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Protecting our Environmental Resources
Updated: 17 hours 41 min ago

Trump’s EPA Could Allow Teenage Workers To Handle Dangerous Pesticides

Sun, 02/18/2018 - 10:31
Rates for cancer, leukemia and asthma have been high for farmworkers and their children for many years. This is so wrong…..Pruitt are your children going out in those fields?   “Doctors had called for those restrictions to be put in place because pesticides can increase the risk of cancer or impact brain development in children. “I think that there’s a pretty strong likelihood that if the minimum age is eliminated or lowered, there will be more people getting sick,” said William Jordan, a former EPA official who worked on developing the tighter pesticide rules. “When people are handling dangerous pesticides, they need to make sure they know what they’re doing.” Jordan said when it comes to certain restricted-use pesticides, even “a small amount like a teaspoon can kill you.””   “One reason growers may want to remove the minimum age requirements is that teenagers often work for less money than older employees…. Trump’s EPA Could Allow Teenage Workers To Handle Dangerous Pesticides Officials have signaled they may eliminate the age requirements for working with toxic chemicals on farms and other worksites. By Dave Jamieson

If the Environmental Protection Agency follows through with a reform now under consideration, teenage farmworkers and other working minors would once again be allowed to handle dangerous pesticides while on the job.

The EPA is now reevaluating a 2015 rule that tightened safety standards for farmworkers. In particular, the agency is considering changing or scrapping the requirement that anyone working with pesticides in agriculture be at least 18 years old.

Doctors had called for those restrictions to be put in place because pesticides can increase the risk of cancer or impact brain development in children.

The EPA may also tweak or do away with the age requirements of another recent rule, which spells out who can be certified to be an applicator of the chemicals that the EPA classifies as the most toxic. That could make it legal for minors to work with what are known as “restricted-use” pesticides, like arsenic and methyl bromide, in a host of industries beyond just agriculture, such as landscaping and pest control.

Restricted-use pesticides are not sold to the public for general use because of how dangerous they can be to people and the environment.

The EPA placed two notices of the potential reforms in the federal register in late December, while Congress was wrestling with its massive overhaul of the tax system. The agency said it was taking a second look at the regulations “as part of the President’s Regulatory Reform Agenda,” which takes aim at rules “appropriate for repeal, replacement or modification.”

Both of the pesticide rules were tightened during former President Barack Obama’s second term. The EPA’s reforms were being gradually phased in to give employers and state regulators time to adjust. The age requirement for agriculture work was implemented this year. The age requirement for pesticide applicators hasn’t gone into effect yet.

Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Trump White House has often boasted about the many regulations it has stripped away during his first year in office, many of them environmental rules from the EPA, one of the president’s favorite administrative punching bags. But the proposal to peel back safety standards for child farm workers was issued without any public fanfare.

“I think that there’s a pretty strong likelihood that if the minimum age is eliminated or lowered, there will be more people getting sick,” said William Jordan, a former EPA official who worked on developing the tighter pesticide rules. “When people are handling dangerous pesticides, they need to make sure they know what they’re doing.”

Jordan said when it comes to certain restricted-use pesticides, even “a small amount like a teaspoon can kill you.”

The official currently overseeing EPA’s handling of the potential revisions couldn’t be reached for comment. Under Trump, the EPA is run by Scott Pruitt, who often sparred with the agency as the attorney general of Oklahoma by suing it 13 times.

Disclosure forms filed with Congress indicate that the American Farm Bureau, the leading industry group for growers, lobbied the agency on the agricultural pesticides rule last year. A spokesman for the group didn’t respond to requests for comment.

I think that there’s a pretty strong likelihood that if the minimum age is eliminated or lowered, there will be more people getting sick.William Jordan, former EPA official

The two regulations in question ― the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard, and the Certification of Pesticide Applicators Rule ― have been on the EPA’s books for decades. But until reforms were undertaken during the Obama years, neither regulation included the minimum age requirements that environmental and worker safety groups had long asked for.

The regulation of how pesticides are handled generally falls to the EPA, as opposed to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the federal agency that enforces safety rules in most workplaces. The EPA’s reforms specifically exempted the immediate family members of farm owners, so that children working on family farms could still handle pesticides if their parents wanted them to.

The reforms were meant to protect minors working as for-hire employees, many of them migrants who may speak limited English, as well as the surrounding communities. Backers of the age stipulations argue that younger teens don’t have the maturity to make an informed decision about whether or not to handle dangerous chemicals. They also note that younger kids are more likely to mishandle them, endangering themselves and others.

When the reforms were being considered in 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics came out in support of them, listing a host of concerns with kids handling pesticides. The EPA “must recognize that teenagers under the age of 18 are still developing in critical physical and emotional areas,” the doctors’ group wrote. “Many pesticides are highly toxic to the brain and reproductive system and will cause long-term damage to those systems.”

One reason growers may want to remove the minimum age requirements is that teenagers often work for less money than older employees. The possibility of reopening such work to minors has infuriated safety advocates who say young farmworkers are already vulnerable.

“It’s outrageous,” said Andrea Delgado, legislative director at Earthjustice, an environmental law group.

Delgado’s and other watchdog groups are concerned with another piece of the agriculture rule that EPA may be gutting, known as the “right to know” provision. The reforms under Obama guaranteed that a farmworker could designate a third party to obtain information from the employer about what chemicals the worker had been exposed to. That third party could be a lawyer.

There are very hazardous chemicals that they and their families are exposed to.Virginia Ruiz, Farmworker Justice

Workers in industries other than agriculture are already entitled to have a third-party designated as their representative under OSHA regulations. But according to the EPA’s notice in the federal register, the agency has determined that “further consideration” of the right-to-know provision in agriculture is necessary.

Virginia Ruiz, an occupational health expert with the group Farmworker Justice, said such information is vital in the event a worker gets sick due to contact with chemicals. She said it’s also critical that a third party be able to access the information, given how many farmworkers don’t speak English, are transient, or are simply too afraid to confront their bosses.

As the rule was being drafted, opponents argued that the right-to-know provision could lead to corporate espionage, with growers spying on one another. But its backers, like Ruiz, say the real concern is probably lawsuits brought by workers or nearby residents over chemical use.

“This is a right that all workers have under OSHA: you can designate someone to access your exposure records,” Ruiz said. “Farmworkers shouldn’t be exempt from this right just because of where they work. There are very hazardous chemicals that they and their families are exposed to.”

The federal rulemaking process typically takes years. If the Trump administration wants to unwind the pesticide rules, it will have to go through the same steps of public comment and stakeholder outreach that the Obama administration went through in order to implement them ― only to reach the opposite conclusion.

That’s a likelihood that Jordan, who retired from the EPA in 2016, has come to expect.

“I thought that these were two of the more significant rulemakings from the pesticide area to come out of the Obama administration,” he said. “Knowing the Trump agenda to oppose the work of the previous administration, I’m not surprised by this.”

Categories: Food and Farming

SAVE THE DATE: Pam Strayer, leading specialist on American wines from organic and biodynamic vineyards and consumer health March 24th

Sun, 02/18/2018 - 10:08
Wine & Water Watch Proudly Presents Pam Strayer March 24th, 1-3 pm Sebastopol Center for the Arts What’s on those vines? Drink the change you want to see in the world.

 

Want to be an informed consumer and support a healthy environment in Sonoma County? Pam Strayer will present a guide to using publicly available information to see what pesticides are used in wine country, and more.

 

Pam (after moderating a Demeter winemakers panel) with Demeter USA Board Member Fred Kirschenmann at SHED Healdsburg

You’ll find out what is being applied to vineyards in your area and by whom. 

We will look at data collected by the state pesticide use report and mapped by the state department of public health. The chemicals applied on wine grapes include carcinogens, neurotoxins, bird and bee toxins and developmental and reproductive toxins.

 

We will also talk about solutions and how to support family friendly farming in Sonoma to grow local support for the organic community.

 

Pam is in the process of publishing an ebook on organic and biodynamic wines in Sonoma and Napa counties. There will be abbreviated wine lists from this ebook for attendees.

 

Bio: Pam is a leading specialist on American organic and biodynamic vineyards. Pam is the author and publisher of 7 apps as well as new websites for consumers. She is a well known speaker, certified sommelier and environmental journalist winning the prestigious New England Press Association Award. Pam consults with environmental groups including David Brower and Huey Johnson’s Resource Renewal Institute. She has produced dozens of films for Apple, PBS, Turner, the Dalai Lama, Jerry Garcia and the UN.

 

 

This map shows the various chemicals classified as carcinogens.

March 24th, 1-3pm                                                                                            

Sebastopol Center for the Arts

Fireside Room

282 South High St.

Sebastopol, Ca.

http://www.sebarts.org/ 707-829-4797

Categories: Food and Farming

Lawsuit Launched to Protect Endangered Species From Trump Administration’s Rollback of Clean Water Protections

Sun, 02/18/2018 - 10:07
“Every day the Trump administration blocks protections for these wetlands is another day that polluters are allowed to drive birds, fish and other animals closer to extinction,” said Hannah Connor, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We just can’t let that happen.” “We will do everything in our power to stop the Trump administration from allowing industrial polluters to turn our waterways into sewers, threatening endangered species and human health,” said Todd Steiner, biologist and executive director of Turtle Island Restoration Network. Lawsuit Launched to Protect Endangered Species From Trump Administration’s Rollback of Clean Water Protections

by Waterkeeper Alliance
Feb 14 2018

Conservation groups filed a formal notice of intent today to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for failing to consider harm to endangered species when adopting a rule that delays the effective date for the 2015 Clean Water Rule. That rule redefined which waterways are protected under the federal Clean Water Act.

The two-year delay is the first of several steps the federal agencies are taking to carry out a 2017 executive order by President Trump that would slash protections for wetlands, creeks and rivers across the nation. The EPA and Army Corps are rushing to comply with the order without considering harm to water quality or endangered species.

“It is clear EPA and the Corps are determined to reduce or eliminate Clean Water Act protections for the majority of our nation’s waters, and they are attempting to do that without legal authority and without complying with the nation’s most basic environmental laws,” said Kelly Hunter Foster, a Waterkeeper Alliance senior attorney.

Among the waters likely to lose protection against pollution and destruction under the agencies’ Feb. 6 delay rule are wetlands such as vernal pools in California, prairie potholes in the upper Midwest and coastal pocosins that provide vital habitat for imperiled species.

“Every day the Trump administration blocks protections for these wetlands is another day that polluters are allowed to drive birds, fish and other animals closer to extinction,” said Hannah Connor, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We just can’t let that happen.”

At the time the 2015 Clean Water Rule was adopted, the conservation groups involved in today’s legal action challenged it for creating illegal exemptions for industry and failing to protect important waterways and endangered species. But the groups say the two-year delay of the rule compounds those problems by further reducing the number and types of protected waters in violation of the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and other federal laws.

“Instead of resolving the debate, delay grants a giant green light for Big Ag to continue dumping agricultural pollutants on our food and in our environment,” said Adam Keats, a senior attorney at the Center for Food Safety. “We need to strengthen, not gut, the laws that keep industrial agricultural pollution in check, and the time to do that is now, not two years from now.”

The 2015 rule is one of many environmental rules identified by the Trump EPA for elimination. The agency has also slowed its enforcement of federal pollution laws, including the Clean Water Act.    

“We will do everything in our power to stop the Trump administration from allowing industrial polluters to turn our waterways into sewers, threatening endangered species and human health,” said Todd Steiner, biologist and executive director of Turtle Island Restoration Network.

Today’s notice of intent was submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Turtle Island Restoration Network, Waterkeeper Alliance, Humboldt Baykeeper (a program of the Northcoast Environmental Center), Russian Riverkeeper, Upper Missouri Waterkeeper, Snake River Waterkeeper and Monterey Coastkeeper (a program of the Otter Project). It demands that the agencies come into compliance with the Endangered Species Act before proposing a rule to delay the 2015 Clean Water Rule. 

The groups filing today’s notice of intent are represented by Earthrise Law Center, the environmental legal clinic at Lewis & Clark Law School.

California vernal pool by Joanna Gilkeson, USFWS. Images are available for media use.

About Waterkeeper

United as one powerful force, Waterkeeper Alliance fights for every community’s right to drinkable, fishable, swimmable water. For more information please visit waterkeeper.org

Categories: Food and Farming

New Map Reveals Which Countries are Most Likely to Survive Climate Change

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 10:59
New Map Reveals Which Countries are Most Likely to Survive Climate Change

Author: Fran Whittaker-Wood

Published: Wednesday, 03 January 2018

Climate change is real, and it’s happening. But will you survive it?

Melting ice caps, record high temperatures and rising sea levels are just some of the telltale signs.

Climate change is one of the most pressing crises facing humanity. Caused by an immense and continual buildup of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere as a result of human activity, climate change is already causing a series of alarming environmental events.

Once snowy landscapes are slowly melting away to leave an uninhabitable and baron wilderness, rising sea temperatures are killing thousands of miles of coral reef and marine life, while freak weather events are becoming more common and costing affected nations billions of pounds. For example, early estimates suggest that 2017’s hurricane Harvey caused between £48 billion and £134 billion worth of damage.

