Friday, May 31, 2013

By Chris "Maven" Austin | 05/30/13 12:00 AM PST

The price tag is up to nearly $25 billion, but the benefits are up, too, says the Brown administration as the state inches forward to launch an unprecedented project to move more northern California water south through a pair of tunnels in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

On Wednesday, the administration pegged the cost at $24.7 billion, about a billion dollars more than previously estimated. But the administration also said there would be $5 billion worth of benefits over the next five decades, reflecting a more reliable water supply, improved water quality and other improvements.

The revised cost figures came in the release of a final round of paper work surrounding the proposal which, if built, would be the costliest state public works project ever and about four times the $6.3 billion price tag of the new Bay Bridge. Read more

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Agency Fails To Recoup Tax Money Spent on Toxic Cleanup

The California Department of Toxic Substances Control spent $100 million of taxpayer's money over 26 years to clean contaminated property but failed to collect reimbursements from liable polluters. The department also identified a separate $40 million wrapped up in legal matters and another $45 million for which bills were sent but reimbursements were never collected.

Lisa Tucker of Consumer Watchdog, who wrote an investigative report characterizing the agency as troubled, pro-business and weak in enforcement, said the disclosure of $100 million in neglected reimbursement deserves a "full-scale independent financial audit." Read more:
     "California Agency Failed To Collect $100 Million for Cleanup of Contaminated Sites" (Sanders, Sacramento Bee, 5/30).

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Decision could accelerate new regulations on runoff

Record Staff Writer
May 26, 2013 12:00 AM
A judge's decision could speed new rules regulating polluted runoff from farms, rules that growers say will be costly and burdensome.
Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Timothy M. Frawley last week sided with state water quality officials, finding the environmental reports they prepared supporting the new rules were adequate.
Frawley also ruled that temporary rules already in place fail to protect water quality. But he said they can remain until the permanent regulations are written.
His decision is the latest legal twist in what's known as the "ag waiver."
Under the federal Clean Water Act, farmers are not required to get permits to cover the polluted irrigation water that drains off their fields into rivers and streams.
However, they're now required to join coalitions and pay a per-acre fee to help fund water quality testing and educational outreach.
The permanent rules could add burdens, such as more frequent reporting and a requirement that farmers monitor groundwater quality.
The ag waiver has been attacked from multiple fronts, with farmers saying it is burdensome, and environmentalists saying it doesn't go far enough. To read more

Monday, May 27, 2013

Monsanto GMO’s sprout seeds of unity among the world’s people

By: Patrick Porgans, Planetary Solutionaries

Monsanto genetically engineered organisms (GMOs) seeds sprout unity amongst people of all nations and denominations. Globally, media sources estimated two-million protestors emerged onto the streets in major cities throughout the world, during the U.S. celebrated Memorial Day weekend.

Participants contend that this massive demonstration is Blowback resulting from a front-end loaded piece of legislation -- the so-called Monsanto Protection Act – approved by U.S. lawmakers earlier this year and signed into law days later by U.S. President Barack Obama; despite strong opposition from both the agriculturalists, consumers and environmentalists.

In March, the U.S. Congress passed the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2013, which contained a provision that has put St. Louis, Missouri-based Monsanto in the cross hairs of people from all walks of life, concerned about the safety and future of their food supply.

Critics contend that the Act contains language that threaten to contaminate the food supply; language they claim was intentionally buried in Section 735 that gives a green light to Monsanto and other biotech companies that experiment with genetically-engineered, genetically-modified crops, allowing them to market laboratory produced products even if legal action is taken against them.

“The provision would strip federal courts of the authority to halt the sale and planting of an illegal, potentially hazardous GE [genetically engineered] crop while the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) assesses those potential hazards… Further, it would compel USDA to allow continued planting of that same crop upon request, even if in the course of its assessment the Department finds that it poses previously unrecognized risks.”

Protesters across the spectrum are espousing one common message -- stop Monsanto from contaminating the earth’s life-support food producing system from the potential adverse ecological impacts of GMOs.

Monsanto representatives paint a different picture asserting that GMOs is a better way to feed a growing population with its “patented” blend of chemicals and treated seeds, which it claims will be safer, produce greater yields, use less chemical and be more sustainable.

Critics are quick to point out that this is the same Monsanto that manufactured such toxic chemicals as DDT, PCBs, and Agent Orange; it claimed were safe decades ago. However, history has shown Monsanto’s assurances of safety were blatantly false as all of those chemicals have been found to be extremely toxic. And, although they have been seriously restricted or banned, these cancer causing toxic chemicals are still showing up in the ecosystem, and scientific reports show that they will continue to persist into the distance future.

Even government insiders acknowledge that the Monsanto Protection Act is a pre-emptive gag order that attempts to limit or restrict judicial and administrative intervention; essentially, placing the public and the consumer in a defensive position and allows Monsanto to continue doing business as usual.

