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Protecting our Environmental Resources
Updated: 13 hours 27 min ago

Roundup ban in Sonoma parks?

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 16:15

Glyphosate should have been banned by the City of Sonoma years ago. What is taking so long?


Weedkillers containing glyphosate, a substance that may be linked to cancer, could be banned in city-maintained areas if the City Council sets the process in motion at its upcoming meeting Monday.

The city in 2001 and 2014 already sharply limited the use of glyphosate, a systemic herbicide known more commonly under the brand name Roundup, to kill weeds. Workers only used six gallons in 2017, according to Colleen Ferguson, the city’s public works director.

Ferguson is recommending that the city extend the restriction to all city parks but stop short of a total ban. Presently, there are few places city workers can use glyphosate-based herbicides; for example, the weedkillers aren’t used in the Plaza.

“The Public Works Department and city contractors use products containing glyphosate as a last resort to control weeds on city property,” Ferguson said in her staff report. If it’s used in currently approved areas such as city parks, landscape areas and bike paths, signs are posted with information such as the material applied, with a contact phone number.

Glyphosate was designated “probably carcinogenic to humans” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a unit of the World Health Organization, in 2015.

It’s worth noting that this designation means the evidence that it causes human cancer is “limited” and that explanations including “chance, bias or confounding (meaning an unrelated factor) could not be ruled out,” but that some evidence also exists from animal experiments.

In a conflicting study, glyphosate was “not statistically significantly associated with cancer at any site,” according to a November 2017 analysis based on the Agricultural Health Study, a federally financed cohort study that has monitored 57,000 pesticide users in Iowa and North Carolina since the 1990s.

It’s also worth noting that more than 76,000 pounds of the herbicide in its various forms were applied to wine grapes in 2016 in Sonoma County, according to the state Department of Pesticide Regulation.

“I’m just surprised that it (growth) hasn’t been stronger and faster,” [said] Chris Benziger…

READ IT ALL at the Sonoma Index Tribune


Reach Janis Mara at

Categories: G2. Local Greens

‘Whoever You Are, Wherever You Are, We Need You’: 15-Year-Old Greta Thunberg Calls for Global Climate Strike

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 09:04
Do we have our kids backs? ‘Whoever You Are, Wherever You Are, We Need You’: 15-Year-Old Greta Thunberg Calls for Global Climate Strike

“Science has clearly told us that we need to act now to keep the planet within 1.5 degrees of warming,” the young climate activist says in calling for day of action on Friday

by Andrea Germanos, staff writer


Teenage Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, seeing little hope for a good outcome at COP24, just called for a global climate strike to take place Friday. (Screengrab/Twitter)

Greta Thunberg, the 15-year-old Swedish activist, on Wednesday called for a global climate strike. The day of action is set for Friday at “your school” or “anywhere you feel called.”

Thunberg, who’s made headlines for her now-weekly school strikes to urge her home country to take bold climate action, made the call from Katowice, Poland, where she’s attending the COP24 climate talks, now in their second week.

Unfortunately, she said in her video announcing the strike, “as of now, there are no signs of commitment to climate action.”

“Our emissions are still increasing. At the same time… the science has clearly told us that we need to act now to keep the planet within 1.5 degrees of warming,” she continued. “Whoever you are, wherever you are, we need you now to stand outside your parliament or local government office to let them know that we demand climate action.”

Her call has already gotten support from noted author and climate activist Bill McKibben. Praising her “terrific idea,” McKibben said that while it’s no small ask to urge young people to walk out of their classrooms, “kids who are in school today are going to spend the next 70 or 80 years dealing with an overheated world.”

“The most important thing right now,” he said, “is to start taking care of that. I am glad that we are seeing leadership from the youngest people.”

As a #ClimateStrike 2018 call-to-action explains:

Heat waves, floods, and hurricanes are killing hundreds and devastating communities across the world. Climate change is already a deadly reality. Governments are meeting for the U.N. climate talks right now in Poland, and despite the latest stark warning from climate scientists that we have only 12 years to reverse course, politicians are ignoring their call. What use is it learning facts if adults ignore them? That’s why Greta and her fellow students are walking out of school to teach politicians a lesson in leadership.

Addressing world leaders as the climate conference kicked off, Thunberg said, “We have not come here to beg the world leaders to care for our future. They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again. We have come here to let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not. The people will rise to the challenge.”

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Trump’s EPA promotes its clean water rollbacks with an article from outlet backed by GOP megadonor

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 09:00
SWAMP WATCH Trump’s EPA promotes its clean water rollbacks with an article from outlet backed by GOP megadonor “There goes another one.” Kyla Mandel Twitter Dec 13, 2018, 5:14 pm SHARE

UNITED STATES – AUGUST 1: Andrew Wheeler, acting administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency, prepares to testify during the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing on Examining EPAs Agenda: Protecting the Environment and Allowing Americas Economy to Grow on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call) SHARE -->

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently promoting its recent environmental rollback using an op-ed published in a news outlet owned by a Republican megadonor. press office on Thursday.

The editorial called this week’s rollback of Obama-era clean water rules “another administrative success story in its battle against the overweening administrative state.”

That opinion runs counter to that of many experts, who have warned the recent rule change would allow for greater pollution of critical waterways across the country.

The column, published by The Las Vegas Review-Journal Editorial Board with the headline “There goes another one,” was sent around to journalists by the EPA.

The Review-Journal is owned by American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson who, with his wife, donated $55 million this year to groups dedicated to securing Republican control of the House and Senate. Last month, President Donald Trump awarded Adelson’s wife the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Adelson also had a close relationship with the agency during former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt’s tenure. As Politico reported in March, Pruitt met with Israeli company Water-Gen at the “request of Adelson.” Shortly after, the agency signed a research agreement with the company. EPA further strains relations with news media by referring reporters to Daily Caller

While Pruitt was head of the EPA, the agency was known for its antagonistic relationship with the press. It would frequently cite articles by the conservative Heartland Institute and the Daily Caller in attempts to promote the agency’s controversial work.

It appears that, despite other efforts to thaw tensions, things haven’t changed much under the leadership of acting administrator — and former coal lobbyist — Andrew Wheeler, who took over the top job after Pruitt resigned this past summer.

This is the second time in less than a month that an EPA press release has raised eyebrows. At the end of November, the EPA used a Daily Caller article in an effort to undermine the National Climate Assessment — a report mandated by Congress and authored by many government scientists.

In a news release sent on November 28 and labeled “Fact-Check,” the agency cited the news outlet, which has long been associated with promoting climate science denial, quoting excerpts from its article to support Wheeler’s false claims that the climate report was directed by the Obama administration to examine only the “worst case” scenario — a statement swiftly debunked by scientists at the time.

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Controversy and chaos at the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission

Thu, 12/13/2018 - 12:42
Note 100 foot set back boundary which is causing so many problems at the Graton grow, a wall would work for the county’s “Team 420” AKA our Permit Sonoma planners. Controversy and chaos at the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission CHRISTIAN KALLEN INDEX-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER

The Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission found itself in the crosshairs of controversial cannabis-operation proposals, scheduling reviews of four applications in a single meeting on Wednesday, May 23.

When the smoke cleared, the SVCAC rejected two of the applications and endorsed one.

The fourth – Glen Ellen resident Mike Benziger’s application for limited cultivation on Jack London Road – was pulled by the applicant before the meeting began. The reason given for Benziger’s about-face was that the proposed cannabis garden site would be within 1,000 feet of a public park – Jack London State Historic Park, specifically – resulting in a violation of county ordinance. (It was later clarified that while his outdoor garden area was inside the 1,000-foot limit, the indoor cultivation building in his proposal was not, and he is expected to reopen that application.)

Although the Benziger application was the first on the agenda – the announcement it was being pulled came as a surprise – it was quickly overshadowed by Jessah Dunn’s proposal for a cannabis dispensary on Fremont Drive near the Bonneau Road crossroads.

Citizens Advisory Commission Chair Ryan Lely allocated 15 minutes for applicant presentations, but Dunn spoke for only two minutes before responding to questions from the commission. Then the session erupted into chaos as meeting attendee John Lobro, followed by James Munley and Tammy Bryant in short succession, used their public-comment opportunities to accuse Dunn of fraud, breach of contract and a variety of other allegations, eventually hurling insults and legal threats toward the applicant.

