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California Environmental Law & Policy Update
April 7, 2017

Environmental and Policy Focus

Appeals court upholds California’s cap-and-trade system

Sacramento Bee - Apr 6 A state appeals court handed a major victory to California’s signature climate-change program on Thursday in a lawsuit challenging the state’s ability to collect revenue from auctions it has sponsored over the last five years. Opponents of the program argued that the revenue collection amounted to a tax, and that the tax was illegal because it had not been approved by a 2/3 supermajority vote. The Third District Court of Appeal upheld the California Air Resources Board’s program in a 2-1 decision, ruling that its auction sales do not amount to an illegal tax because the purchase of pollution credits by businesses is voluntary and the credits they buy are “a thing of value.” The decision is a victory for Governor Jerry Brown and legislative Democrats who are working on a package that would extend the life of the program beyond 2020.

Trump eases the way for a controversial water pumping project in a California desert

Los Angeles Times - Apr 4 The Trump administration has eased the way for Cadiz Inc. to pump Mojave Desert groundwater and sell it to urban Southern California, reversing federal directives drafted under former President Obama. In a March 29 memorandum, an acting assistant director of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) revoked two legal guidances that underpinned the agency’s 2015 decision that Cadiz could not use an existing federal railroad right-of-way for a new water pipeline to carry supplies from the project’s proposed well field to the Colorado River Aqueduct. That meant Cadiz would have to go through federal environmental review to construct a pipeline over federal land, a lengthy and costly process that the company wants to avoid. Cadiz immediately asked the BLM to reverse its decision, but the Obama administration declined to do so. Although the one-page order does not mention Cadiz, it sets the stage for reversing the finding by BLM’s California field office, which determined that the company needed federal approval for its proposed 43-mile pipeline. The recent BLM memorandum also states that future right-of-way decisions will be made by the agency’s Washington office.

Southern California Edison agrees to negotiate new home for nuclear waste from San Onofre

San Diego Union-Tribune - Apr 7 Owners of the failed San Onofre nuclear plant agreed Friday to begin negotiations aimed at relocating tons of radioactive waste from the San Diego County coastline. The announcement came in the form of a brief filed in San Diego Superior Court, where a showdown hearing was looming next week between majority plant owner Southern California Edison (Edison) and environmentalists who want the spent fuel shipped offsite. The change is significant for Edison, which has said for years that storing 3.6 million pounds of nuclear waste on the grounds of the failed power plant for decades to come is a safe and reasonable option. The San Diego nonprofit Citizens Oversight sued Edison and the California Coastal Commission in 2015 after regulators approved development of a storage facility within 100 feet of the shoreline. The hearing scheduled for next Friday was to determine whether the court should order the commission to reverse its permit approval.

Environmentalists sue EPA for reversing Obama-era move to ban pesticide

The Guardian - Apr 5 The Pesticide Action Network and the Natural Resources Defense Council have filed a complaint against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its support of chlorpyrifos, an insecticide linked to brain damage in children, one week after Donald Trump’s administration reversed an Obama-era policy regarding the chemical. The action, filed in federal court in San Francisco, sets the stage for one of the first major legal battles between the new EPA chief, Scott Pruitt, and environmental organizations. Researchers have concluded that chlorpyrifos is correlated with lower IQ, attention deficit disorders, and developmental delays in children. The EPA released an assessment of chlorpyrifos in November, concluding that current usage of the insecticide carries dietary and drinking water risks. The EPA further concluded that the residues on food crops exceed safety standards and that there were risks to workers who apply chlorpyrifos to crops. The action from Pruitt means the EPA will not have to re-evaluate potential health risks of chlorpyrifos until 2022.

West Oakland air pollution concerns prompt civil rights complaint

CBS Local - Apr 6 A civil rights complaint was filed on Tuesday in Alameda County Superior Court on behalf of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, alleging that air pollution from diesel emissions caused by truck traffic at the Port of Oakland disproportionately impacts communities of color. The complaint, filed under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Act), alleges that West Oakland residents experience significant health impacts due to reduced air quality near the Port of Oakland. Title VI of the Act prohibits entities receiving federal financial assistance, such as the Port and City of Oakland, from engaging in activities that subject individuals to discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin. The complaint asks the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to investigate whether the City and Port have violated the Act and, if so, to withdraw approval of a warehouse construction project at the old Oakland Army Base pending further environmental analysis. A spokesperson for the Port of Oakland has said it is one of the cleanest-operating ports, with diesel emissions down 98 percent since 2005 and ship emissions down 76 percent.

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