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‘Happy Fracking Day’ with Brown & Newsom

An El Dorado Hills artist who has a sort of personal history with Gov. Jerry Brown has once again immortalized him in sculpture – this time, taking him to task for letting oil and gas “fracking” proceed in the Golden State.

Laura Harling’s “Happy Fracking Day” sculpture won an Award of Merit in fine art at the California State Fair, where it’s on display.

(Click to enlarge)
Happy Fracking Day

The sculpture, 15¼” high and wide, 10½” deep, is described thusly on the artist’s website: “California Governor Jerry Brown and Lt Gov Gaven Newsom celebrate fracking. Only the 1% were invited to the party.”

Fracking Cake

Harling, 67, a Green Party member, said Monday she always been interested in politics and “the long history of environmental destruction by industry is impossible to overlook.

“When I first learned about fracking, it reminded me of the damage caused by hydraulic mining and gold dredging in my neighborhood,” she said. “I believe that fracking will be considered an even worse mistake in the future. I seem to find no end of ideas for my satiric sculptures by following the money.”

Harling – whom the Chronicle reported had worked way back in the day as a state janitor tasked with cleaning a much younger Gov. Jerry Brown’s apartment – has drawn inspiration from Brown and Newsom for past works as well.

It takes two to tango

Posted on Monday, July 14th, 2014
Under: Environment, Gavin Newsom, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Lt. Governor | 1 Comment »

EPA proposal on coal power plants creates hot air

Opinions and rhetoric were breaking largely among the usual party lines Monday after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced its plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal plants by nearly a third by 2030, compared with 2005 levels.

From House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

John Boehner“The president’s plan is nuts, there’s really no more succinct way to describe it. Americans are still asking ‘where are the jobs?’ and here he is proposing rules to ship jobs overseas for years to come. Americans are already paying more for everything and here he is condemning them to higher bills and lower incomes long after he leaves office.

“In many ways, this national energy tax is actually worse than the scheme Americans rejected four years ago. While the president may have kept his promise to make prices ‘skyrocket,’ it doesn’t have to be inevitable. The House has already passed legislation to prevent these rules from taking effect without the approval of the people’s representatives. The question now is: will Senate Democrats listen to the American people and stop this disaster or will they back the president all the way?”

From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

Nancy Pelosi“Climate change is one of the most pressing dangers facing us today. This accelerating crisis threatens our coasts, our crops and our communities – and its damaging and destabilizing effects are already being felt across our nation and around the world.

“The destructive effect of unrestrained carbon pollution is felt not only in rising temperatures and increased, more powerful natural disasters, but also in higher asthma rates in our children. We already restrict mercury and arsenic pollution – it’s time we did the same for toxic carbon pollution. These new standards will strengthen public health, create new jobs, spur innovation and lower electricity rates.

“Like the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act, these actions by the Administration send a resounding message to the world that the United States is serious about dealing with climate change. The Clean Air Act is an appropriate, bipartisan approach to protect people from pollution, and today’s standards build on a foundation of decades of bipartisan laws, including the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, signed by President Bush.

“We have a moral obligation to act to preserve the beauty of God’s creation for future generations. With these flexible plans to cut carbon pollution, our nation is taking a bold and serious step towards securing a sustainable future for all of us.”

Lots more from familiar California and Bay Area figures, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, June 2nd, 2014
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Boxer, economy, energy, Environment, George Miller, Global warming, John Boehner, Kevin McCarthy, Mike Honda, Nancy Pelosi, Obama presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 8 Comments »

Steyer urges Brown to convene energy summit

San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer has written a letter urging Gov. Jerry Brown to convene a “California Energy Summit” with the oil industry, clean energy companies, environmentalists and citizens to discuss things like a halt to fracking and levying an oil extraction tax.

The governor won’t commit.

“We haven’t received the letter yet, but the governor regularly speaks with Tom on climate change issues, as he does with a diverse group of academic, industry and environmental leaders,” Brown spokesman Evan Westrup said Thursday. “We look forward to continuing those discussions.”

Steyer – a former hedge-fund manager who has created NextGen Climate as a vehicle to influence the climate-change debate – wrote to Brown on Wednesday citing the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s 96-percent downgrade in its estimate of how much oil current technology can recover from the Monterey Shale.

“In a single but far-reaching action, the federal government has completely dispelled the economic illusion hanging over the ongoing debate over new oil exploration and extraction in the State of California,” Steyer wrote. “With this new report, the Monterey Shale mirage is gone. Now, it is time to hit the reset button, call Big Oil’s bluff and force them to the table in an effort to finally give Californians a Fair Shake.”

