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Entries in water concerns (3)

Tuesday
Sep122017

Temporarily Tapped Out: More Time to Consider California's Clean Water Funding Bill

Environmental Litigation AttorneyEnvironmental Litigation Defense Attorney

 

Stephen T. Holzer

818.907.3299

 

How deep does the clean water issue go in California? Let’s first take a look at some fairly recent and comprehensive findings:

There was good news and bad news regarding the cleanliness of California’s drinking water, according to a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) study released in 2015.

California reservoir

The research comprised part of California’s Groundwater Ambient Monitoring and Assessment Program, more commonly called GAMA. It included 10 years’ worth of test data from untreated water in 11,000 wells across the state. GAMA considered area population and development to weight findings from the well tests.

First the good news: Contamination from nitrates, solvents, pesticides, etc. occurred in high concentrations in only five percent of California’s groundwater resources. The bad news was that naturally occurring contaminants like arsenic or uranium were found in about 20 percent of the state’s groundwater resources.

So what should be done about water contaminants?

According to the USGS, local and regional agencies are responsible for cleaning up the problem of high contaminant levels, particularly in high population areas like the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys near Los Angeles. And the State Water Resources Control Board regulates safety under several state clean water laws, including the California Safe Drinking Water Act and the Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act.

But for some lawmakers, that may not be enough.

Temporarily Diverted: Clean Water Tax

Senate Bill 623, introduced by Senator Bill Monning (D-San Luis Obispo, Monterey and Santa Cruz), would impose the first-ever consumer tax on drinking water. 

The bill would levy a 95 cent per month tax on water meters “up to one inch or customers without water meters” (see Article 5 of SB 623).  The tax would increase, depending on the size of the water meter at issue, to as much as $10 per month for customers with water meters greater than four inches.

There would be exemptions from the tax for low-income customers, e.g. if the customer’s household income equals or is less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or if the water meter exclusively measures flow of non-potable/recycled water.

The taxes, estimated at $110 - 140M per year, will be diverted to a Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund to clean up our drinking water sources.

But there are an interesting mix of groups and individuals both for and against the bill. As a result of the controversy, SB 623 is now on a two year track and won’t be decided until 2018, which gives us all time to contemplate.

Strange Water Bed Fellows

Farm Crop SprayerAccording to the Visalia Times-Delta, more than one million California residents live in communities with unsafe drinking water because of 300 state water systems that don’t meet federal criteria.

Many of the communities with bad water are in the middle of the state – the breadbasket of California, where agriculture is the main industry. Perhaps that’s why the farming industry is teaming up with environmentalists to support this clean water bill.

A spokesperson for the Western Growers’ Association released this statement regarding the clean water fund:

The use of organic and commercial fertilizers are necessary to replenish soil nutrients to allow for crop production. We believe it is in the best interests of the people of the state of California to have a safe and secure food supply grown in California for the benefit of people everywhere. . . SB 623 strikes the needed balance between providing the necessary resources for addressing critical drinking water needs, while protecting agriculture from certain nitrate related enforcement actions in the short-term. 

The Association of California Water Agencies, however, opposes SB 623 because the bill turns hundreds of water agencies into tax collectors, opens the door to more taxes on water in the future, and thus hinders the affordability of water, which is fundamental to life.

The Association thinks California’s General Fund and the income from the Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund should pay for cleaning up drinking water.

And not all environmental groups are on board with SB 623, as some contend the bill gives the agricultural industry a “pay to pollute” pass, as the bill would allow farmers to enroll in a waiver program by paying an applicable fee, potentially protecting them from environmental enforcement actions.

So one question that must be answered between now and a legislative vote in 2018: How best can we protect both our food and our drinking water suppliers? Will SB 623 take care of one challenge without sacrificing the other? 

Stephen T. Holzer is a Business Litigation Attorney and the Chair of our Environmental Practice Group.

 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Monday
Nov032014

Los Angeles County Ballot: "P" is for Parks, Prevention and Protection – or Profligacy?

Litigation Los AngelesEnvironmental Litigation  

Stephen T. Holzer
818.907.3299

 

The only initiative that affects all of Los Angeles County (there are 33 local/city ballot measures and six California propositions), Measure P covers a diverse range of interests.

The full title of Measure P is: Safe Neighborhood Parks, Gang Prevention, Youth/Senior Recreation, Beaches/Wildlife Protection Measure. The initiative seeks to ensure continued funding for these listed concerns via a $23 tax per parcel of land in Los Angeles County.

