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Hear local reports on the economy, government, education, health and the environment on Valley Public Radio during All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Valley Edition. 

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Government & Politics
10:39 am
Thu February 5, 2015

Atkins Wants New Vehicle Fee For Transportation Projects

The speaker of the California Assembly wants the state to put an extra $2 billion a year towards transportation projects. To pay for it, she wants to charge a new fee on every vehicle in the state. (file photo)
Credit Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

The speaker of the California Assembly wants the state to put an extra two billion dollars a year towards transportation projects. To pay for it, she wants to charge a new fee on every vehicle in the state.

Arnold Schwarzenegger rode voters’ anger over higher vehicle license fees to the governorship in the 2003 recall election.

Schwarzenegger in 2003: “I will immediately destroy the car tax!”

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Government & Politics
1:54 pm
Wed February 4, 2015

DMV Issues 57,000 "AB 60" Driver Licenses In First Month

file photo
Credit Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

It’s now been a month since California’s new law took effect that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain driver licenses. The Department of Motor Vehicles says issued nearly 60,000 such licenses in that first month.

57,000 undocumented Californians obtained driver licenses from January 2nd through the 30th. That means each applicant provided proof of identity and residency, and passed both the DMV’s written rules-of-the-road test and its behind-the-wheel exam.

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Environment
12:07 pm
Wed February 4, 2015

Research Project Will Help Scientists Understand Major California Storms

Forecasters with the National Weather Service are predicting that an "atmospheric river" will bring much needed rain to Northern California this weekend.
Credit National Weather Service - Hanford

 “Atmospheric rivers” play a huge role in determining California’s water supply. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, a team of scientists is launching state-of-the-art equipment by land and sea to study the storms.

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Environment
6:12 pm
Tue February 3, 2015

California's Drought Worsens Uranium Pollution In Valley Wells

File photo
Credit John Chacon / CA Dept of Water Resources

California’s drought isn't just causing wells to go dry, it's also contributing to a long running water pollution problem.

A new study by the U.S. Geological Survey looked at over 100 private domestic drinking water wells in the San Joaquin Valley. It found that around 1 in 4 had uranium levels above those considered safe by the EPA. Most of the wells were on the east side of the valley, which is home to sediment from the Sierra Nevada which naturally contains uranium.

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Government & Politics
11:52 am
Sat January 31, 2015

Independent Commission Calls For Big Changes In State Parks Department

In 2012 some state parks were faced with closures due to the state budget crisis.
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

An independent commission is calling for the “fundamental transformation” of California’s archaic State Parks system. That includes the creation of an outside organization to help raise money and coordinate volunteers. Ben Adler has more from Sacramento.

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Environment
11:43 am
Sat January 31, 2015

January Snow Survey In California "Dismally Meager"

file photo
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The California Department of Water Resources says the state’s snowpack is “dismally meager.” As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, a lack of snow in the Sierra is keeping rivers low and drying up some reservoirs. 

While December storms brought some hope that California’s drought would ease, January’s second snow survey shattered it. 

Dave Rizzardo: “Unfortunately it seems like it’s a trend in the last three or four years, that’s January’s just been a dud.”

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Health Care
6:08 pm
Tue January 27, 2015

California Lawmakers Introduce 'End-of-Life Option" Act

Credit Photo used under Creative Commons from Andy Patterson / Modern Relics / http://www.flickr.com/photos/modernrelics/4461010654/

California lawmakers say public opinion has changed since the last time “right to die” legislation has been proposed in the state. That may explain why a group of Democratic lawmakers has introduced the “End of Life Option Act.” As Capital Public Radio’s Health Care Reporter Pauline Bartolone explains, the measure is modeled after a similar law in Oregon.

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Environment
5:59 pm
Tue January 27, 2015

Wildlife Agencies See Near Collapse Of 2014 Salmon Species

Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

California and federal wildlife agencies say the entire winter-run of naturally-spawning Chinook salmon may have collapsed in 2014. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the agencies will begin releasing triple the number of hatchery-raised juveniles next week.

High water temperatures in the Sacramento River last summer and fall caused 95-percent of winter-run salmon egg and fry to die.

Maria Rea: “I think this is really unprecedented really that we’ve seen this level of temperature mortality.”

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Education
1:20 pm
Tue January 27, 2015

"Talk, Read, Sing" Campaign Aims To Help Close The "Word Gap"

According to researchers at Rice University, children from high income families will experience hearing 30 million more words by age four than children of low income families. That’s from parents or others just reading or talking to young children, just describing the world around them. Researchers say this so-called “word gap” has big implications for brain development, educational achievement and long-term success.

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Music
12:47 pm
Tue January 27, 2015

Where Does The "Bakersfield Sound" Go From Here?

Credit nickchapman / Flickr - Creative Commons

Detroit has Motown, Seattle has grunge, and San Francisco has psychedelic rock. Just three examples of American cities where unique musical styles developed and thrived, gaining international attention and helping to define the very image and sound of those places.

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Environment
4:43 pm
Fri January 23, 2015

Study: California Pesticde Assements Thorough, Slow

A strawberry field in California (file photo)
Credit Department of Pesticide Regulation - Facebook

The National Academy of Sciences released a report today on how the California Department of Pesticide Regulation assesses the safety of pesticides. It found that DPR assessments are thorough, but not very timely. It typically takes six to ten years. 

