Disasters

Is California Finally Ready to Get Serious About Groundwater Reform?

Prospects Good for Passage of Landmark Groundwater Legislation

California, which prides itself as being a national and international leader in so many areas of environmental policy, lags woefully behind other jurisdictions when it comes to at least one subject area: groundwater regulation.  Alone among the Western states in the U.S., California lacks any statewide system of groundwater regulation and planning.  (Until a few […]

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Oil By Rail: Nine Things California Can Do to Increase Safety

While FRA Considers New Federal Regulations, States Can Ramp Up Prevention and Emergency Response

At a joint Senate and Assembly hearing last week on oil by rail safety in California, some lawmakers expressed frustration at slow federal action, and asked what California can do to increase public safety. My testimony focused on federal preemption issues, defining areas where the state can regulate, and those where it is preempted by […]

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Standing, Settlement, and Mass Torts

BP is trying to use standing law to wiggle out of its own settlement agreement. The courts have been right to say no.

BP entered into a settlement in a massive class action against it arising out of the BP oil spill.  Now it’s trying to get out of part of the settlement while keeping the rest of the deal in place.  BP’s argument involves three areas of confusion in  standing doctrine: how does it apply to class actions, […]

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California Court Upholds State Water Board’s Broad Authority to Ban Unreasonable Uses of Water

Ruling is Especially Timely, Given California's Ongoing and Severe Drought Conditions

I recently wrote about a then-pending court case in which California grape growers were challenging the State Water Resources Control Board’s limits on the growers’ diversion of water from California rivers and streams to provide frost protection for their grapes.  That litigation is important because it goes to the heart of the Board’s authority under […]

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BP Spill + 4

Photo: U.S. Coast Guard

Four years ago, the BP Deepwater Horizon was still gushing oil.  The well was finally capped in mid- July.  There’s been a lot of legal action since then, but it’s hard to keep track of all the piecemeal developments.  Here’s quick rundown. The Presidential Commission investigating the spill identified the “root causes” as management failures by industry and […]

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In Harm’s Way

flooding near Key West

Millions of people are in the path of rising seas. The time for action is now.

The NY Times has run a series of articles in the past few days dealing with disaster issues.  Taken together, they highlight the urgency of government action to protect populations in harm’s way. One article dealt generally with the threat posed by sea level rise. Miami is something of a poster-child for these problems, given its […]

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California Enacts Emergency Drought Legislation

State Water Rights Reforms a Key Part of the Legislative Package

“Never let a good crisis go to waste.” This adage, attributed to Chicago Mayor and former Obama White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, seems especially apt regarding emergency legislation enacted by California lawmakers and signed into law last weekend by Governor Jerry Brown in response to the worst drought in recorded California history. That […]

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California Headed for Record Drought: Will Critically-Needed Reforms Follow?

Photo credit: Randall Benton, Sacramento Bee

Confronting a Looming Environmental Disaster

The Sacramento Bee’s fine environmental reporter, Matt Weiser, yesterday reported on a looming, major drought facing California and its regional neighbors. The figures aren’t pretty.  A persistent high-pressure front stretching over the Gulf of Alaska and most of the Northern Pacific has diverted the normal fall and winter storm track away from California and other […]

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Rethinking “Adaptation”

I’ve spent a lot of time and energy talking about the need to adapt to climate change, but I’ve also become increasingly uneasy about “adaptation” as a way to think about the situation.  One of the things I don’t like about the term “adaptation” is that it suggests that we actually can, at some expense, […]

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