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California Environmental Law & Policy Update
May 4, 2018
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EPA Region 9 Administrator position reportedly to be filled by lawyer

THE HILL - Apr 30 Michael Stoker, a former Republican Santa Barbara County supervisor and agriculture attorney, will soon be appointed Regional Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 9, which encompasses California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii, and the Pacific Islands. Stoker is perhaps best known for coining the "lock her up" chant that targeted Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at the 2016 Republican National Convention and at President Trump’s campaign rallies. Stoker's appointment will fill a long-open vacancy in San Francisco's EPA Region 9 office — the only regional office yet to receive a political appointee from the Trump administration. As Regional Administrator, Stoker would oversee the work of some 700 agency staff members.


California, 17 other states sue Trump administration to defend Obama-era climate rules for vehicles

THE NEW YORK TIMES - May 1 California and a coalition of 16 other states and the District of Columbia have launched a challenge in federal court in Washington, D.C. against the U.S. EPA, alleging that EPA’s effort to weaken nationwide auto emissions standards violates the Clean Air Act and applicable federal regulations. In 2012, when the Obama administration established a comprehensive set of standards on greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy for cars and light trucks — aiming to roughly double the average fuel economy of new cars, S.U.V.s, and light trucks by 2025 — California agreed to harmonize its more stringent regulations to comport with the new federal standards. In April, however, the Trump administration moved forward with a plan to reopen the Obama administration’s standards, saying they were too stringent. The EPA has not yet put forth a proposed set of new standards to replace the Obama rules, but it hasdrafted a new set of regulations that would weaken those rules after 2020.

Bayview residents sue engineering giant over alleged fake soil testing at Hunters Point

SAN FRANCISCO BUSINESS TIMES - May 2 Residents in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood filed a class action lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court on Tuesday against Tetra Tech, the environmental engineering firm accused of faking soil tests as part of its cleanup of radioactive contaminants at the Hunters Point Shipyard in San Francisco. In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs seek $27 billion in damages, alleging that the mishandled cleanup has exposed residents to toxic materials and possible health risks. In early April, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, an environmental advocacy group, released documentsobtained from the U.S. EPA which claim that up to 97 percent of Tetra Tech’s reported results are unreliable or false.

Interior Department proposes easing oil & gas leasing restrictions in Western US

THE SACRAMENTO BEE - May 2 On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) proposed regulations that would ease restrictions on oil and gas leasing and other activities across a large portion of the American West. The restrictions had been approved in 2015 to protect an imperiled bird, the greater sage grouse. DOI officials said the revisions to the plans were aimed at increasing flexibility on public lands where the birds reside, but not to undo protections outright. The sage grouse population has declined sharply in recent decades due in part to drilling, grazing, and other human activities. DOI's proposed regulations, expected to be finalized in October, would affect conservation plans for the species in Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada, Colorado, Utah, California, and Oregon by opening some areas previously closed to leasing, and allowing waivers or exceptions to rules that prohibit drilling pads and wells in other areas.

U.S. Supreme Court denies North Coast Railroad Authority’s appeal over restoration project

EUREKA TIMES-STANDARD - Apr 30 The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to review the appeal by the North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA) in longstanding litigation over its plans to restore nearly 150 miles of railroad to California’s North Coast. NCRA is a state body tasked with maintaining and expanding rail service in the North Coast region. In 2011, two local environmental organizations sued NCRA in Marin County Superior Court, alleging the authority’s environmental review failed to meet California state law standards for assessment of project hazards, such as the potential for toxic chemicals in the rails to impact the Eel and Russian Rivers. That lawsuit made it to the California Supreme Court, which in 2017 issued a ruling rejecting NCRA's argument that federal law pre-empted state environmental laws, including the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). NCRA's appeal of this ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court ended with that court's decision to decline review. The case will now go back to Marin County Superior Court for adjudication of the merits of the plaintiffs' state law claims.

Federal court refuses to halt Klamath River salmon protections

COURTHOUSE NEWS SERVICE - May 1 A California federal judge on Monday refused to dissolve an injunction, issued last year at the request of the Yurok and Hoopa Valley Tribes, that requires the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (the Bureau) to divert Klamath River water to flush out parasite-hosting worms that cause deadly infections in threatened juvenile salmon. A group of ranchers and farmers, joined by four irrigation districts, which also are entitled to divert a portion of the Klamath River water, failed in their effort to reverse the injunction. The Yurok and Hoopa Valley Tribes say they depend on the salmon for subsistence, income, and traditional ceremonies and claim that the deadly parasite, C. shasta, infected 91 percent of juvenile Coho salmon in 2015.

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