Do agribusiness and oil-company special interests benefit the common good of the San Joaquin Valley?

Submitted: Jan 30, 2014
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

 Have you ever noticed the continual distortion in favor of particular special interests that goes on in debates on “public” policy? There has been a flood of articles about the drought. Diligently following the prevailing propaganda that they call “reality,” editors instruct reporters to interview the special interests that rely on publicly subsidized water to grow publicly subsidized crops and receive publicly subsidized disaster payments and publicly subsidized conservation grants and publicly subsidized reductions in property taxes etc., to record the agonized words of flakpersons for a few agrarian plutocrats. And thus arises the earsplitting howl we have come to call The Great Valley Whine.

 

The reason we hear this Whine at all is because the prevailing propaganda constantly shoves a lie down our throats – that the particular interests of a few wealthy agribusinesses equals the Common Good of the San Joaquin Valley.

 

It don’t. They have been saying "Jobs Jobs Jobs!!!" for decades, and look at the history.

 

In fact, the interests of the majority of us in the San Joaquin Valley who do not owe our livelihoods to agribusiness have more interests in common with the fish and wildlife than with the corporate elite that makes agribusiness policy and paves its destructive and self-destructive way by buying politicians. For example, we share with endangered fish in the Delta the common interest of having an adequate supply of fresh, unpolluted water. We share with all creatures that breathe air the common interest of clean air. Fish and wildlife do not want their air, land and water polluted with deadly pesticides any more than we do. What good to any living thing is land that has been mined of all its natural nutrients and left as a salted up, so sterile that it cannot grow any crop without larger and larger quantities of artificial, nitrate based fertilizers, adding to the pollution cycle?

 

The article below presents voices of people who have made common cause with fish and wildlife to save our common environment. In 2008, it took a few months for people to catch up with the incredible onslaught of agribusiness propaganda of the Phony Drought. Yet, people did come together and by the middle of the summer had formed a truth squad that successfully challenged the lies of astro-turfing spin doctors from Washington and Hollywood drawing sumptuous salaries from agribusiness. Two of the new voices in the squad were Dan Bacher, author of the article below, and Barbara Barragan-Parrilla, of Restore the Delta. This year, new voices are emerging from anti-fracking groups. Behind them stand stalwarts like Bill Jennings, Lydia Miller, Lloyd Carter, Felix Smith, Patrick Porgans and Ron Stork, to name a few who have worked for decades  to protect  the ecology of the Valley against its many private and public destroyers.

 

With the arrival of global warming, exacerbating present drought, the distinction between environmental destruction that affects humans and environmental destruction that affects non-human beings collapses. To those who still argue that “there is no alternative” to the barbaric competition of an unregulated free market in absolutely everything, which has created a world commodified, patented  and branded for private gain, we would like to suggest that you’ve simply made life nastier, more brutish and shorter for everyone, even yourselves, the post-modern nobility cooped up in electronic fortresses. But, while you invest in cryogenics, we’ll stick with a simple thought from ecology: all things hang together.  As you continually seek to devour our environment, you destroy your own.

 

At the last minute we decided  to add an article on threats the drought poses to the state’s infrastructure and – for him rather subdued – a patented Rep. Devin Nunes rant. Nunes and Reps. Kevin McCarthy and David Valadao are the three Republicans that represent the south San Joaquin Valley (south of Fresno and south of where the San Joaquin River crosses the Valley). The region has become an echo chamber for lunatics. Politicians vie tooth-and-claw to be bought and sold by agribusiness, the only solvent enterprise in the region. They scream, howl, whine and gnash their teeth on command demanding the lion’s share of Northern California water to which they have no clear rights that they can’t buy in special deals made in the dead of night behind closed doors. The whole deal has become so absurd that Westlands now has to go to Denver to find a lobbyist.

 

What’s Coalinga to him

or he to Coalinga

that he would weep for it?

 

As the rest of the state begins to try to wake up about ecological and immigration issues, agribusiness emerges in the public mind as one of the nation’s most corrupting political forces.  It’s taken us residents of the Valley longer, but even we can now see that agribusiness has not been a good economic path for us. And it has completely warped our politics.

 

As for Gov. Jerry Brown … oh well, whatever, as the hippies say.

