California Supreme Court Ruling Bolsters Bullet Train Foes

By sanfrancisco.cbslocal – excerpt

U.S. law does not allow state-owned rail projects to completely bypass California’s strict environmental regulations, the state Supreme Court said Thursday in a decision that ensures further legal complications for the planned $64 billion bullet train between Los Angeles and San Francisco…

The high court overturned a lower court ruling and gave renewed hope to those who have used the California Environmental Quality Act to challenge the high-speed rail project championed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

“It basically says that California has a right to control its own railroads and decide whether they should be required to consider carefully the environmental impacts of their projects,” said Stuart Flashman, who represents several San Francisco Bay Area cities in a lawsuit that claims the bullet train project violates the state’s environmental law.

Richard Frank, an environmental law expert at the University of California, Davis School of Law, said the ruling, however, was not a “sweeping or unqualified victory” for litigants who have challenged the high-speed rail project. That’s because the court also said in some cases, federal law will trump the state’s environmental act… (more)

California WaterFix Reaches Key Milestone As State Environmental Review Is Certified

by ect  : eastcountytoday – excerpt

SACRAMENTO – Clearing another major milestone toward the modernization of the state’s water delivery system, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) Friday certified the environmental analysis of the California WaterFix. Friday’s announcement follows recent federal biological opinions that confirm the project is consistent with environmental and wildlife protection standards.

“Today, we have reached our next important benchmark in moving California towards a more reliable water supply,” said DWR Acting Director Cindy Messer. “With this certification, our state is now closer to modernizing our aging water delivery system in a way that improves reliability and protects the environment.”

The WaterFix will modernize a 50-year-old water delivery system that is increasingly vulnerable to disruption by natural disaster and climate change. With new intakes along the Sacramento River, the project also would give water project operators the flexibility to divert water at times of high flow when the risk to native fish at the new diversion facilities is minimal, thus better balancing water supply and environmental protection needs…

For more information, including fact sheets about project costs, cost allocation, project delivery, and environmental benefits, visit www.californiawaterfix.com….(more)

Planning Commission to Decide Whether to Recommend Certification of MRIC EIR

By David Greenwald : davisguard – excerpt

The Planning Commission this evening is scheduled to make a recommendation as to whether the Mace Ranch Innovation Center Final Environmental Impact Report document adequately analyzes “the potential environmental impacts of the project for the purposes of CEQA [California Environmental Quality Act], with the project description as set forth in the EIR.”

Staff is recommending certification with a clarification “that the environmentally superior alternative is the mixed-use alternative assuming the addition of a legally enforceable mechanism to ensure that at least 60 percent of the on-site units would be occupied by at least one MRIC employee can be provided.”

Back in early 2016, the council had rejected a request to make the mixed-use alternative the preferred option and, shortly thereafter, the MRIC’s applicant suspended but did not withdraw their application.

This is the second meeting before the Planning Commission in consideration of certification of the Final EIR for MRIC. It follows a May 24 meeting where staff presented the item and received feedback and questions from the commission and public.

Staff notes that this action “is limited to certification of the FEIR and is not an action on or approval of the project.”

The issue of certification absent an active project remains controversial.

Critics have argued, “The project has not been defined therefore the MRIC EIR should not be certified

the MRIC EIR is flawed, “The MRIC makes false assumptions…

MRIC in its ‘mixed-use’ alternative proposal wants its 850 residential units to be ‘vertical mixed-use’ which is a flawed City zoning category

Finally, they add that “one of the most serious issues is that the City would be compromising the welfare of the community by surrendering its leverage to negotiate with the Ramos developers if the City was to grant certification of the MRIC EIR now. The City needs to retain negotiating power to achieve the design, sustainability features, and timelines on if and when a project was ever to move forward for a vote by Davis citizens.”(more)

We have a few questions that need to be answered to better understand the CEQA process and how it relate to other development approvals.  How do government projects differ from private development projects?

 

Most of us are familiar with the CEQA Flowchart. We could use a little primer on the next steps. What happens after CEQA is approved? How does CEQA tie into the federal NEPA requirements and how may citizens be involved in that part of the process. We need to a chart for the next steps that involve the approval of the project. How and when does this fit in? Sometimes the Planning Commission approves all the steps at one time. Other times the approvals are split, such as they are with the Geary BRT that has been approved without the  project design. We need a chart that times these options into the ERI process. If anyone can help with that, let us know.

 

Local initiative right still under legislative assault

By : foxesandhounds – excerpt

Earlier this year I wrote of an assault on local democracy in the guise of an Assembly measure intending to force citizens to run a gauntlet of local planners and environmental analysis prior to gathering signatures for local ballot measures.

In the intervening three months the measure has been overhauled several times, approved by the entire Assembly and now awaiting action in the State Senate. In its newest form the bill isn’t as bad as when it was first introduced.

It’s worse…(more)

We don’t follow the reasoning behind this author’s statements, but do agree that this is a bad bill. If you have any reason to support it let us know.

 

This Refugee Camp Is The First In The World To Be Powered By Solar Energy

By Willa Frej : huffingtonpost – excerpt (includes video)

A group of about 20,000 Syrian refugees living outdoors have access to electricity as of Wednesday thanks to a newly constructed solar plant in the Azraq refugee camp in Jordan. It’s the first and only solar-powered refugee camp in the world.

