Posted on Categories WaterTags , , , , ,

Polluted gravel pit breached in Russian River flood

Riverkeeper, RUSSIANRIVERKEEPER.ORG

Our worst fears were realized in the Feb 28th flood event. The largest gravel pit mine, Syar’s Basalt Pit, had a complete levee failure on a section that had failed in previous floods. The image at left shows the breach in center of picture, with river on the left and Syar Basalt Pit on right. Over 30 years of mining waste containing extremely high levels of toxic metals as well as Healdsburg’s treated wastewater discharges are now connected to our river – our drinking water supply.

Syar’s own testing in 2006 showed the mining waste contained mercury, iron and aluminum at 200-800% of safe levels and phosphorous at nearly 500 times higher than levels that can trigger toxic algae. Those pollutants are all conservative – meaning they are still present, do not degrade over time and pose a threat to the river’s health and our health.

When we filed lawsuits against the County in the 80’s and 90’s to stop the gravel mining, one of our biggest reasons was the fear of the gravel pits being captured by the river in floods. Sadly our predictions were correct, again. This occurred during the El Nino events in the late 90’s which resulted in a Clean Water Act lawsuit by Friends of the Russian River, RRK’s predecessor.

As of this date, three months after the flood, we’re still waiting for action plans to protect the river this summer from Healdsburg’s wastewater and the mining waste – both have very high levels of nutrients, mainly phosphorous, that could trigger toxic algae blooms. We’re also very concerned that in six months it’ll be raining again and if we do not take action we will see major erosion of downstream properties.

At this time, Permit Sonoma has convened two meetings with resource protection agencies and are developing a tentative plan. Permit Sonoma plans to hold a public meeting to collect comments on concerns regarding this issue and give you an opportunity to voice your opinion on how the County should respond to this major threat to the River’s health. We’ll keep you posted when the public meetings are scheduled, stay tuned!

Source: https://russianriverkeeper.org/2019/06/05/polluted-gravel-pit-breached-during-flood/

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , ,

Renewable energy capacity now exceeds coal in U.S.

YALE ENVIRONMENT 360

Renewable energy now generates more electricity in the United States than coal. Solar, wind, hydropower, biomass, and geothermal totaled 21.56 percent of U.S. generating capacity as of April, according to a report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Coal, meanwhile, accounted for just 21.55 percent of capacity, down from 23.04 percent last year.

As Engadget reports, this gap is likely to widen in the coming months. FERC notes that renewable energy has added 1 percentage point to its share of U.S. installed capacity every year, and says that sector could account for 25 percent by 2022. A total of 186,000 megawatts of proposed wind and solar projects are expected to go online in the next four years.

Coal capacity has dropped to its lowest level in 40 years. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, more than half of the U.S. coal mines operating in 2008 — when coal production peaked — have since closed. Natural gas, however, continues to grow, accounting for more than 44 percent of U.S. total energy capacity in April.

Source: https://e360.yale.edu/digest/renewable-energy-capacity-now-exceeds-coal-in-the-u-s

Posted on Categories Sustainable Living, WaterTags , , , , ,

New plan to safeguard Russian River targets contamination from human and animal waste

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

An on-again, off-again effort by state regulators to better protect the Russian River and its tributaries against failing septic systems, livestock waste and other potential sources of bacterial contamination is in its final stages, with hopes that an action plan for the entire watershed will be approved this August and go into effect next year.

The move, controversial and closely watched in years past, could impose stricter regulations and mandatory septic system upgrades on thousands of landowners with properties near the river or its connected waterways.

Opportunities still exist for residents to weigh in on the complicated, far-reaching strategy designed to safeguard the region’s recreational hub and main source of drinking water, with bacterial threats ranging from everyday pet waste to rain-swollen sewage holding ponds and homeless encampments.

Now in its third iteration since 2015, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s new draft action plan is out for public review and comment through 5 p.m. June 24.

The board’s staff will host a public workshop at its Santa Rosa offices on Thursday afternoon, and a public hearing will be held during the board’s regular meeting Aug. 14 and 15, when it considers adopting the plan.

The water quality control program is required under the federal Clean Water Act as well as state regulations designed to ensure that people swimming, wading, fishing or otherwise recreating in the river and tributary creeks aren’t exposed to bacteria from human or animal waste — a problem in waterways around California, state officials say.

