Part of the Bay Area News Group

Archive for February, 2008

EPA finalizes nonsensical decision on California waiver

This just in from Friends of the Earth:

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today formally rejected California’s waiver request for its landmark global warming tailpipe pollution law.

Friends of the Earth West Coast Program Director Danielle Fugere responded with the following statement:
“Today the Bush administration has chosen to stand with polluters instead of the planet in rejecting California’s waiver request to limit greenhouse gas pollution from vehicles.

Nothing in the document released today justifies EPA’s decision — in fact, it confirms recent reports that the denial was a political decision which contradicts the professional advice of EPA scientists and staff. The document released today highlights the threat caused by global warming and underscores the need for states to act on their own to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Friends of the Earth played a key role in authoring the California law in question and we will continue to fight on behalf of its implementation.”

More on this at: http://www.mercurynews.com/news/ci_8406882

Posted on Friday, February 29th, 2008
Under: Pollinators | No Comments »

PETA wants to put giant “GO VEG” sign on Hollywood mountain

Animal rights activists want their own giant mountainside sign above Hollywood reading “GO VEG.”

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals leaders say they hope to rent Cahuenga Peak west of the big HOLLYWOOD sign so they can erect their own 45-foot tall letters promoting “healthy eating and compassion for animals.”

The 138-acre Cahuenga Peak is currently listed for sale at $22 million, but PETA says it can’t afford to buy the property. Instead, PETA wants to rent it for the “GO VEG” sign until the land is sold.

What? PETA won’t spend a mere $22 million for a giant GO VEG sign? I thought they were serious about this stuff.

Maybe they’ll start a new fad. You know, come up with new ways to fill all those wasted open spaces with more important stuff to look at besides the same old beautiful vistas, acres of lovely oak woodland and miles and miles of soft rolling hills that change from green to brown with the seasons.

Best of all, those HUGE NEW SIGNS will also provide tons of new nooks and crannies for pigeons to build their nests and roost.

And people call it Visual Pollution. Silly gooses.

Just think of the possibilities:

GO VEG (Go Beef, Go Fish, Go Beets)

GET OUT OF (Iraq, Vietnam, Washington D.C.) NOW!

VOTE FOR (Obama, Hilary, Gary)

SUPPORT THE RIGHT TO ARM (bears, wolves, whales, condors)

Anyone have anything to add to this GIANT SIGN MADNESS? /Gary

Posted on Friday, February 29th, 2008
Under: Open space, PETA, Visual Pollution | No Comments »

Department of Interior sued to keep gray wolves on endangered list

A coalition of environmental and animal rights groups are challenging the federal government’s removal of gray wolves in the Northern Rockies from the endangered species list.

They say the estimated 1,500 wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming are too few to ensure the species survival — particularly given that the three states intend to sponsor wolf hunts beginning this fall.

State officials have pledged to keep wolves on the landscape. But they want to let hunters kill possibly hundreds of wolves, in part to reduce conflicts with livestock and big game. Oh, yes, and also because they want to sell hunting licenses and bring more revenue into the states.

Eleven groups, including the Sierra Club and the Humane Society of the United States, notified the Department of Interior Wednesday (Feb. 27) that they plan to sue the agency in federal court after 60 days. That’s a required first step under the Endangered Species Act.

As Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

Hang in there, wolves. Have a good howl on us. /Gary

Posted on Thursday, February 28th, 2008
Under: Endangered species, Wolves | No Comments »

Alaska town sues oil & energy companies for destruction caused by global warming

Case seeks relocation of Native Alaskan village to protect it against total destruction.

I found the following press release in an e-mail from Matt Pawa, the main attorney for the case, when I got to work this morning:

“FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Feb. 26, 2008:
“KIVALINA, Alaska — Kivalina, a tiny and impoverished Alaskan village of Inupiat Eskimos located in the Arctic Circle, has today filed a lawsuit against industrial corporations that emit large quantities of greenhouse gases.

“Kivalina faces imminent destruction from global warming due to the melting of sea ice that formerly protected the village from coastal storms during the fall and winter. The diminished sea ice due to global warming has caused a massive erosion problem that threatens the village’s existence and urgently requires the village be relocated.

