Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

Morning greens: Calif.'s new renewable energy mandate, local bike-friendly moves, and bad news in the federal budget

Gov. Brown signs law requiring 33% of energy be renewable by 2020. Reports LA Times: "The California law increases a previous mandate of 20% renewable energy by 2020. U.S. energy secretary calls the law a model for other states, and an industry group says it could create 100,000 jobs." Pasadena Star-News and Climate Watch also report on the story.

Low-income Los Angeles apartments to go energy efficient with audits. Reports KPCC: "Housing officials in the city of Los Angeles are using federal money to cut energy bills for low-income apartment dwellers. L.A. will distribute about four-and-a-half-million stimulus dollars to the owners of more than a dozen buildings."

Santa Monica's Ocean Park Blvd. "road diet" is now permanent. Reports Santa Monica Daily Press: "The two lanes of the formerly four-lane road were taken out as part of a "road diet." In their stead, left-hand turn pockets were added to provide cover and planners painted in bicycle lanes to facilitate bike traffic. On-street parking was also added in some areas."

Metro proposes removal of peak-hour ban for bikes on rail. According to Metro's The Source, 'The current Bike-on-Rail policy has been on the books since September 2002and has, according to the Metro staff report to the Board, “impeded the full use of bicycles as an alternative mode of transportation.'"

San Francisco Airport's Terminal 2 hopes for LEED Gold rating. Reports NY Times: "LEED — Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design — is a rating system administrated by the United States Green Building Council that ranks structures according to points earned for energy efficiency, water conservation and other environmentally beneficial attributes.... If [LEED Gold certification] is awarded, T2 will be the first airport terminal in the United States to achieve such a ranking, according to Ashley Katz, a spokeswoman for the building council.

California is expanding its carbon-trading program to three Canadian provinces. Reports LA Times: "California will be joined by British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario in a cap-and-trade program aimed at limiting planet-heating greenhouse gases from industrial plants and transportation fuel, and that allows companies to buy and sell emissions allowances among themselves to cut their costs."

In national news: The Federal budget compromise includes deep cuts for environment projects. Reports LA Times: "The Environmental Protection Agency was spared from restrictions against its ability to regulate air and water pollution, including greenhouse gases that cause climate change. But the agency's budget is being cut by $1.6 billion, a 16% decrease from current levels."

That LA Times article also reports President Obama's high-speed-rail initiative was eliminated for 2011. Meanwhile, California high-speed rail held a forum in L.A., reports KPCC. LA Times reports "about 1,000 companies looking to take part in the massive high-speed rail project" attended the forum.

Congress removes an animal from the endangered species list. Reports NY Times: "A rider to the Congressional budget measure agreed to last weekend dictates that wolves in Montana and Idaho be taken off the endangered species list and managed instead by state wildlife agencies, which is in direct opposition to a federal judge’s recent decision forbidding the Interior Department to take such an action."

Meanwhile in Japan: Japan nuclear crisis raised to Chernobyl level. Reports NPR: "Today, Fukushima was placed in the worst rating possible on an international scale, a category previously reserved for Chernobyl, the Soviet-era plant in Ukraine that exploded in 1986, spewing radiation over a wide area and being blamed for the deaths of many thousands." NPR also reports that "Though Fukushima and Chernobyl are both level 7 nuclear accidents, the health consequences in Japan to date are much less severe."

Photo: California Governor Jerry Brown speaks to reporters as he announces his proposed budget at the California State Capitol on January 10, 2011 in Sacramento, California (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)