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On December 9, 2020, the California Energy Commission (CEC) appointed nine members of the new Blue Ribbon Commission on Lithium Extraction in California (Lithium Valley Commission).  The appointments were made pursuant to Assembly Bill 1657 (Garcia, Chapter 271, 2020) (AB 1657), which was signed into law by Governor Newsom on September 29, 2020.

AB 1657 requires the CEC to establish the Lithium Valley Commission to review, investigate, and analyze issues and potential incentives regarding lithium extraction and use in California, and submit a report to the Legislature documenting its findings and recommendations, on or before October 1, 2022.  AB 1657 also authorizes the CEC to appoint nine of the 14 members of the Lithium Valley Commission.

The nine members appointed on December 9, 2020 include:

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Just what makes a decision “final” enough to support a Fifth Amendment takings claim?

In his article, “‘Finality’ may be the next key issue in takings litigation,” published by the Daily Journal, Daniel Quinley of JMBM’s Natural Resources and Mining Group, addresses a recent Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision that indicates that determining the “finality” of a local agency’s decision may well be the next key issue in takings litigation. He writes:

“At the very least, one can rest assured that demonstrating that a local agency has made a definitive agency decision will remain critical in bringing successful Takings claims. For now, that process will involve continued robust participation in the local agency’s decision-making, timely requests for variances or exemptions, and efforts toward clearly capturing an agency’s definitive intent regarding a specific property.”

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On Tuesday, March 31, 2020, San Francisco and six other Bay Area counties and one city each issued a virtually identical Shelter-in-Place Order (collectively, the “Order”) that is, in many ways, more restrictive than (i) Governor Newsom’s March 19, 2020 Stay-Home Executive Order N-33-20, and (ii) San Francisco’s March 16, 2020 Shelter-In-Place Order.

In particular, the Order limits the scope of certain construction-related activities previously exempt under those prior orders, and mandates the implementation of new “Social Distancing Protocols” for Essential Businesses still operating, which must be in place by April 2, 2020.

Who issued the Order? The Order was issued by the following seven counties—Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Santa Clara, City and County of San Francisco, San Mateo, and Sonoma (who issued the Order late Tuesday evening, after the other six counties)—and one city—City of Berkeley. Although the counties and cities each independently issued an Order, the text is nearly, if not completely, identical.

What does the Order do? The Order establishes stricter limits on business operations, including a narrower scope of construction authorized to continue under the Order, and requires a business to “cease all activities” in Bay Area locations subject to the Order, unless the business qualifies as an “Essential Business”. (Although non-Essential Businesses are allowed to continue “Minimum Basic Operations” necessary to maintain certain activities such as payroll.)

How are construction materials companies affected? Construction materials companies may qualify as “Essential Businesses,” as long as those companies “support or supply” other “Essential Businesses” with “supplies necessary to operate”. Continue reading

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This blog provides important updates to the analysis in our March 20 and March 23 blogs addressing the impact on workers in the construction and industrial materials industries of Governor Newsom’s March 19, 2020 Executive Order N-33-20 (“Order”) mandating, subject to certain exceptions, that “all individuals living in the State of California to stay home.”

For background, the Order states that workers “needed to maintain continuity of operations” of 16 critical infrastructure sectors identified by the U.S. Cyber & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) were exempt and thus may continue to work. CISA previously identified those 16 sectors in a March 19, 2020 Memorandum entitled, “Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response” (“CISA Memorandum”).

Although clarifications regarding the applicability of the Order to workers in the construction materials industry were issued by the State Public Health Officer on March 22 (see March 23 blog), no corresponding clarification was expressly issued with respect to the industrial materials industry.

Update affecting the industrial materials industry and its workers:

  • As we previously reported in our March 20 blog, the treatment under the CISA Memorandum of workers employed by industrial material producers and suppliers, whose materials are not used in construction materials, was somewhat unclear.
  • However, on March 28, 2020, CISA issued an Advisory Memorandum identifying an “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce” list, which specifically identifies “Workers necessary for the manufacturing of … industrial minerals”. The key language is shown on page 13 of 15 of the Advisory Memorandum at the first bullet point under Critical Manufacturing.
  • The Advisory Memorandum thus clarifies that the industrial materials industry and its workers are a part of the 16 critical infrastructure sectors identified by CISA, and therefore exempt from the Order’s stay-home mandate, even if the industrial materials are not used in construction materials.

Continue reading

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This blog provides important updates to the analysis in our prior blog addressing the impact on workers in the construction materials industry of Governor Newsom’s March 19, 2020 Executive Order N-33-20 (“Order”) mandating, subject to certain exceptions, that “all individuals living in the State of California to stay home.”

For background, the Order states that workers “needed to maintain continuity of operations” of 16 critical infrastructure sectors identified by the U.S. Cyber & Infrastructure Security Agency were exempt and thus may continue to work. On March 20, the State’s COVID-19 website clarified that the exemption from the Order applied to construction activity, including housing construction. Although this clarification was very helpful, the Order remained somewhat uncertain regarding the status of  construction materials industry workers. Late on Friday, March 20, the State Public Health Officer (“SPHO”) issued a list of “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” to be exempt from the Order, and thus allowed to continue working, to ensure “continuity of functions critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security.” Again, very helpful, but did not specifically address construction materials.

