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
Paul Rogers, SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS
San Francisco Bay is contaminated with widespread pollution from billions of tiny pieces of plastic in greater concentrations than the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay and other major U.S. bodies of water, according to a groundbreaking new study.
At least 3.9 million pieces of plastic pour into the bay every day from eight large sewage treatment plants — a relentless torrent of litter that ranges from tiny “microbeads” found in cosmetics, facial scrubs and toothpastes, to bits of synthetic fabric from fleece jackets, pants and other clothes, which break down as they are washed.
“We’re concerned about these high levels. This was unexpected,” said Rebecca Sutton, a senior scientist at the San Francisco Estuary Institute, a nonprofit research center based in Richmond.
Microplastic poses a growing concern in oceans and other aquatic habitat. Not only does the plastic contaminate the bay and wildlife, experts say, it is also working its way up the food chain, binding to chemicals in the water and posing a potential health risk to people eating fish caught in the bay.
In the study, the first of its kind to broadly document pollution from “microplastic” in the bay, researchers dragged tight-meshed nets along the surface of the water in nine areas of the bay, from Oakland and Treasure Island to locations near San Jose. They found on average 1 million pieces of tiny plastic per square kilometer — an area of about 250 acres — at the water’s surface or a few inches below it in the South Bay, a concentration nine times higher than levels of similar plastics found in Lake Erie.
Further north, off Oakland and San Francisco, they found 310,000 pieces per square kilometer, still double the highest levels in Chesapeake Bay and triple the levels in Lake Erie, the most polluted of the Great Lakes.
Sutton, a lead author of the study who has a doctorate in environmental chemistry from UC Berkeley, said that researchers also accidentally captured nine small fish while taking their water samples. Inside each fish they found an average of six pieces of plastic.
Other scientific studies have found that tiny pieces of plastic in the world’s oceans and water bodies, sometimes so dense that they outnumber plankton, can absorb contaminants such as pesticides and PCBs, which accumulate in fish when they mistake the plastic for food. The small fish are then eaten by larger fish. And people who eat the affected fish can be exposed to the chemicals when they consume the plastic.
Read more at: Plastic pollution: Billions of pieces of tiny plastic litter found in San Francisco Bay – San Jose Mercury News
Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
State Sen. Mike McGuire said Friday he will try again next year to pass an offshore oil drilling prohibition that failed twice in Sacramento in the face of pressure from oil industry lobbyists.
“Big Oil may have the money, but ultimately the people of California will win the fight to protect our coast,” said McGuire, a Healdsburg Democrat whose North Coast district covers 40 percent of the state’s 840-mile coast.
As evidence that public sentiment is on his side, McGuire cited a Public Policy Institute of California poll in July that found 56 percent of residents oppose offshore oil drilling, the same percentage that opposes fracking.McGuire’s bill, titled the California Coastal Protection Act of 2015, would have repealed an arcane loophole in state law that could allow new offshore oil and gas development in state waters, which extend out three miles from shore.
The bill, approved by the Senate on a 23-14 vote in June, died Thursday in an Assembly committee without a vote.The Western States Petroleum Association, which has plowed $50 million into lobbying state lawmakers and regulators in the last decade, publicly opposed it, and oil industry opposition was cited in the Assembly’s rejection of a similar measure last year.
Read more at: Mike McGuire’s bill on offshore oil drilling stalls | The Press Democrat
Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Environmentalists are applauding North Coast Sen. Mike McGuire’s move to close an arcane loophole in a 21-year-old state law that could allow new offshore oil development, exposing the beaches and the economy of California’s 840-mile coast to what he called the “devastating impacts” of an offshore oil spill.
McGuire’s bill, titled the California Coastal Protection Act of 2015, had 10 co-authors — including the four other state legislators representing Sonoma County — and support from about two dozen environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund and Union of Concerned Scientists.
“New offshore oil leases are a real possibility in California,” said McGuire, a freshman Democrat from Healdsburg. The oil industry’s attention in recent years has focused on the Tranquillon Ridge off the Santa Barbara County coast, he said.
A devastating oil spill, on par with the 1969 spill in Santa Barbara, would jeopardize the coast’s $40 billion contribution to the state economy, including nearly 500,000 jobs, and could trigger a slight recession in California, he said.
“It’s unconscionable to think that there is a loophole that could lead to additional drilling in state water,” McGuire said. “It poses too great a risk.”
Citing that risk, the state lawmakers enacted the California Coastal Sanctuary Act of 1994, intent on banning oil and gas development in state waters, which extend out to 3 miles from shore. But a provision of that law — deemed a loophole by critics — allows new energy leases if officials determine that state oil or gas deposits are being “drained” by wells in adjacent federal waters.
Read more via: Mike McGuire bill seeks to close coastal drilling | The Press Democrat
Editorial: LOS ANGELES TIMES
Reducing air pollution, conserving water, combating climate change and preserving open space all require sacrifice, and in many cases they also require battles with entrenched industries whose interests are at odds with environmental goals. If Californians can’t manage to ban single-use plastic bags — taking on the industry that manufactures them and accepting the minor inconvenience involved — it doesn’t speak well of the state’s ability to confront the bigger environmental challenges that lie ahead.
Readers may be forgiven for believing that this issue has already been addressed: A statewide plastic-bag ban passed last year was set to take effect this July. But by spending more than $3 million, the bag manufacturers have managed to have that law put on hold — and have placed a new measure on the November 2016 ballot to reverse it.
No surprise there; pay enough signature-gatherers and almost anything can be placed before voters. In future months, voters can expect an onslaught of advertising aimed at persuading them that the plastic-bag ban is a tax — which it’s not — and that the industry would face massive job losses without the bags. It won’t.
In future months, voters can expect an onslaught of advertising aimed at persuading them that the industry would face massive job losses without the bags. It won’t.
Voters must remember the reasons for banning the bags. Before any municipal bans were in place, the bags were ubiquitous, creating tens of thousands of tons of trash each year in this state alone. They’re still the second most-common form of garbage on our beaches, and from there — and through our storm drains — they find their way into the ocean, into the stomachs of marine animals and into giant patches of soupy, plastic garbage. Only 5% of the bags are recycled.
Read more via Californians must show their resolve on plastic-bag ban – LA Times.