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