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Protecting our Environmental Resources
Updated: 2 hours 2 min ago

EPA Adopts Fringe Science Claim That Small Doses of Pollution Are Healthy

9 hours 18 sec ago
This is NOT a hoax: “Industry has been pushing for this for a long time,” George Washington University professor of environmental and occupational health David Michaels told the LA Times. “Not just the chemical industry, but the radiation and tobacco industries too. Calabrese’s role in the EPA’s proposal illustrates how the Trump administration has pursued environmental policy recommendations from industry lobbyists based on research running counter to mainstream science.“ “ EPA Adopts Fringe Science Claim That Small Doses of Pollution Are Healthy

By Sam Nickerson, EcoWatch

22 February 19

 

he U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in April 2018 proposed relaxing standards related to how it assesses the effects of exposure to low levels of toxic chemicals on public health.

Now, correspondence obtained by the LA Times revealed just how deeply involved industry lobbyists and a controversial, industry-funded toxicologist were in drafting the federal agency’s proposal to scrap its current, protective approach to regulating toxin exposure.

The proposed change came just two weeks after a top EPA official contacted toxicologist Ed Calabrese, whose claim that low doses of carcinogens and radiation are healthy stressors akin to physical exercise that activate the body’s repair mechanisms has been panned by more mainstream researchers.

“I wanted to check to see if you might have some time in the next couple of days for a quick call to discuss a couple of items … ” EPA deputy assistant administrator Clint Woods wrote to Calabrese.

The EPA’s proposed regulation, signed by then-Administrator Scott Pruitt and published in the U.S. Government’s Federal Register, copied Calabrese’s recommendations to Woods almost verbatim.

Trump Administration says pollution is good for you. Who in their right mind believes this?

Calabrese, who was also quoted in the EPA’s press release for the proposal, celebrated the announcement in an email to former coal and tobacco lobbyist Steve Milloy, who served on President Donald Trump’s EPA transition team.

“This is a major big time victory,” Calabrese wrote. Milloy, who is also a Fox News commentator, replied

The EPA’s proposal is a departure from its long-time “linear no-threshold” approach to regulating the study of toxins: once a substance is found to be harmful at one level, the danger applies at all levels. In other words, there can be no safe level of radiation exposure.

Calabrese argues this approach is overly cautious and a financial detriment to industry. The new rule would require that regulators look at “various threshold models across the exposure range” for pollutants.

Low doses of otherwise toxic chemicals can be beneficial to human health in specific clinical situations, the LA Times noted, but experiments have produced mixed results and experts say it would be a risk to apply the findings to regulation for the general public.

“There is no way to control the dose a person gets from an industrial or agricultural chemical,” David Jacobs, a professor of public health at the University of Minnesota, told the newspaper. “It’s not being doled out in pills and monitored by a physician who can lower it if the patient isn’t responding well.”

The EPA has not announced a date for when it will make a decision on the rule proposal.

Health experts believe that if the EPA does adopt the rule, it could lead to wholesale changes to the agency’s standards for regulating toxic waste, pesticides, and air and water quality. “Industry has been pushing for this for a long time,” George Washington University professor of environmental and occupational health David Michaels told the LA Times. “Not just the chemical industry, but the radiation and tobacco industries too.” Calabrese has long been connected to these industries and has received funding from tobacco firm R.J. Reynolds, Dow Chemical, Exxon Mobil and others, the LA Times reported. Calabrese’s role in the EPA’s proposal illustrates how the Trump administration has pursued environmental policy recommendations from industry lobbyists based on research running counter to mainstream science.

According to the LA Times, Calabrese first emailed Milloy about whether it would be possible to get the EPA to abandon the linear no-threshold model in September 2017, not even nine months after Trump was sworn into office.

EcoWatch @EcoWatch

5 Ways Trump Is ‘Gaslighting’ Us on U.S. Air Pollution Levels @lakotalaw  @youthvgov

Heard about the latest false tweet? No. We are NOT the nation with the cleanest air. http://bit.ly/2q95Keu 

35

3:00 PM – Oct 23, 2018 Twitter Ads info and privacy 5 Ways Trump Is ‘Gaslighting’ Us on U.S. Air Pollution Levels

This is not the first time the Trump team has taken credit for the previous administration’s work on reducing pollution.

ecowatch.com

 

 

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Forbes retracts attack on paper showing link between glyphosate and cancer

9 hours 21 min ago
“She added, “Monsanto has worked very hard for a very long time to suppress factual news stories that are unfavourable to its profit agenda. They have harassed numerous journalists, so I am not unique by any means. The question that all of this underscores is, “Why?” Why, if Monsanto’s glyphosate herbicides are so very safe, do they need to ghostwrite scientific literature, put forward front men to carry their propaganda, try to censor independent scientists, and try to stop government toxicity testing of their products? If these products really are safe, there would be no need for them to do all that.” Forbes retracts attack on paper showing link between glyphosate and cancer

Published: 22 February 2019   

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Tobacco industry-linked author failed to disclose Monsanto connections

Forbes has pulled an article by Geoffrey Kabat attacking the new meta-analysis confirming a link between glyphosate and a type of cancer called non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).

The American business magazine, most famous for its Forbes 400 rich list, has long been the platform of choice for defending Monsanto’s products and attacking the company’s critics. It was on Forbes that article after article appeared attacking Prof Gilles-Eric Séralini’s study, which found harmful effects from Monsanto’s GMO maize and Roundup herbicide, shortly after its publication in 2012.

The authors of most of those hatchet jobs had links to Monsanto. Jon Entine’s PR firm, for instance, consulted for the company. Bruce Chassy made the front page of the New York Times, along with Kevin Folta, because of his remarkably close ties to Monsanto. And Henry Miller, who, along with Chassy, accused Séralini of fraud, subsequently had all his articles for Forbes pulled by the magazine after it emerged that at least one of them had been ghostwritten by Monsanto. Conflicted out: Monsanto and Big Tobacco But Geoffrey Kabat, a retired cancer epidemiologist, claims to be different. A disclosure at the bottom of his attack on the new meta-analysis told Forbes readers: “I have no financial involvement with Monsanto/Bayer or any other conflict of interest relating to this topic.”

However, that isn’t true. Kabat is on the board of advisors of the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), a corporate front group funded by Monsanto. He is also a board member of Jon Entine’s Genetic Literacy Project, which was named in a court filing as receiving funding from Monsanto.

And it’s not just the agrichemicals industry that Kabat connects to. As the journalist Paul Thacker has pointed out, a search for Kabat in the tobacco industry documents archive brings up more than 800 hits, including an invoice for over $20,000.

Perhaps most notorious is Kabat’s publication of a paper on passive smoking which concluded that second hand tobacco smoke did not have a causal relation with increased mortality from lung cancer and heart disease. The study, co-written with one of ACSH’s trustees, was partly funded by Philip Morris. And in a US racketeering lawsuit, it was cited by the judge as “a prime example” of how tobacco companies “engaged in criminal racketeering and fraud to hide the dangers of tobacco smoke.” Kabat’s paper also led to calls for better disclosure of conflicts of interest. Smearing a veteran journalist

But it may not have been Kabat’s failure to come clean about conflicts of interest that led to Forbes yanking his article. His piece also claimed that the veteran journalist Carey Gillam, who reported on the new meta-analysis in an article for The Guardian, had previously been fired by Reuters for “biasing articles” against GMOs and pesticides.

This is a favourite smear of ACSH, and one that has been repeated by other Monsanto defenders, despite no convincing evidence ever having been produced to support it. While there is no doubt that Monsanto and its supporters did their level best to get her sacked from her food and agriculture beat at Reuters, Gillam categorically denies that they succeeded. And the only official comment Reuters ever made about the attacks on her reporting was to confirm that they stood by her coverage.

Gillam certainly seems to be highly regarded by her former Reuters colleagues. On her LinkedIn page her journalistic skills are endorsed by a dozen or more of them, while one of her former editors commends her for her “impeccably reported” stories. And Peter Bohan, who until retiring just a month ago was a giant at Reuters – the executive director of the US domestic Reuters America news service, calls her “an exceptional journalist: smart, tenacious, fearless. Over the years I managed her at Reuters there was no one better at chasing breaking news, engaging sources and pursuing the facts.”

Her former boss also praises her investigations into the agri-industrial complex, saluting “her courage and her work”. That work seems to be highly valued by her wider peers too. In 2018, the Society of Environmental Journalists gave her their Rachel Carson Environment Book Award for Whitewash, her book about glyphosate.

Yet Kabat presents Gillam as a disgraced journalist who was given the boot.

Smearing the WHO’s cancer agency

Kabat is equally dishonest about the World Health Organisation’s cancer agency (IARC), which concluded that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen. According to Kabat, the IARC thinks pretty much everything causes cancer. He writes, “Of the more than 500 agents that have been classified by IARC with respect to carcinogenicity, only one was judged by the Agency to be ‘probably not carcinogenic’.”

But again, this is seriously misleading. It is true that IARC has a Group 4 category, for agents that it deems “probably not carcinogenic to humans”, and that into this category it has placed just one of the substances that it has examined – thus giving rise to Kabat’s claim.

But IARC has directly rebutted the suggestion that it concludes just about everything causes cancer. It points out that it only evaluates substances (“agents”) where there are already grounds for suspecting that they cause cancer, and that despite this careful selection process, around half (502 of 1003) of its evaluations still resulted in agents being classified in Group 3 (“not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans”).

Only 12% of all agents evaluated (120 of 1003) were classified in Group 1 (“carcinogenic to humans”). A further 38% (380 agents) were placed in Group 2B (“possibly carcinogenic to humans”) or 2A (“probably carcinogenic to humans”).

As IARC states, “This is far from the finding everything is carcinogenic.”

Cherry-picking data?

Linking to an opinion piece published in a journal, Kabat also accuses IARC of cherry-picking data in order to conclude that glyphosate is carcinogenic. He says, “IARC has been criticized for selecting the few ‘positive’ results from rodent studies [on the effects of glyphosate] that seemed to show an increased tumor yield in exposed animals, while ignoring exculpatory results that showed decreasing tumor yield in exposed animals.”

But the truth is that in line with its policy, IARC considered ALL published rodent studies where enough data were available for evaluation, so there was no cherry-picking. It concluded from these data that there was “sufficient” evidence of glyphosate’s carcinogenicity in animals.

This, however, is beside the point. In directing the focus onto IARC, Kabat is distracting us from what is supposed to be the focus of his article – the findings of the new meta-analysis showing a link between glyphosate and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

So let’s look at the rodent studies that were in the public domain and thus available to the authors of the meta-analysis. No less than four out of the six available rodent studies, i.e. a majority, showed an increase in malignant lymphoma, the animal study outcome most closely linked to human NHL.

This was not just the opinion of the meta-analysis authors but that of the regulatory agencies, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the Joint Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR). These agencies admitted the findings of increased cancers in glyphosate-exposed animals, yet perversely managed to conclude that glyphosate was not carcinogenic. The agencies’ conclusions were criticised by independent scientists as being unscientific and in violation of the agencies’ own guidelines. Kabat cites the agencies’ conclusions approvingly, while completely ignoring their admissions of the damning findings on glyphosate’s cancer-causing ability.

