Press Release, CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY
In a major victory against a destructive development larger than Griffith Park, a judge has issued a ruling blocking Tejon Ranchcorp’s Centennial. The project would have put 57,000 residents on remote, fire-prone wildlands 65 miles north of downtown Los Angeles.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff found that the development’s environmental review failed to account for the increased wildfire risk the 12,000-acre project would pose to surrounding wildlands. The ruling sends a clear signal that elected officials across the state must consider the serious risks of building on wildfire-prone land.
Between 1964 and 2015, 31 wildfires larger than 100 acres occurred within five miles of the site, including four within the proposed project’s boundaries. Nearly all contemporary wildfires in California are caused by human sources such as power lines and electrical equipment, and development increases that threat.
“The court’s rejection of the Tejon development highlights the danger of building in high fire-risk areas,” said J.P. Rose, a staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The science is clear that developments like Centennial will literally be built to burn, and our elected officials can’t continue to downplay these risks through inaccurate environmental reviews. This is a wake-up call for policymakers across California.”
The ruling found that the environmental review’s conclusion that “wildfire risk impacts outside of the project site will be reduced to less than significant is not supported by any analysis.” The court’s decision on Tuesday follows a recent Center report showing how construction in high fire-risk wildlands puts more people in harm’s way and contributes to dramatic increases in fire suppression costs. The California Attorney General recently challenged several developments in fire-prone areas, including one in Guenoc Valley, where a proposed project’s footprint includes portions of the recent LNU Complex Fire.
Read more at https://biologicaldiversity.org/w/news/press-releases/judge-blocks-massive-tejon-ranchcorp-development-in-la-county-2021-04-08/
Dan Farber, LEGAL PLANET
Big changes may be coming to White House regulatory oversight.
President Biden seems to be poised to dramatically change how the White House reviews proposed agency regulations. I argued in a recent post that it would be better to expand the focus of regulatory review beyond cost-benefit analysis to include important values such as social justice and environmental quality. Biden may be moving in that direction.
Since Reagan took office, the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) has reviewed the cost-benefit analyses submitted for all significant proposed regulations. Progressives have never bought the idea of OIRA as the technocratic guardian of value-neutral economic analysis. This is partly because they view cost-benefit analysis as inherently biased against regulation, and partly because they view OIRA as a backdoor for industry lobbying.
There are several signs that Biden is reconsidering OIRA’s intense focus on cost-benefit analysis. One of his executive orders establishes a task to modernize regulatory review. He instructed the task force to provide “concrete suggestions on how the regulatory review process can promote public health and safety, economic growth, social welfare, racial justice, environmental stewardship, human dignity, equity, and the interests of future generations.” The executive order emphasizes the need to ensure that “regulatory initiatives appropriately benefit and do not inappropriately burden disadvantaged, vulnerable, or marginalized communities.” This dovetails with another executive order that attempts to reorient agencies toward social justice issues. But economics is still in the picture, as shown by an executive order requiring the government to establish a new estimate of the social cost of carbon.
Continue reading “Biden and regulatory review”
Nina Lakhani, THE GUARDIAN
Army corps of engineers ordered to conduct full environmental review, which could take years.
The future of the controversial Dakota Access pipeline has been thrown into question after a federal court on Wednesday struck down its permits and ordered a comprehensive environmental review.
The US Army Corps of Engineers was ordered to conduct a full environmental impact statement (EIS), after the Washington DC court ruled hat existing permits violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
The ruling is a huge victory for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe of North Dakota, which rallied support from across the world and sued the US government in a campaign to stop the environmentally risky pipeline being built on tribal lands.
“After years of commitment to defending our water and earth, we welcome this news of a significant legal win,” said the tribal chairman, Mike Faith. “It’s humbling to see how actions we took to defend our ancestral homeland continue to inspire national conversations about how our choices ultimately affect this planet.”
In December 2016, the Obama administration denied permits for the pipeline to cross the Missouri river and ordered a full EIS to analyze alternative routes and the impact on the tribe’s treaty rights.
In his first week in office, Donald Trump signed an executive order to expedite construction. Construction of the 1,200-mile pipeline was completed in June 2017.
The tribe challenged the permits – and won. As a result, the corps was ordered to redo its environmental analysis, which it did without taking into consideration tribal concerns or expert analysis.
Read more at https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/mar/25/dakota-access-pipeline-permits-court-standing-rock
Peter Byrne, NORTH BAY BOHEMIAN
Evan’s final and fatal argument was that the deal is invalid because the county sold the land to Gallaher based on his proposal to develop nearly a thousand homes in a forested, riparian area riffling with wildlife without doing an environmental review of the impacts.
Less than a week after the conclusion of a three-hour trial to decide the fate of a deal to develop housing on county-owned acreage surrounding an abandoned public hospital complex called Chanate, a superior court judge has issued a deal-breaking decision.
On Thursday, Judge René Auguste Chouteau issued a ruling that the Sonoma County Board of Supervisor’s approval last year of an agreement to develop Chanate with developer William Gallaher must be “vacated.” The controversial deal cannot go forward as planned.
A lawsuit filed by the 200-member grassroots organization Friends of Chanate called for the development agreement to be overturned on several counts. Chouteau agreed with only one of the counts, but that was enough to send it back to the board of supervisors for the indefinite future. The deal can only be revived if the county and the developer conduct an environmental review of proposed project, which is a lengthy, expensive process that doesn’t guarantee the housing and commercial project will be approved.
Read more at https://www.bohemian.com/northbay/judge-spikes-chanate-agreement/Content?oid=6630635
Richard Charter, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Peaceful little Gleason Beach is nestled midway between Bodega Bay and Jenner, hidden in a pastoral valley just north of the small communities of Carmet and Sereno del Mar, where Highway 1 crosses tiny Scotty Creek.
Its fate will come before the California Coastal Commission on Thursday, shortly after 9 a.m. in the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chambers.
Decades of unfortunate policy decisions and a few poorly sited crumbling homes once built atop unstable cliffs have led Caltrans to propose a 3,700-foot highway bypass with an 850-foot-long concrete bridge, all just to cross over seasonal Scotty Creek, a rivulet only a few feet wide most of the year.
The early history of the Sonoma Coast was one of small tribal villages until the Spanish and Russians sought riches here. Thus the sheltered coves along the coast gradually became transportation hubs for coastal sailing vessels. As early agricultural families decided to improve ancient game trails along the shoreline by building the first gravel wagon roads, they pursued a level path hugging the seaside along the clifftops. World War II brought the tangible fear of an enemy invasion of our county by sea, so urgent highway improvements enabled rapid access for a coastal defense that, fortunately, was never needed.
As the coast became a desirable second-home destination, large landowners near Gleason Beach apparently decided to subdivide cliffside lots into a skinny development between Highway 1 and the ocean.
Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/opinion/8294059-181/close-to-home-the-sonoma