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California Environmental Law & Policy Update
July 21, 2017

Environmental and Policy Focus

California Legislature extends state's cap-and-trade program in rare bipartisan effort to address climate change

Los Angeles Times - Jul 17 California lawmakers voted Monday evening to extend until 2030 the state’s five-year-old cap-and-trade program, which requires companies to buy permits to release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and will provide a key tool for meeting the state’s ambitious goal for slashing emissions. In a break with party leaders and activists in California and Washington, eight Republicans joined with Democrats to pass Assembly Bill 398 by a two-thirds supermajority vote, which will insulate the program from legal challenges. The cap-and-trade program also generates important revenue for building the bullet train from Los Angeles to San Francisco, another priority for Governor Brown. California’s program is the only one of its kind in the U.S. and has been considered an international model for using financial pressure to prod industry to reduce emissions. Bipartisan support for the program comes as Republicans in Washington, including President Trump, have blocked, resisted, or undermined national efforts to fight global warming.

House votes to delay Obama-era smog reductions

PBS - Jul 18 The House voted Tuesday to approve the Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2017, sponsored by Representative Pete Olson, R-Texas, which delays by eight more years the implementation of 2015 air pollution standards issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Obama administration. The bill also makes key technical changes that environmental groups say will weaken the Clean Air Act, including switching the EPA’s mandated review of air quality standards from every five years to every 10. The National Ambient Air Quality Standards adopted by EPA in 2015 reduced the allowable amount of ground-level ozone from 75 parts per billion to 70 parts per billion. The House passed the legislation to defer enforcement of that level notwithstanding EPA's acknowledgment that recent studies showed that ozone at 72 parts per billion is harmful to healthy adults exercising outdoors, with children at an increased risk of negative health effects.

Long-debated Newhall Ranch project gets key approvals from county

Los Angeles Times - Jul 18 After decades of controversy, the 21,000-home Newhall Ranch development in the Santa Clarita Valley cleared its last major hurdle Tuesday when the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors certified a revised environmental impact report (EIR) for the project and approved two of the project’s five planned subdivisions. The revised EIR approved by the board addressed concerns about greenhouse gas emissions and threats to a native fish species that were raised in a 2015 California Supreme Court decision rejecting an earlier version of the report. In its revised plan, the developer proposed building bridges and taking other steps to keep construction out of Santa Clara River, eliminating the need to relocate any fish. It also proposed “net-zero” measures to offset project-related greenhouse gas emissions, such as retrofitting buildings in low-income communities in Los Angeles and purchasing cleaner cookstoves in Africa. 

California city and two counties sue fossil fuel companies over sea level rise

San Diego Union-Tribune - Jul 17 Several coastal municipalities in California, the city of Imperial Beach and Marin and San Mateo counties, on Monday filed lawsuits against more than three dozen oil and coal corporations for what they said are billions of dollars in property damage costs associated with climate change. The plaintiffs allege that greenhouse gas emissions caused by the companies are contributing to warming of the planet and melting of glaciers, which they allege results in sea-level rise that worsens coastal flooding. The lawsuits—which are predicated on public nuisance claims similar to tactics used against the tobacco industry—seek payment for ongoing and future flooding damage caused by storms and impacts from more regular occurrences such as king tides, as well as punitive damages.

Los Angeles natural gas field to reopen, but fight still on

ABC News - Jul 20 Officials with the state's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources and the California Public Utilities Commission on Wednesday cleared the way for resumption in the next few weeks of natural gas pumping at reduced capacity into the underground Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility after 17 months of testing and inspections. The announcement brought fierce opposition from residents who were made sick and driven from their homes by the largest-known release of methane in the U.S., stemming from an October 2015 blowout of an underground storage well at the facility, and vows of action by the advocates and local officials who represent them. The vast field will be restricted to about 28 percent of its massive capacity, storing up to 23.6 billion cubic feet of natural gas, officials said. 

Court rejects environmental groups’ appeal of EPA decision not to ban pesticide

The Hill - Jul 17 The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday rejected a request from environmental groups to overturn the EPA's decision not to restrict use of the controversial pesticide chlorpyrifos. It ruled that the environmental groups, led by the Pesticide Action Network North America, need to first file a challenge with the EPA before they can go to court. “Now that EPA has issued its denial, substantive objections must first be made through the administrative process mandated by statute,” the three-judge panel of the appeals court wrote. Earthjustice has already filed a petition with the EPA and another lawsuit challenging the agency’s action. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has also filed an EPA challenge on behalf of New York and six other states, including California. If the EPA rejects those filings, the groups and states could then file new lawsuits.

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