California Environmental Law & Policy Update - February 2021 #4

Allen Matkins
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Officials call for protection of Redwood City’s salt ponds

Bullet The San Mateo Daily Journal – February 19

Nearly 60 Bay Area political leaders and organizations last Tuesday asked the Biden administration to protect Redwood City’s salt ponds, owned by Cargill, Inc., from future development by withdrawing a Trump era appeal of a court ruling deeming them federally protected “waters of the United States.” On October 5, 2020, Judge William Alsup, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, ruled that the 1,400 acres fell under the protection of the federal Clean Water Act, overturning a 2019 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decision finding the salt ponds exempt from the Act as “fast lands.” Cargill, and its developer partner, DMB Pacific Ventures, which hope to develop the property, intend to pursue an appeal of Judge Alsup’s ruling regardless of whether EPA’s appeal moves forward.


News

Environmental group sues California over oil and gas permitting practices

Bullet Desert Sun – February 24

The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) this Wednesday filed a lawsuit challenging the California Geologic Energy Management Division’s (CalGEM) approval of thousands of permits to drill for oil and gas. CBD seeks an injunction compelling the state to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in its permitting of oil and gas wells, which, the organization alleges, CalGEM violated by issuing drilling approvals without adequate environmental review and in reliance on inapplicable exemptions under CEQA. The agency disputes the claim and says that the Newsom administration has strengthened oversight, imposed more rigorous standards for permit review, and institutionalized independent scientific and technical review of its processes.


Delta island owner ordered to pay $3.6 million in penalties and to restore areas filled for recreation in Suisun Bay

Bullet San Francisco Chronicle – February 24

The California First District Court of Appeal on February 18 reinstated orders issued by the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board and the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) that imposed cleanup and restoration requirements, and a total of $3.6 million in penalties, against a developer who deposited large amounts of fill into Suisun Bay marsh waters to clear the way for a duck club and kite-surfing center. The agencies’ orders had been overturned in December 2017 by Solano County Superior Court Judge Harry Kinnicutt, who found in the agencies’ orders “an appearance of vindictiveness.” On appeal, the higher court found that the trial court had made numerous legal and factual errors, and upheld the agencies’ determinations as to the developer’s violations of applicable state and federal laws and harm to the environment.


$650 million Santa Ana River plan adds fish-saving methods to water-saving projects

Bullet The Sun – February 24

Stymied by environmental barriers and years of court losses, the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District—a large water wholesaler serving 700,000 residential and business customers—will soon release a conservation plan that would nearly double its supply of water by diverting billions of gallons from the Upper Santa Ana River, while mitigating the effects on 20 indigenous fish and bird species. A major emphasis of the 50-year Upper Santa Ana River Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) includes caring for the Santa Ana sucker fish, listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, as well as other threatened and non-listed species. The HCP has been eight years in development and will be ready for public review in March 2021.


Hurtado introduces bill to improve California’s water resilience

Bullet Hanford Sentinel – February 24

Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger) has introduced the State Water Resiliency Act of 2021 – legislation that could provide up to $785 million to restore the capacity of California’s critical water delivery infrastructure and repair aging roads and bridges. The new legislation, Senate Bill 559, could fund repairs to the Friant-Kern Canal, Delta-Mendota Canal, San Luis Canal, and the California Aqueduct, which together comprise California’s main state and regional water conveyance infrastructure.

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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