Recent Cases – Environmental

2023 was a busy year for Prop 65 with the highest number of Notices of Violation since its inception. The California law requires consumers receive warnings regarding the presence of chemicals that cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. Prop 65 applies to an ever growing list of chemicals and thus impacts a wide variety of businesses in California. Below are a few trends and developments seen over 2023.Continue Reading Proposition 65: 2023 in Review

Under California’s Proposition 65 (“Prop 65”), businesses are required to give “clear and reasonable warnings” to consumers regarding potential chemical exposure if their product contains a chemical “known to the state to cause cancer.” In the recent decision Nat’l Association of Wheat Growers, et al. v. Bonta, et al., the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal explored businesses’ First Amendment rights and the government’s ability to compel commercial speech. The Ninth Circuit found that the State of California cannot compel businesses to provide a Prop 65 warning for glyphosate, the most commonly used herbicide in the world. Continue Reading The Intersection of Prop 65 and Free Speech: A Recent Win for Businesses

In late June, California’s Fourth District Court of Appeal upheld a Superior Court decision in Save Our Access v. City of San Diego, providing clarity for determining when a “later activity” is beyond the scope of an existing Program Environmental Impact Report (PEIR) under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Specifically, the Court held that a proposed ballot measure initiated by the City of San Diego to exclude the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan area from a voter-enacted height limit did not qualify as a “later activity” within the scope of the existing PEIR for the Community Plan Update because the PEIR relied on the height limit in its analysis of the potential environmental impacts. The Court held that the proper remedy is for the City to conduct further analysis of the potential impact of taller buildings in the Community Plan area in order to comply with CEQA before proceeding with the ballot measure.Continue Reading California Court Holds Proposed Ballot Measure Excluding Community Plan Area from Height Limit Is Not a “Later Activity” For Purposes of a Within-the-Scope Analysis

In a long-anticipated decision on the reach of the Clean Water Act (“CWA”), the Supreme Court significantly narrowed the scope of the wetlands and other waters subject to the CWA’s protections. The Court’s opinion in Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency, released May 25, 2023, limits waters of the United States (“WOTUS”) to “relatively permanent” water bodies such as streams, oceans, rivers and lakes, and to wetlands with a “continuous surface connection” to those water bodies. The Court’s holding removes a wide swath of previously-protected wetlands from the CWA’s permitting requirements, likely eliminates jurisdiction for many ephemeral and intermittent streams, and spells all but certain doom for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recent rulemaking adopting a new definition of WOTUS for CWA purposes.Continue Reading Supreme Court Narrows Scope of Waters Protected by the Clean Water Act in Sackett v. EPA

Last week, in California Restaurant Association v. City of Berkeley, the Ninth Circuit ruled the federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) preempts local bans on the installation of natural gas infrastructure in new construction. Specifically, the Ninth Circuit held that EPCA’s preemption of local efforts to regulate the energy use of natural gas appliances is to be construed broadly, applying equally to regulations that affect the use of such appliances. In other words, because the City of Berkeley’s ban on natural gas pipes in new construction “render[ed] the gas appliances useless,” it had improperly infringed on the federal government’s exclusive power to regulate the use of gas appliances.Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Strikes Down Berkeley’s Ban on Natural Gas in New Construction, Dealing Blow to California’s Electrification Efforts