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Protecting our Environmental Resources
Updated: 13 hours 36 min ago

Friends of Graton Update 10 Tuesday December 12th, 9am Board of Supervisors Action

Sat, 12/08/2018 - 10:18

If you have not written to your Supervisors yet, here is a tip. Since it is getting close to the hearing on Tuesday, December 11 at 9 am, emails can still be sent to the Supervisors, but it would be best to send copies to their district aides to be sure they don’t get lost in less urgent communications.

Please share widely and plan to attend the hearing on Tuesday. It will be quite lively.

Please CC the aides below when emailing the Supervisors. I’ve included the Supervisor’s emails for your convenience.

James Gore:
Susan Gorin:
David Rabbitt:
Shirlee Zane:
Lynda Hopkins:

Anna Ransome for Friends of Graton (FOG)

FOG Update #10


Categories: G2. Local Greens

Napa County Fwd: Planning Committee decision re the American Canyon Commercial Solar Project by Renewable Properties (the Developer)

Sat, 12/08/2018 - 10:12
Right idea, wrong place? Napa County:  Planning Committee decision re the American Canyon Commercial Solar Project by Renewable Properties (the Developer)

Dear Neighbors:

Today the Planning Commission delivered a serious setback.  At the Planning Commission meeting on Wednesday, 12/5/2018, they voted to pass the American Canyon Commercial Solar project despite overwhelming evidence that this precedent setting project in the AG Watershed would put the rest of the valley in jeopardy.  This opens the door to Commercial Renewable Energy projects in the AG Watershed.

We believe that we need to appeal this decision.  We have 10 days to file the appeal notify the County Planning Department that we intend to file the appeal and 10 days after that to file the appeal.  We have a core group who are willing to do the work.  Napa Vision 2050 is providing substantial assistance with advice and guidance.

I will describe the situation and how this occurred.  First, however, I need to ask for your help.  We need financial assistance.  To date a small group of 4 have shouldered the financial cost and we have been contributing personally as well.  We have spent hundreds of hours on meetings and research and lobbying.  We are happy to do that.  This is our neighborhood and we need to protect it.

Please email me with your pledges $.  We are asking for your intent to donate at this time since we do not have the requisite account in the name of the group as of yet.  We also want to be sure we get the support we need from local groups before we go this route.

Till then,  we are asking for your commitments.  We can use whatever you can afford…$50—$1,000 and more.  We currently expect expenses to be around $10,000 to $15,000.  The funds would be used only for fees, legal assistance and to print and distribute information to the community.

Please respond with your Pledges by this coming weekend if possible.

Our description of what occurred:

Planning staff and the Developer, used a section of the Napa County General Plan which notes that a “Utility” is an approved use within the AG Watershed.  In other words, power generation is an approved use in AG Watershed zones.  When this was put into zoning and the General Plan in the ‘60s, this referred to PG&E and the narrow corridors they were putting in for their power poles and power lines.  At that time, renewable energy, its footprint and its impact on the land were not in play.   Based on adopting this interpretation, staff advised the Planning Commission that they could approve such a project as the 18 acres of solar in American Canyon…despite it being in the AG Watershed, because it is an approved use…without limits.  In other words, they classified the American Canyon Commercial Solar Project, a private deal between Renewable Properties…the Developer and MCE a non-profit entity, as the equivalent of a public utility like PG&E.

This project covers 85.7% of the parcel. It is 18 acres of commercial solar project on a 21 acre parcel.  No other use in the County is allowed such large coverage of a parcel.  In effect this approval is unique in that it gives the project and the Developer unlimited unregulated and extreme freedom to determine their own coverage.  Napa County does not have rules and regulations for commercial solar projects such as this one.

This means that the next developer can come in and demand the same treatment.  The County opens itself up to liability.

We have been working to convince the County to put regulations in place to guide and govern commercial renewable energy projects BEFORE approving any such project.  The Planning Manager estimated that it would take 6 months to do this.  Despite this relatively short timeline, Commissioners Whitmer, Mazotti and Hansen voted to approve the project without this condition.  Commissioners Gallagher and Cottrell saw the jeopardy and raised the concerns we have been expressing and voted against the project.  They were outnumbered.

In the same meeting on the 5th, further in the agenda, all the commissioners had a discussion and agreed that we need regulations.  They requested that the Board of Supervisors provide direction.  The bottom line is that all see the validity of our concerns, however, the three Commissioners were willing to compromise all standards, the General Plan and the AG Watershed (which we all have fought for decades to preserve) to push this project through.

We need your support to put in a final effort to save our AG land.  Please pledge generously.

We will put in the effort..research…meetings…presentations….feet on the ground.  If any of you can help with some of the effort…let us know.

 Many thanks in anticipation of your support.

My best, Eileen


Categories: G2. Local Greens

Current bilingual Opening at Sonoma Ecology Center

Sat, 12/08/2018 - 10:05
Current bilingual Opening at Sonoma Ecology Center This is a great opportunity at the Sonoma Ecology Center. There are a few grants that will support outreach to disadvantaged communities in Sonoma Valley about challenges to the local watershed and community health. They are looking for a smart, well-organized outreach coordinator who is bilingual and bicultural to do this work.


Beautiful. Sustainable. Sonoma.


Classification: Reports to:

Non-exempt Director of Development

Full-time (32-40 hours per week)

Wage range: $22-$25 per hour

Who We Are:

Sonoma Ecology Center is a 27-year-old nonprofit with a mission to work with our community to identify and lead actions that achieve and sustain ecological health in Sonoma Valley. We are respected throughout the North Bay and beyond for our contributions to important initiatives in land, water, biodiversity, and climate. Each year, we provide in-depth environmental science instruction to over 1200 students, manage over 4,000 acres of public and private land including Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, raise thousands of native plants and restore critical native habitat, and provide research and technical support on timely issues affecting the region. We have over 20 professional staff and manage numerous large grants and contracts, often in partnership with other nonprofits and agencies that, by working together, significantly leverage our work and impact.

Position Summary:

We are seeking bilingual candidates who are committed to inspiring a diverse community to appreciate and improve their local environment. This position is a key component of the SEC’s Community Engagement Team, which is supervised by the Director of Development. The Bilingual Coordinator will be primarily responsible for managing, planning, and leading community-based projects including workshops and public events; preparing and distributing outreach materials; and serving as a liaison between SEC and the community at large, including the underserved population. The Watershed Outreach Coordinator will also collaborate with project managers to satisfy the deliverables of specific grants and initiatives. One must be passionate and highly motivated, have strong attention to detail, and can execute defined projects efficiently and promptly.

Integrated Regional Water Management Plan – Disadvantaged Community (IRWMP DAC) Program Coordination (40%)

 Coordinate with partner organizations to develop joint marketing materials, plan events, gather data and submit reports

 Create surveys written in English and Spanish


 Conduct community needs assessments through well-organized listening sessions, meetings, public forums, and through surveys

 Create a means to track attendance

 Collate and assess identified issues that are important to the community

 Obtain landowner permission when required

 Lead bilingual site visits

 Orchestrate presentations, using maps, data, and other outreach materials to communicate with diverse audiences, including Spanish materials

 Reconvene partner organizations to discuss identified issues

 Provide actionable input on possible solutions

 Report on needs assessment results and next steps

 Work with GIS Manager to integrate maps and data results into reports and presentations

 Collect mandatory waiver and release forms

Other Community Outreach and Volunteer Coordination (40%)

 In conjunction with our Restoration and Research project managers, plan and execute community volunteer events. Such as, watershed cleanups, tree planting days, water quality testing, and vegetation management

 Train volunteers, provide tools, and safety equipment when needed

 Reach out to local businesses to procure donated refreshments

 Set up and break down refreshment table

 Ensure all volunteers sign a waiver and release before performing any work

 Collect, track, and manage volunteer event data, so that we can affirm the positive effects of our community engagement

 Conversely, evaluate events that do not live up to expectations and identify areas for improvement

 Work with the Volunteer Coordinator to pursue businesses with community service initiatives

 May directly supervise up to 15 volunteers. Larger groups will have additional SEC staff

 Always represent SEC in a professional and positive manner

Administration and Other Responsibilities (20%)

 Track budgets, write reports and satisfy grant/contract requirements

 Identify funding opportunities and work with Grants and Planning Manager to generate proposals

 Submit volunteer data to Volunteer Coordinator

 Summarize and report outcomes to program and project managers

 Accurate time management and time tracking

Please Note:

The responsibilities and the percentage of time will vary from week-to-week depending on programmatic needs and funding sources. One must be flexible and open to change as these responsibilities may change over time.