Lely and others tried to quell the outburst, pointing out that the SVCAC was not a civil court but merely concerned with permit applications. But Lely finally had to call a temporary recess to restore order, while Pat Gilardi, district director to 1st District Supervisor Susan Gorin, tried in vain to locate a law enforcement officer in the police station next door.

When the meeting resumed, Commissioner Margaret Spaulding called the uproar “unprecedented for this commission,” then, based on Dunn’s incomplete presentation, moved to deny “without prejudice” her application, leaving the door open for her to reapply. The motion to deny was unanimously approved.

By contrast, Jani Friedman’s proposal for a dispensary at Arnold Drive and Madrone Road was a far more traditional presentation. She presented her concept of Apothevert, a medical cannabis dispensary to be located in a former firehouse at the Arnold-Madrone intersection, with data, slides and even introducing her “all-female executive team.”

The team included a “healthy living” consultant from Sebastopol and the granddaughter of a Glen Ellen couple, Bob Glotzbach and Gena Van Camp. Friedman herself said she had received an MBA from Harvard, and had left a career in the beauty and fashion industries and investment banking to buy an animal farm in Sonoma County three years ago.

She also mentioned that it was her 53rd birthday when her gift watch’s alarm kept going off.

Earlier this month neighbors in the residential areas near Friedman’s proposed dispensary location mounted a visible and vocal opposition to her project.

In reference to the opposition, Friedman at the meeting said, “We want to address your concerns, and back them up with facts so everyone is comfortable. We want to be good neighbors, not a pot shop from years gone by.”

But her overtures did little to deter the many neighbors in attendance from reiterating their concerns about the proposed dispensary’s location – close to an apartment complex with “200 children,” at a school bus stop, amid a family-oriented neighborhood. Indeed, the location is on a corner zoned for “limited commercial” use and surrounded on all sides by residential neighborhoods. Sonoma County Cannabis Program Manager Tim Ricard confirmed that there was a required setback of 100 feet from residential districts for cannabis dispensaries, though that requirement could be waived in case of “an actual physical separation,” such as a wall. Ricard said the viability of any “physical separations” would be decided by the Board of Zoning Adjustments, the next stop in the approval process for Friedman.

The Apothevert presentation did include a rendering of a 6-foot fence around the building on the Madrone Road side, and considerable time was spent explaining the legal limitations on children entering the business or even being on the property, as well as a description of security measures and other code required steps to assure the safety of the business and its surroundings.

The march of 18 public commenters slanted heavily toward neighbors and their opposition, with only five comments in support, none from people who live in the Sonoma Valley.

“I’m 53, too, but I’m not a Harvard grad,” said Pam Palmgren, the first to speak. “But I do live in the neighborhood. I would not want any business to come into my neighborhood that requires security. Period. Period.”

Many others wished Friedman a happy birthday, and congratulated her on her professional presentation – then insisted it was the wrong place for a dispensary. “Take this plan and put it in another location,” said Lorena Reinhardt of Glen Ellen.

Even the commissioners went to great pains to applaud the presentation, while wrestling with an approval that would be re-evaluated in a year’s time, as cannabis licenses must be renewed.

Related Stories

Dispensary proposed for Glen Ellen intersection fires up the neighborhood

Two of the commissioners even went so far as to hope a dispensary opened soon in Glen Ellen – “for obvious reasons,” said one. But even as the commissioners made their statements, it became clear approval would be narrow, if given at all.

“Your presentation could be a case study for business school,” said Commissioner Jack Ding. “Numbers are important, but sometimes feelings are even more important… We all love to travel, but nobody wants to live next to an airport.”

When the vote was called, the motion to approve Friedman’s application was denied, 4-5.

“I’m not done,” said Friedman when reached by phone on Thursday. “I’m a little bit set back today, it was a tough night – but I’m not done.”

After a recess, the fourth and last cannabis permit came up for discussion, and it was inevitably anti-climactic. Quinn McGetrick applied to grow cannabis in an indoor facility at 1201 E. MacArthur St., in a 10,840-square-foot building previously used for food production and processing. While three people spoke in opposition, the SVCAC voted to approve the project, 8-1.

Votes of the SVCAC are advisory only, and the next step in the permitting process is a hearing before the Board of Zoning Adjustments, whose decision does carry some weight – though it can be appealed to the Board of Supervisors. Both Friedman and McGetrick are expected to take their applications to the BZA next.

Contact Christian at

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Categories: G2. Local Greens

The case for raising the alcohol tax

Thu, 12/13/2018 - 12:27
Wine industry, take note…. “To start, let’s put America’s problem with alcohol in context: As of 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that excessive drinking causes 88,000 deaths each year in the US. If you care about gun violence, or car crashes, or the current drug overdose crisis, or HIV/AIDS, you should care about alcohol — because alcohol’s annual death toll is higher than deaths due to guns, cars, drug overdoses, or HIV/AIDS ever have been in a single year in America.” The case for raising the alcohol tax A higher alcohol tax would save lives, prevent crime, and mostly affect excessive drinkers. By German Lopez Dec 13, 2018, 8:00am EST


ShareThe case for raising the alcohol tax EyesWideOpen/Getty Images

It’s time to raise the alcohol tax.

Yeah, yeah, this isn’t going to win me many friends at parties. But there’s a strong case this is something America should do. It’s a simple policy change that won’t significantly affect a huge amount of people (particularly those who drink more responsibly), but will save thousands of lives every year in the US.

To start, let’s put America’s problem with alcohol in context: As of 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that excessive drinking causes 88,000 deaths each year in the US. If you care about gun violence, or car crashes, or the current drug overdose crisis, or HIV/AIDS, you should care about alcohol — because alcohol’s annual death toll is higher than deaths due to guns, cars, drug overdoses, or HIV/AIDS ever have been in a single year in America.

There’s a good chance that the CDC’s estimate is an undercount. It’s eight years old at this point, and since then, at least some kinds of alcohol-related deaths have increased too. Some experts have told me that they would not be surprised if the annual death toll linked to alcohol is now above 100,000.

And the death toll only captures part of the concern with alcohol. Addiction, domestic violence, sexual assault, and other linked crime and health problems are also significant.

Dealing with these problems doesn’t require going back to Prohibition. The evidence, instead, shows that an alcohol tax would go a long way.

“The alcohol excise tax is one of the most studied areas in terms of alcohol policy,” Traci Toomey, an epidemiologist focused on alcohol policy at the University of Minnesota, told me. “The preponderance of the research evidence, looking at the best studies, suggests that … as the price of alcohol goes up, we would expect a range of problems to decrease, and vice versa.”

Based on the research, a higher alcohol tax would reduce drinking and likely excessive drinking in particular, saving thousands of lives and preventing all sorts of crime and public health problems. This research dates back years, and there’s a lot of it, Toomey said, making a tax hike one of the most evidence-backed ideas in alcohol policy.

Yet Congress has moved in the opposite direction in recent years. In the tax law passed last year by Republicans in the House and Senate, a slew of changes effectively cut the alcohol tax by 16 percent, according to an analysis by Adam Looney at the Brookings Institution. Looney estimated that “the legislation will cause … approximately 1,550 total alcohol-related deaths annually from all causes.”

The measure followed years of the alcohol tax getting little attention from state and federal policymakers. Taxes have been in place for decades at both the federal and state level, but they have been so neglected for decades that they haven’t even kept up with inflation and general increases in income.

For Americans, this means that alcohol is cheaper. But it also means that more of us are dying and suffering as a result.

The research is clear: a higher alcohol tax would save lives

Since the end of Prohibition, the federal government and states have imposed taxes on alcohol. The taxes are usually broken down between beer, wine, and spirits. They’re typically excise taxes, meaning they add a certain amount — say, 10 cents — to a specified amount of a drink, although some places, like Maryland, also have a percent-based sales tax in place.

The research on the effects of those taxes points to one conclusion.

“The literature is really overwhelming,” Alex Wagenaar, a researcher at Emory University who’s studied alcohol policy for years, told me. “The tax influences how much people buy and how much people drink, and that ripples then through to the burden of alcohol-related disease and injury on our society.”

It’s not just a few studies. Wagenaar noted that people have been “looking at this for half a century.” Scientists who have aggregated the studies in those decades have reported good results for the alcohol tax.

One of the best reviews of the evidence comes from David Roodman, a senior adviser and researcher for the Open Philanthropy Project. Roodman’s analysis found that the “literature on this topic is large,” and that “the preponderance of the evidence says that higher prices do correlate with less drinking and lower incidence of problems such as cirrhosis deaths.” Most importantly, he concluded that “a 10% price increase would cut the death rate [from alcohol-caused diseases by] 9-25%. For the US in 2010, this represents 2,000-6,000 averted deaths/year.”

