California Environmental Law & Policy Update - September 2016 #2

by Allen Matkins

Environmental and Policy Focus

Governor Brown signs into law two landmark climate bills

San Francisco Chronicle - Sep 8 Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday signed SB32, the nation’s toughest climate law, requiring California to slash its greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. The legislation extends and increases the reductions required by California’s landmark 2006 global warming law, AB32, which called for the rollback of greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Governor Brown also signed a companion bill, AB197, which prioritizes efforts to cut emissions in low-income or minority communities. AB197 also lets the Legislature appoint two nonvoting members to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which runs most of California’s global warming programs. And, AB197 requires CARB to post on its website data about emissions of greenhouse gases and toxic air pollutants from individual facilities. The bills do not, however, contain a provision Governor Brown badly wanted, explicitly authorizing California’s cap-and-trade system for controlling greenhouse gas emissions to keep running after 2020. The system, once considered a model for the nation, now faces an uncertain future, and the Governor has suggested he may sponsor a ballot measure asking voters to save it.

California's heavy water users could face penalties if drought persists

Los Angeles Times - Sep 2 Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill last week requiring water districts to crack down on excessive use any time a drought emergency is in effect and water conservation is required — as has been the case for much of the last year. The new law also has the “side effect” of making it easier to expose heavy users, said state Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), who wrote the bill. Under current state rules, residents can be fined $500 for hosing down a sidewalk, among other prohibited actions, but can otherwise use as much water as they want without penalty. Starting January 1, Senate Bill 814 will require urban water suppliers either to establish a rate structure that automatically raises rates on excessive users, or to create an ordinance capable of identifying which customers are being wasteful. The law requires that violators of the new ordinances be penalized.

Federal judge puts hold on plan to open California lands to hydraulic fracturing

ABC News - Sep 7 A federal judge on Tuesday tentatively halted implementation of a plan by the federal Bureau of Land Management (Bureau) to open more than 1,500 square miles of lands in central California to oil drilling and hydraulic fracturing. The Bureau failed to take the "hard look" required by the National Environmental Policy Act at the environmental effects of the estimated 25 percent of new wells that would be devoted to hydraulic fracturing, and the Bureau must study further the effects the practice will have in the area, U.S. District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald wrote in the ruling. He gave the Bureau's attorneys until September 21 to show why he should not issue an order enjoining the plan. The decision involves 1.1 million acres of public lands and federal mineral estates in the mostly agricultural central valley, the southern end of the Sierra Nevada, and parts of the central coast.

Judge’s ruling blocks plans to widen Highway 1 in Pacifica

SFGate - Sep 6 The state’s plans to widen 1.3 miles of Highway 1 in Pacifica along the coast south of San Francisco to relieve traffic congestion have run into a new legal roadblock with a federal judge’s ruling that Caltrans gave misleading information to federal officials about the project’s impact on two protected species: the California red-legged frog and the San Francisco garter snake. The state Department of Transportation assured the federal government that it had agreed to protect 5.14 nearby acres of the species' habitat from development, without mentioning that the parcel had been already protected from development by a 1996 agreement between Pacifica and the California Coastal Commission, said U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria of San Francisco. Caltrans spokesman Myeast McCauley said the agency “will be working with its project partners to discuss and determine options and next steps.” Formally approved in 2013, the project is budgeted at $52 million.

Environmentalists and state settle differences over hazardous waste site

Fresno Bee - Sep 5 Two state agencies, the Department of Toxic Substances Control and the California Environmental Protection Agency, have settled an administrative civil rights complaint filed by environmental groups with the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The complainants objected to the treatment of residents in the permitting process for a hazardous waste landfill near Kettleman City in Kings County. Under the settlement agreement, the state agencies promised to account for language barriers when it reviews Chemical Waste Management Inc.’s operating permit renewal application. When the landfill received a renewal permit from the Department of Toxic Substances Control, the environmental groups challenged the renewal by filing a civil rights complaint, complaining that the environmental review documents were not translated into Spanish, requests to have them translated were denied, and key public meetings lacked interpreters.


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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