Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Common Ground On Water Conservation

With California’s water future uncertain, California’s largest water agencies and leading environmental groups today signed a key 10-year agreement to conserve water in the state. The Memorandum of Understanding caps a year of intense negotiation, and offers agencies a series of best practices to conserve water.

"In 1997, a 10-year time frame for meeting conservation goals was set to end in 2008. By approving a new 10-year period, adding flexibility to the Best Management Practices and reorganizing them into programmatic groupings, California continues its role in leading water conservation and innovation in the United States," said Lynn Florey, Sonoma County Water Agency representative and emeritus Council Convener.

Water conservation is going to become even more important in California in the future. "By showing we could work together, we are setting a path for meeting even greater challenges in future years," said Jim Metropulos, Sierra Club California representative anewly appointed 2009 Council Convener. "We will need these new Best Management Practices to help meet the governor’s call for 20 percent conservation by 2020; and to address an uncertain water future with the third year of drought and potentially drier years ahead."

With an overwhelming majority vote in favor of the 8 critical changes and additions to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and Best Management Practices (BMPs), the Council will continue to play a key role to the hundreds of members who implement these BMPs across the state.

"These revisions will give us the tools necessary to address the ongoing needs across the state by extending the life of the MOU, giving agencies more flexibility in achieving water conservation and by automatically updating as new technologies become available," stated Florey.

The new BMPs will become effective July 1, 2009 and will benefit all of the Council’s members, which include water providers, public advocate agencies and various other parties invested in water conservation in California.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Celebrating A Toll Road Victory

Sierra Club California and other environmental groups are celebrating a recent vote by the Commerce Department not to build a toll road through San Onofre State Park.

Many of you joined us in protesting this awful idea. Here's what Sierra Club Conservation Organizer Robin Everett had to say while celebrating this momentous event:

“The Sierra Club applauds today’s Commerce Department decision. The decision is a victory for our coast and our state parks.

“Today’s decision by the Commerce Department is a victory for the thousands of Californians, from Eureka to San Diego, who have spent years fighting this rogue toll road agency and its army of high-priced lobbyists.

“The Commerce Department decision lowers the boom on the TCA’s consistent misrepresentation of the toll road as essential to national security and the only viable transportation alternative. Even the Bush administration has rejected the toll road agency’s ridiculous arguments.

“The Sierra Club began fighting this toll road over 10 years ago, starting with a march of 40 people in downtown San Clemente and ending with thousands of people at the final hearings. The TCA has tried at every turn to block public involvement, but the Coastal Commission and now the Commerce Department heard Californians and protected our coast and our park.

“We call on the TCA, whose financial house is in deep disorder, to give up its scheme to replace a state park with a toll road and come to terms with the reality that outside of their agency bubble no one supports their plan.”

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Feed In Tariffs – The Right Idea, Right Now

Sierra Club California just submitted a letter urging California’s energy officials to embrace “feed-in tariffs” in a big way.

Feed-in tariffs are incentive structures used to encourage generation of renewable energy by compensating for price differences between renewable power and fossil fuel electricity. As applied in Germany, this system sets a fair price for renewable power, encouraging widespread generation and use.

Not only would feed-in tariffs encourage cleaner power production, they also represent a good way for the state to take on climate change. Sierra Club California has
urged the California Air Resources Board to consider this powerful economic tool as it considers the Climate Change Scoping Plan today and tomorrow.

But for now, the state has proposed a limited version of feed-in tariffs, limiting them to smaller plants (less than 20 megawatts in size). We are telling the air board and the energy commission to raise that limit, and to give feed in tariffs more power to increase the amount of renewable energy generated in the state.

We’re also working with lawmakers to generate measures that would encourage California to embrace this powerful new philosophy – and that encourage the state to raise its clean power production goal to 33% by 2020.

Read Sierra Club California’s Dec 10 comments to the California Energy Commission

Monday, December 8, 2008

Sierra Club California, Others Fight For Tough Diesel Rule

Shouldn’t California’s trucks carry a fair share of California’s efforts to reduce pollution?

Sierra Club California Director Bill Magavern and other key figures in California’s environmental movement have banded together to ask the California Air Resources Board to do just that. The letter asks the regulators to improve enforcement and enaction of their proposed diesel truck rule, set for a Dec. 12 vote.

The rule would require trucks to lower the amount of harmful diesel emission particles they exhaust into California’s air. With diesel emissions expected to go up as much as 40 percent by 2020, it’s a good time to address these harmful pollutants. What’s more, with the fuel efficiency improvements brought on by changes to the truck rule, truckers will recoup their costs in about 2-3 years.

Cutting truck emissions will lessen the environmental health burden on California families. A November 2008 study found that
air pollution in just the South Coast and San Joaquin Valley regions costs the California economy $28 billion annually.

A tight, responsive rule also will help the state reduce the pollution that causes global warming, the environmental experts say. Reducing heavy-duty vehicle emissions must be part of California’s efforts to take on those pollutants.

If you want to get involved, consider joining
Breathe California’s Bus for Breath. This group will help send people to the air board meeting to advocate adoption of a protective, productive rule.

Click here to read the entire letter from California environmentalists and health advocates.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Stronger Renewable Energy Goals For California

Yesterday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed an executive order calling on the state to streamline its renewable energy process, ideally making it easier to produce and sell renewable power. He also is expected to sign a memorandum of understanding among resources-protection agencies, prompting more sustainable siting of clean-energy plants.

The governor’s action comes at a critical time for the state of California. Most experts agree that clean energy will provide new “green jobs” to lift the Golden State’s economy, while reducing the pollution that causes global warming. Still, groups and individuals who want to protect our state’s wilderness resources worry that these same facilities could hurt animals, plants and wilderness areas in their path.

“Everyone agrees that generating more renewable power will energize our economy and reduce pollution, but we can’t ignore the impacts to wilderness in our quest to generate more clean energy in California,” said Jim Metropulos, Senior Advocate, Sierra Club California. “Sierra Club California hopes that involving agencies like the Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that protect these resources will lead to a better understanding of how we can build a clean-energy future that doesn’t hurt our precious ecosystem in the process.”

