January 18, 2016 (Alpine) – Clearing local watersheds of the arrundo donax, a hardy bamboo-like, non-native plant that is a major fire fuels hazard, and other invasive species is tough work. To clear a four-mile stretch of Alpine Creek required contacting owners of about 700 private and public parcels, mapping the terrain and securing liability insurance and contracts. So far, the initial work has been done on about 50 parcels, funded mainly by private donations. But a lot more work is needed, including maintain those parcels already cleared.
Leak at So Cal Gas facility exposes nationwide problem of aging gas infrastructure at hundreds of sites
By Miriam Raftery
January 17, 2016 (Los Angeles)—The news sounds like the plot of a disaster thriller movie, but it’s real. The worst environmental disaster since the BP oil spill, a methane gas leak that began Oct. 23 at a storage well in Aliso Canyon in northern Los Angeles has pumped over 85,000 metric tons of methane into the air. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, each day of the leak spews as much climate pollutant into the air as 4.5 million to 9 million cars.
The leak at the site operated by Southern California Gas (a Sempra Energy company that also supplies San Diego’s gas) is endangering health and safety of residents as well as contaminating the environment and pumping a powerful climate pollutant into the atmosphere. But it may soon get a lot worse.
A Los Angeles Times investigation reveals that efforts to plug the leak has been halted—after a backwash from those efforts caused a crater 80 feet long, 30 feet wide and 25 feet deep, leaving the wellhead itself exposed and now at risk of a catastrophic blowout. Access to control valves are cut off, documents revealed. Should a massive explosion and fire occur with a 10-mile-long plume of methane over suburban neighobrhoods, the scenario would be horrifying.
13 projects will boost conservation, habitat, water recycling and more
Source: County Water Authority
January 17, 2016 (San Diego) -- The San Diego region has been awarded $31.1 million in grant money by the state Department of Water Resources for a variety of projects that will increase local water supplies, decrease water demands, improve water quality, manage storm water, restore habitat and enhance species.
The awards include several East County and inland region projects, notably expansion of Padre Dam’s advanced water treatment reclamation facility, a program to improve water quality in disadvantaged rural communities, habitat recovery at Sweetwater Reservoir, water-wise educational programs for Lemon Grove and Spring Valley schools, water capture and grey water reuse in the Chollas Creek/Encanto area, as well as rehabilitation of the San Diego River headwaters including removal of invasive plant species, feral pigs, unauthorized trails/campgrounds and restoration of sites.
January 16, 2016 (San Diego) – The National Park Service has announced it must change the names of some of its most iconic landmarks due to a copyright claim filed by Delaware North, the former park concessionaire. Items slated for name changes include the historic Ahwahnee Hotel and Wawona Hotel (both Native American names), as well as Curry Village, Yosemite Lodge and Badger Pass http://www.sacbee.com/news/state/article54736110.html).
January 14, 2016 (Alpine)--The Cleveland National Forest Foundation (CNFF), Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation (CERF), and Save Our Forest and Ranchlands (SOFAR) announced that they have filed a lawsuit challenging the County of San Diego’s approval of a firearms training facility for military and law enforcement at Covert Canyon within the boundary of the Cleveland National Forest outside of Alpine.
The suit seeks an injunction and restraining order to shut down commercial firearms training at the facility, among other remedies.
The lawsuit cites alleged violations of the California Environmental Quality Act, abuse of discretion in changing the use classification of the commercial firearms shooting facility, and violation of the California Land Conservation Act of 1965 (commonly referred to as the “Williamson Act”).
Top scientist claims evidence of neonicotinoids harming bees was silenced by agrochemical companies
By Brigitte Garcia
January 13, 2016 (San Diego’s East County) -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this week issued a ruling that neonicotinoids used on cotton and citrus crops harm bees -- but the same pesticide used on other crops does not, Associated Press reports. Some bee experts have argued that neonicotinoids are a major cause of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). The controversial statement pleased neither environmentalists concerned over bee declines, nor Bayer, the maker of neonicotinoids.
January 9, 2016 (Boulevard) – Efforts to block the massive Rugged Solar project in Boulevard appear to have hit a dead end. On December 11th, Judge Wohlfeil confirmed his tentative ruling to dismiss a writ of mandate filed by Backcountry Against Dumps (BAD). The challenge claimed the project violated California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requirements on groundwater and fire issues, among others.
