A Prop. 65 Win for Winemakers: No Separate Warning Required for Inorganic Arsenic

This post was written by Melissa Jones and Tiffanie de la Riva for Stoel Rives’ Alcoholic Beverages Law blog.

The California Court of Appeal recently handed a victory to winemakers, ruling that a specific Proposition 65 (“Prop. 65”) warning is not required regarding the presence of inorganic arsenic.  The lawsuit, Charles et al. v. Sutter Home Winery et al., was originally filed in 2015 and alleged that wines made by over 15 named defendants exposed consumers to inorganic arsenic without the correct Prop. 65 warning.

The entire post can be found here.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA ENVIRONMENTAL UPDATE – NEW AIR QUALITY AND OIL & GAS REGULATORY DEVELOPMENTS

Our latest post provides updates on environmental and legal developments in Los Angeles and adjacent counties, as well as the Southern San Joaquin Valley.  We welcome your comments and contributions.

Legislation and Ordinances  

Implementation of AB 617, CARB’s Community Air Protection Program. AB 617 requires the California Air Resources Board (CARB) by October 1, 2018 to identify the highest priority communities affected by a high cumulative air emissions exposure burden (“impacted communities”); to establish the criteria for air monitoring and local emissions reduction programs; and to develop a statewide strategy for reducing emissions, to be updated every 5 years.  Additional timeline for required actions:

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Following Ninth Circuit’s Lead, Fourth Circuit Expands CWA Jurisdiction to Groundwater Where “Connection” to Navigable Waters Exists

Reviving a federal Clean Water Act (“CWA”) lawsuit, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that an indirect discharge – such as a discharge to ground water – may fall within the scope of the CWA, if the indirect discharge is sufficiently connected to navigable waters to be covered under the CWA.  The decision was issued on April 12, 2018, in the case, Upstate Forever et al. v. Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP, et al.  The facts were unusual for a citizen suit, in that the citizen group plaintiffs were targeting discharges to ground water.  Plaintiffs alleged that defendants were in violation of the CWA because defendant (or “Kinder Morgan”) discharged pollutants into navigable waters without obtaining a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) permit.  The source of the alleged discharge is a gasoline spill: in 2014, “over 369,000 gallons of gasoline spilled from Kinder Morgan’s underground pipeline, which extends over 1100 miles through parts of the eastern United States.”  Slip Op. at 8.  According to plaintiffs, the “gasoline pollutants from the pipeline are seeping into navigable waters as defined by the CWA.”  Id.  Kinder Morgan subsequently repaired the pipeline, and has recovered at least a portion of the spilled gasoline.

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Good for You, Great for Me: DOGGR Issues Notice to Operators with Guidance for Collection of Oilfield Water Quality Data

On March 7, 2018, the California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (“DOGGR,” or “Division”) published a notice to operators (“NTO”) regarding updated guidelines for oilfield water quality data.  The NTO outlines procedures for submission of oilfield water quality data by operators, including required notices, injectate samples, formation water samples, documentation and final report and certification processes.

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Another Hazardous Waste Enforcement Action Costs a Major Retailer Millions

On March 8, 2018, California regulators reached a settlement agreement with Home Depot wherein the retail giant agreed to pay $27.84 million for various hazardous waste violations.  The State hit Home Depot with penalties for alleged violations identified during inspections occurring between 2013 and 2015, due to improper disposal of certain types of waste, including batteries, aerosol cans, paints, and electronic devices.  Attorney General Xavier Becerra reported that the settlement amount equated to about $16 million in civil penalties, $9 million toward environmental protection and compliance, and nearly $2 million to cover costs.  The State alleged that Home Depot violated California’s Hazardous Waste Control Law, and California’s Unfair Competition Law because “such conduct gives Home Depot a competitive advantage over other regulated entities that are complying with the law.”

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Second Legislative Update: Oil & Gas Related Bills Introduced in the 2017-2018 Legislative Session

Stoel Rives’ Oil & Gas Team has been monitoring bills introduced by California legislators since the beginning of the 2017-2018 legislative session.  Below are the latest updates on the bills our team has been following during the first half of the current legislative session.  In addition, we have included new bills introduced during the second half of the current legislative session.

The following is a list of bills either vetoed by the Governor or chaptered into law at the end of the first half of the current legislative session.  A summary of such bills can be found here.

