California Environmental Law & Policy Update - November 2020

Allen Matkins


U.S. formally exits Paris Climate Agreement

Bullet Associated Press – November 4

The United States this Wednesday formally left the Paris Climate Agreement, a global pact it helped forge five years ago during the Obama Administration to avert the threat of catastrophic climate change. Meanwhile, signatory nations including China, Japan, and South Korea have in recent weeks joined the European Union and several other countries in setting national deadlines to significantly reduce their emissions of the heat-trapping chemicals.


California AG files to join lawsuit challenging Port of LA terminal project

Bullet Long Beach Post – November 4

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) filed a motion this Wednesday to intervene on the side of the South Coast Air Quality Management District in a lawsuit against the Port of Los Angeles challenging its approval of an expansion project at the Port’s China Shipping terminal. The terminal is located close to residential communities that are already exposed to disproportionately high amounts of air pollution, Becerra stated. Becerra and CARB contend that the project, as approved by the Port, fails to include adequate mitigation measures to reduce or avoid the environmental impacts of the project.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service drops gray wolf from endangered species list

Bullet Los Angeles Times – October 29

The gray wolf will lose federal protections under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced last Thursday. This marks the second time in the last decade that federal wildlife officials have tried to remove gray wolves from the list, where they say the animals no longer belong now that they are thriving in the wild. Like the previous attempt, which took place under the Obama administration, this latest effort is expected to face legal challenges. Conservationists maintain that wolves have returned only to certain parts of their former habitat, and say that delisting is premature. If the courts uphold this latest delisting decision, gray wolves will be subject to individual states’ rules on hunting and trapping. In California, there are hardly any packs, but what few there are will be protected by the state Endangered Species Act.

L.A. to pay $1.9 million for utility crew damage to endangered plants

Bullet Courthouse News Service – November 4

The City of Los Angeles will pay $1.9 million in fines to the California Coastal Commission for bulldozing over nine acres of the Topanga State Park in the Santa Monica Mountains, and for improperly removing coastal sage scrub, chaparral habitat, and Braunton’s milkvetch, an endangered plant species, near Pacific Palisades. The alleged violations occurred in March of 2019, when the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power graded fire roads in the park and replaced 220 wooden power poles north of Will Rogers State Beach, as part of its effort to prevent wildfires in the area. In addition to paying the fines, the City will perform extensive site restoration and long term monitoring.

San Joaquin helicopter company repeatedly endangered community, state lawsuit alleges

Bullet The Stockton Record – November 1

The state Attorney General’s Office has filed suit against a Lodi-based helicopter company for three pesticide-drift incidents, including one that occurred near the Stockton Sports Complex while children were playing soccer. The company, Alpine Helicopter Service, Inc., has been the subject of six previous allegations of improperly applying pesticides in San Joaquin County between 2013 and 2017, including one incident when pesticides reportedly drifted to a nearby school, its playground, picnic tables, parking lot, and roof, Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement announcing the lawsuit.

Garden Grove business fined $1.1 million for failing to clean up contaminated soil

Bullet The Orange County Register – October 29

The Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board (Board) has levied a $1.1 million fine on Cham-Cal Engineering Co., a Garden Grove manufacturer, for years of failing to comply with orders to clean up the solvent tetrachloroethene (aka “PCE”) in soil at the company’s property. Cham-Cal Engineering Co., which makes mirrors, brackets, and other accessories for commercial trucks, says regulators were overzealous during a period when the company was tied up in disputes with its insurer and cleanup consultants. But staff of the Board, which announced the fine last Monday, alleged a litany of problems in Cham-Cal’s performance, including lack of access to the property, repeated instances of non-response from Cham-Cal, more than a year’s delay in submitting a cleanup plan, and a failure to begin the actual cleanup of the solvent.

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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