Land Use


Keystone Pipeline: Canadian Profits, American Woes

By Rev. Jim Conn

With a trumpet blast from the sources of conventional wisdom, the Keystone XL pipeline charged through the news sources last month. When the State Department released its positive environmental report that is seen as clearing the way for a pipe full of Canadian oil slurry to run through the heartland of America to the refineries of Houston, the pundits lined up to salute. They said the XL would add to American oil independence. They said it would bring jobs. They said it would never cause any of those silly problems the environmentalists were bothered about.

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.

CHSRA Board Approves Blended Plan, Bond Sales

By Robert Cruickshank

The California High Speed Rail Authority board met Monday and took action on two rather significant items.

First, the board voted to approve the Memorandum of Understanding with Caltrain that allows the "blended plan" to move forward. Approval had been delayed earlier this month when Lynn Schenk voiced her concern that the "blended plan" wasn't workable and fell short of the Prop 1A guidelines. Other longtime HSR supporters welcomed the MOU and the "blended plan":

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.

High Speed Rail: Relief for California's "Mega-Commuters"

By Robert Cruickshank

New data from the US Census Bureau has found that Northern California has the largest proportion of "mega-commuters" in the country - defined as morning commutes of at least 50 miles and 90 minutes. The numbers aren't huge - 2% of workers in the Bay Area core are mega-commuters - but it is a clear sign that something is not working in Northern California.

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."

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.