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California Environmental Law & Policy Update
October 6, 2017

Environmental and Policy Focus

Court blocks Dept. of Interior’s move to delay Obama-era methane leak rule

The Hill - Oct 4 On Wednesday a federal court set aside an effort by the Department of the Interior (DOI) to delay an Obama administration rule regulating methane emissions from oil and natural gas drilling. Judge Elizabeth Laporte of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California held that DOI cannot rely on a provision in the Administrative Procedure Act to delay the rule limiting emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas, on federal land. The ruling represents another bump in the road on the Trump administration’s deregulatory agenda. As a result of the ruling, January 2018 compliance date for the rule remains in effect. However, DOI said it will formally propose to push the compliance date to January 2019.

EPA to propose ending Obama-era Clean Power Plan

Reuters - Oct 3 The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will reportedly propose the repeal of the Clean Power Plan (CPP), a centerpiece of the Obama Administration’s regulatory strategy to fight climate change, and solicit input on a rule to replace it, according to an EPA document seen by Reuters. If implemented, this decision marks EPA’s first formal step to sweep away the rule intended to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, after President Trump signed an executive order in March launching the EPA’s review of the rule. The CPP was challenged in court by 27 states and is currently suspended by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which set a deadline of Friday for submission of a status report from the EPA on how it plans to proceed. The CPP was designed to lower carbon emissions from existing U.S. power plants by 2030 to 32 percent below 2005 levels, requiring each state to adopt its own plans to achieve individualized targets. Industry sources following the rulemaking process expect the repeal and replacement proposal to be released as soon as the end of this week.

California Coastal Commission calls Vinod Khosla’s granting of partial access to Martins Beach ‘insufficient’

San Francisco Chronicle - Oct 5 California Coastal Commission staff indicated on Thursday that venture capitalist Vinod Khosla’s decision to allow members of the public to gain access to a public beach near Half Moon Bay via a path through his property does not sufficiently guarantee public access to the coast. Khosla’s representatives reportedly told the Commission that a gate blocking access to the road leading to Martins Beach is being reopened, but only between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., and not every day, said. “It’s a good first step, but it’s frankly insufficient,” said Commission spokesperson Noaki Schwartz. Khosla, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, notified the Commission of his plans on September 29, a little more than two weeks after the Commission sent him a letter saying it would begin cease-and-desist proceedings, which would authorize levying fines of $11,250 per day, or more than $4 million per year, if he continued to block access to Martins Beach.

Port of San Diego and nearby cities take step to sue over border sewage spills

San Diego Union-Tribune - Sep 28 Imperial Beach, Chula Vista, and the Port of San Diego took the first step toward suing the federal government to stop wastewater and raw sewage from continually pouring over the border from Tijuana into San Diego County. Flows have continued to pollute the Tijuana River Valley every month this year and a massive sewage spill in February fouled beaches as far north as Coronado. The port and the two cities this week filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S side of the International Boundary and Water Commission, which oversees water treaties between Mexico and the United States and facilitates funding for infrastructure projects along the border. The commission now has 60 days to come up with a plan that satisfies local officials or it could face a lawsuit alleging violations of the federal Clean Water Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

Interior Department to overhaul Obama’s sage grouse protection plan

New York Times - Sep 28 The Trump administration will seek to reconsider an Obama-era blueprint for protecting the greater sage grouse, a move that could lead to new mineral leasing, grazing, and other commercial activities across the quirky bird’s Western habitat. The DOI will publish a formal notice of intent to amend 98 sage grouse habitat management plans across 10 states, including California, according to multiple agency and state officials who have been briefed on the effort. Those plans, completed in 2015, were adopted after a decade of negotiations among conservationists, sportsmen and extraction industries as well as federal, state, local, and tribal authorities. The elaborate compromise was designed to keep the sage grouse off the endangered species list, which would have required much greater restrictions on activities within the bird’s broad range. The DOI’s notice will begin a 45-day comment process during which anyone can propose changes to the plans.

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