California Environmental Law & Policy Update - February 2019 #4

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Supreme Court takes case that could limit scope of Clean Water Act

■Reuters - February 19

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear an appeal that could resolve the question of whether the Clean Water Act regulates discharges of pollutants that reach federally-protected “waters of the United States” indirectly through groundwater rather than directly through “point sources” such as pipes, ditches, and drains. The case involves a Maui treatment plant’s injection, without a permit, of wastewater into groundwater that eventually reaches the Pacific Ocean. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the discharge requires a permit issued under the Clean Water Act. The Trump administration urged review of the Ninth Circuit’s decision, pointing out that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently evaluating the same issue.

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Trump administration confirms it has ended fuel-economy talks with California

■San Diego Union-Tribune - February 21

Negotiations between the California Air Resources Board and the White House, EPA, and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over fuel-economy standards have ended, the White House said Thursday. The EPA in 2018 proposed freezing fuel-efficiency targets at 2020 levels, relaxing Obama-era regulations aimed to achieve an average fuel efficiency of 50 miles per gallon by 2025. The EPA has also threatened to revoke California’s unique authority under the Clean Air Act of 1970 to set its own, stricter air pollution standards for vehicles. California sued the Trump administration over the proposed rollback, and officials have said they will go to court again if the administration requires them to follow its lower standards.

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Lawsuit demands Navy's release of Treasure Island cleanup records

■San Francisco Chronicle - February 19

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Washington, D.C., Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) alleges that the U.S. Navy improperly withheld information regarding the cleanup of radioactive substances on Treasure Island by Tetra Tech EC. Treasure Island, which once housed a naval base, is the site of a development project that aims to attract 24,000 residents by 2035. Tetra Tech EC has been accused of extensive fraud in the cleanup of the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco, and some of the same Tetra Tech EC managers supervised radiation tests at both sites.

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L.A. County Board of Supervisors opposes expansion of Quemetco battery plant

■San Gabriel Valley-Tribune - February 19

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously adopted a motion opposing expansion of the Quemetco lead-acid battery recycling plant in City of Industry. Supervisors concluded that there are too many unanswered questions about releases of toxics from the 47-year old facility that have resulted in community opposition and regulatory enforcement actions, including four notices of violations issued since July 2017 by the South Coast Air Quality Management District for exceeding permitted arsenic emissions levels.

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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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