To put it another way, increasing the cost of a six-pack of Bud Light by 50 cents — and other drinks by similar levels — would probably save thousands of lives every single year.

This is a conservative estimate. It counts only deaths from alcohol-caused diseases. The number of saved lives would be higher if it accounted for alcohol-related deaths due to violence, car crashes, and other problems.

In those other areas, a 2010 review of the research from Wagenaar, Amy Tobler, and Kelli Komro, published in the American Journal of Public Health, offered promising evidence: It found that “doubling the alcohol tax would reduce alcohol-related mortality by an average of 35%, traffic crash deaths by 11%, sexually transmitted disease by 6%, violence by 2%, and crime by 1.4%.” (Doubling the tax might sound like a lot, but in some jurisdictions, that could involve raising the price by as little as 10 cents a drink.)

Another review of the research, from the Task Force on Community Preventive Services in 2010, reached similar conclusions:

Nearly all studies, including those with different study designs, found that there was an inverse relationship between the tax or price of alcohol and indices of excessive drinking or alcohol-related health outcomes. Among studies restricted to underage populations, most found that increased taxes were also significantly associated with reduced consumption and alcohol-related harms.

Mark Kleiman, a drug and criminal justice policy expert at New York University’s Marron Institute, argues that the research on the alcohol tax is very clear.

“The single most effective thing you can to reduce crime right away is to raise the price of alcohol,” he told me. “If you talk either about crime policy or drug policy, that’s got to be the No. 1 recommendation — just because it’s so easy. It doesn’t cost you anything. You don’t have to kick in anybody’s door. You just have to change a number in the tax code and crime goes down.”

As Kleiman noted, one of the most remarkable aspects of the alcohol tax is how simple it is. It doesn’t require setting up a new police agency, building new facilities that will be used to enforce the law, or changing a bunch of regulations. The infrastructure for a higher alcohol tax is already there in the tax code, ready to be used by lawmakers.

Alcohol taxes have lost a lot of value due to inflation

Alcohol taxes have decreased over the past few decades. That’s not just because lawmakers have cut the taxes, but because state and federal taxes haven’t kept up with inflation.

A 2013 study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, calculated how much alcohol costs relative to people’s income:

One drink per day of the cheapest brand of spirits required 0.29% of U.S. mean per capita disposable income in 2011 as compared to 1.02% in 1980, 2.24% in 1970, 3.61% in 1960, and 4.46% in 1950. One drink per day of a popular beer required 0.96% of income in 2010 compared to 4.87% in 1950, whereas a low-priced wine in 2011 required 0.36% of income compared to 1.05% in 1978.

The study found that most of the effective price drop was due to inflation overwhelming alcohol taxes, making it so the taxes were one-sixth to one-third of their inflation-adjusted value in the early 2010s compared to the 1950s.

In other words, alcohol is extremely cheap nowadays, compared to the historical average, and low taxes are largely to blame.

“Following Prohibition, taxes were put on that were pretty substantial, especially on liquor but on beer and wine as well,” William Kerr, a senior scientist at the Alcohol Research Group and lead author of the 2013 study, told me. “But starting in the ’60s, the updates didn’t happen, either federally or [in the] states. And starting in the late ’60s and especially in the ’70s, there was really high inflation. So that was the transition from high taxes to lower.”

An alcohol tax increase, then, could amount to simply going back to the rates of the 1950s, and then pegging the rates to inflation so they don’t lose value over time. In that context, perhaps the idea isn’t so radical.

A higher tax would likely impact heavy drinkers the most

A common argument against the alcohol tax is that it punishes everyone, even those who don’t drink excessively. While it is true that a general price increase will affect everyone to some degree, the alcohol tax is structured in such a way that the great majority of people who drink responsibly will barely feel it.

Research backs this up. According to another 2013 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, higher-risk drinkers would pay nearly 83 percent of an effective tax increase if the alcohol tax was increased by 25 cents per drink. Other studies have reached similar conclusions.

There’s a simple logic for this: Imagine if the alcohol tax was increased by 25 cents per drink. For someone who drinks casually — say, one drink a day, or seven drinks a week — that would amount to $1.75 more a week, or about $91 more a year. It’s not nothing, but it’s not a huge amount.

But if someone drinks heavily — say, 10 drinks a day, or 70 drinks a week — that would amount to $17.50 a week or around $910 a year. That’s much, much more significant.

“Casual drinkers aren’t spending enough on booze to care,” Kleiman explained. “But the guy who’s spending half his income on booze cares.”

Still, there is a catch. “Heavy drinkers are really motivated, so even if it is having an impact, they might look for ways around it,” Kerr said. So a heavy drinker could find a cheaper product, or start drinking more from home instead of a bar. “But, even so, it’s going to end up impacting the amount to some degree for some of them.”

To the extent that a higher alcohol tax does impact more casual drinkers, it’s important to consider, Wagenaar argued, that excessive drinkers already impose some costs on those who drink less. The CDC estimated that, in 2010, the economic costs of excessive drinking totaled $249 billion, or $2.05 a drink. The impact is felt across society through more crime, drunk driving, health problems, and more — and casual drinkers are already paying for it, without a higher tax that disproportionately hits heavy drinkers recouping the costs.

“Why should taxpayers that drink lightly or not at all be subsidizing the heavy drinkers? That’s the situation that we have now, with the taxes being as low as they are,” Wagenaar said.

At the same time, heavier drinkers also stand to benefit from a tax. Because they drink so much, they’re more likely to expose themselves to alcohol’s risk. If a tax gets them to cut back on their drinking, their risk exposure is reduced — so their lives are extended. “They’re experiencing those benefits disproportionately,” Wagenaar argued.

The tax may hit low-income people more, but benefit them more too

Another typical argument against a higher alcohol tax is that it disproportionately hurts low-income people. This is generally true with consumption taxes: If a person has to pay a dollar more for something, that dollar will mean more if that person makes $10 an hour instead of $40 an hour at work.

With alcohol, though, the story is a bit more complicated. People are more likely to drink as they get wealthier, based on surveys. This makes sense: As people get more expendable income, they’re more likely to buy luxury items like alcohol. So a higher alcohol tax does not have as much of a disproportionate impact as one might assume.

To this end, a CDC study in 2016 found that higher-income people would pay more in absolute dollar terms for a higher alcohol tax: “[A]fter a tax increase of $0.25 per drink, people earning less than $25,000 would pay an average additional cost of $11.64 per year, while those earning $75,000 or more would pay an additional $16.98 per year.”

That’s still a disproportionate impact, relative to income, for the lower-income people. But it’s also not a big impact to overall income for the average person — amounting to less than 0.1 percent of total income, on average, even for a person making less than $25,000 a year.

Lower-income people may be more affected by any kind of consumption tax, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that a higher alcohol tax is a net negative for them, because a higher alcohol tax could also produce disproportionate benefits for them too.

After all, if low-income communities are disproportionately affected by an alcohol tax, then that also means they’re more likely to see the positive effects of an alcohol tax, from better health to lower crime to fewer car crashes. Keith Humphreys, a drug policy expert at Stanford University, argued that those benefits need to be “priced in” with disproportionate costs.

Plus, revenue raised from a higher alcohol tax could go to programs that help low-income people. The Congressional Budget Office estimated in 2016 that a fairly modest alcohol tax proposal would raise about $70 billion over 10 years. That’s money that could go to a higher earned income tax credit, a larger child allowance, food and housing assistance, education, or addiction treatment.

Ideally, the alcohol tax wouldn’t bring in that much more revenue. That would imply that people are still drinking too much. But unlike, say, a tobacco tax and smoking, the goal is not to get drinking to zero. So there would always be some more revenue from a tax increase, and that money could be used for programs that would help low-income people more than a higher alcohol tax would cost them.

Politics stand in the way

Despite the research, there’s long been one barrier in front of higher alcohol taxes: politics.

That’s largely because a lot of people drink. According to Gallup’s surveys, 63 percent of adults in the US admit to drinking. That’s a sizable chunk of the population that could be angered by an increase in the price of alcohol.

“You might reasonably conclude that this is a really promising policy,” Roodman, of the Open Philanthropy Project, told me. “But since tax increases are so unpopular in this country, you might want to put a big discount on any effort to change the policy.”

