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California Environmental Law & Policy Update
November 9, 2018


Appeals court puts youth climate change lawsuit on hold

ASSOCIATED PRESS - Nov 8 A constitutional climate lawsuit filed in Oregon federal court in 2015 by a group of young Americans against the U.S. government is on hold again after a federal appeals court on Thursday granted the Trump administration’s motion for a temporary stay. The plaintiffs argue that government officials have known for more than 50 years that carbon pollution from fossil fuels was causing climate change and that policies on oil and gas deprive them of life, liberty, and property. On November 2, the Supreme Court declined to stop the lawsuit but told the Trump administration that the government can still petition a lower court to dismiss the case. The federal government, under both the Obama and Trump administrations, has tried repeatedly to get the case dismissed, arguing that it seeks to direct federal environmental and energy policies through the courts instead of through the political process.

California rejects $9 billion water infrastructure bond

U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT - Nov 7 California voters narrowly rejected borrowing nearly $9 billion for water infrastructure improvement projects meant to relieve the state's chronic water scarcity problems. Had the initiative passed, authorized bond funds would have been devoted to storage and dam repairs, watershed and fisheries improvements, and habitat protection and restoration. Much of the $8.9 billion was earmarked for conservancies and state parks to restore and protect watersheds, and for nonprofits and local agencies to spend on river parkways. The bond would have also funded improvements to meet safe drinking water standards.

State water board again delays vote on contentious river plan

LOS ANGELES TIMES - Nov 7 Under pressure from Governor Jerry Brown’s administration and Governor-elect Gavin Newsom, the State Water Resources Control Board on Wednesday agreed to postpone until December 11 a vote on a hotly-contested plan to require San Francisco and several big San Joaquin Valley irrigation districts to divert less water from the Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Merced Rivers so as to send more water to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and increase flows for migrating salmon. The agricultural districts, which staked their claims to the river flows a century or more ago, have characterized the proposed restrictions as economically devastating and vowed to challenge them in court. Brown and Newsom on Tuesday asked for a month’s delay and promised to get involved in ongoing settlement negotiations.

EPA loosens air pollution permit requirements for some projects

THE HILL - Nov 7 The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is implementing a policy meant to make it easier for facilities that produce air pollution to modify emissions units without going through a complex permitting process. The policy, published on Wednesday, changes how the EPA determines whether power plants and other emitting facilities that modify or install new equipment must undergo New Source Review, an extensive analysis meant to limit emissions of certain "criteria" air pollutants in areas where federal standards are not being met. Under the new policy, the EPA will consider multiple modifications to be a single project for permitting purposes if they are “substantially related,” thereby potentially exempting certain projects where the net effect of emissions-increasing and emissions-reducing elements is to bring emissions increases below regulatory thresholds.

State sues Los Angeles County battery recycling plant

SAN GABRIEL VALLEY TRIBUNE - Nov 5 The California attorney general has sued Quemetco, Inc., operator of a battery recycling facility in City of Industry, citing 29 alleged violations involving failures to stop hazardous waste from migrating into the neighborhood and the underground aquifer, a source of drinking water for more than a million Los Angeles County residents. The lawsuit relies on numerous reports of leaks, cracks in waste storage areas, and corrosion in waste containers as observed by state Department of Toxic Substance Control inspectors. The complaint calls on the Los Angeles County Superior Court to enforce compliance at the facility or to impose penalties of $25,000 per day.

San Francisco Embarcadero seawall measure wins

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE - Nov 6 Proposition A, a ballot measure that would give San Francisco the money to start rebuilding the Embarcadero seawall, was approved by voters on Tuesday by a comfortable margin. The $425 million bond will not cover the estimated $2 billion required to upgrade the entire 3-mile-long structure, which is mostly submerged and curls from Fisherman’s Wharf to China Basin. Instead, it allows work to start on shoring up sections of the seawall that are most vulnerable to heavy damage in a major earthquake. The seawall was erected a century ago as the fixed dividing line between the Port of San Francisco and the bay waters beyond.

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