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California Environmental Law & Policy Update
November 17, 2017


High-speed rail authority says environmental reviews won't be completed until 2020

Los Angeles Times - Nov 15 The California High-Speed Rail Authority announced Tuesday evening that it would not meet its self-imposed deadline to complete by 2018 the project’s environmental reviews, which determine the exact route that the electrified rail line would take between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The authority, a board appointed by political leaders in the state, said it would not complete the environmental documents until 2020, long past the original deadline that envisioned 119 miles of track built this year and a starter system operating by 2022. In 2016 the authority said environmental clearances would be completed in 2017, but pushed the deadline to 2018 earlier this year. The project has been hurt by litigation, which is likely to increase markedly when the environmental impact statements and reports are completed. Under state and federal law, opponents cannot sue until the authority certifies the documents. The only two partial sections that have been approved triggered lawsuits by farmers, cities, a county, and opposition groups.

California will turn private ranch land into new public beach

San Jose Mercury News - Nov 10 The California Coastal Commission last Thursday agreed to carve a mile of public beach out of privately owned ranch land northwest of Los Angeles that has been in private hands for more than a century. Once known as Bixby Ranch and owned by a famous California ranching family, the shoreline is part of what is now the Cojo Jalama Ranches that sprawl over more than 37 square miles, including 11 miles of coastline. The transfer is part of a settlement negotiated by the Commission’s enforcement staff to mitigate unpermitted development that included grading land and installing dozens of water wells. The deal approved by the Commission calls for the owners to fix damage to land they developed without permission and to transfer 36 acres of coastal property to Santa Barbara County. 

Trump administration seeks to delay findings on pesticides

Sacramento Bee - Nov 14 President Donald Trump's administration is seeking a two-year delay of an upcoming deadline to determine whether three widely used pesticides—chlorpyrifos, diazinon, and malathion—are harmful to endangered species. The request filed before a federal judge last week comes after Dow Chemical Co. and two other pesticide makers asked the government to set aside research by federal scientists that shows organophosphates are harmful to about 1,800 critically threatened or endangered species. Under a 2014 legal agreement, the National Marine Fisheries Service is required to issue findings on the use of the pesticides by the end of this year. 

Southern California smog worsens for second straight year despite reduced emissions

Los Angeles Times - Nov 15 Southern California ground-level ozone (often called smog) worsened for a second straight year even though smog-forming emissions in the region are declining. According to monitoring data collected by state and local air regulators, smog levels in the South Coast air basin, which encompasses Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties, violated federal health standards 145 days this year, compared to 132 ozone violation days last year and 113 in 2015. Officials with the South Coast Air Quality Management District believe the increase is probably the result of more days with hotter temperatures and inversion layers, which are weather patterns that trap pollution near the ground. Environmental and public health groups say officials may be underestimating emissions and should be cracking down harder on oil refineries, ports, and other major emissions sources in order to curb smog levels.

Monsanto, U.S. farm groups sue California over glyphosate warnings

Reuters - Nov 15 Monsanto and U.S. farm groups sued California on Wednesday to stop the state from requiring cancer warnings on products containing the widely used weed killer glyphosate, which the company sells to farmers to apply to its genetically engineered crops. California added glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, to its list of cancer-causing chemicals in July and will require that products containing glyphosate carry warnings by July 2018. The state acted after the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded in 2015 that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic.” 

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