April 30, 2016

At California Rivers Day, tell our legislators to say ‘no’ to new dams

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California has over 1,400 named dams. All but two of our major rivers are dammed and most are dammed multiple times. Despite this, California’s current drought has been used to fuel a stampede for building still more dams. New dam proposals threaten several of the remaining free-running stretches on California rivers, including the upper San Joaquin, Merced, and McCloud.

Dams built in the last century were placed to get the “biggest bang for the buck” — while environmentally destructive, they may have made economic sense. Today all the “reasonable” dam sites have been filled. Dams currently being promoted generate very little “new” water. They make no economic sense, and the major beneficiaries (large agricultural companies) will not pay to build the dams or even annual dam operation costs. Building these new dams will continue the long history of building destructive dams with public funding so as to provide greatly subsidized water to the “water aristocracy”. This perpetuates a vicious cycle, as cheap water increases demand (irrigated acreage in California continues to expand despite the drought).

Our state has many effective and sustainable means to meet our water needs. Over a six-month period in 2015, California urban residents saved over one million acre-feet of water through conservation and improved water-use efficiency. That total is greater than the projected average annual yield from all the proposed dams  —dams that would cost over $8 billion!

Join Sierra Club and other environmental groups to let our legislators know we need to protect our rivers and say no to corporate welfare to build new dams. Come to Sacramento on May 18th for California Rivers Day.

For more information contact heinrich.albert at outlook.com or visit the California Rivers Day webpage.

April 23rd forum to connect women’s reproductive rights and climate change

rtaImageSat, Apr 23, 1:30 – 3:30 pm
Hayward City Hall, 777 B St, Hayward, CA 94541
Free with RSVP

Join the Sierra Club for a forum on the impact of women and girls’ reproductive rights on climate change.

Panelists from Planned Parenthood, the League of Women Voters, the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, and the United Nations Association of the USA will discuss their work to increase universal access to voluntary family planning and reproductive health services; advance women’s and girl’s basic rights, including access to health care, education and economic opportunity; and raise public awareness of wasteful consumption in the context of social and economic equity.

Panelist bios:

Dr. Diz Swift (Moderator)
League of Women Voters Berkeley Albany Emeryville

Dr. Linda Dismore Swift (Dr. Diz Swift) has been active in the League of Women Voters at local, state and national levels for over 10 years.  She trained as a scientist (PhD geology) and is now retired from 30 years working primarily in minerals and oil & gas exploration and production in many different capacities and at various levels of management. Since retirement in 2004 she has been studying climate change, and lectures on the risks of climate change in a wide array of venues, as well as lobbying and advocating at all levels of government.  Her website advocating for putting a price on carbon emissions – which was endorsed by the national League – is at PriceonCarbon.org.  She also serves as a Berkeley Public Works Commissioner and is on the Community Advisory Group for Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Malcolm Potts MB, BChir*, PhD, FRCOG
Professor of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley

Dr. Malcolm Potts is a Cambridge-trained obstetrician and reproductive scientist. He is the first holder of the Fred H. Bixby endowed chair in Population and Family Planning at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health. He served as first medical director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation introducing family planning methods into scores of developing countries.

Dr. Potts has taught courses on Social, Political and Ethical Issues/Health and Population and Poverty. Dr. Pott’s research interests include mobilization of resources for international family planning and reducing nonevidence-based barriers preventing access to contraception and safe abortion. His current project includes a focus on the perfect storm of population, climate and gender problems arising in the Sahel. The Bixby Center, His publications include “The Impact of Freedom on Fertility Decline” and “The Impact of Population Growth in Tomorrow’s World”, “Global Warming and Reproductive Health” and “A Woman Cannot Die from a Pregnancy She Does Not Have.”

Claire Greensfelder
Advisory Council, United Nations Association of the USA East Bay Chapter

Claire Greensfelder is a lifelong environmental, peace and safe energy activist, educator, political campaigner, and journalist. Claire presently serves as Policy and Organizational Consultant to the International Women’s Earth and Climate Initiative (IWECI) and to the international, multi-media exhibit-Conversations with the Earth: Indigenous Voices on Climate Change (CWE). Claire facilitated the installation of the CWE exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC in 2011. A former Director of Greenpeace USA’s Nuclear Free Future Campaign, Claire has worked as an executive staff member or consultant for over four dozen NGOs, electoral campaigns, media outlets and youth organizations, including the International Forum on Globalization, Women in Europe for a Common Future, the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), the Martin Luther King, Jr. Freedom Center, INOCHI/Plutonium Free Future, Friends of the Earth, the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign, Jane Addams Center of Hull House, Sierra Club, and the American Friends Service Committee (partial list). For more information about the Teach-in, visit: ifg.org/techno-utopia.