The other big factor is the alcohol industry, which includes not just Anheuser-Busch and other producers, but also bars, restaurants, and stores that sell booze. This is a massive, multibillion-dollar industry that can lobby lawmakers to keep taxes low or even cut them. The industry has consistently stood in the way of a higher alcohol tax, warning that it could lead to fewer jobs. (Some experts disagree, arguing that the new tax revenue and spending shift from alcohol to non-alcohol products could lead to, on net, more jobs.) Indeed, senators reportedly worked closely with the industry to craft Congress’s alcohol tax cut last year. Ironically, the industry’s opposition is telling in another way: It suggests that the industry thinks a higher tax would, in fact, work. The industry’s big concern is that the alcohol tax would drive fewer people to drink, which would, in turn, reduce drinking-related problems.

Another common talking point against an alcohol tax is that it could stop some positive drinking, since some (questionable) studies suggest that alcohol can have health benefits. But newer research has indicated that the bad likely outweighs the good. A major review of the evidence published this year in Lancet, for example, was titled, “No level of alcohol consumption improves health.”

Finally, there’s the specter of Prohibition, the US’s ban on alcohol from 1920 to 1933. The policy is widely perceived as a catastrophic failure, hence its repeal in the 1930s. There are some scholarly debates over how well the policy actually worked, but the reality is that anything that even approaches Prohibition in intent or effect is often seen as dangerous and ignorant of history.

“That feeds into some of our discussions about restrictions around alcohol,” Toomey, the University of Minnesota epidemiologist, told me.

One potential bright spot for supporters of an alcohol tax is that, while all of these hurdles do make a higher alcohol tax really tough in Congress, local and state governments could act as well. With less money and lobbying going to individual cities, counties, and states, these lower levels of government could be more receptive to a concerted advocacy effort than federal lawmakers. The end result wouldn’t be as good as a higher federal tax, but it’d be something.

Ultimately, this is about reaching a balancing point for alcohol policy. The country doesn’t want to return to Prohibition. But alcohol still poses public health and safety problems. And there are many steps that the US could take before getting back to Prohibition — not just an alcohol tax, but a minimum price, regulations on alcohol outlets, and programs that restrict problem drinkers’ ability to drink.

“We can have alcohol, and use alcohol in moderation,” Toomey said. “But we need to control it to some degree.”

Correction: This article originally misstated the percent of Americans who drink.

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Categories: G2. Local Greens

Betrayed? Whole Foods Halts Mandatory GMO Labeling Plan

Thu, 12/13/2018 - 12:14
Whole Food recently exposwed for not labeling GMO conventional potatoes, buyer beware. Betrayed? Whole Foods Halts Mandatory GMO Labeling Plan

Read more:
Follow us: @naturalsociety on Twitter | NaturalSociety on Facebook The policy was set to go into effect on September 1, 2018 Latest News


Health food retailer Whole Foods has quietly put the brakes on its plan to require all products in its U.S. and Canadian stores to indicate if they contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

A Whole Foods spokesperson said the decision was made to hold off on the policy until the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) “finalizes its Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard” to give the food industry time to assess the impact.

Whole Foods spokesperson Rachel Alkon said:

“We have decided to pause on our September 1, 2018 deadline for our GMO Labeling Policy. We remain committed to providing our customers with the level of transparency they want and expect from us and will continue to require suppliers to obtain third-party verification for non-GMO claims.”

The retailer announced its plan to require GMO labeling in 2013. Then-co-CEO Walter Robb said at the time that Whole Foods was “putting a stake in the ground on GMO labeling to support the consumers’ right to know.”

Under the policy, all suppliers would be required to disclose GMO ingredients directly on food packaging. Animal products would face even tougher restrictions, having to state on labels when a product contains animals that were raised on GMO feed.

Whole Foods’ policy is far more stringent than USDA standards established in 2016, which require companies to label GMO foods with a quick response (QR) code. Critics argue that the codes could keep millions of buyers in the dark, as they require the use of a smartphone.

Read: USDA Regulatory Loophole Allows GMO Products to be Marketed as Non-GMO

In an e-mail to suppliers, Whole Foods President and Chief Operating Officer A.C. Gallo said:

“As the USDA finalizes the federal regulation in the coming months and the food industry assesses the impact, we do not want our Policy to pose further challenges for you and your business.” [2]


[1] Fox Business News

Read more:
Follow us: @naturalsociety on Twitter | NaturalSociety on Facebook
Read more:
Follow us: @naturalsociety on Twitter | NaturalSociety on Facebook

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Dangerous Pesticide Preemption Rider Scrapped From 2018 Farm Bill

Wed, 12/12/2018 - 09:45
A step in the right direction, people action can make a difference……”In September, more than 60 local officials, in 39 communities from 15 different states across the country sent a letter to the Farm Bill conference committee urging the rejection of the pesticide preemption rider. More than 100 communities have passed policies to restrict pesticides to protect people, pollinators and the planet.” Dangerous Pesticide Preemption Rider Scrapped From 2018 Farm Bill

For Immediate Release Tuesday, December 11, 2018 Organization Profile: Friends of the Earth Contact:

Erin Jensen, (202) 222-0722,

Dangerous Pesticide Preemption Rider Scrapped From 2018 Farm Bill

WASHINGTON – The Farm Bill Conference Committee released negotiated text of the 2018 Farm Bill last night. The House version of the bill included language that would have weakened environmental and public health protections and stripped states and cities of their ability to protect their communities from toxic pesticides. This dangerous pesticide preemption rider was not included in the negotiated bill released yesterday.

In September, more than 60 local officials, in 39 communities from 15 different states across the country sent a letter to the Farm Bill conference committee urging the rejection of the pesticide preemption rider. More than 100 communities have passed policies to restrict pesticides to protect people, pollinators and the planet.

Tiffany Finck-Haynes, pesticides and pollinators program manager at Friends of the Earth, issued the following statement in response:

We are encouraged by the conference committee’s decision to prioritize public health and the environment instead of agrichemical industry profits. The dangerous pesticide preemption rider would have prevented state and local governments from protecting their communities from toxic chemicals. Thousands of people across the country, including dozens of local elected officials, spoke out against this dangerous language in the House Farm Bill. By keeping this troubling component out of the final bill, committee members stood up to preserve state and local governments’ ability to protect the public from these toxic chemicals. ### This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don’t survive on clicks. We don’t want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can’t do it alone. It doesn’t work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do.

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Friends of the Earth is the U.S. voice of the world’s largest grassroots environmental network, with member groups in 77 countries. Since 1969, Friends of the Earth has fought to create a more healthy, just world.

Organization Links Friends of the Earth FOE (Press Center) FOE (Action Center)
Categories: G2. Local Greens

Friends of Graton FOG UPDATE #13

Wed, 12/12/2018 - 09:22
Supervisor Rabbitt has it correct, we should have done this for the wine industry long ago. How about tackling that moratorium for winery events that the county has been working on for how long now? Is this why our county employs 26 full time lawyers? “The applicant’s attorney asked the board to delay action. He said the trail/park issue was just one more example of how the county is making up the cannabis rules as it goes along. He said the county kept moving the goalposts and it wasn’t fair to cannabis applicants. Supervisor David Rabbitt also said he thought there should be a moratorium on accepting cannabis applications until the county has all its regulations in order.” FOG UPDATE #13 Our numbers got a little wonky in the last minute rush before the Supervisors hearing today, but this is actually Update #13.

THANK YOU EVERYONE FOR ALL YOUR SUPPORT! We were able to protect the West County and Joe Rodota Trails today by making their classification consistent with all other existing trails in Sonoma County. These two trails are parks and not just transportation corridors.

The Supervisors unanimously approved protecting these trails and made it clear that they believed that the trails are “linear” parks and must qualify for the 1000′ setbacks in the Cannabis Ordinance. There are a few allowable exceptions to these setbacks, but this an important victory for those of us who love our trails.

The item was on the ‘”consent calendar” so there wasn’t the kind of testimony you usually have in a public hearing. About half a dozen people got up to speak in favor of designating the trails as parks. We decided to just have one speaker for FOG because of the packed agenda, but we were allowed a little more time to make our case.

The applicant’s attorney asked the board to delay action. He said the trail/park issue was just one more example of how the county is making up the cannabis rules as it goes along. He said the county kept moving the goalposts and it wasn’t fair to cannabis applicants. Supervisor David Rabbitt also said he thought there should be a moratorium on accepting cannabis applications until the county has all its regulations in order.

