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COURT RULES IN STATE'S FAVOR CITIES MUST OBEY STORM-WATER RULES.

Byline: JUDY O'ROURKE Staff Writer

A state appeals court has ruled that Santa Clarita and other cities must follow the state's strict rules for storm-water runoff, despite the cities' claims that the standards are excessive.

The justices' recent 3-0 decision rejected all but one of the cities' many claims, but does require the Regional Water Quality Control Board to perform some environmental review.

``This decision upholds the principle that results matter,'' said attorney David Beckman, who represented the National Resources Defense Council, which joined with the water agencies. ``The success of the regulatory program needs to be measured in clean water at the beach.''

Storm-drain runoff is a major cause of water pollution at the beach and in other waterways. About 60 million people visit county beaches each year and urban runoff is the No. 1 source of water pollution, Beckman said.

Santa Clarita was among 32 cities in the county that appealed a lower court ruling issued in 2005 that favored state and regional water agencies. Heal the Bay and the NRDC sided with the California State Water Resources Control Board in the matter.

The regional water board said it is not asking cities to follow rules that are stronger than federal ones, but if it is, it has the power to do so. The court agreed.

Santa Clarita was concerned that the board was trying to interfere with local land-use authority and impose practices that are economically and practically impossible.

``We're pleased that the regional board will have to conduct environmental review, but disappointed (they) will be able to acquire more than is mandated under the federal law,'' said Amy Morgan, an attorney for Santa Clarita, the City of Industry and Torrance. ``It's hard to regulate what goes into the storm drain because the city really doesn't have control over it.''

Construction industry interests joined with the city and the county.

The case has been ongoing for years and may outlive the five-year permit it revolves around, which expires in December. A trial court will have to consider whether the environmental review still needs to be done. The decision will set a precedent.

``Local cities do not like being told what to do,'' Beckman said. ``They're used to being regulators, not the regulated. Local cities preferred previous permits that merely required them to push paper.''

judy.orourke@dailynews.com

(661) 257-5255
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 11, 2006
Words:393
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