CourtroomOn Tuesday, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ernest H. Goldsmith, issued an order that removes one more obstacle from the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) efforts to implement its plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through an unprecedented cap-and-trade program adopted by the agency in October and slated for enforcement in 2013. The court’s order discharging a peremptory writ of mandate issued by the court in May, indicates that CARB has complied with the Court’s previous order by adequately considering alternatives to its market-based cap-and-trade program, ending a year-long legal saga that threatened to derail the state’s plan to implement its landmark greenhouse gas reduction law, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32).

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Smog1Last week the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in an effort to resolve ongoing litigation under the Clean Air Act with environmental groups over dozens of past due state implementation plans (SIP), agreed to a schedule for taking action on more than 40 state plans aimed at lowering haze in national parks and wilderness areas.

Regional haze, the visibility impairment produced by a multitude of sources and activities that emit fine particles and their precursors across a broad geographic area, has decreased the average visual range in western national parks from 140 miles to 35 to 90 miles, and in eastern parks, from 90 miles to 15 to 25 miles. To address this problem, EPA promulgated regulations in 1999 requiring states to develop and submit SIPs to improve visibility in 156 national parks and wilderness areas, including the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Shenandoah Valley. These plans, which focus on reducing harmful pollution from large, older stationary sources, such as power plants, cement plants and large industrial boilers, were due in December 2007. In January 2009, EPA found that the majority of states had failed to submit their regional haze plans, in full or in part, and in August 2011, the National Parks Conservation Association and Sierra Club, among others, initiated litigation in federal Court to end the on-going delay.

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PollutingStacksLast week, the California Air Resources Board (CARB), in an unanimous vote, adopted the final regulation for its controversial cap-and-trade program, which serves as the centerpiece of the state’s landmark greenhouse gas reduction law, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, Assembly Bill AB 32 (AB 32).The program, which has had to overcome hurdles in both the court room and on the ballot during a multi-year development process, will cover some 600 facilities that emit 85% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.The program is being rolled out in phases with the first compliance phase beginning in 2013, covering all major industrial sources along with electric utilities. The second compliance phase, beginning in 2015, will include distributors of transportation fuels, natural gas and other fuels.

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CommercialBuildingConStating that it was “time for big thinking and big projects that put Californians back to work,” Governor Jerry Brown recently signed into law two bills, AB 900 and SB 292, aimed at streamlining the judicial review process for large-scale development projects. Introduced in the final days of the legislative session, AB 900, the Jobs and Economic Improvement Through Environmental Leadership Act of 2011, amends the state’s landmark environmental protection law, the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”), to allow litigants to bypass superior court trials and have environmental legal challenges to certain “environmental leadership projects” heard directly by the Court of Appeal under a shortened decision-making time frame.

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Testifying before a House subcommittee on Thursday, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson said her agency would move forward with enforcing the 2008 National Ambient Air Quality Standards(NAAQS) for ground-level ozone, the main component of smog, which, thus far, has been held in abeyance as EPA worked to introduce a more stringent standard. Speaking to Congress for the first time since the White House requested withdrawal of the agency’s proposal to reduce the 8-hour “primary” ozone standard down to a range of 0.060 to 0.070 parts per million (ppm), Jackson indicated implementation of the 2008 standard of 0.075 ppm would be done “in a common sense way, minimizing the burden on state and local governments.” Continue reading

PollutingStacksOn Wednesday the California Air Resources Control Board (CARB) unanimously adopted a supplemental environmental analysis of its 2008 Scoping Plan and reapproved the controversial plan itself. The Scoping Plan is a blueprint for how the State will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020 as called for in the State’s landmark global warming law, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32). The plan includes a range of measures, including the market-based cap-and-trade program, touted by some and reviled by others.

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CarsTrucksThe Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its final rule this week affirming the current national air quality limits for carbon monoxide (CO), which describe how much of the pollutant is acceptable in outside air. EPA’s statement said the agency, after a careful review of the science, determined that the current standards for the pollutant protect the public health, including those who are most susceptible to the gas. For a more detailed explanation of EPA’s decision click here.
While finding existing limits for carbon monoxide are strong enough, EPA did alter its monitor siting requirements for large urban areas, increasing its focus on transportation routes. The agency will now require carbon monoxide monitors placed near roads in 52 urban areas around the country. Urban areas having populations of 1 million or more persons must have one near-road monitor operational by January 1, 2017. Near-road monitors required for urban areas having 2.5 million or more persons must be operational by January 1, 2015.

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