California Environmental Law & Policy Update - March 2015 #3

Allen Matkins
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Environmental and Policy Focus

Governor Brown, top lawmakers unveil emergency drought legislation

Los Angeles Times - Mar 19

Governor Jerry Brown and top lawmakers from both parties announced Thursday a $1 billion plan to deal with California's persistent drought, describing the legislation as a mix of short-term relief and support for long-term water projects. Millions of dollars would be spent faster than previously scheduled to provide food assistance and emergency drinking water in hard-hit communities. Additional money would go to wildlife preservation. The bulk of the legislation would fund infrastructure initiatives that might not be completed for years. The proposal includes $272.7 million from the $7.5 billion water bond approved by voters last year for projects such as water recycling and desalination. An additional $660 million would go to flood-control projects, funded with a bond measure approved by voters a decade ago and scheduled to expire next year.

Obama administration unveils federal fracking regulations

New York Times - Mar 20

The Obama administration on Friday unveiled the nation’s first major federal regulations on hydraulic fracturing, the controversial technique for oil and gas drilling that has led to a dramatic increase in American energy production but has also raised concerns about health and safety risks. The new rules will apply only to oil and gas wells drilled on public lands, even though the vast majority of fracking in the United States is done on private land. The rules will cover about 100,000 wells, according to the Interior Department.

San Diego sues Monsanto over PCB pollution

St. Louis Business Journal - Mar 17

The City of San Diego has filed a lawsuit against Monsanto Company and two related companies over long-standing chemical pollution in San Diego Bay. San Diego, together with the San Diego Unified Port District, filed the suit last Friday in U.S. District Court in California's Southern District. San Diego and the port argue that the companies are liable for contamination of the bay by polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, manufactured by Monsanto from the 1930s through the late 1970s. San Diego and the port allege that Monsanto continued making and marketing PCBs with knowledge they were an environmental hazard.

State Water Board significantly expands scope of authority to investigate water rights

Allen Matkins - Mar 19

As widely anticipated, on March 17, 2015, the State Water Resources Control Board approved a resolution to impose state-wide mandatory water conservation measures, including restricting the number of days that irrigation of outdoor landscaping is permitted, prohibitions on irrigation runoff and irrigation of landscaping within 48 hours after measurable rainfall, prohibitions on serving drinking water at restaurants unless requested by the customer, and requiring hotels to give guests the option to forgo daily laundering of linens and towels. But in a less-publicized resolution adopted the same day, the Board also moved to significantly expand its power to investigate the validity of claimed water rights. Calling its existing ability to obtain documentation of water rights and water use too limited, and finding that many recipients of curtailment notices in 2014 simply ignored orders to stop using water, the Board's new regulation broadens the circumstances in which it may require information from water rights holders.

Environmental group fights 1,185-acre solar farm in San Diego County

Courthouse News Service - Mar 18

Environmentalists sued San Diego County and five solar power companies, claiming a large-scale proposed solar project will destroy thousands of acres of "irreplaceable wildlife habitat." Solar Development, a French company, wants to build four industrial solar facilities on 1,185 acres of rural desert land in eastern San Diego County's Boulevard community. Backcountry Against Dumps sued San Diego County, the project developers, and several other parties with interests in the properties. The plaintiffs claim the final project environmental impact report fails to analyze the project's direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental impacts and does not discuss an adequate range of mitigation measures and alternatives, in violation of CEQA. The project, if built, will generate 140 megawatts of electricity using concentrated photovoltaic panels. Unlike the more common fixed photovoltaic systems, concentrated photovoltaic panels include tracking systems that enable them to follow the sun across the sky.

California Supreme Court to review San Diego Association of Governments' transportation plan

KPBS - Mar 12

The state Supreme Court has agreed to review an appellate court ruling that the 40-year transportation plan prepared by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) did not meet requirements for reducing greenhouse emissions. SANDAG's 2050 regional transportation plan, which called for $214 billion in transportation investments, was finalized in 2011. However, the Cleveland National Forest Foundation and other environmental groups challenged its environmental impact report in court. Environmentalists also contend the plan prioritizes freeway expansion over public transportation. In November, a three-judge appellate panel split 2-1 against SANDAG's Regional Transportation Plan, with the majority saying the environmental impact report needed more analysis. SANDAG Chairman Jack Dale said, "The appellate court decision left agencies throughout the state with questions on what standards to apply" to the greenhouse gas emissions analysis and hopes the state Supreme Court will clear up the confusion.

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