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California Environmental Law & Policy Update
March 9, 2018


U.S. loses bid to halt children's climate change lawsuit

Reuters - Mar 7 A panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday rejected the U.S. government’s bid to halt a lawsuit filed by a group of youths claiming that the federal government has violated their constitutional rights by ignoring the harms caused by climate change. By a 3-0 vote, the appellate judges ruled that the administration had not met the “high bar” under federal law to dismiss the lawsuit, which was originally filed in an Oregon federal district court in 2015 against the Obama administration. The group of 21 plaintiffs, now ages 10 to 21, accuses federal officials and oil industry executives of knowing for decades that carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels destabilize the climate, yet refusing to do anything about it, thus depriving the plaintiffs of their due process rights to life, liberty, and property, including an asserted right to live in a habitable climate. The lawsuit was returned to the federal district court for further proceedings.

Judge denies request to halt key Delta tunnels hearing

The Sacramento Bee - Mar 5 Sacramento County Judge James P. Arguelles on Monday declined to temporarily stop State Water Resources Control Board hearings that will decide the fate of Governor Jerry Brown's Delta tunnels project in response to a lawsuit alleging the process had been tainted by ex parte meetings. Project opponents, including Sacramento County, the city of Stockton, several Delta water agencies, and a group of environmental organizations, sued in February 2018, alleging the board met privately and illegally as far back as 2015 with representatives of the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation), the lead agencies planning the tunnels. The suit alleges the secret meetings provide evidence of “deliberate obstruction, and possible collusion” and show that the project opponents won’t “receive a fair hearing in this proceeding.” The hearings at issue focus on whether to allow DWR and Reclamation to divert water from the Sacramento River at the north end of the Delta – a critical element of the tunnels project.

South San Diego Bay cities and port sue federal government for failure to contain sewage from Tijuana

Los Angeles Times - Mar 2 Elected officials in coastal southern San Diego County filed a lawsuit last Friday to force the federal government to plug up the millions of gallons of sewage and polluted water that routinely stream over the border from Tijuana into the San Diego region. The cities of Imperial Beach and Chula Vista, as well as the Port of San Diego, are suing the U.S. side of the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), alleging violations of the Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The move comes amid rising tensions in recent months between local authorities and the IBWC, which oversees water treaties with Mexico and provides funding for infrastructure projects along the border. Sections of the Imperial Beach shoreline were closed for more than 160 days in both 2017 and 2016, as well as for more than 200 days in 2015, due to the waste, according to the complaint. 

Home Depot to pay $27.8M in California hazardous waste settlement

The Hill - Mar 8 As part of a settlement announced Thursday, national retailer Home Depot will pay the State of California more than $27 million to resolve allegations brought against the retailer that it improperly disposed of batteries, aerosol cans, paints, and other hazardous materials. The company will pay over $16 million in civil penalties, $2 million toward projects that enhance environmental protections, and $6.8 million to support efforts to obtain stricter environmental compliance than what is currently mandated by law. California's Department of Justice found evidence of Home Depot's failure to comply with state hazardous waste laws during 45 inspections it made of trash dumpsters belonging to Home Depot stores between 2013 and 2015.

Torrance refinery ordered to remove hazardous waste

Daily Breeze - Mar 2 More than a year after state and federal regulators discovered thousands of tons of hazardous waste stored illegally at PBF Energy’s refinery in Torrance, the plant has been ordered to dispose of it. The order issued last Friday by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) came one day after two environmental organizations, Environmental Integrity Project and Environment California, filed a notice of intent to sue PBF Energy over the waste discovered in December 2016, some of which is over 26 years old. Under the terms of the order, PBF Energy has until April 2 to submit a plan outlining how it will remove or recycle half of the waste by June 30 and the rest by September 30. The company disagrees with DTSC’s characterization of oil bearing materials as “hazardous wastes,” but says it will work cooperatively with the agencies to resolve the matter.

San Luis Obispo County refuses to relinquish control to new North County water district

The Tribune - Mar 6 The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday refused to relinquish its control as the groundwater sustainability agency (GSA) to landowners who formed their own water district in the Paso Robles Basin. Members of the newly formed Estrella-El Pomar-Creston Water District (EPCWD), which includes some of the largest water users in that area, say they want a role in deciding how groundwater is managed in their area and choosing their representation. Opponents of the water district, including 390 people who signed a petition in opposition to the transfer of representation, questioned the water district's intentions and speculated it is part of a “water grab.” As a result of the Board of Supervisors’ 3-2 vote Tuesday, the county will maintain control as the GSA for the EPCWD service area and will be responsible for developing a state-mandated groundwater sustainability plan for the groundwater basin that underlies the service area.

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