These serve as a worrying indication of the catastrophic effect that climate change could have on our planet in the future if nothing is done to tackle the phenomenon.

Whilst it’s clear that no single corner of the globe is safe from the changes that are happening to our climate, we wanted to find out which countries are the most (and least) at risk of the effects of climate change.

To answer this question, we looked at data from the University of Notre-Dame’s ND-Gain Index. This report analyzed 181 countries on their vulnerability to climate change and how ready they are to adapt to a warming planet, based on factors such as healthcare, food supply and government stability.

We also scrutinized how much carbon dioxide all 181 countries emit every year to give an indication of each nation’s contribution towards climate change. This allowed us to compare a country’s likeliness to survive changes to the global climate against their responsibility for the phenomenon.

So which country is the most likely to survive climate change?

The answer is Norway, thanks to its low vulnerability score and high readiness score. The nation’s Nordic neighbours also fared well, with Finland (3rd), Sweden (4th), Denmark (6th) and Iceland (8th) landing 5 out of the 10 top spots for survivability. So we should all flee to the countries of northern Europe and the north Atlantic to live out our final days should our planet become uninhabitable.

Interestingly the UK and US did not make the top 10, ranking 12th and 15th respectively. Both these nations were named amongst the 10 countries most likely to survive climate change in our 2015 version of this map, but an overall worsening of their vulnerability and readiness scores led to this slip in rank.

Even more surprising is China’s position in the ranking – 59th. Despite arguably being the world’s biggest contributor towards climate change – emitting a massive 9,040 metric tons of CO₂ into the atmosphere every year – the country is somewhat sensitive to the effects of a warming planet. This is largely due to the nation’s growing population which is putting a strain on China’s natural resources and public services. Rather ironically, China’s vulnerability to climate change therefore means that they may eventually reap what they sow.

And who are the biggest losers? At the other end of the scale, it comes as no surprise that the world’s poorest and least developed nations have the lowest chance of surviving climate change. Countries in sub-Saharan Africa fill the bottom 10 spaces for survivability, with Somalia being named the country least likely to survive climate change. Chad, Eritrea, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo also fared badly, owing to their unstable governance, poor infrastructure, lack of healthcare and a scarcity of food and water.

These findings serve as a stark reminder of the need for wealthier, more established countries to support the world’s most vulnerable nations. This is particularly true given that many of the world’s richest economies contribute the most to climate change but are in fact the least likely to be affected by it, whilst impoverished countries who hold little responsibility for the phenomenon are left suffering the most. To put this into perspective, Eritrea emits just 0.01% of the total carbon dioxide that the US does each year – a mere 0.6 metric tons of CO₂ compared to 4,997 tons of the greenhouse gas.

Whilst it’s true that climate change will impact the entire global community in some way, this map clearly shows which countries are likely to be the most (and least) affected. The pressure is now mounting for global leaders to come up with an effective solution to stop climate change before it is too late and nations begin to succumb to the disastrous consequences of a warming world.

Categories: Food and Farming

A Hot, Dry Winter in California. Could It Be Drought Again?

Tue, 02/13/2018 - 10:00
As county officials in Napa & Sonoma keep approving water gouging crops like wine and cannabis, we are moving rapidly to drought with no real measures in place like mandatory rainwater catchment (think Australia where they dealt with drought head on and no longer need desalinization plants). Sonoma supervisors: if you want to build 30,000 new units, require rainwater catchment or ditch the wine industry. You can’t have your cake and eat it to. Just where is that water coming from? The Eel River can’t afford to loose any more water to the cover 1,000 illegal water draws on the Russian River for grapes that have been documented for years with no action.      A Hot, Dry Winter in California. Could It Be Drought Again? https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/13/climate/california-drought.html  

Atmospheric conditions that helped create the recent multiyear California drought have returned, leaving the state dry and exceptionally warm this winter and its residents wondering if another long dry spell is on the way.

A ridge of high-pressure air off the West Coast has persisted for much of the past three months, blocking many Pacific storms from reaching California and weakening others that do get through. Normally such ridges tend to come and go, but they also lingered during the 2012-16 drought, the worst in the state’s history.

“We are now seeing another year that looks like one of those drought years,” said Daniel Swain, a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at the University of California, Los Angeles, who during the drought coined the term “ridiculously resilient ridge” to describe the atmospheric pattern.

“This one is definitely a resilient ridge, but we don’t know if it’s quite reaching the ‘ridiculous’ threshold,” said Dr. Swain, who blogs about California’s weather.

By one measure, at least, drought has already returned. According to the United States Drought Monitor, most of the southern half of California is now experiencing moderate or severe drought, a marked change from three months ago, when less than 10 percent of the state was in moderate drought and no part was in severe drought.

The Los Angeles area has been especially dry. Dr. Swain said that Los Angeles has had only one 24-hour period with rainfall of more than one-third of an inch in nearly a year. The one exception, Jan. 8-9, was the day the Santa Barbara area just to the north was inundated with even more rain, leading to deadly mudslides.

But overall, the current conditions are far less extreme than in 2015 and 2016, at the tail end of the drought. At times in 2015 more than half the state was considered to be in extreme drought, the drought monitor’s highest category. That spring, the state imposed a mandatory 25 percent reduction in water use in urban areas.

State water officials note that this year, as a result of the drought-ending rains of a year ago, there is plenty of water in California’s reservoirs, so there are no critical supply issues that could lead to similar restrictions.

Even so, the dry, warm weather that has persisted since late fall is taking a toll, with snowpack in the Sierra Nevada — the source of about one-third of California’s water — at 21 percent of normal on Monday. Without a flurry of storms to add to the snowpack in the next few months, the low snowpack could eventually lead to supply problems, especially if dry conditions persist for the next few years.

Image

State officials measured the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada last month.CreditJim Wilson/The New York Times

The high-pressure ridge tends to shunt storms north toward British Columbia, said Marty Ralph, director of the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

“It’s very normal to have a ridge,” said Dr. Ralph, who studies so-called atmospheric rivers, trails of tropical moisture that in a normal year are responsible for much of California’s precipitation. “It usually breaks down at some point and packs of storms break through.”

A few studies have suggested that the persistence of such blocking ridges in certain parts of the world may be linked to climate change. But a range of conditions in the Pacific Ocean not necessarily related to climate change, including El Niño and La Niña, can contribute to the formation and positioning of a ridge, Dr. Swain said.

The thin California snowpack is also a function of high temperatures. Following a record warm summer and fall in the state, temperatures have continued well above normal this winter. In the Sierra town of Truckee, Calif., on Thursday the high temperature, 64, was 21 degrees above the historical average.

“What we’re seeing is more precipitation as rain than as snow,” said Doug Carlson, a spokesman for the state Department of Water Resources. The warmer temperatures raise the snow line, the elevation above which it is cold enough that precipitation falls as snow. They also cause what snow there is to melt faster.

Rain runs off immediately, while snowpack serves as a reservoir of water that is released over time as it melts. So, changes in the proportions of snow and rain and the rate of snowmelt can affect the availability and timing of water for people, industry and agriculture..

The snowpack conditions in the Sierra this year may be an extreme example of what scientists suggest will be the case with climate change — that as average temperatures rise, average snowpack will decline, perhaps by as much as 25 percent by midcentury.

The blocking pattern in the atmosphere has also brought warm, dry conditions to the Rocky Mountains and the Colorado River basin, said Greg Smith, a senior hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City.

“The pattern is very strong this year,” Mr. Smith said. Most of the storms track to the north of the region, he said, “and the storms that do come in tend to be weak.”

The situation in the lower Colorado basin — most of Arizona and parts of Utah, New Mexico, Nevada and California — is especially bad, with snow totals at or near record lows at many locations.

As in California, the upper Colorado basin — parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and Wyoming — had plenty of snow runoff last year, Mr. Smith said. But without significant snowfall by April, even the upper basin will suffer. His forecast for the runoff this year into Lake Powell, the reservoir at the junction of the upper and lower basins, is the seventh-lowest in history, with expectations that the reservoir will receive less than half of its usual supply from melting snowpack.

“There’s definitely some concern for supplies in some areas as we see these forecast numbers drop,” Mr. Smith said. “We’re kind of hopeful we’ll see a pattern change in the next couple of months. We’re running out of time.”

Henry Fountain covers climate change, with a focus on the innovations that will be needed to overcome it. He is the author of “The Great Quake,” a book about the 1964 Alaskan earthquake.@henryfountainFacebook

Categories: Food and Farming

Congress introduces record number of bills to prevent people from taking industry to court

Tue, 02/13/2018 - 09:35
Environmental safeguards for humans trashed just in time for the corporate pollution rush. Who has rights, humans/nature or elite corporations? As a country we decide, please VOTE.

“……According to Earthjustice, the list of bills from the current Congress attacking individuals’ access to justice include:

  • 6 bills with provisions to eliminate judicial review, eroding the role of courts as a check and balance on other branches of government.
  • 14 bills that could effectively strip people of their right to sue by either forcing them into arbitration or blocking their ability to join together in class action lawsuits.
  • 17 bills that would make it too expensive to sue, forcing members of the public to bear the burden of costly litigation against the government.
  • 10 bills that meddle with timely resolution through settlements, forcing government agencies to draw out challenges through costly litigation fights.”
  From our friends at THINKPROGRESS: Congress introduces record number of bills to prevent people from taking industry to court Congress races to protect industry from lawsuits. Mark Hand Twitter Feb 12, 2018, 11:40 am Industry-friendly lawmakers are waging a coordinated campaign with the Trump administration to strip Americans of their legal rights to use the courts to hold polluting companies and the government itself accountable for violations of bedrock environmental laws and other important public protections. Members of Congress have introduced more than 50 bills over the past year that would make it extremely difficult or impossible for people to seek justice in a court of law, according to an in-depth analysis by Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law organization. The proposed bills are targeting laws related to environmental protection, public health, consumer rights, and civil liberties.

The number of bills introduced in the current 115th Congress that would strip individuals of their legal rights to seek justice in a court of law have doubled from the previous Congress and quadrupled since the 112th Congress that ended in 2013. Similar to how credit card companies and other retailers block consumers from the use of a court of law to resolve disputes, these bills would have a similar effect by preventing aggrieved members of the public from filing lawsuits to ensure laws are enforced.

“The corporate interests that stand to benefit from these types of provisions see this window of time as an opportunity,” Patrice Simms, vice president of litigation at Earthjustice, said in an interview with ThinkProgress. “They have a president that they know will sign anything that benefits them and they have majorities in the House and Senate that they believe are willing to move the bills forward.”

Earthjustice has created an interactive tool that tracks each of these pieces of legislation. If passed into law, these bills would erect permanent obstacles that will prevent people and communities from going to court to defend their rights.

During the current Congress, 12 bills with a combination of threatening provisions have passed the House of Representatives. The president has signed one into law: H.J.Res. 111 repealed the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s rule prohibiting banks, lenders, and other corporations from forcing consumers with grievances into arbitration. This law also prevents individuals from joining together in class action lawsuits in federal courts against banks, predatory lenders, and other bad actors.

Congress could strip consumers of right to sue banks and credit card companies

Members of the George W. Bush administration, including some appointed by President Donald Trump to high-level positions in his administration, wanted to see similar restrictions placed on the rights of individuals to have their day in court. “Usually, it’s been a pretty extremist view,” said Jessica Culpepper, an attorney with Public Justice, a nonprofit law firm that focuses on environmental protection, consumer rights, and civil liberties.

For many years, a contingent in Congress has tried to limit the ability of citizens to use “bedrock environmental laws” like the Clean Water Act to protect themselves. “What is frightening is that at least with the Bush administration, some things were sacred. You still couldn’t get a lot of support for stripping citizens’ abilities to protect themselves,” Culpepper said. “And now those things are on the table.”

Congressional Republicans have been trying for years to get these types of bills passed. They’ve been introduced before, but typically only to make certain industry constituents happy, with little chance of passage, according to Culpepper. The bills “have not been as big of a threat” as they are under the current Congress, Culpepper told ThinkProgress.

According to Earthjustice, the list of bills from the current Congress attacking individuals’ access to justice include:

  • 6 bills with provisions to eliminate judicial review, eroding the role of courts as a check and balance on other branches of government.
  • 14 bills that could effectively strip people of their right to sue by either forcing them into arbitration or blocking their ability to join together in class action lawsuits.
  • 17 bills that would make it too expensive to sue, forcing members of the public to bear the burden of costly litigation against the government.
  • 10 bills that meddle with timely resolution through settlements, forcing government agencies to draw out challenges through costly litigation fights.

One bill, dubbed the “Farm Regulatory Certainty Act” by its industry backers, was introduced in the previous Congress and didn’t move at all. But in the current Congress, the bill is gaining momentum, with more than 60 co-sponsors. Culpepper delivered testimony to a congressional hearing in November in which she described the bill as an effort to shield “an entire industry from liability.” The bill “would essentially “strip rural Americans from their right to protect their drinking water,” she told lawmakers

Congress recognizes it cannot simply repeal the laws it doesn’t like. Its members can’t say, “We’re going to get rid of the Clean Water Act.” But what they do see they can do is engage in “this furtive attempt to undo the protections that those laws actually provide,” explained Simms.