“The native Village of Kivalina, which is a federally recognized Indian Tribe, and the City of Kivalina, which is an Alaskan municipality, filed the lawsuit today in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, located in San Francisco. They filed the case on their own behalf and on behalf of all tribal members, against defendants ExxonMobil Corp., Peabody Energy Corp., Southern Company, American Electric Power Co., Duke Energy Co., Chevron Corp., and Shell Oil Co., among others.

“In total there are nine oil company defendants, 14 electric power company defendants and one coal company defendant. The suit claims damages due to the defendant companies’ contributions to global warming and invokes the federal common law of public nuisance. The suit also alleges a conspiracy by some defendants to mislead the public regarding the causes and consequences of global warming. The residents of Kivalina are among the nation’s poorest people.

“Colleen Swan, Tribal Administrator of the Native Village of Kivalina, said ‘The campaign of deception and denial about global warming must stop.’ She added, ‘Global warming and its effects are a reality we have to deal with. Peoples’ lives are in danger because of it.’ Swan noted that “official reports from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Government Accountability Office have found that Kivalina is directly harmed by global warming and must relocate at an expense that could cost $400 million or more.’

“‘We need to relocate now before we lose lives,’ echoed Janet Mitchell, City Administrator for the City of Kivalina. ‘We are seeing accelerated erosion because of the loss of sea ice. We normally have ice starting in October, but now we have open water even into December so our island is not protected from the storms.’

“The village is represented in the case by two non-profit legal organizations and six law firms.”

When my wife Lois and I were in Alaska last year, we visited Prudhoe Bay, which is the start of the big oil pipeline about 300 miles above the Arctic Circle. While there, a young Eskimo woman who worked there told us her village was being washed away because the ice pack around it was melting. I wonder if Kivalina was the village she was talking about? Interesting.

Are we entering the next phase of global warming — i.e. lawsuits? What do you think? Things definitely appear to be heating up. /Gary

Posted on Wednesday, February 27th, 2008
Under: Alaska, Eskimo, Global warming | No Comments »

San Francisco Bay septic tank gets ANOTHER Marin County sewage spill

Once again, for the 5th time in 31 days, Marin County has flushed more raw sewage into San Francisco Bay.

That averages out to be approximately 1,001,550 gallons of raw sewage dumped into the Bay every 6 days by Marin County.

This latest dump of crap into our Bay came from the smelly little Marin city of San Rafael. According to the San Rafael Sanitation District, 6,000 gallons of raw sewage mixed with storm water spilled at around 11 a.m. Sunday (Feb. 24) at Fifth Avenue and Hetherton Street … apparently because residents have been flushing industrial-strength paper towels down their toilets instead of disposing of them in the garbage.

According to the Sanitation District, the towels, which don’t readily dissolve in water, supposedly got caught in tree roots, causing sewage to back up in a 15-inch pipe. The pipe overflowed and “was the district’s worst ever spill and the first one to spill into a ditch that led to the San Rafael Canal and San Pablo Bay.”

Tree roots in sewer pipes, eh?

It’s not as if our poor Bay hasn’t had enough pollution problems in the last few months, starting with 50,000-plus gallons of toxic fuel oil from the ship that rammed the Bay Bridge on Nov. 7.

Here’s the latest Marin Muck & Mire Score for 2008:

** 5 million-plus gallons of sewage from the Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin on Jan. 25 and on Jan. 31.

** Another 1,500 gallons of raw sewage from Marin’s San Quentin Prison on Feb. 14.

** Another 250 gallons of raw sewage from the North Marin Water District on Feb. 18.

** And now another 6,000 gallons of raw sewage and storm water from the San Rafael Sanitation District.

And these are just the spills we KNOW about.

What about the other cities and counties that border San Francisco Bay? Anyone know what these guys have been flushing into the San Francisco Bay Septic Tank since the first of the year? Please let me know.

I’m sure there are a lot of sick and dying aquatic birds, marine mammals, fish, crabs, shellfish and other barely living creatures that would also like to have that information before they die.

