Public Safety


Audit Vindicates PUC Intervenor Compensation Program

By Richard Holober
Consumer Federation of California

The California State Auditor’s has reported that the Public Utilities Commission’s Intervenor Compensation Program “has generally awarded compensation to intervenors – individuals and groups that represent the interests of utility ratepayers – in accordance with state law.”

The audit report - long awaited by consumer groups and utility corporations - surely dismays AT&T, Verizon and PG&E. The Intervenor Compensation Program provides consumers an effective voice before state regulators when for-profit gas, electric, telecommunications or water utilities seek unwarranted rate hikes, or rules that harm residential ratepayers.

Twenty-Five Ideas for Mayor Garcetti

Peter DreierBy Peter Dreier

Eric Garcetti has enormous potential to be one of L.A.'s great mayors. He is young (just 42), full of energy, experienced in politics and government, passionate about L.A., brimming with policy ideas, compassionate toward the disadvantaged and a great communicator and explainer. I saw many of these traits up-close when I co-taught a course with him at Occidental College in 2000, and have watched him blossom as he joined the City Council and served as its president.

Now he faces the daunting challenges of running America's second-biggest, and most diverse, city.

Justice in California: Raising Victims' Voices

By Lizzie Buchen

Flipping through this year's proposed criminal justice legislation, it is hard to miss Crime Victims United (CVU), a seemingly-omnipresent victims' rights group that registers strong support for tough-on-crime legislation and adamant opposition to bills seeking to reform sentencing laws or reduce incarceration. Their stance is in line with the conventional wisdom that victims want vengeance and favor a punitive approach to criminal justice. But despite CVU's dominance in the media and in Sacramento, a new survey reveals that the group does not represent the majority of crime victims - who they are, what they need, or how they think about public safety.

California Anti-Fracking Bills Move Forward, Now Face Appropriations Vote

By Dan Bacher

Despite intense political pressure by the oil industry, the Assembly Natural Resources Committee on April 29 approved three bills proposing to halt fracking (hydraulic fracturing), a controversial method of oil and natural gas extraction, in California.

Fracking opponents fear that increased water diversions destined for the peripheral tunnels proposed under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) will be used for expanding fracking in Monterey Shale deposits in the San Joaquin Valley and coastal areas. The construction of the tunnels is expected to hasten the extinction of Central Valley Chinook salmon, Delta smelt and other fish species.

California Farmer Warns: "Don't Trust Oil Industry, State or Courts" to Protect Water

By Dan Aiello

Kern County almond farmer, Fred Starrh, is an unlikely darling of the anti-fracking movement in California.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is an environmentally risky oil production method of pumping under pressure large volumes of water, sand and chemicals underground to bubble to the surface heavy tar-like oil left in depleted oil wells and to reach deep deposits of oil and natural gas.

Fracking is the method oil companies seek to employ to proliferate drilling in California where the discovered Monterey Shale Deposit is estimated to contain as many as 15.4 billion barrels of crude 11,000 feet deep.

The Hollowing Out of Government

Robert ReichBy Robert Reich

The West Texas chemical and fertilizer plant where at least 15 were killed and more than 200 injured a few weeks ago hadn't been fully inspected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration since 1985. (A partial inspection in 2011 had resulted in $5,250 in fines.)

OSHA and its state partners have a total of 2,200 inspectors charged with ensuring the safety of more than 8 million workplaces employing 130 million workers. That comes to about one inspector for every 59,000 American workers.

There's no way it can do its job with so few resources, but OSHA has been systematically hollowed out for the years under Republican administrations and congresses that have despised the agency since its inception.

"Crisis in Public Confidence" Moves Three Fracking Moratorium Bills Forward

By Dan Aiello

In a vote along party lines, three bills calling for a halt to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the Golden State moved forward Monday.

"At a minimum, there is a crisis in public confidence" with the state's ability to regulate fracking and keep Californians safe, Assembly Natural Resources Chair, Wesley Chesbro (D-Humboldt) told oil and gas lobbyists who testified before his committee which passed all three fracking moratorium bills; AB1323 (Mitchell), AB1301 (Bloom) and AB649 (Nazarian).

In response, the usually confident Paul Deiro, one of the Western States Petroleum Association lobbyists, lamented bills heard at the committee's previous hearing "were far more reasonable than the three moratorium bills you hear today" and argued that there is no evidence that fracking is unsafe.

Brown Can Release Prisoners Early Without Compromising Public Safety

By Lizzie Buchen

After a year of defying court orders to alleviate the state’s prison crisis, Gov. Jerry Brown seems to have finally pushed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to its limit. In an April 11 ruling, having already "exercised exceptional restraint," the exasperated federal judges declared the state "will not be allowed to continue to violate the requirements of the Constitution of the United States," giving Brown until May 2 to develop a plan that will reduce the prison population by nearly 10,000 people by the end of the year.

Showdown on California Fracking Moratorium Set for Monday

By Dan Aiello

A key committee vote on legislation calling for a halt to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in California that would effectively stop out of state oil companies from reaching California's vast Monterey Shale deposit is set for Monday in Sacramento.

The stakes could not be higher for the oil and gas industry as environmentalists embark on their latest David versus Goliath struggle over California's environment before the Assembly's Natural Resources Committee April 29th.

Lawmakers Pressed for Better Patient Safety, but Californians Must Demand Change

By Jamie Court

There aren't too many great days for patient safety in state capitols, where the medical establishment tends to rule the roost through the power of its political giving and tentacles. But Monday was a great day for patient safety in Sacramento, when powerful testimony reminded legislators of the human cost of inaction.