Environment

News about energy and the environment

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

On the edge of a region in California known for agriculture and dairy, lays a hidden gem.  A wildlife preserve with Table top foothills, that in spring are awash in color from budding wild flowers.

On Saturday, the Sierra Foothill Conservancy, a local group that manages a number of foothill preserves in the region held a special open house at the group’s largest operation.   

The McKenzie Preserve – in-between Friant and Prather – was open to the public for exploring and a hike up a flat top lava formed table in the region.

Sierra Snowpack Below Normal; Driest Year on Record

Feb 28, 2013
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

January and February are the driest on record for the northern Sierra Nevada. As Amy Quinton reports, snowpack is well-below normal for this time of year.

CA Water Resources Control Board

The State Water Resources Control Board is recommending that California fund efforts to mitigate nitrate pollution through a statewide fee on fertilizer.

In a report to the Legislature, the board said that groundwater nitrate pollution in the Tulare Lake Basin and Salinas Valley is likely to get worse in the future, and a dedicated funding stream is needed to address the problem.

Agricultural fertilizer and confined animal facilities are considered some of the top sources of nitrate pollution.

Valley Public Radio

Several lawmakers introduced nine bills Wednesday they say are designed to help the more than 21 million Californians who rely on contaminated groundwater for drinking. 

Environmental groups and several Democratic legislators stood on the Capitol steps to call for an end to contaminated water.

They say so many poor communities lack access to safe drinking water that California will have to invest about $40 billion over the next two decades to solve the problem.

Democratic Assemblymember Henry T. Perea represents Fresno and parts of the Central Valley.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

  Democratic lawmakers are calling for a new tax on oil removed from the ground in California – with the money going toward state parks and higher education.

Senator Noreen Evans is one of the bill’s co-authors.  She says the revenue would fill two of the state’s most critical funding needs.  And she says California is the only oil-producing state in the nation without an oil severance tax.

“This is not a tax on taxpayers, and studies have shown that an oil extraction tax does not contribute to the cause of gasoline at the pump.” 

California Department of Water Resources

  Too many fish deaths in the Sacramento- San Joaquin Delta are forcing the California Department of Water Resources to reduce the amount of water pumped to the Central Valley and southern California.

The number of protected Delta Smelt killed this year is nearing the annual limit set by the Endangered Species Act. Pumping stations have killed 232 smelt. Rules allow only 305 over the entire year.

Mark Corwin with the Department says the deaths illustrate the need for a new system, one that would include $14 billion twin tunnels.

Lawmakers To Hold Hearing on "Fracking" Regulations

Feb 12, 2013
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The controversial drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” will be the subject of a joint legislative hearing at the California state Capitol today.

As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, recently released fracking regulations have some lawmakers concerned.

 The Department of Conservation recently released draft regulations for energy companies that inject chemicals into the ground under pressure to release oil.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

 What some see as California’s most important environmental law, others see as an economic impediment. The 43-year-old California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, guides almost every development project in the state.

Governor Jerry Brown and many lawmakers say it’s time to modernize it. But As Amy Quinton reports, how to do that is a question with no easy answers.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

More than half of California's population relies on a contaminated drinking water supply – though most communities blend or treat their water to make it safe.  Ben Adler has more from Sacramento on that finding in a new state report out this week.

The report by the State Water Resources Control Board was ordered by the state Legislature.  It says from 2002 to 2010, 680 out of 3,000 community water systems in the state relied on one or more contaminated groundwater wells.  Those contaminated wells served 21 million people.

Second Snow Survey Shows Below Normal Conditions

Jan 31, 2013
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

 

California snow surveyors reported Tuesday that water content in the state’s mountain snowpack is below average for the date. 

The manual readings this month confirmed what many water managers expected after a relatively dry January. The water content in the Sierra snow is 93 percent of average for this time of year.

Early storms in November and December dumped snow ranging from 32 ½ to 44 inches around Echo Summit. That erased the deficit in reservoir storage. But very little snow has fallen since.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The San Joaquin Valley’s polluted air is a daily concern for Mario Talavera.