Sierra Club California has long called on lawmakers and the Schwarzenegger Administration to increase the standard to at least 33 percent by 2020. This summer, the California Air Resources Board joined that call, asserting that raising the standard would reduce the pollution that causes global warming.

Simply raising the required amount of renewable power generated by utilities won’t accomplish everything, Metropulos said. Sierra Club California urges additional reforms to ensure the continued success of a renewable energy program.

First, our state currently ties the price of clean energy to its future projected price of natural gas, known as the market price referent, which the state consistently underestimates. This forces would-be clean energy projects to compete against an artificially low fossil-fuel-based standard – an archaic, unsustainable practice that California must reverse.

In designing a new approach to renewable energy, the Schwarzenegger Administration and the California Legislature would do well to look to programs that already work. In Germany, a program known as “feed-in tariffs” sets up fixed prices for renewable energy, rewarding investors leery of our “boom or bust” system. Meanwhile, throughout California, communities are scrambling to get into “community choice aggregation,” pooling their buying power to get more bang for the buck.

As they move to expand renewable power generation in the state, state lawmakers and regulators always must keep in mind whether renewable sources of energy are equally sustainable in terms of environmental impacts or energy supply. For example, outdated methods of drawing on geothermal energy involve essentially poking holes in the ground and allowing the underground steam to escape into the atmosphere. This process releases both greenhouses gases as well as toxic materials.

“California has the power to retake the lead in developing new sources of clean, renewable power, as long as Gov. Schwarzenegger and the Legislature fix flaws in current renewable power standard law,” said Metropulos. “Adopting a truly sustainable standard that protects wild places while fully empowering clean-energy projects represents the best pathway to a clean-energy future.”

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Cost Of Bad Air

Two California State University professors, Jane V. Hall and Victor Brajer, just released a study that proves what we have all known for a long time: Dirty air has a high cost.

Nearly every resident of the Central Valley and South Coast region suffers from exposure to dirty air, and too many pay a tragic price: as many as 3,860 adults die prematurely each year due to air pollution in those two areas of the state, according to the study. (The South Coast region includes Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange counties; the Central Valley region stretches across Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Tulare counties).

Because the pollution concentrations are highest in African American and Latino neighborhoods, those families suffer the most exposure to harmful air pollution particles, the findings show.

Meeting federal air quality standards would prevent those deaths, the study finds, and would result in:

• 1,950 fewer new cases of adult onset chronic bronchitis
• 3,517,720 fewer days of reduced activity in adults
• 2,760 fewer hospital admissions
• 141,370 fewer asthma attacks
• 1,259,840 fewer days of school absence
• 16,110 fewer cases of acute bronchitis in children
• 466,880 fewer lost days of work
• 2,078,300 fewer days of respiratory symptoms in children
• 2,800 fewer emergency room visits

Between the cost of medical care and the dollars spent on lost productivity, California spends nearly $28 billion in those two regions, the CSU Fullerton professors reported.

The study was released just as California air regulators begin discussing key air quality rules, including rules that would help clean up diesel exhaust from trucks and a plan to deal with climate change.

Recent Coverage:

Study: Calif. Dirty Air Kills More Than Car Crashes (AP)

Human cost of valley's dirty air: $6.3 billion (The Sacramento Bee)

Bad air costing state's economy billions (SF Chronicle)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Remember to VOTE!

Are you as excited about the November 4 election as I am? For the first time, we have a chance to reject the destructive Bush Administration policies that have poisoned our air and delayed action on climate change.

Right here in California, we also have a chance to turn back poorly designed propositions that would stand in the way of clean energy and cleaner vehicles. We also can promote real progress in transit policy, reduce factory farm pollution and protect positive family planning services.

If you haven’t voted yet, please consider Sierra Club’s recommendations this November:

For President and Vice President:
Barack Obama and Joe Biden

For Congress: Please view Sierra Club's list of Clean Energy Candidates at http://www.sierraclub.org/politics


• Would fund an 800-mile high-speed rail system that will transport Californians quickly and safely while reducing pollution and protecting wild places.

• Would reduce the density of farm animals, and therefore the intensity of the air and water pollution.

• Would create a major obstacle to family planning services, likely resulting in dangerous amateur abortions.

• Contains serious, inherent flaws that could get in the way of achieving its goal of 50% renewable fuels by 2025.
• Actually works against Sierra Club-backed energy policies that would allow communities to choose the source of their energy.
• Decreases environmental review of proposed power plants.

• Would put California on the wrong road to cleaner vehicles by setting up faulty programs that don’t reward low-emissions cars and trucks.

- Colleen Flannery
Outreach Coordinator
Sierra Club California

Thursday, October 23, 2008

CARB Chair Mary Nichols Urges “No” Vote On Prop. 10

Joining Sierra Club California in opposing Prop. 10, California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols wrote a letter opposing the misguided initiative.

Her letter agrees with our assertion that subsidies for natural gas vehicles won’t do enough to reduce global warming pollution:
“While Proposition 10 appears to be a measure to improve our air and protect the global environment, its public subsidies are heavily skewed toward building
markets for an energy source that could increase global warming emissions.

“Under Proposition 10, natural gas cars and trucks would be exempt from air pollution and greenhouse gas reduction requirements, placing them first in line for billions of dollars in taxpayer-financed rebates. ecause U.S. natural gas reserves are declining and natural gas will soon be imported from Asia in liquid form, Proposition 10 is likely to result in higher carbon and smog-forming emissions than other domestic fuel trategies now being developed by researchers and industry engineers, such as cellulosic ethanol, hydrogen fuel cells and renewable electricity.

“It gets worse. Proposition 10 provides no assurance that taxpayer-subsidized vehicles will remain in California. The measure requires us to finance rebates of up to $50,000 per vehicle with no safeguard that any vehicle or accrued benefit will remain in California. The proposition requires the rebates to be processed in a few days with minimal government oversight. That is no deal for California taxpayers who will be paying off this measure’s $10 billion dollars in added debt over the next 30 years.

“Unlike many other vehicle incentive programs already in effect throughout the State, Proposition 10 does not require that older, higher polluting vehicles be retired or replaced in exchange for rebates. That is an obvious and serious flaw, further indicating to me that Proposition 10’s real motive is not reducing air pollution or greenhouse gas emissions, but building markets for natural gas vehicles.”

