County appeals stormwater ruling
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has voted 3-2 to appeal a Superior Court judge’s decision upholding stormwater regulations adopted by the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board.
In a complex ruling issued in March, Judge Victoria Chaney affirmed the regulations, which require local governments and developers to implement measures that clean up and slow down storm water runoff. Like an appeals court that upheld similar regulations in San Diego (see CP&DR Legal Digest, January 2005), Judge Chaney ruled that the regional board could impose controls beyond the Clean Water Act’s “maximum extent practicable” standard and the state Porter-Cologne Act’s “reasonably achievable” standard. Chaney also ruled that the regional board did not have to provide exceptions for jurisdictions that cannot meet the runoff standards through “best management practices.”
Chaney further rejected arguments that the regional board should have prepared an environmental impact report, that the regulations improperly intrude on local land use authority, that the board could not limit grading during the rainy season, and that the regional board should have considered economic impacts.
Supervisors Michael Antonovich, Yvonne Braithwaite Burke and Don Knabe voted to appeal; Supervisors Gloria Molina and Zev Yaroslavsky voted against appealing. Environmentalists called the appeal a waste of money. County attorneys said they only want to ensure that regulatory programs are proven and cost-effective.
The case is In Re Los Angeles County Municipal Storm Water Permit Litigation, Los Angeles County Superior Court Case No. BS 080548.
Interestingly, Judge Chaney ruled in May that local governments may seek state reimbursement for complying with stormwater runoff regulations. Local governments say the stormwater requirements will cost billions of dollars. Local governments in 2001 submitted four test requests for reimbursement to the Commission on State Mandates. The Commission rejected the requests, citing a 1984 state law (Government Code [section] 17516) that exempts state and regional water quality regulations from a requirement that the state pay for mandated local programs. Chaney ruled that the 1984 law violated a post-Proposition 13 state constitutional amendment that prohibits the state from shifting costs to local governments.
Chaney did not order the Commission to award the claims, only to reconsider them. The decision in County of Los Angeles v. California, No. BS 089769 is on appeal.
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