California Environmental Law & Policy Update - February 2018 #2

by Allen Matkins
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Cost of officially downsized Delta tunnel plan still exceeds currently pledged funds

Sacramento Bee - Feb 9 The troubled Delta tunnels project was officially downsized Wednesday, as Governor Brown’s administration announced it would attempt to build a single tunnel in its effort to re-engineer California’s elaborate water-delivery system. Unable to secure enough money from water agencies for the original twin tunnels concept, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) said it would now try to build the project in phases: one tunnel now and a second tunnel years down the road. Downsizing the project, however, does not solve the financial questions looming over the project, officially known as California WaterFix. A letter to water agencies from DWR Director Karla Nemeth says the first tunnel would cost $10.7 billion, less than the $16.3 billion price tag for building two tunnels, but much more than the $6 - $6.5 billion pledged so far to the project by participating south-of-Delta water agencies.

Attorneys general sue Trump administration over suspension of Waters of the United States rule

The Washington Post - Feb 9 State attorneys general from 11 states, including California, on Tuesday sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) in New York federal court over the Trump administration's decision to delay for two years implementation of the 2015 Obama-era regulation, known as the “Waters of the United States rule.” The rule would have expanded the number of wetlands and small waterways protected by the Clean Water Act. In the lawsuit, the attorneys general allege that EPA and the Corps lack the legal authority to delay implementation of a regulation that “rests on a massive factual record,” including more than 1 million comments as well as scientific studies demonstrating how waters are connected by tributaries, streams, and wetlands.

California officials vow to undermine Trump administration's offshore drilling plan

Reuters - Feb 9 California will deny pipeline permits for transporting oil from new leases off the Pacific Coast, officials told Reuters on Wednesday, a move meant to hobble the Trump administration’s effort to expand drilling in U.S. federal waters. The Interior Department last month announced its proposal to open nearly all U.S. offshore waters to oil and gas drilling, sparking protests from coastal states, environmentalists, and the tourism industry. “I am resolved that not a single drop from Trump’s new oil plan ever makes landfall in California,” Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, chair of the State Lands Commission and a Democratic candidate for governor, said in an emailed statement. Offshore drilling has been restricted in California since a 1969 oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara.

California ponders public costs of decommissioning offshore oil rigs

San Francisco Chronicle - Feb 9 The California State Lands Commission is asking for $50.5 million in public funds to close oil wells at Rincon Island in Ventura County, and another $58 million to shutter the rig known as Platform Holly in Santa Barbara County. The Rincon Island wells are in a state of disrepair since their owner declared bankruptcy after being charged with numerous safety violations. Platform Holly has been idle since a pipeline connected to the platform ruptured and was shut down in 2015, leading the company leasing the platform also to declare bankruptcy. The Southern California coast is dotted with 31 oil platforms and artificial islands, some of which date to the 1950s and are in poor condition. The state expects many to be decommissioned in the coming decades as they reach the end of their productive lives. When they enter into leases with the state to drill, oil companies accept responsibility to plug wells and return the ocean to its natural state when production ends, but when those companies go bankrupt, taxpayers are asked to foot the bill.

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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