By Laura Chapman
March 28, 2013 (San Diego's East County)--We all know about going "green" around our homes. Recycling newspapers, plastic and aluminum has become so commonplace that we actually look for recycling bins when we're out and about. How many times have you gone to a dinner party and helped with the cleanup by asking, "Do you recycle?" All of this is aimed at the goal of reducing our individual carbon footprints. If we can all lower the amount of carbon by-products released into the atmosphere we'll be taking proactive steps to bolster our fragile eco-system.
Now the green movement has spread beyond homes and businesses and out into the travel industry. Yes, you can see the world and still go green.
By Janis Mork
March 22, 2013 (El Cajon)- East County’s newest farmers’ market had its grand opening yesterday on the Prescott Promenade in downtown El Cajon. Many people came, young and old, single and families, all flocking to check out what this market had to offer. Shoppers found a unique blend of fresh produce, unique ethnic and multicultural foods, fresh flowers, baked goods, hot entrees and specialty foods.
An International Rescue Committee (IRC) spokesman thanked the public for coming out and supporting the new market, which benefits not only the community, but also local refugees who are growing some of the fresh produce sold here.
By Miriam Raftery
March 20, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – Pattern Energy has claimed that a Merlin Avian Radar system at its Ocotillo Express Wind Facility will detect eagles and allow turbines to be shut down to save them from the whirling blades. Avian radar is also proposed at other wind projects proposed in East County.
But now ECM has learned that an eagle was killed at Pattern’s Spring Valley Wind project near Great Basin National Park in Nevada. According to Bureau of Land Management documents, Pattern had claimed in Appendix F, its Avian and Bat Protection Plan, that it planned to install three separate radar systems at the Spring Valley project to prevent deaths of birds and bats, including both Merlin and Vesper technology.
Pattern did not respond to an ECM request for comment. The death, along with mounting evidence indicating avian radar is failing to protect birds at wind sites, raises serious concerns over the fate of eagles in our region, where three more wind farms are proposed in San Diego’s East County.
The week-long festival includes keynote speaker, Leilani Munter, the world’s No. 1 Eco-Athlete.
March 15, 2013 (San Diego)--All next week, San Diego State University's Associated Students will host GreenFest, a week-long festival that educates the campus community about sustainability, while promoting school spirit. The keynote speaker, Leilani Munter,is the world’s number one eco-athlete. For full schedule and details, please read more.
Measure will lead to taxpayer savings, energy efficiency
March 14, 2013 (San Diego)--County Supervisors Dianne Jacob and Dave Roberts want to save taxpayers’ money and quickly bring more energy-saving projects like solar to the region.
Several days after meeting with San Diego Mayor Bob Filner to discuss energy issues, Roberts and Jacob on Tuesday pushed for more green energy and less reliance on fossil-fuels in the county’s unincorporated area. Roberts called for a working partnership with the city of San Diego “on all things green”.
By Miriam Raftery
March 13, 2013 (Boulevard) – Iberdrola’s Tule Wind project has been slapped with a federal complaint seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. The lawsuit was filed by two nonprofits in San Diego’s Rural East County, the Protect Our Communities Foundation and Backcountry Against Dumps.
If built, Tule Wind’s phase I would include 67 turbines on federal land, each nearly 500 feet tall in rugged McCain Valley, a federal wildlife management and popular recreation area. Additional turbines are planned on adjoining state, tribal and private property. Turbines would be close to campgrounds and homes in rural Boulevard, a predominantly low income community in East County where numerous other massive-scale energy projects have already been proposed. (See map showing cumulative impacts.)
“Eastern San Diego County is targeted as a rural sacrifice industrial energy and transmission zone without benefit of equal protection under the law,” said Donna Tisdale, also a plaintiff in the suit.
Mayor Filner announces major solar initiatives
By Hugh Moore, Treasurer, San Diego County Green Party
March, 8, 2013(San Diego) -- When Dr. Jill Stein ran on a platform for President of the U.S. calling for the New Green Deal , I doubt that she imagined her platform would be the newest initiative of the Mayor of San Diego or the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. San Diego having a long history of being more than a little to the right on the political spectrum a shift to the left would have seemed unlikely just a few months ago.
