Entries categorized "Environment"

Betting on a crash – confronting those speculating on our future

The dark side of capitalism is that disruption, change and scarcity all provide avenues of profit for those willing to speculate on its consequences.

Paradise-on-fire
Paradise on fire

By Nick Buxton

It is hard to imagine reading the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report and feeling energised and excited. After all, the report, published in October 2018, warned that we are on a path to catastrophic climate change, way beyond the maximum 1.5 degrees temperature increase goal made three years ago at the United Nations climate conference in Paris. It leaves me with a sinking feeling of dread. Yet, strange as it may seem, some who read the IPCC report may well have reacted with joy. Yes, at the chance to make money. The dark side of capitalism is that disruption, change and scarcity all provide avenues of profit for those willing to speculate on its consequences.

The seemingly shameless capacity of some people to seek profits in the most desperate of situations was brought starkly home recently when I read about a financial investor in Dallas who as Hurricane Harvey approached the US east coast realised that investing in short-term housing in Houston and South Florida would be profitable as people fled their homes and looked for anywhere to stay. “We saw occupancy go to 100 percent in a lot of those hotels,” says the Dallas investor. “We didn’t crush it. But we made 25 percent, 30 percent, pretty quick.”

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Local Sierra Club and Audubon Groups Raise Concerns about Burrowing Owls at Mace 25

Burrowing-owls
Buow picture taken by R. Millstein, 8/2017

Davisites may recall the large proposed business park, the Mace Ranch Innovation Center (MRIC), which would be sited on the farmland outside of the Mace curve to the east of Davis, subject to a Measure R vote.  The project proposal was withdrawn in 2016, but the commission on which I serve, the Open Space and Habitat Commission, has been told informally that the project may be re-proposed again in some form.  In its original form, the proposal included 25 acres of land purchased with funds from the City’s Open Space program, widely referred to as the “Mace 25.”  (See my op-ed in the Davis Enterprise, “How 25 acres of open space got into the MRIC proposal” for the history of how that occurred).

In response to the widespread belief that the MRIC proposal will back in front of the City, two local environmental groups have raised concerns about the presence of burrowing owls on the Mace 25: the local chapters of the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society. Note that burrowing owls have been designated as a “species of special concern” in California, and their numbers have been declining precipitously in recent years.

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Valley Clean Energy Board Meeting to Be Held on April 11

VCE(From Press Release) The Valley Clean Energy board of directors will meet at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 11, in the Community Chambers at Davis City Hall, 23 Russell Blvd. in Davis. The meeting is open to the public.

The board — which includes members of the Davis and Woodland city councils and the Yolo County Board of Supervisors — is expected to discuss strategies for increasing the amount of renewable power that VCE will offer, with a focus on local renewable resources.

VCE, the local electricity provider, launched last June and provides cleaner energy at competitive rates to 55,000 local customers. For more information, visit https://valleycleanenergy.org. To receive agendas by email, sign up at https://valleycleanenergy.org/get-in-touch/.

 


Update on Pesticide Use in the City of Davis

Central ParkFollowing is a copy of a letter sent by Alan Pryor, a Natural Resources Commission member, concerning pesticide use in Davis and the qualifications required for consideration for the IPM Specialist position for which the City is now seeking a replacement. The letter was sent to Stan Gryzco (Public Works Assistant Director), Richard Tsai (Environmental Resources Manager), and John McNearny (Wildlife Resource Specialist) as the top 3 City officials overseeing the as-yet-to-be-replaced Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Specialist.

Readers may recall that the previous beloved IPM Specialist, Martin Guerena left the position under unusual circumstances and was subsequently awarded the City's Environmental Recognition Award last year in the Individual Category for his decade of service to the City.