Steyer wrote that he knows Brown has “long acknowledged that climate change is a real threat to California and our world. As recently as this week, you rightfully stated that California is ‘the epicenter of climate change.’”

“California deserves a Fair Shake for our climate, for our economy and for our families,” he wrote. “Our state currently gives Big Oil a unique $2 billion tax subsidy that no other state in the country offers. This must stop.”

Steyer is championing a movement to enact an oil extraction tax; California is the nation’s only oil-producing state that doesn’t charge such a tax.

“And local California communities deserve a guarantee that Big Oil cannot rush to extract oil through fracking or other experimental drilling methods until oil companies have proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, that they have the toughest, safest and most rigorous safeguards in place to ensure that California’s local communities don’t suffer for the sake of Big Oil’s bottom line,” Steyer wrote.

Brown in May 2013 said “the fossil fuel deposits in California are incredible, the potential is extraordinary.” Environmental groups urged Brown to support a fracking moratorium, but the governor resisted. In September, he signed a law creating new fracking regulations, including a permitting process, notification of neighbors, public disclosure of chemicals used and groundwater- and air-quality monitoring.

State Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, is carrying a moratorium bill now, but the Senate Appropriations Committee voted unanimously Monday to put SB 1132 into the suspense file – essentially putting it on indefinite hold. Mitchell issued a statement Thursday morning saying the new EIA report means “there’s no ocean of black gold that fracking is going to release tomorrow, leaving California awash in profits and jobs. We have the time, the need and, in SB 1132, the mandate to halt fracking while we determine if and how it can be done safely in California. Let’s pass the bill and halt fracking until due diligence can assure us it won’t put workers and residents in danger.”

Steyer concluded his letter to Brown by arguing the new facts “present an opportunity to hold an honest conversation about climate change and oil extraction in California.”

“Now is the time to act, and I urge you to convene stakeholders—from the oil industry and the clean energy, environmental and scientific communities, as well as local citizens — for an historic California Energy Summit to make sure that California gets a Fair Shake,” he wrote.

Posted on Thursday, May 22nd, 2014
Under: Environment, Global warming, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown | 2 Comments »

Tom Steyer targets senate, gov races in 7 states

San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer will focus his anti-climate-change political activism this year on races in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Maine, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, he announced Thursday.

Tom SteyerSteyer said his NextGen Climate organization will support candidates who have the courage to tackle climate change as a key issue.

“The debate on climate change is settled: it is here, it is human-caused, and it is already having a devastating impact on our communities, but we need to accelerate the level of political support to address this critical issue before it’s too late,” he said in a news reelase. “This means making politicians feel the heat—in their campaign coffers and at the polls.”

The release said NextGen Climate will “use climate as a wedge issue, both to motivate voter turnout with the rising electorate and to demonstrate that being anti-science will hurt our opponents among persuadable voters.” That will include criticizing policy positions that benefit fossil fuels and candidates who take money from the oil and coal industries.

So NextGen Climate intends to be active in:

  • Colorado, where U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner – “a science denier – has taken hundreds of thousands in donations from fossil fuel companies while voting for their interests;”
  • Florida, where incumbent Gov, Rick Scott “is a climate denier and has decimated efforts to ‘preserve environmentally sensitive land;’”
  • Iowa, where U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst “has ‘not seen proven proof ‘ that climate change ‘is entirely man-made’ and former energy CEO Mark Jacobs is ‘not convinced that man-made causes are causing’ climate change;”
  • Maine, where incumbent Gov. Paul LePage “denies that climate change is a threat, rather saying it offers Maine ‘a lot of opportunities;’”
  • Michigan, where U.S. Senate candidate Terry Lynn Land “has the support of the Koch Brothers who are spending millions on her race and have threatened the state’s water and air quality with their dirty energy stockpiles;”
  • New Hampshire, where U.S. Senate candidate Scott Brown “looks out for the Koch Brothers and his Big Oil buddies, taking their campaign dollars and voting to protect $24 billion in oil subsidies;” and
  • Pennsylvania, where Governor Tom Corbett “favors powerful corporate energy executives over Pennsylvania families.”
  • “Climate change will not be solved by easy answers or quick fixes, but the path forward is simple,” said Steyer. “Our country must have the courage to solve our climate crisis for the sake of the next generation.”