Priya Murthy
Co-Chair of the Board of Directors of NAPAWF(National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum)

Priya Murthy is Policy and Organizing Program Director for SIREN (Services, Immigrant Rights and Education Network)- Santa Clara County’s response to the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act. Priya develops, manages and implements the policy advocacy and community organizing programs at SIREN. Previously, she served as the first Policy Director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national immigrant and civil rights organization based near Washington, DC.  She practiced immigration law, representing clients facing removal, worked for various immigration courts, and worked at Amnesty International’s National Refugee Office. Priya serves on the National Governing Board of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF). She received her Juris Doctor from Tulane University Law School and her Bachelor of Art in Peace and Conflict Studies from the University of California, Berkeley.

Suzanne York
Sierra Club’s Global Population and Environment National Team

Suzanne York has reported on international human rights, globalization, and environmental issues for nearly two decades. She is the director of Transition Earth, a project of Earth Island Institute that promotes human rights and nature’s rights in a world of unsustainable growth.

Previously Suzanne was Senior Writer and Program Director with the Institute for Population Studies in Berkeley, CA, where her work focused on the interconnectedness of population growth with women’s empowerment, human rights, consumption, alternative economies, and the environment. Suzanne’s writing appears on the blog 6 Degrees of Population.

Suzanne is the author of several reports, including Peoples’ Rights, Planet’s Rights: Holistic Approaches to a Sustainable Population and Prioritizing the PHE Approach:  Linking Population, Health, and Environment for a Better World.  As research director with the International Forum on Globalization, Suzanne was a contributing author to Paradigm Wars: Indigenous Peoples’ Resistance to Economic Globalization. She has a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from American University and a B.A. in Business Administration from Portland State University.  Suzanne is on the board of the Women’s Environmental Network, is a member (past chair) of the Sierra Club’s Trade, Human Rights and Environment National Committee and on the leadership team of the Sierra Club’s Global Population and Environment National Team.

Guadalupe Rodriguez
Director of Public Affairs, Planned Parenthood Miramonte

Guadalupe (Lupe) Rodríguez is the Director of Public Affairs at Planned Parenthood Mar Monte. Previously, Lupe was the Interim Executive Director and Program and Policy Director at ACCESS Women’s Health Justice. Lupe served on the board of directors of the California Family Health Council, and now serves as a commissioner on the Santa Clara County Commission on the Status of Women. She sits on the boards of ACCESS Women’s Health Justice and California Latinas for Reproductive Justice. Lupe is an adviser for the Women’s Health & Rights Program at the Center for American Progress. She has a BA in neurobiology from Harvard.

Crucial hearing of bills to halt coal exports on 4/12 — Make a call to show your support!

coaltrainOn Tuesday, April 12th, at 1:30 pm, two important coal-busting bills will be heard in the Senate Transportation Committee. Introduced by Senator Loni Hancock, the two bills are intended to restrict coal exports through California. Senator Hancock wrote the bills in reaction to the dangerous proposal to export coal through the Oakland army base redevelopment.

  • SB 1277 would protect residents and workers in West Oakland by declaring that the transportation, loading, and unloading of coal through West Oakland would present a danger to health and safety. It also requires a supplemental environmental impact review of the use of the terminal for the shipment of coal pursuant to CEQA. Read and download a fact sheet here.
  •  SB 1279 would prohibit the California Transportation Commission from allocating any state funds for any project at a port facility located at, or adjacent to, a disadvantaged community if it exports, or plans to export, coal from California. Read and download a fact sheet here.


Senator Hancock has asked supporters of her bills to call Democratic Transportation Committee members before this crucial Tuesday hearing. If you live in any of these representatives’ districts, please make a call today! (Bay Area senators in bold)

  • Senator Jim Beall (Committee Chair) (District 15: San Jose, Campbell, Cupertino, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, and Saratoga): (408) 558-1295
  • Senator Anthony Cannella (Vice Chair) (District 12: Central Valley between Modesto and Fresno): (916) 651-4012
  • Senator Benjamin Allen (District 26: Southern California): (310) 318-6994
  • Senator Patricia C. Bates (District 36: Orange and San Diego counties): (916) 651-4036
  • Senator Ted Gaines (District 11: Northeast California): (916) 651-4001
  • Senator Cathleen Galgiani (District 5: San Joaquin County and portions of Stanislaus and Sacramento Counties): (916) 651-4005
  • Senator Connie M. Leyva (District 20: parts of San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties): (916) 651-4020
  • Senator Mike McGuire (District 2: North Coast / North Bay including Marin County): (415) 479-6612
  • Senator Tony Mendoza (District 32: parts of Los Angeles and Orange counties): (916) 651-4032
  • Senator Richard D. Roth (District 31: Riverside County): (916) 651-4031
  • Senator Bob Wieckowski (District 10: Southern Alameda County and part of Santa Clara County): (510) 794-3900

Tell them:

  • Transportation of coal through our communities creates health, safety, and climate problems.
  • Funding projects and developments that contribute to pollution and climate change is contrary to the state’s goals.
  • West Oakland, the location of the proposed coal terminal, is already heavily impacted by pollution and related health impacts, including asthma, cancer, and heart disease.
  • Proposition 1B funds are supposed to be restricted to projects that reduce pollutant emissions. Yet $176 million in 1B funds have gone to the redevelopment of the former Oakland Army Base, site of the proposed coal terminal, which would increase emissions.

