California Environmental Law & Policy Update - March 2015 #4

by Allen Matkins
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Environmental and Policy Focus

EPA emissions rules face Supreme Court test

NPR - Mar 25

On April 1, the Supreme Court will hear a challenge to Obama Administration rules aimed at limiting the amount of mercury and other hazardous pollutants emitted from coal and oil-fired utility plants. The regulations are being challenged by major industry groups and more than 20 states. The regulations have been in the works for nearly two decades. They stem from 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act, which ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to expedite limits on power plant emissions of mercury and 188 other air pollutants. Both sides agree that cost should be considered in setting pollutant limits. The questions before the Court are, when in the regulatory process should costs of emissions reductions be considered, and how big a factor should they be.

Bay Area plan to require fireplace retrofits at homes for sale

Contra Costa Times - Mar 22

Bay Area air quality officials are ratcheting up their campaign against smoke pollution with a proposal aimed at phasing out fireplaces. Under the proposal, Bay Area homes with wood-burning fireplaces could not be sold or rented unless they were equipped with cleaner devices, such as gas, under the first proposal of its kind in California. Retrofit costs could range from hundreds of dollars to $2,000 to $3,000 or more, depending on the home and device installed. The move by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District has fueled a debate on how far government should go in limiting wood burning to reduce public exposure to smoke.

Massive recycled water project at Apple Campus 2 approved

San Jose Mercury News - Mar 25

On March 25, the Santa Clara Valley Water District board approved a $17.5 million project that will expand the use of recycled water in the parched South Bay and make Apple's futuristic new campus a little bit greener. The project is a collaboration among the Water District, the City of Sunnyvale, the California Water Service Company, and Apple. As the California drought intensifies, the use of recycled water has become an increasingly popular option, particularly on golf courses and other landscaped areas that require extensive irrigation.

Air pollution takes a double toll on babies' brains

Los Angeles Times - Mar 25

A new study, recently published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, finds that prenatal exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (“PAHs”) can shrink white matter in fetal brains and cause further developmental damage during the toddler years. PAHs are a byproduct of incomplete combustion of organic material, and are commonly found in vehicle exhaust, power plant emissions, and secondhand cigarette smoke. According to the study, physical changes in the brain's internal wiring caused by prenatal exposure to PAHs was also correlated with slower cognitive processing and with symptoms of attention deficit and hyperactivity.

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