“BAD has chosen not to appeal based on a variety of issues and realities,” BAD founder Donna Tisdale told East County Magazine. Our attorney may never see the fee award ordered by Judge Wohlfeil, or a final decision could be strung out for years.”
January 4, 2016 (La Mesa) -- Journey Community Church in La Mesa is bringing new light this year to the community. This month Journey has completed one of the largest solar conversions in East County, San Diego. The church on Center Drive owns a seven-acre campus of buildings, including offices, meeting rooms, classrooms, a thrift store, and a food bank as well as commercial businesses that rent space. Overall, the 207 kilowattsystem carbon reduction is the equivalent to 4,302 cars being removed from the road, 3,658,582 gallons of gas not being used, 26,484 trees being planted and could power 5,951 homes or 453,489 lightbulbs.
December 30, 2015 (Alpine) –After 19 years of working to create gardens friendly to birds, butterflies and other creatures, the nonprofit Center to Instill Respect and Preservation for Garden Wildlife, or CHIRP, is coming to an end.
The board of directors voted in November to dissolve the nonprofit after financial challenges, as many nonprofits have faced in recent tough times. “I feel it is time for me, the founder and executive director, to move on,” Maureen Austin wrote in a letter published on the Alpine Community Network.
CHIRP, a garden club known for organizing the popular Sage & Songbirds garden tour each year, gained national fame for Alpine after helping the community become first in the nation to receive a Community Wildlife Habitat designation from the National Wildlife Federation. Austin voiced hope that Alpine will continue to nurture habitats for wildlife to retain the designation, adding that she will happily help transfer NWF’s annual status report to another organization or individual.
December 16, 2015 (Paris) - World leaders from 195 nations have signed a landmark climate change accord in Paris. The goals are ambitious, but there is no binding mandate to reach them. That’s because the U.S. refused to agree to mandates, since that would have required approval by Congress, a politically unachievable feat given current control by Republican leadership that denies climate change is a problem.
December 16, 2015 (San Diego)—By a unanimous vote, the San Diego City Council on Tuesday enacted a plan to address climate change that may be the most ambitious in the nation. The plan sets a goal for the city to attain 100 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2035, also reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent in 2020 and 50 percent by 2035.
Mayor Kevin Faulconer told Councilmembers, “We are a city where the quality of the environment is essential to our quality of life.” Faulconer said the plan will create jobs and preserve the city’s leadership in the clean-tech industry, also improving public health and air quality, reducing dependence on imported water, and increasing use of clean energy.
Climate Action Campaign announced the San Diego is the largest American city to commit to producing all of its energy from renewable resources.
Photo: Indigenous leaders challenged California Governor Jerry Brown's support of pollution trading and fracking after he spoke at Paris Climate Summit on December 8. Photo courtesy of Rae Breaux.
December 14, 2015 (Paris)--"REDD is a carbon offset mechanism which privatizes the air that we breathe and uses forests, agriculture and water ecosystems in the Global South as sponges for industrialized countries pollution, instead of cutting emissions at source," said Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network. "REDD brings trees, soil, and nature into a commodity trading system that may result in the largest land grab in history. It steals your future, lets polluters off the hook and is a new form of colonialism. NO to Privatization of Nature!”
At the end of his keynote address at the World Climate Summit in Paris on Tuesday, December 8, Indigenous leaders heckled Governor Jerry Brown, challenging him on his support of controversial carbon trading polices that represent “a new form of colonialism” that could potentially cause genocide.
December 12, 2015 (San Diego)--On December 15th the San Diego City Council will vote on the City of San Diego's ambitious Climate Action Plan. In response, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) issued the following media statement:
“SDG&E has a long history of partnering with the City of San Diego to lower the city’s carbon footprint. In fact, we recently celebrated the completion of a six-year sustainability effort with the City of San Diego, San Diego Green Building Council and Balboa Park Cultural Partnership, which reduced Balboa Park’s greenhouse gas emissions by 5,549 metric tons each year—the environmental equivalent of taking nearly 1,000 cars off the road.
