August 30, 2016

Our blog has moved! Bookmark www.sierraclub.org/sfbay/blog

The Yodeler blog has moved to a new home on the Sierra Club SF Bay Chapter’s website. Visit (and bookmark!) our blog at www.sierraclub.org/sfbay/blog.

This site will remain as an archive of past Yodeler content.

Don’t forget that members of the Bay Chapter receive a quarterly print version of the Yodeler. If you aren’t a member already, you can sign up here. Memberships start at only $15 per year.

Thanks for reading and for being an active friend of the environment in the Bay Area!

Save

Harbor seals get new float at Alameda Point

Two sleeping seals on new float (print version)

Harbor seals enjoying their new float. U-shaped metal brackets were installed so that the fabricator, Kie Con, could lower the float into the water. The brackets will be removed when the float is positioned at its permanent location. Photo courtesy Richard Bangert.

A new cement float for harbor seals was delivered to Alameda Point on June 22.  It is the first float of its kind on the West Coast. With seals starting to use the new platform, a milestone has been reached culminating two-and-a-half years of citizen advocacy to maintain a resting site for harbor seals at Alameda Point. A ferry maintenance facility is slated to begin construction this summer at the site where the seals have been finding solitude for over a decade. The new float will soon be anchored 100 yards away from their old haunt.

The Water Emergency Transportation Authority’s (WETA’s) environmental impact study for its new ferry facility at Alameda’s Inner Bay Harbor overlooked the significance to the seals of an old wooden dock left behind by Navy. Site visits by the consultant conducting the environmental study took place at a time of year and time of day when the seals are rarely seen out of the water (“hauled out”). When WETA was alerted to the harbor-seal issue in January of 2014, it sought review by the National Marine Fisheries Service, which administers the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The National Marine Fisheries Service ultimately ruled that the seals were not threatened and could find somewhere else to rest. But although Breakwater Island at Alameda Point has been used by seals in the past, ongoing observations by local seal advocates revealed that the seals only haul out on the breakwater at low tide and have rarely chosen the breakwater over the old dock. The new floating haul out, on the other hand, will provide a resting platform throughout the tide cycle.

Despite the fact that the National Marine Fisheries Service did not require a new haul out or mitigation payments, WETA nevertheless committed $100,000 for the harbor seals. Following approval of a 60-year lease for its maintenance facility, WETA and the city secured the services of Dr. Jim Harvey, director of the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, to provide expert advice on the location and design of the float. Dr. Harvey recommended a location near the old dock in order to stay within the seals’ known comfort zone. He said that ferries moving about nearby would not alarm the seals.

Harbor seals are found in coastal and estuarine waters from Baja California to the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea. The only other floating haul-outs used by harbor seals are floating ice in the far north, log booms in Puget Sound, and oyster- and salmon-net pens located in Quilcene Bay within Washington State’s Hood Canal.  Harbor seals do not migrate, and once they take a liking to a haul-out site they become regulars — a behavior known as “site fidelity.”

During the winter months at Alameda Point, it was not uncommon to see two dozen seals hauled out on the old wooden dock and some odd planks tied to the dock pilings. The inner harbor at Alameda Point is the only harbor seal haul-out site in the East Bay between Yerba Buena Island and Fremont. The sheltered harbor with good food foraging makes the area ideal for seals. When they come out of the water to warm up and molt, they are extremely vulnerable to human disturbance, unlike their marine mammal cousins the sea lion.

The new float is 20 feet by 25 feet. It was initially anchored next to the old dock, which was demolished on July 11. The float will gradually be moved to the permanent location. Once anchored, the new float will be 100 yards from the shoreline and Bay Trail.

The float is made of reinforced concrete. Styrofoam enclosed within the concrete keeps the platform afloat. It will be held in place at its permanent location with four anchors. One side is sloped to make it easier for the seals to haul out. This custom-designed structure was built by Kie Con Inc. in Antioch at a cost to WETA of $68,000.

The effort to create a new haul out for seals in Alameda’s Inner Bay Harbor was supported by the Sierra Club, including national executive director Michael Brune, who wrote a letter of support. The Golden Gate Audubon Society also supported the effort. Local activists launched an international petition in 2014, gathering 3,000 signatures.

The success of this constructed habitat suggests an option for helping Bay Area harbor seals when traditional natural habitat used by seals, such as Mowry and Newark Sloughs, becomes inundated by sea level rise.

