Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

Morning greens: LEED, leaked memos, and other green controversies

 Don’t forget: Artisanal LA and Homegrown Culver City happen this weekend!

A solar thermal plant in Mojave desert will break ground next week. The LA Times reports that the nearly $2-billion project project, “spanning about 3,600 acres and involving 346,000 mirrors, each about the size of a billboard,” is the first of its kind to be built on federal land.

California received Housing and Urban Development grants for sustainable development. As Kaid Benfield describes them in Grist: “the $4 million grant to a Fresno-based consortium covering eight counties complements a $1.5 million grant to metro Sacramento, a longtime leader in planning, in a way that should combine to address serious growth and development issues in the Valley and perhaps assist compliance with the state’s landmark planning law, SB 375.

Homeowners could get as much as $8,000 to make their houses more energy-efficient, if the Homestar bill, already passed in the House of Representatives, gets through the Senate. “Homestar advocates claim that the $6 billion could create 160,000 new jobs in the flagging building sector,” reports NPR.

Popular green building standard LEED may start accepting additional sustainable wood certification standards. At the moment, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) credits are awarded only for Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood. Many environmental groups oppose opening up the standards to other certifications, according to NY Times.

Changes in LEED standards can have widespread effects. The federal government’s General Services Administration seeks to be a role model in sustainability for the private sector by adopting green standards itself. Among its initiatives, according to the NY Times: “All new buildings will be at least Gold certified by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, [GSA Senior Sustainability Officer] Leeds said.”

Proposed cuts at the Department of Environmental Conservation would eliminate 209 jobs — a loss that has both environmentalists and the gas indutstry worried. “Not counting the 209 jobs scheduled to be eliminated from the current level of about 3,100, the department has lost 595 employees over the last two and a half years,” reports NY Times.

Those proposed cuts came to light due to a leaked memo. Since the leak, the Department of Environmental Conservation’s commissioner Alexander B. Grannis has been fired on suspicion of being the leaker; some are rallying for Grannis to be returned to his position, reports NY Times’ Green.

In BP oil spill news: The main federal investigation into the oil spill got an extension to complete its report. The Coast Guard and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement now have 60 more days to prepare their findings. Meanwhile, rescued turtles were returned to Gulf waters this week, reports LA Times.

Lastly and craftily: Don’t have a Halloween mask yet? Create your own — greenly. Alternative consumer has a roundup of 6 Halloween masks made from recycled and upcycled materials to get your creative juices flowing.

Image: Artisanal LA