California Environmental Law & Policy Update 2.16.24

Allen Matkins



California introduces rule to end hydraulic fracturing in the state

Bullet Courthouse News Service – February 9

The California Department of Conservation last Friday released a proposal to stop issuing permits for well stimulation treatments, commonly known as fracking. Most fracking operations in California are carried out in oil fields in Kern County, where more than 2,200 such operations have been permitted. About 12% of the oil and 17% of the natural gas extracted in the state comes from wells that have undergone fracking at some point. The Department’s Geologic Energy Management Division cited widespread public concern, dissatisfaction with hydraulic fracking activities, and perceived impacts associated with them, as some of the reasons for phasing out permits authorizing these activities.


Farmers, tribes reach ‘historic’ Klamath River deal

Bullet E&E News – February 14

The Interior Department on Wednesday announced an agreement between farmers reliant on the Klamath River for irrigation and tribal nations seeking to restore the region’s fisheries. The memorandum of understanding between the Klamath Water Users Association, which represents farmers in the Pacific Northwest, and the Klamath Tribes, Yurok Tribe, and Karuk Tribe will guide future negotiations over the Pacific Northwest waterway. As part of the newly signed agreement, the Biden administration will release $72 million in investments for projects in the Klamath River Basin, including projects modernizing the region’s agricultural infrastructure.

Medical waste, chemicals, and patient information in dumpsters: Quest Diagnostics to pay $5 million to settle state charges

Bullet The Mercury News – February 14

Quest Diagnostics, one of America’s largest medical testing companies, has agreed to pay $5 million to settle charges that it improperly disposed of hazardous chemicals, medical waste, and patient information at multiple locations across California. California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced the settlement on Wednesday. Multiple district attorneys’ offices conducted more than 30 inspections at Quest laboratories and patient service centers around the state starting in 2020. They discovered hundreds of containers of chemicals illegally thrown in dumpsters and trash compactors, along with batteries and electronic waste, unredacted patient information, and medical waste such as used specimen containers.

Judge allows Arrowhead Spring bottler to continue taking water from San Bernardino mountains

Bullet KVCR – February 15

A judge’s ruling last month allowed the company that bottles Arrowhead Spring Water to continue taking water from the San Bernardino National Forest. Activists are now calling on the Forest Service to stop the company’s operations. Fresno County Superior Court Judge Robert Whalen on January 25 issued a ruling to pause the cease and desist order issued by the State Water Resources Control Board (Board) against BlueTriton Brands, which took over Nestle’s operations in the national forest in 2021. The Board last September ordered the company to stop extracting water from Strawberry Creek, the watershed in the forest that feeds local rivers, creeks, and streams. After BlueTriton responded with a lawsuit challenging the Board’s authority to do so, Judge Whalen overruled the Board’s order pending resolution of BlueTriton’s lawsuit.

Cemex sues State Water Board over permit for Santa Clara River

Bullet The Signal – February 14

In its latest attempt to obtain a permit needed to use the Santa Clara River in its plans to build a massive sand and gravel mine east of Santa Clarita, Cemex has filed a lawsuit against the State Water Resources Control Board. The lawsuit will delay efforts by the City of Santa Clarita, the Board, and residents of the area to engage in discussions of potential concerns arising from the proximity of such an operation next to a river that has been called “one of the last natural rivers in Southern California” and a critical water resource.

A new pact puts far more scrutiny on San Diego’s climate efforts and paves the way for Mira Mesa development. Could it set a ‘statewide precedent’?

Bullet The San Diego Union-Tribune – February 14

San Diego’s progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions will face significantly more scrutiny under a deal the city reached this week to settle lawsuits with environmental organizations. City officials said the settlement shows the city’s commitment to fighting climate change and clears the way for construction projects to move forward across the city, particularly in Mira Mesa. The settlement requires San Diego to disclose its progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions annually - rather than waiting until the emissions reduction target date in 2030 - and if an annual review shows it has fallen significantly short of any targets, the city must immediately adopt more aggressive policies.

East Bay refineries agree to slash pollution

Bullet San Francisco Chronicle – February 13

Two Bay Area oil refineries agreed to dramatically reduce particulate emissions released into the air from their facilities, ending the companies’ nearly three-year-long battle against some of the most stringent antipollution regulations for refiners in the country. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District on Tuesday announced that it reached separate agreements with Chevron and Martinez Refining Company to end lawsuits that had stalled new rules requiring oil refineries to reduce their fine particulate (PM 2.5) emissions. Under its settlement, Chevron admitted it will not reach pollution targets by the 2026 deadline and agreed to pay “record setting” penalties in advance, totaling $49 million, for its anticipated noncompliance. It also will establish a Community Air Quality Fund with an initial $20 million, followed by annual funding of $3.5 million while it comes into compliance, and an additional $20 million in penalties to settle 678 other violation issues.

California tried to ban plastic grocery bags. It didn’t work.

Bullet The New York Times – February 15

Almost a decade ago, California became the first state in the United States to ban single-use plastic bags. Then came reusable, heavy-duty plastic bags, offered to shoppers for ten cents. Designed to withstand dozens of uses, and technically recyclable, many retailers treated them as exempt from the ban. But because they didn’t look much different from the flimsy bags they replaced, many people didn’t actually reuse them, and few, if any, actually were recycled. The unhappy result: Last year, Californians threw away more plastic bags, by weight, than they did when the law first passed, according to figures from CalRecycle, California’s recycling agency. Now, a new bill seeks to ban all plastic bags offered at the checkout line, including the heavy- duty bags.

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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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