WhatYouCanDo

You can volunteer as a harbor-seal monitor, sending in reports of seal observations when you visit the Bay Trail. To get involved, email alamedaharborseals@gmail.com. You can also follow the Alameda Point Harbor Seal Monitors Facebook page.

– Richard Bangert

Finish line in sight in campaign to cap refinery emissions

BAAQMD-BldgFour years. Endless meetings.  Hundreds if not thousands of public comments. Finally, overcoming opposition from its own staff, the board of directors of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) set a date — May 2017 — to vote on a plan that would set enforceable numeric limits on pollution from oil refineries: greenhouse gases, toxic chemicals, and dangerous particulate matter.

By unanimous vote, the board of directors gave staff clear marching orders at its July 20th meeting: Produce draft regulations based on the Community-Worker proposal to cap refinery emissions at their current levels (see the end of this article for the text of the Community-Worker proposal). This rule is important, not only to protect our health and safety and the planet, but to prevent the Bay Area from becoming a major outlet for tar sands crude oil. That’s because refining tar sands crude produces much higher levels of both health-harming pollution and greenhouse gases.

But there was a catch. The caps proposal was paired with a BAAQMD staff proposal for a massive program to reduce emissions at all industrial facilities. That’s a worthy goal, but the process could take up to 10 years. Unless refinery emissions are capped at their current levels, pollution could rise disastrously while that lengthy process goes on.

The staff proposal was another effort by the BAAQMD bureaucracy to delay and divert attention from our caps proposal. The staff proposed a plan to do Health Risk Assessments (HRAs) on all industrial sources of pollution. That means doing a detailed analysis of potential health impacts of various amounts of each chemical in the pollution emitted by all industrial facilities in the Bay Area.

The positive aspect of the staff proposal is that it would set a stricter standard for protecting health. A Health Risk Assessment (HRA) calculates how many deaths per million would be caused by exposure to different amounts of each chemical. The current standard is that exposure should not cause more than 100 deaths per million people. The new rules would bring this down, first to 25 deaths per million and then to 10 deaths per million — among the strictest levels in the nation. Industrial facilities would be required to install “Best Available Retrofit Control Technology” to bring their emissions down to these levels.

However, the entire process — doing an extensive HRA, determining and agreeing on needed retrofits, installing them, demonstrating their efficacy, and remediating retrofits that don’t achieve necessary goals — can easily take 5 to 10 years or even more. Moreover, this process needs to be done on a case-by-case basis for thousands of individual industrial pollution sources. Without a cap in place, emissions will inevitably increase during these extended studies.

The board set a specific schedule for the work on the two proposals:

  • Notice of preparation of Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and draft regulation released, respectively, by August 19* and October 15, 2016, with public workshops and comments complete by December 2016.
  • Draft EIR, socioeconomic analysis, staff report, and final regulatory language for both proposals released by March 3, 2017.
  • Required public meetings and comment periods completed by April 19, 2017.
  • BAAQMD board of directors vote by May 17, 2017.

The board will monitor progress. If combining the two regulations is delaying adoption of the emissions cap, they will separate the two rules, as we have been demanding all along.

(*Note: The significance of the August 19th date is that regardless of the final completion date, this sets the reference time used to calculate the current refinery emissions baseline: the level at which they would be capped.)

WhatYouCanDo

Without intensive public pressure staff will slip back into delay-and-divert mode yet again. So, to ensure the board holds staff to this schedule, we are mobilizing a grassroots campaign in the whole nine-county Bay Area, encouraging city councils to pass resolutions supporting caps on refinery emissions.

So far the city councils of El Cerrito, Emeryville, Oakland, Richmond, and San Francisco have stepped up and endorsed our call for rapid completion of rules for emission caps. San Pablo, San Leandro, and Union City already have similar resolutions on their September agendas.

It will take a majority of the 24-member BAAQMD board of directors to vote and pass the regulation limiting refinery emissions. Gathering support resolutions from city councils and other elected bodies in their districts is the best way to ensure that board members do their job and protect our communities. This is citizen democracy at its most basic: community residents stepping up to demand their elected representatives act to protect their health and safety.

Dozens of elected bodies remain to be contacted. We need members of all communities to bring this resolution to their local elected bodies. Join us at our bi-weekly meetings held on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of each month, at the Sierra Club office, 2530 San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley. To confirm meeting times, contact sunflowerjsj@gmail.com.