However, Mayor Bob Filner just announced his new solar initiative, planning to put solar panels on every city building within five years. And this is not the end of the initiative. Mayor Filner wants the whole County to become the leader in alternative energy production with a goal of ending up with all the power used in the County being produced by solar and other renewable sources. This initiative is being supported by two of the five San Diego County Board of Supervisors (Dianne Jacobs and Dave Roberts).
BILL WOULD LET ENERGY COMPANIES REMOVE NESTS AND EGGS, EXEMPT COMPANIES FROM PENALTIES FOR KILLING EAGLES, HAWKS AND OTHER RAPTORS
By Miriam Raftery
March 9, 2013 (Sacramento)—Wildlife experts are reacting with outrage to AB 516, a bill in the California Legislature that would allow energy and utility companies to obtain “take” permits authorizing destruction of birds, eggs and nest that stand in the way of electrical transmission infrastructure.
SDG&E was caught flying helicopters too close to protected eagle nests at least four times during construction of Sunrise Powerlink. Those incursions in three East County locations resulted in removal of one pilot and suspension of others, as well as grounding, GPS tracking and other regulatory enforcement actions. But if this bill goes through, such activities could occur without penalty in the future.
SOUND AND ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELD EXPERTS RAISE SERIOUS CONCERNS OVER IMPACTS OF PROPOSED WIND PROJECTS ON NEIGHBORS IN EAST COUNTY
High EMF levels found in tests at Campo, Manzanita and Ocotilllo among residences near turbines
By Miriam Raftery
March 12,2013 (Campo) – Acoustical experts warn that sound generated by proposed Shu’luuk, Tule and Manzanita wind projects will cause severe negative health impacts on neighbors – and further, new studies suggest that noise impact assessments created to justify these and other projects relied on errors in computer modeling that severely underestimate sound levels.
New noise and infrasound findings
At the Campo Shu’luuk Wind project, massive wind turbines and solar panels are proposed just 500 feet from private properties with homes and 1,320 feet from tribal homes (or less if owners sign a waiver). But a major new study commissioned by a public health department in Wisconsin involving five different acoustic experts found high levels of low-frequency noise at homes abandoned by residents as far as 7,000 feet from turbines. The Brown County Board of Health concuded that residents’ complaints of health problems at the Shirley Wind project are valid and related to long-term exposure to wind turbines.
By Miriam Raftery
March 9, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) –Industrial-scale energy projects on Bureau of Land Management lands are pushed through by energy companies touting jobs and economic booms to communities. Not mentioned is the potential loss of tourism revenues if people stop coming to recreational areas that are visually blighted. That’s been a fear voiced by residents near McCain Valley and Ocotillo, both scenic public recreation areas where wind projects are slated or recently completed.
Now preliminary data from the Bureau of Land Management reveals a 12% drop in the number of visitors to the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreational Area over the past year. Sunrise Powerlink construction was completed in June 2012. Is the loss of 72,275 visitors due to the massive high voltage towers that dune buggies and other off-road enthusiasts now must dodge in the desert?
JUDGE GRANTS INJUNCTION TO PROTECT PHOTOGRAPHER AFTER THREATS BY PATTERN ENERGY’S PROJECT MANAGER AT OCOTILLO WIND
Update: A second restraining order has been granted to Jim Pelley, the other ECM photographer threatened by Pattern Energy's manager, Russell Graham.
By Miriam Raftery
March 7, 2013 (El Centro)—Superior Court Judge Richard Bohlander today granted an injunction for civil harassment relief to protect freelance photographer Parke Ewing following a violent threat made by Russell Graham, construction manager at Pattern Energy’s Ocotillo Express Wind Facility.
Ewing’s photos and videos of the project have appeared in East County Magazine as well as on his own Facebook Page and a website documenting the project’s impacts on the desert and the community.
