California Environmental Law & Policy Update - January 2017 #4

Allen Matkins

Environmental and Policy Focus

As Trump enters White House, California renews climate change fight

Reuters - Jan 20 California released new measures to fight climate change within minutes of Donald Trump being sworn in as U.S. president last Friday, signaling the state's commitment to be the nation's environmental steward under an administration that has questioned the reality of global warming. The state’s plan outlines how it will achieve its goal of cutting output of heat-trapping greenhouse gases 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. The plan drew battle lines for an expected clash with President Trump over climate change, including a fight over the state's decades-old authority to set air quality standards and emissions limits that are more stringent than those in many other parts of the U.S. Following the inauguration, the Trump Administration removed all mention of climate change from the White House website and said it would withdraw the Obama Administration's Climate Action Plan, which seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and encourage increased use of cleaner renewable fuels.

EPA science under scrutiny by Trump political staff

New York Times - Jan 25 The Trump administration is scrutinizing studies and data published by scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), while new work is under a "temporary hold" before it can be released. The communications director for President Donald Trump's transition team at EPA, Doug Ericksen, said Wednesday that the review extends to all existing content on the federal agency's website, including details of scientific evidence showing that the Earth's climate is warming and man-made carbon emissions are to blame. Press outlets reported earlier this week that emails sent internally to EPA staff mandated a temporary blackout on media releases and social media activity, as well as a freeze on contract approvals and grant awards. Ericksen said that the agency was preparing to greenlight nearly all of the $3.9 billion in pending contracts that were under review. He said he could not provide details about roughly $100 million in distributions that will remain frozen. The agency also took a potential first step Tuesday toward eliminating environmental rules completed as President Barack Obama's term wound down, identifying at least 30 rules in the Federal Register for delayed implementation, including updated pollution rulings for several states, renewable fuel standards, and limits on the amount of formaldehyde that can leach from wood products.

California cities would have to make it easier to build houses under proposed legislation

Los Angeles Times - Jan 23 California cities that are falling behind on housing production goals set by the state would be forced to remove some of their development restrictions under legislation proposed by State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). On Monday morning, Sen. Wiener released new details of a bill, SB 35, that would require cities to approve new housing in areas already zoned for high-density development, provided that developers set aside some units for low-income residents. The bill’s provisions would only apply in cities where growth isn’t keeping pace with housing production targets developed by the state every eight years. These targets are designed to ensure that California has sufficient housing for its growing population to live affordably. Wiener’s bill is a narrower measure than a failed effort proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year, which also took aim at local development rules.

San Luis Reservoir could fill for first time in six years

Fresno Bee - Jan 24 San Luis Reservoir in Merced County is on its way to filling for the first time since 2011 as rain and snow bring the state additional relief from a punishing drought. The reservoir can hold about 2 million acre-feet of water, and the state claims a little more than half of the space. San Luis Reservoir is a key tool in the state’s water management system. It is used by both the state and federal governments to hold water for urban and agricultural use. As of Tuesday, the state had filled about 90 percent of its share, and the federal government had filled about 64 percent of its share. Statewide, a series of storms over the past two weeks has allowed water managers to fill major reservoirs to above-normal levels for this time of year. 

Otay Mesa airport overhaul to address climate change, protect burrowing owls

San Diego Union-Tribune - Jan 23 A billion-dollar project to develop the Brown Field Municipal Airport in Otay Mesa will include $2.5 million in initiatives to help offset greenhouse gas emissions and protect San Diego’s burrowing owl population, under a legal settlement between developer Metropolitan Airpark LLC and environmental groups. After the city approved the project in 2013, environmental groups filed a lawsuit challenging the environmental review process. A San Diego Superior Court judge rejected the claim, finding no significant impact on owls or greenhouse gases. While that ruling was on appeal, however, the California Supreme Court ruled in another case that greenhouse gas emissions hadn’t been properly accounted for in the environmental review of the Newhall Ranch planned community north of Los Angeles. The ruling, which sent a strong message statewide that project greenhouse gas emissions must be accounted for and mitigated under the California Environmental Quality Act, led to the inclusion of emissions mitigation in the settlement of the dispute over the Otay Mesa airport project.


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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