Rosanna Xia, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES
It took years of activist campaigns to turn the plastic bag into a villain, and hard-fought legislation to reduce its presence in oceans and waterways. Now, environmentalists and lawmakers are deploying similar tactics against a new generation of plastic pollutants.
There are drinking straws, which as a viral video shows can get stuck in a sea turtle’s nose. The hundreds of thousands of bottle caps that wind up on beaches. And the microfibers that wash off polyester clothes, making their way into the ocean, the stomachs of marine life and ultimately our seafood.
Each is the subject of statewide legislation under debate in Sacramento, as California again considers new environmental law that’s at once pioneering and controversial.
Their action comes as plastic takes center stage as the environmental concern du jour.
There could be more plastic by weight than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050, according to a widely cited World Economic Forum report. A recent UC Davis study sampled seafood sold at local markets in Half Moon Bay and found that one-quarter of fish and one-third of shellfish contained plastic debris.
Read more at http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-california-plastic-pollution-20180528-story.html
Livia Albeck-Ripka, THE NEW YORK TIMES
In the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii, hundreds of miles from any major city, plastic bottles, children’s toys, broken electronics, abandoned fishing nets and millions more fragments of debris are floating in the water — at least 87,000 tons’ worth, researchers said Thursday.
In recent years, this notorious mess has become known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a swirling oceanic graveyard where everyday objects get deposited by the currents. The plastics eventually disintegrate into tiny particles that often get eaten by fish and may ultimately enter our food chain.
A study published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports quantified the full extent of the so-called garbage patch: It is four to 16 times bigger than previously thought, occupying an area roughly four times the size of California and comprising an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of rubbish. While the patch was once thought to be more akin to a soup of nearly invisible microplastics, scientists now think most of the trash consists of larger pieces. And, they say, it is growing “exponentially.”
“It’s just quite alarming, because you are so far from the mainland,” said Laurent Lebreton, the lead author of the study and an oceanographer with the Ocean Cleanup Foundation, a nonprofit that is developing systems to remove ocean trash and which funded the study. “There’s no one around and you still see those common objects, like crates and bottles.”
Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/22/climate/great-pacific-garbage-patch.html
Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
To attend the protest, take the bus!
A throng of protesters, including state lawmakers and North Coast activists, is expected to rally in Sacramento preceding the Trump administration’s only California public meeting on a controversial offshore oil drilling plan covering most of the nation’s coastal waters.
State Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, said he expects more than 1,000 people to attend the anti-drilling rally at 1:30 p.m. Thursday on the north steps of the Capitol Building. The demonstration is sponsored by a coalition called Protect the Pacific.
Senate Democrats Scott Wiener of San Francisco, Henry Stern of Canoga Park and Assembly Democrats Jim Wood of Healdsburg and Monique Limon of Santa Barbara and Republican Brian Maienschein of San Diego plan to attend.
Following the rally, participants will march three blocks to the location of a Bureau of Ocean Management public meeting on the offshore oil drilling plan released last month by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. It ignited complaints from federal, state and local officials on both coasts and across the nation.
The meeting runs from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria, 828 I St.
Zinke’s plan calls for 47 potential sales of oil drilling rights from 2019 to 2024, with six along the California coast, where energy development has faced bipartisan opposition since the Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969.
Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/7941235-181/oil-drilling-protest-in-sacramento
Olga R. Rodriguez, ASSOCIATED PRESS
An environmental group sued the state of California on Tuesday for allegedly not doing enough to keep Dungeness crab fishery gear from killing protected whales.
The Center for Biological Diversity filed its lawsuit in federal court in San Francisco, saying the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is liable for a surge in entanglements of endangered whales and sea turtles because it authorizes and manages operation of the fishery.
California should put in place more mandatory protection measures, such as blocking fishing operations from especially important waters for whales, restricting the amount of gear in whale hotspots and reducing the amount of rope running through the water, the center said.
Read more at: Environmental group sues California over whale-killing gear | The Tribune
Amie Windsor, SONOMA WEST TIMES & NEWS
In a move pitting itself against the federal government, the California State Senate passed a resolution on Friday, May 5 opposing President Donald Trump’s “America First Offshore Energy Strategy” executive order.
The President’s executive order directs U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to explore offshore drilling options throughout the coastal United States. Zinke already began implementing Trump’s executive order on Monday, May 1 by initiating development on a five-year plan for oil and gas exploration in offshore waters, including California’s Sonoma County coast.
The orders received harsh criticism and backlash in California government, big and small, including from Senator Mike McGuire and Sonoma County Fifth District Supervisor Lynda Hopkins. Senator McGuire represents almost 40 percent of the state’s coastline from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border, including all 55 miles of Sonoma County coastline.
“The ocean is part of our life and livelihood on the North Coast,” said Senator Mike McGuire. “I grew up going to the coast with my mom. It’s truly a world wonder.”
On Facebook, Hopkins expressed her concern. “I’m honored to represent 55 miles of beautiful coastline … with no offshore oil rigs … and I’m ready to fight to keep it that way,” Hopkins wrote on Thursday, April 27.
In response to the President’s executive order, McGuire coauthored Senate Resolution 35 (SR-35), which states that California, “strongly and unequivocally supports the current federal prohibition on new oil or gas drilling in federal waters offshore California, opposes attempts to modify the prohibition and will consider any appropriate actions to maintain the prohibition.”
According to the resolution, there has been no new offshore oil and gas drilling in California since the Jan. 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill that spewed roughly 3 million gallons of crude oil into the ocean and created a 35-mile long oil slick along the coastline.
