The Barbed Wire - November 4, 2016

November 4, 2016
Rural Counties Fair Well in Recent Round of CDBG Funding
Covered California Open Enrollment Begins
State Launches Urban Greening Grant Program
Regional Transportation Plan Update
House Oversight Committee Releases Report on WOTUS

Rural Counties Fair Well in Recent Round of CDBG Funding

This week, the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) awarded $28 million in grants to small and rural communities in California.  Of the millions in grants awarded, almost $8.5 million went to RCRC counties directly, with additional funding allocated to cities located in RCRC member counties.  These funds are awarded through HCD and the federal Community Development Grant Block (CDBG) Program for public services, improvements, assistance and general administration costs.

The State CDBG mission is to partner with rural cities and counties to improve the lives of their low-and moderate-income residents through the creation and expansion of community and economic development opportunities in support of livable communities.

A full list of the awards can be accessed here.

Covered California Open Enrollment Begins

The 2017 Open Enrollment period for Covered California began this week.  Several improvements have been made for 2017, including more affordable health plan options, the expansion of coverage areas, lower copays for primary care and emergency room visits, and the addition of two new family dental plans.  Additionally, Covered California enrollees who do not have a primary care physician upon enrollment will automatically be matched to a doctor, who is accepting patients, within 60 days of coverage.  Covered California premiums are expected to rise by more than 13 percent in 2017, which is significantly lower than the national average increase of 25 percent. 

Covered California is the State’s marketplace for the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  Since the exchange launched in 2014, more than 2.8 million Californians have purchased health insurance through Covered California.  Open enrollment will continue through January 31, 2017. 

Additional information on coverage and enrollment options can be accessed here.

State Launches Urban Greening Grant Program

The California Natural Resources Agency has begun taking comments on the State’s new Urban Greening Grant Program, which was established by the Legislature in the 2016-17 State Budget.  The program is a result of a last-minute, unexpected $80 million allocation from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, the repository for the proceeds from the State’s carbon Cap-and-Trade auction. 

The new program focuses on transforming urban settings into greener, more sustainable environments by building and enhancing parks and open space, implementing natural solutions to improve air and water quality and reduce energy consumption, and developing walkable and bike-able trails.  While funds from the program will be awarded on a competitive basis, projects benefiting disadvantaged communities as defined by the California Environmental Protection Agency will be given priority consideration.

Comments on the program are due by December 5, 2016.  Additional information on the program can be accessed here.

Regional Transportation Plan Update

The California Transportation Commission (CTC) hosted a meeting on Wednesday to provide an update on the draft Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) Guidelines currently under development.  The CTC has undertaken a very transparent and collaborative public process, working with local government stakeholders, transportation agencies, and various other transportation stakeholder groups across the state to receive feedback on the draft RTP Guidelines. 

RCRC attended the meeting, and is pleased that the CTC has taken serious efforts to address the vast majority of issues, particularly focused on State and federal mandates, that have been brought forward through the development process.  The CTC staff anticipate a final draft will be issued mid-November, which will address some of the remaining policy concerns and provide further clarification, and they anticipate taking the final RTP Guidelines to the CTC Commissioners for adoption at their meeting in early December 2016.  California’s Regional Transportation Planning Agencies and Metropolitan Planning Organizations are required to adopt an RTP to address transportation issues and assist local and state decision-makers in shaping our state’s transportation infrastructure. 

House Oversight Committee Releases Report on WOTUS

Late last week, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released a Majority staff report detailing findings from its two-year investigation into the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rulemaking process entitled the "Politicization of the Waters of the United States Rulemaking." 

The following summarizes the findings in the report:

  • Concern regarding the agencies having pushed the rule through on an accelerated timeline that appeared to have been motivated by political considerations;
  • The Army Corps of Engineers was cut out of the rule development process;
  • The EPA made no effort to ensure the rule was based on sound science;
  • The agencies did not consider alternatives to the rule, as they are required to do; 
  • The Corps went to unusual lengths to avoid completing an Environmental Impact Statement after Corps experts recommended such analysis was necessary, in violation of NEPA;
  • Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) and EPA intentionally avoided compliance with the Regulatory Flexibility Act and the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act;
  • Public comments were not fully reviewed and considered before agencies drafted the final rule; and,
  • The agencies failed to comply with various rulemaking obligations, including Executive Orders requiring consultation with states and local governments and tribes.