Qualifications and Abilities:

 Bilingual, culturally aware, and keenly sensitive to the needs of diverse communities

 College degree, preferably in communications or environmental science or 2 years of relevant work experience


 Experienced public speaker, undaunted by diverse and passionate audiences

 Grant management experience, including writing proposals and budgeting, is a plus

 Skilled in Microsoft Office Suite, primarily PowerPoint, Word, and Excel

 Experience as a Community Organizer or Community Group Spokesperson is a plus

 Knowledge of and enthusiasm for the Sonoma Valley Watershed

 Maintain positive relationships with numerous stakeholders, including governmental agencies, other nonprofits, community groups, educators, landowners, and volunteers

 Ability to collaborate with SEC staff to successfully carry out cross-programmatic outreach and events

 Willing to ask for help

 Ability to remain calm under challenging circumstances

 Communicative, collaborative, collegial, polite, and outgoing

 Must be able to pass DOJ/FBI background check as well as a DMV check

 Valid driver’s license and must maintain at least the minimum of personal auto insurance and has a reliable vehicle

Physical Demands and Work Environment:

Work will be performed both in the field and in the office. In the office, one will use a computer, phone, copier, and may sit for long periods of time. Fieldwork will include bending, stooping, kneeling, wading, and standing for long periods of time. One may be exposed to the inclement weather during workdays. Educational and outreach work will be performed in classrooms, community centers, offices, etc. require lifting folding tables (40 lbs.), and boxes containing outreach materials (10 lbs.), and setting up pop-up tents.

Evening and weekend work is required for public meetings, volunteer days, and other community outreach efforts.

All qualified applicants will be given equal consideration without regard to race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, breastfeeding, veteran, military status, genetic information, and marital status or familial status.


After successful completion of the 90-day introductory period, full-time employees are offered the following:

Eligibility to enroll in one of two Kaiser Permanente health insurance plans, of which, SEC pays half of the employee’s premium (not that of dependents), paid holidays, vacation accrual, sick accrual, and the ability to enroll in a self-funded TIAA 403(B) account.

How to Apply:

Please send your cover letter, resume, and three references, to Celina Briggs, Human Resources Specialist,, preferably in one PDF document. No phone calls, please.

If you need assistance in the application process or during the interview process, please contact the Human Resources Department. We will try to provide reasonable accommodations when considered appropriate.


Categories: G2. Local Greens

YES We Can! Rights of Lake Erie: One Step Closer to the Ballot, One Step Closer to Recognition

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 09:52
Community unites to fight off the polluter agenda and clean, healthy water….. Rights of Lake Erie: One Step Closer to the Ballot, One Step Closer to Recognition The Great Lake may become the 1st recognized ecosystem in the U.S. with rights to exist and flourish


Tish O’Dell, Ohio Community Organizer

TOLEDO, OHIO:  On Tuesday, December 4, the Toledo City Council voted unanimously to place the proposed Lake Erie Bill of Rights law onto the ballot for a vote in February.

The Lake Erie Bill of Rights is the first proposed law to advance in the U.S. that specifically focuses on a distinct ecosystem, securing the Lake’s rights to exist and flourish.

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) assisted Toledoans for Safe Water to draft the Lake Erie Bill of Rights.  Beginning in 2006, CELDF has assisted the first communities in the United States, and the first country – Ecuador – to develop rights of nature laws. They are the first such laws in the world.

Lake Erie, one of the five Great Lakes, has suffered from significant pollution, agricultural runoff, and other industrial activities, which have caused severe impacts on water quality and the health of the lake ecosystem. “The Lake Erie Bill of Rights will be the first law in the U.S. to recognize rights of an ecosystem,” explained CELDF organizer, Tish O’Dell, “it’s refreshing to see an Ohio city leading the way for change instead of staying with the status quo.”

Markie Miller, organizer with the local community group, Toledoans for Safe Water, congratulated the City Council on moving the measure forward, stating, “The people of Toledo came together to propose this law, and we thank the City Council for providing an opportunity for the people to vote.”

Rights of Nature Laws

Today, Ecuador and Bolivia have national laws in place, and Colombia and India courts have recognized rights of rivers and other ecosystems.  Local laws have been established in Brazil, and a campaign launched earlier this year to secure rights of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

With mounting environmental crises, there is a growing shift toward rights of nature laws, under which human activity must not affect the ability of an ecosystem to exist and thrive.

By contrast, conventional environmental laws authorize the use and exploitation of nature, such as laws which legalize fracking, mining, and drilling.  Under these laws, nature is treated as property without even basic rights to existence or well-being.

In its 2016 decision securing rights of the Atrato River, Colombia’s Constitutional Court explained that in light of growing environmental crises, it is necessary to protect the rights of nature, writing that such a change is needed before “it’s too late.”

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

For additional information regarding petitioning communities, contact CELDF at To learn about the Ohio Community Rights Network, visit To learn about the Community Rights Movement, visit

About CELDF — Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

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


Featured image: Sea breeze by Mark K, Flickr Creative Commons.

Categories: G2. Local Greens

‘Brutal news’: global carbon emissions jump to all-time high in 2018

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 09:38
Luxembourg / Country becomes first to make all public transport free

‘Brutal news’: global carbon emissions jump to all-time high in 2018 Rapid cuts needed to protect billions of people from rising emissions due to increase in use of cars and coal


Almost all countries are contributing to the rise in emissions, with China up 4.7%, the US by 2.5% and India by 6.3% in 2018. Photograph: Michel Euler/AP

Global carbon emissions will jump to a record high in 2018, according to a report, dashing hopes a plateau of recent years would be maintained. It means emissions are heading in the opposite direction to the deep cuts urgently needed, say scientists, to fight climate change.

The rise is due to the growing number of cars on the roads and a renaissance of coal use and means the world remains on the track to catastrophic global warming. However, the report’s authors said the emissions trend can still be turned around by 2020, if cuts are made in transport, industry and farming emissions.

The research by the Global Carbon Project was launched at the UN climate summit in Katowice, Poland, where almost 200 nations are working to turn the vision of tackling climate change agreed in Paris in 2015 into action. The report estimates CO2 emissions will rise by 2.7% in 2018, sharply up on the plateau from 2014-16 and 1.6% rise in 2017.

Almost all countries are contributing to the rise, with emissions in China up 4.7%, in the US by 2.5% and in India by 6.3% in 2018. The EU’s emissions are near flat, but this follows a decade of strong falls.

“The global rise in carbon emissions is worrying, because to deal with climate change they have to turn around and go to zero eventually,” said Prof Corinne Le Quéré, at the University of East Anglia,who led the research published in the journal Nature. “We are not seeing action in the way we really need to. This needs to change quickly.”

At a rally on Tuesday, President Donald Trump is expected to unveil a plan that would provide notable regulatory relief to the coal industry. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

The current Paris agreement pledges from nations will only limit global warming to 3C, while even a rise of 1.5C will be disastrous for many people, according to the world’s scientists.

Le Quéré said: “I hope that by 2020, when [governments] have to come back with stronger commitments, we will then see a turning point.”

The International Energy Agency’s data also shows rising emissions in 2018. Its executive director, Fatih Birol, said: “This turnaround should be another warning to governments as they meet in Katowice this week.”

“Every year of rising emissions puts economies and the homes, lives and livelihoods of billions of people at risk,” said Christiana Figueres, at the Mission 2020 campaign, who was the UN climate diplomat overseeing the Paris agreement. “We are in the age of exponentials,” she said, with renewable energy and electric cars expanding rapidly, but with the extreme weather impacts of climate change doing the same. “We have to ensure it is the solutions exponential curve that is going to win the race.”