This has been a true grassroots effort and I believe that that Supervisors were surprised at the volume of emails that they received in support of the park designation for these  trails. If you are happy about the outcome, please feel free to email them and thank them for their vote. I would address the email to Lynda Hopkins, who spearheaded the vote, and CC the others.

This is an article from the PD about this issue at the hearing:
It appears that Jackalope Gardens is pursuing a modified proposal for along the trail in Graton.

Anna Ransome
for Friends of Graton

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Supervisors: Bike & Pedestrian trails are part of the park system

Wed, 12/12/2018 - 09:12

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT | December 11, 2018, 8:31PM

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a setback requirement governing cannabis operations near county bike and pedestrian trails, further limiting areas where marijuana can be cultivated.

The move came before an overflow crowd amid opposition from a proposed west county cannabis business and advocates who say it creates additional confusion and excessive regulation for marijuana proprietors.

Some residents who live near the trails or use them described the move as one that protects those public spaces as parks.

Supervisors’ unanimous vote made that policy official when it comes to buffers between county trails and pot businesses. The county now will require 1,000-foot setbacks from such trails. Exceptions are granted on a case-by-case basis.

Supervisors set the rules about public parks in October, when it became clear that setbacks required between cannabis operations and parks didn’t apply to the county’s trail system for bicyclists and pedestrians.

“This is not an actual change to the ordinance, if it were it would go through a much longer process,” Supervisor Lynda Hopkins said. “This is the first time we’ve had an opportunity to affirm that we do in fact have a majority of the board supporting that parks are trails.”

Lawyers representing Jack Buck, who applied for a cannabis farm near a portion of the West County Regional Trail in Graton, made a public call for Hopkins to recuse herself. They accused her of bias based on her family’s ties to a wine company and of previous coordination with opponents to the project, claims that Hopkins has rejected.

Caryl Hart, a longtime parks advocate and the former director of Sonoma County Regional Parks, said those bike paths are “linear parks.”

“Every single use is consistent with the use of all the other regional parks,” she said.

Continues here


Categories: G2. Local Greens

Trump’s Attack on the Clean Water Act Will Fuel Destructive Pipeline Boom

Tue, 12/11/2018 - 10:17
SWAMP WATCH Trump’s Attack on the Clean Water Act Will Fuel Destructive Pipeline Boom

December 9 2018, 6:00 a.m.

A new water rule that will strip federal protections from an estimated 60-90 percent of U.S. waterways will dramatically ease restrictions on how polluting industries do business.

According to the rule, which is due out next week, streams that don’t run year-round and many wetlands will no longer be subject to the Clean Water Act. As a result, a wide range of industries — including agriculture, mining, waste management, chemical companies, real estate development, and road construction — will be free to pollute, reroute, and pave over these waterways as they see fit. But oil and gas transport companies may benefit most from the imminent shift.

When the rule takes effect, pipeline construction projects that are currently required to undergo months, or even years, of scrutiny from water experts in order to minimize their environmental impact will be allowed to speed forward. For energy companies that have been pushing for exactly these changes for years, the new rule may be well worth the wait.

ONEOK headquarters in Tulsa, Okla.

Image: Google Maps; Screenshot: The Intercept

A Pipeline Bonanza

The energy company ONEOK should have applied for permits to work on its Arbuckle II pipeline by now. The $1.3 billion project, which will transport natural gas liquids 530 miles from the company’s supply basins in Velma, Oklahoma, to its storage facilities on the Gulf Coast of Texas, will cross dozens of waterways in both states. According to factsheets on its website, ONEOK was supposed to have begun construction in both Texas and Oklahoma and has submitted applications for water permits required for this work during 2018.

As of Friday, however, the company hadn’t submitted any applications for the permits required to build its pipeline across waterways, according to the Army Corps of Engineers offices in Tulsa, Fort Worth, and Galveston, which are responsible for permitting pipelines under the Clean Water Act.

Brad Borror, a communications manager at ONEOK, said the company was not delaying its projects. “We’re still going to go through that process and confident in our timeline,” said Borror.

But if ONEOK and other companies currently constructing pipelines do fall behind on their permits, they may ultimately come out ahead. The Trump administration rollback of water regulations will allow ONEOK and other companies involved in the energy pipeline boom now underway to simply bulldoze through waterways that are currently protected without any environmental scrutiny at all.

The Trump administration’s rule will replace an Obama-era regulation known as the Waters of the United States rule. According to leaked talking points about the replacement rule, it will exempt seasonal waterways and wetlands that are not connected by surface water to permanent water bodies from regulation. The change will allow the Arbuckle II and other pipelines now in the works to advance more quickly — and with far fewer environmental protections.

The oil and gas industries have been pushing for years for these same changes. The Waters Advocacy Coalition, an umbrella organization of 48 industry trade groups, has spent more than $1 million since 2007 lobbying to limit federal water protections. The group’s members include the Association of Oil Pipe Lines, the American Gas Association, the American Petroleum Institute, and the Independent Petroleum Association of America, according to comments that the group filed with the EPA in 2017.

The 2015 WOTUS rule aimed to settle long-standing conflicts between industry and regulators over which waterways are protected by the Clean Water Act. Almost since that federal statute went into effect in 1972, industries have been fighting to limit its reach. Still, for decades, the law was widely seen as protecting the great majority of the country’s waterways, both big and small.

That began to change after a 2001 Supreme Court case that dealt with whether ponds on an abandoned mining site were subject to federal water protections, said Jon Devine, director of federal water policy at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The decision was narrow, about whether certain isolated water bodies could be protected based on their use by water fowl, but there was a lot of language that expressed doubt about the proper scope of the law,” said Devine. “And industries jumped on that, and challenges sprang up across the country.”

Though some environmentalists felt it didn’t go far enough to protect water, the 2015 rule pushed back slightly against some of the incursions that industry campaigns had made on federal water protections. Now in effect in 22 states, and held up by court challenges in the others, the rule increased the waters covered by the Clean Water Act by 3-5 percent and clarified that rivers, streams, and wetlands are protected by the Clean Water Act even if they run for part of the year or depend on rain to flow.

The Trump rule, which will be subject to public comment before it’s finalized, will reverse those expansions in federal water protections and go further by stripping protections from many wetlands. The change will likely have the most dramatic effect in Alaska and the arid west, which, depending on the wording of the rule, may see up to 90 percent of its waterways lose federal protection.

Downed trees on Peters Mountain in Monroe County, W.Va., on March 15, 2018, cleared to make way for the Mountain Valley Pipeline route.

Photo: Erica Yoon/The Roanoke Times via AP

A Sledgehammer to Clean Water Act

Pipeline companies are currently required to either get approval for the crossing of every waterway, or in cases when they can show that a project will have only minimal impact on the environment, apply for a nationwide permit that allows them to avoid scrutiny of each individual crossing.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which will carry fracked natural gas 600 miles from the Marcellus Shale in West Virginia through Virginia to North Carolina, recently had its national permit suspended due to concerns about its impact on a West Virginia waterway. The new regulations will likely cut the number of permits required for the project in half, according to an analysis by the Southern Environmental Law Center.

A joint effort of Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas, and Southern Company Gas, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (together with a much shorter pipeline that will supply natural gas to customers) will cross waterways in 1,699 places. At least half those waterways flow only during the wet seasons or after rainstorms and therefore would no longer require permits after the new rule is in place.

The new rule will increase the environmental threats posed by the Atlantic Coast and other pipeline projects, according to Geoff Gisler, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, which has filed numerous challenges to the pipeline.

“This is a sledgehammer to the Clean Water Act,” Gisler said of the new rule. “Out of all the anti-environmental attacks we have seen from this administration, this may be the most far-reaching and destructive.”

Dozens of other pipelines now in the planning phase could also see the number of permits required for their projects reduced. Fifty-four natural gas pipeline projects, including the Atlantic Coast, were approved in U.S. in the past two years, and 36 more projects are currently pending, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Three new oil pipeline projects have recently been announced, and five, including the Keystone XL, are in development.

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Today is Human Rights Day.

Tue, 12/11/2018 - 10:06

I started this work because I was tortured, because I had to, because I felt that inside me.

– Ka Hsaw Wa, ERI Co-Founder and Executive Director.

Today is Human Rights Day, which commemorates the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This day is more important than ever because protecting the earth has become one of the most dangerous professions. Last year, over 200 people were killed for defending their earth rights.

Around the world, brave activists–earth rights defenders–are protecting their communities’ most precious natural resources from the world’s most powerful governments and corporations.

Earth rights defenders need you.

