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Activists plan anti-fracking day of action

Opponents of using hydraulic fracturing – “fracking” – to access hard-to-reach oil and natural gas are planning actions Thursday at assemblymembers’ offices around California.

Activists organized by MoveOn.org will deliver petitions in 13 Assembly districts, marking the launch of Californians Against Fracking, a coalition of 70 organizations advocating for a ban.

“The gutting of Holly Mitchell’s fracking moratorium bill [AB 1323] and the blocking of Richard Bloom’s bill [AB 1301] by Assembly leadership ignores the will of the voters of California who have made their voices heard with thousands of phone calls and petition signatures. What we demand is a ban on fracking to protect our health,” said Aura Walker, a Culver City mother, whose petition on MoveOn.org’s petition platform has been signed by more than 35,000 people. “California is already earthquake prone. Additionally, poisonous gases will permanently pollute many precious aquifers, irreversibly poisoning our drinking water.”

In the South Bay, activist Ann Benson of Portola Valley will lead the delivery of a local petition at noon to the Los Altos office of Assemblyman Richard Gordon, urging him to support a fracking ban. At the same time, Dorothy Hann of San Ramon will lead the delivery of a similar petition to Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan in San Ramon.

And the nascent Californians Against Fracking group plans a noon rally outside the state office building at 455 Golden Gate Ave. in San Francisco, as well as one at the same time in Los Angeles. Both will be delivering petitions to Gov. Jerry Brown’s offices.

Environmentalists have taken Brown to task after the governor in March said California should examine fracking to capitalize on the Monterey shale deposit, which the U.S. Energy Department has estimated could hold up to 15 billion barrels of oil — about 64 percent of the nation’s shale oil resources. As some legislative Democrats sought bans, Brown had said the technology shouldn’t be rejected out of hand.

“We want to get the greenhouse gas emissions down, but we also want to keep our economy going. That’s the balance that’s required,” he said at the time. “The fossil fuel deposits in California are incredible; the potential is extraordinary. But between now and development lies a lot of questions that need to be answered.”

UPDATE @ 5:07 P.M.: The California State Senate voted 27-11 this afternoon to pass SB 4 by state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Calabasas, which would require public noticing before fracking can take place, permits, disclosure of chemicals and an independent scientific study of fracking and its risks to California, among other provisions. “I am pleased my colleagues want to hold oil well operators accountable and answer critical questions about groundwater quality, water supply, earthquakes and air quality,” Pavley said in a news release. “We must protect California from risks to our economy, public health and safety and environment.”

Posted on Wednesday, May 29th, 2013
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, energy, Environment, Jerry Brown, Joan Buchanan, Rich Gordon | 5 Comments »

CoCo Supe Gioia named to Air Resources Board

Gov. Jerry Brown today named Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia to the California Air Resources Board.

John GioiaGioia, 55, of Richmond, has been a county supervisor since 1999 and served as the board’s chairman in 2002, 2006 and 2010. Earlier, he was in private law practice from 1986 to 1998, and was a legal researcher for another firm from 1984 to 1986.

He’s also a member of Bay Area Air Quality Management District Board of Directors, and was chairman in 2012. A Democrat, Gioia holds a law degree from the UC-Berkeley School of Law.

Brown also today named attorney and Rolling Hills Estates City Councilwoman Judith Mitchell, 71, to the Air Resources Board.

The 12-member board, appointed by the governor but subject to state Senate confirmation, is part of the California Environmental Protection Agency and has a mission to “promote and protect public health, welfare and ecological resources through the effective and efficient reduction of air pollutants while recognizing and considering the effects on the economy of the state.” The job carries no compensation.

UPDATE @ 4:06 P.M.: Gioia issued a statement saying he’s “greatly honored by being appointed to take on this new, important responsibility. I have deep respect for Governor Brown’s history of innovative and bold leadership on the environment, including on air quality issues.” He praised CARB Chairwoman Mary Nichols as “an amazing lifelong environmentalist who was just named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world,” and said he looks forward to working with her and other board members “in tackling critical upcoming issues, including investing the state’s cap-and-trade revenues, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, advancing clean energy, and improving community health.”