By furtive attempts, Simms is referring to how certain lawmakers now realize that if an environmental law, for example, cannot be undone by direct repeal, they can try to pass bills that make the laws impossible to enforce. For example, the House of Representatives last October passed a bill that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other federal agencies from settling lawsuits, even when the government has acted unlawfully.

House Republicans have dubbed the bill, H.R. 469, the “Sunshine for Regulations and Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act.” Earthjustice prefers to call the bill by describing its real intent: “Delaying Public Health Protections.” The bill still has not passed the Senate.

Simms said this particular bill is a prime example of how congressional Republicans are working closely with the Trump administration on these types of bills. “There’s a degree of coordination between Congress and the administration that I have not seen in the past,” he said. “They’re coming back over the course of the last year with an intensity that we have not seen before and a coordination that I have not seen in the past. This is really something frightening.”

Scott Pruitt touts anti-environment agenda from a coal mine

H.R. 469 reflects almost exactly the policy adopted by the Trump administration. In mid-October, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced his agency would no longer engage in settlement discussions with public interest lawyers, what anti-environment lawmakers refer to as “sue and settlement” practices. “What did we see several weeks later? A bill gets passed in the House that would essentially codify that and apply it not to just EPA but all agencies,” Simms said.

The bill would inhibit the EPA and other federal agencies from settling lawsuits, even when the government has acted unlawfully. This drags out legal action, raising costs for plaintiffs, and allows the administration to avoid enforcing environmental regulations, leading to more pollution and industrial harm to communities, according to Earthjustice.

In her 10 years as an environmental and public interest attorney, Culpepper said she’s never seen so many bills introduced at once — bills that would roll back individuals’ ability to use the courts to seek justice — that have a good chance of moving through Congress. “I spent more time fighting these things in 2017 than I have in my an entire career,” she said.

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Categories: Food and Farming

Corporations have to have it all: The New Legal Threat to Environmental Attorneys: Sanctions from Judges and Attorneys General

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 11:11
Where in the Constitution does it say corporations have more rights than people? Who is in charge, citizens or corporations? What federal law requires me to eat dirty air, drink polluted water or have disease so corporations can profit?

“….An increasing number of communities and groups are coming to the realization that the existing tools for fight polluting industries and climate change aren’t working. “That’s painfully obvious. The natural environment is increasingly degraded and the quality of life and local control are almost gone completely,” he said. “Anybody who is paying attention should understand that there should be another system of law that emerges. That system of law is slowly emerging. It’s communities saying, ‘We have more rights than the corporations doing business here.’” The New Legal Threat to Environmental Attorneys: Sanctions from Judges and Attorneys General Oil and gas companies are moving beyond simply filing lawsuits against municipalities that pass ordinances banning drilling and other types of industrial activity. In recent months, the energy industry, along with a state attorney general, has started going after the lawyers who are using novel legal arguments to protect small towns and the environment.

Since the dawn of the environmental movement, polluters have faced resistance from local residents and environmental advocates. But as industry encroached deeper into the natural world, a new legal movement emerged to end the centuries-old American legal tradition that defined nature as property.

Most community activism has focused on trying to influence environmental agency decision-making, and then using the courts to challenge the issuance of permits by the agencies. The new legal movement pushes a strategy fundamentally different from that of most environmental organizations. Instead of working through normal legal channels of permitting and suing, the new strategy seeks to enshrine a doctrine recognizing the fundamental right of community self-governance over their own natural resources.

Another component of the movement emphasizes the “rights of nature.” If a corporation can have rights, for instance, then so should rivers and forests. Lawyers use the example of children, who typically don’t have a right to file a lawsuit. However, a guardian who is appointed can file a lawsuit on behalf of the child. Lawyers are making the same argument for nature, seeking judicial recognition of it as a “person,” with rights of its own to exist and flourish. Instilling nature with the right to sue would force humans to take care of the water and trees they need to survive — or face penalties.

Thomas Linzey, Executive Director of Community Environmental Defense Fund (CELDF)

A leading practitioner of this new legal thinking is environmental attorney Thomas Linzey, who has spearheaded the introduction of legally enforceable rights for ecosystems and community bills of rights ordinances around the world. Linzey has more than 20 years of experience facing off against some of the largest corporations in the United States — he has seen how far industry will go to protect its profits.

In January, a federal judge ordered Linzey, co-founder of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), to pay a portion of the legal fees incurred by a company that had proposed a fracking waste injection well in a small town that Linzey and his team were suing. The judge accused Linzey and one of his colleagues of using a “frivolous” legal argument to defend an ordinance in Grant Township, Pennsylvania, that banned such wells.

He knew it was inevitable that the other side would find new avenues to punish people trying to stand up for their communities. The judge’s sanction against him and a colleague — ordering the pair to pay $52,000 in attorney fees to the company that wants to drill the disposal well — “is about the oil and gas industry not being satisfied with going after the municipalities, but now trying to go after the lawyers,” Linzey told ThinkProgress.

Nearly 200 communities have adopted CELDF-drafted Community Bills of Rights laws that elevate community self-determination — for both human and natural communities — above the power of corporations and other levels of government to override core aspects of local democracy. Based on its different approach to protecting communities, Rolling Stone magazine described CELDF as “a civil-rights group for the environment.”

But the oil and gas industry has a different opinion of the group. Industry advocacy group Energy In Depth contends CELDF’s actions are driven by an interest in shutting down not just fracking, but all corporate activity. “CELDF has been behind numerous failed attempts to ban fracking and other oil and gas activity at the local level by claiming the individual property rights should be trumped by the rights of ‘nature and ecosystems’,” Energy In Depth wrote in a blog post last May.

Despite resistance from industry and government, the new legal movement produced a rare victory in 2016. A case brought by Our Children’s Trust, an Oregon-based nonprofit, was the first to use a theory known as atmospheric trust law, which argues that the federal government, through actions like fossil fuel subsidies, has actively undermined the youth’s right to a livable climate. A federal judge in Oregon ruled in the group’s favor. By failing to curb U.S. greenhouse gas emissions that cause dangerous climate change, the U.S. government is violating citizens’ rights to life, liberty, and property, the judge found.

Unlike the Oregon judge, though, the Pennsylvania court is tipping the scales in favor of the developer of the fracking wastewater well by sanctioning Grant Township’s attorneys for using the community rights argument. “A judge in Oregon ruled that a right to a livable climate is a fundamental constitutional right. We are arguing the right of local communities to self-government is a fundamental constitutional right,” Linzey said.

Back in 2014, with the assistance of CELDF, Grant Township, located about 80 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, passed an ordinance that banned frackwater disposal wells. The township later adopted a municipal charter that stated its residents have a “right to stop that which harms them.” It was this ordinance that Linzey was trying to defend in January.

That same year, a company, Pennsylvania General Energy, fought the town’s ordinance against disposal wells. But the company not only filed a lawsuit against the township. It urged the court to apply sanctions on Linzey and fellow CELDF attorney Elizabeth Dunne for using unique arguments to defend Grant Township’s ordinance.

In a January 5 ruling, Magistrate Judge Susan Baxter of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania sided with the company and ordered the two attorneys to pay a portion of Pennsylvania General Energy’s legal fees because the judge said they used a “frivolous” argument.

“Judge Baxter sanctions us for that argument. And yet in Oregon, there are people making the argument that the right to a sustainable climate system is a fundamental constitutional right,” Linzey said. “Instead of getting sanctioned, they get awarded because the judge finds that the right to a livable climate is a fundamental constitutional right.”

One of the most famous cases against an attorney fighting environmental contamination occurred in federal court in New York. Human rights lawyer Steven Donziger helped secure a landmark victory in 2011 when an Ecuadorian judge ordered Chevron to pay $9 billion in compensation for environmental contamination in the country. But a federal judge found that multiple court rulings in Ecuador against Chevron were the product of “egregious fraud.”

The judge’s ruling relied on fabricated testimony by a Chevron Witness, according to Donziger, who argued the U.S. Department of Justice should launch a criminal probe into Chevron and the company’s law firm in New York.

In another major attack on an environmental lawyer, Colorado’s attorney general last year ordered a lawyer who had filed a lawsuit to protect the Colorado River to voluntarily withdraw the complaint or face major sanctions. The government’s threat worked: given the scope of possible financial penalties, attorney Jason Flores-Williams reluctantly withdrew the lawsuit in December.

In Colorado, Flores-Williams was hoping to win his own landmark environmental case. He filed a federal lawsuit in September, listing the Colorado River ecosystem as the plaintiff and naming the state of Colorado as the defendant. Using an argument that had worked in other countries, Flores-Williams stated Colorado had violated the river’s right to flourish by polluting and draining it and threatening endangered species. Scientists project that increased temperatures brought on by climate change will cause the river to shrink.

Activists with Deep Green Resistance along the Colorado River. Image by Michelle McCarron.

The lawsuit was a first-of-its-kind in the United States. But the argument that nature has legal rights has been used successfully in other countries. In Ecuador, the constitution now declares that nature “has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles.” In New Zealand, officials declared in March that a river used by the Maori tribe of Whanganui in the North Island to be a legal person that can sue if it is harmed.

CELDF assisted with the drafting of the change to Ecuador’s constitution. And the group also served as a legal adviser to Flores-Williams’ lawsuit on behalf of the Colorado River. Upon filing the lawsuit, Flores-Williams knew that powerful corporate interests in Colorado would lobby the state to bring the hammer down on him. “You’re rattling one heck of a cage. Because if this were to open up… all of a sudden corporations are put in check,” Flores-Williams said in a radio interview last year. If nature were to have standing in court by seeking redress for the harms to ecosystems, all of a sudden exploitation of the natural world for profit would not be done with such impunity, he explained.

In November, the Colorado attorney general’s office warned Flores-Williams that he could face sanctions for “knowingly presenting false or unwarranted claims to the court.” Flores-Williams fired back in late November, claiming in a letter to the attorney general that the threat of sanctions was “a legally baseless attempt to harass and intimidate a civil rights attorney in good standing who has dedicated his career to protecting the powerless from the powerful.”

Heading into the legal battle, Flores-Williams predicted industry and state officials would place him in their cross-hairs. “They will come hard. They will seek attorneys fees. They will try to seek sanctions. They’ll try to probably put some focus on yours truly,” he said in the radio interview, referring to his history of taking on powerful interests in government and the private sector. “They tend to be fairly dirty in the way that they work.”

The state alleged Flores-Williams failed to conduct a reasonable inquiry into the law and facts prior to filing his complaint and that he also failed to address “numerous other deficiencies” that the state highlighted in its motion to dismiss. The attorney general’s office warned Flores-Williams that if he chose not to voluntarily withdraw the lawsuit by November 30, he would face sanctions.

In early December, Flores-Williams concluded the state attorney general’s office — run by Attorney General Cynthia Coffman (R) — could destroy him and his law firm with financial penalties and disbarment if he continued to pursue the “rights of nature” lawsuit. He ended up filing a motion in federal court in Denver requesting that his lawsuit on behalf of the Colorado be dismissed.

“A great victory here would have been some rights conferred on the Colorado River, but we’re not there yet. So, that’s a loss. That said, we have introduced this important legal doctrine into the American consciousness, which is a victory,” Flores-Williams said in a statement.

The sanctions movement against environmental attorneys is occurring at the same time that companies are filing seemingly frivolous lawsuits of their own against groups for protesting infrastructure projects. The company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, for example, filed a complaint last August, accusing protesters of engaging in a criminal network of fraud and misinformation.

“These corporations’ real goal is to shut down activism that defends the environment and challenges their agenda,” Ryan Hartman, editor of Earth First! Journal, said in response to receiving a lawsuit from Energy Transfer Partners, the developer of Dakota Access and several other pipeline projects across the nation.

Linzey worries about whether he will need to shut down his nonprofit law firm if the courts continue to align with industry. “It’s serious business not to pay a court-ordered sanctions award. It means some soul-searching here in deciding how to handle it,” he said.

Despite its own financial concerns, Grant Township, with a population of only 700, is standing behind Linzey and the town’s other lawyers. In a January 12 statement, the township’s board supervisors wrote: “Judge Baxter’s ruling is astonishing, but not surprising. Our township has been sold out and ignored by every level of government to date. We’ve received no relief from state or federal legislators, the courts, and even our own Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has sued us as we’ve tried to protect our environment.”

The injection-well site in Grant Township. Mike Belleme for Rolling Stone.

Last spring, Pennsylvania’s environmental regulators issued a permit for the injection well in Grant Township. At the same time, the state Department of Environmental Protection filed a lawsuit against the town, hoping the court would rule on what takes precedence — state law, or the township’s home rule charters, which explicitly ban injection wells. The department claimed the charter interferes with state oil and gas policies, and thus should be invalidated.

Grant Township has made public statements about the possibility of going bankrupt if it does not back down. “In other words, they are willing to go into bankruptcy in this case because they feel it is so important. It would be the first municipal bankruptcy triggered by an oil and gas corporation attempting to extract damages from a township that doesn’t have the money,” Linzey said.