Key concerns include aging, under-equipped and potentially faulty septic systems and cesspools installed decades ago on steep slopes with too little soil to provide adequate percolation. Testing also shows livestock grazing in close proximity to waterways is a problem in many areas.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9693049-181/new-plan-to-safeguard-russian

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Sustainable LivingTags , ,

Animal welfare activists protest at Sonoma County Jail, courthouse

Nashelly Chavez, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Animal welfare activists gathered in front of the Sonoma County Jail on Tuesday, protesting the arrest of about 80 people who demonstrated a day earlier at a west Petaluma duck farm.

Tuesday’s action drew about 50 members of Direct Action Everywhere. The group organized the protest at Reichardt Duck Farm that included at least 300 demonstrators and prompted a response of more than 50 local and state law enforcement officers.

Monday’s arrests mostly involved suspected trespassing and felony conspiring to commit a crime, Sonoma County Sheriff’s spokesman Spencer Crum said. Protesters were given the option to be cited out of jail, though many refused to sign the citation form, he said.

“We’re calling upon Sonoma County authorities to prosecute criminal animal cruelty, not the whistleblowers,” said Cassie King, who took part in both protests.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9667427-181/animal-welfare-activists-protest-at

Posted on Categories Sustainable LivingTags , ,

Nearly 100 protesters arrested outside Petaluma duck farm

Andrew Beale and Randi Rossman, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Nearly 100 animal welfare protesters were arrested Monday, hours after descending onto a west Petaluma duck farm as part of an organized demonstration, authorities said.

Hundreds of activists with the Direct Action Everywhere animal rights group arrived by the busloads at Reichardt Duck Farm on Middle Two Rock Road around 10 a.m., some chaining themselves together by the neck at the main gate of the property.

Local and state police made a show of force with more than 50 officers, including about three dozen in riot gear, stationed around the property. They arrested 10 demonstrators who walked onto the farm to remove birds, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office said.

By about 4 p.m., deputies had made 88 more arrests, mostly for trespassing. Wilmar firefighters had to cut the farm’s gate to remove some of the protesters.

The animal rights group came prepared with water, food and music, with the bulk of protesters staying on the property until around 5 p.m.

Cassie King, a group organizer currently facing seven felony charges in Sonoma County related to previous animal-rights protests, said the demonstration was intended to spur Sonoma County authorities to take action against the farm for alleged animal cruelty.

“Whistleblower footage has come forward from this facility (showing) clear animal cruelty,” she said. “Authorities in Sonoma County have ignored those reports, so activists have come together to take matters into their own hands.”

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9664193-181/protesters-flood-petalumaarea-duck-farm

Posted on Categories Sustainable LivingTags , ,

Sonoma County supervisors eye pesticide restrictions on public land

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County supervisors are scheduled to consider a proposal Tuesday to ban synthetic pesticides on county property open to public use and in other “no synthetic spray zones” to be determined this year.

The proposal specifically precludes use of synthetic herbicides, insecticides and fungicides on county agency campuses, sidewalks, plazas, playing fields, playgrounds and county-maintained libraries.

It also would apply to Sonoma Water, the Agricultural and Open Space District, the Community Development Commission and the Transportation and Public Works Department, requiring them to eliminate pesticide use “to the maximum extent practicable.”

The Transportation and Public Works Department is experimenting with organic alternatives to manage roadside vegetation that poses a safety risk or can contribute to flooding, said Dan Virkstis, a department spokesman.

Private land would be exempt from the ban. The county is prohibited from regulating pesticide use on private property, a county staff report said.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9664243-181/sonoma-county-supervisors-eye-pesticide

Posted on Categories Sonoma Coast, WildlifeTags , ,

Dozens of West Coast gray whale deaths prompt federal investigation

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Prompted by the fatal stranding of 70 gray whales on the U.S. West Coast this year, federal scientists have launched a major scientific investigation aimed at identifying the cause or causes of the die-off among the migrating mammals that number about 27,000 and are a popular North Coast attraction in places like Bodega Bay.

A young gray whale that washed up last week on Limantour Beach at Point Reyes National Seashore was the 15th recorded stranding in the greater Bay Area.

An additional 78 strandings have occurred in Mexico and Canada, bringing the five-month total to 148 deaths of Eastern North Pacific gray whales.

NOAA Fisheries, the federal agency charged with protection and conservation of marine mammals, said the trend warranted declaration of an “unusual mortality event,” unleashing funding and resources for an investigation that could take months or years to find answers.

Deborah Fauquier, a NOAA veterinary medical officer, said Friday the declaration was justified by an unexpected and significant die-off that “demands an immediate response.”

