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California Environmental Law & Policy Update
November 30, 2018
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Supreme Court deals a setback to the endangered dusky gopher frog

WASHINGTON POST - Nov 27 The Supreme Court on Tuesday delivered a unanimous win to property owners contesting the government's designation of their land as critical habitat for the endangered dusky gopher frog. The Court remanded the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, saying it had been too deferential to the government’s designation of more than 1,500 acres of Louisiana land as a potential future home for the frog, which is only known to live in parts of a national forest in neighboring Mississippi, and should have examined more closely whether the land in question could actually support the frog. Chief Justice Roberts suggested that because the land is not habitable by the frogs, it could not be designated “critical habitat.” But the Court sent the case back to the lower court to consider that question.


EPA chief: Trump administration may intervene in next climate study

POLITICO - Nov 28 Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler on Wednesday accused the Obama administration of tilting last week’s federal climate change report to focus on the worst-case outcomes — and indicated that the Trump administration could seek to shape the next big study of the issue. Wheeler’s comments echoed remarks Monday from President Trump, who said he doesn’t believe the National Climate Assessment's conclusions on climate change’s potential economic impacts. The report, which is compiled by hundreds of experts across more than a dozen agencies, was the first major climate assessment produced predominantly during Trump’s presidency. The report warned that the U.S. would face hundreds of billions of dollars in losses over the coming decades due to climate change, but that steep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions could reduce the impacts.

Federal court won’t dismiss challenge to part of EPA’s rollback of fuel efficiency standards

THE HILL - Nov 21 The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit declined to dismiss a challenge filed by a coalition of states, led by California, and environmental groups to a key part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) plan to roll back car fuel efficiency and emissions standards. At issue is the EPA’s April 2018 determination that the Obama administration’s plan to make fuel efficiency standards stricter between 2021 and 2026 was unattainable and should be revised. The EPA argued that its determination is not a regulation that can be reviewed by a court. The three-judge appellate panel said it would move ahead in hearing the merits of the lawsuit, a rebuke to the administration’s attempt to end the case before it is fully heard.

Imperial Irrigation District fight could threaten federal Colorado River drought plan

DESERT SUN - Nov 27 On Wednesday, Superior Court Judge L. Brooks Anderholt, denied an injunction sought by a third-generation Imperial Valley farmer, Michael Abatti, who sought to block the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) from signing on to a seven-state compact, dubbed the Drought Contingency Plans, seeking to replenish rapidly dwindling Colorado River water supplies critical to the American Southwest and parts of Mexico. Anderholt said he would issue a written ruling later this week. In 2017, Anderholt found that the growers had a constitutionally protected, private property right to their share of the water. Abatti’s attorneys argued the ruling bars IID from signing any new contracts that would “unduly harm” the “status quo,” namely their client's senior water rights. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman has urged the states to act on the Drought Contingency Plans by December to help keep Lake Mead and Lake Powell elevations high enough to meet demand.

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