These activists face corrupt governments and billion-dollar companies, only to be threatened with violence for their activism.

Defenders need your support to ensure their safety and protection in 2019. Together, we can train earth rights defenders around the world, help protect them from threat, and provide access to legal defense and safety.

Please consider making a gift to EarthRights International this holiday season to ensure that defenders can continue their work in 2019 without fear of persecution and harm.



Thank you for being with us!

In Solidarity,

Katie Redford

Co-founder and Director

Categories: G2. Local Greens

A 31% Increase In Number Of California Wineries Makes Financial Success That Much Harder

Tue, 12/11/2018 - 09:58
“Rabobank cites a report that 3,540 bonded wineries operated in California in 2011 but within five years, the number of wineries had risen 31%, to 4,653. A majority of these wineries are small, with an eye toward visitors to their tasting rooms. Not only competition, but the recent spate of raging wildfires have tamped down visitor traffic. Rabobank cites 39% of wineries surveyed that focus on DtC indicated sales have declined rather than increased as one might expect. That’s not because there had been fewer DtC sales; it’s because the number of  California wineries competing for consumer dollars keeps growing.A 31% Increase In Number Of California Wineries Makes Financial Success That Much Harder


Thomas Pellechia Contributor

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Food & Drink Experienced independent writer with a background in the wine industry. Tweet This

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The global investment firm Rabobank November 2018 Wine Quarterly included a few important takeaways from the Wine Industry Financial Symposium held this autumn in Napa, California. 

In its introduction to the report, the bank got my attention with this about California: “Wineries of all sizes need to find new owners.”

Rabobank was not recommending California wineries sell out to investors, or to anyone else for that matter. The bank was talking about the need to create a sense of brand ownership by the consumer. To back up the premise, Rabobank says, “The strength of the economy, strengthening direct-to-consumer (DtC) sales, and ongoing premiumisation [sic] create a strong foundation for future growth.”

According to the bank, the urgency of addressing the way consumers view a winery can be found in one word: competition. With hundreds of thousands of wine brands spanning the globe, competition is fierce, whether through the three-tier distribution method or through Direct-to-Consumer (DtC) sales, and for wineries large or small. Rabobank says 58% of large wineries and 40% of small wineries claim “…brand proliferation as a drag on revenue and profitability.”

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Ramey appeal hearing and the industrialization of ag lands for alcohol TODAY!

Tue, 12/11/2018 - 09:16

Today, the geologically unsound Ramey caves and massive expansion including VIP tasting rooms comes in front of the Board of Supervisors today.

Warren Watkins representing Healdsburg Citizens for Sustainable Solutions, Maacama Watershed Alliance, Forest Unlimited, Sonoma Coast Rural Preservation, thank you for supporting community over profit. 73. 1:40 P.M. – Appeal of a Use Permit approval for a new winery, wine cave, tasting rooms, marketing accommodations, and events, and industry wide events (Ramey Winery); located at 7097 Westside Road, Healdsburg. PRMD File No. UPE14-0008: Conduct a public hearing and at the conclusion of the hearing, adopt a Resolution denying the appeal and upholding the Board of Zoning Adjustment’s decision to approve the Use Permit for a 60,000 case winery, a new wine cave, conversion of an existing historic hop kiln building to a public tasting room and conversion of an existing historic hop baling barn to a reserve tasting room with a two-guest room marketing accommodation unit on the upper floor, 20 agricultural promotional events per year, and two industry wide event days per year on 75 acres. Appellants: Warren Watkins representing Healdsburg Citizens for Sustainable Solutions, Maacama Watershed Alliance, Forest Unlimited, Sonoma Coast Rural Preservation, and Todd Everett. Project Applicants: David and Carla Ramey on behalf of Ramey Vineyards LLC. (Fourth and Fifth Districts)
Categories: G2. Local Greens

Nextdoor neighbor thread on cannabis grow

Mon, 12/10/2018 - 13:16

Hi Everyone,

I am responding to multiple people here for efficiency and also in one thread to keep things simple (I hope). I’ve had a hard time getting this message to post for some reason.

Joseph – Thank you. I think that productive dialogue is the most important thing, regardless of what happens or doesn’t happen. I appreciate your comment.

Barbara – Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I really appreciated what you shared and the way you communicated your thoughts – well received! I would love nothing more than to have the trails be part of the parks if the parks were protected from toxic spray on agricultural land. I wish I were optimistic about such a move, but I think that would be a battle that we would lose as this is strongly defended under the federal law and the right to farm and the amount of acreage effected would be much more than the small parcel at the end of Railroad/Edison St. I’ve not heard of anyone being able to overcome this hurdle.

Bess/Kip – I am sure that some people have reactions to smells from cannabis, just as many people are allergic or have reactions to molds, dust, pollen, etc. What I don’t get is how this outweighs the fact that all humans (and animals) have detrimental health effects from the pesticides, fungicides and herbacides being sprayed on non-organic agricultural land, including the parcel at the end of Railroad/Edison when it was a pumpkin farm. Should we to knowingly harm everyone to avoid causing reactions for a small minority? Anna highlighted the issue to this list a few months ago about what the pumpkin farmer was spraying on the fields, her note is below for more info:

Carcinogens sprayed on Sonoma County ag lands per California Department of Pesticide Regulations.

> 1a Pesticide and fungicide use article with local references
> Fri Sep 14, 2018 7:47 am (PDT) . Posted by: “Anna Ransome”
> This article has a link to a list of who is using a deadly carcinogenic fungicide called Mancozeb. To quote, “Pesticide Action Network classifies Mancozeb as a Bad Actor – i.e. seriously bad stuff – and a carcinogen, developmental and reproductive toxin, and a probable endocrine disruptor. It’s highly toxic to fish. The National Academy of Sciences urged the EPA to ban it starting in 1987, calling it one of the most potent carcinogens in agriculture.)”
> Scroll down in above link to find our local pumpkin grower, Michael Gutzman, at #s 108-119. In 2017, 126 pounds were applied on the parcels along the West County Trail between Grey St. and Occidental Rd. I witnessed the spraying myself. Have you or your family members eaten or handled these pumpkins and winter squash?
> The reports aren’t in for 2018, but they were spraying again this year.
> We are surrounded by Dutton vineyards that were sprayed in 2017, but the article indicates that they stopped using it that year. The 2018 records should reveal any local usage whenever they are available.
> Anna

It is a serious concern to me what has been and will be sprayed on those fields because my house is a few hundred feet from the edge of the parcel, many of you are even closer. Shouldn’t we be talking about this? I agree that there are folks who have negative reactions to the smell of cannabis, but there is little question that we all have health consequences to the use of harmful pesticides, fungicides and herbicides being used, whether we are aware of it or not – even the ones that are perfectly legal to use under the right to farm.

Chris Getchell – You mention that Graton would be better without this proposed development. Can you elaborate on this? Do you have any opinions or concerns on the use of toxic herbicides, fungicides and pesticides on this parcel and how that impacts the trail? Regarding the traffic, buildings, etc. – I will say again that my understanding of the CUP process involves public feedback and input and we as a community have a right to address our concerns and ask for what we want. These issues can be addressed in the CUP process (if we ever get back to it). If you don’t want buildings, tell the owners you don’t want buildings. If you don’t want 30 parking spaces then how many are acceptable? “None” is not a fair answer, but there can be compromise and dialogue. In my opinion I believe it is better to try to negotiate this project to become something that is acceptable rather than take the risk of returning to some commercial agriculture farm that is in fact harming all of us legally.

Change can be difficult, I often find myself resistant to it in different areas of my life but I do try to embrace it and try to keep an open mind whenever possible. My belief is that many years from now we will be looking at open fields of cannabis with no fencing and no issues just as we see vines everywhere. Right now that is tough to picture or imagine, but I believe that is where we are headed – and I could be wrong. I would really love to hear from people what their feelings are about the use of harmful chemicals bordering our community and the trail. Maybe the majority of people are not concerned about this issue, but I’d love to hear what people think..

The reality remains, we have a say in what evolves in this cannabis project, but for commercial agriculture we have no say. Why not take advantage of the opportunity in front of us and see if the owners are willing to negotiate on the sticking points that people have? I have talked to numerous people and I keep hearing, “I have no issues with the cannabis, that doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is …..” What bothers me is the use of toxic chemicals on the edge of our neighborhood that negatively effect the health of everyone living here and every single person that uses the trail. Does this bother anyone else?



