Entries categorized "Environment"

Valley Clean Energy makes new hire

R_Boyles(From press release) Valley Clean Energy is pleased to announce the hiring of Rebecca Boyles as its new director of customer care and marketing. In this position, she is responsible for all customer touch points, including outreach, marketing, programs, key accounts and customer policy development.

Boyles joins Valley Clean Energy after spending four years in progressively responsible positions in customer care and billing operations at MCE (formerly Marin Clean Energy). Her additional leadership experience includes chairing the Billing Operations and Customer Care Committee for CalCCA, the statewide community choice energy association, as well as directing social media for the communications team at the Women's Environmental Network.

Prior to working in the utilities sector, Boyles focused on stakeholder engagement at Future 500, a nonprofit that advises Fortune 500 companies on sustainable business practices and community relations.

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Valley Clean Energy - 2 Years Strong

VCE(From press release) During these trying times, it’s more important than ever to take note of the good news that’s worth celebrating.

“Please join us as we mark the anniversary of Valley Clean Energy,” said Don Saylor, chairman of the board of directors of the not-for-profit public agency and a Yolo County supervisor. “We’re two years strong as of June 1, and it’s all because of you, the VCE customers who support us in taking charge of our clean energy future.”

People who suffer from asthma and other lung-related conditions have been hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, so cleaning up the air in California has become even more important for everyone.

“That’s just what VCE has been doing these past two years, by offering people cleaner, greener electricity and an option for 100% carbon-free power,” added Dan Carson, VCE’s board vice-chair and a member of the Davis City Council. “And we’ve only just begun.”

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BTSSC's Transportation Baseline Features for ARC/DISC

Sub-Committee will bring draft to full Commission meeting this week

MRICARCDISCfinalProposed Transportation Baseline Features for Davis Innovation Sustainability Campus:

Parking Lots and Internal Streets, Housing, Transportation Demand Management, Site Access and Traffic Mitigation Features and general Mitigation Features

The City of Davis (City) Bicycling, Transportation and Street Safety Commission (BTSSC) met on May 8, 2020 and formed a sub-committee on transportation baseline features for the proposed Davis Innovation Sustainability Campus (DISC; formerly known as the Aggie Research Campus) Project (Project). These draft features will be reviewed with the full BTSSC on June 11, 2020 with any resulting vote submitted to the appropriate city bodies, with a recommendation for the revised features to be included in “Baseline Project Features” submitted for voter approval of the Project pursuant to a Measure R vote. The draft of this sub-committee discussion is below.

Information on the June 11 meeting, including how you can comments, can be found here.

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Not so much “community” in the BrightNight solar deal

47036D8C-C262-42A2-A15A-D4433024F394By Matt Williams

Intentions and goals are only words unless they are accompanied by accomplishments, and when it comes to accomplishments, especially in the realm of renewable power, City Hall is very good at "talking the talk" but not very good at “walking the walk.”

That is a bold statement.  Is it factual?  The answer to that is “Absolutely!” and the evidence of how little actual accomplishment the City has achieved is illuminated by looking at a side-by-side timeline of the City and Yolo County from 2011 to present.

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Volunteers Needed to Keep Davis' Parks and Pike Paths Aesthetically Pleasing and Green and Pesticide-Free

ProdiamineThe following is reprinted with permission of the author.

To: Recreation and Parks Commission

From: Alan Pryor, Member of the Hazardous Material Subcommittee of the Natural Resources Commission (but communicating as a private citizen)

Date: May 6, 2020

Re: Volunteers are Needed to Keep Davis' Parks and Pike Paths Aesthetically Pleasing and Green and Pesticide-Free

Commissioners -

During the very broad discussion on the state of the City's finances at last night's City Council meeting, the tone was very somber as the City discussed a potentially dire revenue shortfall of up to $10M this year with the economy and City income possibly taking 6 – 7 years to fully recover.

City Manager Mike Webb summed up Staff's presentation with the announcement that he has directed all department heads to seriously begin to consider all possible cost cutting measures in their department. Basically, we can expect across the board cuts to all department budgets and the Department of Parks and Recreation will certainly not be exempt from the pain.

