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California Environmental Law & Policy Update
October 20, 2017


Santa Clara Valley Water District rejects twin Delta tunnels plan, endorsing smaller version instead

San Jose Mercury News - Oct 17 In a landmark vote closely watched across California, the Santa Clara Valley Water District, Silicon Valley’s largest water agency, on Tuesday rejected Governor Jerry Brown’s $17 billion plan to build two giant tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. By a vote of 7-0, the District board chose instead to adopt a set of principles endorsing a significantly smaller, less costly project — with just one tunnel. The vote, following a rejection of the project last month by the Westlands Water District in Fresno, which was to have contributed $3 billion, further throws the future of one of Governor Brown’s major construction priorities into doubt with just 14 months left in his term. 

BLM approves controversial Cadiz water pipeline

Los Angeles Times - Oct 16 The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has given Cadiz Inc. the go-ahead to lay a 43-mile pipeline along an existing railroad right-of-way as part of its proposed project to transport groundwater pumped from desert aquifers to the Los Angeles area. The decision reverses a 2015 determination by BLM forbidding the use of the right-of-way for this purpose, thereby requiring Cadiz to undergo a lengthy and uncertain environmental review process necessary to obtain federal permission to run the pipeline across surrounding federal land. Even with the BLM ruling, Cadiz’s pipeline faces another challenge as the California State Lands Commission recently informed the company that the right-of-way crosses a 200-foot-wide strip of state land, so that, if Cadiz is to use that land, it will need a lease from the state.

EPA Administrator Pruitt issues directive to curb settlements with outside groups

Washington Post - Oct 16 Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt issued a directive on Monday to limit the extent to which the EPA can reach legal agreements with groups which have sued EPA to force it to take regulatory action. Ending the practice known as “sue and settle” has long been a top priority for conservative and business groups. In recent years, the EPA and other agencies resolved litigation over delays in issuing rules by agreeing to specific timelines to act. Such agreements often included terms requiring EPA to reimburse the plaintiffs’ attorney fees. The directive will provide for greater disclosure of potential settlements by directing the EPA to publish any notice of intent to sue it receives within 15 days of receiving it, contacting states and any other entities potentially affected by such suits, and posting any proposed or modified consent decrees and settlements for a 30-day public comment period.

Governor Brown vetoes water rights bill

Turlock Journal - Oct 17 Governor Jerry Brown has vetoed Assemblyman Adam Gray’s water rights legislation, Assembly Bill 313 (AB 313), which in September received final legislative approval on the last day of the session. AB 313 would have required water rights enforcement hearings to occur at the Office of Administrative Hearings under the direction of an administrative law judge. Under current law, the State Water Resources Control Board (Water Board) issues complaints against water users for allegedly violating water rights and provides 20 days for the water user to request an appeals hearing. Such hearings are conducted at Water Board offices, with Water Board staff acting as the prosecution and a member of the Water Board acting as the judge. The veto of AB 313 means that, for the time being at least, the existing process will continue.

Proposed Huntington Beach desalination plant passes key test

KPCC - Oct 20 The State Lands Commission voted Thursday to grant a lease for a large-scale desalination plant in Huntington Beach. The plant, to be built by Boston-based Poseidon Water, would produce 50 million gallons a day of drinking water, enough for about 400,000 people. Poseidon's plant of the same size in Carlsbad is currently the largest desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere. The state lands lease, which runs through 2026, lets Poseidon use pipes from a coastal power plant to draw seawater into reverse osmosis pipes and discharge concentrated brine after the water is desalinated. The Commission's approval is the first of three major regulatory hurdles Poseidon has to clear before construction of the plant can commence. 

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