Revealingly, the opinion piece linked to by Kabat that criticizes IARC for cherry-picking (in Kabat’s words) “a few ‘positive’ results from rodent studies” is authored by Robert E. Tarone. According to information provided by IARC, Tarone has acknowledged that he is a paid consultant to Monsanto. What’s more, his opinion piece doesn’t address malignant lymphoma in animals at all!

Smearing the meta-analysis authors

Of course, the reason that Kabat wants to discredit IARC, an agency that brings together some of the world’s foremost experts on cancer and which has been described as “the most authoritative agency in this field”, is that its conclusion on glyphosate accords with the main finding of the new meta-analysis. And Kabat’s attack on the authors of the new review is just as outrageous as his evidence-free smears against Gillam and IARC.

For instance, he attributes dishonest motives to the authors, suggesting that they engaged in a statistical “sleight of hand” and “lengthy obfuscatory discussions” in order to create the appearance of “a disinterested academic study” that would hoodwink most scientists and lay people, while grabbing headlines and inspiring fear!

It should be remembered that several of the authors of this meta-analysis were engaged by the US Environmental Protection Agency to peer review the agency’s own assessment of glyphosate. That’s how highly their expertise in this field is regarded. Yet Kabat effectively paints them as fraudsters conspiring to deceive the public and their scientific peers about the safety of Monsanto’s best-selling product. That’s pretty rich coming from someone whose own paper was cited by a judge as “a prime example” of how Big Tobacco “engaged in criminal racketeering and fraud”.

Publishing Monsanto’s trolls

Forbes hasn’t said which of Kabat’s smears led them to pull his article or whether it was Kabat’s failure to disclose his Monsanto connections. After the embarrassment it suffered over the revelation that Monsanto had ghostwritten Henry Miller’s attack on IARC, one can well understand why the alarm bells would have been ringing in their editorial offices.

And so they should. ACSH – the industry front group that Kabat is part of – sets itself up as a gatekeeper of reliable science, even though it has promoted climate change skepticism and has defended many substances found to be hazardous by peer-reviewed research studies.

Around the time that Kabat’s article was pulled by Forbes, it popped up on the Science 2.0 blog run by ACSH’s former president, Hank Campbell, who stepped down for undisclosed reasons shortly after the furore over the Nazi eugenics blog posts that Campbell published on Science 2.0.

No wonder Monsanto’s senior science lead Daniel Goldstein wrote in an internal company memo: “I can assure you I am not all starry eyed about ACSH – they have PLENTY of warts”, before going on to say: “You WILL NOT GET A BETTER VALUE FOR YOUR DOLLAR than ACSH.” He also pointed out that Monsanto did not have many friends or choices and so could not afford to alienate the supporters it had.

Forbes, however, might want to think about whether it wants to continue risking the blowback from publishing the smears of Monsanto’s trolls, or whether such pieces aren’t best left on industry-linked attack sites like Science 2.0 and the Genetic Literacy Project.

Interestingly, according to Carey Gillam, Kabat has apparently now been completely banned as a Forbes contributor, but she told us she wasn’t on any mission to get back at him for his attack on her – that was Monsanto’s game.

She added, “Monsanto has worked very hard for a very long time to suppress factual news stories that are unfavourable to its profit agenda. They have harassed numerous journalists, so I am not unique by any means. The question that all of this underscores is, “Why?” Why, if Monsanto’s glyphosate herbicides are so very safe, do they need to ghostwrite scientific literature, put forward front men to carry their propaganda, try to censor independent scientists, and try to stop government toxicity testing of their products? If these products really are safe, there would be no need for them to do all that.”

Report: Jonathan Matthews

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Remember ‘Pink Slime’? It Can Now Be Marketed as ‘Ground Beef’

9 hours 33 min ago
USDA Reclassifies ‘Pink Slime’ as ‘Ground Beef’

The product formerly known as ‘lean finely textured beef’ was the subject of consumer outrage in 2012.

Mike Pomranz

February 12, 2019

The inner-workings of a beef processing plant in Dakota Dunes, South Dakota, might not sound like compelling national news, but in 2012, ABC changed that with two little words: “pink slime.” As you probably recall, the news outlet questioned Beef Products, Inc. (BPI) about its ground beef filler known as “lean finely textured beef” (LFTI), utilizing the pejorative term “pink slime” in the process. The backlash from the report hit BPI’s bottom line hard, despite the fact that they maintained that LFTI is safe and made from 100 percent beef, and so the South Dakotan company sued ABC News. The news organization eventually settled out of court, admitting no wrongdoing, but still reportedly paying nine figures to BPI to end the whole mess.

Meanwhile, despite the bad press, BPI survived the ordeal and are back in the news again for – guess what – lean finely textured beef. But don’t call it “LFTI.” And definitely don’t call it “pink slime.” According to Beef Magazine, the USDA has given its approval for BPI to call “lean finely textured beef” simply “ground beef.”i Teads

“We approached USDA about the possibility of reclassifying our product,” Nick Ross, BPI vice president of engineering, told the magazine. “It was an extensive review that took well over six months and included consumer reviews, nutritional panels, tours of the plant where agency folks could get a first-hand look at the process and understand what we are doing at BPI.”

“After reviewing BPI’s submission of a new product and new production process, [the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)] determined that the product meets the regulatory definition of ground beef under the law in 9 CFR 319.15(a) and may be labeled accordingly,” a FSIS spokesperson told the site New Food Economy, confirming the news.

Craig Letch, BPI vice president of sales and marketing, presented the change as a chance not to hide behind a different label, but to be more open about their product. “This reclassification … opens up new doors for us,” he was quoted as saying. “We want to be more consumer focused and very transparent with our customer base. This change from the USDA will allow us to provide new and innovative types of products that our process lends itself well to.”

But for consumers, the change won’t really mean that much. Companies who used LFTI as filler in the past didn’t have to disclose it. And according to New Food Economy, BPI said it doesn’t have any immediate plans to sell LFTI as a standalone product called “ground beef” in the immediate future. So previously, you may have been buying ground beef with added LFTI you didn’t know about; now, you’re buying ground beef with added ground beef, which you won’t know about. Frankly, if you’ve made up your mind about what BPI produces, the name change probably won’t change your mind as well.

Remember ‘Pink Slime’? It Can Now Be Marketed as ‘Ground Beef’

By Dan Nosowitz

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Categories: G2. Local Greens

U.S. farmers have received $7.7 billion (so far) in aid to offset Trump’s disastrous trade policies

9 hours 47 min ago
We can’t afford this guy….added $2 trillion to debt for corporate donors already. Want to bet most of this “socialistic”  money goes to big ag who continue to buy out smaller family farmers? Corporate Welfare.  See: China triples Russian soybean imports as it cuts reliance on U.S. U.S. farmers have received $7.7 billion (so far) in aid to offset Trump’s disastrous trade policies Jen Hayden Daily Kos Staff Friday February 22, 2019 · 6:34 AM PST Things got so bad last year when farmers couldn’t find buyers for their goods that they had to destroy their rotting crops. In November, Reuters interviewed Louisiana farmer Richard Fontenot, who said he and other farmers had no other choice but to destroy their crops.

“No one wants them,” Fontenot said in a telephone interview. As he spoke, he drove his tractor across a soybean field, tilling under his crop. “I don’t know what else to do.”

Across the United States, grain farmers are plowing under crops, leaving them to rot or piling them on the ground, in hopes of better prices next year, according to interviews with more than two dozen farmers, academic researchers and farm lenders. It’s one of the results, they say, of a U.S. trade war with China that has sharply hurt export demand and swamped storage facilities with excess grain.

China purchased $12 billion in soybeans from the U.S. the previous year, which is the estimated size of the payout farmers will get when this is finished. For this year, anyway. Expenses for grain and soybean farmers are skyrocketing as grain silos are at capacity and the companies that own them have spiked storage fees because of the rising demand. 

Iowa is being hit particularly hard, as everything from corn to pork is taking a hit. Experts say Iowa will lose between $1 billion and $2 billion in the next year. In fact, U.S. farms are going bankrupt at alarming rates.

Nevertheless, these rural voters continue to support Donald Trump, despite dabbling in that dreaded socialism to keep their farms afloat. How long is this sustainable?

 

FULL STORY & COMMENTS
Categories: G2. Local Greens

Federal judge may order Trump admin to reunite migrant families separated before official policy

10 hours 1 min ago
“I had always hoped that this land might become a safe and agreeable asylum to the virtuous and persecuted part of mankind, to whatever nation they might belong”
~ George Washington

Federal judge may order Trump admin to reunite migrant families separated before official policy Gabe Ortiz Daily Kos Staff Friday February 22, 2019 · 8:06 AM PST The federal judge who ordered the reunification of children kidnapped from parents at the southern border under the barbaric “zero tolerance” policy appeared poised” during a court hearing this week to order the Trump administration to fully account for and reunite potentially thousands of families who were ripped apart prior to the official implementation of the policy. 

Last month, a devastating report from the Office of the Health and Human Services Inspector General confirmed the administration was separating families from the start of Donald Trump’s presidency. “How many more children were separated is unknown,” government investigators said, “by us and HHS.” It’s also unknown how many were returned to their families, and how many were left with sponsors.

Following the report, the American Civil Liberties Union said it would ask Judge Dana Sabraw, who ordered the reunification of “zero tolerance” victims last summer, to expand his order to include these families. During the Thursday hearing, he appeared to be strongly considering it, at least beginning with requesting a list of who was stolen from whom. “It’s important to recognize that we’re talking about human beings,” he said. “Every person needs to be accounted for.”

It speaks to the cruelty of administration officials that they had to be reminded of this. In fact, government attorney Scott Stuart urged Sabraw not to expand his order because it would be just too much work, saying that “I’m just not sure that we can keep going.” The federal government that made the decision to kidnap children at the border and has declared emergencies over non-emergencies now says it’s just too hard to return them all to their families. That’s just not gonna fly.

The ACLU, which lacks the tremendous resources of the federal government but has nevertheless stepped in to do tremendous work to reunite families, is again willing to be part of another effort. “We cannot go back into these communities and tell them we are not going to make the effort,” said attorney Lee Gelernt. “I suspect there are parents who want to get their children back and have not been able to.”

Friday, Feb. 22, marks 211 days since Sabraw’s reunification deadline. Family separation remains a crisis.

FULL STORY & COMMENTS

Some comments:

RedSandRocks

February 22 · 08:56:38 AM

ICE is morphing into the Gestapo.  If you have ICE neighbors, they are not working for America.  They are working for Komrades Trump and Putin.  Don’t associate with them.

Missourilefty

February 22 · 09:29:30 AM

If Trump had done nothing else, and he’s done plenty, this policy alone would warrant impeachment and eternal shame.  Add his abysmal failure to help Puerto Rico to this, and the portrait of an evil, racist POTUS is complete.

TRPChicago

February 22 · 09:37:48 AM

“I’m just not sure we can keep going.” Huh? What a defense! As in: “The situation my clients have deliberately caused to come about is now beyond their ability to manage it? “ Since when is that a valid defense?

