Kern County Planning Commission recommends approval of controversial oil and gas permitting changes
The Bakersfield Californian – February 12
Kern County's Planning Commission voted last Friday to recommend that the county Board of Supervisors reestablish a streamlined oil and gas permitting system opposed by environmentalists around the state. In supporting a return to an over-the-counter permitting system of permits rejected in court almost one year ago, commissioners noted that the county is a leader in renewable energy, but that jobs in the renewables sector do not come near to replacing the oil industry's employment and tax-revenue benefits. The proposal, which includes a new and extensive environmental review of oilfield operations and a new zoning amendment, is expected to be sent to the county Board of Supervisors for consideration next month.
Tentative order released for controversial Poseidon water project
Los Angeles Times – February 16
The Santa Ana Regional Water Board released a tentative order last Friday detailing proposed revisions to Poseidon Water’s controversial proposed $1.4 billion water desalination project in Huntington Beach. The Regional Board’s tentative order would make Poseidon responsible for five mitigation projects, including four projects within the Bolsa Chica Wetlands and the restoration of a 41.5-acre rocky reef offshore of Palos Verdes. Should Poseidon receive approval from the Regional Board, it would still need approval from the California Coastal Commission before further development of the desalination plant could move forward. Board hearings are scheduled for April to review the revisions and vote on the proposed permit.
California to appeal court ruling on bumblebee protections
Marin Independent Journal – February 15
California wildlife regulators plan to challenge a recent court ruling that found the state lacks authority to protect insects under the state’s Endangered Species Act. The Sacramento County Superior Court ruling in December ordered the California Fish and Game Commission to rescind its 2019 vote to consider placing four species of bumblebees under endangered species protections. A cohort of agricultural organizations filed the lawsuit alleging that the state’s endangered species protections do not extend to insects and would impede farming activities. The bumblebee species have experienced dramatic declines in their populations from a combination of pesticides, disease, loss of habitat, and development.
California plan would turn refinery land into a coastal state park
Merced Sun-Star – February 14
California State Parks has announced plans for a massive recreational development on the Phillips 66 Santa Maria oil refinery property, even though the oil company will not cease operations at the plant near Arroyo Grande for another two years. Those plans, proposed by State Parks in its Public Works Plan and subsequent environmental impact report, hinge on whether the agency buys or leases the property from Phillips 66. In August 2020, the refinery announced plans to end its 66-year run in 2023 because its sister refinery in Rodeo is set to transition into the world’s largest renewable fuels plant, according to the company.
White House rescinds Trump Administration proposal to limit greenhouse gas consideration in infrastructure decisions
The Hill – February 18
The White House on Thursday rescinded 2019 draft guidance that proposed to limit how federal agencies consider the impact of greenhouse gas emissions in infrastructure decisions. The guidance prevented consideration of impacts deemed “remote or speculative,” in analyses under the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires environmental impact reports ahead of projects like pipelines, highways, and drilling on public lands. Billing its move as a way to expedite federal permits, the 2019 proposal aimed to replace a 2016 policy recommending that agencies use projected greenhouse gas emissions when preparing the analyses as a stand-in for estimating a project’s climate change impacts.
15 states sue federal government over delayed hike in automaker emissions penalties
Reuters – February 16
Fifteen states, including California and New York, sued the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) this Tuesday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit after the agency agreed last month, during the final days of the Trump administration, to an auto industry request to delay the imposition of dramatically higher penalties on companies that fail to meet fuel efficiency requirements. NHTSA said last month it expected the final rule to reduce future burdens on the industry by up to $1 billion annually.