California Environmental Law & Policy Update - January 2017 #2

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Environmental and Policy Focus

U.S. Supreme Court to hear Clean Water Act jurisdictional dispute

Reuters - Jan 13 The U.S. Supreme Court today agreed to resolve a dispute over which court should handle challenges to a 2015 Obama administration regulation that defines waters protected under the federal Clean Water Act. The justices decided to hear the appeal taken by the National Association of Manufacturers of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling in which the circuit court ruled it has jurisdiction to review the challenges to the proposed Clean Water Rule. The industry group argues that such challenges must first be heard in the federal district courts. The legal dispute centers on a provision of the Clean Water Act that funnels reviews of certain types of government actions directly to courts of appeals, and others to federal district courts. The ultimate issue as to what constitutes protected “waters” under federal law is highly significant to landowners, industry and environmental groups, as well as government officials.

President Obama expands California Coastal National Monument

KCET - Jan 12 President Barack Obama yesterday added 6,230 acres to the California Coastal National Monument. The monument, established in 2000 by former President Bill Clinton, protects islands, offshore rocks, and reefs in a 12-mile band along the length of the California coast, as well as 1,665 onshore acres at the mouth of the Garcia River in Mendocino County added in 2014. President Obama, using authority granted under the 1906 Antiquities Act, nearly quadrupled the land area of the monument by adding five onshore parcels in Northern California, along with a number of rocks and islands off the Orange County coastline that were omitted from the original designation due to a conflicting federal law passed in 1931. The largest addition to the monument is a 5,780-acre expanse of public land in Santa Cruz County called the Cotoni-Coast Dairies Public Lands. That expansion comes in tandem with a 48,000-acre expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, which extends that monument into a 5,000-acre portion of extreme Northern California, and the designation of three National Monuments in the Southeast, one in South Carolina and two in Alabama, preserving historic sites important to the Civil Rights movement from Reconstruction to the modern era.

More than 40% of California out of drought

Sacramento Bee - Jan 12 The weekly drought report by government and academic water experts showed on Thursday that 42 percent of the state – in Northern California from the San Francisco Bay Area to the Oregon border – is free from drought. This time last year, 97 percent of the state was in drought. Southern California, also receiving welcome rain from the storms, remains in drought but has experienced a dramatic reduction in the severity. Just 2 percent of the state, a swath between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, remains in the sharpest category of drought that includes drying wells, reservoirs and streams and widespread crop losses. Forty-three percent of the state was in that direst category this time a year ago. California will remain in a drought emergency until Gov. Jerry Brown lifts or eases the declaration he issued in January 2014. State officials said this week that Brown will likely wait until the end of the snow and rain season to make a decision on revising the drought declaration

Livermore oil driller seeks larger underground disposal area

East Bay Times - Jan 10 Amid greater scrutiny of oilfield contamination threats to California’s groundwater, state officials will hold a hearing next Wednesday on E&B Natural Resources’ request for permission to expand the aquifer exemption area where it is permitted to put wastewater from its 30-barrel per day oil extraction operations in a rural area east of Livermore. The California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources and the State Water Resources Control Board have given preliminary support to the proposal. Officials at those agencies say groundwater underlying the Livermore oil field naturally has petroleum and such a high mineral and salt content that it is not suitable for drinking water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will make the final decision as to whether to expand the exemption area and permit the underground wastewater disposal.

$350 million bond would start process of fixing San Francisco seawall

SFGate - Jan 9 San Francisco voters will be asked on the 2018 ballot to allow $350 million to be spent on a first round of improvements for the city’s crucial but fragile Embarcadero seawall, which runs from Fisherman’s Wharf to Mission Creek and protects such areas as the Financial District from bay tides, officials said Monday. The project eventually could cost anywhere from $2 billion to $5 billion. Such a bond would be the first large financial commitment to the effort, which is now in the early planning stages. A study done for the port last year found that a major earthquake could impair the stability of the rock and concrete seawall and cause extensive damage or devastation to the buildings and utility lines along the Embarcadero.

 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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