Southern California environment news and trends

Dog bites man; or, Greenwashing is alive and well

My intern Captain Obvious brought to my attention a Wall Street Journal article that looks at misleading claims on green labeling. An environmental marketing company called TerraChoice issues a report that found "fibbing about or having no proof of environmental claims, vague or poorly defined marketing language, such as "all-natural," and the use of fake labels designed to imply a product has third-party certification or endorsement of its claims."

Scary is the TerraChoice report seems to find the worst greenwashing comes in baby and children's stuff - "BPA-free" being an increasingly popular sales tactic:

While the overall incidence of greenwashing dipped slightly—4.5% of products were dubbed "sin free" versus only 1% in 2007 when the first study was conducted—particular concerns were raised about the huge surge over the past year of products claiming to be free of Bisphenol A, a compound used in plastics such as baby bottles and other consumer products, and phthalates, which are used to give plastics like pacifiers flexibility and durability.


David Nahai talks to Climate Watch

My good friend, and southern California's great reporter, Ilsa Setziol, interviews David Nahai for our neighbor-to-the-north's ClimateWatch blog. You can read her interview, about watering restrictions, renewable energy, and Propposition 23/AB 32, at their site.

Much of it's ground we covered back in May with an interview that you can listen to elsewhere on this site. (There's also extended interviews on that site specifically on DWP leadership and renewable energy in California.) But he did say some things we haven't heard before about watering restrictions, and he did acknowledge the challenge of enforcing water restrictions when city leaders aren't fully on board with them.

Can the city still cut consumption with a three-day regime? If everyone went to three days a week, we wouldn’t have as much savings, but it wouldn’t be negligible. But enforcing water restrictions isn’t simply a matter of enacting the law. It’s a matter of motivating Angelenos to rally to a cause, because the law cannot be enforced on a daily basis by a water conservation team that is not a platoon. What is needed is the stigma of wasting a precious commodity unnecessarily.?? My concern is some of the council members made certain statements that tended to undermine the resolve of Angelenos as far as water cutbacks, and it left only the price signal of the rate adjustment.

You’re referring to Councilman Greig Smith, who openly ignored the ordinance, and Council President Eric Garcetti who said his wife couldn’t keep her plants alive on twice weekly watering. It would help if city council members weren’t being defiant of the law. ??People think the drought and the challenge is over. I see it in restaurants where the minute you sit down water is served to you. The law still says restaurants are not supposed to serve water to people unless it’s specifically requested. To continue with business as usual is very shortsighted.??We’ll never be free of our dependence on external water. What we can do is to decrease that dependence somewhat. The other reason it is so important for Los Angeles to do this is various interests are vying for limited water resources—Northern California, Southern California, and agricultural interests. In order to have a dialogue that’s credible we have to act responsibly ourselves.  [If we conserve], nobody can accuse us of hypocrisy.


Morning greens: Green taxis, short subway, and more energy debates

lacab Morning greens: and

LA City Council moved to ‘green’ city’s taxi fleets — “at least 80 percent of the city’s taxicabs within the next five years” — as a condition of renewing the taxi franchise system. LA Times reports “several environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the evidence of environmental improvement was sketchy.” We’ll have more on this at Pacific Swell later in the week.

Metro’s recommending that the Subway to the Sea only stretch to Westwood, which has made some subway supporters unhappy. In case you missed the Metro public meetings, the transit agency’s blog The Source explains why the transit agency’s recommending a shorter line than what many transit advocates desire. “The short explanation comes down to one word: ‘money’” — as in federal funding, the criteria for which are not met by a longer subway line. Whether you agree or disagree with Metro, you can voice your opinion at the Metro Board of Directors Hearing on the Westside Subway Extension tomorrow.


Proposition 26, Part 2: the money [UPDATED]

Okay, to refresh your memory, here's the argument the Yes on 26 people make: according to the president of California's Chamber of Commerce - 

Higher taxes and fees make it more difficult for businesses to stay in California – the very businesses that employ Californians, create jobs and generate revenue for our state. Increasing employment and growing the economy are crucial to California’s recovery.

Fees are bad, right? Well. Let's look at who hates fees. Mostly corporations who pay them.

One of the oil companies I mentioned in my Proposition 23 story today is Occidental Petroleum. Their support of Propositions 23 and 26 represents a continuous line of interest in limiting the impacts of climate change laws by a company whose greenhouse gas burden is, uh, impactful.

But it's not just oil companies who don't like fees. People who make the booze and smokes - increasingly targeted for health and environmental reasons for fees associated with their societal costs - don't like 'em - a LOT. The Wine Institute supports 26. They've given a quarter of a mil to the cause. American Beverage Association out of DC has more than 1.2 million worth of skin in the game. They've stepped up lobbying efforts since cities and school districts started placing FEES on soft drinks citing health and environmental concerns. And small groups - Stone Brewing Company - Stone Pale Ale, Stone Ruination IPA anyone? - care about this issue too.

MillerCoors. ConocoPhillips. Phillip Morris, The Small Business Action PAC - read this Capitol Weekly piece about the transparency (or lack thereof) of their funding, as not-required by California law. And Chevron - as Siel noted back midmonth - has started to throw down the real dough. $3.75 million, much of it in the last 2 weeks.

Who likes fees? Well, I dunno. But groups opposing 26 are: Credo, teacher's unions, state employees' unions, firefighters, highway patrolmen, the Alliance for Local Leaders for Education, Registration and Turnout  (The what now? "Established in 2002, ALLERT's mission is to deepen and expand the civic participation of traditionally underrepresented communities of color, youth, and low-income residents in South Los Angeles and other inner city neighborhoods of Los Angeles.") SCOPE  (WHO? "California's eroding tax base and federal policies that emphasize military over domestic spending aggravate conditions in communities already plagued by poverty and disinvestment.")


Proposition 26, Part 1: environment arguments

So, what the hell would Proposition 26 do? I'll look at the Yes side, the No side, and the LAO's analysis to find out.

News today is that UCLA law professors released their analysis - that's included in the no side below. In a battle of people I've interviewed in the past, we've got former DTSC chief Maureen Gorsen vs. UCLA's Sean Hecht - both making interesting points about green chemistry regulations' ability to survive in the future.

So, the people backing Prop 26 say they're worried about "hidden taxes" -

In the past decade, state legislators and local officials have been using a loophole to propose more than $10 billion in “hidden taxes” - fees disguised as taxes - on goods and services that Californians use every day, like groceries, gas, cell phones, or even emergency services.

State and local politicians routinely circumvent the state Constitution’s requirements by disguising taxes as fees because fees are easier to pass than tax increases.  At the state level, the Legislature calls many taxes “fees” so they can pass or increase the tax with a bare majority vote – not the two-thirds vote required for taxes.  At the local level, politicians call taxes “fees” so they can avoid voters and our Constitutional right to vote on most tax increases.