CVSEN

 

 

MISSION STATEMENT

Central Valley Safe Environment Network is a coalition of organizations and individuals throughout the San Joaquin Valley that is committed to the concept of "Eco-Justice" -- the ecological defense of the natural resources and the people. To that end it is committed to the stewardship, and protection of the resources of the greater San Joaquin Valley, including air and water quality, the preservation of agricultural land, and the protection of wildlife and its habitat. In serving as a community resource and being action-oriented, CVSEN desires to continue to assure there will be a safe food chain, efficient use of natural resources and a healthy environment. CVSEN is also committed to public education regarding these various issues and it is committed to ensuring governmental compliance with federal and state law. CVSEN is composed of farmers, ranchers, city dwellers, environmentalists, ethnic, political,and religious groups, and other stakeholders.
 
P.O. Box 64
Merced CA 95341
CVSEN@sbcglobal.net

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CVSEN Clippings

10-14-09

 

10-14-09   
Our View: A final farewell to a visionary
Dr. Carol Tomlinson-Keasey's determination put the University of California in Merced.
Dear Dr. Carol Tomlinson-Keasey,
It's too late for you to read this thank-you letter yourself, but we want your family, friends and all Mercedians to know how the Sun-Star feels about your contributions to our community.
We thank you for bringing UC Merced to Merced. It's clear from all the people talking about you after you died from breast cancer last week that you played an enormous role in one of the biggest and best episodes in our community's history.
"I don't think there would be a UC Merced today if someone else had been in her role," says Joe Kieta, former editor of the Sun-Star and now editor of the Utica, N.Y., Observer-Dispatch. "She was a brilliant academic who learned to play politics."
Matthew Lyons, a member of UC Merced's first class after graduating from high school in 2005, and his class's gift coordinator, wrote in an e-mail that "TK," as she was widely known, "didn't just embody the triumph of passion and labor that has become UC Merced. Carol was UC Merced."
Mayor Ellie Wooten called her a friend and enjoyed their cups of coffee together. "She was a strong lady and a gentle lady," she says. "I miss her."
Bob Smith, director of special projects for Merced County, was an instrumental player in dealing with the many complex issues facing folks who wanted to build the campus here.
"She wasn't unnecessarily encumbered by the overwhelming technological and environmental obstacles," he recalls. "What impressed me was her ability to step over the obstacles and keep her eyes on the prize."
Heather Orrell was also a member of that first class who's now working on a doctorate in cardiological physiology at UC Merced and coaches the softball team. She remembers TK meeting her, on crutches, after Orrell tore up her knee playing softball. "Are you OK?" she asked the student, flexing her way down some stairs. Orrell said she was fine.
Later in a speech, the chancellor cited Orrell's perseverance as a sign that UC Merced would prevail.
"She wouldn't take 'no' for an answer about the development of UC Merced," says Bill Cahill, assistant city manager of Merced. "The vision she had from the beginning was that, like all UC campuses, this one would be world class and would do things in a world-class way."
Dr. TK, in 10 or 15 or 20 years, the community of Merced will be a much different place than it is now, or from when you first lobbied for the UC campus here. It will be bigger. It will be better. So many of us will benefit, directly and indirectly, from a dynamic institution.
Our health care in the Valley will be better because of the medical school, which should be up and running by then. All of us will profit from the growing presence of UC Merced graduates, faculty, staff and students. We'll see more stores and shops. More entertainment venues. Even better cultural events.
Town and gown will together form a vibrant whole. Together -- with Merced College -- we'll grow in a renaissance of learning, enterprise and community.
This letter of appreciation and gratitude is not only for you and yours today. We hope that the generation of leaders now spreading their wings at UC Merced, Merced College and our high schools may read this when they're grownups.
And we hope they'll then appreciate, at least in part, all you did for them. And for all of us.
Modesto Bee
Speakers blast North County Corridor...Garth Stapley
http://www.modbee.com/local/v-print/story/892661.html
OAKDALE -- While a storm raged outside Tuesday night, the mood inside seemed just as nasty.
Concerned, fearful and angry people marched to the microphone one after another to berate the idea of a new freeway stretching across northern Stanislaus County. Many of them own homes, farms or both in the way.
"So many of the people working on this project don't know that people really live out there. They do," said Gary Darpinian, who farms north of Modesto.
About 200 people took advantage of their first official opportunity to register comments for the formal public record on the North County Corridor, stretching from north McHenry Avenue to Highway 108 east of Oakdale, which could break ground in five years. A later leg to the west would extend the expressway to Highway 99 in Salida.
California Department of Transportation officials won't settle on a route for a couple more years. In the meantime, they're studying areas shown on maps in corridors 2,000 to 4,000 feet wide, though the freeway's width requires only about 300 feet.
Many in Tuesday's audience wore lapel stickers urging transportation officials to beef up roads already there rather than compromise their property with a new freeway, in some places eight lanes wide.
"I firmly contend that any expressway needs to be placed along existing traffic corridors," said Mark Meissner, to much applause. "Stay off prime ag land."
An information poster said the North County Corridor "may convert 4,600 acres of farmland" to something else.
Deann Dalrymple said rich farmland is consistently turned into housing subdivisions, many of them now pocked with empty, bank-owned homes.
"You're talking about taking a six-lane freeway to my doorstep," she said. "You're putting a hold on the lives of people for the next 30 years."
Others agreed that trying to sell would be hard with a future freeway nearby.
Some, including landowners squarely in study areas, said they learned about North County Corridor plans from neighbors or the newspaper and never received formal notification from the government.
"It doesn't sound like we were welcome," said Richard Meissner. He added, "Tax bills don't have any trouble getting to us."
A draft environmental document predicts traffic delays increasing 500 percent in 20 years without the North County Corridor.
But Ann Absher of Oakdale noted traffic projections showing minimal improvement at various points, and questioned whether spending $1.2 billion is worth the trouble.
And Darpinian quoted from another section where experts based predictions on assumptions showing Modesto adding 58,000 people from this year to next. "It seems like someone forgot to tell you we're in a recession," he said, calling some data "clearly flawed."
The draft document says the east leg could force out 670 people living in 124 homes and 266 workers in nine stores, 27 industrial buildings and 37 farm buildings.
Tuesday's hearing was limited to the freeway's segment east of McHenry, but some people from Salida spoke up, too.
"You're going to have majorly p------ off people at that end, you might as well know that right now," Powell told a panel of transportation officials.
The panel members answered questions in the first part of Tuesday's open house. Oakdale Mayor Farrell Jackson said officials dropped the concept of an Oakdale bypass to the city's north, in play since 1955, because Oakdale would have grown north and would have been bisected by the Stanislaus River. The North County Corridor will help drive economic development because motorists will see the city from the freeway and exit for services, Jackson said.
The panel later was restricted to listening after the official public hearing formally began.
Christine Cox-Kovacevich, Caltrans' central region office chief, made an exception when she confirmed that a group of landowners have proposed a northward shift in a study area just south of Oakdale, to align with Lexington Road and its future extension to the east. She said Caltrans will consider that idea even though the area is outside an area already being considered.
The last public hearing on draft environmental studies is scheduled from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Oct. 22 in the Riverbank Community Center, 3600 Santa Fe St.
Caine: Will it be a Blue Dog vs. a Red Dog? Stay tuned...Eric Caine
What are the odds Dennis Cardoza is worried? When Republican Mike Berryhill announced he would run against the incumbent Democrat, Cardoza got a boost from House Majority leader Steny Hoyer, who toured the San Joaquin Valley extolling Cardoza's political virtues and lamenting the lack of government support for a region in dire need help from Washington.
The following weekend, Bee editor Mark Vasché wrote that what Cardoza does "in terms of not just identifying solutions but getting Hoyer and the Democratic-controlled Congress and White House to provide the resources to implement them will determine how he fares when election time rolls around next year."
The message seems to be that Cardoza's political future might depend on how much federal aid he can deliver to his valley constituents, who have long been on the short end of government assistance.
The threat of a name-brand opponent would give any politician reason for concern, and the Berryhill name carries plenty of clout. Berryhill's uncle, Clare Berryhill, served in both the California Assembly and Senate. Clare's sons, Bill and Tom, currently serve in the Assembly.
Mike Berryhill, however, faces a formidable obstacle in the form of the valley's longtime schizophrenic political identity. On the one hand, valley residents have tended to avow strong conservative values and old-fashioned Republican virtues.
They've been especially anti-government and anti-regulation.
On the other hand, the valley's agricultural economy has long relied on state and federal assistance. Everything from water delivery to water subsidies to water allocations depends on government money, and that's just the beginning of a long list of government aid.
Longtime valley residents remember John McFall and Tony Coelho fondly because both delivered plenty of federal assistance to their constituents. Coelho's clout stemmed from his position as Democratic whip and his genius for fund-raising.
Among his many feats of government legerdemain, he was able to get dairymen federal assistance for going out of business and slaughtering cattle.
The current solution to the valley's split political personality is the Blue Dog Democrat guise adopted by both Cardoza and his disgraced predecessor, Gary Condit. Blue Dogs avoid the despised "liberal" label by bucking the party line on some issues while at the same time trying to live up to Coelho's and McFall's standards by delivering government money to a region far-removed from the path of the federal gravy train.
Berryhill's other problem is the current state of the Republican Party, which has been on life support since the presidential election. Traditionally, Republicans oppose government assistance. That stance won't do Berryhill much good in a region begging for assistance of any kind. Berryhill must find a way to promise even more than Cardoza does and then he must convince voters he can deliver.
The lesson is that one man's pork is another man's entitlement. No one is happy with politicians these days, but it may take more than a name-brand candidate to threaten an incumbent member of the party in power. Berryhill may find he needs to re-invent his party label so it fits the local political preference for big spenders in small government clothing: Anyone for a Red Dog Republican?
Fresno Bee
Activists ask EPA for tougher pesticide rules...The Associated Press
FRESNO, Calif. A coalition of nonprofit groups is asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to write stronger regulations to protect children from exposure to farm chemicals sprayed near thousands of schools.
The petition filed Wednesday by public interest law firms Earthjustice and Farmworker Justice also requests that the agency set up no-spray buffer zones around schools, parks, hospitals and day-care centers for some of the most dangerous airborne pesticides.
No specific federal laws currently prohibit spraying near schools. An EPA spokeswoman said the agency would evaluate the new petition and take action to ensure public health was protected.
In California, state figures show there were 590 pesticide-related illnesses at schools from 1996 to 2005.
Sacramento Bee
EPA releases finding on greenhouse gases suppressed by Bush administration...JIM TANKERSLEY AND ALEXANDER C. HART, Tribune Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON -- The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday released a copy of a long-suppressed report by officials in the George W. Bush administration concluding that, based on the science, the government should begin regulating greenhouse gas emissions because global warming posed serious risks to the country.
The report, technically known as an "endangerment finding," was prepared in 2007 but the Bush White House refused to make it public because the administration opposed new government efforts to regulate the gases most scientists see as the major cause of global warming.
The existence of the finding - and the refusal of the Bush White House to make it public - were previously known. But no copy of the document had been released until Tuesday.
The document "demonstrates that in 2007 the science was as clear as it is today," said Adora Andy, an EPA spokeswoman. "The conclusions reached then by EPA scientists should have been made public and should have been considered."