    Posted on Thursday, May 22nd, 2014
    Under: Environment, Global warming, U.S. Senate | 2 Comments »

    Jerry Brown will lead trade mission to Mexico

    Gov. Jerry Brown will lead a trade and investment mission to Mexico – California’s largest export market – in the last week of July, he announced Tuesday.

    California’s neighbor has a role to play in the Golden State’s push to address its energy and environmental needs, Brown had said in his State of the State address in January.

    “Reducing our oil consumption, two-thirds of which is imported by ships and tank cars, will take time, breakthrough technologies and steadfast commitment. It will also require that the countries which burn the most fossil fuel join with us,” he said at the time. “We’ve started building those partnerships with other states and countries like China. We will go to Mexico next. California can’t do this alone.”

    A delegation of California government, business, economic development, investment and policy leaders will join Brown on this mission, which is being organized by the California Chamber of Commerce. The focus will be on boosting direct investment in the state, expanding bilateral economic and environmental cooperation, and connecting California businesses with new opportunities and partnerships.

    Brown met last month with Mexican consuls general from cities across California.

    The governor one year ago led a similar mission to China, during which he met with government leaders including China Premier Li Keqiang, opened the California-China Office of Trade and Investment in Shanghai and signed the first economic and environmental agreements ever between a subnational entity and Chinese Ministries. Brown later last year met with China’s President Xi Jinping in California to sign a climate-change pact; he also has signed pacts in the past year with leaders from Canada, Israel and Peru to combat climate change, strengthen economic ties and cooperate on research.

    Posted on Tuesday, April 29th, 2014
    Under: economy, energy, Environment, Gov. Jerry Brown, International politics, Jerry Brown | No Comments »

    Obama to add Stornetta Lands to monument

    President Barack Obama on Tuesday will expand the California Coastal National Monument to include the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands, a White House official said Saturday.

    Stornetta mapCalifornia’s U.S. Senators and two congressmen have been pushing hard for this, and wrote to the president a year ago to urge his action. The White House said Obama will make the move as part of his State of the Union pledge to “use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations.”

    President Bill Clinton established the California Coastal National Monument in 2000 to protect the area’s scientifically valuable coastal resources, including geologic formations that offer unique habitats for breeding seabirds, marine mammals, and other native species.

    Obama will be adding about 1,665 acres of federal lands located on California’s Mendocino County coast, just north of the Point Arena.

    The area is an economic engine for the local community, driving tourism and offering outdoor recreation opportunities; a Bureau of Land Management report estimates that outdoor recreation on public lands in California contributed nearly $900 million to the economy in 2012. But it also will offer scientific opportunities for geologists, archeologists, historians, and biologists, as well as recreational opportunities.

    U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein as well as Reps. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, and Mike Thompson, D-Napa, have championed adding this land to the monument, and offered legislation that would’ve done so.

    “I am so pleased that President Obama is taking action to permanently protect this majestic piece of California’s coast for future generations to enjoy,” Boxer said in a statement issued Saturday. “Expanding this monument will not only help preserve this sensitive coastal area and protect marine life along the coast, it will also boost the tourism economy in Mendocino County, which supports 5,000 jobs.”

    Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell held a public listening session in November in Point Arena to hear from the community about its vision for conserving the lands; Jewell will return to the area Wednesday to celebrate the president’s action.

    Posted on Saturday, March 8th, 2014
    Under: Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Environment, Jared Huffman, Mike Thompson, Obama presidency, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 9 Comments »

    Neel Kashkari: Now isn’t the time to cut taxes

    GOP gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari’s top priority isn’t cutting taxes, he told the San Jose State University College Republicans on Thursday night.

    They’re too high, he agreed, but he called for first getting the state’s money’s worth from the taxes it does collect to foster new jobs and better education. Once the economy is strong again, he said, it’ll be time to reform the tax code to lower the overall taxation level.

    “To be candid with you, I don’t think we start there; I think we start by putting people back to work,” he told about 20 students who’d gathered to hear him speak.

    Kashkari & SJSU College Republicans, photo by Josh Richman

    Because Kashkari’s speech occurred on our print deadline and due to limited space in the paper, here are a few other tidbits that didn’t make it into today’s story:

    He’s “not comfortable with legalizing marijuana. … I’ve never smoked pot in my life,” he said. “But I also don’t think it makes sense to lock people up, to ruin their lives, to waste millions of dollars for a small amount of drugs,” he added, noting there must be a better approach than the “war on drugs” that has disproportionately hurt minorities.

