California Environmental Law & Policy Update - February 2015 #4

Allen Matkins
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Environmental and Policy Focus

President Obama vetoes Keystone XL pipeline, leaving it in limbo

Reuters - Feb 24

President Barack Obama on Tuesday, as promised, swiftly vetoed a Republican bill approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline, leaving the long-debated project in limbo for another indefinite period. The U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, after receiving Obama's veto message, immediately countered by announcing that the Republican-led chamber would attempt to override it by March 3. That is unlikely. Despite their majority, Republicans are four votes short of being able to overturn Obama's veto. They have vowed to attach language approving the pipeline to a spending bill or other legislation later in the year that the president would find difficult to veto.

California's plastic bag ban suspended by ballot referendum

San Jose Mercury News - Feb 25

A referendum initiated by the plastic bag industry to overturn California's first-in-the-nation law banning supermarkets and other businesses from handing out single-use plastic bags has qualified for next year's ballot. The immediate impact of Tuesday's announcement by Secretary of State Alex Padilla is that the law, signed by Governor Jerry Brown in September, will be suspended until the voters decide its fate in the November 2016 election. Large companies that manufacture plastic grocery bags, led by Hilex Poly of South Carolina, said the measure, hailed by environmental groups, would harm the state's economy and that it unfairly allowed grocers to charge customers 10 cents per paper bag.

Inglewood council approves NFL stadium plan amid big community support

Los Angeles Times - Feb 24

The Inglewood City Council voted unanimously to approve an 80,000-seat stadium at the site of the old Hollywood Park racetrack, jump-starting the effort to bring an NFL team back to the area after a two-decade absence. The vote capped six frenzied weeks, from the project's public unveiling to the approval without a public vote. A ballot initiative to add the stadium to existing plans to develop the site was certified earlier this month. Inglewood had the choice of putting the project on the ballot in June or letting the City Council approve the plan, which includes a mixed-use development over 298 acres.

Court dismisses environmental challenge to Kings arena

Sacramento Bee - Feb 18

The Sacramento City Council was still voting on the development deal for the new Kings arena last year when a group of arena foes handed out copies of a lawsuit that claims the project is an environmental disaster in the making. Nine months later, the lawsuit has been dismissed by a state appellate court, removing one of the last remaining legal obstacles to a $477 million project that has already broken ground. The Third District Court of Appeal rejected the suit, filed by a group of citizens led by retired Caltrans director Adriana Saltonstall, alleging that the new arena would snarl traffic, foul the air, and lead to other environmental impacts, all without proper analysis or consideration as required by the California Environmental Quality Act.

Too much pressure in equipment triggered Torrance refinery explosion

Los Angeles Times - Feb 23

Too much pressure in a piece of equipment at Torrance's Exxon Mobil refinery resulted in Wednesday's large explosion that sent irritating ash, filled with fiberglass and glass wool, into surrounding neighborhoods. The blast jolted nearby residents like a 1.7 earthquake, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The cause of the over-pressurization is still under investigation. The material that was released into the air landed on cars and homes. Although it contained fiberglass and glass wool, it did not contain asbestos, according to a South Coast Air Quality Management District report.

Bakersfield developers settle high-speed rail lawsuit

Modesto Bee - Feb 24

A Bakersfield land development company has agreed to drop its environmental lawsuit against the California High-Speed Rail Authority, the second out-of-court settlement among seven challenges over the Fresno-Bakersfield segment of the statewide bullet train route. Coffee-Brimhall LLC, which owns land in east-central Bakersfield proposed for a retail, commercial, and residential development called Bakersfield Commons, sued the rail authority last year in Sacramento Superior Court. The suit alleged that the state’s approval and environmental certification of the 114-mile Fresno-Bakersfield route violated the California Environmental Quality Act.

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