Environment

News about energy and the environment

Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

More than 600 communities in California rely on contaminated groundwater. Nowhere is the problem more acute than in the Tulare Lake Basin and the Salinas Valley.  It’s estimated that a quarter of a million people there rely on groundwater contaminated with nitrates, including some of the poorest people in the state. In the first of two stories, Amy Quinton reports on how one community struggles to deal with the problem. 

Valley Public Radio

Environmental groups have begun a lobbying campaign to stop California Governor Jerry Brown’s budget proposal to divert money from the cap-and-trade program.

Environmentalists say money from the sale of carbon pollution permits is supposed to go to programs that help further reduce emissions. Brown wants to borrow $500 million for the general fund.

Vien Truong with the Greenlining Institute says environmental advocates are angry. She says that money could be used for clean air programs in low-income communities.

http://earthengine.google.org/timelapse

A new timelapse tool released this month by Google provides Fresno residents with a stark reminder of just how quickly much of the city's nearby agriculture land has been replaced by homes, shopping centers and freeways. 

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

It’s hard to go anywhere in California without seeing a little signs warning about potentially hazardous chemicals. Now Governor Jerry Brown wants to give those signs an update. Katie Orr reports from Sacramento.

Proposition 65 requires California businesses to post warnings about potentially hazardous chemicals in the air. The voter approved law has been in place since 1986. Now Governor Jerry Brown wants the warnings to be more specific and he wants to modify the law requiring where the signs are posted.

USDA/EPA

The collapse of honey bee populations in the U.S. is the result of a number of factors, ranging from insects and diseases to pesticides, according to new study released today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection agency.

The report says a parasitic mite is the single most destructive pest to bee populations, and is closely linked with what has come to be known as colony collapse disorder.

What Snow? Final Snow Survey Yields Dry Results

May 2, 2013
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The season’s final snow survey in California found what most expected – dry conditions. Snow surveyors found absolutely no snow on the ground at Phillips Station, nearly 7,000 feet up Echo Summit in the Sierras.

Water content in California’s snowpack is only 17 percent of normal, meaning a below average water supply this summer.

Frank Gehrke with the Department of Water Resources says despite that, most reservoirs are near normal levels for the date thanks to early winter storms.

Lawmakers are considering a number of bills that would change California’s Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA. The more than 40-year-old law guides almost all development projects in the state.

The bill garnering the most attention passed its first legislative test today. Democratic Senate President pro Tem Darrel Steinberg’s bill would streamline some aspects of the environmental law.

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

California lawmakers who represent the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta region are seething over recent comments from Governor Jerry Brown’s point man on the state’s proposed water delivery tunnel project.  Ben Adler has more from Sacramento.

Kathleen Masterson / Capital Public Radio

Could California be on the verge of a new gold rush? That’s the finding of a new study from USC about the potential economic impact of oil that lies deep beneath the Central Valley, known as the Monterey Shale. But extracting that oil isn’t easy, and it would require the use of a number of advanced techniques, including hydraulic fracturing.  And that’s attracted concerns from environmental groups and state regulators. Valley Public Radio’s Joe Moore reports on some recent developments in the fracking debate.

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Several Bills Would Regulate 'Fracking' in State

Apr 30, 2013
Kathleen Masterson / Capital Public Radio

Ten bills that would regulate hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” for oil are working their way through the California legislature. The proposals range from requiring more scientific study to a moratorium. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the industry opposes almost all of the bills.

Rebecca Plevin / Valley Public Radio

For the past 35 years, Sandra Garcia has picked grapes, plums and peppers on San Joaquin Valley farms. But when she returns to her home in the small, Tulare County community of Poplar, she’s reminded of agriculture’s impact on her drinking water.

She can’t drink it because it contains unhealthy levels of nitrates. And she can’t cook with it, because boiling water can concentrate the nitrate level. It’s a serious health issue for infants and pregnant women.

Rebecca Plevin / Valley Public Radio

Some environmentalists say hazardous strawberry pesticides should be banned in California by 2020. But as Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, strawberry growers say finding an alternative to fumigants is difficult.

On the steps of the Capitol, farm workers, environmentalists and health leaders called on the state to phase out soil fumigants used most heavily in strawberry production. They say fumigants have a wide range of health effects, are highly volatile, and drift from where they are applied. Martha Arguello is with Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

If you’re expecting clean air in the San Joaquin Valley, don’t hold your breath.

The American Lung Association released this week its annual State of the Air report. It shows that Valley cities continue to top the lists for the most polluted areas in the nation for ozone, short-term particle pollution, and annual particle pollution.

California in Violation Of Safe Drinking Water Act

Apr 22, 2013
Valley Public Radio

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says California is in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The federal government has provided the state one-point-five billion dollars to make loans and grants to water systems across the state. But since October 2012, about a half billion dollars remains unspent.

EPA Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld says in many cases the money has been committed, but the projects are not “shovel-ready”. As a result, other communities’ drinking water needs remain unmet.

Governor Brown Says CEQA Changes Aren't Likely

Apr 16, 2013
Jerry Brown
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

California Governor Jerry Brown says he likely won’t be able to overhaul the California Environmental Quality Act, (CEQA) this legislative session. He says he believes it would be difficult to move the process forward.

But the comment took Democratic Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg by surprise. He says he intends to continue fighting for his legislation that makes changes to CEQA.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxb671gbmkY

The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board has launched an investigation into a Kern County oil producer over concerns about how the company disposes of potentially dangerous fracking wastewater.

Vintage Production California allegedly discharged chemical laced wastewater into an unlined retention pond at a well near Shafter, without required permits.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Some lawmakers say California is not doing enough to regulate hydraulic fracturing or fracking for oil and gas. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, a bill designed to tighten regulations passed its first legislative test today.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Beneath the shadows of Half Dome and El Capitan, in the heart of Yosemite Valley, lies the Merced River. It’s been known as a Wild and Scenic River since 1987. It’s a federal designation that aims to preserve river ecosystems and values. But after a major flood damaged much of the park’s infrastructure in 1997, environmental groups and park management clashed over plans for how best to restore the park in compliance with the law. Now, after 15 years marked by lawsuits and studies, a new management plan for the Merced River has been released.

One of the most controversial issues in the California legislature in recent years is back.  Lawmakers are proposing several bills that would either ban the use of plastic bags, charge fees for single-use bags or both.  Ben Adler reports from Sacramento.

This idea has stalled in the legislature year after year, amid strong opposition from plastic bag manufacturers and grocers.  But Democratic Assemblyman Mark Levine says this time will be different.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The next to the last snow survey of the season shows extremely dry conditions for California. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, it has prompted the Department of Natural Resources to call the security of the state’s water supply “threatened.”

 The bad news: the water content in California’s snowpack is only 52 percent of normal. What’s worse, the spring melt is underway. While the season started with water content above 130 percent of normal in January, it’s been unusually dry ever since. 

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