Participants from across the county to join to explore and protect the Upper San Diego River
On March 9 and 10, San Diego River Park Foundation is heading to the headwaters to Save the Source! This weekend, they will be coordinating six events to engage the community in exploring and caring for the upper San Diego River watershed. The lineup of events this year includes two nature hikes and a water quality hike, an open house and tour of the newly con
served Fisherman’s Camp at Boulder Creek Preserve, a trail maintenance project at the Eagle Peak Preserve, and an open house at the Santa Ysabel Backcountry Visitors’ Center.
FOREST SERVICE SEEKS PUBLIC COMMENTS ON CHANGES PROPOSED TO CLEVELAND NATIONAL FOREST AND OTHER SOUTHERN CA FOREST MANAGEMENT PLANS
Public meetings set, including March 26 in Alpine and March 27 in Ramona
March 8, 2013 (San Diego) – Forest Service officials are seeking public comments on the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for a Proposed Amendment to the Land Management Plans for the four Southern California national forests (the Angeles, Cleveland, Los Padres, and San Bernardino).
The environmental impact statement analyzes the proposal to modify the existing land use zones allocations in selected inventoried roadless areas to include more back country non-motorized and recommended wilderness areas. It also analyzes the proposal to modify the land management plan monitoring framework. The statement evaluates alternatives for both topics, including an alternative that would recommend most of the study area as wilderness. The environmental impact statement can be found on the project webpage at: http://www.fs.fed.us/nepa/nepa_project_exp.php?project=35130
March 6, 2013 (San Diego) — You don’t have to be Irish to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, the “greenest” day of the year. This year, Waste Management of Southern California recommends green tips for making your St. Patty’s Day even greener.
“With St. Patrick’s Day quickly approaching, now is the best time to start making green choices for an environmentally friendly holiday,” said Eloisa Orozco, Area Communications Manager for Waste Management of Southern California. “If each of us took a few small steps to reduce the waste we produce or increase the amount of materials we recycle during the holidays, we’d save a tremendous amount of material, energy and landfill space. There is no shortage of ways to cut down on wastefulness.”
Reprinted with permission from San Diego Loves Green.
By Roy L. Hales
March 6, 2013 (San Diego) -- According to a recent "Golden Eagle Threat Alert" by the Wildlife Research Institute (WRI), “human activity is causing the rapid extirpation of our last remaining Golden Eagle Territories.” They claim that over the past few decades, the number of San Diego’s “active golden eagle territories” has dropped from 103 to 49.
The US Fish & Wildlife Service states that wind turbines kill almost half a million birds every year. More recent studies suggest the number is much higher, somewhere between 13 and 39 million birds. Many of these are raptors.
Over two-thirds of study participants report chronic sleep deprivation and breathing disorders
By Billie Jo Jannen
A special report for East County Magazine
March 5, 2013 (San Diego’s East County)--A university research team that specializes in studying health and social challenges of minority populations is now focusing on quantification of reported illness among Manzanita tribal members who live along the row of wind turbines erected five years ago by the neighboring Campo tribe.
Lead researcher Arcela Nuñez-Alvarez, Ph.D., of the National Latino Research Center said the numbers, so far “…show some trends that I think deserve more attention.” Preliminary numbers in the small population being studied show that 68 percent of the households are suffering from chronic sleep disorders – an oft-mentioned complaint of people who live near turbines – and the same percentage reported respiratory problems.
March 14, 2013 (Sacramento)--A new bill in Sacramento aims to let energy companies remove nests that stand in the way of big projects, even during nesting season. The measure would allow take permits to be issued, meaning energy companies would face no penalties if they inadvertently kill bird species normally protected, such as red-tailed hawks.
“Any work around these nests could be easily delayed unit late June after the young have left their nests,” wildlife biologist Jim Wiegand told ECM, adding that the measure should be killed.
ECM investigations have previously led to fines and grounding of helicopters used by SDG&E due to violations of no-fly zones around protected eagle nests. Two massive industrial wind projects are proposed in eagle habitat in McCain Valley and Jewel Valley, where take permits or removal of eagle nests may occur.
