April 20, 2014

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.

SF Supervisors say no EIR on commuter buses

Three corporate shuttles at a Muni stop at Park Presidio and Geary. Photo by Sue Vaughan.

Three corporate shuttles at a Muni stop at Park Presidio and Geary. Photo by Sue Vaughan.

Should San Francisco prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on its new commuter-bus policy (see April, page 7)? The Sierra Club thinks so, and so did the folks who filed an appeal of the Planning Department’s decision not to prepare an EIR, but on April 1 the Board of Supervisors rejected the appeal.

The Planning Department gave the project a Class Six “categorical exemption” from the requirement to do an EIR. “Class Six is a very limited exemption for data collection,” argued Richard Drury, attorney for the appellants. “Experimental management goes far beyond mere data collection, as does changing the law to make [the pilot] legal. [The administrators of the pilot] even admit to moving stops. That’s not mere data collection.”

The appellants’ attorney introduced evidence from the San Francisco budget and legislative analyst’s office that the private commuter buses may have impacts on infrastructure, bicycle and pedestrian safety, and socioeconomic displacement. He also introduced written testimony from a professional traffic engineer who claims there is a fair argument–a standard under the California Environmental Quality Act for requiring an Environmental Impact Report–that the Commuter Shuttle Policy and Pilot Program “may have adverse and significant environmental impacts.”

In addition, the California vehicle code prohibits any but common carriers from stopping in bus zones. “Does the city have the authority to tell shuttle operators that they don’t have to comply with the law?” Supervisor David Campos asked city attorneys repeatedly.

Other supervisors expressed concern about the impact of upholding the appeal on Vision Zero (see April Yodeler, page 7), a statement of purpose adopted by the Municipal Transportation Agency to improve street safety for bicyclists and pedestrians.

In the end, only Supervisors Campos and John Avalos voted to uphold the appeal.

The appellants have 30 days from the rejection of the appeal to sue. It is not known if they will do so.

Sue Vaughan, chair, Sierra Club San Francisco Group

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.”

Backpack Section makes donation to Bay Chapter

A scene from last year's Beginners Backpack  Course. Photo by Thomas Meissner.

A scene from last year’s Beginners Backpack Course. Photo by Thomas Meissner.

The Bay Chapter Backpacking Section has made a $2,500 donation to the Chapter. We thank the backpackers for their generous support of all the Chapter’s efforts, including protection for the wild areas where the section’s backpack trips go.

Bike to Work Day 2014–Thursday, May 8

BTWD14_BannerThursday, May 8.

Take part in the San Francisco Bay Area’s 20th annual Bike to Work Day, a part of National Bike Month.

“Energizer stations” will be located along commute routes, where bicyclists can stop for refreshments, giveaways, and bicycling information or simply to be ‘cheered on’ by fellow participants. Energizer stations will be open during morning commute hours and some will even re-open during the evening commute.

More than one million Bay Area residents live within five miles of their workplace, an ideal distance for bicycling. The work commute only represents 23% of all trips; you also may be able to bike to shop, to school, for errands, and for social events. In a world concerned with climate change, pollution, congestion, and wasted time, the question should really be: why not bike to work? We expect hundreds of thousands of people to bike to work in the Bay Area, with many being first time bike commuters. Will you be one of us?

WhatYouCanDo

For more details about energizer-station locations, sponsorships, Bike to Work Week activities, and Bike to Work Day “after-parties”, see:

Alameda, Contra Costa: www.ebbc.org/btwd

Marin: www.marinbike.org/Events/BTWD/Index.shtml

San Francisco: www.sfbike.org/?btwd

Oakland Council reaffirms composting policy

220x220_zero-waste
On March 18 the Oakland City Council adopted a resolution to implement new Waste Collection Franchise Policies.

This resolution requires bidders on the city’s waste-hauling contract and city staff to present viable options for mandatory source-separated composting services to all Oakland residents, including those in multi-family units. It also calls for family-supporting wages and bene­fits for recycling workers. These are ends that the Sierra Club Northern Alameda County Group has been actively working towards.

WhatYouCanDo

We  still do not know when the final waste-hauling contract will come back to the Council for a vote. At that time it will be important to make sure that full implementation of citywide compost service is included for all residences. So far the city has merely asked for a cost estimate; food-scrap collection service at no extra charge will only become a reality if city residents insist on it.

To make sure that you receive our alert when it is time to contact the Council again, go to http://action.sierraclub.org/site/PageNavigator/CHP_SFBay_SignUpThen sign up for “Updates and alerts from the SF Bay Chapter”.

Save coastal prairie at Richmond ‘campus’

California clapper rail (and its reflection). Photo courtesy the Watershed Project (www.thewatershedproject.org).

California clapper rail (and its reflection). Photo courtesy the Watershed Project (www.thewatershedproject.org).

Help the University of California and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) protect one of the last remaining large areas of Bay coastal-prairie habitat.

The area is at UC’s Richmond Field Station, where the two institutions are jointly developing a “second campus”. In their very own publicity materials about the site, they proclaim support for the prairie and its protection, but so far their plans don’t live up to their words.

