Friday Must Reads: Assembly Okays Plastic Bag Ban; EPA Says Brown’s Water Tunnels Are Illegal


Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. In a surprise development, the state Assembly approved legislation that would ban single-use plastic bags in California and the bill is expected to be approved by the state Senate and by Governor Jerry Brown, the Mercury News$ reports. The plastic bag industry had spent huge sums on lobbying against the bill, but Assembly members who had previously voted against the bag ban reversed their positions after talking to environmentalists about the benefits of it.

2. The US Environmental Protection Agency delivered a substantial blow to Governor Brown’s controversial plan to build two giant water tunnels underneath the fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin River, saying the project would violate federal law, the SacBee$ reports. The EPA said the tunnels would siphon off too much freshwater, thereby making the delta too salty for many fish species. The EPA’s conclusion mirrors reports on the tunnels plan from environmental groups. Earlier this week, the Brown administration said it was delaying the tunnels project in order to further study its environmental impacts.

3. The US Bureau of Land Management has concluded that fracking in California is safe for the environment, and has decided to reissue leases to oil companies to frack on federal land, the LA Times$ reports. But environmental groups are challenging the bureau’s conclusions, pointing out that they were based on partial data, because oil companies refuse to disclose exactly what chemicals they use in fracking.

4. Caltrans has nearly burned through its $900 million reserve for the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge because of the project’s numerous problems, the Chron reports.

5. And a new school bus vendor — First Student — for Oakland public schools failed to pick up hundreds special education students this week because it was unprepared to handle the $8 million a year job, the Trib$ reports.