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Protecting our Environmental Resources
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The Farm Bureau: Big Oil’s Unnoticed Ally Fighting Climate Science and Policy

Sat, 12/22/2018 - 09:42
The Farm Bureau: Big Oil’s Unnoticed Ally Fighting Climate Science and Policy The Farm Bureau: Big Oil’s Unnoticed Ally Fighting Climate Science and Policy

While big oil and gas companies provided the cash for anti-regulation campaigns, the farm lobby offered up a sympathetic face: the American farmer.

Dec 21, 2018

When Republican Rep. Steve Scalise stepped to the dais in the U.S. House of Representatives in July and implored his colleagues to denounce a carbon tax, he didn’t reach for dire predictions made by the fossil fuel titans that pushed for the resolution.

Instead, he talked about America’s farmers.

“Why don’t we listen to what the American Farm Bureau Federation said about a carbon tax?” the Louisiana congressman said, holding up a letter from the group, the nation’s largest farm lobby. “‘Agriculture is an energy-intensive sector, and a carbon tax levied on farmers and ranchers would be devastating,'” he read.

Advocacy groups with close ties to the oil billionaires Charles and David Koch had urged House leaders to get the anti-tax resolution approved. When the measure passed, by a big margin, it proved—not for the first time, nor the last —the Farm Bureau’s role as a powerful defender of the nation’s fossil fuel interests.

For more than three decades, the Farm Bureau has aligned agriculture closely with the fossil fuel agenda. Though little noticed next to the influence of the fossil fuel industry, the farm lobby pulled in tandem with the energy lobby in a mutually reinforcing campaign to thwart the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, legislation like the Waxman-Markey economywide cap-and-trade plan, and regulations that would limit fossil fuel emissions.

This article, part of a series exploring agriculture’s role in climate change and the influence of the Farm Bureau, examines the close ties between the two industries as they fought to undermine climate policy.

In pursuit of their common goals, the fossil fuel industry and the Farm Bureau worked to sow uncertainty about the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change and the economic consensus on how to solve the problem. Fossil fuel companies spent hundreds of millions of dollars to develop a network of think tanks and friendly lawmakers who gave climate denial political credibility as part of a decades-long misinformation campaign. The Farm Bureau provided a national grassroots network that was hard for Congress to oppose.

“Everyone on the Hill knew that there was a division of labor,” said Joseph Goffman, a former associate assistant administrator for climate at the Environmental Protection Agency and executive director of Harvard Law School’s environmental and energy program. “Oil companies argued that consumers would pay a price at the pump for regulation of fossil fuels. And the farmers could argue that they were a far more economically sensitive group of fuel users and would be seen more favorably than oil would be.”

The Farm Bureau has insisted that attempts to control greenhouse gas emissions would drive up costs for fuel and fertilizer. But other influences are also at work. Farmers’ cooperatives run their own fuel businesses. Farmers increasingly earn income from the production of fossil fuels on their land. And the industries are major sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Climate regulations, in the long run, would reshape them both.

To this day, the Farm Bureau does not acknowledge the overwhelming scientific consensus that global warming caused by human activities is a reality and that it poses grave risks to agriculture.

“These guys have been so dug in on climate that they don’t want to entertain any discussions of potential ways forward on this,” Joseph Glauber, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said of the Farm Bureau. “If they discount all the benefits from cap and trade and a carbon tax because they don’t believe in climate change in the first place, then they view all these efforts as an energy tax—as all costs and no benefit.”

Farm Bureau officials declined to be interviewed for this article. In emails, Farm Bureau spokesman William Rodger said common policy goals have “on occasion, aligned AFBF with other energy-based associations such as API [American Petroleum Institute]. This is hardly unusual; coalitions based on a common view of one or two issues is a consistent feature in policy advocacy in Washington.”

“Our farmers and ranchers determine our policies, and AFBF pursues legislative and regulatory strategies to achieve our members’ goals,” he wrote.

In its fight against regulation, the Farm Bureau has long capitalized on the idea that farmers know what’s best for their land.

“The fundamental position on climate change for farmers is that the government will come in and tell you what to do, and that’s anathema to American farmers,” said Robert Young, a former chief economist for the Farm Bureau. “The government does that all the time. The farmer’s feeling is that, ‘I want to decide what I want.'”

Greg Dotson, former Rep. Henry Waxman’s top environmental aide from 1996 to 2014, noted that the Farm Bureau’s relentless opposition to climate policies could eventually end up hurting the farmers it represents as climate change worsens heat, droughts and extreme weather.

“The lost decades due to inaction will only make it that much harder to avoid the worst effects of climate change,” he said. “Mitigation that might have been relatively easy in 1990, straightforward in 2000, or ambitious in 2010, will be a stretch in 2020. We must come to terms with the fact that, try as we may—and I believe we will try very hard—we may well have terrible losses.”

Conservative and Vast, a Powerful Lobby Is Born

The Farm Bureau’s first chapter was founded in 1911 in Broome County, New York, by corporate interests as an antidote to populist farm movements that were sweeping the Great Plains. Midwest agrarian reformers were protesting low commodity prices and high rail freight rates set by East Coast corporations. The companies, in turn, saw the movement’s expansion as a threat to capitalism.

Chapters opened in counties all over the country. State bureaus followed, and in 1919, the national American Farm Bureau Federation was established in Chicago.

The group presented a unified political voice and lobbied for longer-term credit, protective tariffs and crop insurance. Immediately, it created powerful alliances within Congress. The New York Times in 1921 called the new lobby “the most forceful group influence in national politics today,” “more powerful in Congress than organized labor.”

Hewing to its conservative origins, the Farm Bureau built its power as it fought antitrust laws and other restrictive policies over the next decades. But with the formation of the EPA and passage of the country’s first landmark environmental laws in the 1970s, the bureau’s anti-regulatory agenda kicked into higher gear as the group found common ground with the fossil fuel industry. “It’s really, really hard to escape the suspicion that there’s a big ideological overlay here between them,” Goffman said.

Food and Fuel: Dependent, and Getting More So

The alliance between the Farm Bureau and the fossil fuel industry was rooted in a shared anti-regulatory ideology. It flourished because their financial interests are intricately intertwined. Energy, after all, is both consumed and produced on American farmland.

Oil powers farm machinery. Coal generates a greater percentage of the power at rural electric utilities than in the rest of the country. Natural gas is the feedstock for nitrogen-based fertilizer. Pesticide production and application rely on fossil fuels. All told, fossil fuel-related costs make up a significant chunk of farming expenses, between about 10 percent and nearly 50 percent, depending on the type of crop or livestock, according to USDA data.

“The industrial model of agriculture is very energy intensive and fossil fuel-dependent,” said Ben Lilliston, director of rural strategies and climate change at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, a farm research organization. “The equipment is getting bigger and bigger and requires more fuel.”

But it isn’t just about farmers—the wider agriculture community earns income from the food-fuel nexus. In 1930, state farm bureaus in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana formed the Farm Bureau Oil Company. And in less than 30 years, it owned 1,200 wells, a pipeline network and refining operations on U.S. farms.

Today, nearly a third of the country’s roughly 1,500 farming cooperatives sell diesel and other petroleum products, generating more than $17 billion in net sales in 2016. And some still own large oil exploration, pipeline and refining ventures.

State farm bureau affiliates also sell insurance products, and some run for-profit funds that invest that insurance money in fossil fuel businesses. The insurance subsidiary of the Iowa Farm Bureau, the country’s wealthiest state bureau, owns a fund called FBL Financial that in 2017 had about $462 million invested in fossil fuel companies, including refineries, pipeline corporations and oil and gas producers, according to federal filings.

The agriculture and fossil fuels lobbies have diverged over biofuel, which the oil refining industry sees as a threat to profits and farmers view as an economic lifeline. About 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop goes to making ethanol. But farmers also lease land for oil and gas development, increasingly so in regions opened up by fracking.

Strikingly, farmers in fracking-heavy counties have been more likely to take acreage out of the Conservation Reserve Program, the environmental centerpiece of farm policy.

The program pays farmers to set aside certain environmentally sensitive lands to avoid soil loss. At its peak in 2007, it enrolled 37 million acres. USDA researchers noted that acreage enrolled in the program declined by 36 percent between 2002 and 2015 in counties where the oil and gas boom took place, compared to 25 percent in counties where it didn’t.

The appeal of oil and gas income undermined soil conservation efforts that could play a big role in addressing climate change.

“All of a sudden, this resource boom comes along and all of that momentum was undercut,” said Ted Auch, a program coordinator with The FracTracker Alliance, an environmental data group that analyzed the relationship between fracking and conservation lands. “Writ large, that’s having an impact on progressive agriculture, all the way from South Dakota to Ohio.”

Kyoto and the Spread of Climate Misinformation

The Farm Bureau called for abolishing the EPA in 1980, and later fought efforts to bolster air and water quality standards and protections for endangered species—often in partnership with the American Petroleum Institute and other fossil fuel groups.

The alliance strengthened when the Farm Bureau became a member and powerful ally of the Global Climate Coalition (GCC), a group of industrial lobbies, including API and Exxon, that spearheaded corporate opposition to the Kyoto Protocol. The treaty was the first to require wealthier nations to cut global warming pollution. Early on, carbon trading was seen as the instrument of choice to achieve emissions cuts at the least cost.

the mid-1990s, the Farm Bureau had become “a very active” member of the GCC, according to the coalition’s then-chairman, William O’Keefe.

The GCC’s message was simple: Climate science was too uncertain to warrant action, and international accords such as Kyoto unfairly favored other countries at the expense of American wealth and power.

As President Bill Clinton was on the verge of signing the treaty in 1997, the Farm Bureau joined a smaller offshoot of the GCC to launch a $13 million public relations campaign to derail Senate approval of the treaty.

“The Farm Bureau has a grassroots network that was immensely valuable,” recalled Frank Maisano, a former spokesman for the GCC. It “used vehicles of communications that they had back then, such as their radio networks and newspapers, to get the message out about Kyoto to farmers.”

Another fossil fuel lobbying group also turned to farmers for help. The Western Fuels Alliance chose Iowa for a grassroots effort in farm country to denounce the Kyoto Protocol. It got thousands of farmers, small businesses and unions in the state to sign an open letter to Clinton and Vice President Al Gore opposing the direction the Kyoto talks were taking.

The alliance then hired consultants to produce a page on the World Wide Web, the new thing at the time, where other interest groups could join in the campaign to forestall the protocol.

Western Fuels Unveils Unique Political-Action Website in Cyberwar on Climate Change (p. 2) View the entire document with DocumentCloud

<br /><a href=”https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/5639396-Western-Fuels-Alliance-Memo-on-Farmers-and/annotations/472108.html”>View note</a><br />

Fred Palmer, the Western Fuels Alliance’s chief executive, called the online campaign “a cost-effective way [to] mobilize a citizen army of activists to turn back the agenda of environmental elitists both inside and outside the government.”

