November 23, 2014

Act now to gain information on fracking chemicals

Public access to information about toxic chemicals used in fracking is at risk again.

AB 7 (Wieckowski), a bill that would allow companies like Halliburton to hide behind the law to keep information about chstop-frackingemicals used in fracking away from the public, is up for a vote any day now in the Assembly.

Call your Assembly representative now and urge a NO vote on AB 7! Tell your legislator today that poisonous fracking fluids pumped into the ground do NOT deserve trade-secret protections. And doctors should not be prohibited from sharing all they learn about the effects fracking fluids have on their patients.

We thought we had ended AB 7 in an Assembly committee (see “Club opposes fracking-secrecy bills”), but it has re-emerged and it is headed to the Assembly floor.

The fight to control fracking in California now revolves around the public’s right to know what toxic chemicals are being injected under pressure into the earth to extract oil—including near sensitive groundwater sources. AB 7 orders regulatory agencies to treat fracking fluid content as a secret if fracking-fluid makers and users, like Halliburton, want to keep the information away from the public. The bill also contains an astounding gag on physicians.

There is no time to waste! Call your Assembly representative today and urge a NO vote on AB 7.

Thanks for standing up for the environment and the public’s right to know.

Kathryn Phillips, director, Sierra Club California

SF environmental protections not to be gutted, after all

At this point it looks like the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is not going to seriously weaken the city’s environmental protections under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Supervisor Scott Wiener had introduced a bill that would have seriously interfered with the public’s ability to comment on and appeal environmental decisions in the city (see “Defending the California Environmental Quality Act–locally and in Sacramento”), but it appears now that we are going to get almost all of the basic protections we demanded, and we have stripped out almost all of the bad provisions of Wiener’s original, with one exception: the just-30-day time limit for appealing a project will be triggered by the ‘first approval’ that the project receives, rather than the final approval. But this weakening is with the firm understanding that the approval itself must be clearly established and publicly noticed, and that there must be the right to appeal subsequent modifications of projects to the environmental-review officer.

On June 25 the Supervisors continued the legislation to July 9 for a vote.

This means that we have two more weeks to nail down our compromise with Board President David Chiu, the Planning Department, and the city attorney; and it gives us the more time to get the project-modification appeal procedure worked out. This is now being incorporated into a separate ordinance, and we would like to see this voted on soon after the main CEQA legislation, possibly on the same day. At the very least, we should now be able to nail down the exact language and make sure it is locked in.

All in all, the current bill is definitely not perfect, but it is massively better than Wiener’s original corporate-giveaway monstrosity, and will give us roughly the same protections as now, but with a lot of very real and strong improvements to the requirements for public notice on decisions.

Thanks to all of you who have contacted the Supervisors about this threat, and who have done the hard work of the difficult negotiations.

Club launches new Electric Vehicle Guide

Nissan Leaf--115 miles per gallon equivalent.

Nissan Leaf–115 miles per gallon equivalent.

The Sierra Club has launched a new on-line Electric Vehicle (EV) Guide at sierraclub.org/EVguide.

We’ve put a lot all in one place, including information specific to your location when you type in your zip code. You can compare EV models, discover state-by-state EV incentives (tax credits, carpool-lane access, discount electricity rates for EV drivers, etc.), and compare region-specific emissions among EVs, plug-in hybrids, and conventional gas guzzlers. There are even listings of plug-in cars for sale in your area through eBay.

The site also includes recent EV-related blog posts, an EV fact sheet, and Sierra Magazine’s annual EV Buyers Guide and article (print version just arrived in people’s mailboxes). Reed McManus, who wrote the magazine article, is doing at least 18 radio interviews nationwide about the article and the new online tool today!

I want to thank the Sierra Club’s Digital Strategies, Communications, Advancement, and Sierra Magazine teams. I also want to give a special shout-out to long-time EV initiative intern Emmy Grace, whose work on this project has been invaluable.

Gina Coplon-Newfield, director of green fleets and electric vehicles initiative, Sierra Club

Key energy bill needs your support before Monday

Solar7An important energy bill that Sierra Club California supports, SB 43 (Wolk), is coming up in Assembly Utilities and Commerce next week (Monday, June 24). Two members of that committee represent districts in the Bay Chapter: Joan Buchanan and Susan Bonilla.

