April 24, 2014

Supervisor John Avalos introduces ordinance to study joining Marin Clean Energy–each day that San Francisco waits to implement clean power produces an additional 149 tons of carbon dioxide

On April 22, Earth Day, San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos will introduce an ordinance to initiate a study of joining Marin Clean Energy to offer San Franciscans a greener alternative to PG&E’s electricity service.

For 10 years San Francisco has worked to establish its own Community Choice energy program called CleanPowerSF. Last year the Board of Supervisors gave final approval to CleanPowerSF, but the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission blocked its implementation.

“Mayor Lee and the Public Utilities Commission objected to CleanPowerSF, but they have offered no other solution to provide San Franciscans with 100% renewable electricity,” Avalos said. “With this ordinance, we can either join Marin, or we can implement our own program, but we can no longer afford to do nothing.”

Marin Clean Energy began serving customers in 2010, and in 2013 it expanded to include the city of Richmond. MCE currently serves approximately 125,000 customers, offering two types of service: a “deep green” service that offers 100% renewable energy and a “light green” service that is 50% renewable energy.

In 2008 San Francisco enacted ambitious greenhouse-gas emission limits. The Department of the Environment’s Climate Action Strategy states that “moving to 100% renewable electricity is the single biggest step the City can take to reduce GHG emissions.”

The tracking equipment for the South San Joaquin Irrigation District solar installation, from which Marin Clean Energy purchases power, is designed to last 100 years.

The tracking equipment for the South San Joaquin Irrigation District solar installation, from which Marin Clean Energy purchases power, is designed to last 100 years.

The Department of the Environment reports that CleanPowerSF’s initial planned rollout of a 30 MW program would have resulted in the elimination of 52,881 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year. This means that every day of further delay in implementing CleanPowerSF contributes 149 metric tons of CO2.

And in the 252 days since the SFPUC declined to implement CleanPowerSF, San Francisco has needlessly generated 36,500 metric tons of CO2—that translates to 80 million pounds of CO2!

The Avalos ordinance will begin the process of evaluating San Francisco’s ability to join Marin Clean Energy. The ordinance also urges the SFPUC to compare MCE and CleanPowerSF, and to implement whichever best meets San Francisco’s goals of balancing price, renewable-energy content, and ability to fund construction of local clean-energy projects. 

Report reveals major potential sources of climate pollution–highlights need to keep dirty fuels in the ground

California residents protest climate decision by Gov. Brown. Photo by Jose Ricardo G. Bondoc, chief editor, SFNewsfeed.us

California residents protest climate decision by Gov. Brown. Photo by Jose Ricardo G. Bondoc, chief editor, SFNewsfeed.us

Dirty Fuels, Clean Futures, a new report released today by the Sierra Club, reveals four major potential sources of carbon pollution that, if developed, could dramatically disrupt the world’s climate. Data shows that the oil, gas, and coal from these potential sources, including the Arctic Ocean, the Green River Formation, the Powder River Basin, and the Monterey, San Juan Basin, and Marcellus shale plays, have the potential to release billions of tons of new carbon pollution into the atmosphere, more than negating positive climate actions taken by the Obama administration.

“We can’t keep burning fossil fuels and reduce climate pollution at the same time. It’s common sense.” said Michael Brune, Sierra Club executive director. “As this report demonstrates, real progress to fight climate disruption requires that dirty fuels be kept in the ground.”

As the report details, developing just a fraction of the dirty energy in these major climate disrupters would cancel out the United States’ greatest accomplishments in the fight against climate disruption–efforts like the Obama administration’s new fuel-economy standards. Developing just one of these climate disrupters, the Arctic Ocean, for example would result in two-and-a-half times more pollution than would be saved by the new fuel-economy standards.

Already, through administrative actions and by doubling down on clean energy, the Obama administration has done more than any other to reduce carbon pollution. For the first time in 20 years, domestic carbon-dioxide emissions are decreasing. An effective climate strategy, however, requires that these steps be accompanied by efforts to leave dirty fuels in the ground. Several such pragmatic steps are outlined in the report.

The report calls on the Obama administration to consider climate pollution, like other dangerous air and water pollution, before dirty-energy projects move forward. It asks the president to close loopholes that allow the fossil-fuel industry to benefit at the cost of Americans’ health, environment, and future; and it stresses that new energy projects and leasing should be focused on clean, not dirty, energy.