Proposition P aims to replace the expiring Proposition A, which was approved in 1992. Prop A generated $52M per year. The new measure will generate slightly more ($54M annually) for 30 years beginning July 1, 2015. The funds will be allocated as follows: 

  • 30 percent to maintain and develop open spaces, i.e. trails, mountains, rivers, wetlands and streams;

  • 20 percent to neighborhood parks and park projects, fields, gyms, playgrounds and restrooms;

  • 15 percent to beaches and clean water projects in beaches and parks;

  • 15 percent to maintain or improve existing and future parks;

  • 10 percent to increase parks, open spaces and recreational areas in disadvantaged communities;

  • 5 percent to nonprofit or public agencies that work with youth and seniors, those that plant trees or prevent graffiti, or those that work to increase public access to rivers and streams; and

  • The remaining 5 percent is allocated to administration. 

There seems to be few sources of opposition to Proposition P, but this side includes The Los Angeles Times and The Sierra Club. The editorial board at The Times decries the procedure employed to put P on the ballot, citing a secretive process excluding public hearings or a "needs assessment:"

It's irresponsible to begin divvying up more than $50 million each year without a clear sense of what the county and cities need most and how the money can most effectively be spent.

Additionally, The Times says explanations are needed, particularly regarding: 

  • Whether or not this tax will supplant some work covered by the storm water fee, given that some  Prop P funds are allocated to clean water projects;

  • Whether or not Prop P decreases the need for another parcel tax approved last year for districts around Hollywood Hills and the Santa Monica Mountains (which was also written to replace funds from the expiring Proposition A);

  • The change from a square foot tax formula to a flat per parcel tax. 

Support for Measure P is much greater. Organizations like AARP California, the City of Los Angeles, The Conservation Fund and many others are all in favor of voting yes because: 

  • City, state and federal budgets for parks and recreation has been cut – Prop P provides continuity of funding from an assessment already in place.

  • All funds remain local. The money generated stays in LA County and can only be allocated to the uses outlined in the measure. 

Whether or not Measure P will pass is anyone's guess, as it doesn't seem to be a priority question in polling.

Stephen T. Holzer is an Environmental and Business Litigation Attorney. Contact him directly via email: sholzer@lewitthackman.com, or by phone  at 818.907.3299 for more information. 

 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Friday
Sep262014

Bridging Troubled Water: Yes or No on California Prop 1?

Litigation Los AngelesEnvironmental Litigation  

Stephen T. Holzer
818.907.3299

 

Fall is here. Most of us can't tell, given the soaring temperatures outside. A better thermometer might be the onslaught of political commercials we're now seeing on television.

California Elections 2014

To prepare for the elections in November, we thought now would be a good time to take a look at the new propositions and bills Californians will have to decide on in the voting booth November 4th. First up:  Proposition 1 (Assembly Bill 1471), to enact the Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014.

Governor Jerry Brown approved the measure August 13, but it's up to the voters to decide if this will go any further.

Proposition 1 aims to: 

  1. Improve water reliability and management: $810M,

  2. Provide safer drinking water: $520M,

  3. Initiate and improve water recycling projects: $725M,

  4. Ensure safer groundwater: $900M,

  5. Protect and restore the state's watershed: $1.495B,

  6. Store more water: $2.7B, and

  7. Improve and initiate flood management projects: $395M

As with most ballot measures, there are both opposition and support groups for Prop 1. Unlike most ballot measures, the battle lines aren't drawn by party lines.

The opposition argues that: 

  1. Environmental Business Litigation AttorneyOnly special interest groups, i.e. farmers and certain industrialists, will benefit though all Californians will foot the bill.

  2. The bills projects are geared to repairing the damage caused by previous water improvement projects initiated by the same special interest groups noted above.

  3. The cost is too high, considering California is already $777B in debt.

  4. Enacting this plan does nothing to cure our immediate, drought-driven needs for more water.

Supporters disagree of course, claiming that: 

  1. Long-term projects will help Californians capitalize on "wet" years to store more water for the drier years.

  2. Some funds in the bill are allocated to cleaning up much-needed contaminated drinking water.

  3. The special interest groups cited by the opposition (particularly the agriculturalists) are critical to California's economy.

  4. The bill would not substantially increase state debt – some of the needed funding will be reallocated from unused bonds.

So which groups support Proposition 1, and which do not? There's a mixed bag on each side.

Prop 1 supporters include Governor Brown, Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, both the California Democratic and Republican parties, the state and Los Angeles Chambers of Commerce, and environmental groups like The Nature Conservancy, Audubon California and Delta Counties Coalition.

Prop 1 opponents include environmental groups like Friends of the River, Restore the Delta and various fishing associations.

 

Stephen T. Holzer is an Environmental and Business Litigation Attorney. Contact him via email: sholzer@lewitthackman.com, or by phone: 818.907.3299.

 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

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