“When I go to the pharmacy, they ask why I need medicine," said Talavera, of Fresno. "For Mario, Angelica, Tomas, Jose. And for me too, Mario. I have asthma. The only person who doesn’t have asthma is my wife.”

It’s a constant stress for Fresno resident Teresa Vidales, too. Her husband, a construction worker and the family breadwinner, has asthma. One of her four kids does, too.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Governor Jerry Brown reiterated his pitch to shore up California’s water supply in his State of the State address Thursday.  But Brown’s proposal to spend $14 billion dollars on water received no response from lawmakers during a packed joint session.

As KPCC’s Julie Small reports, his message is really for consumers—and the agencies that supply water to them.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A prominent environmental group has filed a lawsuit challenging the State of California’s stance on the regulation of hydraulic fracturing in the production of oil and natural gas. 

The Center for Biological Diversity says that the state’s Division of Oil Gas and Geothermal Resources has failed to act on an existing state law that it says allows the regulation of the controversial practice. The lawsuit was filed today in Alameda County Superior Court. 

Rebecca Plevin / Valley Public Radio

Anna Martinez was standing on a street corner in the tiny farmworker community of Kettleman City when she heard the familiar sound of a truck engine roaring to life.

She pointed to a diesel truck parked on a lot next to three others. The lot was just one block from State Route 41, and another block or so from a huge agricultural field.

“We’ll see how long he’s going to idle,” said Martinez, a community organizer with Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice. “He’s just now starting his truck - see all the emissions and black smoke.”

Penn State / NASA

NASA scientists and aircraft took to the skies above Fresno and Bakersfield today. It's part of a project that one day hopes to predict and air quality from space.

Two aircraft, including a converted Navy P3-B flew repeated loops over various valley cities today, one of them as low as 1,000 feet, to gather air samples. It's part of a program NASA calls DISCOVER-AQ which aims to better understand pollution spikes and how pollutants react with sunlight throughout the day. 

California Department of Public Health

Two hazardous waste facilities in the San Joaquin Valley led the state in toxic chemical releases in 2011, according to a report released today by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Clean Harbors landfill in Buttonwillow in western Kern County ranked number one in the state in toxic releases, with nearly 10 million pounds in 2011. In Kings County, Chemical Waste Management’s Kettleman City disposal facility released nearly four million pounds in 2011, which ranked third in the state.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

It has taken more than a decade, but Yosemite National Park finally released today its draft plans to protect and restore the Merced River corridor for the next 20 years.

The plans, which include six different alternatives, are intended to preserve the river, and provide visitors with opportunities to enjoy the river, according to Kathleen Morse, chief of planning at Yosemite National Park.

“It’s a dual purpose plan: One to protect the resources, and two, to provide access to them,” Morse said.

Sierra Snowpack Has Water Managers Happy, So Far

Jan 2, 2013
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

California’s water managers say the state has a good supply of water so far thanks to a snowy December.

The first official measurement of the Sierra Nevada snowpack showed four-feet of accumulation. Manual and electronic readings showed the water content of the snow at 134 percent of average for this time of year.

Frank Gehrke is with the Department of Water Resources. He says last year the snowpack in the area was just over one-tenth of an inch.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A local conservation group working to preserve foothill ranch land has added another another major property to its list of protected areas.

The Sierra Foothill Conservancy announced today that it has purchased the historic Tallman Ranch east of Clovis. The 280 acre property will become the Ted K. Martin Wildlife Preserve. 

Martin donated $1 million to the conservancy to fund the purchase of the ranch from the Tallman Family and another $300,000 to support its management for the future.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The State of California's Department of Conservation on Tuesday released a draft proposal for new regulations governing hydraulic fracturing in the oil and gas industry, a practice also known as fracking.

The proposal calls for new well testing and chemical disclosure procedures designed to safeguard the environment and public health, but critics say the rules don't go far enough.

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