The Bush EPA draft was released in response to a public records request under the Freedom of Information Act.
A finding that greenhouse gases and global warming pose serious risks to the nation is a necessary step in the process of instituting government regulation. President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats are pushing for major climate legislation, but if Congress fails to act, the administration has raised the possibility that it would use an EPA finding to move toward regulation on its own.
In April, the administration released its own proposal for an endangerment finding. The newly released document from the Bush EPA shows that much of the Obama document embraced the earlier, suppressed finding word for word.
"Both reach the same conclusion - that the public is endangered and regulation is required," said Jason Burnett, a former associate deputy administrator who resigned from the EPA in June 2008 amid frustration over the Bush administration's inaction on climate change. "Science and the law transcend politics."
The 2007 draft offers an unequivocal endorsement of the prevailing views among climate scientists. It includes a declaration that the "U.S. and the rest of the world are experiencing the effects of climate change now" and warns that in the United States, those effects could lead to drought, more frequent hurricanes and other extreme weather events, increased respiratory disease and a rise in heat-related deaths.
The Obama version of the finding has gone through a required process of hearings and public comments. Now, the EPA is working out a final version of the finding, which is expected to be released in the near future.
While the 2007 Bush EPA finding and the 2009 Obama finding are nearly identical in their conclusions about climate change and the scientific foundations of the problem, the Bush version is far less detailed.
A current EPA official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to discuss the issue publicly, said the sparse descriptions of the 2007 version suggest that the EPA officials who signed off on the finding had been worried about how the White House would respond.
"They honed it down to the essential language to explain an endangerment finding," the official said. "In 2009, those constraints are removed. ... You don't see those same linguistic gymnastics."
California Legislature plans hearings on water bills...Matt Weiser
Legislative leaders say they intend to hold hearings on controversial water bills next week, a move that should appease complaints that the process has been too secret.
A special legislative session on the subject is technically under way now, after being called Sunday by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Jim Evans, spokesman for Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, said legislative staff is drafting bill language based on discussions held so far.
"We plan on public hearings next week and hopefully a vote on the floor of each respective house next week as well," Evans said.
Management of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta remains a major focus. Lawmakers aim to create a streamlined government structure to manage the estuary, build major new plumbing to improve water deliveries and restore thousands of acres of habitat.
The estuary is a transit point for water diversions to Southern California and a nursery for several of the state's most important and imperiled fish species.
Major differences continue to block a bipartisan package:
� Democrats want monitoring and regulation of groundwater resources. California is unique in that it does not require this. Republicans are wary of imposing this on farmers suffering from drought.
� Republicans want billions of dollars included in a proposed bond measure to build dams, saying only new surface storage can resolve shortages. Democrats say aggressive conservation and groundwater storage can do the job.
� Both sides want the price of a bond measure whittled down. At one point it stood at $12 billion.
� Northern California water agencies want assurances they won't have to give up water for a controversial canal proposed to divert Sacramento River water across the Delta.
� The five Delta counties are concerned about how the canal will be approved, how thousands of acres of proposed restoration lands will be managed, and whether they'll have an adequate role in both.
Even majority-party leaders have expressed concern that the bills have so far been negotiated in secret meetings among the top two lawmakers from each house and the governor � the so-called "Big 5." No specific bill language has been made public since the regular legislative session ended.
In a move toward greater openness, party leaders met with their respective caucuses Tuesday to brief them.
"It certainly has the feel of a very, very bizarre negotiating dynamic to me, and it makes me uncomfortable," said Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, chairman of the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee. "This is a 50- or 100-year solution, so certainly taking a few weeks to make sure that (legislative) members are informed, to make sure the right questions are asked, is warranted."
Stockton Record
Delta counties want voices heard on water bill…Zachary K. Johnson
STOCKTON - It's been more than a month since the clock ran out on the regular legislative session before lawmakers could pass legislation to overhaul the state's water system, and in the past week, leaders in Sacramento at times seemed close to hammering out a deal that would go up for a vote in a special session.
And because the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta figures large in any talk about the state's water future, San Joaquin County has a keen interest in what plans are being made for the estuary.
On Tuesday, the county Board of Supervisors got an update on the state's water wars from the county's point of view.
"A lot of things have transpired, and nothing has happened," said Terry Dermody, the county's water attorney at the board's meeting Tuesday morning.
Along with four other counties around the Delta, San Joaquin County has been pushing for consideration of people living around the body of water used by most of the state for irrigation and drinking water.
It would be "problematic" if the Legislature moves to vote before the counties and the public at large can adequately review the bill, Dermody said.
In the past week, representatives from the Delta counties have been meeting with newspaper editorial boards, legislators and their staffs to reassert the counties' positions. These include that any proposed bond includes money for Calaveras, Stanislaus and Mokulumne river watersheds and that any Delta plan be based on "sound science," he said.
The idea of directing water flows around, rather than through, the Delta remains in the separate Bay-Delta Conservation Plan.
One such conveyance - the peripheral canal - has been adamantly opposed by county supervisors. The concern is that other areas of the state receiving Delta water are pushing for a canal.
"Anyone south of Fresno County has one agenda, ... and that is to build a peripheral canal or some other kind of conveyance," Chairman Leroy Ornellas said. "They want the canal. Period."
Against this background, San Joaquin County is hosting the San Joaquin Valley Regional Association of California Counties conference today and Thursday at the Stockton Hilton. About 20 supervisors from nine counties are expected to attend.
The focus is on water and agriculture, and the guests will hear presentations from local water experts talking about the water history of the Delta, a peripheral canal and an idea for regional self-sufficiency when it comes to water.
It shows part of the range of options to address the state's water problems that the county can support. "A lot of folks are solidly behind one solution; we are behind many solutions," Ruhstaller said.
He has no illusions that the two-day seminar will change the minds of people with different views on water.
"At least we can show them we shouldn't be in a civil war," Ruhstaller said.
San Francisco Chronicle
Wal-Mart to pay $11M to settle Iowa workers' case...AP
Clinton, Iowa (AP) -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has agreed to pay $11 million to settle a class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of 97,000 current and former workers in Iowa over allegations that they were forced to skip breaks or work off the clock.
Clinton County District Court Judge David Sivright gave final approval for the deal Tuesday.
The lawsuit, filed in 2001, claimed the company failed to compensate workers for off-the-clock work and overtime, altered employee time records and prevented employees from taking lunch and rest breaks.
As part of the Iowa settlement, Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart did not admit any wrongdoing.
Wal-Mart announced in December it would pay as much as $640 million to settle 63 lawsuits across the country over wage and hour violations.
After storm, Calif reservoirs up 1-foot and rising...AP
Fresno, Calif. (AP) -- Northern California's biggest storm in October since 1962 is raising water levels in the state's reservoirs, but not enough to ease the drought conditions that have plagued the state for three years.
Officials at a meeting in Fresno Wednesday said Lakes Shasta and Oroville in Northern California each had risen by a full foot by late Tuesday night as they continued to see runoff from the storm.
Keith Coolidge, acting chief deputy director of the joint state and federal water agency, CALFED, said the Sacramento River, which had been flowing at 6,500 cubic feet per second, was rushing at 18,000 Wednesday. The amounts are equal to a like number of basketballs passing a fixed point each second.
Despite the early storm, state officials are planning for a dry 2010.
EBMUD board votes to boost water supply...Kelly Zito
The East Bay's largest water utility voted 4-2 Tuesday evening to approve a plan to boost its long-term water supply, including a controversial proposal to expand the Pardee Reservoir on the Mokelumne River.
After hearing from scores of local and Sierra Nevada foothills residents who oppose enlarging the reservoir, the EBMUD board threw out the biggest expansion option.
The board, meeting in Oakland, also pledged to work with environmental groups to have some of the Mokelumne designated "wild and scenic," a federal term that affords high levels of environmental protection.
Opponents of the Pardee project urged EBMUD officials to abandon proposals to enlarge the reservoir, which is on the Mokelumne along the border of Amador and Calaveras counties.
In voting against the water plan, board Director Andy Katz said, "This is a plan that is going to damage the environment."
Citing ecological harm, the loss of recreational activities and destruction of the community's social fabric, opponents of the proposed Pardee Reservoir expansion instead encouraged the district to embrace broader water recycling, conservation and new efficiency technologies.
EBMUD, which serves 1.3 million customers in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, is weighing a long-term plan to increase its water supply to 280 million gallons per day by 2040, up from about 200 million gallons today.
In addition to conservation and recycling targets, a regional desalination plant and increased underground water storage, the plan includes enlarging the reservoir. The largest expansion option would have inundated about 2 miles of the Mokelumne in a section popular with kayakers, fishermen and picnickers. The next largest option would inundate about 1.4 miles.
Tuesday's action did not offer the final word on the expansion. Officially, the EBMUD board was considering the approval of the long-range plan's environmental review. Individual projects, such as Pardee's enlargement, would be subjected to a more detailed environmental study. But opponents of the Pardee option see the environmental review as tacit approval of a project that would sever the main artery of the community.
"Expanding Pardee is like cutting off our community's and our water's right arm," said Katherine Evatt, president of the Foothill Conservancy. "You have other options for water. We don't have other options for our river."
Population and water. 1...Dr. Peter Gleick, President, Pacific Institute
Population discussions raise lots of hackles. And they bring the crazies out of the woodwork like termites when the Orkin Man appears. But I hope to post a series of pieces on population and water because we must stop ignoring the role of population in our environmental and water problems.
The amount of water on Earth is fixed. We're not losing it to space and we're not getting more (with negligible exceptions). The amount of water in a river basin or watershed is fixed. It goes up and down with natural variability, and it may change over time due to climate changes, but water is a renewable resources and our use of it does not affect the amount we get next year.
But population is not fixed. It is growing, and growing rapidly in some places. As a result, the amount of water available per person ("per capita") is declining. Here is a simple example: assume that the average flow of water in a river basin is 10 million acre-feet per year and the population using that water is 20 million people. Then on average, the water available for use is around 450 gallons per person per day, if you could use it all (which would, of course, destroy the river ecosystem, but that's another topic). If the population of the basin doubles to 40 million, the water availability per person drops in half, to around 225 gallons per person per day. If the population doubles again, water availability drops to just over 100 gallons per person per day. The math is easy, but the consequences can be severe: abundance can become shortage. In simple terms, addressing water problems in the face of population growth come down to three choices: (1) increase the water supply, (2) decrease the water demand per person, or (3) change the number of people. Water policy in the past century focused only on increasing supply. Most of the work of the Pacific Institute has focused on the second because we believe the options for new supply in most places are increasingly limited, expensive, and environmentally damaging, and we see enormous potential for reducing demand. Almost no discussion, anywhere, focuses on the third choice. But the failure to address population in the long run will be disastrous. And the "long-run" is no longer so far away.Water (Population) Numbers: While total water availability remains fixed, the population of the United States has grown from around 150 million in 1950 to over 305 million today. The population of California in 1950 was 10.5 million; today it is around 37 million. The population of the state of Georgia in 1950 was under 4 million; today it is approaching 10 million. The population of Jordan in 1960 was around a million; today it is 6 million. The population of Israel in 1960 was just over 2 million; today it exceeds 7 million. The population of Iraq in 1960 was around 7.3 million; today it exceeds 31 million.
