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California Environmental Law & Policy Update
September 15, 2017
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Environmental and Policy Focus

States sue Trump administration over fuel economy fines

ABC News - Sep 11 New York, California, and three other states are suing the Trump administration, saying it must put in place higher penalties for automakers that violate federal fuel economy standards. Last year the U.S. Department of Transportation more than doubled civil penalties for fuel economy violations after Congress ordered agencies to adjust their fines for inflation. This new rule, which was set to take effect in July, would require automakers to pay $14 for every tenth of a mile per gallon of fuel a vehicle consumes over its minimum fuel economy, multiplied by the number of vehicles sold. Since the mid-1970s, the penalty has been set at $5.50 for every tenth of a mile per gallon over the limit. The federal government delayed implementation of the rule indefinitely in July, saying it didn't adequately consider the cost to automakers. The states allege that delay is illegal, because the federal government acted without notice and without public comment.


Weeks after Aliso Canyon reopening, several gas storage wells were taken out of service

Los Angeles Times - Sep 11 Just weeks after Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) resumed injecting natural gas into the storage wells at Aliso Canyon with the approval of the California Public Utilities Commission and the Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources, one-third of those wells were taken out of service. According to an August 28 letter from SoCalGas to state regulators, workers had observed a gradual buildup of pressure within the casing of 13 of 39 wells that were being returned to service and took them out of operation. SoCalGas fixed two of the wells and returned them to operation. Eleven remain offline while the company investigates and corrects the cause of the pressure buildup. No gas was released into the atmosphere, according to the SoCalGas letter and state regulators. 

SANDAG overhaul bill passes state Assembly, now goes to governor

San Diego Union-Tribune - Sep 11 A bill to overhaul the San Diego region’s transportation planning agency – San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) – is headed to the desk of Governor Jerry Brown after the Assembly this Monday approved the legislation. The proposal could dramatically change the balance of power at the agency, giving elected officials from larger cities more say in what gets built and when. To approve major decisions, the agency currently requires two affirmative votes — a straight tally vote by each city plus a weighted vote based on each city’s population. Assembly Bill 805 would alter, in favor of the larger urban centers, how the weighted vote is calculated, and perhaps more significantly, allow that weighted vote to supersede the tally vote as long as four separate jurisdictions vote with the majority. 

U.S. and Mexico set to sign landmark Colorado River water-sharing deal

Desert Sun - Sep 13 The United States and Mexican governments are close to signing a landmark Colorado River deal that will establish rules for sharing water over the next decade and lay out cooperative efforts intended to head off severe shortages, with a signing ceremony scheduled for Sept. 26 in Ciudad Juárez. California water suppliers, including the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the Imperial Irrigation District, and the Coachella Valley Water District, approved related agreements on Tuesday. California’s Colorado River Board signed off at a meeting on Wednesday. The new accord builds on the countries’ current 5-year agreement, which expires at the end of this year. According to a summary released by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the agreement will establish a “binational water scarcity contingency plan,” in which Mexico will join U.S. states in temporarily taking less water out of Lake Mead to reduce the risks of the reservoir reaching critical levels. Those commitments by Mexico would only take effect if California, Arizona, and Nevada finish their own Drought Contingency Plan, under which the states would forgo larger amounts of water than they’ve previously agreed to as Lake Mead’s level declines.

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