This is the first update on environmental regulatory and legal developments in Los Angeles and adjacent counties, as well as the Southern San Joaquin l Valley. Let us know what you think. Your comments on this Update will be considered for inclusion in future updates.
South Coast Air Quality Management District
*New Management: The Governing Board has appointed Wayne Nastri, former Regional Administrator of USEPA for the Pacific Southwest and Hawaii, as interim replacement for Dr. Barry Wallerstein, dismissed by the Board in early March. While the Board’s April appointment of Nastri was disrupted by community activists protesting the appointment as anti-environmental, some wearing clown suits, Nastri has also been praised by a leading environmental group. Quoted in the Los Angeles Times, Joel Reynolds, western director and senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council said, “He has a strong environmental record, a good sense of strategy and an understanding of how important the public is in environmental decision-making,” Others describe Nastri as flexible, open and collaborative.
*Governing Board: Now has a 7 to 5 Republican Majority.
*Lawsuit against the SCAQMD: In December 2015, the Governing Board adopted a requirement to reduce the amount of NOx RECLAIM Credits (the “NOx Shave”) by 12 tons instead of 14 tons. While 12 tons will be challenging for regulated industry, many community activists and the California Air Resources Board have been highly critical of the 12 ton compromise with industry. On March 9, 2016, Communities for a Better Environment, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club sued the SCAQMD over the choice of 12 instead of 14 tons. The Case is before the Superior Court for Los Angeles County, Stanley Mosk Courthouse (Downtown L.A.) Case No. BS161399. There is a trial setting conference on calendar for June 24, 2016.
*Kevin De Leon, President Pro Tempore of the California Senate, irked by recent actions of the SCAQMD Governing Board, introduced SB 1387 to (1) increase the District Governing Board by 3 positions, to be appointed by the Governor, Senate and Assembly, respectively, and each required to be “a representative of a bona fide nonprofit environmental justice organization that advocates for clean air and pollution reductions in one or more communities within the South Coast Air Basin;” (2) give the California Air Resources Board authority to overrule and replace any SCAQMD market-based incentive plan or revision not meeting certain strict requirements as compared to traditional command and control regulation; and (3) require that any market-based incentive programs achieve great reductions than command and control regulation and not impose disproportionate impacts on disadvantaged communities. This effort to “pack” the Governing Board has been widely criticized, including by the LA Times. SB 1387 passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee on May 27 and had its third reading May 31.
*2016 Air Quality Management Plan (AQMP): Every 4 years, the District develops its next air quality management plan, feeding into California’s federal Clean Air Act “State Implementation Plan.” This is the year. The AQMP identifies existing emissions from diverse industry and other segments and moves toward further regulation to reduce these emissions. This often results initially in binding commitments to the State and USEPA for tons of emission reductions without clearly drawn regulatory approaches for their achievement. Given the extreme challenges of meeting ever-tightening ambient air quality standards for the LA Area, some past commitments have been to “black boxes,” based on anticipated future control technology advances. In January, the District stated its number one plan objective as eliminating reliance on such “black boxes” to the maximum extent possible by providing specific pathways to attainment [of the ambient standards] with specific control measures. The Plan, usually going for approval to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in the spring and to USEPA in the summer, is lagging. The District expects to release its draft plan by the end of June, and the underlying socioeconomic draft by the end of July. In addition, CARB has released its Mobile Source SIP Strategy. CARB acknowledges that at least 80 percent of NOx comes from mobiles sources, as well as 50% of greenhouse gases and 95% of diesel particulate matter. This is encouraging, yet past experience suggests that the 2016 Plan will impose disproportionate reduction requirements on stationary source industry.
*Proposed amendments to Rule 1148.1 and 1148.2, and proposed new Rule 1148.3 – Oil and Gas Industry: These have been moved for Governing Board vote from July 2016 to October 2016. Per the District, proposed Rule 1148.3 will require best management practices during specific well stimulation activities.
*December 2015 amendments to Rule 1110.2 – Internal Combustion Engines: There is a pending controversy over the initiation of rule-specific and more restrictive breakdown reporting requirements, otherwise governed broadly by Rule 430. USEPA says it never approved Rule 430 and will disapprove the new breakdown provisions in Rule 1110.2.
Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board (LA RWQCB)
*Surface Impoundments: Along with the Central Valley RWQCB, the LA RWQCB Board has been requiring information under Cal. Water Code § 13267 from oil and gas production facilities for all surface impoundments, including all historical sumps, whether operated or not. Recently, the LA Board received information that there are no sumps in LA, moving the project to a hold pattern.
*Industrial General Permit for Stormwater: While this requirement is linked to stormwater, the LA RWQCB is saying that any spill that enters a storm drain is subject to the permit. This is inconsistent with State Water Board guidance.