Is it any wonder that California's, or Georgia's, or the Middle East's water problems have worsened?
In a recent paper, Richard Seager of Columbia and his colleagues analyzed the recent drought in the southeastern United States. This drought led to water use restrictions, depleted flows in the major river basins of the region, and growing political tensions over water sharing between Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. The authors of this paper concluded that the recent drought in the Southeast was not climatologically different from past droughts, but was felt more severely largely due to the growth in population in the region. In July, a Federal judge ruled that Atlanta had to fundamentally change the way it obtains its water, and noted that
"Too often, state, local, and even national government actors do not consider the long-term consequences of their decisions. Local governments allow unchecked growth because it increases tax revenue, but these same governments do not sufficiently plan for the resources such unchecked growth will require. Nor do individual citizens consider frequently enough their consumption of our scarce resources, absent a crisis situation such as that experienced in the ACF basin in the last few years. The problems faced in the ACF basin will continue to be repeated throughout this country, as the population grows and more undeveloped land is developed. Only by cooperating, planning, and conserving can we avoid the situations that gave rise to this litigation." (emphasis added)
Climate change is going to cause serious impacts on water resources, but even without it, we are running up against water constraints that will worsen if we continue to ignore the population elephant in the room.
More to come.
Contra Costa Times
Raising Sierra dam an option for East Bay water district...Mike Taugher
The East Bay's largest water district backed a long-term water supply plan Tuesday that includes the possibility of raising a dam in the Sierra foothills.
The East Bay Municipal Utility District approved a $6 million, 32-month study laying out a variety of options but concluded that in order to endure droughts with no more than 10 percent rationing the district would either have to build a major desalination plant with other Bay Area agencies or increase the height of Pardee Dam, a Great Depression-era structure on the Mokelumne River that was the tallest dam in the world when it was built.
The vote was 4-2, with directors Andy Katz and Doug Linney opposed. Director Frank Mellon was absent.
The board eliminated from consideration the largest reservoir expansion option, but left in others.
A decision on which route to choose is still at least a decade away, but dozens of speakers urged the board to drop the dam-raising alternative now. Environmental groups hinted strongly they would sue over the plan in order to preserve their ability to challenge the dam in the future.
Critics of the plan said the board could require greater water-use efficiency, accept the need to cut water use deeper in droughts or buy into the Contra Costa Water District's plan to enlarge Los Vaqueros Reservoir near Brentwood.
Former EBMUD board member Danny Wan said the plan amounted to an environmental injustice.
"You are passing on the environmental cost to somebody else," he said.
Santa Cruz Sentinel
UCSC water needs can be met during normal rain years according to city study...ADAM HARJU
http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/localnews/ci_13557742
SANTA CRUZ -- The city, during normal rain years, has enough water to meet the needs of an expansion project at UC Santa Cruz, according to an independent water supply report presented at Tuesday's City Council meeting.
During drought years, however, there is not enough water to meet the needs of the city regardless of whether the university project goes through, according to the report.
The City Council decided to delay a decision on whether to accept the report analyzing the city's water supply that would be a part of the environmental assessment for the expansion project at UCSC, in part because members of the public asked for more time to assess the findings.
"The resolution that is before the council says the city of Santa Cruz has independently analyzed the report, but the public hasn't had enough time since last Friday to analyze this," political watchdog Reed Searle said. "It is incumbent upon the council to hear any concerns they have."
Water officials said the report does not allow for the supply of water to UCSC as it seeks to grow from 15,000 students to 19,000 students by the year 2020, it merely analyzes whether the water system can meet the increased demand.
"There is no obligation to do anything with this report. It is simply an analysis of the water supply," said Bill Kocher, head of the Water Department.
Councilman Ryan Coonerty said, "The report would go into the EIR so that when [the Local Agency Formation Commission] goes to make a decision, they have this outside study that comes to this conclusion."
Growth at UCSC has been a community concern for years. In the summer of 2008, a deal was signed by the city, county, university and many who had fought university expansion that was thought would resolve many of the disputes.
The agreement specifies that UCSC will house 68 percent of new students on campus, instead of 50 percent; increase water conservation; and pay to help pave roads and fill potholes. In return, Santa Cruz will provide UCSC the water and services it needs to expand from 15,000 to 19,000 students by 2020. As part of the agreement, UCSC has said it will cap undergraduate enrollment despite the fact that a 1962 agreement allows the school unlimited water and up to 30,000 students.
The deal was hailed by many as a fair solution to the issue of university growth and demand on city resources.
Yet some are unhappy with the solution. The Community Water Coalition, headed by former county supervisor and environmental lawyer Gary Patton, recently stated legal action would be taken if the city agrees to supply the water to UCSC.
Patton could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but did e-mail a request to the council to continue the vote on the water analysis to the Oct. 27 meeting.
"We are asking you to continue the item to a future City Council meeting, since the public [including the CWC] has not really had an adequate opportunity to review and comment on this important document," the e-mail states.
The report was made available to the council three weeks ago, but the public first got hold of it Friday.
The environmental assessment is nearly complete for the UCSC growth project, which will require 100 million gallons of water per year by the year 2020, Planning Director Juliana Rebagliati said.
The decision to allow the UCSC expansion, as part of the 2008 agreement, will then be in the hands of LAFCO
Deseret News
Snake Valley water proposal still under scrutiny...Amy Joi O'Donoghue
Water monitoring is being done, biologists are studying spring snails and spotted frogs, and an advisory council is sifting through a thick binder packed with hundreds of comments.
What remains to be seen, however, is the fate of the Snake Valley draft agreement that proposes to split the water in an aquifer between Nevada and Utah.
Members of the Snake Valley Aquifer Advisory Council met Tuesday afternoon at the state Capitol to hear updates on studies that are being done in Snake Valley, including a complex system of wells that have been measuring water quality as well as fluctuations in ground water levels.
An appropriation two years ago by the Utah Legislature has funded the work by the Utah Geological Survey, and additional money is paying for studies by the state Department of Natural Resources.
That probe is looking at habitat and population concerns regarding the spotted frog and the least chub, as well as three varieties of snails, or mollusks.
Krissy Wilson, who coordinates the native aquatic species program for the department, said the funding and studies have proven extremely helpful in assessing population health, particularly that of the mollusks, which only occur in that west desert area.
The draft agreement, which includes protections for the spotted frog and least chub, is likely to undergo modifications before it is submitted to both governors for possible endorsement.
"We come to the table with some passion," said Snake Valley resident and council member Don Anderson. "Maybe let's put the passion a little bit aside and let's look at the strengths of the agreement."
Teams from both states have been negotiating for several years a water sharing agreement after the Southern Nevada Water Authority applied for water rights in Snake Valley to support a pipeline project.
The $3 billion, 285-mile pipeline would convey up to 50,000 acre-feet of water from Snake Valley to support municipal use in Las Vegas.
Water rights have been granted to the water authority in adjacent valleys in support of the pipeline, but the Nevada State Engineer has yet to sign off on the Snake Valley application.
The draft agreement puts that application on "hold" for 10 years while additional scientific and environmental studies are conducted, so critics of the agreement say there should be no rush to divvy up the water.
Critics are also concerned that too much of the "unallocated" water would end up in Nevada's hands, along with "reserve" water that may or may not exist.
Concerns have also been raised that pumping the aquifer will drop the water table so low that native vegetation will dry up and dust storms will result. Winds could carry that dust as far as the Wasatch Front, which already struggles with elevated pollution levels.
Cheryl Heyring, Utah's air quality director, said it will take between $100,000 and $120,000 to pay for the monitoring station provided for in the agreement, as well as additional money to pay for the personnel to extract data.
Council members wanted to know if the monitoring station would collect Snake Valley-specific data, which it will, but Heyring noted the more monitoring the better, conceding additional stations would help.
With the agreement still pending, council members will now spend the next two weeks reviewing the hundreds of comments and making their own suggestions for changes.
They will also seek "expert" opinions on the possible strengths of the arguments — water rights, environmental protections — to present at their next meeting.
New York Times
Restoring an Ailing River in California...Jeremy Miller, Green Inc.
The Associated Press Inspectors released water from needle valves at the Friant Dam as part of restoration efforts for the San Joaquin River in California.
For the first time in 60 years, water will flow through two long stretches of the San Joaquin River in California, a waterway that has been transformed — and often run dry — by engineering and agricultural, industrial and urban development.
This month, water surges were released from Friant Dam, near Fresno, into the San Joaquin River’s main channel. The releases come after nearly two decades of negotiations between the Natural Resources Defense Council, the federal Bureau of Reclamation and the Friant Water Users Authority, a group representing agricultural water users in the area.
Local farmers are troubled at the loss of water from the Friant-Kern and Madera canal systems, especially in light of a three-year drought that has ravaged the Central Valley’s croplands. But environmentalists say the releases are a vital first step in an immense restoration plan for the San Joaquin — one with the potential to stimulate the regional economy.
“The restoration effort will create construction-related jobs, help revive the commercial salmon fishing industry and bring a vital public resource back to life for future generations to enjoy,” said Monty Schmitt, a scientist for the council, in a statement.
In March, $400 million in funds for restoration and flood control work on the San Joaquin were made available with the passage by Congress of the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act, which also added 2 million acres of land in nine states to the nation’s wilderness areas.
The decline of the San Joaquin began in the late 1930s with the state’s huge Central Valley Project, which resulted in dozens of dams and hydroelectric plants, and hundreds of miles of aqueducts and canals on the valley’s two major watersheds –- the San Joaquin and the Sacramento.
According to Tina Swanson, the executive director of the Bay Institute, this will be the largest river restoration project in the country and will focus on a 150-mile stretch between Friant Dam and its former confluence with the Merced River.
In two reaches totaling 63 miles, the river runs completely dry; in sections where water remains, it is often badly polluted with pesticides and other agricultural chemicals (PDF).
“The project is unprecedented,” Ms. Swanson said. “In essence we are bringing a dead river back to life.”
Environmentalists say that restoring flow to the entire length of the San Joaquin will not only flush out polluted stretches and potentially rejuvenate the region’s historic salmon runs, but will also help stabilize water conditions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta, the river’s natural endpoint and origin of the California Aqueduct, which brings drinking water 450 miles to 22 million residents in Southern California.
Chinook salmon, said Ms. Swanson, are planned for reintroduction to the river in 2013.
“The true measure of success will be the ecosystems,” she said. “If we can bring back a self-sustaining, spawning population of fish, we will have done our job.”
Bloomberg
California Democrats View $9 Billion Water Bond Plan (Update1)...Michael B. Marois...10-13-09
Oct. 13 (Bloomberg) -- California’s top Democratic lawmakers said their proposal to overhaul the most populous U.S. state’s aging water-delivery system would include asking voters to approve a $9.4 billion bond measure.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, two days ago called lawmakers into a special session to finish the details of an agreement on the proposal after he held nearly around-the- clock talks with legislative leaders over the weekend. All sides said they were closing in on a compromise.
“This will represent the most comprehensive and significant water infrastructure policy since the state water project was established in the 1960s,” Assembly Speaker Karen Bass told reporters yesterday. “I think we’ve made amazing progress, but we would be taking it too far to say we have reached a deal.”
California’s elected officials have been talking about ways to modernize and expand the water-delivery system for decades without success because of the politics, including who should pay for repairs. The issue gained momentum amid the state’s budget crisis, as well as three years of drought and court- ordered supply restrictions to protect endangered smelt fish that are withering the $36 billion-a-year agriculture industry.
