Environment

News about energy and the environment

Diana Aguilera / Valley Public Radio

Earlier this year eight Kern County families were forced out of their homes because of a gas leak. Now, seven months later families are still asking questions about their health and when they can return to their neighborhood.

When Yesenia Lara bought her home three years ago she never imagined living there would eventually bring so much anger and sadness to her family.

"This is my house, esta es mi casa. Excuse the mess but I hardly come here."

California Tomato Growers Expect Record Year Despite Drought

Oct 21, 2014
California Tomato Growers Association

The drought has California farmers leaving thousands of acres fallow this year. But growers still chose to plant processing tomatoes. And as Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, they’re expected to have a record year.

About 95 percent of the nation’s processed tomatoes come from California. Last year, about 12 million tons were produced. Some farmers this year were skeptical they could grow the 14 million tons contracted for by the state’s processors.

But Mike Montna with the California Tomato Growers Association says they hit that mark.

Lexey Swall

Last month, the editors of Time Magazine featured an online piece about the community which they say has the worst air in the nation - Bakersfield.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A visit to Yosemite National Park may soon become more expensive. On Monday the park service announced a plan to raise the single vehicle entry fee from $20 dollars to $30 for a seven day pass. The cost of an annual pass would also rise from $40 to $60. 

The proposal would also raise campsite fees, and the cost for hikers and motorcyclists:

California Drought To Persist, Even Worsen

Oct 16, 2014
National Weather Service - Hanford

Predictions suggest the California drought is likely to persist, and even worsen in some areas. Ed Joyce reports from Sacramento.

NOAA's Climate Prediction Center says complete drought recovery is "unlikely this winter' in California.

Kevin Werner is NOAA's Western Region Climate Director.

He says the 2012-to-2014 period is the driest on record in California.

And low reservoir storage reflects that.

Tulare County Office Of Emergency Services

The drought in Central California has hit many farmers and homeowners hard. Perhaps those hardest hit are in Tulare County where the number of dry wells spiked this week. 

New data released today from the Tulare County Office of Emergency Services reports the number of private well failures in the county grew by 19 percent since October 6.

Andrew Lockman with the agency says the increase is due to more homeowners reporting dry wells and new data from partnering agencies.

Cal Fire Air Tankers Cleared To Fly After Yosemite Crash

Oct 10, 2014
Twitter.com / CAL FIRE PIO Kevin Berlant / https://twitter.com/CALFIRE_PIO

Cal Fire's fleet of 22 firefighting air tankers are back in service. The planes were on a safety stand down after a tanker crash this week in Yosemite National Park. Ed Joyce reports from Sacramento.

The Tuesday crash killed pilot Geoffrey Hunt as he was about to drop retardant on the Dog Rock Fire near Yosemite's west entrance.

The safety stand-down was intended to give officials time to inspect the remaining aircraft and allow other pilots time to recover.

Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott:

California Makes Changes To Fracking Regulations

Oct 9, 2014
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The state of California is making some changes to its new fracking regulations based on nearly 100,000  comments from the public. This is the third version of the regulations for fracking, which injects sand, water and chemicals underground to release oil.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A coalition of environmental groups is suing Kern County over its approval of a project that would expand oil-by-rail shipments at a Bakersfield refinery. 

The Kern County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the railyard expansion at the Alon Refinery on Rosedale Highway in September. The project would allow the refinery to process crude oil from the Midwest, delivered to Bakersfield by train.

Kassie Siegel is with the Center For Biological Diversity, one of the groups in the lawsuit. 

Cal Fire

An air tanker that was battling a wildfire burning near the Arch Rock entrance to Yosemite National Park crashed on Tuesday afternoon. 

Emergency crews reached the wreckage in steep and rugged terrain in the evening and found the solo pilot dead. The name of the pilot is being withheld pending notification of family.

The Grumman S2T was based out of the Hollister Air Attack base. It was operated by Cal Fire and was assisting federal crews in fighting the 130 acre Dog Rock Fire. 

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

It’s been one of the worst dry spells in recorded history in California and some rain would be nice. One possible answer to the state’s water woes could come as soon as November, when a new water bond goes before voters. To answer the state’s future water woes a water bond is on the November ballot which if passed could create new reservoirs.  FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports from Fresno County where planners are already studying the site for what could be the state’s newest water storage facility.  

