California and five major automakers finalize deal on vehicle emissions standards
The New York Times – August 17
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) this Monday finalized “Settlement Agreements” with five of the world’s largest automakers, Ford, Honda, BMW, Volkswagen, and Volvo, that formalize the automakers’ agreements to comply with CARB’s fuel efficiency standards that were established to accelerate reductions of greenhouse gas emissions in California. Under the agreements, the automakers, which together make up about 30 percent of the U.S. auto market, will be required to increase their average fuel economy from about 38 miles per gallon (mpg) today to about 51 mpg by 2026 – a significantly more stringent standard than the 40 mpg required under the revised federal rule adopted earlier this year by the Trump Administration. The impact of the deals could be substantial, as 13 other states follow California’s standards and have announced that they too will enforce the higher standards in these agreements. The fate of the agreed standards is expected to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in a pending multistate lawsuit that seeks to nullify the federal rule or at least to retain states’ authority to set stricter standards.
14 states sue over new liquid natural gas transportation rule
The Hill – August 18
Fourteen states, including California, and Washington, D.C., on Tuesday sued the federal government over a new rule that would allow for the transportation of liquefied natural gas by rail, citing health and safety risks. The rule, finalized this year by the Transportation Department and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), would allow for the fuel to be transported on rail tank cars. In a joint statement, the attorneys general bringing the suit said they plan to argue that the PHMSA failed to evaluate the rule’s environmental impacts and included inadequate safety requirements.
Renewable energy corporations fight endangered species status for Joshua trees
Los Angeles Times – August 18
Renewable energy corporations have launched an eleventh-hour campaign to derail a petition seeking endangered species protection for Joshua trees, saying it could hinder development of the solar and wind power projects California needs to wean itself off fossil fuels. The state Fish and Game Commission is expected to vote on whether to accept the petition, which was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity on August 20. Approval has been recommended by state biologists. A final decision by the five-member state panel is expected next year. If the trees are listed, the law requires state wildlife managers to devise a recovery plan, which could limit development across thousands of acres of southeastern California’s sunniest real estate.
State commission backs proposal to designate Santa Susana Field Lab a Native American cultural district
Ventura County Star – August 17
The State Historical Resources Commission last Friday backed a NASA proposal to designate the Santa Susana Field Laboratory site as a Native American cultural district. The site, located near Simi Valley, experienced a partial nuclear meltdown in 1959 when it was the Rocketdyne/Atomics International rocket engine test and nuclear facility. NASA’s proposal received the support of three Native American tribes that consider the site to be sacred. NASA's portion of the site includes the Burro Flats Painted Cave, a prehistoric Native American area that is already listed in the National Register of Historic Places and the California Register of Historical Resources. In 2010, NASA signed a legally binding agreement with the state to clean up its portion of the site, but that agreement exempts land containing Native American artifacts from cleanup activities. Citing this exemption, opponents of the proposed expanded designation expressed concern that, if the entire field lab site is designated a Native American cultural district, then the entire site could potentially be exempt from cleanup requirements, thereby relieving Boeing Corporation, which owns most of the site, and the U.S. Department of Energy, of their respective cleanup obligations.
California takes step to protect leatherback sea turtles
Associated Press – August 20
The California Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday voted 5-0 to make the Pacific leatherback sea turtles a candidate for state protection as a threatened or endangered species under California’s Endangered Species Act (CESA), triggering a year-long review before the commission makes a final decision. The turtles have been protected under the federal Endangered Species Act since 1970, but critics say they are threatened by a Trump administration effort to end a federal ban on longline fishing off the California coast. The turtles will be protected under state law during the CESA analysis.