Community urges Benicia City Council to deny Valero’s dangerous oil-train proposal

Opponents of Valero’s oil train proposal rallied in front of city hall before the Benicia City Council hearing.

Opponents of Valero’s oil train proposal rallied in front of city hall before the Benicia City Council hearing.

On April 4, scores of concerned Californians converged on Benicia City Hall to urge the city council to reject Valero’s plan to transport volatile crude to its Bay Area refinery in dangerous oil trains. In February, local planning commissioners unanimously rejected the proposal, which would send two 50-tanker oil trains through California communities each day. Valero appealed that decision to the city council. Given the intense public interest in the crude-by-rail project, the city council has scheduled four public hearing dates this month.

Before Monday’s city council hearing began, opponents of Valero’s dangerous plan held a rally in front of city hall. Rally speakers included Berkeley City Councilmember Jesse Arreguín and Andres Soto of Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community, as well as a local business owner and a senior scientist from Communities for a Better Environment, an environmental justice organization. Benicia residents were joined by members of “up-rail” communities (including Sacramento and Davis) who would be endangered by the oil trains rolling through their cities and towns on the way to the Valero refinery. Oil train derailments and explosions have skyrocketed in recent years — including the July 2013 derailment in Lac-Megantic, Canada that killed 47 people and obliterated several city blocks.

Berkeley City Councilmember Jesse Arreguín addressed the crowd at the rally outside Benicia City Hall.

Berkeley City Councilmember Jesse Arreguín addressed the crowd at the rally outside Benicia City Hall.

Inside the city council chambers, public comment began with testimony by a series of elected officials and agency representatives concerned by the risks posed by Valero’s oil train project. Speaking on behalf of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (which represents six counties and 22 cities), Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor urged the Benicia City Council to consider impacts on up-rail communities, including the 260,000 people in the Sacramento region who live within a quarter-mile of the railroad tracks. A representative from the Sacramento City Unified School District noted that 17 schools in the district are within the “blast zone” that would be put at risk by explosive oil trains on the railroad tracks. Other speakers included Berkeley Vice-Mayor Linda Maio and representatives testifying on behalf of up-rail air quality management districts, the City of Davis, and State Senator Lois Wolk.

After the elected officials and agency representatives spoke, residents of Benicia and up-rail communities voiced their concerns about the severe public health and environmental risks posed by Valero’s proposal. Although a few people expressed support for the project, the majority opposed it. Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community presented the city council with a petition — compiled along with the Sierra Club, Stand, CREDO, Center for Biological Diversity, and 350 Sacramento — with 4,081 signatures of people opposed to Valero’s oil train project.
Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community presented the city council with a petition signed by over 4,000 people who are opposed to Valero’s oil train project.

Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community presented the city council with a petition signed by over 4,000 people who are opposed to Valero’s oil train project.

In addition to urging the Benicia City Council to uphold the permit denial, many speakers urged the council to reject Valero’s request to delay the appeal process. At a city council meeting last month, Valero unexpectedly asked the council to put the appeal on hold while the company seeks a declaratory order from the federal Surface Transportation Board regarding the scope of the legal doctrine of preemption. Valero has insisted that federal regulation of railroads means that Benicia is prohibited from considering the project’s impacts on communities and sensitive environments along the rail line (including derailments, oil spills, and explosions).

At the Benicia Planning Commission hearings in February, attorneys from the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Stanford Law School clinic refuted this expansive interpretation of the preemption doctrine, and the commissioners ultimately rejected Valero’s interpretation as overly broad. Notably, the California Attorney General has previously weighed in on the shortcomings of the city’s environmental review, and specifically noted the failure to adequately analyze impacts to up-rail communities. Valero has not offered a compelling rationale for why the Attorney General would request that analysis if preemption renders those impacts irrelevant. The oil industry’s self-serving interpretation of preemption was also recently rejected by planning staff in San Luis Obispo County, who recommended denial of a similar oil train proposal at a Phillips 66 refinery due in large part to the environmental and health impacts along the rail line.

Rallying in front of Benicia City Hall.

Rallying in front of Benicia City Hall.

