Supreme Court says pipeline may cross underneath Appalachian Trail
NPR – June 15
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday that a new 600-mile natural gas pipeline can cross underneath the Appalachian Trail on federal land. The 7-2 decision overturned one part of a lower court decision that had blocked construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which is being jointly developed by Duke Energy and Dominion Energy. Environmental groups had challenged the U.S. Forest Service’s (USFS) authority to issue a 2018 permit to the pipeline company, notwithstanding the fact that the USFS administers the national forest where the pipeline would cross the trail. The groups argued that because the Appalachian Trail is a "unit" of the National Park System, rules that govern National Park lands should apply. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals had sided with the environmental groups and vacated the USFS permit. The Supreme Court’s ruling overturned that decision, concluding that the USFS did have legal authority to grant the permit. But the Atlantic Coast Pipeline still faces other obstacles to its construction. The Fourth Circuit revoked the USFS permit on four different grounds, only one of which was appealed to the Supreme Court.
EPA decides not to regulate perchlorate in drinking water
Bloomberg Law – June 18
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will not set national drinking water standards for perchlorate, a chemical found in rocket fuel, fireworks, and fertilizers. Some studies have linked perchlorate to development impairments in fetuses. The EPA said the chemical does not appear in enough public water systems, or at high enough levels, to cause concern. The agency’s decision (RIN: 2040-AF28), announced this Thursday, will become final once it is published in the Federal Register. The EPA had concluded in May that perchlorate levels in drinking water were safe after analyzing monitoring data collected since 2011, when under the Obama administration, it determined a nationwide standard was needed for the chemical. California and Massachusetts set enforceable limits for the chemical in drinking water in 2007 and 2006, according to the Water Quality Association.
Court invalidates San Diego County climate plan, calls carbon-offset program ‘unlawful’
The San Diego Union-Tribune – June 17
The California Fourth District Court of Appeal last Friday struck down a San Diego County plan to allow housing developers to use so-called carbon offsets to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from new vehicle traffic. The court held that the mitigation measure includes unenforceable performance standards and improperly defers and delegates mitigation. In addition, the ruling invalidated the county’s latest adopted Climate Action Plan (CAP) — the sixth such ruling in nearly a decade – finding that it is inconsistent with the county's General Plan and did not properly estimate GHGs from projects requiring general plan amendments. Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office argued in an amicus (friend of the court) brief that the county’s offset scheme could undermine the state’s ambitious goals of slashing GHG emissions by 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050.
Senate approves billions in new funding for land conservation and national parks
The Mercury News – June 17
The U.S. Senate this Wednesday passed what would be the most far-reaching new conservation law in 40 years: a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by California senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, and supported by President Donald Trump and other Republicans. First, it would provide $9.5 billion over the next five years to repair roads, restrooms, trails, and campgrounds at America’s national parks. Second and more enduring, the bill would guarantee $900 million a year in perpetuity to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has become the most important tool for preserving public land in the United States. The bill, known as the “Great American Outdoors Act,” passed the Senate 73-25. A House vote is expected in the next few weeks.
CarMax settles environmental lawsuit for $1.6 million
KPBS – June 16
A $1.6 million settlement was announced this Tuesday in an environmental lawsuit filed by 16 district attorneys’ offices against CarMax alleging illegal dumping of hazardous materials in dumpsters at company stores across the state. A years-long undercover investigation found that materials such as auto body sanding dust, sanding pads, automotive paints, clear coats, solvents, non-empty aerosols, and other hazardous substances used during the auto body repair process were unlawfully disposed at CarMax stores between 2014 and 2020. As part of the settlement, CarMax will pay $1 million in civil penalties and $300,000 to fund supplemental environmental projects furthering consumer protection and environmental enforcement in California.
State says Central Valley district too generous with emission credits
Bakersfield Californian – June 16
State air quality officials have accused Central Valley regulators of undermining local anti-pollution measures by repeatedly miscalculating emission credits for the benefit of industry. A report released this month by the California Air Resources Board says the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District has for years overestimated gains achieved when businesses close and tractors are converted from diesel to electric power. The air district defended its practices, saying the state's objections highlight competing interpretations of the regional authority's own rules, even as it agreed to make various changes in response to state criticisms. More generally, the state called on the air district to make its emission credits program more transparent and rigorous, upgrade certain policies and procedures, and revise assumptions built into annual demonstrations the regional agency uses to show its system is equivalent to federal guidelines.