Articles Posted in Environmental Law

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Petitioner sought an administrative writ and declaratory relief, contending that the lease replacement between PG&E and the Commission should not have been subject to the existing facilities exemption, and that even if it was, the unusual circumstances exception to the exemption should apply. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's rejection of petitioner's contentions and denied the writ and declaratory relief. The court held that the record supported the Commission's application of the existing facilities exemption where the lease replacement would not expand the existing use of the plant. In this case, PG&E has leased the same land from the Commission for nearly 50 years, and the lease replacement maintained rather than expanded the plant's current operational capacity. The court also held that the Commission properly applied the fair argument standard in considering possible effects on the environment due to any unusual circumstances. The court rejected petitioner's remaining arguments. View "World Business Academy v. California State Lands Commission" on Justia Law

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The state formed BBGHAD to restore 46 acres of Malibu's Broad Beach. The project requires 300,000 cubic yards of sand initially, with subsequent deposits at five-year intervals, and supplemental deposits as needed. Each of the five major deposits will generate 44,000 one-way truck trips, primarily from quarries adjacent to State Highway 23 between Fillmore and Moorpark. Moorpark officials expressed concern that truck traffic would negatively impact residents. A settlement prohibited sand trucks from using certain roads and from stopping in specific areas. The Coastal Commission approved a coastal development permit, including the settlement agreement. The trial court found the project exempt from environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), Pub. Resources Code, 21000(a) but that BBGHAD improperly contracted away to Moorpark its police power in prohibiting BBGHAD from modifying haul routes in response to changed circumstances. The court of appeal held that the beach restoration, including the agreement, is a single “project” that is exempt from CEQA review as an “improvement” (section 26505) undertaken by a geologic hazard abatement district “necessary to prevent or mitigate an emergency.” The agreement's traffic restrictions are not preempted by the Vehicle Code, nor do they constitute extraterritorial regulations; they represent a valid exercise of Moorpark’s contracting authority. The court agreed that BBGHAD abdicated its police power in portions of the agreement. View "County of Ventura v. City of Moorpark" on Justia Law

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In 1989, the predecessor to the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), the agency charged with implementing California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act (Proposition 65) (Health & Saf. Code 25249.5), adopted a regulation setting a “maximum allowable dose level” (MADL) for lead as a reproductive toxicant. In 2015, Mateel sought to compel OEHHA to repeal regulations setting a MADL for lead as a reproductive toxicant and to invalidate the “safe harbor” level for lead. The court of appeal affirmed judgment in favor of OEHHA, rejecting Mateel’s argument that OEHHA failed to comply with Proposition 65's mandate that the MADL be based on an exposure having “no observable effect” when it utilized a “surrogate” “no observable effect level” (NOEL) derived from the “permissible exposure limit” (PEL) for lead set by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The court also rejected arguments that even if the OSHA blood lead level should be maintained for people who wished to plan pregnancies were appropriate to consider as a NOEL, thHA PEL was not set at a level to achieve this target; that OEHHA failed to make a downward adjustment to account for this disconnect between the PEL and the target NOEL; and that nothing in the record indicates OEHHA considered this issue in setting the MADL. View "Mateel Environmental Justice Foundation v. Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law

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In 1989, the predecessor to the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), the agency charged with implementing California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act (Proposition 65) (Health & Saf. Code 25249.5), adopted a regulation setting a “maximum allowable dose level” (MADL) for lead as a reproductive toxicant. In 2015, Mateel sought to compel OEHHA to repeal regulations setting a MADL for lead as a reproductive toxicant and to invalidate the “safe harbor” level for lead. The court of appeal affirmed judgment in favor of OEHHA, rejecting Mateel’s argument that OEHHA failed to comply with Proposition 65's mandate that the MADL be based on an exposure having “no observable effect” when it utilized a “surrogate” “no observable effect level” (NOEL) derived from the “permissible exposure limit” (PEL) for lead set by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The court also rejected arguments that even if the OSHA blood lead level should be maintained for people who wished to plan pregnancies were appropriate to consider as a NOEL, thHA PEL was not set at a level to achieve this target; that OEHHA failed to make a downward adjustment to account for this disconnect between the PEL and the target NOEL; and that nothing in the record indicates OEHHA considered this issue in setting the MADL. View "Mateel Environmental Justice Foundation v. Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law

