California Environmental Law & Policy Update 9.15.23

Allen Matkins


EPA bolsters states’ Clean Water Act Section 401 control of water, infrastructure permitting

Bullet E&E News – September 14

The Biden administration is restoring significant state and tribal authority over water resources and expanding their leverage on infrastructure permitting decisions, including for pipelines. With a final rule announced this Thursday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reversed limitations on state permit approvals, a move the agency said would bolster state and tribal abilities to protect their waters. In addition to restoring certain oversight powers, the move also gives states, tribes, and territories a direct role in determining the duration of review processes. At issue is Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, which enables states, tribes, and territories to certify – or refuse to certify – projects affecting their water resources. Under the previous administration, EPA had limited Section 401 certification oversight to discharges alone, as opposed to “the activity as a whole,” a move that sparked major backlash from some states and environmental groups.


Kaiser to pay $49 million to California for illegally dumping private medical records, medical waste

Bullet Associated Press – September 8

Following an investigation initiated in 2015, Kaiser Permanente has agreed to pay $49 million as part of a settlement with California prosecutors who say the health care giant illegally disposed of thousands of private medical records, hazardous materials, and medical waste, including blood and body parts, in dumpsters headed to local landfills, authorities said last Friday. Investigators also found batteries, electronic devices, and other hazardous waste in trash cans and bins at sixteen Kaiser medical facilities throughout the state, Attorney General Rob Bonta said.

California bill would force large companies to disclose greenhouse gas emissions

Bullet NBC News – September 14

A first-of-its-kind bill that would require large companies operating in California to publicly disclose their greenhouse gas emissions passed the state Senate this week despite strong opposition from some business interests. The proposed legislation, Senate Bill 253, passed Tuesday and is on its way to Governor Gavin Newsom's desk. Like proposed SEC rules, SB 253 covers not just “scope 1” and “scope 2” emissions, which come directly from company-owned sources such as factories or vehicles, and from purchased resources like electricity, but also “scope 3” emissions, which include emissions from indirect sources that occur when consumers buy or use a company’s goods and services.

Long Beach sued over plan to drill for oil and gas

Bullet Courthouse News Service – September 14

An environmental group filed a lawsuit against Long Beach this Thursday aiming to block the city's authorization of oil and gas drilling for the next five years. In its complaint, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, the Center for Biological Diversity alleges that Long Beach violated the California Environmental Quality Act by not conducting an environmental review in order to assess the impacts of the oil and gas drilling operations. The city's plan authorizes 100 drilling activities between 2023 and 2028.

A new court settlement will put EPA on track to regulate pesticides more tightly

Bullet The New York Times – September 14

A sweeping legal settlement approved this week has put EPA on a binding path to adequately consider the effects on imperiled species when it evaluates pesticides, and to take steps to protect them. By its own account, EPA has failed to meet the obligations of the Endangered Species Act for more than 95 percent of the thousands of pesticide assessments it completes annually, according to a report the agency issued last year. That failure of compliance has opened it to a flood of lawsuits from environmental groups, as well as a spate of recent court decisions against the agency.

UCLA researchers plan to deeply examine health impacts of Aliso Canyon gas leak

Bullet Los Angeles Daily News – September 13

Nearly eight years after the disastrous Aliso Canyon gas leak sprung up in the hills above Porter Ranch, a team at UCLA has announced details of a planned study into the effects of the leak on the health of residents near the underground natural gas storage facility owned by SoCalGas. A team of about 50 researchers will work on the study, examining health impacts on pregnant women, children, and adults during and after the 2015 gas leak, recognized as the largest natural gas leak in U.S. history.

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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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