Thursday, February 28, 2008

Californians Advised on Mercury Risks from Compact Fluorescent Lamp Breakage

12-122.gifRecently released results of tests conducted by the State of Maine suggest that under certain conditions mercury vapor released from a broken compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) can pose a health risk. A new report prepared for the Mercury Policy Project and co-released by Sierra Club California concludes that, while sensitive populations should take extra precautions to reduce risks associated with breakage, CFLs can and should still be used in everyone’s homes until a nontoxic light bulb becomes available.

People should feel perfectly comfortable buying and using compact fluorescent lamps in their homes. CFLs play an important role in increasing efficiency, cutting home energy costs and curbing global warming. Just as with many other household products, consumers should take some precautions if a bulb happens to break or when it's time to recycle one.

For specific recommendations, see my article in California Progress Report.

By Bill Magavern

Sierra Club California

Friday, February 22, 2008

Sierra Club California opposes Proposition 98, supports Prop 99

OPPOSE 98 -- While prop 98 is ostensibly about eminent domain, the fine print threatens local land use planning and environmental protections and was deliberately crafted to challenge affordable housing policies. This measure comes from many of the same wealthy special interests who proposed the defeated Prop 90 in 2006, and rejecting Prop 98 is a top priority for Sierra Club California this June.

SUPPORT 99 -- Prop 99 is a real eminent domain reform measure intended to constitutionally protect home owners without the hidden agendas and adverse consequences of prop 98. Prop 99 will prohibit government from using eminent domain to take a home to transfer to a private developer. It is supported by a broad coalition of homeowners, environmentalists, labor, business, cities and counties who want straightforward eminent domain reform that responds to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Kelo decision.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Environmental Justice and Carbon Trading

Several of California's leading environmental justice advocates on February 19 released a Declaration Against Carbon Trading. The Los Angeles Times mistakenly reported that Sierra Club declined to comment on the announcement. Here is the letter we sent the LA Times correcting the mistake and making clear our position.

To the editor:

“Groups to fight plan for trading carbon emissions,” Feb 20. Sierra Club California did provide a comment on the declaration by environmental justice groups against trading greenhouse gas emissions, but technological problems may have prevented it from reaching your reporter.

We share many of the concerns of the environmental justice groups regarding pollution trading, like possible hot spots, loopholes and windfall profits. For these reasons we worked with those groups to successfully keep mandatory trading out of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, AB 32. We have advocated that AB 32's implementation focus primarily on direct emission reductions, not trading, and we have repeatedly pushed California’s Air Resources Board to implement the community-protection provisions of the law. We are also open to using well-designed market compliance mechanisms to achieve some of the emission reductions necessary, as long as big polluters have to pay for their emissions and local air quality is protected.

Bill Magavern
Director, Sierra Club

Friday, February 15, 2008

Plug-in Hybrids Can Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Transportation

Zack Subin spoke yesterday at the Air Resources Board’s seminar series of his efforts to catalogue and analyze the various opportunities to reduce air pollution in California transportation. A Ph.D. candidate at UC Berkeley, Subin’s main work involved the collection and categorization of dozens of studies and their data sets. Subin presented his many conclusions about possible ways to reduce emissions from personal and commercial road travel.

Always keeping in mind the marketability of each technology, Subin thinks that Plug-in Hybrid Energy Vehicles offer the best available route to reduce our carbon emissions, eliminate our need for foreign oil, and save consumers money. What plug-ins offer now is the ability to drive an average sedan or SUV 15 to 40 miles on a single charge. After commuting to and from work the consumer would plug a hybrid into a normal electric socket and by the next morning have the vehicle fully charged and ready to drive. Even if you exhaust the battery there is still the gasoline available to power the engine and recharge the battery. This is what he thinks is applicable in the short-term only. After the year 2020 we will have even more technologies available to further reduce greenhouse gases and help alleviate global climate change.