Andy Preston, administrator of the San Rafael Sanitation District, was quoted by Bay City News Service as saying a test for fecal coliform taken 24 hours after the spill showed an “acceptable” level for human contact.

That’s part of the problem right there — having “acceptable” levels for all the crap that gets dumped into the Bay.

And by the way, anyone know what the “acceptable” levels are for aquatic wildlife? Just kidding. Of course you don’t.

How about a new rule that says NO levels of fecal coliform are “acceptable” for humans and wildlife?

Even better … how about NO MORE SEWAGE SPILLS FROM MARIN COUNTY … for starters?

Dear San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board:

Anybody out there? /Gary

Posted on Tuesday, February 26th, 2008
Under: Birds, Fish, Sewage spills, Wildlife | No Comments »

Endangered birds or feral cats? Which do we save?

Only 115 pairs of the endangered piping plover are left on Cape May, New Jersey beaches. They nest there during the summer. Because they nest on the ground, they are vulnerable to predators, including wild house cats, foxes and other animals.

Cape May’s beaches also have a population of feral cats that are being cared for by local volunteers in a trap, neuter and release program.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service originally wanted the feral cat colonies moved back a mile from the beach to keep the cats from injuring or killing the birds. Cat lovers said this would have meant eliminating all feral cats from Cape May and they dug in their heels and resisted. This led to a compromise proposal to move the cat colonies at least 1,000 feet from the beach, and a half-mile from areas already identified as plover nesting grounds.

The Fish and Wildlife Service said it was skeptical of the compromise and is considering withholding millions of dollars in federal sand replenishment funds for the beach. This has the town in a huge tizzy … pitting the local bird lovers against the local cat lovers against the Cape May City Council.

The plovers start returning to Cape May to nest around March 15, so that doesn’t leave much time to decide what to do.

Residents of the city are split down the middle on this. The city received 600 e-mails in one day from local cat lovers against moving the cats. But the New Jersey Audubon Society is equally distressed. Cape May is one of the prime bird-watching spots in all of North America. The World Series of Birding is held there every year.

Similar debates are being held in many communities across the country. Cat lovers in Benicia, California, want to feed feral cat colonies that live in local marshes around the city to keep them from starving to death. Members of the local Audubon Society would prefer that they didn’t because they kill wild birds and other wildlife.

How does this get resolved? Should birds die so that cats might live? Or vice versa? Is there a compromise solution that would make both sides happy and keep cats AND birds alive?

Any ideas?

Posted on Monday, February 25th, 2008
Under: Birds, Cats, Endangered species | No Comments »

Wolves removed from endangered list and will now be hunted

This information has been compiled from Associated Press stories. Sarcastic asides are mine.

Gray wolves in the Northern Rockies will be removed from the endangered species list, following a 13-year restoration effort that helped the animal’s population soar, federal officials said Thursday. An estimated 1,500 wolves now roam Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

The feds giveth … and the feds taketh away.

“Gray wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains are thriving and no longer require the protection of the Endangered Species Act,” said Interior Deputy Secretary Lynn Scarlett. “The wolf’s recovery in the Northern Rocky Mountains is a conservation success story.”

The restoration effort, however, has been unpopular with ranchers and many others in the three states since it began in the mid-1990s, and today some state leaders want the population thinned significantly. The states could allow hunters to target the animals as soon as this fall. That angers environmental groups, which plan to sue over the delisting and say it’s too soon to remove federal protection.

“The enduring hostility to wolves still exists,” said Earthjustice attorney Doug Honnold, who is preparing the lawsuit. “We’re going to have hundreds of wolves killed under state management. It’s a sad day for our wolves.”

Management … a.k.a. hunting.

Wildlife agencies in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming have already begun crafting rules for wolf hunts. Officials say the hunts will be similar to those for other big game species such as mountain lions and black bears.

Oh, boy … new hunting revenue for the states. That’s why they helped the wolf population to recover, right?