This projected revenue shortfall could have immediate and lasting effects the aesthetics of our parks and greenbelts if not mitigated in some fashion. I have spoken to this group in the past on several occasions during public comments and have been an outspoken advocate about the beneficial impact that volunteerism in park maintenance can have on minimizing the effects of Park's maintenance funding shortfalls and elimination of the use of pesticides.

The current negative impacts of the pandemic on City revenues and budget shortages only reinforces the need for the City to broadly engage volunteers in our City to assist with basic park maintenance tasks such as weeding and spreading mulch if we want to maintain our parks without a wholesale return to massive herbicide use. Fortunately, the City Council has recently specifically directed Staff to explore the advantages of the use of public outreach and volunteer labor in park and bike path maintenance.

Let me explain.

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Valley Clean Energy Seeks Local Renewable Contracts

VCE(From press release) Valley Clean Energy has announced that it plans to purchase renewable energy from qualifying local projects. The solicitation, “2020 Local Renewable Request for Offers,” is now public and can be found on VCE’s website at https://valleycleanenergy.org/solicitations-rfps/.

As the name implies, the solicitation is focused on procuring energy produced very close to where it will be used — in Yolo County or the six adjacent counties.

This local request for offers is consistent with VCE board direction and the agency’s vision to pursue procurement of cost-effective local renewable energy. The solicitation also aligns with VCE’s procurement goals, which seek to provide 80 percent renewable energy by 2030, with up to 25 percent of that provided by local resources.

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Responding to Lee-Carson OpEd on BrightNight Solar Deal

Brightnight-greatdealBy Matt Williams

The commentary by Mayor Lee and Councilmember Carson in the Sunday Enterprise really does not address the core concerns that have consistently been raised by the community. In summary, those concerns are that the city used a non-competitive process which resulted in a low-offer and thus left money on the table while failing to go through a full public process that might have identified deficiencies in the offer by BrightNight.

After reading the Lee-Carson OpEd, I (and I'm sure many others) now have one additional major concern ... that it does not appear that the Council Majority has actually listened to the Public Comment voicemails, or actually read the Public Comment e-mails they have received.

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Hop on your bike for fun, exercise and exploration – even now

May is a great time to use your bike for essential errands like grocery shopping. (Adobe Stock photo)

May is (still) Bike Month

By Wendy Weitzel

Social distancing might keep us from hosting in-person events, but it doesn’t stop us from getting out for solo bike rides or trips with other members of our household.

Hopping on a bike is a great way to enjoy the spring weather, get some exercise, and feel mentally refreshed. The practice not only relieves stress, it may start a healthy habit worth keeping down the road. And it’s absolutely allowed during the shelter-in-place order, as long as you maintain at least 6 feet physical distance.

Wearing a face covering is not required while engaging in outdoor recreation such as walking, hiking, bicycling or running. However, anyone engaged in such activity must comply with distancing requirements. Everyone should carry a face covering with them, to use if needed.

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Don't Miss Out on your Utility Rate Discount

VCE(From press release) The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on everyone in Yolo County. Some are able to shelter in place, work from home, and continue to receive a paycheck. Others are providing services to others — sometimes at personal risk. Still others have been laid off from their jobs and are having trouble paying for rent, food and utilities.

“If your income has suffered in the past months, we’re urging you to check on your eligibility for a utility rate discount during these trying times,” says Valley Clean Energy board chair Don Saylor, a Yolo County supervisor.

California utilities provides rate discounts to income-qualifying customers. In Yolo County, these programs include the California Alternate Rate for Energy Program (CARE), which provides a discount of 20 percent or more for electricity and natural gas, and the Family Electric Rate Assistance Program (FERA), which provides an 18 percent discount for electricity. Valley Clean Energy and PG&E offer the same special rates.

Local residents whose income has changed significantly due to COVID-19 may now be eligible for these rates, even if they weren’t able to qualify before the pandemic.

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Why Lock Out Our Trees?

The draft Davis Downtown Specific Plan needs to address trees.

Cork oak
Giant cork oak downtown

The mature tree canopy in downtown Davis is an invaluable historic, environmental, and economic asset. It is a legacy we are fortunate to inherit and its future rests in our hands. Ideally, because of our informed stewardship the next generation will inherit a healthier and more extensive tree canopy resource.