It is unclear at this time what impact this report will have on the status of the rule, which is currently stayed nation-wide by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.  RCRC will continue to monitor and report out the status.

The full report can be accessed here


Trade, Jobs and the Economy

California-Mexico Business Trade and Investment Summit in the North State

RCRC has partnered with GO-Biz, the California Center for International Trade Development, ProMexico and others to host the California-Mexico Business Trade and Investment Summit in the North State.  The summit will highlight the North State’s distinct assets which offer trade and investment opportunities for businesses in both California and Mexico.  Read more

GO-Biz and Community Colleges Announce $844,000 Federal Grant for Trade and Export Initiative

On October 7, 2016, the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) and the California Community College Chancellor’s Office (CCCCO) announced that California received an $844,214 grant from the federal government to help small businesses boost trade and exports abroad.  GO-Biz and the CCCCO will use the funds to help small businesses participate in activities like foreign trade missions and access foreign markets through trade promotion initiatives.  Read more

Statement by Agriculture Secretary Vilsack on How Agricultural Export Surge Boosted GDP Growth

America's agriculture sector remains a shining star in our nation's ability to seize export opportunities.  Economic growth has increased 2.9 percent in the third quarter of 2016, a direct result of the gains made in export sales.  Exports reached 10 percent growth in the quarter, the highest since 2013, with agricultural exports contributing disproportionately to the gains.  Read more

Water, Energy and Infrastructure Funding

EPA Environment Justice Report

Lead pollution and clean drinking water are two of four significant national environmental justice challenges, according to the EPA’s four-year plan for addressing the health of poor communities.  The agency’s goal is that all municipal water systems deliver water that meets federal standards. Currently 26.9 million people get water from systems with at least one violation.

Federal Green Bank Legislation

In September, the Senate companion legislation to the National Green Bank Act of 2016 was introduced by Senator Richard Blumenthal (CT), Senator Chris Murphy (CT), and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (RI).  A few days after introduction, the Yale Center for Business and the Environment hosted a roundtable discussion on the bill with Senators Blumenthal and Murphy.  Connecticut Green Bank President and CEO, Bryan Garcia and CGC Executive Director, Jeff Schub, joined the Senators to lead the discussion.  Read more


National Highway Freight Guidelines Meeting Announced

The California Transportation Commission (CTC) has scheduled the first National Highway Freight Guidelines meeting on November 10 from 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM.  This is the first of a series of public workshops where CTC staff will solicit input on key issues that will help guide investments in corridor-based highway freight projects as directed by the Federal Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST) and Senate Bill 826 (Leno).  California is projected to receive roughly $582 million over the five-year life of the FAST Act, which may also support investments in Critical Rural Freight Corridors.  Additional information can be accessed here.

SGMA Best Management Practices & Draft Guidance Documents Available Online

Click here

State Water Board SED Hearings: Revised Dates

Click here


RCRC members are encouraged to submit comments on regulatory matters to state and federal regulatory bodies, and to provide a copy to RCRC’s Government Affairs staff.  Click “Read More” to access information related to the current status of regulations impacting California’s rural counties. 

General Plan Safety Element Review and Assessment.  The proposed rule establishes a standardized review process for the Board of Forestry review of a draft element or a draft amendment to the safety element of a county or a city’s general plan that contains State Responsibility Area (SRA) or Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone.  Agency: Board of Forestry and Fire Protection (Board) Status: The proposed rule was published October 28, 2016, with comments due by December 13, 2016.  The Board anticipates holding a public hearing on January 24, 2017.  A copy of the proposed rule can be accessed here.  RCRC Comments: Staff is seeking input from member counties.  RCRC Advocate: Mary Pitto