“Whether they are found beneath our public lands or next to our homes and schools, dirty fuels must be kept in the ground.” said Dan Chu, senior director of the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America campaign. “We should be taking advantage of available clean-energy options that will create jobs, protect public health, and fight climate disruption.”

Read the full report here.

Stop Fracking Speakers Training–Sunday, April 13

Sunday, April 13, noon to 3:30 pm, Sierra Club Bay Chapter Office, 2530 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley.stop-fracking

Always wanted to speak about fracking and why we should stop it, but get tongue-tied in front of a crowd? If you live in the greater Bay Area, please join the Stop Fracking Speakers Training.

At the training you will have 20 minutes to do a presentation, and you will receive feedback and critique. If you want to do a slide presentation with your talk, we will send you a Dropbox link to download a Stop Fracking Powerpoint presentation and you are welcome to use any of its slides or create your own. You will need to prepare your presentation before the day of the training and to practice at home so you can bring it in within 20 minutes. Judy Pope of 350 Bay Area and a Sierra Club member, who has been a speakers trainer for decades, will be our trainer.

Please RSVP to Lora JoFoo, co-chair of the Sierra Club Bay Chapter Don’t Frack California team, at ljfoo94546@yahoo.com or (510)282-9454.

Clean-energy advocates demand mayor restore CleanpowerSF language to San Francisco Climate Action Strategy

Supervisor John Avalos at CleanPowerSF rally in 2013.

Supervisor John Avalos at CleanPowerSF rally in 2013.

On March 31, community clean-energy and green-jobs advocates spoke at a hearing convened by San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos to demand answers on why Mayor Ed Lee is both blocking the launch of CleanPowerSF and stripping the city’s Climate Action Strategy of its only actionable strategy for a just transition to clean energy.

The San Francisco Department of Environment staff have repeatedly stated that a robust clean-energy program is essential to the city for meeting its climate-action goals on schedule, and every draft version of the city’s Climate Action Strategy has included CleanPowerSF as the cornerstone of that transition. However, when Mayor Lee unveiled the final Climate Action Strategy on Feb. 12, all references to CleanPowerSF were discovered to have been deleted from the document.

The Sierra Club, 350 San Francisco, San Francisco Green Party, Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council, Our City, San Francisco Gray Panthers, and other concerned community members spoke at the hearing demanding an end to political favors trumping the need for strong action on climate in the mayor’s office. Over the past week, San Francisco elected leaders have received hundreds of emails from the public insisting that the city move CleanPowerSF toward launch and that the program be written back into the Climate Action Strategy.

The Sierra Club’s San Francisco Group chair Sue Vaughan said, “The people of San Francisco and our planet cannot wait any longer while politicians influenced by fossil-fuel energy corporations delay the just transition to clean energy. Thousands of scientists working on the global climate crisis are now sounding the alarm that we must act immediately and dramatically to curb catastrophic climate disruption.”

Eric Brooks, campaign coordinator for Our City, said “It is time for San Franciscans to stop tolerating the impunity of a mayor who is controlled by PG&E corporation. We will not stand to be a city whose elected leaders prioritize favors to campaign donors over the will and need of our people.”

Jed Holtzman, co-coordinator of 350 San Francisco, remarked, “The failure of this mayoral administration to recognize and act on the extremely alarming climate data is shockingly irresponsible. We live in a coastal city dependent on winter snowpack for drinking water.  Mayor Lee needs to stop acting on behalf of fossil-fuel corporations and start acting to protect his community.”

Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council boardmember and representative Bruce Wolfe said, “With Chevron announcing 1,000 new jobs for fossil-fuel modernization that is a direct contributor to climate change, the CleanPowerSF program is crucial to generating thousands of new green jobs in San Francisco, and yet our so called ‘Jobs Mayor’ is blocking the program and even deleting it from the city’s environmental documents. This has an obvious appearance of outright corruption to all of us.”

Bay Area refinery updates

Map by Bob Newey.

Map by Bob Newey.

In the February-March Yodeler (page 3–”Keeping the dirtiest fuels out of the Bay Area”) we wrote about the Bay Chapter’s BAC-OFF campaign: Bay Area Communities Overcoming Fossil Fuels. Below are updates on the locations discussed then.

