Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Habitats, Land Use, WildlifeTags , , , ,

EPA dismisses half of key board’s scientific advisers; Interior suspends more than 200 advisory panels

Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis, THE WASHINGTON POST
Both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department are overhauling a slew of outside advisory boards that inform how their agencies assess the science underpinning policies, the first step in a broader effort by Republicans to change the way the federal government evaluates the scientific basis for its regulations. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt decided to replace half of the members on one of its key scientific review boards, while Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is “reviewing the charter and charge” of more than 200 advisory boards, committees and other entities both within and outside his department. EPA and Interior officials began informing current members of the move Friday, and notifications continued over the weekend.
Pruitt’s move could significantly change the makeup of the 18-member Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC), which advises EPA’s prime scientific arm on whether the research it does has sufficient rigor and integrity, and addresses important scientific questions. All of the people being dismissed were at the end of serving at least one three-year term, although these terms are often renewed instead of terminated.
EPA spokesman J.P. Freire said in an email that “no one has been fired or terminated” and that Pruitt had simply decided to bring in fresh advisers. The agency informed the outside academics on Friday that their terms would not be renewed.
“We’re not going to rubber-stamp the last administration’s appointees. Instead, they should participate in the same open competitive process as the rest of the applicant pool,” Freire said. “This approach is what was always intended for the board, and we’re making a clean break with the last administration’s approach.”

Separately, Zinke has postponed all outside committees as he reviews their composition and work. The review will effectively freeze the work of the Bureau of Land Management’s 38 resource advisory councils, along with other panels focused on a sweep of issues, from one assessing the threat of invasive species to the science technical advisory panel for Alaska’s North Slope.

Read more at: EPA dismisses half of key board’s scientific advisers; Interior suspends more than 200 advisory panels – The Washington Post

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sonoma CoastTags , , ,

Democrats push Obama to protect California coast from new drilling

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
With three weeks left until President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, Democratic lawmakers and environmentalists remain hopeful that President Barack Obama will grant their long-standing wish: permanent protection of the California coast from new offshore oil and gas drilling.
North Coast Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, who met personally with administration officials at the White House in November, said he will continue lobbying for presidential action through Obama’s final hours in office on Jan. 20.
“We’ve got to keep pushing until the end,” Huffman said.
A host of Democratic heavyweights — including California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, Gov. Jerry Brown, 26 state senators including Mike McGuire of Healdsburg, and the California Coastal Commission’s chairwoman — sent official letters to Obama urging him to use an obscure federal law to withdraw California waters from future energy leasing.
But to their collective dismay, the Pacific Coast was not included in Obama’s decision two weeks ago to protect hundreds of millions of acres in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans in an executive action observers described as an effort to reinforce his legacy as an environmental leader.
Read more at: Democrats push Obama to protect California coast from new drilling | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Air, Sustainable LivingTags , ,

Wood fireplaces and stoves banned in new buildings

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
In its continuing effort to make breathing easier, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District is again clamping down on wood fireplaces and stoves, banning them in all new buildings and requiring more efficient, clean-burning devices where wood fuel is the only source of heat.

The new regulations, approved this week, build on existing rules in an ongoing endeavor to wean residents inside the nine-county air district off polluting wood fires, whether used for heat or ambiance.

The aim of the regulations, first approved in 2008, is to limit emissions of the fine particles in smoke produced by combustion of wood and other solid fuels and wood products, such as pellets. This particulate matter can find its way into a person’s lungs and bloodstream and is linked to greater risk of heart attack, stroke, asthma, respiratory distress and other lung conditions, including cancer, according to the American Lung Association.

“It has a myriad of health impacts, like cigarette smoke,” air district spokeswoman Kristine Roselius said.

And it’s the No. 1 source of air pollution during the winter months, the air district said.

“It’s nasty,” said Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane, a member of the air district board of directors, which unanimously approved the rule amendments Wednesday. “And it’s a lot more nasty than most people realize.”

An estimated 1.4 million fireplaces and uncertified fireplaces in the Bay Area produce about a third of the particulate matter in the air in the winter, the air district said.

The Bay Area air district takes in most of Sonoma County, including Windsor, Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Petaluma and Sebastopol. It also includes unincorporated parts of Sonoma County roughly bounded on the west by Occidental and on the north by Windsor.

Read more at: Wood fireplaces and stoves banned in new buildings | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, TransportationTags , , , , ,

Op-Ed: How oil won the battle for SB 350

Dan Morain, THE SACRAMENTO BEE
Before he would commit to voting for landmark legislation to cut petroleum use by 50 percent, Assemblyman Adam Gray had a few requests.
Actually, it was more than a few. The term sheet runs three pages. The quid for the quo is something to behold.
In one of his more remarkably bold suggestions, the Merced Democrat sought $550 million a year in cap-and-trade revenue to pay for more water storage. Additional water storage is a great idea. But cap-and-trade money must be used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, not provide water in perpetuity for Central Valley farmers.
And then there were the three pages of amendments offered by the Western States Petroleum Association. Its demands would have gutted the California Air Resources Board, the agency directly responsible for reducing air pollution created by the oil industry.
Faced with demands made by industry and well-greased Assembly members from his own Democratic Party, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León concluded last week that he had no choice but to gut the most significant part of his Senate Bill 350, the sections that sought to force a 50 percent reduction in oil use.
Not having been in the room when negotiations were going on, I don’t know who said what. But the wish lists offer some insights into the pulls and tugs that led to the decision to limit SB 350. Though it won’t cut oil use, it will reduce electricity use and increase wind and solar power.
Gray was quick to say “we have to take aggressive action on climate change.” He also defended his proposals by saying he wants to “make sure the Valley is not put at a disadvantage,” while people in “Palo Alto are driving around in Teslas.”
Gray is one of 20 or so Assembly Democrats who call themselves moderates, and held out against the petroleum reduction in SB 350. As near as I can tell, being a moderate has little to do with their stands on social issues, or their willingness to challenge the core of Democratic support, public employee unions; they aren’t.
Rather, the definition seems to revolve around a willingness to accept campaign money from oil, tobacco or anyone else, and their malleability when donors come calling. Certainly, the reflections of some of Gray’s donors can be seen in some of the amendments he suggested.
Read more at: Dan Morain: How oil won the battle for SB 350 | The Sacramento Bee

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, TransportationTags , , , ,

Jerry Brown, Kevin de Leon abandon legislative push to require 50 percent cut in gasoline use

David Siders & Jeremy B. White, THE SACRAMENTO BEE
In a major setback for Gov. Jerry Brown’s climate agenda, the governor and legislative leaders on Wednesday abandoned an effort to require a 50 percent reduction in petroleum use in motor vehicles by 2030.
The announcement followed weeks of lobbying by oil companies and resistance not only from Republicans, but moderate Democrats in the Assembly.
For Brown, the failure represented a rare legislative defeat, and on Wednesday there were two: In addition to dropping the petroleum reduction mandate from Senate Bill 350, Brown’s proposal to raise billions of dollars for road repairs appeared to stall.
At a dreary news conference at the Capitol, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, said she does not expect a vote on road funding before the legislative session concludes at the end of the week, though she said lawmakers will continue to discuss transportation funding later.
Brown, who has made climate change a priority of his administration, said he will push forward on greenhouse gas emissions using his executive authority. The bill will preserve the California Air Resources Board’s existing power to make regulations that reduce emissions.
Read more at: Jerry Brown, Kevin de Leon abandon legislative push to require 50 percent cut in gasoline use