California Environmental Law & Policy Update – December 2021 #4 | Allen Matkins


Focus

Bullet Los Angeles Times – December 20

A lawsuit filed last Monday in Alameda County Superior Court by the California attorney general and a dozen district attorneys alleges that Walmart stores in California have illegally disposed of nearly 80 tons of hazardous waste at landfills each year for the past five years. The wastes include lithium batteries, insecticides, aerosol cans, cleaning supplies, electronic waste, paint, and LED lightbulbs, along with confidential customer information. In the complaint, the plaintiffs seek imposition of unspecified financial penalties against Walmart. The case was sparked when an investigator from the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health spotted a Walmart employee dumping bleach down a drain.


News

Bullet Associated Press – December 20

The Biden administration is raising vehicle fuel efficiency standards to significantly reduce emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases, reversing a Trump-era rule that loosened previously applicable standards. A final rule issued last Monday would raise fuel efficiency standards starting with the 2023 model year, reaching a projected industry-wide target of 40 miles per gallon by 2026. The new standard is 25% higher than the standard established by a Trump administration rule adopted in 2020, and 5% higher than a proposal by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in August. The new rules are the most ambitious tailpipe emissions standards ever set by the federal government for passenger cars and light trucks.


Bullet The Mercury News – December 28

In a December 3 letter viewed by Reuters, the California Statewide Commission on Recycling Markets and Curbside Recycling asked the state regulatory agency CalRecyle, and the California attorney general, to crack down on what it claims is illegal labeling that undermines efforts to reduce plastics pollution. The state-appointed commission alleges that big retailers are violating California law and misleading consumers by selling plastic shopping bags bearing language and symbols that falsely suggest the bags can be recycled. A recently enacted bill will make it illegal to use the word “recyclable” or the “chasing arrows” symbol on items that are not actually recyclable, but that new law does not go into effect until June 2025.


Bullet Courthouse News Service – December 23

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evilio Grillo denied a motion by the California Geological Energy Management Division (CalGEM) and three industry groups to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) that accuses the agency of routinely issuing oil and gas drilling permits in Kern County without adequate environmental review. A central issue in the case is the extent to which CalGEM, as a “responsible agency” under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), may rely on the environmental analysis prepared by Kern County, as the “lead agency,” when passing on well drilling permit applications, including applications for hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” The County’s CEQA compliance in connection with that environmental analysis is the subject of a separate challenge. Without ruling on the merits of the claims, Judge Grillo determined that the claim directly against CalGEM is not mooted by the related CEQA lawsuit against the County.


Bullet Daily Breeze – December 24

The Board of Directors of the West Basin Municipal Water District, which provides imported drinking water to 17 cities and unincorporated areas in Los Angeles County, voted this week to terminate its proposed multimillion-dollar Ocean Water Desalination Project. The most recent iteration of the project, which has been under consideration since 2002, included construction of an ocean water desalination plant in El Segundo that would produce roughly 20 to 60 million gallons of drinking water per day. Among other concerns, the project has faced opposition from environmental groups, which say the District should focus on alternative methods — including conservation, water recycling, stormwater reuse, and groundwater remediation — to increase water supplies.

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