-- blj

 

Indybay.org

Governor promotes twin tunnels and fracking during record drought…Dan Bacher 1-22-14

http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/01/22/18749605.php

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Brown’s current water and energy policies mismanage the people of California’s water supply, and this – not his ‘green’ talk – will be what defines his legacy," said Adam Scow, California Campaign Director of Food and Water Watch.



While over 100 protesters held signs and banners asking Governor Jerry Brown to ban fracking outside of the State Capitol in Sacramento on Wednesday, the Governor in his State of the State Address promoted the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels as one of the "solutions" to addressing California's unprecedented drought. 

"Right now, it is imperative that we do everything possible to mitigate the effects of the drought," said Brown. "I have convened an Interagency Drought Task Force and declared a State of Emergency. We need everyone in every part of the state to conserve water. We need regulators to rebalance water rules and enable voluntary transfers of water and we must prepare for forest fires." 

"As the State Water Action Plan lays out, water recycling, expanded storage and serious groundwater management must all be part of the mix. So too must be investments in safe drinking water, particularly in disadvantaged communities. We also need wetlands and watershed restoration and further progress on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan," said Brown. 

While the protest took place on the sidewalk on the north steps of the Capitol, activists from Oil Change International and 350.org deployed a three-story banner across from the Capitol with the message: “Governor Brown: Climate Leaders Don’t Frack. Ban Fracking Now." 

Adam Scow, California Campaigns Director of Food and Water Watch, pointed out the irony of Brown pushing the tunnels and fracking while California is suffering from a record drought. 

“By allowing fracking to happen in California, Jerry Brown’s actions are in direct conflict with his rhetoric today on water conservation and climate change,” said Scow. “Brown’s current water and energy policies mismanage the people of California’s water supply, and this – not his ‘green’ talk – will be what defines his legacy.” 

"It's time for the Governor to stop the peripheral tunnels and ban fracking," said Scow. "The Governor's action this year on fracking and the tunnels will define his legacy as a bold leader or a myopic politician." 

"It's hypocritical for Governor Brown to ask Californians to cut their personal water usage while pushing a plan that would allow the fracking industry to massively increase the amount of water it consumes and contaminates," said Zack Malitz, CREDO's Campaign Manager. "If Governor Brown moves forward with his fracking plan, he'll be forcing farmers and ranchers to compete with the fracking industry for water while exacerbating climate change and making California even more vulnerable to extreme drought in the future." 

The protest was organized by 350.org, California State Grange, Center for Biological Diversity, Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment, CREDO, Food & Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, Oil Change International, and other members of the statewide coalition Californians Against Fracking. 

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta, after hearing Brown's State of the State, emphasized that the Governor's plan to build two forty-foot tunnels under the Delta, at a total cost of over $60 billion with interest and operation expenses, "will not add one drop of additional water to the system." 

"There is a better way to manage our water," she said. "First, we need to export a safe yield of water from the Delta without repeatedly depleting the watershed. Second, we need to reinforce levees to ensure that the water that can be shared from the Delta is secure for all Californians. Third, we need to retire drainage-impaired agricultural lands on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. 

"This will ultimately be cheaper than building the peripheral tunnels, and it will end the cycle of poor water management decisions made by state officials to enrich a few hundred corporate agribusinesses," Barrigan-Parrilla noted. 

"Last, we need to put unemployed Californians back to work by investing in smaller local water projects throughout the state that will actually create new water. Independent reports on water conservation projects show that recycling, groundwater clean-up, and conservation programs will put twice as many people to work for each $1 million spent than a big project like the peripheral tunnels," she concluded. 

There is no doubt that poor water management of rivers and reservoirs by the Brown and Obama administrations has exacerbated the impact of the drought - and the peripheral tunnels, if built, would only make things even worse. Last summer, high water releases down the Sacramento, Feather and American rivers left Shasta, Oroville and Folsom reservoirs at dangerously low levels. 

As a result, Shasta is now 36 percent of capacity and 54 percent of average, Oroville is 36 percent of capacity and 54 percent of average and Folsom is 17 percent of capacity and 34 percent of average. 

Yet Pyramid Lake in Southern California is 98 percent of capacity and 105 percent of average and Castaic Reservoir is 86 percent of capacity and 105 percent of average. 