Posted on Tuesday, May 7th, 2013
Under: Contra Costa Board of Supervisors, economy, Environment, Jerry Brown | No Comments »

Protesters target Zuckerberg at Facebook HQ

Protesters will be marching on Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters tomorrow to protest founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s role in a public policy group that seems to be advocating for construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

Activists are angry that Zuckerberg’s FWD.us group is running a national TV ad praising and featuring pipeline supporter U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.:

“The president says I’m for ‘all of the above’ when it comes to energy,” Graham says in the ad. “Well, those are words coming out of his mouth. They don’t come from his heart. No Keystone pipeline. No drilling in the Gulf. At the end of the day, the economy is not doing well.”

Actually, the ad isn’t from FWD.us directly, but rather from one of its subsidiaries, Americans for a Conservative Direction. Another FWD.us subsidiary, the Council for American Job Growth, is running an ad in support of U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, which in part praises Begich’s support for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR):

Critics say Zuckerberg is quietly bankrolling media efforts for what they say are environmentally harmful fossil-fuel projects, even as he publicly claims to be concerned about climate change.

Surely the billionaire social-media mogul knew what he was getting into when he announced the formation of his issue-advocacy group about a month ago – this is the Bay Area, after all.

The march and rally is scheduled for 11:45 a.m. to 1:45 p.m., starting at 1401 Willow Road in Menlo Park. It’s organized by Next Step Keystone Action – a coalition including 350 Bay Area and 350 Silicon Valley, Rainforest Action Network, Idle No More, CREDO, Friends of the Earth, and others.

Posted on Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
Under: Environment, U.S. Senate | 21 Comments »

Mark DeSaulnier named ‘Regionalist of the Year’

The Bay Area Council, a public policy group consisting of the region’s 275 largest employers, has named state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier as its inaugural “Regionalist of the Year.”

Mark DeSaulnierThe council called DeSaulnier, D-Concord, a champion of regional cooperation and solutions on issues of transportation, healthcare, economic, housing, land-use planning and environmental protection, among others.

“Sen. DeSaulnier throughout his career of service at the city, county and state levels has exhibited his commitment to the Bay Area as a region and his commitment to serve the needs of the Bay Area and all the people of this region not just those who voted for him,” council president and CEO Jim Wunderman said in a news release. “Mark understands that cities and counties and districts cannot succeed unless the region as a whole is working together to accomplish common and mutually beneficial goals. Sometimes regionalism does not play well at home, but Mark has always exhibited the political courage to do what is right for our region.”

As a Contra Costa County supervisor, DeSaulnier served on the boards of all three of the Bay Area’s regional agencies: the Association of Bay Area Governments, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. He also served on the California Air Resources Board, and the council says he was “an early and ardent proponent of taking an integrated, regional approach to housing, land use and transportation planning – long before the approach was officially codified through the current Sustainable Communities Strategy.”

DeSaulnier played a key role in creating the Joint Policy Committee, a leadership group of the Bay Area’s main regional agencies aimed at improving their efficiency and integration. And he has championed several critical regional transportation projects, including the expansion of Highway 4, BART to eastern Contra Costa County, and the Caldecott Tunnel’s fourth bore.

Posted on Monday, April 29th, 2013
Under: California State Senate, economy, Environment, housing, Mark DeSaulnier, Transportation | 4 Comments »

Fremont boy wins big EPA award

A seventh-grader from Fremont has been awarded a President’s Environmental Youth Award for his founding of a nonprofit focused on raising kids’ awareness of environmental issues.

Established in 1971 and administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the annual award goes to one outstanding project from each of EPA’s ten regions. Projects are developed by individuals, K-12 school classes, summer camps and youth groups.

Pavan Raj GowdaPavan Raj Gowda, 12, founded Green Kids Now Inc., which aims to increase understanding of environmental issues with school programs, workshops, and online resources. It also hosts an annual “Green Kid Conference” in Mountain View, at which students and their families can learn about and explore environmental issues such as climate science and air quality, and provides resources and opportunities for children to use in their communities.

Pavan also has written two children storybooks, “Two Tales from a Kid” and “Geckoboy-The Battle of Fracking” to raise awareness of the value of community involvement in environmental issues and the side effects of hydraulic fracturing. And he serves as an international reporter for the Primary Perspectives children’s radio program in Australia.

Pavan won for EPA Region IX, which includes all of Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada and the Pacific Islands.

