Southern California environment news and trends

Morning greens: Recycling fraud, smoking ban, Prop 23 and BP oil spill updates

aluminumcans Morning greens: Three people arrested for recycling fraud in Riverside. The arrested allegedly got aluminum from Arizona — not eligible under California’s recycling program — and got millions from California’s recycling funds, reports L.A. Now.

Long Beach banned smoking in city parks and recreational areas. “Under the ordinance, those caught smoking in recreational areas will be fined $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second offense within a year, and $500 for each subsequent violation within a year of the previous offenses.,” reports LA Times.

SoCal Edison got a $25M federal grant for wind energy storage. Southern California Edison got the grant from the Department of Energy to develop a lithium-ion battery bank for storing wind-generated electricity.

A Big energy plant in the Mojave desert got the go ahead from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar yesterday; the plan now goes before the California Energy Commission. AP reports the approval “authorizes the Bureau of Land Management to offer Tessera Solar the use of more than 4,600 acres for 30 years to build the Calico Solar Project. The Interior Department says the 663.5-megawatt project could power 200,000 to 500,000 homes.”

Cal State L.A. Senior challenges Charles Koch to debate Prop 23. Koch is the chief executive of Koch Industries, a major backer of Prop 23 (via Green).

In other Prop 23 news, Bill Gates contributed $700,000 to fight Prop 23 (PDF), while Prop 23 backers launched new TV ads in L.A. A new Public Policy Institute of California poll found voters oppose Prop 23 48% to 37%, reports LA Times.

Are polar bears endangered? A federal judge wants to know. “U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan wants the Interior Department to clarify a decision by the administration of former President George W. Bush that polar bears were merely threatened rather than in imminent danger of extinction,” reports NPR.

In BP news: Three environmental advocacy groups sued BP yesterday, reports LA Times, “alleging the company’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill harmed and killed both endangered and threatened species.” Lawmakers are steering clear of BP cash, NY Times reports. NPR reports microbes may have eaten methane from the spill.

Lastly and economically. The BP oil spill may have been good — for the economy, writes public radio correspondent David Brancaccio. “Let’s agree this is not the way to grow,” David writes — and answers a few questions about his post on NY Times’ Dot Earth blog. Along that line of thought, NY Times covers how the value a healthy environment provides is invisible in the global economy — as well as how water shortages could make municipal bonds riskier and how biodiversity can mean “large and unappreciated economic benefits.”

Photo: Wes Peck/Flickr

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Tour de Fat coming to LA

The New Belgium Bewing Company is serious about its environmental values: wind-powered operations, high-efficiency beermaking (I can imagine at least one of my cousins saying that they believe in high-efficiency beerDRINKING here - which one will find this first?). They're even serious when it comes to doing something kinda ludicrous. Like encouraging people to dress up, ride bikes in a parade, and return to park to listen to music and enjoy a little sunshine and beer shine. Though, the point of Tour de Fat isn't to sell beer. It's to raise money for bicycle groups in different places around the country and raise awareness about alternative forms of transportation.

In Los Angeles they're raising money for Cyclists Inciting Change through Live Exchange, The LA County Bicycle Coalition, and The Bicycle Coalition/La Bicicocina.

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Electric car fans: Test drive a Leaf, celebrate EVs

If you ever want to start up a heated debate, bring up the topic of electric cars among a mixed group of environmentalists.

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On one side you’ll have the electric vehicle (EV) fans with their converted plug-ins and Teslas, excitedly enthusing that the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf are finally becoming a reality. On the other, cyclists and complete streets advocates will grouse about how electric cars still don’t solve a lot of transportation-related problems (suburban sprawl and gigantic parking lots, to name just two) and how so much more could be done to improve bicycle and pedestrian infrastructures if those projects got the kind of federal and state money that electric cars attract.

I’m somewhere in the middle — I’m a ped and public transit advocate and reluctant car owner who’s cautiously happy that zero emissions vehicles are coming on the market, as a transitional technology while we build the infrastructure for easier, happier car-free living.

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But what about the children? Calling climate champions.

The Air Resources Board announced today the creation of what they're calling a "Climate Generation Program" - it's modeled after the British Council's similar program in the UK and elsewhere. The idea is to compete through school and homework to connect their lives to the environment. The goal: to cut the carbon footprint at their school. ARN Chairman Mary D. Nichols in the release:

The name ’Climate Generation’ says it all. This is an opportunity for young people who will be living with the effects of climate change to focus their passion and enthusiasm on real-world projects and solutions in their school today. It will also help us identify our new Climate Champions, the leaders who will express the concerns of California’s youth about climate change.

Sixty countries have a Climate Generation Program now. In our state, the the California Education and the Environment Initiative, a new curriculum comprised of 85 units teaching select Science and History-Social Science academic standards will be promoted as an important element of the new Climate Generation program. The new curriculum, the result of a multi-agency education and environmental partnership, was developed to help students discover how science, history and social science relate to individual lives and connect to the world around them, focusing on their relationship to the environment. It was designed to engage students in a way that makes learning relevant and fun.

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Morning greens: From clean diesel to flying Humvees

americanpica

For the third time, California was told by a judge to consider giving endangered species protection to the pika. LA Times reports that the tiny mountain-dwelling mammal “is the first animal in the lower 48 states to be considered for endangered listing solely because of climate change.”

The campaign to pass Prop 21 launched its first TV spots yesterday. Prop 21 would add an $18 fee to annual car registrations, then use that extra money to fund state parks, allowing free admission to the public. If you haven’t seen the ads already, watch them at LAist.

In national news: Newer “clean diesel” trucks produce a lot less pollution than trucks of years past, say both trucking companies and the EPA. NY Times reports the announcements come as the Obama administration prepares to debut new proposed efficiency standards for trucks.

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