California Environmental Law & Policy Update - April 2015 #2

Allen Matkins
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Environmental and Policy Focus

Desperate from drought, California turns to desalination

Bloomberg - Apr 8

As California battled its last severe drought in the early 1990s, Santa Barbara spent $34 million on a desalination plant that proved too costly to keep running when rain returned. Now, the city can’t afford to keep it idle. As concern mounts that historically low precipitation plaguing the state may represent a new normal, desalination projects are gaining resonance as drought-proof hydration solutions. At least 14 coastal areas are weighing plans in addition to Santa Barbara and San Diego. County supervisors in Santa Clara County, the most-populous in the San Francisco Bay Area, have renewed discussion on the technology.

$25-billion Sacramento-San Joaquin delta tunnel project reexamined

Los Angeles Times - Apr 4

Governor Jerry Brown's administration is overhauling its proposal for a controversial tunnel project in the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta in the wake of doubts about whether water exporters can meet stringent federal conditions for operating the system over a 50-year period. A major goal of the plan is to gain a 50-year environmental permit for delta exports that would ease the endangered species restrictions that have cut delta deliveries to San Joaquin Valley growers and the urban Southland. But state water officials have concluded that the federal requirements for such long-term approvals are too onerous for the water exporters to meet. "We are considering a lot of different ways of proceeding with the program," said Mark Cowin, director of the state Department of Water Resources. Sources familiar with the state discussions said that it is likely the department will separate the habitat restoration component from the tunnel proposal and pursue shorter-term operating permits for the new diversion facilities and existing pumping operations.

California used 70 million gallons of water in hydraulic fracturing in 2014

Reuters - Apr 3

California oil producers used 214 acre-feet of water, equivalent to nearly 70 million gallons, in the process of hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas in the state last year, less than the 100 million gallons previously projected, state officials told Reuters. Hydraulic fracturing occurs when water and chemicals are injected deep underground at high pressure to break up rock and release oil and gas into wells. According to Steven Bohlen, the state oil and gas supervisor, not all of the water used for fracking is fresh water. Some portion of it is “produced” water, or water that comes to the surface during oil drilling that is not suitable for drinking or agricultural use.

CPUC backs new Carlsbad power plant

U-T San Diego - Apr 6

The state's top utilities regulator is backing a proposal to build a new natural gas power plant at Carlsbad to replace power once provided by the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Michael Picker, president of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), recommended approval of the new plant adjacent to the existing, gas-fired Encina Power Station on the Carlsbad coastline. The five member utilities commission, which had been scheduled to vote on the matter on Thursday, is likely to take up the issue in early May.

New S.F. rules would require some large buildings to use gray water

San Francisco Business Times - Apr 7

A new San Francisco proposal would require some new large buildings to use gray water to flush toilets and for irrigation, a move that critics say could add millions to the cost of such structures. Gray water is wastewater from showers, sinks, and other appliances. The San Francisco Chronicle, which first reported Supervisor Scott Wiener's proposal, estimated about two dozen new developments winding through the city's permitting process could be immediately affected by the legislation. Developers in the affected neighborhoods would be on the hook to create piping systems to collect and clean the recycled water, because the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission only sells drinking water.

California water cutbacks may significantly impact water rights

Courthouse News Service - Apr 7

Senior water rights holders in California, including farmers, who have been shielded from water reductions may have to cut back in the drought, the State Water Resources Control Board says. The board issued the curtailment warning on Friday to holders of more than 36,000 water rights across the state. The warning was directed to the farmers, cities, and energy companies who have rights to divert water for their needs, including for irrigation and hydroelectric dams.

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