The state and federal water agencies exported massive quantities of water to corporate agribusiness interests and developers, and oil companies, endangering local water supplies and Chinook salmon, steelhead and Delta fish populations as the ecosystem continues to collapse. 

Congressmen Boehner, Nunes, McCarthy, and Valadao launch attack on Endangered Species Act 

While Brown was giving his address, Congressman Devin Nunes, Congressman Kevin McCarthy, and Congressman David Valadao, with the support of House Speaker John Boehner, convened in Bakersfield to announce their plan to suspend the Endangered Species Act, allow the fish-killing Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta pumps to operate “as long as water is available” and to halt the San Joaquin River restoration plan.

"This is nothing more than a blatant, short-sighted water grab, fueled by years of political contributions from huge growers in the Westlands Water District and the Kern County Water Agency to these Central Valley Congressional Representatives," said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla. 
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But if agribusiness is so rich, why are they so desperate for water? What is the level of indebtedness? Does Wall Street care for Avenal?-- blj

 


"Furthermore, we find it ironic that these Congressional representatives, who claim to be in favor of reduced Federal government intervention into state affairs, are looking for a way to bypass State and Federal water quality and quantity regulations, which will be violated if pumping restrictions are removed in the Delta. They are playing the anti-regulation card to dictate economic winners and losers among California’s farm and fishing communities." 

"By declaring a drought emergency, Governor Brown has set up opponents of the Endangered Species Act to be able to strip away water quality protections for Bay-Delta fisheries, Delta family farms, and Delta urban communities," said Barrigan-Parrilla. "The Bureau of Reclamation and the Department of Water Resources allowed the overpumping of the Delta by 800,000 acre feet last year in order to appease the leaders of the Westlands Water District and the Kern County Water Agency. The mega-growers in those two water districts have used more exported water combined than the Metropolitan Water District and the Santa Clara Valley Water District over the last ten years." 

"While water conservation is of the upmost importance for California, which experiences drought a third of the time, Metropolitan Water District officials have made recent statements that they have enough water in storage for the next three years," she added. "Taking more water away from the Delta and California’s rivers during a drought, one made worse by State and Federal water resource mismanagement, proves that even more of the same would happen if Governor Brown’s plan to build the peripheral tunnels comes to pass." 

"What does it say that Governor Brown and Speaker Boehner are on the same side of championing the decimation of the Bay-Delta estuary, all to appease a few hundred growers who contribute less than .3% to the State’s economy? It indicates to the people on the ground in the Delta that our political leaders are poised to squander the most important and largest estuary on the west coast of the Americas for an unsustainable future that will further enrich a few big political contributors to Central Valley Congressional races, and recent California ballot initiatives," said Barrigan-Parrilla. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cal Watchdog

NEW: Drought could cascade through state infrastructure…Wayne Lusvardi

http://calwatchdog.com/2014/01/23/drought-could-cascade-through-state-infrastructure/

to connect with links below, you will have to use the link above to return to the original article. -- blj

California’s drought disaster is real, and could cascade through several levels of the state’s infrastructure. Here’s what could happen:

<!--[if !supportLists]-->1.   <!--[endif]-->A cutback of 95 percent of water for some farmers and 20 percent for Southern California cities;

<!--[if !supportLists]-->2.   <!--[endif]-->A resulting loss of hydropower from pumped storage reservoirs;

<!--[if !supportLists]-->3.   <!--[endif]-->Wildfires.

Throw in the shutdown of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, which isn’t caused by the drought, and the electricity crisis could be even worse.

To begin with, an untimely high-pressure “ridge” in the Pacific Ocean about four miles high and 2,000 miles long has caused athree-year drought. As National Geographic described it, “Storms that would normally soak a parched state — and build up California’s snowpack — are bouncing off the dome of high pressure, heading into southern Canada, then riding the jet stream south into the U.S. midwest.”

This high-pressure ridge has diverted the monsoon rainstorms that California depends on for snowpack in the Sierra Mountain Range that fills water reservoirs.

The U.S. Weather Service Climate Prediction Center has forecast that the present drought will last another three months. The 90-day rainfall forecast has been correct about 60 percent of the time in the last 20 years.

The prospects for what Californians call a “March Miracle,” where sudden monsoon rainstorms appear late in the rainy season, are not high.  The last time California experienced a “March Miracle” was in 1991.