An increasing number of communities and groups are coming to the realization that the existing tools for fight polluting industries and climate change aren’t working. “That’s painfully obvious. The natural environment is increasingly degraded and the quality of life and local control are almost gone completely,” he said. “Anybody who is paying attention should understand that there should be another system of law that emerges. That system of law is slowly emerging. It’s communities saying, ‘We have more rights than the corporations doing business here.’”

Despite facing sanctions in Pennsylvania, Linzey said he is heartened by efforts in other states to adopt constitutional amendments that would guarantee people in towns the authority to enact local laws to protect the environment, free from state preemption and corporate interference. Organizers in New Hampshire, Colorado, Oregon, Ohio, and Pennsylvania are working to advance such state constitutional amendments.

“That’s a big step because it would, in effect, authorize municipalities to say ‘no’ to things like frack wells, oil and gas extraction, and frack wastewater injection wells,” Linzey said. “The more these cases are heard in court, the more judges review them, the more of a chance there is that this kind of case law is going to be made.”

Thank you to Mark Hand and ThinkProgress for permission to republish this February 5, 2018 landmark article:

The new legal threat to environmental attorneys: Sanctions from judges and attorneys general
Lawyers face major penalties for defending communities and ecosystems.

Categories: Food and Farming

“Our Children’s Trust…Securing The Legal Right to A Safe Climate and a healthy

Sat, 02/10/2018 - 15:14
WWW has been in support of this litigation for present and future generations. We are living everyday with the short vision plundering by the 1% elite at the expense of our children. Enough is enough.   For Immediate Release: February 8, 2018
“Our Children’s Trust…Securing The Legal Right to A Safe Climate and a healthy Atmosphere for All and Future Generations. And update on the Landmark Federal
Climate Lawsuit by 21 Youth Plaintiffs”

Tuesday, February 20, 7:00 pm at Burlingame Hall, located at 252 West Spain Street in Sonoma:

The Earth Care Committee of First Congregational Church is pleased to announce a public presentation on “Our Children’s Trust” www.OurChildrensTrust.org and the climate lawsuit www.ourchildrenstrust.org/us/federal-lawsuit/ against the Trump administration filed by 21 young Americans and climate scientist James Hansen. The landmark climate lawsuit seeks science-based Climate Recovery Plans, and is based on their constitutional rights and public trust. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco is expected to rule very soon on whether this lawsuit filed in 2015, with the support of Our Children’s Trust, can proceed to trial.
Co-founder of Our Children’s Trust Sharon Duggan, and Coreal Riday-White OCT Community Engagement Manger, will give us an update on the lawsuit and what we can do locally. Sharon Duggan is an attorney who has practiced public interest environmental law for more than 35 years. She has focused much of her legal career on the protection of natural resources, and particularly old growth redwoods, endangered salmon and protected species like the Northern Spotted Owl and the Marbled Murrelet. She has had the privilege of representing many community-based environmental groups
including the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) in Northern California, the Center for Sierra Nevada Conservation, and Californians for Alternatives to Toxics, as well as the Sierra Club in major litigation efforts. Coreal Riday-White, after law school, worked in San Francisco representing cities in connection with environmental claims. He joined OCT in 2015 and manages the YouCAN youth program and heads the OCT federal trail mobilization efforts and is point person for individual and organizational partnerships. One of which is the UCC 1000 Sermons campaign … Justice for #EachGeneration campaign. Sharon and Coreal’s presentations will address the current lawsuit and what we can do to support the pre trial work and supporting our youth to have voice for their and future generations for clean air and protection of our environment. The event is free of charge and everyone is welcome: it is hosted by the Earth Care Committee of the First Congregational
Categories: Food and Farming

Update: CAL-FIRE’s decision on the revised “Dogwood” timber harvest plan is delayed once again

Sat, 02/10/2018 - 10:11
CAL-FIRE’s decision on the revised “Dogwood” timber harvest plan is delayed once again. The latest date for CAL-FIRE’s decision is now Feb. 23, 2018, yet another postponement. Hopefully all the expert comments are giving them a pause…or a headache! This THP should be denied! Here are some of the issues reported on this ill conceived plan. 

 

This is just one of several logging plans waiting in the wings. THIS IS OUR WATERSHED. Using 25,000 gallons of water in the summer to keep dust down from the skid roads will further decimate the area. CalFire has been knocked down in courts many times recently for shoddy report preparation and meeting with loggers behind closed doors. This is just not acceptable for “public servants” to lock out the locals who are adamantly opposed..  

Nov 19, 2017 — It’s no coincidence that controversial timber harvest plans’ public comment period come during the busy holidays. I thank those of you who have submitted comments. I encourage more of you to do. Here is how to comment and the talking points:

 

Reference THP 1-15-042 SON, “Dogwood.”

Talking points – please choose which ones speak to you and add whatever experiences you have had to personalize it. Put the reference THP at the top of your letter/email. Make sure to give your name and mailing address at the end.

1. Cal-Fire should follow their own Forest Practice Rules and not allow logging road/skid trails in the Gualala River’s floodplain. Dogwood is almost completely in the floodplain of the Gualala River.

2. Cumulative impact must be taken into account because of the many adjacent THPs being logged, or will be logged, in the same watershed, including German South, Plum, Elm, Rock, Hazel and others. Dogwood and these other THPs have cumulative impacts to wetlands, endangered wildlife, water quality and fish, including salmonids.

3. The Gualala River is already classified as “impaired.” Sediment is the problem. Logging in the floodplain of the river will further impair the river and undoubtedly add sediment into the river. Water quality should be studied by a qualified hydrologist.

4. In this THP Cal-Fire has granted itself exceptions to the Watercourse and Lake Protection Zones standard practices. A detailed analysis by Cal-Fire supporting these various exceptions is absent, and should be included.

5. There is no current survey of rare wetland plants, just a list of plants that “might” be present. A survey of this land needs to be done by a qualified botanist. To name just a few rare plants that are in the floodplain, Veratrum fimbriatum, Fringed Corn Lilies, are present and grow in ESHA, environmentally sensitive habitat. Lilium maritimum, Coast Lilies, which are listed as seriously endangered, also grow within the floodplain and are in this proposed THP.

6. Studies are missing or out-of-date on species of concern that live in the Gualala River or alongside the river. Bald Eagles are referred to as “rare winter migrants.” However, in the past two years Bald Eagle sightings at the Gualala River have become common and year-round. Western Pond Turtles are referred to as “may be found within the plan area.” We know for a fact Western Pond Turtles reside in the Gualala River year-round. We know for a fact that California Red-legged Frogs live in and alongside the Gualala River directly in the floodplain. They are a federally listed threatened species of the United States, and are protected by law. Foothill Yellow-legged Frogs, a candidate for listing as a Threatened Species, live in and alongside the Gualala River directly in the floodplain.

7. The Dogwood THP states, “there are no known Osprey nest locations within the THP or within the buffers.” Ospreys have been known to nest east of the Gualala Bridge, definitely within in this THP.

8. The Dogwood THP states only Ospreys and Great Blue Herons are known to occur regularly, omitting Great Egrets which are year-round residents. Cooper’s Hawks nest in the Gualala area and may have nests in the floodplain. The survey of Cooper’s Hawks is three years out of date and should be redone.

9. Gualala Redwoods Timber is allowed in this THP to remove 25,000 gallons of water a day, 300 gallons per minute, during the summer and autumn months. With the town of Gualala on a water moratorium, with no new water hook-ups allowed, taking of any water from the Gualala River should be prohibited. Gualala Redwood Timber should be required to bring in water from another source to water down their logging roads.

10. The Gualala River provides recreation such as swimming, kayaking, bird watching, and catch-and-release fishing of steelhead. The river needs to be protected for the economic well-being of our community as we continue to transition to eco-tourism.

Thank you for caring! Jeanne Jackson

The Dogwood Timber Harvest Plan has been resubmitted to Cal-Fire by Gualala Redwood Timber Nov 2, 2017 — Yes, we are very sorry to report that GRT, owned by the Burch family, has decided to resubmit the Timber Harvest Plan called “Dogwood,” the one we have been protesting and fighting for two years. We knew that winning in court didn’t save the Gualala River floodplain. The judge, in essence, told GRT they had to take into account the cumulative impact of Dogwood and other logging plans along the river.
At first perusal, there are many omissions to the resubmitted THP. We will be in contact with you soon as to the issues so you can make your comments know during the public comment period, which expires Nov. 27th. In the meantime, Friends of the Gualala River and their allies, Forest Unlimited and the DKY Chapter of the Native Plant Society, will continue to fight this THP on behalf of the Gualala River and all of us who love it. If you can donate towards this on-going effort, please do so at: http://gualalariver.org/
Thanks for caring. Jeanne Jackson

Thanks for caring. Jeanne Jackson

Home – Friends of Gualala River Friends of Gualala River (FoGR) is a non-profit association dedicated to protecting the Gualala River watershed and the species that rely on it. http://gualalariver.org
Categories: Food and Farming

Enjoy our coast despite the threat from current administration

Sat, 02/10/2018 - 10:06

Love your coast and help support a wonderful organization headed by Cea Higgins. COASTWALK is holding a benefit hike for  the organization founded by Bill and Lucy Kortum back in the 70’s that led to passage of the California Coastal Act.
It begins at the newly-acquired national marine monument at Point Arena and ends at Bodega Head.

There will be fabulous docents, great wine and food, nice accomodations and van support. On the last night we will have a dinner including and honoring Lucy Kortum, Doris Sloan (the housewife-turned UCB geologist who was instrumental in stopping the nuclear plant at Bodega Head), and Gaye LeBaron. We also hope to snag Lynn Woolsey. A number of powerful coastal policy-making women are being invited to participate in the hike, along with us “normal” gals.

You’ll need to register!

2018 Coastwalk Schedule

Women, Wildflowers and Whales

April 30 – May 3

New! A deluxe, guided exploration of the Mendocino and Sonoma Coast

The Sonoma Classic Coastwalk

June 2-7

Back and even better for 2018! Optional Kayaking, Gourmet meals, along the rugged and scenic Coastal Trail in Sonoma County.

The Lost Coast Backpack

June 7-15

A rare, guided opportunity to join this backpacking trek along the most rugged section of California’s coastline!

The Marin Rebels Coastwalk

June 10-15

Celebrating Coastal Preservation History! Coastwalk is bringing back a favorite, with gorgeous beaches and some of the

 

Categories: Food and Farming

Moving forward with Rights of Nature on international scale

Wed, 02/07/2018 - 10:50

Baby steps but going in right direction……From our friends at Legal Planet:

 

International Court of Justice recognizes and values ecosystem services (sort of)

International Court of Justice recognizes and values ecosystem services (sort of) Posted on February 6, 2018 12:32 pm by Jim Salzman In a judgment announced on February 2nd, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for the very first time decided a compensation claim for environmental damage. Equally important, it took a close look at whether ecosystem goods and services are compensable under international law. The decision is both carefully considered and deeply frustrating.

There have, of course, been international proceedings in the past addressing the issue of whether and how much to compensate for environmental harms. The famed Trail Smelter arbitrations over eighty years ago addressed the harm suffered by Washington state farmers from pollution emitted by an upwind Canadian smelter. The decision laid the groundwork for the customary law of sic utere (liability for transboundary harm). The UN Compensation Commission held hearings on damages to the Kuwaiti environment following the first Gulf War. While recognizing the responsibility to compensate harms to natural resources, neither decisions took an ecosystem services perspective.

We don’t tend to think about it, but healthy ecosystems provide a variety of critical benefits. Ecosystem goods are pretty obvious. Forests provide timber; coastal tidelands provide shellfish. While less visible and generally taken for granted, the services underpinning these goods are also important. Created by the interactions of living organisms with their environment, “ecosystem services” provide both the conditions and processes that sustain human life. In addition to logs, for example, forests also provide the services of flood control and carbon sequestration. Tidelands create habitat for shellfish but also provide services of storm surge control.

The fact that ecosystem services are generally valuable should be beyond doubt. Consider how to grow an apple in the wild without pollination, pest control, or soil fertility. With few exceptions, though, ecosystem services have largely been ignored by the law. The focus on ecosystem services did not really start until the late 1990s, well after the creation of our modern environmental law and jurisprudence. But this has been changing. The ICJ decision provides an important example at the international level.

The recent case has the unwieldy name of Certain Activities Carried Out by Nicaragua in the Border Area (Costa Rica v Nicaragua). It grew out of a series of cases since 2011, challenging Nicaragua’s digging canals in Costa Rican territory that had been designated as a Ramsar wetland. The development had degraded 6.2 hectares of wetland and uprooted 300 trees. Nicaragua’s liability was no longer in question. The issue was how much compensation they would have to pay as replacement for the lost goods and services.

The Court started by making clear that the “damage to the environment, and the consequent impairment or loss of the ability of the environment to provide goods and services, is compensable under international law.” But what kinds of damages count, and how should their values be assessed?

