Trump administration declines to tighten particulate emissions standard
Reuters – December 7
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler this Monday said the agency is preserving the current particulate emissions standard under the Clean Air Act for five years, instead of reducing it by a third, as agency scientists had recommended in order to protect low-income communities that tend to be most exposed to the pollutant. The agency is required to review the regulation, which sets limits on the concentrations of particulate emissions from sources such as coal-fired power plants and vehicle tailpipes, every five years, and has typically tightened them regularly after scientific review.
EPA guidance may exempt some discharges to groundwater from recent Supreme Court permit mandate
The Hill – December 8
The EPA this Tuesday released a draft guidance that interprets the Supreme Court’s decision in County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund in a way that may exempt some facilities from needing permits to discharge pollutants into groundwater that ultimately discharges to a surface water. In April 2020, the Supreme Court decided that a permit under the Clean Water Act is required for both direct discharges of pollutants into federally-regulated rivers and oceans, and also for discharges into groundwater that flows into a regulated surface water that are the “functional equivalent” of a direct discharge. The Court identified various factors to be taken into account in making the determination as to a “functional equivalent” discharge. EPA’s draft guidance adds an additional factor, which relates to “what happens to the discharged pollutant over that time and distance traveled” to the regulated body of water.
BLM rushes sale of California oil leases despite certain legal battle
Los Angeles Times – December 9
The Bureau of Land Management this Thursday plans to hold the first oil lease sale in California in eight years, part of a last-minute rush to auction off as much federal land as possible before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in. The agency said the sale would encompass just over 4,100 acres of federal land and mineral estate in Kern County, where the majority of drilling in the state takes place. The agency estimates that as many as 10 new wells could be drilled on the land for sale. Any attempts at new oil and gas development are likely to face significant opposition in the courts and from the incoming Biden administration.
California wildlife officials reject proposal to put housing on San Diego ecological reserve
The San Diego Union-Tribune – December 8
The California Wildlife Conservation Board on Tuesday voted to deny a proposed land exchange between the state and developer GDCI Proctor Valley, L.P. that would have allowed a housing development on 219 acres of ecologically prized land in San Diego County. Conservation groups and land trusts throughout the state opposed the swap — which would have netted the Department of Fish and Wildlife about 339 acres of nearby undeveloped land and put another 191 acres under a conservation easement. GDCI and San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox argued that without the land swap, a more sprawling and therefore environmentally destructive version of the development would move forward. However, that alternative project is being challenged by environmental groups on grounds related to climate change and wildfire.
SCE pleads no contest to violation of California Water Code, will pay $3.5 million
Santa Barbara Independent – December 7
Southern California Edison (SCE) has pleaded no contest to a criminal violation of the California Water Code and will pay $3.5 million in civil penalties after dumping massive amounts of dirt and rock into a Santa Barbara County creek during a 2019 unpermitted grading project, Santa Barbara District Attorney Joyce Dudley announced this Monday.
EPA and Cargill appeal Redwood City salt pond ruling
The Daily Journal – December 1
The EPA and Cargill, Inc. last week both filed appeals in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals of a ruling, issued on October 5, 2020 by U. S. District Judge William Alsup, holding that the former Cargill salt ponds in Redwood City are covered by federal Clean Water Act protections.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sued over inaction on northern spotted owl protections
Courthouse News Service – December 8
Various environmental groups sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (UFWS) in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Tuesday for missing mandatory deadlines to review the northern spotted owl’s protected status as its population decline accelerates. The bird was listed as a threatened species in 1990, but several factors — including logging, climate change, wildfires, and encroachment by the invasive barred owl — have caused the species’ numbers to dwindle at an increasing pace over the last three decades. In 2015, UFWS found substantial evidence supporting elevating the owl’s designation from threatened to endangered. That set off a mandatory one-year review, which, more than five years later, remains unfinished.