How about: “OK counsel, within ten days, preferably sooner, I am ordering you to identify — by name — everyone in the chain of command in the agencies and departments responsible for deciding on and implementing the policy of family/child separations since January 20, 2017 … from the top down to the field operators who worked on these matters. Yes, that will be a lot of work. But, counsel, that must be doable by you and the government’s legion of lawyers.”

Amaze FogCityJohn

February 22 · 05:20:18 PM

And ALL of these people need to be held fully accountable for their crimes against these children and their families.

Each and every child MUST be accounted for.

That livestock has more paper trails than these kidnapped children being trafficked across state lines and tortured and abused by employees of this maladmin speaks so many volumes of how they seem to consider the value of human life.

 

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Can you help amazing journalists? What ProPublica Is Covering This Year

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 10:27
What ProPublica Is Covering This Year We are digging deep into the most pressing issues of our country — and we want your help.
Lucas Waldron and Nadia Sussman in ProPublica’s New York newsroom. (Claudio Papapietro, special to ProPublica)

We cover many things at ProPublica, from the border, to health, to police abuse. But all of our work is ultimately about one thing: holding the powerful to account. We do it through rigorous, precise journalism. It takes time, but it all starts with listening.

That’s why we’re laying out what we’re covering. If you have tips, documents or data on any these issues, contact us.

Business and Industry

Patricia Callahan: “I investigate hidden hazards in our homes, on our roads and in our workplaces. Send me tips about defective products and other dangers that businesses and regulators have failed to correct.”

Jeff Ernsthausen: “I use code and stats to expose systemic injustices caused by business practices and government policy.”

Michael Grabell: “I write about how business decisions affect workers and consumers around the world. If you have information, I’m listening.”

Daniela Porat: “I cover business for ProPublica. Send me tips about consumer product safety.“

Anjali Tsui: “I’m following the money. Help me hold corporations and special interests accountable.”

Big Tech

James Bandler: “I am a business writer reporting on the role of Big Tech in defense and intelligence contracting. I’m also looking at private espionage and the resource extraction industry. Whistleblowers and industry hands of all stripes are welcome to talk to me.”

Renee Dudley: “I cover tech and its intersection with business, politics and criminal justice.”

Jack Gillum: “I cover the intersection of technology and civil rights, with a focus on secretive algorithms and criminal justice. Help me find the black boxes used to control our daily lives.“

Jeff Kao: “I am a data scientist covering the impacts of machine-assisted decision-making at scale and using data analysis to find stories hidden in plain sight. Tell me about artificial intelligence and surveillance technologies you see deployed in the wild and interesting datasets that might contain evidence of fraud or misconduct.”

Ava Kofman: “I cover technology, with a focus on privacy and criminal justice. This year, I’m curious about how automated systems might be transforming your workplace.”

Categories: G2. Local Greens

A Green New Deal opportunity for America’s farmers

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 10:02
“I think we would be making a huge mistake if we thought of the Green New Deal strictly in terms of the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy,” Taylor said. “That’s essential, but it’s no longer enough.” A recent UN report on climate change finds that to prevent catastrophic warming, countries will need to remove huge sums of carbon pollution from the atmosphere, and currently, planting forests and farming carbon are the cheapest ways to do that.“ A Green New Deal opportunity for America’s farmers A Green New Deal could incentivize farming practices that help remove carbon pollution from the atmosphere. Nexus Media Feb 14, 2019, 8:00 am

By Jeremy Deaton

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A farm. CREDIT: Pexels

This month, a group of Democratic lawmakers called for an ambitious plan for the United States to reach net-zero carbon pollution in 10 years. While experts debate whether the proposal is technologically or politically feasible, the so-called Green New Deal is about more than shifting to cleaner, more advanced forms of energy sources. It’s also about shifting to more traditional forms of agriculture.

While farming generally takes a back seat to energy in discussions of climate, according to estimates it accounts for up to a third of carbon pollution. Tractors and trucks that harvest and transport our food burn gasoline and diesel, generating pollution. Synthetic fertilizers derived from fossil fuels spur the release of heat-trapping gas from the soil, and cows and sheep emit large volumes of planet-warming pollution. Then there is the matter of agricultural giants burning forests to clear land for farming and grazing, thereby releasing carbon stored in trees into the atmosphere and reducing the capacity of the land to store CO2. And yet, while agriculture is a big part of the problem, it can also be part of the solution. Smart growing practices can help soak up pollution and store it in the ground — what’s known as carbon farming.

Plants scrub carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in their leaves and branches. When those plants shed their leaves and die, that carbon enriches the soil, where it’s gobbled up by insects, fungi, and microbes, and then exhaled back into the atmosphere. If more carbon goes into the soil than comes out, the process helps to eliminate atmospheric carbon dioxide, cooling the planet. Carbon farming also helps guard against climate change, as soil that is rich with microbes and fungi holds more water, which protects it from drought and mitigates the impact of floods.

The carbon cycle. CREDIT: The Better Tomorrow Fund

There are steps farmers can take to make sure the soil retains as much carbon as possible, namely disturb the soil as little as possible: Till the earth only where necessary; keep the soil covered in a diverse array of deep-rooted crops; rotate between cash crops, like wheat, and cover crops, like ryegrass, which nurture the soil and can be fed to livestock; avoid the use of pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers; and protect areas that are rich in plant-life — and therefore carbon — such as forests, wetlands, and peat bogs.

“What we’re learning is that the soil is a living organism. It’s full of life,” said Betsy Taylor, the president of Breakthrough Strategies, a consulting firm focused on carbon farming. Farmers can keep soil healthy by nurturing the growth of fungi and microbes. Healthy soil will store more carbon, which is good for the climate and good for crops. Unfortunately, the widespread use of chemical fertilizers is killing the soil.

Cotton planted among pecan trees in Milton, Florida. 2003. One way to improve soil health is to lay down crops among deep-rooted trees. CREDIT: USDA

“It’s possible to grow crops and plants of all kinds in soil that is biologically dead, in soil that — through the use of chemical fertilizers, through the use of herbicides and pesticides and fungicides, and through compaction and erosion and other loss of living topsoil — has become just a mineral medium,” said Connor Stedman, an agricultural consultant at AppleSeed Permaculture. “That’s what a lot of industrial agriculture practices are based on. They treat farms and crop growing almost like a factory.”

Taylor compared the use of reliance on chemical fertilizers to a bad diet. “I can eat my doughnuts and chocolate and beer and take a vitamin and pretend like I’m going to be okay, but under the surface, things are really getting damaged,” she said. “If we eat a healthy diet and try to eat an organic diet — that’s the latest science — then we’re more likely to be healthy. And it’s the same with the soil.”

Adopting sustainable farming practices will improve soil health. However, Stedman said, “There are costs and risks to transitioning to new practices. So that’s where the private sector, the NGO sector and the public sector all have a really big role to play in helping farmers to diversify and intensify and perennialize their production.”

Taylor said philanthropists can help by bankrolling programs that educate growers about carbon farming. Policymakers can help by funding conservation efforts and by ending subsidies that incentivize monoculture, meaning the planting of one of just a few crops, like corn and soybeans, robbing the soil of essential nutrients.

“There is a real desire among, I think, all farmers to have healthy soils but they have been in a system that has actually subsidized them to do the opposite,” she said. “You have got to shift the way you farm to build healthy soil, and I would say, right now, that’s becoming a growing consensus across the political spectrum, which is exciting,” she said.

FULL STORY & COMMENTS

 

Categories: G2. Local Greens

EPA issued ’emergency’ approval to spray 16 million acres with bee-killing pesticide

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 09:53
Down Chemical is the major manufacturer along with chlorpyrifos (so bad for children China even banned it…… and one of first acts in Trump Administration was approval) ….also major Trump donor…. “But that was the pre-Trump EPA. As EcoWatch reports, in 2018 the EPA issued what it called “emergency” approvals to spray the substance that is “very highly toxic” to bee, on more than 16 million acres of crops that do attract bees. The EPA’s own inspector general found that the practice didn’t consider either the effect on the environment, or on human health.” EPA issued ’emergency’ approval to spray 16 million acres with bee-killing pesticide

Feb 20, 2019 3:30pm PST by Mark Sumner, Daily Kos Staff

Sulfoxaflor is a systemic insecticide that works by destroying the nervous system. Insects exposed go into tremors, then spasms, then death. Unfortunately, insects exposed means essentially all insects, including bees. In fact, sulfoxaflor is particularly hard on pollinators. That’s why in 2016 the Ninth Circuit Court overruled the EPA’s approval of the pesticide. As Reuters reported at the time, the court responded to a suit by associations of beekeepers by finding that “the EPA had made an error” in ever allowing broad use of the chemical. In October of that year, the EPA issued new guidelines that restricted the use of the chemical to crops that do not attract bees, or to post-bloom periods when bees should not be attracted to fields.

But that was the pre-Trump EPA. As EcoWatch reports, in 2018 the EPA issued what it called “emergency” approvals to spray the substance that is “very highly toxic” to bee, on more than 16 million acres of crops that do attract bees. The EPA’s own inspector general found that the practice didn’t consider either the effect on the environment, or on human health. Just as with the National Emergency Act, the EPA’s ability to allow emergency use of otherwise restricted substances is supposed to be limited. The authority is there to protect against outbreaks of insects that might spread disease or threaten the food supply.

However, neither of those things applied in this case. The 16.2 million acres sprayed was on sorghum and cotton plants across 19 states. There was no widespread threat. No new insect ravaging these crops. No emergency.

But again, just as with the National Emergency Act, the EPA’s authority in making these rulings includes a lot of leeway, with the expectation that good judgement will be involved. Instead, the EPA under Scott Pruitt and Andrew Wheeler has been searching out reasons to issue these orders.

Center for Biological Diversity Senior Scientist Nathan Donley: The EPA is far too eager to find loopholes to approve harmful pesticides when it should be focusing on keeping people and wildlife safe from those pesticides. The routine abuse of emergency exemptions has to stop. Multiple studies have implicated sulfoxaflor and related chemicals in the decline of both honeybees and bumblebees. The widespread use of pesticides in general is a major contributing factor to the huge number of extinctions among insects species, which are already seriously disrupting food webs and altering ecosystems. FULL STORY & COMMENTS

MORE READING:

The Case of the Vanishing Honey Bee: Pesticides and the … What makes these die-offs different is that frequently the bees just vanish. … The Case of . The Vanishing Bees … Dow cites an example when sulfoxaflor was used … https://earthjustice.org/features/the-case-of-the-vanishing-honey-bee PDF Sulfoxaflor and flupyradifurone: Neonicotinoids or not sulfoxaflor (Sparks is a Dow Agrochemical employee) 1just as Nauen et al. (2014) does … What makes neonicotinoids different from nicotin, is their selective … https://www.pan-europe.info/sites/pan-europe.info/files/public/resources/factsheets/201609 F

 

Categories: G2. Local Greens

National Enquirer’s biggest investors include California taxpayers and state workers

Fri, 02/22/2019 - 09:36
Know who your retirement money is supporting? “California’s pension fund, the largest in the nation, runs on contributions from taxpayer-funded state agencies and their employees. It has long drawn scrutiny over whether its mandate of seeking strong returns meshes with liberal Californians’ expectations of ethical investment. Some of its investments drawing recent scrutiny have included oil pipelines, retailers that sell semiautomatic rifles, Russian sovereign debt and coal-producing companies.”