In a letter submitted to the Benicia City Council last week, the Sierra Club and our allies explained why federal law does not preempt Benicia from denying the permit for Valero’s project. The letter also reiterated that the project’s local impacts, especially increases in refinery pollution, require the city to deny the permit. For years, the Sierra Club and our partners have pushed back against Valero’s efforts to hide the true impacts of its oil train proposal — including submitting comments at each stage of the environmental review process. Our allies in these efforts include NRDC, Benicians for a Safe and Healthy Community, Stand (formerly ForestEthics), Communities for a Better Environment, Center for Biological Diversity, SF Baykeeper, and Sunflower Alliance, among others.

Additional city council hearings are scheduled for April 6, 18, and 19, as needed for public comment and council action.


Submit a comment to the Benicia City Council: Take Action: Protect California’s communities from explosive oil trains!

Vacancy on Marin Group Executive Committee

Marin-County-126093The Marin Group is in the process of filling a vacancy on its 11-member Executive Committee: the governing body for the Sierra Club at the most local level. If you wish to be considered, please contact Marin Group Chair Max Perrey at mperrey@sfbaysc.org.

The Marin Group Executive Committee meets on the second Tuesday of each month. It oversees essential functions of the Marin Group, which consists of approximately 4,700 Club members who live in Marin County. All Club members who live in Marin County are  automatically members of the Marin Group — a regional group of the San Francisco Bay Chapter — and are eligible to serve on the Executive Committee.

Major Marin Group activities include:

  • Investigation of issues of importance to Marin’s environment.
  • Preservation of wild and open spaces, habitat, and wildlife in Marin County.
  • Public advocacy including lobbying city, county, and other officials on issues that affect Marin’s environment, including: development proposals, water supply, transportation, agriculture, parks, recreation, trails, wildlife protection, toxics, and environmental justice.
  • Interviewing candidates for elected office, researching ballot measures, and providing voting guides for our members.
  • Presenting informative and hands-on programs about local issues, habitat, and governmental process issues.

The Yodeler wants your #SierraSnapshots!

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Backpackers in Henry W. Coe State Park. Photo courtesy Roger Williams.

Did you see a golden eagle on your last hike? Or maybe a blooming buckeye tree? Snap a selfie on top of Mount Tam? Send your photos to us and you could be featured in the Yodeler in the new Sierra Snapshots series!

Our members spend a lot of time outdoors enjoying the parks and open spaces we’ve all helped to preserve. Now we want you to share your outdoor adventures with us and each other through Sierra Snapshots.

How to submit your photos: You can tag the photo #SierraSnapshots on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, or email it to us at yodedit@sierraclub.org. Be sure it’s a high resolution file, and include the photographer’s name, names of the people in the photo, where and when it was taken, and how long you’ve been a Sierra Club member.

Sierra Club California legislative priority list 2016

6348334054_5047c76966Each year, Sierra Club California staff and volunteer leaders work together to analyze and determine Club positions on hundreds of bills at the legislature. From among those on which we take a position, a number rise to the top as priority bills that deserve special attention and that we encourage our members to bring to the attention of their legislators. Below is the Sierra Club California list of priority bills in 2016 with our position and each bill’s status. This list is updated periodically — head to sierraclub.org/california for updates throughout the year.

The bills are grouped by topic area and listed within those by house and in ascending numerical order. Bills introduced by Assembly members begin with AB and bills introduced by Senators begin with SB.

Tackling Methane Pollution to Reduce Climate Change:

AB 2415 (Garcia, E) California Clean Truck, Bus, and Off-Road Vehicle and Equipment Technology Program
This bill, pushed by the natural gas industry, would stifle the state’s efforts to accelerate commercialization of zero-emission heavy-duty trucks and buses, including electric drayage trucks and electric transit buses, by directing funding to trucks powered by polluting methane. Oppose (double referred to Assembly Transportation and Assembly Natural Resources).

SB 380 (Pavley) Natural gas storage: moratorium. This would impose an immediate moratorium on natural gas injection and a restriction on natural gas production at the Aliso Canyon storage facility, where a major gas leak occurred in late 2015 and early 2016, forcing evacuation and thousands of residents and releasing tons of greenhouse gas pollution, until certain safety conditions are met. Support (Passed in Senate; passed in Assembly Energy, Utilities and Communication, in Assembly Appropriations)

SB 887 (Pavley ) Natural gas storage wells. This bill would develop a comprehensive reform of how the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) oversees methane gas storage wells. Support (Passed in Senate Natural Resources and Water; in Senate Environmental Quality) SB 888 (Allen) Gas corporations: emergency management. This bill assures a timely response to methane leaks at storage facilities by designating an agency responsible for action and helps to fund those actions with a new account funded by violators. Support (In Senate Environmental Quality)

SB 1393 (De León) Intrastate transmission line: safety valves. This bill will would require the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to require utilities to install automatic or remote controlled shutoff valves on intrastate transmission lines that transport gas to or from a storage facility, if it is necessary to protect the public. Support (in Senate Energy, Utilities and Communication)

