July 2012

Supreme Court Rules that Charter Cities may not have to pay Prevailing Wages

Attorney Authors: 

On Monday, July 2, 2012, the California Supreme Court clarified that Charter Cities may exempt themselves from paying prevailing wages on public works projects where the projects are funded with local dollars.  The long anticipated case, State Building and Constructions Trades Council of California, AFL-CIO v. City of Vista, held that the ordinances of charter cities supersede state law with respect to “municipal affairs.”  The majority opined that the construction of a city-operated facility for the benefit of a city’s inhabitants is “quintessentially a municipal affair, as is the control over the expenditure of a city’s own funds.”

Water Contractors Win Latest Round in California’s ESA-Water Wars

In the latest round of the much larger legal battle over the impacts of water projects on protected fish in the California Delta, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2 to 1 decision, rejected a challenge brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council (“NRDC”) to the renewal of 41 long-term Central Valley Project  water contracts by the Bureau of Reclamation (“Bureau”).  See NRDC v. Salazar, 2012 U.S. App. LEXIS 14614 (2012).  The NRDC had argued that the renewal of the contracts would violate the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”) because the water deliveries under the contracts would harm the delta smelt, a small fish endemic to the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta that is listed as endangered under the ESA.  The Court concluded that the NRDC did not have standing, or legal authority, to challenge the two types of contracts because 1) the Bureau had no discretion over the renewal of the Settlement Contracts, so the protections of the ESA were not implicated by those renewals and 2) plaintiffs failed to establish a causal connection between the alleged injury, harm to the delta smelt, and the Bureau’s action in renewing the Delta-Mendota Canal contracts because these contracts contained a shortage provision authorizing the Bureau to take any actions necessary to meet its obligations under ESA, including curtailing water deliveries.

The State Water Board’s Storm Water Summer

Attorney Authors: 

The State Water Board has released two new drafts of general storm water NPDES permits this summer.  

The new draft General Permit for the Discharge of Storm Water Associated with Industrial Activities is a substantial change from the draft released in January 2011.  It has notably removed numeric effluent limitations, largely due to the difficulty of developing technology-based limits for all industrial sectors, but still includes numeric action levels.  In addition, it implements new cost-saving measures for sampling and monitoring. Public comment will be accepted on the draft permit until noon on September 21, 2012, and the State Water Board will hold a public hearing on October 17, 2012 in Sacramento.  

The State Water Board also issued a new draft of its Phase II General Permit for Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s).  Although the deadline for written comments has now passed, the public can still attend a public hearing on August 8, 2012 in Sacramento and provide oral comment.