Dean Kleckner, the Farm Bureau’s president at the time of the Kyoto negotiations, was among many of the group’s leaders to recite the mantra that man-made climate change was an unproven theory.

Dean Kleckner, American Farm Bureau Federation president from 1986 to 2000, shown here with then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, argued human-caused climate change was unproven. Credit: Douglas Graham/Congressional Quarterly via Getty Images

“Some farmers are aware that in the last decade or so there has been discussion by some scientists that greenhouse gases … are contributing to increases in average global temperatures that could cause adverse effects on the world’s climate,” Kleckner said at a 1997 House hearing on the Kyoto Protocol. “Boy, have we heard that this morning.

“But there is still a legitimate debate, despite what we have heard, about the magnitude of those changes, their significance and the relative contribution of natural versus human causes including agricultural production.”

That year, a resolution that stated the Senate opposed the U.S. joining the treaty was introduced by coal state Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) and farm state Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.). It passed 95-0. Hagel was later awarded a “Friend of the Farm Bureau” title for his work. The U.S. signed the Kyoto Protocol in November 1998, but the Clinton administration never submitted it to the Senate for approval. The Bush-Cheney administration later abandoned the treaty.

The Heartland Partnership

The Farm Bureau worked closely over the next decade with one of the most vocal groups disputing mainstream climate science—the Heartland Institute, a conservative advocacy organization that had ties to fossil fuel interests.

Heartland enlisted top Farm Bureau economists to co-author reports that expanded the argument against limiting fossil fuel emissions by saying a cap would cripple farms by raising costs. They challenged the claim that farmers would gain income by participating in a global effort to offset carbon emissions.

Through its relationship with Heartland, the Farm Bureau went from denying the science to disputing the mainstream economic view that effectively addressing climate change requires a price on fossil fuel pollution.

Heartland issued a report in 1998 aimed at Capitol Hill and co-authored by Terry Francl, the Farm Bureau’s chief economist, which proclaimed the Kyoto Protocol would have “dramatic, negative effects on U.S. farmers.” Energy costs would rise by the equivalent of a quarter to half of net farm income, the authors said. They warned that hundreds of thousands of farmers would have to choose between bankruptcy and selling out. A half-dozen reviewers and consultants lent advice to the primary authors, according to the acknowledgments. Each one was a proponent of climate denial.

Other analysts publishing in peer-reviewed economic journals did not see such dire effects. Not only would farmers adapt to rising prices by changing their farming practices, they argued, but the resulting environmental benefits would pay off for society at large.

Economists Paul Faeth and Suzie Greenhalgh of the research organization World Resources Institute debunked the Farm Bureau’s math in a 2000 economic analysis, saying it hinged on serious flaws in its assumptions and methodology.

“We find that the implementation of policies that address climate change will not be an economic disaster for U.S. agriculture,” they wrote. “The Kyoto Protocol would reduce net cash returns by less than one percent. With the right policy setting, net cash returns could be positive.” Cap and trade, for example, would encourage farmers to cut their emissions through fuel efficiency and climate-friendly farming practices, allowing them to earn emissions credits that they could then sell to other polluters.

This “would help farm income, enhance the environment, and reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions while cutting soil erosion and nutrient pollution,” they wrote.

Over the years, Heartland and the Farm Bureau continued to cultivate their argument that carbon trading would be ruinous for farms and ranches. In 2003, as they were about to publish another report on the subject, Joseph Bast, president of Heartland, and then-Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman testified at a Congressional hearing on climate change and farming.

“Even with the best, most comprehensive agricultural offsets program, the agricultural sector will lose under cap and trade,” Stallman said at the hearing. He estimated the short-term costs to farmers at $5 billion, rising to $13 billion or even more.

“Truthfully, any figure I or anyone else gives you is really not much more than an educated guess. There are so many unknowns and assumptions and estimates that are built into this debate. No one can look you in the face and tell you with certainty what is going to happen,” Stallman said, citing Bjorn Lomborg, a well-known contrarian whose views on climate change fall outside established science.

The economic argument depended on the same emphasis on uncertainty that denialists had used to sow doubt about the science.

Eventually, this approach would underpin the Farm Bureau’s stance against a House bill known as Waxman-Markey. The measure attempted in the first years of the Obama administration to put an economy-wide cap-and-trade system in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Bob Stallman (center), American Farm Bureau Federation president from 2000 to 2016, argued to farmers and government leaders that the economics around climate policies were too uncertain and farms would suffer. Credit: Elizabeth Moore/USDA

The Agriculture Department’s bureau of economic analysis argued in 2009 that cap-and-trade legislation would buffer farmers from the costs of meeting a mandatory cap on emissions. Revenues from pollution offsets would overtake the increased cost of fuel, “perhaps substantially,” it said.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimated that new farm income from the proposed cap-and-trade system would be about $20 billion a year by 2050. This was a new challenge to the Farm Bureau’s contention that climate regulations would cripple the industry.

The Farm Bureau joined a campaign called “Energy Citizens” led by the American Petroleum Institute in summer 2009 to organize opposition to cap and trade. It also launched its own effort through its state affiliates to pressure senators in particular to reject the bill and organized 120 farm groups to denounce it.

In Congress, the Farm Bureau won concessions in the House version of the Waxman-Markey bill: Farmers would not have to limit their emissions, yet they could make money by selling emissions credits to other polluters. The Farm Bureau continued to oppose the bill. It was never introduced in the Senate. Cap and trade was declared dead in 2010, after the midterms swept in hardline conservatives backed by the Koch brothers and flipped control of the House to Republicans.

Farmers Got the Bureau’s Message

In 2010, a group of 47 leading agriculture and climate researchers organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists wrote to Stallman expressing deep dismay at the Farm Bureau’s continued denial of mainstream climate science.

“Your organization’s position does not reflect the consensus opinion of the science community or the scientific literature. Your stance represents the position taken by a relatively small number of climate change deniers,” the group said. The scientists offered to provide a detailed briefing of the current science. The Farm Bureau brushed them off.

Many farmers have readily accepted the threads of lobbyists’ arguments—that climate science is doubtful and solutions are best kept out of the hands of government.

Linda Prokopy and colleagues at Purdue and Iowa State universities found in surveys in 2011 and 2012 that while 66 percent of corn producers said they believed climate change was occurring, only 8 percent said human activities were the main cause. A quarter thought natural variations were at work, and a full 31 percent said there wasn’t enough information to show that global warming was underway.

A separate series of focus groups among Midwestern farmers around the same time  illuminated the breadth of their resistance to climate solutions.

“Many participants noted that they did not believe the science nor trust scientists,” the researchers reported. “Many speculated that scientists had created climate change to reap money or that they had simply made it up.”

About two-thirds of U.S. oil and gas production is on farmland, like this pump jack and fracking site in a cotton field in Kern County, California. But according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data, only a small fraction of farms benefit financially from oil and gas drilling on their land. Credit: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images

Prokopy and her colleagues wrote that farmers’ views may be profoundly influenced by repeated messages from trusted advisers, including the Farm Bureau.

“Agricultural interest groups, principal among them the influential American Farm Bureau Federation, have consistently voiced opposition to climate policy and legislation and have cast doubt on links between human behavior and climate change and the need for mitigation of GHG emissions,” they wrote. “These intermediaries selectively choose information they receive and act as gatekeepers by taking the raw science and adding their ‘spin’ to it.”

States Feel the Weight of the Farm Bureau, Too

Today, the Farm Bureau and fossil fuel industry’s messages—on the supposed uncertainty of climate science and purported unfairness of making the U.S. a leader in addressing the problem—echo broadly across farm states and in the Trump administration.

The administration withdrew from the Paris Agreement, the global climate treaty signed by President Obama. It repealed Obama’s Clean Power Plan aimed at shutting the most polluting coal plants. It opened more public lands to fossil fuel development.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall (right) traveled with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to a farm in Colorado in May 2018. Credit: Lance Cheung/USDA

At the state level, the Colorado Farm Bureau worked with oil and gas interests this fall to defeat a proposed ban on drilling. The bureau launched a counter ballot measure that would require the state to compensate landowners for financial losses from a drilling ban. Protect Colorado, an oil industry group, financed the measure. But farmers served as the face of the effort, gathering the signatures and promoting the message that income from drilling on farmland keeps them afloat.

“Putting a corporate oil executive out front on some issue is of limited utility because it’s seen as self-serving,” said Eric Sondermann, a political analyst and strategist in the state. “So industry finds third party allies, and farmers are very sympathetic allies.”

Both ballot measures failed, preserving the status quo.

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Center for Biological Diversity: Breaking: We Just Sued Trump to Save Polar Bears

Sat, 12/22/2018 - 09:39
Center for Biological Diversity: Breaking: We Just Sued Trump to Save Polar Bears

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Just minutes ago we sued Trump to stop one of the most dangerous fossil fuel projects ever proposed in the heart of the Arctic.

This lawsuit challenges Hilcorps’ Liberty project, a massive offshore drilling operation in federal waters where polar bears are already in a desperate struggle for survival. An oil spill in such remote and important wildlife habitat would be a nightmare.

We can’t fight this horrifying project without your support. Please give to the Endangered Species Act Protection Fund to save polar bears and their homes. Your donation will be matched dollar for dollar.

In October Trump granted Hilcorp, an oil and gas corporation with a nasty track record, permission to move forward on Alaska’s Liberty project. Just last year one of Hilcorp’s gas pipelines leaked into Alaska’s Cook Inlet for nearly four months, and earlier this month it was responsible for an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Now it wants to build an artificial island and a 5.6-mile pipeline under Arctic waters.

Polar bears aren’t the only species threatened. Construction of this oil rig mega-complex and pipelines threatens a suite of Arctic marine mammals that live there, including bowhead whales, ringed seals and bearded seals.

It’s an incredibly risky proposal. An oil spill in Arctic waters would be impossible to clean up — the nearest Coast Guard station is 1,000 miles away.

We’re pulling out all the stops to block this project, and we need you with us.

No one has done more to protect polar bears and their Arctic home than the Center for Biological Diversity.

We won Endangered Species Act protection for polar bears in 2005, setting the stage for the fight of a lifetime to protect them from starving as sea ice melts around them. Then in 2010 we secured 120 million acres of the bears’ habitat, the largest tract of land and water ever set aside for wildlife through the Endangered Species Act.

Big Oil and the state of Alaska tried to reverse those protections last year, but we won again — when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear their case, preserving the bears’ 120 million acres.

Today’s lawsuit is the next lifesaving step. We’re not about to let Trump and the oil industry drill away these bears’ homes.

The Center has already taken more than 100 legal actions against the Trump administration since he took office. And we’re winning. This year we stopped Trump from ramming through the Keystone XL pipeline and won a halt of all fracking off the California coast, and we’ll win again. This is urgent, vital work, and we need you with us.

Please double your gift now to our Endangered Species Act Protection Fund.

For the wild,

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director
Center for Biological Diversity

 

P.S. The best way to support our ongoing fight to protect wildlife and habitat is through an automatic monthly donation.   This message was sent to
Donate now to support the Center’s work.
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Center for Biological Diversity
P.O. Box 710
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United States

Categories: G2. Local Greens

BREAKING: USDA tests reveal toxic pesticides in bottled water.

