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California Environmental Law & Policy Update
November 16, 2018


U.S. judge bars Trump administration from approving hydraulic fracturing off California coast pending further environmental review

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE - Nov 9 A federal judge last Friday barred the Trump administration from approving oil companies’ requests to use the high-pressure drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) in offshore wells along the Southern California coast because the permit-issuing agencies had failed to consult adequately with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about threatened species, and had failed to consult at all with the California Coastal Commission. According to an attorney for one of the plaintiff environmental groups, the ruling allows the Commission to study the impact of offshore fracking on coastal lands, wildlife, and water quality, and requires a public hearing.

Climate change contrarian uncovers scientific error, upends major ocean warming study

SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE - Nov 13 Researchers with Princeton University and UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography recently walked back scientific findings published last month that showed oceans have been heating up much faster than previously thought as a result of climate change. The correction of the study’s findings followed a critique by a known critic of the scientific consensus around human-induced warming. In a paper published Oct. 31 in the journal Nature, researchers originally found that ocean temperatures had warmed 60 percent more than outlined by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The revised conclusion found the ocean is still likely warmer than the IPCC’s estimate, but that increase in temperature has a larger range of probability than initially thought — between 10 percent and 70 percent, as other studies have already found.

California recommends restrictions for widely used pesticide

ABC NEWS - Nov 14 The California Department of Pesticide Regulation on Thursday issued temporary guidelines for chlorpyrifos, a widely used pesticide blamed for harming the brains of babies. The new guidelines impose significant restrictions on the chemical’s agricultural uses. The DowDuPont pesticide currently used on about 60 different crops, including grapes, almonds, and oranges, has increasingly come under fire from regulators, lawmakers, and courts. A federal appeals court in August ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to remove the pesticide from sale in the United States after it ruled the Trump administration endangered public health by reversing an Obama-era effort to ban the chemical. The EPA is appealing that 2-1 ruling to a full panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The action by California comes as the state proposes designating chlorpyrifos as a "toxic air contaminant" that poses a risk of serious illness or death.

West Coast crab fishing groups sue 30 fossil fuel companies over climate change

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE - Nov 14 West Coast crab fishing groups filed a lawsuit on Wednesday alleging that 30 fossil fuel companies are responsible -- under theories of strict liability, failure to warn, and negligence -- for the past several years of delayed seasons and economic losses due to ocean warming. The lawsuit claims that the defendants, which include Chevron and Exxon Mobil, have known about the harm caused by climate change, including warming oceans, for 50 years. The cities of San Francisco and Oakland also filed lawsuits against five oil companies earlier this year, seeking to recover the cost of paying for seawalls to fend off sea-level rise. Those lawsuits were dismissed by a federal judge in June, who ruled that courts were not well positioned to decide who should be held accountable for an issue as big as climate change.

EPA plans to rewrite truck pollution rules

LOS ANGELES TIMES - Nov 13 The EPA announced Tuesday that it would start revising truck pollution standards to lower nitrogen oxide emissions while also removing requirements that the trucking industry has complained are costly and burdensome. The agency provided few specifics on what changes could ultimately result from the “Cleaner Trucks Initiative,” including whether it might conflict with California’s efforts to develop its own stricter emissions limits, but said it plans to propose new rules in early 2020. The announcement was welcomed by state and local air quality regulators who say reining in big rig emissions is one of the biggest obstacles to clean air in Southern California and other areas of the country that do not meet federal health standards. California is already developing its own, more stringent nitrogen oxide emissions standards for trucks, raising the possibility that they could conflict with the proposal by the federal government.

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