For more information about the Community-Worker Proposal, the draft resolution and the support letter from refinery workers of United Steel Workers Local 5, explore the following documents:

– Steve Nadel

Save

Save

Save

Save

Got a bike and some time? Help Zeke’s Great Divide ride for the climate continue!

Zeke crossing into the US from Canada

Zeke crossing into the US from Canada

This summer, 15-year-old Berkeleyan Zeke Gerwein is back on his bike for his fourth annual bike ride to raise awareness of climate disruption. This year, Zeke’s 4,000-plus-mile ride will take him along the dirt roads and trails that run the length of the Rocky Mountains through three countries: Canada, the U.S., and Mexico.

Zeke has been riding for the Sierra Club since June 14. He started in Banff, Alberta and will be reaching Breckenridge, Colorado on July 15th. He has ridden through snowstorms, hail, and 100-degree weather, sung to several bears, dealt with flat tires and pedal malfunctions, and cycled over the highest motorable pass in the continental US!

Zeke’s last riding companion had to part ways with him in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and he can’t continue without a companion. Zeke is hoping to find new companions along the route, but if you know anyone in Colorado or the general area (Wyoming, New Mexico) who might be willing to join in on this tough, off-road ride for a few days or a week through the rest of Colorado and into New Mexico, that would be terrific.

Zeke’s parents can help with expenses for riding companions. Let us know if you or a friend might be able to help! You can contact Zeke’s father Joel at jgerwein at gmail.com.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Thomas Meissner: Wunderbarer wanderer

Thomas at Cerro Chirripó — the highest mountain in Costa Rica — in 2016

Thomas at Cerro Chirripó — the highest mountain in Costa Rica — in 2016

Born in a country where backpacking is almost unknown, Thomas Meissner didn’t strap on a genuine sleeping-bag-and-supply pack until he was in his 30s—but for the past 22 years, he has not only trotted the trails and set up camp in the wild—he has also lead groups of hikers and backpackers into his favorite haunts, and has recruited and trained countless others.

This is why none of his hiking protegés and companions were surprised when, in May, Thomas received the chapter’s Michener Outings Leadership Award for 2016.

Currently chair of the chapter’s backpacking section, Thomas was born and reared in Nürnberg, Germany. Most of Europe’s greener places are fairly close to civilization, and Thomas, like other Europeans who love the outdoors, did a lot of day hiking—throughout Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. He also did a lot of class and lab work, earning his M.S. in physics from the University of Bonn and his Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Ruhr University (Bochum).

In 1992, he left behind family, friends, and home country, to work on a postdoc at the University of Washington, in Seattle. He did two more postdocs, at the University of South Carolina, in Columbia; and Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. While in Washington state, he tried backpacking for the first time.

Thomas on a 2013 trip to Sequoia National Park

Thomas on a 2013 trip to Sequoia National Park

Thomas moved to the Bay Area in 1998, to work at Remote Sensing Systems, in Santa Rosa, where he works—in layman’s terms—“as a scientist measuring weather and climate data on the earth from satellite observations.” He sought out a guided backpacking trip and became acquainted with the Sierra Club and seasoned backpack leader Lloyd Sawchuk.

Lloyd, who won the Michener award in 2009, says, “Thomas was eager and determined” and wanted to know, in detail, “the history of the backpack section, the goals of the organization, and how leaders are trained.” To demonstrate his motivation and qualifications to become a trip leader himself, Thomas joined Lloyd on a private snow camping trip near Iron Mountain in the Sierra. Lloyd was impressed: “The weekend was very cold, windy, wet, and miserable—sleet, rain, fog, and inescapable discomfort. Thomas proved to be knowledgeable, focused, and eager to begin formal training as an assistant leader.” Thomas assisted Lloyd on a number of weekend backpack trips and snowshoe outings, and soon graduated to leading hikes and backpack treks himself, and to training other leaders.

In 2001, eager to introduce the uninitiated to the wonders of the wild, he began organizing an annual course for beginning backpackers. This spring, the 16th such course introduced beginners to backpacking equipment and how to use it, basic navigation skills, wilderness safety, water treatment, wilderness ethics, and low-impact camping. Roger Williams, chair of the chapter’s finance committee, calculates that at about 50 new backpackers per year, Thomas has helped make many hundreds of individuals more competent in the wilderness.

