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California Environmental Law & Policy Update
October 27, 2017


Interior Department clarifies, says it will continue to work on Delta tunnels project

Los Angeles Times - Oct 25 The Department of the Interior (DOI) confirmed Wednesday it would continue to work with the state of California on Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed project to transport water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to Southern California through two large tunnels, a project known as California WaterFix. Confusion was created by the DOI deputy communications director Russell Newell’s statement that “The Trump administration did not fund the project and chose to not move forward with it." Although the regional office of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) had been working on planning documents for the project, it has stated several times that it is not authorized to help pay for project construction and is not seeking funding authority. It was unclear whether Newell was merely reiterating BOR’s previous “no funding” position, or making a broader statement that the Trump administration was also withdrawing its participation in planning and environmental reviews entirely. In its statement on Wednesday, DOI clarified that, while it does not expect to participate in the construction or funding of the CA WaterFix, DOI and BOR will continue to work with the state and stakeholders as the project is further developed.

U.S. EPA describes strategy to streamline permitting under Clean Air Act

The Hill - Oct 25 As part of a review President Trump mandated earlier this year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said on Wednesday that it would undertake four new initiatives to reduce regulatory burdens of permitting under the Clean Air Act. The most notable of those is the creation of a new task force to reconsider the process for permitting new emissions sources, known as New Source Review (NSR). EPA also said it would work to speed up its approval process for state implementation plans aimed at reducing emissions of “criteria” pollutants, such as precursors to ozone, for which EPA has adopted National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

County environmental regulators find Valero committed no violations in May flaring

East Bay Times - Oct 25 The Solano County Environmental Health Division has ruled that Valero Oil Co. did not violate safety or other regulations then in effect when it responded to a power outage on May 5, 2017 by conducting emergency flaring at emissions points at its refinery in Benicia. Valero did not have, nor was it required at the time to have, emergency backup power capabilities to call upon in the event of such an outage. California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) had conducted its own probe in May and also did not cite Valero for any violations.

Compromise on San Diego development facing opposition from environmental groups

San Diego Union-Tribune - Oct 21 A potential landmark compromise that would accelerate construction of San Diego-area housing tracts and shopping plazas is facing opposition from nearly a dozen environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, the San Diego Audubon Society, and the California Chaparral Institute. Under the proposed compromise, U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials would cede authority to the City of San Diego for regulation of projects that would potentially destroy local vernal pools, which can provide habitat for threatened or endangered species. In exchange, the City would protect many pools and abide by its habitat conservation plan (HCP), prepared under the authority of the Endangered Species Act. The environmental groups contend that the proposed HCP contains an incomplete inventory of local pools, improperly allows destruction of some important pools, and authorizes inadequate management of other pools, and underestimates implementation costs. The proposal, which the Planning Commission unanimously approved this past week, is expected to be presented to the City Council for final approval before the end of the year. 

State hears opinions on expanded aquifer use in Sespe Oil Field near Fillmore

Ventura County Star - Oct 25 Ventura County environmentalists and the City of Fillmore are fighting an oil company’s request for permits to discharge more of its wastewater into a groundwater aquifer a few miles north of Fillmore. Seneca Resources Corp., the oil and gas exploration and extraction arm of National Fuel Gas Co., has asked the state and federal governments for an “aquifer exemption expansion” for its operations in the Sespe Oil Field. When Seneca drills for oil in that field, it draws a mixture of crude oil and water from the ground; the company then separates the oil from the water, and the exemption allows it to inject the water back into the ground. If the exemption expansion request is granted, Seneca will be allowed to inject water into additional parts of the aquifer under the Sespe field where it has discovered new oil deposits. An analysis by California Department of Conservation Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources and the State Water Resources Control Board supports granting of the expanded exemption. The U.S. EPA has final say over Seneca’s application.

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