Southern California environment news and trends

The real story about Baucus and Boxer and "we don't legislate very much"

A portion of the debate today - just a small portion - touched on Barbara Boxer's chairmanship of the Environment and Public Works committee. Patt asked whether Boxer had been effective in her leadership of the EPW committee - citing something Senator Baucus said - parahrasing him, saying it was disconcerting that the message amendments and bills kept coming through and not actual party leadership.

Plenty of valid questions about Boxer's effectiveness in EPW remain. But here's a video of what Baucus actually said:

Certainly he's speaking about his frustration with something that may be going on in the committee in which he is sitting, which is EPW. But he is careful to say phrases like - in his personal experience - on the Finance committee - and, at the end, in Congress. In the video, he seems to me to be applying his caution not only to the committee Boxer chairs - but to his Finance committee as well (he's the chair of that one). What do you think?


Forget NPR, Shearer, The Big Uneasy, me: Maria Garzino still wants answers

So Harry Shearer’s ticked off at NPR’s “censorship” of coverage for his film The Big Uneasy, and NPR’s Ombudsman rejects his claims. And the whole silly flap – on the NPR site, on twitter, on blogs – misses the point. Credible claims backed by evidence have been forwarded to President Obama – claims that show New Orleans may be in danger of repeating past mistakes because its protection against hazard has been misrepresented. Engineer and whistleblower Maria Garzino deserves a real answer for the trouble she’s been through.

Like Shearer, I, too, was disappointed that NPR didn’t cover New Orleans with greater depth during this last Katrinaversary. Unlike Shearer, and unlike NPR, I spent 2 and a half years submitting nearly 50 Freedom of Information Act Requests to the Corps at various branches, to the F.B.I, to the Environmental Protection Agency. The result was an investigation that aired in four parts last year on Southern California Public Radio, where I work.


Slow the flow, act like a sponge

You could call it "low impact development" or "green infrastructure" or any number of other things. But I like what the State Water Resources Control Board has done with the imagery: they've got a new video explaining how to make your landscape act more like a sponge.

Low impact development is rolling into the permitting process at the water board in a bunch of ways, at the state and watershed/county level. We did some stories on it earlier this month - you can hear about how Ventura county could see green infrastructure cutting its stormwater pollution with a new set of rules from the regional water board. Or you could check out the effort to put green streets on the map in Los Angeles.


DWP Cafeteria in the John Ferraro building now closed to the public [UPDATED]

It's been a favorite of jury pool members, people on the Chowhound board, and journalists looking for an affordable lunch, but now all those people are shut out. The cafeteria downstairs in the John Ferraro building - DWP's big iconic heaquarters on Hope Street - is no longer for you. (Okay, me.)

A sign near the entrance to the building says this has been true as of August 30, 2010. But none of the security guards or anyone else I ran into knew why. I've got calls in to the DWP's media relations folks, so I'll update you.

I will say it seems weird to close down a cafeteria in a public building to public access. I mean, the U.S. Senate lets the public eat in its cafeteria, as does the House of Representatives. Locally, we have The Gas Company's cafeteria. Until it went out of business, you could rub elbows with city hall staffers at the snack bar there. Anyone know what gives? Any jurors (rural or otherwise) run into this problem yet?


Bakersfield & the Bidarts: art, and science

When seismologist Lisa Grant Ludwig first told me she worked on a patch of land in the Carrizo Plain called the Bidart Fan, I said, you mean like Frank Bidart? Having poets for siblings has, once again, enabled me to get a good view of the intersection of two specialities.

Which is cool.

Lisa Grant Ludwig told me when I visited with her on the Carrizo Plain that she has been drawn to this plain of land for 20 years as a scientist. Frank Bidart has realized the search be began as a boy, to be an artist, by leaving it. And I'm struck, as I sometimes am, by the rough beauty of what California helps make possible in art and science.

It struck me, too, that Frank Bidart's not in any way a poet of place - he doesn't write about Bakersfield's landscape, the land where he grew up. But even by keeping that place in his rearview mirror he's shaped by it.