Please be in touch with these members, especially if you are represented by one of them.

SB 43 will expand opportunities for renters and others who don’t have access to renewable rooftop solar energy to subscribe to a medium-sized solar-energy project. The bill would establish a limited pilot project and would also require the Public Utilities Commission to develop a permanent shared-renewables program.

The energy produced would help reduce California’s reliance on dangerous energy sources like coal, natural gas, and nuclear energy. This bill will expand consumer access to renewable-energy self-generation programs, providing all customers with the ability to invest in offsite renewable-energy projects and receive a utility-bill credit in return. The pilot would create 500 megawatts of distributed solar generation within just over a year of the bill’s adoption. At least 20% of that would have to be available to environmental-justice communities that are impacted first and worst from climate change.

WhatYouCanDo

We anticipate that this bill will need an extra push through the committee. Assemblymembers Bonilla and Buchanan need to know that people support this bill. Please contact them and urge them to support Senator Wolk’s SB 43, Shared Renewable Energy Self-Generation.

The assemblymembers’ web sites contain the contact information for their capitol office as well as their district offices.

Bonilla: http://www.asmdc.org/members/a14/

Buchanan: http://www.asmdc.org/members/a16/

Kathryn Phillips, director, Sierra Club California

Tell Vice President Biden: no Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline

KXL_Recruitment_PosterFriday, June 14, 4:30 pm, meet at the corner of 25th Avenue and El Camino del Mar in Sea Cliff, San Francisco (map).

Vice President Biden is coming to San Francisco on Friday–and Sierra Club supporters like you will be there to demand that he and President Obama block the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline!

We’re joining with our friends at CREDO, 350.org, the Energy Action Coalition, and other groups to make sure that everywhere President Obama and Vice President Biden go, they see the climate movement all around them. On Friday, it’s San Francisco’s turn to remind them that the country can’t afford a broken promise of climate leadership.

For questions contact Jessica Eckdish at jessica.eckdish@sierraclub.org or (202)548-4598.

Can you make it? RSVP at: http://action.sierraclub.org/SanFranciscoNoKXL.

Activists like you have only a few weeks left to show President Obama, Vice President Biden, and secretary of state John Kerry how upset you’ll be if they approve Keystone XL. This administration has made great climate progress on clean energy and vehicle standards, but so much of it will be wiped away if the United States does not stand up to the tar sands.

Friday is an important opportunity to remind Vice President Biden of what the administration has promised to do. Come out to tell him “No KXL” in San Francisco!

Update on environmental bills in state legislature

Sierra Club California logo.The legislature finished its first significant round of activity for this two-year legislative session on May 31. That was the deadline for bills to get voted out of their house of origin (unless they are two-year bills, which means they’ll come back for floor votes in early 2014).

The environment won some and lost some. Below are some highlights.

Energy

The shared-renewables bill (SB 43–Wolk) that makes it easier for residential and other customers of the three big utilities to subscribe to medium-sized independently developed solar projects, got off the Senate floor handily, but only after it went through some significant amending in the last week that reduced the size of the program. Notably, Sen. Padilla, who had opposed the bill when it went through the Energy and Utilities Committee, ended up voting for it on the floor. The bill faced strong opposition from the three big utilities (PG&E, SDG&E, and SCE). The Farm Bureau also opposed. Sierra Club supports the bill.

Another energy bill we support (AB 217–Bradford) that would expand funding for low-income access to renewable energy passed off the Assembly floor.

Fracking

Keeping track of the status of the 10 fracking bills introduced earlier this year was as easy as following the status of all the characters in Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

One narrowly focused bill we support (SB 665–Wolk), addressing indemnity-bond levels, made it off the Senate floor. One bill (SB 4–Pavley) that is more broadly defined and includes notification requirements and a baseline-report requirement, but also contains a trade-secrets and physicians-gag provision that drew our opposition, made it off the Senate floor.