Resolving Crisis
Schwarzenegger tried to force lawmakers to compromise by threatening to veto many of the 700 bills he intentionally left pending on his desk since the legislative session ended last month. He relented Oct. 11, citing progress during the talks.
“While we still have a few remaining issues to work out, I commend the legislative leaders for their focus and commitment to solving this crisis,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement Oct. 11.
The framework for the proposal being considered includes plans to put a $9.4 billion bond measure on the ballot possibly as early as 2010; a state-mandated reduction in water use by 20 percent over the next decade; new rules to let the state monitor property owner pumping of groundwater and a new council to oversee restoration of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, which supplies water to two-thirds of the California’s 36.7 million people.
“Water is considered one of the unsolvable issues in this state,” said Senate President Darrel Steinberg, a Democrat from Los Angeles. “We believe we are on the verge of breaking that barrier.”
That debt would come in addition to as much as $15 billion that Treasurer Bill Lockyer said the state may sell by June 30, including refinancing as much as $4 billion of deficit bonds later this month. California already has $67 billion of general fund- supported debt outstanding.
Lockyer, also a Democrat, said in a report Oct. 1 that the state is set to sell as much as $44 billion of already-approved bonds backed by the general fund through the end of 2013 and that lawmakers should consider revenue bonds backed by user fees to pay for some of the water improvements.
Dams, Canals
California, which has the world’s eighth-largest economy and accounts for 13 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product, sold $4.1 billion in bonds last week while possessing a Standard & Poor’s A rating, the lowest among U.S. states.
The final size of the water-bond measure, how much of that money would go toward dams favored by Republicans and whether to build a canal to circumvent the delta to send Los Angeles more of the San Joaquin’s water are issues that still must be resolved.
The bond plan would need approval by two-thirds of the Legislature before going to the voters. If approved, the debt sales would be staggered, possibly over a decade, rather than sold all at once.
Democrats plan to hold hearings on those provisions next week.
 
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10-13-09

 

10-13-09
Modesto Bee
Modesto landowners fund growth campaign...Garth Stapley
http://www.modbee.com/local/v-print/story/891216.html
All of Measure E's campaign donations came from landowners hoping their rural properties eventually would be annexed to Modesto and developed, according to finance disclosure forms.
Measure E is the only one among five Modesto growth measures whose supporters are actively campaigning to persuade voters that the city should extend sewer services for eventual building. They had raised $16,563 and spent $10,069 as of Sept. 19, according to the report.
Also known as the Hetch-Hetchy area, the 830-acre tract is east of North McHenry Avenue's car dealerships and bounded on its other sides by Pelandale Avenue, Claribel Road and Oakdale Road. Hetch-Hetchy would produce the most houses as opposed to jobs, compared to Measures A, B, C and D.
Measure E also was the only measure that did not receive unanimous City Council backing, advancing to the Nov. 3 ballot on a 4-2 vote after failing to gain support from a council growth committee. And it's the only measure that didn't win an endorsement from the Modesto Chamber of Commerce.
Measure E's largest donations came from Anthony Rodin of Rodin Ranch ($4,550, 113 acres in Hetch-Hetchy), Ronald Ursini ($3,206, 80 acres) and Alex Liakos ($2,559, 64 acres).
The advisory growth measures are not binding on the council.
Frank Bavaro said he and other property owners are advocating for Measure E without the help of a development firm, in hopes that the area would be ready to build when the market rebounds in several years.
"There is not a developer involved in this, other than me getting landowners together and saying, 'Hey, let's all kick in a few bucks,' " Bavaro said.
Supporters were late filing campaign reports because the city clerk's office did not inform them they had to, said campaign consultant Michael Gaffney. The landowners paid him $6,000, according to the report.
Added to the other measures, Modesto voters will weigh in on potential development of nearly 3,000 acres on the city's fringe -- the largest combined areas in 30 years of advisory growth measures.
Capitol Weekly
Two-step bond eyed in water talks...John Howard
The closed-door negotiations over California's water future between Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Legislature's leaders include a plan to borrow $9.4 billion with voter approval -- but use only half the funds through 2015 and the rest later.
About a third the money, perhaps $3 billion, would be used to develop storage, but whether by dams or groundwater storage has not yet been spelled out. The bond money would be spent in conjunction with matching funds from the locals, and streams of revenue coming from the rates of watger consumers. 
There is no agreement on the finance piece of the water proposal, but sources in both houses believe the political leadership appeared closer on this section than on other sections of the complex water puzzle.
Earlier, state Treasurer Bill Lockyer questioned the wisdom of adding more bond indebtedness. "If we're not careful, rising debt service payments soon will consume more than 10 percent of General Fund revenues," he noted. "The days of blithely heaping more and more debt burden on the Gneral Fund are over - at least they should be." He said improvements in the state's water works should be financed mainly by users, not the state's General Fund, which is backed by all taxpayers. 
At issue is a plan to overhaul California aging water delivery system that would move more water from rain-rich northern California to mid-state farmers and the vast population centers of the arid south. The plan would include environmental protections for the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta east of San Francisco and a create a new body called the Stewardship Council. Its seven members -- including four gubernatorial appointees -- would make critical decisions on water projects. Potentially, the plan could lead to the construction of two new reservoirs - thus far, however, they are not spelled out in the proposed legislation and none are guaranteed -- and increase the water level of a third. Similarly, the hotly contested building of a canal to move water through or around the delta to the south is not specifically spelled out in the latest negotiations but is included in separate state planning.
If ultimately approved, the proposals would mark the most significant water development in California since voters approved the State Water Project a half-century ago.
The governor and legislative leaders said that they were close to an agreement last year and earlier this year, but negotiations collapsed as time ran out and partisanship kicked in. Major players in the latest political fight over water, including environmentalists and an array of water agencies, say they have been excluded from the Capitol negotiations, which have been tightly held in the governor's office. 
The construction of billions of dollars in projects has drawn fire from environmentalists, who contend that too little attention is being directed at conservation, groundwater storage, species protection, groundwater monitoring and other issues. They questioned provisions in the latest proposals, still under discussion, that could lessen monitoring and lower the amount of set aside to protect wildlife.
The governor has called a special session on water to begin Wednesday, but Capitol sources in both houses said it was unlikely that lawmakers would be able to act this week, in part because any newly drafted legislation reflecting the a deal would need to be in print and vetted.
A north-south, bipartisan agreement on water, a rarity in the Capitol, is the culmination on months of negotiations and a bitter, three-pronged fight between environmentalists, northern water interests and the powerful public water districts of the Central Valley and Southern California.
Despite legal hurdles, two reservoirs have figured in the discussions. One is the 1.9 million acre-foot Sites Reservoir near Maxwell in Colusa County in the Antelope Valley. The other is Temperance Flat complex above Fresno, a $3.3 billion project that would store about 2 million acre-feet. A third reservoir, Los Vaqueros run by Contra Costa water officials, could have its level raised.
San Francisco Chronicle
Myriad details on water fix divide Calif lawmakers...SAMANTHA YOUNG, Associated Press Writer
Sacramento, Calif. (AP) -- Figuring out a way to update California's water system has vexed governors and lawmakers for decades, a record of inaction Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger hopes to reverse through a special legislative session this fall.
Even after days of negotiations, it is unclear whether the pressure Schwarzenegger is placing on the legislative leaders of the Assembly and Senate will result in the type of consensus that has eluded generations of political leaders.
"I think the jury is still out," said Steve Erie, a political science professor at the University of California, San Diego, who said Democrats and Republicans set aside their differences decades ago to make sure the state had a reliable water supply for farms and cities. "But now even water projects are in the partisan crosshairs in Sacramento."
Democrats have proposed a $9.4 billion bond that is intended to improve California's aging water infrastructure and address environmental problems in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the estuary that serves as the conduit for moving water from Northern California's rivers to the south.
A companion bill calls for statewide conservation and groundwater monitoring, higher penalties for those who take water illegally and a new government body to oversee the delta.
But lawmakers continued to haggle over how to pay for it, how much cities should be required to conserve and whether private land owners ought to let the state survey their wells to determine the level of groundwater available.
"We have to eliminate a number of poison pills in this bill, which if not addressed could move us backward by a generation in the state," Assembly Minority Leader Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, said in an interview Monday.
Schwarzenegger, Republicans and farmers have pushed for an increased water supply — primarily by building two new dams — while Democrats prefer to save water by increasing conservation measures. The state's severe fiscal crisis hangs over the negotiations, complicating any decision about spending billions of dollars on public works projects.
Democratic leaders said they hope to reach an agreement with Republicans on the outstanding issues by the end of the week. While Schwarzenegger called a special session of the Legislature on Sunday, neither the Assembly nor the Senate have set a date to meet.
At a Monday news conference in Los Angeles focused on renewable energy, Schwarzenegger said legislative leaders have shown "great interest" in reaching a water deal. It was one of the reasons the Republican governor said he backed off his threat to veto hundreds of their bills by Sunday if they failed to agree on water legislation.
Passing a water bond needs a two-thirds vote in the Legislature, requiring at least some support from Republicans. The latest proposal by Democrats would authorize a $9.4 billion general obligation bond that would go before voters in 2010.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said lawmakers were discussing a provision that would prevent half the bond money from being spent before 2015. That would spread out the interest the state would owe on such a large bond.
"When people, (lawmakers), stakeholders, most importantly the public, have an opportunity to review this work, I believe they will see this as the most comprehensive advance in water in California in many decades," Steinberg said.
Republicans have been unwilling to hash out the final details of a bond until they are satisfied with the policy changes Democrats are seeking in the accompanying bill, which requires a simple majority vote and can be passed without GOP support.
Among the sticking points:
_ Democrats want to create a seven-member council to create a plan on how to get a healthy delta. Republicans are concerned about creating another government entity that has no accountability to the Legislature. They also question the council's composition.
_ Democrats want to mandate that cities boost water conservation by 20 percent over the next decade. Republicans are objecting to exemptions that would be granted to Los Angeles, Long Beach, Santa Ana and San Francisco, which might only have to conserve 5 percent of their water use because of past conservation achievements. They also are concerned that cities that do not meet the target would be subject to lawsuits.
_ Democrats say water districts should be required to monitor private wells to determine how much groundwater there is in the state. They argue California is the only state that does not have a groundwater monitoring program. Republicans say groundwater levels can be determined in each basin by monitoring only a handful of wells. They say keeping tabs on every well in the state would be burdensome and unnecessary.
_ Democrats have proposed doubling fines on those who illegally take water and giving the State Water Resources Control Board greater power to investigate water diversions. Republicans oppose giving that kind of power to an unelected body.
_ Democrats have scaled back their initial bond proposal from $12 billion to $9.4 billion. Republicans like the language that would make some of the money available for dams and restoring the delta, but they question what one lawmaker describes as pork-barrel projects meant to generate support from Southern California water districts and voters. Those include grant money for water recycling, cleanup of contaminated groundwater and wastewater treatment facilities.
Indybay
Governor Schwarzenegger's Race to Raise the Deficit...Dan Bacher..10-12-09 
There is no doubt the Arnold Schwarzenegger, the worst Governor for fish, people and the environment in California history, is obsessed with building a monument to his "manhood" and gigantic ego, the peripheral canal.
