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California Environmental Law & Policy Update
January 19, 2018


Plans for new dams and reservoirs in California hit hurdle

East Bay Times - Jan 18 The staff of the California Water Commission (Commission) on Thursday announced that nearly half of the eleven applications it received for use of Proposition 1 bond funds to support new water storage projects failed to demonstrate that the projects would have the public benefits required to qualify for funding under the ballot measure’s rules. Those benefits are defined not as how much water a reservoir can hold, but by how much the project improves recreational, flood control and environmental conditions, such as improving habitat for endangered salmon populations. The Commission--charged with reviewing applications for use of $7.5 billion in bond funds overwhelmingly approved by state voters in 2014 during the depths of California's historic drought--must decide by July which water storage projects will receive bond money. The Commission's Executive Officer said that the projects’ supporters will then have three weeks to appeal. If the low scores by the Commission’s staff hold up through the appeals process in the next few months, many of the dam and reservoir projects are likely to get no state money from Proposition 1 or, in some cases, less than they have budgeted, reducing their chances of ever getting built.

State court halts Los Angeles railyard project amid environmental concerns

Courthouse News Service - Jan 12 The First District Court of Appeals last Friday ordered the City of Los Angeles and BNSF Railway, proponents of a $500 million railyard project near the Port of Los Angeles, to suspend work on the project due to defects in an environmental impact report (EIR). In a 45-page opinion resolving a challenge brought by six trucking companies under the California Environmental Quality Act, the court held that the 5000-page final EIR contained inconsistencies in its analysis of “impacts to ambient air pollutant concentrations and cumulative impacts of such pollutant concentrations.” Those will need to be addressed before the project can proceed. On the other hand, the appellate court ruled that a mitigation measure requiring review of new technology or any port-identified or other new emissions-reduction technology at the time of the port’s consideration of any lease amendment or facility modification for the project site was adequate and enforceable. It also reversed the trial court’s rejection of the EIR’s analysis of changes to an existing BNSF railyard near the Port of Long Beach, greenhouse gas emissions, noise, transportation and other health concerns.

South Los Angeles commission backs stringent new rules for oil site near USC

Los Angeles Times - Jan 16 The South Los Angeles Area Planning Commission voted unanimously Tuesday night to uphold conditions imposed last October by Los Angeles city officials on construction of an oil production site on Jefferson Boulevard in a residential area near the USC campus. The conditions include construction of a 45-foot-tall enclosure to muffle noise and reduce odors, and installation of monitoring systems to track noise and detect noxious fumes. The rules were described by officials as the toughest requirements for any oil drilling or production site in the city, and were backed by environmental and community activists.

South Coast air district to consider proposal to phase out use of toxic chemical by two Southern California refineries

The Orange County Register - Jan 16 Representatives from the South Coast Air Quality Management District, two refineries in Torrance and Wilmington, and the public are expected to meet this Saturday to discuss phasing out the use of modified hydrofluoric acid (MHF), a toxic chemical, in their processes. The refinery operators have stated that the ban could shutter their plants, cost hundreds of jobs and cause a spike in local gas and airfare prices. MHF is used in the oil refining process to help meet air quality standards that call for blended forms of gasoline. The two refineries are believed to be the only petroleum processing plants in the state that use MHF. Though the language of the proposed rule has not yet been finalized, regulators have suggested an eight-year timeline for phasing out the use of MHF.

Proposed California ballot measure would require taxpayers, not paint manufacturers, to fund lead paint cleanup

Los Angeles Times - Jan 17 A proposed statewide ballot measure would place a $2-billion bond on the November ballot to fund the remediation of lead paint, mold, asbestos and other environmental dangers in homes, schools and senior citizen facilities. The terms of the initiative also would reverse a November state appeals court decision requiring three paint manufacturing companies to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for lead paint abatement, and would bar future lawsuits against paint companies for similar claims. The initiative, called the Healthy Homes and Schools Act, is supported by the paint manufacturers.  

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