The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York this Tuesday struck down a U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) decision to roll back the "incidental take" policy under the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act (Act). District Judge Valerie Caproni held that a December 2017 DOI legal opinion reinterpreting the Act violated the federal Administrative Procedure Act. At stake in the case, which was brought by several conservation groups and eight states, was a policy, in effect since the early 1970s and codified in a DOI memo in 2017 under the prior administration, defining an illegal “taking” under the Act as any action that caused the death of a protected species, whether deliberate or accidental. In 2017, a DOI lawyer suspended the Obama-era opinion, stating that the law applies only to "direct and affirmative purposeful actions" that destroy migratory birds, their eggs, or their nests. Judge Caproni wrote that the lawyer's opinion "is simply an unpersuasive interpretation of the (1918 law's) unambiguous prohibition on killing protected birds."
Phillips 66 Company announced this Wednesday that it will convert its 120,000 barrel-a-day Rodeo oil refinery near San Francisco into the world’s biggest plant that makes renewable diesel, gasoline, and jet fuel from used cooking oil, fats, greases, and soybean oils. The announcement came about a week after Marathon Petroleum Corp. said that it may convert two refineries, including its Martinez facility, into renewable diesel plants. Demand for renewable diesel is surging in the Golden State as refiners buy increasing numbers of credits under the low-carbon fuel standard program, which aims to cut vehicle emissions 20% by 2030. The reconfigured Rodeo plant could start operating as early as 2024.
After years of bureaucratic hurdles and increasing regulatory requirements, Poseidon Water was dealt yet another delay last Friday in its pursuit of a controversial desalination plant in Huntington Beach. The Regional Water Quality Control Board concluded three days of hearings on the project’s next permit by telling Poseidon it must return with a more robust, more detailed mitigation plan to offset the environmental damage the project will cause. The board will reconvene on September 17 to assess Poseidon’s progress. Poseidon has been developing the county’s biggest desalination project, and pursuing permits from multiple agencies, since 1998.
The Los Angeles Superior Court filed a decision on August 4, in favor of Santa Monica-based advocacy group Los Angeles Waterkeeper that compels the State Water Resources Control Board to analyze whether it is “wasteful” and “unreasonable” for Hyperion Water Treatment Plant to release billions of gallons of wastewater into the sea. According to Los Angeles Waterkeeper, water treatment plants in Hyperion, Tillman, Burbank, and Los Angeles-Glendale release an average of nearly 270 million gallons of treated water into the Los Angeles River and Pacific Ocean every day.
One of the first challenges brought against the Trump administration’s Clean Water Act rule redefining federal jurisdiction over the nation’s waters was dismissed by a federal court in Oregon late Thursday. The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association had sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in May for maintaining Clean Water Act protection for small non-navigable streams and wetlands. The court rejected the challenge on the ground that the plaintiff ranchers failed to allege adequately that they were harmed by the rule, and therefore that they lacked standing to sue. The ruling is the first dismissal of more than half a dozen challenges to the rewrite by EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of the Obama-era definition of waters of the U.S., or WOTUS. To date, Colorado is the only plaintiff that has been successful in persuading a court to stay the effectiveness of the new rule. In June, a California-led coalition was unsuccessful in obtaining a stay of the rule. In both instances, the challenges to the rule are continuing.
Daimler AG, the maker of Mercedes-Benz cars, has reached agreements in principle to settle U.S. claims over emissions from its diesel vehicles for over $2.2 billion. The German automaker said late Thursday that the agreements concern civil and environmental claims involving about 250,000 diesel cars and vans, related to a consumer class action lawsuit pending before the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. The company’s pollution practices are under investigation in the U.S. and Germany, and civil lawsuits claim the vehicles emitted more pollutants than advertised. The deal will settle probes by the U.S. Justice Department, EPA, Customs and Border Protection, and the California attorney general and Air Resources Board.