Phillips 66 update

Possibly as soon as May the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors will hear the appeal of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for Phillips 66’s “refinery modernization” .

Phillips 66 wants to construct six huge propane storage tanks and two new rail spurs to ship propane and butane (abundant bypro­ducts from refining dirty tar sands and Bakkan crude) out of the facility.

This project, by facilitating the use of high carbon intensity oils, increases the dangers of global climate change. In addition, the project raises important local concerns:

  • The rail spur and the pipe complex (that would connect the propane tanks to the trains) would be sited on a liquefaction zone next to the Bay.
  • A propane explosion at the Rodeo facility, like the one that injured eight people at a propane plant in Florida over the summer and the one that killed 15 workers in Texas in 2005, would pose a major threat to both workers and Rodeo residents living along the facility’s fence-line.
  • This project would bring a dramatic increase of explosive, dirty tanker trains barreling through wetlands, by the Bay, and through towns and cities.
  • The Phillips 66 refinery, though much smaller than the behemoth Chevron facility, produces twice the emissions. We don’t need any more air pollution in the area.

WhatYouCanDo

To get involved in changing this proposal and to be informed of the next steps, contact Sierra Club Bay Chapter conservation organizer Jess Dervin-Ackerman at jess@sfbaysc.org or (510)848-0800, ext. 304.

Nancy Rieser

WesPac

The WesPac Energy Infrastructure Pro­ject in Pittsburg would bring in 242,000 barrels per day of crude oil by rail and tanker, storing it in a tank farm and sending it by pipeline to local refineries. The project, on the Bayshore just one mile from downtown Pittsburg, would significantly expand the combined capacity of local refineries. Key concerns about the project include local air pollution, the hazards of transporting oil by rail, and the climate impacts of allowing increased refining of Canadian tar-sands oil. Tracks would be virtually across the street from residences. Local organizations have collected over 4,500 signatures on petitions opposing the project.

On Feb. 18 the Pittsburg City Council announced that it will reopen sections of the Draft Environmental Impact Report for the project to public comment. This announcement came after many months of canvassing, rallying, lobbying, and building community power to fight for the health, safety, and environmental integrity of Pittsburg.

WesPac may try to propose a mitigated project, but the health and safety risks of crude by rail are impossible to mitigate.

WhatYouCanDo

The date is not set for the DEIR to be re-opened.

To work with the Club on this issue, contact conservation organizer Jess Dervin-Ackerman at jess.dervin-ackerman@sierraclub.org or (510)848-0800.

To learn about volunteer opportunities through the Pittsburg Defense Council, visit http://pittsburgdc.org.

Valero

The Sierra Club, along with many other environmental and community organizations, continues to fight the proposal to bring in crude oil by rail tanker cars to the Valero refinery in Benicia. Release of the project’s Draft EIR has been postponed until some time in April, after which there will be a 45-day comment period.

WhatYouCanDo

To work with the Sierra Club on this concern, contact conservation organizer Jess Dervin-Ackerman at jess@sfbaysc.org or (510)848-0800, ext. 304.

Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community is a local Benicia organization focusing on this campaign. It will be sponsoring a number of events (these are not Sierra Club events) including:

  • Benicia Toxics Tour—March 29;
  • planning meeting—April 12;
  • Connect the Dots, monthly walk/ride actions between different big oil-project towns—Pittsburg, Martinez, Benicia, Crockett/Rodeo, and Richmond—May 17, tentatively June 14.

For details see:

www.SafeBenicia.org
(707)742-3597.
info@safebenicia.org.

 

“Dirty Energy/Clean Solutions” Conference–Friday – Sunday, May 9 – 11

350BA_ClimateCon2014_LogoWeb 300x389Friday – Sunday, May 9 – 11—7 pm Friday (San Francisco)—“Visions of a Clean Energy Future”; Saturday (East Bay)—main conference with panels on various topics; Sunday (East Bay)—interactive breakout sessions.

This is a conference to educate and connect grassroots activists with leaders in the various areas of climate work, co-sponsored by the Sierra Club Bay Chapter along with 350 Bay Area, the Sunflower Alliance, and the Center for Biological Diversity.

