Southern California environment news and trends

Runoff rules the Bay Area: another California region makes runoff rules

As a former frequent kayaker of the San Francisco Bay, I was surprised to read that maybe agriculture from the Delta isn't primarily to blame for elevated levels of mercury and other pollutants in those waters. But as someone who's been paying attention to low impact development efforts in southern California lately, the fact that a decade's worth of data points to urban runoff as a culprit as large or larger than ag made me nod my head.

I'm talking about work from the San Francisco Estuary Institute: SFEI released its Pulse of the Estuary report a few days ago. It shows the depth of knowledge for the SF bay's runoff problem has grown in nearly-staggering fashion.

Ten years ago scientists thought about a quarter of pollution in the bay came from sediments and urban runoff. Now they believe that it's double that - more than 50 percent. Correspondingly, farms now are getting blamed for far less of the pollution in the bay - even though the Central Valley itself is an enormous watershed, and almost all the freshwater coming into the bay comes from there.


Free 6-week green living workshop begins next week

Want to walk the environmentalist’s walk — but don’t know how? If you live on the westside — or are willing to take long weekly rides on the bus or bike — sign up to take a Green Living Workshop with Santa Monica’s environmental nonprofit Sustainable Works. The 6-week crash course offers eco-education, green camaraderie, and free money-saving gadgets — all at no cost to you.

The Green Living Workshop brings together a few dozen would-be environmentalists into one room in Santa Monica once a week for six weeks, tackling a topic like “water” or “transportation” at each meeting. Workshop participants are then encouraged to apply what they’ve learned in the room out in the real world — armed with a free WorksBook with up-to-date environmental information and free eco-gadgets like low flow showerheads, CFL bulbs, and even worms for the compost bin. And the dedicated environmentalists who finish the 6-week course with perfect attendance even get a gift bag at the end filled with yet more green goodies.


Prop 23: Schwarzenegger, Van Jones say no

valero Prop 23:

Already sent in your mail-in ballot? Then I guess you’ve already made your voting decisions. But for the rest of us, Molly and I will be looking at how your votes in November will affect environmental issues in California and beyond. To that end, I’m going to start by writing about by far the most talked-about proposition: Prop 23.

In case you don’t quite know what Prop 23 is yet and have been twitching nervously whenever someone mentions the ballot measure, here’s a quick explanation to help you participate in conversations at CicLAvia and 10/10/10 events this weekend. Prop 23 would suspend the landmark California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32) — the Act that committed the state to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 — until the unemployment rate falls to 5.5 percent or below for a full year.


Plastic bag bans, taxes moving in U.S. cities, if not in California

Sam Mendes might find that a plastic bag provokes an unexpected emotional reaction - finding the miraculous in the mundane, as the character Ricky does in American Beauty - but more and more cities might not agree.

USA Today is checking in on plastic bag bans around the country. California's efforts recently went down to ignominious defeat. But the national scribes point to bag bans and fees in Westport, Connecticut, the Outer Banks of North Carolina, D.C. and cities in Washington and Alaska as evidence of a groundswell of sorts. 

"This issue is not going away," says Ronald Fong, CEO of the California Grocers Association, an industry group that backed California's proposed ban. "The future is in reusable bags."

The American Chemistry Council fought hard in California: when AB 1998 went down, the ACC argued that the law would have killed 1000 jobs statewide, not to mention bloating the bureaucracy, with a "hidden tax." Still, the Wall Street Journal recently reported on how a 5-cent tax on plastic bags there has yielded "a big change in behavior with little evident griping."


Morning greens: Clean tech booms to solar power blues

sharrows Morning greens:

Don’t forget about CicLAvia on Sunday! LA times praises the event in an article today. You don’t need a bike to enjoy the event — but Metblogs LA points out you can easily borrow a two-wheeler from Neighborgoods.

California’s clean-tech industry is booming but threatened, reports LA Times. Our state’s alternative energy start-ups are getting a lot of investments — but the green boom could be derailed by Prop 23 and competition from China.

Remember the two major California solar projects got the greenlight? NY Times’ Green blog article points out that not all environmentalists support solar projects because they may alter the habitat of beloved birds, animals, and plants.

In national news: In case you missed today’s Morning Edition, a new report from the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling says the Obama administration underplayed the scope of the Gulf Oil Spill.