Prof David Reay, at the University of Edinburgh, UK, said: “This annual balance sheet for global carbon is comprehensive and scientifically robust. Its message is more brutal than ever: we are deep in the red and heading still deeper. For all our sakes, world leaders must now do what is required.” Harjeet Singh, at ActionAid International, said news of the emissions’ rise should galvanise those at the climate summit: “There’s way too much complacency in the air at these talks.”

The “dark news” of rising emissions is merging with two other alarming trends, according to Prof David Victor, at the University of California, San Diego, in an article with colleagues also published in Nature on Wednesday.

Falling air pollution is enabling more of the sun’s warmth to reach the Earth’s surface, as aerosol pollutants reflect sunlight, while a long-term natural climate cycle in the Pacific is entering a warm phase. Victor said: “Global warming is accelerating. [These] three trends will combine over the next 20 years to make climate change faster and more furious than anticipated.”

The Global Carbon Budget, produced by 76 scientists from 57 research institutions in 15 countries, found the major drivers of the 2018 increase were more coal-burning in China and India as their economies grew, and more oil used in more transport. Industry also used more gas. Renewable energy grew rapidly, but not enough to offset the increased use of fossil fuel.

“There was hope China was rapidly moving away from coal power, but the last two years have shown it will not be so easy to say farewell quickly,” said Jan Ivar Korsbakken, at the Centre for International Climate Research in Norway.

Pinterest The last two years have shown it won’t be easy for China to say farewell to coal use quickly, according to Norway’s Centre for International Climate Research. Photograph: Andy Wong/AP In the three years since the Paris agreement was signed, financial institutions have invested more than $478bn in the world’s top 120 coal plant developers, according to a report by the NGOs Urgewald, BankTrack and partners. Chinese banks led the underwriting of coal investments, while Japanese banks led the loans, the NGOs found. World Bank to invest $200bn to combat climate change Read more

In the US, emissions rose as an unusually cold winter and hot summer boosted demand for both heating and cooling in homes. But it is expected that emissions will start to decline again in 2019, as cheap gas, wind and solar continue to displace coal – coal use has dropped 40% since 2005 and it is now at its lowest level since 1979.

The global rise in emissions, even in rich, developed nations, is very concerning, said Antonio Marcondes, Brazil’s chief negotiator at the UN summit: “Emission reductions are like credit-card debt: the longer they are put off, the more expensive and painful they become.”

Brazil reached its 2020 emissions targets early, but fears of a rise in deforestation under the new president, Jair Bolsonaro, could reverse this. But Le Quéré is optimistic that the rapid global rises seen in recent decades will not return: “This is very unlikely.” In these critical times …

… help us protect independent journalism at a time when factual, trustworthy reporting is under threat by making a year-end gift to support The Guardian. We’re asking our US readers to help us raise one million dollars by the new year so that we can report on the stories that matter in 2019. Small or big, every contribution you give will help us reach our goal.

The Guardian’s editorial independence means that we can pursue difficult investigations, challenging the powerful and holding them to account. No one edits our editor and no one steers our opinion.

In 2018, The Guardian broke the story of Cambridge Analytica’s Facebook data breach; we recorded the human fallout from family separations




Categories: G2. Local Greens

State Senator Mike McGuire steps up to the plate

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 09:29
Dear Neighbor,

Americans can only speculate why President Trump often shows stronger allegiance to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and Russia’s Vladimir Putin than to America’s own best interests.

After two years into this presidency, it’s time to put this speculation to bed and bring to light any conflicts of interest that could drive an American president into the arms of a foreign power.

That’s why I, along with State Senator Scott Wiener, have reintroduced legislation that would require all presidential candidates to release their tax returns prior to being placed on the California ballot. Tax returns, which are signed under penalty of perjury, would reveal the kinds of financial entanglements that lead to such serious conflicts of interest.

Voters not only deserve full disclosure of their leader’s tax returns, they should be entitled to them. If President Trump had released his tax returns, we would know why he’s ignoring his own intelligence agencies and snuggling up to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia who has been linked to the brutal killing of Jamal Khashoggi.

Transparency is a nonpartisan issue. A poll released this week showed 63 percent of Americans believe Trump’s tax returns should be released. And the Presidential Tax Transparency bill was last passed by the legislature with Republican and Democratic support in 2017.

It’s time to make President Trump’s tax returns public. We will keep you posted on our progress and let you know how you can help. Thank you!

Warmest regards,

Senator Mike McGuire


Categories: G2. Local Greens

California mandates solar on new houses

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 09:25
California mandates solar on new houses

 California becomes the first state to mandate solar panels on all new homes. The requirement goes into effect in 2020:

“These provisions really are historic and will be a beacon of light for the rest of the country,” said Kent Sasaki, a structural engineer and one of six commissioners voting for the new energy code. “(It’s) the beginning of substantial improvement in how we produce energy and reduce the consumption of fossil fuels.”

The new provisions are expected to dramatically boost the number of rooftop solar panels in the Golden State. Last year, builders took out permits for more than 115,000 new homes — almost half of them for single-family homes.

The estimated cost added for the average new home is $10,000, with $1,500 of that going for improved energy efficiency. That upfront costs will be paid for by lower utility bills over the life span of the solar panels.





Categories: G2. Local Greens

Dow knew decades ago that this chemical damaged kids’ brains.

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 09:55
Dow knew decades ago that this chemical damaged kids’ brains. Organic Consumers Association: NEW STUDY Dastardly Dow

We’ve known for a while that Monsanto buried the truth about Roundup weedkiller, by ignoring concerns by its own scientists. Now it seems Dow Chemical Co. has been using the same playbook.

Dow (renamed DowDuPont after its 2017 merger with DuPont) likely knew for decades that its widely used chlorpyrifos insecticide is harmful to humans—especially children and developing fetuses. But the company hid that information from regulators, both in the U.S. and EU, according to a new study, published in the journal Environmental Health.

The revelation comes as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is duking it out in the legal system over a court ruling that the agency finalize a ban on chlorpyrifos that was proposed under the Obama administration, but overturned after Trump took office. On September 24, the EPA—the agency charged with protecting us from environmental contaminants—asked the courts to re-hear the case. In the meantime, in California alone, 800,000 acres and on dozens of crops continue to be doused with a pesticide that Beyond Pesticides describes this way:

A neurological toxicant, chlorpyrifos damages the brains of young children: impacts of exposure, even at very low levels, include decreased cognitive function, lowered IQ, attention deficit disorder, and developmental and learning delays.

Read ‘Did Dow Chemical Fake Safety Studies on Brain-Damaging Chlorpyrifos?’
Categories: G2. Local Greens

Napa County takes first step to rein in wineries that break the law

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 09:48

In recent years, industry opposition has been bubbling up, especially over greater traffic on Highway 29 and the Silverado Trail. In June, local voters narrowly rejected an amendment that would have limited vineyard development on hills and mountains to provide greater protection to the environment.

Sonoma County officials are paying close attention to the actions in Napa and the board of supervisors here intends to tackle winery tourism issues in 2019.

Napa County takes first step to rein in wineries that break the law

(1 of ) Marisa Spencer, left, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Madlyn Oltman of Charleston, West Virginia, taking selfies near a vineyard at Cuvaison Estate Wines in Napa before the start of the Napa-to-Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon held on July 19, 2015. (Photo: Erik Castro/for The Press Democrat) prev next

Napa County takes first step to rein in wineries that break the law

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BILL SWINDELL THE PRESS DEMOCRAT | December 4, 2018, 4:41PM  After years of wrangling, Napa County took a first step to better police its more than 500 wineries with an updated code enforcement program approved by its board of supervisors on Tuesday. The board by a 4-0 vote approved a resolution that would revamp the county’s winery enforcement program that has been criticized as ineffective and having no teeth for violators. For example, county officials found in 2014 that almost half of the wineries audited did not comply with code requirements, such as exceeding their production or visitor limits.

The vote comes with increasing backlash to the wine sector that wields considerable political influence through the Napa Valley Vintners trade group and as the dominant economic driver in the county of more than 140,000 residents.

In recent years, industry opposition has been bubbling up, especially over greater traffic on Highway 29 and the Silverado Trail. In June, local voters narrowly rejected an amendment that would have limited vineyard development on hills and mountains to provide greater protection to the environment.

