Environmental and Policy Focus
Sacramento Bee - Feb 24 After successfully appealing to the Trump administration to repair the crumbling Oroville Dam, Governor Jerry Brown announced Friday that he wants to accelerate spending on dam safety, flood protection, and aging transportation infrastructure. The governor’s plan would spend $50 million from the general fund and re-purpose $387 million from the $7.5-billion water bond overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2014 to pay for flood control. A bipartisan group of California legislators have taken aerial tours of the site amid preparations for next week’s oversight hearing to review what happened in Oroville. Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, has said he wants to provide $500 million in competitive grants to local and regional agencies for flood protection. The governor said the state faces tens of billions of dollars in infrastructure needs and is asking the federal government to streamline regulatory review at the dam.
Los Angeles Times - Feb 23 Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) along with other southern California senators on Thursday introduced legislation in an attempt to ensure federal rules on air quality, water protection, endangered species, and worker safety would stay on the books in California even if they are relaxed in Washington, as threatened by the Trump administration. The legislation proposes that federal standards in place before President Trump took office would become enforceable by state officials in California. Another measure would try to prevent the federal government from selling federal land in California to private developers without first offering it to state officials. A third proposal would protect federal workers from losing state certifications and licenses if they blow the whistle on problems at their agencies. Experts have commented that, even if the legislation is passed, it could prove difficult to implement given the federal government’s authority to control federal lands and to deny issuance of state waiver requests that would allow more stringent regulation in California.
The Guardian - Feb 22 The close relationship between Scott Pruitt, the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and fossil fuel interests has been highlighted in more than 7,500 emails and other records released by the Oklahoma attorney general’s office on Wednesday. The documents show that Pruitt, while Oklahoma attorney general, acted in close concert with oil and gas companies to challenge environmental regulations, even putting his letterhead to a complaint filed by one energy firm. This practice was first revealed in 2014, but it now appears that it occurred more than once. The emails also show that American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, an oil and gas lobby group, provided Pruitt’s office with template language to oppose ozone limits and the renewable fuel standard program in 2013. In his first speech at EPA headquarters in Washington on Tuesday, however, Pruitt praised career employees and promised to “listen, learn and lead”. He said regulators such as the EPA “ought to make things regular. Regulators exist to give certainty to those that they regulate.” He added: “I believe that we as a nation can be both pro-energy and -jobs, and pro-environment. We don’t have to choose between the two.”
Bloomberg - Feb 21 In separate Feb. 21 letters, the Association of Global Automakers and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers asked U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt to withdraw the agency’s Jan. 13 determination, made in the final days of President Obama’s administration, that light-vehicle greenhouse gas emissions standards through 2025 should remain unchanged from when they took effect in 2012. The letters mark an escalation in the auto industry’s campaign to shape efficiency regulations that they say are overly demanding amid cheap gasoline and tepid demand for the most fuel-efficient vehicles, and could jeopardize industry jobs. In 2011, automakers agreed to the 2025 efficiency rules in a landmark deal brokered by the Obama administration to boost fuel economy to a fleet average of more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025. The agreement aligned tailpipe greenhouse gas limits set by the EPA and California’s Air Resources Board with fuel economy regulations governed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
SFGate - Feb 21
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Bureau) had authority under a 1955 federal law to release Trinity River water from the Lewiston Dam in 2013 into the Klamath River, where salmon were migrating to their spawning grounds. That law allowed the government to take “appropriate measures” to preserve fish and wildlife, the court said. There was no immediate comment from lawyers for the Westlands Water District and the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, which challenged the Bureau’s actions. For about 50 years, water from the Trinity River, a Klamath tributary, has been largely diverted to the federal Central Valley Project for agricultural use, but the deaths of about 34,000 Klamath River salmon prompted a federal judge in 2002 to authorize increased flows to the river. As water supplies dwindled in 2013, the Bureau ordered renewed flows from Lewiston Dam to protect the salmon, and did so again the following two years.