“Each family can now connect a fridge, a TV, a fan, have light inside the shelter and charge their phones, which is critical for refugees to keep in contact with their relatives abroad,” the U.N.’s refugee agency, UNHCR, said in a statement.

UNHCR built the 2-megawatt solar photovoltaic plant farm in collaboration with the IKEA Foundation’s Brighter Lives for Refugees campaign, which provided the funding, according to the statement… (more)

Are solar powered RV dwellers homeless, or are they just lacking an address to park their homes?

Freight Rail Fight Could Impact Calif. High-Speed Rail Project

By

AN FRANCISCO (CN) – An impending decision by the California Supreme Court over whether the state or federal government has jurisdiction in railway decisions could have major implications for the Golden State’s high-speed rail project.

The justices heard oral argument by the North Coast Railway Authority, which argued the federal government’s decision to allow freight service to resume on a 316-mile line that runs through northern counties outweighs the state’s environmental rules under the California Environmental Protection Act.

“Federal courts have universally ruled that open-ended pre-clearance processes like CEQA are preempted by the authority of federal regulators,” said Andrew Sabey, attorney for Northwest Pacific. The railroad operates the freight trains that traverse through Sonoma, Humboldt and Mendocino counties…(more)

California lawmakers aim to repeal anti-rent control law

Grassroots Actions

by :curbed – excerpt

Landlords love the Costa-Hawkins Act, a bane to tenants’ rights advocates

A new bill authored by San Francisco Assemblyman David Chiu would do away with the 22-year-old Costa-Hawkins Act, the law that exempts new construction from rent control and generates ire with tenants’ rights activists.

Introduced by Chiu and two other California lawmakers in February, AB 1506 is only two lines long in its present form, which read:

The Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act prescribes statewide limits on the application of local rent control with regard to certain properties.

This bill would repeal that act.

Not much room for loopholes there… (more)

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California Eyes Climate Leadership Role, But Trump’s EPA Holds a Key on Cars

By Lauren Sommer : KQED

California Gov. Jerry Brown is vowing to lead the nation on climate change, as the Trump administration pulls back. But the Trump administration could get in California’s way.

In his annual State of the State speech, California Gov. Jerry Brown had one key message about climate change: perseverance.

California has rules limiting carbon pollution from cars, but it can’t have those rules without permission from the federal EPA.

“We cannot fall back and give in to the climate deniers,” Brown said. “The science is clear. The danger is real.”

And just as President Trump took the oath of office on Friday, California acted, releasing its latest plan for tackling climate change. This includes renewable energy and putting millions of electric cars on the road.

It’s a challenge Brown first made in December, when climate scientists from around the world met up in San Francisco.

The mood at the conference had been dismal. Scientists were worried about losing federal funding for research and even the NASA satellites that collect basic climate data… (more)

Audubon slams oyster project’s legality

by Paul Mann : MadRiverUnion – excerpt

EUREKA – Audubon California and EarthJustice, the San Francisco-based environmental law advocate, charge in a joint statement that the lawful certification of the Coast Seafoods Company’s expanded oyster farming project must be ruled out.

The reason: the Final Environmental Impact Report has not received “an adequate review” under the 1970 California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

In a nine-page letter submitted Jan. 18 to Jack Crider, executive director of the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District, the two organizations acknowledged the series of modifications made to the 471-page environmental impact report in response to voluminous public comment.

But the two groups argued that “both the project and its impacts remain enormous and have yet to be fully analyzed and disclosed as required by the CEQA.”… (more)

It is our policy to track the media on these subjects. Please post comments on the source. Not sure this is a positive way to approach food production when there is a need to feed human beings and the interior department closed down a farm recently in California. People do need to eat and oysters clean the water, so this argument does not win me over, especially when the administration is threatening to cut imports of other foods by increasing import tax. We should perhaps increase local food production.

This Golden State Podcast: Gavin Newsom Vows to Fight the Border Wall with Hellish Bureaucracy

By Lamar Anderson : modernluxury – excerpt – including This Golden State, a podcast from  Randy Shandobil

California will drown bigotry the best way it knows how: with endless CEQA appeals.

In these last days before the inauguration, legions of Democrats are trying to decide which Trump they must prepare to fight. Trump the demagogue, riding a wave of white supremacist backlash? Trump the dictator apologist? Trump the potential nuclear proliferator? “One thing that’s certain is the uncertainty of the moment,” lieutenant governor Gavin Newsom tells This Golden State’s Randy Shandobil.

But on at least one issue, Gavin sees Trump for what he is: a corner-cutting real estate developer with a probably illegal building project. When Shandobil asks how California can fight back against Trump’s “beautiful,” Mexico-funded border wall, Newsom gives perhaps the most California answer ever: CEQA, aka the California Environmental Quality Act, aka the litigation equivalent of death by a thousand cuts. “There’s something called CEQA in California—NEPA at the federal level,” says the former S.F. mayor. “There’s indigenous lands and autonomies relating to governance on those lands. There are all kinds of obstructions as it relates to just getting zoning approval and getting building permits. All those things could be made very, very challenging for the administration.” Spoken like a true San Franciscan!…(more)