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California Environmental Law & Policy Update
March 30, 2018


MWD might foot the bill for Delta tunnels project — with no promise of reimbursement

LOS ANGELES TIMES - Mar 28 Southern California's biggest water agency, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD), is considering picking up most of the bill for construction of two giant water tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a project known as California WaterFix, without any guarantee that it will eventually recoup its multibillion-dollar investment. Last fall, MWD's board voted to invest $4.3 billion in the twin tunnel project and next month the board will consider whether to contribute up to an additional $4.5 billion. Underlying the plan is an assumption that the San Joaquin Valley agricultural districts that have refused to share in the upfront costs of constructing the project would be willing to buy into it when the project is finished. But those big irrigation districts have yet to commit to future water purchases, leaving open the possibility that the MWD — and by extension ratepayers from Los Angeles to San Diego — will be responsible for the roughly $11 billion bill for the project.

California judge says coffee needs cancer warnings

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE - Mar 29 A Los Angeles judge has ruled that California law requires coffee companies to post warnings under Proposition 65 because of a chemical produced in the roasting process. Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle wrote in a proposed ruling Wednesday that Starbucks and other coffee companies failed to show that the threat from acrylamide, a chemical compound produced in the roasting process, is insignificant. The proposed ruling came in a case brought by a nonprofit group against coffee roasters, distributors, and retailers. The case has been developing for eight years and is still not over. A third phase of trial will later determine any civil penalties that the defendants must pay.

Mexico set to launch $4.35 million in upgrades to Tijuana sewage infrastructure

THE SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE - Mar 27 Mexico's federal government announced this week that work is scheduled to begin in early April on $4.35 million in upgrades to Tijuana’s waste water system aimed at reducing sewage-contaminated flows into the Tijuana River that could flow across the border into San Diego. The largest of the projects involves the replacement of a 2.6-mile stretch of a large sewage pipeline at a cost of more than $3 million. The cost of the project is being shared by Mexico’s National Water Commission, the Baja California public service commission, CESPT, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, through its border infrastructure fund that is administered by the North American Development Bank. Authorities say these projects are immediate measures that can minimize the risk of dry-weather spills that contaminate beaches on both sides of the border.

Paint companies and lawmakers disagree over who pays lead cleanup bill

THE SACRAMENTO BEE - Mar 26 Major paint companies are looking to voters to absolve them of a likely nine-figure environmental cleanup bill they face in California, but a group of state lawmakers has a plan to make the companies pay. A proposed November ballot initiative, dubbed The Healthy Homes and Schools Act and backed by former lead paint manufacturers, seeks to reverse court rulings in California that declared lead paint a public nuisance and ordered paint companies to pay for removal of lead paint from older homes. The initiative also asks voters to approve a $2 billion bond to fund lead paint cleanup efforts. To counter this and ensure paint companies are held accountable for these cleanup costs, six Assembly Democrats unveiled a suite of bills last Thursday that would make it easier for homeowners to sue companies that formerly sold lead paint. The legislative package includes a bill that would take effect only if the ballot initiative passes, to impose fees on paint manufacturers for paint sold in California in order to create a fund for residents to use when cleaning up lead paint in contaminated homes.

Environmental group sues BLM and U.S. Forest Service, demanding protections for California rivers

THE DESERT SUN - Mar 27 The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) on Tuesday filed a lawsuit in California federal court against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service for failing to develop management plans to protect eight Southern California rivers and streams that Congress designated years ago as “wild and scenic.” The rivers include the spring-fed Amargosa River in the Mojave Desert and a portion of Palm Canyon Creek, which flows onto the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation and sustains its famed oasis of desert fan palms. Under the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, enacted by Congress in 1968, the federal government is required to prepare management plans to “protect and enhance” rivers deemed to have special value as wilderness areas. CBD says those plans should have been completed within three years of designation of the rivers, a deadline they allege has passed. The environmental group alleges the management plans would protect the rivers from a variety of threats, including excessive groundwater pumping, off-road vehicles, and livestock grazing.

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