Clean Water

Conservation Groups, Winnemem Wintu Appeal Reduction of Salmon Protections

By Dan Bacher

A broad coalition of commercial and recreational salmon fishing groups, conservation organizations and the Winnemem Wintu Tribe today filed an appeal with the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to fully reinstate a federal water management plan intended to protect threatened Chinook salmon and steelhead throughout the Central Valley.

The "biological opinion," issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service, functions as a water management plan governing huge water diversions in the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary as well as dams on most major Central Valley rivers, according to a news release from the groups and Tribe.

EPA Finds Fracking Contaminated Drinking Water in Wyoming

By David Dayen

For the first time, government scientists concluded that hydraulic fracturing, the process of shooting massive quantities of water and chemicals into rock to release natural gas, contaminates drinking water. The study concerns an incident in Pavillion, Wyoming, and culminates three years of research of the local aquifer.

San Francisco PUC fails to Support $9.8 Billion Estimate to Restore Hetch Hetchy

By Dan Aiello
California Progress Report

Preceding qualification of a 2012 San Francisco ballot measure that will ask city residents to return the Hetch Hetchy Valley to the National Park Service for restoration, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission admits its nearly ten billion dollar cost estimate for the project was not based on any study performed by it, but rather was an esitmate for the same state agency study that cites the SFPUC as the source of the cost estimate.

Mike Marshall, Executive Director of the Restore Hetch Hetchy non-profit organization, claims the nearly ten billion dollar figure comes from a 2007 California Department of Water Resources report that footnotes the estimates to undisclosed SFPUC documentation. 

Oil Shale: As Much Energy as a Baked Potato

By Pablo Rodriguez
Communities for a New California

Today, Republicans in Washington D.C. held a hearing on increasing the amount of land dedicated to oil shale extraction. Oil shale is a rock that contains a waxy substance called kerogen. When kerogen is heated to extremely high temperatures, it releases a substance that can be turned into crude oil. As with so many things, however, the devil is in the details when it comes to oil shale.   

It takes a lot of rock to create oil shale. In fact, pound for pound, oil shale has about the same amount of energy as a baked potato. Given that, in many cases the amount of energy recovered from oil shale is less than the amount of energy used in the extraction process. If that wasn’t enough, the technology to develop oil shale is not commercially viable and could likely depend heavily on already scarce water in the West.   

Occupy the Ocean, Occupy the Delta

By Dan Bacher

As the Occupy movement spreads throughout the nation and world, sustainable fishing communities, consumer groups and grassroots environmentalists have mobilized to stop the 1 percent from stealing ocean public trust resources from the 99 percent.

This week the U.S. Congress, in a backroom deal, shelved a vote on a critical bill that would have continued a recently instituted ban on a wasteful government program that gives large corporations control of the nation’s fishery resources, in effect privatizing the ocean's public trust resources.

California League of Conservation Voters 2012 Scorecard Reveals GOP on Side of Polluters 82% of Time

By Steven Maviglio

The California League of Conservation Voters (CLCV) - the political arm of the environmental movement in California - released its annual California Environmental Scorecard. The record of the year's most important environmental votes (available at reveals how members of the state legislature and Governor Jerry Brown performed on the environment in the 2011 legislative session.

And to no one's surprise, the scorecard shows that California's GOP legislators are in bed with the polluters lobby. GOP Assemblymembers voted against the environment 81 percent of the time, while GOP senators voted with the polluter's lobby 82 percent of the time. Meanwhile, Assembly Democrats had an average pro-environment rate of 92 percent while the slightly more moderate Senate Democrats voted against polluters 86 percent of the time.

Top CEQA Experts Examine Its Past And Debate Its Future

By Bruce Reznik
Planning & Conservation League

On Friday, November 4th, the UC Davis School of Law hosted “CEQA at 40: A Look Back and Forward”. Featuring panelists from all three branches of government, environmental attorneys, developers, academics and students, lively discussions ensued around one of the nation’s most important environment protection laws. Featured panels focused on the first forty years of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), including: the stories behind its passage; how the law has evolved since 1970; and how its protections compare to those in the federal National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) and other ‘little-NEPA’ statues across the nation and across nations. Just as importantly, panels focused on CEQA in the years to come.

We Can’t Afford to Give Away the Great Outdoors

By Pablo Rodriguez
Communities for a New California

According to a just released study by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, outdoors recreation and land conservation and preservation generates $1 trillion in economic activity and supports 9.4 million in jobs each year in the United States. 

Central Valley Congressman Kevin McCarthy (CA-22) is leading the charge to undermine 9.4 million jobs created by four decades of conservation efforts by lawmakers from both parties. Rep. McCarthy is the author of H.R. 1581, often referred to as the “Great Outdoors Giveaway” because it benefits a few special interests at the expense of our wild lands and our health.

Reps, Residents and Ranchers Worry About Water Exporters Control Over Delta Plan

By Dan Aiello
California Progress Report

At an oversight hearing in Sacramento last week, Assemblymember Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), chairman of the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee, voiced concern that water exporters will have unprecedented control over the content and focus of a plan that would steer the state’s water policies for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta for next fifty years.

The hearing on the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) was the fifth held by Huffman, whose district stretches from the Delta, the largest wetlands estuary west of the Mississippi, to coastal communities north of the Golden Gate - many of which are dependent on commercial fishing of the endangered Delta Salmon.

Deadly Salmon Disease Found On West Coast

By Dan Bacher

For the first time ever, scientists have uncovered the presence of infectious salmon anemia, a deadly virus that has devastated farmed fish in Chile, in wild salmon populations on the West Coast.

This news arrived at a time when the Obama administration is fast-tracking the approval of genetically engineered Atlantic salmon, promoting environmental destructive corporate aquaculture facilities and pushing the privatization of public trust resources through the controversial "catch shares" program.

Scientists from Simon Fraser University reported at a news conference in Vancouver on October 17 that the virus had been found in 2 of 48 juvenile fish collected as part of a study of sockeye salmon in Rivers Inlet, British Columbia.