The draft Davis Downtown Specific Plan (DDSP) allocates 25 pages of guidance to the design and placement of signage, but nothing to canopy conservation and the integration of new trees into downtown development. We do not believe that this omission reflects the level of value that our city officials, business leaders, and residents place on trees in our commercial area.

Tree Davis has submitted written comments that include these recommendations to bolster the inclusion of trees in the DDSP.

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The ARC SEIR Transportation Impact Analysis is neither adequate nor complete

The following was sent to the Bicycling, Transportation, and Street Safety Commission (BTSSC) and the City as written comment by Matt Williams on April 8, the day before the BTSSC meeting.   The opinions expressed in the public comment are as an individual, and not as a representative of any organization.

First, I would like to thank Sherri Metzger, Ash Feeney, and Fehr and Peers for providing the Excel spreadsheet I requested containing the data from the tables from pages 42 through 161 of the SEIR Appendix F, Volume 2 – Transportation Operations Analysis Technical Appendix.

Second, my deep dive analysis of the intersection data in the spreadsheet produced the following substantial concerns.  At the end of this memo, I provide a Recommendation that I would vote for if I were a member of the BTSSC.

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Did Our City Council Just Agree to the Absolute Worst Deal in the City's History?

Cfe371da68ff6f4005d6e0b94b79fd20By Alan Pryor

Over $121,000,000 may have been left on the table when Council approved a secretive, closed-door no-bid, 54-year land lease option and agreement for a photovoltaic system on 235-acres of City-owned land.

How many miles of Street and Bike Path repairs per year would $121 million pay for? What was Staff and Council thinking ??? 

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Request for Reconsideration of Solar Lease Option Agreement and Term Sheet with BrightNight


The following letter was sent to members of the Davis City Council today.

We respectfully request that the Mayor and Council place an item on tonight’s or a future council meeting agenda to reconsider its approval of Item 9 of the March 24, 2020 Solar Lease decision. In its reconsideration we believe Council should (1) direct staff to research the fiscal, legal and business issues identified in this letter, and (2) pending the results of that research, rescind Council’s approval of the Item 9 resolution to allow the City Manager to execute the Lease Option Agreement and Term Sheet (collectively, the “Agreement”) with BrightNight that will “give the solar energy company an Option to Lease up to 235 acres of city-owned land near the City’s Wastewater Treatment Plant on County Road 28H for a Commercial Solar Farm and Solar Energy Testing Facility.”

Our review of the Agreement to date has uncovered serious concerns which we believe have not been fully considered by the City, and that the resolution and lease, as written, establish a legal arrangement that is harmful and disadvantageous to the City and residents in several respects. We, individually and collectively, stand ready to work with staff to facilitate their research of these issues. We are preparing a detailed document fleshing out each issue, which will be available shortly on request.

In summary, the issues are as follows:

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Rate discounts for VCE customers through PG&E

VCE(From press release) No one expected to see days quite like this. And for some of us, it’s beginning to feel as though we’ll have a tough time keeping our heads above water as our economies and paychecks adjust to this pandemic.

That’s why Valley Clean Energy representatives want to be sure that local residents are aware of the discounted electricity programs PG&E offers to income-qualified customers, even those who are Valley Clean Energy customers.

For example, the Family Electric Rate Assistance (FERA) discount from PG&E is open to all eligible customers of VCE. Those who qualify to enroll in the FERA program could end up paying much less to stay warm through a chilly spring and cool this summer.

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Valley Clean Energy Offers Covid-19 Update

VCE(From press release) As Yolo County residents join others throughout California in sheltering in place, Valley Clean Energy (VCE) is working to assure that customers receive a safe, reliable electricity supply throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Electricity has truly become the lifeblood of our lives as we self-isolate in our homes,” said Don Saylor, a Yolo County supervisor who chairs the VCE board of directors. “The cleaner electricity we buy for you will remain unchanged during this time.

“We want to assure our customers that the Valley Clean Energy team is working to ensure that lights will stay on; computers, phones and data centers will be powered; food and medicine will be refrigerated; and homes and water will be heated.”