December 10, 2015--Close your eyes and picture your best memory with your family and friends. If you're like me, that memory is filled with the warmth and comfort of a familiar home. I hope that, unlike me, you are never asked to put a price on that home because of the effects of climate change.
Welcome to Shishmaref, Alaska, population: 650. We're a small Iñupiaq community where everyone knows each other. Shishmaref is a barrier island that has been eroding and flooding for the past 50 years -- even before disruption from climate change was widely recognized.
Over the past 35 years, we've lost 2,500 to 3,000 feet of land to coastal erosion. To put this in perspective: I was born in 1997, and since then, Shishmaref has lost about 100 feet. In the past 15 years, we had to move 13 houses -- including my dear grandma Edna’s house -- from one end of the island to the other because of this loss of land. Within the next two decades, the whole island will erode away completely.
December 9, 2015 (San Diego)—The Paris climate summit with global leaders culminates on December 12th. On that same date, a climate action march is planned in San Diego’s Balboa Park from 12 noon to 3 p.m., starting at 6th and Laurel.
Legal action taken to address backroom dealing and approval of Carlsbad Gas Plant
East County News Service
Photo: Gas power plant in Ruskin, Florida
December 7, 2015 (San Diego)--Earthjustice, an environmental legal organization representing the Sierra Club, filed an appeal today in California’s First District Court of Appeal challenging the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) decision that would allow San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) to build a controversial gas-fired power plant in Carlsbad. The environmental groups call the CPUC’s action a “carbon polluting power grab.”
December 2, 2015 (Borrego Springs) — Anza-Borrego Foundation (ABF), official partner of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, today announced final elements in conservation of the Lucky 5 Ranch in the Laguna Mountains, northeast of San Diego.
ABF purchased just under 1,130 acres and obtained a conservation easement on 433 acres to fulfill decades-long efforts by California State Parks, ABF, The Nature Conservancy, and others to connect the 4,245-acre ranch to adjacent pieces of federal and state conservation land, creating a major parcel of exceptional natural beauty and biological importance. The acreage will eventually become part of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
December 1, 2015 (San Diego) – While world leaders met in Paris at a global climate summit on Monday, San Diego City Council’s Environmental Committee also convened –and voted unanimously to send an ambitious climate action plan to the City Council.
“Tackling climate change is a shared mission for mankind.” – Chinese president Xi Jinping
“We are at the limits of suicide.” – Pope Francis
“Our nations share a sense of urgency about this challenge and a growing realization that it is within our power to do something about it.” – U.S. President Barack Obama
By Miriam Raftery
November 30, 2015 (Paris) –Around the world, an estimated million people took to the streets to call for action to save the planet as world leaders convene today in Paris for an international climate summit. But in Paris, where large public gatherings are banned due to a state of emergency declared after the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks, thousands of Parisians instead brought their shoes, lining them up along the march route in a silent yet powerful expression.
French President Francois Hollande said he cannot separate the “fight with terrorism from the fight against global warming,” adding that leaders must face both challenges to leave children “a world freed of terror” as well as one “protected from catastrophes.”
November 29, 2015 (San Diego)-- Environmental organizations are mobilizing to fight one of the state's three biggest power companies over an issue known as "community choice aggregation," a movement by cities to create nonprofit agencies to buy and sell power to consumers.
San Diego Gas and Electric just announced it is forming a separate marketing entity to lobby against the idea. By law, the utility can't use ratepayer money for that purpose.
December 1, 2015 - Earlier this year, the state of California issued a decree in an effort to conserve water. KUSI reports that overall, San Diegans have done a good job with their water conservation. However, nine cities fell short of their water use goal for the month of October, according to a report released Tuesday by the State Water Resources Control Board. The community of Ramona is also among those who fell short.
November 21, 2015 (San Diego’s East County)--Do you really want to go shopping on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving? What with the congested parking mall lots, the crowds and the lines; you might want to consider Green Friday instead.
County Parks and Recreation has declared Friday, Nov. 27 Green Friday to prompt families to spend more quality time together by discovering the “Upside of Outside.”