Normal drought

In California, drought is normal. What California depends on is a wave of monsoon rainstorms in a single year occurring every three to five years to fill reservoirs.  When weather conditions result in a skipping of one cycle of monsoon rainstorms, the result in anofficial drought emergency.

However, a drought crisis also occurs because California has not built any new water reservoirs since 1973.

The last reservoir built as part of the California State Water Project was Castaic Lake in 1973, which is a storage reservoir located north of Los Angeles. It is not a water-capture reservoir.

The last major reservoir built by the U.S. government as part of the federal Central Valley Project was the New Melones Lake and Dam in 1979, which sit mostly empty because of environmental diversions of water that flow to the sea.

Moreover, the drought is not entirely due to a dry spell and lack of water storage.  About 50 percent of the water in the federal Central Valley water project has been reduced since 1990 due to court orders and regulatory decisions to divert water to the environment.

Less hydropower means higher electricity prices

The Fitch bond ratings agency has warned that California’s protracted drought could put financial pressure on public-power entities in their ability to service their bond debts. (The public-power agencies, such as the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, are run by governments. They are separate from the private power companies: Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric and Pacific Gas & Electric.)

The eight public-power agencies rated by Fitch in California obtain from 10 percent to 32 percent of their power from hydroelectric sources. What is a concern to bond rating agencies is if these power entities have to shift to more expensive gas-fired power, or even worse, to very expensive renewable power, which means wind, solar and geothermal.  Much of new power would likely have to come from out-of-state providers.  California already depends on imports for 25 percent of its electric supply.

To comply with SB X1-2 of 2011, by state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, the California Energy Commission studied whether importing cheap hydropower from British Columbia would meet California’s stringent renewable power criteria. The CEC concluded it would be very difficult to consider British Columbia hydropower as renewable power for California. This means that California could not replace its lost hydropower due to the drought with cheap hydropower from British Columbia, because that hydropower is somehow considered dirtier than California hydropower.

In general, California’s hydropower production ranges from 60,000 gigawatt hours per year in a peak year (1983) to a low of about 20,000 gigawatt hours per year from 1986 to 1992, the last prolonged natural drought in California. California’s hydropower dropped 22.3 percent in 2013, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Major concern

The major concern is the loss of electric capacity of pumped hydro storage. Electricity cannot be economically stored except in water reservoirs where water is spilled to drive turbines that produce electricity.  Pumped reservoirs are where the water is pumped up to the reservoir rather than flowing into the reservoir.

California’s major pumped storage facilities are the Castaic Power Plant north of Los Angeles, with a capacity of 1,566 megawatts; and the Helms Pumped Storage Plant near Fresno, with 1,200 megawatts. Additionally, the San Luis Reservoir near Los Banos has a 424-megawatt pumped-back hydropower storage facility. These three pump-back facilities can generate enough capacity for 3,190,000 households.

If California should lose the Castaic and Helms pump-back hydropower facilities, natural gas power plants would be needed as replacements. The higher demand for natural gas then might drive natural gas prices higher. Something similar is part of what happened during the California Electricity Crisis of 2000-01, when a drought in the Pacific Northwest curtailed hydropower from Oregon and Washington and the price of gas-powered electricity skyrocketed.

The potential loss of 3,190 megawatts of hydropower due to droughtexceeds the 2,200 megawatts of power lost from the shut down of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

Overblown concern

One thing overblown is the concern about loss of primary hydroelectric power generated by dams due to the drought that are part of the State Water Project. It takes roughly the same amount of power to lift water over the Tehachapi Mountain Range to convey water to Southern California as is generated by small hydropower plants that are downhill from the Tehachapis.

The purported “mystery” of why Lake Castaic near Los Angeles is nearly full while other reservoirs are at 55 percent of their capacity is also misunderstood. Southern California water agencies have prudently filled Lake Castaic in anticipation of the drought and to reduce any future higher pumping costs should hydropower not be available.

Wildfires and more power outages

The drought has already advanced the fire season to the winter months in semi-arid Southern California. The still active Colby Firenear Glendora, sparked by errant campers, is indicative of the dry vegetation in the Angeles National Forest north of Los Angeles.

Only five homes were destroyed thus far in the Colby Fire. But forest fires also can cause power outages.