SB 1441 (Leno) Natural gas: vented and fugitive emissions. The bill would require the California Air Resources Board to include fugitive and vented methane gas in its compliance obligations under cap-and-trade rules in an attempt to fund the reduction of fugitive methane emissions in California’s methane gas infrastructure. This means that ratepayers won’t be paying for gas that gets vented or leaks. Support (in Senate Energy, Utilities and Communication)

Guarding California’s Bedrock Environmental Disclosure Law: CEQA

AB 1886 (McCarty) California Environmental Quality Act: transit priority projects. This bill weakens CEQA by allowing development further from transit stops than research shows most people will walk to catch a bus or train to receive a transit priority project and undergo less environmental analysis. Oppose (in Assembly Natural Resources)

AB 2356 (Gomez) California Environmental Quality Act: infill planning projects. This bill changes baselines for CEQA to a level that will allow impacts from new development to go unanalyzed and unmitigated. It essentially cuts public disclosure and environmental protection for infill projects. Oppose (Assembly Natural Resources)

Restoring the Integrity of the California Coastal Commission

AB 2002 (Stone) Political Reform Act of 1974: California Coastal Commission. This bill requires people who lobby the Coastal Commission to register as lobbyists and disclose their employers. The bill requires a two-thirds vote in both houses to pass. Support (in Assembly Elections and Redistricting)

AB 2616 (Burke) California Coastal Commission: Environmental Justice Membership. This bill would increase the membership of the California Coastal Commission by appointing 3 additional members who represent and work directly with environmental justice communities. Support (in Assembly Natural Resources)

AB 2628 (Levine) Political Reform Act of 1974: post governmental employment. This bill prevents ex-Coastal Commissioners from immediately being able to lobby the Commission following the end of their term. Support (in Assembly Elections and Redistricting)

Advancing Renewable Energy

AB 1937 (Gomez ) Thermal powerplants: certification. Before the Energy Commission (CEC) certifies a new fossil fuel power plant, this bill would require the CEC to assess alternative sources to meet demand. If preferable alternatives exist, the CEC would then be able to reject the certification on the grounds that there are cleaner alternatives to building another dirty power plant. Support (in Assembly Utilities and Commerce)

AB 2339 (Irwin) Net energy metering. This bill would give more Californians, especially in communities hardest hit by the recession, access to clean energy generation and its benefits by removing barriers that prohibit many from taking advantage of the net energy metering (NEM) program. Support (in Assembly Utilities and Commerce)

SB 215 (Leno and Hueso) & SB 512 (Hill ) Public Utilities Commission. These bills would reform the Public Utilities Commission’s (PUC) governance structure by more clearly outlining the roles and responsibilities of the commissioners and staff and would close loopholes that have allowed regulated utilities to influence the PUC commissioners without public engagement. Support (in Assembly Utilities and Commerce)

SB 1453 (De León) Electrical generation: greenhouse gases emission performance standard. This bill would prohibit utilities from recovering costs for procurement of energy if it does not comply with the PUC’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emission performance standards. The bill also protects California from dirty coal imports by eliminating the option for a utility to circumvent compliance with the state’s landmark GHG emission performance standards. Support (in Senate Energy, Utilities and Communication)

Protecting California’s Wildlife, Natural Areas and Parks

AB 2029 (Dahle) Timber harvesting plans: exemptions. This bill would extend a controversial pilot program that allows private forest owners to cut large, older trees without a timber harvest plan under certain circumstances. The extension would be allowed early and without a full evaluation of the pilot program’s effectiveness. It would also expand the exemption to trees that are 28 inches in stump diameter, even larger trees than allowed to be harvested without a plan during the existing pilot. Oppose (in Assembly Natural Resources Committee)

AB 2243 (Wood) Medical Cannabis: Cannabis Production and Environment Mitigation. This bill will establish an excise tax for medical marijuana that is charged to a licensed medical cannabis cultivator and collected by a licensed medical marijuana distributor. The funds collected will pay for environmental remediation, local law enforcement, and a program to address environmentally damaging marijuana cultivation practices. Support (in Assembly Revenue and Taxation)

AB 2444 (Garcia, Eduardo) California Water Quality, Coastal Protection, and Outdoor Access Improvement Act of 2016. This bill places the California Water, Climate, and Coastal Protection and Outdoor Access for All Act of 2016 Bond on the statewide general election ballot to finance programs to expand and promote access to and affordability of outdoor state park activities. Support (in Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife)

SB 1062 (Lara) Elephants: prohibited treatment. This bill would provide further protection for elephants in California by updating existing law to prohibit the use of bullhooks or similar inhumane devices. Support (in Senate Natural Resources and Water)

