Southern California environment news and trends

De Leon calls for climate divestment, seeks to pull coal investments from CALPERS, CALSTRS

State and local leaders break ground at a Louisville, Ky., coal-burning power plant in November 2012.

Dylan Lovan/AP

State and local leaders break ground at a Louisville, Ky., coal-burning power plant in November 2012.

California State Senator Kevin de Leon says he’ll introduce legislation next month to get the state’s public employees retirement system off of coal.

Just back from ho-hum international talks in Lima, where he was a member of California's delegation, de Leon spoke at a conference in Oakland. It was sponsored by NextGen Climate, a nonpartisan group founded by billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer to raise the profile of climate change among issues in the U.S. political debate.

“With coal power in retreat, and the value of coal dropping, it’s time for us to lead again in moving our massive state portfolios to lower carbon investments,” De Leon said. “Divestment is about matching your values with your investment strategy — and still seeing positive financial returns… California has prohibited its energy companies from buying or importing coal power, and state funds should match that.”


Election 2014: Why your vote for Controller matters to California's environment

Molly Peterson/KPCC

On Broad Beach in Malibu, high tide not only wets sand but also retaining walls and broken down rock revetments. What happens next in homeowners' efforts to get sand trucked in here will go to the State Lands Commission - and the next Controller likely will weigh in on the problem.

The most common question I’ve been asked about the statewide Controller race this election year is the same question I get every four years. “Wait, we have one?”

The inevitable follow-up question: “What does this person do?” Down-ballot races in California’s state election can seem like a tedious part of a the voting process. Most of us just don't take the time to research them. In 2010, the last time we elected statewide executives, 435,308 of those people who voted for Governor just didn’t bother to vote for anybody in the Controller race. 

But in addition to being the chief fiscal officer of the 8th-largest economy in the world, the Controller sits on something like 80 state commissions and boards. And if you’re interested in California’s environment, a biggie there is the State Lands Commission.


Dirty for the drought: LA Waterkeeper wants you to take the no-car wash pledge

Inside a car wash that recycles water

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

When it comes to water usage, not all car washes are created equal. Most car washes don’t recycle water, but more and more newly built car washes are starting to. Santa Ana Express Car Wash opened three years ago and its million-dollar equipment recycles 70 percent of its water.

KPCC's Matt DeBord hasn't washed his car in more than a year.

John Rabe

The Saab Slob? KPCC's Matt DeBord hasn't washed his car in more than a year.

Washing your car with a garden hose can use up to 120 gallons of water. Most corner conveyor belt operations use less, but all that water can add up, as we told you in August.

That’s why the group LA Waterkeeper is challenging motorists to drive dirty and pledge to skip car washes for 60 days. 

"Water conservation is the easiest and most affordable way to quickly reduce water demand and also extend supplies into next year," says Liz Crosson, the group's executive director. 

This summer Ventura County’s water agency asked people to skip washing their rides for a month; some people got detailing and car washes as a reward. Crosson’s group is hoping bragging rights will be enough of an incentive. (Though there are some as-yet-undisclosed prizes.)

People who live in LA are really excited and interested by the cars that they drive," Crosson says. "And frankly, you can have a dirty car and you can have a sticker and have an excuse for having a dirty car so it saves your image too."


Conservation groups seek protection of monarch butterfly

Mercer 1428

Courtesy of Huntington Beach Tree Society

File: Western monarch butterfly in Huntington Beach

A group of conservation organizations teamed up with a leading monarch butterfly scientist on Tuesday to petition for protection of the monarch butterfly under the Endangered Species Act.

The monarch butterfly is one of the most iconic butterfly species in the country. But according to conservation group the Xerces Society, the monarch butterfly population is in trouble.

“Many scientists estimate that there are about 33 million monarchs. And just for comparison, in the past, researchers have estimated more than 1 billion monarchs,” said Sarina Jepsen, who directs the Endangered Species Program for the Xerces Society.

That’s a decline of about 90 percent in just fewer than 20 years, Jepsen said.

The main culprit in the monarch’s decline is the weed killer Roundup, Jepsen said. Most monarch caterpillars breed in the Midwest, and feed off of milkweed. While Roundup doesn’t kill genetically modified crops like soy and corn, it does kill milkweed.


LA County supervisors criticize 'piecemeal' cleanup around Exide, seek money for lead testing

Exide Soil Digging - 1

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Exide begins to remove lead-polluted soil on Monday morning at a house on the 1200 block of La Puerta Street in Boyle Heights.

All five members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors have signed a letter imploring California Gov. Jerry Brown to intervene in the state’s handling of contamination around the Exide Technologies plant in Vernon.

The letter criticizing the state’s “piecemeal approach to an urgent environmental hazard” comes as workers paid for by Exide are removing lead-contaminated topsoil from two homes near the intersection of Olympic and Indiana avenues in L.A. 

Signed Tuesday, the letter asks for “guaranteed state funding to immediately begin testing” at 37 more homes also sampled, but to less specific degrees, during November 2013. In the words of the board, “further testing and remediation of the other 37 homes has not been confirmed and may not begin until at least October 2014 because Exide has not yet agreed to comply with DTSC directives issued last March.”