Sonoma County officials are paying close attention to the actions in Napa and the board of supervisors here intends to tackle winery tourism issues in 2019.

The main provision of the Napa County resolution would require all wineries in unincorporated areas to file annually their overall production and grape souring data to the county to see if the numbers are the same as the ones they report to federal and state authorities. Also, wineries with outstanding code violations each year would have until the end of March to resolve their problems or apply for a new permit. In addition, temporary winery event permits would need to be submitted 90 days in advance instead of the current 60-day rule.

There are now 38 open investigations for winery code violations in Napa County, said David Morrison, director of the county’s planning, building and environmental services department.

During the debate, Minh Tran, Napa County’s CEO, said his team was looking to ensure vintners that violate the law in the future will pay a steeper price.

“We are looking at making the penalty harsher and more severe,” Tran said.

A community task force was formed in 2015 to come up with recommendations that could be implemented in an attempt to balance the growth of the wine industry with concerns of residents. The code enforcement piece is the first part to go in front of the Napa supervisors to be followed with other efforts on traffic congestion and environmental impact — issues that may prove harder to resolve.

“This is simply step one,” County Supervisor Belia Ramos said. “There will be other policies.”

Categories: G2. Local Greens

Bohemian: Grow-Site Pain

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 09:27
Grow-Site Pain  Is Lynda Hopkins in a FOG over proposed pot-grow in Graton?


  • POT, PUMPKINS AND POLITICS Fight over fate of former pumpkin patch puts supervisor on the spot.
There’s a battle underway over the fate of a former pumpkin patch in Graton that a California cannabis entrepreneur and his company, Loud Enterprises, wants to use to grow medicinal pot rich in CBD content. And 5th District Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins is at the center of the ongoing controversy over a proposed 13.3-acre grow venture that’s opposed by the Friends of Graton (FOG).

That organization was formed to oppose a proposal made by Jack Buck, who purchased the land with his family for $1.7 million and would like to use it to grow CBD-only plants at a new business to be called Jackalope. The proposal comes to some sort of a head next week as the Sonoma County supervisors are set to take up a Hopkins-promoted plan to render Regional Trails into county parkland, which would, under county cannabis ordinances, require a 1,000-foot setback for any pot grow. The West County Trail runs along part of the proposed pot farm, which will need another $1 million to get off the ground, if its conditional use permit is approved.

Supporters and lawyers associated with the proposed business are curious about Hopkins’ written comments sent to constituents, which appear to signal her opposition to the plan. She says they don’t. Letters obtained by the Bohemian between Hopkins and a Graton constituent bear out Hopkins’ list of concerns about the proposal—but she says she hasn’t taken a position on it in her capacity as county supervisor.

Hopkins frames her concerns about the proposal across a few fronts, and plans to enjoin the rest of the supervisors to consider upgrading the designation of local county trails into county parkland at the meeting next Tuesday. That effort, she says in one of her letters to a constituent, is not specific to the Graton proposal, but was prompted by it. She says that staff errors during the writing of the Sonoma County cannabis ordinances left the trail system out of what was considered “parkland” and thus subject to the set-back.

In her back-and-forth with the Graton resident, Hopkins pushes back on the constituent’s “personal opinion” about what is a park and what isn’t—by expressing her personal view that, as a parent who uses the county trails, they’re parkland.

Hopkins also charges in a letter to a Graton supporter of the business that the applicants improperly lobbied an elected official after submitting their application. She says the applicants approached Supervisor Shirlee Zane for her support in the lobby of the supervisor’s chambers.

In her letter to the Graton constituent, which was provided to the Bohemian by the applicant’s lawyer, Hadas Alterman, Hopkins suggests that the constituent Google the term “behested donations”—legal but ethically dodgy donations made to elected officials that are monitored by the California Fair Political Practices Commission. The implication is that Hopkins has accused the applicants of trying to bribe an elected official, which, in a phone interview, Hopkins vigorously denies. “I’m doing no such thing.”

Hopkins says her concern is that the applicants offered Zane a gift of pumpkins. The supervisor says she questions the timing of anyone lobbying an elected official coupled “with some kind of an offer of some kind of gift, even if well-intentioned.”

Hopkins also says she’s heard from Graton residents who complain about the aroma from cannabis grows—that the pot smell has conspired to restrict the airwaves of some constituents. Hopkins acknowledges in her correspondence that these are “anecdotal” reports and that she has no studies to back up the claim.

Hopkins is adamant that she hasn’t rendered judgment on the proposal, even if the back-and-forth correspondence with the constituent appears to indicate that she has. She has charged Jackalope with having “not acted in good faith in their relationship with my office and the county,” and says that the applicants should have spent more time working with the community before springing their plan on Graton residents.

The applicants, through Alterman, have in turn highlighted what they call an absence of good faith on the part of the Friends of Graton, who they say have spread misinformation about the proposal that’s been amplified by Hopkins.

Some claims made by opponents and passed along to the Bohemian are that the applicants will hire gun-toting guards to look after the property; that the applicants are in the tank with Big Pharma and secretly funded to the tune of $78 million; that they’ll ruin the trail; that they’ll destroy the environment with pesticides; and that Jack Buck is related to an investor with the same name in Chicago. Printed materials put out by FOG speak of a “huge industrial” cannabis operation springing up in residents’ midst.

Hopkins also rejected hosting a proposed meeting between the applicants and their detractors, citing her need to “remain neutral” in the process. “I have not taken any position on the specific proposal,” she says, adding that she has “concerns about how individuals have handled themselves” in the application process.

In her letter to the Graton constituent, Hopkins says she wouldn’t be able to host such a meeting without commenting on the project, which she says she couldn’t do, since that could lead to “eventual litigation or challenge in court.”

Hopkins says any misinformation that sprung up about the proposal could have been mitigated by the applicants. She says she’s received no disinformation in her inbox about the proposal, even as she iterates the core of FOG’s concerns in her correspondence.

“There will always be rumours, misinformation, with any land-use proposal,” Hopkins says. “That can be eliminated if you reach out to the community before the proposal. I found out about it the same time that the community did.” She says that the applicants themselves canceled a meeting to discuss their proposal with residents, further lending a sense of mistrust about the plan.

“I am not taking any position on this proposal,” she repeats, and adds that she can “have opinions about the definition of a trail, and about how people in the community conduct themselves,” and express those to a constituent.

None of that signals support or opposition for the application, she says. All of her concerns, she says, are related to the proposal itself as she cites concerns raised by FOG about “wetlands, safety, the trail and the odors, all of which are related to the proposal.”

Alterman says she finds Hopkins’ position “really disappointing. Regardless of what your opinions are via a personal matter or political matter, I think it’s important, especially when you are in a position of leadership and power, to act with transparency and to act with integrity,” she says. “By making these statements, it comes down to the totality of the circumstances. When we look at one of the statements that Supervisor Hopkins makes, it doesn’t necessarily reek of impropriety itself. But if you take the totality—the public and private comments, something doesn’t add up.”

Alterman says that she contacted Hopkins around the time the applicants submitted their conditional-use permit, expressing an interest in being partners in the community. “I said, can we meet, we really wanted to be partners with the community. She never acknowledged the email,” Alterman says, “even as she’s blamed us and allowed people to say, ‘They never reached out.’ We did reach out. We reached out directly. We tried to be on the right foot with her. It’s disappointing that this is the elected official that we are stuck with.”




Categories: G2. Local Greens

Food & Water Watch: Fight like you live here

Wed, 12/05/2018 - 10:07
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“You’ll never even know that we were here.” 

That’s what Sunoco promised Ginny and her community about the Mariner East 2 pipeline they were building through Ginny’s neighborhood near Philadelphia.

Everything would be perfectly safe, they said.

But Ginny’s community did their research and quickly found out it was far from safe.

Sunoco’s plan was to transport extremely explosive fracked liquids in these pipes, putting over 100,000 residents and 41 schools in the blast radius of a potential explosion.

These kinds of explosions have already happened on other pipelines in rural areas.