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, campaign director of Restore the Delta, reports on Governor Schwarzenegger's mad race to raise the state's deficit by building the peripheral canal.
Delta Flows: Restore the Delta Newsletter, October 12, 2009
"That's the scary part. I didn't know if I should smile, crack up, scream or run." ---The Wizard of Oz
http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/10/12/18625288.php
Governor Schwarzenegger's Race to Raise the Deficit
Today, Bloomberg News Service reports that a $2.1 billion tax deficit for October, 2009 threatens to unravel California's three-month-old budget. Click here to read the story:
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aVrXkgPkXqSk
But that doesn't fluster Governor Schwarzenegger and top legislative leaders who according to Governor Schwarzenegger's statement yesterday are close to a deal on a water package. Never mind that the public has no idea at this point what is in the proposed legislation or how much it will cost - that this deal in its latest incarnation has not been seen in print - or that all Delta legislators have been left out of the negotiations process.
Instead, Governor Schwarzenegger declared in his statement regarding a special session on water that he is ready to:
"To consider and act upon legislation to place a general obligation bond and, as necessary, a lease revenue bond on the ballot."
Columnist Mike Fitzgerald from the Record wrote a terrific column this weekend showing the peripheral canal project getting bigger by the minute (Click here to read his column:
http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20091011/A_NEWS0803/910110301#STS=g0pm1apb.rot).
Yes, it's getting bigger and more fantastical in the minds of canal proponents; never mind the pesky deficit is growing in size at the same time. After all, it's so easy to govern say if one ignores reality and manages the Capitol like a movie set.
And while the Governor and DWR Chief Lester Snow continue pushing forward the BDCP (also known as the Big Detrimental Canal Project), water exported from the Delta is for resale. Click here to see Restore the Delta's You Tube clip,
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RpEhieTzVHQ, on where Delta water is going after it leaves the Delta.
As all this water theater plays out in Sacramento with the Governor in his starring role, thousands of people in the Southern San Joaquin Valley, many in the farmworker communities that the Governor likes to make references to in his speeches, do not have clean drinking water, despite numerous legislative efforts, and the passage of previous water bonds.
But that doesn't disturb the Governor. He vetoed AB1242 yesterday - a bill calling for a human right to clean and affordable drinking water. Clearly, in the Governor's mind, California's water, part of the public trust, is not to be managed for equitable human use including the poor, or for protecting Delta fisheries and family farming communities, the middle class. It's a commodity for the profit of a few well off landowners on the Westside of the San Joaquin Valley.
There Are Alternatives for Managing California's Water System
Last Friday, Restore the Delta, along with twenty-three environmental organizations, rolled out California water policy recommendations to Governor Schwarzenegger, Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, and Assembly Speaker Karen Bass. These groups, representing hundreds of thousands of Californians, are calling for a water package based on sustainability, equity, and sustainable financing, rather than the continued model of big projects that profit a small percentage of California water users. To read our recommendations for a new water paradigm for California's future click here:
http://www.restorethedelta.org/pdfs/New-Paradigm-FINAL.pdf.
Bloomberg
California Debt Unnerves Investors as Taxes Plunge $2 Billion...William Selway and Michael B. Marois...10-12-09
Oct. 12 (Bloomberg) -- A $2.1 billion drop in California tax collection is opening a hole in Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s budget only three months after lawmakers in the most-populous state slashed spending for the second time in a year.
General fund revenue in the state accounting for 13 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product dropped to $19.4 billion during the fiscal year’s first three months, according to figures Democratic Controller John Chiang released Oct. 9. The total for the period ended Sept. 30 trailed by $1.1 billion, or 5.3 percent, forecasts in the annual budget the Republican governor signed July 28.
“This reinforces that state’s budget problems aren’t over, and as the year goes on, we’re likely to see growing budget deficit projections,” said David Blair, an analyst with Pacific Investment Management Co. in Newport Beach, California, which invests $20 billion in municipal bonds. “This clearly is going to continue to put pressure on the Legislature and the governor.”
The latest report underscores how states including California, the largest municipal bond issuer in the U.S., are still dealing with fallout from the recession even as the economy begins its recovery. The state last week was forced to raise yields to attract buyers to a $4.1 billion debt sale, after cutting the issue from $4.5 billion.
California’s decision helped push up borrowing costs in the municipal market by the most in almost four months even as states prepare new issues of taxable Build America Bonds, whose sales already total $40.2 billion. The Treasury pays 35 percent of interest costs for the debt, part of the federal economic stimulus plan approved in February.
Losing Jobs
State governments are particularly hard hit by a continuing loss of jobs, which dampens the income- and sales-tax collections upon which they depend. From April through June, states and localities recorded a 12 percent tax revenue decline from a year earlier, the third consecutive quarterly drop, according to the U.S. Census. The national unemployment rate in September was 9.8 percent, the highest since 1983, according to the U.S. Labor Department.
In New York, Governor David Paterson on Oct. 6 ordered state agencies to cut spending amid predictions that the deficit for the year ending March 31 may grow to $3 billion, $900 million more than budget officials estimated in July. Pennsylvania, acting 101 days into the fiscal year, enacted a $27.8 billion budget on Oct. 9 that raises cigarette taxes and expands gambling to boost revenue. Ohio confronts an $844 billion gap, while Connecticut will borrow $2.25 billion over the next two years, beginning with a $1 billion debt sale in November, to balance its budget.
‘Somewhat Unique’
“California’s problems, while somewhat unique and self- inflicted, are really America’s problems,” said Bill Gross, co-chief investment officer of the world’s biggest bond fund wrote on Oct. 1. State and federal lawmakers, unable to comprehend the extent of consumer borrowing, “reflect a lack of vision to perceive that the strong growth in revenues was driven by the same excess leverage and the same delusionary asset appreciation that was bound to approach cliff’s edge.”
The state has been among the hardest hit and its Legislature, requiring a two-thirds vote to raise taxes or pass a budget, has struggled to respond swiftly as the state’s fiscal strains worsened this year. Since February, Schwarzenegger and lawmakers have slashed $32 billion from spending, cutting into funding for schools, universities and welfare programs. They also raised taxes by $12.5 billion to balance the $85 billion budget.
’ Court Decision
Chiang, the controller, said the state’s latest figures show that Schwarzenegger and the Legislature must prepare for “more difficult decisions ahead.” California was also handed a defeat on Oct. 2 by the state’s Supreme Court, which let stand a ruling that the governor and lawmakers illegally used $3.6 billion of money meant for local transportation agencies to balance the budget since 2007.
“Revenues more than $1 billion under estimates and recent adverse court rulings are dealing a major blow to a budget that is barely 10-weeks old,” Chiang said in a statement Oct. 9. “While there are encouraging signs that California’s economy is preparing for a comeback, the recession continues to drag state revenues down.”
California isn’t at immediate risk for running out of cash as it did in July, when it resorted to issuing IOUs to pay some vendors and tax refunds as lawmakers fought over how to shore up finances. Last month, it borrowed $8.8 billion by selling notes, an advance on the tax it will collect later in the budget year.
Plugging Gaps
Schwarzenegger’s administration said it’s too soon to tell whether the slide in tax receipts through September foretells a worsening trend. Should revenue continue slipping, California lawmakers may find it difficult to make up for the gaps, given how deeply they have already cut and resistance among Republicans to further tax increases.
Schwarzenegger, 62, who can’t seek re-election because of term limits, doesn’t have to present his budget for the next 12- month fiscal period until January, and he has given no indication that he is planning to call an emergency session beforehand, as he did last year.
“Clearly, the numbers are cause for concern but the issue now for us is to determine if this is a one-time event or whether it has one more long-term implications,” said H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for Schwarzenegger’s finance department.
The tax collection figures were released after the conclusion of a $4.1 billion bond sale, which was trimmed by about $400 million after investors demanded higher yields than the state was willing to pay on some of the securities. The sale came after a rally in demand for municipal bonds pushed state- and local-government borrowing costs to a 42-year low.
Watching for Deterioration
David Blair, the Pimco analyst, said the pullback was caused by the low yields California offered amid lingering investor concern that the state’s fiscal condition may deteriorate further.
“They just got a little aggressive in where they wanted to price it,” Blair said. “Most people still recognize that there’s budget deficits the state is trying to deal with this year and going forward.”
The difference between a 10-year California bond and a top- rated municipal security reached as much as 1.71 percentage points on July 1, when the California debt yielded 5.21 percent, according to Bloomberg data. The difference slipped to 1.06 percent on Sept. 11 before ending at 1.21 percent on Oct. 9.
Future Debt Sales
California plans to sell as much as $15 billion more in bonds this year and its deficits, while not projected to reach the $60 billion it dealt with in the two years that end in July, are persistent. The state will face a $7.4 billion gap in the fiscal year beginning on June 30 and about $15 billion in each of the following two fiscal periods, California Treasurer Bill Lockyer said in his annual report on the state’s debt, released ahead of the bond sale.
Tom Dresslar, a spokesman for the treasurer, said his office has alerted investors that the fiscal troubles are far from over and the latest tax data did little to alter the outlook.
“The state has been very clear that our budget problems aren’t behind us,” Dresslar said. “This shouldn’t be a big surprise to anybody.”
Contra Costa Times
EBMUD likely to move ahead with dam plan today...Mike Taugher
The East Bay's largest water agency today will consider moving ahead on its plan to raise a Sierra dam, flooding a prime stretch of river to ease the grip of droughts.
The proposal is part of the East Bay Municipal Utility District's plan to secure additional water supplies through the year 2040. The district's directors are expected to approve the final environmental study today at a meeting in Oakland.
Water agency planners offered two alternatives —- either raise Pardee Dam on the Mokelumne River or build desalination plants with other Bay Area water agencies to ensure its 1.3 million customers never have to endure more than 10 percent water rationing in a drought.
"What we're trying to do is look down the road," said board director John Coleman. "We may find in this entire process (that the benefits) don't justify the cost of an enlarged Pardee. We may find that desalination will do it for us."
Critics contend that inundating a scenic and popular stretch of river is unwarranted.
"We can't drought-proof California," said Steve Evans, conservation director for Friends of the River. "When we have drought, people are going to have to cut back."
A final decision on whether to raise the dam is years away and will require additional environmental studies, but if the board adopts the plan as expected today, Evans said, environmentalists will have 30 days to sue.
The decision comes just months before the district expects to have access to water from the $1 billion Freeport project that it is building with Sacramento.
Freeport, which will draw water from the Sacramento River, is meant to shield residents from droughts. But EBMUD customers could still face 25 percent rationing in the most severe drought.
"To ask our customers to cut 25 percent after they've done all the things we've asked for was to be too much of a hardship," said district general manager Dennis Diemer.
Regulatory agencies that oversee salmon, land, water and the Mokelumne River have strongly criticized the environmental report.
· The collapse of California's chinook salmon runs could require finding ways to allow salmon and steelhead to pass the district's Camanche and Pardee dams so they can spawn upstream, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service. Raising the dam, "doesn't support recovery of these fish," the service wrote to the district earlier this year.
· The state agency that oversees water rights questioned whether the district really needs the water "in the near term" and noted that it already has unused reservoir space downstream of Pardee.