Fri, 12/21/2018 - 08:39

EWG/Environmental Working Group

BREAKING: USDA tests reveal toxic pesticides in bottled water.

This is UNACCEPTABLE. New tests out of the Department of Agriculture detected atrazine, a weed killer – in BOTTLED WATER. Atrazine is so potent that even low-level exposure can turn male frogs into female frogs with perfectly viable eggs.

AND the same report detected chlorpyrifos on nearly 10 percent of asparagus tested. Chlorpyrifos is a neurotoxic pesticide that can cause brain damage in kids. And it’s on our asparagus!

The EPA is choosing to ignore the science that shows these chemicals cause cancer and brain damage, and disrupt hormone systems. Instead they want to protect the profits of Dow Chemical and Syngenta, the pesticides manufacturers.

These pesticides should not be on the market. Period. It’s time for the EPA to take action and protect our health! Join EWG and urge the EPA to BAN atrazine and chlorpyrifos.

In the face of heavy pressure from Big Ag, the EPA has ignored atrazine’s and chlorpyrifos’ serious health concerns, despite public outcry. Until Scott Pruitt stepped in, chlorpyrifos was scheduled to be banned. It’s despicable that the EPA continues to choose industry profits over our health.

Industry claims these chemicals are safe, but science shows otherwise:

  • A study by the EPA’s own scientists shows that chlorpyrifos impairs children’s IQ and brain development.
  • Not only can atrazine alter frog anatomy, it can also harm the developing fetus and increase the risk of cancer.
  • Europe has already banned agricultural spraying of atrazine because it can pollute drinking water.

We know that front groups like the Alliance for Food and Farming are going to dial up their attacks on EWG, trying to whitewash these results.

EPA Ignores the Science, Dismisses the Risks to Children’s Health From Syngenta’s Atrazine Tuesday, September 11, 2018 By Olga Naidenko Ph.D., Senior Science Advisor for Children’s Environmental Health

In a move that echoes pesticide industry wishes, the Environmental Protection Agency chose to ignore recent science and human health studies on atrazine, a weed-killer that turns male frogs into females and may increase the risk of cancer, The New York Times reported last month.

Atrazine is manufactured by agrochemical giant Syngenta. It is sprayed mostly on Midwest corn fields and is consistently one of the most-detected crop chemicals in drinking water.

According to EWG’s Tap Water Database, which aggregates testing data from utilities nationwide, in 2015, atrazine was found in water systems serving nearly 30 million Americans in 27 states.

Due to its ability to disturb the fine-tuned hormonal balance in the body, even at low doses, atrazine can affect the reproductive system and the developing fetus. The European Union completely phased out atrazine because of its potential to contaminate drinking water.

TELL THE EPA: BAN ATRAZINE!

Join EWG and tell EPA to ban atrazine!

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In the U.S. in 2013, Syngenta settled a class action lawsuit brought by water utilities with atrazine contamination for $105 million. The settlement money was distributed to communities with the most contamination, but for many systems, that amount was insufficient to cover costs of long-term water treatment.

In an interview with KQED-FM of San Francisco, Tyrone Hayes, a professor of biology at the University of California at Berkeley, said atrazine is found at levels in the environment where it’s known to affect animals, wildlife, and laboratory animals. But he said the data suggest it also affects people.

Pregnancy and early childhood are the most vulnerable periods for atrazine exposure. Atrazine disrupts the nerve and hormone systems, impacting one’s brain, behavior and crucial hormones such as estrogen, testosterone, and dopamine.

The human studies ignored by the EPA point to specific health harms that can come from atrazine in drinking water. In 2017, Leslie Stayner and his colleagues at the University of Illinois reviewed more than 130,000 birth records in four Midwestern states and reported a statistically significant association between atrazine presence in drinking water and preterm births. The average concentration of atrazine was one-seventh of the EPA’s legal limit for atrazine of three parts per billion, or ppb. (A part per billion is about one drop of water in an Olympic-size swimming pool.)

A 2011 French study reported restricted fetal growth and small head circumference in babies whose mothers drank atrazine-contaminated tap water during the first trimester of pregnancy. Scientists from the University of Texas School of Public Health reported an elevated risk of genital malformations among male children born to mothers who lived in counties with frequent atrazine spraying.

As scientists continue to study endocrine disruptors, it is clear that these contaminants do not belong in water. In 1999, California scientists set a public health goal for atrazine of 0.15 ppb, 20 times lower than the federal legal limit. In 2016, California added atrazine and related herbicides to its official list of chemicals known to cause developmental toxicity and to harm the female reproductive system.

Yet when the EPA published its latest review of atrazine, new research was discarded, putting the interests of pesticide manufacturers ahead of human health. Overall, the agency:

  • Ignored more than 10 human epidemiological studies showing human health harm from atrazine in drinking water;
  • Ignored the data showing that atrazine can change brain function and behavior;
  • Dismissed the children’s health impacts from atrazine; and
  • Discounted the potential cancer risks of atrazine.

Since the EPA is not doing its job of protecting the public from pesticides, it is essential for families and communities to look for ways to safeguard their own health, especially when atrazine levels in their water are high. Atrazine typically contaminates drinking water during the spring or early summer spraying, most often during the months of May and June, as EWG first reported in 1995.

Atrazine and similar herbicides can be removed from tap water by carbon filters, including inexpensive countertop pitchers. If you have, or suspect you might have contaminants in your tap water, EWG’s Water Filter Guide can help identify the best options.  

In the meanwhile, EWG, together with thousands of our supporters, is standing up to the EPA and demanding a ban on atrazine.

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Wine grape ‘taint’ rises anew with huge 2018 Northern California wildfires

Fri, 12/21/2018 - 08:28
Wine grape ‘taint’ rises anew with huge 2018 Northern California wildfires NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL December 19, 2018, 9:29AM

After the massive North Bay wildfires during harvest in October last year, record-sized blazes this summer in Mendocino and Lake counties, and big burns in Oregon, British Columbia and northeastern California, concerns about “smoke taint” in wine have wafted up from Down Under to become a hot North American industry issue.

Lake County growers estimate damages from grapes not purchased this harvest because they were deemed smoke-tainted was at least $37.1 million, according to a survey by the Lake County Winegrape Commission. Grower revenue from the 2017 crop in the county was $84 million.

FULL STORY HERE
Categories: G2. Local Greens

NapaVision 2050: Save the Date: Important Court Hearing on Mountain Peak Winery – Jan. 11, 2019

Thu, 12/20/2018 - 10:16
“The Mountain Peak Winery project calls for a 100,000 gal/yr winery permit, with 33,000 sf of caves, 15,000 visitors/yr, 19 employees/day, 100+ vehicle trips/day, all of which is to be conducted 6 miles up the winding, dead-end Soda Canyon Road, a rural community that was decimated by the 2017 Atlas Fire (two lives were lost, and 82% (134 of 163) of homes on Soda Canyon were either totally (118 of 163) or partially (16 of 163) destroyed by the fire). “ Save the Date: Important Court Hearing on Mountain Peak Winery – Jan. 11, 2019

The September 2017 lawsuit filed by Soda Canyon residents against the County for its abuse of discretion in approving the Mountain Peak Winery project is set for a hearing on Jan 11, 2019 starting at 8:30am in Dept. I of the Napa County Courthouse. The outcome of this hearing and case will have far-reaching impacts on remote and rural wineries across the entire County of Napa. We strongly encourage you to:

(1) Attend the Mountain hearing on January 11, 2019;
(2) Donate to Protect Rural Napa to assist in this expensive, but critical legal battle, which can be done by clicking HERE

Or send a check to:
Protect Rural Napa
P.O. Box 2385
Yountville, CA 94559

The Mountain Peak Winery project calls for a 100,000 gal/yr winery permit, with 33,000 sf of caves, 15,000 visitors/yr, 19 employees/day, 100+ vehicle trips/day, all of which is to be conducted 6 miles up the winding, dead-end Soda Canyon Road, a rural community that was decimated by the 2017 Atlas Fire (two lives were lost, and 82% (134 of 163) of homes on Soda Canyon were either totally (118 of 163) or partially (16 of 163) destroyed by the fire). For more information about the Mountain Peak Winery project, click HERE.

The lawsuit requests that the County conduct a full Environmental Impact Report on the project, as required under California law, rather than relying on the staff’s negative declaration of less-than-significant environmental impacts when the Board of Supervisors approved the project.

Soda Canyon residents are funding the legal fight against Mountain Peak and the Napa County Board of Supervisors. It is an expensive endeavor, but one that is worth the fight to protect not only the rural character and public safety and welfare of our community, but also all similar rural communities across the Napa Valley. Mountain Peak is the county’s poster child for potential future development throughout Napa’s most remote and rural regions, making this legal battle especially important to the future of Napa Valley. For more information on the county-wide impacts of Mountain Peak Winery, click HERE.

Please consider assisting these Soda Canyon residents by donating to PRN and clicking here

Categories: G2. Local Greens

It’s Open Season in the West for Energy Companies

Thu, 12/20/2018 - 09:45
It’s Open Season in the West for Energy Companies

 

<img width=”850″ height=”506″ src=”https://ui6lfrrydp-flywheel.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Western-oil-and-gas-operations-EWS.jpg” class=”featured_image wp-post-image” alt=”It’s Open Season in the West for Energy Companies” srcset=”https://ui6lfrrydp-flywheel.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Western-oil-and-gas-operations-EWS.jpg 850w, https://ui6lfrrydp-flywheel.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Western-oil-and-gas-operations-EWS-300×179.jpg 300w, https://ui6lfrrydp-flywheel.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Western-oil-and-gas-operations-EWS-768×457.jpg 768w” sizes=”(max-width: 850px) 100vw, 850px” /> Breaking News, Environment, Featured Story, The Latest News

It’s Open Season in the West for Energy Companies Interior Department Moves Ahead with Plans to Lease Tracts in Five State for a Little as $2 an Acre

By Sarah Okeson

Trump’s Bureau of Land Management tried to lease almost 12 million acres for oil and gas exploration last year, more than six times what the Obama administration tried to lease in 2016, and the Trump administration is poised to dump 1.4 million more acres on the market early next year. About 1.5 million acres in five western states were previously scheduled for lease sales this month but action was postponed after a federal magistrate judge found evidence that the bureau “made an intentional decision to limit the opportunity” for environmentalists and others to comment on the proposed leases. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wants to lease this land for as little as $2 an acre. The land, most now scheduled to be sold in February and March, is home to the imperiled greater sage grouse, a ground-nesting bird known for its distinctive mating dance. Zinke wants to slash protections for the sage grouse. ACTION BOX/What You Can Do About It

Contact Secretary Ryan Zinke and tell him that you want our nation’s Interior Department to protect our public lands, not lease it to oil and gas companies. Call him at 202-208-3100, reach out to him on Facebook, Twitter or send an email.