Read more at: Offshore drilling off the Sonoma Coast? | News | sonomawest.com
Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
President Donald Trump has doubled down on his call for greater U.S. fossil fuel production, setting the stage Friday for expanded offshore oil drilling and potentially rolling back the North Coast’s sole defense against the prospect of oil rigs dotting the scenic shoreline.
The 30th executive order signed by the president in his first 99 days in office called for leasing of oil drilling tracts “to the maximum extent permitted by law,” accompanied by Trump’s verbal pledge that it would create thousands of high-paying jobs and make the nation more secure.
“This is a great day for American workers and families,” Trump said at a White House ceremony.
Veterans of the decadeslong push to ban oil drilling on California coast, however, said the order amounted to the clearest threat of new drilling since Congress banned new offshore extraction in 1982.
The state’s top Democrats, including Gov. Jerry Brown, blasted Trump’s action. Sen. Dianne Feinstein called the order “reckless and unnecessary.”
“It’s frightening that something we thought was secure and safe could be undone,” said Lynn Woolsey, the former North Coast congresswoman from Petaluma who worked for expansion of two national marine sanctuaries for most of her 20-year career on the Hill. She saw it finally accomplished three years after she retired in 2012.
Read more at: Trump’s offshore oil plan promises jobs, provokes California protest | The Press Democrat
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
Paul Rogers, THE SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS
Imploring President Barack Obama to leave a landmark environmental legacy, Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday asked the president to permanently ban all new offshore oil and gas drilling in federal waters off California’s coast before he leaves office next month.
“California is blessed with hundreds of miles of spectacular coastline; home to scenic state parks, beautiful beaches, abundant wildlife and thriving communities,” Brown wrote in a letter to Obama. “Clearly, large new oil and gas reserves would be inconsistent with our overriding imperative to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and combat the devastating impacts of climate change.”
Tuesday marked the first time that Brown has asked Obama for such a sweeping ban. In recent weeks, environmental groups and Democratic members of Congress, including California’s two U.S. senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, also have urged the president to protect the state’s coast by taking advantage of a 63-year-old federal law that has never been used so broadly.
The movement has gained increasing urgency among opponents of offshore drilling given President-elect Donald Trump’s recent decisions to nominate oil industry officials and Republicans sympathetic with the oil industry to key positions after he takes office Jan. 20.
On Tuesday, Trump chose Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as his nominee for secretary of state, amid reports he has settled on former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, an enthusiastic supporter of more drilling, to be his energy secretary. Previously, Trump nominated Scott Pruitt, the attorney general of Oklahoma, to run the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt also has supported more oil and gas production and is skeptical of the scientific consensus that the climate is warming in part because of the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas.
“We’ve never seen a cabinet so full of oil industry shills,” said veteran coastal activist Richard Charter of Bodega Bay, a senior fellow with the Ocean Foundation. “These people are going to drill anything that’s not nailed down. There are no checks and balances left. Taking the California coast off the table right now would be a very smart move.”
Read more at: Offshore Oil: Brown asks Obama for a permanent ban on new drilling off California
Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The rising number of whales that become entangled in lost or abandoned crab pots off the western United States has spurred a new state bill aimed at ensuring hundreds, even thousands of crab traps that are left behind each year get recovered from the ocean.
Authored by state Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, the Whale Protection and Gear Retrieval Act would establish a fee-based regulatory system under which commercial crabbers could be paid to recover lost gear from the water, while owners would pay to reclaim it — or risk losing their crab permit — ensuring funding of the program for the coming year.
The system is modeled after a pilot program that has resulted in collection of about 1,000 crab pots and attached ropes over the past two years from coastal waters between Half Moon Bay and the Oregon border, McGuire said, though many of the details would be worked out at a later date.It was the commercial industry, through representatives on the California Dungeness Crab Task Force, that moved to make the program permanent, McGuire and others said.
“It’s basic accountability, is what it is: Take care of your equipment,” said Bodega Bay fisherman Dick Ogg, who took part in the pilot program this year, retrieving dozens of pots from the shoreline of the North Coast.
Read more at: To save whales, Sen. McGuire promotes program to recover entangling crabbing gear | The Press Democrat
Paul Pestano, ENVIRONMENTAL WORKING GROUP
New evidence shows that a sunscreen ingredient EWG has long urged people to avoid is damaging to coral reefs. A study published October 20 in the journal Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology found that even a tiny amount of oxybenzone, a common ingredient meant to block harmful ultraviolet radiation, can harm or kill corals by damaging the DNA in both mature and larval coral organisms.
Oxybenzone has also been shown to cause skin allergies in people and linked to hormone disruption based on animal studies. Despite these concerns, it is still widely used by sunscreen manufacturers. In EWG’s 2015 Guide to Sunscreens, about half the products on the market used this ingredient.
Another report published in the journal Environment International earlier this year highlighted the expected growth of coastal tourism. In light of this surge and the associated increase in sunscreen use, the new findings linking oxybenzone to coral degradation is even more disturbing.
With temperatures falling, we’re definitely not hitting the beach and slathering on sunscreen quite as much as a couple months ago, unless we’re heading south to warmer climates. However, oxybenzone is also in many daily-wear moisturizing products with SPF (sun protection factor) ratings. Whenever we take a shower or wash off these products, oxybenzone enters the wastewater stream and, ultimately, the oceans.
Given the potential environmental and health hazards associated with this ingredient (and many others used in personal care products), it’s important for consumers to read product labels carefully and avoid worrisome ingredients such as oxybenzone.
When you’re shopping for sun protection products, use EWG’s Guide to Sunscreens to find safer and more effective sunscreens and SPF moisturizers. Opt for products with mineral active ingredients, such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, and practice other sun-safety measures, such as staying in the shade, avoiding sun exposure during peak hours and wearing protective clothing.
Source: Sunscreen Ingredient is Toxic to Coral Reefs | EWG