California Environmental Law & Policy Update - May 2019 #3

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BLM to open federal lands in Central California to expanded oil and gas drilling

■Los Angeles Times - May 9

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced finalized plans last Thursday to open 725,500 acres of federal land within California’s Central Coast region, primarily in Fresno, Monterey, and San Benito Counties, to oil and gas drilling. BLM estimates that 37 new oil and gas wells will be developed on these lands within the next 20 years, mostly in or near existing oil fields. The agency’s plan comes only weeks after the Trump administration detailed its plans to open more than 1 million acres of public and private land in other parts of California to oil and gas drilling. Together, the proposals target nearly 1,737,000 acres across 19 California counties. If this latest proposal goes into effect, it would mark the end of a five-year moratorium on leasing federal land in California to oil and gas developers.

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California sues over planned expansion of Shasta Dam

■Courthouse News Service - May 14

Attorney General Xavier Becerra and various fishing and environmental groups on Monday sued Westlands Water District (Westlands) in Shasta County Superior Court for coordinating with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Bureau) on the proposed $1.3 billion plan to raise the height of the Shasta Dam. The project would increase the capacity of what is already California’s largest reservoir by approximately 14 percent, creating more water supplies for Central Valley farmers. Critics say the project will flood sacred tribal sites, inundate a stretch of the protected McCloud River, and damage a renowned wild trout fishery, among other harms. The plaintiffs allege that participation in the project by Westlands, a cost-sharing partner with the Bureau, violates California's Wild and Scenic River Act.

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Jury that rendered $2 billion verdict against Monsanto is third to find Roundup caused cancer

■New York Times - May 13

An Alameda County Superior Court jury in Oakland found Monsanto liable for more than $2 billion in damages on Monday after finding that use of Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer over a period of decades was the cause of a couple's non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. It was the third jury to conclude that the company had failed to warn consumers of its flagship product’s dangers. Thousands of additional lawsuits against Monsanto, which Bayer acquired in 2018, are queued up in state and federal courts. The verdict came shortly after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued an interim review stating that glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide, is not a carcinogen.

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Hoopa’s Copper Bluff Mine listed as Superfund site

■Eureka Times-Standard - May 13

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officially added the Copper Bluff Mine in Hoopa to the Superfund National Priorities list, one of seven sites added across the country and the only one added in California. The Copper Bluff Mine, located within the Hoopa Valley Reservation, operated from 1928 to 1964 primarily as a copper and zinc mine. The designation as a Superfund site opens access to federal funding for the cleanup efforts.

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Endangered frog species blocking Camp Fire cleanup

■Sacramento Bee - May 10

Environmental concerns, including fear of harming sensitive frog species, have forced Camp Fire cleanup crews to back away from cleaning some properties in the Paradise area. State officials tasked with the $2 billion-plus cleanup operation have been directed not to enter an estimated 800 burned Butte County home sites within 100 feet of a waterway until state and federal agencies reach an agreement on environmental assessment guidelines. California Fish and Wildlife officials last Friday provided a list of several state endangered species that are believed to inhabit the area, including the Western pond turtle and various frog, bird, bat, and fish species. Under the state Fish and Game Code, crews are not allowed to alter any stream or waterway, use any material from a waterway, or dispose of debris in a way that it may enter into a waterway.

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Sonoma County supervisors eye future of key water diversion project

■Press-Democrat - May 14

Sonoma County supervisors agreed this Tuesday to study applying for a license to operate a hydropower project in a remote area of Mendocino County. Five County agencies and California Trout, an environmental group, are collaborating with Sonoma County’s water agency in studying the possibility of taking over the federal license for the Potter Valley Project, which delivers 20 billion gallons of water a year from the Eel River into the Russian River basin. PG&E surrendered the project in January, upending the license renewal process, and no entity has responded to a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission call for a new operator. The water flowing through the powerhouse is vital to the towns and ranches along the upper Russian River and a critical source for Sonoma Water, which delivers water to 600,000 Sonoma and Marin County customers.

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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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