Contaminated groundwater plume in north Orange County placed on federal Superfund list
Orange County Register – September 1
A five-square-mile plume of contaminated groundwater in north Orange County has been placed on the federal Superfund list, making it eligible for federal cleanup money and other aid, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced this Tuesday. The plume contains chlorinated solvents and other manufacturing chemicals that were used for decades starting in the 1950s. The plume falls within the Orange County Water District (OCWD), which provides water for 2.4 million residents in 22 cities. OCWD has sued companies that it believes are liable for clean-up, with mixed results, and it has been seeking Superfund status for a decade. According to estimates, the full cost of cleanup could exceed $100 million.
EPA announces projects to address sewage spills at Mexican border
The San Diego Union-Tribune – September 2
U.S. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler this Thursday committed $25 million to projects intended to remedy cross-border sewage runoff in the Tijuana River Valley. One grant will help divert 10 million gallons of wastewater per day for treatment at the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant. This alone, Wheeler said, will stop most water pollution closures of San Diego and South Bay beaches. The other project is a new trash and sediment capture facility at Smuggler’s Gulch, a cross-border canyon about two miles inland. Under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement signed into law in January, the United States agreed to spend $300 million to address cross-border sewage flows. How that money will be spent is still being determined, Wheeler said.
California lawmakers vote to phase out toxic firefighting foam
Los Angeles Times – August 30
California lawmakers voted this Sunday to phase out the sale and use of aqueous firefighting foam containing perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a class of chemicals commonly known as PFAS that have been linked to cancer and that have contaminated drinking water in numerous California locations. Under the new legislation, which awaits approval by Governor Gavin Newsom, municipal fire departments will be banned from using PFAS-containing foam by Jan. 1, 2022. The ban would extend to chemical plants and airport facilities in 2024.
California sues Trump administration over NEPA rollback
Desert Sun – August 28
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced last Friday that they were leading 23 states, cities, and territories in litigation aimed at halting rollbacks of the federal National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA. On July 15, the Trump administration announced major changes to the rules governing the implementation of NEPA, which requires the federal government to assess the environmental impacts of actions it conducts or approves. Staff at Attorney General Becerra's office said they feared the new policies would limit public input and allow agencies to ignore projects' cumulative and indirect impacts, thereby limiting the scope of review under NEPA. In California, the attorney general's office has relied on NEPA in filing lawsuits challenging projects ranging from an expansion of the San Bernardino International Airport to a proposal to increase the height of the Shasta Dam.
Federal appeals court sets aside rule rolling back fuel efficiency penalties
U.S. News & World Report – August 31
In a 3-0 decision issued on Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit overturned a 2019 rule suspending a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulation that more than doubled penalties for automakers failing to meet fuel efficiency requirements. Automakers had protested the regulation, adopted in 2016 by the Obama administration, arguing that it could increase industry compliance costs by $1 billion annually. A group of states, including California, and environmental groups challenged the suspension of the regulation.
California Legislature approves bill to oversee activities of the State Department of Toxic Substances Control and improve its finances
Bloomberg Law – September 1
The State Senate and Assembly this Monday approved Assembly Bill 995, which would create an oversight board for the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). Governor Gavin Newsom has 30 days to sign or veto the bill. If approved, the bill would also impose a per ton waste generation fee, increase facility fees, and add an ombudsman position, among other corrective actions.