Thomas, center, on a 2014 trip to Stinson Beach

Thomas, center, on a 2014 trip to Stinson Beach

Short trips, long trips, California backpacking trips, European inn-to-inn trips—Thomas has led outings from Stinson Beach to the German Alps. He has led over 150 backpack trips into California’s High Sierra and coastal mountains. He has shared his knowledge and love of Bavaria—this year, from Rothenburg to the Danube; two years ago, along the Bavarian Forest Crest.

Leading trips is obviously a labor of love for Thomas, who enjoys planning his trips as well as amplifying the wilderness experience for others. He likes the connection on his treks—people connecting with one another and with nature. One has to be flexible, he says. About 12 years ago, on a backpacking trip in the Northern Sierra, the hard rain turned into snow, and the trip had to be terminated early. Sometimes creeks are too high to cross, and he has to alter the original route. Someone might get sick or injured—and have to be taken to a hospital by a horse or a helicopter. Thomas handles the responsibility calmly.

Teri Shore, who has co-led many trips with Thomas, says, “he is one of the few people whom I trust completely in the back country. He knows the mountains and can read the landscape and the weather as well as maps. I have never known Thomas to get lost or off trail.”

Thomas, center-right, on a 2010 trip to the Bavarian and Austrian Alps

Thomas, center-right, on a 2010 trip to the Bavarian and Austrian Alps

Though quiet and kind, Thomas is an exceptionally organized, no-nonsense leader, one for whom, says JP Torres, database coordinator for the backpacking section, “promptness is a virtue.” JP adds, “Anyone who has been on a trip with Thomas and heard his decisive ‘Five minutes!’ near the end of a snack break knows that if you aren’t paying attention, you will fall behind once everyone else has gotten up and started following Thomas down the trail.” JP has adopted Thomas’s “Five minutes!” call when he leads trips—much to the delight of participants who recognize Thomas’s voice in the exclamation. Thomas has also been known to pound on his metal cooking pot to make sure backpackers get up in time for an early start. “After a few friendly complaints,” Teri Shore says, “he gave up that type of wake-up call!”

Kath Giel has accompanied Thomas, often as his assistant leader, on many of his adventures. This spring, she assisted Thomas with “Hiking the Alps of Bavaria and Tyrol.” Tramping with him in the homeland he knows so well, she says, is a pleasurable and memorable experience. On all his trips, Kath says, “Thomas carries a large pack that contains all sorts of essentials. Did your hiking pole break? He has a knife with a tool. Did you lose something in the leaves? He has a headlamp. Did your batteries die? He has a spare. Do you wonder where you are? He has a map and GPS.”

Thomas at the Uhuru Peak on Mount Kilimanjaro in 2012

Thomas at the Uhuru Peak on Mount Kilimanjaro in 2012

Although most of Thomas’s backpacking trips take place in non-winter weather, he leads annual backcountry snowshoe trips to the Sierra Club’s Bradley hut, perched on the Sierra crest east of Lake Tahoe. He apparently is oblivious to the raucous snoring in the communal sleeping room.

Pressed to rank the best backpacking sites, Thomas offers Sequoia National Park as one of his favorite places. He has trekked all over the United States, in New Zealand, Australia, Costa Rica, Patagonia, and Canada. In 2012, he made it to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. He revisits his native land once or twice a year.

The famous American trails? Thomas has hiked the John Muir trail straight through and has done large sections of the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail, usually with other, lucky companions. He is willing to “share the journey,” says Kath Giel.

What new place would he like to explore? The Peruvian Andes—and it’s on his calendar for 2017!

– By Karen Rosenbaum

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

July PG&E hearings an opportunity to give feedback on rates, “exit fee”

news-300x200Every three years, PG&E submits a General Rate Case (GRC) proposal to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) that lays out the utility’s expected costs for the next three years. PG&E would adjust its rates to cover these costs. This budget approval process allows for public input to be entered into the record through public participation hearings.​ ​In the next few weeks,​ ​eleven ​hearings will take place around PG&E’s service area. There will be three in the Bay Chapter:

  • July 18, Richmond: 7 pm at the Courtyard Marriott, 3150 Garrity Way (near Hilltop)
  • July 19, Oakland: 1 and 6 pm in the state office building, 1515 Clay Street (west of 12th Street BART), 2nd floor, Room 2
  • July 20, San Francisco: 1 and 6 pm in the CPUC auditorium, 505 Van Ness Avenue

Public comment is limited to 3 minutes per person.​

These meetings are the only forums for members of the public to provide oral comment on PG&E’s​ ​budget ​​proposal. It asks for an additional $2.305 billion over the next three years. ​ ​

The Richmond hearing is the only one​ scheduled in​ ​Marin Clean Energy’s service area​​. Residents and businesses here have a unique perspective on how PG&E’s budget decisions affect them as Community Choice customers. The Commission will be interested in your input.