Read Sierra Club California’s article opposing Prop. 10.

Visit the No on Proposition 10 website.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

No On Proposition 7

Sierra Club and its environmental allies have joined together to oppose Proposition 7, a costly renewable energy scheme that actually will make it harder to build clean power in our state.

Proposition 7:

1. Contains serious, inherent flaws that could get in the way of achieving its goal of 50% renewable fuels by 2025.
2. Actually works against Sierra Club-backed energy policies that would allow communities to choose the source of their energy.
3. Decreases environmental review of proposed power plants.

Watch the ad above to learn more, or click here to read our position on Proposition 7.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sierra Club California Hails New Mercury-Prevention Tool

Today, I joined Assemblymember Ira Ruskin in celebrating passage of The Mercury Thermostat Collection Act.

This new law creates a powerful tool to help consumers, governments and our environment. Since mercury is a potent neurotoxin, and many old thermostats contain three grams of mercury, we need to keep the waste thermostats out of our landfills. Most California consumers want to do the right thing, but until now they have not had the information or opportunity to recycle mercury thermostats.

Furthermore, this mercury thermostat recycling program, passed with the support of the major manufacturers, can provide a new model for dealing with household hazardous wastes in California. Instead of asking our cash-strapped local governments to shoulder the burden, we should require the companies that made and profited from products to take the responsibility for safely collecting and recycling them. The Legislature and Governor should use this thermostat law as a beginning, and move on to extending producer responsibility to paint, light bulbs and other household hazardous wastes.

Many individuals and organizations contributed to the enactment of this law. Sierra Club California thanks Assemblymember Ruskin for persistently pushing the bill over two years. Our co-sponsor, the local government organization California Product Stewardship Council, was an invaluable partner, and the Department of Toxic Substances Control gave crucial technical assistance throughout the process. The Honeywell Corporation showed a commitment to reaching agreement on difficult issues, and the Retailers Association actively supported the bill. We benefited from the input of experts and advocates throughout the country convened by the State Environmental Leadership Program.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Achieving Open Government in China’s Hunan Province

Sierra Club California got a rare opportunity to take part in a landmark international effort today.
Representatives of China’s
Hunan Province came to Sacramento with The Asia Foundation to learn about how California makes information available to the public. They wanted to know how California public interest groups – including Sierra Club California and the Public Policy Institute of California – interact with the government to obtain information, particularly environmental information.

Through a translator, Deputy Director Paul Mason talked about a case in the North Coast, where environmentalists had to sue the Bush Administration for access to data used in developing a logging plan. He also explained discrepancies within the various agencies, noting that the Resources Agency, for example, still does not webcast its meetings even though most other key state agencies do.

Outreach Coordinator Colleen Flannery talked about how groups like Sierra Club use a variety of existing government databases. The representatives appeared impressed by the variety of information made available by the state – ranging from the state water boards’ environmental enforcement reports to political contributions made by companies and individuals to webcasts of government meetings.

The Hunan Province is struggling to address a number of environmental threats, among them
environmental health impacts from illegal smelters in nearby Hubei Province, intense air pollution resulting in acid rain, and water contamination in the Xiangjiang River Basin. Getting out environmental information represents one of the province’s – and China’s – best potential weapons against pollution, Paul Mason said.

“Public access to information is one of the best ways to work toward a clean environment,” he told the representatives.

Image Courtesy Wikipedia Commons

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Oprah Wades Into Prop. 2 Debate

Yesterday’s Oprah Winfrey Show probed “What Happens If Proposition 2 Passes?”

California’s voters will decide November 4 whether to adopt Prop. 2, which sets basic requirements for farm animal confinement. Simply, egg-laying hens, calves raised for veal and nursing pig sows would be able to turn around within their cages or pens.

Because of their greater numbers, large egg farms will feel the most impact from this law, which is why the Oprah show featured, among others, egg farmer Ryan Armstrong and Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States.

Intended to prevent animal cruelty, Proposition 2 also promises to reduce the impact from these factory farms on California’s air and water. By reducing the number of animals confined in a space, farmers also will lessen the amount of nitrates that escape to pollute our water. Large egg farms can produce hundreds of thousands of pounds of nitrate-containing waste each year, according to California Environmental Protection Agency analyses.

Less-cruel caging will help reduce this waste in our water, while increasing our confidence in California-grown products. It also will help family farmers compete with the bigger factories, preserving a way of life as it benefits the quality of life for California’s livestock.

chicken in cage photo courtesy mercyforanimals.org

Watch this graphic video investigating the treatment of hens at one Northern CA egg ranch (CAUTION: May be unsuitable for young children)

Read an article about Proposition 2 from The California Aggie, a college newspaper

Thursday, October 9, 2008

No on Prop 10

Sierra Club California was joined by Consumer Federation of California, California Federation of Teachers, California Taxpayers Association, and Silicon Valley Leadership Group in a press conference against Proposition 10. Please find a press release from Sierra Club California below.

October 8, 2008

EVENT: Launch of No on 10 "Coalition of Everyone" Campaign
WHEN: 10:00 a.m., Thursday, October 9, 2008
WHERE: West Steps of the State Capitol, Sacramento

Proposition 10: A $5 Billion Boondoggle
Sierra Club Chooses Five Reasons To Oppose Poorly Planned Proposition

California's forward-thinking voters want alternative-fueled vehicles on the road, polls show.

But there are at least five reasons California's major environmental group rejects Proposition 10, an expensive, unwieldy initiative that would get our state on the wrong road to the vehicles of the future.

"Proposition 10 promises little bang for five billion bucks," said Jim Metropulos, Sierra Club California's Senior Advocate. "California cannot afford to waste money and time on technologies that won't address global warming or promote clean air We want to see much cleaner alternatives to the cars and trucks we're driving now."

Five Reasons Sierra Club Opposes Proposition 10:

1. Proposition 10 defines natural gas as a "clean fuel," a favored
position equivalent or superior to renewable energy sources that emit little or no air pollution or greenhouse gases. Burning natural gas produces more than 80 million metric tons of greenhouse gas, according to California Air Resources Board estimates. We worry that defining natural gas as a clean fuel could lead to increased use of that fossil fuel.

