When California Assembly Bill 617 (AB 617) was signed into law, California ambitiously announced a new “community focused” strategy to improve air quality in California. AB 617’s stated goal is to improve air quality in environmental justice communities through local, community-specific strategies focused on the individual needs and issues particular to each community. The development and implementation of this “community focused” strategy is largely the responsibility of California’s local air quality management districts (AQMDs) because AB 617 places new, explicit responsibilities on AQMDs so that they take the lead in improving the air quality in their environmental justice communities. Continue Reading California’s AB 617 — “Community Focused”
In a surprising decision, a federal judge last week blocked California from requiring Monsanto to put Proposition 65 warning labels on its Roundup products, ruling there is “insufficient evidence” that glyphosate—the active ingredient in the popular weed killer—causes cancer. Continue Reading Judge Halts Monsanto Warning Label on First Amendment Grounds
Judicial review of state agency regulatory orders in California has long been seen as an exercise in futility as state courts typically give significant deference to agency determinations. However, two recent decisions by California Superior Courts have bucked that trend and may provide renewed hope that success at the trial court level is not out of reach. Continue Reading Scoring Gold at the Superior Court: California Water Boards’ Regulatory Authority Successfully Challenged
Last October we saw the State of California implement its “PSM for Refineries” standard and now the State of Washington’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) appears to be following suit, releasing draft language to adopt a rule of its own. This new chapter will only apply to Process Safety Management (PSM) for petrochemical refining facilities. Continue Reading Washington OSHA has Released Draft Language for its PSM Standard for Refineries
With its proposed revisions to California’s hazardous waste management regulations, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) continues to make California’s hazardous waste management program more onerous and complex than the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). DTSC proposes substantial changes to hazardous waste personnel training requirements, financial assurance obligations, and hazardous waste permitting decisions. Almost every facility that manages hazardous waste in California will be impacted if DTSC’s proposal is finalized. Public comment on DTSC’s proposed revisions remains open through November 6, 2017. Continue Reading Proposed Changes to California’s Hazardous Waste Regulations Could Significantly Impact Your Operations
The regulated community in California may soon have additional reasons to implement supplemental environmental projects (SEPs) when settling an administrative environmental enforcement action. Under a 2009 State Water Resources Control Board (Water Board) policy, settling parties may voluntarily undertake an environmentally beneficial project in return for an offset of a portion of any civil penalty, provided that the project meets certain criteria. The Water Board has now released sweeping proposed amendments to its Policy on Supplemental Environmental Projects (draft SEP Policy) that will incentivize more projects. Most notably, the draft SEP Policy:
Will consider projects that address climate change, such as greenhouse gas emissions reductions or those that build resilience to climate change impacts on ecosystems or infrastructure.
Will allow—subject to approval—greater than 50% of any monetary assessment in administrative enforcement cases to be allocated towards SEPs that are located in or benefit disadvantaged or environmental justice communities, or communities suffering from a financial hardship, or that further the Water Board’s priority of ensuring a human right to water. Under the original policy adopted in 2009, the maximum civil penalty reduction available via performance of a SEP is capped at 50%.
Will allow up to 10% of oversight costs to be included as part of the total SEP amount for the same reasons above. Otherwise, oversight costs are paid in addition to the total SEP amount.
Establishes a new category of SEPs called “Other Projects” to allow educational outreach and other “non-traditional” water quality or drinking water-related projects to be considered for approval.
Expands the applicability of SEPs to enforcement actions prosecuted by the Division of Drinking Water and its Districts and the Division of Water Rights.
It is no secret that California has had appliance efficiency standards in place for some time now. And it is no secret that the California Energy Commission (“CEC”) has been responsible for crafting those standards. According to the CEC and the California State Legislature, however, compliance with those standards has been hit-or-miss. In 2011, the Legislature found that “significant quantities of appliances are sold and offered for sale in California that do not meet the state’s energy efficiency standards,” and the CEC itself has stated that nearly half of all regulated appliances are non-compliant, and that certain product categories are entirely non-compliant. The broad range of products covered by the CEC’s efficiency standards may be partly to blame for the lack of compliance, as manufacturers may not even realize their product must comply. For example, the efficiency standards encompass nearly every device with a rechargeable battery and that rechargeable battery system, meaning everything from cell phones to laptops to tablets to golf carts must be tested, certified and listed in the CEC’s database before being offered for sale in California.
Ladies and Gentleman.
Start Your Engines.
Wait! According to California, you can only use engines that are certified to meet air-emission standards, have a current “Executive Order,” and have not been tampered with, OR engines that are used solely for competition (but not every competition) and are not used on public highways (is a dirt road a public highway?).
Sound complicated? The Clean Air Act provides racing vehicles a broad exemption from federal air emission standards and also provides for broad preemption of state motor vehicle standards, with specific exceptions for California. In addition, California has its own broad racing vehicle exemption which can be found in the California Health and Safety Code. The exemption for racing vehicles seemed straightforward enough—they are not subject to federal or state emissions standards. This exemption makes sense, of course, because when you are racing, you need enhanced engine capabilities to win and because racing engines are a small percentage of the engines we see on the road for everyday use, such as commuting to school/work, running errands, etc.
Since President Trump’s election, his Administration has emphasized cooperative federalism and has opened the door for more state responsibility. California is walking through that door, and has positioned itself, according to its elected officials, at the vanguard of the so-called “resistance” to the Administration and its policies, real and perceived. This is particularly clear on environmental, energy, and natural resource matters. Last week illustrates the growing divide between California and the federal government in these areas.
Just before President Trump announced his decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, California is moving ahead with new greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations, making good on its commitment to continue its path regardless of what goes on in Washington, DC. This week, the Board of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) held a special meeting to consider a controversial new regulation targeting oil refineries. If adopted, as planned at the June 21, 2017, Board public hearing, Regulation 12, Rule 16: Petroleum Refining Facility-Wide Emissions Limits (Rule 12-16) would establish first-of-its-kind, refinery-specific, facility-wide caps on emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG). The proposed caps limit refinery emissions to seven percent above recent operating levels.