Governor Newsom launches effort to deal with drought; emergencies declared
Los Angeles Times – April 21
Governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday declared a drought emergency in Mendocino and Sonoma Counties. The declaration gives state regulators expanded powers to curtail diversions in the parched Russian River watershed and to relax river flow standards that would require more releases from the region’s shrinking reservoirs. Noting that water supply conditions vary across California, Newsom said he was not yet prepared to adopt statewide mandates. Also this week, the Marin Municipal Water District banned daytime outdoor watering, washing vehicles at home, hosing down driveways, and watering grass on public median strips. The agency could adopt further restrictions next month as it strives to cut the district’s overall water use by 40%.
U.S. to withdraw rule barring California emissions mandates
East Bay Times – April 22
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said on Thursday that it is moving to withdraw a Trump administration rule, adopted in 2019, that barred states from setting vehicle emissions standards or zero emission vehicle mandates. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is also expected to begin the process next week of restoring California’s waiver under the Clean Air Act, also revoked during the Trump administration, that allows it to set its own vehicular emissions standards. Meanwhile, court challenges by about two dozen U.S. states seeking to set aside the waiver revocation are still pending.
Biden commits to cutting U.S. emissions in half by 2030 as part of Paris climate pact
NBC – April 22
The U.S. aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 as part of its new commitment to the Paris climate agreement, President Joe Biden announced on Thursday. The United States rejoined the 2015 climate pact in February. U.S. emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases plunged in 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic. As the pandemic eases and the economy recovers, however, emissions are expected to increase once again, and the Biden administration is racing to find ways to put the U.S. on track to meet even more ambitious emissions targets.
California and NASA partner to launch methane-tracking satellite
Reuters – April 15
California and NASA last Thursday unveiled a $100 million effort to pinpoint large sources of emissions of greenhouse gases, such as power plants and oil refineries, from space. The partnership between the state, NASA, the satellite company Planet, and four other institutions will launch its first two satellites in 2023.
Tanker crew member who ordered oily water dumped outside Golden Gate convicted
San Francisco Chronicle – April 22
A federal jury has convicted a supervising tanker crew member of ordering the illegal dumping of oily bilge water into Bay Area waters in 2019. The defendant was first engineer of the Zao Galaxy, a 16,000-ton oil tanker that docked at the Port of Richmond in 2019. Tankers generate bilge water while at sea and are required to remove most of the oil before discharging the remaining fluid into ocean waters. Prosecutors said the defendant ordered crew members to bypass the ship’s oil waste separator and dump oily bilge water from the tanker’s engine room. The ship’s operator, Unix Line PTE of Singapore, pleaded guilty to a related charge in the case last year, and was fined $1.65 million.
White House finalizes Pacific Ocean protections for humpback whale
Courthouse News Service – April 20
The Biden administration finalized a rule that will conserve approximately 118,000 square nautical miles of the Pacific Ocean off the California, Oregon, and Washington coasts as protected habitat for the endangered humpback whale. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s finalization of the rule comes after a 2018 settlement of a lengthy court battle between conservationists and the U.S. government, which had taken steps to reopen parts of the Pacific Ocean to oil and gas exploration.
EPA wants to leave Trump rules on insecticide in place while studying impact on bees
San Francisco Chronicle – April 19
The Biden administration is proposing to continue its predecessor’s licensing of the widely used insecticide sulfoxaflor while examining the chemical’s harmful effect on honeybees. In a filing with the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which has twice rejected the government’s claims that it was safely regulating sulfoxaflor, the EPA seeks to leave the insecticide in use with few restrictions while the agency evaluates its effects on endangered species. Sulfoxaflor, a Dow Chemical product, was first approved by the EPA in 2013 to kill insects on citrus fruits, cotton, and other crops despite the agency’s finding that it was “very highly toxic” to honeybees.