    Kashkari again called for opening the Monterey Shale to fracking for shale oil, saying it’ll be a key part of the job boom California desperately needs. The nation’s highest rents aren’t in San Francisco or New York, he noted, but actually in a small North Dakota town at the epicenter of that state’s fracking boom.

    A true climate-change response must be national or international in order to have any effect, he said, and a robust state economy will bring more tax revenues that can be spent in part on basic research into clean energy sources and other climate-change solutions.

    “I love our natural beauty, we have to protect the environment, but I believe we need to find the right balance,” he said.

    Kashkari & Barr, photo by Josh RichmanKashkari got into a back-and-forth with Cheryl Barr, 22, an industrial-design student who disagreed with his environmental positions.

    Barr after the meeting said Kashkari generally “seems like a decent guy,” and she likes that he has an engineering background – he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering and worked briefly as an aerospace engineer, before earning his M.B.A. and entering the financial sector. But his campaign mantra of “‘jobs and education’ is kind of vague,” she said, and she believes his support of fracking is misguided.

    “There actually is room to create jobs that can help the environment at the same time,” she said.

    Posted on Friday, February 21st, 2014
    Under: economy, energy, Environment, marijuana, Neel Kashkari, taxes | No Comments »

    Gun group says official has conflict of interests

    A gun industry trade group is pressing California Attorney General Kamala Harris to act on its complaint about Fish and Game Commission President Mike Sutton, whom it says shouldn’t be involved in implementing the state’s new ban on lead ammunition in hunting.

    Mike SuttonThe National Shooting Sports Foundation first wrote to Harris in December about Sutton, who still has one more year to serve on the six-year term to which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger re-appointed him in 2009. Sutton, 56, of Carmel Valley, is former executive director of Audubon California and remains the National Audubon Society’s vice president for the Pacific Flyway.

    The foundation’s complaint says Sutton has received and still receives income from Audubon – a state lobbyist employer – while serving as the commission’s president. “His employer lobbies the Commission on governmental decisions which he makes and/or participates in, contrary to the letter and spirit of California laws proscribing incompatible activities,” the complaint says.

    Audubon co-sponsored last year’s AB 711, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law in October to ban use of lead ammunition in hunting by mid-2019. The new law lets the state Fish and Wildlife Department suspend the ban if the federal government prohibits non-lead ammunition because it’s considered armor-piercing.

    The Fish and Game Commission in December started the process of developing regulations to implement this new law, and Sutton took part in that discussion; it’s back on the commission’s agenda for this Wednesday, Feb. 5.

    “I believe that Commissioner Sutton’s participation in the discussion of these proposed regulations is contrary to both the letter and the spirit of California’s conflict of interest and incompatible activities laws, regulations, and policies,” Lawrence Keane, the NSSF’s vice president and general counsel, wrote to Harris in a follow-up letter Monday. “This is the precise type of scenario these rules were developed to prevent – a public official who has a private interest that makes it impossible to impartially carry out his or her official duties.”

    The San Diego Union Tribune reported in 2009 that Sutton was accused of a conflict of interest after taking part in the commission’s decision-making on the Marine Life Protection Act while working as director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Center for the Future of the Oceans. Both the aquarium and the push for the MLPA were funded in large part by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

    Sutton didn’t return an email seeking comment Monday afternoon.

    Posted on Monday, February 3rd, 2014
    Under: Environment, gun control | 7 Comments »

    Bill introduced to ban filtered cigarettes

    A new Assembly bill would ban all filtered cigarettes in California.

    Assemblyman Mark Stone says he’s approaching this not as a health issue, but as an environmental issue: Discarded butts are sullying the state and costing millions.

    Mark Stone“Cigarette filters leach dangerous chemicals into the environment, kill animals that eat them, and cause communities to spend millions of taxpayer dollars for clean-up,” Stone, D-Santa Cruz, said in a news release issued Tuesday. “California has many laws in place to curtail cigarette litter, but people continue to illegally discard tons of cigarette butts each year. The current laws aren’t sufficient to address this major problem.”

    Unfiltered cigarettes would remain legal under Stone’s bill. Stone spokeswoman Arianna Smith noted filters for decades have been reported to be ineffective, given that smokers who use them take deeper and more frequent puffs to get the same amount of nicotine into their bodies.

    Spokespeople for tobacco giants Philip Morris USA and R.J. Reynolds didn’t immediately respond to inquiries about the bill.

