Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

Nits picked; cap-and-trade, marine protected areas to take effect

Diesel smoke spews from a truck as morning commuters travel the 210 freeway on December 1, 2009 near Pasadena, California.
Diesel smoke spews from a truck as morning commuters travel the 210 freeway on December 1, 2009 near Pasadena, California.
David McNew/Getty Images

I was busy contemplating bag bans and renewable energy today, but you know who's been really busy? The state's Office of Administrative Law. They're the ones who take the finest tooth comb the law allows and pick the nits out of the regulations approved and proposed by the public, by commissions, by state boards, and other authorities. And they picked all the nits out of two big sets of laws we're interested in. (Administrative law deserves better than a metaphor related to lice; it's tough work, inglorious but necessary. I love admin law, and lack the discipline for it.)

One new set of regulations emerges for the South Coast region of California under the Marine Life Protection Act. A lengthy, multi-year process has, finally, culminated in a set of closures in state waters between Point Concepcion and the Mexican border. According to a release from the Department of Fish and Game:

Wardens will take appropriate enforcement actions starting on that day which could include education, warning, citation or arrest depending on the violation. In MPAs where commercial lobster fishing will be prohibited, commercial lobster traps may remain in the water until Jan. 6 if the door or doors to such traps are wired open, the trap is unbaited, the buoy remains at the surface of the ocean and no attempt is made to take spiny lobsters.

Fun for me will be a radio story soon. These marine spatial planning regulations bounced back once from the Office of Administrative Law, temporarily raising hopes for fishermen who hoped they'd take effect even later than January 1. When I last spoke to someone in the OAL, they were confident the kinks would get worked out of the plans. And so they have.

The second is the state's cap and trade program, administered through the California Air Resources Board. In a set of regulations set to go live January 1, California becomes for reals the first state to adopt a carbon trading scheme. (The big public vote having been in October.) As recently as last week in South Africa, the existence of California's market in the absence of a coherent U.S. policy put the state square in a global conversation about forestry offsets

It's been a roller coaster year for each of these sets of regulations. Both of these laws have already spurred some lawsuits, even just in the development phase. It's not preposterous to wonder if the lawyers are gonna get another bite at them.