2. Proposition 10 sets a low bar for other alternative fuels. "No
dirtier than gasoline" isn't a standard to shout about from the rooftops - let alone to spark the next "Manhattan Project."

3. Proposition 10's support for clean-fuel trucks is heartening to
hear, but Sierra Club wants a more focused program that devoted all of its funds for the purpose could have converted 10 times the number of diesel trucks to clean fuels, and achieved major improvements in clean air.

4. The biggest beneficiaries of this measure - besides its sponsor,
Clean Energy Fuels Corp. - would be bond investors. Passing Proposition 10 would require $5 billion to support the program would be borrowed through issuing bonds, and most of this would be distributed as rebates to buyers of "clean alternative vehicles." Repayment of the bonds is not supported by any revenue stream created by the initiative would cost the state $9.8 billion.

5. Proposition 10 calls hydroelectric power a "renewable" source of
energy. Sierra Club worries these references could lead to more environmentally damaging large dams being built in our state.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sierra Club California Hails New Toxics-Fighting Law

It’s long been one of our state’s saddest absurdities: Toxic regulators have the authority to classify a child’s lead-tainted lunch box as hazardous waste – but can’t do anything to stop the child from eating lunch out of it.

That’s about to change. Today, I was honored to join Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in Los Angeles
as he signed two landmark chemical policy reform bills, AB 1879 by Assemblymember Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles) and SB 509 by Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto). These two bills give California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control new authority to promote "green chemistry" practices aimed at lowering the toxic burden of products California families buy and use every day.

In my remarks at the signing ceremony, I hailed the most successful environmental legislation of 2008 in our state and asserted Sierra Club's position that Californians should be able to buy products for our households without having to worry that we're bringing home hazardous substances that could harm our families.

As Assemblymember Feuer put it, "Instead of putting partisan politics first, we’re putting peoples’ health first." We worked hard all year long with Mr. Feuer and our allies at Breast Cancer Fund, CA League of Conservation Voters and Environment California to craft this landmark legislation.

For environmental health advocates like us, the hard work has just begun. I will continue to participate in the implementation of this law, standing up for a healthy future for all Californians.
- Bill Magavern

Click here to watch the governor sign AB 1879 (opens as Windows Media Player file)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Message To The Governor: Sign These Bills!

Just as the lengthening budget crisis threatened to push California’s lawmaking process aside, our state’s leaders finally agreed upon a financial plan for the state.

Now that Gov. Schwarzenegger’s attention seems to have shifted from the state’s tangled budget, Sierra Club California has a list of important bills we respectfully ask him to sign – and one that we want him to veto.

Here are some highlights, or you can read the whole letter here:

Sierra Club California urges Gov. Schwarzenegger to sign the following bills:

SB 974 (Lowenthal) – would mitigate air pollution from the ports and increase port efficiency by assessing a fee for each container moving through the ports or Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland.

SB 1313 (Corbett) – would ban potentially carcinogenic substances from food packaging, beginning in 2010.

AB 1879 (Feuer/Huffman) – would give the Department of Toxic Substances Control the authority to establish safeguards to protect people and the environment from consumer products containing known toxins like lead, mercury and arsenic.

AB 2347 (Ruskin) – would establish a producer responsibility program for recycling of mercury thermostats.

AB 2447 (Jones) – would ensure that new homes have adequate structural fire protection, without leaving that responsibility to CalFire and the state’s general fund.

Sierra Club California also urges Gov. Schwarzenegger to veto one bill:

SB 1473 (Calderon) - would give inappropriately broad authority to the Building Standards Commission (BSC) to develop and adopt the California Green Building Standards Code (CGBSC). This authority would allow the BSC to exclude expert state agencies such as the California Energy Commission, Cal-EPA, State Water Board, Air Resources Board, and Integrated Waste Management Board, which are already working on various aspects of green building.

Read the full letter to Gov. Schwarzenegger here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Propositions 7, 10: No Good Alternative

Sierra Club California stands firmly behind the idea that clean, renewable energy and alternative vehicles can create jobs and help our economy while fighting the pollution that causes global warming.

That's why we only very reluctantly opposed Propositions 7 and 10.

Proposition 7 contains loopholes for compliance and lacks a steady source of funding for renewable power development. Instead of creating a funding stream that clean-power generators could tap into, the measure creates an uncertain system of penalties that may or may not provide enough money to fund new renewable sources of energy. The proposition even lowers some current penalties for non-compliance. Proposition 7 also sets a dangerous precedent by removing local control over energy policy. Sierra Club’s energy experts know there’s a lot of potential in “community choice,” a practice that consolidates a community’s energy-purchasing power in the same way co-op grocers have more power to buy produce because they work together.

Along similar lines, Proposition 10 also provides no good alternative. Although its supporters claim the proposition promotes energy independence and clean air, the measure would offer taxpayer money in the form of rebates to consumers who purchase vehicles that create “no net material increase in air pollution.” That sets the bar too low to reduce the pollution that causes global warming and that affects the health of Californians living near freeways and high-traffic areas. Taxpayers would subsidize the purchase of these vehicles via expensive borrowing, since Proposition 10 doesn’t offer a way to pay back the general fund for these rebates. Instead, it relies on future state tax collection to pay back these bonds. Sierra Club questions the use of state-issued bond funds for rebates to the purchasers of cars that would do little to combat global warming.

Go to our elections page to learn more about the propositions

photo courtesy Department of Water Resources

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hot Air From Sarah Palin On Ports

As today’s LA Times reported, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin recently wrote a letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger opposing a landmark port air quality bill that we support.

John McCain’s running mate said she doesn’t like Senate Bill 974 (Lowenthal) because she thinks it will have “negative impacts” on the price of Alaskan goods. For her, the estimated few pennies extra that consumers might have to pay for a DVD player or new pair of shoes matter more than the health of Americans who suffer from the damaging effects of air pollution.

SB 974 is designed to address a different kind of negative impact: the negative impact of air pollution at ports. SB 974 imposes a small fee per container in order to fund clean-air technologies and relieve congestion at California’s major ports.

Investing in California’s port infrastructure could alleviate the increased asthma rates near goods movement corridors, decreasing the number of lost workdays and school days caused by this debilitating illness. It would put our major ports on a greener, cleaner path to growth – instead of a “Bridge To Nowhere.”

