State issues proposal to ban hydraulic fracturing
The Bakersfield Californian – May 24
California oil regulators last Friday publicly released a draft rule that would ban hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, along with certain other well-stimulation techniques, by Jan. 1, 2024. The rule would implement Governor Gavin Newsom’s declaration one month ago that the controversial practice will halt statewide within three years. The California Geologic Energy Management Division said on Monday that the rule would not affect oilfield wastewater disposal, cyclic steaming, steam floods, or water floods — locally common techniques that, like fracking, involve underground injections but which are not intended to create channels in rock formations so that petroleum can flow to the surface.
EPA to rewrite Trump-era limits on state and tribal control of waterways
Courthouse News Service – May 27
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Thursday announced a plan to rewrite changes made by the Trump administration last year that eroded local authority over the protection of waterways under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. This statute, enacted by Congress in 1972, gave tribes and states the authority to halt federal projects that could pollute nearby streams, rivers, lakes, and wetlands. The EPA under former President Donald Trump, however, diminished input from local governments when it comes to these projects. In 2020, the agency finalized a revised rule that aimed to fast-track permitting for projects like oil and gas pipelines. The EPA says that its reconsideration of the 2020 rule will give stakeholders and members of the public an opportunity to provide input that can inform the development of a new regulation.
Biden administration strikes a deal to bring offshore wind to California
NPR – May 25
The Biden administration plans to open the California coast to offshore wind development, ending a long-running stalemate with the Department of Defense, which uses parts of the area for training and testing operations. The move adds momentum to the administration’s goal of achieving 100% carbon-free electricity generation by 2035, and comes only weeks after the country’s first large-scale offshore wind farm was approved for operations off the coast of New England. The agreement identifies two ocean sites off the Central and Northern California coast with the potential for installation of massive floating wind turbines that could produce 4.6 gigawatts of electricity, enough to power 1.6 million homes. A potential lease auction for the offshore wind sites could be held in mid-2022, but the project managers will still have to negotiate concerns about the potential impact on California's fishing industry and shipping channels, as well as any environmental concerns about sensitive ecosystems.
Supreme Court backs Guam’s bid to seek U.S. payments for hazardous waste dumping
The Hill – May 24
The U.S. Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision on Monday, backed Guam’s bid to pursue additional environmental cleanup costs from the U.S. government for hazardous waste dumping by the U.S. Navy at the territory’s Ordot Dump. The ruling, written by Justice Clarence Thomas, reversed a lower court decision that found a 2004 settlement between the U.S. and Guam relating to Clean Water Act claims had adequately “resolved Guam’s liability” for the dump so as to have triggered a claim for “contribution” under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) against the U.S., which would have been time-barred. The Supreme Court’s ruling now clarifies that, unless an underlying settlement is itself CERCLA-based, it does not give rise to a CERCLA claim for contribution. Instead, the settling party may bring a CERCLA “cost recovery” action against a third party, which would be governed by the statute of limitations applicable to such actions. Under Monday’s ruling, Guam can now pursue a CERCLA cost recovery claim against the U.S.
Bayer to rethink Roundup in U.S. residential market after judge nixes $2 billion settlement
Yahoo! News – May 26
Bayer said on Wednesday that it will review the future of its Roundup and other glyphosate-based weedkillers in the U.S. residential market. The statement follows U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria’s rejection of Bayer’s $2 billion proposal to settle future claims alleging the herbicide causes cancer in exchange for placing limits on new lawsuits. The company had committed $9.6 billion in June to settle around 125,000 existing claims and lawsuits by Roundup users who were already alleging the product caused their non-Hodgkin lymphoma. However, because Roundup remains on the market and because there is a 10- to 15-year lag between exposure and the onset of symptoms, Bayer also potentially faces years of future claims by people who use glyphosate on their lawns and farms. The rejected settlement was intended to address these future claims.
710 Freeway is a key link in the U.S. economy, but pollution and evictions doom its expansion
Los Angeles Times – May 22
For over two decades, Southern California transportation officials have been considering how to widen the I-710 Freeway to accommodate increasing traffic, but they hit roadblocks ranging from funding shortfalls to opposition from community groups over the increased pollution and relocations that would burden adjacent predominantly low-income communities. Now the project faces another, potentially even greater, complication. The U.S. EPA told Caltrans and Metro officials that the expansion would increase heavy-duty diesel freight travel, increase vehicle emissions, and violate federal Clean Air Act standards — even with incorporation of a proposed program to reduce truck emissions. In response, citing environmental justice concerns, state and local transportation officials say they are now considering scrapping the expansion effort and starting over with an entirely new approach.