Another broad bill in the Assembly (AB 7–Wieckowski) that also drew our opposition for its lack of notification and other provisions, was amended in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, chaired by Assemblymember Mike Gatto, to include the same trade-secrets and physicians-gag provisions of SB 4, making a troubling bill worse. AB 7, which has had oil-industry support, then won a rule waiver on the floor that has sent it back to the Assembly Natural Resources Committee for further amending to include provisions from two bills (AB 669–Stone and AB 982–Williams) addressing water permits and notifications that we supported but that were merged in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Two moratorium bills (AB 1301–Bloom and AB 649–Nazarian) were killed in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. One (AB 1323–Mitchell) was released to the floor after being severely gutted. Mitchell gave a strong presentation on the floor, noting that a million people live within five miles of the urban oil field in her Los Angeles County district, but even in its much weakened state, the moratorium bill failed.

Another fracking bill (AB 288–Levine), whose heart had been removed in Gatto’s committee, also failed on the floor. Back in the Senate, a bill (SB 395–Jackson) that would have required the Department of Toxic Substances Control to regulate fracking wells was pulled back by the author to become a two-year bill when it became clear it didn’t have the votes to thrive.

Within the next two weeks, AB 7 will be heard in Assembly Natural Resources. We are working to get the trade-secrets/physicians-gag provisions removed there. So stay tuned as we’ll likely send out alerts about this issue.

Confusing? Well, had you been in the hallways of the legislature last week and seen the abundance and activity of the oil-industry lobbyists, this might be clearer. One sentence would explain it: any bill on fracking that the oil gang didn’t want out, didn’t get out.

Wildlife

The four key wildlife bills we supported all got out of their respective houses. For details see http://theyodeler.org/?p=7601.

Waste

You could cut the tension with a knife as Sen. Alex Padilla’s plastic-bag-ban bill (SB 405) came up for a vote on the Senate floor. Some internal political fights related to other failed bills and political ambitions were in the mix. The bill failed.

Coast

A bill that would give the Coastal Commission the authority to fine chronic lawbreakers got out of the Assembly. The bill (AB 976–Atkins) was the only bill on which the Sierra Club was a sponsor this year (co-sponsor, actually, with the Planning and Conservation League). Another related bill (AB 203–Stone) was held to become a two-year bill. For details see http://theyodeler.org/?p=7597.

Both these bills had incredibly effective and hardworking authors and legislative staff. But they also had Santa Lucia Chapter Director Andrew Christie’s sister, Sarah Christie, working the bills for the Commission. She did a tremendous job collecting and providing answers to the opposition’s claims, no matter how bizarre those claims, and generally doing everything required to bring in votes. Three Sierra Club California staff put in time to push these bills.

Sen. Mark Leno’s SB 461, which would devote certain oil-extraction revenue that goes to the state to climate-adaptation work, made it off the Senate floor. Susan Jordan of the California Coastal Protection Network did a great job organizing support for this bill.

Some people have asked me about Sen. Noreen Evans’ oil-extraction-tax bill, SB 241. The Club supports this bill, but it has been converted to a two-year bill, and so won’t be overtly active until early next year. In the meantime, the author is refining aspects of the bill and building support.

If you want to know the status of a particular bill, check out http://www.leginfo.ca.gov. That’s the state’s bill tracking system, and you can do searches by bill number, authors name, or keywords.

Kathryn Phillips, director, Sierra Club California

Sierra Club California Lobby Day 2013–Sunday and Monday, August 18 and 19

Sierra Club California logo.Sunday and Monday, August 18 and 19, Sacramento.

Come to Sierra Club California’s annual Lobby Day; be part of a team to pass our priority legislation and defeat bad bills.

The day-and-a-half event provides an opportunity for you to watch what our staff does year-round, lobby your legislators, and rub elbows with like-minded activists from all over California.

On Sunday, starting around noon, our advocacy team will train you on how to lobby and brief you on our priority bills so that you can effectively advocate for them.  On Monday you will work the halls of the Capitol as teams, with meetings scheduled from morning through the afternoon.

Sierra Club California will reserve beds at the Sacramento Hostel for members joining us from out of town–you can sign up to stay in the Hostel, at no cost to you, when you register for Lobby Day. For participants who would prefer more-private accommodations at their own expense, Sierra Club California has reserved a block rooms at the local Best Western Hotel at a discounted rate. Additionally, limited travel subsidies are available by request, based on need and distance traveled.

We can accommodate up to 60 lobbyists. We require a $30 deposit when you register, refundable when you show up on Aug. 18. If you reserve a space and don’t show, you won’t receive a refund—and we won’t have as many lobbyists as we need. So please sign up now and show up in August.