Sierra Club California urges Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to consider California’s health ahead of political pressure and sign SB 974.

-- Bill Magavern, Director, Sierra Club California

Another View: Read what the Indiana chapter of the Sierra Club had to say about Governor Palin's disdain for wildlife here.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

California Leaders Oppose Drilling

California lawmakers have taken a strong stand against an oil industry “culture of corruption” that threatens our coasts.
Assemblymember Pedro Nava and has authored a resolution opposing drilling for oil along California’s coastline. The resolution, which was just approved by our California Legislature, will demonstrate our state’s continued resistance to coastal drilling.

The resolution has become even more important in light of recent news that oil regulators with the U.S. Minerals Management Service have become industry’s lap dogs, not watchdogs (AP).

Not only would new drilling place our precious coasts in the hands of this rogue agency, drilling won’t pay off for more than a decade, the representatives said. Furthermore, it would endanger our state’s $12.5 billion coastal tourism industry and our fishing and aquaculture businesses, Assemblymember Nava explained.

We can reverse our dependence on foreign oil without drilling, Sierra Club California Director Bill Magavern pointed out at today’s press conference. More efficient vehicle efficiency standards, such as California’s Clean Cars Law, would save millions of gallons of oil simply by putting existing technologies to good use. But the Bush Administration continues to stand in the way of this law.

“More offshore drilling is an illusion, not a solution,” said Bill Magavern. “California is trying to lead the way – we just need the U.S. EPA to get out of the way.”

Assemblymember Jared Huffman, Natural Resources Defense Council’s Victoria Rome and Environment California’s Bernadette Del Chiaro also stood against coastal drilling.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Clear The Air In The Central Valley!

Over the weekend, The Bakersfield Californian ran an editorial about Governor Schwarzenegger’s delay in appointing members for the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, which makes policies to reduce the pollutants that plague the valley.

The situation has gone from bad to terrible, as an area once considered a severe non-attainment area was recently reclassified as an extreme non-attainment area. This makes the San Joaquin Valley’s very air an immediate health risk to asthmatic children, agricultural production, and seniors.

So why are the people of San Joaquin still waiting for representation on their air board?

With the air pollution of other regions affecting the San Joaquin Valley, citizen health needs to have a higher priority. The governor must keep his commitments, stop dragging his feet and appoint the necessary people.

- By Noah Hochman, Intern, Sierra Club California

Monday, September 8, 2008

Less Water, Fewer Problems

More efficient use of water by agriculture could produce as much water as between 3 and 20 new dams would – while producing more crops, a new report by the Pacific Institute has found.

This report supports what we’ve been saying all along: conservation, not dam construction, is the best answer to the Delta’s dismal problems. Essentially, by applying proven conservation measures, we can do “More with Less,” as the report’s title urges.

About 80% of the Delta’s water flows to agricultural uses. Here are some of the think tank’s ideas for turning down the spigot for agriculture – without turning off agriculture’s production:

  • Better Irrigation Scheduling: Watering at key times actually benefits a crop more than simply giving the crop additional water, the study says.

  • Shifting Some Crops: Farmers could trade high-water-demand crops, such as field crops, for crops that use less water, like vegetables.

  • Improved Crop Management: Giving certain crops less water actually can increase production, the report states.

  • More Efficient Water Technology: Drip irrigation and sprinklers are a better bet for most California crops than traditional “flood irrigation,” according to the report.

A national leader in agricultural production, California grows an estimated 15% of the nation’s entire agriculture export. Wouldn’t it be nice to lead the nation in agricultural water efficiency as well?


SF Chronicle: Study Finds California Can Cut Farm Water Use

AP: Farmers urged to save water, shift emphasis

Friday, September 5, 2008

Serving Up ... Toxics???

Americans eat 90 acres of pizza a day, and consume more than 16 billion quarts of popcorn each year. Those hungry folks could be getting a hidden side order of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), compounds within certain grease-proof coatings that come out whenever those packages break down.

You may find PFCs in anything that’s made to repel grease, such as pizza, popcorn and French fry containers. A carcinogen, they now show up in more than 98 percent of Americans’ blood, and in 100 percent of 293 newborns tested by scientists in a recent study. Worst of all, these compounds never break down – they’ll stay in our soil, our water and our bodies indefinitely.

That’s why Sierra Club California and its labor and community-group allies have worked so hard to pass Senate Bill 1313. SB 1313 sets a safer standard for controlling these toxic compounds in food packaging, to protect California families from the risk of cancer.

It hasn’t been easy so far. We’ve had a lot of strong opposition from the chemical industry. Ignoring multiple studies,manufacturers of these chemicals argue there isn’t enough scientific evidence tying PFCs to cancer. They also say it will be too hard to stop using these chemicals.

Too hard? Burger King already phased out PFCs from its containers… in 2002.

We urge Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign SB 1313 into law. California families should be free to think about what’s in the food they eat, not what’s around it.

Read this July 2008 LA Times story to learn more

Thursday, August 28, 2008

New Water Bond Idea Is All Wet

(previously published in California Progress Report)

The California Legislature’s ongoing debate over a water bond (
ABXX 8, Huffman, Caballero, Wolk) seems to echo discussions going on in houses across California: Should we put big purchases on a credit card and pay them off, or should we be more prudent with our money?

It’s great that our state’s leaders want to take on our state’s water woes, and that the California Assembly has dived into this issue with enthusiasm. But right now, they are talking about spending $10 billion for water – and essentially putting that charge on a “credit card” of more bond-money borrowing. Annual payments on existing borrowing already represent the fourth-largest expenditure in the state’s budget.

Rather than address our problems as a one-time purchase, we need to come up with a steady “stream” of financing that we can use to take on the big, ongoing problems facing our state’s water systems:

- A collapsing Delta capable of delivering an unprecedented shock to the 23 million Californians who drink its water;

- Worsening water quality, as bacteria, trash, pharmaceuticals, plastic byproducts and nitrates poison our rivers and streams;

- Costly, unnecessary dam proposals that would cost billions to build and benefit only a few;

- And a complete failure to regulate groundwater, which plays an increased role in drinking water supplies during droughts.

A one-time water bond won’t do enough to address those problems, and it definitely doesn’t provide a consistent, stable source of funding for water.

