States sue over rollback of fuel efficiency standards
The San Diego Union-Tribune – May 27
California, joined by nearly two dozen other states, the District of Columbia and the City of Los Angeles, on Wednesday filed suit over the Trump administration’s weakening of fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks, arguing that its decision puts the public’s health at risk and is based on flawed science. The lawsuit alleges that the new rule from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Transportation Department, dubbed the Safer Affordable Fuel Efficient (SAFE) Vehicle rule, will not improve the economy or lower the cost of new cars, the administration's stated justification for the new rule. Opponents of the rule claim that less efficient cars will release nearly 900 million more tons of carbon dioxide, contributing to climate change. Under this new rule, car manufacturers will only have to produce cars that reach an average of 40 miles per gallon by 2026, instead of the Obama administration’s target of 54 mpg by 2025. The outcome is likely to be decided by the Supreme Court and could have serious consequences for California and the 13 other states that have embraced tougher car pollution standards than those set by the federal government.
Ninth Circuit affirms invalidation of Oakland’s coal shipment ban
Courthouse News Service – May 26
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday gave a green light to the shipment of up to 5 million metric tons of coal per year through a planned bulk terminal at the former Oakland Army Base. The appellate court upheld the district court’s ruling that the Oakland City Council breached a development agreement with the terminal’s developers by adopting a 2016 ban on such coal shipments without substantial evidence that transporting coal through the terminal would present a substantial danger to people in Oakland by creating coal-dust air pollution and a risk of combustion of the coal. In reaching its decision, the Ninth Circuit agreed with the findings of the trial judge, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria, who ruled that the record the council relied on was "riddled with inaccuracies, major evidentiary gaps, erroneous assumptions, and faulty analyses, to the point that no reliable conclusion about health or safety dangers could be drawn from it.”
Ninth Circuit rejects bid to revive cancelled pipeline program
Associated Press – May 28
The Ninth Circuit on Thursday rejected the Trump administration’s request to revive the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' (USACE) Nationwide Permit 12 (NWP 12) for new oil and gas pipelines, an outcome that industry representatives said could delay more than 70 projects across the U.S. and cost companies up to $2 billion. The case originated with a challenge by environmentalists to the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline, which was approved under NWP 12, but is now affecting oil and gas pipeline proposals across the nation. NWP 12 streamlines approval for broad categories of pipelines, transmission lines, and cable projects that cross or discharge fill into federally regulated waterways. U.S. District Judge Brian Morris in Montana recently invalidated NWP 12 as to oil and gas pipelines, ruling that USACE officials had failed to adequately consult with wildlife agencies before reauthorizing the permitting program in 2017. As a result of the Ninth Circuit’s refusal to stay the ruling, companies will have to apply for numerous individual construction permits for oil and gas pipelines that sometimes cross hundreds of water bodies, at least until a new, properly-promulgated NWP is issued, or until another court decides otherwise.
American Honda Motor Co. agrees to pay $1.9 million over air violations
Daily Breeze – May 26
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has reached a settlement with American Honda Motor Co. that will require the Torrance-based company to pay nearly $2 million to resolve allegations of clean air violations related to the sale of small off-road engines used in generators, and lawn and garden equipment, the agency announced this Tuesday. Through extensive tests in its lab, CARB said, it discovered the equipment did not meet the evaporative control emission standards Honda had originally agreed to during the certification process. To resolve the violations, the North American subsidiary of the Honda Motor Company Ltd. agreed to pay about $1.9 million, with $963,900 going to the California Air Pollution Control Fund.
EPA reaches $6.5M cleanup deal for Los Angeles-area Superfund site
U.S. News & World Report – May 21
Companies that contaminated soil and water at the former Omega Chemical Corp. recycling center in Whittier have agreed to pay $6.5 million to help clean up the Superfund site, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced last Thursday. The site, which was used to recycle refrigerants and solvents from 1976 to 1991, was added to the National Priorities List in 1999. Soil and groundwater in and around the site have high concentrations of toxic chemicals, including trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene. The settlement, reached by 145 parties that used the facility, is expected to help pay for cleanup at the site and for several miles of contaminated groundwater that reaches the cities of Whittier, Santa Fe Springs, and Norwalk, the EPA said.