California Environmental Law & Policy Update - May 2015

Allen Matkins
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Environmental and Policy Focus

Governor Brown touts aggressive plan to cut greenhouse gases

KPCC - Apr 29

California would aggressively reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 under a plan announced Wednesday by Governor Jerry Brown that steps up the state's previously established target. The governor's executive order goes further than a federal proposal also aiming to curb global warming but lacks specifics on how to accomplish its goals. Increasing renewable electricity sources, reducing petroleum use in vehicles, doubling the energy efficiency of existing buildings, and making heating fuels cleaner have previously been cited by the governor as ways to reduce emissions. The governor set a target of reducing emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels over the next 15 years. California already has been moving toward an 80 percent reduction in emissions by 2050 under a 2005 executive order by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. President Barack Obama announced a plan last summer to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent by 2030, with 2005 levels as the starting point.

California to cut habitat restoration to build water tunnels

Bloomberg - Apr 29

Governor Brown will scale back plans for habitat restoration in an ecologically sensitive delta to build two $15 billion water tunnels that are meant to guard against events like the record drought gripping the region. California will seek to restore only a third of 100,000 acres it had proposed in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the state Fish and Wildlife director, Chuck Bonham, told the Associated Press. The restoration and tunnels are intended to slow the decline of a watershed that supplies 25 million people and the most productive agricultural region in the U.S. The tunnels, 30 miles long and each as wide as a two-lane interstate highway, are crucial to the delivery of water to that region. The decision to separate their construction from habitat restoration may allow the governor to advance one of his signature projects, one meant to bring the infrastructure that made California possible into the modern era.

San Jose settles lawsuit that threatened general plan

Silicon Valley Business Journal - Apr 28

An environmental lawsuit that threatened to derail San Jose's Envision 2040 land use plan has been settled this month, city attorney Rick Doyle said, but the settlement will cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars. As part of the deal with the Davis-based California Clean Energy Committee (CCEC), the city of San Jose will pay the group's legal fees of about $300,000. The non-profit CCEC claimed the city’s general plan environmental impact review failed to disclose an accurate baseline level of greenhouse gas emissions, and the court agreed. Under the settlement, San Jose will not have to redo its entire general plan, but has agreed to undertake a new study of greenhouse gas emissions over the next year.

Governor Brown urges fines of up to $10,000 for water waste in California drought

Sacramento Bee - Apr 28

Governor Jerry Brown has proposed granting new enforcement powers to local agencies in California’s ongoing drought, including penalties of as much as $10,000 for the most egregious violations of conservation orders. The governor said he also will propose legislation to speed environmental permitting for local water supply projects but not for dams. As of Tuesday, neither proposal had taken bill form and specifics were unclear. The proposed legislation was announced a day after Assembly Democrats killed a bill designed to streamline environmental review for the Sites Reservoir in the Sacramento Valley and Temperance Flat on the San Joaquin River near Fresno.

Senate panel advances bill to overhaul chemical regulation

U-T San Diego - Apr 28

A bipartisan bill to update regulation of harmful chemicals for the first time in nearly 40 years won approval from a Senate committee Tuesday, moving it closer to a vote in the full Senate. Four Democrats joined all 11 committee Republicans to support the bill, which would set safety standards for tens of thousands of chemicals that now are unregulated under the Toxic Substances Control Act. The bill also would offer protections for people vulnerable to the effects of chemicals such as pregnant women, children, and workers, and set deadlines for the Environmental Protection Agency to act. California Senator Barbara Boxer and other Democrats vowed to continue to call attention to what they see as the bill's flaws—including a failure to address children's cancer clusters and asbestos—before a vote in the full Senate, expected later this year. If enacted into law, the bill would be the first significant update to the Act since the law was adopted in 1976.

Cupertino cement quarry to pay $7.5 million to settle water pollution violations

San Jose Mercury News - Apr 29

The Lehigh Hanson cement plant, a longtime producer of Silicon Valley building materials, will pay $7.5 million as part of an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to settle charges it dumped millions of gallons of toxic wastewater into a nearby creek. Under the settlement, the facility will be required to pay $5 million to install an advanced wastewater treatment plant and $2.55 million in civil penalties to the government. From 2009 to 2014, the quarry in the Cupertino hills discharged wastewater containing levels of selenium, a naturally occurring element that is toxic to fish, birds, and other wildlife, in excess of its permits into Permanente Creek, which flows into San Francisco Bay. Joining the EPA in the settlement was the state Department of Justice and the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board.

San Jose, Santa Clara mayors drink recycled sewage to promote expansion of treatment plant

Contra Costa Times - Apr 28

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, Santa Clara Mayor Jamie Matthews, and other Silicon Valley leaders on Monday took big gulps of recycled water—filtered, cleaned, and disinfected sewage—to show that it is safe and should be a growing part of Silicon Valley's drinking water future. The officials appeared at a public water treatment plant in Alviso to unveil plans for an $800 million expansion of recycled water in Santa Clara County over the next 10 years. Once derided as "toilet to tap," recycled water has been used in San Jose and other cities in Santa Clara County since 1997, but only for irrigating golf courses, landscaping, and other non-drinking uses, such as in industrial cooling. To expedite the project, the two mayors want Sacramento political leaders to allow them to suspend the state's landmark environmental law, the California Environmental Quality Act, which requires builders of large projects to prepare detailed studies of how new construction will affect smog, traffic, noise, wildlife, and water quality.

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