We’re not alone in wanting this sustainable funding. Our colleagues with the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water, the Planning and Conservation League, California Coastkeeper Alliance, Clean Water Action, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, California Sportsfishing Protection Alliance and the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation all agree how important it is to end the spending drought for funds already approved by voters.

Together, we’re asking the California Legislature to rethink its entire approach to funding water policy. We’re also standing up for disadvantaged communities and individuals: those who must fish to feed their families, agricultural workers who can’t drink the water that comes out of their tap. We’re fighting to make sure that these families and workers get a fair share of any bond. Along with our disappearing fish species, they have suffered the most from decades of water policies that rewarded special interests without improving water quality or supplies for these low-income communities.

We have the tools to start making a difference in those communities right now. More than half of the funds from previous bonds already approved by California’s voters, Propositions 84 and 1E, still needs to be appropriated and invested in California’s water resources. As we strategically invest those dollars to clean up dirty aquifers and help low-income Californians, we will have some more time to take a more critical look at our state’s water future.

Right now, the California Legislature has a chance to begin making a real, permanent change to California’s often-shortsighted water policy. It’s time to put down the credit card, and start planning for a sustainable future.

image courtesy DWR

Friday, August 22, 2008

A Green Chemistry Future For California

The LA Times has an editorial today praising Assembly Bill 1879, a bill that lays the framework for a green chemistry future.

It arrives just in time for an anticipated vote on the Senate floor, which could take place as early as today.

Assembly Bill 1879 (Feuer) would give state toxics regulators the chance to take a comprehensive, scientific look at chemicals that end up in baby products, shampoo, serving dishes and countless other products you use every day. Federal officials have inventoried 20,000 new chemicals since 1979, even though they have very little information about the way these chemicals affect our air, water and health.

A Sierra Club California priority bill, AB 1879 could be just the thing for jump-starting the Department of Toxic Substances Control’s green chemistry initiative. Because it doesn’t seek to ban a specific chemical, the bill even has the support of some in the chemical industry – although many manufacturers still oppose the effort.

AB 1879 represents our best hope for a full scientific evaluation of the products we take for granted. I hope the California Legislature acts on its unique opportunity.

-- Bill Magavern, Director, Sierra Club California.

Let's Energize The Debate!

If California competed in an Olympic event for renewable power generation, we’d only take fifth place!

That’s what
our allies at Environment California announced today at the State Capitol. We’re joining them in their call for the California Legislature to power up its efforts to pass a renewable portfolio standards bill that would call for a full third of California’s power to come from renewable sources by the year 2020.

Currently, utilities must generate at least 20% of their electricity from renewable resources such as solar, geothermal and wind power by 2010. Last month, Sierra Club California wrote Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, asking him to work toward a 33% standard.

Schwarzenegger has joined the team of allies trying to hurdle California’s renewable generation capacity toward 33%. Speaking for him, California Energy Commissioner Karen Douglas joined a panel that also included representatives of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies; the Union of Concerned Scientists; Environmental Defense Fund and a score of environmental, public health and environmental justice groups.

Raisng the bar for renewables would pay off across a number of issue areas, the groups agree.

"Increasing the renewable portfolio standard would lower greenhouse gas emissions, clean our air and create an estimated 200,000 new jobs for Californians," says Jim Metropulos, Sierra Club California's Senior Advocate.

A 33% renewable portfolio standard should be a top priority for the Legislature, the group agreed.

“If developing renewable energy were an Olympic sport, California surprisingly wouldn’t even win a bronze medal,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, clean energy advocate for Environment California. “It is high time California gets back in the race by upping our mandate and commitment to removing barriers to renewable energy.”

PHOTO: CEERT's V. John White answers a reporter's question as representatives from Environment California, Sierra Club California and other groups back him.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Shut Up? Not So Much!

The Aug. 16 Long Beach Telegram’s story about offshore drilling includes the following quote from oil industry geologist Mel Wright, who wants to start drilling off California’s coast:

"They've got all the information in their files right now, and they could start the minute the Sierra Club shuts up.”
We can’t “shut up” if it means oil companies will start drilling our beautiful coast. Shutting up would mean putting up with increased spills and spoilage. It also means ignoring more sustainable solutions that that will bring down gas prices much more quickly, such as improvements to vehicle fuel efficiency, use of alternative fuels and smarter community planning that cuts the amount of time commuters spend in their vehicles.

Of course, it’s not just us speaking out against offshore oil drilling: A bipartisan group of California lawmakers and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also stand ready to guard our coasts against offshore drilling.

Remember: even the Bush Administration has acknowledged that drilling for oil won’t pay off for 10 years or more. We can either drill and wait for new oil supplies that will lower our price at the pump by just a few cents – or we can give voice to entrepreneurs, innovators and everyday Californians in their efforts to power up a clean energy economy.

Things like basic vehicle maintenance can mean so much. As Governor Schwarzenegger himself said today about a new program called “
EcoDriving USA”:

“I am talking about simple things, like proper tire pressure, avoiding rapid starts and stops, and keeping your engine tuned up. This is no substitute for a consistent, long-term, national energy policy, but it rovides immediate, tangible relief from high gas prices…. We don’t have to wait for the

You can’t expect us to shut up anytime soon, but you can expect a lot more vocal discussion about California’s future. Read more at Sierra Club California's
Energy page.

-Paul Mason, Deputy Director

Historic image courtesy U.S. Department of Energy

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Holding The Line Against Wildfires

Yesterday, Sen. Sam Aanestad held a one-sided “Legislative Wildfire Summit” that purported to probe the reason behind the more than 2,000 devastating wildfires that have swept California. Essentially, he explained, more logging in forest areas would lessen the fire problem – and he scolded the governor for not allowing that logging.

The Grass Valley Republican concluded his event by sending out
a press release that included the following quote:

“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore,” said Senator Aanestad. “This didn’t have to happen.”

He’s right: it didn’t have to happen – and it doesn’t have to keep happening. Smarter land-use decisions like those advocated by Sierra Club California priority bill
SB 1500 (Kehoe) would give CalFire the chance to develop helpful guidance documents for local government, and offer CalFire a greater role in reviewing and commenting on General Plan Safety Elements as well as projects built in State Responsibility Areas and Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone. And SB 1617 (Kehoe), another Sierra Club California-backed bill, would provide new funds for proactive fire protection by assessing a $50 fee on the houses that are already in this fire-prone area – helping to address the problem of fire protection for homes already in unsafe areas.

