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California Environmental Law & Policy Update
December 22, 2017


Trump administration halts study of offshore oil inspections

ABC News - Dec 21 The Trump administration has halted an independent scientific study of offshore oil inspections by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, the federal safety agency created after the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to improve offshore safety inspections and federal oversight. The order marks the second time in four months that the Trump administration has halted a study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. In August, the Interior Department suspended a National Academies study of potential health risks for people living near Appalachian surface coal mines. The December 7 letter ordering the suspension of all work under the contract said that within 90 days the department would decide whether to lift the order or terminate the study altogether. 

San Joaquin Valley farmers sue over Delta tunnels

Sacramento Bee - Dec 18 Already short of funding, Governor Jerry Brown’s Delta tunnels project is being challenged in Sacramento County Superior Court by a bloc of San Joaquin Valley farmers, located mainly in Kern and Kings counties, who oppose the plan to issue bonds to pay for the $17.1 billion project. The project, known officially as California WaterFix, already has fallen short of its funding needs by at least $6 billion, as agricultural customers of the federal government’s Central Valley Project have chosen en masse not to participate. The opposition now comes from farmers who belong to the State Water Project. In contrast to the federal system, the Brown administration has said all customers of the State Water Project must contribute to California WaterFix, or get another state customer to take their place, which has proven to be challenging. Meanwhile, the State Water Resources Control Board is pressing ahead with marathon water-rights hearings required to get the tunnels started, even as the project faces uncertainty. 

State Water Board warns Nestlé that it lacks rights to Southern California spring water

The Washington Post - Dec 21 Nestlé Waters North America, which sells Arrowhead bottled water, may have to stop taking millions of gallons of water from Southern California’s San Bernardino National Forest. The State Water Resources Control Board notified Nestlé on Wednesday that an investigation concluded that the company does not have permits to withdraw much of the water it currently uses for bottling. Nestlé was urged to cut back its withdrawals unless it can show it has valid water rights to its current sources or to additional groundwater. It was given 60 days to submit an interim compliance plan. Nestlé withdrew about 32 million gallons of water from wells and water collection tunnels in the forest last year. An extensive water board investigation concluded that the company only had the right to withdraw 26 acre-feet per year, or about 8.5 million gallons.

EPA says herbicide in Roundup weed killer doesn't cause cancer, contradicting California regulators

Los Angeles Times - Dec 18 The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Monday said glyphosate, the primary ingredient in the weed killer Roundup and one of the most widely used herbicides in agriculture, likely does not cause cancer. The assessment contradicts the conclusion of a European scientific panel as well as California regulators, who have included the chemical on the Proposition 65 list of probable carcinogens. Environmentalists worldwide have fought to encourage governments to ban or strictly limit use of the pesticide. In 2019, EPA will consider whether to extend the product’s registration. Monday’s draft assessment is a foundational document in that process.

California and others sue over suspension of methane flaring rule

Courthouse News Service - Dec 19 California and New Mexico’s attorneys general, along with a coalition of environmental groups, sued the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and senior Interior Department officials, including Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, over Secretary Zinke’s December 8 suspension of an Obama-era climate protection regulation requiring oil operations on federal land to prevent methane gas flaring. The complaint alleges that the decision to suspend the regulation, known as the Waste Prevention Rule, was arbitrary and capricious and contrary to BLM’s statutory mandate to prevent waste and ensure the safe and responsible development of oil and gas resources on federal lands. In October, a Magistrate Judge in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco ruled that BLM had improperly delayed implementation of the Waste Prevention Rule, finding that the agency had failed to engage in any new analysis when it delayed the rule and had focused solely on the rule’s costs without considering its benefits. The ruling prompted BLM’s initiation of a new rulemaking, but while that proceeding was underway, Secretary Zinke suspended the existing rule, which the state attorneys general ask the court to reinstate immediately.

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