Southern California environment news and trends

Interior Department shrinks some solar energy zones in Inland Empire; will it be enough?

Molly Peterson/KPCC

Joshua Tree National Park, October 9, 2011. The park's border is now further away from the edge of proposed federal solar energy zones under the final tweak of a massive programmatic environmental impact report.

Yesterday the Interior Department released its final proposed maps for "solar energy zones." As we reported last year, these zones are for projects that come NEXT: not the "fast-track" solar projects that are already underway in California, Nevada and other states. 

Nearly a year after the Interior Department started making these zones in which solar could speed ahead, some of the zones are shrunken or elminated under the final plan on which the public will comment. Interior officials say the zones were "found to have resource conflicts and/or development constraints."

In the Inland Empire, eastern Riverside county bears the brunt of the scrutiny. And in San Bernardino, that means the Pisgah Crater and Iron Mountain. Pisgah is about 37 square miles of land; Iron Mountain is a patch 166 square miles big. According to the Press-Enterprise

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Senate Approves John Bryson as Commerce Secretary

Mercer 18418

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

President Barack Obama stands with John Bryson after nominating Bryson to be the next Commerce Secretary, on May 31, 2011 in Washington, D.C. Bryson has now been confirmed by the Senate.

While the California Air Resources Board was approving a cap-and-trade scheme to start in 2013 in-state, in Washington the U.S. Senate has approved John Bryson as the next Commerce Secretary. Bryson's nomination was controversial from the get-go. 

Republicans vowed to block Bryson back in July. But in the end his opposition among some Republican senators fizzled as they grudgingly admitted that he has the credentials to serve. As Politico's Darren Goode reports, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain said, "If I were president of the United States, I would probably not have nominated Mr. Bryson. But I think we all ought to appreciate the fact that elections do have consequences." (Of course, he would know.)

Back in June we looked at 5 environmental connections for Mr. Bryson and California: he'll have authority over matters relating to NOAA, which means interaction with oceans policy and climate policy. Kitty Felde in Washington covered the short confirmation hearing that same month. 

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Southland's National Solar Tour footprint shrinks; does that mean solar itself is in trouble?

Ellen Mackey

Ellen Mackey's Sun Valley home is a National Solar Tour standard. She says they're always working to get more efficient.

Four years ago, 30 Los Angeles and Orange County homes threw out the welcome mats as part of the National Solar Tour

This year, it's the 16th year of the tour, sponsored by the American Solar Energy Society, which bills it as the world's largest grassroots solar event. The ASES says more than 160,000 participants will visit some 5,500 buildings in 3,200 communities across the U.S. And it's been steadily growing, nationally. In the DC area, they'll have 55 tours to choose from.

So how many in LA? Five, according to the website. But is that necessarily bad? 

One of the five is the Westside Solar Tour, which, according to its site will "combine guided and self-guided tours of structures, including residences and businesses including The Sidewalk Cafe, The Brig and The Electric Lodge in Venice and Oasis Healing Center in Mar Vista." That's not one site, that's a pile of them. (Silverlake gets a similar deep and rich tour.)

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Old-timey movies tell half the story about LA's water

LADWP's 1931 film "Romance of Water" told LA what it wanted to hear about the infrastructure that helped it grow.

Alex Cohen talked to film curator Scott Simmon this week, a conversation about the preservation of rare old timey movies about the west. Clara Bow ("Mantrap") was great and all, but what I loved about it were, of course, the ones about water. (Infrastructure!)

I never want to forget how we got here. And by we, I mean the white men who established the infrastructure for "Loss Angle-eez" (that's how they say it in the old movies) and by here, I mean, a dry basin we've made into a megalopolis. 

The language in the LADWP film and in the Hearst Newsreel is incredible. It describes chilly eastern Sierra mountains serving up water while "people three hundred miles away are basking in a semi tropical winter sun…" The great mountain lakes of the Mammoth area are "a fishermen's paradise where man may forsake the cares of the world among the grandeur and peace of nature." We have, in this imagination, "…a never ending water supply." The water was "wasted" in the Owens salt lake, until the "enterprise" of man harnessed it for the "benefit" of the city of the angels. 

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Greenpeace at 40: Kumi Naidoo on AirTalk

Edison Petition Delivery

© Gus Ruelas/Greenpeace

Chicago community activist Martha Castillon.

Edison Petition Delivery

© Gus Ruelas/Greenpeace

Edison Energy Corporation, in Rosemead, California, owns the Fisk and Crawford coal power plants in Chicago which Greenpeace is campaigning to shut down.


As the Pasadena Star News reports, people came from Illinois to Rosemead yesterday…"bearing 25,000 petitions, they traveled from the Chicago neighborhoods of Pilsen and Little Village to Edison's Rosemead headquarters." 

Among them was Kumi Naidoo, the head of Greenpeace. I interviewed him back in March, when he came to town to meet with celebs and talk to the LADWP about coal.

After his encounter at Edison yesterday, Naidoo came in to the Mohn Broadcast Center in Pasadena to talk to Larry Mantle. His conversation just appeared on AirTalk at 11:00 this morning

I was surprised to hear that, as he says in the interview broadcast today, 60 percent of Greenpeace's efforts are policy-based, not protest-market-action based. (But then, Larry has a way of being incredibly well prepared and squeezing interesting information out of people.) What's fascinating about that is Greenpeace, now founded 40 years ago in Vancouver, still sort of cultivates a revolutionary image. "They said by putting our lives and bodies on the line, we can make a difference," Naidoo told a Canadian crowd a couple weeks back, not long after he got arrested for his cause, which, the head of an organization that's international doesn't often do such a thing. 

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