    Stone – who chairs the Assembly Select Committee on Coastal Protection – said a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health reported 845,000 tons of cigarette butts become litter around the globe each year. In California, they remain the single most collected item of trash collected by volunteer groups and organizations that conduct parks, rivers and beach cleanup events.

    butts“Our volunteers have collected 466,000 cigarette butts in our clean-ups just around the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary alone since 2007,” Laura Kasa, executive director of Save Our Shores, said in Stone’s release. “This is by far the most pervasive type of litter in our environment. Our community has attempted to educate the public about the dangers of this toxic litter but it has not made a significant dent in the problem.”

    The California Department of Transportation has estimated the costs to clean up cigarettes on roadways at $41 million annually, Stone said, while San Francisco estimates its costs for cleanup at $6 million annually.

    “An estimated 3 billion toxic, plastic cigarette butts are littered in the Bay Area each year,” Allison Chan, pollution prevention campaign manager for Save The Bay, said in Stone’s release. “Millions of them make their way into our waterways and the Bay through storm water systems, where they pose an environmental threat that we can no longer ignore.”

    Dr. Thomas Novotny – a San Diego State University professor and former Assistant U.S. Surgeon General who is CEO of the Cigarette Butt Pollution Project – said in Stone’s release that such a ban “will substantially reduce the burden of cigarette butt waste cleanup for our communities, help protect our treasured beaches and wildlife, and reduce blight in our urban living environments.”

    UPDATE @ 3:43 P.M.: David Sutton, a spokesman for Philip Morris USA’s parent company, said in an email that the tobacco giant “knows that cigarettes are often improperly disposed of,” and uses its packaging and websites to discourage smokers from littering. The company also since 2002 has collaborated with Keep America Beautiful to launch a Cigarette Litter Prevention Program, which in 2012 rolled out 195 new grant-supported programs across the nation.

    “During the past six years, CLPP consistently has cut cigarette butt litter by half based on local community measurements taken in the first four to six months after implementation, as measured by Keep America Beautiful,” Sutton wrote. “Survey results also showed that as communities continue to monitor the program, those reductions are sustained or even increased over time.”

    Posted on Tuesday, January 14th, 2014
    Under: Assembly, Environment, Mark Stone | 2 Comments »

    Lawmakers urge Jerry Brown to halt all fracking

    Nine state lawmakers, including a few from the Bay Area, have signed a letter urging Gov. Jerry Brown to impose a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing to obtain oil and gas, the process commonly called “fracking.”

    Marc Levine“The risks are simply too great to allow fracking to continue,” Assemblyman Marc Levine, who authored the letter, told reporters on a conference call this morning.

    The technique demonstrably hurts air and water quality, might influence seismic activity, and furthers a dependence on fossil fuel that contributes to climate change, said Levine, D-San Rafael, and so it must be suspended “until we have all the data to address the immediate and long-term dangers.”

    Signing Levine’s letter were Assemblymembers Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara; Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica; Adrin Nazarian, D-Van Nuys; Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach; and Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, as well as state Senators Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa; Lois Wolk, D-Vacaville; and Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley.

    Levine, who announced the letter in November, teamed up with CREDO, an activist group which had thousands of members sign petitions and make phone calls urging their lawmakers to sign the letter. Levine and CREDO delivered the letter and held their news conference during this final week of a public comment period on Brown’s proposed fracking regulations, which they say would allow a massive expansion of fracking in California.

    CREDO campaign manager Zack Malitz called fracking “one of the greatest environmental struggles to face Califonians in a generation,” and said Brown has proposed “dangerously weak regulations that would only encourage more fracking” despite “massive public opposition.”

    “His legacy as an environmental leader is on the line,” Malitz said. “Californians will hold him responsible for putting oil-industry profits ahead of our health and the climate.”

    Several bills proposing a moratorium on fracking failed to get enough votes to advance in the Legislature last year. The Legislature did pass SB 4 by state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Calabassas, which Brown signed into law in September; that bill requires oil companies to go through a permit process, disclose chemical uses, do groundwater tests and send notices to neighboring landowners about their intent to drill.

    Brown generally has pursued energy policy that supports increased oil production while expanding California’s goal of producing at least a third of its electricity from renewable sources (such as wind or solar energy) by 2020.

    UPDATE @ 12:32 P.M.: This just in from Evan Westrup, Brown’s spokesman: “After extensive debate, the Legislature – including the authors of this letter – voted to enact SB 4, which became effective just days ago. Pursuant to this bill, the regulatory process has begun and we encourage these legislators and other interested citizens to actively participate.”

    Posted on Tuesday, January 7th, 2014
    Under: Assembly, California State Senate, energy, Environment, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown | 1 Comment »