Sonoma County vintner to pay $925,000 in environmental damage settlement
The Press Democrat – July 31
The Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office last Friday announced that a $925,000 settlement had been reached with a Sonoma County wine executive and his business for allegedly causing significant damage to streams and wetlands while constructing a vineyard in 2018 near Cloverdale. The alleged violations include causing major environmental damage by uprooting oak woodlands and discharging sediment into Russian River tributaries in violation of the California Water Code and the federal Clean Water Act, according to a 2019 investigation by the Regional Water Quality Control Board.
Settlement blocks new federal fracking leases in California
The Mercury News – August 2
Leasing for new oil and gas drilling on federal land in central California is temporarily blocked under a settlement announced Monday between the state and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The deal, which still needs court approval, centers on more than 2,500 square miles of land and subsurface mineral rights owned by the federal government in California’s Central Valley, a hub for oil and gas activity. It prohibits the federal government from leasing land for drilling until it completes a fresh review of environmental harms that may be caused by hydraulic fracturing, a process used to extract oil and gas from rock, commonly known as fracking.
EPA faces new lawsuit over PFAS compounds
E&E News – August 1
The American Chemistry Council announced over the weekend that it had filed suit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit over new interim lifetime health advisories for two PFAS compounds, PFOA and PFOS. Those advisories list dramatically lower levels in drinking water as being safe for human consumption than the previous health advisory levels that EPA most recently published in 2016. Announced in July, the new advisories are nonbinding, and it is unusual for such moves to generate legal pushback, although Chemours launched a similar lawsuit in July over EPA’s new health advisory for GenX, another PFAS compound.
Steep increases for oil and gas bonds move step closer in Ventura County
VC Star – July 29
In a split decision on July 28, the Ventura County Planning Commission advanced a proposal to require oil and gas companies to post substantially higher bond amounts for their operations. The proposed zoning amendments are now expected to go before the Board of Supervisors later this year. Since the early 1980s, the county required a $10,000 bond from oil and gas companies regardless of the size of their oil fields or operations. The bonds serve as a sort of security deposit for wells in case something goes wrong or if companies fail to properly plug wells that are no longer productive. The Planning Commission will be asked to consider zoning amendments that would require bonds ranging from $100,000 to $500,000 for above-ground costs; $36,000 per well for plugging work; and $15,000 per well for those idle for 15 years or more.
California spares coastal power plant owner from fines
Associated Press – August 2
The State Water Resources Control Board (“Water Board”) on Tuesday voted to exempt the AES Corporation, owner of the aging AES Redondo Beach Generating Station, from fines associated with water pollution caused by its operations through 2023. The Redondo Beach Generating Station is one of four coastal power plants which were set to close in 2020 because they couldn’t comply with discharge limitations, but which had their operating lives extended to 2023 to bolster the state’s power grid. In lieu of fines, AES is required to pay $104,000—roughly equal to the fines the company otherwise would be required to pay for ongoing discharge violations—to environmental funds working to prevent water pollution.
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