With the density of buildings in Ginny’s neighborhood, this kind of event would be catastrophic.

The reality of this potential catastrophe really set in when Sunoco laid the pipes through backyards, and started to cut numerous trees down — not just a few, like they had said.

When Sunoco started drilling, they hit an aquifer, which contaminated the water for many people in Ginny’s community.

Later, when they started testing the pipes for leaks, it appeared that the green dye to indicate leakage was showing up on Ginny’s property. This was a major red flag.

Ginny made a choice: to stand up and fight.

She rallied with her community, and turned to Food & Water Watch to help fight Sunoco.

This battle has taken many twists and turns, and the outcome is still uncertain.

But what’s important is that there is still time to stop it, both in Ginny’s community, and in other communities across the country fighting for their basic human right to clean water and a livable environment.

Tour the neighborhood with Ginny and
see how you can help!
We’ll never take money from the corporations that got us into this mess. Not one cent. 
Food & Water Watch is powered by people like YOU. Donate
Categories: G2. Local Greens

Eureka Springs & Dr. Luis Contreras: Take a Stand for the Forests

Wed, 12/05/2018 - 09:59
“Why fit in when you were born to stand out? Dr. Seuss asked a great question. Stand your ground, don’t look the other way. Please visit a new climate and environmental justice platform, “Stand for the forests,” www.stand4forests, bringing together top environmental and Nature lovers. Dr. Luis Contreras” Readers, if you have an article you think is important or an announcement, please let us know. Take a stand for the forests

November 21, 2018

Way back in the days when the grass was still green, and the pond was still wet, and the clouds were still clean. The Lorax

With these delightful words Dr. Seuss made a prophetic warning. The Lorax discovers the trees are gone and only stumps are left. “I meant no harm. I most truly did not. But I had to grow bigger. So bigger I got,” the Once-ler explains his environmental crime.

California is on fire and deadly smoke is spreading miles away. Rains may bring mudflows, increasing the damages. Carbon from years of burning fossil fuels has changed the climate. Blaming radical environmentalists and pretending we have too many trees and too many weeds are climate crimes. Donald Trump and Ryan Zinke must go.

The true story of the forest

Nature knows how to care for the forests, magical ecosystems full of life. Before the European invasion, forests were thriving with magnificent trees. Most forests were cut down by the “illegal immigrants” to build railroads, grow crops, and burn as fuel. “Nature’s Temples, the complex world of old forests,” tells the story from an ecological perspective. We didn’t always know trees capture carbon from the atmosphere. Before Leonardo Da Vinci, the soil was said to be their source of food. Leonardo knew this was wrong, but it took many years to discover carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight built the plants. The total surface area of the leaves capturing and sequestering carbon dioxide makes forests sacred land.

Wanted: Dead or Alive

Dead trees sell for $6 per ton in Arkansas – harvesting and shipping not included. Live trees in their natural habitat are priceless. Forests filter water and air, control floods, produce oxygen, and provide shade and homes for wildlife. The role of the forests has changed from a wood basket to nature’s gift to life.

Standing for the Forests

Carbon dioxide has always been around, we can’t see it, touch it, or smell it. Today, we have a massive amount changing the climate and overheating the planet. Protecting the forests from loggers and arsonists would seem to be logical, but the US Forest Service claims thinning and prescribed fires are needed, based on obsolete management plans. When they see forests, all they see is money.

Arkadelphia is getting the short end of the stick

Pretending to improve the local economy by selling the forests is flawed. Forest owners would sell trees at the mill rates. When you drive behind a logging truck blocking the traffic, think of a funeral procession, dead trees on their way to the mill, sold for $240 per truckload.

The Shandong Sun Paper mill is mentioned by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission as their highest achievement. It has not even been built. The true story of the Sun Paper project is a state secret. The project has been subsidized with federal, state, and county funds. This is like buying 11 cows for $10,000. How much did I pay per cow? I called George, my accountant. He said, “You paid $1,000 per cow and got one for free.”

The Sun Paper $1.8 billion is capital investment. Chairman Li will own 100 percent of the mill. Li can run it any way he wants. The mill is not a public park or tourist attraction. No one in the US will benefit from the cardboard sent to China. The costs of highway construction and repairs, the Ouachita River diversion for the mill, the water treatment plant, sewer, rail spur, and everything outside of the mill are real money, paid by our taxes, carbon footprint, and public health. Has anyone called George?

This mythical fluff mill that never was would open the doors for other Chinese mills if ever built.

Why fit in when you were born to stand out? Dr. Seuss asked a great question. Stand your ground, don’t look the other way. Please visit a new climate and environmental justice platform, “Stand for the forests,” www.stand4forests, bringing together top environmental and Nature lovers. Dr. Luis Contreras
Categories: G2. Local Greens

Climate Action Now: David Attenborough Collapse of Civilization is on the horizon

Wed, 12/05/2018 - 09:49

Attenborough said: “The world’s people have spoken. Time is running out. They want you, the decision-makers, to act now. Leaders of the world, you must lead. The continuation of civilisations and the natural world upon which we depend is in your hands.”

Attenborough urged everyone to use the UN’s new ActNow chatbot, designed to give people the power and knowledge to take personal action against climate change.

David Attenborough: collapse of civilisation is on the horizon

Naturalist tells leaders at UN climate summit that fate of world is in their hands

@dpcarrington Continuation of civilisation is in your hands,’ Attenborough tells world leaders

The collapse of civilisation and the natural world is on the horizon, Sir David Attenborough has told the UN climate change summit in Poland.

The naturalist was chosen to represent the world’s people in addressing delegates of almost 200 nations who are in Katowice to negotiate how to turn pledges made in the 2015 Paris climate deal into reality.

As part of the UN’s people’s seat initiative, messages were gathered from all over the world to inform Attenborough’s address on Monday. “Right now we are facing a manmade disaster of global scale, our greatest threat in thousands of years: climate change,” he said. “If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”

‘We are last generation that can stop climate change’ – UN summit

“Do you not see what is going on around you?” asks one young man in a video message played as part of a montage to the delegates. “We are already seeing increased impacts of climate change in China,” says a young woman. Another woman, standing outside a building burned down by a wildfire, says: “This used to be my home.”

Attenborough said: “The world’s people have spoken. Time is running out. They want you, the decision-makers, to act now. Leaders of the world, you must lead. The continuation of civilisations and the natural world upon which we depend is in your hands.”

Attenborough urged everyone to use the UN’s new ActNow chatbot, designed to give people the power and knowledge to take personal action against climate change.

Recent studies show the 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years, and the top four in the past four years. Climate action must be increased fivefold to limit warming to the 1.5C scientists advise, according to the UN.

The COP24 summit was also addressed by António Guterres, the UN secretary general. “Climate change is running faster than we are and we must catch up sooner rather than later before it is too late,” he said. “For many, people, regions and even countries this is already a matter of life or death.”

Guterres said the two-week summit was the most important since Paris and that it must deliver firm funding commitments. “We have a collective responsibility to invest in averting global climate chaos,” he said.

He highlighted the opportunities of the green economy: “Climate action offers a compelling path to transform our world for the better. Governments and investors need to bet on the green economy, not the grey.”

Andrzej Duda, the president of Poland, spoke at the opening ceremony, saying the use of “efficient” coal technology was not contradictory to taking climate action. Poland generates 80% of its electricity from coal but has cut its carbon emissions by 30% since 1988 through better energy efficiency.

Paul Ehrlich: ‘Collapse of civilisation is a near certainty within decades’ Read more

Friends of the Earth International said the sponsorship of the summit by a Polish coal company “raises the middle finger to the climate”.

A major goal for the Polish government at the summit is to promote a “just transition” for workers in fossil fuel industries into other jobs. “Safeguarding and creating sustainable employment and decent work are crucial to ensure public support for long-term emission reductions,” says a declaration that may be adopted at the summit and is supported by the EU.

In the run-up to the summit, Donald Trump expressed denial about climate change, while there were attacks on the UN process from Brazil’s incoming administration under Jair Bolsonaro.

Ricardo Navarro, of Friends of the Earth in El Salvador, said: “We must build an alternative future based on a just energy transformation. We face the threat of rightwing populist and climate-denying leaders further undermining climate protection and racing to exploit fossil fuels. We must resist.”