The report also says DPR needs to create a clearer process for ranking the hazard of pesticides and identifying which pesticides should take priority. Paul Tower with the Pesticide Action Network says the report confirms concerns the group has raised over the years.

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Agriculture
4:36 pm
Fri January 23, 2015

Robots Could Be Headed To Central Valley Farms

Research at UC Davis includes using fluorescent seedlings that will help a robotic cultivator target weeds.
Credit Steve Fennimore / UC Davis

Robots may soon be pulling weeds on Central Valley farms. At UC Davis researchers have received  $2.7 million dollars from the USDA to study how new technology could replace field labor. 

Automated devices pick cotton. Machines shake nut trees. But, there are a three tasks  for which farmers rely solely on humans. 

David Slaughter: "These include hand weeding, thinning and harvesting."

David Slaughter is the lead researcher working on robotic cultivators. 

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Government & Politics
7:16 pm
Thu January 22, 2015

Falling Oil Prices Could Deliver $61 Million Hit To Kern County Budget

Kern County Administrative Building (file photo)
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Falling oil prices could deliver a big hit to the Kern County general fund. The Board of Supervisors will consider a staff proposal to declare a fiscal emergency at its meeting next week. County property tax dollars are heavily dependent on the price of oil. 

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Government & Politics
6:10 pm
Thu January 22, 2015

Central Valley Anti-Union Farm Workers Protest In Sacramento

A group of Central Valley anti-union farm workers visited the state capitol Thursday to protest against the Agricultural Labor Relations Board and the United Farm Workers. The group says they're forcing them into a union contract.
Credit Diana Aguilera / Valley Public Radio

Central Valley farm workers rallied today in Sacramento against what they say is a violation of their rights.

About 20 anti-union farm workers showed up at the state capitol protesting against the Agricultural Labor Relations Board and the United Farm Workers. The group says the union and the ALRB are denying employees of Fresno-based Gerawan Farming their rights by forcing them into a union contract. 

In 2013, company employees held a union decertification election, but the votes have yet to be counted after allegations the company interfered with the process.

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Agriculture
5:17 pm
Thu January 22, 2015

California Farmers Turn Sugar Beets Into Energy

Mendota Bioenergy aims to turn sugar beets into biofuel.
Credit Mendota Bioenergy

Struggling sugar beet farmers in the San Joaquin Valley are turning their crop into energy instead of sweetner. A pilot plant could prove to be good for the environment and the economy. 

They're called "energy beets." They look like a red table beet but, but they're larger, white, and very high in sucrose. Sugar beets in California date back to the late 1800's.

Kaffka: "Beets have been grown here commercially longer than any other place."

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Government & Politics
6:24 pm
Wed January 21, 2015

Brown's Budget Gives State Parks System One Year To Turn Around

Third- and fourth-graders from nearby David Lubin Elementary School - and some of their parents - participate in Sutter's Fort State Historic Park's Environmental Living Program.
Credit Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

California’s state parks system has faced a rough few years: Deep cuts during the recession, and a financial scandal that rocked the department. Now, a state commission is just days away from releasing a report that demands the department modernize itself – and Governor Jerry Brown’s new budget proposes only enough money to buy the parks system a year to turn itself around. Capital Public Radio’s Ben Adler reports from Sacramento.

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Environment
5:26 pm
Wed January 21, 2015

New Grant Aims To Help Save Valley's Tricolored Blackbird

A Tricolored Blackbird (file photo)
Credit Linda Pittman / Audubon California

A federal grant announced today could give California dairy farmers incentive to help save the Tricolored Blackbird. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the population of the bird has plummeted in the last four years.

California’s Tricolored Blackbirds are found mainly in the southern San Joaquin Valley and often nest in fields where dairy farmers grow feed. Come harvest time, nestlings are often plowed under. That, combined with wetland loss and drought, has led to a population decline of 44 percent since 2011.

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Environment
7:30 pm
Tue January 20, 2015

California Air Regulators Eye Methane Emissions From Oil, Ag

file photo
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

California's air regulators are increasingly turning their attention to a greenhouse gas that has largely gone overlooked - methane. 

According to the U.S. EPA, when it comes to climate change, methane emissions have an impact 20 times greater than CO2 emissions, pound for pound.

That's why Governor Jerry Brown singled out the gas during his inaugural address this month as part of his plan to combat climate change. 

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Environment
6:05 pm
Wed January 14, 2015

California Tightens Rules On Popular Pesticide For Strawberries, Almonds

file photo
Credit Department of Pesticide Regulation - Facebook

California has announced stringent new rules on a common pesticide used in the production of strawberries, almonds, tomatoes, and peppers.

Chloropicrin is a fumigant that is used to treat the soil before crops are planted. The new rules are more stringent than those adopted by the U.S. EPA in 2012.

Under the new regulations from the state’s Department of Pesticide Regulation, farmers will be required to provide larger buffer zones when applying the chemical, and will be required to reduce the size of fields where it is applied.

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Fracking
5:32 pm
Wed January 14, 2015

Independent Scientific Study On Fracking In California Released

The oil extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing is much different in California than in other states. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, that’s the finding of the first independent scientific assessment required under the state’s new fracking regulations.

California has shallow, vertical fracking wells that require about 140,000 gallons of water per well to extract oil. That’s millions of gallons less than other states. But the fluids contain more concentrated chemicals.

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