Costa Rica argued for what it called an “ecosystem services approach.” This would incorporate both direct uses of the environment (ecosystem goods) and indirect uses (ecosystem services). Nicaragua, by contrast argued that the proper measure was the replacement cost—how much would need to be paid to preserve an equivalent area. The Court declined to choose between the different methodologies, saying that the valuation method must take into account the specific circumstances and characteristics of each case.

The Court then went through a detailed analysis for 32 paragraphs of the arguments for and against compensation claims filed by Costa Rica for replacement of six specific goods and services—timber, fiber and energy, carbon sequestration and air quality, natural hazard mitigation, soil formation and erosion control, and biodiversity. Together, Costa Rica claimed losses of $2.1 million. Nicaragua placed the harm at no more than $35,000.

To take the illustrative example of wetlands, Costa Rica claimed that the wetlands’ services of protection against coastal flooding, saltwater intrusion, and coastal erosion had been harmed. Relying on a series of valuation studies of wetlands from Belize, Thailand and Mexico, Costa Rica argued for a value of $2,949 per hectare. In response, Nicaragua argued that the value of the wetlands’ services should depend on the actual threat. Costa Rica had not identified any natural hazards that needed to be mitigated. Moreover, it was improper simply to take the dollar figure calculated for hazard protection provided by coastal mangroves in Thailand and assume it should be equally valid for a wetland in Costa Rica.

After going through a careful point/counter-point analysis of the valuation arguments for each of the six ecosystem services and goods, the Court noted that Nicaragua had also proposed, in the alternative, a “corrected analysis” of $84,000. The Court found that this was too low for a variety of reasons, but did not say how low.

In the end, the Court rejected both parties’ valuations for the different services. Rather than calculating the value of each individual ecosystem good and service, it determined instead that it should value the environmental damage from the perspective of the ecosystem as a whole, measuring the harm against a pre-development baseline.

Stating that uncertainty over the extent of damage does not prevent awarding compensation for loss of ecosystem goods and serves, the Court said that it is “reasonable” to adjust Nicaragua’s corrected analysis value and announced an award to Costa Rica of $120,000 for the loss of ecosystem goods and services in the impacted area.

At this point, the reader could be forgiven for asking, “What?!?”

For seven pages, the Court had gone through a careful and probing analysis of the dueling valuation methodologies for a range of ecosystem services. It went into significant detail, explaining, for example, why using a 50 year period for damage made sense for some types of services but not for others. At the end, though, the Court threw that all out the window and, without any explanation, declared that a “reasonable” damages amount was $120,000.

With absolutely no discussion of why $120,000 was more reasonable than $1.2 million, it’s not clear what to make of this decision going forward. At a minimum, it reinforces that harm to ecosystem goods and services are compensable under international law. And that, in itself, really is significant. Ecosystem services are now firmly established in international jurisprudence as valuable and meriting compensation when harmed.

But guidance for how to go about valuing the proper measure of compensation does not get much beyond a vague nod to being “reasonable.” It’s better than reading chicken entrails, but not much.

While in a different context, there was a similar kind of debate in the 1980s over how to measure natural resource damages. Superfund and the Exxon Valdez litigation made this a topic of particular importance. Time will tell, but it may be that the recent ICJ decision provides the catalyst to spur a comparable debate at the international level.

Categories: Food and Farming

Action alert: Nestlé has been taking millions of gallons of water from public land in California — even during a drought.

Wed, 02/07/2018 - 10:42
From our friends at Food and Water Watch: a chance to easily oppose Swiss giant Nestle from draining the aquifers for profit over people and the environment. They are doing the same in Mt. Shasta and citizens have been working to stop it there as well.

We don’t have much time to act on this, so I’ll be brief: Nestlé has been taking millions of gallons of water from public land in California — even during a drought.

SIGN: Stop Nestlé and protect water on public land.

Nestlé has taken on average about 62 million gallons of water per year from the San Bernardino National Forest. They’re selling this water to consumers, and profiting off public land.1

Nestlé’s water extraction flies in the face of the horrific drought California endured through the past several years. Right now, as you’re reading this, drought conditions are again appearing all over California.2

Nestlé has no right to our water

The State Water Resources Control Board, the state agency responsible for water rights in California, reported that Nestlé has taken on average 62.6 million gallons of water per year — over six times more water than it has rights to from the San Bernardino National Forest!3

The comment period on the water board’s report ends this week. They need to hear from you that they must enforce their report and stop Nestlé from taking any more water.

Nestlé won’t stop taking public water unless we stand up against them. All across the country, they’ve tried schemes to get their hands on public water. In California alone, they’ve taken water in the face of drought and wildfires, including a fire that hit their own system.4

Nestlé has gotten away with this long enough: tell the board to protect OUR water.

We will fight Nestlé wherever they threaten local control of water, and we will never stand down. We have to take a stand for strong enforcement against Nestlé’s water grabs, and we have to do it now.

Take action with Food & Water Action and help stop Nestlé from taking more water.

Thank you for taking action,

Sarah Spooner
Email Program Manager
Food & Water Watch

1. State gives Nestlé, environmentalists and individuals more time to comment about water withdrawals, The Press-Enterprise, January 26, 2018.
2. 44% of California is now experiencing moderate drought, report says, Los Angeles Times, February 1, 2018.
3. Nestlé Spring Water Extractions in San Bernardino National Forest, State Water Resources Control Board, February 1, 2018.
4. Bottling water without scrutiny, The Desert Sun, March 8, 2015.

 

Categories: Food and Farming

What’s in your food? Fracking Wastewater used in California produce including organic, time to ban the practice

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 10:49

“Organic carrots”, veggies, nuts and more that you  and your family are probably consuming right now. See the video below for more brands using toxic chemicals to grow your food. To send message to your legislators to ban this use click on this link or “BAN IT” heading below and fill out the form.  https://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/JustBanIt

From our friends at Food & Water Watch:

CA Legislators: Ban Oil Wastewater Irrigation Now! Our multi-billion dollar food industry is getting away with using our dinner plates as disposal sites for oil wastewater from dirty oil corporations in California like Chevron.

Water samples have determined that the wastewater contains dangerous chemicals, some that are linked to cancer. 

This is a threat to our health, the health of farmworkers who grow our food, and our environment, yet our Governor Jerry Brown and our legislators have FAILED to take action on this pressing issue.

Watch this video then put pressure on your California state legislators to BAN the use of oil wastewater for crop irrigation NOW!

Why is Toxic Oil Wastewater Being Used To Grow Our Food?

Oil companies in California are selling wastewater from their drilling operations to several local irrigation districts, which in turn mix it with the water they sell to growers to irrigate their crops.

This sounds complicated, but what it means is that the toxic wastewater, which could include up to 173 (!) different chemicals, ends up in the water used to irrigate popular crops that are shipped across the country. A lot of the fruits, veggies and wines irrigated in this area are going to look familiar — like Halos Mandarin oranges, a popular snack marketed as being “pure goodness.”

Other companies growing in these districts:

Categories: Food and Farming

Victory for citizens taking back their government from special interests

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 10:32
WWW supports the rights of community’s to protect their health, welfare and safety for now and future generations. If money is free speech, lack of money is lack of free speech. Corporations/special interests should benefit the communities they are in.  When our country was formed corporations had to show public benefit to be chartered. Time to go back to our roots and foster equality for all including nature which we need to survive.   Press Release: New Hampshire Community Rights Amendment Advances to Public Committee Hearing Jan 23, 2018 Measure would secure the right of local community self-government


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:
Michelle Sanborn, New Hampshire Community Organizer
www.celdf.org
michelle@celdf.org
603-524-2468

Concord, NH:  As communities across the country face growing efforts by state governments to block residents from governing themselves, New Hampshire residents are advancing a state constitutional amendment to secure that unalienable right.  The proposed New Hampshire Community Rights Amendment, or CACR19, would guarantee the people in towns throughout New Hampshire the authority to enact local laws to protect community and individual rights – including the right to protect the environment, free from state preemption and corporate interference. Towns would not be able to enact any local laws that restricted or weakened existing rights. 

The New Hampshire Community Rights Network (NHCRN) drafted the amendment  with the assistance of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). The amendment was introduced to the New Hampshire legislature by Representative Ellen Read of District 17, Rockingham County, and is headed for a public committee hearing in February.

Representative Read said, “The Community Rights Amendment restores power to townspeople to decide what they want and need in their own communities. The largest stakeholders in any situation are those in the local community. This amendment recognizes that townspeople have more rights than out-of-state interests trying to make money off of our water, our forests, and our people.”

For over a decade, Towns across the state have worked with CELDF to protect themselves from out-of-state interests by drafting rights-based ordinances. Today, the ordinances establish the right to local community self-government, and protect Towns from harmful corporate projects, such as water mining, high voltage transmission lines, industrial wind turbines, and unsustainable fossil fuel-based energy distribution corridors.

“The people of the Granite State are not asking the New Hampshire Legislature to vote to enact the New Hampshire Community Rights Amendment. Rather, we are insisting they place CACR19 on the November ballot for a people’s vote,” said Michelle Sanborn, CELDF Community Rights Organizer and the NHCRN’s Coordinator. “The New Hampshire State Constitution belongs to the people and it is theirs to amend.”

New Hampshire joins state Community Rights Networks in Oregon, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, where residents are advancing similar state constitutional amendments.

New Hampshire Part of Growing Movement

New Hampshire residents are advancing Community Rights as part of the broader Community Rights movement building across the U.S. Local communities and state Community Rights Networks are partnering with CELDF to advance and protect fundamental democratic and environmental rights. They are working with CELDF to establish Community Rights and the Rights of Nature in law, and prohibit extraction, fracking, factory farming, water privatization, and other industrial activities as violations of those rights. Communities are joining together within and across states, working with CELDF to advance systemic change – recognizing our existing system of law and governance as inherently undemocratic and unsustainable.

Additional Information

For additional information regarding Community Rights, contact CELDF at info@celdf.org. To learn about the New Hampshire Community Rights Network, visit www.nhcommunityrights.org. Select Boards and citizens interested in supporting the New Hampshire Community Rights Amendment may contact Michelle Sanborn at michelle@celdf.org.

About CELDF — Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund is a non-profit, public interest law firm providing free and affordable legal services to communities facing threats to their local environment, local agriculture, local economy, and quality of life. Its mission is to build sustainable communities by assisting people to assert their right to local self-government and the rights of nature.

 

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Categories: Food and Farming

Brands Owned by Big, Corporate Wineries: The Master List To Check If Your Brand is Independent or Part of a Big, Hulking Winery

Mon, 02/05/2018 - 10:34
“On the negative — the wine is homogenized, for the most part. It’s very same-y. There isn’t a whole lot of room for vintage variation, expression of terroir/land, or experimentation from the winemaker. Generally these wineries are all about cost savings, and much less about green — none of the big guys are winning legit praise for responsible wine production that mitigates impact. As I’ve discussed before, it’s a lot of sustaina-BULL-ity — voluntary programs that have squishy requirements aren’t great.” From our friends at “Wine for Normal People”.  Brands Owned by Big, Corporate Wineries: The Master List To Check If Your Brand is Independent or Part of a Big, Hulking Winery NOTICE: This post has been updated but I know Google has this indexed so you’ll see this first! Here’s a link to the most recent list. I talk about the business of wine all the time and people are always asking: How do I know if the brand I like is made from an independent winery or a big hulking winery? Estimates are all over the board in terms of how much market share the big guys have in the US (sorry in advance to our international friends, this is just a list for the US), but between 13% – 50% of the wine market is dominated by the top 10 wine companies. From my experience, it’s closer to 50% than 13%. There are advantages and disadvantages to buying from the big guys. On the plus side — consistent quality, consistent availability, and lower prices. You will almost always get the same taste out of a bottle and these wines will always be on the shelves. The prices will be decent, although I don’t think they usually provide VALUE, which I define as better than what it costs. On the negative — the wine is homogenized, for the most part. It’s very same-y. There isn’t a whole lot of room for vintage variation, expression of terroir/land, or experimentation from the winemaker. Generally these wineries are all about cost savings, and much less about green — none of the big guys are winning legit praise for responsible wine production that mitigates impact. As I’ve discussed before, it’s a lot of sustaina-BULL-ity — voluntary programs that have squishy requirements aren’t great. But back to the original question — how do I  know if the brand I like is made from an independent wintery or a big hulking winery? Well, I finally put together a list of some of the top wine companies and their brands. It includes the big guys: Constellation Wines, E&J Gallo, Diageo, Kendall-Jackson, The Wine Group, Bronco Wine Company, Trinchero, Delicato, and Treasury Wine Estates. Chateau Ste. Michelle from Washington rounds out the top 10, but all its wines are branded Chateau Ste. Michelle, so it’s pretty transparent. The list below was taken directly from these companies corporate sites — I didn’t just pull it out of my a$&.

Consolidation is always going on, so this will change year to year, but for now, you can use this as a guide to see if your favorite brand is an independent or part of a corporate giant.As a caveat, many of the brands that have Bronco listed next to them are owned by independent wineries. But Bronco does all the distribution, which means they get the wine into our hands many times by paying incentives and distributor allowances that companies not affiliated with a middle-man this large could never afford to do. You need a certain revenue stream and scale to work with Bronco. So although these companies make their own wine, in their own style, I still think they are part of the reason some smaller shops get less attention in the market. They lay somewhere between independent and owned.

