California Environmental Law & Policy Update - September 2015 #3

Allen Matkins
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Environmental and Policy Focus

United States, China sign landmark climate change declaration at Los Angeles summit

Courthouse News - Sep 15

U.S. and Chinese leaders on Tuesday signed a landmark declaration on climate change at a summit hosted by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. The White House described the declaration, signed by multiple community leaders from the United States and China, as the "first of its kind" and a "concrete statement of intent" to "implement ambitious, verifiable actions to address climate change and simultaneously to support and expand bilateral cooperation and dialogue." Among the new initiatives announced, cities in China will form a new alliance with the goal of reaching peak years for carbon dioxide emissions by the end of 2020, ten years ahead of China's national goal to halt its rise in emissions by 2030. Cities, counties and states in the United States have also pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions ahead of the U.S. goal to reduce emissions by 28 percent by 2025. According to the White House, the summit and the resulting declaration fulfill key elements of the U.S.-China joint announcement on climate change made by President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping last November, and help to ensure that the commitments made by the two leaders "will be implemented at the state and local level, where they matter the most."

Federal government settles long dispute over Central Valley water

The Los Angeles Times - Sep 15

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and Westlands Water District agreed on Tuesday to settle a long legal battle over hundreds of acres of poorly-drained farmland lying within Westlands' boundaries on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. Under the deal, Reclamation would be relieved of a costly, court-ordered requirement to provide drainage to Westlands cropland. The district would permanently retire 100,000 acres of fields lacking proper drainage, and agree to a cap on water deliveries that amounts to 75 percent of its current contract amount. In return, Reclamation would forgive roughly $350 million the district still owes U.S. taxpayers for construction of a portion of Central Valley Project facilities that store and deliver the irrigation water, and lift limits on the size of Westlands farms eligible for subsidized water deliveries. While Westlands would assume responsibility for managing its tainted drain water, it remains unclear how it would accomplish that task. The agreement must still be approved by Congress.

Federal court dismisses ESA challenge to Delta drought barrier

Courthouse News - Sep 16

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by an environmental group accusing California of violating the federal Endangered Species Act by building a 750-foot-wide drought barrier across a channel of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, one of the state's emergency drought measures. U.S. District Judge Lawrence O'Neill ruled that the plaintiff, the Center for Environmental Science, Accuracy and Reliability ("CESAR"), failed to provide sixty days’ notice of the lawsuit to the Department of the Interior, as required under federal law. While CESAR's federal lawsuit was dismissed, its state court action, in which it alleges violations of the California Environmental Quality Act and the California Endangered Species Act, remains pending

U.S. Navy limits 'whale-harming' sonar in Pacific

BBC News - Sep 14

The U.S. Navy has agreed to limit its use of sonar that may inadvertently harm whales and dolphins in waters near Hawaii and California. A federal judge in Honolulu signed the agreement between the Navy and environmental groups on Monday, restricting or banning the use of mid-frequency active sonar and explosives used in training exercises. The agreement brings to an end legal cases brought by Earthjustice and other environmental groups against the National Marine Fisheries Service for allowing the military training, in which the environmentalists claimed that the use of sonar disrupts the feeding patterns of marine mammals and can even cause deafness or death.

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