In the past, Community Choice customers have asked the CPUC to address the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment (PCIA)​ fee charged to their communities. The PCIA is a charge assessed by PG&E to cover generation costs acquired prior to a customer’s change in service provider. This fee is collected by PG&E and is effectively an “exit fee.” PG&E’s proposal to double this fee will have a particularly heavy impact on low-income customers and Community Choice energy programs that promote clean, renewable energy in California.

A recent CPUC report summarized a PCIA workshop held in early March by saying that the recommended reforms to this exit fee were outside the scope of the proceeding under which the workshop was held. This means that the requests for accountability, transparency, and reasonableness of the PCIA​ ​​are not being considered for reform. We need a new venue for this discussion.

The General Rate Case does not specifically touch on the PCIA, but since the PCIA currently has no other venue for discussion, this​ ​public hearing may be a good time to enter public comment into the record. If you’d like to comment on​ ​how much money PG&E should get and what it can use the money for, consider attending this meeting. You won’t get the chance to do so for another three years.

More resources:

  • More information on the General Rate Case can be found here.
  • The full schedule of meetings is here.
  • For those who want to dive deep, here’s PG&E’s September 1, 2015 General Rate Case application.
  • Here’s the entire docket for the “Application of Pacific Gas and Electric Company for Authority, Among Other Things, to Increase Rates and Charges for Electric and Gas Service Effective”.

– Dave McCoard

Save

Save

Save

Bonus Oakland tree-planting event — Sat, July 16

Photo courtesy facebook.com/treesforOAKflatlands

Photo courtesy facebook.com/treesforOAKflatlands

Although the Sierra Club Tree Team‘s 2015-16 planting season officially ended a month ago, we still have one more batch of trees in stock that we want to get in the ground ASAP. Therefore, we’re holding an “overtime” event on Saturday, July 16th. If you’re around, please join us!

We’ll be planting six trees along one block in Fruitvale. These six trees will bring our annual total to 1,900 trees planted!

Get all the details on our Meetup event page. We’ll meet at 9 am at our usual staging area in Fruitvale, 1122 29th Ave (the parking lot of Epic School). After we have our orientation and safety briefing, we’ll load the trees and supplies onto our truck and then go to the site a few blocks away.

The Meetup event says we’ll end at 1pm, but if we get a group of 8-10 planters, we’ll easily finish before noon.  Saturday probably won’t be too hot anyway, but I prefer to work in the cool of the morning.

Please call or text me Derek at 510-435-2452 if you’re running late or need directions.

Watch our Meetup page for details about any future planting or pruning events.

As always, we supply the shovels, gloves, and other tools, and our experienced team leaders will train and supervise any volunteers new to planting.

Save

Come to the Chapter’s annual potluck picnic — Sun, Aug 14

Photo courtesy gatherlocally.wordpress.com

Temescal Park. Photo courtesy gatherlocally.wordpress.com

Join fellow Sierra Club members for an afternoon of good cheer, good food, and good company at our annual potluck picnic.

DATE: Sunday, August 14, 2016
TIME: 12 to 3:30 pm
LOCATION: Landvale Picnic Site (near east end of parking lot), Temescal Regional Park, North Entrance, 6500 Broadway, Oakland (park map here)
PARK FEES: Parking, $5/vehicle; Dogs, $2  (dogs must be on leash)

Say “Goodbye, coal!” and “Hello, clean energy!” as we celebrate the defeat of a dirty coal-export plan in Oakland and fête the launch of our “Ready for 100″ campaign to move Bay Area cities to 100 percent renewable energy.

Please bring: a potluck dish (ready to eat) or beverage to share, reusable dishes and flatware (let’s go zero waste!), blankets, games, friends, and family.

