Environment

Environment
3:45 pm
Mon October 8, 2012

Early Switch to Winter Blend Fuel Unlikely To Harm Air Quality

The California Air Resources Board says refineries can begin producing and selling winter-blend gasoline.

The blend is usually not sold until October 31st because it’s a more volatile compound and its quick evaporation can harm air quality during hot weather.

But Governor Jerry Brown requested the early switch because of the recent gas price spikes. 

The Board’s Dave Cleggern says with the cooler weather he doubts it will have any negative environmental effect.

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Environment
8:31 am
Thu October 4, 2012

Cal Fire: Wildfire Danger Still High

The Bear Fire burns in the Sierra National Forest in August, 2012
Credit Sierra National Forest

The hot weather is expected to end throughout most of California on Thursday, with cooler temperatures in the forecast. But with no significant rainfall in sight, state officials warn of continued fire danger.

So far this year, Cal Fire crews have responded to more than 5,300 wildfires. That’s nearly 20% more than average. And state officials say the threat of new fires isn’t over.

“Even though the calendar says ‘October’ fire danger level is high. We want people to be prepared.”

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Environment
5:35 pm
Tue September 25, 2012

Governor Brown Signs Environmental Bills

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

California Governor Jerry Brown signed a number of bills Tuesday that he says are designed to help the environment and improve state parks.

The Governor signed two bills that will keep state parks open and improve their management. One of them places a two-year moratorium on any park closure. It designates 30 million dollars to prevent parks from closing, to match private and local donations, and for park maintenance.

Another bill requires the state parks department to create a plan to generate revenues and calls for tighter accounting practices.

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Environment
5:09 pm
Fri September 14, 2012

New Study Examines How Delta Ecosystem Once Worked

Top, Consumnes River delta. Bottom, Sycamore Slough (south of Woodbridge Road). Both November 8, 2011. (photos by William G. Miller, Cole~Miller Photography)
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Historical Ecology Study San Francisco Estuary Institute-Aquatic Science Center / California Department of Fish and Game

A new study released this week by the San Francisco Estuary Institute and the California Department of Fish and Game aims to turn back the clock and learn how the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta used to work - over 150 years ago.

It's part of an effort to allow scientists to better understand how to restore the Delta, by examining how the massive freshwater estuary functioned, before the gold rush and agriculture transformed the region with levees, shipping channels and dredging. 

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Environment
9:35 am
Wed September 12, 2012

California Governor Jerry Brown Signs Timber Tax Bill

Credit Licensed using Creative Commons from Flickr user CHRISTOPHER MACSURAK / http://www.flickr.com/photos/macsurak/6195650749/

California Governor Jerry Brown has signed legislation that imposes a 1-percent tax on lumber products starting in January. The bill also protects the timber industry from excessive legal damages for wildfires.

The bill had strong backing from the California timber industry for several reasons. It eliminates regulatory fees companies currently pay when harvesting and shifts the costs to consumers through the tax. It also limits legal damages landowners pay for starting wildfires.

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Environment
7:03 am
Thu September 6, 2012

Dry Lightning Sparks Increased Fire Danger

The weather forecast for Northern and Central California over the next few days has state fire fighters on high alert.
 
CalFIRE’s Daniel Berlant says thunderstorms and strong winds could lead to dry lightning.
 
"When we get lightning-sparked fires, there can be dozens – even sometimes hundreds – of fires spread out through a large area.  That always is a challenge for us, because that means additional resources are needed.” 
 

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Energy
6:52 am
Thu September 6, 2012

Solar Sets Records for Power Production in California

The operator of California’s power grid says a single-day record amount of energy was harvested from the sun not once, but twice in the past month.  

The California Independent System Operator (Cal ISO)  reports solar production exceeded the one-gigawatt plateau twice in August.  Stephanie McCorkle with Cal ISO says higher production coincides with decreasing costs.

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Environment
11:43 am
Wed September 5, 2012

State Works to Balance Renewable Energy Projects and Protecting Endangered Species

Eletricity generating windmills dot the landscape near Tehachapi, CA.
Licensed under Creative Commons from Flickr user moominsean http://www.flickr.com/photos/sjrohde/7389804696/

California is working on a plan to balance goals of developing renewable energy projects on desert lands and protect the endangered species that live there. Californians can weigh in at a public meeting on Wednesday

Remote desert areas may seem like the perfect place for wind and solar energy projects. But some projects have already stalled because they threaten endangered species such as the desert tortoise or bighorn sheep.

The state and the federal government are working on a plan to balance those two goals.

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Environment
11:29 am
Fri August 31, 2012

California Tests Cap and Trade System

California officials are ramping up for the greenhouse gas emissions cap-and-trade market this November, where companies will be required to pay for their pollution. The state held a trial auction to test the new system for selling carbon credits on Thursday.

The main goal of the test run is to make sure the software works smoothly and prevents attempts to game the bidding system, according to, Stanley Young who is with the California Air Resources Board.

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10:53 am
Thu August 30, 2012

Rotary Donates Water Filters to Monson Residents

Many rural Tulare County residents can't drink water from their wells due to nitrate pollution. But now a group of Visalia Rotarians are working to change that, by donating $15,000 worth of reverse-osmosis filters to residents in the small community of Monson.
Although Monson residents each have their own well, none of them can safely drink from them because of high nitrate levels. Guadalupe Perez cannot drink her water or cook with it, she said. Like many residents, she purchases her drinking water in Orosi a few miles away. But that is about to change.
Environment
11:21 am
Wed August 29, 2012

Effort to Approve Mine on Jesse Morrow Mountain Falls Short

Jesse Morrow Mountain
Joe Moore Valley Public Radio

Plans for a controversial aggregate mine on Jesse Morrow Mountain east of Sanger have stalled after the Fresno County Board of Supervisors failed to approve the project after a marathon meeting Tuesday night. The supervisors were being asked to reverse a decision by the Fresno County Planning Commission, which rejected the project in May. 