But Senator Aanestad has voted against SB 1500 and SB 1617, just as he
voted against a 2004 bill that increased defensible space requirements, Senate Bill 1369. Now state law, the bill requires clearing 100 feet of defensible space around homes in fire-prone areas – a move the insurance industry has credited with saving homes during wildfire.

A robust fire suppression program to protect lives and homes will always need to be a core part of California’s fire management efforts. Still, 2008’s tragic fires have reminded us all that we can’t address fire with suppression alone – we need to get smarter about how we plan and prepare for inevitable fires, and stop exacerbating the problem by building homes in harm’s way.

We best honor those who have died and suffered in these wildfires not by getting mad, but by pledging to make good planning decisions that keep families and firefighters out of harm’s way.

Please encourage your representatives to support SB 1500 and SB 1617, to protect homes, families and firefighters.

photo by Robert A. Eplett, OES California


Republicans want more aggressive forest thinning (Contra Costa Times)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Water For ALL!

Protesting Governor Schwarzenegger and Senator Feinstein’s push for a November water bond, community groups throughout California rallied yesterday to expose the proposal’s failure to provide long-term and equitable solutions to California’s water problems. Community groups oppose the bond and are calling for immediate action from the Legislature to distribute existing bond funds that have sat unspent since 2006.

“Our communities are struggling as budget cuts dry up state support for our health, education and infrastructure programs. Now the governor is asking Californians to repay another $9.2 billion dollar water bond? We simply cannot afford to do that,” stated Debbie Davis, legislative analyst for the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water. “Ironically, this bond is called the ‘Safe Drinking Water Act,’ but it does nothing to address the drinking water crisis in thousands of communities in California.

"Our communities need funding for programs that help provide safe, clean drinking water. Despite a $9.2 billion dollar price tag, this bond doesn’t deliver.”

California’s recent drought has exacerbated water problems throughout the state, ranging from a lack of clean drinking water for rural communities to the collapse of the Delta ecosystem. Instead of creating new management solutions to old problems, the bond provides funding for the same types of projects that have already pushed California’s water system to the brink. Proposed dams and surface water storage would take decades to put in place, and most profit special interests.

“We have a water crisis today. This proposed bond wastes $3 billion on projects that will take decades to produce a drop of water,” said Jim Metropulos, Sierra Club California's Senior Advocate. "We don't need 19th-century solutions to today's problems."

Metropulos, Sierra Club Angeles Chapter staff and others called on the Legislature and the Governor to pass SB 1XX (Perata, Machado and Steinberg), releasing unspent funds from Proposition 84, passed in 2006. Over $800 million is being held hostage as leverage for a wasteful water bond.

The Legislature reportedly has until the end of this week to vote the water bond onto the ballot.

Information and images courtesy Environmental Justice Coalition for Water and Planning and Conservation League.

Monday, August 11, 2008

And The Winner Is...

Grassroots lobbying is more important than ever.

That's what Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata, D-Oakland, told a group of volunteer lobbyists who donated their Sunday and Monday to assist Sierra Club California's senior staff in advocating key legislation.

Perata, who won Sierra Club California's first-ever Byron Sher Award for Outstanding Environmental Achievement by a Public Official in recognition of his tireless efforts on behalf of the environment, encouraged these volunteers to continue to maintain their presence in the State Capitol. Because of term limits, he said, California's legislative leaders won't have the experience to push forward major pieces of legislation like the Global Warming Solutions Act - unless the people in their district hold them to it.

"If you can talk to someone where they live, where they shop, that's going to be how we get these bills passed," he said. "[You must] maintain your vigilance, and maintain the priority you place on the environment in your daily lives."

He also warned that some Republican representatives of the Legislature want to build more dams and roll back environmental protections.

But it wasn't all seriousness. After warning the Club members to stay aware of legislation, he brought warm laughter with an aside:

"Of course, asking Sierra Club members to be more vigilant is crazy," he joked.

Friday, August 8, 2008

A “Suspense”-ful Week

This week brought many wins and losses for Sierra Club California.

It was a week of difficult hearings on the Senate and Assembly appropriations committees, which basically decide whether there’s enough money to pass legislation. Some of our top-priority bills had landed on the “Suspense Calendar,” essentially put on hold until this week.

The following measures survived this crucial step, although they still face votes in the Assembly and Senate:

  • SB 1500, SB 1617 (Senator Kehoe): Improves the state’s ability to respond to fires.

  • AB 2175 (Laird and Feuer): Sets a water conservation goal of 20% for the state.

  • AB 1879 (Leno): Gives state environmental officials more say over toxic chemicals in textiles, toys and consumer products.

These Sierra Club California-supported bills failed to leap off the suspense calendar:

  • AB 2989 (Fuentes): Sets up a program to get more kids outdoors. Sierra Club California is working with Assemblymember Felipe Fuentes’ office to try to rescue this beleaguered bill.

  • SB 1672 (Steinberg): Funds initiatives to help train workers to take clean-energy and “green” jobs. Sierra Club California will continue to work to get this measure on the 2010 ballot.

All of these bills represent important policy priorities for Sierra Club California and the entire environmental community. We will continue to fight to pass these measures in order to protect our air, water, wilderness and environmental health.

-Bill Magavern, Director

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Hunters, Activists, Scouts: Kids, Get Active

Sometimes, kids actually teach grown-ups about what’s important.

Sierra Club California, California Waterfowl and the Girl Scout Council of California learned that yesterday during a joint press conference and educational event.

Alarmed by statistics that show kids spend as much as a quarter of the day hooked to TV screens and computer monitors, the three groups have united with dozens of allies to back Assemblymember Felipe Fuentes’ “No Child Left Inside” Act, AB 2989. From health groups to hunters, law enforcement to local government, just about everyone interested in the well-being of California's kids has signed on to this key legislation.