Floodplain Management and Protection of Wetlands.  The proposed rule implements the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (FFRMS) update for a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) assisted or financed project involving new construction or a substantial improvement that is situated in an area subject to floods.  Agency: US Department of Housing and Urban Development.  Status: The proposed rule was published October 28, 2016, with comments due by December 27, 2016.  A copy of the proposed rule can be accessed here.  RCRC Comments: Staff is seeking input from member counties.  RCRC Advocate: Mary Pitto

Discussion Draft of Significant Effects and Hazards in the CEQA Guidelines.  The proposed revisions specifically address the requirement to analyze hazards that a project may risk exacerbating and are in response to the California Supreme Court’s decision in California Building Industry Association v. Bay Area Air Quality Management District (2015) 62 Cal. 4th 369.  Agency: The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) Status: Draft language released October 21, 2016, with comments due by November 21, 2016.  A copy of the draft can be accessed hereRCRC Comments: Staff is seeking input from member counties.  RCRC Advocate: Mary Pitto

Amendments to the Portable Engine ATCM and the PERP.  Revisions to the Portable Engine Airborne Toxic Control Measure (ATCM) and the Statewide Portable Equipment Registration Program Regulation (PERO) are being proposed.  The current ATCM requires subject fleets of engines to meet a series of fleet average emission standards for diesel particulate matter (DPM).  The ATCM fleet standards became effective in 2013 and become more stringent in 2017 and 2020.  Compliance with the future fleet requirements are projected to be very difficult.  The proposed amendments include alternatives to the current fleet averages to protect public health while considering economic impacts to regulated fleets.  Agency: Air Resources Board (ARB) Status: Draft regulations are dated September 9, 2016, with a public workshop to be held on November 10, 2016.  These proposed regulations are anticipated to be released in early 2017, and considered at the March 2017 ARB public meeting.  The public workshop notice and draft regulations can be accessed hereRCRC Comments: Staff is seeking input from member counties.  RCRC Advocate: Mary Pitto

California Carpet Stewardship Plan 2017-2021.  The Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE) has submitted a new Carpet Stewardship Plan (Plan) for approval.  The purpose of the Plan is to increase the amount of postconsumer carpet diverted from landfills through recycling into secondary products.  Agency: CalRecycle Status: Report posted October 18, 2016, with public comments due November 14, 2016.  This new Plan will be considered at the December 20, 2016 CalRecycle public meeting.  RCRC Comments: Staff is seeking input from member counties.  The Plan can be accessed hereRCRC Advocate: Mary Pitto

Working Draft 2017 CVFPP Update.  The Working Draft 2017 Central Valley Flood Protection Plan (CVFPP) Update has been released for initial public review.  First adopted in 2012, the CVFPP guides the State’s participation in the managing flood risk in areas protected by the State Plan of Flood Control.  The Update will further refine the State Systemwide Investment Approach (SSIA) to support flood risk management actions locally, regionally, and systemwide.  Agency: Department of Water Resources (DWR) Status: The Working Draft was released on October 28, 2016 with public comments due November 28, 2016.  The Working Draft 2017 CVFPP Update can be accessed here.  RCRC Comments: Staff is seeking input from member counties.  RCRC Advocate: Mary Pitto

Proposed Pesticide Use Near School Sites Regulation.  While current regulatory requirements for pesticide applications near schools vary from county to county, the proposed regulation will provide minimum statewide standards for all agricultural pesticide applications near public K-12 schools and child day care facilities.  The proposed regulation will require growers to notify public K-12 schools, child day care facilities, and County Agricultural Commissioners when certain pesticide applications made for the production of an agricultural commodity near a school site are planned in the coming year, and again a few days prior to the applications.  In addition, certain pesticide applications near these school sites will be prohibited at certain times.  Agency: Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) Status: Proposed regulations were released in September 2016, with public comments now due December 9, 2016.  There are three public hearings scheduled for November 15, 16, and December 9, 2016 in Oxnard, Tulare, and Salinas, respectively.  The public notice with public hearing time and location details and the draft regulations can be accessed hereRCRC Comments: Staff is seeking input from member counties.  RCRC Advocate: Mary Pitto