National Enquirer’s biggest investors include California taxpayers and state workers

By Feb 21, 2019 | 3:50 PM Records show that California’s public pension fund appears to have owned as much as a third of American Media Inc., the National Enquirer’s parent company, in 2016. (Stephanie Keith / Getty Images)

 

The National Enquirer has been one of President Trump’s most controversial allies, delivering scathing coverage of his opponents to supermarket checkout lines and funneling $150,000 to one of his alleged mistresses to buy her silence. So it will probably come as a surprise to many California state employees and taxpayers to learn they were helping fund those efforts.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, California’s massive public pension fund, CalPERS, was one of the biggest investors in the debt-laden owner of the National Enquirer, according to public records reviewed by the Los Angeles Times.

Through an investment managed by a New Jersey hedge fund, California’s public pension fund appears to have owned as much as one-third of American Media Inc., the National Enquirer’s parent company, in 2016. It is not clear whether CalPERS continues to hold a major stake in the tabloid publisher.

Fewer than a third of California voters cast their ballots for Trump, who remains deeply unpopular in the state.

Informed of the investment, Jeremy Bulow, a professor of economics at Stanford University, laughed in disbelief.

“I’m sure lots of CalPERS [plan holders] will be happy to know they were paying hush money to help get Trump elected,” he said. “That’s going to make them feel real good about their pension fund managers!”

The news organization Maplight reported last year that California was one of three states whose pension funds had invested in the privately held publisher, although it did not detail how much of the company the state fund controlled.

California’s pension fund, the largest in the nation, runs on contributions from taxpayer-funded state agencies and their employees. It has long drawn scrutiny over whether its mandate of seeking strong returns meshes with liberal Californians’ expectations of ethical investment. Some of its investments drawing recent scrutiny have included oil pipelines, retailers that sell semiautomatic rifles, Russian sovereign debt and coal-producing companies. FULL STORY HERE
Categories: G2. Local Greens

Coal Ash Dumps Are Contaminating Groundwater in 22 States

Thu, 02/21/2019 - 12:47
Back home, the Trump administration is working to fulfill a central campaign promise and buoy the coal industry by systematically rolling back Obama-era regulations that would force power utilities either to turn away from coal or burn it in a much cleaner fashion. At the helm of Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is Andrew Wheeler, a former lobbyist for the coal industry who shares Trump’s zeal for keeping coal central to the US energy portfolio. Wheeler’s most recent targets for elimination include limits on carbon dioxide from new and modified power plants and rules reducing air emissions of mercury — a potent neurotoxin and a danger to public health.Coal Ash Dumps Are Contaminating Groundwater in 22 States Groundwater in 22 States Coal ash located at the Possum Point Power Station in Dumfries, Virginia, appears in a photo taken on June 26, 2015.Kate Patterson for The Washington Post via Getty Images

FULL STORY

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Trump wants to save coal plant linked to EPA head’s former client, a big donor

Thu, 02/21/2019 - 12:27
Getting tired of the in your face corruption? Expect filthy air and pollution from this crowd as they reward their big donors. “In one exchange on July 6, 2018 — one day after Pruitt resigned — American Coal Council CEO Betsy Monseu offered support to Wheeler. “As EPA moves forward under your leadership to further the Trump administration’s priorities, I offer best wishes to you and the support of the American Coal Council for continuing the path of regulatory reform and rebalancing,” she wrote. “Thank you,” Wheeler replied.” Trump wants to save coal plant linked to EPA head’s former client, a big donor The acting EPA administrator spent years lobbying for Murray Energy. E.A. Crunden SHARE

Andrew Wheeler, nominee to be Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) admistrator, testifies before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee during a confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on January 16, 2019. CREDIT: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

Amid a sharp decline in coal jobs, President Donald Trump on Monday pushed for a federal entity to keep open a coal fired power plant supplied by Murray Energy, a company with strong ties to the administration including Acting Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler.

“Coal is an important part of our electricity generation mix and [the Tennessee Valley Authority] should give serious consideration to all factors before voting to close viable power plants, like Paradise #3 in Kentucky!” Trump wrote in a Feb. 11 tweet.

The TVA is a federally-owned generator that doesn’t receive taxpayer money and is funded through electricity sales instead. Paradise Unit 3, which is almost 50 years old, has been deemed too expensive to continue operating, and the TVA board is set to vote as early as Thursday on whether to shutter the coal plant.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) has also called for the plant to remain open, as has Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Paradise 3’s fate has been cloudy for some time. In 2017, TVA retired two other coal plants near the former town of Paradise, Kentucky in compliance with the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule, an Obama-era anti-pollution effort that the EPA is currently trying to roll back.

High costs coupled with low efficiency at Paradise 3 have combined to slowly doom the coal plant. An environmental assessment released this month meanwhile found that Paradise 3’s closure would have minimal impact on the environment.

Throughout his presidency, however, Trump, has pushed hard to revive the dying coal industry, even as jobs decline and plants continue closing en masse.

But Paradise 3 also has the distinction of relying on coal predominately from a subsidiary of Murray Energy, the largest coal mining company in the United States. That company’s chief executive, Robert Murray, is a top supporter of the president’s, who has pushed repeatedly for the bailout of coal and nuclear plants that Trump has encouraged. Murray notably gave $1 million to a pro-Trump political action committee in 2018.

New EPA head defends his work with the coal industry in first address

Murray Energy is also the former client of Wheeler, who worked for the company as a lobbyist, a job he held for years prior to his time at the EPA. Wheeler’s former coal lobbying is likely to be further scrutinized as he appears set to sail through his confirmation to formally lead an agency tasked with safeguarding the environment and enforcing regulations.

 

 

FULL STORY

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Trump’s Pick To Lead Climate Panel Once Compared CO2 To Jews In Nazi Germany

Thu, 02/21/2019 - 12:04
Why would we want competent people in our government with relative experience when we could have right wing flat earthers? Did he tell Trump he looked thin?   “The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that Happer, a retired Princeton physics professor with no expertise in climatology, will lead a panel called the Presidential Committee on Climate Security.  Happer, however, has claimed rising carbon dioxide levels not only aren’t harmful but also are actually beneficial.” 

Trump’s Pick To Lead Climate Panel Once Compared CO2 To Jews In Nazi Germany

William Happer will reportedly lead the new Presidential Committee on Climate Security. By Ed Mazza

.”

William Happer, President Donald Trump’s reported pick to lead a new panel on climate change, is a science denier with a history of controversial comments.

In one case, he compared carbon to Jews in Nazi Germany.

The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that Happer, a retired Princeton physics professor with no expertise in climatology, will lead a panel called the Presidential Committee on Climate Security.  Happer, however, has claimed rising carbon dioxide levels not only aren’t harmful but also are actually beneficial.

If your heads in the sand you know what’s showing. Australian climate change protest.

“The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler,” Happer said on “Squawk Box” on CNBC in 2014. He added: “Carbon dioxide is actually a benefit to the world, and so were the Jews.”

Happer, who is on the National Security Council, has a history of dropping Nazi references.

In a 2017 interview with ProPublica, he said the word “denier,” which is applied to people such as himself who reject the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change, was “carefully chosen to make me look like a Nazi sympathizer.”

He called for “toning down the rhetoric” but moments later dismissed those who accept science by calling them “climate alarmists” who have “complete control of the media” and have “hijacked all the major scientific societies.”

In an interview with The Best Schools, he managed to name-check the Salem witch trials, the French revolution, the Soviet purge and the Nazis in defense of those such as himself.  And in 2009, he called climate science a “cult” and said that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. Then he dropped another Nazi comparison to those who believe in the science of climate change.

Do you have information you want to share with HuffPost? Here’s how.

 

FULL STORY & COMMENTS

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Three New Community Meetings Scheduled on Santa Rosa Plain Groundwater Sustainability Fee

Thu, 02/21/2019 - 10:04
 If you are worried about the fees please attend. If consensus is not reached the state will take over the panels and fees will rise dramatically.                                                                                                

PRESS RELEASE

Ann DuBay   707.524.8378 (office) 707.322.8185 (cell)                                                                                                                  Ann.DuBay@scwa.ca.gov

  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 20, 2019                                                                Three New Community Meetings Scheduled on Santa Rosa Plain Groundwater Sustainability Fee   Santa Rosa, CA  – The Santa Rosa Plain Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) is hosting a series of community meetings in early March, to discuss a proposed groundwater sustainability fee to provide short-term funding for the new agency. Attendees will also learn about a proposed groundwater user registration program. The same information will be presented at each of the meetings, which will take place at 6 p.m., on March 4, March 6 and March 7 at various locations throughout the Santa Rosa Plain basin (details below). The March 4 meeting will be taped and can be watched remotely. The additional meetings are scheduled to allow people an opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback after an overflow crowd attended a January 30 meeting in Santa Rosa. The March meetings will cover the same information that was discussed at the January meeting. No decisions will be made at the Community Meetings. The GSA Board will consider the fee methodology and levels at its March 14 and April 11 meetings (1 p.m., 35 Stony Point Road, Santa Rosa). “The GSA has a responsibility to make sure that clean groundwater is available to the thousands of people, farms and businesses that rely on it — today and into the future,” said Santa Rosa Plain GSA Chairwoman Lynda Hopkins. “To do this, the GSA needs a small, stable funding source. We hope that people will come to the meetings or watch them remotely, and share their thoughts.” GSA Vice-Chair Tom Schwedhelm. “The additional meetings will provide both important information to landowners and additional feedback to the GSA Board.” This state-mandated GSA was created to sustain the quality and quantity of groundwater in the Santa Rosa Plain (generally, the valley floor stretching from Cotati to Windsor and from the foot of Sonoma Mountain to Sebastopol). The GSA is nearing completion of a year-long study and regular public meetings to finds ways to finance day-to-day operations and groundwater planning. A groundwater sustainability fee – based on estimated groundwater use – is being considered. “The GSA Board looked at multiple fees, rates or taxes to find an option that is fair, equitable and easy to administer. While no choice was perfect, a fee based on actual or estimated groundwater use meets all these criteria,” said GSA Board member Joe Dutton, who also served on an ad hoc committee that reviewed fee options. “To make sure that estimated groundwater use reflect what’s happening in the field, we talked to farmers and local agriculture experts and adjusted the numbers based on their feedback.” Proposed fee amounts currently range  up to $3 annually for a well owner with a small irrigation well (but whose main water supply is from a city) and up to $26 per acre foot for larger pumpers, like cities, towns, mutual water companies, agriculture and golf courses. (An acre foot of water is equivalent to 325,851 gallons.) The proposed fee range for rural residents is up to $13 annually. ‘Rural Residential’ well owners rely solely on a well for water, and comprise an estimated 24% of groundwater use in the Santa Rosa Plain basin. The GSA is not legally permitted to (nor does it have a desire to) meter rural residential wells, so must use estimates to determine total rural residential water use. ABOUT THE RATE AND FEE STUDY The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) was passed into California law in fall 2014. The Act requires that State-designated medium and high priority basins form a GSA and develop a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP). Santa Rosa Plain (essentially, the valley floor, extending from Cotati to Windsor) is a medium priority basin. In compliance with SGMA, the Santa Rosa Plain GSA was created in June, 2017. GSA member agencies contributed funds to pay for the first two years of GSA operating costs. In fall of 2017, the GSA sought a consultant to conduct a rate and fee study to develop options for funding the agency for the next three years, until the GSP is completed (in 2022). Raftelis (a financial consulting firm) began the study in December 2017. In spring 2018, the GSA was awarded a $1 million Proposition 1 grant from the California Department of Water Resources for developing the GSP. The grant funds significantly offset GSA costs. Funding is needed to cover the remaining operating costs of approximately $337,000 annually. Strict constitutional requirements on fees and taxes have narrowed the funding options to fees based on actual or estimated groundwater use. Potential fee payors could include groundwater users such as cities, water districts, farmers, businesses and residents with wells. It is estimated that about a third of all groundwater used in Santa Rosa Plain is used by agriculture; about a third by cities and towns; about a quarter by rural residents; with the remainder split amongst other users including mutual water companies, schools, golf courses and other commercial users. If the GSA does not impose fees, and as a result, cannot complete and implement the GSP, the state could intervene and impose fees that would range from $100 annually for residential well owners to $300 (base fee) plus $40 per acre foot of groundwater use annually for agriculture, cities, mutual water systems, golf courses and commercial users. MEETING INFORMATION (the same materials and presentations will be presented at each meeting) Monday, March 4, 6-8 p.m. City of Santa Rosa, Utilities Field Office 35 Stony Point Road, Santa Rosa The meeting will be taped, and can be viewed afterwards by going to www.santarosaplaingroundwater.org Wednesday, March 6, 6-8 p.m. City of Rohnert Park, City Council Chambers 130 Avram Avenue, Rohnert Park Televised live and broadcast on Comcast Channel 26. The meeting will also be taped, and can be viewed afterwards by going to www.santarosaplaingroundwater.org. Thursday, March 7, 6-8 p.m. Town of Windsor, Town Council Chambers 9291 Old Redwood Highway, Building 400, Windsor For more information about the Santa Rosa Plain GSA, go to   www.santarosaplaingroundwater.org.