The site includes numerous sections of prairie, as shown on the accompanying map. We urge preservation and restoration of the Big, Northwest, West, EPA (North and South), Eucalyptus, North, and Gull. Further, many of the meadow areas can be reconnected by removing a few obsolete buildings and unnecessary portions of roadway:

Map from “Richmond Field Station Final Botanical Survey Report” by URS, 1997, modified by Bob Newey.

Map from “Richmond Field Station Final Botanical Survey Report” by URS, 1997, modified by Bob Newey.

 

  • the dilapidated buildings and roadway (Starling Way) separating the Big and Northwest Meadows;
  • the roadway (a portion of Lark Drive) that separates the Big Meadow and West Meadow from EPA Meadow North; this can be made into a pedestrian and bike path);
  • the segment of Regatta Boulevard (running north-south) west of the Northwest Meadow; the drainage culvert there should be converted to a meandering stream flowing into Meeker Slough to the south. Meeker Slough flows through Western Stege Marsh. Access to the area west of the prairies can be attained by a westward extension of the segment of Regatta Boulevard that already runs east-west north of the Big Meadow.

Instead, UC has proposed placing soccer fields and basketball courts on the prairie, and upgrading Lark Road into a major vehicular roadway.

The section of Regatta Boulevard along the western edge of the prairie is also important. Since this is no longer needed as a roadway, UC has proposed turning it into a “greenway/central gathering place”. Turning this into a meandering stream will greatly enhance the greenway as well as the habitat value of the prairie, and further will allow removal of toxics from urban stormwater runoff by natural processes before they can enter the Slough and marsh. (Much work has already been done to remove toxics from the marsh.)

The Field Station site is large enough to contain all proposed development without touching the indicated prairies. UC, LBNL, and Richmond would not be forced to reduce development, lose revenues, or be harmed economically, academically, or financially. UC and LBNL would need to spend some additional funds to realize the plan; we are just asking them to put their money where their mouth is. So far they have offered no public explanation why they wouldn’t.

UC recently formed a committee, chaired by its chancellor, to manage the site and its Long Range Development Plan. This committee issued a final plan before UC even had time to review and respond to public comments.

WhatYouCanDo

Write to Chancellor Nicholas B. Dirks at:

chancellor@berkeley.edu
200 California Hall, MC1500
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720-1500
fax: (510)643-5499.

Ask him to support the Sierra Club’s vision for the coastal prairie and meandering stream at the Richmond Field Station.

Richmond residents, write to Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and the City Council at:

Hector_Rojas@ci.richmond.ca.us
City Hall
450 Civic Center Plaza
Richmond, CA 94804.

Ask the Council to support the Club’s plan for the coastal prairie and meandering stream, and specifically to remove Lark Drive as a thoroughfare from the South Richmond Area Plan.

To work with the Club on this issue, contact Norman La Force, chair of the Club’s East Bay Public Lands Committee, at (510)526-4362.

Norman La Force

Think before you pump–SF Parks Department needs to do EIR for Sharp Park pumping

Normal winter rains flood many areas of Sharp Park, and the golf course' attempts to drain the water kill California red-legged frogs. Photo courtesy of www.restoresharppark.org

Normal winter rains flood many areas of Sharp Park, and the golf course’ attempts to drain the water kill California red-legged frogs. Photo courtesy of www.restoresharppark.org

Once more the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department is trying to avoid environmental scrutiny of its actions at Sharp Park (see May 2011, page 9), where it operates a golf course in the Laguna Salada wetland complex. On Tue., March 25, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will have the opportunity to evaluate an ill-conceived project in the most biologically important area managed by the department.

The golf course was built on a vibrant and rare wetland system in the 1930s, before environmental reviews were required. To maintain the course, the department fights the naturally wet conditions, and has a history of evading environmental review of its activities. In March 2013, the department was caught illegally armoring the sea wall along Sharp Park under the guise of re-grading the walkway along the berm. In July 2013 the department was fined $386,000 for illegally killing wildlife protected by the federal Endangered Species Act.

Now the department is proposing the “Sharp Park Pumphouse Project”, which would dredge nearly 100,000 gallons of sediment and native vegetation from what remains of the Laguna Salada wetland complex to speed the flow of water to its recently installed 10,000-gallon-per-minute pumphouse. The increased flow would be disastrous for the breeding of the California red-legged frog in the complex’s pools and lagoons. The water is also vital to the survival of the San Francisco garter snake and the many other species of this vital wetland ecosystem.

Rather than preparing a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the project, the department has prepared an abbreviated environmental review, called a “Mitigated Negative Declaration”. Unlike an EIR, a Negative Declaration does not have to consider any alternative—even though an environmentally superior alternative exists, namely simply to decrease pumping and allow the water to rise. Preeminent herpetologists, coastal ecologists, and hydrologists, as well as the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations, have recommended studying an alternative.

WhatYouCanDo

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has the power to order a full EIR.  Laguna Salada advocates have never lost a vote on this issue at the Board—so far. Come to the Supervisors’ meeting at 3 pm on Tue., March 25, at San Francisco City Hall, Room 250! Speak up for the California red-legged frog, the San Francisco garter snake (which also lives at Sharp Park), this rare wetland complex, and a more environmentally friendly and fiscally responsible Recreation and Park Department.

For more information see http://wildequity.org/entries/3335.

Amy Zehring, community organizer, Wild Equity Institute

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.