EPA Takes Steps Under The Clean Water Act to Protect California’s Coastline

Water Quality

On August 25, 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the nation’s largest coastal “No Discharge Zone,” covering California’s entire 1,624 miles of coastline. Pursuant to the federal Clean Water Act, states may request EPA to establish vessel no-discharge zones to protect and restore water quality. Non-sewage discharge from vessels is regulated under state law. Acting pursuant to California’s Clean Coast Act of 2005, the State Water Resources Control Board requested EPA to adopt the protective zone.
San Francisco Cruise Ship

Continue reading →

Logging Road Stormwater Runoff Subject to the Clean Water Act

Environmental Litigation

Logging TruckIn a long-anticipated decision, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week that stormwater – largely rainwater – that runs off of logging roads into streams and rivers must be permitted under the Clean Water Act (CWA). This decision (Northwest Environmental Defense Center v. Brown) will have far-ranging impacts that will result in permits being required under the CWA for logging operations on both private and public land.

The case began in 2006, when the Northwest Environmental Defense Center (NEDC) brought suit against the Oregon Department of Forestry, members of the Oregon Board of Forestry in their official capacity and various timber companies contending that the defendants violated the CWA by not obtaining permits from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for stormwater runoff that flowed from logging roads into ditches, culverts, and channels and then into forest streams and rivers. The logging roads, which are owned by the Oregon Department of Forestry and Oregon Board of Forestry, are primarily used by the defendant timber companies to gain access to logging sites and to haul timber out of the forest. The logging roads were designed and constructed with systems of ditches, culverts and channels that collect and convey stormwater runoff. The court found that the stormwater eventually deposits large amounts of sediment from timber hauling on the logging roads into the streams and rivers. The sediment then adversely affects fish.
Continue reading →

As Solar Power Projects Soar How Can Energy Consumers Take Advantage?

Clean Technology

In keeping with his commitment to create jobs by funding clean technology, President Obama announced last month that the Department of Energy was awarding nearly $2 billion in conditional commitments from the Recovery Act to two solar companies. One recipient of the funds, Abound Solar Manufacturing, is building two new plants which will produce millions of solar panels each year. As more and more business and home owners start considering the installation of solar panels on their facilities, office buildings and homes, these energy consumers often wonder how best to finance a solar installation.

Solar Panels
Continue reading →

Kerry to Settle For Clean Energy Bill?

Clean Technology

Senator John KerryWith the collapse of the Senate’s intention to consider even a scaled-down cap and trade bill before its August recess, Senator John Kerry (D-MA) has re-entered the fray. Kerry, along with Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), earlier introduced the American Power Act, a major component of which was a multi-sector cap and trade requirement. When it became clear that the American Power Act could not garner the 60 votes necessary for passage, an electric utility-only cap and trade bill was discussed as a substitute. That concept also received insufficient traction and was subsequently replaced by a bill responding to the Gulf oil spill and also containing funding for energy efficiency programs and natural gas vehicle incentives. However, that bill, too, was postponed until at least after the Senate’s August recess.
Continue reading →

CALGreen: Mandatory Green Building Standards Take Effect in 2011

Green Building

California Green BuildingCalifornia’s first-in-the-nation set of mandatory green building standards for new construction is slated to take effect on January 1, 2011. Referred to officially as the California Green Building Standards Code, CALGreen applies to all new public and privately-constructed commercial and residential buildings. Integrated within the state’s Building Standards Code, it includes a matrix of mandatory requirements as well as two sets of voluntary measures tailored to residential and non-residential building classifications.

Continue reading →

There’s a “Canary” in My Water – EPA Software Detects Hazardous Contaminants in Drinking Water Systems

Water Quality

CanaryBringing to mind the old adage “canary in a coalmine,” the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced this week its innovative water quality software aptly named “Canary.” Developed by EPA scientists in collaboration with the Department of Energy (DOE), the Canary software can help detect chemical and biological contaminants including pesticides, metals and pathogens in drinking water.

Continue reading →

Owners at the Time That Cleanup Costs are Incurred are “Current” Owners Under CERCLA, Court Says

Environmental Litigation

In another recent decision on the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. §9601 et seq., the Ninth Circuit clarified that the “current” owner is the owner at the time that cleanup costs are incurred for purposes of imposing liability under the act. Enacted thirty years ago, CERCLA is a federal law that creates a scheme for imposing strict liability for the investigation and remediation of contaminated property.

WetlandsCERCLA imposes cleanup liability on “current” owners of the contaminated property regardless of when the contamination actually occurred. For example, if a person owns a property that is contaminated with a hazardous substance, under CERCLA they are responsible to cleanup the property even if they did not cause the contamination. Past owners are only responsible if the contamination of the property occurred during their ownership.
Continue reading →

Beware of the “Green” Form Lease

Green Building

LA Office BuildingAs the economics of green buildings continues to align with the social and political pressures of climate change, many national and regional businesses are “greening” their form leases by including provisions that address everything from the installation of energy efficient lighting to the use of toilet paper that incorporates minimum percentages of recycled product. Whether it is a cost-saving measure or just good public relations, the greening of commercial leases has been viewed generally as a step in the right direction. Nevertheless, every landlord should pay more attention to the “green” language in its prospective tenant’s form lease because, like with so many other provisions, the terms are likely still skewed in the tenant’s favor.
Continue reading →