Another goal of the summit is for nations to increase their pledges to cut carbon emissions; currently they are on target for a disastrous 3C of warming. The prime minister of Fiji, Frank Bainimarama, who led the 2017 UN climate summit, said his country had raised its ambitions. He told the summit: “If we can do it, you can do it.”

In these critical times …

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The Guardian’s editorial independence means that we can pursue difficult investigations, challenging the powerful and holding them to account. No one edits our editor and no one steers our opinion.

In 2018, The Guardian broke the story of Cambridge Analytica’s Facebook data breach; we recorded the human fallout from family separations; we charted the rise of the far right, and documented the growing impact of gun violence on Americans’ lives. We reported daily on climate change as a matter of urgent priority. It was readers’ support that made this work possible.

As 2019 approaches, we would like to ask for your ongoing support. In an era of disinformation campaigns and partisan bots, trustworthy news sources that sort facts from lies are under threat like never before. Unlike many others we haven’t put up a paywall – we want to keep The Guardian’s reporting open to everyone, regardless of what they can afford. But we depend on voluntary contributions from readers.

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more on this story



Categories: G2. Local Greens

Thank you Congressman Jared Huffman

Wed, 12/05/2018 - 09:28
And thanks to those of you who raised your voices, concerned about the loss of research materials.  Our own Congressman Huffman worked on this and we are very grateful.  It’s hard to know if anyone would have paid attention if the Congressman had not taken action. A Request to Streamline Federal Document Purges Has Researchers on Edge The Department of the Interior is seeking to streamline its schedule for document archiving (and destruction). Some scientists worry about what will be lost. 11.28.2018  / BY Jen Pinkowski  


REPUBLISH LAST MONTH, James R. Jacobs, the federal government information librarian at Stanford University Libraries, sent an alarmed message to a few library listservs: “I wanted to alert you to a very disturbing thing happening in the National Archives world that may severely impact research, especially historical and scientific research.” The Department of the Interior (DOI), Jacobs added, was seeking “permission to destroy records about oil and gas leases, mining, dams, wells, timber sales, marine conservation, fishing, endangered species, non-endangered species, critical habitats, land acquisition, and lots more.”

The message spread among information specialists and government transparency advocates — and it was true: The DOI does plan to destroy potentially millions of documents dating back 50 years. Approval for the plan rests with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

Of course, document archiving — and destruction — is routine at all federal agencies, and only between 1 and 3 percent of federal records are ever retained permanently. Maintenance typically follows a set schedule, whereby records — both digital and paper — are retained for a set period of time before being shredded, mulched, or, in the case of electronic documents, simply erased or made unreadable. In this case, however, the DOI is seeking permission from the National Archives to consolidate pre-existing schedules into what the National Archives calls “big buckets,” meaning requests for eliminating records could be made in larger groups.

The request was made more than two years ago, under the Obama administration, and officials from the DOI did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Still, some information specialists and government-transparency advocates say there are reasons for concern, including the potential for dubious classifications, a too-short retention schedule for some records, and an apparent tendency on the part of agency officials to protect records relating to economic development over other kinds of documents.

Another worry is that the record-keeping process may become overtly politicized, given the DOI’s additional request that authority for records destruction be shifted to the Office of the Secretary of the Interior, a political appointee. The current secretary, Ryan Zinke, has been the subject of three probes by the DOI’s own internal watchdog agency, one of which reportedly has been referred to the Justice Department.

The document purge also comes at a time of increasing high-level political interference in day-to-day operations of federal agencies and employees — especially scientists, whose work is documented in many of the records currently on the DOI chopping block.

The marked records come from all agencies within the DOI, including the United States Geological Survey, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Fish and Wildlife Service. About two-thirds are characterized as “temporary” and will be destroyed after a given time period, which can range from three to 75 years. The rest are deemed “permanent” and, in most cases, will be sent to NARA for storage.

No one seems to know exactly how many documents are involved, but NARA outreach specialist James Stossel calls it a “large volume.” Members of the public were allowed to send comments to NARA about the DOI’s request to NARA until November 26. In the past, “we have used these comments to work with the agencies to extend the proposed retention period or even to identify a records series as permanent,” says Stossel. The agency has already received hundreds of comments that “generally express concern that the Department of Interior is being authorized to dispose of any records.”

Due to the increased interest in this case, Stossel adds, NARA will discuss these comments with the DOI and require the agency “to make any needed changes to the schedule.” This process could take anywhere from a few days to several months, after which another 15-day public comment period will commence.

Jacobs, who is also a founder of Free Government Information, an online community dedicated to promoting access to government information, says the documents at risk include observational scientific data in endangered species recovery plans, critical habitat files, energy and minerals applications case files, and land use planning materials.

“This is data that once it’s destroyed,” he says, “you can’t replace it or re-create it.”

GOVERNMENT GENERATES paperwork. When a federal agency wants to toss some of it — storage can be costly and take up a lot of space — it must ask for NARA’s approval with what’s called a record disposition authority request (also known as a records schedule). NARA then posts a notice on the Federal Register, a “daily journal” of the federal government’s activities, as it did with the new DOI proposal.

Russ Kick, a government transparency advocate and investigative archivist, asked NARA for the schedule and related documents, which he published on his website, AltGov2 on October 16.

Not everyone has found cause for worry. Ya-Wei Li, the director for biodiversity at the Environmental Policy Innovation Center, calls himself a “hoarder” of documents related to the Endangered Species Act. “I have submitted a lot of FOIA requests to [the] Fish and Wildlife Service over the years, and the categories for information that are proposed for destruction here are not ones that, to me, are high priorities for things that I would personally ask for to better understand government decisions.”

Jacobs, however, pored over the documents at the AltGov2 website and then compared notes with others. “I think I was justified in my concern,” Jacobs says.

Some records, for example, were found to have remarkably short retention policies. These include, for example, records related to sea lampreys — parasitic fish that wreaked havoc in the Great Lakes in the 20th century and continue to be a problem. A science-rich, decades-long effort to combat the invasion has seen some success, but according to a Fish and Wildlife Service records policy that’s been in place since at least 2006 — and echoed on the DOI schedule — sea lamprey data should be kept for just three years, reviewed annually, and destroyed “when no longer needed.”

“Three years is not even close to how long that data could be useful to somebody,” says Margaret Janz, a librarian at the University of Pennsylvania and a co-founder of Data Refuge, a government-data rescue effort.

Other records have confusing and even contradictory classifications. For example, one “temporary” file, slated to be kept for 75 years, documents “the data-gathering, analysis, and evaluation activities that are conducted to assess the validity of potential quantities of undiscovered oil and gas resources, natural gas, and other leasable minerals.” These records are labeled both as having “little to no research value,” but also as having “scientific worth” that can be “re-used to create other records.”

THOUGH FEDERAL agencies set their own guidelines about record retention, part of the problem with the DOI’s document purge request may be how NARA decides what constitutes a valuable record. Stossel says NARA is following its appraisal policy, which emphasizes saving records that document “the rights of American citizens, the actions of federal officials, and the national experience.” The at-risk scientific files, meanwhile, fall into the latter category, and the policy notes that “much of this information does not have archival value.”

The stress on keeping records related to the “actions of federal officials,” is one reason so many files are labeled as temporary. “They mean political appointees or high-level officials,” Jacobs says, but “a lot of these case files are data and information from DOI employees in the field doing scientific research or other sorts of work.”

Another factor is that NARA has asked agencies to consolidate their records into massive sets of files. One benefit of this approach, according to NARA, is that it lowers the number of schedules an agency has to make. (In this case, the DOI’s proposed schedule consolidates 411 record groups into just 23.) One potential downside is that records could be harder to find. “They’re making the haystack bigger,” Jacobs says. “The needles may still be in there, but it’s going to be more difficult to pull them out.”

Moreover, Janz says, “You’re also taking the decision-making further away from the people who actually created the data, who actually work with the data, who can give you a better idea of its value.”