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Valley Clean Energy now enrolling solar customers

VCEBy Don Saylor

(From press release) Valley Clean Energy (VCE) is our local community choice energy program serving electricity customers in the communities of Woodland, Davis and unincorporated Yolo County. The purpose of VCE is to provide customers with higher levels of renewable electricity, encourage energy efficiency and local generation, and offer rates that are competitive with PG&E, the region’s investor-owned electricity provider.

Decisions on rates, energy resources, programs and finances are made locally, in public, by a local board composed of people elected by the residents of our communities.

Most electricity customers in our area have been receiving their electricity from VCE since June 2018. Their monthly bills display VCE’s electric generation charges and PG&E’s electricity delivery charges.

Based on changes to state regulations, the VCE board decided to delay until 2020 the enrollment of solar customers who had installed solar panels on their homes or businesses before we launched in June 2018. In 2020, these energy-conservation pioneers will begin receiving their electric power from our local agency.

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What’s wrong with City staff’s new burrowing owl policy

A response to Ash Feeney

Feeney-with-owlsBy Roberta Millstein

A few days ago I learned of a new policy from City staff concerning the 25 acres outside of Mace curve, aka Mace 25, prime farmland that was purchased with citizen tax dollars from the open space fund.  According to this new policy, the City will not be mowing areas in which burrowing owls are already nesting, instead allowing the owls to be “naturally displaced from the site… by allowing tall dense vegetation to grow along the western edge.”  By not mowing, the City will be “doing what it can to prevent the owls from using the site.” Burrowing owls prefer short grasses (e.g., native short prairie grass or grass that is kept short through mowing) so that they can see their predators coming, and they will leave an area if the grasses aren’t short.

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, I along with a number of other citizens attended to protest this new policy and to ask the City Council to direct staff to promote burrowing owl habitat at that site.  Burrowing owls, it should be noted, have been designated as a Species of Special Concern by the State of California, and their numbers have been declining dramatically over the past 10 years in the Davis area.  No action was taken at the meeting, although I have since learned that at least one Councilmember is in favor of taking up this issue at a future meeting.

What did happen at the meeting was that Assistant City Manager Ash Feeney defended the new policy.  He has apparently issued a statement summarizing his views, published on the Davis Vanguard (staff could not confirm this by the end of yesterday’s business day).  Unfortunately, this response contains false and problematic statements.

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Green challenger for Dodd in State Senate District 3 race

NyhusWrite-in campaign is on the rise

(From press release) Karen Nyhus, a Green from Sonoma County, is challenging Bill Dodd (D-Napa) as a write-in to the California State Senate’s Top 2 spot on next week’s primary ballot.

Nyhus, a Stanford grad with a work history in government, education and nonprofits, is challenging Dodd’s status as a self-described “fiscal conservative” for a district that spans her native Sonoma County through Napa, Solano, and Contra Costa, to here in Davis. Nyhus calls Dodd a “blue dog” (conservative Democrat) and points out that he was a registered Republican as recently as 2013.

Running as a Green, she accepts no corporate donations, and think that’s a weak spot for Dodd. “He has taken money from the wine industry and PG&E, and it shows in his actions,” she wrote.

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Valley Clean Energy Makes Major Solar-Power Purchase

VCE(From press release) The Valley Clean Energy Alliance has announced that its board of directors voted Thursday, Feb. 13, to purchase 50 megawatts of renewable power from a new solar park in Kings County.

The power from the park will replace current short-term power contracts allowing VCE to deliver higher levels of renewable power at competitive prices.

VCE’s 15-year contract with Aquamarine Westside, LLC, CIM Group’s solar project, will begin when the project enters commercial operation, anticipated in 2021. The Aquamarine project is in Westlands Solar Park, a 21,000-acre, master-planned clean energy park with more than 2 gigawatts of solar production potential.

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Valley Clean Energy Makes Key New Hire

VCE(From press release) Valley Clean Energy is pleased to announce the hiring of Gordon A. Samuel Jr. as its new assistant general manager and power services director. In this position, he will be responsible for acquiring a diverse supply of clean renewable resources.

Samuel brings more than 27 years of experience in the electric utility industry to his new position, having served most recently as power procurement manager for Marin Clean Energy, California’s first community choice aggregation (CCA) program.

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