CVIndependent

Thu04092020

Last updateFri, 03 Apr 2020 5pm

Environment

05 Mar 2020
To understand California’s climate-change challenge, look no further than its popular ride-hailing companies. Uber, Lyft and other companies make up a tiny piece of the biggest greenhouse-gas polluter in the state: transportation. Yet their contribution to climate-warming emissions is outsized, drawing attention from researchers and lawmakers and raising an ambitious question: How can the state rein in emissions from gig economy companies built on drivers who own their vehicles? The latest strike against Uber and Lyft comes from the Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy group that published a report in late February showing ride-hailing trips release 69 percent more climate-warming emissions than the walking, biking, transit and other car trips they displace. The findings support California’s own analysis, which concluded ride-hailing increases carbon dioxide pollution by 50 percent for every mile a passenger travels, compared to when they drive themselves. The state took action in 2018, passing a first-of-its-kind…
10 Feb 2020
Even the special interests that helped kill a California Senate bill aimed at reforming beverage-bottle recycling say the state needs to fix its broken system—and one lawmaker who voted no on the bill says he might just introduce his own. Authored by Democratic state Sen. Bob Wieckowski of Fremont, the Beverage Container Recycling Act of 2020 would have required beverage distributors to design a new recycling program—and to help pay for it themselves. But the bill failed a critical juncture after it fell four votes short of passage. Wieckowski’s bill was one of a handful aimed at addressing two major problems plaguing California’s recycling industry. One is the turmoil in global recycling markets that kicked off when China decided to stop importing much of the world’s waste. The second is the home-grown death of California’s bottle-recycling businesses. That’s the one Wieckowski’s bill aimed to fix. “My hope was to reshape…
18 Dec 2019
On the sun-dappled winter morning of Dec. 12, Jane Garrison—the founder and president of the nonprofit Save Oswit Canyon, Inc.—was joined by a large group of supporters at the mouth of Oswit Canyon to announce that their dream of raising $1 million in just 5 1/2 months had indeed come true. The funds were needed to fulfill the group’s negotiated contribution to buy the Oswit Canyon development property. Over four years of engaged activism, the group’s goal has been to keep Oswit Canyon, on the southern portion of Palm Springs, as a pristine retreat—by stopping the profit-driven housing development that had threatened the dream. During a recent phone interview, Garrison said that even though her group’s goal had been reached, supporters should not become complacent. “It’s a big hurdle (we’ve cleared), but we’re not there yet,” she said. “I think that’s the important thing that people need to understand: It’s…
20 Nov 2019
Starting immediately, California state agencies will no longer buy gas-powered sedans, officials said Friday—and starting in January, the state will stop purchasing vehicles from carmakers that haven’t agreed to follow California’s clean-car rules. The decision affects General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, Toyota and multiple other automakers that sided with the Trump administration in the ongoing battle over tailpipe-pollution rules. The policy will hit General Motors particularly hard; California spent more than $27 million on passenger vehicles from GM-owned Chevrolet in 2018. California’s Department of General Services, the state’s business manager that oversees vehicle purchases for California’s fleet, announced the bans on Friday afternoon. The immediate ban on state purchases of cars powered only by gas will include exceptions for public-safety vehicles. “The state is finally making the smart move away from internal-combustion engine sedans,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement emailed to CalMatters. The new policies align with Newsom’s…
07 Nov 2019
The easy calls have been made in dealing with California’s wildfire crisis. We’re clearing brush, spending on firefighters and hastening insurance claims. We’ve tied the pay of utility executives to their companies’ safety records. To save lives—and liability costs—during red-flag conditions, we’ve cut power to great swaths of the state. We’ve spent billions: Rare is the press release from Gov. Gavin Newsom that does not include a litany of wildfire actions. But it hasn’t been enough, and as Californians now face the realities of climate change, the only choices left are hard vs. hard: Black out even more people. Ban wildland homebuilding. Bury power lines. Build microgrids. Break up the state’s largest utility—the bankrupt one supplying half of the state—and give its aging, spark-spewing equipment to taxpayers or customers or hedge funds or Warren Buffett. Burn nature before it burns you. So what are our options at this point, assuming…
