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Sebastopol bans Styrofoam food containers amid growing alarm about single-use plastics

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sebastopol is forging ahead with a ban on polystyrene foam food and beverage containers, taking the lead in Sonoma County amid a nationwide concern about single-use plastics and a mounting global crisis over consumer waste.

The new ordinance, the first of its kind in Sonoma County, prohibits the sale or use of disposable cups, burger boxes, clamshell containers and even cheap ice chests made of expanded polystyrene in Sebastopol come Nov. 19. The regulation is based on a model intended for adoption around the county.

Among numerous other provisions, the wide-ranging measure also requires vendors to ditch single-use containers, bowls, plates, cups, straws, stirrers, utensils, napkins and other products of any material when viable compostable or recyclable alternatives are commercially available. Customers who want to-go condiments, cup lids, cutlery or straws will have to ask for them, as well.

The ordinance encourages food providers to credit customers 25 cents for bringing their own reusable to-go containers and charge a takeout fee up to 10 cents to defray the costs associated with cups, lids, straws or utensils.

The ordinance also governs packaging for prepared foods. Blown polystyrene egg cartons and food and meat trays are exempt.

The Sebastopol City Council adopted the model ordinance in March but delayed its enforcement to allow restaurants and vendors to use up any remaining foam stock they might have on hand and to give the rest of Sonoma County time to catch up.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9715098-181/sebastopol-bans-styrofoam-food-containers

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

House approves measures that would block offshore drilling on all but Arctic coast

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The House of Representatives passed three amendments on Thursday imposing one-year bans on offshore oil drilling on the Pacific, Atlantic and eastern Gulf of Mexico coasts, potentially restoring the safeguard that protected California’s coast for more than a quarter century.

The three bipartisan votes came on amendments to the funding bill for the Department of Interior and other agencies and are protected from a line-item veto by President Donald Trump, who has proposed an aggressive expansion of oil and gas development in the nation’s offshore waters.

It also may not need approval in the Republican-controlled Senate, which will produce its own Interior Department appropriations bill.

“This is the congressional moratorium coming back,” said Richard Charter of Bodega Bay, a veteran anti-oil drilling activist. “Today’s been a miracle, big time.”

The House amendments would prevent the Secretary of Interior from spending any money on pre-leasing or leasing activities related to selling offshore drilling rights to energy developers.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9724004-181/house-approves-measures-that-would

Posted on Categories Air, Land Use, TransportationTags , , , ,

BoDean asphalt plant moving to Windsor, with aim to convert Santa Rosa site to housing

Will Schmidt, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The owners of a prominent asphalt plant in central Santa Rosa are planning to move their business to Windsor, laying the groundwork for affordable housing to replace an industrial operation that the owners acknowledge no longer fits into a neighborhood the city has targeted for dense residential development.

BoDean Co. founders Dean and Belinda “Bo” Soiland said their new, larger site in Windsor is better suited for continued industrial use than the current site south of West College Avenue, where the city has taken a stronger regulatory stance in recent years as complaints have mounted from neighbors.

Paperwork to build the new plant will be submitted to Windsor officials in July, Dean Soiland said. The Soilands had not finalized plans for their Santa Rosa property, though planning work there could proceed on a parallel track to development of the new Windsor plant.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9658672-181/bodean-asphalt-plant-moving-to

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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 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 Air, TransportationTags , , ,

Lawsuit launched to protect Sonoma County residents from airport lead pollution

Press Release, April 30, CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY

Environmental groups filed a formal notice today of their intent to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to protect northern Sonoma County residents from deadly airborne lead emitted by planes using local airports.

California has repeatedly submitted air-permitting rules for northern Sonoma County that failed to include emission standards for lead, a deadly neurotoxin. Under the Clean Air Act the EPA is required to develop air-quality plans when states submit deficient plans. The plans are designed to help states keep their air pollution below federal limits.

“The EPA needs to act expeditiously and develop new permitting rules that will protect our communities from the irreversible effects of lead poisoning,” said Caroline Cox, a senior scientist at the Center for Environmental Health. “Young children and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to lead exposure and deserve regulations that provide the highest protections available.”