Write: Department of the Interior / 1849 C St., NW / Washington, D.C. 20240

The Wilderness Society can be reached at 1-800-THE-WILD.

“You’re already leasing as fast as you can and now you’re removing the protections that are already in place,” said Nada Culver, senior counsel at The Wilderness Society.

<img class=”wp-image-12683 size-full” src=”https://ui6lfrrydp-flywheel.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/oil-lease-sales.jpg” alt=”” width=”480″ height=”680″ srcset=”https://ui6lfrrydp-flywheel.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/oil-lease-sales.jpg 480w, https://ui6lfrrydp-flywheel.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/oil-lease-sales-212×300.jpg 212w” sizes=”(max-width: 480px) 100vw, 480px” />

Leases in the red areas were scheduled to be sold in December, but are now planned for February and March 2019.

Postponed sales include:

In January, Brian Steed, the bureau’s deputy director of policy and programs, signed a memo cutting the ability of environmentalists and others to question proposed oil and gas leases. The Western Watersheds Project and the Center for Biological Diversity sued Zinke over the memo and won a preliminary injunction forcing the bureau to use old guidelines for sales scheduled for December and afterward for land where sage grouse live.

“It is well-settled that public involvement in oil and gas leasing is required,” wrote Idaho Magistrate Judge Ronald Bush.

Much of the land that Zinke has offered for lease has drawn no interest from buyers. Oil companies bid on less than 7%, or 792,823 acres of the 11.8 million acres that Zinke offered in 2017. Last year, a federal oil-lease sale promoted as the largest ever in Alaska’s Arctic Reserve sold only seven tracts, or 0.8% of the 900 offered.

Drilling for oil and gas and coal mining on public lands accounted for an estimated 23.7%, or almost a fourth, of all carbon dioxide emissions from our country from 2005-2014.

Featured image: Oil and gas operations in the West. (IWS Energy Services)

FULL STORY
Categories: G2. Local Greens

The FDA Has Approved GMO Golden Rice to Enter the U.S. Food Supply

Thu, 12/20/2018 - 09:35
Renowned Indian scientist Dr. Tusher Chakraborty has another view of this supposedly miracle crop, however. While speaking to the UNB at a workshop on Food Security and Modern Biotechnology on October 10, Dr. Chakraborty said that Golden Rice “may carry traces of retinoic acid derivatives which may cause teratogenicity – that means birth defects in general.” The FDA Has Approved GMO Golden Rice to Enter the U.S. Food Supply But the agency says it’s no healthier than regular rice Latest News  by Mike Barrett

Two decades ago, genetically modified (GM) golden rice was touted as a way to save the world’s starving children. The hype didn’t last very long, however. It didn’t save any lives, farmers didn’t grow it, and nobody ate it. But in May, golden rice won the approval of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with the agency declaring it safe to eat.

Golden rice, one of the oldest GMO crops, initially won high praise because it was engineered to produce vitamin A (beta-carotene), which would help children in poor countries get the required dose of the vitamin. About 250,000 to 500,000 children go blind each year from a lack of the vital nutrient.

 

Researchers began modifying rice DNA in 2000, and it won overwhelming support from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, both of which funded its progress. Even Pope Francis gave the GMO crop his blessing.

The U.S. is the 4th nation to approve golden rice, and more could follow. The U.S. is part of an international body that forms recommendations about food safety that other countries can adopt if they lack their own equivalent of the FDA.

Still, it could be a tough sell for the other 168 countries that chime in about international food standards. Golden rice crops aren’t necessarily field-ready, according to a 2016 Mother Jones report. The plants aren’t as efficient as they could be and don’t yield the crops that regular rice does, so many farmers might see golden rice as a waste of time and money.

And, there’s this…

The news media has been celebrating the FDA’s embrace of golden rice and the fact that more countries could also approve it, still framing golden rice as a savior of sick and dying children. Don’t be fooled.

Source: Seed Freedom

Read: Farmers of the Philippines Say “No Way” to GMO Rice

The FDA itself says that no health claims can be made about golden rice. The amount of beta-carotene contained in golden rice is so minuscule that the crop fails to qualify for a nutrient claim. [2]

In a letter to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the FDA wrote:

“Based on the safety and nutritional assessment IRRI has conducted, it is our understanding the IRRI concludes that human and animal food from GR2E rice is not materially different in composition, safety, or other relevant parameters from rice-derived food currently on the market except for the intended beta-carotene change in GR2E rice.”

The letter goes on to say that “the concentration of β-carotene in GR2E rice is too low to warrant a nutrient content claim.”

It seems that golden rice was much ado about nothing.

Source:

[1] Futurity

[2] The Cornucopia Institute

Seed Freedom

Read: “Miracle” Golden Rice Could Cause Birth Defects, Warns Indian Scientists:

Excerpt:

Renowned Indian scientist Dr. Tusher Chakraborty has another view of this supposedly miracle crop, however. While speaking to the UNB at a workshop on Food Security and Modern Biotechnology on October 10, Dr. Chakraborty said that Golden Rice “may carry traces of retinoic acid derivatives which may cause teratogenicity – that means birth defects in general.”

Retinoic acid is a retinoid, a compound derived from retinol or vitamin A. Retinoids are used to treat skin conditions and cancer. While vitamin A is important in pregnancy, an overabundance of the nutrient can cause teratogensis, the production of birth defects in a developing embryo. Too much vitamin A or an excess of retinoids in pregnant women can result in malformations to fetuses’ skulls, faces, limbs, eyes, and central nervous systems. [2] [3]

In addition to the targeted retinoic acid, the numerous other derivatives can be created in the transgenic rice that can trigger numerous unknown metabolic receptors in humans and lead to various health problems throughout life, he added.

Dr. Tusher, a member of State Council of Biotechnology, West Bengal, India, said: “Golden rice involves an unnecessary risk in the name of meeting vitamin A deficiency. It’s a move in the wrong direction, it’s a plot to divert the food culture to the wrong route.”

According to the scientist, there are plenty of other vitamin A sources in South Asia, including indigenous rice varieties that are naturally enriched with vitamin A.

“It’s a culturally distorted concept of nutrition to interject four-five other things in the staple grain. Nutrition security means the diversity of nutritious food, not to have all the supplements in one grain.”

Dr. Tusher also says daily consumption of rice needed to tackle South Asia’s vitamin A deficiency is unrealistic – 1.5kg. That would mean eating more than 3 lb. of rice every day.

Sources:[1] The Daily Star 

[2] News Medical

[3] The Embryo Project

Post written byMike Barrett:
Mike is the co-founder, editor, and researcher behind Natural Society. Studying the work of top natural health activists, and writing special reports for top 10 alternative health websites, Mike has written hundreds of articles and pages on how to obtain optimum wellness

Read more: http://naturalsociety.com/fda-approved-gmo-golden-rice-enter-us-food-supply-5811/#ixzz5aFKXgpJG
Follow us: @naturalsociety on Twitter | NaturalSociety on Facebook

 

Categories: G2. Local Greens

NYT: What’s that SMELL?

Thu, 12/20/2018 - 09:24
California Today What’s That Smell? Marie and Surinder Uppal with their nephew Jiwan Uppal. The Uppals are fighting an unanticipated consequence of marijuana legalization: the smell.CreditJim Wilson/The New York Times ge Marie and Surinder Uppal with their nephew Jiwan Uppal. The Uppals are fighting an unanticipated consequence of marijuana legalization: the smell.CreditCreditJim Wilson/The New York Times

By Jill Cowan

  • Dec. 19, 2018 Good morning.

Today, we’ve got a potent story from San Francisco bureau chief Thomas Fuller:

A decade ago Marie and Surinder Uppal fulfilled what they considered their American dream: the construction of a two-story home next to vineyards in Sonoma County.

But earlier this year, besieged by a mysterious, pungent odor, they wondered if they had made the right decision.

“We said, ‘What the heck is that smell?’” Ms. Uppal said. “We couldn’t figure out what it was. The stench was very bad, stronger than a skunk.”

The Uppals are among hundreds of people across California who have showed up at town hall meetings, petitioned city councils and hired lawyers to fight an unanticipated consequence of marijuana legalization: the stink from pot farms across the state.

Those affected by the smell say it is much more potent than the pot cloud above a Grateful Dead concert or the medicinal smell of a cannabis dispensary.

In the case of the Uppal family, the cannabis was being grown in greenhouses nestled in the vineyard several hundred feet away. One member of the Uppal family with muscular dystrophy, Jiwan, had trouble breathing and was admitted to the intensive care unit of a hospital.

“The smell was so bad we couldn’t even go outside,” Ms. Uppal said.

The smell stretched to the nearby Old Adobe Elementary Charter School, where children playing outside asked what the odor was, according to the school’s principal, Jeff Williamson.

“Some parents were really upset about it,” Mr. Williamson said.

Neighbors have organized all over Sonoma County trying to protect their families and get reasonable regulations.

With three other families in the neighborhood, the Uppals sued the pot grower, Carlos Zambrano, who was found to be operating without a license, according to the Uppals’ lawyer, Kevin Block.

Those affected by the smell say it is much more potent than the pot cloud above a Grateful Dead concert or the medicinal smell of a cannabis dispensary.

In the case of the Uppal family, the cannabis was being grown in greenhouses nestled in the vineyard several hundred feet away. One member of the Uppal family with muscular dystrophy, Jiwan, had trouble breathing and was admitted to the intensive care unit of a hospital.

“The smell was so bad we couldn’t even go outside,” Ms. Uppal said.

The smell stretched to the nearby Old Adobe Elementary Charter School, where children playing outside asked what the odor was, according to the school’s principal, Jeff Williamson.

“Some parents were really upset about it,” Mr. Williamson said.

With three other families in the neighborhood, the Uppals sued the pot grower, Carlos Zambrano, who was found to be operating without a license, according to the Uppals’ lawyer, Kevin Block.

The Uppals and their neighbors sued in federal court under the RICO Act — the decades-old law designed to prosecute organized crime — to stop the cannabis operation and recover $60,000 they paid in legal fees so far. The court will hear a motion to dismiss the case on Thursday.

Under a settlement agreement with the county, the grower was ordered to pay more than $400,000 in fines and back taxes. But the settlement came with a twist that puzzled the Uppals: He was allowed to harvest and sell his crop in part so that he could pay the fines. “I told my husband, ‘We are in the wrong business,’” Ms. Uppal said.

Read more about the stink that is outraging Californians here.

California Online

(A note: We often link to content on sites that limit access for nonsubscribers. We appreciate you reading Times stories, but we’d also encourage you to support local news if you can.)

