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California Environmental Law & Policy Update
January 4, 2019


New EPA plan could free coal plants to increase mercury emissions


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last Friday proposed major changes to the way the federal government calculates the benefits, in human health and safety, of restricting mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants. The proposal includes a finding declaring that federal rules imposed on mercury by the Obama administration are too costly to justify. It drastically changed the formula the government uses in its required cost-benefit analysis of the regulation by taking into account only certain effects that can be measured in dollars, while ignoring or playing down other health benefits. The result could set a precedent reaching far beyond mercury rules. “It will make it much more difficult for the government to justify environmental regulations in many cases,” said Robert N. Stavins, a professor of environmental economics at Harvard University.

Judge rejects San Diego County's climate action plan

CBS 8 - Dec 28 A Superior Court judge last Friday rejected San Diego County's climate action plan for the third time, saying it fails to comply with county and state goals for reduced carbon emissions by authorizing use of carbon credits from out of the county or out of the country. The ruling also has an unclear but potentially significant impact on a number of development projects in unincorporated parts of the county, including the Newland Sierra Project in rural North County, the Lilac Hills Ranch Project in Valley Center, and the Warner Ranch Project in Pala, all of which rely on approvals based on the now-rejected climate action plan.

Hayward comes out against proposal for offshore drilling

EAST BAY TIMES - Jan 3 The city of Hayward has come out against the Trump administration’s plans to allow new oil and gas drilling off the California coast, saying it could undermine the city’s regional shoreline. Approximately 75 California cities or counties have passed resolutions opposing expansion of drilling along the coast, a move that the administration announced in January last year as part of allowing drilling in nearly all U.S. coastal waters. Other cities that have passed resolutions include San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

New Interior FOIA rule could make it harder to get public documents

THE HILL - Dec 31 A new Interior Department rule could make it harder for news organizations and nonprofits to obtain public information from the federal government through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The proposed rule would relax timelines under which agency information must be handled and increase the burden on requesters to be specific in what they are seeking. The changes, critics say, will ultimately make it harder for people to obtain the government documents they are seeking, and could add to the already high number of FOIA lawsuits against the Trump administration. The public comment period on the proposed rule ends on January 28.

Bay Area mushroom grower faces $67 million lawsuit over alleged pollution of local waterways

THE MERCURY NEWS - Dec 28 The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office last week filed a $67 million lawsuit against Watsonville-based Monterey Mushrooms Inc., the Bay Area’s largest mushroom grower, alleging that the company intentionally dumped wastewater at its Morgan Hill facility containing toxic levels of ammonia into Fisher Creek, a 14-mile long ephemeral stream that flows into Coyote Creek, then into the San Francisco Bay. The county’s suit contends that Monterey Mushrooms intentionally pumped toxic wastewater — created by the use of used horse stable hay and poultry manure in the company’s production process — from its holding ponds into waterways in order to dispose of the waste without incurring any cost. During a single two-day period in January 2016, investigators estimated that the company pumped 700,000 gallons of wastewater into the creek.

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