County Parks has 124 parks and preserves spread throughout the County with locations ranging from the beach to the valleys, the mountains to the desert. Altogether you’ll find more than 350 miles of trails, scenic vistas, numerous playgrounds, picnic tables galore, fountains, historic sites, lakes, creeks, ponds and more.
Warner Springs Ranch Habitat and Cultural Conservancy oversees protection of the resort currently under renovation
November 16, 2015 (Warner Springs)--Warner Springs Ranch Resort has formed the nonprofit Warner Springs Ranch Habitat and Cultural Conservancy to protect and manage the property’s numerous historic, cultural and natural assets.
November 13, 2015 (San Diego’s East County) - The joint study from Stanford University and UC Riverside reads like a report card. The authors recognized that, “solar energy has one of the greatest climate change mitigation potentials” of all renewable energy sources. It can play a leading role in helping the United States reach its’ goal of reducing emissions to 80% of 1990 greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This would require covering a great deal of land surface. Using current technology, close to 71,428 square kilometres (44,383 sq. miles), or an area roughly comparable to South Carolina, could be covered with panels. Rebecca R. Hernandez et al examined more than 160 sites in California to find out how utility scale solar impacts the land.
November 14, 2015 (La Mesa)--Winners of La Mesa’s K-8 Our Planet, Our Home Environmental Literacy and Art Contest have been announced. Mayor Arapostathis has kindly agreed to hand out the awards at the Block Party on November 14 at 11:15 a.m. at the Farmer’s Market site on Allison Avenue near La Mesa Blvd, and the winning flat artwork will be exhibited for one month in the foyer of the La Mesa Library.
The contest is a cooperative effort of the City's Environmental Sustainability Commission, the La Mesa Urban Trails grant from the County, the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District and the La Mesa Library branch. Sponsorship and prizes for the contest were contributed by SDGE and the Water Conservation Garden.
November 10, 2015 (Sacramento) - Governor Jerry Brown has declared an emergency in California due to a voracious pest – bark beetles that have killed 22 million trees statewide, including vast tracts of forests in San Diego’s East County. Tens of millions more are at risk of dying if nothing is done – also raising the risk of wildfires.
The governor is seeking federal help and meanwhile has directed state officials, utilities and local governments to take 19 steps to fight the bark beetle infestation. Brown suspended several state laws to allow his orders to be carried out immediately.
November 9, 2015 (Salton Sea)--The Salton Sea is an ecological disaster poised to get even worse in three years, when water flowing into the lake from the Colorado River is scheduled to be shut off. Already, the inland lake smells like rotten eggs, contaminated by toxic run-off. As it evaporates, pollutants threaten air quality in both Imperial and San Diego counties. It also threatens the many migratory and waterfowl birds in this rich but vanishing habitat.
But this week, the tide is beginning to turn. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is beginning the first restoration project at the Salton Sea along Red Hill Bay on the southern shore. The project will flood 420 acres of exposed lakebed with water from the nearby Alamo River and the lake, creating wetland habitat for migratory birds and also keeping toxic dust out of the air, while still leaving room for energy companies to tap the region’s vast geothermal potential.
November 8, 2015 (Sacramento) – California’s Secretary of State has approved signature gathering for a ballot initiative that if approved by voters, would end private utility corporations such as San Diego Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric.
Under the measure, the state would buy out the companies and operate a publicly owned California Electrical Utility District that would set electricity rates, build infrastructure and provide power. Bonds or taxes could be levied to fund costs. The measure’s backer, Ben Davis Jr., contends the state can provide power at lower rates for California customers and notes that nationwide, public utilities have 15% lower rates on average than privately owned utilities.
Photo: John Bolthouse, at San Diego Concert Band performance in the Garden
November 7, 2015 (El Cajon)--The Water Conservation Garden today announced the departure of John Bolthouse, who has served as the organization’s Executive Director since February 2012. The Garden’s board of directors extends its deepest gratitude for Bolthouse’s innumerable contributions to The Garden over the years.
“John has truly been a visionary for our organization, leading The Garden into a new era,” said The Garden Board of Directors President Elyssa Robertson. “His planning, forethought and efforts over the past 3 years have provided us with the framework and clear vision for The Garden’s continued success. On behalf of the board of directors and Garden staff, we wish John the absolute best for his next exciting venture.”