The U.S. Forest Service this Wednesday finalized its decision to weaken environmental analysis of many of its plans, excluding a number of actions from scientific review or community input. The new rule allows the Forest Service to use a number of exemptions to sidestep requirements of the bedrock National Environmental Policy Act, something critics say will speed approval of logging, roads, and pipelines on Forest Service land. The Forest Service rule has been scaled back since it was first proposed last year, cutting the scale of projects that are eligible for the so-called categorical exclusions that allow them to proceed with little review.
An agreement announced this Tuesday paves the way for the largest dam demolition in U.S. history. The deal would revive plans to remove four massive hydroelectric dams on the lower Klamath River and reopen hundreds of miles of waterway along the Oregon-California border to salmon that are critical to tribes but have dwindled to almost nothing. The new plan makes Oregon and California equal partners in the demolition with the nonprofit entity, Klamath River Renewal Corporation, and adds $45 million to the project’s $450 million budget to ease regulator concerns. Oregon, California, and the utility PacifiCorp, which operates the hydroelectric dams and is owned by Berkshire Hathaway, will each provide one-third of the additional funds. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission must still approve the deal.
The San Diego County Board of Supervisors (Board) this Wednesday unanimously approved a plan to begin reducing air pollution for portside communities, including Barrio Logan, Logan Heights, Sherman Heights, and National City. The Board voted to develop a plan to quantify health risks posed by air pollution sources; to develop a program to provide residential air purifiers and monitors for up to 1,000 residences; and to identify the types of air quality projects that will receive priority for state funding by working with California Air Resources Board. In addition, the Board voted to develop a plan to enhance community outreach and engagement, and to define Air Pollution Control District rules and procedures in response to major air quality emergencies. The Port of San Diego, U.S. Navy, and local shipyards are also committed to strategies to reduce air pollution, according to the county.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has reached an agreement with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control to demolish its remaining eight buildings at the contaminated Santa Susana Field Laboratory outside of Simi Valley as part of the much-delayed cleanup of the site. The 2,850-acre site experienced a partial nuclear meltdown in 1959 when it was the Rocketdyne/Atomics International rocket engine test and nuclear facility. Other chemical and radioactive contamination has occurred since then. The site is now largely owned by aerospace giant Boeing. The DOE, NASA, and Boeing are responsible for cleaning up their portions of the site and buffer zones.
Despite objections from California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and environmental activists, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday approved a large development in a fire-prone area northeast of Chula Vista. The proposed Otay Ranch Resort Village development includes 1,938 homes, a resort hotel, more than 3 miles of trails, 40,000 square feet of commercial space, and 1,107 acres of nature preserves. The parties opposing the project cited wildfire concerns. County staff said the developers, Baldwin & Sons, incorporated several measures to mitigate the development’s wildfire risk and environmental impact, including electric- and solar-powered features, and a fire buffer zone of more than 120 feet from any building.