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California Environmental Law & Policy Update
June 16, 2017

Environmental and Policy Focus

Trump administration backs away from fight over California's power to set automobile emission standards

Los Angeles Times - Jun 15 The Trump administration is backing off its threat to revoke California’s unique authority to set its own tough pollution standards for cars and trucks — rules that have become a crucial tool for states to combat climate change without help from Washington. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt assured lawmakers on Thursday that his agency is not currently looking to revoke California’s Clean Air Act waiver, which has been used for decades to reduce emissions that cause smog and heat up the planet. California’s standards have been adopted by a dozen other states, as permitted under the Clean Air Act. The federal government has never tried to revoke a Clean Air Act waiver, and any attempt would be fiercely contested in court. But Pruitt’s earlier talk about doing so had sent shock waves through California and environmental groups.

EPA delays rules limiting methane emissions

Washington Post - Jun 14 The Trump administration has delayed for two years a pair of rules that would have limited the release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas operations across the country. The EPA announced on Tuesday that it would postpone for two years a 2016 rule limiting the release of methane and smog-forming pollutants from oil and gas wells while it re-considers the rule. The decision was made at the request of firms that would be affected by the rule during the EPA’s reconsideration period. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) last Friday took similar action, entering a notice in the Federal Register that it would delay compliance with a rule finalized in November that would limit methane burned off from drilling operations on federal and tribal lands. Congressional Republicans had sought to nullify the BLM rule last month through a vote under the Congressional Review Act, but that effort failed by a vote of 51 to 49. Industry groups claim the rules exceed federal authority, while environmental groups claim that lengthy delays in implementation of the rules will hurt public health and the environment.

California attorney general will fight White House over possible changes to six national monuments

San Gabriel Valley Tribune - Jun 13 California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said he would use his legal power and that of like-minded attorneys general to block President Trump from making any changes to the status or boundaries of national monuments, including six in California. Becerra’s statement came last week, just a few days before Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke recommended in an interim report to the Trump administration that Bears Ears National Monument in Utah be downsized, eliciting threats of lawsuits from western tribes who say changes will leave sacred sites unprotected. Zinke’s announcement is part of a White House-ordered review of 27 national monuments established by three prior presidents. Zinke will issue a final report in late August, when he is due to make recommendations on Bears Ears and 26 other national monuments on federal land.

New lawsuit seeks to block Tesoro’s massive refinery integration project

Daily Breeze - Jun 14 Environmental advocacy group Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) in a bid to block the merger of two Tesoro refineries in Carson and Wilmington. The suit follows similar legal action filed by the city of Carson last month. The CBE lawsuit alleges that the district’s review of plans to combine the two plants into the largest single West Coast refinery was inadequate under the California Environmental Quality Act because it failed to adequately address various alleged environmental impacts from the project. The city’s lawsuit is being held in abeyance to allow Carson officials to engage in settlement negotiations with Tesoro and the SCAQMD.

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