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Environment
6:44 pm
Thu August 23, 2012

Overhaul of Environmental Law Dead for the Year

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

A last-minute effort at the State Capitol to overhaul California’s complex environmental review process for development projects is dead for the year. A big push from business and labor groups to reform the law came to an abrupt halt today.

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Environment
4:08 pm
Wed August 15, 2012

Capitol Rally For Valley Air Tackles Fracking, CEQA Reforms

Around 40 environmental and public health activists from the San Joaquin Valley staged a rally today at the state capitol, pushing for a wide range of regulatory and legislative actions that they claim will improve air quality in the San Joaquin Valley.

The Central Valley Air Quality Coalition traveled to Sacramento to gather public support and to meet with legislators on a number of environmental issues. The group is asking the legislature to fund more air quality monitors in the Valley and in the Sierra, as well as to restore a monitoring site in Arvin that had been moved.

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Environment
4:09 pm
Tue August 14, 2012

Environmental Groups File Suit Over Water Contamination

A map shows water wells in the state that indicated the presence of chromium 6, from 2000-2012.
State Water Resources Control Board

Two major environmental groups have filed suit against the California State Department of Public Health for what they call a failure by the state to set rules for the safe amount of a toxic chemical in drinking water. Hexavalent chromium, also known as chromium-6, gained widespread attention as the chemical that sickened residents in the film Erin Brockovich. 

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Food
9:53 am
Mon August 13, 2012

GMO Food Labeling Initiative Could Affect Natural Foods Too

California’s Proposition 37 would require foods containing genetically modified ingredients to be labeled. But a part of the initiative regarding what foods can be labeled "natural" has sparked controversy.

The fuss is over the language that supporters say aims to ban genetically engineered foods from being labeled "natural."

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9:40 am
Mon August 13, 2012

Easton Residents Struggle With Polluted Water Wells

Residents in the Fresno County town of Easton get their water from backyard wells. But many of those wells recently tested above the official limit for certain toxins. It's just the latest case of rural San Joaquin Valley residents struggling to find safe water to drink. Dan Morain of the Sacramento Bee reports.
In the village of Easton, where summer temperatures regularly reach beyond 100 degrees, some lawns are unusually green for this time of year, and people think twice before drinking from the tap. Teresa Ruiz runs an accounting business in a sun-bleached office building on the main street, and her mom, Stella Ruiz, counsels workers about immigration issues, accepting produce gleaned from the fields as partial payment.
Energy
12:49 pm
Fri August 10, 2012

Cal ISO Calls Statewide Flex Alert For This Weekend

file photo
Joe Moore Valley Public Radio

People use more energy when it’s hot, and California’s power grid operator has issued a Flex Alert because of the current heat wave.

Cal-ISO is the state’s Independent System Operator. When the forecast for demand gets close to the state’s power generating capacity, the operator calls a Flex Alert. Stephanie McCorkle with Cal-ISO says it’s most important to conserve during the peak usage hours between 11:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.

"Electricity is not something you can bottle up and store on a shelf. It is basically consumed the instant it is produced.”

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Forest Fires
8:01 pm
Thu August 9, 2012

Lightning Caused Fires Continue to Burn in Mountains

The Bear Fire continues to burn in the rugged Sierra National Forest east of Fresno.
Sierra National Forest

Fires sparked by lightning on Saturday  continue to burn today in rugged terrain in the Sierra Nevada mountains, nearly a week after they began. In the Sierra National Forest east of Fresno the Bear Fire has consumed over 700 acres of timber between Edison and Florence Lake.

Ten smoke jumpers, four helicopters and four fixed wing aircraft are battling the blaze, which is in terrain ranging from 7,500 to 9,000 feet in elevation. The fire is currently 50 percent contained. No structures are threatened. 

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Environment
4:45 pm
Thu August 9, 2012

Planning Commission Approves Carmelita Mining Project

A photo from the environmental impact report for the proposed Carmelita Project mine depicts the orchards currently on the site.
Fresno County Dept Public Works & Planning / Librun Corp

The Fresno County Planning Commission approved a controversial proposal for a gravel mining project near the Kings River north of Reedley today on a 6-1 vote.

The Carmelita Project is a planned 886 acre gravel mine between Reed Avenue and the Kings River.  The project will be divided into 22 mining "cells" each of them 40 acres in size and up to 50 feet deep. Over the next 100 years, the mine will produce as much as 1.25 million tons of sand and rock each year. The land is owned by Fresno based Gerawan Farming, and is currently home to fruit orchards.

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Fish & Game
6:53 pm
Wed August 8, 2012

California's Top Wildlife Official Replaced After Cougar Killing

California’s top wildlife official lost that job today seven months after he shot a mountain lion in Idaho. As KPCC’s Julie Small reports, the state Fish and Game Commission voted him out of office.

It wasn’t illegal for commission president Dan Richards to kill the cougar, or to pose with his prey for a photograph that later circulated online.

California banned mountain lion hunts decades ago - but Idaho and many other states allow them.

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