California Environmental Law & Policy Update - August #2

Allen Matkins


EPA will not approve labels that say Roundup chemical causes cancer

Bullet U.S. News & World Report – August 8

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced this Thursday that it will not approve California’s recent move to require cancer risk labels on products containing glyphosate - the main active ingredient in the weed killer Roundup. In 2017, prompted by the World Health Organization’s cancer agency declaring that glyphosate is likely to cause cancer, the state declared the chemical a carcinogen. Roundup producer Monsanto challenged California’s ruling in federal court, and a judge has temporarily blocked the state from requiring the labels as the lawsuit continues. The EPA’s new guidance, released this week, to companies registered to sell the chemical, says that California's labels would "constitute a false and misleading statement" and that the agency will no longer approve labels that contain the state's warning, based on its own findings showing that glyphosate does not pose a public risk when used as directed.


States sue Trump administration over fuel economy penalties

Bullet The Mercury News – August 2

A coalition of 12 states and the District of Columbia sued the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last Friday for the second time to block a planned reduction in the penalties automakers pay when they fail to meet fuel economy standards. The new federal rule would restore the penalty, which had been increased for inflation during the Obama administration, to its mid-1970s level. In the lawsuit, the coalition, led by the attorneys general in California and New York, alleges that the new rule would keep the penalty far below the inflation-adjusted rate required by a 2015 law. The U.S. Department of Transportation, which includes the highway safety administration, said it expects the reduced penalty would lower the future burden on the industry and consumers by as much as $1 billion per year.

EPA submits final car emissions rule to the White House

Bullet The Hill – August 5

The EPA and Department of Transportation submitted the finalized Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Rule, proposing to roll back vehicle emissions standards, to the White House for review on Saturday, the second-to-last step before the regulation is implemented. The final draft submitted to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget will not become public until the rule is complete. The news comes shortly after California struck a deal with a handful of automakers to keep their emissions cuts consistent with the regulations laid out in the more stringent Obama-era rule.

Six states sue EPA over pesticide tied to brain damage

Bullet The Hill – August 7

California, New York, Massachusetts, Washington, Maryland, and Vermont sued the EPA this Wednesday over the agency’s decision to allow further use of chlorpyrifos for agriculture, a pesticide linked to brain damage. Chlorpyrifos, known on the market as Lorsban, is used on a wide variety of crops, including corn and cranberries. Farmers argue it is the last line of defense against certain insects. The EPA banned chlorpyrifos for household use in 2001 over concerns it would cause brain damage in children. Its decision to allow continued agricultural use of chlorpyrifos came last month, the result of a court-ordered deadline to regulate the pesticide.

Community groups disagree with Los Angeles officials over oil well buffer zones

Bullet Courthouse News Service – July 31

The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday released a report, commissioned in 2017, regarding the potential health effects of living in close proximity to oil and gas wells. More than 10 million Los Angeles County residents live near 5,300 active and inactive oil and gas wells, with 230,000 people residing within 2,500 feet of an active well. The report recommends that the City adopt a 600-foot buffer zone between communities and existing oil wells, drill sites, and fuel production facilities, at an estimated cost of $720 million in legal expense, cleanup and land remediation, and lost oil production. For future wells, the report recommends a buffer of 1,500 feet and estimates that the cost to the City could reach between $1 billion and $96 billion to defend against property and mineral rights lawsuits. Community advocates responded that the City’s proposed 600-foot buffer zone is insufficient and demand a citywide 2,500-foot buffer instead.

San Diego secures $28.5M in funding to improve local air quality

Bullet The San Diego Union-Tribune – August 7

The San Diego region’s most polluted and disadvantaged communities, such as Barrio Logan and National City, will receive $28.5 million in funding through the California Air Resources Board’s cap-and-trade program to improve air quality, according to a Wednesday announcement. The funding will include grants to schools, government agencies, and businesses that swap out polluting vehicles and machinery for more fuel efficient or electric models. Local activists and waterfront businesses have long argued over the sources of regional air pollution. Some community members and groups have pointed to the shipbuilding and freight industries at the Port of San Diego, while those businesses have argued that freeway pollution from cars is the primary driver of air pollution.

Sonoma County housing and hotel project sued over greenhouse gas emissions concerns

Bullet North Bay Business Journal – August 6

The City of Healdsburg has begun its review of Comstock Homes’ proposal to build what would be the city’s largest housing project, a proposal that has re-stoked the fiery debate in this Wine Country destination over the pace of residential growth and hotel development. Sebastopol-based California River Watch (CRW) has filed suit challenging the project, which includes 350 housing units and a 120-room luxury hotel. CRW alleges that the city failed properly to account for greenhouse gas emissions the hotel would generate. Healdsburg is one of Sonoma County’s most expensive and slowest-growing real estate markets, adding just over 300 new homes in the past decade under the city’s growth cap approved by voters in 2000.

Vineyard hit with $3.7 million in penalties after bulldozing Mendocino County wetland

Bullet The Press-Democrat – August 2

A Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur and winemaker has agreed to pay $3.76 million in penalties after his company bulldozed a protected wetland and filled in a stream bed to build a vineyard in Mendocino County, North Coast water regulators announced last Friday. The settlement, which is reportedly one of the largest ever involving alleged water quality violations on the North Coast, resolves multiple alleged violations for unpermitted work by Rhys Vineyards since 2015, including covering half an acre of protected wetlands with 2,178 cubic yards of fill in the North Fork Ten Mile River watershed.

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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