Southern California environment news and trends

Morning greens: 'Cool It,' NIMBY power fights, and taxi talk

A new environmental documentary “Cool It” hits theaters today, featuring the much maligned “skeptical environmentalist” Bjorn Lomborg. NY Times and LA Times have rather over-enthusiastic reviews; NY Times’ environmental writer Andrew Revkin has a more measured, thoughtful one at Dot Earth, along with a promise to post a short interview with Bjorn and an open call for questions for him. Above’s the trailer.

Restaurant industry prepares to fight South L.A.’s fast food ban. As the City Council prepares to take up an ordinance to severely limit new fast food restaurants, “the restaurant industry is gearing up to fight back, emphasizing the role fast-food businesses have played in providing jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities,” reports LA Times.

Only 250 taxis will operate in Santa Monica, down from 522. SM Daily Press reports the city council adopted the new franchise structure, which includes a requirement for ultra-low and super-ultra-low emission vehicles, to reduce congestion and greenhouse gas emissions while providing more cab drivers with a better living wage.


DWP drops solar incentives for rooftop solar - does this become Council's problem?

This week - a month after the last time they considered it - the Commissioners of the Board of Water and Power voted to drop the incentives for rooftop solar starting in January. The initial incentive's $3.56 now for every installed watt of energy on a residential property, where the DWP gets to keep the Renewable Energy Credits. Next year, that'll go down to a max of $2.80. (Some factors can alter the incentive total; I'm leaving those out to avoid a bad headache.)

A drop was always supposed to happen. it's a new market. The idea of the incentives was to move people over, to get them to dip into the new market - then the incentives drop over time. Every utility is stepping the incentives down. S.B.1 allocated money to utilities around the state for exactly this purpose. LADWP got 318 million dollars to spend through 2016.


L.A. County Board of Supervisors to consider plastic bag ban

riteaidbag plastic bags

California failed to pass a plastic bag ban earlier this year, but L.A. County’s moving forward with an ambitious plastic bag ban plan. Why? The plastic bag industry failed to meet its own voluntary reduction goals for plastic bag use.

Serious environmental activists against disposable plastic bags may remember that back in 2008, the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors voted after much debate to give the plastic industry yet another chance to reduce plastic bag use voluntarily — 30% by 2010, and 65% by 2013. Fail to meet those goals, and a plastic bag would kick in.

I was at that meeting, and thought that the industry would surely meet the 30% reduction goal — then perhaps fail to meet the more ambitious 65% goal. I was wrong. Apparently, voluntary efforts to curb plastic bag waste failed pretty miserably. Director of Public Works Gail Farber details that failure in the letter to the Board of Supervisors recommending a plastic bag ban (PDF):


Morning greens: Green libraries, water woes, and hot laptops

A driver who hit a cyclist in downtown L.A. and fled the scene gets 90 days in jail. Reports LA Times: “The case has been closely watched by many in the city’s cycling community. The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office and the city attorney at first declined to press charges against Angelina Everett, the 37-year-old fashion designer who, witnesses said, struck Magos with her white Porsche SUV while making a left turn onto 2nd Street, just west of Figueroa.”


Can we get L.A. students walking to school? Jessica Meaney, California policy manager for the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, says yes in an interview with The City Fix. “It’s also about mobility and independence–creating spaces we can enjoy walking and biking to with ease. Can kids in your neighborhood run around and have independence? Can they get to school safely? If not, why not? Answering these types of questions are a key priority for the health of our communities.”


Angelenos get open-access electric vehicle charging stations in Hollywood, Santa Monica

lacarguybegley Want an electric car — but fear your car will run out of juice and leave you stranded? Electric car enthusiasts will assure you that an overnight charge at home’s plenty of go for the average commuter and in-city driver, but cautious Angelenos got an extra jolt of assurance yesterday, thanks to the locally-famous LACarGuy. Drive your 2010 model electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle in to LACarGuy’s Toyota of Hollywood or Toyota of Santa Monica, and you can plug in — free of charge — at the dealership’s electric vehicle charging station.

That’s right — Angelenos got the very first open-access electric charging stations in the U.S., when actor Ed Begley, Jr. plugged in a plug-in Prius for the first ceremonial charge at Toyota of Hollywood yesterday. And you too can do as Ed did — simply by stopping by and plugging your plug-in or EV into either of the two Level 2 SAE J-1772 chargers in an electric emergency.

What are the chances you’ll be close enough to Toyota of Hollywood or Toyota of Santa Monica to take advantage of these charging stations when your car’s about to run out of juice? Well, that would depend on how often you’re driving in Hollywood or Santa Monica. But rest assured that more charging stations are coming — at least to Santa Monica. LACarGuy promises to add charging stations at Lexus Santa Monica and Fisker Santa Monica soon.

Why’s LACarGuy doing this? And does an actual LACarGuy exist? Yes, he does — and his name’s Mike Sullivan, president of LACarGuy. Back in July, I asked Mike about his plans to install these chargers. Here’s what he said:

We thought it was unfair to only sell a product. We thought you had to be involved in the infrastructure, and changing people’s driving habits. And if you only sell something, you don’t really effect change.

So I bought seven chargers this week and we’re installing them next week. Two at Toyota Santa Monica, two at Toyota Hollywood, one at Lexus Santa Monica, one at Fisker Santa Monica, and one at my house. So now, we’re going to open those up not only to our clients, but anybody who needs a charge. So we’ll have the ability for someone who buys a Nissan to stop by and come by and have a cup of coffee and visit for an hour, and get at least enough charge to go drive their 20, 30, 40 miles, whatever their car takes to get back home.

I think it’s just one of those little things, candidly, that we have to do to truly allow people to have the ability to change. You can’t make it difficult for people. Even if they like it, they can afford the car, you still have to make it easy for them to do it, to live it.

If those new public chargers make you more interested in getting a plug-in or electric car, you can check out the Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt, and other electricity-sipping cars at the upcoming 2010 LA Auto Show.

Photo of Mike Sullivan, President of LAcarGUY, with actor Ed Begley, Jr. at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the electric vehicle charging station at Toyota of Hollywood (Credit: Julie C. May)