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California Environmental Law & Policy Update
December 9, 2017


Lawsuit challenges President’s authority to shrink Bears Ears National Monument

The Salt Lake Tribune - Dec 7 A coalition of American Indian tribes, recreation interests including the outdoor clothing manufacturer Patagonia, and paleontologists, led by the Navajo nonprofit Utah Dine Bikeyah, filed a lawsuit challenging President Trump’s reduction of the size of Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument from about 1.35 million acres to about 202,000 acres. This is the fourth lawsuit filed since the administration’s proclamations on Monday reducing both Bears Ears and Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which the administration plans to shrink by nearly 900,000 acres. The President’s proclamations are set to take effect in early February, 60 days after he signed them. Opposition to the monuments, which were created by Presidents Clinton and Obama, is based on the legal theory that the geographic size of the monuments as originally designated is unnecessarily large, in violation of the Antiquities Act, the federal law that authorized their creation. This latest legal challenge to the President’s reduction order is based on the theory that the Antiquities Act only authorizes the president to designate a monument — not to revoke or modify one. The new complaint alleges that splitting the Bears Ears Monument into two smaller areas would threaten hundreds of historical rock art panels, artifacts, pueblos, and kivas significant to five Native American tribes, and would limit tribal access to plants and water used in sacred ceremonies.  

Environmental and health groups sue EPA over missed Obama smog rule deadline

The Hill - Dec 4 Environmental and health groups sued the Trump administration Monday in federal district court in San Francisco, alleging that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) failed to meet its October 1 deadline to identify areas out of compliance with the current ozone standard established in 2015. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who fought the rule in his past job as Oklahoma’s attorney general, tried in June to delay the nonattainment designations for the ozone rule, but abandoned the attempt in the face of lawsuits from environmental groups and Democratic state attorneys general. The 2015 rule set the allowable ground-level ozone concentration at 70 parts per billion, down from 75. Areas that do not meet the new standard have to draw up state implementation plans to meet the new standard. 

California water districts don't need voter approval on fees

Sacramento Bee - Dec 4 The state's water conservation districts don't need the approval of property owners or voters to charge their customers fees to fund programs aimed at protecting groundwater, the California Supreme Court ruled on Monday. But the justices in a unanimous decision also said the districts cannot charge cities disproportionately more than farmers for conservation efforts. The decision ensures the water districts have a source of funding to undertake projects to replenish groundwater — a key irrigation source for farmers that became even more vital during California's historic drought. Governor Jerry Brown in 2014 signed legislation that required the first-ever rules for pumping groundwater in California, requiring agencies in fast-depleting basins to draw up sustainability plans. The lawsuit involved a dispute between the City of Ventura and the United Water Conservation District, which had charged the city to fund its conservation efforts under a state law that requires nonagricultural water users pay at least three times more than agricultural users.

Southern California oil refineries ordered to monitor, publicize neighborhood air quality

Los Angeles Times - Dec 1 Oil refineries in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area must install air quality monitors at their fence lines and pay for pollution monitoring systems in surrounding communities by 2020 under rules adopted last Friday by the South Coast Air Quality Management District board. The rules will provide the public with real-time information on refinery pollutants, such as smog-forming emissions and toxic compounds like benzene, toluene, and hydrogen cyanide, but do not include requirements that facilities reduce pollution when high levels are found. Air district officials said the rules were drafted concurrently with legislation Governor Jerry Brown signed in October that requires air monitors to be deployed at refinery fence lines and in nearby communities by 2020.

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