Here are some reactions to the decision to remove wolves from the endangered species list, also compiled from the Associated Press:

** “This announcement is great news. It signals that the state’s work has paid off and we’re ready to assume the full responsibilities of managing wolves.” (Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal)

** “Far more wolves are needed before the species can be considered truly recovered.” (Louisa Wilcox, senior wildlife advocate for Natural Resources Defense Council)

** “We reached the delisting goals in the recovery plan years ago, and Idaho is ready to manage wolves. Unfortunately, if history is a guide, radical preservationists will sue the federal government over this decision.” ( U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho)

** “Unfortunately, the current state plans seem designed to lead only to the dramatic decline and need for quick relisting of the wolf. That’s not in anyone’s best interest.” (Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife)

So how do you feel about wolves being taken off the endangered species list so they can be managed (hunted)? Please add your comments below. /Gary

You’ll find more details on the wolf delisting at http://www.defenders.org/newsroom/press_releases_folder/2008/02_21_2008_wolves_lose_protection_under_endangered_species_act.php

Posted on Friday, February 22nd, 2008
Under: Animal Activists, Animal Politics, Endangered species, Hunting, Wolves | No Comments »

San Francisco Zoo tigers are back … new Marin sewage spill

Big cats at the S.F. Zoo are back on view to the public today for the first time since an escaped tiger killed a teenager and mauled his two friends on Christmas Day. The big cat grotto now has raised walls and glass barriers with electrified wires added to prevent another escape.

Oh boy, who wants to go to the zoo with me today and stand in front of the big cat grotto to see if the new walls work?

There’s also ANOTHER untreated sewage spill in Marin County that flowed into the ocean from a damaged pipeline on Monday, so say North Marin Water District officials. This time it’s only a piddling 250-gallon spill so hopefully it won’t kill too many birds or affect any humans.

San Francisco Bay and nearby ocean waters have experienced a FLOOD of pollution in the last few months:

** 50,000-plus gallons of toxic fuel oil from the ship that hit the Bay Bridge on Nov. 7.

** 5 million-plus gallons of sewage from the Sewerage Agency of Southern Marin on Jan. 25 and on Jan. 31.

** Another 1,500 gallons of raw sewage from Marin’s San Quentin Prison on Feb. 14.

** Another 250 gallons of raw sewage from the North Marin Water District on Feb. 18.

And these are just the spills we KNOW about.

Warning signs have been posted and I definitely wouldn’t go wading on Dillon Beach until the signs say it’s OK.

Too bad the birds and other wild creatures can’t read. /Gary

Posted on Thursday, February 21st, 2008
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Comments on the first Earth Day by President Nixon’s Attorney General John Mitchell

Brian Murphy sent me this interesting quote this morning:

“The conservation movement is a breeding ground of Communists and other subversives. We intend to clean them out even if it means rounding up every bird watcher in the country!”
— Attorney General John Mitchell, under Nixon, (1969-1972) during the first Earth Day 1970

Things have changed a little bit since then.
— Brian Murphy, Walnut Creek

Have they? /Gary

Posted on Wednesday, February 20th, 2008
Under: Animal Politics, Bird Watching, Conservation, Earth Day | No Comments »

Red Cross honors 200-lb. English mastiff for donating blood 20 times

A 2-year-old mastiff named Lurch will receive the Livingston County Michigan Red Cross chapter’s “Pet’s Best Friend” award.

Lurch’s owner, Joni Melvin-Thiede, said Lurch donates blood for other canines about once every four weeks.

“We’re honoring Lurch because he’s actually donated blood,” Red Cross executive director Diane Serra said.

Lurch must have been really surprised to hear he was getting this award. It probably never crossed his mind that he was going to get honored just because he decided to give blood. Giving blood is a dog’s civic duty, right?

Bull mastiffs are very civic minded. /Gary

SPEAKING OF DOGS:
Be REALLY careful when you’re walking your dog along California (and other) beaches. Two women have been swept off Sonoma County coastlines and drowned in just over a month while trying to save their dogs that got caught in the surf.

“Pets are to be on leash and under control at all times while on the beach in all park areas along the coast,” said Sonoma County Sheriff’s Lt. Scott Dunn. “Adhering to this simple regulation would have prevented these tragedies.”

Posted on Tuesday, February 19th, 2008
Under: dogs | No Comments »