For more information and to sign up, go to http://california2.sierraclub.org/content/lobby-day-2013-registration#.UYgDs7Usn2s.

Janess Hanson receives Michener Award

Janess Hanson at Yosemite.

Janess Hanson at Yosemite.

Janess Hanson, long-time outings leader for the Delta Group and Solo Sierrans, is this year’s winner of the Bay Chapter’s Michener Award for outstanding outings leadership.

Since the Delta Group’s founding in 1987, Janess has led frequent hikes all over eastern Contra Costa County (and beyond). Over these 26 years of leading and arranging hikes, she has established a pattern of regular “seasonal” hikes every year, in specific locations: e.g., a March wildflower hike in Black Diamond, an April wildflower walk in Mitchell Canyon, the September tarantula walk in Mitchell Canyon, in October the Steep Ravine walk at Mount Tam, two Martinez shoreline winter sunset walks, two Martinez/Port Costa walks, two Benicia shoreline walks, two walks on the Walnut Creek Contra Costa Canal trails. On Earth Day she religiously hosts a Sierra Club table at the John Muir National Historic Site.

Her hikes often begin with a five-minute lecture on local history or a biology lesson. Each walk ends at an optional site-specific refreshment spot. A lot of people look forward to coming on the same hike, year after year.

Janess’ early hikes to the Big Break Marsh area in Oakley led to her involvement in the development of the Delta Science Center; she now represents the Sierra Club on its board.

For all these years Janess has also been the Delta Group’s secretary and is responsible for arranging its meetings and hiking program. Janess is the soul of the Delta Group.

As a member of the Solo Sierrans since 1987, Janess has been an avid car camper and active participant in many Solos activities. She co-lists all her hikes with the Solos.

Now that rheumatoid arthritis is slowing her down, Janess can’t lead hikes, but she recruits other leaders for these hikes; Janess follows along as far as her health permits. Janess comments about her coming Yosemite trip “with eight women-of-a-certain-age who have enjoyed hiking together for many years. I’m sure a good time will be had by all, regardless of how few miles we are able to walk–it’s ALL GOOD!!”

For more about Janess see “Janess Hanson came from the land of John Muir to the land of John Muir, and to the Sierra Club too” in the April 2001 Yodeler, page 18.

Fourth Annual David Brower Dinner — Friday, October 4

450x280_davidbrowerdinner2013_v6Friday, October 4, 6 – 9 pm. 

Come to the Sierra Club Bay Chapter’s Fourth Annual David Brower Dinner.

We are pleased to announce our keynote speaker Tom Steyer. A long-time philanthropist who in recent years has focused on clean energy and the climate, Steyer has become a public figure with his engagement in electoral politics. He bankrolled the campaign to defeat Prop 23 in 2010, and then in 2012 he drafted and financed the campaign for Prop 39, closing a tax loophole and directing much of the new revenue towards clean energy.

We will also be presenting the Phil Burton Badge of Courage to state Sen. Loni Hancock, a champion of environmental concerns throughout her political career.

For reservations and more information, see sanfranciscobay.sierraclub.org/davidbrowerdinner.

Good news at McLaughlin Eastshore State Park

Aerial view of McLaughlin Eastshore Regional Park. The Brickyard is in the inland section of the peninsula at center bottom.

Aerial view of McLaughlin Eastshore Regional Park. The Brickyard is in the inland section of the peninsula at center bottom.

The East Bay Regional Park District and the State Department of Parks and Recreation have signed a 30-year operating agreement for the Park District to operate the state-owned McLaughlin Eastshore State Park (see August-September 2012, page 6). The agreement, similar to those under which the Park District has long managed state-park areas at Crown Beach and Del Valle Regional Recreation Area, gives the District needed decision-making flexibility.

As part of the agreement, the Park District was given the approval to work up a plan for the park’s long-neglected “Brickyard” area in Berkeley. Knicknamed the “Dirt Hotel” because of the pile of dirt that was repeatedly stored there and then removed, the site finally can be developed into an actual park. The agreement lets the Park District seek $5,000,000 from the 1984 State Park Bond Act for that work. Hence, we can now move forward with realizing the dream of the Brickyard actually looking like and being developed as a park.

Norman La Force, chair, East Bay Public Lands Committee