  • AB 1197 (Limón, D): Oil spill contingency plans: spill management teams. Chaptered into law on October 8, 2017.
  • AB 1328 (Limón, D): Oil and gas: water quality. Chaptered into law on October 13, 2017.
  • AB 1472 (Limón, D): Public lands: assignments and transfers; oil, gas and mineral leases. Vetoed by the Governor on July 25, 2017.
  • AB 1647 (Muratsuchi, D): Petroleum refineries: air monitoring systems. Chaptered into law on October 8, 2017.
  • SB 44 (Jackson, D): State lands: coastal hazard and legacy oil and gas well removal and remediation program. Chaptered into law on October 8, 2017.
  • SB 724 (Lara, D): Oil and gas: wells and production facilities. Chaptered into law on October 10, 2017.

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At the Intersection of Pollution and Poverty, California Attorney General Establishes Bureau of Environmental Justice, and Industry Should Get Prepared

On February 22, 2018, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced that the Department of Justice is opening an environmental justice office within the Environment Section: the Bureau of Environmental Justice (“Bureau”).  “The Bureau’s mission will be to protect people and communities that endure a disproportionate share of environmental pollution and public health hazards.”  Using existing federal and state statutes, the Bureau will accomplish its mission through targeted oversight, investigation, and enforcement actions.

According to the press release, the Bureau’s oversight and enforcement work will focus on:

  • Ensuring compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) and land use planning laws;
  • Remediating contaminated drinking water;
  • Eliminating or reducing exposure to lead and other toxins in the environment and consumer products;
  • Challenging the federal government’s actions that repeal or reduce public health and environmental protections; and
  • Penalizing and preventing illegal discharges to air and water from facilities located in communities already burdened disproportionately with pollution.

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California Issues Revised Proposed Underground Gas Storage Regulations

On February 12, 2018, the California Department of Conservation (“DOC”) issued a public notice announcing revisions to the text of the proposed regulations in the rulemaking for California Underground Gas Storage Projects.  This rulemaking follows a saga of rulemakings for underground gas storage projects in the state – both emergency and general rulemakings – which all began in early 2016.  The rulemakings were spurred by the underground gas storage leak at the Aliso Canyon facility in southern California, which was discovered on October 23, 2015 and continued leaking until February 2016.

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Injection Well Operators Beware: Ninth Circuit Finds Underground Injection Wells Require NPDES Permit under the Federal Clean Water Act

On February 1, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the district court’s decision, finding that the County of Maui violated the Clean Water Act (“CWA”) when it discharged treated effluent into underground injection wells, which then allowed the effluent to seep into the Pacific Ocean.  The Ninth Circuit panel held that the wells were required to obtain National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) permit coverage because the discharge from the wells was “fairly traceable” from the discharge point (point source) to a navigable water.

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Court of Appeal Rules Challenge to Constitutionality of Power Plant Licensing Appeals Process is Ripe for Judicial Review

California’s process to challenge thermal power plants will likely be put to the judicial test in the coming years.  The California Court of Appeal has granted publication of its recent opinion in Communities for a Better Environment v. State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission, (Dec. 22, 2017, No. A141299) __Cal.App.5th __, which reverses the trial court’s dismissal of a complaint by environmental groups Communities for a Better Environment and Center for Biological Diversity (collectively “Communities”), challenging the constitutionality of the limited judicial review available for thermal power plant licenses issued in California.  You can find our previous post detailing Communities’ complaint here.

In January 2014, the Alameda County Superior Court dismissed Communities’ claims that statutory provisions of California’s power plant siting law, the Warren-Alquist Act, violated article VI, section 10 of the California Constitution.  Under this unique facet of the Warren-Alquist Act, any challenge to a decision by the California Energy Commission on a thermal power plant license must be appealed directly to the California Supreme Court.  (Cal. Pub. Resources Code, § 25531(a).)  The trial court sided with the Energy Commission and the California State Controller, who argued that the case was not grounded in any actual existing controversy among Communities and the Commission, sought an advisory opinion only, and was not ripe for review.  The trial court concluded that Communities had failed to meet its burden to show how its complaint could be amended to state a justiciable cause of action, and, thus, it dismissed the matter with prejudice and entered judgment in favor of the Energy Commission and the Controller.

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