The list is in alphabetical order by brand. Hope this helps! I bet more than a few of you will be surprised at the list…

Brand Owned By (or with Bronco, Distributed By) 1749 by Pierre Chainier Bronco Wine Company A By Acacia Diageo A Mano The Wine Group Abel’s Tempest Treasury Wine Estates Acacia Vineyard Diageo Alakey Soju Bronco Wine Company Alamos® E&J Gallo Winery Albertoni Vineyards Bronco Wine Company Albino Armano The Wine Group Allure Winery Bronco Wine Company Almaden Vineyards The Wine Group Almaviva Diageo André® E&J Gallo Winery Angel Cove Treasury Wine Estates Angove Nine Vines Trinchero Angove Red Belly Black Trinchero Annie’s Lane Treasury Wine Estates Archetype Diageo Arrowood Kendall-Jackson Atalon Kendall-Jackson Avissi Prosecco Trinchero Baileys of Glenrowan Treasury Wine Estates Ballatore® E&J Gallo Winery Bandit Trinchero Barefoot Bubbly® E&J Gallo Winery Barefoot®Cellars E&J Gallo Winery Baron des Chartrons Bronco Wine Company Bartles & Jaymes® E&J Gallo Winery Beaulieu Vineyard Diageo Bell Wine Cellars Bronco Wine Company Bella Sera® E&J Gallo Winery Beringer Vineyards Treasury Wine Estates Big House The Wine Group Bivio Italia Bronco Wine Company Black Stallion Estate Winery Delicato Black Swan® E&J Gallo Winery Blackstone Winery Constellation Bodegas Palacio Bronco Wine Company Boho Vineyard The Wine Group Bold Vine Delicato Boone’s Farm® E&J Gallo Winery Bota Box Delicato Brady Vineyard Bronco Wine Company Brazin Delicato Bridlewood® Estate Winery E&J Gallo Winery Brophy Clark The Wine Group Brovida Cordara Winery Bronco Wine Company Brumaio Organice Vineyards Bronco Wine Company Bryon Estates Kendall-Jackson Burgundy Estates Diageo Butterfly Kiss Diageo Calina Kendall-Jackson Cambria Kendall-Jackson Canandaigua Winery Constellation Cardinale Kendall-Jackson Carlo Rossi® E&J Gallo Winery Carmel Road Kendall-Jackson Carmen Trinchero Carmenet Winery Bronco Wine Company Carrara Bronco Wine Company Casarsa The Wine Group Cask & Cream® E&J Gallo Winery Castello di Gabbiano Treasury Wine Estates Cedar Brook Winery Bronco Wine Company Cellar No. 8 Treasury Wine Estates Chalone Vineyard Diageo Chateau de la Roche Bronco Wine Company Chateau Laroque The Wine Group Chateau Lassegue Kendall-Jackson Chateau St. Jean Treasury Wine Estates Cherry on Top Diageo Chockstone The Wine Group Cipressi Bronco Wine Company Clarendon Hills E&J Gallo Winery Clay Station Delicato Clos de l’Oratoire des Papes Bronco Wine Company Clos de Nouys Bronco Wine Company Clos du Bois Winery Constellation Coastal Ridge Winery Bronco Wine Company Coastal Vines Cellars Bronco Wine Company Coldstream Hills Treasury Wine Estates Colores del Sol Treasury Wine Estates Columbia (WA) E&J Gallo Winery Concannon Vineyard The Wine Group Congress Springs Winery Bronco Wine Company Contemassi Bronco Wine Company Corbett Canyon The Wine Group Corner 50 Winery Constellation Cosme Palacio Bronco Wine Company CottonWood Creek Cellars Bronco Wine Company Covey Run (WA) E&J Gallo Winery Crane Lake Cellars Bronco Wine Company Crème de Lys Diageo Cupcake Vineyards The Wine Group Curtis Winery Bronco Wine Company Dancing Bull® E&J Gallo Winery Darcie Kent The Wine Group DaVinci E&J Gallo Winery DC&E Diageo Delicato Delicato Devil’s Lair Treasury Wine Estates Domaine Laurier Winery Bronco Wine Company Domaine Napa Winery Bronco Wine Company Domino Wines Delicato Don Miguel Gascon E&J Gallo Winery Doña Paula Trinchero Doña Sol Winery Bronco Wine Company Down Under Cellars Bronco Wine Company Drylands Winery Constellation Dunnewood Vineyards Constellation Dynamite Vineyards Diageo E. & J. ®  Brandy E&J Gallo Winery Ecco Domani® E&J Gallo Winery Edmeades Kendall-Jackson El Furioso Bronco Wine Company Emma Pearl Treasury Wine Estates Ensemble Diageo Ernst Gouws & Co Bronco Wine Company Estancia Estates Winery Constellation Estrella River Winery Bronco Wine Company Etude Treasury Wine Estates Evohé Bronco Wine Company Fairbanks® E&J Gallo Winery Falcone Family Vineyards Bronco Wine Company Familia Camarena Tequila E&J Gallo Winery Fat Cat Cellars Bronco Wine Company Fifth Leg Treasury Wine Estates Filus Winery Bronco Wine Company Finca el Origen Bronco Wine Company First Press Delicato FishEye Winery The Wine Group flipflop The Wine Group Fog Head Delicato Folie á Deux Trinchero Forest Glen Winery Bronco Wine Company Foxhorn The Wine Group Franciscan Oakville Estates Constellation Franzia The Wine Group Fre Trinchero Freemark Abbey Kendall-Jackson Frei Brothers® E&J Gallo Winery Gallo® Family Vineyard ® E&J Gallo Winery Gassier Winery Bronco Wine Company Ghost Pines® E&J Gallo Winery Gibson Vineyards Bronco Wine Company Glen Ellen The Wine Group Glorioso Bronco Wine Company Gnarly Head Delicato Gonzales Winery Constellation Gran Vino Sanson Bronco Wine Company Grand Cru Vineyards Bronco Wine Company Great Western Treasury Wine Estates Greg Norman Estates Treasury Wine Estates Hacienda Cellars Bronco Wine Company HandCraft Delicato Haraszthy Family Cellars Bronco Wine Company Harlow Ridge Winery Bronco Wine Company Hartford Family Winery Kendall-Jackson Heemskerk Treasury Wine Estates Helfrich The Wine Group Herding Cats The Wine Group Heritages Winery Bronco Wine Company Hewitt Vineyard Diageo Hogue Cellars Constellation Hornsby’s E&J Gallo Winery Igardi Bronco Wine Company Inglenook Winery The Wine Group Ingoldby Treasury Wine Estates Inniskillin Okanagan Winery Constellation Irony Delicato Italian Casarsa The Wine Group Jackson Triggs Estate Winery Constellation Jade Mountain Diageo Jamiesons Run Treasury Wine Estates Jargon Trinchero Jarhead Wine Company Bronco Wine Company JFJ Winery Bronco Wine Company Joel Gott Trinchero Kallfelz The Wine Group Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates Kendall-Jackson Killawarra Treasury Wine Estates Kim Crawford Winery Constellation King Fish Delicato La Boca Winery Bronco Wine Company La Crema Kendall-Jackson La Fleur Renaissance Bronco Wine Company La Jota Kendall-Jackson La Marca E&J Gallo Winery Landaluce Bronco Wine Company Las Rocas® E&J Gallo Winery Laurier Vineyards Bronco Wine Company Le Clos Jordanne Constellation Le Lapin Bronco Wine Company Leo Buring Treasury Wine Estates Les Hospices Bronco Wine Company Les Moirets Bronco Wine Company Liberty Creek® E&J Gallo Winery Lindeman’s Treasury Wine Estates Little Boomey Trinchero Livingston Cellars® E&J Gallo Winery Lock & Key Trinchero Lokoya Kendall-Jackson Loredona Delicato Louis M. Martini® E&J Gallo Winery MacMurray Ranch® E&J Gallo Winery Maglieri Treasury Wine Estates Main Street Winery Trinchero Maison de Grand Esprit Treasury Wine Estates Mark West Constellation Martĩn Cõdax® E&J Gallo Winery Masked Rider Winery Bronco Wine Company Maso Canali® E&J Gallo Winery Masseria del Fauno Bronco Wine Company Massimo Delicato Mattie’s Perch® E&J Gallo Winery Matua Valley Treasury Wine Estates McWilliam’s® E&J Gallo Winery Medrano Estate Vineyards Bronco Wine Company Menage a Trois Trinchero Meridian Treasury Wine Estates Metala Treasury Wine Estates MG Vallejo The Wine Group Mildara Treasury Wine Estates Mirassou® E&J Gallo Winery Mission Bell Winery Constellation Mogen David The Wine Group Montecillo The Wine Group Monterra Delicato Montevina Winery Trinchero Monthaven The Wine Group Monti Guidi del Carmine Bronco Wine Company Montpellier Vineyards Bronco Wine Company Montresor Winery Bronco Wine Company Morassutti The Wine Group Motos Liberty Cellars Bronco Wine Company Murphy Goode Kendall-Jackson Naked Earth Organic Wine Bronco Wine Company Napa Cellars Trinchero Napa Creek Winery Bronco Wine Company Napa Landing Winery Bronco Wine Company Napa Ridge Napa Valley Bronco Wine Company Navarro Correas Diageo New Amsterdam® Gin E&J Gallo Winery NewHarbor Diageo Newman’s Own Trinchero Niagara Cellars Constellation Nk’Mip Cellars Constellation Nobilo Winery Constellation Noble vines Delicato Oak Leaf The Wine Group Oratoriao Gigondas Bronco Wine Company Orogeny Diageo Osoyoos Larose Constellation Pacific Oasis Vineyards Bronco Wine Company Paso Grande Bronco Wine Company Patianna Organic Vineyards Bronco Wine Company Paul Masson The Wine Group Peñascal Estate Bronco Wine Company Penfolds Treasury Wine Estates Pepperjack Treasury Wine Estates Peter Vella® E&J Gallo Winery Picket Fence Vineyards Bronco Wine Company Pierre Chainier Sparkling Bronco Wine Company Pinot Evil The Wine Group PKNT Winery Bronco Wine Company Plaza Real Bronco Wine Company Pol Rémy Bronco Wine Company Pölka Dot® E&J Gallo Winery Poor Bob’s Wine Company Bronco Wine Company Provenance Vineyards Diageo Quail Ridge Winery Bronco Wine Company Quintessence Bronco Wine Company Rancho Sisquoc Winery Bronco Wine Company Rancho Zabaco® E&J Gallo Winery Ravenswood Wineries Constellation Red Bicyclette® E&J Gallo Winery Red Rock Winery® E&J Gallo Winery Red Truck Winery Bronco Wine Company Redwood Creek® E&J Gallo Winery Redwood Vineyards Bronco Wine Company Richard Grant Estate Bronco Wine Company Rigal Winery Bronco Wine Company Ritzman Bronco Wine Company Robert Hall Winery Bronco Wine Company Robert Mondavi Winery Constellation Robertson’s Well Treasury Wine Estates Roc de Chateauvieux Bronco Wine Company Rock Hollow Wines Bronco Wine Company Rose “N” Blum Diageo Rosemount Estate Treasury Wine Estates Rosenblum Cellars Diageo Rothbury Estate Treasury Wine Estates Rouge Homme Treasury Wine Estates Rusack Vineyards Bronco Wine Company Rutherford Vintners Bronco Wine Company Sacred Hill Diageo Salmon Creek Cellars Bronco Wine Company Saltram Treasury Wine Estates San Telmo Diageo Santa Ana The Wine Group Santa Barbara Collection Treasury Wine Estates Santa Carolina Bronco Wine Company Santa Dorotea Winery Bronco Wine Company Sbragia Family Vineyards Treasury Wine Estates Scoudouc Winery Constellation Seaglass Trinchero Seaview Treasury Wine Estates Sebeka® E&J Gallo Winery Secret Stone Treasury Wine Estates Secreto Bronco Wine Company See Ya Later Ranch Constellation Seppelt Treasury Wine Estates Seven The Wine Group Sheffield Cellars® E&J Gallo Winery Silver Birch The Wine Group Silver Ridge Vineyards Bronco Wine Company Simi Winery Constellation Sledgehammer Treasury Wine Estates Snap Drago Diageo Sonoma Junction Diageo Souverain Treasury Wine Estates Squealing Pig Treasury Wine Estates St Clement Treasury Wine Estates St Huberts Treasury Wine Estates Stags’ Leap Winery Treasury Wine Estates Starborough E&J Gallo Winery Stark Raving Diageo Stellina de Notte Diageo Sterling Vineyards Diageo Sterling Vintner’s Collection Diageo Stone Barn Delicato Stonehead Cellars Bronco Wine Company Stonestreet Kendall-Jackson Sumac Ridge Estate Winery & Vineyard Constellation Sutter Home Trinchero Sycamore Lane Trinchero Ted the Mule Bronco Wine Company Tempra Tantrum The Wine Group Tenuta di Arceno Kendall-Jackson Terra d’Oro Trinchero Terra Robles Winery Bronco Wine Company Terramia Winery Bronco Wine Company TGallant Treasury Wine Estates The Naked Grape E&J Gallo Winery The Show Trinchero Thousand Oaks Bronco Wine Company Tierra Brisa Winery Bronco Wine Company Tierra Secreta Treasury Wine Estates Tisdale Vineyards® E&J Gallo Winery Tollana Treasury Wine Estates Tribuno The Wine Group Trinchero Trinchero Trinity Oaks Trinchero Turner Road Vintners Wineries Constellation Turning Leaf® E&J Gallo Winery Twisted Delicato Uppercut Diageo Valley of the Giants Treasury Wine Estates Ventana Vineyards Bronco Wine Company Verite Kendall-Jackson Veuve du Vernay Sparkling Bronco Wine Company Viña Mayor Bronco Wine Company Whitehaven® E&J Gallo Winery Wild Hare Winery Bronco Wine Company Wild Horse Winery Constellation Wild Vines® E&J Gallo Winery William Hill Estate E&J Gallo Winery Wily Jack Diageo Wolf Blass Treasury Wine Estates Woodbridge Winery Constellation Wycliff® Sparkling E&J Gallo Winery Wynns Coonawarra Estate Treasury Wine Estates Yangarra Kendall-Jackson Yarra Ridge Treasury Wine Estates Yellowglen Treasury Wine Estates Zibibbo Trinchero

 

Categories: Food and Farming

Owen’s Valley Redux? The merchandising of our water resources…..

