Southern California environment news and trends

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."

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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.

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How much water are you using at home?

With the news that utility bills are evidence in a case where Councilman Richard Alarcon's residency will figure prominently, it seems Angelenos and anyone wishing to convey an airtight impression they live in a place are in need of more information about water use.

Via Dr. Peter Gleick and even though we're having some wet days lately, which always seems to make LA think the water will never stop: check out this calculator for your water use, energy, and carbon footprint. The northern California-based Pacific Institute made it. It's called WeCalc

You do sort of have to have a committment to excellence to complete it all: it asks for rather specific information, such as your hot water heater's energy factor, if you know it. But it's the most indepth, integrated one of these I've seen. And it gives good advice about ways to conserve water. For southern California, you can always find rebates to pay for conservation in single-family homes here.

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A Look at L.A.'s transit future -- plus car-free socials this week

hollhigh 1 transit

I’ve long being a fan and advocate of public transportation, but I’ve only been on Metro rail a handful of times. Why? Until this week I lived in Santa Monica, which still has no rail lines to speak of. Now, I’m a new resident of West Hollywood — and still have no Metro rail station near me! I want my subway to the sea!

Many L.A. County residents who, like me, voted an enthusiastic yes on Measure R to help fund major public transportation projects in our metropolis are similarly antsy. Attend any community meeting for the Westside Subway Extension (the last round of meetings ended late September and are available to watch online) and you’ll hear westsider after westsider get up during the comment section of the night — to wax lyrical about how much they’d love to take the subway before they retire (or die).

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Morning greens: Local food boost and sun-powered jobs

fruithalloween Morning greens:

Los Angeles gets a local food policy. GOOD summarizes “Good Food for All Agenda: Creating a New Regional Food System for Los Angeles,” a new report released by the Los Angeles Food Policy Task Force that seeks to make locally-produced food easily available and affordable for Angelenos.

Two major California solar projects got the greenlight, as Molly Peterson reported on this blog yesterday. The NY Times, Grist, and KQED’s Climate Watch blog all offer further details on the projects — and the LA Times reports what the projects could mean for green jobs in California:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is banking on the building boom to infuse the state with more than $30 billion in new investments in green energy and create more than 12,000 high-paying construction and manufacturing jobs from about two dozen planned wind and solar facilities.

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