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Cool Cuisine Burger Battle Brings Magnificent Medley of Flavors

BurgerbattleWith just a little over a week left of the March Cool Cuisine vegan Burger Battle, I thought now would be a good time to share the burgers that I’ve tried so far.  I hope to try at least one or two more before the end of the month.  (Full disclosure: I’m not actually vegan, more like a flexitarian).

My partner and I have tried four of the entries, focusing not on the burgers-trying-to-be-like-meat, but rather on the more unusual offerings.  Our burgers have come from the Davis Food Co-op, Yeti Restaurant, Redrum, and Zumapoke & Lush Ice (with the Upper Crust Bakery providing vegan buns for the Co-op and Zumapoke).  All were creative, flavorful, and, most importantly, delicious.  Of the four, the one from the Co-op is probably my favorite… but not by much.  Each was outstanding in its own way.

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Bob Dunning Doesn’t Understand that the City’s Declaration of a Climate Emergency Is No Laughing Matter

ClimateChangeComicWe are indeed in a climate emergency, and I am glad that the City Council has officially recognized it; big kudos also to the citizen activists who urged them to. I look forward to seeing the concrete actions that will be made in light of the recent Declaration.

Yet apparently not everyone feels this way.  In a pair of recent columns (here and here), Bob Dunning made fun of the Declaration with a series of obviously ridiculous proposals that, he suggests (tongue firmly in cheek) the City could implement.

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Is JUMP bike’s minimum age limit a violation of Federal law?

JUMP image smallThe following is a modified version of a letter I sent on February 11 to Ryan Rzepecki, CEO/Founder of JUMP, the electric bike share brand owned by Uber that is the sole provider of bike share in Davis (as well as Sacramento, UC Davis and West Sacramento). I have not yet received a reply.

The Bicycling, Transportation and Street Safety Commission (BTSSC) holds its next monthly meeting this Thursday, March 14, at 5:30 pm at the Davis Senior Center, A St. entrance. An evaluation of Sacramento JUMP is on the agenda. I have created a series of “Commissioner’s Reports” which address the age limits, weight limits, speed limit settings, parking capabilities and other aspects of the system.  This is available here as a Google Doc or as a PDF at the agenda link for this meeting.

In my view Jump’s minimum age limit of 18 and maximum weight limit of 210 lbs and the City and/or region’s required  speed assistance limit of 15 mph of the bike and restriction on parking flexibility are contrary to our city’s culture, goals and traditions, and do not respect the balance of safety and convenience created in State law. They reduce the capability of the JUMP bike in general and minimize the advantages of a moderate electric boost. While addressing these issues, I will do something more specific: I will make a motion to ask Council to determine if the minimum age limit may be against Federal law -- it is the age issue which I focus on in this letter… - T. Edelman

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Why we need a Green New Deal and Why Garamendi and Feinstein should cosponsor it

Paradise-on-fire
Paradise on fire

I just dug up my lecture notes from a class on “Science, Technology, and Values” from Spring 1998, my first year of teaching, more than 20 years ago.  At that time, the Sierra Club warned that global warming would lead to heat waves, disease, vanishing habitat, and extreme weather.  They urged:

  1. The Clinton administration should be negotiating a strong, enforceable and legally binding global warming treaty that protects our children's future by cutting global warming pollution 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2005.
  2. The president should raise miles-per-gallon (CAFE) standards to from 27.5 mpg to 45 mpg for cars and from 20.7 mpg to 34 mpg for light trucks, as the majority of the commission he appointed recommended.
  3. Increase research and investment into clean car technology like hydrogen fuel cells and improved batteries.
  4. Cut subsidies for oil and coal development. Increase funding for clean, renewable energy like wind and solar power.
  5. Raise energy efficiency standards for home appliances and electronics. Create incentives for homeowners and businesses to become more efficient.
  6. Require that any energy industry restructuring encourage energy efficiency and the use of clean, renewable technology, and that dirty, coal-fired power plants switch to cleaner natural gas.

Of the above recommendations, either they have not been done or they were done insufficiently. 

