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California Environmental Law & Policy Update
September 7, 2018
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Legislative effort to reorganize California’s electricity grid fails

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE - Aug 31 A California bill that would have created a new organization to run interconnected electricity grids across multiple states in the Western United States failed before it was brought to the State Senate floor last Friday. The bill, AB 813, was part of a long-running effort to integrate multi-state electrical grid operations into a single unified market. The California Independent System Operator, a nonprofit corporation that manages most of California's grid, had argued for years that a single, multi-state grid organization would be more efficient than the current balkanized system, which includes 38 separate operating entities. The bill failed, however, as legislators worried that consolidation would undermine California’s efforts to fight climate change.


Eight states sue Interior Department for repealing bird protection policy

THE HILL - Sep 5 Eight Democratic state attorneys general, including California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, sued Wednesday to try to overturn a Trump administration policy that repeals certain protections for migratory birds. At issue is a December 2017 Interior Department legal memo advising that the Department would no longer punish people or companies for incidental "takes" (harming or killing birds) under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in “incidental” ways. This new policy upends a January 2017 memo, prepared by the Obama-era Interior Department, that said incidental takes would be prosecuted. The Obama-era policy was opposed by numerous industries, including the oil refining and wind energy industries.

Bill putting time limit on completion of environmental challenges to stadium projects sails through

LOS ANGELES TIMES - Sep 1 The bid by the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers to streamline construction of a new arena in Inglewood won overwhelming approval Friday when lawmakers sent Governor Jerry Brown a bill granting the project protection against drawn-out environmental litigation. Amendments crafted on the Senate floor last week, including a $30-million environmental fund aimed at reducing pollution in Inglewood and surrounding areas, cleared the way for a bill that was heavily contested in committee hearings. A similar bill that would benefit a potential new ballpark for the Oakland Athletics also cleared the Assembly on Friday. If signed by Governor Brown, both bills would set a nine-month window for resolution – including appeals – of all lawsuits challenging the projects under California’s environmental laws. They would also require the projects to implement measures to reduce greenhouse gases and promote public transportation.

Berkeley rejects controversial project that sought fast-track under new state law

EAST BAY TIMES - Sep 4 The City of Berkeley on Tuesday rejected plans to fast-track approval of 260 apartments and 27,500 square feet of commercial space at 1900 4th Street under SB 35, a new law enacted late last year that requires city officials to grant special, expedited approval to certain residential complexes in an effort to incentivize homebuilding and alleviate the region’s affordable housing shortage. According to the City, the project – one of the first residential projects proposed under SB 35 - failed to qualify for SB 35’s special treatment because it would be built on the site of the West Berkeley Shellmound, land that contains an ancient Native American burial ground and has been designated by the city as a historical landmark. Though they failed to win special treatment under SB 35, the developers still can choose to build on the site, but not on the fast track they had hoped.

California sues federal government over Tijuana sewage spilling into San Diego

SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE - Sep 5 California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board filed a lawsuit Tuesday night against the U.S. section of the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), alleging that the federal agency violated the Clean Water Act by allowing, in recent years, millions of gallons of raw sewage, heavy metals, and other contamination to spill routinely from Tijuana into San Diego. The state’s lawsuit follows a similar legal strategy launched by elected officials in South Bay San Diego after a spill last year sent hundreds of millions of gallons of raw sewage flowing down the Tijuana River into the Pacific Ocean, fouling beaches as far north as Coronado. The cities of Imperial Beach and Chula Vista, together with the Port of San Diego filed a lawsuit against the IBWC in March alleging sweeping violations of Clean Water Act, with the San Diego chapter of the Surfrider Foundation filing a similar lawsuit in July.

EPA orders LADWP to pay $5.3 million in credits to ‘mitigation’ bank

LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS - Sep 5 The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finalized an administrative order with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) over federal Clean Water Act violations. Under the terms of the order, LADWP will purchase $5.3 million in mitigation credits for damaging wetlands on its Granada Hills property in Los Angeles County. LADWP will also pay a $94,000 penalty. The EPA, along with the Army Corps of Engineers and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, reportedly conducted an inspection in 2016 and found extensive vegetation clearing and soil displacement on the property, located in the San Fernando Detention Basin.

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