· The stretch of the Mokelumne River that would be inundated if the dam has been declared suitable for inclusion as a wild and scenic river, the nation's highest level of environmental protection for a river in the nation, noted the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
· The board meeting begins at 1:15 p.m. in EBMUD's board room at 375 11th St., Oakland.
Mercury News
High Speed Rail Authority shops alternatives through San Jose...John Woolfol
http://www.mercurynews.com/news/ci_13547760?nclick_check=1
State officials looking to shoot 220-mph bullet trains through densely populated neighborhoods in San Jose — with the least resistance from residents — are shopping four alternatives to the original route along existing Caltrain tracks.The California High Speed Rail Authority's preliminary proposal was to run the trains along the existing tracks from downtown's Diridon Station south toward the Tamien Station. But that route runs through the Gardner and North Willow Glen neighborhoods, where residents fear the increased rail traffic and accompanying noise. Neighbors also fear they could be forced to sell property adjacent to the tracks to accompany the new trains.
Willow Glen resident Larry Ames said the original proposal "would be very destructive to the northern Willow Glen area," where homes are right alongside the tracks. With high-speed rail eventually expected to run trains every 3 minutes, he said, "that would be maddeningly noisy."
The $45 billion bullet-train project, supported by bonds that state voters approved last year with Proposition 1A, is projected to run trains from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 2 hours and 40 minutes, beginning in 2020. The alternative routes will be evaluated as part of an environmental review expected to be completed in 2011.
One possible alternative suggested by the city is a narrower high-speed rail footprint with three rather than four tracks to accommodate express trains. But the rail authority last week also unveiled four other alternatives suggested by residents and local officials that would ease neighborhood concerns — though likely at a much steeper price.
"This is what we heard from you, this is what we've come up for the alternatives," said Gary Kennerly, the rail authority's regional manager for the San Jose-to-Merced section of the high-speed line. "The next step is to take these alternatives and evaluate them."
While trains following the existing tracks would run at or above ground level, three of the new alternatives would put a significant part of the line underground between Tamien and Diridon. An underground line is favored by many residents in the North Willow Glen and Gardner neighborhoods and would allow the trains to run a straighter, faster route.
But Kennerly said the tracks would have to be bored 110 feet underground to avoid a proposed BART line and other obstacles. It is not even certain such a route is feasible from an engineering standpoint, and the cost is expected to be huge.
"If we can determine it's actually constructible, we can then start putting a price to it," Kennerly said. "I would expect it to be quite a high premium."
Another possibility is running elevated tracks along Interstate 280 and Highway 87 between Diridon and Tamien. Such a route would have even more of an "S" curve than the original proposal, slowing the trains. But it would be cheaper and easier than tunneling.
Ames had suggested such a route and was pleased to see it included.
"They're listening to the whole community," he said, "and that's what I'm glad to hear."
Proposed alignments for high-speed rail...image
Los Angeles Times
What if Tom Campbell had money?
The Republican is not far from the California mainstream, but his race for governor needs dollars...George Skelton, Capitol Journal...10-12-09
From Sacramento
Tom Campbell is one of those "what if?" political candidates with intriguing potential scenarios.
He doesn't appear to stand a prayer of winning the Republican nomination for governor, let alone the job of chief executive itself. But what if:
* Voters in the Republican primary next June are looking for a new governor who doesn't need training wheels, who could get up to speed from the start and has been leveling with them about the precise routes he'll take?
* Campbell's two mega-rich GOP competitors -- former EBay chief executive Meg Whitman and state insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner -- commit murder-suicide in a bombardment of TV attack ads? That's what Democrats Al Checchi and Jane Harman did in 1998, allowing under-funded Gray Davis to win the party nomination.
* He does manage to become the Republican nominee? Many political pros think that the centrist Campbell would be the strongest candidate against either probable Democratic offering, state Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown or San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.
* Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger provides Campbell with a priceless ballot title: "Lieutenant Governor"? The office is expected to be vacated soon. The incumbent, Democrat John Garamendi, is favored to win a congressional seat in a special election on Nov. 3. His replacement would be appointed by the governor. Campbell was Schwarzenegger's finance director in 2005 and the two share similar ideologies, if not styles.
Have they talked about the lieutenant governor's job? "I'm going to keep my conversations confidential," Campbell told me, hinting that he had.
One huge problem, however, with the scenario of an LG appointment: It would have to be confirmed by the Democratic-controlled Legislature.
"Campbell is the Republican who scares us the most," says Bill Cavala, a former Democratic operative for the state Assembly who's now managing Garamendi's campaign. "Not in a thousand years would we breathe life into such a dangerous candidate."
OK, that in itself would be a gift: Campbell would get a lot of news media attention. And after Democrats rudely rejected him, he could appeal to Republican voters by railing against Sacramento's incessant hyper-partisan politics.
But Campbell, 57, rarely rails. More commonly he lectures, like the longtime professor -- law, economics, business -- that he is when not representing Silicon Valley in Congress or the state Senate. He also has run twice unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate.
Nobody I've talked to gives Campbell much chance of winning, for three basic reasons:
First, and most important, he's a political pauper. He'll be greatly outspent by Whitman and Poizner, who can dig into their own deep pockets for campaign cash, and are doing it.
Second, his personality isn't exactly rock-star quality. He comes across as the smartest kid in the class, and he usually is. He's highly articulate, very polite, often smiles and seldom frowns, but he isn't someone voters would naturally warm up to unless they're fellow wonks.
Third, he may seem too centrist for GOP activists, who lean far right and greatly influence party primaries.
But he's holding his own in the early competition.
A Field Poll released last week showed him essentially tied with Whitman among Republican primary voters. The results: Whitman 22%, Campbell 20%, Poizner 9%. Whitman ran strongest among voters over 50. Campbell led comfortably among those under 50.
But half the voters were undecided and most had no opinion of any GOP candidate.
In general election matchups, all three Republicans trailed Democrat Newsom -- Campbell less so. Brown clobbered everyone.
Few people are paying attention. But Campbell's still pumping out eye-glazing specifics, including these:
* Taxes. He won't take the "no tax" pledge because that would "handcuff" a governor. He wants "flexibility." In fact, he proposed a one-year gas tax increase to balance the state budget rather than borrow and raid local treasuries.
But, he says, "I'd far rather lower taxes. And you should lower taxes when you've lowered expenditures, not the other way around, or you're just creating a budget deficit."
He wouldn't touch Proposition 13, the property tax break.
And he thinks a recent blue-ribbon commission headed by investor Gerald Parsky was "on the right track" when it recommended a totally new "business net receipts tax" to replace the corporation and state sales taxes. That's because it would tend to tax consumption rather than income.
* Marijuana. He's against legalizing and taxing it. "That would be absurd because the federal government won't permit it." Besides, he adds, many marijuana distributors also peddle meth. Legalizing pot would set up an easy money laundering scheme for "very, very dangerous people."
* Budget. Cut back all social spending -- on healthcare, welfare and the aged and disabled -- to the national average.
And ask Washington to allow California to take all the federal and state money spent on healthcare for the poor -- $42 billion -- and permit private insurers to compete to provide the care. That could save $8.6 billion, he asserts. The feds probably wouldn't agree, he admits, "but one has to try."
* Water. He'd call for help from the so-called god squad, a federal panel that could exempt the Delta smelt from endangered species protection and pump water back into San Joaquin Valley irrigation ditches. He'd transplant that tiny fish to another body of water.
Long term, he'd heighten Shasta Dam, develop an off-stream reservoir and build the controversial peripheral canal around the delta. He'd also emphasize conservation and encourage desalinization using clean, economical nuclear power.
* Other stuff: He favors same-sex marriage and abortion rights. He opposes offshore drilling and demoting the Legislature to part-time. He's for an open primary.
Call him a fiscal conservative and social moderate -- not far from the California mainstream. Nobody's going to agree with all his views, but he should get points for not playing dodge ball.
What if that's what voters want next year? Naw. Even if they did, he'd still need money to be noticed.
New York Times
California Tries to Solve Water Woes...JENNIFER STEINHAUER
LOS ANGELES — In a sign that a deal addressing California’s longstanding water supply problems may be near, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger convened a special session of the Legislature on Monday to revisit a package of water bills.
A three-year drought, federal environmental regulations restricting water flows and the fixation of Mr. Schwarzenegger — who has said he is determined to leave a mark on one of the state’s most intractable problems before leaving office next year — have heightened the urgency for an agreement.
Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, had threatened to veto some 700 bills if lawmakers did not reach a water deal by Sunday, the end of the regular legislative session. But he backed off that threat on Monday, citing progress as lawmakers and members of his staff hunkered down to work on the issue.
The special session is expected to last until the end of the week, and both Republicans and Democrats expressed optimism on Monday that a deal was in the offing.
“While we still need to hammer out remaining issues,” Darrell Steinberg, a Democrat and Senate president pro tem, said in a statement, “we are on the verge of the most comprehensive advance on water in California in decades. We’ve made significant breakthroughs on many of the sticking points that have plagued past attempts to stabilize the state’s water supply.”
The negotiations are focused on repairing the state’s fragile water ecosystem, unleashing new water supplies and increasing water conservation throughout the state. More specifically, negotiators hope to seal a deal that would make equal the goals of restoring the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta — a collection of channels, natural habitats and islands at the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers that is a major source of the state’s drinking water — and increasing the supply of water to residents, businesses and farms.
State officials say the restoration of the delta, as envisioned in the negotiations, would be the largest environmental restoration project in the United States, surpassing the effort under way in the Florida Everglades.
But the battle over how to distribute California’s water is generations old — it was Mark Twain who was believed to have said, “Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over” — and when it comes to water legislation, close to done never means done. In the delta alone, myriad efforts have sought to change how water flows and to whom, including a package of five policy and bond bills that never made it to a vote in the Democratic-controlled Legislature this year.
Yet many factors have made the need to fix California’s water system problems all the more pressing.
The drought has led to water restrictions and increased prices for water around the state. And along with the drought, a federal order last year forcing water authorities to curtail the use of large pumps in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to help preserve dying smelt has reduced water flows to agriculture and resulted in dust-bowl-like conditions for many of the state’s farms. In 2008, over 100,000 acres of the 4.7 million acres in the Central Valley were left unplanted, and experts expect that number to grow this year.
In addition, environmental problems in the Sacramento River have resulted in a collapse of the Chinook salmon population, closing salmon season off the coast of California and much of Oregon for two years in a row.
Among the bills in the making is one that would issue roughly $9 billion in bonds, including $3 billion to build at least one dam. Some of the money would also be used to help restore the delta ecosystem and fortify levies to withstand natural disasters like floods and earthquakes. The bonds would require voter approval.
What remains to be worked out, negotiators say, is whether any money would be set aside to build a peripheral canal that would transport water from the Sacramento River around the delta to federal and state aqueducts for use in urban and agricultural areas in the southern part of the state. The canal, long a contentious issue among California water managers and politicians, is favored by Mr. Schwarzenegger and Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat.
Another disputed piece of the negotiations involves the monitoring of groundwater levels. Without monitoring groundwater usage, it is impossible to tell whether aquifers are being stressed, which can lead to weakened levees and damage to the surrounding environment. As the drought has persisted, tapping into groundwater supplies has increased, especially among farmers — and in some areas, state officials say, dangerously so.