Lead pollution is a serious problem in northern Sonoma County, where several local airports, including the Sea Ranch, Healdsburg Municipal and Cloverdale Municipal, service small piston-engine powered aircrafts typically used for corporate and private travel. Such planes use aviation gas, the only remaining type of gasoline containing lead. According to the EPA, the more than 167,000 piston-engine planes in operation are responsible for nearly half of all lead emissions nationwide.

“There’s no excuse for allowing small planes to continue to poison Sonoma County’s air,” said Robert Ukeiley, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The EPA needs to take immediate steps to reduce the dangerous threats posed by toxic lead.”

A 2011 Duke University study reported that as far back as 2010, EPA research showed that “the lead in air surrounding airports can be inhaled directly, or the lead may be ingested by children after it settles into soil or dust.”

The Duke study found that higher levels of lead were detected in North Carolina children living within half a mile of an airport where planes use leaded gas. The study concluded there was a “significant association” between leaded aviation fuel and higher blood lead levels in children.

Lead is a heavy metal that can persist in the environment indefinitely. Continuous exposure causes it to accumulate in the body’s organs and bones. Short-term exposure to lead can result in abdominal pain, constipation, fatigue, headaches, irritability, loss of appetite, memory loss, pain or tingling in the hands or feet and weakness. Long-term exposure can result in kidney and brain damage, hypertension, impairments to the immune and reproductive systems and even death.

Lead poisoning is also a threat to wildlife. Northern Sonoma County is home to endangered steelhead trout, as well as protected coho and Chinook salmon, which rely on the Russian River to spawn. The successful recovery and health of the Chinook salmon is critically important to Southern Resident killer whales, which depend almost exclusively on the fish as their food.

SOURCE: https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2019/sonoma-county-lead-pollution-04-30-2019.php

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

Greenhouse gas emissions accelerate like a ‘speeding freight train’ in 2018

Kendra Pierre-Louis, THE NEW YORK TIMES

Greenhouse gas emissions worldwide are growing at an accelerating pace this year, researchers said Wednesday, putting the world on track to face some of the most severe consequences of global warming sooner than expected.

Scientists described the quickening rate of carbon dioxide emissions in stark terms, comparing it to a “speeding freight train” and laying part of the blame on an unexpected surge in the appetite for oil as people around the world not only buy more cars but also drive them farther than in the past — more than offsetting any gains from the spread of electric vehicles.

“We’ve seen oil use go up five years in a row,” said Rob Jackson, a professor of earth system science at Stanford and an author of one of two studies published Wednesday. “That’s really surprising.”

Worldwide, carbon emissions are expected to increase by 2.7 percent in 2018, according to the new research, which was published by the Global Carbon Project, a group of 100 scientists from more than 50 academic and research institutions and one of the few organizations to comprehensively examine global emissions numbers. Emissions rose 1.6 percent last year, the researchers said, ending a three-year plateau.

Reducing carbon emissions is central to stopping global warming. Three years ago nearly 200 nations hammered out the Paris Agreement with a goal of holding warming below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (two degrees Celsius) over preindustrial levels.

Avoiding that threshold — already considered challenging — is viewed as a way to stave off some of the worst effects of climate change, like melting polar ice caps and rising sea levels. For the Paris goals to be met, scientists say, global emissions from power plants, factories, cars and trucks, as well as those from deforestation, would need to swiftly begin declining to zero.

Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/05/climate/greenhouse-gas-emissions-2018.html

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California counters Trump on car emissions standards, expands other climate rules

Tony Barboza, LOS ANGELES TIMES

In an escalation in the fight against climate change and the Trump administration, California regulators approved new measures to defend the state’s vehicle emissions standards and bolster rules to cut carbon pollution from transportation.

The state Air Resources Board voted Friday to require automakers to comply with California’s strict rules on car and truck pollution if they want to sell vehicles in the state. It’s California’s latest move against the Trump administration’s plan to freeze fuel economy targets and revoke California’s power to set its own standards. State officials said the counterstrike was necessary to close a potential loophole automakers could use to evade compliance with California’s more stringent rules.

