BP Exits California

By Ngoc Nguyen
New America Media

As political maneuvering continues over the fate of the controversial proposed Keystone XL pipeline, one of the world's largest energy companies -- BP -- is already signaling the direction it plans to take: it's positioning itself to tap the burgeoning supply of Canadian tar sands oil.

BP announced it will divest from its oil refineries on the Southern West Coast -- in Carson, Calif. -- and Texas City, TX, and expand its operations in the Pacific Northwest and the Midwest -- a move that would halve the company's U.S. refining capacity.

David Hackett of Stillwater Associates, an energy consulting firm based in Irvine, Calif., called the energy giant’s exit from California “a big deal.”

SDG&E's Latest Attempt to Exploit Its Monopoly Status & Corporate Power

By Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH

“If we had free market competition, SDG&E would have to absorb the costs of the fire. Quite simply, if they raised their rates, consumers would switch to other providers.”
Sempra-owned utility San Diego Gas & Electric wants “San Diego-area utility customers to pay for nearly all of an estimated $463 million in cost not covered by insurance from the catastrophic 2007 wildfires that were triggered in large part by its power lines,” the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. “At stake is who ultimately pays for the fire’s destruction — ratepayers or shareholders.” SDG&E wants the ratepayers to cover 95 to 100 percent of excess wildfire and related litigation costs.

Building a Blue-Green Coalition in California

By Marcy Winograd
Former Democratic Candidate for Congress

After the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, with its codification of imprisonment without charge or trial, I could no longer register voters for the Democratic Party – even with the hope of involving new registrants in the California Democratic Party’s popular Progressive Caucus. If I could not ask someone to join the Democratic Party, I could not in good conscience stay in the party, even as an insurgent writing resolutions and platform planks to end our wars for oil.

Unfortunately, too many corporate Democrats, beholden to big-money donors or to a jobs sector dependent on militarism, vote for perpetual war and the surveillance state, replete with secret wiretaps, black hole prisons, and targeted assassinations. Far too many who are fearful or bought by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee vote for legislation that relegates Palestinians to second-class citizenship and threatens to take our country to the brink of an unthinkable war on Iran.

To Drive or Not to Drive, That Is The Question: And The Correct Answer Is?

By Alan Kandel

It’s a very interesting juxtaposition: On the one hand, “According to the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) January Transit Savings Report, individuals who ride public transportation instead of driving can save, on average, $816 dollars this month, and $9,790 annually. These savings are based on the cost of commuting by public transportation compared to the January 10, 2012 average national gas price ($3.34 per gallon- reported by AAA) and the national unreserved monthly parking rate.”

EPA Releases Groundbreaking Mercury and Air Toxics Rule

By David Dayen

The EPA has been under assault from the GOP for the past year, and this has led to some uncomfortable rollbacks and compromises. The Administration’s cancellation of new ozone standards was particularly galling. But today, the EPA came through with new rules on mercury and air toxics that will deliver massive public health benefits, in addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Congress called for new mercury and air toxics standards 21 years ago, so this has been a long time coming.

The rules require coal- and oil-fired power plants to lower emissions of 84 different toxic chemicals to levels no higher than those emitted by the cleanest 12% of plants. Companies have three years to achieve the standards, and EPA has made clear a fourth year and perhaps even more time are also available to them.

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.

Transportation Got ‘US’ Into A Greenhouse Gas Fix, Public Transportation Can Get ‘US’ Out

By Alan Kandel

California ranks as high as the world’s 12th largest emitter of greenhouse gases (one source says we’re the 15th largest emitter - the most conservative ranking of the bunch). Think about it: Of 194 nations represented at the U.N. climate summit being held in Durban, South Africa, California’s GHG emissions surpass up to 182 of those represented countries. That is neither flattering nor a title to be proud of.

Looking at California more closely, transportation alone contributes a full 38 percent of our GHG emissions. (In some regions this figure is surpassed even). Transportation is followed (in descending order by contributed amount of GHG) by industrial (20%), imported electricity (13%), in-state electricity (12%), residential (6%), agriculture and forestry (5%), commercial (3%) and other sources (3%).

High-Speed Rail Will Restore California’s “Pioneering Spirit”

By Bob Balgenorth
State Building and Construction Trades Council

“This project,” the New York Times recently reported on California’s High-Speed Rail plan, “goes to the heart of the state’s pioneering spirit, recalling grand public investments in universities, water systems, roads and parks that once defined California as the leading edge of the nation."

Then, after explaining all the benefits of better transportation, a stronger economy, a boom in employment, a cleaner environment and a higher quality of life, the Times summarized the simplistic opposition of a Republican politician who said: “It’s a boondoggle.”

There, in a nutshell, is our fight.

California Still Needs High Speed Rail (HSR)

By Brian Leubitz

While there are still some serious issues to be dealt with before construction, HSR is still a good idea. Sure the HSR Authority could have done a better job at the initial planning and outreach.  Former chairman Quentin Kopp, also known as "San Francisco's Favorite Crank," and his shall we say less than convivial tactics didn't really suit the situation all that well. Fortunately for HSR, Kopp is now removed from the situation and doing what he does best, acting cranky from the sidelines.

That all being said there is still much to like in the in the new HSR plan, and really it lies at the heart of the New California Dream.  From a letter from Jim Earp, Chair of 2008's Prop 1A and also the executive director of California Alliance for Jobs:

Texas Transportation Institute’s ‘2011 Urban Mobility Report’: Not All Is Doom and Gloom

By Alan Kandel

In “Californians Spend Hours In Traffic, Waste Gallons Of Fuel,” I bring to bear the negative consequences of overwhelmed roadway infrastructure; that is, wasted time, wasted fuel and wasted money. I would be remiss if I did not add the exhausted emissions that contribute to air pollution. The upside to the story is that there are proven remediation techniques that can be put into action today to help rid cities of that antithesis of localized or area travel – immobility. The techniques consist of what the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) in its “2011 Urban Mobility Report” refers to as “Operational Treatments.” But not to be excluded is public transit use and sound land-use planning and development.

Such “Operational Treatments” can include:

• Get as much service as possible from what we have