There is a mile trail around Lake Temescal for us to enjoy.

Organizers will provide, tablecloths, games, information about the chapter’s latest campaigns, and PRIZES!

RSVP appreciated: joanne1892 at gmail.com or 510-530-5216

Volunteers needed: We need your help to make this event successful. We need help getting things to the picnic, setting up, welcoming guests, organizing food tables, cleaning up, and taking things back to the chapter office in Berkeley. To volunteer, please contact Joanne Drabek at joanne1892 at gmail.com or 510-530-5216.

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 10.39.29 AMDirections:

  • Temescal is located next to the Highway 24/Highway

    13 interchange in Oakland.

  • Find a detailed park map here. Landvale Picnic Site is at the Northwest corner of the lake, near the east end of the parking lot. Use the North Entrance entry kiosk at 6500 Broadway.

Transit: The park is 1.3 miles uphill from Rockridge BART.

Carpool: Informal carpools from Rockridge BART to park – drivers and riders meet at passenger pick up at 12:00, 12:20, and 12:40 pm.

Save

Save

Save

Oakland City Council unanimously supports ban on coal exports

The UNITE HERE Local 2850 drum corps set the beat for the rally outside City Hall before the hearing. Photo by Brooke Anderson.

The UNITE HERE Local 2850 drum corps set the beat for the rally outside City Hall before the hearing. Photo by Brooke Anderson.

On Monday, June 26th, the Oakland City Council finally acted on its promise to protect the Bay Area by blocking coal exports through Oakland. Following the release of studies on the devastating public health and safety impacts of coal, the Council voted unanimously in favor of an ordinance prohibiting the storage and handling of coal and petroleum coke (a.k.a. petcoke, a byproduct of oil refining) in Oakland.

The ordinance, co-sponsored by Councilmember Dan Kalb and Mayor Libby Schaaf, is paired with a resolution applying the coal ban to the export terminal planned for the Oakland army base redevelopment project — thereby blocking a dirty deal that would have made Oakland into the West Coast’s largest coal exporter (read more at the bottom of this article).

Before the ordinance becomes law, it needs to get council approval one more time at a second reading on July 19. You can help us clear this final hurdle: Send a message to the City Council thanking them for standing up for our health and safety, and asking them to approve the ordinance at the July 19 meeting.

Then, RSVP to join us for the second and final City Council vote on blocking coal:

DATE: Tue, Jul 19, 2016
TIME: 5:00 pm
LOCATION: City Council Chambers, Third Floor, Oakland City Hall, 1 Frank H Ogawa Plaza
RSVP here!

Once passed, the ordinance will effectively block the deal to ship up to 10 million tons of Utah coal annually through a new export terminal planned for the Oakland army base redevelopment — a taxpayer-funded project located on public land. The coal would travel to the Bay Area in mile-long open-top rail cars, spreading toxic coal dust through countless communities along the way. West Oakland residents, who already suffer disproportionately from bad air quality, would be hit hardest by health impacts including asthma, pneumonia, emphysema and heart disease.

Anti-coal speakers outnumbered the pro-coal side 10-1.

Anti-coal speakers outnumbered the pro-coal side 10-1.

By blocking this coal-export project, we’ll be strengthening the “thin green line” being drawn down the West Coast by communities like ours. The goal is a continent-wide blockade of coal exports, and the stakes are no less than the future of our planet.  Because the coal industry is on the rocks — with coal-fired power plants closing across the country and demand falling worldwide — blocking this export deal means the coal will likely stay in the ground. That is the equivalent of wiping out the carbon emissions of seven average power plants.

After the June 26th City Council vote, local Sierra Club organizer Brittany King said: “Once the Council votes to confirm the ordinance to ban coal and petcoke on July 19th, we can finally get back to making a plan for the Oakland Army Base that will create good jobs for our community without sacrificing our climate and our health. It’s time for Phil Tagami and Jerry Bridges to listen to the people of Oakland, who stood up today and said very clearly: there will be no coal in Oakland.”

This victory was only possible because of the dedicated advocacy of Bay Area residents, workers, healthcare professionals, small businesses, and elected officials over 15 months. Thank you for all you’ve done to help keep dirty coal in the ground!

