Southern California environment news and trends

DWP still looking for more time on once-through cooling?

LADWP's supposed to stop an environmentally harmful process called once through cooling at its coastal power plants. This summer the utility even got an extension of time to do it. An item at its commissioners' meeting today reveals DWP may want still more time to comply with new federal rules. In a memo to the board on the DWP's website, the utility describes a schedule six years longer than the law now allows.

Under the Clean Water Act, once through cooling is illegal because the process harms water quality and sea life. It sucks sea water in to cool equipment, then it spits heated water back into the ocean. That outflow kills tiny organisms, the bottom of the food web. A couple dozen California power plants have used sea water this way, including DWP's Scattergood, Haynes, and Harbor facilities. As a municipal utility, DWP has long sought to be treated differently.


LA Department of Water and Power's solar incentive program to restart Sept. 1

Concerns from the solar industry about the LADWP's solar incentive program crystallized in the middle of yesterday's 7 1/2 hour LA City Council meeting. With the City Council sending the program back to DWP and back into gear as of September 1, they may not have been answered. A problem is that nothing the city council has asked of the solar industry and the DWP in the last two days of council sessions tells us whether they were. 

Ken Button, the president of Verengo, and SunRun's director of government affairs, Ethan Sprague, represented companies that offer lease-based financing of PV rooftop installations. Sprague told the council that "90 percent of the lease market" was objecting to the DWP's new solar rebates. He and Button estimated that people who could have spent little to nothing up front would have to spend four to five thousand dollars under the new program. 


Song of the Week: Bloomberg Philanthropy gives $50 million to Sierra Club for coal campaign

News today inspires this week's song. A campaign already targeting LA's utility for its reliance on coal power has gotten a $50 million boost from Bloomberg Philanthropy for its national work. The Sierra Club says it will use the money to double the number of organizers it has for its Beyond Coal campaign, place people in 45 states, and aim for a hard-to-reach target: the group wants to shut down a third of the country's older coal plants by 2020.

In the Sierra Club's announcement, former NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg said: "If we are going to get serious about reducing our carbon footprint in the United States, we have to get serious about coal. Ending coal power production is the right thing to do, because, while it may seem to be an inexpensive energy source, the impact on our environment and the impact on public health is significant," said Bloomberg. "Coal is a self-inflicted public health risk, polluting the air we breathe, adding mercury to our water, and the leading cause of climate disruption." 


Eastern California Museum shows us what the eastern Sierra, lower Owens could look like

There's been a lot on the eastern Sierra lately, on this blog. I just wanted to make a quick pitch for the fascinating resource that is the Eastern California Museum. 

I was in this spot the other day-but I couldn't tell till later. If you listened to my story on the radio today you heard Mike Prather talking about a river mosaic - "Wetlands and meadows, closed tree canopies, shrubby understory, cattail bullrush tule-type things." This first picture now lives in the Eastern California Museum; it was taken by Andrew A. Forbes, who had a photography shop in Bishop between 1902-1916. Where these willows and cottonwoods were doing their thing before the 1920s, we've now got tule, tule, tule.

This next one, I snapped. The guy in red is Larry Freilich - Inyo County water department's mitigations projects manager, and I'm facing slightly sideways, while the picture above is facing downstream. But it's pretty close to the same spot.  


Long-term water agreement makes solutions AND problems for Inyo, LA

While I was in Lone Pine, eastern Sierra officials and conservationists struck a friendly tone about their work with the LA Department of Water and Power - at least about the lower Owens River restoration. But the lower Owens is just a part of a document called the Long term Water Agreement between the LADWP and Inyo County. And that document makes for long term problems as well as long term solutions.

A few days after my visit Inyo County initiated legal action asking the DWP to pump less water out of the ground in Owens Valley over the next 12 months. It wasn't sudden. The disagreement has been brewing for a bit. Essentially, under the terms of the deal, LADWP tells Inyo what it wants to take from underground water aquifers via pumping. This year, the utility proposed pumping 91,000 acre feet of water - which is the amount of water it would take to cover an acre of land a foot deep. Inyo County wrote back, said vegetation conditions were poor, water tables where they'd take from were low: they recommended 68,510 feet - about 25% less.