California Environmental Law & Policy Update - April 2015 #4

Allen Matkins
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Environmental and Policy Focus

California court rules tiered water pricing plan violates Prop 218

Allen Matkins - Apr 21

California's local water suppliers, hit with reduction requirements varying from 8 percent to 36 percent and potential penalties of up to $10,000 per day for noncompliance, are scrambling to figure out how to comply with these severe cutbacks. According to Governor Brown's April 1, 2015, Executive Order, urban water suppliers are to develop rate structures, including surcharges, fees, and penalties, to maximize water conservation. But a just-released case may jeopardize efforts to impose conservation-based water supply charges, at least without a careful cost study on which to base the rates. On April 20, 2015, the Fourth District Court of Appeal issued its widely-anticipated decision in Capistrano Taxpayers Association Inc. v. City of San Juan Capistrano, ruling that tiered rate structures designed to encourage water conservation, such that high users pay a progressively higher fee, violate Proposition 218 if they are not tied to actual costs of service.

State water board issues revised drought regulations for Californians

Los Angeles Times - Apr 18

In response to numerous complaints, state regulators Saturday issued a revised plan for California's first-ever mandatory water cuts, emphasizing the need for urgent action as summer looms. The State Water Resources Control Board trimmed conservation targets for some communities with a track record of saving water, but slightly increased the required cuts for the thirstiest cities. Water suppliers that recorded the lowest residential per-capita water use in July, August, and September of last year, which include San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Seal Beach, will have to cut only 8 percent. Communities with the highest per-capita numbers during that period, including Arcadia and Beverly Hills, will have to reduce consumption by 36 percent.

Huntington Beach repeals plastic bag ban

KPCC - Apr 21

Shoppers in Huntington Beach may not have to carry reusable bags or purchase paper ones at the grocery store anymore. After six minutes of discussion, the Huntington Beach City Council voted 6 to 1 on Monday night to allow stores to use plastic carryout bags, taking a step toward reversing a ban that was enacted in 2013. The repeal comes back to the City Council on May 4 for a procedural second vote before going into effect 30 days thereafter. If it passes, Huntington Beach will be the first California city to repeal a plastic bag ordinance.

Environmental groups launch CEQA suit over planned Bay Area refinery marine terminal

Reuters - Apr 17

On Friday, two environmental groups filed a lawsuit alleging that the State of California did not adequately consider environmental impacts when it approved a 30-year lease last month for a marine terminal at Tesoro Corp's refinery near San Francisco Bay. The Center for Biological Diversity and Communities for a Better Environment contend that the California State Lands Commission’s review failed to take into account expected changes in the feedstock entering the refinery, including “lower quality” crudes such as Bakken crude and oil sands crude from Canada. The suit calls for an immediate halt to terminal activities until a new environmental review is completed.

High-speed rail escalates use of eminent domain to acquire land for rights of way

Fresno Bee - Apr 20

The California High-Speed Rail Authority and the State are resorting more frequently to eminent domain lawsuits in order to obtain land needed for construction of the planned high-speed rail line through the central San Joaquin Valley. This increase comes in the wake of the failure of a bill that could have slowed, if not halted, the state's use of eminent domain prohibiting the Rail Authority and the Public Works Board from initiating condemnation actions unless they identify the sources and timing of funding to build a usable segment of the train line on the property proposed to be condemned, and certify that the segment has received all of the required environmental clearances. The bill, Assembly Bill 1138 (Patterson), was voted down in committee.

San Francisco’s Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite faces new legal challenge

Fresno Bee - Apr 21

San Francisco is unreasonably monopolizing spectacular Hetch Hetchy Valley by using it as a 117-billion-gallon reservoir, according to a new lawsuit in a decades-old fight to restore the Yosemite National Park landmark. The lawsuit, filed by the non-profit group Restore Hetch Hetchy in Tuolumne County Superior Court, seeks an order for modification or removal of O’Shaughnessy Dam in Yosemite to let the Tuolumne River flow again and for preparation of a plan for improving the City’s water system so no water is lost in restoring the Valley.

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