Then there is the lack of transparency — although this is a common problem for federal records more broadly. “To call it opaque,” says Patrice McDermott, the director of the government accountability organization Government Information Watch, “is generous” — though she also adds: “In fairness, if you look through the notices, you will see the extraordinary volume they are dealing with. They are working to make the process more transparent and more public-facing.”

Whether the public comments and other efforts from transparency groups — including a list of recommendations forthcoming from the Digital Library Federation (DLF) working group on government records transparency and accountability, which includes Janz — help save any of the scientific data remains to be seen. (The DLF is a network of libraries, universities, and other institutions organized under the nonprofit Council on Library and Information Resources.)

In the meantime, Kick argues that the National Archives’ attempts to downplay the DOI requests as business as usual and standard practice is precisely the problem. “It shouldn’t be happening this way,” he says.

Jen Pinkowski is a science journalist based in NYC who has reported around the world for The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Geographic, Mental Floss, Al Jazeera, Archaeology, and Time, among other publications.

Categories: G2. Local Greens

New analysis of solar and wind should put the natural gas industry on notice

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 09:52
Significantly, the cost of renewables have dropped so sharply, that building and operating both solar and wind are, in many places, actually cheaper than simply operating an existing coal or nuclear plant.”  Renewables to capture two-thirds of the $10 trillion the world will invest in new generation through 2040. Joe Romm Nov 15, 2018, 12:47 pm Wind turbines spin behind a field of solar panels in August 2008 near Bitterfeld, Germany. CREDIT: The stunning price drops in wind and solar power have continued. No longer are U.S. solar and wind plants merely cheaper than coal plants — they are also more affordable than new natural gas plants.And this is without subsidies or a price on carbon. Indeed, according to the financial firm Lazard Ltd, in many areas, building and running new renewables is now cheaper than just running old coal and nuclear plants.

The bad news, however, is that while renewables are projected to capture two-thirds of the $10 trillion the world will invest in new generation through 2040, this will not be enough to avoid catastrophic warming, the International Energy Agency (IEA) reports in its latest annual World Energy Outlook.

But let’s start with the good news.

The average cost of electricity from wind and solar plants all over their lifetime — the LCOE — has continued to drop sharply in recent years. CREDIT: LAZARD.

Lazard’s widely-used yearly benchmarking study on the Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) — the cost of power from a plant averaged over its entire lifetime — found that, in the United States, utility-scale solar and onshore wind continue to deliver cheaper and cheaper electricity, as the chart above shows.

The LCOE of onshore wind power has declined 69 percent since 2008 and almost 7 percent since last year. Large-scale solar photovoltaics meanwhile has seen a stunning 88 percent price drop — and 13 percent since 2017.

As a result, both onshore wind farms and big solar projects are both cheaper to build than new natural gas plants.

New large-scale solar and onshore wind power projects are not just cheaper than coal, they are both cheaper than gas. CREDIT: LAZARD.

Significantly, the cost of renewables have dropped so sharply, that building and operating both solar and wind are, in many places, actually cheaper than simply operating an existing coal or nuclear plant.

We have “reached an inflection point” in global power markets, explained George Bilicic, Vice Chair and Global Head of Lazard’s Power, Energy & Infrastructure Group. Moreover, the rapid price drops in storage, especially lithium ion batteries, means “we are beginning to see a clearer path forward for economic viability in storage technologies.”

The bad news, though, is that according to IEA’s latest annual energy report, the sharply declining cost of clean energy, by itself, is not enough to avert catastrophic warming…………………………………..


Categories: G2. Local Greens

More Monsanto Victims Will Soon Get Their Day in Court

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 09:36
More Monsanto Victims Will Soon Get Their Day in Court

by Katherine Paul, Community

Dewayne Johnson never wanted to be a celebrity acting out his life on an international stage. He’d much rather be a healthy man, going to work, taking care of his family, making a modest-but-steady living.

In a recent interview with Time magazine, the former school groundskeeper said:

“I’ve never really been a fan of attention or fanfare. And now it seems like that’s taken over my life. I get requests for media interviews from all over the world, and people ask me to come to their events and speak, and I’ve had people telling me they want to buy my ‘life rights’ to try to get movie deals . . . It’s crazy.”

Crazy, maybe. But Johnson, who recently won a $289-million judgment (later reduced to $78 million) against Monsanto (now Bayer) for manufacturing a product he says (and the jury agreed) caused his terminal cancer—and for hiding evidence of that product’s lethal toxicity—has perhaps done more than any one single person to shine a spotlight on how bad Roundup weedkiller is. And how deceitful Monsanto has been.

There are more than 8,000 claims pending against Monsanto in state courts, about 620 awaiting trial in federal court, as more victims come forward to tell their stories of how they believed Monsanto’s public claims of safety, only to become deathly ill from exposure to Roundup.

Next up is the case of Edward Hardeman, whose trial is set to begin on February, 25, 2019, in a San Francisco federal court. Reuters reports that Hardeman’s case was selected as “a so-called bellwether, or test trial, frequently used in U.S. product liability mass litigation to help both sides gauge the range of damages and define settlement options.”

Bayer CEO Werner Baumann says the lawsuits are just “nuisances.” Maybe. But the Germany-based chemical giant’s shareholders aren’t happy about them. Feeling the pressure, Baumann recently announced the company will sell a number of businesses and cut 12,000 jobs, after Bayer’s stock dropped 35 percent.

Two different cases, two different messages

In some way, Hardeman’s case may resonate more with the average person who may have at one time bought Roundup, for home use. According to Reuters:

Hardeman began using the Roundup brand herbicide with glyphosate in the 1980s to control poison oak and weeds on his property and sprayed “large volumes” of the chemical for many years on a regular basis, according to court documents. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph system, in February 2015 and filed his lawsuit a year later.

Hardeman could be you, or your neighbor or family member, who heads over to Costco or Walmart or your local hardware store several times every summer, to buy bottles of Roundup to to kill weeds on your own property.

We haven’t been able to nail down what portion of the more than $4 billion in Roundup sales are direct sales to consumers. But it’s significant enough that U.S. retailers are “sticking by” the product, despite the public’s growing awareness of its potential harm.

Organic Consumers Association and Beyond Pesticides jointly filed a lawsuit against Monsanto for intentionally misleading the public by labeling its popular weedkiller Roundup as “target[ing] an enzyme found in plants but not in people or pets.”

In fact, according to scientists, although humans and other mammals themselves do not have a shikimate pathway, the shikimate pathway is present in bacteria, including beneficial bacteria that inhabit the mammalian gut and are essential to overall health. EPSP is therefore “found in . . . people [and] pets.” Just like it inhibits EPSP synthase in weeds, the active ingredient in Roundup inhibits EPSP synthase in these human and pet gut bacteria, and just like it targets weeds, the active ingredient in Roundup targets the human and pet gut bacteria the enzyme targeted by Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, is found in the gut bacteria of people and pets.

Johnson case draws attention to use of Roundup where kids play

Johnson’s case is different. He used commercially sold Roundup on a regular basis, on the multiple school properties he managed. He wasn’t your average homeowner, buying Roundup at Walmart, to keep his yard tidy.

But his case shouldn’t resonate any less with the public—especially parents of schoolchildren. He told the Time interviewer he “had to be at work by sun up to make sure we had time to spray before the kids got to school.” He also insisted that his staff wear protective gear. Kids don’t wear protective gear to school. Nor should they have to, most parents would agree.

Now that Johnson knows how toxic Roundup is, and how hard Monsanto works to keep that information from the public, he said he’s on a mission. Despite how overwhelmed he is with his new “celebrity” status, not to mention his terminal illness, Johnson said he wants “to see all these schools stop using glyphosate, first California, then the rest of the country.”

We couldn’t agree more. That’s why we’re working with other organizations and parent activists to get Roundup out of schools. If you’d like to help, sign our petition to the National School Boards Association. And take this flyer to your school board members, and your next PTA meeting.

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit grassroots consumer advocacy organization. To keep up with OCA news and alerts, sign up for our newsletter.



