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California Environmental Law & Policy Update
February 2, 2018


EPA suspends Obama-era definition of “Waters of the United States”

The New York Times - Feb 2 The Trump administration on Wednesday formally suspended for two years a major Obama-era clean water regulation, known as the “Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule,” ahead of plans to issue its own version of the rule later this year. The regulation was set to be implemented in the coming weeks, following a U.S. Supreme Court decision last week that gave jurisdiction over disputes concerning the validity of the rule to federal district courts throughout the country. The rule, which defined the scope of "Waters of the United States" subject to federal regulation, was designed to limit pollution in about 60 percent of the nation’s waterbodies. It was put forth by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers in 2015. The rule was opposed by ranchers, farmers, real estate developers and others who were concerned the rule would strictly regulate discharges into very small and intermittent bodies of water, as well as their tributaries. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is now rewriting the rule, which is expected to include much looser regulatory requirements. 

Cadiz offers new study finding water project won’t harm Mojave Desert spring

The Sun - Jan 30 A team of scientists hired by Cadiz Inc. concluded that a proposed water transfer project in a remote part of San Bernardino County won’t harm Bonanza Springs, one of the largest wildlife water sources in the Mojave Desert. The project involves the extraction of millions of gallons of Mojave Desert water annually for delivery to Orange, Riverside, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. The study concluded that the aquifer from which Cadiz plans to extract groundwater is independent of the aquifer that supports Bonanza Springs. U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, a long-time opponent of the project, harshly criticized the study, which was commissioned and paid for by Cadiz, noting that “independent scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey and National Park Service have consistently disputed Cadiz’s findings and repeatedly stated the project would drain vital desert aquifers." One of the study's co-authors defended the study's conclusion, offering that precipitation is required to provide recharge to the spring catchment, and therefore "climate change is a bigger threat to Bonanza than Cadiz ever would or could possibly be.”

Woodbridge Irrigation District files suit against EBMUD over water rights

Lodi News - Jan 30 After four years of failed negotiations, the Woodbridge Irrigation District (WID) on Monday sued the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) in San Joaquin Superior Court, asking the court to review WID’s water rights and contracts with EBMUD in hopes of obtaining a determination that EBMUD must increase its releases of water to WID from the Camanche Dam and Reservoir. The first court hearing in the lawsuit is scheduled for July 27.

California desalination projects move forward with new state funding

The Mercury News - Jan 29 California water officials have approved $34.4 million in grants to eight desalination projects across the state, as part of an effort to boost the water supply in the wake of the state’s historic, five-year drought. The money comes from Proposition 1, a water bond passed by state voters in November 2014 during the depths of the drought. Six of the grant winners are brackish desalination projects, which treat salty river, bay or underground aquifer water, rather than water from the ocean, which is often up to three times saltier and more expensive to filter for human consumption. Three projects will receive $10 million each for construction funding. State officials still have $58 million in Proposition 1 funds to award for desalination projects. 

Pruitt: National fuel standard should be 'unified'

The Hill - Jan 30 U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt says he supports a unified national vehicle fuel standard, stoking state fears that the agency may do away with waivers allowing states to implement stronger standards. Speaking before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee this Tuesday, Pruitt said maintaining one national program is "essential." Some states, including California and Massachusetts, currently set more stringent fuel emission standards than the federal standard, as allowed under a waiver program implemented by former President Obama. Pruitt said those states should not be able to dictate federal rules. The EPA will determine by April whether to implement changes to the current federal fuel standards.

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