Read full details at the Riverside Press Tribune:
By Miriam Raftery
March 2, 2013 (San Diego) -- U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel this week dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Quechan Indians over cultural resource impacts of the Ocotillo Express Wind Facility. In addition, the federal judge denied motion sought by the Desert Protective Council to protect raptors at the site.
"It is discouraging that our democratic system of checks and balances has broken down in relation to the administration's determination to usurp our public lands for industrial energy development,” said . Terry Weiner, Imperial County Projects and Conservation Coordinator at the Desert Protective Council. “ If we can no longer count on the courts to force our federal agencies to adhere to their own laws, how are the American citizens supposed to protect our national natural and cultural heritage for future generations?"
By Janis Mork
February 25, 2013 (El Cajon)- Last Saturday was a celebration of community gardens in El Cajon where the public was invited to different garden events around El Cajon. At the IRC-Kaiser community garden at 203 Travelodge Drive, Anne Barron, community garden coordinator from the International Rescue Committee, gave the public a complete tour of the garden. Still in the production stage, the garden is set to open in mid-March.
COUNTY TO EXAMINE ENERGY FINANCING OPTIONS; COULD CLEAR WAY FOR MORE CLEAN ENERGY PROJECTS INCLUDING PACE PROGRAMS
Information provided by County News Services
February 28, 2013 (San Diego)--The County Board of Supervisors this week launched an analysis that could lead to more rooftop solar and other small-scale alternative energy projects across the region. At the urging of Vice-Chairwoman Dianne Jacob and Supervisor Dave Roberts, the board unanimously voted to initiate a detailed look at financing options for homeowners and businesses interested in installing energy-saving systems.
“We’re fortunate to live in one of the sunniest regions in the nation, but the tools needed to help pay for solar panels and related technology are out of reach for many property owners,” said Jacob. “We’re hoping the analysis will help us lift the financial cloud hanging over solar, particularly for homeowners.”
SAN DIEGO COUNTY TAXPAYER ASSOCIATION PUSH FOR QUAIL BRUSH GAS POWER PLANT FUELS IRE: OPPONENTS SAY PLANT IS A BOONDOGGLE THAT WILL BE COSTLY FOR TAXPAYERS
“The danger is that consumers will be required to pay for an expensive gas-fired plant they don’t’ need now or in the future.” – The Utility Reform Network
By Miriam Raftery
February 24, 2013 (San Diego) – Why is the San Diego County Taxpayers Association (SDCTA) pushing for a fossil fuel power plant that many authoritative sources indicate is not needed and will prove costly to taxpayers?
In a letter sent February 20, 2013 to the California Public Utilities Commission, Lani Lutar, president and chief executive officer of the SDTCA, urged the Commission to postpone a decision on the Quail Brush gas-fired power plant near Mission Trails Regional Park, until after the California Energy Commission has completed its examination of the project.
COURT HEARS ARGUMENTS IN DESERT PROTECTIVE COUNCIL’S CASE OVER WILDLIFE THREATS POSED BY OCOTILLO WIND PROJECT
UPDATE: February 28, 2013 -- Judge Curiel has denied the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff's have not yet announced whether they will file an appeal. View decision here.
“The codes are quite clear …You can’t take a Swainson’s hawk. Not even one…There is also no take for Peregrine falcons and owls. If turbine curtailment is good enough for golden eagles, it should be good enough for these species, too.” ----Laurens Silver, attorney for plaintiffs
“It is not the BLM’s role to enforce state law…All through downtown there are glass buildings that could cause a take.” – Marissa Piropato, attorney for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management
By Miriam Raftery
Maris Brancheau also contributed to this report
February 27, 2013 (San Diego) – Is the federal government turning a blind eye to violations of state laws intended to protect raptors (birds of prey) and other wildlife at the Ocotillo Express Wind Facility? That’s the contention of a lawsuit filed by the Desert Protective Council, an environmental group, and others against the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Pattern Energy and others.
