Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
With consumers wolfing down millions of its shellfish every year and clamoring for more, Hog Island Oyster Co. should be sitting pretty on the east shore of scenic Tomales Bay, a bountiful estuary abutting Point Reyes National Seashore.
Co-founder John Finger, a surfer-entrepreneur with a degree in marine biology, decided to farm the mile-wide and 15-mile-long bay due to its productivity and proximity to the Bay Area’s food-savvy multitudes.
Seeded by a $500 family loan in 1983, the oyster farm has prospered — propelled by a nationwide yen for raw oysters on the half shell — into a business that sells about $10 million worth of bivalves a year, employing about 120 workers who feel a bit like family themselves.
via Ground zero for future of oyster farming | The Press Democrat.
Steven Mufson and Tom Hamburger, THE WASHINGTON POST
In state capitals across the country, legislators are debating proposals to roll back environmental rules, prodded by industry and advocacy groups eager to curtail regulations aimed at curbing greenhouse gases.
The measures, which have been introduced in about 18 states, lie at the heart of an effort to expand to the state level the battle over fossil fuel and renewable energy. The new rules would trim or abolish climate mandates — including those that require utilities to use solar and wind energy, as well as proposed Environmental Protection Agency rules that would reduce carbon emissions from power plants.
But the campaign — despite its backing from powerful groups such as Americans for Prosperity — has run into a surprising roadblock: the growing political clout of renewable-energy interests, even in rock-ribbed Republican states such as Kansas.
The stage has been set for what one lobbyist called “trench warfare” as moneyed interests on both sides wrestle over some of the strongest regulations for promoting renewable energy. And the issues are likely to surface this fall in the midterm elections, as well, with California billionaire Tom Steyer pouring money into various gubernatorial and state and federal legislative races to back candidates who support tough rules curbing pollution.
via A battle is looming over renewable energy, and fossil fuel interests are losing – The Washington Post.
Matt Weiser, SACRAMENTO BEE
Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday signed a sweeping new emergency drought proclamation, cutting red tape for a variety of government functions to help water agencies find new supplies, and to press the public to use water carefully.
“I call on every city, every community, every Californian to conserve water in every way possible,” Brown said in a statement.
The governor first proclaimed a drought emergency Jan. 17. This second proclamation goes further by waiving compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act and the state water code for a number of actions, including water transfers, wastewater treatment projects, habitat improvements for winter-run Chinook salmon imperiled by the drought and curtailment of water rights.
via Gov. Brown orders more emergency drought measures – Delta – The Sacramento Bee.
Elizabeth M. Cosin, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A Santa Rosa firm agreed this week to pay $135,000 in penalties for allegations it dumped corrosive waste, according to Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch.
CPI International, Inc., which makes environmental standards and testing products, and its former corporate officers David Hejl and Robin Fowler, agreed to the civil penalty that was brought after inspectors observed a paper-like glue substance flowing into the sewer, said Terry Menshek, a spokeswoman for Ravitch.
During inspections in March 2011, Sonoma County Fire and Emergency Services and Rincon Valley Fire inspectors discovered the waste runoff. An investigation revealed CPI had not filed a hazardous materials business plan or followed other procedures, as required by law.
Warned to stop the dumping, CPI instead moved its paper-making operation to a residence off Mountain Home Ranch Road in Santa Rosa, according to the DA’s office, which then filed a civil environmental enforcement case.
via Santa Rosa firm to pay $135,000 in hazardous waste case | The Press Democrat.
Matt Brown, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Spring means warm days, fragrant flowers in bloom and migratory songbirds returning to Sonoma County. It also means more work for Veronica Bowers and her Native Songbird Care and Conservation in Sebastopol.
Bowers and her team of volunteers rehabilitate injured birds and care for babies orphaned when people accidentally or intentionally destroy nests.
Her facility, the only songbird care center in Sonoma County, does most of its work during the nesting season between April and September. Bowers and her staff can care for up to 200 birds at any given time, diagnosing diseases, treating wounds and feeding them meal worms every 30 minutes.
via Sonoma County's songbird season takes flight | The Press Democrat.
Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Proposed legislation by state Sen. Noreen Evans requiring all foods containing genetically modified organisms to be labeled in California cleared its first hurdle Wednesday in Sacramento.
The Senate Committee on Health approved the bill on a 5-2 vote after Evans, D-Santa Rosa, agreed to several amendments, including that the legislation exclude alcohol products and not take effect until Jan. 1. 2016.
Supporters of GMO labeling argue that it is necessary to protect public health and the consumer’s right to make informed choices. Critics, however, say such labels would confuse shoppers and lead to higher production costs.
“I want to be very clear: This bill doesn’t ban anything,” Evans testified Wednesday. “It simply requires labeling. It’s agnostic on whether GMOs are good, or whether they are bad.”
Proponents of labeling, including the California State Grange, turned to lawmakers after California voters in 2012 narrowly turned down a ballot measure that would have essentially accomplished the same thing.
via State Sen. Noreen Evans' GMO food-labeling bill clears state Senate committee (w/video) | The Press Democrat.
Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
They’re less slimy, and certainly less smelly, than a fish carcass would be. But the dry, brown pellets that biologists distributed Tuesday in a backwater channel of Dry Creek may prove to be the vitamin that once-prolific North Coast salmon streams need.
The goal is to simulate the nutritional boost that used to come from the decaying remains of adult fish, a critical natural supplement for coho and Chinook salmon, steelhead trout and other wildlife.
The approach has shown promise in the Columbia River watershed over the past few years. It produced benefits last year in several tributaries of Sonoma County’s Austin Creek.
“This could be a piece in the missing puzzle of recovery,” said Bob Coey, a biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service.
via Bucket brigade seeks to revive Dry Creek with salmon pellets.
Eric Gneckow, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL
U.S. Geothermal Inc, a geothermal energy company with offices in Boise, Idaho, has announced plans to acquire a late stage development at the Geysers that has shown promise for enough steam production to power up to 26,000 homes.
Currently under ownership of Reno, Nev.-based Ram Power Corp., the project, encompassing 3,800 acres, includes permits and design plans for a proposed power plant and five production-ready geothermal steam wells. U.S. Geothermal announced an agreement to buy the project for $6.4 million in cash, acquiring assets and subsidiaries associated with its development and leasing of related lands.
via Idaho firm acquiring Geysers site – North Bay Business Journal – North San Francisco Bay Area, Sonoma, Marin, Napa counties – Archive.
Joe Garofoli, SFGATE.COM
The effects of California’s drought could soon hit the state’s food banks, which serve 2 million of its poorest residents.
Fresh produce accounts for more than half the handouts at Bay Area food banks, but with an estimated minimum of 500,000 acres to be fallowed in California, growers will have fewer fruits and vegetables to donate.
With less local supply, food prices will spike, increasing as much as 34 percent for a head of lettuce and 18 percent for tomatoes, according to an Arizona State University study released last week. With fewer fields planted, there could be as many as 20,000 unemployed agricultural workers who will need more food handouts, especially in the Central Valley.
via California drought: Food banks drying up, too – SFGate.
Edward Ortiz, THE SACRAMENTO BEE
As many as 80,000 bee colonies have died or been damaged this year after pollinating almond trees in the San Joaquin Valley, and some beekeepers are pointing to pesticides used on almond orchards as a possible cause.
The damaged colonies are the latest worry in the beekeeping community, which is already struggling to deal with colony collapse disorder, a phenomenon in which beekeepers open hives after pollination and find them empty, with the bees nowhere to be found.
The damaged hives are a significant agricultural issue. Ninety percent of honeybees that pollinate crops in the United States are used during the California almond bloom. And there is a cascading effect. Bees used to pollinate almond trees typically are moved to pollinate other crops, such as apples, cranberries, cherries and watermelons.
via Beekeepers search for answers as colonies show up damaged after almond farm pollination – Environment – The Sacramento Bee.