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Categories: G2. Local Greens

The Shutdown Is Over. Now Follow the Money.

Thu, 02/21/2019 - 09:57
When you have friends in high places…..“It is utterly immoral that the Trump administration treats one group, the fossil fuel industry, as more important as others,” added committee congressman Alan Lowenthal (D-CA). (…..approved 38 new permits for drilling and 15 new leases for oil during shutdown).

Meanwhile, while oil and gas leases moved forward, including public meetings about drilling in ANWR, BOEM postponed two public meetings that were scheduled for public discussion of the Vineyard Wind Project, an offshore wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts.

The Shutdown Is Over. Now Follow the Money. Where did DOI get the cash to keep selling oil and gas leases?

Photo by Kylet Perry | iStock

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By Jacob Shea | Feb 3 2019 It was the longest government shutdown in US history, and work at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) nearly ground to a halt. Some 7,000 of its 9,260 employees were furloughed. Public education programs and conservation corps maintenance ceased. The BLM stopped accepting most Freedom of Information Act requests. But one sector of the Bureau kept working. Between December 28 and January 25, the BLM—the branch of the Interior tasked with making decisions on federal land use and natural resources—approved 38 new permits for drilling and 15 new leases for oil and gas development. It also accepted 260 applications for drilling, according to Center for Western Priorities, a watchdog group dedicated to public lands in the region. On January 8, while national parks piled up with garbage, Mike Sommers, president of the American Petroleum Institute, told the press that his industry was “not feeling the impacts” of the shutdown.  

Meanwhile, at the Bureau of Ocean Management (BOEM), which manages offshore energy and mineral resources, 40 employees were reallocated in order to keep processing documents for the Trump administration’s National Outer Continental Shelf Program (OCS), which intends to open nearly all federal waters to drilling.

During a federal shutdown, only essential services—such as emergency response, fire prevention, and law enforcement—are supposed to stay open. So there’s a significant amount of interest in how the Interior Department kept processing oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico and other public lands, and whether doing so was even legal.

On January 22, 14 Democratic senators sent a letter to the Interior Department, requesting an explanation of how BOEM made decisions and allocated funds to keep the Outer Continental Shelf program active.

Another letter, from the House Natural Resources Committee (HNRC), questions why the Interior Department didn’t extend the Arctic development’s public comment deadline, given that questions were going unanswered about the Interior Department’s plans for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), a 19.3-million-acre expanse that is widely considered to be one of the last pristine wildernesses in the United States. “Asking people to comment on two major development processes in the Arctic with huge potential environmental and human

Oil drenched bird from artic oil spill.

consequences,” wrote the HNRC, “without anyone in the agency able to answer questions, defeats the purpose of the public participation process.” The Interior Department must allow a minimum of 45 days for public comment on draft environmental impact statements. During past shutdowns, it’s been common practice to move deadlines to ensure public comments are processed correctly.

It’s still unclear exactly how the Interior Department allocated resources and made decisions about leasing and permitting. Acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, the former oil lobbyist who has filled in after Ryan Zinke’s departure, has been relatively silent about the agency’s operations. But it’s possible that Interior dipped into funds that under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and appropriations law, would have required congressional approval.

Furthermore, it’s possible that by fast-tracking approval for oil and gas leases during the shutdown, Interior agencies failed to give the proper review to the environmental and cultural impacts of the projects, which is mandated under the Endangered Species Act and the National Historic Preservation Act.

On January 24, the Democrats of the House Committee on Natural Resources held a public forum with environmental, policy research, and tribal groups. Representatives from the Natural Resource Defense Council, the Wilderness Society, the Center for American Progress, the All Pueblo Council of Governors, and the Public Lands Alliance, came to rail against Interior and BLM practices.

“Secretary Bernhardt’s Interior Department is a black box of secrecy,” said Matt Lee-Ashley, senior director of environmental strategy and communications at the Center for American Progress, at the forum. “We’re only beginning to count how many laws are being broken right now.”

 “It is utterly immoral that the Trump administration treats one group, the fossil fuel industry, as more important as others,” added committee congressman Alan Lowenthal (D-CA).

“BLM continues to push for oil and gas development to the detriment and possible destruction of Pueblo cultural resources and sacred sites,” said Governor Kurt Riley, co-chairman of the All Pueblo Council of Governors Natural Resources Committee, about BLM activity in New Mexico. “This already disastrous process is only made worse during this government shutdown.”

Meanwhile, while oil and gas leases moved forward, including public meetings about drilling in ANWR, BOEM postponed two public meetings that were scheduled for public discussion of the Vineyard Wind Project, an offshore wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts.

When offered a chance to respond to allegations of misappropriated funds and preferential treatment for the oil and gas industry, the main press office for the Bureau of Land Management responded with a written statement:

“Across the BLM, we are working on assessing the impact of the recent lapse in appropriations on our current operations and pending actions and decisions. We will provide further information as soon as possible regarding any operational changes, extensions and modifications of public comment periods, rulemakings, permits, and other issues as soon as possible. For people planning to visit BLM-managed public lands soon, we encourage them to please check in with their local BLM office for information on accessibility and services. Contact information may be found at blm.gov/contact.”

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More stories about: Alaska, natural gas, oil, politics, public lands

Jacob Shea is a freelance journalist based in Oakland, California, who covers the environment, science, and politics. He is also a 2019 Sierra Editorial Fellow. You can follow him on Twitter @jhshea11.

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Can We Help Our Forests Prepare for Climate Change?

Thu, 02/21/2019 - 09:43

Sierra Club magazine:

Can We Help Our Forests Prepare for Climate Change? 

And if we can, what’s the right way to do it?

By Madeline Ostrander | Dec 19 2018

ON A DECOMMISSIONED naval base in Maine owned by Acadia National Park, about a thousand tree seedlings stand inside a series of wire enclosures, corralled like farm animals.

Nicholas Fisichelli, forest ecology director at the Schoodic Institute, a nonprofit that functions as a research center for Acadia, walks through the plots of baby trees. They are laid out neatly in a grassy clearing, beside a former infirmary that has been converted into a science building. Lanky and bespectacled, he stoops to peer at the rows of new leaves and delicate stems. One group of plots is a test to see whether seed sown on the ground will sprout in this environment. Other sections are full of seedlings from nursery stock. Collectively, the plots are part of a radical experiment: a wide-ranging search for trees that will be able to survive in this national park decades from now—when things get hotter, drier, and much more uncertain.

Beyond this research field, dense forests—dominated by native trees like the dark, bristly red spruce and balsam fir and slender paper birch—spread across Acadia from one rocky shore to the other. But according to multiple projections on the likely impacts of climate change here, many of these trees could dwindle or die off in a matter of decades, leaving the park vulnerable to invasive weeds and bereft of important species that provide habitat to wildlife.

“Maybe a park is the place to provide the time and space to those changes and for nature to self-sort . . . or maybe this is the place to try to make those transitions more graceful.”

In response, over a year ago, Fisichelli, the project’s lead researcher, and scientists with the National Park Service launched a search up and down the mid-Atlantic for tree species that might both survive Acadia’s current harsh winters and tolerate the hotter conditions that will almost certainly exist in the future. The scientists planted the exotic trees here, alongside seedlings from species that already grow in the park. Since then, through an icy winter and two unusually dry summers, researchers have regularly walked through this plot, noting how the young trees are faring.

Until recently, most scientists and managers in national parks would never have considered an experiment like this. For decades, Park Service policy recommended that managers avoid meddling in nature, except for the express purpose of repairing damaged ecosystems or removing traces of human influence. Lifting a species from its current range and dropping it into an entirely new and unfamiliar ecosystem—a process known as assisted migration—is unorthodox and controversial. A species that is beneficial in one kind of ecosystem might be a pest or a scourge in another. History abounds with cautionary tales. For example, the black locust tree, which is native to the Ozarks and the Appalachians, turned into an aggressive invader when it was planted farther north, clustering into dense, thorny tangles all over New England.

But climate change is already triggering pest invasions and tree die-offs in many national parks and creating tough conditions for some plants and animals, including those that are at risk of extinction. Given these trends, many Park Service managers feel that the ecosystems they are charged with protecting will need extra help to weather what’s coming. Often, scientists discuss assisted migration as a means of saving a particular plant or animal that might no longer be able to live in its historic range—like the American pika, endemic to high-alpine areas of the American West, and the giant sequoia of the Sierra Nevada. In Acadia, park scientists are concerned not just with what species might disappear from the park but also with what might arrive to take their place. They are thinking about what kinds of trees the park will need in order to keep its ecosystems healthy in 50 or even 100 years.

Inside Fisichelli’s plots, some of the southern transplants are already leafy and assertive, crowding against one another as they compete for the midsummer sunlight. A seedling of a tulip tree (a species that naturally ranges from Florida to Vermont but has yet to migrate to Maine) has grown to about a foot and a half. It lifts its fat, pointed leaves alongside the slender stems of a pitch pine, a native of Acadia.