SB 1114 (Allen) California Sustainable Swordfish and Marine Life Protection Act. This bill phases out the use of drift gillnets, and authorizes the use of deep set buoy gear, a more sustainable alternative to drift gillnets. Drift gillnets are responsible for a substantially higher rate of accidental catch and killing of dolphins and whales than other fishing gear. Support (in Senate Natural Resources and Water)

SB 1287 (McGuire) Commercial fishing: Dungeness crab. This bill allows Dungeness Crab Fishermen to collect abandoned crab traps in the ocean during the off season, and return them to the proper authorities in exchange for a reward. The owner of the crab trap must pay a fine in order to retrieve their trap and be eligible to renew their fishing permit for the next season. Support (in Senate Natural Resources and Water)

Reigning in Polluting Oil Extraction and Reporting Practices and Cutting Oil Dependence

AB 1759 (Bonta) Hydrogen fluoride: notice of use: substitution. This bill would phase out the use of hydrofluoric acid in refineries over course of one year. During that time, it would require a refinery to notify residents and businesses that they are in a lethal zone, which means they are at high risk of exposure during an incident. Support (in Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials)

AB 1882 (Williams) Oil and gas: groundwater monitoring. This bill protects California’s groundwater from underground injection of oil waste by giving the Regional Water Boards the ability to require monitoring of wells. Support (in Assembly Natural Resources)

AB 2729 (Williams D) Oil and gas: operations. This bill would increase bonding levels to incentivize abandonment of wells rather than allowing for long-term idle wells to occur. This bill also provides additional oversight and enforcement to state agencies. Support (in Assembly Natural Resources)

AB 2756 (Thurmond D) Oil and gas operations: enforcement actions. This bill would increase Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources’ enforcement and oversight for oil and gas operations. It will also provide the Oil and Gas Supervisor authority to assess additional penalties to incentivize violators to take immediate corrective action. Support (in Assembly Natural Resources)

SB 778 (Allen): Automotive repair: oil changes: notification to customers. This bill requires automotive repair dealers to recommend the oil drain interval specified in the maintenance schedule of the vehicle’s owner’s manual for the next oil change, which is less frequent than what is currently recommended. Unnecessarily frequent oil changes create more waste for the state to handle and endanger public health, wildlife, ecosystems and our drinking water. Support (in Assembly)

SB 900 (Jackson) State Lands: Coastal Hazard Removal and Remediation Program. This bill will protect California’s coastline by requiring the State Lands Commission to remediate abandoned oil wells in California’s coastal waters, while also conducting an in depth inventory and assessment of all these legacy oil wells. Support (Passed out of Senate Natural Resources and Water; in Senate Appropriations)

SB 1161 (Allen) Climate Science Truth & Accountability Act. This bill addresses the growing evidence that fossil fuel companies worked to deceive the public about the realities and risks of climate change for decades. Specifically, the bill would extend the statute of limitations under the state’s Unfair Competition Law from 4 to 30 years for deceptive behavior relating to the scientific evidence of climate change. Support (Awaiting assignment to a Senate committee)

Regulating Dangerous Pesticides

AB 2596 (Bloom) Pesticides: use of anticoagulants. This bill expands the list of prohibited pesticides to include those that contain five more newly determined anticoagulants and expands the prohibition geographically as well, from just certain wildlife areas to the entire state. This will ensure that aquatic, terrestrial and avian wildlife species remain a fully functional and healthy component of the ecosystems they inhabit and move through in California. Support (in Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials)

SB 1282 (Leno ) Pesticides: neonicotinoids: labeling and restricted material designation. This bill would require labeling of plants and seeds that contain neonicotinoid pesticides, indicating that they may harm bees. Support (Awaiting assignment to a Senate committee)

Rebooting California’s Water System for Sustainability

SB 1262 (Pavley) Water supply planning. This bill strengthens water supply availability assessments to look at groundwater use, preventing development where there is no water supply to match demand by the development’s occupants. Support (Passed out of Senate Natural Resources and Water; in Senate Governance and Finance)

SB 1263 (Wieckowski) Public water systems: permits. This bill prevents a permit for a new water system from going forward until the State Water Resources Control Board can determine that the agency has the ability to actually manage water. Support (in Senate Environmental Quality)

SB 1317 (Wolk) Conditional use permit: groundwater extraction facility. This bill requires a local agency to issue a conditional use permit for new wells in high use areas and prohibits permits for new wells in critical or probationary basins where water supply is critically impacted. Support (in Senate Natural Resources and Water)

SB 1318 (Wolk) Local government: drinking water infrastructure or services: wastewater infrastructure or services. This bill prevents a Local Agency Formation Commission from approving a new water agency or expanding a water agency if there are disadvantaged communities in the agency’s area that do not have safe drinking water supplies and the agency supplies those communities as well. Support (in Senate Governance and Finance)

Make a call for state bills restricting coal exports

Senator Hancock at the announcement of the four-bill package.

