California Environmental Law & Policy Update - March 2019 #2

Allen Matkins
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White House pressures automakers on fuel rules, blocking California

■Reuters - March 6

Last Friday, White House officials met with senior lobbyists from General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and urged them to back the Trump administration’s effort to roll back Obama-era fuel economy standards and bar California from setting its own emissions standards or requiring electric vehicles, according to sources with direct knowledge of the talks. Last month, the White House said it had ended talks with California aimed at trying to reach a consensus on fuel efficiency requirements. Automakers have publicly stated they do not back a freeze and agree that the requirements should become more stringent, but also contend that the standards should be calculated to account for changes in oil prices and consumer demand.

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News

U.S. plans end to gray wolf protections; critics say it’s premature

■Associated Press - March 6

Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt announced plans at a wildlife conference on Wednesday to lift protections under the Endangered Species Act for gray wolves across the lower 48 states, re-igniting the legal battle over a predator that’s running into conflicts with farmers and ranchers as its numbers rebound in some regions. The proposal would give states the authority to hold wolf hunting and trapping seasons. Wildlife advocates want to keep federal protections in place until wolves repopulate more of a historical range that stretched across most of North America. Since being reintroduced in Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho in the mid-1990s, the Northern Rockies gray wolf population has expanded to parts of Oregon, Washington, and California.

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Voluntary agreements shared with State Water Resources Control Board

■Modesto Bee - March 1

The California Department of Water Resources and California Department of Fish and Wildlife submitted a package of voluntary agreements with water districts to the State Water Resources Control Board last Friday, as an alternative to controversial flow requirements approved in December for the Tuolumne, Stanislaus, and Merced Rivers. The agreements, finalized in the waning hours of former Governor Jerry Brown’s administration, combine increased river flows with a larger set of tools for restoring salmon in rivers that flow into the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta. The Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts, which strongly opposed the SWRCB’s flow requirements, issued statements Friday in support of the tentative agreements. SWRCB Board members said the agency will review the agreements and continue to work on the second phase of its Bay-Delta update focused on the Sacramento River and tributaries.

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Oyster-farming project in Humboldt Bay could threaten birds, conservationists say

■Times-Standard - March 4

A shellfish-farming operation spanning more than 200 acres could bolster Humboldt Bay’s reputation as the “oyster capital” of California, but some conservationists worry that operations threaten various bird species. The harbor is famous for oyster-farming, but it’s also famous as a stopover for migratory birds along the Pacific Flyway. In 2017, the state Coastal Commission cited the impacts to migratory birds as grounds for rejection of Eureka-based Coast Seafoods’ plan to expand its oyster-farming operations in the Bay. A heavily revised proposal by the company eventually earned the commission’s approval.

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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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