California Environmental Law & Policy Update - August 2016 #3

by Allen Matkins

Environmental and Policy Focus

Most California water agencies choose zero as conservation target

San Jose Mercury News - Aug 17 Governor Jerry Brown's administration two months ago dropped all mandatory water conservation targets, allowing cities, water districts, and private water companies across the state to set their own targets. According to figures released Tuesday, 343 urban water agencies, or 84 percent of the 411 largest in the state, gave themselves a conservation target of zero for the rest of this year. Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the State Water Resources Control Board, noted that the agency required each water provider to pass a "stress test" that demonstrated it had enough water either in reservoirs, groundwater storage, or under contracts with other agencies to get by in case the drought continues for another three years. Critics argued the new numbers proved that the move was shortsighted, given that half the state is still in a severe drought.

U.S. regulators unveil final rule on truck emissions limits

Reuters - Aug 16 The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday announced new standards aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions from medium- and heavy-duty trucks by up to 25 percent by 2027. The final rules are similar in most respects to proposed rules issued last year, although there are new provisions that won support both from truck and engine makers and from environmental groups. For example, the final rules require about a 10 percent greater reduction in carbon emissions and fuel use than originally proposed, and California state regulators agreed that they will not issue separate requirements applicable only in California. On the other hand, medium- and heavy-duty vehicle and engine manufacturers were given until 2027 to fully achieve the new emissions targets, in spite of recommendations by California regulators that the standards take effect in 2024.

Settlement halts $652-million project to move LAX runway

Los Angeles Times - Aug 17 A $652-million project to relocate the northernmost runway at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) 260 feet closer to the communities of Westchester and Playa del Rey will be shelved indefinitely under an agreement announced Wednesday and scheduled to go before the Los Angeles City Council for approval next week, ending a lawsuit challenging the planned modernization of LAX. Filed in May 2013 by a local environmental group, the suit alleged that Los Angeles World Airports had not done the required environmental impact evaluation or taken measures to mitigate environmental impacts of the move. Supporters of the project, including the Federal Aviation Administration, contended that the project would increase the safety and efficiency of moving aircraft around LAX. 

Environmental groups denied injunction in dispute over Central Valley solar farm

Courthouse News Service - Aug 19 U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh on Wednesday denied environmentalists' request for a preliminary injunction against a 247-megawatt solar farm planned for the undeveloped Panoche Valley, west of Fresno. In their lawsuit, the Defenders of Wildlife and other plaintiffs alleged that the project would harm three endangered species, the San Joaquin kit fox, the blunt-nosed leopard lizard, and the giant kangaroo rat. Judge Koh found that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate in their early motion in the action that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not use best available science when it ruled in April that the project would not impair the recovery of the three species.

Harley-Davidson to pay $12 million fine over motorcycle emissions

Reuters - Aug 18 Harley-Davidson Inc. agreed to pay a $12 million civil fine and stop selling illegal after-market "super tuner" devices that enable its motorcycles to pollute the air at levels greater than what the Milwaukee-based company certified to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Harley did not admit liability, arguing that the devices were designed and sold to be used in "competition only." According to the government, the sale of such "defeat devices" violates the federal Clean Air Act. The announcement of the settlement comes amid greater scrutiny on emissions and "defeat devices" by U.S. regulators after Volkswagen AG admitted to using illegal software to evade U.S. emissions standards in nearly 600,000 U.S. vehicles.


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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