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California Environmental Law & Policy Update
June 9, 2017

Environmental and Policy Focus

California, six other states challenge EPA over farm pesticide

San Francisco Chronicle - Jun 9 Attorneys General of California and six other states, in an administrative challenge filed with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Tuesday, accused EPA chief Scott Pruitt of acting illegally and dangerously when he refused to ban chlorpyrifos, a widely used farm pesticide that had been withdrawn from household use after studies showed it caused brain damage in animals and possibly in newborn children. They allege that federal law requires EPA to ban the pesticide unless EPA first affirmatively concludes that the chemical is safe, a finding that has not been made. In November 2015, EPA had proposed to prohibit all use of chlorpyrifos, saying it could no longer conclude that the chemical was safe, and a federal appeals court in San Francisco said the EPA’s own scientists had found likely dangers to human health. Pruitt, responding to a March 29, 2017 deadline set by the court, withdrew the proposed ban and said chlorpyrifos could remain in agricultural use until 2022, when it will be up for formal government re-approval.

Trump administration to reconsider protections for rare sage grouse

Los Angeles Times - Jun 7 Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Wednesday ordered his agency to review core principles of the 2015 agreement entered into by the Obama administration to save the greater sage grouse, including the premise that protecting the rare Western bird requires protection of its habitat, the sprawling “sagebrush sea,” which winds across the West from the Dakotas to California. The Interior Department did not release a copy of the order, but Zinke, speaking in a conference call with reporters, said his review, which will include employees of the U.S. Geological Survey, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Land Management, would consider allowing the 11 states involved in sage grouse protection more flexibility to emphasize population goals over habitat protection.

California water agencies seek bigger role to expedite Delta tunnel plan

Los Angeles Times - Jun 3 California’s powerful regional water districts are working alongside Governor Jerry Brown on a plan for the districts to take on more responsibility for designing, building, and arranging financing for the controversial $15.7 billion twin-tunnel project that would replace the current system for sending water southward from Northern to Southern California, according to two sources working closely on the project. The plan would create a Joint Powers Authority comprised of the biggest urban and agricultural water suppliers in the United States, which the districts say would serve to expedite completion of the project. Critics who oppose the tunnels said the change could allow California’s big water districts to cut corners on issues affecting public safety and the environment.

Contaminated groundwater in San Gabriel Valley gets $250 million boost, extending cleanup until 2027

Whittier Daily News - Jun 4 Five companies responsible for groundwater contamination in the San Gabriel Valley have reached agreement to continue cleanup for another 10 years. The new agreement will continue the operation of five treatment plants within the Baldwin Park-Azusa site, one of six zones in the largest Superfund site in the U.S., which contains underground plumes of chemicals largely resulting from the manufacture of liquid-fuel rockets. The agreement, negotiated by the San Gabriel Basin Water Quality Authority, will provide between $200 million and $250 million toward operations, maintenance, and capital improvements for treatment of the contaminated groundwater.

San Marcos company admits illegally dumping wastewater

San Diego Union-Tribune - Jun 3 The owner of San Marcos-based Diamond Environmental Services pleaded guilty in San Diego federal court to illegally disposing wastewater from thousands of portable toilets throughout Southern California, a practice that allowed the business to avoid up to $4.1 million in disposal fees, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. The company’s chief operation officer pleaded guilty to a similar charge last month. The trucks full of waste pumped from portable toilets were routinely dumped into municipal sewers at the company’s various facilities in Southern California from 2012 to July 2016.

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