Mon, 02/05/2018 - 10:23

https://www.newsdeeply.com/water/articles/2017/11/13/farm-vs-city-california-landmark-water-sharing-deal-may-be-crumbling

Farm vs. City: California Landmark Water-Sharing Deal May Be Crumbling

Written by Matt Weiser

The state’s biggest urban supplier hopes to divert water from farms in the Palo Verde Valley by encouraging conservation. But the move may endanger an existing water-sharing deal that has become a model of cooperation.

ONE OF THE nation’s most successful partnerships between farm and urban water agencies has lately run into serious turbulence, potentially threatening an important Colorado River water-sharing deal.

Twelve years ago, the Palo Verde Irrigation District in Blythe, California, signed an agreement with the powerful Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. It allowed the latter to pay Palo Verde farmers to fallow up to 35 percent of their acreage in times of water scarcity, and take delivery of the unused irrigation water, via canal, to serve its urban customers in the Los Angeles area, some 200 miles away.

It’s been a great deal for both parties. Palo Verde farmers made millions “loaning” their water. Met gained access to the irrigation district’s senior water rights in the Colorado River, which remain available when the water district’s other supplies are restricted during drought. It also became a promising alternative to the so-called “buy and dry” deals that have taken farmland out of production permanently in other parts of the West.

But suddenly, tension is humming along that canal between Blythe and L.A.

In September, Palo Verde filed a lawsuit against Met, alleging the urban water giant violated state law when it purchased 12,000 acres of farmland within the Palo Verde district in 2015, adding to 10,000 acres it had bought previously. This made Met the largest single landowner in the valley, controlling almost 20 percent of the entire district, in addition to lesser control over more land via the fallowing contracts.

Met has leased the land to other farmers under terms that encourage water conservation, with a goal to divert any conserved water to the L.A.metro area.

Palo Verde officials fear the era of cooperative fallowing is over, and Met is now engaging in a new kind of “buy and dry” program that will eventually harm the rural region’s economy.

“This is simply a play for water,” said Bart Fisher, a farmer in the Palo Verde Valley and a member of the irrigation district’s board of trustees. “The only possible reason for them to own farmland is to try to take water from it.”

Fisher said he and others at the irrigation district feel betrayed by Met’s actions, and worry that it aims to make their region another Owens Valley by draining off all their water. In the early 1900, Los Angeles covertly bought farmland and water rights in the eastern California valley, leaving the Owens Valley with a legacy of toxic dust storms.

“I really can’t express how surprised and upset we are about this,” he said. “We basically opened the door to them and brought them into our valley in a trusting relationship. They grew roots into our organization and relationships with our farmers. Then, suddenly, they are willing to blow it all up in order to acquire water.”

Jeffrey Kightlinger, Met’s general manager, said there was no intention to seize water, but merely to improve existing cooperative relationships with farmers to use water more wisely. He said he was “disappointed” Palo Verde resorted to a lawsuit.

“If we wanted to be aggressive and just do nothing but acquire more water, we would just simply fallow all the land we bought. But we’re not doing that,” Kightlinger added. “The idea is that it would generate water for us and, at the same time, create a revenue stream to keep farming vibrant in the valley.”

It remains unclear if leasing land really will produce any water for Met.

The way the deals work, Kightlinger said, is that farmers pay the market rate to lease land, around $250 per acre (0.4 hectare), if they irrigate using an average amount of water on their crops (about 4.2 acre-feet per acre). If they use more water, their lease cost increases to $400. But if they take measures to conserve water and use less than average, their lease payments drop to only $150.

In the latter case, Met believes it will be able to claim the saved water and have it delivered to L.A.-area consumers.

“We’re trying to come up with some high-tech ways to keep farming productive and efficient and save water also,” Kightlinger said.

It might not be that simple. The Palo Verde board of trustees would have to approve the transfer of that saved water to Met, and Fisher said that isn’t a given.

An irrigation canal and farmland within the Palo Verde Irrigation District, which holds the highest-priority rights to Colorado River water in California. (Photo Courtesy Metropolitan Water District)

Palo Verde Valley is unique, he said. Property owners hold the highest-priority rights in California to water from the Colorado River – much higher than the water Met currently receives from the river. But those farm water rights are held in trust by the irrigation district. That means that when farmers need irrigation water, they don’t just turn a valve – they have to request the water from the irrigation district. As a landowner, Met will have to do the same, and the district might not want to release the water knowing it will not be used for agriculture.

“Any conservation program that occurs within our valley is water that belongs to the irrigation district. It doesn’t belong to Met,” Fisher said. “They disagree with that. They think they are legally entitled to that water. Hence the dispute.”

He asserts that if Met succeeds with the leasing plan, there could be grave consequences. And not just for the Colorado River, but for any other region where a wealthy urban water agency can buy up farmland. Essentially, Fisher said, Met’s farm leases are an attempt to leapfrog ahead in the water-rights priority system.

“Met is the junior water-right holder in California, and yet they are essentially hijacking first-priority water,” Fisher said. “This would allow an urban water agency such as Met to go anywhere they have potential conveyance and just acquire farmland, and use the farmland as a spigot that they can turn off and on depending upon their need for additional water.”

Some don’t see the situation in such dire terms.

Robert Glennon, a law professor at the University of Arizona who specializes in water issues, said the best way to preserve farms and farm communities is to improve water conservation. The saved water can be used to grow more valuable crops, sold to other farmers or to urban areas.

In addition, farmland that conserves water continues growing food, whereas fallowed acreage doesn’t.

In this case, Glennon said, Met’s leasing program is using market forces – in the form of variable lease payments – to drive water conservation. He advocated this very approach in a 2014 paper he co-wrote for the Brookings Institution.

“I’m thinking this is perfect for their farmers,” said Glennon. “If you have the municipal interests pay for the farmers to be more efficient, and then the municipal interest gets the water that’s conserved, this is better than the fallowing program for the long-term viability of the Palo Verde Valley.”

Palo Verde’s lawsuit alleges Met violated state law in two ways. First, by setting up the leasing program without first doing an environmental impact report. Second, by purchasing the land without conducting an appraisal. Fisher said Met paid twice the going rate for farmland in the Palo Verde Valley, and has a duty to its ratepayers to justify that price.

Kightlinger denied both claims and said Met plans to move for dismissal of the lawsuit.

Glennon noted the disagreement has the potential to escalate in some unsavory ways.

Met could decide to simply fallow all the farmland it now owns, then try to divert all that water to urban consumers. This would generate nearly as much water as the existing cooperative fallowing program, while saving Met millions of dollars in fallowing payments. But it would cut local farmers out of the proceeds entirely. Or, if Met cannot persuade the irrigation district to transfer the water saved through its leasing program, it could begin buying up more farmland until it attains a voting majority on the district’s board. This could create a situation in which the nation’s largest supplier of urban drinking water becomes a kind of benevolent dictator, controlling the fate of a far-flung rural area that depends entirely on farming. “If they’re willing to pay two-times agricultural land values, there are a lot of people who would raise their hand and exit the valley,” Fisher said. “It’s a scary proposition for those of us who live here.”  
Categories: Food and Farming

In less than 3 months, a major international city will likely run out of water

Thu, 02/01/2018 - 16:51
We also live in a water stressed state. Australia had a similar situation but took action to build desalinization plants (no longer needed), water conservation and required buildings to have cisterns to lessen water use. Building tunnels to move water around is NOT a solution in California. Note pictures of the dams/reservoirs below were thought to be the solution…..  “It is eye-opening, and an indication of the panic and also what lies ahead,” she said. “It’s been a hard transition because a lot of Capetonians aren’t understanding how we got to this point when the municipality was well-informed that we would experience a drought,” Mzwakali said. In less than 3 months, a major international city will likely run out of water

Updated 2:35 PM ET, Wed January 31, 2018

(CNN)In Cape Town, South Africa, they’re calling it “Day Zero” — the day when the taps run dry.

City officials had recently said that day would come on April 22. They have since moved up the date to April 12. Cape Town is South Africa’s second-largest city and a top international tourist draw. Now, residents play a new and delicate game of water math each day. They’re recycling bath water to help flush toilets. They’re being told to limit showers to 90 seconds. And hand sanitizer, once somewhat of an afterthought, is now a big seller. “Unwashed hair is now a sign of social responsibility,” resident Darryn Ten told CNN. So how did this happen? How does a major city in the developed world just run dry? It’s been a slow-motion crisis, exacerbated by three factors:

A rapidly changing climate.

Even with the predicament they find themselves in, residents haven’t dropped their water use significantly, Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille said. The city has lowered the water pressure in its mains to help stretch the water supply. But usage is still 86 million liters above its target goal. “It is quite unbelievable that a majority of people do not seem to care and are sending all of us headlong towards Day Zero,” a statement from the mayor’s office said. “We can no longer ask people to stop wasting water. We must force them.” Starting February 1, residents will only be allowed to use 50 liters, or a little over 13 gallons, of water per person, per day. Coping with the shortage The shortage is forcing some residents to get creative. Alistair Coy, who’s vacationing in Cape Town from the United Kingdom, strains the water that’s left over from boiling potatoes into a bucket. Many residents are reusing bucket water, such as Anne Verbist, who recycles her tap water to tend to her plants. “We catch all water from the tap to wash hands and dishes and use it for the plants,” she said. But creativity is also creating problems. “People (are) buying anything that can hold water,” resident Richard Stubbs said. “No buckets, no (gas cans) or drums (are) in stock. So people (are) buying bins, vases and large storage boxes.” Some then fill up these containers with water from the city supplies — further feeding the crisis. Worries about drinking water Verbist and some other residents said that while they use tap water for household needs, they are reluctant to drink it. “They claim it is fine to drink, but the kids were having tummy issues,” she said. So now, she and her family trek to the Newlands Spring to get their allotted liters of water twice a month. They tried to replenish their drinking water reserves Monday, but the line was too long. They went back the next day. Lincoln Mzwakali said his tap water “tastes funny” as well, so he relies on the same spring. CNN asked the city of Cape Town about the water quality concerns that some residents reported but has not received a response. The massive influx of Capetonians collecting water at the spring has led to issues within the normally quiet neighborhood. Now, the government is stepping in to help manage the queues and congestion at the spring. The site will only be accessible during certain times of the day and will be managed by city officials. In the coming months, city officials say they will be diverting the flow to a nearby swimming pool to speed up queues and manage congestion. Long lines and bare essentials It’s not lost on residents that “Day Zero” is fast approaching. “It’s frightening, especially when you actually see the dams where we get our water from,” Verbist said.Water levels at dams supplying the city continue to sink. Satellite images from over the past seven years show the water disappearing from the city’s largest reservoir at Theewaterskloof dam.. Some who have money to leave Cape Town until the crisis subsides are doing so. Darryn Ten plans on doing just that. “Basically, everyone I know who is in the position to be able to leave is doing so,” he said. “The consensus is that everyone who can get out of town should do so in order to help lessen the burden.” But there are those who can’t — the elderly, disabled and the impoverished. “They don’t have the money to buy water,” Verbist told CNN. There’s even a shortage of bottled water. The stores that do have water sell out fast and are unable to replenish their stock for days. Those that can afford water are queuing at stores before they open. At one local chain grocery store, video shows shoppers swarming pallets of bottled water, clearing them in just minutes. “People were already rushing in and out of the shop to buy water,” Adele van der Spuy told CNN. “Some actually went in several times as we were only allowed to buy five boxes at a time.” Van der Spuy said she has never witnessed anything like it before. “It is eye-opening, and an indication of the panic and also what lies ahead,” she said. “It’s been a hard transition because a lot of Capetonians aren’t understanding how we got to this point when the municipality was well-informed that we would experience a drought,” Mzwakali said. “There are a lot of angry people and not enough answers on how this is going to be resolved.”
Categories: Food and Farming

After The Grapes Are Gone by David Keller

Thu, 02/01/2018 - 16:17
After the grapes are gone By DAVID KELLER

Our succession of boom crops in Sonoma County provides an interesting history — and a cautionary tale.

