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California Environmental Law & Policy Update
November 3, 2017


White House receives recommendations that could open national marine sanctuaries to oil drilling

San Jose Mercury News - Oct 27 Six months after President Donald Trump signed an executive order aimed at increasing offshore oil and gas drilling, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross sent the White House a report on Tuesday recommending which of America’s national marine sanctuaries and ocean monuments should be eliminated or have their boundaries reduced in size. Among the 11 areas that could be affected and opened to oil and gas drilling, deep sea mining, or other commercial activities are parts of Monterey Bay, and the Greater Farallones and Cordell Bank national marine sanctuaries off California’s Marin, Sonoma, and Mendocino coasts. A Commerce Department spokesman declined to say when the report would be available to the public. The oil and gas industry has not been pushing to reduce sanctuary boundaries on the West Coast. In June, California’s main oil and gas industry group said it would not submit comments on the plan.

EPA Administrator blocks scientists with EPA funding from serving as agency advisers

The Washington Post - Oct 31 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt upended the agency’s key advisory groups on Tuesday, announcing plans to jettison scientists who have received EPA grants. The move sets in motion a fundamental shift, one that could change the scientific and technical advice that historically has guided the agency as it crafts environmental regulations. The decision to bar any researcher who receives EPA grant money from serving as an adviser appears to be unprecedented and has been condemned by environmental and scientific groups. EPA will not impose a similar litmus test on scientific advisers who receive grants from outside sources. According to lists obtained by The Washington Post, likely appointments to key EPA advisory groups include several categories of experts — voices from regulated industries, academics and environmental regulators from conservative states, and researchers who have a history of critiquing the science and economics underpinning tighter environmental regulations. Pruitt said they will undergo the same sort of ethics review that is already in place “to ensure that there aren’t issues of potential conflict with areas that they’re working upon.”

State high court turns down Martins Beach access appeal

San Mateo Daily Journal - Oct 28 The California Supreme Court last Wednesday turned down venture capitalist Vinod Khosla's appeal of an appellate court ruling issued in August requiring him to allow public access across his property to Martins Beach near Half Moon Bay. Unless Khosla successfully petitions the U.S. Supreme Court to accept review, the California Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case will render final the state Court of Appeal ruling and Khosla will be required to obtain a permit from the California Coastal Commission in order to block public access to the beach through his land. The Court of Appeal ruling was made in a lawsuit filed by the San Clemente-based Surfrider Foundation against two beach management companies created by Khosla. 

Lawsuit seeks review of endangered species status of California gnatcatcher

The Press-Enterprise - Nov 2 Seeking to free up about 200,000 acres from Ventura County to San Diego for housing, a group representing property owners, homebuilders, and others has filed a lawsuit seeking to loosen the endangered species status for the bird known as the coastal California gnatcatcher. The lawsuit, filed Nov. 2 by the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), asks the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to conduct a fair review of scientific evidence that has emerged casting doubt on the rarity of the bird, citing DNA findings produced by a professor of ornithology at the University of Nebraska and several other biologists. According to PLF, the data shows “that the gnatcatcher is not an imperiled subspecies living only in Southern California, but part of a large and healthy species found from Southern California to the southern tip of Baja, Mexico.” If the bird is not endangered, developers should be allowed to build on land that is currently off-limits, the suit argues.

Imperial Beach officials say shoreline hit by Tijuana sewage without warning, residents fall ill

San Diego Union-Tribune - Nov 1 Officials in Imperial Beach said Wednesday that sewage flowing up the coast from Tijuana fouled miles of shoreline over the weekend, severely sickening surfers and other beach goers. Officials with the U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) said they received word from the agency’s Mexican counterpart, the Comision Internacional de Limites y Aguas, that there was no report of a spill, but a Tijuana-based environmental group said their independent water testing on Friday found “extremely high” levels of fecal indicator bacteria. The group has pointed to a deteriorating sewage treatment plant at Punta Bandera as the likely source of the pollution. An effort is building throughout San Diego County to take the IBWC to court to force it to ramp up pressure on Mexico to stop the sewage spills. Imperial Beach and Chula Vista, as well as the City, County, and Port of San Diego have all filed notices of intent to sue the federal agency.

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