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California Environmental Law & Policy Update
May 12, 2017

Environmental and Policy Focus

Senate unexpectedly rejects bid to repeal key Obama-era methane regulation

Washington Post - May 10 The U.S. Senate narrowly voted down a resolution on Wednesday to repeal an Obama-era rule restricting methane emissions from drilling on public lands — with three Republicans joining every Democrat to preserve the rule. The methane emissions rule, issued by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management in November, addresses methane, a potent greenhouse gas that is accelerating climate change. The rule would force oil and gas companies to capture methane that had been previously burned off or “flared” at drilling sites. According to federal estimates, the rule would prevent roughly 180,000 tons a year of methane from escaping into the atmosphere and would boost federal revenue by millions of dollars a year because firms pay royalties on the federal resources they capture and contain. 

States sue over Trump decision to restart coal lease program

ABC News - May 9 Four U.S. states, California, New Mexico, New York, and Washington, filed a lawsuit on Tuesday over President Donald Trump's decision in March to withdraw the coal leasing program moratorium put in place by the Obama administration and to restart the sale of coal leases on federal lands. The states allege that restarting the federal coal lease program without an environmental review risks worsening the effects of climate change in those states while shortchanging them for the coal taken from public lands. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke stated the environmental review recommended by the Obama administration would cost "many millions of dollars" and that improvements to the program can be made without a full-scale environmental review, which the four attorneys general allege violates federal law.

California proposes stringent cap on former pesticide in drinking water

Sacramento Bee - May 8 The California State Water Resources Control Board is proposing a strict limit on the former pesticide ingredient and industrial solvent known as TCP (1,2,3-trichloropropane), a man-made chemical that has contaminated wells and reservoirs throughout the state, particularly in agricultural counties of the Central Valley. California would be the second state, after Hawaii, to establish a threshold for TCP, which has been identified in California as a human carcinogen, and is no longer in wide use. The regulation would require water utilities to test their supplies for TCP and remove it from any public drinking water source that exceeded the threshold, starting in 2018. The board is reviewing input received at an April 19 public hearing and will likely vote on the plan by summer.

President Trump and California soon could spar over air quality rules

Los Angeles Times - May 9 A legal battle over emission regulations for construction vehicles could become the first test of whether President Trump will seek to curtail California’s ability to impose stricter requirements relating to air pollution than those imposed under federal laws. The issue stems from a 2013 decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that allowed California to require emission filters on bulldozers, forklifts and other diesel-powered equipment. The state, the only one in the country allowed to set rules that are tougher than federal standards, has been granted dozens of similar waivers over several decades. Several companies sued over the construction vehicle emission waiver. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this week agreed to delay oral arguments in the case, which had been scheduled for May 18, granting the Trump administration’s request for more time to review the California regulations. 

Sunroad hotel loses again at Coastal Commission

San Diego Union-Tribune - May 11 Sunroad Marina Partners on Thursday failed for the third time to gain approval for its hotel project on Harbor Island. The California Coastal Commission again turned down the plan because it did not include low-cost accommodations, such as hostels or campsites. Sunroad and the San Diego Unified Port District (Port) proposed a last-minute compromise to the Commission that would have allowed the company to pay a $5.3 million fee in lieu of building affordable hotel units but the proposal was rejected. The Port, which was seeking a master plan amendment to allow three hotels by Sunroad with a total of 500 rooms, said prior to the vote that it might return to court. The Port earlier this year prevailed against the Commission’s setting a $106 upper limit on what a low-cost hotel room should charge on San Diego Bay. Sunroad has been seeking to add a four-story, 175-room hotel next to its marina since 2009.

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