Background:

A portion of the former Oakland Army Base is being developed as a bulk export facility, known as the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal (OBOT). CCIG, the developer, promised not include coal as a commodity handled by the terminal, but now they have solicited a partnership with four Utah counties that could allow the state to export up to 10 million tons of coal from their mines each year. A Utah funding body approved $53 million to buy space at Oakland Bulk Terminal for these exports. This deal is being conducted behind the backs of the Oakland City Council and the Port, both of oppose coal as a commodity for shipping in Oakland. Additionally, the developer promised residents that the city-owned port would be coal free. While the Mayor, members of the council and residents have demanded a stop to these talks, the developer has yet to abandon the plans.

Those opposing the plan to export coal through Oakland have voiced concerns over how this decision will affect the community’s safety, the environment, and public health. According to a national train company, each open-top rail car of coal can lose up to one ton of dust between the mines and the port, resulting in the release of 60,000 pounds of toxic fine particulate matter in communities near the rails. Additionally, this deal will stifle California’s strong commitment to cutting carbon pollution, especially as the state continues to suffer from extreme drought, forest fires, and other signs of climate disruption.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Temperance Flat Dam boondoggle marches on

a1_g0805_temperanceflat_for_webFriday, July 1st, will mark an escalation in the attack on California’s rivers and evidence-based water policies. On that date, the federal Bureau of Reclamation and the recently formed San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority will publicly launch a joint effort to complete technical work needed to finish a feasibility study on the proposed Temperance Flat Dam and Reservoir. If built, the 665-foot-tall, 3,360-foot-wide dam on the San Joaquin River in the San Joaquin River Gorge would be the second tallest dam in California. This is bad news for the San Joaquin River and the fish and other wildlife that once made it home.

The San Joaquin has eight existing dams, and most of the river’s flow is already captured and diverted. The river rarely flows into the ocean. Additionally, all of the water in the river is already spoken for—the state has promised more water than is available by a whopping 861%. Any “new” water would go to existing users, and it would be irresponsible to promise “new” water to anyone.

Californians can produce more water for less money

A beautiful whitewater run on the San Joaquin River Gorge. Photo by Paul Martzen.

A beautiful whitewater run on the San Joaquin River Gorge. Photo by Paul Martzen.

The Bureau of Reclamation estimates that the $2.8-billion Temperance Flat Dam will yield 19,000 to 30,000 acre-feet of water in dry years and 61,000 to 87,000 acre-feet in normal years. We can produce more water for less money by increasing groundwater banking, reusing and recycling water, and harnessing flood flows into natural flood basins. Additionally, efficiency frees up water—California residents saved 1,300,000 acre-feet in the 8 months between June 2015 and March 2016.

Reclamation has spent approximately 36 million tax dollars to date studying and promoting this project. The new effort is to finish documentation so the project can compete for state water bond funds. 2014’s Proposition 1 water bond designated $2.7 billion for “public benefits” of water storage projects; the Temperance Flat Dam project will request more than half of this total: $1.4 billion! Central Valley agribusiness will be the primary beneficiaries of this project, but taxpayers will be the primary funders.

The project will harm salmon

Although Reclamation claims that one of the primary project purposes is for “environmental benefits,” independent biologists have found that Temperance Flat Dam will harm salmon habitat and degrade downstream water quality.

Temperance Flat Dam will flood important ecological, recreational, cultural and community values within the San Joaquin River Gorge

Millerton Cave in the San Joaquin River Gorge. Photo by Steve Evans.

Millerton Cave in the San Joaquin River Gorge. Photo by Steve Evans.

Over 54,000 people enjoy visiting the San Joaquin River Gorge each year, boosting the local economy. This gorgeous area is home to the unique Millerton Cave System, a Native American Educational and Interpretive Center, a ~10 mile whitewater run, numerous hiking and equestrian trails, rich botanical resources, and 30 known and possible sensitive, threatened, or endangered species. The Bureau of Land Management has recognized the outstanding values of the San Joaquin River as it flows through the Gorge, and has recommended this reach for designation as a National Wild and Scenic River. All of these habitats, recreational, and cultural resources will be inundated if the proposed dam is built.

The Sierra Club and at least seven other advocacy groups are working to stop this project and redirecting our public resources to developing sustainable water practices and technologies. Contact the Bay Chapter Water Committee co-chair Heinrich Albert at heinrich.albert at outlook.com to learn more.

>> View the Temperance Flat Dam fact sheet

–Heinrich Albert

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save