Categories: G2. Local Greens

“To Russia With Love” ‘Appalling’: Asbestos Imports Soar 2,000% as Trump Loosens Restrictions on Cancer-Causing Material

Wed, 12/19/2018 - 13:27
Russian aluminum king, Putins BFF: Trump’s Treasury lifts sanctions on Russian companies targeted over 2016 election inference “Donald is on our side!” Uralasbest—Russia’s largest asbestos producer—declared in a July Facebook post, which was accompanied by photos showing pallets of asbestos products with Trump’s face stamped on the packaging as a seal of approval.” ‘Appalling’: Asbestos Imports Soar 2,000% as Trump Loosens Restrictions on Cancer-Causing Material

“Americans cannot identify or manage the risks of asbestos. The time is now for the EPA to say no to the asbestos industry and finally ban asbestos without exemptions.”

by Jake Johnson, staff writer

“When most people learn that asbestos remains legal even after it’s claimed the lives of countless Americans, they’re shocked,” added EWG president Ken Cook. “And when the public finds out the Trump administration is actively working to keep it legal, they are furious.” (Photo: Carterdayne via Getty Images)

As President Donald Trump’s industry-friendly Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) takes steps to loosen restrictions on the commercial use of asbestos—which is known to cause cancer and lung disease—an analysis of federal data published Tuesday found that asbestos imports to the U.S. surged by nearly 2,000 percent between July and August of this year.

“It is appalling that unlike more than 60 nations around the world, the U.S. not only fails to ban asbestos, but allows imports to increase.”
—Linda Reinstein, Asbestos Disease Awareness OrganizationConducted by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) and Environmental Working Group (EWG), the analysis found that “the U.S. imported more than 341 metric tons of asbestos” last year, with imports expected to double in 2018 thanks to the Trump administration’s aggressive and deeply harmful deregulatory agenda.

“It is appalling that unlike more than 60 nations around the world, the U.S. not only fails to ban asbestos, but allows imports to increase,” Linda Reinstein, president and co-founder of ADAO, said in a statement. “Americans cannot identify or manage the risks of asbestos. The time is now for the EPA to say no to the asbestos industry and finally ban asbestos without exemptions.”

“When most people learn that asbestos remains legal even after it’s claimed the lives of countless Americans, they’re shocked,” added EWG president Ken Cook. “And when the public finds out the Trump administration is actively working to keep it legal, they are furious.”

But as environmentalists raise alarm that the Trump administration is actively facilitating the importation and use of asbestos even in the face of its devastating health effects, asbestos producers are ecstatic at the White House’s lax stance toward the carcinogenic mineral.

“Donald is on our side!” Uralasbest—Russia’s largest asbestos producer—declared in a July Facebook post, which was accompanied by photos showing pallets of asbestos products with Trump’s face stamped on the packaging as a seal of approval. “Approved by Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States,” the seal read.

As a real estate developer, Trump was quite vocal about belief that asbestos is “100 percent safe,” despite the global medical consensus that the mineral is dangerous and should be banned.

In his 1997 book The Art of the Comeback, Trump insisted that “the movement against asbestos the movement against asbestos was led by the mob.”

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Categories: G2. Local Greens

‘Dead Skunk’ Stench From Marijuana Farms Outrages Californians

Wed, 12/19/2018 - 11:37
Supervisor David Rabbitt suggested a moratorium a few weeks ago until regulations are completed. Every week new unintended consequences born by communities crop up. We can do better….. “Of the more than 730 complaints Sonoma County has received about cannabis this year, around 65 percent are related to odor, according to Tim Ricard, the county’s cannabis program manager. “There’s been a tremendous amount of tension in the community,” said Ms. Hopkins, the Sonoma supervisor. “If I had to name an ice-cream flavor for cannabis implementation it would definitely be rocky road.” ‘Dead Skunk’ Stench From Marijuana Farms Outrages Californians

ImageRobert Guthrie wearing his respirator outside his home in Sebastopol, Calif. “I can’t be outside more than 30 minutes,” Mr. Guthrie said of peak cannabis odor times. CreditCreditJim Wilson/The New York Times

By Thomas Fuller

    • Dec. 19, 2018

CARPINTERIA, Calif. — They call it fresh skunk, the odor cloud or sometimes just the stink.

Mike Wondolowski often finds himself in the middle of it. He may be on the chaise longue on his patio, at his computer in the house, or tending to his orange and lemon trees in the garden when the powerful, nauseating stench descends on him.

Mr. Wondolowski lives a half-mile away from greenhouses that were originally built to grow daisies and chrysanthemums but now house thousands of marijuana plants, part of a booming — and pungent — business seeking to cash in on recreational cannabis, which has been legal in California since January.

“If someone is saying, ‘Is it really that bad?’ I’ll go find a bunch of skunks and every evening I’ll put them outside your window,” Mr. Wondolowski said. “It’s just brutal.”

When Californians voted to legalize recreational marijuana in 2016, there were debates about driving under the influence and keeping it away from children. But lawmakers did not anticipate the uproar that would be generated by the funk of millions of flowering cannabis plants. As a result of the stench, residents in Sonoma County, north of San Francisco, are suing to ban cannabis operations from their neighborhoods. Mendocino County, farther north, recently created zones banning cannabis cultivation — the sheriff’s deputy there says the stink is the No. 1 complaint. Cannabis buds on plants at New Family Farm in Sebastopol, Calif.CreditJim Wilson/The New York Times In Santa Barbara County, cannabis growers confronting the rage of neighbors are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars installing odor-control systems that were designed for garbage dumps. Subscribe to The Times

The smell from commercial cannabis farms, which brings to mind a mixture of rotting lemons and sulfur, is nothing like the wafting cloud that might hover over a Phish show, pot farm detractors say.

“It’s as if a skunk, or multiple skunks in a family, were living under our house,” said Grace Guthrie, whose home sits on the site of a former apple orchard outside the town of Sebastopol. Her neighbors grow pot commercially. “It doesn’t dissipate,” Ms. Guthrie said. “It’s beyond anything you would imagine.”

When cannabis odors are at their peak, she and her husband, Robert, sometimes wear respirators, the kind one might put on to handle dangerous chemicals. During Labor Day weekend, relatives came to stay at the house, but cut short their visit because they couldn’t stand the smell.

“I can’t be outside more than 30 minutes,” Mr. Guthrie said of peak odor times, when the cannabis buds are flowering and the wind sweeps the smell onto his property. “The windows are constantly closed. We are trapped inside. There’s no escape.” Britt Christiansen and her neighbors in Sonoma County banded together and sued the operators of a local pot business over the smell.CreditJim Wilson/The New York Times mage After nearly one year of recreational sales in California, much of the cannabis industry remains underground. Stung by taxes and voluminous paperwork, only around 5 percent of marijuana farmers in the state have licenses, according to Hezekiah Allen, the executive director of the California Growers Association, a marijuana advocacy group. Sales of legal cannabis are expected to exceed $3 billion this year, only slightly higher than medical marijuana sales from last year. Tax revenues have been lower than expected, and only about one-fifth of California cities allow sales of recreational cannabis. The dream of a fully regulated market seems years off.

The ballot measure legalizing recreational marijuana passed in 2016 with a comfortable majority of 57 percent. Many of those complaining about cannabis odors say they were among those who supported it. They just don’t want it stinking up their property, they say.

“Just because you like bacon doesn’t mean you want to live next to a pig farm,” said Lynda Hopkins, a member of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, whose office has been inundated with complaints about the smell.

The odor question is also roiling local politics.

Marijuana businesses in Carpinteria recently donated $28,000 worth of lab equipment to Carpinteria High School, according to Philip Greene, the chief of operations for Ever-Bloom, a cannabis producer that helped coordinate the donation. The high school is flanked by cannabis greenhouses that have sent odors wafting in. In the past two years, students have complained of headaches, parents have grown angry and the high school has had to warn visiting sports teams that they might encounter the odor.

The donation has not yet been made public, but is seen by some as an effort to offset the damage done by the stench. In an interview, Maureen Foley Claffey, a member of the Carpinteria School Board, said it would send a “confusing and problematic” message to students to accept it. Ms. Claffey lashed out at the superintendent, Diana Rigby, for soliciting donations from the cannabis industry at a time when members of the community are battling the stink.

A Nasal Ranger, a device that measures the odors in the air. It is in use in Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational marijuana.CreditDave Kolpack/Associated Press CreditDave Kolpack/Associated Press

“Are we that desperate for cash that we are willing to take it from anyone without regard to the source and the message?” she said. “I guess money

Ms. Rigby, the superintendent, did not return phone calls or email requesting comment.

In Sonoma County, hearings on cannabis ordinances at the board of supervisors overflow with representatives from the cannabis industry, who wear green, and angry residents, who wear red.

Of the more than 730 complaints Sonoma County has received about cannabis this year, around 65 percent are related to odor, according to Tim Ricard, the county’s cannabis program manager. “There’s been a tremendous amount of tension in the community,” said Ms. Hopkins, the Sonoma supervisor. “If I had to name an ice-cream flavor for cannabis implementation it would definitely be rocky road.”

Cannabis executives recognize that pot grows can be odorous, but say their industry is no different from others that produce smells.

“You have a smell issue that sometimes can’t be completely mitigated,” said Dennis Hunter, a co-founder of CannaCraft, a large marijuana business based in Santa Rosa in Sonoma County. “But we have dairy farms here in the area or crush season for the vineyards — there’s agricultural crops, and a lot of them have smells.”

Britt Christiansen, a registered nurse who lives among the dairy farms of Sonoma County, acknowledges that her neighborhood smells of manure, known locally as the Sonoma aroma.

But she says she made the choice to live next to a dairy farm and prefers that smell to the odor that drifted over from the marijuana farm next door to her house.

“We opened the door and the smell kicked us in the face,” Ms. Christiansen said. Her neighbors banded together in October and sued the operators of the pot business; the case is ongoing.

One problem for local governments trying to legislate cannabis odors is that there is no objective standard for smells. A company in Minnesota, St. Croix Sensory, has developed a device called the Nasal Ranger, which looks like a cross between a hair dryer and a radar gun. Users place the instrument on their nose and turn a filter dial to rate the potency on a numerical scale. Charles McGinley, the inventor of the device, says a Level 7 is the equivalent of “sniffing someone’s armpit without the deodorant — or maybe someone’s feet — a nuisance certainly.”

Lawmakers did not anticipate the uproar that would be generated by the funk of millions of flowering cannabis plants.CreditJim Wilson/The New York Times
Lawmakers did not anticipate the uproar that would be generated by the funk of millions of flowering cannabis plants.CreditJim Wilson/The New York Times

A Level 4, he said, is the equivalent of a neighbor’s freshly cut grass. “It could still be a nuisance, but it wouldn’t drive you away from your front porch,” Mr. McGinley said.

Standing next to a flowering cannabis bud, the smell would easily be a Level 7, Mr. McGinley said.

The Nasal Ranger is in use in Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational marijuana, but California counties and cities are still struggling with the notion that smells are subjective.

Ever-Bloom in Carpinteria is one of a number of marijuana businesses that have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to mitigate the stink. Two previous system failed, but the current one, modeled on devices used to mask the smell of garbage dumps, sprays a curtain of vapor around the perimeter of the greenhouses. The vapor, which is made up of essential oils, gives off a menthol smell resembling Bengay.

Dennis Bozanich, a Santa Barbara County official charged with cannabis implementation who has become known as the cannabis czar, says the essential oil odor control has been largely successful. But not every grower can afford to install it.