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Davis Chefs Battle to Create the Best Planet-Friendly, Plant-Based Burger, March 1-31

Graphic logo and participanThere’s no easier way to do something good for the planet (and your health) than to sit down and bite into a juicy, flavor-packed plant-based burger with friends or family. And thanks to COOL Cuisine, a partner of Cool Davis, seventeen eateries in Davis will be offering plant-based burgers or sandwiches on their menus throughout March as part of a fun contest involving all diners as judges.

Beef is a very resource-intensive product. The Burger Battle will offer a wide range of alternatives that are taste sensations, filling, and that diners can feel good about ordering. A beef burger can use more than twice the acreage and emit 10 times the greenhouse gasses than a meal made from plants. To produce one beef burger is takes the same amount of water as 33 showers or washing your car 15 times. In the last year many Silicon Valley companies rolled out patties that mimic the mouth-feel, juiciness, look, and flavor of a beef burger. All competing burgers, whether made from scratch or using commercial patties, and side dishes offered will contain no animal products.

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Fresh energy to start an exciting new year

By Tom Stallard and Don Saylor

A new year offers a clean slate — a chance to celebrate achievements, assess the challenges of the past and start the new year with fresh energy.

Our biggest achievement in 2018 was the launch of Valley Clean Energy (VCE), our local public electricity program. With years of planning and lots of community support, we officially started serving the cities of Woodland and Davis and unincorporated Yolo County last June. Over the past six months, VCE has been providing greener energy, customer choice, local control and reinvestment in the community.

VCE’s standard portfolio of electricity includes 42 percent renewable energy, compared to 33 percent provided by PG&E. This allows VCE customers to help our region and our state take a big step toward changing our fossil fuel-based economy.

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VCE customers: No interruption of service from PG&E's bankruptcy filing

VCE(From press release). Customers of Valley Clean Energy — the local green energy provider that partners with PG&E for delivery of electricity to customers in Davis, Woodland, and unincorporated Yolo County — need not fear an interruption in service following PG&E’s announcement Monday that it intends to seek bankruptcy protection.

“We’re watching these developments very closely,” said Mitch Sears, VCE’s interim general manager. “But PG&E has said it does not expect any impact to electric or natural gas service for its customers as a result of the Chapter 11 bankruptcy process. That is good news for our customers.”

VCE, a not-for-profit public agency, delivers cost-competitive clean electricity, product choice, price stability, and energy efficiency. The local agency’s power portfolio provides higher levels of renewable energy than PG&E does, reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and providing reinvestment in the community.

For more about VCE, visit ValleyCleanEnergy.org.


Davis Parks Functionally Went Pesticide-Free in 2018

PesticideapplicationBy Alan Pryor

Following are comments I delivered to the Davis City Council at their last December meeting.

My name is Alan Pryor and I am on the City's Natural Resources Commission and their Hazardous Materials Subcommittee. But I am speaking tonight as a private citizen. I am here to speak about the City's pesticide management policies and deliver some bad news but also some very good news.

First the bad news - You may recall the current Integrated Pest Management Policy was approved by Council in November of 2017. This policy was recommended by Staff over the written objections of many citizens and 3 of the City's own Commissions who urged the Council not to rubber stamp Staff's proposal because they felt it did not go nearly far enough to reduce pesticides exposure – particularly in our Parks where the majority of exposure to children occurred.

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SACOG Approves $2.9 Million Grant For Installation of Electric Vehicle Charging and Mobility Hubs in Yolo County

VCEThe Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) board of directors has approved a $2.9 million grant to Valley Clean Energy (VCE) that will lay the foundation for increased electric vehicle charging opportunities and multi-modal transportation hubs in Yolo County. The City of Davis, Yolo County and the City of Woodland joined forces with VCE to submit a joint application for grant funds.

