Disasters

Tragedy of the Commons–California Drought-Style

Garrett_Hardin

State Farmers Planting New Almond Orchards Despite Critical Water Shortages

Traveling through California’s drought-striken San Joaquin Valley repeatedly over the past year, I’ve been surprised and disheartened to see that Valley farmers continue to convert their agricultural fields to newly-planted almond orchards.  (My anecdotal observations have been confirmed by various recent press accounts.)  This development is a striking, current example of Garrett Hardin’s Tragedy of […]

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Saving California’s Beaches

Isla Vista

New expert report offers recommendations for shoreline armoring management

As California’s beach goers and residents well know, erosion and climate change are already impacting the California coastline. Eighty percent of California’s coast is actively eroding, and the latest science projects that sea levels may rise up to 5 additional feet along much of the coast by the end of this century. Higher sea levels […]

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Legal Responses to the Santa Barbara Refugio Oil Spill

Refugio_Oil_Spill_in_Santa_Barbara

Exploring potential penalties and damages

Last Tuesday, a 24-inch underground oil pipeline on the beautiful Santa Barbara County coastline burst for reasons as of yet unknown. Over the course of several hours, an estimated 101,000 gallons of crude oil spilled down a storm drain, on the shoreline, and into the Pacific Ocean. As of late last week, oil had spread […]

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Rain-Free January Portends Continued California Drought of Increased Severity

Severe Reduction in Sierra Snowpack Another Sign That State's Worst Drought Just Gets Worse

January 2015 ends with a most dubious distinction: it’s been the driest January in recorded California history.  That’s especially bad news, considering that January has traditionally been the wettest month of the year in the Golden State. According to National Weather Service and California Department of Water Resources (DWR) statistics, the alarming precipitation figures for Northern […]

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Human Fingerprints on Australia’s Record Heatwave

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Australia — or at least Australia’s current government — downplays the danger of climate change.   But, as a famous physicist once said, “reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.” Last summer in Australia (corresponding to the winter months up here) broke many, many records.  it was the hottest summer on record, […]

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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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