California and other states sue U.S. over section 401 rule under the Clean Water Act
Reuters – July 21
California and a coalition of 19 other states on Tuesday filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for limiting states’ power to block energy infrastructure projects under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The EPA adopted a rule geared to prevent states, in the course of consultation under Section 401 of the CWA, from blocking a discharge permit for a project for any reason other than direct pollution into state waters. States have previously weighed broader factors, such as climate change, to make decisions on projects. The attorneys general allege in the litigation that the new rule violates the Administrative Procedure Act and Clean Water Act and must be vacated. They also contend that the rule would speed up timelines for decision making and limit the amount of information that dischargers would need to provide states about their projects.
U.S. will adopt global climate standards for aviation
Associated Press – July 21
The EPA announced on Wednesday that the agency will adopt aircraft emissions standards modeled on those adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations agency, to limit emissions of carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides, two important greenhouse gases (GHG). EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the change “strikes the right regulatory balance” and would ensure that U.S.-made airliners and large business jets meet the demands of the global market. The EPA acknowledged that, since airline makers globally are expected to follow the new international standards anyway, “the EPA is not projecting emission reductions associated with today’s proposed GHG regulations.” Environmental groups, which had threatened to sue EPA over delays in setting greenhouse gas limits for aviation, said the agency’s proposal does not go far enough.
Federal judge rejects Trump administration challenge to California cap-and-trade program
The Hill – July 17
A federal judge last Friday upheld California’s cap-and-trade program in a lawsuit filed by the Trump administration. The Justice Department last year challenged the program, which aims to reduce pollutant emissions and allows companies in the state to trade emissions credits with others in other jurisdictions, including the Canadian province of Quebec. The federal government argued that California exceeded the role of the states and intruded on the federal government’s foreign policy authority, particularly its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. Judge William Shubb disagreed, ruling that “the United States has failed to show that California’s program impermissibly intrudes on the federal government’s foreign affairs power.”
California settles dispute over water flow restrictions
Courthouse News Service – July 21
As part of a settlement reached with the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, California Water Impact Network, and AquAlliance, the California State Water Resources Control Board on Tuesday said it will increase transparency and conduct heightened evaluations when deciding water quality standards and flow limits for the state’s critical waterways. In addition, the Board will lobby the federal government to keep more cold water in the Sacramento River during salmon migration periods. In a lawsuit filed in 2015 in Alameda County Superior Court, the fishing and environmental groups alleged that the Board violated public trust laws and endangered wildlife during California's recent drought years when it granted modifications, known as temporary urgency change petitions, for California’s two largest water delivery systems, the State Water Project and the Central Valley Water Project. The modifications allowed the projects' operators to keep more water behind dams during the drought, thereby releasing less water downstream for fish.
Court rejects environmental group’s RCRA lawsuit over city’s groundwater supply
SFGate – July 22
Chief Judge Kimberly Mueller of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California this Monday rejected an environmental group’s lawsuit attempt to rely on the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), a federal law regulating the management and disposal of solid and hazardous wastes, as a basis for challenging the amount of hexavalent chromium found in groundwater around the City of Vacaville. Groundwater is used as part of the city’s water supply. Judge Mueller ruled that the plaintiff California River Watch “here attempts to stretch the [RCRA] well beyond its application, seeking to force a square peg into a round hole.” The City had been preparing to pay for additional treatment of groundwater, but terminated those plans when a state court struck down the drinking water standard for hexavalent chromium issued by the State Water Resources Control Board in 2014.
Award to Vallejo groundskeeper in Monsanto cancer case slashed again — verdict upheld
San Francisco Chronicle – July 20
A state appeals court on Monday upheld a San Francisco jury’s verdict that Monsanto’s widely used herbicide Roundup caused a Bay Area school groundskeeper’s cancer, and that the company disregarded public safety in marketing its product. But the First District Court of Appeal reduced the groundskeepers' damage award from $78.5 million to $21.5 million, holding that California law does not allow damages for reduced life expectancy. The trial was the first in the nation among thousands of lawsuits against Monsanto by cancer victims who had used Roundup or a more concentrated version of the product called Ranger Pro. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in these products, is the world’s most widely used herbicide.