Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Girl Scout Testimony Heightens Outdoor Bill

Girl Scout Jenny Reich, 17, brought grins to the faces of California state senators as she testified today in support of Sierra Club California-sponsored AB 2989 (Fuentes).

Although afraid of heights, Jenny testified, she once climbed Mount Shasta with a group of fellow Girl Scouts. The experience taught her a valuable lesson, she told the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water.

“I was able to make it up the mountain, and that really helped my self-confidence grow,” she said. “I think that all kids ought to have the opportunity to get outdoors like I did.”

Studies show that getting kids outdoors not only helps their self-esteem, it also improves their science test scores. Outdoor activity could be one weapon against the rising rate of youth obesity as well.

Jenny’s enthusiasm for outdoor activity charmed the lawmakers.

“It means a lot when young people come to the Capitol,” said Senator Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, who chairs the committee. “I hope we can find the funding – private or otherwise – to support this bill.”

Assemblymember Felipe Fuentes (pictured with Jenny) worked hard on the bill to guide it through the Assembly. Now, support from the Senate is needed to get the bill to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk.

Watch What 'Desperate Housewives' Star Marcia Cross Says About Outdoor Opportunities For Youth (Video)

Learn More About Sierra Club's Efforts to "Build Bridges To The Outdoors"

Your Donation Helps Us Bring California's Youth Into The Outdoors

Waiting Game In Half Moon Bay

You could think of the California Legislature the same way air travelers think of the line in front of the security gate: it's often a matter of "hurry up and wait."

Right now, we're waiting to see what happens now that the Senate Rules Committee on June 24 ordered the withdrawal of Assembly Bill 1991, the ill-planned Half Moon Bay bill. The powerful committee, which basically works to route bills and enforce the Senate's rules, has returned the bill to the Senate Desk - meaning it's essentially not cleared for takeoff.

As currently written, AB 1991 would roll back all environmental laws that apply to coastal wetlands in the Glencree and Beachwood areas of Half Moon Bay, clearing the way for subdivision development. It has its roots in a flawed $18 million settlement between the city and the developers - and would set a bad precedent for the state.

Pulling the bill back to the Rules Committee forces the city to finally realize that it can't just cut a deal with the developer to waive environmental laws and expect the state to go along.

- Paul Mason, Sierra Club California Deputy Director (pictured)

Half Moon Bay's Coastsider website recently wrote an editorial opposing this half-baked idea. Read it here.

Your donation helps us protect California's coasts.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Big Win For Big Trees!

Some of California's largest "residents" got a special break last week.

Big trees in California's Giant Sequioa National Monument won't be logged, following timber companies' eleventh-hour withdrawal of their lawsuit -- just hours before Sierra Club's team would have clashed with them before the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Sierra Club activists, including California's own
Sequoia Task Force, challenged the Bush Administration's plans allowing logging within the monument. Sierra Club triumphed in federal court, successfully arguing that Bush's "Management Plan" for the monument really added up to for-profit logging. Following that victory, the Forest Service has begun crafting a new, hopefully better, plan for protecting the monument.

Logging companies appealed the case, but dropped their appeal just before the June 10 hearing. Their decision to back away from efforts to plunder California's wilderness sends a profound signal to those who would cloak outright giveaways of our national treasures in the costume of "management practices."

Sierra Club's National Director,
Carl Pope, just sent a note congratulating California activists for their June 10 victory:

"After years of fighting to keep our towering sequoia trees safe from the timber industry's saws, we have finally won. Thanks to this hard-earned victory, our children and grandchildren will be able to stand in awe of these noble giants for generations to come."

Learn more about Sierra Club's historic victory here.

Your donation helps us triumph in court and in the California Legislature.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Aerial Spraying over Urban Areas Stopped -- Sterile Moths to be Used Instead

Good news!

The Dept of Food and Agriculture has announced that it will not proceed with its plans for aerial spraying over urban areas to eradicate the light brown apple moth.

Instead, the CDFA will use sterile moths to prevent the spread of the LBAM. I have been briefed on this development today by CDFA Secretary A.G. Kawamura and Assemblymember Jared Huffman (separately). More information will be forthcoming about the state’s plans, which will involve some aerial spraying in rural areas and some ground applications of registered pesticides. But this is a big victory for the community activists who opposed the spraying. We also thank the governor and Secretary Kawamura for ordering the alternative treatment, and Assemblymembers Huffman, Laird, Leno, Hancock and Swanson, and Senator Migden, for leading legislative opposition to the aerial spraying.

Sierra Club California will continue to support legislation that would require comprehensive planning and assessment of alternatives in the future to better deal with invasive pests without aerial spraying.

Bill Magavern, Director, Sierra Club California

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Humanity! The Humanity!

Recently, Sierra Club California elected to support The Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, a measure for the November ballot. This Humane Society-backed initiative would set minimum standards for the way California treats its farm-raised animals.