Senator Hancock at the announcement of the four-bill package.

State Senator Loni Hancock has introduced four bills designed to restrict coal exports in California. Now she needs our help to turn these bills into law!

Neither Assemblymember Tony Thurmond nor Assemblymember Rob Bonta have agreed to co-sponsor the bills yet. It would be helpful for many of us to call their offices.  It just takes a minute.

  • Assemblymember Bonta: (916)319-2018 or (510)286-1670
  • Assemblymember Thurmond: (916)319-2015 or (510)286-1400

Tell them you oppose coal exports through California and you want them to co-sponsor Senator Hancock’s bills against coal.

Here are brief summaries of the four bills:

  • Senate Bill 1277 declares that the transportation of coal through West Oakland presents a clear and present danger to the health and safety of Oakland residents as well as the workers that would handle the coal.
  • Senate Bill 1278 would require an environmental impact review from any public agency relating to the shipment of coal through the city of Oakland.
  • Senate Bill 1279 would prohibit the use of public funds for any port that exports coal from California.
  • Senate Bill 1280 would require port facilities that ship bulk commodities and receive state funds to prohibit coal shipments.

Senator Hancock introduced these four bills in reaction to the dangerous proposal to export coal through the Oakland army base redevelopment. “I was shocked when I first learned that a development project on the former Oakland Army Base would export millions of tons of coal to China and other countries,” Hancock said during an announcement at her District Office in downtown Oakland. “As the state senator for this area, I cannot sit by while the residents of West Oakland face their own Keystone Pipeline. Truth is, the proposed coal depot is so problematic that I believe it warrants a multi-bill response.”

Unfortunately, however, these bills are not retroactive and so would not be able to prevent the Oakland coal-export project. The legislation would instead close loopholes in the law and ensure that other cities will not face similar problems in the future.

Senator Hancock has joined many local, state, and national voices urging the Oakland City Council to use its authority to protect the local community and global climate by prohibiting coal exports from the army base redevelopment.

June ballot Measure AA will restore wetlands for a healthy Bay and safer communities

Image from KQED Quest: "From Salt Ponds to Wetlands" at the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by: Joan Johnson.

Image from KQED Quest: “From Salt Ponds to Wetlands” at the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by: Joan Johnson.

Vote ‘Yes’ on Measure AA in this June’s election and you’ll be helping the Bay Area take a major step forward in responding to climate change and sea-level rise.

Sea-level rise threatens Bay-side communities

As many of us have witnessed during the latest El Niño storms, flooding in low-lying bay shoreline areas is becoming more common. As the bay rises three, four, or even six feet as a result of climate change (as scientists project will happen within this century) many shoreline areas will face constant inundation. Another way of saying that is that some areas may become a part of the Bay.

That is, if we don’t do something.

We could build levees around the entire Bay at a cost in the many, many billions. Then again, remember Katrina, remember the Mississippi, and all the other sites where levees have failed. Levees may be necessary in some areas – we’re not likely to allow San Francisco’s downtown to disappear under water – but they’re not the best solution.

Happily (if one can talk about happiness in the face of disaster) there appears to be an answer that makes use of nature’s natural flood barrier, tidal wetlands.

Wetlands: the natural solution

Tidal wetland vegetation slows storm surges, reduces the height of waves and encroaching waters, and so helps avoid flooding. Wetland vegetation traps sediment, and as the Bay rises so will the elevation of the tidal wetlands. As they trap the bay mud and grow new vegetation on this new elevation, wetlands raise our shoreline; a natural and growing levee. This won’t work everywhere, but it will be a critical element in how our Bay Area responds to the rising tides.

But, of course, first we need tidal wetlands. The Bay has lost over 80% of its tidal wetlands over the last few centuries as we humans have been altering the shoreline for agriculture, salt production, and urban development.

But thanks to the Sierra Club and many others the tide began to turn a few decades ago. Even before sea-level rise was recognized as the threat we know it is today (and wetlands recognized as an answer to the water’s encroachment) wetlands were valued for “cleaning and retaining water naturally, preventing floods, and providing a habitat and food source for a wide variety of plant and animal species” (Sahagian and Melack 1998; Mitsch 2005; Erwin 2009; Ranieri et al. 2013). With this in mind, environmental groups such as the Sierra Club began to save threatened tidal marshes.

As conservation efforts ramped up, state and federal agencies began to make it much harder to destroy wetlands for agriculture or development. Once the message finally got out, the goal of restoring those lost wetland acres took hold and wetland restoration became an active endeavor. Over the last decade tens of thousands of acres of tidal marsh have been restored along the Bay shoreline.

