California Environmental Law & Policy Update - April 2018 #4

by Allen Matkins


Supreme Court moves closer to taking Martins Beach case

THE MERCURY NEWS - Apr 24 In the first sign that the U.S. Supreme Court might hear an appeal regarding a private property owner’s attempt to block the public from accessing Martins Beach on the San Mateo County coast, the Court has asked the Surfrider Foundation (Surfrider), which sued Vinod Khosla, the wealthy Silicon Valley entrepreneur that owns the property, to respond to Khosla’s appeal. Surfrider filed the case against Khosla, who purchased the beachfront property south of Half Moon Bay in 2008, after he locked the gate to a scenic beach that had been accessible to the public since the 1920s. The lawsuit alleged that under California’s Coastal Act, property owners must obtain a permit from the California Coastal Commission not just to build new structures near the beach but also to change public access. Surfrider's victory in the San Mateo County trial court was upheld 3-0 by California’s First District Court of Appeal last August.

Pruitt unveils controversial ‘transparency’ rule limiting what research EPA can use


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt moved Tuesday to limit what science can be used in writing agency regulations, a change long sought by conservatives. The proposed rule would only allow the EPA to consider studies where the underlying data is made available publicly. Pruitt and proponents describe the new approach as an advance for transparency, but a chorus of scientists and public health groups warn that the rule would effectively block the EPA from relying on long-standing, landmark studies on the harmful effects of air pollution and pesticide exposure. Such research often involves confidential personal or medical histories or proprietary information. The proposal will be subject to a 30-day comment period, EPA officials said.

BLM approves oil drilling, pipeline in Carrizo Plain National Monument

THE TRIBUNE - Apr 20 The U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has approved Bakersfield-based E&B Natural Resources Management Corp.’s proposal to drill a new well and install a new pipeline on an existing lease within the Russell Ranch Oil Field in the Carrizo Plain National Monument. Two conservation groups, Los Padres ForestWatch and the Center for Biological Diversity, are challenging the approval, claiming the oil well and pipeline would harm threatened and endangered wildlife, including the San Joaquin kit fox and California condor, and would impede scenic views. Two years ago, the BLM approved the oil company's request to abandon the pad (which hasn't produced oil in decades) and remove infrastructure on the site to restore the area to natural conditions. That work was not done, and instead, the BLM in March 2018 approved the new well, a project that was originally proposed in 2012.

Water Commission releases updated plans for allocating $2.6B water storage bond funds

THE SACRAMENTO BEE - Apr 20 California took a big step last Friday toward launching a new multibillion-dollar wave of reservoir construction. After being accused of being overly tightfisted with taxpayer dollars, the California Water Commission last Friday released updated plans for allocating nearly $2.6 billion in Proposition 1 bond funds approved by voters in 2014 during the depths of the drought. The money will help fund eight reservoirs and other water storage projects. With climate change expected to diminish the Sierra Nevada snowpack, construction of new reservoirs will bolster California's ability to store water. If constructed, Sites Reservoir, a $5.2 billion project straddling the Glenn-Colusa county line, and the $2.7 billion Temperance Flat reservoir east of Fresno would become the two largest reservoirs built in California since Jerry Brown's first stint as governor in the 1970s.

City of Oakland and East Bay Municipal Utility District fined $360,000 over sewage discharge

SFGATE - Apr 24 The city of Oakland and East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) must pay more than $360,000 for violating the Clean Water Act by allowing untreated sewage into the San Francisco Bay, officials said on Tuesday. In 2014, EBMUD and seven East Bay communities it serves, including Oakland and Berkeley, paid $1.5 million in civil penalties for past sewage discharges. The settlement also required the parties to assess and upgrade a total of 1,500 miles of sewer system infrastructure over a 21-year period. The additional fines were imposed because the cities and districts were found to have violated the Clean Water Act prohibition on sanitary sewer overflows, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board. Since the 2014 settlement, 720 miles of sewer pipe have been inspected and about $80 million has been spent to upgrade 100 miles of the system.

Salinas Valley wells moratorium approved over agricultural concerns

MONTEREY HERALD - Apr 24 Despite pushback from agricultural interests, a split Monterey County Board of Supervisors approved a moratorium on new farmland irrigation wells in the northern Salinas Valley to battle worsening seawater intrusion. By a 3-2 vote during a joint meeting of the supervisors and the county Water Resources Agency (WRA) board of directors, a narrow board majority directed staff to move forward with an emergency ordinance aimed at establishing a temporary prohibition on new wells in the 180-foot, 400-foot and deep aquifers in an area of the Salinas Valley where WRA maps show seawater intrusion has been advancing further into the valley’s groundwater supply, which WRA attributes to increased groundwater pumping.

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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