15.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil. The California law would require oil companies to obtain permits for hydraulic fracturing as well as acidizing, which relies on hydrofluoric acid and other chemicals to dissolve shale rock. It would also require notification of neighbors, public disclosure of the chemicals used, as well as groundwater and air quality monitoring and an independent scientific study.

Appellate court upholds California’s low carbon fuel standard

CourtHouse News - Sep 19

California's tough emissions standards for fuel producers do not discriminate against out-of-state companies, the 9th Circuit ruled last week. As part of its ongoing efforts to combat global warming, California established the Low Carbon Fuel Standard to regulate the "carbon intensity" of all transportation fuel used in the state, with the goal of returning 1990-level emissions by 2020. To determine the intensity of a particular fuel, such as crude oil or ethanol, the program uses a "life-cycle analysis" that measures not just pollution from a vehicle, but the total emissions created from producing, refining and moving the fuel to California. The American Fuels & Petrochemical Manufacturers Association and various producers of ethanol and oil-based fuel challenged the program in several federal lawsuits that were consolidated for appeal.

EPA rules on emissions at existing coal plants might give states leeway

New York Times - Sep 23

Four years ago, Congress rejected the idea of a cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by putting a price on them. But the plan announced by the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday to regulate emissions from existing coal-fired power plants could foster creation of such a system, at least on a regional basis, and a push for renewable energy and energy efficiency in states that so far have embraced neither. It could also leave the business of carbon regulation in the hands of states that do not recognize climate change as a pressing issue. The EPA proposed regulations on Friday for emission limits on new coal-fired power plants, rules that the agency would create and enforce directly. But regulations it plans to propose at a later date to regulate emissions from existing coal plants would be implemented through a different section of the Clean Air Act, which delegates enforcement to the states. Enforcement by the states could produce anomalous results, according to experts.

California lead-paint trial winds to a close

San Jose Mercury News - Sep 23

Attorneys representing ten cities and counties in California made their final arguments on Monday to a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge, asking the court to hold the paint industry liable for a "public nuisance" by allegedly threatening children's health by marketing toxic lead-based paint for use in tens of thousands of homes before the product was banned in 1978. Lawyers for the industry responded by characterizing the attack as a misguided smear campaign, arguing that the public health threat from lead paint was eliminated years ago. Thus ended a trial that began in July in a long-running legal battle over the paint industry's responsibility for the use of lead-based paint in California residences. A decision is expected in the coming weeks or months.

Rite Aid fined $12.3 million for illegal dumping

CourtHouse News - Sep 26

Rite Aid will pay $12.3 million to settle claims that 600 of its California stores illegally dumped pesticides, bleach, paint, aerosols, solvents, pharmaceuticals and other waste into landfills. Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey said the settlement resulted from state prosecutors' efforts in Los Angeles, San Joaquin and Riverside counties.


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Allen Matkins

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