Essentially, farm animals would be able to stand up, turn around and fully extend their limbs. This will most benefit California’s approximately 19 million egg-laying chickens (statistics from CDFA).

As you can read in more detail in
the Humane Society’s blog, the way some factory farms keep their animals has definite quality-of-life implications. I don’t think anyone would confuse putting chickens in cramped “battery cages” that don’t let them spread their wings, with sustainable farming.

Factory farms also directly impact California’s watersheds. When housed in the tight quarters of “animal feeding operations,” or factory farms, chickens produce more waste than they would if raised more sustainably. Lower-impact farming practices, on the other hand, produce lower concentrations of nitrates, ammonias and other compounds that pollute our groundwater and soil.

It might cost a little more “chicken feed” to provide California’s farm animals with basic improvements, but Sierra Club California is certain it will lead to less pollution and more sustainable farming.

See for yourself: This graphic Youtube video shows what life is like for chickens at a California egg farm (CAUTION: images of cruelty best viewed by mature audiences).

Read what Sierra Club has to say about humane husbandry

Your donation helps us fight for the ballot measures that protect California’s wildlife and wild places.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Read The News Today? Oh Boy!

California’s budget deadline passed over the weekend, but today’s newspaper brought worse budget news.

Republican lawmakers told the Los Angeles Times they want to put off California’s efforts to control the pollution that causes global warming, and to stop harmful diesel emissions from choking Californians, Times reporter Evan Halper wrote today. Because California must obtain GOP votes to pass the annual budget, this proposal must be dealt with before our state’s financial plan can move forward.

None of these proposed rollbacks will have an immediate effect on the more-than-$15-billion revenue gap faced by the state, Halper’s story states.

These regulations don’t just mean cleaner air, they also save lives. Air
pollution causes some 24,000 early deaths each year in California, and particulate matter from diesel emissions contributes to those deaths.

California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, on the other hand, stimulates our state’s economic survival. For Californians affected by the recent economic downturn, the Global Warming Solutions Act also could mean new jobs. Venture capitalists poured $1.79 billion into the Golden State's green companies last year, accounting for 45 percent of all green investments in North America.

If this proposal sounds familiar, it’s something the Republicans first proposed in April, and we’ve been speaking out about it all this spring. Our allies in the health and labor communities have joined us in a simple message to the Legislature and governor: Don't allow our quality of life to be held hostage or traded away in budget negotiations.

-Bill Magavern, Director, Sierra Club California

See what Sierra Club California had to say about the budget plan in May

Friday, June 13, 2008

A Strong Response to Spilled Oil

We met this week with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to talk about a raft of Sierra Club California-supported oil spill bills he just signed.

Hopefully, California will respond more quickly and efficiently to the spills that plague coasts and inland areas alike, leaving dead and suffering wildlife in their wake.

These three bills could help speed and shape California’s response to oil spills:

AB 1960 (Nava): Increase state oversight of inland oil wells, where spills actually occur more often. For example, in 2007, more than nine times the amount of oil spilled in inland creeks, rivers and streams as spilled in the Cosco Busan spill.

SB 1739 (Simitian): Makes sure all first responders to oil spills are prepared to take on those spills.

AB 2911 (Wolk): Requires inland oil spill response to match marine oil spill response, in terms of strength and speed, and increases the fines paid by polluters who spill oil.

On a personal note, for anyone who’s wondering, our “Governator’s” handshake is as *firm* as his resolve seems to be!

Sierra Club has sought a stronger oil spill response since 2007’s Cosco Busan spill.
Read More.

See what Governor Schwarzenegger had to say in favor of the three bills he signed.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Don't Build It, Dam It

Recently, the Los Angeles Times wrote that new Assembly Speaker Karen Bass and next year’s Senate President pro tempore Darrell Steinberg might consider building new dams as one way of getting water to the people.

California’s in the middle of two dry years, so it’s no surprise that California’s Assembly and Senate leadership want real solutions to provide water for homes, businesses and farms. But building more dams won’t solve today’s problem, tomorrow’s problem – or the problems that could arise five years from now.

Dams cost a lot of money to build, and we can’t be sure that they’ll even work the way they’re supposed to. We’re still several millions of dollars away from completed studies on the dams that special interests want us to build in the Central Valley – and we already have 1,400 dams in the state of California.

Instead, California’s leaders can act on other parts of the Governor’s proposal, supporting existing legislation that would require 20 percent reductions in water use, AB 2175 (Laird and Feuer). And we can continue to progress toward a solution in the delta that provides for the best use of water while protecting the delta’s natural resources.

Twenty percent isn’t much to ask. Think about it: It’s the difference between your kid throwing four water balloons and five at his birthday party – or between some new toilets and their predecessors.