On Sunday, March 22, 2020, the SPHO issued important updates (“Updates”) to the list of “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” directly addressing the construction materials industry. Specifically, the Updates confirm that:

    1. Essential Workforce for Public Works includes construction materials suppliers; and
    2. Essential Workforce for Community-Based Government Operations and Essential Functions include workers who provider services related to construction materials sources.

Continue reading

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On March 19, 2020, Governor Newsom issued Executive Order N-33-20 (“Order”) “ordering all individuals living in the State of California to stay home or at their place of residence”.  As discussed below, the Order allows workers in certain industry sectors to continue working.

There are several categories of workers who may continue to work under the Order.

  • The Order states that workers “needed to maintain continuity of operations” of 16 critical infrastructure sectors identified by the U.S. Cyber & Infrastructure Security Agency (“CISA”) may continue to work.
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On May 1, 2019, Petitioner San Joaquin Tributaries Authority, a Joint Powers Authority (Petitioner/Authority) filed a petition for writ of mandate in Sacramento County Superior Court against the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB).  The Authority includes the City and County of San Francisco as petitioners.  The petition challenges SWRCB’s approval of the “State Wetland Definition and Procedures for Discharges of Dredged or Fill Material to Waters of the State” (Procedures) on April 2, 2019.

SWRCB released the Procedures in January 2019, shortly after President Trump announced his plan to rescind and replace the Obama Administration’s 2015 definition of “Waters of the U.S.”  President Trump’s proposed definition of Waters of the U.S. is more narrow, and would reduce the scope of waters subject to federal regulation under the Clean Water Act, including activities within those waters, such as the discharge of dredge and fill material.

The SWRCB’s Procedures are intended to, among other things, codify California’s regulatory authority over the discharge of dredge and fill material into waters being proposed for exclusion from federal regulation through Trump’s proposed definition.  The Procedures also seek to regulate dredge and fill activities within all “Waters of the State”, which is broadly defined to include “any surface water or groundwater, including saline waters, within the boundaries of the state.”  This broad definition includes all natural wetlands, modified wetlands, and even some artificial wetlands.

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On April 25, 2019, the California Construction and Industrial Materials Association (CalCIMA) filed a petition for writ of mandate and complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief (“Petition”)  in Ventura County Superior Court challenging the County of Ventura’s approval of a proposed “Habitat Connectivity and Wildlife Corridor” Project and its implementing regulations.  The Project was approved by the County Board of Supervisors in March 2019 and is intended to “discourage” development within the Project area.  The County approved the Project without completing environmental review in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

The Project is essentially an overlay zone that is several hundred thousand-acres in size and includes thousands of acres of important mineral resource deposits (construction aggregate) that have been previously identified by the California Geological Survey and, in some instances, designated by the State Mining and Geology Board (both of which are separate divisions of the Department of Conservation) as being “regionally significant” in meeting the region’s building material needs. These important mineral deposits are a protected natural resource under CEQA and are necessary for use in future housing projects, road construction and repairs, and public infrastructure projects.

Due to the importance of these mineral resources, the County previously approved a Mineral Resources Protection overlay zone intended to ensure the resources were available for future extraction, and not encumbered by incompatible land uses.  The County also enacted specific “Goals, Policies and Programs” in its General Plan to provide enhanced protection for these mineral resources.

Despite the importance of these mineral resources, the County approved the Project overlay zone without completing any CEQA review.  The County concluded that CEQA compliance was not required because the Project is intended to benefit the environment.  However, notwithstanding these potential benefits, the Project and its implementing regulations will cause significant environmental impacts that require environmental review in accordance with CEQA, including the Project’s effects on future efforts to extract critical mineral resources. Continue reading

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We are pleased to announce that Martin Stratte has joined us at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP and is a member of JMBM’s Natural Resources and Mining Group, and our Construction and Building Materials Group.  Martin’s practice focuses on land use, zoning and entitlement issues and he comes to us with experience in representing the mining industry.

He represents clients in administrative enforcement actions and litigation relative to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and Endangered Species Act (ESA), among others, and is experienced in working with local jurisdictions and state, regional and federal agencies to obtain regulatory approvals.

Martin is a frequent author on legal issues of importance to the mining industry, has been a member of the editorial board of the Climate Change Law & Policy Reporter and is licensed to practice in both California and Nevada.

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By Kerry Shapiro

Last week, President Trump signed an executive order with potentially wide-ranging implications for the mining industry and many other affected stakeholders. The order directs the Department of the Interior (DOI) to review national monuments, particularly those larger than 100,000 acres, that were designated since January 1, 1996, and to recommend if any of those designations should be modified, resized or rescinded.

The Bears Ears National Monument Controversy