California Environmental Law & Policy Update - March 2017 #3

by Allen Matkins

Environmental and Policy Focus

Trump’s budget proposal slashes EPA funding

Washington Post - Mar 16 President Trump on Thursday released his budget plan for the next fiscal year, which proposes cutting the budget for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by 31 percent, to $5.7 billion. It would cut 3,200 positions, or more than 20 percent of the agency’s current workforce. If adopted, the budget would discontinue funding for the Clean Power Plan — the signature Obama administration effort to combat climate change by regulating carbon dioxide emissions from power plants – and eliminate all funding for the massive Chesapeake Bay cleanup project and similar cleanup programs in the Great Lakes. It also would sharply reduce the budget for the Superfund program, which funds federal cleanup of contaminated sites, and cut by half the budget for the EPA’s Office of Research and Development. As proposed, the budget would eliminate more than 50 EPA programs, including the Energy Star program; infrastructure assistance to Alaska Native villages and the Mexico border; a grant program that assists cities and states in addressing air pollution; and an office that focuses on environmental justice issues. The budget plan would maintain funding for “high priority” infrastructure investments such as grants and low-cost financing to states and municipalities for drinking water and wastewater projects.

Big win for automakers as Trump orders fuel economy standards review

Reuters - Mar 15 President Donald Trump on Wednesday ordered a review of tough U.S. vehicle fuel-efficiency standards put in place by the Obama administration, handing a victory to auto industry executives and provoking criticism from Democrats and environmental groups. Automakers, through their lobbying groups, have said the Obama administration rules were too expensive and could cost American jobs. A White House official noted that the president is not, however, currently seeking to revoke California's authority to set vehicle efficiency rules even stricter than federal rules, including mandating sales of electric vehicles, but did not rule out the possibility that such authority might be withdrawn in the future. A group of 10 state attorneys general, led by California and New York, said on Wednesday they would fight attempts to weaken the rules. California’s attorney general filed legal papers late Tuesday in federal court defending the Obama administration’s decision to finalize the determination in January.

California bill aims to make it harder for megaprojects to sidestep state environmental law

Los Angeles Times - Mar 15 In a reaction to “fast-tracking” of major development projects approved by voter initiative, Assemblyman Jose Medina (D-Riverside) has authored new legislation, Assembly Bill 890, that would prohibit local governments from approving such projects without full environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Developments approved by voter initiatives, including the Los Angeles Rams stadium in Inglewood and various large shopping center projects, are not subject to CEQA review. The California Supreme Court approved the legality of that process in 2014, after Walmart used it to fast-track a store in Tuolumne County, and at least four other large developments have sought project approval via the "fast track" process since then.

BLM discussing plans to expand oil and gas extraction in 12 California counties

Monterey Herald - Mar 14 The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is hosting meetings this week to discuss leasing nearly 800,000 acres of land for oil and gas extraction in 12 California counties. The new plan addresses issues raised in a lawsuit filed against the agency’s previous plan and puts in place “new stipulations and best management practices for oil and gas leasing to address wildlife, air quality and water resources and ensure safe and environmentally responsible development,” said Serena Baker, a BLM spokeswoman. Environmental groups say those precautions are not enough, especially because the executive branch is planning significant budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency. "Measure Z," a voter-approved initiative that imposes limits on oil production practices in Monterey County, is being challenged in court by Chevron and Aera Energy. A Monterey County judge on Wednesday delayed implementation of Measure Z while the two lawsuits aimed at stopping it altogether are resolved in the courts.

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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