05 Nov 2019
On Sept. 27, the Environmental Working Group—a self-described nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment, based in Washington, D.C.—released a report titled, “Toxic ‘Forever Chemicals’ Detected in Drinking Water Supplies Across California.” The lead paragraph in that report states, “Drinking water sources for 74 community water systems serving 7.5 million Californians are contaminated with the highly toxic fluorinated chemicals called PFAS, according to an Environmental Working Group review of the latest state data.” We reviewed the report, which found that the water supplies managed by both the Desert Water Agency (serving most of the western end of the Coachella Valley) and the Coachella Valley Water District (serving a large portion of the central and eastern valley) tested positive for some levels of PFAS chemical compounds. In the case of the DWA, the test results referenced a maximum PFAS test result of 70.2 ppt (parts per trillion),…
23 Oct 2019
Commuters in California may not have to worry about federal threats to yank highway funding just yet—but the recent tiff with the feds over California’s clean air plans is bigger than a simple paper-shuffling standoff. The fight started with a two-page missive from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler. Sent in September, the letter accused California of what the EPA called a “backlog” of federally required paperwork detailing the state’s plans and policies to cut air pollution. The EPA threatened to level sanctions at the state, including withholding federal highway funds, if California did not withdraw plans that the federal government considered “unapprovable.” California Gov. Gavin Newsom called it retaliation, a “brazen political stunt.” In response, EPA spokesman Michael Abboud told CalMatters in an emailed statement: “Highlighting that California has the worst air quality in the nation along with other serious environmental problems is not a political issue.” Then…
26 Sep 2019
As world leaders—without President Donald Trump—gathered Monday for a United Nations summit on global warming, former Gov. Jerry Brown and China’s top climate official formally launched a California-China Climate Institute to research ways to combat climate change. Brown, who was to speak by phone from California, announced the initiative with China’s Special Representative for Climate Change Affairs Xie Zhenhua in New York, where officials from some 60 countries were convened for a United Nations Climate Action Summit in advance of the U.N. General Assembly. Brown, who made the fight against climate change a signature issue of his second stint as governor, will partner with Xie in overseeing the institute, which will be housed at UC Berkeley, his alma mater. The goal, he said, will be to encourage climate action through research, training and collaboration—a contrast to Trump, whose administration is engaged in a trade war with China and who last…
30 Aug 2019
Joshua Tree National Park received some good news in August thanks to an announcement by the Mojave Desert Land Trust (MDLT) that it had “purchased 40 acres of pristine desert within Joshua Tree National Park. The acquisition lies in an area where MDLT is helping preserve the border of the National Park.” The press release went on to say: “The MDLT plans to eventually convey the land to Joshua Tree National Park. To date, MDLT has acquired 10,004 acres within JTNP, of which 80 percent has been conveyed over (to) the National Park Service. MDLT has donated more tracts of land to the NPS than any other nonprofit since 2006.” Park Superintendent David Smith told the Independent that the land trust has been a strong friend and partner to the park over the last decade. “That land is down in the southern part of the park in Riverside County, in…
08 Aug 2019
It was more than a year after the seabird died and washed up on a California beach before Jessie Beck prepared to reveal its last meals. Holding its stomach over a laboratory sink, Beck snipped open the slick tissue. With a series of plinks, the stomach contents slumped out onto the metal sieve below. Inside were the remains of seabird food, like hooked squid beaks the size of fingernail clippings. Mostly, though, Beck found hard shards of plastic, soggy cardboard, styrofoam and a maroon hunk of mystery meat that looked like beef jerky—until Beck cracked it open. Its innards were pure white: more styrofoam. The gray bird, called a northern fulmar, may have died in the waters off California during its winter migration. And it’s possible that the bird’s garbage-filled meals played a part in its death. But Beck, a scientist with the nonprofit group Oikonos Ecosystem Knowledge, isn’t one…

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