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.

Continue Reading Yellow Flag: California’s Racing Vehicle Exemption Slated for Change

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.

Continue Reading California Turns Up The Heat

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.

Continue Reading Bay Area Air Regulators Set to Adopt First-of-its-Kind GHG Emissions Cap on Refineries

This article was originally published in the May 1, 2017, online edition of The Recorder.

“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”  Movie aficionados will recognize this classic line from the 1976 movie, “Network.”  For many Californians, the line captures the feeling in the state just before Proposition 13 (Prop 13) was passed by about 65 percent of voters in 1978 to amend the state constitution.  For a state that is used to sizable earthquakes, Prop 13 was a truly seismic event in California, restructuring the state property tax system.  It was enacted in response to frustration over California’s decades-old method of paying for government, which allowed property taxes to increase dramatically year to year, often resulting in senior citizens on fixed incomes being unable to afford to stay in their homes.  On top of cutting and restricting increases in property taxes, Prop 13 contained language requiring a two-thirds majority in both legislative houses for future increases of any state tax rates or amounts of revenue collected, including income tax rates and sales tax rates.

Continue Reading California’s Cap-and-Trade System: Allowable Fee or Impermissible Tax?

In the latest of a series of moves reflecting the state’s intention to double down on its climate change agenda in the wake of President Trump’s inauguration, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) recently approved a new regulation aimed at curbing methane emissions from oil and gas operations. This measure, characterized by CARB as “the most comprehensive of its kind in the country,” comes on the heels of several actions recently announced by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) to reassess the climate change programs of the previous administration, specifically those targeted at oil and gas sector emissions.

Continue Reading California Ramps Up Methane Regulation

You’ve likely heard that just hours after the inauguration, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus issued a Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies captioned “Regulatory Freeze Pending Review.” The so-called Regulatory Freeze Memo sought to freeze midnight actions by the Obama administration. In response to President Trump’s freeze actions and expected regulatory reforms, California lawmakers are seeking to issue their own “freeze” to ensure regulations in place just before the transition remain effective in California. On top of that, California legislators have been introducing a series of bills designed to “insulate the state from dangerous rollbacks in federal environmental regulations and public health protections,” including:

  • SB 49, entitled The California Environmental, Public Health, and Workers Defense Act of 2017, related to retaining all pre-Trump environmental regulations.
  • AB 1646, related to website posting of petroleum refinery risk management plans (RMP) on public agency websites and establishment of emergency notification equipment.
  • AB 1647, related to air monitoring for petroleum refineries.
  • AB 1648, related to increasing CalOSHA’s refinery inspection resources.
  • AB 1649, related to codification of Governor Brown’s Refinery Task Force.
  • SB 584, related to speeding up the RPS 50 percent renewable goal by five years and setting a new 100 percent renewable goal at 2045.

Continue Reading California Lawmakers Poised to Enact Their Own “Regulatory Freeze”

The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, a.k.a Proposition 65, requires warning California consumers prior to exposing them to even minute amounts of any of the 900+ chemicals listed as causing cancer or reproductive harm. The law has been on the books for 30 years. 2016 saw noteworthy amendments to the “safe harbor” warning provisions.

Continue Reading Challenges in Complying with New Proposition 65 Regulations

Photo by Alfonso Cuchi
Photo by Alfonso Cuchi

 

From the look of things, California is gearing up for a fight.

During the campaign, President-Elect Trump promised to redirect EPA’s focus away from climate change, with a greater emphasis on clean air and clean water. As part of this pledge, he vowed to dismantle the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) and roll back EPA regulations, which he sees as hampering U.S. competitiveness.

California sees things differently. On January 4, California’s Legislature announced it had hired Eric H. Holder Jr., President Obama’s former U.S. Attorney General, as outside counsel to lead the state’s legal challenges to the incoming administration on a number of fronts, including the environment. In a joint statement, the Legislature explained, “With the upcoming change in administrations, we expect that there will be extraordinary challenges for California in the uncertain times ahead. . . . This is a critical moment in the history of our nation. We have an obligation to defend the people who elected us and the policies and diversity that make California an example of what truly makes our nation great.”

Continue Reading California Doubles Down in Anticipation of Trump

On November 2, 2016, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (the Service) announced its intention to issue a permit authorizing the take of up to three golden eagles during the five-year permit term for the 48-turbine Alta East Wind facility in Kern County, California. The announcement was contained in a notice published in the Federal Register (available here), which also announced the availability of the Service’s Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the issuance of the permit. The permit is to be issued 30 days following the publication of the Federal Register notice.

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