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:

Friday, July 11, 2008

Another Bush Administration Global Warming Delay?

As California takes on global warming by setting real targets for pollution reduction, the Bush administration continues to drag its feet.

Remember how the U.S. Supreme Court told the federal government it must act to stop the pollution that causes climate change? Well, as predicted earlier this week by the San Francisco Chronicle, the Bush administration will continue to defy the Court today by issuing a request for additional comments — an "Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking"— on global warming regulations, rather than the so-called "endangerment determination" that the Court's ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA compelled and that senior Environmental Protection Agency officials had argued for.

Today's Washington Post details the tireless efforts of senior political appointees in the administration to prevent global warming regulations from being in put in place under President Bush... the same President Bush who this week called global warming a "serious problem."

David Bookbinder, Sierra Club's Chief Climate Counsel and the attorney who's defending California's
Clean Car Law, had this to say about the Bush administration's latest delay in addressing global warming:

"Today's action caps off eight years of catastrophic negligence on the part
of an increasingly irrelevant administration, and removes whatever shadow of a
doubt that may have existed about whether it was going to fail to live up to its
obligations to the American public, the law, and the Supreme Court to do
something real on global warming.

"The American public, Congress, world leaders, and even career government
officials are counting down the days until this administration leaves town and a
new president undoes the damage done by President Bush and makes up for nearly a decade of lost time — time we didn't have to waste in the first place. And the
first thing the next administration will do is toss the Advanced Notice of
Proposed Rulemaking into the circular file.

"Stephen Johnson should have left his post long ago, but today's action underscores his complete and utter lack of credibility. Johnson will be remembered not for his decades of public service, but rather for his unswerving fealty to the misguided policies of a failed administration.

"This global warming melodrama has all the set pieces of classic Bush administration political theater: politics coming before science, outright deception of the American public and Congressional investigators, willful disregard for the law and courts, and political meddling at the highest levels to protect favored special interests--with the dark hand of the Vice President visible throughout. Thankfully this drama is near the end of its final act."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Fire Protection For The Future

As California’s brave firefighters battle nearly 1,300 blazes statewide, Sierra Club California continues to push for new laws that we hope will create a legal “fire break” for our state.

While they won’t change the state’s current fire danger, they do help shape our future safety – both by changing the way communities plan their growth in fire-prone, state-controlled areas and by holding homeowners to simple defensible-space mandates.
photo by Robert A. Eplett, OES
Join us in supporting these simple steps toward a safer future:

Assembly Bill 2447 (Jones): Requires counties to prove adequate fire protection before approving development in high-fire-risk areas, and ensure that developments are designed safely. Pending in Senate Appropriations Committee.

Senate Bill 1500 (Kehoe): Requires cities and counties to notify state fire officials when they plan to build in state-protected, fire-prone areas (some 31 million acres, statewide), and determine who will provide fire protection for the new home before it's built. Pending in Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Senate Bill 1617 (Kehoe): Assesses a modest $50 fee on homeowners in fire-prone, state-protected areas (State Responsibility Areas) in order to fund fire prevention activities. Pending in Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Senate Bill 1595 (Kehoe): Updates the existing requirement for homeowners to maintain 100 feet of defensible space around their home. Pending in Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Assembly Bill 2859 (Gaines): Makes it easier to clear areas around homes and communities. Pending in Senate Appropriations Committee.

The Flash Report had good things to say about SB 1500 -- proving that planning for safer homes and ensuring that state taxpayers don't subsidize the cost or rural sprawl isn't a partisan issue.

Your donation helps us promote legislation that protects wilderness and human health.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Ending The Oil Addiction

Sierra Club California Director Bill Magavern just debated Republican Congressman Dan Lungren over offshore oil drilling.

One of Bill's best points:

"We can't address our smoking problem by looking for new sources of tobacco, and we can't address our oil addiction by drilling off our beautiful coasts. Instead, we need to use less oil, and to find alternatives to oil. That will bring the price down, and, more importantly, wean us off our addiction to oil."
More reasons NOT to drill for oil off California's coasts:

• Drilling our coasts would do nothing to reduce gas prices for the average American family. Opening offshore areas to drilling would only lower gas prices by less than 3-4 cents a gallon, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

• Drilling isn't a good, quick fix. It would take at least a decade to bring new leases issued under this plan into production.

• Oil companies are not even using 5,500 offshore leases they already own.

• The honest answer to our oil problem is to use less of it, and that means better, faster fuel economy standards and a shift toward renewable energy. Renewable sources of energy remain a promising path away from our oil dependency, both Bill Magavern and Dan Lungren agreed during their ABC News debate.

Find out more about the "Outer Continental Shelf," the area that would be affected by drilling.

Your secure donation helps us protect our pristine coasts from threats like drilling.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Tracking The High Speed Rail Bill

Californians got a little bit closer to an environmentally sound, ultra-fast rail connection with the July 1 Senate committee success of Cathleen Galgiani’s high-speed rail bill, AB 3034. This bill would add important new fiscal and environmental safeguards to the bond measure on this November’s ballot, and would establish oversight and accountability measures.

There's a lot riding on this bill -- and on efforts to bring high-speed rail to California.

High-speed rail represents a way to lower the greenhouse gas pollution caused by vehicle trips between Los Angeles and the Bay Area, as well as points between, Sierra Club California’s Tim Frank testified at a recent Senate hearing. In fact, the California Air Resources Board’s
draft plan for California’s Global Warming Solutions Act includes support for high speed rail as a way of lowering the pollution that causes global warming by one million metric tons per year.

Some key amendments make the measure even better for California’s wild places. One would improve service through the Altamont Pass so commuters will be able to reach to the entire Bay Area, not just the East Bay. Another provision would prohibit development of a station in the Los Banos area, since development of that station would promote poor planning practices.

The bill is no slam dunk, however, because it will require the support of 2/3 of the state Senate and Assembly in order to succeed in the California Legislature. We are hoping that combination of improved fiscal responsibility and environmental safeguards will win the bipartisan support this bill needs to succeed.

Read the Oakland Tribune’s take on the hearing

Find out more about high-speed rail from the state agency in charge

Your donation helps us advocate for legislation that protects California's natural resources