“EPA is proud to honor Pavan’s extraordinary effort to engage children in environmental action and better the lives of those in his community and future generations,” said Jared Blumenfeld, the agency’s regional administrator. “Instilling a sense of environmental stewardship in our young people is critical in ensuring our environment is protected for years to come.”

Posted on Tuesday, April 16th, 2013
Under: Environment | 1 Comment »

Anti-pipeline protesters to target Obama in SF

CREDO and other groups intend to protest outside President Obama’s fundraiser next Wednesday evening in San Francisco to send a message that if he’s serious about fighting climate change he must reject the Keystone XL pipeline.

They’ll be targeting the $32,500-per-person Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraising dinner that Obama is headlining along with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at the home of Ann and Gordon Getty, at Broadway and Baker Street in the Pacific Heights district.

Activists say the controversial pipeline project would accelerate climate change by speeding tar sands development and exporting dirty tar sands oil from Canada to foreign countries. Other organizations taking part in the protest include 350.org, Friends of the Earth and the Sierra Club.

CREDO in 2011 turned out over a thousand people at President Obama’s re-election campaign fundraiser in San Francisco, shortly before he first delayed his decision on the Keystone XL pipeline.

Posted on Friday, March 29th, 2013
Under: Barack Obama, energy, Environment, Obama presidency | 3 Comments »

State Sen. Jerry Hill tapped to chair enviro panel

California Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has nominated state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, to chair the Senate Committee on Environmental Quality.

The nomination – to fill the vacancy created by the abrupt resignation of former chairman Michael Rubio, D-Shafter – will be considered Thursday by the Senate Rules Committee.

“During this legislative session, we will tackle multiple pressing policies of major consequence to California’s environment and the quality of life that makes California attractive, competitive, and pioneering,” Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said in a news release. “The Senate’s Environmental Quality Committee will lead the discussion on strengthening the California Environmental Quality Act, on water quality, and on hazardous waste. This heavy agenda promises two momentous years for California’s nationally-renowned leadership on environmental policy.”

Steinberg said Hill’s 13th State Senate District, with both a long stretch of Pacific coastline and a significant chunk of Silicon Valley, “embodies the confluence of economic growth and outstanding natural beauty.

“He is well-positioned to appreciate the complexities of this challenge, and well-versed in the false dichotomy that pitches business against the environment,” Steinberg said. “California has led, and will continue to lead the nation in smart, environmentally sustainable economic growth.”

Hill said he’s honored by Steinberg’s nomination “and I look forward to working collaboratively with him and all of the Environmental Quality Committee stakeholders to protect the environment while ensuring that our laws are aligned with California’s 21st century economy.”

Posted on Tuesday, March 5th, 2013
Under: California State Senate, Environment, Jerry Hill | No Comments »

Senators say state DTSC will cooperate with probe

The state Department of Toxic Substances Control’s director promised Monday that she’ll work with state Senate investigators to explore claims that the agency hasn’t properly enforced regulations, lawmakers said.

Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, said she and state senators Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, and Ricardo Lara, D-Long Beach, met today with DTSC Director Debbie Raphael regarding recent claims raised in a Consumer Watchdog report and subsequent media stories. The senators have asked the Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes to launch a probe.

“We must get to the bottom of questions prompted by the Consumer Watchdog report,” Corbett said in a news release. “I appreciate that Ms. Raphael welcomes transparency and accountability. I look forward to the Senate investigation and making whatever changes may be necessary for DTSC to effectively do its job.”

Posted on Monday, March 4th, 2013
Under: California State Senate, Ellen Corbett, Environment | 3 Comments »

Arnold racks up climate change TV series, award

Two years after leaving office, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s climate-change work continues – and continues collecting accolades.

Arnold SchwarzeneggerSchwarzenegger will co-executive-produce a Showtime documentary series on the human impact of climate change. The “Years of Living Dangerously” series is a collaboration between Hollywood and journalists, delivering first-person accounts of those affected by, and seeking solutions to, global warming. Six to eight one-hour episodes will air in 2013.

Also, Schwarzenegger will be honored by the United Nations Correspondents Association as a 2012 Advocate of the Year for his work with R20, the non-profit he founded after leaving office to address climate change at the sub-national level. The award will be presented to him by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York on Wednesday, Dec. 19th.

Not too shabby for a guy who also found time to make a new action film, opening next month.