Friday’s keynote address will feature Stanford University Professor Mark Jacobson. Jacobson has appeared on national TV (David Letter­man) with his science-based plans to convert America’s energy infrastructure to 100% solar, water, and wind by 2050. Other speakers will be announced.

Saturday will open with an address by fossil-fuel-industry expert Richard Heinberg, followed by panels on refineries/dirty-fuel transport,  fracking, clean energy, and action strategies for moving forward.

Sunday’s action-oriented breakout sessions on crude by rail, refineries, fracking, and community resilience will include training on strategies such as policy/legislative/regulatory approaches, local actions/initiatives/bans/resolutions, and direct action.

Connect with the broader climate movement; learn; share your passion, your message, and your experience; and learn from others.

For more details see www.350bayarea.org/climatecon2014.

Port of Oakland rejects coal export terminal–Bay Chapter launches coal campaign with victory

On Feb. 27 the Port of Oakland Board of Commissioners rejected a proposal to build a dirty, dangerous coal and petroleum-coke export facility.

Citing environmental impacts, climate change, public-health hazards, economic pitfalls, and public opposition, the commissioners voted unanimously to reject Bowie Resource Partners’ proposal for an 8.3-million-ton-per-year bulk-export facility at the 50-acre Charles P. Howard Terminal. The facility would have exported over four million tons of coal and one million tons of petroleum coke (petcoke) annually.

Another proposal from Kinder Morgan, Metro Ports, and California Capital Investment Group might also have included a fossil-fuel-export component. This proposal lacked sufficient information to be fully considered, and was also rejected. Note that Kinder Morgan last year had abandoned plans for a coal export terminal at the Port of St. Helens on the Columbia River in Oregon, and Metro Ports walked away from plans for a coal export terminal in Coos Bay, OR.

Coal dust and particulate matter from diesel engines, coming from numerous mile-long open-top trains, would pose significant threats to Bay Area air and water quality. Coal breaks apart easily to create dust and contains mercury, arsenic, uranium, and hundreds of other toxins harmful to humans and marine animals. Petcoke, a byproduct of refining dirty and heavy crudes such as tar-sands oil, is transported and stored like coal and has similar adverse impacts. Port of Oakland staff had recommended rejecting the proposals due to air-quality and other environmental concerns, as well as the climate impacts of burning coal abroad.

“West Oakland already faces a disproportionate burden from illnesses associated with air pollution. The rate of asthma hospitalization visits in West Oakland is over two times higher than the Alameda County rate and one of the highest in the county,” said Nile Malloy, northern California program director for Communities for a Better Environment.

There are other potential proposals to develop coal and petcoke export facilities at the Oakland Army Base, the Port of Oakland, and the Port of Richmond. There are currently two facilities that export coal in the Bay Area: the privately owned Levin-Richmond Terminal and the Port of Stockton.

Coal companies have been seeking to massively expand exports of coal—particularly from the West Coast—in the face of declining U.S. markets. Only three of the original six coal export facilities proposed for the Northwest are still in consideration, due to the opposition from tens of thousands of residents and a coalition called Power Past Coal. The Bay Chapter is working with West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, Communities for a Better Environment, San Francisco BayKeeper, and Earthjustice to mount heavy opposition to any proposal for coal or petcoke export facilities in the Bay Area.

Marin Clean Energy holds Earth Day special

The tracking equipment for the South San Joaquin Irrigation District solar installation, from which Marin Clean Energy purchases power, is designed to last 100 years.

The tracking equipment for the South San Joaquin Irrigation District solar installation, from which Marin Clean Energy purchases power, is designed to last 100 years.

Update (April 22, 2014): the Deep Green Earth Day special sign-up campaign and voting has been extended till next Monday. Sign up now!

Do you live in Marin or Richmond? Then as an electricity customer of Marin Clean Energy, you have the option, for a few dollars each month, to sign up for MCE’s Deep Green 100%-renewable power option! Not only does enrolling in MCE’s Deep Green option reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, but it also supports sustainable development. Half of the revenue generated by Deep Green customers is dedicated to funding the construction of new, local renewable-energy projects.

And–as an Earth Day special–not only can you get MCE’s 100%-renewably generated electricity, but you can help win $1,000 for the Local Clean Energy Alliance, which is working to spread Community Choice energy throughout the Bay Area (see article on LCEA’s recent Clean Energy Forum, page 5).

