By Kimberly D. Farbota, Jennifer K. Roy, and Christopher Garrett

CEQA Case Report: Understanding the Judicial Landscape for Development[i]

In an unpublished opinion issued August 28, 2018, Forest Preservation Society v. Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Case. No. SCUK-CVPT-15-66284, the California Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s judgment and upheld the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s (Cal Fire’s or Department’s) approval of a Timber Harvest Plan (THP 80) proposed by real party in interest Mendocino Redwood Company (MRC). Petitioner Forest Preservation Society (Petitioner) requested for writ of mandate, arguing that the Department:

  • Used an improper baseline for evaluating the impacts of THP 80 on climate change
  • Showed no substantial evidence to support its finding that THP 80 would not significantly impact climate change
  • Failed to fulfill its duty to create an enforceable mitigation and monitoring plan to alleviate the impacts on climate change

The trial court rejected these arguments and denied the petition, and the Court of Appeal upheld the denial. In summary, the Court of Appeal determined:

  • The Department did not abuse its discretion by relying on the California Air Resources Board’s Climate Change Scoping Plan — rather than the state’s 2020 and 2050 greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets — as the threshold of significance for evaluating the cumulative impacts on climate change resulting from project-related GHG emissions.
  • Substantial evidence, in the form of analyses showing that growth was scheduled to outpace logging across MRC’s ownership, supported the Department’s finding that the project’s cumulative impacts on global warming would be insignificant.
  • The Department does not have a duty to enforce mitigation and monitoring of potential impacts on climate change if there are no significant cumulative impacts. Additionally, THP 80 requires that all future MRC timber-harvesting plans and projects be subject to environmental review.

Officials seek to “improve the efficiency and cost effectiveness” of NRDAs — which could help expedite the resolution of claims.

By Janice M. Schneider, Gary P. Gengel, Joel C. Beauvais, Kegan A. Brown, and Thomas C. Pearce

On August 27, 2018, the US Department of the Interior (DOI) issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) requesting comments by October 26, 2018 on potential changes to its natural resource damage assessment (NRDA) regulations under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). This law authorizes federal, state, and tribal trustees to recover natural resource damages (NRD) for injuries to natural resources resulting from hazardous substance releases. NRDAs that follow the DOI regulations are entitled to a rebuttable presumption of validity in later court proceedings.

In the ANPR, DOI seeks input on how to “improve the efficiency and cost effectiveness” of NRDAs and accelerate restoration of injured natural resources. While there are many areas in which to improve the regulations that will be considered, DOI specifically requests comment on the following six issues:

By Paul Davies, Bridget Reineking, and Andrew Westgate

President Xi has announced the creation of a new environmental bureau to oversee China’s state-owned natural resources. Establishment of the new bureau is one of the most notable outcomes of the recent meeting of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party, and follows Xi’s pronouncement that building an “ecological civilization” in his country is necessary for the continued development of the Chinese people.

Currently, China’s natural resources are administered by a set of localized bureaus, which oversee natural resource assets without a centralized national monitor. Local governments are responsible for staffing and funding these bureaus, so economic agendas and industrial development have directed local environmental efforts for years. Frequently, local governments have stripped the protection bureaus of the ability to impose penalties or otherwise enforce environmental compliance measures. And even if the bureaus receive staff and funding, regional and local needs are generally at odds, often causing untimely and frustrating backlogs regarding the uses of resources and land. Without national coordination, even the best-intentioned regulators working for these bureaus have struggled to implement environmental policies.