California Environmental Law & Policy Update 2.23.24

Allen Matkins


Supreme Court signals skepticism over federal 'good neighbor' smog plan

Bullet CNN – February 21

During arguments on Wednesday in the most significant environmental dispute before the U.S. Supreme Court this year, the Court's conservative justices expressed skepticism over the Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to reduce smog and air pollution wafting across state lines. Three states, industry groups, and electric utilities want the justices to temporarily halt the agency's "good neighbor" plan, which imposes strict emission limits on power plants and other industries in upwind states. Several justices noted that the plan, which originally applied to 23 upwind states, now applies to only 11 because of a series of lower court rulings that sided with states opposed to the effort, yet the EPA decided to "plow ahead anyway" even when it became clear that the plan would likely not apply to some states.


Radioactive waste dumped off Los Angeles coast

Bullet Los Angeles Times – February 21

For decades, corroding barrels have littered the seafloor off the coast of Los Angeles. Scientists have concluded that the barrels, once thought to contain the pesticide DDT, may instead contain low-level radioactive waste. Records show that, from the 1940s through the 1960s, it was not uncommon for local hospitals, labs, and other industrial operations to dispose of barrels of tritium, carbon-14, and other similar waste at sea. The findings were published in Environmental Science & Technology as part of a broader study of how much DDT is spread across the seafloor — and how the contamination might still be moving 3,000 feet underwater.

Nevada County rejects controversial gold mining project

Bullet CapRadio – February 20

After years of controversy, the Nevada County Board of Supervisors on February 16 unanimously struck down a Grass Valley gold mining project. Rise Gold first submitted an application to resume gold mining operations at the Idaho Maryland Mine, which is in Grass Valley, in 2019. The site had been inactive since its closure in the 1950s, but Rise Gold said it had untapped potential. Rise Gold has previously stated that a rejection of its project would mean the company has "suffered a compensable, unconstitutional taking" and showed interest in suing the county for compensation. In a written statement sent to CapRadio on Friday, Rise Gold CEO Joseph Mullin affirmed this stance and said the county "must compensate Rise for the value taken."

Exxon looks to drop case over oil trucking permit in Central California after selling local unit

Bullet Courthouse News Service – February 16

ExxonMobil intends to halt its attempt to have a federal judge overturn Santa Barbara County's denial of a permit to truck more than 11,000 barrels of oil per day over narrow Central Coast roads. The oil company said in a court filing last Thursday that it had sold its Santa Ynez unit to Sable Offshore Corp., and that it would work out a stipulation to dismiss the lawsuit with the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors and environmental advocacy groups that were fighting the case. Exxon had to shut down its three offshore platforms in the Santa Barbara channel in 2015 after a pipeline that carried the processed oil to inland refineries ruptured and released 142,000 gallons of oil onto the beach and into the ocean.

California reservoir managers could sharply limit water to farms and cities this year

Bullet San Francisco Chronicle – February 21

Even after all the rain and snow in California this month, state and federal water managers announced Wednesday that they are planning to limit deliveries from the state's largest reservoirs this year because seasonal precipitation has lagged. The State Water Project expects to ship 15% of the water that was requested by the mostly urban water agencies it supplies. The estimate is up from 10% in December but is still low. The federally-run Central Valley Project expects to send 15% of the water requested by most irrigation agencies in the San Joaquin Valley and 75% to most in the Sacramento Valley. Because the numbers don't reflect the wet weather in recent weeks, they will likely change in coming months when shipment levels are finalized.

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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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