Brown Orders More Action On Drought

Sep 19, 2014
Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

California's ongoing drought is prompting Governor Jerry Brown to take new executive action.

Friday, Brown ordered that money be made available to provide water for drinking and sanitation to households without running water.

He also extended the prohibition on price-gouging during emergencies to apply to the drought.

Finally, Brown is requiring state agencies to identify acute water shortages and work with counties and local agencies to address them.

Don L. Weaver / Valley Public Radio

Cal Fire officials say they have identified suspects responsible for starting the Courtney Fire, and a series of arson fires in Oakhurst.

Investigators say a juvenile is suspected of intentionally starting 13 fires in Madera County. Officials say the fires were all sparked in the Oakhurst area over the past few months, but do not include the Courtney or the Junction fires.

Officials also say they now know who’s believed to be responsible for starting the Courtney Fire that burned more than 300 acres near Bass Lake.

Bernie Quinn is a battalion chief for Cal Fire.

Diana Aguilera / Valley Public Radio

Cal Fire officials appear to be gaining the upper hand on the Courtney Fire that destroyed over 30 homes near Bass Lake in the mountains of Madera County. The blaze has burned over 300 acres and is now 90 percent contained. FM89’s Diana Aguilera reports.

Hundreds of people remain in evacuation after the Courtney Fire tore through houses and buildings.

As fire crews continue to make progress, some residents are returning to their homes. But there are others who never left.

Brown Signs Historic Groundwater Legislation

Sep 16, 2014
Office of Governor Jerry Brown

It’s going to become more difficult to drill a well in California. Katie Orr reports from Sacramento on a package of groundwater legislation signed into law today by Governor Jerry Brown.

The regulations will require local agencies to create and implement groundwater management plans within five years and meet groundwater sustainability levels within 20 years. Brown says the laws, combined with the Legislature's bi-partisan approval of a water bond slated for the November ballot, represent a giant step forward toward securing the state’s water supply.

California Department of Water Resources

California Governor Jerry Brown made history Tuesday morning when he signed into law three bills that for the first time will regulate groundwater in the state. California had been the only state in the nation that did not regulate groundwater at the state level.

While many environmental groups praised the move, a number of valley agriculture interests opposed the new regulations. This week on Valley Edition, we talked to Joel Nelson of the Exeter-based group California Citrus Mutual about his concerns about the new laws. 

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio.

With fires raging in the region and no sign that the drought will ease up, farmers and even homeowners are on the hunt for water. The initial answer is to dig a new well. But wells are expensive. In this piece FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports on a solution that many Valley homeowners rely on.

Eugene Keeney hooks his 2,500 gallon water truck to a fire hydrant on the northern edge of Clovis. 

Don L. Weaver / Valley Public Radio

UPDATE: 9/18/2014 - 9 A.M.

Cal Fire officials say the Courtney Fire is 90 percent contained.

UPDATE: 9/18/2014- 7:30 A.M. 

Containment of the Courtney Fire has now risen to 80 percent. As of Wednesday evening, all evacuations have been lifted.

UPDATE: 9/17/2014 - 6 P.M.

Cal Fire reports the Courtney Fire is now 70 percent contained. As of Wednesday evening all evacuations have been lifted. 

cawaterchallenge.org

In California, water availability is becoming a serious problem—but that doesn’t mean there aren’t creative solutions.

Developers at a San Francisco non-profit have created the California Water Challenge, an interactive website that aims to teach players about the state’s water problems while prompting them to make difficult decisions about how to solve them.

Noel Perry is the founder of Next 10, the company that created the tool.

New Field Poll Shows Strong Support For Water Bond

Sep 10, 2014
Florence Low / California Department of Water Resources

A Field Poll released today  shows strong support for the water bond on California’s November ballot.

Fifty-two percent of likely voters say they’ll support the $7.5 billion bond in the fall election. 27 percent oppose it, while 21 percent remain undecided. But awareness of the measure remains low. The Field Poll found just 36 percent of likely voters had seen or heard anything about the bond. But support for the bond was even higher among voters with prior knowledge of the measure.

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