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California Environmental Law & Policy Update
April 28, 2017

Environmental and Policy Focus

Trump signs executive order to expand drilling off America’s coasts

Washington Post - Apr 28 President Trump signed an executive order Friday that aims to expand offshore drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, and to assess whether energy exploration can take place in marine sanctuaries in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. The “America-First Offshore Energy Strategy” would make millions of acres of federal waters eligible for oil and gas leasing, just four months after former President Obama withdrew these areas from possible development. Trump administration officials said it would take years to rewrite federal leasing plans and open up these areas to drilling. And global energy prices may deter investors from moving ahead with additional drilling in the Arctic Ocean in the near term, despite the effort to make more areas eligible for development.

Trump signs order to reconsider national monuments created by former presidents

Los Angeles Times - Apr 26 The fierce debate over public land in the West is almost certain to intensify following President Trump’s signing of an executive order Wednesday that could lead to the reduction or elimination of some national monuments. The order instructs Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review monuments created by former Presidents Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama under the 1906 Antiquities Act, which gives presidents the power to limit use of public land for historic, cultural, scientific, or other reasons. In advance of the signing ceremony, Zinke said the order would apply only to monuments that are at least 100,000 acres in size. More than two dozen such monuments have been established since 1996, including Giant Sequoia, Carrizo Plain, Berryessa Snow Mountain, Mojave Trails, and Sand to Snow in California. 

D.C. Circuit Court delays EPA mercury rule case while Trump administration reviews options

The Hill - Apr 27 The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled Thursday that litigation over a regulation limiting mercury emissions, implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under former President Obama, will be on hold while the Trump administration decides whether to withdraw the regulation or defend it in court. The current issue in the litigation is the Obama administration's revision of the cost-benefit analysis supporting adoption by the EPA of the 2012 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule. The revision was submitted in response to a 2015 determination by the U.S. Supreme Court that the original rule's cost-benefit analysis was conducted improperly. 

California’s landmark climate-change program would also fight air pollution under proposal

San Jose Mercury News - Apr 24 As the Legislature weighs the future of California's cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it is considering key changes that would expand the program, which is currently set to expire in 2020, to include other regulated air pollutants in addition to climate-warming greenhouse gases. Last Monday, the Assembly’s Committee on Natural Resources approved AB 378 (Garcia), a bill that would require the California Air Resources Board to grade individual plants and to set new limits on air pollutant emissions as a condition of receiving some of the economic benefits of cap and trade. The proposal must pass the Assembly Appropriations Committee before it advances to a full vote in the Assembly. Meanwhile, Governor Jerry Brown wants two-thirds of each house to pass a cap-and-trade extension, safeguarding the program against claims that it amounts to an illegal tax. 

Despite drought’s end, conservation rules were still in place in California – until now

Sacramento Bee - Apr 26 The State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) ended mandatory water conservation regulations for urban residents Wednesday, following Governor Jerry Brown’s official declaration that the drought ended April 7. The decision means that urban water agencies no longer have to submit to “stress tests” proving they have enough water to withstand three consecutive years of dry weather. All other conservation requirements also have ended, although Californians are still prohibited from engaging in “wasteful practices” such as watering their lawns while it’s raining or hosing down sidewalks. Urban agencies also will have to continue to report their monthly water usage to the state. 

Big Lots to settle hazardous waste suit for $3.5 million

SFGate - Apr 27 Big Lots Stores Inc. will pay $3.5 million to settle a lawsuit alleging that the discount chain mishandled hazardous waste, the Alameda County district attorney’s office said Thursday. The company was sued by 35 district attorneys and two city attorneys in California for allegedly creating an environmental hazard by illegally disposing waste materials at 206 state stores and its Rancho Cucamonga distribution center. According to the suit, employees put corrosive and ignitable liquids, batteries, electronic devices and other e-waste in trash receptacles bound for landfills instead of taking them to authorized disposal facilities, as required by California law.

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