$4.2 million fine upheld for California homeowner’s blocking of beach access
The Mercury News – April 6
A federal appeals court on Monday upheld a $4.2 million fine against a Malibu homeowner for blocking beach access. The house in question, on the Pacific Coast Highway, was built in the early 1980s under a permit that required a five-foot-wide public-access easement. The original owner built a deck and stairway over the easement and installed a gate that blocked public access to the beach. Despite numerous requests from the California Coastal Commission, the subsequent owners refused to remove the gate, which was already in place when they purchased the home in 2002. In a 2016 hearing, the commission imposed the $4.185 million fine, half the allowable maximum, which the owners then challenged as unconstitutional.
Federal court invalidates two clean air rules adopted during Trump administration
Engineering News-Record – April 6
A federal appeals court on Monday invalidated two Clean Air Act rules set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Trump administration, including a rule that delayed until 2021 the mandate for states to have a plan to implement landfill emissions standards by November 2017 or elect to be subject to a federal plan. California and eight other states filed a lawsuit opposing the delay. In a separate action, the D.C. appeals court vacated a last-minute Trump administration rule published on January 19, 2021, which exempted stationary sources of air pollution from regulation unless they emitted 3% or more of the total amount of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
After court ruling, Water Board updates California’s version of WOTUS
Agri-Pulse – April 7
The State Water Board (Board) on Tuesday approved an update to dredge and fill procedures for wetlands considered “waters of the state.” According to Board staff, the new resolution reflects a recent court decision that the Board cannot centralize all of its water plans and policies under one regulatory umbrella. For water agencies, however, the resolution raised significant concerns, including potential conflicts with regulations that directly impact agriculture. The 2019 wetlands definition and procedures were seen as a controversial move to enact new environmental protections as the Trump administration was easing regulations related the “waters of the U.S.”
Citing high wildfire risk, judge halts construction of Tejon Ranch development
Los Angeles Times – April 8
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff this week rejected Los Angeles County’s approval of the environmental impact report for the proposed Tejon Ranch project due to concerns about wildfire risk and additional greenhouse gases generated by vehicles, effectively blocking construction. The environmental analysis of the proposed project—including 19,300 homes on 6,700 acres bordering Kern County—was certified two years ago by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Environmental groups hailed this week’s decision as a long-awaited victory, but the project’s developer said it would merely postpone construction.
Express Metals Recycling ordered to stop releasing hazardous waste
Los Angeles Daily News – April 8
The California Department of Toxic Substances Control on March 29 filed a civil complaint asking a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge to order Express Metals Recycling in Sun Valley to stop violating hazardous waste laws. The department is also seeking up to $25,000 in penalties per violation. The facility, which is operated by CSC Auto Salvage and Dismantling Inc., sorts and stockpiles metal waste for shipment to buyers. DTSC took soil samples at the site and allegedly found elevated levels of toxic contaminants — including cadmium, lead, mercury, and zinc — which can have harmful effects on people, particularly children.
Sunnyvale fined $187,000 after spilling nearly 300,000 gallons of wastewater into San Francisco Bay
East Bay Times – April 6
State water pollution officials have imposed a $187,000 penalty on the city of Sunnyvale after the city’s wastewater treatment plant spilled more than a quarter million gallons of partially treated sewage into San Francisco Bay last summer. The spill occurred on July 29 when a 36-inch welded steel pipeline ruptured, releasing 292,600 gallons — the equivalent of about 12 backyard swimming pools — of partially treated sewage that had not been disinfected into channels that flow into the bay near Moffett Field.