Southern California environment news and trends

Beutner + 2 months at DWP?

So, on tomorrow's agenda for the Board of Water and Power Commissioners, there's an item that seems like fun: LA deputy mayor Austin Beutner is probably going to get re-upped for 2 more months. Don't worry, he won't get any more money: just the original dollar he signed for.

What's interesting is that we're coming up on a year without a permanent DWP chief. After David Nahai resigned, we've had some David Freeman, some Austin Beutner, and a smattering of Raman Raj periods. I'm a little surprised: every time I've talked to Beutner or anyone else at DWP they've reiterated how he intends to be out as soon as possible, be it early - before summer's end - or on time - which would be next week.

What do you think this means for DWP's long term plans?


Prop 26: Chevron-backed initiative can create hurdles for AB 32

Most environmentalists already know that Prop 23, the ballot initiative that would put brakes on California’s landmark climate change law (AB 32), is backed by two Texas oil companies, Valero and Tesoro. Those who’ve dug a little further may even know that, somewhat surprisingly, Calif.-headquartered Chevron’s sat out of the Prop 23 fight, going so far as to tell the Bay Citizen that “Prop. 23 should be up the voters.”

But if you thought Chevron was simply staying relatively quiet about its non-stance on Prop 23, think again. Today, the oil company launched a new ad campaign that seeks to distance itself from other dirty energy companies — like say, BP. “Radical Chevron Ad Campaign Highlights Victims,” read the Chevron press release* I got via email today. The release goes on to explain that the campaign shows “Chevron as a ‘real people’ corporation, and admitting to problems that companies usually try to hide.”


Morning greens: Bicycles, birds, and parking in L.A.

epalabel Remember UCLA professor Donald Shoup, who took the Cato Institute to task for its non-free-market-based parking policies? The “prophet of parking” gets a feature in the LA Times today: “According to Shoup, free parking is at the root of many urban ills: congestion, sprawl, wasteful energy use and air pollution.”

You may spend less to park at LAX soon: A train to connect the Crenshaw district to LAX will be built within the next six years, thanks to a $546 million federal loan, reports KPCC. The loan is the first funding L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa’s 30/10 initiative, which seeks federal loans to speed up a dozen Metro projects.

Bike parking’s also usually free — but electric bicycles aren’t flying off the shelves in Southern California, though they do seem to be slowly pedaling on, reports the LA Times.

Missed the Roots of Change Network Summit, organized earlier this month to address food and agriculture in California? Experience LA has a summary of the proceedings.

Santa Cruz Island’s island scrub jays are getting vaccinated against the West Nile virus,” reports LA Times.

In national news: Take a look at the new proposed vehicle fuel economy labels for 2012 model year. LA Times reports the new designs are controversial — especially the one with “a prominent letter grade ranging from A-plus to D that takes up nearly half the label and reflects the vehicle’s fuel economy and tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions” (right). Send in your two cents on the designs to the EPA.

An EPA regulator wants to block mountaintop removal mining projects in West Virginia citing potentially disastrous environmental consequences. “In 2007, the Bush administration approved the project, which would involve dynamiting the tops off mountains over 2,278 acres to get at the coal beneath while dumping the resulting rubble, known as spoil, into nearby valleys and streams,” reports NY Times.

Lastly and hotly: Don’t let the cold rains fool you. “2010 is on pace to tie 1998 as the warmest year in the historical record” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, reports NY Times’ Green.


Court Orders Eucalyptus Sawed Down in Larkspur

When I was a kid, I thought eucalyptus trees were native to California. (I can admit this now because I have thought so many dumber things over the years.) Each year, I ran the Bay to Breakers, turned into the park, and enjoyed their smell immensely before the sea-salt-spray smacked me in the face at the final turn onto the Great Highway.

Yes, now I know they're not native. But I retain a soft spot for the groves of them in Golden Gate Park. Which is why I noted with interest a story in the San Francisco Chronicle about a dispute over eucalyptus trees in the Bay Area.

I can empathize with Anne Wolff. She's a clinical psychologist who bought a piece of property in Larkspur in part because she loved a grove of eucalyptus globulus - decribed by the Chron as "notoriously flammable."

The flammable part caught her neighbors' attention.


Palin takes on the Delta Smelt

Noted, but not with much comment: Sarah Palin, appearing in Anaheim at an event Frank Stoltze attended and will cover for KPCC.

Ms. Palin made one brief mention of Senator Barbara Boxer, the woman Ms. Fiorina is trying to defeat, belittling her for voting to support water restrictions in the agriculturally rich Central Valley to protect an endangered species, the delta smelt.

“How about the priorities of Barbara Boxer?” Ms. Palin said. “She’d rather protect that two-inch fish than the water supply. You call it a two-inch fish. Where I come from, we call that bait.”

Shades of Richard Pombo, but Sarah Palin comes by her hostility to the Endangered Species Act honestly and separately: she didn't much like the polar bear being up for protection - in her state - either. So much so that she misrepresented the conclusions of Alaska's own scientists, and dismissed US Geological Survey studies that concluded the polar bear was threatened by global warming.