In honor of Earth Day 2014, MCE is partnering with seven organizations all over Marin and Richmond to spread the word about climate change—and what you can do to help. Whichever organization brings in the most new Deep Green customers gets a $1,000 prize.

Joining the Deep Green community is as easy as 1, 2, 3:

  1. sign up for Deep Green at mcecleanenergy.com/dg-enroll;
  2. vote for your favorite nonprofit;
  3. first place will receive $1,000 from MCE, and second and third place receive $500 each!

Because the Sierra Club does not accept government funding, we have arranged to have the Local Clean Energy Alliance receive what otherwise would be our prize money. But to count in the voting, you must sign up by Monday, April 28.

CleanPowerSF deleted from San Francisco Climate Action Strategy

Supervisor John Avalos at CleanPowerSF rally.

Supervisor John Avalos at CleanPowerSF rally.

All references to CleanPowerSF, the program to offer residents 100%-renewable electricity, mysteriously disappeared between two versions of San Francisco’s new Climate Action Strategy. In one draft, it was there. Two days later, all mention of the program had been deleted from the final version.

The problem is that without CleanPowerSF, there is no way the city can meet its new target of moving to 100%-renewable electricity by 2030. The Strategy still says, “Moving to 100% renewable electricity is the single biggest step the City can take to reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions.” But it no longer lists any possible way to make that step. All that is left is a list of small programs, such as, “Expand SFPark meter demand pricing program,” most of which have nothing to do with renewable electricity. The Climate Action Plan has been reduced to a glossy brochure on the dangers of climate change.

On March 11 Supervisor John Avalos said, “Unless we quickly implement 100% renewable electricity, we will fail to meet our legislated Greenhouse Gas Emission reduction requirements in the next few years.”

San Francisco has already missed its 2012 greenhouse-gas-reduction targets by a wide margin, because Mayor Edwin Lee gutted the programs created by former Mayor Newsom that would have enabled the targets to be met (see Feb., page 4). Now his administration’s hastily edited new plan advances little further.

When asked about the deletions at a Board of Supervisors meeting on March 11, Mayor Lee dodged the question, talking only about his opposition to CleanPowerSF, which he has stalled, but lacks the authority to kill.

What Mayor Lee has succeeded in doing is to rip the guts out of the new Climate Action Strategy, rendering it as meaningless as the missed greenhouse-gas reduction targets from 2012.

John Rizzo, chair, Sierra Club Bay Chapter Political Committee

SB 1132 would halt fracking in California

Anti-fracking protest.

Anti-fracking protest.

Update (April 8, 2014): SB 1132 passed today in the Senate Natural Resources Committee. It was a tough fight, but the bill is alive. Next up is the Environmental Quality Committee on April 30.

Frightening risks from fracking and well stimulation have been coming to light, including permanently contaminated water, air pollution, and public-health problems. Meanwhile, the stage has been set to allow fracking to expand exponentially both on land and offshore in California.

A bill has been introduced in the state Senate that will halt this dangerous activity.

Senate Bill 1132 by Sens. Holly Mitchell and Mark Leno would establish a moratorium that could be lifted only after completion of extensive studies of the dangers of fracking and other forms of well stimulation, including economic costs, effects on private property and land use, and risks to worker safety. A panel would have to determine if existing regulations and laws can protect against fracking’s negative impacts. The governor must use the study outcome to determine whether to lift the moratorium on fracking and well stimulation.

We need to put public safety first. Lax oversight allowed asbestos to kill more than 100,000 Americans even though industry officials had known of the chronic health dangers since the 1930s. Let’s not repeat the mistake with fracking.

WhatYouCanDo

Write to your state legislators today at:

State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 95814.

or find their e-mail addresses at http://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov. Urge them to support SB 1132.

To work with our local Sierra Club Bay Chapter’s Don’t Frack California team, come to its monthly meetings on Mon., April 7, and Tue., May 13. Come also to the Bay Area Climate Conference: Renewables vs Extreme Extraction on Fri. – Sat., May 9 – 10.  For details on these, see the Chapter Calendar starting on page A. You can also contact team chairs Lora Jo Foo and Aria Cahir at dontfrackcal@gmail.com or (510)282-9454 (Lora Jo).