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Bill would provide funds for ‘mystery goo’ cleanups

A new bill would provide state funding to clean up incidents like the “mystery goo” in the San Francisco Bay that recently killed more than 200 birds.

EAST BAY BIRD RESCUEState Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said SB 718 – jointly authored by state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley – fixes a gap in existing law by creating a funding mechanism for wildlife rescue and rehabilitation during such rare events.

“California has a sophisticated oil spill response system, but in the unique event when a pollutant is unidentified, there is no clear funding mechanism for the cleanup,” Leno said in a news release. “This legislation clarifies that the state’s top priority during a spill of any kind is to immediately protect waterways and wildlife, regardless of what type of substance caused the problem.”

The bill authorizes the Office of Spill Prevention and Response to borrow up to $500,000 from the state’s oil spill prevention fund for the rehabilitation and rescue of wildlife in spill events where the substance is non-petroleum based. The bill gives the state clear authority to quickly respond to these events; once the responsible parties for the spills are found, they would be required to reimburse the state for the costs of cleanup, including accrued interest.

The bill is co-sponsored by San Francisco Baykeeper and Audubon California.

“When a spill happens, it is essential that first responders can act quickly to protect sensitive shorelines and species,” said Sejal Choksi-Chugh, San Francisco Baykeeper’s interim executive director. “This bill will help ensure that state, local and nonprofit responders are working in concert — and with adequate resources — to prevent harm to San Francisco Bay and all of California’s waters.”

An unidentified sticky synthetic goo first appeared in the Bay in mid-January and coated hundreds of birds, many of which died because they could not maintain their body heat. Others were rehabilitated and released back into the wild by volunteers from local non-profit organizations. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife investigated the incident, but no significant state resources were available to support non-governmental agencies in their cleanup, rescue and rehabilitation efforts. The International Bird Rescue center, a publicly supported non-profit group, spent about $150,000 on animal care.

No word on whether future mystery-goo cleanups would involve the Ghostbusters:

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Linking clean-energy laws to economic opportunity

A Bay Area nonprofit has launched a new campaign highlighting how California’s climate-change and clean-energy laws not only protect the environment and public health, but also bring jobs and consumer savings to communities of color and low-income neighborhoods across the state.

UpLiftCAThe Greenlining Institute – a Berkeley based group founded to fight redlining, the practice of denying economic opportunities to people of color – on Monday launched UpLiftCA.org, a site offering stories of real Californians already benefitting from the state’s burgeoning clean-energy economy. More stories will be added in coming months, and a Spanish-language version will be launched in January.

The campaign is being launched even as foes of California’s landmark climate law try to roll back a provision making gasoline subject to carbon-emission penalties starting in 2015, which will causes gas prices to rise somewhat.

“The oil industry and its front groups have shamelessly tried to mislead communities of color about California’s laws to fight global warming, masquerading as consumer advocates when all they want is to protect their own profits,” Greenlining Institute Executive Director Orson Aguilar said in a news release. “We’re going to make sure our communities hear the truth.”

State law requires that a quarter of the money raised by carbon permit sales under California’s cap-and-trade program must go to projects that benefit highly polluted and economically struggling communities. That’s about $272 million in this fiscal year for clean energy, energy efficiency, clean transportation, urban forestry and affordable housing near public transit.

The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery last month announced a series of grants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from solid waste disposal – projects that will bring new jobs and cleaner air to places like Perris, Oakland, Tulare and Fresno.

Leonard Robinson, who chairs the California Black Chamber of Commerce’s Energy and Environment Committee and is a former California Environmental Protection Agency Department of Toxic Substances official under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said California is thinking forward.

“Part of the fees that companies are charged for putting greenhouse gases into the air are being invested in California’s most vulnerable and underserved communities to improve health and create local jobs,” he said. “These jobs are real – California added over 3,500 solar power jobs last year alone.”

Greenlining’s website includes simple explanations of how the laws work, and practical information for people and businesses on energy efficiency, low-cost solar power, rebates for plug-in electric cars, and more.

“For too many decades, low income neighborhoods and communities of color were used as toxic dumping grounds,” said Vien Truong, Greenlining’s environmental equity director. “This is a huge chance to right a historical wrong and bring real benefits to our communities, and community advocates are working closely with the state to make sure these benefits are real and get to where they need to go.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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Congressman flies GOP flag on energy in Bay Area

One day after President Obama was touting his energy record at Silicon Valley campaign stops – stronger fuel economy standards, increased clean energy production, foreign-oil imports at a 15-year low – a Central Valley congressman was in the Bay Area to say there’s a better approach.

Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, is a regional captain of the House Energy Action Team (HEAT), a Republican policy effort that mounted a “2012 American Energy and Jobs Tour” today. The theme is the GOP’s work “to reverse Administration policies that are causing unnecessary pain at the pump, on Valley farms and in grocery stores as well as costing our nation jobs,” his office said.

He toured the Valero refinery in Benicia and had an energy roundtable discussion with refining business representatives and community business leaders; later, he made a brief stop at an Oakland truck stop.

On his web page, Denham says that even as the nation explores “newer, cleaner energy sources, we must continue to utilize the rich resources within our own borders and on the Outer Continental Shelf, such as oil, coal, liquid, natural gas, and oil shale. One of the most promising outlets for new energy sources is nuclear energy, one of the cleanest forms of energy on the planet.”

For his full remarks as prepared for the Benicia event, read after the jump…
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