Monday, February 11, 2008

ETAAC Approves A Greener Future

Meeting today, the Economic and Technology Advancement Advisory Committee (ETAAC) approved a new draft of its report on the promotion of new technologies and economic activities that will guarantee a low carbon future for California. Created by the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, also known as AB 32, ETAAC aims to facilitate investment in and implementation of technological research and development opportunities. This year the California Air Resources Board will adopt a master plan for cutting greenhouse gas emissions; this effort will require replacing our old and polluting energy infrastructure with greener alternatives. At the request of Sierra Club California and Californians Against Waste, the committee added several sections on improving waste management techniques and dramatically increasing recycling efforts. Both Sierra Club California and ETACC agreed that improved recycling and composting and better management of landfills would significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Click HERE to see the newest version of ETAAC's draft document.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Coastal Commission Rejects the Toll Road

Courtesy of Mark Massara, Director, Sierra Club Coastal Program

After a 12-hour hearing at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, the California Coastal Commission voted 8-2 to reject the Foothill-South Toll Road and to save San Onofre State Beach. They voted to save Trestles Beach, one of the most iconic and legendary surfing spots in the world. They voted to protect San Onofre State Park, and in doing so stood up for our entire California state park system. They voted to preserve the San Mateo campground, one of the last affordable family campgrounds in Southern California. And they voted to protect California's remaining open space, endangered species and coastal resources in the face of money-driven corporate developers.

In the end, the toll road was stopped because over 3,000 people turned out at the hearing yesterday, wearing "Save the Park" t-shirts and carrying signs and painted surfboards. It was stopped because the Commissioners were literally inundated with your letters and phone calls urging them to do the right thing for our coast. And it was stopped because every-day people, across the state, took time out of their lives to participate in this critical environmental battle, took time to protect a beautiful coastal resource for generations to come.

We want to thank those who have participate in helping us to save San Onofre and stop this dangerous development project. In the end, we stopped much more than a toll road—we stopped a dangerous precedent from being set, one that would have left all our state parks and coastal resources in jeopardy to the highest bidder.

Please help us in thanking the eight Commissioners who stood up to the developers by finding their addresses at The ones to thank are Kruer, Blank, Reilly, Clark, Neely, Shallenberger, Wan and Achadjian.

Friday, February 1, 2008

State Will Finally Clean Southern California Nuclear Meltdown Site, Thanks to Community Watchdogs, Sen. Kuehl, and Assemblymember Brownley

By Collin Fisher, Research Analyst, Sierra Club California

The nuclear industry frequently explains away the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents as the only blemishes on an otherwise stellar safety record. But the past fifty years have seen hundreds of releases of radioactive materials and gases from nuclear operations. Many of these incidents have been kept secret by the industry or government agency involved. The Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) is one example of a single site that experienced many major incidents that exposed residential and commercial areas in the Los Angeles and Simi Valley areas to radiation.

Occurring from the 1950s and until as late as 1994, many of the accidents involving nuclear reactors and radioactive waste were kept secret by Rocketdyne and various other private corporate entities that owned and operated the SSFL. Indeed, the SSFL was a pioneering site for developing and experimenting on America’s rocket engines and nuclear reactors. Of the ten nuclear reactors operating at Santa Susana, four of them experienced major accidents and meltdowns. A meltdown in 1959 exposed the surrounding area to over 458 times the amount of radiation released at Three Mile Island. This meltdown was kept from the public until it was exposed in 1979 by Daniel Hirsch, a University of California lecturer and expert on nuclear issues. Hirsch, the President of the Committee to Bridge the Gap, has worked with the residents near the SSFL Lab since then, first to successfully shut down the reactors and more recently to clean up the contamination on the site, which is now owned by Boeing.

The efforts of Hirsch and other community watchdogs led to Senate Bill 990, legislation passed last year requiring a proper and complete clean-up of Santa Susana. The bill was introduced by State Senator Sheila Kuehl, who has fought tenaciously for decontamination for many years, and co-authored by Julia Brownley, a rookie Assemblymember who persistently pushed the bill through her house with the help of many environmental, health and community groups, including Sierra Club California. Governor Schwarzenegger signed SB 990 in October of last year, over Boeing’s loud objections, but simultaneously issued a statement calling for new legislation to repeal its operative provisions because some in his administration believed the cleanup standards of SB 990 were too stringent.

Sierra Club California joined Committee to Bridge the Gap and many other advocates for the full decontamination of SSFL in petitioning the administration to keep SB 990 intact. Secretary of Environmental Protection Linda Adams personally intervened and listened to the advocates at great length, becoming convinced that the best way forward was to proceed under the health-protective SB 990 standards. On January 14th, 2008, the Governor agreed to reverse his original stance and call for the highest standard of cleaning for the SSFL.
The passage of this decontamination legislation stands as a fine example of what can happen when public-interest advocates persistently pursue justice and enlightened public officials put the community’s health ahead of a polluter’s profits.