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The California Court of Appeal consolidated cases to address a novel question regarding jurisdiction under the unique and complex cooperative federalism scheme of the federal Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7401 et seq.) (Act). The Act authorized the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (Agency) to promulgate national primary and secondary ambient air quality standards. States, however, have the “primary responsibility for assuring air quality” and must each devise, adopt, and implement a state implementation plan (SIP) specifying how the state will achieve and maintain the national air quality standards. The SIP is submitted to the Agency’s administrator (Administrator) for approval. The cases here sought the same relief and practical objective: to invalidate and render unenforceable, in whole or in part (albeit on different grounds), a state regulation known as the Truck and Bus Regulation (Regulation), which was approved by the Administrator as part of and incorporated into California’s SIP. Plaintiff Jack Cody argued the Regulation violated the dormant commerce clause of the United States Constitution because it discriminated against out-of-state truckers by imposing a disproportionate compliance burden on them. Plaintiff Alliance for California Business (Alliance) argued the Regulation was unlawful because part of its mandate conflicted with state and federal safety laws. Defendants, including the California Air Resources Board (Board), raised lack of subject matter jurisdiction under section 307(b)(1) of the Act in both cases on appeal. The issue this case presented for the Court of Appeal's review centered on whether section 307(b)(1) vested exclusive and original jurisdiction over these challenges to the Regulation incorporated into and approved as part of California’s SIP in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court concluded it did and affirmed the judgments for lack of jurisdiction. View "Alliance for Calif. Business v. State Air Resources Bd." on Justia Law

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Santa Rosa decided to turn a 69-bed defunct hospital into the "Dream Center" to house 63 people, ages 18-24, and provide individual and family counseling, education and job training, a health and wellness center serving the community for ages five through 24, and activities for residents, including a pottery throwing area, a half-court basketball area, and a garden. Neighbors challenged the project under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) (Pub. Resources Code 21000), arguing that noise impacts required preparation of an environmental impact report (EIR). The city issued a negative declaration, indication that the project would not have a significant environmental effect and an EIR would not be required. On appeal, the neighbors focused on traffic noise from the south parking lot adjacent to the Dream Center, and noise from the residents’ outdoor recreational activities. The court of appeal affirmed, finding no substantial evidence that there would be a significant noise impact from those sources. The predicted parking lot noise impacts are largely hypothetical, given the city’s parking restrictions in that lot; neighbors' impact calculations were based on data from a different project that cannot reasonably be applied to the Dream Center. An argument that the noise from residents’ outdoor activities would constitute a significant environmental impact was also based on a flawed analysis. View "Jensen v. City of Santa Rosa" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-homeowners alleged the copper piping in their homes was damaged by a chemical the defendant water districts added to tap water. Adding the chemical was authorized by regulation, however, and it was undisputed that the water districts complied with all statutory and regulatory standards. After a bifurcated bench trial on certain legal issues, the trial court entered judgment for the water districts, finding plaintiffs’ causes of action for nuisance and inverse condemnation were preempted by federal and state laws, and otherwise insufficient on the merits. The plaintiff homeowners appealed. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded plaintiffs’ causes of action failed on the merits, and thus affirmed. View "Williams v. Moulton Niguel Water Dist." on Justia Law

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Appellants challenged the trial court's order and judgment dismissing appellants' petition for writ of mandate and complaint. At issue was whether Proposition 65's reliance on the International Agency for Research on Cancer to identify known carcinogens violated various provisions and doctrines of the California and United States Constitutions. The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment, rejecting appellants' arguments that the Labor Code listing mechanism violated article II, section 12 of the California Constitution, because the Agency did not qualify as a private corporation under the constitutional provision; that the Labor Code listing mechanism was an unlawful delegation of authority; that the Labor Code listing mechanism violated procedural due process rights; and that the Labor Code listing mechanism violated the Guarantee Clause of the United States Constitution. View "Monsanto Co. v. Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment" on Justia Law

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Contra Costa County certified an environmental impact report (EIR) and approved a land use permit for a “Propane Recovery Project” at a Rodeo oil refinery owned and operated by Phillips 66. The trial court ordered the county to set aside the certification of the EIR and approval of the land use permit and to correct specified inadequacies in the EIR in the analysis of air quality issues. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting arguments by project opponents that the trial court erred in rejecting its additional arguments that the project description and the analysis of greenhouse gas emissions and environmental hazards failed to comply with the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) (Pub. Resources Code 21000). With respect to the description, the court noted substantial evidence that Phillips’ propane recovery project is independent of any purported change in the crude oil feedstock used at the Refinery and will not increase its present capacity to refine heavier crude oils. View "Rodeo Citizens Association. v. County of Contra Costa" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law

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Verizon Wireless obtained approval from the City of San Diego (the City, together respondents) to construct a wireless telecommunications facility (WCF, the Project) in Ridgewood Neighborhood Park (the Park), a dedicated park. Don't Cell Our Parks (DCOP), a not-for-profit entity, filed a petition for writ of mandate challenging the City's determination. The trial court denied the petition, concluding that under San Diego City Charter section 55 (Charter 55), the City had control and management of dedicated parks and the discretion to determine whether a particular park use would change the use or purpose of the Park and thus require a public vote. The Court of Appeal concluded the Project did not constitute a changed use or purpose that required voter approval. DCOP also claimed the Project did not qualify under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) for a categorical exemption under CEQA Guidelines section 153031 which pertained to the construction of new small facilities. The Court rejected this argument too, and thus affirmed the trial court in full. View "Don't Cell Our Parks v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law