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California Environmental Law & Policy Update
August 18, 2017

Environmental and Policy Focus

California attorney general sues EPA over records on administrator

Washington Post - Aug 11 California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last Friday for failing to provide records requested in April that, according to Becerra, could show that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is disqualified by conflicts of interest rules from taking part in reviews of regulations that Pruitt opposed while serving as Oklahoma’s attorney general. Pruitt sued or took part in legal actions against the EPA in 14 different cases. In the complaint filed in Washington, D.C. federal court, Becerra alleges the EPA failed to timely respond to the request by May as required by the Freedom of Information Act and still has not provided the requested documents.

$1.1 million settlement reached by Modesto-area farmer for plowing his field

Modesto Bee - Aug 15 Northern California farmer John Duarte spent years fighting the federal government after being cited for plowing over protected wetlands on his property. A federal judge in Sacramento ruled in 2016 that Duarte violated the “Waters of the United States” provision (WOTUS rule) of the Clean Water Act by “deep ripping” a Tehama County field without a permit. Just before the penalty phase of the trial was set to start this Tuesday, Duarte settled, agreeing to pay $330,000 in fines and another $770,000 in “compensatory mitigation,” according to a settlement agreement. The government had sought a $2.8 million fine and tens of millions of dollars in mitigation expenses. Obama Administration revisions to the WOTUS rule – the same regulations that Duarte was found liable for violating – are currently under review by the Trump Administration.

12 water projects seek $2.7 billion in state funding

San Jose Mercury News - Aug 15 The California Water Commission on Tuesday unveiled a list of 12 huge new water projects — from new dams in the north to expanded groundwater banks in the south — that will compete for $2.7 billion in state bond funding. The money comes from Proposition 1, a $7.5 billion water bond overwhelmingly passed by voters in November 2014 during the depths of the state’s historic 2011-2016 drought. Monday was the deadline for water agencies to submit applications for storage projects. The commission will decide by June 2018 which projects receive bond funding, as well as how much, if any, each will receive, after rating them on their public benefits. All 12 projects would cost roughly $13.1 billion to construct — five times the total funding available under the bond. 

Railroads fined for not reporting pollutant-emitting diesel trucks at Southern California rail yards

KPCC - Aug 11 The California Air Resources Board (CARB) announced a combined $1.25 million in fines this week against two railroads that allowed non-compliant diesel trucks to enter their rail yards in violation of the state’s Drayage Truck Regulations, which require trucks that haul cargo to rail yards to meet strict diesel emission standards. Trucks that do not meet these standards are supposed to be reported to CARB. At local ports, such trucks are turned away at the gates. For several years, the two railroads, Union Pacific Railroad Company and Burlington Northern Santa Fe, failed to correctly report information on all the non-compliant diesel rigs arriving at their rail yards in Los Angeles, Commerce, Industry, and San Bernardino. In addition to its agreed fine, Union Pacific Railroad Company has pledged to adopt a turnaway policy for non-compliant trucks. 

Environmental groups sue EPA over chemical safety rules

The Hill - Aug 14 Several environmental groups are challenging new chemical safety regulations issued by the EPA. The groups sued the EPA on Monday over rules, published in July, that determine which uses of chemicals the agency will assess before allowing the chemicals to be sold on the open market. A revision to the Toxic Substances Control Act, passed last year in Congress with strong support from both political parties, requires EPA to update several internal procedures related to the risk evaluation process for toxic chemicals. The plaintiff environmental groups allege that EPA has watered down the rules and weakened the chemical review process that would have been required in a previous version of the regulations proposed by EPA during the Obama administration. One of the rules in question sets criteria to determine the highest-priority chemicals for the EPA to evaluate. The other establishes which uses of a chemical regulators will consider for health and safety risks during the review process.

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