Other trees have failed. Sweet gum, a species with star-shaped leaves that is common from the Carolinas to the Gulf of Mexico, sprouted vigorously in the summer of 2017 but withered in the winter cold. Now its leaves are brown and crinkled, like folded moth wings. Fisichelli has three other sets of plots at different locations throughout the park. Others are higher, windier, warmer, or drier than this one. Different species have excelled or struggled at each, though fair-weather trees like the sweet gum have withered in the Maine winter freeze at every location.

Any time a scientist or a park manager chooses to relocate a handful of species, others will be left behind.

The wire enclosures keep hungry animals from devouring the young trees. “Snowshoe hares are like sharks circling these things,” Fisichelli says. The arboreal residents of these plots also aren’t allowed to fraternize with the wild trees of the forest just a few feet away. If any seedling is precocious enough to grow flowers at this young stage, Fisichelli or one of his crew will snip off the buds well before the tree can produce a seed. No one who works inside Acadia is ready to offer these trees a permanent position here. This will be a long screening process.

ACADIA’S INTEREST in assisted migration began a few years ago, when new research emerged that made it clear that the park’s forests could be headed for serious trouble. Since 2007, the U.S. Forest Service has published a set of models and maps called the Climate Change Tree Atlas, an effort to predict what trees might be able to thrive in which locations as local and regional climate conditions change. Five years ago, Fisichelli—then employed at the National Park Service’s Climate Change Response Program in Fort Collins, Colorado—applied those predictions to more than 100 parks, including Acadia.

The results were sobering. Acadia’s most important and common tree, red spruce, would lose about half its living space in the park. Eight other forest tree species native to Acadia, including northern white cedar and balsam fir, would also forfeit substantial portions of their ranges. Four native trees—tamarack, white and black spruce, and balsam poplar—would probably be extinct within the park by the end of the 21st century.

In the scientific community, there has been much discussion but few field tests of assisted migration, especially relocations over large distances. Sally Aitken, a plant geneticist at the University of British Columbia, has planted whitebark pine—a tree of the Rockies and the Mountain West that is now threatened by a disease called blister rust—in a remote location in the northern part of the province, far above its normal range. A group of grassroots activists stirred controversy a decade ago when they moved endangered Florida torreya trees to locations in North Carolina and as far away as Ohio.

The Park Service is not the only federal agency considering whether it may be necessary to relocate tree species. The Forest Service has launched trials of assisted migration for commercially valuable tree species at study sites in five regions. But the Park Service, an agency long focused on lofty conservation goals, has especially cautious standards for what species should be planted inside national parks.

As the Park Service wrestles with the vast crisis of climate change, some within the agency question their role: Should they be taking a more active hand in deciding what nature or wilderness will look like decades from now? Or should they let chance, weather, and random seed dispersal determine what grows in their forests?

Fisichelli hasn’t drawn any hard conclusions yet. “Change is really messy, and it’s not always pretty,” he says in a measured, professorial tone. “Maybe a park is the place to provide the time and space to those changes and for nature to self-sort . . . or maybe this is the place to try to make those transitions more graceful. Those are the discussions to have.”

ESTABLISHED IN 1916, Acadia National Park stretches across 55 square miles of islands and peninsulas. The heart of the park lies on the kidney-shaped, windswept Mount Desert Island, surrounded by lobstering wharfs, colonial saltbox cottages and old Victorian houses with wide porches, and rocky beaches thronged with tourists in the summer.

Filling the space in between are tens of thousands of acres of deep, shady evergreen forest, all of which have seen a lot of change in the park’s lifetime, even before climate change began to alter the landscape. One-sixth of the plant species that were found here in the late 19th century are now gone from the park. One in four species growing here is not native to the region. Many parts of Acadia’s forests are only 70 years old—the result of a cluster of wildfires that tore through Mount Desert Island in 1947. Spruce trees declined across Maine and the rest of the Northeast in the mid-20th century—poisoned by rain tainted with sulfuric acid (a.k.a. acid rain) from coal plants and other industries. And in the past five years, most of Acadia’s red pines have been sickened or killed off by an insect from Asia called red pine scale.

Kathryn Miller, a National Park Service plant ecologist, leads a research program that tracks the long-term health of forests here and in a dozen other parks up and down the East Coast. Thirteen years ago, she set up permanent research plots all over Acadia. The day after visiting the experimental field of seedlings at Schoodic, I accompany her and Samantha Bietsch, a field researcher, to one of their study sites deep in the woods on Mount Desert.

First, they hand me a heavy, olive-colored jacket, even though it’s nearly 80 degrees and sunny. “At least for some protection, so you don’t get mauled,” Miller says, casting a concerned look at my thin, short-sleeve T-shirt. We’re heading into a section of the park that is dominated by red spruce, which is especially unfriendly when you walk through its neighborhood. As I huff behind the two scientists through dense shade, the trees scrape their spiny needles against my face and hair, claw at the edges of my clothing, and reach their stiff fingers into my pockets as if trying to snatch my notebook and recorder.

“This is a really old forest,” Miller exclaims. “This is exciting.”

We plod across a carpet of cinnamon fern and fuzzy sphagnum moss and scramble over scratchy logs and gangly roots. A viridescent cluster of skunk cabbage fills the air with a pungent smell. We follow what looks like a game trail, and I spot a small mound of deer scat. Spruce forest is popular with deer in the winter, Miller explains. It’s also home to flying squirrels, hawks, grouse, and various warblers year-round.

When we reach Miller’s study plot—marked by a set of white stakes and rebar driven into the ground—Bietsch pulls a roll of kite string from her bag, and the two scientists use it to mark the edges of the plot. They then hold a one-meter square made of plastic piping above randomly chosen sections of the plot and record the trees, seedlings, and understory plants growing within, as well as the diameters of any tree trunks. Bietsch enters this data into a hefty field computer whimsically named One Fish, with a Dr. Seuss cartoon fish taped to it.

Here, as in many parts of the park’s forests, red spruces are occupying most of the sky and soaking up the light, along with a few northern white cedars. In the 1990s, the federal Acid Rain Program, established through a set of amendments to the Clean Air Act, forced power plants to cut sulfur dioxide emissions, and, partly as a result, the red spruce has made an impressive comeback.

Climate change could undo that success. If red spruce can’t take the heat and loses its leading role in these ecosystems, much of this national park—and all of the wildlife, fish, and plants that live under the trees’ prickly canopy—could be left vulnerable. That is, unless another species shows up to fill the same ecological niche.

“Maybe about five years ago, if you would have asked me what I thought about assisted migration, I would have been like, ‘No, we don’t know enough! I don’t want to do it!'” Miller says emphatically. Another one of her survey sites, Morristown National Historical Park, in New Jersey, is overrun with Japanese barberry, which was originally brought to the East Coast by well-meaning landscapers. Barberry has no natural competitors in North America, and in Morristown it forms impenetrable thickets that crowd out any native plant that might otherwise grow there.

Miller knew that forests can migrate on their own—though they do it slowly—and she wondered if the park should let new species of trees find their own way into Acadia. Trees move to new ground by sending their seeds some distance, either via wind and water or with help from animals like squirrels and birds. Beginning around 14,000 years ago, as the last ice age ended, boreal tree species like spruce journeyed northward across Maine following the retreat of the Laurentide Ice Sheet. Then they faded from the interior of New England when conditions became warm, dry, and more fire-prone between 9,000 and 5,000 years ago.

At the time, Acadia functioned as a refuge where spruce could escape the heat. According to a study of preserved pollen grains retrieved from wetlands, spruce trees still lived in parts of Acadia then. They were not as abundant in Mount Desert but dominated the cooler, foggier Schoodic Peninsula. About 1,000 years ago, as the climate cooled again, the trees marched out and took over much of the Northeast. But the climate of the future will likely be far warmer, and spruces could lose a lot of habitat in the park this time around.

Five years ago, while Miller was working on her PhD at the University of Maine, she decided to investigate whether eastern trees could sort out the problem of climate change on their own. She ran a computer simulation for 15 tree species, to figure out which could make the long trek from the Southeast to the Northeast quickly enough to accommodate the rapidly changing climate of the 21st century.

Most of the trees in her model couldn’t make it past southern New York. Today, mid-Atlantic and southern trees face barriers to migration that didn’t exist thousands of years ago—namely, central New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. These heavily paved landscapes bar the path of trees like oaks, hickories, and sweet gums.

Many of these trees are also slow to reproduce. Oaks, for instance, don’t shed a single acorn until they are about 20 years old. If there is a major tree die-off, an Acadian forest could fill with a weedy, fast-reproducing shrub like barberry that could choke out plants that are better for forest health and produce more food and shade for wildlife. “OK,” Miller remembers thinking, “assisted migration may not be so bad.”

There are still some in the conservation and environmental community who are opposed, in principle, to what Acadia is considering. Any time a scientist or a park manager chooses to relocate a handful of species, others will be left behind—countless plants and animals, fungi, insects, and microfloras. Some of these species might have just as much ecological value as the ones we decide to rescue, but human society simply hasn’t bothered to notice, doesn’t understand their importance, or can’t take the time to save them. “It is scientific hubris to think that we can truly calculate risks and potential costs,” plant ecologist Mark Schwartz, a professor at the University of California at Davis, has written about assisted migration.

Any time Acadia spends money and resources to, say, restore an old wetland or replant a trampled meadow, it begs the question, what should grow here? The native species that have lived in the park for a few millennia? Or transplants and migrants that might be able to survive the hotter, drier weather of the future? “We don’t want to invest a lot in restoring vegetation that isn’t going to thrive,” says Abraham Miller-Rushing, the park’s science coordinator (and no relation to Kathryn Miller). But he remains cautious. “Right now, we’re focused on doing a lot of science to help us make the decision.”

ON A FIERCELY WINDY, foggy morning, Miller-Rushing drives with Fisichelli and me along the narrow road that twists up the side of Cadillac Mountain. This is one of the most iconic spots in Acadia and the highest point on the North Atlantic coast. The Cadillac summit—parts of which have been devoid of soil and vegetation since the 1947 fires—is now the site of two experiments. In one, Bill Brumback, a botanist with the New England Wildflower Society, and Jill Weber, coauthor of the hefty field guide The Plants of Acadia National Park, have covered small sections of bare rock with soil, matting, and seedlings in order to set up new habitat. Everything established here—wild blueberries, sheep’s laurel, spirea, and multiple species of wildflowers—is still local and native.

This is the older, more familiar means of restoring wildness in a national park: Only fiddle with nature to bring it back to its prior, well-documented, healthy state. But even here, nature is already on the move. In a survey two years ago, Brumback found that plants from lower elevations had begun migrating up the mountain of their own volition.

A few hundred yards from Brumback’s test plots, just off the side of the road, stands an enclosure containing a sparse assemblage of baby trees, the highest and most extreme plot in Acadia’s assisted migration trials. Fisichelli leads us through a field of grass, wild roses, and balsam firs to inspect the results.