Last week, Senator Merkley of Oregon announced that he’s is introducing an amendment to repeal the Monsanto Act. In a press release, the Senator called the provision “…an outrageous example of a special interest loophole.”

Whatever the case, it appears Monsanto’s actions have released the Genie out-of-the bottle, and the battle over who will prevail and what types of food the consumer will eat is now on the table. Read more at

Friday, May 24, 2013

Dry weather improves water quality along California beaches

Introduction by Patrick Porgans, Solutionist

Heal the Bay’s 23rd annual report card indicates a reduction in fecal contamination at the majority of state’s beaches and attributes the improvement primarily to the dry winter and lack of spring runoff, along with some changes in the way municipalities are treating storm water runoff. During years with high rainfall flooding contributes to increased discharges of untreated fecal bacteria, which ultimately flows into the ocean and pollutes the beaches.
The report is based on water sampling for fecal bacteria pollution conducted by health agencies and dischargers along the West Coast. Beaches were graded on an A-F scale, based on samples collected from April 2012 to March 2013. The higher the grade, the lower the risk of swimmers getting ill with the stomach flu, skin rashes, ear and upper respiratory infections and other ailments.
Heal the Bay analysts assigned A-to-F letter grades to 89 beaches in the county for three reporting periods in the 2012-2013 report, based on levels of weekly bacterial pollution. Some 84% of beaches received A or B grades for the summer period (April-October 2012), a 2% percent gain from last year's report. That figure also marks an increase of nearly 10% from two years ago.
"No day at the beach should make you sick," according Heal the Bay's spokesperson Kirsten James. Read The Beach Report Card

By Samantha Tata May 23, 2013

Swimmers and surfers in Southern California enjoyed cleaner beach water this year, likely due to one of the driest winters on record in the region, according to Santa Monica-based Heal the Bay’s 2012-13 study released Wednesday.
The advocacy group’s report card graded Golden State beach water quality during the summer dry weather period (April 2012 – October 2012), and during the winter dry weather (November 2012 – March 2013).
Heal the Bay is officially unveiled it's latest report card Thursday, about two weeks after the Environmental Protection Agency proposed cutting federal funding for this kind of water testing.
Beach water quality in LA County bested its own five-year average by 24 percent, to receive 57 percent A or B grades. The report notes this is likely due to the fact that this past winter was one of Southern California’s driest on record, meaning less dirty runoff water made its way to the ocean.
But despite the improvement, LA County is still home to four of the 10 dirtiest beaches in the Golden State. Among those “beach bummers” is Avalon in Catalina Island, which has held the unsavory position at No. 1 for four of the past five years. Read more
A federal study released today attributes the massive die-off in American honey bee colonies to a combination of factors, including pesticides, poor diet, parasites and a lack of genetic diversity. Nearly a third of honey bee colonies in the United States have been wiped out since 2006. The estimated value of crops lost if bees were no longer able to pollinate fruits and vegetables is around $15 billion.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

May 22, 2013
Southern California weighs in on Jerry Brown's water plan

     Weather, terrain, culture, beach sandal-to-hiking boot ratio -- there are plenty of things to distinguish the north state from Southern California. Add to that list where congressional delegations stand on Gov. Jerry Brown's divisive plan to construct a massive new water delivery system.
     The Bay Delta Conservation Plan builds on a familiar dynamic: water from the rainier north goes to quench the thirst of the more heavily populated south. So it should come as no surprise that members of Congress representing the two halves of California have distinctly different reactions.
A group of Southern California lawmakers has sent a letter to Brown and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell trumpeting their "continued strong support" for the Delta plan and asking that it "remains a top priority of the Department of the Interior and the State of California."
     "Our ability to increase our water supply depends on the reliability of water imported into the region," reads the letter, which is signed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein and U.S. Representatives Grace Napolitano (Norwalk), Henry Waxman (Los Angeles), Jim Costa (Fresno), Lucille Roybal-Allard (Los Angeles), Linda Sanchez (Lakewood), Judy Chu (Monterey Park), Brad Sherman (Sherman Oaks), Janice Hahn (San Pedro), Adam Schiff (Burbank), Tony Cardenas (Sylmar), Karen Bass (Los Angeles) and Julia Brownley (Santa Monica).
     The letter adds that "California's economic and social future is tied to safe supply of reliable, high quality water" and cautions against "half measures."
Contrast that with the tone of a March missive from a Northern California delegation that called the Delta plan "flawed" and "reckless" and dismissed it as a "an expensive plumbing system that doesn't add a single drop to the state's water supply."
Read more here:

Pesticides Make a Comeback

Many Corn Farmers Go Back to Using Chemicals as Mother Nature Outwits Genetically Modified Seeds
By Ian Berry, NY Times, 22 May 2013

     "Insecticides sales are surging after years of decline, as American farmers plant more corn and a genetic modification designed to protect the crop from pests has started to lose its effectiveness.