Besides Schwarzenegger, the Showtime project’s other executive producers are Oscar-winning director James Cameron; former United Artists chairman and CEO Jerry Weintraub; 60 Minutes producers Joel Bach and David Gelber; and climate expert Daniel Abbasi. Stars including actors Matt Damon, Don Cheadle and Alec Baldwin will take part as first-person narrators on the ground; Edward Norton and other names are expected to sign on soon.

Among those reporting from the field will be New York Times journalists including three-time Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Friedman, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Nicholas Kristof, and columnist Mark Bittman, plus MSNBC host and political commentator Chris Hayes, among others.

“The recent devastation on the East Coast is a tragic reminder of the direct link between our daily lives and climate change,” David Nevins, president of entertainment for Showtime Networks Inc., said in a news release today. “This series presents a unique opportunity to combine the large-scale filmmaking styles of James Cameron, Jerry Weintraub and Arnold Schwarzenegger — arguably some of Hollywood’s biggest movie makers — with the hard-hitting, intimate journalism of 60 Minutes veterans Joel Bach and David Gelber. I believe this combination will make for a thought-provoking television event.”

Posted on Monday, December 3rd, 2012
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Environment, Global warming | 2 Comments »

Brown, Feinstein seek action on gas prices

Gov. Jerry Brown and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein today pushed for action and answers on California’s skyrocketing gas prices.

Brown directed the California Air Resources Board to take emergency steps to increase the state’s gasoline supply and bring down fuel prices by immediately taking “whatever steps are necessary” to let oil refineries to make an early transition to winter-blend gasoline, which typically isn’t sold until after October 31.

“Gas prices in the state have set new record highs, and gas is completely unavailable at some stations in southern California,” Brown wrote to CARB chairwoman Mary Nichols. “If this situation continues, it may cause unacceptable price impacts for consumers and small businesses, significant economic disruption, and serious harm to public safety and welfare.”

Winter-blend gasoline evaporates more quickly than the gas sold in summer months, which is better for air quality during the smog season. Allowing an early transition could increase California’s fuel supply by up to an estimated 8 to 10 percent with only negligible air quality impacts, Brown said.

Gas prices in California have skyrocketed over the past week due to a tightening of fuel supplies caused in part by shutdowns at Tesoro and Exxon refineries. The Exxon refinery came back online Friday and Tesoro is scheduled to resume production early next week.

Feinstein, meanwhile, sent a second letter to Federal Trade Commission chairman Jon Leibowitz – she sent the first in late August – asking for an immediate investigation of the price spike:

First, I request that the FTC immediately initiate an investigation to determine if the price spike in Southern California this week results from an illegal short squeeze. A Reuters investigation cites industry sources who believe that the 97-cent price spike in CARBOB gasoline this past week “has many of the hallmarks of a classic short squeeze.” Multiple trade sources say Tesoro Corporation was caught short on supply. In the severely concentrated Los Angeles gasoline market, the few sellers were reportedly able to squeeze Tesoro either through collusion or use of market power. An FTC investigation is likely the only way to determine whether this reported squeeze took place.

Publically available data appears to confirm that market fundamentals are not to blame for rising gas prices in California. Despite a pipeline and refinery shut down, gasoline production in the state last week was almost as high as a year ago, and stockpiles of gasoline and blending components combined were equal to this time last year, state data show.

Second, I ask that the FTC immediately seek data sharing agreements that will allow it to monitor gasoline and oil markets actively and effectively. Data on prices, trading activity, refinery output, demand, stocks, and other information are vital to determine if trading activities reflect fraud, manipulation, or other malicious trading practices. While much of this data is currently collected, but not released, by the CFTC, the Energy Information Administration, the California Energy Commission, and private sources, the FTC does not collect, compile, or analyze this information in any organized or ongoing way. I believe that obtaining relevant data is a basic prerequisite of effective consumer protection.

Third, I request that the FTC establish a permanent gasoline and oil market oversight unit modeled on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Division of Energy Market Analytics and Surveillance. As you know, FERC’s anti-manipulation authority in natural gas and electricity markets mirrors the FTC oil market authority nearly word for word. With its authority, FERC has built an entire division of market monitoring professionals who oversee trading in real time to protect consumers from malicious trading practices. I fail to understand why the FTC has not yet set up its own unit to oversee oil markets.

Posted on Sunday, October 7th, 2012
Under: Dianne Feinstein, energy, Environment, Jerry Brown, U.S. Senate | 3 Comments »