The county’s world-class wine grapes occupy more than 60,000 acres, with vineyard acreage expanding 80 percent between 1988 and 2014. Our climate, soils and location are ideal, and grapes are the current top crop, worth more than $400 million.

But, what will remain of our natural resources when markets and production shift? What will become of future generations’ inheritance of our region’s rich soils, water, forests, wildlife and fisheries?

As the past predicts the future, previously dominant crops over the past 160-plus years have been replaced with the next crops of gold. Early on, potatoes were large crops, now gone. Potato blight and erosion of coastal sandy loam soils helped destroy that crop’s viability by 1900, while adding huge sediment loads to coastal creeks and lagoons, damaging salmon and steelhead habitat.

By 1858, Sonoma County’s hops production exceeded $1 million (equivalent to $27 million in today’s dollars), producing thousands of harvest-time jobs. The industry declined rapidly during Prohibition and with changing tastes. After 1939, machine-picked hops shifted cultivation to operations outside Sonoma County. The year 1961 witnessed the last commercial crop.

By 1936, Healdsburg was labeled the “Buckle of the Prune Belt,” with plums exceeding 24,000 acres. Cherries, peaches and apples took turns as dominant regional crops. The first commercial apple orchards were planted in 1875, with Gravensteins the local favorite by 1915. At its peak in 1953, 27,000 acres produced a crop worth more than $5.5 million ($49 million today). By the 1990s, apple orchards were rapidly being replaced with grapes.

Poultry, with more than 50 million dozen eggs per year, was king for several generations until the shift to industrial production in the Central Valley. Pears, hay, dairy products (a $90 million industry), cattle, sheep and other crops have all had their eras of economic and agricultural triumph. We’ve harvested redwood, fir, salmon, eel, otters, seals, whales, murre eggs, ducks and egrets, mercury and gravel until resources were exhausted. Water is now subject to competing commercial, municipal, marijuana, wine and agricultural demands, all increasingly pitted against survival of native salmon.

European grapes were first planted in 1857. Despite phylloxera, Prohibition, economic depressions, droughts, freezes, floods and new threats of Esca fungi, demands for Sonoma wines have supported increasing acreage for premium grapes. Dry farmed rootstock has given way to higher-yield irrigated rootstock. Competition for scarce water, soils and appropriate microclimates is fierce, as the world market, investment strategies, real estate speculation, and vanity wineries have fueled development of more vineyards. Tastes, prices, diseases, and access to processing and transportation all change. Tourists may grow tired of more winery events, while other world producers grab market share. Climate changes are impacting grape viability and suitable locations, affecting growing seasons, extreme temperatures, droughts, frosts and water reliability.

In 160 years, we’ve substantially changed Sonoma County’s landscape. What will happen in the next 50 years? As with past crops, the treasured domination of grapes may fade. When that happens, what condition will our local natural resources be in? Will the land and Russian River watershed still be healthy enough to host the next crops of gold?

Our responsibility is to assure that we preserve and restore fertile soil, clean and abundant surface and ground water, wetlands, forests and all fish and wildlife that depend on those resources — including us. Otherwise, our harvests of gold will disappear.

David Keller of Petaluma is Bay Area director of Friends of the Eel River.

Categories: Food and Farming

Diverted River Sustains California Wine Country, but It’s Killing Salmon

Thu, 02/01/2018 - 16:11
Let’s remind ourselves that our aquifers and water resources are collective resources owned by all of us and not just the wine industry.   “The prospect of losing the dams is terrifying to farmers who depend on the Russian River. The diverted water has created a thriving agricultural economy. The Eel River, in reality, is the lifeblood for hundreds of wineries, artisanal fruit and vegetable growers, and livestock producers along the upper reaches of the Russian River. In much of this region, the Russian would go dry in summer and fall without Eel River water. This is particularly true in Potter Valley itself, the farming region closest to the powerhouse, which has no viable groundwater available.” Diverted River Sustains California Wine Country, but It’s Killing Salmon Written byMatt Weiser Published on Jan. 29, 2018

Utility PG&E’s Potter Valley Project includes two dams on the Eel River that are up for relicensing. Water diversions into the Russian River for power generation are in jeopardy as salmon and steelhead remain at risk of extinction.

Few people outside Northern California have heard of the Eel River. But if you’re a wine lover, there’s a good chance you’ve enjoyed its water in the form of a golden chardonnay or a rich red merlot.

The Eel River was once home to one of the largest salmon populations on the West Coast. But for nearly a century, a large share of its flow has been diverted for hydroelectric power and irrigation, helping build Northern California into a world powerhouse of winemaking. Much of the wine produced in Mendocino and Sonoma counties would not exist without that diverted Eel River water.

So it should come as no surprise that the prospect of ending those water diversions is stirring concern across the region.

The water diversions are part of the Potter Valley Project, a 9.2-megawatt hydroelectric facility owned by utility Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E). It includes two dams on the Eel River and a hydroelectric powerhouse in the headwaters of the Russian River.

In a quirk of geography, the two rivers flow past each other only about a mile apart, separated by a ridge. A mile-long tunnel built through the ridge in 1908 diverts Eel River water into the Russian River, which then flows south into Mendocino and Sonoma counties. The Eel turns north and flows through Humboldt County.

The powerhouse was originally built to provide electricity for the town of Ukiah. For about 80 years, it’s been part of PG&E’s vast Northern California energy portfolio.

The Potter Valley Project is up for relicensing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), a once-in-50-years process that is prompting a hard look at whether the dams still make sense.

A key issue is fish passage. Like so many hydroelectric facilities of its era, the Potter Valley Project was built with no regard for migratory fish. Scott Dam, the largest of the two dams, is a 130ft-high concrete monolith with no fish ladders to allow fish to get around the structure. It was built on the Eel River in 1922, forming Lake Pillsbury about 12 miles upstream from the diversion tunnel.

Scott Dam has cut off salmon and steelhead from more than 280 miles of habitat for nearly a century. Logging, erosion and other land disturbances, such as vineyard development, have contributed to habitat loss for the fish as well.

The Eel River once spawned as many as 1 million salmon annually, making it the third-largest producer among California rivers, after the Sacramento and Klamath, said Scott Greacen, conservation director of Friends of the Eel River. Today, salmon returning to spawn in the Eel number fewer than 1,000 fish.

Greacen’s group is campaigning to remove the Eel River dams. A key reason is that most of the habitat upstream of Scott Dam is on U.S. Forest Service land and remains relatively undisturbed. It still offers cool water temperatures that could serve as a refuge for salmon and steelhead as downstream temperatures warm amid climate change.

“One of the things we really, really treasure about the Eel is that our fish seem to be wild fish,” said Greacen. “There’s a real possibility of recovering them as wild fish and not depending on hatcheries. It could be the Eel is a fairly significant chunk of the wild fish left on the West Coast.”

The prospect of losing the dams is terrifying to farmers who depend on the Russian River. The diverted water has created a thriving agricultural economy. The Eel River, in reality, is the lifeblood for hundreds of wineries, artisanal fruit and vegetable growers, and livestock producers along the upper reaches of the Russian River. In much of this region, the Russian would go dry in summer and fall without Eel River water. This is particularly true in Potter Valley itself, the farming region closest to the powerhouse, which has no viable groundwater available.

“The Potter Valley Project provides the only source of water we have,” said Janet Pauli, a board member of the Potter Valley Irrigation District. Pauli’s farm, a sixth-generation family operation, grows wine grapes, pears, hay and cattle – all thanks to diverted Eel River water.

“It changed the economy, it changed the crops we grow and the livestock we raise. It has been a boon,” Pauli said. “We are completely dependent on this water supply for our quality of life and for our economy. It is critically important.”

PG&E last year filed a formal notice with FERC that it intends to proceed with relicensing, a complicated process that takes at least five years. This triggered initial comments from other federal agencies that have a regulatory role.

One is the National Marine Fisheries Service, which hinted it may require PG&E to build some type of fish passage at Scott Dam. Similar requirements have been imposed on many dams up for relicensing over the past decade.

Fish passage could take many forms – from a basic concrete fish ladder to a new-fangled “salmon cannon,” which sucks fish through a tube and shoots them back out. Another option is a trap-and-haul program, in which fish are collected in tanker trucks and driven around the dam. All are expensive, raising the possibility that PG&E may not want to continue operating the dams.

Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, recently convened regular meetings with the players to discuss the future of the Eel River dams. In a recent video posted by the group CalTrout, Huffman said PG&E has “indicated they no longer want to operate that as a hydroelectric project going forward.”

PG&E officials would not confirm that position. But David Moller, PG&E’s director of portfolio strategies in power generation, said decommissioning the dams is one of many options on the table. He emphasized the relicensing process is at a very early stage, and no decision has been made.

“We always are continually evaluating our power generation facilities as to their economics, how they fit in with our forecasted future power demands,” said Moller. “Certainly, potentially not continuing on with the project would be an option. But it’s certainly not the exclusive option.”

The economics of the Potter Valley Project are not what they once were. In 2007, PG&E was required by the National Marine Fisheries Service to divert less water through the tunnel and powerhouse to leave more water in the Eel River for migratory fish. This reduced power generation by around 50 percent.

It also slashed diversions to the Russian River from 160,000 acre-feet per year to around 77,000.

“That was a huge, huge change in the project,” Moller said. “It significantly reduced the power generation.”

So it could work out that the water diverted for Russian River agriculture is the primary economic benefit of the Potter Valley Project. One solution, therefore, is to find a way to continue those diversions while also removing the dams.

An option is to raise Coyote Valley Dam to increase the capacity of Lake Mendocino, a 122,000 acre-foot reservoir on the Russian River about 5 miles downstream from Potter Valley, at the intersections of Highways 101 and 20. Owned by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, it was originally designed with a 36ft rise in mind. This would increase the water storage by about 75,000 acre-feet – roughly equaling today’s diversions from the Eel River.

The Potter Valley tunnel could remain in operation to divert excess winter flows into the Russian River, helping to fill that additional capacity at Lake Mendocino.

All that could satisfy demand downstream of Lake Mendocino, which includes the vast majority of the Russian River’s agricultural water users. But it would leave Potter Valley – the original beneficiaries of Eel River diversions – high and dry in the summer.

The Potter Valley Irrigation District has studied the idea of building its own new reservoir somewhere in the surrounding watershed, Pauli said. Several possibilities were investigated, but none was big enough to make economic sense.

Still, Pauli is optimistic that some compromise can be reached to protect both the water supply and the fisheries.

With a PhD in zoology, Pauli also has a deep concern for the salmon, steelhead and other wildlife in the two rivers. She notes, for instance, that the Russian River is home to western pond turtles and foothill yellow-legged frogs. Both are endangered species that depend, to some degree, on the same Eel River water diversions that built Potter Valley’s farm economy.

“We will have to be very, very wise about how we protect this shared resource,” Pauli said. “We’re on a ride, and nobody knows exactly what the destination is.”

This could shift the economics of the issue. Friends of the Eel River recently hired a consultant who found that just 5 acres of solar panels could generate more electricity than the Potter Valley Project now produces.

 

Categories: Food and Farming

Fracking Wastewater used in California produce including organic, time to ban the practice

Tue, 01/30/2018 - 10:56

“Organic carrots”, veggies, nuts and more that you  and your family are probably consuming right now. See the video below for more brands using toxic chemicals to grow your food. To send message to your legislators to ban this use click on this link or “BAN IT” heading below and fill out the form.  https://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/JustBanIt

From our friends at Food & Water Watch:

CA Legislators: Ban Oil Wastewater Irrigation Now! Our multi-billion dollar food industry is getting away with using our dinner plates as disposal sites for oil wastewater from dirty oil corporations in California like Chevron.

Water samples have determined that the wastewater contains dangerous chemicals, some that are linked to cancer. 

This is a threat to our health, the health of farmworkers who grow our food, and our environment, yet our Governor Jerry Brown and our legislators have FAILED to take action on this pressing issue.

Watch this video then put pressure on your California state legislators to BAN the use of oil wastewater for crop irrigation NOW!

Why is Toxic Oil Wastewater Being Used To Grow Our Food?

Oil companies in California are selling wastewater from their drilling operations to several local irrigation districts, which in turn mix it with the water they sell to growers to irrigate their crops.

This sounds complicated, but what it means is that the toxic wastewater, which could include up to 173 (!) different chemicals, ends up in the water used to irrigate popular crops that are shipped across the country. A lot of the fruits, veggies and wines irrigated in this area are going to look familiar — like Halos Mandarin oranges, a popular snack marketed as being “pure goodness.”

Other companies growing in these districts:

Categories: Food and Farming

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