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Drought, environmental law and issues of class

In recent weeks, we have been writing about California’s current dramatic drought conditions. The ways in which both state and federal legislators are attempting to grapple with this drought and the threat of future droughts are impacting the evolution of environmental law and compliance expectations related to current environmental regulations.

At this point, Forbes is reporting that two predominant views are influencing the ways in which this drought is being dealt with and future droughts are being prepared for. To begin, there is the prevailing view taken by a number of farming interests in California’s Central Valley. These interests are pushing for the state to provide funds so that increased water storage may be constructed.

However, the other prevailing view holds that greenhouse gas emission regulation and conservation efforts are far more pressing than potentially unjustifiable increased water storage would be.

At the heart of these opposing viewpoints are strong beliefs about environmentalism, agricultural sustainability and profit. In addition, there are arguments to be made about how the various economic classes in California are willing to respond to the drought. On the one hand, costal residents may view the high price of water as simply another living expense to be endured, while inland residents suffer a threat of having their livelihoods taken away if their farmlands are not granted enough access to water.

As California’s water crisis drags on, the Golden State is likely to experience a significant shift in the environmental laws affecting water consumption inland and potentially throughout the state. It is important for any business affected by these laws to remain informed about this issue as compliance issues and regulations generally may change dramatically as this issue is sorted out.

Source: Forbes, “Drought Stokes California's Class War,” Joel Kotkin, March 8, 2014

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