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California Environmental Law & Policy Update
April 14, 2017

Environmental and Policy Focus

D.C. Circuit grants EPA’s request to delay 2015 smog rule case

Washington Post - Apr 11 The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Tuesday granted a request by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to delay oral argument in a case over its 2015 smog standard, allowing the agency time to reconsider the Obama-era rule. EPA asked last Friday for the postponement, saying President Trump’s appointees “are closely reviewing the 2015 Rule to determine whether the Agency should reconsider the rule or some part of it.” The 2015 rule, which lowered the standard for ground-level ozone (known as the ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards) from 75 parts per billion to 70 parts per billion, was challenged both by several industry groups and Republican-controlled states as too tough and by a coalition of environmental and public health organizations as not stringent enough. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt joined attorneys general from nine other states in challenging the rule before he took the helm of the agency.

CARB supports placing cap on emissions by Bay Area refineries

East Bay Times - Apr 7 The California Air Resources Board (CARB) said last week that it supports a proposal that would make the Bay Area the first region in the state to cap oil refinery greenhouse gas emissions, by setting facility-wide limits on pollution at the five refineries in the area, including emissions like carbon dioxide linked to climate change. CARB’s support for the proposal put it at odds with officials at the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), who opposed the proposal, reasoning that it is inconsistent with the state’s cap-and-trade system for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and could unnecessarily limit the refineries’ production of gasoline, diesel, and other products even though increases in production may be possible under cap-and-trade. Jack Broadbent, BAAQMD’s executive officer, said last Friday that CARB’s position is prompting his agency’s staff to reconsider its opposition to the refinery-wide caps. BAAQMD is tentatively scheduled to vote May 17 on the refinery cap proposal, and, over the summer, on a related rule, supported by CARB, to limit refinery greenhouse gas emissions based on a carbon intensity formula linked to how much crude oil refineries use or how much gasoline they produce.

Water allocations for Central Valley farmers hit 100 percent

Sacramento Bee - Apr 11 The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced Tuesday that it will provide a 100 percent water allocation to Central Valley Project (CVP) customers this year, including the large agricultural districts in the San Joaquin Valley. This is the first full water allocation for the San Joaquin Valley since 2006. Just a year ago those agricultural districts got a 5 percent allotment, and, three weeks ago, the farmers were told their deliveries might not top 65 percent this year. The announcement came four days after Governor Jerry Brown declared an official end to the drought practically everywhere in California. Farm groups said they were pleased with the increase in CVP water deliveries but said the announcement came too late for some growers.

Environmental groups file lawsuit over decreased discharges to Santa Ana River

San Bernardino County Sun - Apr 6 Two environmental groups are suing the City of San Bernardino and its water department for planning to cease discharge of up to 22 million gallons of water per day to the Santa Ana River, a move the plaintiffs allege would reduce water flows by up to 50 percent. The cessation of this discharge will “have significant impacts on imperiled species,” including the Santa Ana Sucker, San Bernardino Kangaroo Rat, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, and Least Bell’s Vireo, among other species, according to the lawsuit filed last Thursday in San Bernardino Superior Court by the Center for Biological Diversity and the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society. The change is part of the city’s recently approved Environmental Impact Report for a planned water recycling plant known as the “Clean Water Factory.” As part of Clean Water Factory operations, treated water would be taken from the Rapid Infiltration and Extraction Facility, a wastewater plant located in Colton, and delivered to spreading basins for groundwater discharge, instead of being discharged to the Santa Ana River. 

White House seeks auto fuel-efficiency talks with California

Bloomberg - Apr 11 The White House will seek to convene negotiations between federal regulators, carmakers, and California officials for a pact on auto fuel-efficiency standards for 2022-2025, in an effort to ensure consistent rules in all 50 states. The administration wants to reach a consensus that would allow automakers to avoid having to design cars for varying regulations among states, according to a White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The official also said, however, that the White House had no immediate plans to challenge California’s authority to set more stringent auto-emissions standards than those established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Nine other states follow California’s standards, and together they account for about 30 percent of U.S. auto sales. As a result, California’s rules often become de facto standards for cars and trucks that automakers sell nationwide.

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