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California Environmental Law & Policy Update
May 11, 2018
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San Jose water agency approves up to $650 million for Delta tunnels project

THE MERCURY NEWS - May 8 In a significant boost for Governor Jerry Brown’s $17 billion plan to build two massive tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Delta to move water to Southern California more easily, the Santa Clara Valley Water District, Silicon Valley’s largest water agency, on Tuesday endorsed the project and voted 4-3 to commit up to $650 million in funding. Unions and Silicon Valley’s largest business group recommended a yes vote, while environmental groups, Delta residents, and the majority of speakers at the district’s hearing urged a no vote. The district’s decision reverses its October 2017 decision opposing the two-tunnel project, known as WaterFix, which would be one of the largest public works projects in California history. The project still has significant hurdles to clear before construction can begin. It must obtain water rights from the State Water Resources Control Board and already is the subject of some 30 lawsuits. In addition, the project has not yet received clear support from any of the six major candidates for governor who are most likely to succeed Governor Brown when he leaves office in eight months.


Southern California air district will craft rules governing warehouse, rail yard pollution

LOS ANGELES TIMES - May 4 The governing board of the South Coast Air Quality Management District (Board) voted last Friday to craft rules governing warehouses, distribution centers, and rail yards in a controversial bid to combat transportation emissions in the nation's smoggiest region. The Board moved to begin devising rules to regulate freight facilities as "indirect sources" of pollution because of the truck and locomotive traffic they attract. It delayed action, for now, on whether to act on a staff proposal to craft similar regulations for new and redevelopment projects designed to reduce emissions from construction equipment. For the region's ports and airports, the Board supported staff recommendations to pursue voluntary measures only. Left untouched by air district regulations is the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex which, despite steep reductions in emissions under a voluntary clean-air plan, remains the largest single source of air pollution in Southern California.

City of Richmond and Chevron reach $5 million settlement over refinery fire

SFGATE - May 4 The city of Richmond and Chevron Corp. jointly announced last Thursday that Chevron will pay $5 million to settle the city’s lawsuit over an August 2012 fire and resulting smoke plume at the company's Richmond refinery that was alleged to have caused 15,000 people in the area to seek medical treatment for respiratory problems and other illnesses. The agreement ends the lawsuit the city filed against Chevron in Contra Costa County Superior Court in 2013 for negligence, maintenance of an ultrahazardous activity, and trespass of pollutants, ash, and soot on city property. The fire in the refinery's crude oil unit resulted from a leak in a distillation pipe that was corroded by sulfur compounds in the oil. Under the settlement agreement, the city will use the settlement proceeds "to fund public safety, education, parks and recreation, and/or community and economic development."

Two Tetra Tech employees sentenced for falsifying Hunters Point soil sample reports

SFGATE - May 3 Two former Tetra Tech supervisors involved in the cleanup of radioactive contaminants at the old Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco have pleaded guilty to falsifying soil samples in the widening environmental scandal that has engulfed the city’s largest redevelopment project. The guilty pleas were made in 2017 as part of a criminal federal investigation that had been under seal until last Wednesday, when one of the supervisors was sentenced to eight months in prison. The other supervisor was given the same sentence in January of this year. These are the first criminal cases regarding the Hunters Point cleanup to be made public. One of the supervisors admitted to substituting 5-gallon buckets of clean soil for potentially contaminated soil at the site and filling out fraudulent chain of custody forms, which were submitted to the Navy as evidence that the soil was free of harmful radiation. The other employee admitted to similar crimes while describing a culture of widespread fraud and constant pressure to produce clean soil samples.

Lawsuit filed against county over Trio Petroleum test wells

MONTEREY HERALD - May 8 The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) has sued Monterey County and Trio Petroleum over last month’s approval of four exploratory oil wells in the Hames Valley. In a lawsuit filed last week in Monterey County Superior Court, CBD alleges that the court should set aside the approval of test wells proposed to be drilled by Trio Petroleum because the county failed to properly consider the project’s environmental impacts, including the potential for large-scale oil production, and should be required to conduct a full environmental impact report. The county Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 on April 3 to approve the project after Trio Petroleum appealed the Planning Commission’s denial of the project.

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