But current estimates show the need for at least 100,000 acres of restored wetlands for the health of the Bay and to address sea level rise. And restoring wetlands can be expensive — not as expensive as levees but still pretty expensive. Estimates are that it will take many hundreds of millions of dollars to restore the Bay’s wetlands to health. Where is the money to come from to undertake this essential task?

What would Measure AA do?

In 2008 the State Legislature created the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority, which was tasked with helping fund “the restoration, enhancement, protection, and enjoyment of wetlands and wildlife habitat in the San Francisco Bay and along its shoreline.”

To fund this effort, this year the Restoration Authority is presenting the “Clean and Healthy Bay Ballot Measure,” or Measure AA, on the June ballot in each of the nine Bay Area counties. Measure AA would create a $12 parcel tax that would raise $500 million over 20 years to fund critical Bay restoration and flood protection projects. The Authority’s enabling legislation and the ballot language ensure that the money will go where it’s needed. It’s not enough money to completely protect the Bay Area from sea-level rise, but it’s a great start to help us get ready for a higher bay.

This ballot measure will result in a healthier and safer Bay and most of all, it gives us all a chance to do something positive about climate change and sea-level rise. We still need to put all our energy into stopping the use of fossil fuels and reducing greenhouse gases – but that is saying ‘No.’

Here is a chance to say ‘YES’! Voting ‘Yes’ on Measure AA fights climate change by creating a healthier Bay ready to take on the rising seas. Please vote this June and vote ‘Yes’ on Measure AA.

Arthur Feinstein, Bay Chapter Executive Committee

Expanded Peninsula Watershed docent program will increase public access, protect vital water supply

The Crystal Springs Reservoir is part of the Peninsula Watershed, a vital water source for San Francisco and suburban water districts. Photo by David Hallock.

The Crystal Springs Reservoir is part of the Peninsula Watershed, a vital water source for San Francisco and suburban water districts. Photo by David Hallock, www.flickr.com/oruwu.

The Peninsula Watershed in central San Mateo County has the highest concentration of rare, threatened, and endangered species in the nine-county Bay Area — a truly remarkable fact considering the area’s proximity to highly developed urban areas. The 23,000 acres of the watershed lands are protected and managed by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (PUC) with the primary purpose of production, collection, and storage of the highest-quality water for the City and County of San Francisco and its suburban customers. In order to protect this precious water supply in an era of longer and more severe droughts, access to much of the area is restricted to a handful of well-used trails, except under the auspices of a docent program.

Under the docent program, volunteer guides lead hikers, bicyclists, and equestrians into watershed lands three days a week (You can learn more and sign up for a trip here). The docent program has increased public awareness and support for the watershed’s diverse natural habitats and wildlife while at the same time helping to prevent unauthorized off-trail use and trespassing. That in turn reduces the potential for catastrophic wildfires (the area has been designated a “hazardous fire area” by the California Department of Forestry) and degradation of water quality in the four reservoirs.

Mountain bicycle and other advocates are lobbying the PUC to consider opening remote areas of the Peninsula Watershed lands to unrestricted access — not only along the unpaved and unfenced service road on Fifield-Cahill Ridge, but also on numerous other interconnecting service roads and trails. Unfortunately, unrestricted access increases the likelihood of public health impacts, including fire risk and degraded water quality, as well as harm to habitats and wildlife.

Allowing uncontrolled access to the watershed’s remote areas would tremendously increase costs to taxpayers, as people will inevitably trespass into protected, sensitive areas. Fencing to prevent access would interrupt established wildlife migration corridors and would not deter all trespassers.

Rather than opening the area to unrestricted access and the risks associated with it, the Sierra Club and other environmental groups are calling for the successful, existing docent program to be expanded and upgraded. An excellent model for a well-managed and effective docent program is at Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve on Stanford University lands south of Crystal Springs. A similar program could be instituted for the Watershed.

A number of Peninsula Watershed trails are already open every day to unrestricted access. The popular 16-mile Crystal Springs trail east of the reservoirs near Highway 280 serves over 325,000 people each year.

This is not the first time the San Francisco PUC has considered allowing unrestricted access in the watershed lands. In 2002, the PUC considered and ultimately rejected the idea due to serious concerns raised by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Fish and Wildlife, California Department of Health Services, and many environmental groups over water quality, fire, and wildlife. The docent program was created at that time to respond to the call for more public access. Now the docent program should be expanded and upgraded.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors should pass a resolution affirming that the primary function of the watershed is protection of our water supply and preservation of natural resources, while allowing increased public access through an expanded docent program rather than uncontrolled access. The Sierra Club, Golden Gate and Sequoia Audubon Societies, California Native Plant Society’s Yerba Buena and Santa Clara County Chapters, and the Committee for Green Foothills all support this approach.

Lennie Roberts, San Mateo County legislative advocate, Committee for Green Foothills; Mike Ferreira, chair, Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter; Arthur Feinstein, Executive Committee member, Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter