Environmental and Policy Focus

U.S. Supreme Court keeps in place protections for California's delta smelt

Los Angeles Times - Jan 12

The U.S. Supreme Court last week kept in place environmental orders in California that protect the endangered delta smelt and limit the pumping of river water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The justices turned down appeals from several water agencies, including the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and from Central Valley farmers. In their appeal, the water agencies questioned whether limits on pumping water to the southern part of the state were required under the Endangered Species Act and said the restrictions were particularly harmful to consumers, farmers, and other water users during the drought. The court's action has the effect of upholding a decision of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which held that federal wildlife officials had a duty to take "reasonable and prudent" measures to protect the 3-inch-long delta smelt, regardless of the cost to the economy.

Obama Administration planning new rules on oil and gas industry’s methane emissions

New York Times - Jan 13

White House officials announced plans to impose new regulations on the oil and gas industry’s emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. The administration’s goal is to cut methane emissions from oil and gas production by up to 45 percent by 2025 from the levels recorded in 2012. The Environmental Protection Agency will issue the proposed regulations this summer and final regulations by 2016. Environmental advocates have long urged the Obama administration to target methane emissions, and the rules would be the first to do so. The oil and gas industry has pushed back against methane regulations, insisting that new rules could stymie the industry and that voluntary industry-wide standards are sufficient to prevent methane leaks.

City of Los Angeles looks at new 'infrastructure district' to fund L.A. River plans

Los Angeles Times - Jan 19

Los Angeles leaders are hoping to use a new tax-sharing law to help finance ambitious plans to transform the city's namesake river into a ribbon of recreational areas and vibrant new developments. As of January 1, local officials have the authority to direct a greater share of future property taxes to revitalization efforts, public works projects, and environmental cleanup. At a City Hall hearing, Los Angeles City Council members voiced eagerness to explore the steps needed to form what is believed to be the state's first Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District and ordered a detailed report, due back in 45 days. Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell, who asked for the analysis, said the infrastructure district would be focused on projects to restore and improve a 31-mile portion of the Los Angeles River.

City of Goleta challenges coastal drilling under CEQA

Courthouse News Service - Jan 21

California's approval of drilling and refining at an aging coastal gas and oil plant will endanger public health and the environment, the City of Goleta claims in court. Goleta sued the California State Lands Commission on January 15 in Santa Barbara County Court. It claims the commission approved the State Lease PRC 421 project and certified its environmental impact report in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Private oil and gas exploration company Venoco is named as a real party in interest. Venoco wants to return the aging Lease PRC 421 wells to production, and to process the crude oil at the Ellwood Onshore Facility, located in Goleta.

Baldwin Park files CEQA suit against Irwindale over Olive Pit mining quarry

Pasadena Star-News - Jan 13

Irwindale officials will meet with the City Attorney to address a lawsuit that was filed after the council unanimously approved a project to reopen the Olive Pit mining quarry. The suit, filed by Irwindale neighbor Baldwin Park, alleges that a final Environmental Impact Report that Irwindale certified in December is inadequate and in violation of CEQA. The 190-acre Olive Pit site has been inactive since 1973. Prior to that, it was mined for aggregate material for nearly 50 years. In August 2013, United Rock Products submitted an application to the City of Irwindale to construct, operate, and reclaim the Olive Pit mine. United Rock Products plans to resume mining for 32 million tons of aggregate reserves and reclaim the site as a potential urban development of 32 acres within seven years.