Southern California environment news and trends

Will you turn off for Earth Hour 2012?

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Armin Vogel/Flickr (Creative Commons-licensed)

Before we head into the Earth Month of April, March 31 marks the sixth annual Earth Hour. This year, a record number of countries — 147 — will participate with hundreds of landmarks going dark for one hour starting 8:30 p.m. local time to raise awareness for environmental and sustainability issues. 

Starting in 2007 as a one-city initiative in Sydney, Australia, Earth Hour has quickly expanded to become the world’s largest voluntary action for the environment. This year, model and Victoria’s Secret Angel Miranda Kerr is Earth Hour’s global ambassador, alongside an impressive list of supporters that includes Hilton hotels, the National Hockey League, Girl Scouts of America, Al Gore and Universal Pictures with our buddy, the Lorax. He’ll be turning his moustache green to mark the occasion. Really.  

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San Jose company set to build solar plant in Baja California

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Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

A field of solar panels.

Solar energy systems supplier Solfocus has committed to building a 450-megawatt power plant near the border of Mexico and California. A joint operation between San Jose-based Solfocus, Mexican real estate developer Grupo Musa and Synergy Technologies in America, the plant will be built in 50-megawatt tranches. As announced in a press release, construction will begin on the first tranche later this year, with operations scheduled to begin sometime in 2013.

“The project is in direct alignment with the Mexico and U.S. bilateral clean energy agenda. The countries share a common goal of achieving strong economic growth and energy security while addressing climate change and increasing the reliability of energy infrastructure,” said Lic. David Munoz, Director General of the Baja California State Commission of Energy in the release. “Mexico has been successful with wind energy, and now this large solar project will support our energy infrastructure and economic development efforts in the very near future.”

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California oil refineries produce most greenhouse emissions in U.S.

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A new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists reveals that California oil refineries emit 19 to 33 percent more greenhouse gasses than any other comparable region in America.

According to Inside Climate News, while California refineries have worked hard over the last 17 years to combat pollutants, dirtier and harder to clean types of crude oil (such as Canadian tar sands oil) have undone any progress by forcing the facilities to work harder to process — and create more CO2 emissions. California refineries are also known for removing sulfur earlier in the cleaning process, which contributes to the elevated emissions.

“With respect to emissions intensity, California officials have been running around claiming California’s oil refineries are so much more energy efficient, that they are just cleaner… Obviously they were wrong,” said Greg Karras, a senior scientist with Communities for a Better Environment who wrote the study.

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New report finds more than three million green jobs in America

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A new report from the Labor Department says that America boasts 3.1 million green jobs, accounting for 2.4 percent of the country’s workforce. This is the first time the department’s Bureau of Statistics has measured eco-friendly jobs, and environmental groups are applauding the effort.

"Critics and politically driven naysayers have been trying to convince us that clean energy and green economy jobs are a hoax," said Bob Keefe, spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council to the San Francisco Chronicle. He predicts those numbers will increase to grow "as long as we don't let entrenched interests stop it."

While California has the most of those jobs at 338,000, Vermont comes in with the highest percentage of them at 4.4 percent. These numbers are the result of the first part of the report covering “output based” jobs, like producing goods. Another report tallying “process based” green jobs, like recycling, is still to come.

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New report on the state of California water due this week

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Mark Dadswell/Getty Images

The waters of California are swirling. As we reported recently, the controversial Water Reliability Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives, but heavy-hitting senators like Dianne Fienstein and Barbara Boxer are mobilized against it going any further. We also reported on the sobering new report from UC Davis regarding water contamination in California’s farm regions.

Now there’s a new report from Environment California expected tomorrow (which, coincidentally, is World Water Day) that will detail exactly the “total amount of toxic chemicals released by industrial facilities into California’s rivers, lakes, and streams, as ranked by waterway, watershed, type of pollution, polluter, and state.”

As outlined in a press release, this new report will explain the “total figures for direct releases of chemicals that cause cancer, reproductive, and developmental harm.” In short, it’s something that most of us will be eager to see. We will be sure to bring you those figures as they arrive.

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