Categories: G2. Local Greens

FOG UPDATE #13 – Supervisors Hearing Tips for Tomorrow

Mon, 12/10/2018 - 13:06
From ANNA RANSOME: FOG UPDATE #13 – Supervisors Hearing Tips for Tomorrow Hello Supporters,
Hopefully you have sent emails to the supervisors to support the designation of the Joe Rodota and West County Trails as parks. There is still time and all the information is available in FOG Update #12, including the emails for the district aides who will facilitate your emails being viewed before the hearing.

A few tips about the hearing tomorrow at 8:30 am at the Board of Supervisors hearing room, 575 Administration Dr., Santa Rosa:

  • This hearing agenda item is only about the trails/parks issue. If speakers address the proposed Loud Enterprises/Jackalope project, they will be cut off by the chairman. There is a packed agenda and they will not tolerate anything off-topic, which also includes any other proposed cannabis projects or other aspects of the Cannabis Ordinance.
  • I will be the only speaker who will be representing FOG. Right after I thank the supervisors at the beginning of my talk, I will ask that all present who support a parks designation for the West County and Joe Rodota Trails stand up. Please listen for this cue and be prepared to stand up. They will allow me more time to speak if they see that I speak for many.
  • There is a new security screening process for the chambers, and this will likely slow things down. Go early if you want a seat inside. Don’t bring any metal through the screening area if you can avoid it.
  • There is a sometimes annoying public comment period, which if you have never witnessed it, is a lesson in democracy. You may hear about UFO’s, Hillary Clinton contrails and various conspiracy theories. Bring reading material. Just thank your lucky stars you don’t have to hear it every week as the Board does.
  • If you feel that you have to speak, make it brief and provide the clerk with 8 copies of your presentation for the record.
Thanks for all the support during this two month process. We don’t know how this hearing is going to affect the Graton proposal, so stay tuned for an update when we have any information.

Anna Ransome for Friends of Graton (FOG)

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Categories: G2. Local Greens

Neonics Pesticide Replacement Found to be Equally Dangerous to Bees

Sun, 12/09/2018 - 11:17
Neonics Pesticide Replacement Found to be Equally Dangerous to Bees

Read more:
Follow us: @naturalsociety on Twitter | NaturalSociety on Facebook By Julie Fidler

A chemical touted as a safer replacement for bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides (neonics) has similar harmful effects, researchers in the U.K. have discovered.

Neonicotinoids are a class of insecticides intended to protect crops from pests by blocking receptors in the insects’ brains, paralyzing and killing them. Even small doses of neonics can cause bees to struggle with navigation, hunting for food, reproduction, and their ability to form new colonies.

As a result of neonics’ effects on pollinators, the European Union (EU) banned the outdoor use of 5 neonicotinoid products in April 2018. Canada began phasing them out on August 15, 2018. However, in the United States, neonics are still widely used.

Due to the development of neonicotinoid resistance among some insects, scientists in recent years have turned to sulfoximine as a replacement. This group of insecticides act on the same class receptors in the insect brain but can safely avoid the enzymes that make some insects resistant to neonics.

Sulfoximine has been approved by regulatory bodies in China, Canada, Australia, and the U.K. [2]

Recently, scientists studied the effects of sulfoxaflor – a member of the sulfoximine class of chemicals – on bumblebee colonies and found that it reduced the number of worker bees in the colony and, eventually, the number of offspring the colony produced.

Study author Harry Siviter, from Royal Holloway, University of London, said:

“Our results show that sulfoxaflor can have a negative impact on the reproductive output of bumblebee colonies under certain conditions.”

Sulfoximine was approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Obama Administration. Initially, the rules governing the pesticide’s use were fairly loose, but a court decision vacated the initial approval in favor of more stringent restrictions to protect bees.

It cannot be sprayed on plants that attract bees until they have finished blooming, it is illegal to spray the insecticide on a select number of blooming plants, and it can’t be sprayed on any plants grown for seed.

For the study, researchers exposed bumblebee colonies to doses of sulfoximine similar to those they would be exposed to after the insecticide is applied to crops, and compared their health to those of colonies that were not exposed.

It was clear that the bees had suffered as a result of sulfoximine exposure when individuals from colonies exposed as larvae started to emerge as adults, but fewer worker bees emerged.

Furthermore, 9 weeks after the bumblebees were exposed, exposed colonies produced 54% fewer new queens and males – the only bees that reproduce. The authors wrote in the report that this suggests sulfoximine could significantly impact successful reproduction among bumblebee colonies. [1]

Study author Dr. Ellouise Leadbeater of Royal Holloway, University of London, said:

“Our study highlights that stressors that do not directly kill bees can still have damaging effects further down the line, because the health of the colony depends on the health of its workforce.” [2]

More importantly, the study shows that replacing one toxic insecticide with another is not the answer to protecting crops from pests.

The study is published in the journal Nature.


[1] Science Magazine

[2] EcoWatch

Post written byJulie Fidler:

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Categories: G2. Local Greens

Sierra Club news: Dogwood & Zero Waste in Sebastopol

Sun, 12/09/2018 - 11:09

‘Dogwood’ Timber Harvest Plan Rejected for Gualala River Floodplain

Sonoma County Superior Court sided with the Friends of Gualala River on Oct. 16 in its fight against logging hundreds of acres of the Wild and Scenic Gualala River floodplain. Sierra Club Redwood Chapter contributed financially to the successful lawsuit. The controversial “Dogwood” timber harvest plan has been the subject of public protests and litigation since 2015.

This ruling may put the issue to rest, as Judge René Chouteau concluded that the timber harvest plan failed to meet California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requirements for evaluating project alternatives with less environmental impact, and for assessing cumulative environmental impacts to the river, forest and floodplain.

This is the second lawsuit on the “Dogwood” plan. In 2017, Friends of Gualala River, Forest Unlimited, and California Native Plant Society successfully sued CAL FIRE, which approved the timber harvest plan, over similar environmental review flaws. CAL FIRE was required to revoke the permit to log “Dogwood,” but the applicant, Gualala Redwoods Timber, resubmitted the logging plan with minimal corrections. On March 30, 2018, CAL FIRE again approved the logging plan, despite major public opposition. FoGR again sued over the same basic flaws in CAL FIRE’s environmental review process.

In this decision, the court agreed with legal precedents and stated it is “absolutely clear” that timber harvest plans must be functionally equivalent to Environmental Impact Reports and meet the same fundamental standards of CEQA with regard to evaluation of alternatives that reduce impacts to the environment, “one of the most important functions of an EIR.” The court also ruled that CAL FIRE failed to assess cumulative environmental impacts to the Gualala River and its watershed in accordance CEQA, and the agency jumped to conclusions of “no impact” without evidence or accounting for other impacts from past or future logging and land and water uses.

FoGR is seeking reform of CAL FIRE’s timber harvest plan procedures and documents so that they actually function as efficient equivalents of CEQA Environmental Impact Reports that focus on significant environmental impacts and solutions in the public interest, not just private interests of the timber industry applicants. FoGR and its broad coalition of public citizens and organizations will continue to pursue conservation of the unique Gualala Redwood Floodplain Forest, including full consideration of alternatives that protect the most sensitive extensive wetland and floodplain habitats.


Sebastopol passes Zero Waste Resolution: Ambitious goal of Zero Waste by 2030

The following is a press release Leslie Lukacs, chair of the Zero Waste North Bay group, prepared for the Press Democrat. It is an update on the Sebastopol City Council adoption of the Zero Waste Resolution accepted by the Sonoma County Waste Management Association. Lukacs summarizes the steps the city council is taking to begin to put the resolution into action. If any Sierra Club members in Sebastopol want to become involved with the city council’s zero waste efforts, contact Theresa Ryan at Windsor is the next city council the Zero Waste North Bay group will approach about adopting a Zero Waste Resolution.


During the October 16th Sebastopol City Council meeting, the passing of the Zero Waste Resolution was moved to vote by Councilwoman Una Glass, seconded by Councilwoman Sarah Glade Gurney and passed unanimously.