“The health of our state, our nation and the globe are at stake, and that is a fight worth having,” said state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), who sits on the board.

The measure seeks to strengthen California’s footing as it fights to preserve its emissions rules, both in court and in negotiations with the White House. At the same time, the move brings the nation one step closer to having two different standards: One for California and the dozen other aligned states that account for one-third of the U.S. auto market, and another for the rest of the country.

During the board’s meeting in Sacramento, the 16-member panel also expanded a climate rule that reduces carbon pollution with tradeable credits that gasoline and diesel producers must purchase from producers of lower-carbon fuels, such as hydrogen and biodiesel. By further incentivizing those cleaner technologies, the low-carbon fuel standard is expected to cut the cost of a new electric vehicle by up to $2,000 while raising gas prices by up to 36 cents over the next 12 years.

Read more at http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-carbon-fuels-20180928-story.html

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

Sonoma Clean Power offers incentives for customers to ‘drive electric’

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma Clean Power says cars burning gasoline locally emit 11,247 pounds of greenhouse gases a year. An electric vehicle charged up by power from PG&E emits 1,586 pounds a year.

On the local power agency’s default service, which gets 45 percent of its power from renewables, an EV releases 793 pounds a year.

On the Evergreen service, which gets half its power from The Geysers geothermal field and half from a Petaluma solar facility, an EV emits just 208 pounds of greenhouse gases a year.
From Carbon footprint for electric vehicles far smaller with renewable power

Eleanor Butchart of Santa Rosa is the proud owner of a Mercedes-Benz B250e, the last letter meaning electric.

The white compact hatchback is “fun to drive,” she said, seats four to five adults comfortably and has plenty of curb appeal. “It looks like a normal car,” she said, rather than a radically stylized EV or hybrid.

What it lacks is a tank for gasoline, which currently costs $3.70 a gallon in Santa Rosa, up 77 cents from a year ago. Butchart is planning to install solar panels at her home, reducing the cost of recharging.

Like all other Mercedes, the B250e she bought last year wasn’t cheap, but the price was eased by a $2,000 incentive Butchart obtained from Sonoma Clean Power, the public electricity provider serving Sonoma and Mendocino counties, along with a $500 rebate from PG&E.

“It was a sweet deal all around,” Butchart said.

The good deals for electric vehicles will be back on the table starting today, when Sonoma Clean Power launches its third and final Drive EV program, offering its customers incentives of up to $4,000 for the lease or purchase of 25 models of electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars sold by six local dealers.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8575429-181/sonoma-clean-power-offers-incentives

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Global greenhouse gas emissions rise for the first time in 3 years

Emily Holbrook, ENERGY MANAGER TODAY

The International Energy Agency (IEA) announced today that greenhouse gas emissions rose 1.4% in 2017, marking the first rise in three years.

As the IEA points out, emissions have reached a historic high of 32.5 gigatonnes (Gt), a resumption of growth after three years of global emissions remaining flat. The increase in CO2emissions, however, was not universal. While most major economies saw a rise, some others experienced declines, including the United States, United Kingdom, Mexico and Japan. The biggest decline came from the United States, mainly because of higher deployment of renewables.

The report states, improvements in global energy efficiency slowed down in 2017. The rate of decline in global energy intensity, defined as the energy consumed per unit of economic output, slowed to only 1.6% in 2017, much lower than the 2.0% improvement seen in 2016.

The growth in global energy demand was concentrated in Asia, with China and India together representing more than 40% of the increase. Energy demand in all advanced economies contributed more than 20% of global energy demand growth, although their share in total energy use continued to fall. Notable growth was also registered in Southeast Asia (which accounted for 8% of global energy demand growth) and Africa (6%), although per capita energy use in these regions still remains well below the global average.

Read more at https://www.energymanagertoday.com/greenhouse-gas-emissions-rise-for-the-first-time-in-3-years-0175767/