A report by the California Independent System Operator, dated July 8, 2013, stated several large wild fires caused “reliability challenges” in the state’s power grid.  A June 2013 fire north of Los Angeles caused “multiple forced outages” on the 500-Kilovolt Midway-Vincent power lines that serves as the connection to the Pacific Northwest.  The 2011 failure of a 500-Kilovolt line linking Arizona and Los Angeles caused a power failure affecting 1 million people in San Diego and Orange Counties for a half day.

If the worst scenarios detailed above occur at the same time, they could cause blackouts and higher power prices from the persistent problem of downed power lines from fires. Power lines can’t be justburied to avoid fires from downed lines.

Emerging High Voltage Direct Current technology could provide an economically feasible way to bury high voltage electric transmission lines. But such new technology is not proven yet and would take decades to install due to the incredible cost to rewire the entire grid.

Shutdown of San Onofre and 19 coastal power plants

The current three-year drought could not have come along at a worse time. California has not only shut down the 2,200 megawatt San Onofre plant. It is also in the process of decommissioning7,400 megawatts of power from 19 coastal power plants because they use ocean water to cool turbines that destroy fish larvae. Combined losses: 9,600 megawatts.

A variety of new power resources are being used to replace the lost power.  Coastal communities that thought they were getting rid of ugly power plants in their backyards are finding this isn’t so.  The reason is that shifting to highly unreliable renewable power plants locks in the need for backup power plants located nearby.  For example, the Los Angles Department of Water and Power is replacing its nine coastal power plants with quick-starting combined-cycle natural gas powered plants.

Another problem is voltage, which is like water pressure in a pipeline: the pressure has to be kept up continuously. The old fossil-fueled power plant in Redondo Beach has had to be retrofitted as a voltage regulator. Residents have thus complained that “stray voltage” has caused a number of health problems in the community. But the Redondo power plant also provides voltage to the regional electric grid.

The LADWP is phasing out its reliance on so-called “dirty” coal powered plants. But those plants are located in Utah and Nevada, where they don’t pollute California’s urban smog traps.  Coal power still comprises about 35 percent of LADWP’s energy portfolio.

Green power has also resulted in the need for more, not fewer, transmission lines. In Chino Hills, a court has ordered that the new power lines near residential areas be put underground for a 3.5-mile segment at an extra cost of $224 million, including $17 million in land from the City of Chino Hills.  That equates to a whopping $64 million per mile. It would be uneconomic to bury the entire power grid.

Californians sometimes say hot, parched conditions are “earthquake weather.” Scientists say there’s no such thing.

But what is real is the threat of cascading conditions that could lead to electricity blackouts. Little is being done to prevent similar future threats.

 

Devin Nunes…United States Congressman 22nd District of California

Drought is declared: Governor states the obvious while politicians run victory laps…1-17-14

http://nunes.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=367290

Washington,

Governor Jerry Brown today declared a drought emergency in California. Notably, in their statements about the declaration, neither the governor nor Senator DianneFeinstein mentioned any of our attempts in the House of Representatives over the past several years to pass legislation that would permanently end the state’s water crisis. The Senate has rejected all our efforts, including the comprehensive fix contained in H.R. 1837, which passed the House in 2012 but was not acted upon in the Senate. This week, senators declined another water fix that was proposed in connection with the omnibus spending bill.

The governor’s emergency declaration has sparked victory laps by politicians, plenty of slaps on the back, calls for water bonds, demands to appoint a “federal drought coordinator,” and cries of joy from water districts that refuse to tell farmers and farmworkers what it will really take to end the water crisis. The bottom line is this: the declaration of a drought emergency will accomplish next to nothing. Outside of flood-level rainfall, there are only two ways to get more water this year: get the pumps turned back on, and get more water from the San Joaquin River that will otherwise be flushed into the ocean for the sake of phantom salmon. It will take federal laws, like those passed in the House and rejected in the Senate, to accomplish those actions. Anything else is just noise.

 

 

 

 

Perplexed by Senator Feinstein’s refusal to cooperate on water legislation, I joined my colleagues Reps. McCarthy and Valadao in writing a letter today inviting the senator to meet with us and explain any legislative proposals she may have to resolve the drought...

 

 

 

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