On weekends, Mr. Bozanich becomes a cannabis odor sleuth, riding his bicycle through Carpinteria sniffing the air for pot plants. He recently drove through the area with a reporter, rolling down the windows on a stretch of road with cannabis greenhouses. He slowed the car and puzzled over where a cannabis odor was coming from.

“I’ve got one stinky location right here and I can’t quite figure it out,” he said.

His description of the stink?

“Dead skunk.”

Related Coverage Meet Colorado’s New Single-Issue Voters: The Cannabis Community

June 25, 2018

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Dec. 17, 2018

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Categories: G2. Local Greens

Sonoma City Council Directs Staff to Ban Glyphosate

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 18:32

Last night in Sonoma, the City Council voted 3-0 to ban all the use of the herbicide glyphosate by City staff in all parks and along bike paths. The Council was acting on a Staff recommendation to “ban the use of glyphosate-based herbicides in all City parks and direct City staff to amend the City’s Integrated Pest Management Policy accordingly.”

The matter was duly noticed in advance in the City Council agenda, and accompanied by a page-1 story in one of the town’s main papers.

Concerns raised by Council members and members of the public included the potential health risks to City staff and members of the community, as well as the potential for City liability if an employee or anyone else might become ill.

Staff was requested to bring the matter back to the Council by March 31, 2019 with information on where the 6 gallons per year which previously had been in use were typically being applied. Council members expressed an interest in other alternative forms of weed management, including mulch, volunteer weed-pulling, and goats. They indicated that they were confident that if the school district and local farmers and gardeners can get by without Roundup, then the City can too.

Consumption of glyphosate by City public works staff has been going down since 2000, when usage was estimated to be as high as 30 gallons per year. That is when the City began to investigate the issue, and later banned its use in the central Plaza.

For more information, look for stories likely to appear in the Sonoma Sun and the Sonoma Index Tribune.

 

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Most Diverse Butterfly Center in the U.S. to be Bulldozed for Trump’s Border Wall

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 11:32
“The animals that pass through the butterfly center won’t be the only living beings impacted by the wall. The Center for Biological Diversity found that the wall threatened a total of 93 already endangered or threatened species, including ocelots and cactus ferruginous pygmy owls. The wall also makes the border crossing more dangerous for immigrants who will have to travel farther into the desert to bypass it.” Most Diverse Butterfly Center in the U.S. to be Bulldozed for Trump’s Border Wall    

The National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas is the most diverse butterfly sanctuary in the U.S. Some 200 species of butterflies find a home there each year, including the Mexican bluewing, the black swallowtail and the increasingly imperiled monarch. And, as soon as February, almost 70 percent of it could be lost to President Donald Trump’s border wall, The Guardian reported Thursday.

Donald Trump’s border wall, The Guardian reported Thursday.

“It’s going to cut right through here,” Center Director Marianna Wright told The Guardian as she indicated where the wall’s construction would cut off the center’s access to its own land in the Rio Grande Valley at a point 1.2 miles from the border. Wright said the wall threatened to end the center entirely and harm the butterflies and other species like the Texas tortoise, Texas indigo snake and Texas horned lizard that also find refuge on its land.

The center’s fate was sealed Dec. 3, when, Reuters reported, the Supreme Court refused to hear a case brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Defenders of Wildlife appealing a federal court decision that the Trump administration can waive 28 environmental laws including the Endangered Species Act in order to build 33 more miles of wall.

The wall will be as many as three stories tall and construction in the butterfly refuge could begin as soon as February, The San Antonio Express-News reported.

“Just like farmers get crop yield in acres and inches, we get butterflies based on what we have planted in acres and inches,” Wright told The San Antonio Express-News. “So having a wide swath of our property bulldozed is going to negatively impact the volume of the species and diversity of the species.”

The animals that pass through the butterfly center won’t be the only living beings impacted by the wall. The Center for Biological Diversity found that the wall threatened a total of 93 already endangered or threatened species, including ocelots and cactus ferruginous pygmy owls. The wall also makes the border crossing more dangerous for immigrants who will have to travel farther into the desert to bypass it.

“Border walls are death sentences for wildlife and humans alike,” Amanda Munro of the Southwest Environmental Center told The Guardian. “They block wild animals from accessing the food, water and mates they need to survive. They weaken genetic diversity, fragment habitat, and trap animals in deadly floods. At the same time, they drive desperate asylum seekers to risk their lives in the unforgiving desert.”

For now, butterfly lovers have a little over a month to see the center in its full glory.

“It’s like something from Fantasia,” Wright told The Guardian. “When you walk you have to cover your mouth so you don’t suck in a butterfly.”

Keep reading…
Categories: G2. Local Greens

THE ANNUAL NORTH BAY CAFF & FARMERS GUILD GATHERING! January 8th

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 10:41

Support your local farmers

January 8th: THE ANNUAL NORTH BAY CAFF & FARMERS GUILD GATHERING!

You’re invited to the most local, farm-to-table, homegrown event of the year! Join the whole North Bay CAFF & Farmers Guild community as we gather with farmers and local food advocates from the Golden Gate to the redwood coast to look back on 2018, from our accomplishments in the field to honoring those we’ve lost along the way, all while looking forward to an abundant 2019.

Our organization has declared 2019 “the year of the farmer’s voice”, so on the evening of January 8th we’ll be hearing stories directly from those in the field: some funny, some tragic, most insightful, all salt of the earth. Join us!

Free, All welcome.
Potluck & libations contributions encouraged Annual gathering directly follows Farmer/Buyer Mixer (details below)

5PM – 8PM Sebastopol Grange Hall
6000 Sebastopol Ave, Sebastopol, CA Farmer/Buyer Mixer Come meet local farmers and ranchers from around the Bay Area and North Coast to bring the finest, freshest foods to your speciality food business, restaurant, grocery store, cafeteria or other food enterprise. At this “speed dating” mixer, growers and food buyers will meet a variety of potential partners, learn about sourcing options and together build a stronger local food economy.

This event is open to any food business looking to source more directly from local growers as well as to any professional farmers or ranchers ready to provide a steady supply of high quality ingredients.

3 – 5pm
(followed by a networking happy hour from 5 – 6pm)
FREE, RSVP required:
Categories: G2. Local Greens

Climate Change solutions: How Germany could have removed 15% of the world’s CO2 emissions

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 10:34
The Treesolution book can be downloaded here The Treesolution:  How Germany could have removed 15% of the world’s CO2 emissions instead of being Europe’s largest burner of coal Last week the Guardian wrote that emissions must drop 45% by 2030 to restrict global warming to 1.5°C. Instead, they go up. Germany spent EUR 160 billion over five years to shift to renewables, but emissions have stagnated at 2009 levels. Why spend all this money when nature has given us the perfect tool to remove mankind’s CO2 pollution – the tree?

By planting trees on fertile land, we can somewhat improve our planet’s CO2 absorption capacity – but this risks land grabbing. Miracles happen when we restore barren land. There are 2 billion hectares of degraded land; this land was covered by trees and was fertile, productive, but today it isn’t.
In 2003 we founded Groasis to realise the Treesolution: restore all degraded land to eradicate hunger, mitigate water scarcity, and lessen climate change. The Groasis Technology allows planting of degraded land without using irrigation and at substantially lower costs. It’s been proven over 15 years in 43 countries.

If Germany would have invested her EUR 160 billion in the Groasis Technology, then we’d have restored 330 million hectares of land, removed 5 billion tonnes of CO2 (15% of global CO2 emissions) and created 300 million jobs (reducing migration pressures). Continue this for another 35 years and we could restore 2 billion hectares land and neutralise mankind’s total annual CO2 emissions.
 
We could remove historical CO2 emissions and bring CO2 back to pre-industrial revolution levels. Imagine this impact – just with the money that Germany spent over the last 5 years!

Sincerely,
Wout Hoff, Groasis

Read the full length version of our views on climate change

About Groasis: Groasis was founded by Mr. Pieter Hoff. In 2003 he invented a technology to enable planting on degraded land with less water, at low costs and resulting in high survival rate. The technology has been perfected over the last decade and proven in 42 countries on 6 continents. In 2016 Groasis was awarded the status of “National Icon” by the Dutch Government for being one of the three most sustainable companies that support economic growth. In 2017 the UN World Food Program selected Groasis as a partner to help them reach their ‘Zero hunger by 2030’ challenge. In September 2018 Groasis was crowned as the most innovative company of the Netherlands by the Dutch Chamber of Commerce.

Communication:
www.groasis.com
https://www.youtube.com/user/Groasiswaterboxx
https://www.youtube.com/user/GroasisVegetables
Contact: cvhaaften@groasis.com
Pieter Hoff’s blog ‘The Green Musketeer‘
Download ‘The Treesolution’ here

Categories: G2. Local Greens

GOOD NEWS: Scientists Accidentally Create “Mutant” Enzyme That Eats Plastic

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 10:17
Every minute, one million plastic bottles are sold globally, but only a mere 14% get recycled. Plastics pollution is so widespread that it has even been found in the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean. Scientists Accidentally Create “Mutant” Enzyme That Eats Plastic

The enzyme starts breaking down plastic within days

by Mike Barrett
Follow us: @naturalsociety on Twitter | NaturalSociety on Facebook

Research teams from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the University of Portsmouth in the UK had a happy accident recently when they created a “mutant” enzyme that eats plastic. [1] [2]

The team was studying a 3D model of a newly discovered enzyme that eats plastic when they accidentally engineered a super enzyme that degrades plastic even better than the natural enzyme from a bacterium first discovered in Japan.

In a press release, Professor John McGeehan, who led the research, said:

“We can all play a significant part in dealing with the plastic problem, but the scientific community who ultimately created these ‘wonder-materials,’ must now use all the technology at their disposal to develop real solutions.” [1]

The super enzyme is capable of “digesting” polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the main ingredient in most plastic bottles, according to the researchers.

It takes centuries for plastics to break down in the ocean, but the engineered enzyme starts breaking down PET in a matter of days. The team is relatively confident that this process can be sped up even further and become a viable large-scale process. [2]

McGeehan said:

“What we are hoping to do is use this enzyme to turn this plastic back into its original components, so we can literally recycle it back to plastic. It means we won’t need to dig up any more oil and, fundamentally, it should reduce the amount of plastic in the environment.” [2]

Newer types of plastics are often made from plant-based PET, but older versions contain petroleum-based PET.

Every minute, one million plastic bottles are sold globally, but only a mere 14% get recycled. Plastics pollution is so widespread that it has even been found in the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean.

Read: Microplastics in the Ocean are Killing Baby Fish, Study Finds

The plastic bottles that do get recycled are turned into opaque fibers for clothing or carpets. The accidentally created enzyme, however, would allow plastic bottles to be recycled into more plastic bottles, thus reducing the need to produce new plastic.