They are less promising than the trial at Schoodic; only a few seedlings have withstood the mountainside exposure here. But a handful of southern plants—such as tulip trees and hackberries—are growing here with white pines and balsam firs. Fisichelli has even planted a few vigorous stems of the undesirable black locust as a point of comparison.

Staring at this plot, it’s easy to see the challenges of assisted migration. To plant seeds and seedlings is a game of chance and weather—one that becomes chancier as the climate becomes stranger and more volatile. It’s hard to know what will survive and what will disappear. Which trees should humans strive to help, and which should we leave to their own devices?

“That question isn’t for me to answer,” Fisichelli insists. “It’s a question that needs to happen among a larger group, but in society as well.”

While there are no answers yet, Miller-Rushing says that a decision on assisted migration in Acadia isn’t far off. In a year, Fisichelli will dig all these young trees out, root by root, and turn all the research plots back into a blank slate. The only thing remaining will be four patches of dirt, bare and exposed like an open question: What will the future look like?

This article appeared in the January/February 2019 edition with the headline “On the Move.”

Austin Marshall Price contributed reporting.

Take a Sierra Club trip to Acadia National Park. Details at sc.org/adventure-travel.

Florida Torreya (Torreya taxifolia)
The “stinking cedar” is the world’s most endangered conifer tree, with less than 1,000 left in its 75-square-mile native range on the Florida Panhandle. A group of citizen scientists called the Torreya Guardians are trying to save the tree by planting seedlings throughout the South and the Midwest.

Pika (Ochotona princeps)
The American pika thrives in cold, high-altitude habitats across the Mountain West. As climate change reduces the pika’s range, scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey say the rabbitlike mammal is a candidate for relocation.

Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens)
Today’s extraordinary rate of climate change may prove too much for the world’s tallest trees. As scientists evaluate moving the trees inland and upland, a grassroots group called Archangel Ancient Tree Archive has already begun planting nursery-grown redwoods outside the trees’ native range.

Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia)
Climate models using a 3.5°-to-4°C increase show that the range of the famous yucca could shrink by 90 percent by the end of the century. The U.S. Geological Survey has funded studies to identify potential relocation sites as far away as northwestern Arizona and southwestern Utah.

Bull Trout (Salvelinus confluentus)
Stream temperatures have risen in much of the bull trout’s native range in Idaho. U.S. Forest Service scientists, through a project called Cold Water Climate Shield, are locating colder, higher-altitude streams in Wyoming and Montana as possible refuges.

Hawaiian Honeycreepers (Loxops caeruleirostris and Oreomystis bairdi)
Two species of honeycreeper on the island of Kauai—the ‘akeke’e and the ‘akikiki—are critically endangered due to climate change. Without assisted relocation to suitable ranges on Maui or the Big Island, these tropical birds face complete range loss by the end of the century.

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Pepperwood is hiring…

Thu, 02/21/2019 - 09:27
Now hiring Communications Coordinator

Pepperwood is hiring! We’re seeking an experienced marketing professional with excellent writing skills for the position of Communications Coordinator. You’ll work with our Director of Advancement to support fundraising and raise Pepperwood’s visibility in the community by curating a range of high quality communications products. The ideal candidate will be a superb writer and experienced project manager with the technical skills needed to efficiently produce print and digital newsletters and other collateral, maintain a WordPress website, and build a vibrant social media presence. Click here to learn more including application instructions.

After nearly seven years providing leadership in Pepperwood’s communications initiatives, our Communications Manager Tom Greco is transitioning away from Pepperwood at the end of February. Tom’s contributions to Pepperwood are numerous, anchored by his role sharing Pepperwood’s work with the community through a variety of channels—from print and digital newsletters to our website and social media presence. Though we are sad to see him go, we are happy for him to pursue a new chapter with his family in Southern Oregon, where he’ll serve as Communications Manager for Lomakatsi Restoration Project, an ecological nonprofit in Ashland that shares Pepperwood’s commitment to advancing forest health through best management practices and prescribed fire.

Categories: G2. Local Greens

The Napa Planning Commissio n raises the stakes

Wed, 02/20/2019 - 09:49

The Planning Commission vote tomorrow raises the stakes.

Important Planning Commission meeting to approve the Watershed Protection Ordinance tomorrow –
9am Wednesday, February 20 Dear friends and supporters of Measure C,

As many of you know, the County has drafted a watershed protection ordinance.  This is a direct result of our efforts, and the prospect of a new initiative in 2020 if the proposal fails to greatly curtail the crude and primitive practice of clear-cutting forests.
Read more detail here: http://bit.ly/2tupzOP

The Planning Commission vote raises the stakes.  Tomorrow, it decides whether to approve the weak draft ordinance as is or send it back to the Board of Supervisors with a strong ordinance that makes a difference.
Read more detail here: http://bit.ly/2trwIPY

What can we do?  Make your voice heard.
Come to the Planning Commission meeting scheduled TOMORROW – 9am Wednesday, February 20.

Several key areas that need strengthening:

Tree retention requirement  

The county’s proposed 70% retention of tree canopy cover, minimum, is utterly unacceptable.  Our position is 90%, achieved in combination with further important protections that need strengthening, below:

3:1 tree removal mitigation  

The county’s proposed mitigation on slopes >30% is unacceptable.  This practice has been described as “double-dipping.”  Allowing preservation on steeper slopes that are already protected might help facilitate mitigation, but it frustrates the primary goal – limiting the clear cutting of Napa’s forests.  Preservation needs to take place on developable land, outside of already protected steeper slopes, and outside of already protected stream and wetland setbacks.

Definition of “vegetation canopy cover”  

The proposed definition considers canopy cover as the continuous, collective cover of a grouping of trees.  But it does not consider single trees as part of the canopy cover.  This is unacceptable, as it does not address oak woodlands where there is not a closed canopy.  State law (AB 242, Thomson, 2001) addresses oak ecosystems whereby an “oak woodland” is defined as an oak stand with >10% canopy cover or that may have historically supported >10% canopy cover.  By using this definition, single oaks would be counted as part of the canopy cover.

Stay involved.

You can send comment letters to planning commissioners and copy the Board of Supervisors:

https://www.countyofnapa.org/1449/Planning-Commission https://www.countyofnapa.org/2116/Board-of-Supervisors

Check out our Facebook page!

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Trump Administration Says It Will Rescind $929 Million In Funds For California High-Speed Rail | HuffPost

Wed, 02/20/2019 - 09:45
“Bully in Chief”, “Don the Con” at it again… “This is clear political retribution by President Trump, and we won’t sit idly by,” Newsom continued. “This is California’s money, and we are going to fight for it.”  Trump Administration Says It Will Rescind $929 Million In Funds For California High-Speed Rail | HuffPost The announcement comes one day after California joined a 16-state lawsuit challenging the president’s emergency declaration to fund a border wall. By Antonia Blumberg

The U.S. Transportation Department on Tuesday said it intends to terminate an agreement that would have granted nearly $929 million in federal funds for California’s ambitious and controversial high-speed rail project.

The department said it had determined that the California High-Speed Rail Authority had “materially failed to comply with the terms of the agreement” and had “failed to make reasonable progress on the project.”

The department also said in a statement it was “actively exploring every legal option to seek the return from California of $2.5 billion in federal funds.” It is unclear whether the department has legal recourse to do so.

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.) responded by accusing President Donald Trump of “political retribution” after California was joined by 15 states in a lawsuit on Monday challenging the president’s declaration of a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“It’s no coincidence that the Administration’s threat comes 24 hours after California led 16 states in challenging the President’s farcical ‘national emergency,’” Newsom said in a statement. “The President even tied the two issues together in a tweet this morning.”

Trump referenced California’s high-speed rail in a tweet on Tuesday about the laws.

“This is clear political retribution by President Trump, and we won’t sit idly by,” Newsom continued. “This is California’s money, and we are going to fight for it.” 

In a letter to Brian Kelly, the rail authority’s chief executive officer, Federal Railroad Administration official Ronald Batory referenced Newsom’s Feb. 12 State of the State address.

In the address, Newsom confirmed his plans to scale back the high-speed rail project, which was expected to take passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles in less than three hours. The project has been repeatedly delayed since construction started in 2015, under then-Gov. Jerry Brown, after costs doubled from initial projections, private investment failed to materialized and public support for the project deteriorated.

Newsom said he planned to refocus the high-speed rail project to link Merced and Bakersfield, a Central California route that by car can take up to three hours. Newsom made his plans clear during his gubernatorial campaign last year.

“I know that some critics will say this is a train to nowhere, but that’s wrong and offensive,” the governor said in his address. “The people of the Central Valley endure the worst air pollution in America, as well as some of the longest commutes. And they have suffered too many years of neglect from policymakers here in Sacramento. They deserve better.”

 

FULL STORY & COMMENTS

Categories: G2. Local Greens

WWW meeting notes on Land Use policies in Sonoma County

Wed, 02/20/2019 - 09:30
WWW meeting notes on Land Use policies in Sonoma County. Thank you Judith for some great notes. When scoping meetings for the General Plan and Local Coastal Plan start we will notify everyone and have a follow up meeting/forum on with information and actions by topics. In great appreciation for all the wonderful community minded people who showed up on a drizzly day.  

 

Wine and Water Watch – February 16, 2019 Forum

 

MAC – Municipal Advisory Committee for Coast (March 7th @ Bodega Bay Grange)

 

Laura Waldbaum: Cannabis Update – from Env Rep to Cannabis Advisory Group

Requires two licenses 1) State and 2) Sonoma County.  Sonoma claimed categorial exemption from CEQA – just do case by case for each project – no cumulative impact. 

Resources and status of activities are available at  SonomaCounty.ca.gov/Cannabis  (or contact the Cannabis Hotline 707.565.2420 or Cannabis@Sonoma-County.org . This is intended to be a “one-stop shop” where people can get up to date information and to check whether there is a permit for a specific property by Parcel number or street address. 

Water Use:  Up to 6- 15 gal/day at maturity … at 6 gal/day a 1 acre grow with 1 plant per 8 sq ft = 32,670 gallons/day or over 5 M gallons in 5 months (.05 cfs) Hydrology reports are standardized – and provide very little sight specific information – do not look at contained aquifer…

See County Website for regulations – Ordinance and what is allowed

  • NOW a 10-acre min – 600-foot setback from schools – trail system added to Park Setback, now exceptions allowed
  • Zoning/ Admin permit (smaller grows) and Use Permit
  • Is not agriculture – no right to farm: Federally illegal and additional impacts
  • Setbacks 1000 feet
  • Hydrology report and water use self-monitored – (if they do not increase water use in water scarce area)
  • SWRCB Waste Discharge General Order or Waiver – must maintain instream flows and “may” impose groundwater restrictions under certain circumstances

 

Cannabis Advisory Group: Two residents and one environmentalist – the rest are industry members with significant influence on the Ordinance and lack of enforcement

 

Sonoma County: by 2019: 39 Use Permits issued – with most being Zoning/Administrative Permit: Only 5% approaching Hearing stage and 20 % are in process. Still many illegal grows – neighbor complaints only lead to land use fines, and continue to allow the growing

700-900 Cannabis complaints filed at the County – Phase I – September 2018 revisions /
Phase II plan to amend Ordinance (on hold)

     Penalty Relief Program – Start 2017: 332 growers continued growing: June 2018 144 had not even applied for permit vs. have had completed permit.  DID NOT work out well only about 60-70 in Penalty Relief:  Allows illegal growers to continue growing until they get their Use Permit.