Categories: G2. Local Greens

FAW UPDATE: Atascadero Creek Coho Salmon Study announcement

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 09:08

FAW UPDATE: Atascadero Creek Coho Salmon Study announcement

Gold Ridge Resource and Conservation District (GRRCD) has embarked on an ambitious project to study the Atascadero Creek sub-watershed to determine what obstacles are preventing Coho salmon migration. Coho were historically present in Atascadero Creek. Many of the upper reaches, including Redwood and Jonive Creeks have ideal salmon rearing habitat. The study is funded by a grant from California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

If you have creekside property and would like to grant limited creek access for this study or if you know of anyone who might want to participate, please contact GRRCD at 823-5244 for more information.

An article

from the GRRCD newsletter about the project is below.

Anna Ransome
for Friends of Atascadero Wetlands

Subwatershed Coho Habitat Assessment Project

Originally published in Stewards of the Land, Vol 18, November 2018.

Lying just west of Sebastopol is the Atascadero-Green Valley Creek watershed. This important watershed starts in the coastal hills, flows through Graton and Forestville, and continues north to empty into the Russian River. It has been identified as critical and restorable habitat for the endangered Central California Coast coho salmon, and it regularly supports the Russian’s most robust wild coho population.

However, for reasons that have never been identified, the Atascadero Creek subwatershed, which is the system’s largest subwatershed, hasn’t shown evidence of coho since the California Department of Fish and Wildlife started monitoring the creek in the 1960s. The lack of coho is puzzling since the upper tributaries— particularly Redwood and Jonive Creeks—appear to have high-quality salmon rearing reaches, which are known to contain steelhead trout. Without coho present, the area hasn’t been a high priority for restoration efforts. The lack of attention to this critical subwatershed has also been in part a problem of inaccessibility, due both to the highly parcelized ownership of the Atascadero’s upper stream reaches and to the access challenges imposed by the braided wetland complex comprising its lower reach (known as the Atascadero marsh, located in the vicinity of Graton). However, with the Russian River’s coho recovery program releasing coho juveniles into the Atascadero’s upper tributaries as of last fall, a comprehensive planning effort to support their survival has never been more pressing.

In September 2018, the Gold Ridge RCD received a grant from the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Proposition 1 program to work with the Atascadero watershed community to perform an assessment of the Atascadero subwatershed, to identify potential limiting factors to coho passage and survival, and to identify and prioritize site-specific projects to address them. In addition, the assessment includes a stormwater analysis, as high winter stormflow has been identified as a primary limiting factor to coho in lower Green Valley, with the Atascadero subwatershed contributing significantly. Additionally, the RCD’s work in Atascadero will coincide with and support Sonoma Water’s work reshaping the mainstem of the Green Valley Creek to alleviate winter flooding across Green Valley Road.

The Atascadero subwatershed is sizeable; it comprises 60% of Green Valley’s blue-line streams and contains 21 stream-miles. The assessment work will require extensive collaboration from over 180 private landowners throughout the stream network. Over the next several months, Gold Ridge RCD staff will be contacting Atascadero Creek landowners to request limited access for the on-the-ground stream habitat assessments and identification of potential fish passage barriers, as well as learn from the Atascadero Creek community what resource issues they have that we may be able to help address.

The Gold Ridge RCD will soon begin conducting extensive outreach efforts to garner landowner support for this important work. If you live along a stream corridor in the subwatershed (shown in green), including Sexton, Jonive, Redwood, Pitkin, or one of the many unnamed tributaries, and are interested in participating, please contact Sierra Cantor at: or 707-823-5244.

Funding provided by CA Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Proposition 1 Program, with matching funds from Sonoma Water Cooperative Agreement.


Categories: G2. Local Greens

‘Dogwood’ Timber Harvest Plan Rejected for Gualala River Floodplain

Mon, 12/03/2018 - 11:06
Redwood Needles Sierra Club: ‘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 is what clear cutting looks like. Dogwood wanted selective logging on and above the Gualala River which is designated as a “Scenic River.”

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.
Categories: G2. Local Greens

A staffing shortage clouds the future of Napa Valley restaurants

Mon, 12/03/2018 - 10:44
A staffing shortage clouds the future of Napa Valley restaurants

Tim Carl

Updated Dec 1, 2018
“Staffing has become the greatest challenge to every restaurant in the Napa Valley,” said Redd’s former general manager, Guy Rebentisch. “First it’s too expensive to live here for many — two of my staff drove in from Sacramento four or five times a week.” “Restaurants have to compete with so many wineries that are now offering food pairings and lunches, with in-house chefs creating menus to keep their visitors engaged. Tourists aren’t necessarily interested in a big dinner or fancy lunch when they can have a food experience at the winery. It’s really tough on restaurants now.”

The Charter Oak in St. Helena opened to the public in 2017. Knowing of staffing challenges, the restaurant tweaked its operation to achieve efficiencies.  Tim Carl photo ▲

Napa Valley restaurants are finding it increasingly difficult to hire and retain qualified personnel. The causes are partly driven by the high cost of living but also appear linked to broader trends: lack of affordable housing, higher-paying alternative careers (e.g., construction) and slowing local population growth. These trends are exacerbated when coupled with the increasing number of Napa Valley tourists, resorts, restaurants and wineries.

“Everyone is dealing with staffing issues — it’s unsustainable,” said Richard Reddington, whose popular Yountville Redd restaurant closed in October.

These local challenges appear to be part of a broader national phenomenon. In 2017 the National Restaurant Association reported that nearly 40 percent of its members listed labor recruitment as their top challenge, which was up from only 15 percent in 2015.

However, the impact is perhaps hitting independent Napa Valley restaurants the hardest: So far in 2018 five well-liked eateries have closed with each of their owners pointing, at least in part, to the difficulties of finding and retaining qualified staff.

Beyond the closings, new restaurant openings have been delayed, and some eateries are scrapping or have modified their business models toward less-labor-intensive alternatives, while some of the valley’s finest expert culinarians have packed their bags. The data The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) reports that Napa County had 62 Type 47 restaurant permits in 2008. In 2018 there are 82 such permits, a 32 percent increase. However, these are not the only permits that allow the sale of food, and so according to the Visit Napa Valley website, there are actually now 188 places to dine in the valley. Since 2010, wineries can serve food to pair with their wine offerings. There were 557 Type 02 winery licenses in Napa County in 2008, according to the ABC, and a total of 1,616 such licenses in 2018 (a 190 percent increase). Some wineries have multiple 02 licenses — one for their winery and others for their tasting room(s). There are also hundreds of “caterer” licenses currently issued in Napa County.

According to a recent City of Napa Economic Development Division report, in 2017 there were 2,365 total hotel/resort rooms already existing in the city of Napa and the surrounding area. The report says lodging applications in process or in the conceptual design phase will increase that number to 4,783 (a 102 percent expected increase). Most of these hotels and resorts are also building new restaurants to serve their guests.

House prices are out of reach: according to Zillow, the median sold-price of a single-family home in Napa County in 2011 was $361,000 but in 2018 reached $706,000, a 95.5 percent increase. Compare that to the median sold-price of a single-family home in the United States in 2011, which was $152,000 and today is $235,000 — only a 54 percent increase.

The Napa Valley had about 2.9 million visitors in 2012, according to a Destination Analysis report, but that number grew to 3.5 million visitors in 2016, according to Visit Napa Valley data — a growth of more than 20 percent in four short years.

California census data reports the population of Napa County fell from 141,784 on Jan. 1, 2017, to 141,294 on Jan 1. 2018 — a 0.3 percent decrease.

What these numbers point to is a staggering increasing need for restaurant laborers while at the same time there is a stagnant or even shrinking pool of local talent.

No applicants

Turnover in the restaurant business is nothing new, but here it’s different. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016 the annual national turnover rate within the restaurant and accommodations sector was 72.9 percent, compared to 46.1 percent in the total U.S. private sector. However, Eater reported that a local study suggested that in 2017 Bay Area turnover for cooks was as high as 120 percent per year.

“Finding and keeping staff in the Napa Valley is at crisis levels,” said Tamer Hamawi, co-owner of Napa’s newly opened Gran Electrica. “We’ve given up placing ads because there is no point — it costs money and we don’t get any responses. Whereas in New York I get hundreds of applicants for a job opening, here I am lucky to get one or two.”



Categories: G2. Local Greens