An investigative team of experts from the United States, Canada, Mexico and possibly worldwide will be formed to “determine what might be causing the die-off, such as environmental conditions, disease or human activities” and “make informed decisions to protect this important marine species,” she said in a teleconference with reporters.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9655458-181/dozens-of-west-coast-gray

Posted on Categories Air, Climate Change & Energy, Land Use, TransportationTags , , ,

Neighbors sue to halt Safeway gas station construction in Petaluma

Yousef Baig, PETALUMA ARGUS-COURIER

A controversial Safeway gas station project is on hold pending approval of a city permit. Meanwhile, a group of residents that has filed a lawsuit to stop the east Petaluma project will likely seek a temporary injunction to pause work on the site while the case makes its way through the courts.

Save Petaluma, which is attempting to overturn the city council’s April 1 decision to deny an appeal and approve the 335 South McDowell Blvd. project, filed the suit in Sonoma County Superior Court this month, naming Petaluma as the respondent and Safeway as the real party of interest.

So far, Safeway has applied for a demolition permit for the current structure at the corner of the Washington Square Shopping Center, but the permit application is still under review, according to city officials.

Patrick Soluri, the Sacramento-based attorney representing Save Petaluma, said he will likely pursue an injunction to freeze construction efforts at the site until the case has been decided. Had Safeway been authorized and demolition had gotten underway, the corporation would have been protected under what’s known as a vested rights doctrine.

“We would seek injunctive relief if necessary to protect the citizens of Petaluma and also preserve the integrity of land-use and environmental decision-making in the city,” Soluri said in an email.

Read more at https://www.petaluma360.com/news/9625724-181/petaluma-reviews-safeway-gas-station

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable LivingTags , , , ,

Amazon votes down employee-backed climate resolution

Olivia Rosane, ECOWATCH

Amazon shareholders voted down an employee-backed resolution calling for more aggressive action on climate change at their annual meeting Wednesday, The Los Angeles Times reported.

The employee-filed resolution asked the company to develop a public plan for responding to extreme weather events and weaning itself off of fossil fuels. It was publicly backed by more than 7,600 employees, who signed their names to an open letter, a novel tactic for tech employee activism, The New York Times said.

Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, the group that grew out of the resolution, said in a press release they will file another if the company’s board doesn’t increase its climate commitments.

“The enthusiasm is overwhelming,” Amazon employee Rebecca Sheppard, who works in air cargo operations, told the Los Angeles Times. “We’ll be back.”

Ahead of the vote, the resolution had won the support of two of the largest proxy advisory firms in the U.S. — Glass Lewis and Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS). Glass Lewis said that Amazon was less transparent about its sustainability plans than similar companies, The New York Times said. However, the Amazon Board formally opposed the resolution, meaning it faced an uphill battle to gain the 50 percent of support it would have needed to pass, according to the employee press release. Amazon will release the final vote tallies Friday, the company told the Los Angeles Times.

Read more at https://www.ecowatch.com/amazon-climate-change-resolution-2637862790.html?rebelltitem=1#rebelltitem1

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable LivingTags , ,

Dirty data: Firms count environmental costs of digital planet

THE STAR ONLINE

Technology is often touted as a solution to the world’s environmental challenges, but it is also part of the problem: industry executives are facing rising pressure to clean up their energy and resource-intensive business.

How much energy, for example, does it take to send a one-megabyte email?

Around 25 watts per hour, representing 20g of carbon dioxide emissions, according to France’s CNRS research centre.

It might not seem like much, but the Radicati research group expects 293 billion emails will be sent every single day this year and the power needs to be generated – mostly from fossil fuels.

Apps can quickly drain and shorten the life of phone batteries, with Snapchat a particularly “heavy” messaging service because it automatically turns on the camera.

Then there are the server farms crunching mammoth amounts of data worldwide, which require huge amounts of electricity both to run and to power air conditioning which keeps the equipment from getting too hot.

“Under the current global energy mix, the share of greenhouse gas emissions from information and communication technologies will rise from 2.5% in 2013 to four percent in 2020,” the French think-tank Shift Project said in a recent report.

That makes the sector more carbon-intensive than civil aviation (a 2% share of emissions in 2018) and on track to reach automobiles (8%), it said.

Read more at https://www.thestar.com.my/tech/tech-news/2019/05/22/dirty-data-firms-count-environmental-costs-of-digital-planet/