A federal judge rejected an attempt by the Trump EPA to classify saltwater ponds near the San Francisco Bay as “merely a component” of a salt plant’s “industrial processing activity” that shouldn’t be protected under the Clean Water Act.
Judge William Alsup wrote that the Trump EPA “misapplied the law” and ordered the agency to reevaluate the salt ponds. Cargill Inc., the nation’s largest privately held company, wanted to develop nearly 1,400 acres of the shoreline along the San Francisco Bay in Redwood City.
EPA headquarters “ignored its own agency regulations” and Supreme Court decisions on the Clean Water Act, wrote Alsup, a Clinton appointee.
Climate disruption is expected to cause the sea level of the San Francisco Bay to rise 4 to 15 feet over the next 30 to 50 years.
Cargill Salt, a subsidiary of Cargill Inc., and DMB Pacific Ventures, an Arizona developer, wanted to build thousands of homes on the site. Climate disruption is expected to cause the sea level of the San Francisco Bay to rise 4 to 15 feet over the next 30 to 50 years.
‘Not Paving the Bay’
“The ponds belong to San Francisco Bay, and Cargill should return them to the public for permanent protection within the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge,” said David Lewis, executive director of Save the Bay. “We’re not paving the bay anymore.”
Save the Bay, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and three other environmental organizations sued the EPA and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler over the agency’s March 2019 decision not to protect the salt ponds under the Clean Water Act.
That decision contradicted a decision by the San Francisco district of the EPA and a 1978 court ruling about the salt ponds. The draft decision by the EPA was leaked to U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Ca.) who put it into the Congressional Record.
People have harvested salt from the salt ponds since the Ohlone Native Americans and later the Spanish missionaries. Leslie Salt Co., which was bought by Cargill, built a plant to process the salt from the evaporated seawater.
More than 120 Years
The first law about water pollution, the Rivers and Harbors Act, signed by President William McKinley in 1899, prohibited dumping garbage into rivers and other bodies of water so that boats could operate. Liquid sewage was ok.
Ever since then, our nation’s water pollution laws have focused on “navigable waters.” The Redwood City salt ponds historically have been navigable.
Animal hides were shipped through Redwood Creek estuary in the 1830s, and fishermen gathered oysters from tidal flats in flat-bottomed schooners. Chinese shrimpers harvested shrimp. Cargill uses a floating dredge to do maintenance on the ponds. Birds nest at the salt ponds, including the threatened Western snowy plover.
EPA Misreads Earlier Decision
But Lee Forsgren, an EPA deputy assistant administrator, said the salt plant and its ponds were actually “fast land” that wasn’t subject to the Clean Water Act. He cited Leslie Salt Co. v. Froehlke, a Ninth Circuit decision from 1978.
Alsup noted that the Leslie Salt decision was about the same salt ponds in this case and that the judges decided the ponds were covered by the Clean Water Act.
He told the EPA to look at that decision and three Supreme Court decisions about the Clean Water Act when it reevaluates the salt ponds. He agreed with Cargill that the levees aren’t covered by the Clean Water Act.
“The ponds themselves. . .remain subject to CWA jurisdiction because they are wet,” Alsup wrote.
It’s too late to stop Donald Trump’s tantrum — but it’s not too late to stop his policies right now
Any thoughts that Donald Trump is just trying to polish his perceived presidential legacy with his late-game administration moves is giving way to a darker idea. He is planting boulders in the path of Joe Biden and the incoming group, “salting the earth,” as one headline declared this week.
It’s a ridiculous process that sneers at the MAGA America Trump professes to love. Apart from ignoring the overwhelming coronavirus issues, Trump’s strategy is to continue hobbling the federal government from addressing what it needs to face.
Experts: There’s still time — and reason — to invoke the 25th Amendment
“What is the 25th Amendment for, if not designed for this exact reason?” is a question we have perpetually received regarding the current president. We finally sought to answer it at our Nov. 14 online town hall.
Indeed, since the announcement of election results, Donald Trump has refused to concede, has withheld critical information for the transition team, has fired and replaced top officials responsible for the nation’s security, and has contemplated a catastrophic war with Iran. On top of this, he continues to ignore a surging pandemic that is now infecting almost 200,000 and killing 2000 Americans per day and collapsing medical systems he has refused to support.
OSHA has been out to lunch during the pandemic
Donald Trump’s super-spreader rallies heading into the Nov. 3, election were egregious acts of idiocy that only helped to worsen the coronavirus crisis nationwide — but his team's dismissing workplace safety and abandon whistleblowers in the era of COVID-19 has been fueling the virus’ spread since the start of the pandemic.
The Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) is supposed to protect workers forced to work while sick or brave enough to blow the whistle on unsafe working conditions. The Trump Administration, however, has defanged and defunded the nearly 50-year-old agency to such a degree that it now takes an average of 279 days for OSHA to wrap up a single whistleblower investigation — leaving workers especially vulnerable.