Federal court rejects attempt to toss endangered species lawsuit
The Hill – May 19
On Monday, Judge Jon Tigar, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, denied the federal government’s motion to dismiss a complaint filed by California and 16 other states, and the City of New York, challenging a Trump administration rule, adopted last August, that would roll back endangered species protections. The August rule would allow economic factors to be weighed before adding a species to the endangered list, and limit the way in which considerations such as climate change can be considered in listing decisions. The rule would also weaken protections for threatened species that are at risk of becoming endangered. The motion before the court did not address the merits of the rule, but instead raised threshold procedural questions, such as whether the plaintiff states and city had alleged a sufficient injury from the rule to have “standing” to sue. Judge Tigar ruled that the plaintiffs had made a sufficient case that they would be injured by the rule, thereby allowing the litigation to proceed.
EPA’s targeting of San Francisco pollution may bring investigation
San Francisco Chronicle – May 19
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Inspector General Sean O’Donnell may investigate federal enforcement of water policy in California this fall after Democratic lawmakers accused the EPA of “irregular” interference targeting San Francisco, according to a letter sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The legislators asked for a review of the EPA’s decision to issue a notice of violation to San Francisco for allegedly discharging waste into the bay and ocean. The notice of violation came after President Trump claimed that waste linked to San Francisco’s homeless population was washing into storm drains and into the ocean. In his letter to Pelosi, O’Donnell, a Trump appointee, said his office was considering a project to “review aspects of the EPA’s oversight of state water enforcement that could include California, as well as other states” in fiscal year 2021, which starts this October.
California's coronavirus-driven budget cuts threaten environmental spending
The San Diego Union-Tribune – May 15
California Governor Gavin Newsom’s proposed budget cuts include canceling billions of dollars in climate change spending. In January, Newsom had proposed a $12 billion “climate budget” that, over the next five years, would offer incentives for companies to convert to electric vehicles, give low-interest loans to businesses to clean up their practices, and spend billions on projects preparing for floods, droughts, and wildfires. Last Thursday, however, the Governor proposed eliminating most of the foundation for those programs in order to help balance a budget that will have an estimated $54.3 billion deficit due to the economic fallout of COVID-19. The biggest cut was scrapping a proposal to borrow $4.75 billion to prepare the state for climate-change disasters like sea level rise and wildfires.
Weasel-like mammal in southern Sierra Nevada declared endangered
Associated Press – May 20
Reversing course again in a 30-year-old dispute over protection of a weasel-like mammal that eats porcupines, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is granting Endangered Species Act protection to the Pacific fisher population in the southern Sierra Nevada, but denying protection for the species resident elsewhere in California and Oregon. USFWS says the southernmost population of 500 or fewer from Yosemite National Park to the mountains northeast of Los Angeles “is currently in danger of extinction.” The government published its final rule last week after a federal judge overturned the service’s most recent refusal to list the species in 2018. With as few as 100 remaining in the south, the Pacific fisher are threatened most by habitat loss due to logging, wildfires, climate change and rat poison used as pesticides at illegal marijuana farms, the agency said.
DOE reaches deal with state to demolish 10 buildings at Santa Susana site
Ventura County Star – May 20
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced this Wednesday that it has reached an agreement with the state to demolish 10 of its 18 remaining buildings at the contaminated Santa Susana Field Laboratory outside Simi Valley as part of the much-delayed cleanup of the site. The demolished buildings' above-ground debris will be taken out of state to a low-level radioactive waste facility for disposal, state officials said. California Environmental Protection Secretary Jared Blumenfeld said the consent order agreement between DOE and the California Department of Toxic Substances Control "is a significant step forward in the cleanup of this important site."