If we apply conservation measures now, California won’t come up dry now, tomorrow and in the near future.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Light Brown Apple Moth Bills Flutter Forward

As part of Sierra Club California’s support of a moratorium on the aerial spraying of the Light Brown Apple Moth until the chemical’s health effects are known, we are proud to report the successes of several bills within the California Legislature.
If all goes well, pesticide spraying WILL NOT occur until we know just how harmful the pesticide is to people – and to our air, water and livelihoods.

Assembly Bills 2760, 2763, and 2765 all passed the California Assembly within the past weeks.

AB 2760 (Leno) triumphed in the Assembly and will head to the Senate.

This measure responds directly to the planned central coast spraying of a manmade pheromone containing synthetic chemicals and nanoparticles.

Although it doesn’t take effect until 2009, AB 2760 would require the completion of an environmental impact report before the aerial spraying of pesticides could commence. This report would assess the pesticide’s impact on our people and environment. The state never completed a report it initially began in 2007.

AB 2763 (Laird) and AB 2765 (Huffman) also recently swept through the California Assembly.

Assemblymember Laird’s bill would require the state to plan, well in advance, a method of control for invasive pest species that threaten our environment and economy.
Huffman’s bill goes further, requiring full disclosure of all pesticide ingredients, examination of alternatives to aerial spraying and a public hearing to consider all alternatives before eradication projects in urban areas could begin.

Even Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has acquiesced to the public outrage regarding the urban pesticide spraying.

On April 24, he announced the state will postpone aerial pesticide application until acute testing of the pesticide’s potential to harm eyes, inhalation, respiratory systems and other human systems, known as the “six-pack” toxicology test, is completed.

-- Compiled by Collin Fisher, Sierra Club California Researcher

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Election Day Full of Wins for Sierra Club California

Low voter turnout did not stand in the way of victory for Sierra Club’s causes and candidates in California’s June 3 primary election.

For the second time in three years, environmental groups joined with our allies to defeat a radical property-owners’ measure that would have harmed our air, water and wildlands, sending Proposition 98 down to defeat. At the same time, voters approved Proposition 99, a sensible measure to protect homes from abuses of government’s eminent domain power.

In legislative primaries up and down the state, candidates with compelling environmental records and platforms triumphed. Sierra Club endorsed nine candidates for state Senate, and all nine won. We endorsed in 31 state Assembly races, and our candidate prevailed in 30 of those.

These victories mean the 2009-10 session of the State Legislature will feature numerous environmental champions. California’s legislative districts are almost all safe for one party or the other, so the primary elections have already determined the next holders of most of these seats.

Former Assemblymember Fran Pavley, author of the two most important global warming laws ever passed in the United States, will return to the Capitol as a senator from the coastal Los Angeles area. Three San Francisco Bay Area Assemblymembers with excellent records – Mark Leno, Mark DeSaulnier and Loni Hancock – will also move to the Senate.

The Assembly freshman class also stars a galaxy of green champions. Winning their primaries with Sierra Club’s endorsement were Waste Board member and former senator Wes Chesbro, Air Resources Board member and San Mateo County Supervisor Jerry Hill (if his current lead holds up), Berkeley environmentalist Nancy Skinner, San Francisco Supervisor Tom Ammiano, Silicon Valley educator Paul Fong, Monterey lawyer Bill Monning, former Congressional staffer Bob Blumenfield in the San Fernando Valley, labor leader John Perez in East Los Angeles, and Long Beach City Councilmember Bonnie Lowenthal.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Water For Tomorrow

Today, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s declared a State of Emergency for the state’s dwindling water supply.

He's also called for Californians to cut back on the water they use. Right now, the California Legislature works to advance SB 2175 (Laird and Feuer), a Sierra Club California priority bill that would cut water use by 20 percent across the state via conservation.

But building more dams – the other part of his proposed solution– isn’t the most cost-effective, sustainable way to address the state’s shrunken snowpack and dwindling runoff reserves. And it's not the best way to make sure there's enough water for future generations.

We don’t even know exactly how much the dams the governor wants to build will cost, how much water they will produce, who will receive and pay for the water and how they will affect our environment.

Governor Schwarzenegger said he wants to revive last year’s water bond proposal, which focuses on expensive water projects that would serve agribusiness and accommodate big growth in the Central Valley. Since the multi-million-dollar studies of the proposed dams aren’t done yet, Californians can’t be sure whether the multi-billion-dollar dams will safely serve California’s communities without harming our precious natural heritage.

Conservation is still the cheapest, most certain water supply available to California.

We must focus state money on forward-thinking water conservation programs, water recycling and cleanup of polluted underground stores. The state also must adopt a holistic, long-term strategy for protecting the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta before making major investments there or for new dams upstream of the Delta.

The governor has said he doesn’t want to make water into a political issue, and neither do we. We can address the state’s water shortage with low-cost, smart solutions available to us right now.

We need to embrace tomorrow’s solutions, instead of building yesterday’s monoliths.