"We are excited about this grant and believe it lays a strong foundation for the future growth of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure in the City of Davis and throughout the region,” said Lucas Frerichs, Davis City Council member and chair of the Valley Clean Energy board of directors. “This is one of the benefits that community choice energy providers like VCE offer — to partner with local government agencies and support infrastructure development.”

Last week’s action by SACOG will result in larger numbers of publicly available, networked electric vehicle (EV) charging stations throughout Davis, Woodland, and Yolo County.  The charging infrastructure will include up to sixty 240-volt, level 2 chargers, along with two to five fast chargers near highway corridors such as Interstates 5, 80 and 505 and Highway 113.

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PG&E Exit Fees? OK, But Let’s Be Fair

VCEBy Lucas Frerichs and Tom Stallard

In a disappointing decision, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) recently voted to approve increases to the “exit fees” charged to Valley Clean Energy (VCE) customers by PG&E.  Valley Clean Energy is our official locally governed electricity provider, bringing cleaner energy at competitive rates to Davis, Woodland, and unincorporated Yolo County. It began serving 55,000 customer accounts this past June.

The decision by the CPUC to raise the exit fee affects all 19 community choice aggregation (CCA) programs in the state, including VCE.

The exit fee is called the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment, and if you are a VCE customer, you will see it on your PG&E bill. This fee is charged by each of the utilities to all CCA customers to compensate for electricity generation they built or contracted for in past years. 

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We must be the fire brigade.

MondoviBy Joan Baez
"Together we can create an unstoppable force for good"

Last night, not a seat was empty in the UC Davis Mondavi Center as Joan Baez paused from singing to deliver this powerful exhortation.  Her music and her message were greeted with standing ovations. After the Show Baez gave the Davisite.org permission to share her words. 

There is no such thing as a slow burn now. Only lightning fast destruction, and the residue of floating ash. The haze is real. It is ash filled smoke, blanketing a good portion of the state of California. This is our Armageddon. And, yet now it's we who must be the fire brigade. No one will appear on the clouds of glory to deliver us.

We must be the fire brigade.

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How will – and should – the recent Monsanto Roundup decision affect Davis?

PesticideapplicationA few weeks ago, a jury awarded $289 million in damages to a California school groundskeeper, finding that his cancer was caused by on-the-job exposure to Monsanto’s pesticide Roundup, the main active ingredient of which is glyphosate.  How will this affect Davis?  How should it?

Recall that, in a rather messy and prolonged process, the Davis City Council voted to “phase out” the use of glyphosate.  But where is the City in that process?  Do we even have an IPM specialist to replace Martin Guerena (who stepped down many months ago after being ill-treated by the City), i.e., someone who could oversee this phase out and report on it?  

And does the phase out need to be accelerated?  Or should it occur immediately?

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Unitrans Ending Free Rides on Spare the Air Days for 2018

(Press release) Unitrans did its part to “Spare the Air” 15 days in a row, waiving fares for all riders July 27-Aug. 10, but, unfortunately, can no longer spare the expense and will discontinue the free-ride program from Monday, Aug. 27, through the end of the year.

Unitrans“With the high number of wildfires this year, Davis and the surrounding area experienced an unprecedented number of Spare the Air days, more than Unitrans anticipated in its annual budget,” said Jeff Flynn, general manager of the UC Davis and city transit system, which is operated by the Associated Students of UC Davis.

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Winters Putah Creek Park – Case Study of a Failed Project

Putah-creek-friends2Note: This is a follow-up to yesterday's post that described the lawsuit filed by the 501(c)3 non-profit Friends of Putah Creek; it is also authored by Friends of Putah Creek.

Description of the Project

The Winters Putah Creek Park project is a perfect example of good restoration intentions going awry and resulting in serious degradation of creek habitat by massive alteration of the natural form of the stream bed. This is being called “geomorphological engineering”.

