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California Environmental Law & Policy Update
March 2, 2018


U.S. Supreme Court lets stand EPA's permit exemption for water transfers

Reuters - Feb 26 The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday unanimously declined to review a challenge led by states and environmental groups to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation that allows government agencies to transfer water between different bodies, such as rivers and lakes, without a permit issued under authority of the Clean Water Act. In general, the Clean Water Act requires permits for the “discharge of any pollutant” into “navigable waters.” The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled last year that the EPA had acted within its authority in 2008 in adopting the so-called "water transfers rule," which exempts large scale water transfers from the permitting requirement.

Silicon Valley venture capitalist takes beach access case to U.S. Supreme Court

The Guardian - Feb 23 Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla, who was ordered by California courts to restore public access to a popular surfing beach, has filed a petition seeking review of the order by the U.S. Supreme Court. Khosla has been fighting legal battles with California regulators and environmental advocates for years over access to Martin’s Beach, a picturesque cove about 30 miles south of San Francisco that can only be reached by a private road across his property. In August 2017, a California appeals court ordered him to restore access to the beach by unlocking the gate to the road, an order with which he has only intermittently complied.

Trump administration must enforce Obama methane leak rule

The Hill - Feb 23 The Trump administration must start enforcing an Obama administration rule limiting methane leaks from oil and natural gas drilling on federal land, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled. In a decision issued last Thursday, Judge William Orrick granted a preliminary injunction against the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM), blocking a November action by which BLM tried to delay enforcement of the rule for one year. The 2016 rule requires oil and gas drillers on federal and tribal land to take various steps to limit emissions of methane, the main component of natural gas and a potent greenhouse gas. The BLM formally proposed earlier this month to repeal most provisions of the methane rule. Thursday’s ruling pertains only to the one-year delay, so it does not directly affect the proposed repeal.

Sacramento County alleges secret meetings over Delta tunnels, files lawsuit

The Sacramento Bee - Feb 28 Sacramento County, joined by the city of Stockton, several Delta water agencies, and a group of environmental organizations, sued the State Water Resources Control Board on Tuesday, claiming officials with the Board met privately and illegally as far back as 2015 with representatives of the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the lead agencies planning the controversial Delta tunnels project known as California WaterFix. The lawsuit attempts to halt the Board's months-long hearing on whether to allow DWR and Reclamation to divert water from the Sacramento River at the north end of the Delta, which is a critical element of the tunnels project. The plaintiffs will ask a Sacramento Superior Court judge for a temporary restraining order on Friday, March 2.

AutoNation dealerships settle environmental lawsuit

The Mercury News - Feb 26 The operators of 57 California dealerships indirectly owned by AutoNation, the country’s largest automotive retailer, have been ordered to pay $2.1 million in penalties for illegally disposing of hazardous waste, including automotive fluids, partially filled aerosol cans, used motor oil and filters, and electronic waste, and for violating state laws related to the storage of such materials and the disposal of customer records. The fines are part of a $3.38 million settlement of a lawsuit filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court by Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeffrey Rosen, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, and six other California district attorneys. In addition to the penalties, the dealerships agreed to pay $380,000 in costs and to spend $900,000 on projects designed to enhance their compliance with hazardous waste laws.

Judge orders California agricultural officials to cease pesticide use

Los Angeles Times - Feb 26 A judge in Sacramento has ordered California agricultural officials to stop spraying pesticides on public and private property to control insects that threaten the state's $45-billion agriculture industry. The injunction, issued late last week, could throw a substantial hurdle in front of efforts by the state Department of Food and Agriculture to control dozens of crop-damaging pests such as the Asian citrus psyllid, which carries bacteria that have decimated the citrus industry in Brazil and Florida. Farmers and other property owners will still be able to use chemical insecticides, and the state can continue to use non-chemical means of pest control, but the injunction requires it to suspend spraying pesticides on vegetation in parks, school properties, and even homeowners' backyards. The state Department of Food and Agriculture issued a short statement Monday saying it will consider appealing the decision, and will continue to conduct spraying "in compliance with" state environmental laws.

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