Environment


Major CEQA Reform Stalled, But Steinberg Promises Changes

By Robert Cruickshank

In the wake of Senator Michael Rubio's surprise resignation in February, major reforms to the California Environmental Quality Act appear to be stalled:

Joel Fox, chairman of the Small Business Action Committee, said, "The stars were in line, but have been knocked out of alignment."

But Rubio may have seen the writing on the wall as far back as last fall, when his last-minute effort at taking on CEQA was quashed by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, who insisted that any fixes to the premier environmental law wouldn't happen in the dark of night under the Capitol dome.

Resources Secretary Uses Snow Survey to Rush Corporate Water Grab

By Dan Bacher

Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird cynically used the release of the latest Sierra Nevada snow survey on March 28 to campaign for the construction of the peripheral tunnels through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, just as he has done every spring since being appointed by Governor Jerry Brown.

Snow surveyors reported Thursday that water content in California's snowpack is only 52 percent of normal, with the spring melt season already under way, according to the Department of Water Resources. After a record dry January and February in much of the state, DWR has decreased its water delivery estimate from 40 to 35 percent of requested amounts from the State Water Project (SWP).

Pacific Coast Forage Fish Protection Strongest in the World

By D.B. Pleschner

Some people have the wrong impression regarding the Pacific Fishery Management Council's upcoming decision - on April 9 - to adopt the Pacific Coast Fishery Ecosystem Plan (FEP).

It's been implied that there is rampant overfishing of forage species - like sardines. The FEP will supposedly address this issue by reducing catch limits on these fish in order to maintain a food source for bigger species like salmon and albacore.

However, this simply isn't true.

The Council authorized development of the FEP to "enhance the Council's species-specific management programs with more ecosystem science, broader ecosystem considerations and management policies that coordinate Council management across its Fishery Management Plans (FMPs) and the California Current Ecosystem (CCE)."

Unions, Environmental Groups and Tribal Leaders Join Together to Defend CEQA

By Steve Smith

Yesterday, a growing coalition of labor unions, environmental groups and tribes made clear that protecting the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), our state's landmark environmental protection law, is essential to California's future.

Wealthy developers and corporate special interests have attacked CEQA as a hindrance to job creation, and are pushing to "reform" (i.e. gut) the law. But the facts just don't support their claims. At an event on the steps of the Capitol Tuesday morning, the Labor Management Cooperation Trust released a report that finds that since CEQA became law in 1970, California's manufacturing output, construction activity, per capita GDP and housing (relative to population) all grew as fast or faster than the other 49 states.

Peripheral Tunnel Plan Will Hurt Trinity River Also

By Dan Bacher

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels not only threatens the Chinook salmon, steelhead and other fish species of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers, but also the fish and communities of the Trinity River, the largest tributary of the Klamath River.

Bond Funds Shouldn't Mitigate Peripheral Tunnels Damage

By Dan Bacher

Restore the Delta (RTD), a coalition opposed to the Brown administration's plan to build massive peripheral tunnels for intrastate transport of water from the Bay Delta region, on February 28 announced that it opposes using state bond funds to mitigate environmental damage to Central Valley salmon, Delta fish populations and Delta farms from the proposed tunnels.

"To do so would take funds from public education and safety to service bond debt," according to a statement from RTD. "Any state funds should instead promote regional water self-sufficiency."

Darrell Steinberg to Unveil CEQA Reform Bill

By Robert Cruickshank

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said Thursday that he intends to propose a bill today that would reform the California Environmental Quality Act.

The proposal is co-authored by Senator Michael Rubio, but it has also been shaped by the blue-green alliance of unions and environmentalists who have joined forces to oppose bad reform:

"There will be an outline of a bill with detail intent," Steinberg said in an interview with The Chronicle editorial board Thursday. Or, as his press secretary Rhys Williams explained, what comes out Friday "will signal the intent of where the law wants to go."

With FDA Approval Near, "Frankenfish" Opposed by Tribal, Environmental Groups

By Dan Bacher

Caleen Sisk, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, said the Tribe strongly opposes the tentative approval of genetically engineered salmon by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

"Salmon is in our traditional stories, songs and dances," said Sisk. "We must stay pure to exist in the ancient circle connecting our tribal customs to salmon. The Winnemem Wintu have a right to protect salmon, and certainly NOT allow them to be genetically modified in any way. They must not have their genes and DNA subject to exploring ideas."

Environmentalists Decry "Poor" Notification of First Fracking Hearing in L.A.

By Dan Aiello

In a letter to Governor Jerry Brown Jr.'s supervisor of oil and gas at California's Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), Kassie Siegel, director of the Climate Law Institute protested what she sees as a circumvention of the intent, if not the technical requirement, of California's transparency rules on public hearings.

Siegel's organization was just one of a number of environmental groups who were disappointed in the state agency's efforts to engage the public on the issue of fracking's impact on California's groundwater, aquifers, agriculture production and fragile coastline.

The first public hearing on the administration's hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, regulations in California is scheduled for February 19, 2013 in Los Angeles.

"No Confidence" State Will Protect Californians from Fracking, Senators Told

By Dan Aiello

At a joint committee hearing yesterday to discuss the administration's proposed oil and gas regulations to monitor a method of extraction known as fracking, California senators were told by one Ventura County supervisor that the state's lack of leadership, control, preparedness and monitoring have led to "a crisis in confidence at all levels of government" among local officials and the state's residents.