     Healdsburg grow:  Taking out 2 acres of grapes and putting in 1 acre cannabis: Will need to go through the Conditional Use Permit process

 

Other Bay Area Counties:  Statewide only 14 Counties allow cannabis/ 11 with outdoor grows – Sonoma County is “Permissive County” – only Bay Area County that allows outdoor grows (NMFS working to protect certain watersheds, like Mark West Spring

 

Robert Guthrie – Save our Sonoma Neighborhoods.com (SOS): Sebastopol area – organized to help neighborhoods work through permit issues/Ordinance

  • Any AG or Resource land use category (LIA,LEA, DA, plus Industrial Commercial zones – can be right across your fence line under an Admin Permit (10,000 sq foot max) for 1 acre need 10 acre min
  • Setbacks: Outdoor 100 feet to property line – 300 feet to the house/ Indoor cannabis can be 10 feet from property line or house/ with parking, break area where smoking allowed and bathrooms right on the fence line
  • No well setbacks – fertilizer and pesticides etc can migrate into confined aquifers
  • Setbacks for creeks and park lands: Indoor can be right up to property lines – still have water and wastewater contamination issues

 

Ernie Carpenter:  General Plan County 2020 (Update to 1989 and 2008 plan) Subscribe to General Plan Update on County website (10 elements)

  • Large lot zoning with Acreage Min (Parcel specific) is key to keeping ag viable in County (done in 1989): 9 sub-areas developed (Coast – Sebastopol – etc: allows for more specific plans)
  • City centered growth – City and County need to work together – and village sewer capacity and water capacity must be updated
  • Some GP elements are OPTIONAL: Ag Resources (Ag promotion events allows commercial use in ag zones): Air, Transportation, Public Infrastructure: NEED to protect wooded areas and ensure fire safety and ability
  • MANDATORY elements: Housing (important City/County meetings related to housing – cannot build to accommodate all needs) and Zoning, Open Space (community separators), Public Safety, Transit,
  • Glossary – definitions that are specific enough to allow enforcement. Devil is in the details on definitions. 

Zoning Ordinance must be brought up to date to match new GP:  Only covers discretionary projects

 

Rue Furch: Water Resources Element (process 2002-2008 was last update) Federal, State, County and City levels all regulate water use

 

(Urban Growth Boundaries, Statewide Conference on Responsible Water Use)

  • Water Element is not Mandatory: Had a CAC in In 2002 – the County did not know if it had enough water to support the amount of housing and growth projected – important for economic and agricultural stability, address groundwater
  • Got definitions of watershed boundaries/ groundwater and surface water interactions/ increased protection for Riparian areas (Riparian Ordinance)
  • Santa Rosa Basin has fees for Well Owners – Agriculture and Rural Residential and Municipal groups to pay fees ($12-26 per Residential Well)
  • County is “streamlining” this 2020 update – limit what can be addressed

o   Goals, Objectives and Policies:  After each element, there is a list of Programs that are meant to be done to implement the GP

o   Scoping Session – identifies new information that must go into GP

o   Update Water Availability Zones – where and supply of groundwater and contained aquifers – identifies Class I,II,III – type of hydrology studies

 

CA Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA): 3 Basins for Med Risk: Santa Rosa Plain, Petaluma Valley and Sonoma Valley

  • Each Basin has a governing board- geologically and culturally the basins are different
  • 2019-2021 Write the Sustainability Plan

 

Local Coastal Plan:  5-year Plan: County is planning to issue a DRAFT in April 2019: Then hold public meetings in Coastal Area

First “MAC/LCP” meeting on March 7th, Bodega Bay Grange at 530pm

  • Cannot be inconsistent with GP, yet is not a part of GP – needs to be stand alone document as it is unique to Coastal Area (Required under Coastal Act) – most of elements are the same as the General Plan
  • Sonoma has the longest coastline of all coastal areas in CA: Seal level rise, public access, Ag resources (risk the County will open up the coast to wineries, tasting rooms and event centers) , water quality and Resource Management

 

Tom Conlin:  Greenhouse Gas and Climate Change: Climate denial is something that we are all doing – even in CA’s unique form of Climate denial

  • PG&E is bankrupt – 1st major corporation to be put out of biz by climate change
  • Spread of wildfires in US: States and local land use must look at where we can build

o   Wealthy can self-insure and 3rd party wildfire defense services

  • Sonoma County – 50K homes in fire hazard severity zone / 11K in moderate zone: Yet still are approving the rebuilding of houses in the fire hazard areas (Wild-Urban Interface)
  • Climate Change goals set at international and national levels: Plans are there – why are we not implementing these plans: Sonoma County is doing better than most: 53% are private cars/truck transportation, then GHG from buildings: 40% fewer cows and outsourcing our garbage dump to outside county created a small dip
  • Climate Action Plan 2020: was not implemented: could have been used as checklist to comply with GHG analysis:  Production of wine and tourism trips were the areas where we weren’t addressing GHG – lawsuit: Raise issue of tourism travel and long term GHG issues

 

Annie Dobbs Kramer: North Bay Organizing Project – Environmental and Social Justice:  Shared values around housing (place for shelter), immigration/deportation and environmental justice

  • Rights of Nature Framework: right of the ecosystems to grow and thrive
  • Climate Change is a result of our extractive economic system – need a new economic paradigm and address cultural strategy of working with youth
  • Want Initiative on ballot in 2020 (water, pesticides, forest health)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: G2. Local Greens

WWW Annual Sonoma County Land Use Policy Meeting

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 20:23
On February 16, 2019 the community came together for an open, fact filled discussion on land use policies. Sonoma County planners are rewriting the General Plan for 2020, still tweaking cannabis regulations, winery event regulations (postponed) and the Local Coastal Plan due this spring. These policies will affect the county for generations to come. Speakers included Laura Waldbaum, Robert Guthrie, Ernie Carpenter, Rue Furch, Tom Conlon and Annie Dobbs-Kramer. These speakers have decades of experience in our county on land use policies. The event was free.

Wine & Water Watch is a Sonoma County Tomorrow group.

 

 

How to get involved now for optimum input and what we need to watch for.  “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.” Equality and many voices will make our county great.

 

 

Graton Community Club

8996 Graton Rd Graton, CA.

February 16, 2019 1pm-3pm

ERNIE CARPENTER BIO: Fiscal conservative and social liberal.

Ernie Carpenter received his BA from San Francisco State and Master of Social Work at Berkeley in 1969. Ernie has lived in Sonoma County since 1969. He is a psychiatric social worker and an original Social Advocates for Youth staff. Ernie served on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors 1981-1997 representing the West Sonoma County. He is a former Coastal Commissioner, Planning Commissioner, Supervisor and current muckraker. He has an ongoing interest in progressive drug policies and government and currently works as a consultant on environment and government.

 

DOWNLOAD ERNIE’s PRESENTATION >>

 
 
 
 

RUE FURCH BIO:Rue has worked for years with local farm groups, seeking to protect family farms. She was Project Manager for the Sonoma County Farmlands Group and has worked with the California Association of Family Farmers. She was a leader of the Santa Rosa and Sebastopol Urban Growth Boundary campaigns, which fought to protect agricultural land from city sprawl.Her belief in neighborhood-friendly planning led to involvement in Courtside Village, the first Santa Rosa mixed use development to create a complete community of homes, shops, and parks. She also worked with the Santa Rosa Neighborhood Coalition, Concerned Citizens for Santa Rosa and the Sonoma County Community Foundation Advisory Committee. She was a moderator of the Marin-Sonoma County Transportation Committee and a member of the Hwy. 101 Corridor Advisory Committee.

Rue has served as a county planning commission for 16 years and has a reputation for doing her homework and asking tough questions. She was appointed by two West County supervisors, and has twice been the Commission’s chairperson. She recently chaired a statewide conference on responsible water use and succeeded in prioritizing water resources in the county’s new general plan. Among her many awards,

Rue was named California Woman of the Year by the state Assembly, 2006 Upstream Swimmer Award by Sonoma County Conservation Action, Environmentalist of the Year by the Sonoma County Conservation Council, County Planning Commissioner of the Year by the California County Planning Commissioners’ Association and received the Agent of Change Award from Concerned Citizens for Santa Rosa.

 

DOWNLOAD RUE’s PRESENTATION >>
 
 
 
 
 
 

LAURA WALDBAUM BIO: Laura Waldbaum in an environmental activist. For the past 20 years she has been working to implement changes to County policies and influence land use decisions to protect fish habitat in the Mark West Creek Watershed. She has been involved with litigation opposing several County land use decisions, has served on the County’s “working group” to modify the Vineyard & Orchard Site Development Ordinance and is currently a member of Sonoma County’s Cannabis Advisory Group representing the environment. 

 

 

 
 
DOWNLOAD LAURA’s PRESENTATION >>

 
 
 

Robert Guthrie spoke on the work of Save Our Sonoma Neighborhoods.

DOWNLOAD ROBERT’s PRESENTATION >>

 
 

Tom Conlon is an applied anthropologist and an expert in energy-efficiency social marketing. His clients have included Southern California Edison, the California Energy Commission, the Electric Power Research Institute, and The World Bank (Jamaica). He is a graduate of UC Santa Cruz and Sonoma State University, and has founded several ‘green’ businesses, including one acquired by Autodesk in 2008. A Fellow of the Society for Applied Anthropology, Tom represented District 1 on the Sonoma County Climate Action 2020 Stakeholder Advisory Group, and he has served on the boards of other local organizations including the Economic Development Board’s Business Environmental Alliance, the Rotary Club of Sonoma Valley, and Transition Sonoma Valley. In the late 1980’s he helped initiate the Organic Market News and Information Service and early drafts of the California Organic Foods Act (1990). Tom provides strategic, technical, and website support to Wine and Water Watch.

 

DOWNLOAD TOM’s PRESENTATION >>
 
 
 

 
 
 
 

Annie Dobbs-Kramer: 

Community Organizer | North Bay Organizing Project (NBOP)

Annie Dobbs-Kramer is a community organizer with the North Bay Organizing Project in Sonoma Country California. She has been organizing for the last 9 years. Her work centers on the intersection between environmental and social justice organizing to build deep democracy in our communities. The main focus of her organizing is creating space for women to empower themselves.

NBOP is an grassroots, multi-racial, and multi-issue organization comprised of over 20 faith, labor, environmental, student and community-based organizations based in Sonoma County. In this conversation we will learn about their campaign, Roots, Roof, and Refuge, and why they created the women-led Justice for the Environment Taskforce to embark on a campaign for the Rights of Nature.

The Rights of Nature identifies ecosystems and natural communities not merely as property, but as entities that have an independent right to exist and flourish. Laws recognizing the rights of nature thus transform the status of natural communities and ecosystems from things to be owned into rights-bearing entities with privileges that can be enforced by people, governments, and communities.

Annie spoke “no net” (i.e., w/o any slides).

 

 

Categories: G2. Local Greens

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