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


• 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

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.