The project was designed by the Solano County Water Agency (SCWA) to alter the streambed and riparian floodplain in three phases along the entire 1.2 miles of Putah Creek flowing through the City of Winters. The first phase was begun on the upper 1/3 end of the creek in 2011 by nearly clearcutting a mature riparian forest of native and non-native trees alike, from stream bank to stream bank, and importing over 70,000 cubic yards of alien, clayey fill. The soil was graded flat and smooth with a slight 2 percent slope toward stream. The floodplain and channel were heavily compacted and stream was left with only a narrow channel through the center of the former streambed. The final depth of the compacted fill varied from about 2 to over 12 ft.

Stream and floodplain features such as wetlands, ponds, swales, back-channels, undercut banks, and deep pools that create ecological diversity and complexity were completely eliminated in this process. The newly-formed barren floodplain was soon replanted with thousands of native plants. The intention was to quickly provide a fully functional riparian habitat complete with undercut banks and creek-side shading suitable for the entire food chain to thrive.

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Lawsuit Filed Challenging Adequacy of Environmental Review of Winters Putah Creek Park Project

Putah-creek-friends(Press release) On June 18, a lawsuit was filed by Davis Attorney Don Mooney, Esq. on behalf of his client, the 501(c)3 non-profit Friends of Putah Creek. The defendants named in the lawsuit are the Solano County Water Agency (SCWA) and the Central Valley Flood Control Board (CVFCB).  The lawsuit alleges that the CVFCB improperly approved an Encroachment Permit allowing the SCWA to continue to perform radical stream alterations on Putah Creek though the City of Winters and immediately downstream without doing appropriate environmental review as required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The lawsuit demands that the CVFCB require the SCWA to perform the requisite environmental review before proceeding with further work in the Putah Creek floodplain.

BACKGROUND OF THE WINTERS PUTAH CREEK PARK “RESTORATION” PROJECT AND LACK OF ENVIRONMENTAL COMPLIANCE - The Winters Putah Creek Park project is a so-called streamrestoration” that as initially proposed would have minimally disturbed the Putah Creek floodplain through the City of Winters by removing only invasive plant species and replanting the floodplain with native species. A Master Plan and Mitigated Negative Declaration that covers the Winters Putah Creek Park project was prepared by the City of Winters over a decade ago and is the only CEQA-related environmental review of the project.

These original plans were to be the guiding documents for all subsequent work and primarily focused on improvement of the riparian forest along the Creek by defining what plant species were to be preserved and lists invasive species to be removed. The plan stated that all native trees should be protected from damage, and only removed if deemed a hazard or “an impediment to approved renovation projects”. Annual work plans were to be provided for public review but, to date, no specific plans documenting what native trees and shrubs were to be removed have been submitted.

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Response to Rich Rifkin: Not all species are created equal, but all deserve our concern

In a recent post, I pointed out that the Endangered Species Act is under threat, and that responding to that threat requires our attention at the national, state, and local levels.  As if on cue, in a recent op-ed in the Davis Enterprise Rich Rifkin dismisses potential effects on three species at the Field & Pond site: the tricolored blackbird, the valley elderberry longhorn beetle and the golden eagle.

Blackbird_tricolored_male_summer_california_monte-m-taylor
Picture attribution: By Tsuru8 - Own work http://www.tsuru-bird.net/image.htm, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8708549

 I don’t really have an opinion about whether there should be a B&B and regular parties on the Field & Pond site.  It strikes me as a classic land use conflict, and I can see both sides of the argument.  But regardless of the merits of either side, and regardless of the motivations of either side, the impacts on those three species need to be examined. 

Rifkin states that all you need to do to assess impacts is ride a bicycle and look.  When he went, he saw “a few structures, native trees, a large pond” as well as a doe and a fawn “chilling,” and he thinks that’s enough to determine that the blackbird, beetle, and eagle species won’t be affected.  Well, sorry, but that’s not how you evaluate impacts on endangered species (or threatened species, or species of special concern).[1]

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