For more Redwood Chapter information:

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Styrene Deemed “Probably Carcinogenic to Humans” by the IARC

Sun, 12/09/2018 - 10:52
Styrene Deemed “Probable Carcinogenic to Hymans” by IARC
Changed from “possibly carcinogenic to humans”
By Mike Barrett

For the last 4 decades, scientists have been calling for styrene, a chemical found in Styrofoam cups and packaging, to be studied further to determine if it causes cancer. Now, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), styrene is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” [1]

Styrene was previously classified as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

Research shows that workplace styrene exposure doubles the risk of leukemia, and increases the risk of a certain type of nasal cancer by 5 times. [2]

Read: Styrene and Formaldehyde Use Causing Health Complications

Most people come into contact with the chemical through cigarette smoke, air pollution, printers, or photocopiers. The authors of the announcement, which will be published as a Monograph, said exposure to styrene at work is a global problem. [1] [2]

A team of 23 scientists hand-picked by the IARC looked at the records of more than 70,000 people who worked in the Danish plastics industry between 1968 and 2011. The team also reviewed evidence from animal studies on the health risks of styrene exposure. [1] [2]

Professor Henrik Kolstad of Aarhus University in Denmark said:

“The most recent styrene study shows the risk of acute myeloid leukemia, a rare form of leukemia, is doubled.

Out of the more than 70,000 people included in the research project, we found 25 cases of acute myeloid leukemia, where you would statistically expect to find 10.”

Read: Disposable Coffee Cups & Containers Found to Harbor Carcinogens

The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that 19,520 new cases of acute myeloid leukemia will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2018, and the disease is expected to kill 10,670 people. [3]

The study also found a 5-fold increase in the risk of sinonasal adenocarcinoma, a nasal cancer, among study subjects who were exposed to the chemical while working in the plastics industry. [2]

In addition to Styrofoam, styrene is used in synthetic rubber, some insulation materials, disposable cutlery, plastic packaging, and fiberglass plastic.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has warned that people may be exposed to small amounts of styrene if it gets into food packaged in polystyrene containers, including Styrofoam.

The researchers also looked for potential links between styrene exposure and Hodgkin lymphoma, and T-cell lymphoma, but did not spot the same link.


[1] Science Daily

[2] Daily Mail

[3] American Cancer Society

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Feds Investigating Millions Of Fake Messages Opposing Net Neutrality: Report

Sun, 12/09/2018 - 10:43
Is your favorite environmental or free press site slow to view? Net neutrality, it affects us all and is a form of censorship when abused. “Of the 22 million messages sent last year to the FCC website, nearly 21 million were bots, organized campaigns or fakes, including many using stolen identities, according to a Stanford University study. Some campaigns also involved fake, automated comments, though others were legitimate…..” Feds Investigating Millions Of Fake Messages Opposing Net Neutrality: Report FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai conceded that 500,000 fake comments urging the death of the popular system came from Russian emails. By Mary Papenfuss The Justice Department is investigating possible criminal activity linked to millions of fake or duplicated messages — many from Russian email addresses — sent to the Federal Communications Commission opposing net neutrality, Buzzfeed reported Saturday.

Of the 22 million messages sent last year to the FCC website, nearly 21 million were bots, organized campaigns or fakes, including many using stolen identities, according to a Stanford University study. Some campaigns also involved fake, automated comments, though others were legitimate. Talk show host John Oliver notably encouraged viewers to back net neutrality, triggering a deluge of comments that the FCC falsely claimed helped trigger a shutdown of its website, according to the study.

Of the total estimated 800,000 unique comments sent, 99.7 percent supported net neutrality and opposed a controversial push by the Trump administration’s commission head Ajit Pai to terminate net neutrality. Pai recently admitted that Russia meddled in the system and acknowledged that 500,000 of the suspect comments were linked to Russian emails.

The FBI subpoenaed at least two organizations for information linked to the messages just days after New York state did so for details from 14 groups in October for its own probe, sources told Buzzfeed. Massachusetts and the District of Columbia are supporting the New York probe, Buzzfeed reported.

The FCC was inundated with the fake comments as the commission debated dumping net neutrality, which had barred all internet service providers from blocking, slowing down, or charging extra for certain content.

Net neutrality is hugely popular with the American public, according to several polls. The FCC voted late last year to terminate it, which paves the way for corporations to sharply increase consumer rates if users want to maintain the same internet speed for all content.

The FCC has stonewalled requests by the media — and the New York state attorney general — to release information concerning the fake messages.


Categories: G2. Local Greens

Sonoma County Advisory Group AGENDA: December 12th Meeting

Sat, 12/08/2018 - 10:33
Some important land use decisions are being made by the group. Please review their objectives below and speak up if you have input.  Sonoma County Cannabis Advisory Group


Meeting Date December 12, 2018


NOTE UPDATED LOCATION: Permit Sonoma Hearing Room

   2550 Ventura Avenue, Santa Rosa CA 95403 

3:00 p.m. Call to order 


Item #1- Cannabis Program Goals and Objectives Discussion

  1. Staff Presentation
  2. Questions for staff
  3. Public Comment
  4. Advisory Group Discussion and Recommendations

Public Comment for Items Not on the Agenda 

Closing Remarks  

Open Meetings: Except as expressly authorized under the Ralph M. Brown Act (the State’s local agency open meeting law), all meetings of the Cannabis Advisory Group are open to attendance by interested members of the public.

Public Comments:  Any member of the public may address the Group during the designated Public Comment periods noted in the Agenda.  There are Speaker Request forms provided, if you wish to comment, please fill one out and submit to staff prior to the start of the meeting.  Please note that Group members are unable to answer questions or respond to comments but you may speak to Group members after the meeting.

If you wish to speak to a specific topic listed in the provided Agenda, please limit your comments to that specific topic under discussion by the Group.  When filing out the Public Speaker Request form, check the appropriate box listed, if the topic you wish to comment on is in Item #1 of the Agenda, check the Item #1 box, and so on.

Disabled Accommodation: To Request an Accommodation: If you have a disability and require a sign language interpreter, assistive listening device, material in an alternate format, or other accommodation to attend, please contact Ms. Jo Ann Barker at (707) 565-1925 at least 72 hours prior to the meeting in order to facilitate arrangements for accommodation.

Public Transit Access to Glaser Center 545 Mendocino Avenue Santa Rosa CA: Sonoma County Transit: Routes 30, 44, 48, 60, 62, 64; Santa Rosa City Bus Route 14; Golden Gate Transit: Route 80. (707) 543-3333. Transit Information: (707) 576-RIDE or 1-800-345-RIDE

Overview of Proposed Cannabis Program Framework
A General Plan is a broad planning guideline to a city’s or county’s future development goals and provides policy statements to achieve those development goals. Each city and county adopts and updates their General Plan to guide the growth and land development of their community, for both the current period and the long term.  To help guide the Cannabis Advisory Group in our discussions about the future of the Sonoma County Cannabis Program, the staff and the Co-Chairs are proposing using a similar hierarchy structure used by the General Plan. The hierarchy and definitions are outlined below along with DRAFT examples in italics provided for clarity and to stimulate discussion.  At the December 12, 2018 Cannabis Advisory Group will begin populating the table on page two and replacing the draft examples.

Element Purpose- Statement of what is covered in each Element, essentially the scope.
Draft Example-The Economic Vitality Element focuses on the creation of sustainable economic growth of the Cannabis Industry and its positive impacts on the economy on Sonoma County.
Goal: A general statement of a desired end toward which an effort will be directed. There is one overarching goal for each element.
Draft Example- Foster a healthy diverse and economically viable cannabis industry that contributes to the local economy.
Objectives: A specific detailed statement of a desired future condition toward which the County is committed and progress is ideally measurable.  There can be multiple objectives
Draft Example –Encourage the creation of high paying jobs within in the cannabis industry
CAG Recommendations and Actions: Specific statements that guide decision making in order to achieve a goal or objective.
Example -Establish database which tracks the number of jobs and employee wages for permitted cannabis businesses. Community Compatibility

  Economic Vitality Environmental Impact Land Use Public Safety Develop ways to increase the community compatibility through awareness, education and regulations.

  The Economic Vitality Element focuses on the creation of sustainable economic growth of the Cannabis Industry and the positive impacts on the economy on Sonoma County. Address the environmental impacts of the cannabis industry and preservation of natural and scenic resources. Guide growth, development, and land use decisions associated with the Cannabis Industry. Protect public health and safety of Sonoma County residents through regulations and enforcement.     Goal:


Foster a healthy, diverse, and economically viable cannabis industry that contributes to the local economy.     Goal:





1.       Encourage the creation of high paying jobs within in the cannabis industry

2.       Employment numbers…

3.          Objectives:



           Recommendation/Action              Recommendation/Action:


Establish database which tracks the number of jobs and employee wages for permitted cannabis businesses.  

Recommendation/Action:              Recommendation/Action:              Recommendation/Action:



Categories: G2. Local Greens