While roughly 70 percent of the state’s water districts voluntarily measure groundwater levels, reporting the levels is not mandatory, and Democrats had sought to make it so. Republican lawmakers staunchly opposed state government “trespassing” on private property to do so. A compromise would make a water district’s failure to voluntarily report levels result in the loss of billions of dollars from state bonds.
Find Water Polluters Near You...Interactive map
Across the nation, the system that Congress created to protect the nation’s waters under the Clean Water Act of 1972 today often fails to prevent pollution. The New York Times has compiled data on more than 200,000 facilities that have permits to discharge pollutants and collected responses from states regarding compliance. Information about facilities contained in this database comes from two sources: the Environmental Protection Agency and the California State Water Resources Control Board. The database does not contain information submitted by the states.
Cleansing the Air at the Expense of Waterways...CHARLES DUHIGG. Karl Russell contributed reporting.
MASONTOWN, Pa. — For years, residents here complained about the yellow smoke pouring from the tall chimneys of the nearby coal-fired power plant, which left a film on their cars and pebbles of coal waste in their yards. Five states — including New York and New Jersey — sued the plant’s owner, Allegheny Energy, claiming the air pollution was causing respiratory diseases and acid rain.
So three years ago, when Allegheny Energy decided to install scrubbers to clean the plant’s air emissions, environmentalists were overjoyed. The technology would spray water and chemicals through the plant’s chimneys, trapping more than 150,000 tons of pollutants each year before they escaped into the sky.
But the cleaner air has come at a cost. Each day since the equipment was switched on in June, the company has dumped tens of thousands of gallons of wastewater containing chemicals from the scrubbing process into the Monongahela River, which provides drinking water to 350,000 people and flows into Pittsburgh, 40 miles to the north.
“It’s like they decided to spare us having to breathe in these poisons, but now we have to drink them instead,” said Philip Coleman, who lives about 15 miles from the plant and has asked a state judge to toughen the facility’s pollution regulations. “We can’t escape.”
Even as a growing number of coal-burning power plants around the nation have moved to reduce their air emissions, many of them are creating another problem: water pollution. Power plants are the nation’s biggest producer of toxic waste, surpassing industries like plastic and paint manufacturing and chemical plants, according to a New York Times analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data.
Much power plant waste once went into the sky, but because of toughened air pollution laws, it now often goes into lakes and rivers, or into landfills that have leaked into nearby groundwater, say regulators and environmentalists.
Officials at the plant here in southwest Pennsylvania — named Hatfield’s Ferry — say it does not pose any health or environmental risks because they have installed equipment to limit the toxins the facility releases into the Monongahela River and elsewhere.
But as the number of scrubbers around the nation increases, environmentalists — including those in Pennsylvania — have become worried. The Environmental Protection Agency projects that by next year, roughly 50 percent of coal-generated electricity in the United States will come from plants that use scrubbers or similar technologies, creating vast new sources of wastewater.
Yet no federal regulations specifically govern the disposal of power plant discharges into waterways or landfills. Some regulators have used laws like the Clean Water Act to combat such pollution. But those laws can prove inadequate, say regulators, because they do not mandate limits on the most dangerous chemicals in power plant waste, like arsenic and lead.
For instance, only one in 43 power plants and other electric utilities across the nation must limit how much barium they dump into nearby waterways, according to a Times analysis of E.P.A. records. Barium, which is commonly found in power plant waste and scrubber wastewater, has been linked to heart problems and diseases in other organs.
Even when power plant emissions are regulated by the Clean Water Act, plants have often violated that law without paying fines or facing other penalties. Ninety percent of 313 coal-fired power plants that have violated the Clean Water Act since 2004 were not fined or otherwise sanctioned by federal or state regulators, according to a Times analysis of Environmental Protection Agency records. (An interactive database of power plant violations around the nation is available at www.nytimes.com/coalplants.)
Fines for Plants Modest
Other plants have paid only modest fines. For instance, Hatfield’s Ferry has violated the Clean Water Act 33 times since 2006. For those violations, the company paid less than $26,000. During that same period, the plant’s parent company earned $1.1 billion.
“We know that coal waste is so dangerous that we don’t want it in the air, and that’s why we’ve told power plants they have to install scrubbers,” said Senator Barbara Boxer, the California Democrat who is chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. “So why are they dumping the same waste into people’s water?”
Though the Environmental Protection Agency promised earlier this decade to consider new regulations on power plant waste — and reiterated that pledge after a Tennessee dam break sent 1.1 billion gallons of coal waste into farms and homes last year — federal regulators have yet to issue any major new rules.
One reason is that some state governments have long fought new federal regulations, often at the behest of energy executives, say environmentalists and regulators.
The counties surrounding Hatfield’s Ferry, which are home to multiple universities, are an example of what hangs in the balance as this debate plays out.
Last year, when Hatfield’s Ferry asked the state for permission to dump scrubber wastewater into the Monongahela River, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection approved the request with proposed limits on some chemicals.
But state officials placed no limits on water discharges of arsenic, aluminum, boron, chromium, manganese, nickel or other chemicals that have been linked to health risks, all of which have been detected in the plant’s wastewater samples, according to state documents.
Records show, and company officials concede, that Hatfield’s Ferry is already dumping scrubber wastewater into the Monongahela that violates the state’s few proposed pollution rules. Moreover, those rules have been suspended until a judge decides on the plant’s appeal of the proposed limits.
“You can get used to the plant, and the noise and soot on your cars,” said Father Rodney Torbic, the priest at the St. George Serbian Orthodox Church, across the road from Hatfield’s Ferry. “But I see people suffering every day because of this pollution.”
Officials at Hatfield’s Ferry say there is no reason for residents to be concerned. They say that lawsuits against the plant are without merit, and that they have installed a $25 million water treatment plant that removes many of the toxic particles and solids from scrubber wastewater. The solids are put into a 106-acre landfill that contains a synthetic liner to prevent leaks.
Officials say that the plant’s pollution does not pose any risk. Limits on arsenic, aluminum, barium, boron, cadmium, chromium, manganese and nickel are not appropriate, the company wrote in a statement, because the plant’s wastewater is not likely to cause the Monongahela River to exceed safety levels for those contaminants.
“Allegheny has installed state-of-the-art scrubbers, state-of-the-art wastewater treatment, and state-of-the-art synthetic liners,” the company wrote in a statement. “We operate to be in compliance with all environmental laws and will continue to do so.”
The plant’s water treatment facility, however, does not remove all dissolved metals and chemicals, many of which go into the river, executives concede. An analysis of records from other plants with scrubbers indicates that such wastewater often contains high concentrations of dissolved arsenic, barium, boron, iron, manganese, cadmium, magnesium and other heavy metals that have been shown to contribute to cancer, organ failures and other diseases. Company officials say the emissions by the plant will not pose health risks, because they will be diluted in the river.
Though synthetic liners are generally considered effective at preventing leaks, environmentalists note that the Hatfield’s Ferry landfill is less than a mile uphill from the river, and that over time, other types of liners have proven less reliable than initially hoped.
The Environmental Protection Agency, in a statement last month, said it planned to revise standards for water discharges from coal-fired power plants like Hatfield’s Ferry. Agency studies have concluded that “current regulations, which were issued in 1982, have not kept pace with changes that have occurred in the electric power industry,” officials wrote.
But some environmentalists and lawmakers say that such rules will not be enough, and that new laws are needed that force plants to use more expensive technologies that essentially eliminate toxic discharges.
Cleaning Up Pollution
“It’s really important to set a precedent that tells power plants that they need to genuinely clean up pollution, rather than just shift it from the air to the water,” said Abigail Dillen, a lawyer with the law firm Earthjustice, which represents two advocacy organizations, the Environmental Integrity Project and the Citizens Coal Council, in asking a Pennsylvania court to toughen regulations on Hatfield’s Ferry.
Ms. Dillen, like other environmentalists, has urged courts and lawmakers to force plants to adopt “zero discharge” treatment facilities, which are more expensive but can eliminate most pollution.
State officials say they have established appropriate water pollution limits for Hatfield’s Ferry, and have strict standards for landfill disposal.
“We asked the plant for estimates on how much of various pollutants they are likely to emit, and based on those estimates, we set limits that are protective of the Monongahela,” said Ron Schwartz, a state environmental official. “We have asked them to monitor some chemicals, including arsenic, and if levels grow too high, we may intervene.”
However, environmental groups have argued in court documents and interviews that Hatfield’s Ferry probably will emit dangerous chemicals, and that they fear the state is unlikely to intervene.
Similar problems have emerged elsewhere. Twenty-one power plants in 10 states, including Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina and Ohio, have dumped arsenic into rivers or other waters at concentrations as much as 18 times the federal drinking water standard, according to a Times analysis of E.P.A. data.
In Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin and elsewhere, power plants have dumped other chemicals at dangerous concentrations. Few of those plants have ever been sanctioned for those emissions, nor were their discharge permits altered to prevent future pollution.
Records indicate that power plant landfills and other disposal practices have polluted groundwater in more than a dozen states, contaminating the water in some towns with toxic chemicals. A 2007 report published by the E.P.A. suggested that people living near some power plant landfills faced a cancer risk 2,000 times higher than federal health standards.
Lobbyists Block Controls
In 2000, Environmental Protection Agency officials tried to issue stricter controls on power plant waste. But a lobbying campaign by the coal and power industries, as well as public officials in 13 states, blocked the effort. In 2008 alone, according to campaign finance reports, power companies donated $20 million to the political campaigns of federal lawmakers, almost evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans.
In interviews, E.P.A. officials said that toughening pollution rules for power plants was among their top priorities. Last month, the agency announced it was moving forward on new rules regulating greenhouse gas emissions from hundreds of power plants and other large industrial facilities. Lisa P. Jackson, who was confirmed to head the agency in January, has said she would determine by the end of the year whether certain power plant byproducts should be treated as hazardous waste, which would subject them to tougher regulations.
But for now, there are no new rules on power plant waste. And many states are trying to dissuade Ms. Jackson from creating new regulations, according to state and federal regulators, because they worry that new rules will burden overworked regulators, and because power plants have pressured local politicians to fight greater regulation.
For instance, Pennsylvania has opposed designating the waste from Hatfield’s Ferry and other power plants as hazardous. In a statement, the Department of Environmental Protection said the state had “sufficient state and federal laws and regulations at our disposal to control wastewater discharges at levels protective of the environment and public health.”
But residents living near power plants disagree.
“Americans want cheap electricity, but those of us who live around power plants are the ones who have to pay for it,” Mr. Coleman said. “It’s like being in the third world.”
Health Ills Abound as Farm Runoff Fouls Wells...CHARLES DUHIGG...9-18-09
MORRISON, Wis. — All it took was an early thaw for the drinking water here to become unsafe.
There are 41,000 dairy cows in Brown County, which includes Morrison, and they produce more than 260 million gallons of manure each year, much of which is spread on nearby grain fields. Other farmers receive fees to cover their land with slaughterhouse waste and treated sewage.
In measured amounts, that waste acts as fertilizer. But if the amounts are excessive, bacteria and chemicals can flow into the ground and contaminate residents’ tap water.
In Morrison, more than 100 wells were polluted by agricultural runoff within a few months, according to local officials. As parasites and bacteria seeped into drinking water, residents suffered from chronic diarrhea, stomach illnesses and severe ear infections.