McGeehan stated:

“You are always up against the fact that oil is cheap, so virgin PET is cheap. It is so easy for manufacturers to generate more of the stuff, rather than even try to recycle. But I believe there is a public driver here: perception is changing so much that companies are starting to look at how they can properly recycle these.” [2]

Sources:

[1] USA Today

Read more: http://naturalsociety.com/scientists-accidentally-create-mutant-enzyme-eats-plastic-9174/#ixzz5a3pFlrAx
Follow us: @naturalsociety on Twitter | NaturalSociety on Facebook

Read more: http://naturalsociety.com/scientists-accidentally-create-mutant-enzyme-eats-plastic-9174/#ixzz5a3p3tVkb
Follow us: @naturalsociety on Twitter | NaturalSociety on Facebook

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Director Leahy, Department of Pesticide Regulation please ban rodenticides

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 09:30
Please drop a quick note and do wildlife and your pets a Christmas good deed!

From local Park Ranger Anna Federico: Today is the last day for comment, urging the state to ban all these anticoagulant rodentacides.  I had thought that these rodentacides were banned in CA for cannabis use- but apparently they can be used for other purposes.  If you can send a brief letter- today is the last day for comment!

Remember this?

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area 11 October  ·  About Mountain Lions in So.Cal. Remember how P-23 was found dead near the side of Malibu Canyon Road earlier this year (January 2018)? We think she was struck and killed by a car. Anyway, we have some bad news to report. We recently received her necropsy report and it showed she had been exposed to anticoagulant rodenticide, aka, rat poison. The lab results detected FIVE anticoagulant rodenticides in her liver. That’s a lot! So the sad stats are this: 17 of 18 of our mountain lions have tested positive for exposure to one or more anticoagulant rodenticides and three have died directly of poisoning.

“Break the Poison Chain”…..eagles, foxes, bobcats, your wandering pets are all susceptible to this poison.

ICYMI, we are part of an educational campaign called #BreakthePoisonChain that is hoping to raise awareness about the effects of anticoagulant rodenticide. During two decades of research, our biologists have found that 92% of bobcats, 83% of coyotes and 94% of mountain lions that we’ve tested were exposed to one or more compounds. Along with the Santa Monica Mountains Fund and other partners and organizations, we are asking for your help in letting your neighbors and friends know that rat poison is sickening, and in some cases, killing our local wildlife and making our domesticated pets sick. Can you help us spread the word? -Ranger Ana Beatriz Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CaPesticideRegulation  SAMPLE LETTER: Dear Director Brian R. Leahy, ( Brian.leahy@cdpr.ca.gov)

I am writing to beg the reevaluation of the SGARs brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difenacoum, and difethialone, and all the products that contain them, as well as the First Generation Anticoagulant (FGARs), diphacinone, and products containing diphacinone.

Although in 2014, after evaluating the adverse risk to wildlife and risk to pets and children, the Environmental Protection Agency took steps to restrict availability and use of the poisons by the average consumer, they are still being widely used by the public. I recently saw some on sale in my local supermarket and hardware store.  The fact that SGARs continued to be widely used by qualified applicators also means that they are still all too prevalent in our ecosystem. Any usage amounts to a pervasive poison in the food chain which can and does affect all wildlife and domestic pets. On February 15th 2017 I was astonished when a very large red tailed hawk landed in my walnut tree directly above where I stood. It proceeded to fall through the branches and landed at my feet. I took him immediately to our local wild animal rescue center where he died that night. We did not have him tested, but all signs strongly pointed to a death caused by rodenticide anti-coagulants which have been shown to be in wide use in my region (Southern Humbold County) and which has led to a drastic demise of our local fisher and owl population. The photo I have included below of this raptor does not do him justice. He was a large, beautiful and majestic bird. This shocking incident led me to thoroughly investigate this issue and I was horrified to learn of the wanton use of these deadly chemicals in my area, in the state of California, and tragically, throughout the U.S. The science is clear that this is a far reaching systemic problem affecting multiple species and the entire natural food chain as well as peoples beloved pets.
Using these systemic poisons is having unintended consequences which are much too devastating to ignore. It is unconscionable to continue using them when there are many other time tested and wholly effective methods for eliminating unwanted pests.

Please would you be willing to put an end to this current day senseless destruction of our fragile ecosystem and it’s citizen wildlife by reconsidering the use of these extremely hazardous chemicals and ultimately completely banning their use.

Please hold the companies responsible for creating and promoting these poisons as accountable as you would any hazmat producer. If they are worried about their bottom line profits,  please encourage them to redirect and apply their expertise to developing a less devastating pest eradication protocol.

May I remind you that mice are the “bread” of the ecosystem. It is important that we do not completely destroy this very important link in the food chain but learn to manage it effectively by making our buildings and food storage mouse proof.  It is an unreasonable and counterproductive strategy to kill all wildlife in order to protect ourselves from these small mammals.

I thank you for your attention, Sincerely, B. Anna Federico

 

 

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Neighbors Speak Out on Cannabis

Mon, 12/17/2018 - 08:44

If you don’t follow waccobb.net, the local website/blog for West County, this is a valuable site for local views.

From Mike H:

The real question is should the current ordinance be scrapped; and if so replaced by what? Both Hopkins and Gorin, if I recall correctly, were strong supporters of maintaining an outdoor growing option. Gorin was criticized for taking contributions from the growers alliance. I think it was said, it being a plant, allowing it to be grown outdoors makes sense. While some others seemed to be saying, only indoor in commercial/industrial zoning in warehouse type structures which might have natural light like a greenhouse or all artificial light. Rabbitt seemed to be inclined to ban outdoor cultivation. The current situation is untenable. Every proposal will be fought. Even the one just posted by Shepard above is being fought even though it apparently is in light industrial zoning. There are some homes in the vicinity though. Most all industrial zoning interfaces with residential at some distance. Currently you have outdoor cultivation limited to 1 acre maximum on parcels of 10 acres minimum. Obviously everyone hates that: if their home has a 10 acre parcel nearby and a cannabis application is filed for it they’ll fight it. No the comments in this thread are not really helpful because if you don’t like the way things are then what do you want? Joe Howard has said only in industrial zoning where access by large trucks is easy. Is that what people want?

From: DOGHAIRNANCY:

I think most of us don’t want the character of West County to be whipsawed by whatever the big money is in. We are fed up to our eyeballs with wine and all its bullshit. And we can see that, unless there are a very limited no. of cannabis permits (unlike what our supes have allowed with wine), that will become a second monoculture with all the attendant environmental and social problems. Pretending that this is about ‘medicine’ and that we meanies are depriving sick people of their ‘medicine’ by wanting to control where and how much is grown is a real crock. People can call cannabis anything they want and drag in all the convenient anecdotes, but it’s still mostly about MONEY, ‘recreation’ and bringing in more ‘tourists’. I, for one, want any and all ‘ag’ to have to as little negative impact on the land and on those of us who have lives we’ve worked hard for here as possible. Besides limiting permits, there should be requirements for planting meaningful native hedgerows, limiting chemicals, limiting fencing for wildlife access, limiting parking spaces and buildings and ‘events’ for starters. All the things we should have demanded before the grapists took over.

Second Post from Mike H: Do you remember hearing things like this? Sounds like not everyone is on board. http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/78…rld-legal-pot? McGuire will also be proposing rules allowing for cannabis tourism, which many anticipate as a major draw for the North Coast. “My hope, if we do this right, is that people will flock here from around the country as they already do for world class Sonoma County wine,” said McGuire. “The North Coast grows the most premium cannabis in the country.” And former Santa Rosa City Council Erin Carlstrom went to work as a Cannabis Attorney. She also was talking about how cannabis tourism needed to be a part of the cannabis ordinance, because it could easily be THE NEXT BIG THING!!!! http://www.dpf-law.com/professional/erin-carlstrom/ Erin Carlstrom is Senior Counsel with DP&F and leads the firm’s cannabis group. Erin’s practice includes state and local compliance, corporate formation and compliance, land use, and government relations. Erin has specific expertise in land use entitlements and navigating the various regulatory agencies, and has been responsible for major project developments across California. Erin’s experience offers clients comprehensive support from seed to sale, including transitioning from collective operations to for-profit corporations, applying for and prosecuting permit applications, and developing strategic collaborations.

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Concerned Neighbor: URGENT/FINAL DEADLINE/Cannabis permit letters due BEFORE Thurs. 12/20