     The sales are a boom for big pesticide makers, such as American Vangiard Corp. and Syngenta AG." read

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

By Patrick Porgans and Lloyd G. Carter
Part One of a two-part series
The Legislature finds and declares all of the following: Health and Safety Code sections 116270, subdivisions (a) and (b).
   (a) Every citizen of California has the right to pure and safe drinking water.
   (b) Feasible and affordable technologies are available and shall be used to remove toxic contaminants from public water supplies.
  In the heart of California's farm country, San Joaquin Valley growers get better quality river water for irrigation while farmworkers, farm families and rural communities often get polluted groundwater unfit to drink.
Making matters worse, California officials have known for decades that groundwater used for drinking and home use is polluted by pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, industrial wastes and "treated" city waste water, but have done little to take advantage of nearly half a billion dollars in federal low interest loans available to address  the problem.
The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) is the main federal law that ensures the quality of Americans' drinking water.  Under SDWA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets standards for drinking water quality and oversees the states, localities, and water suppliers who implement those standards.  
The 1996 amendments to the SDWA created the Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (SDWSRF). The SDWSRF is a loan program that provides low-cost financing to eligible entities within the state and tribal lands for public and private water systems infrastructure projects needed to achieve or to maintain compliance with SDWA requirements and to protect public health. Small water systems and disadvantaged communities are given higher funding priority. Under the SDWA, the federal government makes available to the states low cost loans for drinking water projects, provided they are timely.
However, according to an April 19 letter from EPA’s Regional Administrator, Jared Blumenfeld, to Dr. Ron Chapman, Director of the California Department of Health (CDPH), California has failed to properly administer and disburse $455 million of the $1.5 billion made available beginning in 1996.  Blumenfeld said California has the worst record of all 50 states in failing to take advantage of the federal grant money.  In recent years, California has received an estimated $80 million in federal money annually for the fund. The state provides a 20 percent match and manages the loan repayments which helps replenish the fund, according to the Associated Press.
Blumenfeld's letter is the first “Determination of Noncompliance” notice issued to the CDPH, according to EPA staff.  However, back in 2002 EPA issued a determination of noncompliance to the State Water Resources Control Board, for similar reasons, citing mismanagement and misuse of federal funds provided to the State under the provisions of the Clean Water Act section 602(b) and 40 CFR part 35.3013(c).  According to EPA the State Water Board has been in compliance since the 2002 notice.
In his letter to CDPH, Blumenfeld cited administrative problems, insufficient staff and unqualified personnel at CDPH as causes for non-compliance. However, EPA allows for the state to use four percent of the grant and loan funds towards administrative and personnel costs.  Ironically, EPA reported that CDPH had more than $6.4 million at its disposal for such costs but did not use it.
Since 1978 the State has received on average $600 million to $800 million annually for clean water programs that are administered by the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund.  EPA officials estimate California needs $39 billion in capital improvements through 2026 for water systems to continue providing safe drinking water to the public.  Instead, Gov. Brown is pushing a $14 billion twin tunnel project to ship relatively clean Sacramento River water around the beleaguered Delta estuary.
Under the revolving fund, the State Water Board is supposed to provide financial assistance through various State and federal loan and grant programs to help local agencies, businesses, and individuals meet the costs of water pollution control, development of locally available sustainable water supplies, and cleanup.
But what has happened is that significant portions of those federal funds have been expended on band-aid attempts to deal with the discharge of billions of gallons of highly contaminated wastewater and runoff resulting from agricultural drainage; one of the State’s major unresolved sources of pollution of both surface and ground water supplies. This farm drainage water discharged into the lower Delta contains pesticides and the trace element selenium, which caused the poisoning of fish and birds at Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge in Merced County three decades ago.
Another major source of surface and groundwater contamination results from the annual application of toxic pesticides. “Pesticide use in California rose in 2010 after declining for four consecutive years," according to data released in December 28, 2011 by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR).   "More than 173 million pounds of pesticides were reported applied statewide, an increase of nearly 15 million pounds – or 9.5 percent – from 2009. The increase reflected a 15 percent jump in acres treated with pesticides – up 9.7 million acres to a total of 75 million acres in 2010," The DPR data stated. 
Pesticide use varies from year to year depending on many factors, including weather, pest problems, economics and types of crops planted. Increases and decreases in pesticide use from one year to the next or in the span of a few years do not necessarily indicate a trend.
The greatest pesticide use occurs in the San Joaquin Valley.  Indeed, the San Joaquin Valley is probably the most chemically-drenched landscape in the world.   The top five counties in order of most pesticide pounds applied in 2010 were Fresno, Kern, Tulare, San Joaquin and Madera. All are major producers of agricultural products. All of those counties receive subsidized water from government projects. . read more...