Associated Press – June 2
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Thursday proposed to undo a Trump-era rule limiting the power of states and Native American tribes under the Clean Water Act to block certain federally-regulated projects, such as gas pipelines and dams, based on their potential to pollute. The rule in question required local regulators to focus their reviews on the pollution that projects might discharge into specific rivers, streams, and wetlands. It also rigidly enforced a one-year deadline for regulators to make permitting decisions. EPA’s proposal would give states the authority to look beyond pollution discharged into waterways and “holistically evaluate” the impact of a project on local water quality. The proposal would also give local regulators more power to ensure they have the information they need before facing deadline pressure to issue or deny a permit. The final rule isn’t expected to go into effect until 2023, following a public comment period.
Courthouse News Service – May 31
A California appeals court Tuesday ruled that invertebrates, including four species of a native bumble bee, are protected under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA), reversing a 2020 Sacramento Superior Court decision. Various agricultural interests sued the California Fish and Game Commission (CFGC) for listing the bees as endangered, arguing that bees were outside the commission’s domain since they aren’t birds, reptiles, mammals, fish, or amphibians. The ruling ends a four-year clash between the CFGC and agricultural groups. It also paves the way for protection of other threatened insects under CESA, including the Monarch butterfly, whose population has dropped 95% since the 1980s.
San Francisco Chronicle – May 31
Sacramento Superior Court Judge James Arguelles on May 19 ordered a halt to a statewide program of spraying pesticides on public lands and some private property, saying California officials are required to assess the potential health effects of spraying projects in advance and have failed to do so. The ruling follows a state appellate court decision in October holding that the state Department of Food and Agriculture significantly understated the amount of pesticide it uses, and failed to provide protections for waterways, bees, and other pollinators that can be harmed by the chemicals.
Los Angeles Times – May 31
A long-dead proposal to flood a valley some 70 miles north of Sacramento and create a massive reservoir to supply water for Southern California is finding new life — and opposition — amid the effects of climate change and worsening drought. First conceived in the 1950s, the Sites Reservoir project, located about 10 miles west of the small town of Maxwell and Interstate 5 in Colusa County, was abandoned in the 1980s. Recently, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California appropriated $20 million for project planning, saying the reservoir would make the region’s water supply more resilient in times of drought. The proposal has also gained bipartisan support led by Governor Gavin Newsom, $816 million from a voter-approved bond, and more than $2.2 billion in loans offered by state and federal agencies.
Freight Waves – May 31
The Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association (EMA) is suing the California Air Resources Board for moving too quickly to implement pollution regulation changes in the state. The EMA claims in a lawsuit filed last Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California that stringent emission standards, test procedures, and other emission-related requirements adopted by the agency ignore the Clean Air Act provision that gives manufacturers at least four years to comply. California adopted its Heavy-Duty Engine and Vehicle Omnibus Regulation on December 21. The new standards take effect on January 1, 2024.
Bloomberg Law – May 26
EPA on Thursday unveiled a review of dozens of existing laws it can use to better protect marginalized communities from pollution and advance the Biden administration’s broad environmental justice efforts. The legal tools review, which has undergone its first update since 2011, reflects statutory changes that have been made since EPA’s general counsel first published the Obama-era document. While the document is primarily written for internal use, it also could assist states authorized to enforce environmental laws and regulations as well as environmental justice advocacy groups and industry attorneys.
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