The bill would fund a grant program that would pay for California’s kids – especially at-risk, underserved young people – to learn and play at outdoor educational and recreational spots. Outdoor education and recreation boosts youths’ self-esteem and improves science test scores, according to a study by state education officials.
Right now, the “No Child Left Inside” Act is stuck in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Spending time outdoors provided a passageway into a world of wonders, young Girl Scouts told the gathered adults, including Assemblymember Fuentes, several reporters and representatives of California Waterfowl and Sierra Club California. Hiking, caving and adventuring gave them a passageway into a new world, the teens told their audience.

Just as the kids learned how to “play together,” the three organizations and their dozens of allies have joined forces to focus on what matters: getting kids outside.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Carl Pope On The Colbert Report

(Caution: Contains mature content)

Stephen Colbert tries to rattle Sierra Club Director Carl Pope -- as he takes a strong stand against drilling off California's coasts, and in other protected areas!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Supreme Court Protects Our Forests

After decades of legal wrangling, environmentalists emerged victorious in a California Supreme Court case that promises improved protection for California’s endangered species and industrial forestlands.

Today’s ruling in Environmental Protection Information Center & Sierra Club v. Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, is the culmination of a challenge to the permits issued as part of the Headwaters Deal in 1999 and centered on endangered species protection and sustainable forestry mandates. It holds state agencies responsible for upholding these protections.
“This is a stunning victory for the environment and for holding government agencies accountable. When agencies won't do their job and follow the law, the courts will not defer to them,” said Scott Greacen of EPIC. “The California Supreme Court clearly saw that CDF and the Department of Fish and Game weren’t following the law.”

California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno, who wrote the court’s unanimous opinion, ruled that Pacific Lumber failed to turn in a “sustained yield plan” for its Humboldt-area holdings, as required by the Headwaters Agreement. The court also chastised the agency for approving a document that did not actually exist.

The court also ruled that the Department of Fish and Game broke the law by assuring Pacific Lumber that it would not need to do additional conservation if new species become endangered in the future.

The California Department of Fish & Game shouldn’t have agreed to the “No Surprises” provisions, which limited the timber company’s obligation to mitigate certain impacts on endangered species, including the effects of natural disasters, the ruling says. Instead, the court ruled, those who hold endangered species permits must work to “fully” protect these animals and plants, especially if their behavior enhances the effects of natural disasters on animal or plant life.

The state must approve adequate sustained yield plans to ensure companies have enough timber resources to protect wildlife and maintain the local economy, the court ruled.

EPIC and Sierra Club California first filed this challenge to Pacific Lumber Company’s unsustainable plans to endanger Humboldt’s economy and wildlife in March of 1999. In the meantime, Pacific Lumber has gone bankrupt, and its woodland holdings are being taken over by Mendocino Redwood Company, which promised to practice more sustainable harvest practices.

“The impact of this decision will outlast Pacific Lumber itself to create a significant legacy for California’s forests and endangered species,” predicted Paul Mason, Sierra Club California’s Deputy Director. “It requires timber companies and state agencies to protect both the working families and the endangered animals that depend on these woods for their survival.”


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

An Outdoor Legacy

New information about our kids’ health amps up the urgency surrounding AB 2989, the “Leave No Child Inside” Act.

A groundbreaking study published in the
Journal of American Medicine finds that a growing number of young people aged 9 to 15 aren’t getting as much “moderate-to-vigorous physical activity” as they used to. Nine-year-olds averaged at least three hours of that high-octane exercise, but 15-year-olds spent less than an hour (49 minutes) being active, the study finds.

AB 2989 could reverse that trend by offering grants to get young people outside, setting healthy patterns that could last a lifetime. It would especially benefit underprivileged kids, who suffer higher rates of juvenile diabetes, obesity and other health challenges.

Outdoor recreation gets kids on the right path. And you can help get AB 2989 on the right path too. PLEASE CONTACT members of the Senate Appropriations Committee to tell them to vote the bill off the suspense calendar!

LA Times, New York Times and Science Daily were among nearly 500 news organizations covering this issue.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Priority Port Bill Sails off Assembly Floor

Senate Bill 974 (Lowenthal), a Sierra Club California-supported bill, just passed the California Assembly by a more than 2-to-1 margin!

For a relatively small per-container fee of $30, just 0.13 percent of the average port container’s worth, port users will help fund programs that reduce pollution and congestion at the ports.

If it’s signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, SB 974 will become a powerful tool to turn back the increased incidences of asthma and other respiratory diseases that accompany portside pollution. As a side benefit, it will help fund measures that will help unravel traffic congestion near ports.

Here’s what Assemblymembers had to say about this vital bill:

Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles): “We have a chance to take a major step to transform the ports in our cities.”

Assemblyman Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar): “We have to find a way to keep these negative impacts from affecting our region…. When you support this bill, you support more money for transportation.”

Assemblyman Kevin DeLeon (D-Los Angeles): “The health care costs [caused by port pollution] are irreparable. Once particulate matter is lodged in your lungs, it can't be dislodged.”

Assemblywoman Betty Karnette (D-Long Beach): “The people in my area really want something done about the way we're suffering.”

Monday, July 14, 2008

Water: The Choice Is Clear

Remember the end of "The Wizard of Oz" (spoiler alert!), where Dorothy, the lion and the scarecrow learn the answers to their problems have been there all along?

Something like that seems to be happening in California water policy. Two measures could help our state make great strides forward: SB 1XX (Perata) would spend money that Californians already voted to spend, in a way that would clean our aquifers, encourage better planning for our state's existing water resources and. and stimulate our state's economy. Meanwhile, AB 2175 (Laird) would set strong conservation goals for Californians, effectively giving us "free water."

Both Senate President Don Perata and Assembly Speaker Karen Bass spoke out in favor of these proposals today, flanked by a sizeable turnout of California lawmakers. It was part of a response to last week's Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposal for $9 billion in new water bond spending.

"It's imperative that we get to work immediately improving water conservation, water storage and water management -- and that's exactly what these two bills do," Bass said of the proposals. "This package sets a realistic target for boosting water conservation and uses already approved bond money to make big improvements in California's water system."

As Sierra Club California's Jim Metropulos has said, the governor's proposal represents more of the same for California. Instead of embracing 21st-century solutions, it looks to our dam-building past, proposing an expensive, unproven solution to our current water shortage.

Here's some recent coverage of California's water woes: