This is the third update on environmental regulatory and legal developments in Los Angeles and adjacent counties, as well as the Southern San Joaquin Valley.  We welcome your comments and updates.

South Coast Air Quality Management District

*Governing Board Shift:  New Governing Board Member Sheila Kuehl replaced Mike Antonovich, returning the Board to a Democratic Majority.  Ms. Kuehl calls upon the South Coast Air Quality Management District (District) to use its full regulatory power, and she has strong ties with the California Legislature.  New emphases now include further regulations of stationary facilities, such as warehouses and shopping malls that are considered “indirect sources” of air emissions because they attract emissions from cars and trucks, as well as a termination of the RECLAIM Program.  Questions on the latter include when (2025, 2023, 2031?), treatment of credits from shutdowns, and how companies that invested in long-term credits will be dealt with.  In addition, the District wants to achieve the NOx shave under RECLAIM and at the same time sunset the Program.  Collaterally, the District is pushing the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and US EPA to do their “fair share” to regulate mobile sources so that further efforts to improve air quality will not be piled on the backs of stationary businesses.Continue Reading SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA ENVIRONMENTAL UPDATE #3 – APRIL 24, 2017

On March 23, 2017, the California Air Resources Board (“ARB”) adopted regulations for Greenhouse Gas Emission Standards for Crude Oil and Natural Gas Facilities (“Methane Regulations”).  The Methane Regulations impose emission controls on offshore and onshore oil production and processing facilities and at natural gas compressor stations, underground storage facilities, and gathering and boosting stations.
Continue Reading ARB Adopts GHG Emission Standards for Oil and Gas Facilities; Operators Wary of Costs

The recent wave of climate change legislation in California also included a new and not particularly well-known law aimed at curbing greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions associated with water use. SB 1425 will create a voluntary registry to track the water sector’s energy use and GHG emissions.

According to Senator Pavley, the author of SB 1425, “While some of the water-energy related climate pollution is already covered in the state’s cap-and-trade program (via the electricity generation sector), the state does not currently have a clear accounting of the total greenhouse gas emissions associated with the water system.”

SB 1425 requires CalEPA to oversee the development of a registry for GHG emissions that result from the “water-energy nexus” using the best-available data. Participation in the registry is voluntary and open to water agencies, large water consumers, businesses and others conducting business in the state.  SB 1425 provides that entities participating in the registry may qualify for GHG emission reduction incentives.
Continue Reading New Law Takes Aim at GHG Associated with California’s Water Sector

Not to be outdone by its federal counter-parts, the California Air Resources Board (“ARB”) released Greenhouse Gas Emission Standards for Crude Oil and Natural Gas Facilities (“proposed rule”) for methane emissions on Tuesday, May 31, following a slew of recent federal regulations targeting reduction of methane emissions.  Cal. Code Regs. tit. 14, §§ 95665-95676 (proposed).  The federal Bureau of Land Management released proposed regulations for reducing waste and methane emissions in oil and gas operations in January 2016.  Then, in May 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also began regulating methane when it released final regulations to curb emissions of methane and volatile organic compounds from additional new, modified, and reconstructed sources in the oil and gas industry.

While methane is the current emissions target for regulators’ greenhouse gas reduction efforts, the oil and gas sector is the industry target.  The proposed rule is part of California’s plan to reduce emissions from short-lived climate pollutants, including methane emissions, by 40-45% by 2025.  This follows the Obama Administration’s similar methane emissions reduction goal.Continue Reading The Other Shoe Just Dropped on Methane Emissions from the Oil and Gas Industry

My colleague, Michael Sherman, posted yesterday about two issues decided in the California Supreme Court’s decision in Center for Biological Diversity v. California Department of Fish and Wildlife.  Today, I’ll address the part of the decision that involves the evaluation of the Newhall Ranch project’s greenhouse gas emissions.  In short, the Court just made it a lot harder to evaluate greenhouse gas emissions under CEQA for any large land use project.  There is likely a solution for some situations where the emissions primarily involve the consumption of transportation fuel – the AB 32 Cap and Trade Program was recently expanded to cover those fuels.  This potential solution is hinted at by the Court.  I’ll get to that at the bottom of the post.  But first I’ll discuss the decision and why it’s a problem.

For some background, the Newhall Ranch project would consist of over 20,000 residential units in Southern California.  The Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for this project was certified back in 2010.  The resulting litigation has since been making its way through the courts.  The California Department of Fish and Wildlife used an approach to analyze greenhouse gas emissions similar to what other lead agencies have been using recently.  They relied on the AB 32 Scoping Plan to set a threshold of significance.  AB 32 requires statewide greenhouse gas emissions to return to 1990 levels by 2020.  In the Scoping Plan, the California Air Resources Board determined that this would require a 29% reduction in statewide emissions from a business-as-usual approach — an approach with no conservation or regulatory efforts beyond what was in place when the forecast was made.  Lead agencies have used this standard to find that proposed projects that would reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 29% over a project with a business-as-usual approach would, therefore, have a less than significant impact for greenhouse gas emissions.
Continue Reading How to Fix Your GHG Analysis After the California Supreme Court’s Newhall Ranch Decision

While many of us were busy hitting refresh for those great Cyber Monday deals, the California Supreme Court quietly issued its decision on the Newhall Ranch project.  In a decision reminiscent of the snail darter era, the Court held that “fully protected fish” are just that — fully protected under California law from all forms of incidental “take” resulting from a development project.  The Court also found that project opponents had exhausted their administrative remedies by submitting comments during an “optional comment period.”  Further, the Court found inadequacies in the “business-as-usual” analysis of GHG impacts from the project.  Stay tuned for a post later this week from one of my air quality colleagues on the implications of the GHG analysis.

I won’t bore you with the long history of this litigation again and again, but in 2010 the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) issued an incidental take permit and master streambed alteration agreement to facilitate the build out of the Newhall Ranch project, a mixed-use development project on nearly 12,000 acres in LA County.  Permitting and litigation for the project has been ongoing for over 15 years.

The opposition’s battle cry has consistently been the project’s potential negative impacts to multitudes of fauna and flora.  The showdown before the Court, however, involved only one tiny fish: the unarmored threespine stickleback (stickleback).  While the name may not scream “poster species,” the stickleback has “fully protected” status under California law.  Consequently, the California Fish & Game Code prohibits the “take” of stickleback, i.e. a person may not “hunt, pursue, catch, capture, or kill” or attempt any of those actions.
Continue Reading Take of Fully Protected Fish Stops Large Housing Development Project in LA County

February 27, 2015 was the deadline for lawmakers to introduce legislation to the 2015-2016 California Legislative Session and several bills related to oil and gas activities were introduced.  Below is a summary of those bills. Stoel Rives is monitoring these bills and will provide periodic updates as the bills move through the legislative process.

SENATE BILLS

SB-13 (Pavley):  Groundwater

This bill would specify that the State Water Resources Control Board is authorized to designate a high- or medium-priority basin as a probationary basin. This bill would provide a local agency or groundwater sustainability agency 90 or 180 days, as prescribed, to remedy certain deficiencies that caused the board to designate the basin as a probationary basin. This bill would authorize the State Water Resources Control Board to develop an interim plan for certain probationary basins one year after the designation of the basin as a probationary basin.Continue Reading Status of Oil and Gas-related Bills Proposed in California’s 2015-2016 Legislative Session

Our previous post on the Second District Court of Appeal’s decision in Center for Biological Diversity v. Department of Fish & Wildlife, No. B245141 (Mar. 20, 2014), highlighted the court’s holdings on California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and California Endangered Species Act (CESA) issues.  The opinion also provides a useful (although unpublished) discussion on how to evaluate the significance of a project’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under CEQA.  This post examines the court’s GHG analysis, and adds observations regarding the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) May 22, 2014 adoption of the First Update to the AB 32 Scoping Plan (Updated Scoping Plan). Continue Reading Is A 16% Reduction in GHG Emissions From “Business-As-Usual” Enough Under CEQA?

By Ryan R. Waterman, Parissa Ebrahimzadeh

What does California have planned for the year 2020? An ambitious collection of energy related goals. Stoel Rives attorneys Ryan Waterman and Parissa Ebrahimzadeh explore nine California energy policy goals in an article entitled “California’s “Magic” Number: Nine Goals for 2020 and Where We May Go From There,” published

Authored by Carissa Beecham

In Friends of Oroville, et al. v. City of Oroville, et al. (“Friends of Oroville”) (filed and published in part on August 19, 2013), the Third District Court of Appeal partially reversed the trial court in finding that the City of Oroville’s (“City”) EIR improperly analyzed the greenhouse