Sun, 12/16/2018 - 10:45

Hi all – The next five days are our LAST CHANCE to express our concerns about the “proposed” commercial cannabis facility at Green Valley and Ross Roads! This proposal is DIFFERENT than the pumpkin patch site and is NOT solved by the recent Supervisors ruling about bike trails. It’s in an area surrounded by neighborhoods — where folks (including children!) live, play outside, and walk and bike on and to bike trail. If it’s allowed, it would also set a precedent that would allow more of these intensive facilities in our area and next to other neighborhoods. The fate of this proposal will likely be decided AT THE HEARING this Thurs. 12/20. This is our ONLY chance to be heard. This is a critical moment! The permit itself would be for five years, and the County has been doing a horrible job of notifying people of what’s going on and how they can participate. WHAT YOU CAN DO: 1) SEND A LETTER EXPRESSING YOUR CONCERNS. Ideally do this by Monday, or at least BEFORE 12/20. Send it to scottd@migcom.com. Refer to: 9100 Green Valley Road, Sebastopol; UPC17-0017. It’s great if you can please also send a separate or bcc copy to me at hse2121-ca@yahoo.com, so that I can see what other people’s priority concerns are. Also, feel free to forward this to others who are concerned. 2) ATTEND THE HEARING, to visibly show your concerns. It’s Thurs. Dec. 20, 1:05pm, at the PRMD, 2550 Ventura Avenue, Santa Rosa. County staff and the applicant will present their views, and the public can make brief comments if desired (2 to 3 minutes each). The BZA panel will likely make a decision then. 3) CONTACT ME if you have any questions or want to participate more. hse2121-ca@yahoo.com They call this facility “proposed,” although it’s already operating and already impacting those of us nearby, with pungent penetrating resinous odors causing health effects such as a rash on my face (!) — 24/7 noise and vibration from motoers and fans — and attraction to crime (with a break-in already here, and neighbor break-ins elsewhere inthe county). It’s also a clear risk to property values and salability, and a precedent that would allow more of these impacts in our neighborhood, and neighborhoods like this. This is not just a little pot. It’s an intensive commercial grow facility. And any of this could easily get worse, if there are not sufficient controls on this permit. I make the argument that this facility shouldn’t be here at all, because the Supervisors decided they don’t go in neighborhoods because of their known impacts. This is in a little light industry zone, but surrounded by residential. And I don’t think that these issues can be solved here. But at the very least we need strong conditions on the permit. Each letter they get makes a big difference. It shows that people are concerned. The recent victory at the Board of Supervisors regarding intensive cannabis production facilities and bike path shows the difference the people in action can make. I hope that we can do the same here! (In case you’re wondering, that recent ruling doesn’t apply to this facility.) Many of us aren’t against cannabis. It just needs to be produced in appropriate ways and locations. The remedy here is what the Supervisors already concluded: These facilities shouldn’t be in residential areas, to protect people in their homes. We hope that the BZA panel will apply that principle here. > I’ve enclosed information about my concerns below, if that can help you with talking points. I welcome your thoughts! Thanks for your consideration of this – Patricia ==== ACTION ALERT ==== URGENT ACTION: “PROPOSED” COMMERCIAL CANNABIS FACTORY at Green Valley & Ross Roads. Please Help Protect Our Homes & Neighborhood! Dear Our Neighbors ~ Now is a critical time for us to act regarding the “proposed” commercial cannabis facility in our neighborhood— and influence the rules for this one and future ones that might be proposed in this area. Numerous neighbors are concerned about the facility that’s currently “proposed” at 9100 Green Valley Road, on the corner of Ross Road. It’s actually been operating for quite a while — before any public hearing and approval of its plans — or even public notice that it was operating! We get our only chance to address this now — by writing letters stating our concerns — and/or by going to its first and only hearing on Dec. 20. At the very least, please send a letter, ideally by this Monday, or at least BEFORE this Thurs. 12/20! OUR CONCERNS • COMMERCIAL CANNABIS FACILITIES DON’T BELONG IN NEIGHBORHOODS * The Supervisors decided not to allow them in residential zones (per the cannabis ordinance) * This facility is in a tiny light-industrial zone surrounded by residential areas * A key purpose of land use regulations is to protect people from incompatible uses * But the line on the zoning map doesn’t protect our homes from this use! • THE KNOWN IMPACTS OF COMMERCIAL CANNABIS FACILITIES INCLUDE * 24/7 motor and fan noise and vibration (in a zone that used to only have it during business hours) * Safety/security risks to neighbors (because the cash and portable pricey product attract criminals) * Security measures with their own impacts (such as high fences, bright lights, and secrecy) * A penetrating ongoing resinous odor that can get stuck in clothes and impact our health * Reduction in property values and salability. (We’d have to disclose these negatives to buyers!) • WE’RE ALREADY EXPERIENCING THESE IMPACTS HERE. And they could easily get worse! • THESE CONCERNS LIKELY CAN’T BE REMEDIED AT THIS SITE. A discussion of permit conditions and what’s possible should’ve been required before the facility started operating. Instead, they’ve been operating without telling us, and now are pressuring us to just accept it. • IT’D BE A PRECEDENT BRINGING MORE FACILITIES & IMPACTS, HERE & BEYOND Allowing this intensive production facility in our neighborhood sets a precedent that would allow (even encourage) more cannabis and 24/7 noise on this small strip, multiplying the impacts on our everyday lives. >> CONCLUSION: Many of us aren’t against cannabis. It just needs to be produced in appropriate ways and locations. The remedy here is what the Supervisors already concluded: These facilities shouldn’t be in residential areas, to protect people in their homes. We hope that the BZA panel will apply that principle here. ========================================== ADDITIONAL INFORMATION 1) CRIMINAL ACTIVITY. Commercial cannabis cultivation sites are known to attract criminal activity, because they tend to have lots of cash (because of banking laws) and an easily portable and valuable product. There was already one break-in at this facility (in August), with a well-lit midnight chase of the perpetrator down the bike trail. What if that person had tried to hide in a neighbor’s home? Elsewhere in the county, criminals have gone to neighbors’ houses in error, and been violent with those residents. Contrary to claims, this risk still exists if a facility goes legal —and might be increased, because its location is public (to support our right to know). The neighbors are still at risk from this type of facility. We have a right to object to this. 2) 24/7 NOISE. This facility is already generating 24/7 motor and fan noise and vibration, taking from us the refuge of peace and quiet in our homes. This issue isn’t even mentioned in their application. They also would be allowed to have staff working 24/7. This little light-industry strip used to have noise only during business hours, which was a way to balance the needs of the two zones. This change would throw off that balance, imposing on residents’ lives to benefit this business. It would also set a precedent for more noisy businesses to follow. 3) PUNGENT RESIN IN THE AIR. People are smelling a strong penetrating smell coming from this facility. We’ve experienced it getting into our clothes and homes, and being linked to notable health impacts (to eyes, sinuses, and face). What are the long-term effects? Why are we being forced to be the experiment? The owners in their application claimed that their “sealed rooms [are] containing the odor.” But, when asked, they offered no evidence for that (such as filters rated to block all cannabis particles, or sensors able to detect it). They claim without evidence that smells must be from elsewhere. But the smell peaks at their place from both directions! 4) UNKNOWN BUILDING MODIFICATIONS . The operators haven’t even created their new building plans. What if they create more capacity, noise, and smell? How can this be approved with these unknowns? OTHER KEY POINTS 1) THE OPERATORS’ CHOICE TO OPERATE BEFORE HAVING A PUBLIC HEARING SHOULD NOT PUSH US TO OK THEIR PROPOSAL. Unfortunately, they’ve been pressuring us to allow this installation because they are already operating. But actually that’s part of the problem — they chose to start operating without informing us, with no prior public process that included our needs. This is still a “proposed” project. We’re finally getting to have our say.. This needs to be decided as if it weren’t already operating. 2) IT’S NICE THAT THE OPERATORS SAY THEY’LL “WORK DILIGENTLY TO ELIMINATE OR REDUCE ANY NOISE OR ODORS” (10/19/18 letter). But it doesn’t prove they can or will eliminate them. 3) THIS FACILITY DOESN’T BELONG IN THIS LOCATION AND SHOULD BE REJECTED. The operators seem affable. But that’s not a reason to give them this permit. Also, unfortunately, they’ve deflected rather than addressed issues such as smell and noise. Plus, while their eco-principles are positive, most of these are actually already required by the state and County anyway and/or were likely chosen because they provide them significant economic savings in an intensive operation. (They mentioned both factors in their choices.) Of greater concern is their extreme secrecy about this project with us neighbors. They operated for many months without informing us. And, when the PRMD sent its 10/10/18 Notice of Hearing Waiver, the operators actually wrote to ask us NOT to request a hearing. This would’ve taken away our right to finally have our needs included. Also, the business’ owners can change — and already have since the application was submitted. >> So we can’t base this decision on whether these individuals seem pleasant, or because they ask us to care about their needs at our expense. We have a right to object to this facility’s impacts on us. And, even if you’re OK with this facility here, we have a right to request conditions on the permit. Please feel free to contact me to share your letters and experiences! You’re also invited to help with these efforts. Just email hse2121-ca@yahoo.com. Together, we are stronger! This document was created to pull together various neighbor concerns and offer information to support neighbors’ participation in this process.

Categories: G2. Local Greens

FOG Update #14

Sat, 12/15/2018 - 10:06

For those who were unable to attend the Supervisor’s hearing on Tuesday, we are posting the gist of FOG’s presentation so that our position on the trails/parks issue is clear. I spoke for Friends of Graton and Friends of Atascadero Wetlands and the Supervisors agreed to allow a little extra time and asked for supporters of our position to stand. “My husband and I have lived on our property for 31 years at the end of Railroad Street, adjacent to the West County Trail. The railroad tracks were still in place when we moved to Graton. When a trail was proposed for the right-of-way we were supportive, in large part because the trail would be overseen by Regional Parks and would be administered and maintained in a responsible way. We also publicly supported Measure M and we understand that some of the taxes generated by that measure will be used to maintain these trails. We were told by Regional Parks that we wrote the only letter in support of funding for constructing the West County Trail, so we were taken aback to find out that some people at the County considered this trail and the Joe Rodota Trail not to be parks under the new Cannabis Ordinance, while all other trails are considered parks. The General Plan, the overarching law for land use in our county, states under County Municipal Code Article II that “Park means all land or water owned, leased, managed, or controlled by the Sonoma County park system.” Under this provision, the West County Trail and Joe Rodota Trail are parks because they are managed and controlled by the Sonoma County park system. However, we are here today to determine whether these two trails will slip through the cracks. All other trails in the Sonoma County park system are considered parks and are protected by the 1000′ setback. What we are requesting is not a whole new change in policy but a recognition that these trails are no different than other trails and serve the same function. The Municipal Code definition should be applied equally to all trails and not exclude any. Considering the trail solely a transportation corridor is inaccurate, and anyone standing by the trail on any day could see that the majority of users are not commuting to work. Most are there to enjoy nature, to socialize, to walk their dogs and to get exercise. The trail is used by all ages and has been the only park available in the Graton area. Graton residents and trail users feel strongly about this: we have discussed this issue with hundreds of people who agree that this County needs to protect the West County and Joe Rodota Trails. The properties along the trail to the south of us provide one the loveliest uninterrupted vistas of the Atascadero Wetlands, lands that the Board permanently protected with a Biotic Habitat zoning overlay in 2016. Friends of Atascadero Wetlands initiated that process and our group is grateful that the Board recognized the unique, sensitive and irreplaceable natural resources along the creek. We urge the Board to clarify the current cannabis ordinance and designate Joe Rodota and West County trails as parks with all the protections that parks status confers in the cannabis regulations. Every other trail in the Regional Parks system is designated a park and enjoys the setback. This designation will make the law consistent, treat all trails with the same protections and is rational.” Anna Ransome for Friends of Graton (FOG)

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Sonoma County to begin charging fees for groundwater

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 16:44
HANNAH BEAUSANG THE PRESS DEMOCRAT | December 14, 2018, 12:11PM Image: Kent Porter, PD

Thousands of Sonoma County residents who rely on groundwater will likely see new fees on their property tax bill next fall, helping pay for a legally required groundwater regulatory plan.

Local agencies governing groundwater resources were created in 2017 following the passage of a landmark California law intended to safeguard the previously unregulated water supply. Those new agencies in the Santa Rosa Plain, the Sonoma Valley and the Petaluma Valley were given until 2022 to craft plans that take stock of the amount of groundwater in each basin and establish measures ensuring sustainability for the next 20 years.

The agencies have each received $1 million in state grant funding, but officials say more money is needed to complete the framework. The groundwater agency in the Santa Rosa Plain has opted to levy fees on users to bridge its $1 million gap, while the Petaluma Valley and Sonoma Valley agencies will pay their own respective costs, said Ann DuBay, a Sonoma County Water Agency spokeswoman.

The board of directors of the Santa Rosa Plain agency held a study session Thursday to hone in on fees and ways to create a program to register wells in the basin. It covers 78,720 acres from Rohnert Park and Cotati north to Windsor, including Santa Rosa and the east edge of Sebastopol.

Potential fees, which vary by type of use, would be levied on cities, water districts, farmers, businesses and residents with wells over the course of three years. About 13,000 parcels could be impacted by new fees, DuBay said.

Opportunities for grant money have been exhausted, and the agency chose not to pursue a parcel tax measure, leaving fees as the most viable funding option, DuBay said.

“There was a widespread desire to try to spread the costs as widely as possible and not have the (fee) impacts be significantly large,” said Jay Jasperse, chief engineer and groundwater manager for the Sonoma County Water Agency.

Under the proposed structure, a rural residential user could expect to pay…

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