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California Environmental Law & Policy Update
April 20, 2018


Climate lawsuits, once limited to the coasts, jump inland

THE NEW YORK TIMES - Apr 18 Until recently, communities suing fossil fuel companies over the costs of climate change have been located on the coasts: cities and counties in California, and New York City. However, on Tuesday, Boulder and San Miguel Counties in Colorado, along with the city of Boulder, filed a lawsuit against two oil companies, Exxon Mobil and Suncor Energy, the Canadian giant. The suit, filed in state court, alleges that fossil fuels sold by the companies contribute to climate change, which in turn has exacerbated wildfires, droughts, severe storms, and other symptoms of a warming planet that have far-ranging effects on agriculture and tourism. The earlier lawsuits largely focused on the obvious link between climate change, namely rising sea levels, and damage to infrastructure. This new climate suit, far from the coasts, suggests that more communities around the country might take on energy companies in court.

City of Del Mar adds ‘managed retreat’ to coastal erosion options

THE SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE - Apr 17 The Del Mar City Council voted Monday to include “managed retreat” as a last-resort option in its adaptation plan to address sea-level rise, despite widespread objections from homeowners in the upscale, seaside enclave. The California Coastal Commission, in two letters to the city, has emphasized that managed retreat must be “one of the tools in the toolbox,” city officials said at the Monday night meeting. Without it, the city would lose control to the state over development of everything from seawalls to shopping centers. "Managed retreat" is a term that describes planning for ways to remove homes, roads, public buildings, and other structures from the path of the rising sea. In some cases, it could involve the government buying the properties, or assisting in the sales, and helping the residents find new places to live. The City Council voted to include the idea as an option on Monday, but postponed approval of the adaptation plan until the council’s May 21 meeting to iron out the details.

Destructive swamp rodents found at the edge of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta

THE SACRAMENTO BEE - Apr 17 State wildlife officials announced Tuesday that one nutria, a type of destructive invasive swamp rodent, was killed on agricultural land west of Stockton in San Joaquin County, on the edge of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. It is the farthest north the species has been confirmed of the 32 nutria killed so far in California since their discovery in March 2017. State and federal wildlife and water officials fear nutria will get a foothold in the Delta's ecologically fragile network of sloughs and rivers. The Delta is the heart of California’s flood-control and water distribution system, supplying water to 25 million Californians and millions of acres of Central Valley farmland. Full-grown nutria, about the size of a beagle, aggressively feed on native wetland vegetation, and their burrowing into levees poses a grave risk to the state's water supply and flood control infrastructure.

EPA grants expanded environmental authority to Southern California tribes


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Thursday it was granting three tribes powers similar to those held by the state of California for protecting natural resources on their reservations and adjacent lands. The Morongo Band of Mission Indians in Riverside County and the Rincon Band of Luiseno Indians in San Diego County are now able to set standards for the purity of surface waters affecting their land under the federal Clean Water Act, and the La Jolla Band of Luiseno Indians, also in San Diego County, was approved for state powers to ensure clean air under the federal Clean Air Act. The La Jolla Band will now also be notified under the federal Clean Air Act of any upcoming actions that could impact those living on the reservation, according to the EPA. These new powers could qualify these tribes for future federal grant dollars for water or air quality projects.

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