SoCal Gas agrees to $119.5M settlement for Aliso Canyon methane leak -- biggest in US history
LA Times's TONY BARBOZA: "A $119.5-million settlement announced Wednesday of claims stemming from the Aliso Canyon gas leak marks the biggest action yet to deal with the health effects and climate damage of the largest release of methane in U.S. history."
"The deal between Southern California Gas Co. and city, county and state officials and prosecutors will fund a long-sought health study and numerous environmental measures intended to offset the damage caused by the leak."
Only 18% of Bay Area households could afford a median-priced home
The Chronicle's KATHLEEN PENDER: "Housing affordability in the Bay Area fell sharply in the second quarter, as record home prices and rising mortgage rates more than offset rising incomes."
"In the Bay Area, only 18 percent of households could afford to buy a median-priced single-family home, down from 23 percent from the first quarter and 21 percent in the first quarter of last year, according to a California Association of Realtors quarterly affordability survey released Wednesday."
"The survey calculates the annual household income needed to make the monthly payment (including mortgage, taxes and insurance) on a median-priced single-family home with a 20 percent down payment and a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at prevailing rates. It then estimates what percent of households in an area earn that much. The result is the affordability index."
Trump admin moves to open 1.6M acres for fracking and drilling in California
Sacramento Bee's DALE KASLER: "Ending a five-year moratorium, the Trump administration Wednesday took a first step toward opening 1.6 million acres of California public land to fracking and conventional oil drilling, triggering alarm bells among environmentalists."
"The U.S. Bureau of Land Management said it’s considering new oil and natural gas leases on BLM-managed lands in Fresno, San Luis Obispo and six other San Joaquin Valley and Central Coast counties. Meanwhile, activists in San Luis Obispo are pushing a ballot measure this fall to ban fracking and new oil exploration in the county."
"If BLM goes ahead with the plan, it would mark the first time since 2013 that the agency has issued a new lease for oil or gas exploration in California, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, which immediately vowed to fight the move. California is the nation’s third largest oil-producing state, after Alaska and Texas, with much of the production concentrated in the southern San Joaquin Valley and Southern California."
Life under California's massive blanket of smoke
LA Times's ROBIN ABCARIAN: "In an otherwise deserted part of Clearlake Oaks, which was under a mandatory evacuation order, Nicole Young sat on the porch of a triple-wide lakefront mobile home with a couple of other holdouts."
With Dems' help, DMV dodges wait-time audit
Sacramento Bee's BRYAN ANDERSON: "Despite complaints about escalating wait times for thousands of customers at California’s Department of Motor Vehicles, state lawmakers sided with the Brown administration Wednesday and refused to order an official audit into its management."
"The audit request needed at least eight supporters from the Joint Legislative Audit Committee — four from the Assembly and four from the Senate — for approval. After two hours of debate, the request fell one vote shy. Assembly members approved the request, but three Democratic state senators did not vote, effectively killing the measure."
"Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, has been a vocal critic of the DMV and led the charge supporting the audit. He said Gov. Jerry Brown was to blame for his refusal to chime in on the issue."
Sacramento judge cuts $2M from deputy shooting verdict after dead man's father dies
Sacramento Bee's SAM STANTON: "A federal judge on Wednesday denied Sacramento County’s bid for a new trial to overturn a $6.5 million jury award to the family of a man killed by a sheriff’s deputy in 2012."
"But the judge said he was trimming the award by $2 million because the dead man’s father died during trial and his family was not entitled to that part of the money."
"The order by U.S. District Judge Troy L. Nunley came in a wrongful death case brought by the family of Johnathan Rose, an unarmed 24-year-old schizophrenic man who was shot to death by Deputy David McEntire during a confrontation inside the family’s North Highlands apartment."
An LA sheriff's deputy faked evidence. Here's how his misconduct was kept secret in court for years
LA Times's CORINA KNOLL/BEN POSTON/MAYA LAU: "They were at the tail end of their overnight shift when they spotted Gerald Simmons near a vacant lot in Inglewood."
"The two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies said they saw the 43-year-old toss a plastic baggie of rock cocaine to the ground."
"Their testimony would become the backbone of the 2009 criminal case against Simmons."
Judge says he's likely to dismiss suit accusing SF State of anti-Semitism
The Chronicle's BOB EGELKO: "A federal judge indicated Wednesday he is likely to dismiss a lawsuit by Jewish students at San Francisco State University who accuse school administrators of allowing and encouraging anti-Semitism on campus."
"The suit, filed last year, claimed university policies were responsible for a protest that shut down a campus speech by the mayor of Jerusalem in 2016 and for excluding the Jewish group Hillel from a “Know Your Rights” student fair. The plaintiffs also said anti-Semitic name-calling, graffiti and other slurs on campus over several decades had made Jewish students feel fearful and unwelcome."
"U.S. District Judge William Orrick III had dismissed an earlier version of the suit in March, saying the plaintiffs had offered no evidence of religious hostility by school administrators, but gave the plaintiffs a chance to present more evidence before making a final ruling. At the outset of Tuesday’s hearing, Orrick said he was inclined to dismiss the current suit as well."
Tribune Media terminates $3.9-billion sale to Sinclair Broadcast Group
LA Times's STEPHEN BATTAGLIO: "Sinclair Broadcast Group’s proposed $3.9-billion deal to acquire of Tribune Media is dead."
"Tribune announced Thursday that it is terminating the merger agreement. The companies had the option to kill the sale if it had not closed by Aug. 8. The deal was first announced in May 2017."
"Tribune also said it filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit against Sinclair in Delaware Chancery Court, claiming the company failed to live up to its commitment to make its best effort at getting regulatory approval of the sale."
Trump, Congress try to breathe life into long-delayed criminal justice reform package
McClatchy DC's TONY PUGH: "Jon Ponder has lived both sides of the debate on criminal justice reform."
"After two convictions for robbery, Ponder, 52, left prison a new man in 2009, he said. He was closer to God and had a better understanding of himself and his personal failings."
“I didn’t go to prison,” Ponder said of his transformation behind bars. “I went to Bible college."
OP-ED: Higher Education: Students' basic needs not met
In Capitol Weekly, LANDE AJOSE/SARA GOLDRICK-RAB: "California is recognized as an innovative economic leader boasting access to world class higher education, yet the state is quickly being outpaced in the percentage of students who actually complete their degrees. What drives this chasm between shining opportunity and lackluster outcomes?"
"One reason is as simple as it is startling: Students’ basic needs are not being met. The overwhelming impact of nontuition expenses on completion is under-appreciated. The high cost of housing, textbooks, transportation and household financial responsibilities have deep implications for student success."
Nunes says in audio that Republicans need majority to protect Trump
LA Times's SARAH D WIRE: "Republicans need to keep control of the House to protect President Trump from the Russia investigation, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said at a recent fundraiser, according to an audio recording released Wednesday."
"If Sessions won’t unrecuse and Mueller won’t clear the president, we’re the only ones. Which is really the danger,” Nunes said, referring to Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions and Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel heading the investigation into Russian efforts to sway the 2016 election and possible coordination with the Trump campaign."