By Janis Mork
February 19, 2013 (El Cajon)- The International Rescue Committee has partnered with Kaiser Permanente in El Cajon to open up a community garden for El Cajon residents, who wish to become gardeners by filling out a contract, to grow their food.
Anne Barron, community garden coordinator, gave ECM a tour of the garden, which is expected to open up in mid-March. The community garden is located at 203 Travelodge Drive in El Cajon.
RURAL FIRE DISTRICT LAWYER: BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS IGNORED FIRE CONCERNS, PUBLIC HEALTH AT SHU’LUUK WIND PROJECT IN CAMPO
“On its face…it appears that the DEIS [Draft Environmental Impact Statement] fails to include any legally enforceable Public Health and Safety mitigation measures….A failure to mandate even minimal fire protection standards or a protection plan will not only endanger workers on-site, it represents a potential fire threat to the surrounding communities.”
– Cynthia L. Eldred, attorney for the San Diego Rural Fire Protection District
By Miriam Raftery
February 26, 2013 (Campo) – An attorney representing the San Diego Rural Fire Protection District has sent repeated letters to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) taking the agency to task for ignoring health, safety and fire concerns in its consideration of the Shu’luuk Wind project. In a February 25, 2013 comment submitted to the BIA, the district further accuses the BIA of violating federal law and failing to require mitigation of serious problems for the proposed project on the Campo Indian reservation.
By Miriam Raftery
February 23, 2013 (El Cajon)—Shamoon Jeejo, an immigrant from war-torn Iraq, is pleased to be among the local residents who now have a raised garden plot at Circle Community Garden. The new garden had its grand opening ceremony today, serving up cake as local residents staked out spaces--and more are available.
“In Iraq, I had a garden, it was like ten of this space,” Jeejo (photo, left) told East County Magazine. “I live near here, by the library. If there is work, I want to volunteer. “ For Jeejo, who came here two and a half years ago to escape the oppressive government in Iraq, there is another benefit of working with others. “I want to speak English; if I am with community, I can learn to speak English very well,” he says.
By Miriam Raftery
February 21, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – Environmental groups are reacting with shock and outrage to a U.S. Department of Interior rule change that would allow private wind energy corporations to apply for unprecedented 30-year permits to kill our nation’s national symbol, the Bald Eagle, as well as Golden Eagles.
“Outrageous,” Terry Weiner with the Desert Protective Council in San Diego said of the proposal. The DPC has joined a call mounted by the nonprofit American Bird Conservancy asking that further consideration of the revise rule be suspended until Sally Jewel, President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace Ken Salazar as Secretary of the Interior Department ,has an opportunity to fully review the proposal and evaluate its long term impacts.
February 21, 2013 (San Diego)--Even in sunny Southern California, winter brings colder weather and longer nights. That's why home heating typically accounts for more than half the monthly winter bill for natural gas, followed by water heating. In addition, lighting can account for up to 20 percent of your monthly electric bill.
DEVASTATION RESTORATION? QUESTIONS RAISED ON ADEQUACY OF REPLANTINGS AT OCOTILLO ENERGY PROJECT SITES
By Miriam Raftery
February 18, 2013 (Ocotillo) – As mitigation for major projects including Sunrise Powerlink and Ocotillo Express Wind Facility, energy companies were required to mitigate damage by restoring vegetation. But now residents and some environmentalists are raising criticisms over the level of restoration efforts put forth by Pattern Energy and SDG&E.
By Walt Meyer
February 19, 2013 (Lakeside)--New careers as the wave of the future was a key theme in a guest lecture February 12 given by Chuck Brands at El Capitan High School. Brands is a local sustainability and solar energy expert who is also vice-president of Heartland Coalition and director of its UnitedGREEN division.
Last fall, Brands coordinated a class at Southwestern College to teach a new technology that uses all relevant data to map a building so that owners and occupants can manage their energy consumption and plan to adapt the building for energy innovation. The students were team-taught this pioneering class by experts from across the country under a grant from SDG&E to the Heartland Coalition.