California Environmental Law and Policy Update - May 2014

by Allen Matkins

Environmental and Policy Focus

U.S. officials cut estimate of recoverable Monterey Shale oil by 96%

Los Angeles Times - May 23

Federal energy authorities have slashed by 96 percent the estimated amount of recoverable oil buried in California's vast Monterey Shale deposits, deflating its potential as a national "black gold mine" of petroleum. Just 600 million barrels of oil can be extracted with existing technology, far below the 13.7 billion barrels once thought recoverable from the jumbled layers of subterranean rock spread across much of Central California, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said. The new estimate, expected to be released publicly next month, is a blow to the nation's oil future and to projections that an oil boom would bring as many as 2.8 million new jobs to California and boost tax revenue by $24.6 billion annually.

California Air Resources Board approves new roadmap for carbon reductions

Logistics Online - May 22

On May 22, the California Air Resources Board unanimously approved a sweeping new roadmap to achieve the state’s long-term carbon-reduction goals that serves as a national — and international — model for combating climate change. The update to the state’s climate action plan calls for strategies that would accelerate reductions in carbon emissions and strengthen sectors including agriculture, water, and forestry. It also specifically takes aim at the most powerful global-warming pollutants such as methane and black carbon.

New EPA standards target oil refineries' emissions

Los Angeles Times - May 15

Oil refineries would be required to cut emissions and begin monitoring levels of toxic air pollutants at their fence lines with neighboring communities under new standards proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The rules would require the nation's 150 major oil refineries to upgrade pollution controls for storage tanks and reduce emissions from flares, as well as meet other requirements to reduce emissions that can cause health problems and contribute to smog. The rules would also for the first time require refineries to monitor and publicly report fence-line levels of benzene, a carcinogen they release into the air.

Lawsuit challenges Sacramento Kings arena plan over environmental review

Sacramento Business Journal - May 21

Opponents of the downtown Sacramento arena are taking the issue back to court, filing a suit over the project’s environmental review a day after the Sacramento City Council approved the plan, alleging that traffic and noise, in particular, weren’t adequately considered in the environmental impact report for the project, among other claims. Twelve people are listed as plaintiffs in the suit, including Delphine Cathcart, the wife of James Cathcart, who headed a group that unsuccessfully tried to put the arena plan before voters earlier this year.

Environmental groups urge 9th Circuit to enjoin highway 47 expressway project

Courthouse News - May 15

Environmentalists urged the 9th Circuit to enjoin a $687 million diesel-truck project that links two expressways with the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. California and the federal government contend that the project will improve the flow of traffic to and from the ports and reduce congestion and emissions on expressways like Interstate 405. Meanwhile, the Natural Resources Defense Council and other groups say that the project will put more diesel-particulate matter or soot in surrounding neighborhoods, increasing the risk of cancer and respiratory illnesses. Environmentalists are seeking a reversal of the U.S. District Court's ruling from two years ago in favor of the project, finding that California and the federal government had complied with the Clean Air Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act.

House approves $12 billion-plus water bill

Sacramento Bee - May 20

The House passed a $12 billion-plus bipartisan measure authorizing 34 water projects, ranging from flood protection in California and North Dakota to deepening the Port of Savannah and widening a Texas-Louisiana waterway that services the oil industry. The Water Resources Reform and Development Act passed Tuesday on a 412-4 vote after a month of negotiations. The Senate could vote on the bill before the end of the week, sending it to President Barack Obama for his signature. In California, the bill allows as much as $760 million in federal spending for a project that would strengthen levees of the Natomas Basin in the Sacramento area, which could protect more than 100,000 residents.

9th Circuit rejects Imperial County challenge to Colorado River water transfers

Courthouse News - May 19

On Monday the 9th Circuit rejected claims by Imperial County and Imperial County air quality regulators that federal agencies violated NEPA and the Clean Air Act in approving an agreement facilitating transfers of Colorado River water from the Imperial Valley to coastal counties. The lower court had ruled in favor of the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, and four intervening water agencies mainly on grounds that the County and its Air Pollution Control District lacked standing to challenge the federal approvals. The 9th Circuit rejected this ruling and determined that the County and the District had standing to sue, but affirmed the judgment in favor of the federal agencies and water agencies on the merits.



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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