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California Environmental Law & Policy Update
January 5, 2018


Trump administration moves to expand oil and gas drilling off U.S. coasts

Los Angeles Times - Jan 4 The Trump administration, inviting a political backlash from coastal state leaders, on Thursday proposed to open for exploration the largest expanse of the nation’s offshore oil and natural gas reserves ever offered to global energy companies, including waters off all three regions of the California coast. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said the draft five-year leasing plan would commit 90% of the nation’s offshore reserves to leasing. The proposed plan for the outer continental shelf calls for 47 lease sales to be scheduled in 25 of 26 areas off the nation's coastlines between 2019 and 2024. The plan, which has been opposed by California Governor Jerry Brown and the governors of Oregon and Washington, suggests seven new leases in the Pacific region, including two each for Northern, Central and Southern California, as well as one for the area off the Washington and Oregon coasts. Twelve leases are nominated for the Gulf of Mexico, and 19 for coastal Alaska. The draft plan, now subject to review and debate, would allow the first new federal lease sales off the California coast in areas that have been off-limits to oil and gas exploration since 1984.

As fish disappear, Trump administration seeks to pump more California water south

Sacramento Bee - Jan 2 The Trump administration, teeing up a fight with California regulators, is trying to pump more water through the fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the southern half of the state despite fresh evidence of the estuary’s shrinking population of endangered fish. A proposal by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Bureau) to “maximize water deliveries” represents the administration’s first concrete effort to make good on Donald Trump’s promise during his presidential campaign to deliver more water to San Joaquin Valley farmers. The Bureau’s proposal, outlined in a regulatory notice last Friday, would bring long-lasting changes to the federal Central Valley Project (CVP), the water supply network that primarily serves Central Valley farmers. Bureau spokesperson Erin Curtis said the Bureau will spend the next year conducting environmental reviews and will “start a dialogue with all of the stakeholders,” including state and federal environmental agencies. Environmentalists quickly objected to the Bureau’s plan, saying it violates a federal law that requires the agency to give equal weight to the needs of fish and wildlife when operating the CVP.

Court declines to set aside hydraulic fracturing ban under Monterey County Measure Z, but two other bans ruled invalid

The Monterey Herald - Dec 29 A Monterey County Superior Court last Thursday issued its “intended decision” in litigation challenging Monterey County’s voter-approved Measure Z, which banned hydraulic fracturing and the expansion of oil production procedures in Monterey County. The court ruled that Measure Z’s bans on drilling new wells and wastewater injection are preempted by existing state and federal regulations and are therefore invalid. The court’s decision leaves the hydraulic fracturing ban in place on the ground that the oil industry plaintiffs lack standing to challenge it because they do not currently conduct hydraulic fracturing in Monterey County. If and when Monterey County attempts to enforce the hydraulic fracturing ban, it could be challenged at that point.

Rail Authority petitions U.S. Supreme Court to hear North Coast railroad restoration case

Eureka Times-Standard - Dec 22 The North Coast Railroad Authority petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court on December 22 to review a California State Supreme Court decision from earlier in 2017 that ruled the Authority must comply with the state’s California Environmental Quality Act as part of its efforts to restore railroad service to the North Coast. The petition will prolong what already has been six years of litigation surrounding the railroad restoration effort. Filed by environmental groups Californians for Alternatives for Toxics and Friends of the Eel River in 2011, the civil cases challenged the Authority’s stance that federal laws preempt it from having to conduct state environmental review for restoration of railroad stretching between Napa and Humboldt counties. The Authority argues that the federal Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act preempts it from having to conduct environmental review under state law, according to court documents.

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