“Sometimes it smells like a barn coming out of the faucet,” said Lisa Barnard, who lives a few towns over, and just 15 miles from the city of Green Bay.
Tests of her water showed it contained E. coli, coliform bacteria and other contaminants found in manure. Last year, her 5-year-old son developed ear infections that eventually required an operation. Her doctor told her they were most likely caused by bathing in polluted water, she said.
Yet runoff from all but the largest farms is essentially unregulated by many of the federal laws intended to prevent pollution and protect drinking water sources. The Clean Water Act of 1972 largely regulates only chemicals or contaminants that move through pipes or ditches, which means it does not typically apply to waste that is sprayed on a field and seeps into groundwater.
As a result, many of the agricultural pollutants that contaminate drinking water sources are often subject only to state or county regulations. And those laws have failed to protect some residents living nearby.
To address this problem, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has created special rules for the biggest farms, like those with at least 700 cows.
But thousands of large animal feedlots that should be regulated by those rules are effectively ignored because farmers never file paperwork, E.P.A. officials say.
And regulations passed during the administration of President George W. Bush allow many of those farms to self-certify that they will not pollute, and thereby largely escape regulation.
In a statement, the E.P.A. wrote that officials were working closely with the Agriculture Department and other federal agencies to reduce pollution and bring large farms into compliance.
Agricultural runoff is the single largest source of water pollution in the nation’s rivers and streams, according to the E.P.A. An estimated 19.5 million Americans fall ill each year from waterborne parasites, viruses or bacteria, including those stemming from human and animal waste, according to a study published last year in the scientific journal Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology.
The problem is not limited to Wisconsin. In California, up to 15 percent of wells in agricultural areas exceed a federal contaminant threshold, according to studies. Major waterways like the Chesapeake Bay have been seriously damaged by agricultural pollution, according to government reports.
In Arkansas and Maryland, residents have accused chicken farm owners of polluting drinking water. In 2005, Oklahoma’s attorney general sued 13 poultry companies, claiming they had damaged one of the state’s most important watersheds.
It is often difficult to definitively link a specific instance of disease to one particular cause, like water pollution. Even when tests show that drinking water is polluted, it can be hard to pinpoint the source of the contamination.
Despite such caveats, regulators in Brown County say they believe that manure has contaminated tap water, making residents ill.
“One cow produces as much waste as 18 people,” said Bill Hafs, a county official who has lobbied the state Legislature for stricter waste rules.
“There just isn’t enough land to absorb that much manure, but we don’t have laws to force people to stop,” he added.
In Brown County, part of one of the nation’s largest milk-producing regions, agriculture brings in $3 billion a year. But the dairies collectively also create as much as a million gallons of waste each day. Many cows are fed a high-protein diet, which creates a more liquid manure that is easier to spray on fields.
In 2006, an unusually early thaw in Brown County melted frozen fields, including some that were covered in manure. Within days, according to a county study, more than 100 wells were contaminated with coliform bacteria, E. coli, or nitrates — byproducts of manure or other fertilizers.
“Land application requirements in place at that time were not sufficiently designed or monitored to prevent the pollution of wells,” one official wrote.
Some residents did not realize that their water was contaminated until their neighbors fell ill, which prompted them to test their own water.
“We were terrified,” said Aleisha Petri, whose water was polluted for months, until her husband dumped enough bleach in the well to kill the contaminants. Neighbors spent thousands of dollars digging new wells.
At a town hall meeting, angry homeowners yelled at dairy owners, some of whom are perceived as among the most wealthy and powerful people in town.
One resident said that he had seen cow organs dumped on a neighboring field, and his dog had dug up animal carcasses and bones.
“More than 30 percent of the wells in one town alone violated basic health standards,” said Mr. Hafs, the Brown County regulator responsible for land and water conservation, in an interview. “It’s obvious we’ve got a problem.”
But dairy owners said it was unfair to blame them for the county’s water problems. They noted that state regulators, in their reports, were unable to definitively establish the source of the 2006 contamination.
One of those farmers, Dan Natzke, owns Wayside Dairy, one of the largest farms around here. Just a few decades ago, it had just 60 cows. Today, its 1,400 animals live in enormous barns and are milked by suction pumps.
In June, Mr. Natzke explained to visiting kindergarteners that his cows produced 1.5 million gallons of manure a month. The dairy owns 1,000 acres and rents another 1,800 acres to dispose of that waste and grow crops to feed the cows.
“Where does the poop go?” one boy asked. “And what happens to the cow when it gets old?”
“The waste helps grow food,” Mr. Natzke replied. “And that’s what the cow becomes, too.”
His farm abides by dozens of state laws, Mr. Natzke said.
“All of our waste management is reviewed by our agronomist and by the state’s regulators,” he added. “We follow all the rules.”
But records show that his farm was fined $56,000 last October for spreading excessive waste. Mr. Natzke declined to comment.
Many environmental advocates argue that agricultural pollution will be reduced only through stronger federal laws. Lisa P. Jackson, the E.P.A. administrator, has recently ordered an increase in enforcement of the Clean Water Act. Tom Vilsack, the agriculture secretary, has said that clean water is a priority, and President Obama promised in campaign speeches to regulate water pollution from livestock.
But Congress has not created many new rules on the topic and, as a result, officials say their powers remain limited.
Part of the problem, according to data collected from the E.P.A. and every state, is that environmental agencies are already overtaxed. And it is unclear how to design effective laws, say regulators, including Ms. Jackson, who was confirmed to head the E.P.A. in January.
To fix the problem of agricultural runoff, “I don’t think there’s a solution in my head yet that I could say, right now, write this piece of legislation, this will get it done,” Ms. Jackson said in an interview.
She added that “the challenge now is for E.P.A. and Congress to develop solutions that represent the next step in protecting our nation’s waters and people’s health.”
A potential solution, regulators say, is to find new uses for manure. In Wisconsin, Gov. Jim Doyle has financed projects to use farm waste to generate electricity.
But environmentalists and some lawmakers say real change will occur only when Congress passes laws giving the E.P.A. broad powers to regulate farms. Tougher statutes should permit drastic steps — like shutting down farms or blocking expansion — when watersheds become threatened, they argue.
However, a powerful farm lobby has blocked previous environmental efforts on Capital Hill. Even when state legislatures have acted, they have often encountered unexpected difficulties.
After Brown County’s wells became polluted, for instance, Wisconsin created new rules prohibiting farmers in many areas from spraying manure during winter, and creating additional requirements for large dairies.
But agriculture is among the state’s most powerful industries. After intense lobbying, the farmers’ association won a provision requiring the state often to finance up to 70 percent of the cost of following the new regulations. Unless regulators pay, some farmers do not have to comply.
In a statement, Adam Collins, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said farmers can only apply waste to fields “according to a nutrient management plan, which, among other things, requires that manure runoff be minimized.”
When there is evidence that a farm has “contaminated a water source, we can and do take enforcement action,” he wrote.
“Wisconsin has a long history of continuously working to improve water quality and a strong reputation nationally for our clean water efforts,” he added. “Approximately 800,000 private drinking water wells serve rural Wisconsin residents. The vast majority of wells provide safe drinking water.”
But anger in some towns remains. At the elementary school a few miles from Mr. Natzke’s dairy, there are signs above drinking fountains warning that the water may be dangerous for infants.
“I go to church with the Natzkes,” said Joel Reetz, who spent $16,000 digging a deeper well after he learned his water was polluted. “Our kid goes to school with their kids. It puts us in a terrible position, because everyone knows each other.
“But what’s happening to this town isn’t right,” he said.
Clean Water Laws Are Neglected, at a Cost in Suffering...CHARLES DUHIGG. Karl Russell contributed reporting...9-13-09
Jennifer Hall-Massey knows not to drink the tap water in her home near Charleston, W.Va.
In fact, her entire family tries to avoid any contact with the water. Her youngest son has scabs on his arms, legs and chest where the bathwater — polluted with lead, nickel and other heavy metals — caused painful rashes. Many of his brother’s teeth were capped to replace enamel that was eaten away.
Neighbors apply special lotions after showering because their skin burns. Tests show that their tap water contains arsenic, barium, lead, manganese and other chemicals at concentrations federal regulators say could contribute to cancer and damage the kidneys and nervous system.
“How can we get digital cable and Internet in our homes, but not clean water?” said Mrs. Hall-Massey, a senior accountant at one of the state’s largest banks.
She and her husband, Charles, do not live in some remote corner of Appalachia. Charleston, the state capital, is less than 17 miles from her home.
“How is this still happening today?” she asked.
When Mrs. Hall-Massey and 264 neighbors sued nine nearby coal companies, accusing them of putting dangerous waste into local water supplies, their lawyer did not have to look far for evidence. As required by state law, some of the companies had disclosed in reports to regulators that they were pumping into the ground illegal concentrations of chemicals — the same pollutants that flowed from residents’ taps.
But state regulators never fined or punished those companies for breaking those pollution laws.
This pattern is not limited to West Virginia. Almost four decades ago, Congress passed the Clean Water Act to force polluters to disclose the toxins they dump into waterways and to give regulators the power to fine or jail offenders. States have passed pollution statutes of their own. But in recent years, violations of the Clean Water Act have risen steadily across the nation, an extensive review of water pollution records by The New York Times found.
In the last five years alone, chemical factories, manufacturing plants and other workplaces have violated water pollution laws more than half a million times. The violations range from failing to report emissions to dumping toxins at concentrations regulators say might contribute to cancer, birth defects and other illnesses.
However, the vast majority of those polluters have escaped punishment. State officials have repeatedly ignored obvious illegal dumping, and the Environmental Protection Agency, which can prosecute polluters when states fail to act, has often declined to intervene.
Because it is difficult to determine what causes diseases like cancer, it is impossible to know how many illnesses are the result of water pollution, or contaminants’ role in the health problems of specific individuals.
But concerns over these toxins are great enough that Congress and the E.P.A. regulate more than 100 pollutants through the Clean Water Act and strictly limit 91 chemicals or contaminants in tap water through the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Regulators themselves acknowledge lapses. The new E.P.A. administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, said in an interview that despite many successes since the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972, today the nation’s water does not meet public health goals, and enforcement of water pollution laws is unacceptably low. She added that strengthening water protections is among her top priorities. State regulators say they are doing their best with insufficient resources.
The Times obtained hundreds of thousands of water pollution records through Freedom of Information Act requests to every state and the E.P.A., and compiled a national database of water pollution violations that is more comprehensive than those maintained by states or the E.P.A. (For an interactive version, which can show violations in any community, visit www.nytimes.com/toxicwaters.)
In addition, The Times interviewed more than 250 state and federal regulators, water-system managers, environmental advocates and scientists.
That research shows that an estimated one in 10 Americans have been exposed to drinking water that contains dangerous chemicals or fails to meet a federal health benchmark in other ways.
Those exposures include carcinogens in the tap water of major American cities and unsafe chemicals in drinking-water wells. Wells, which are not typically regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act, are more likely to contain contaminants than municipal water systems.
Because most of today’s water pollution has no scent or taste, many people who consume dangerous chemicals do not realize it, even after they become sick, researchers say.
But an estimated 19.5 million Americans fall ill each year from drinking water contaminated with parasites, bacteria or viruses, according to a study published last year in the scientific journal Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. That figure does not include illnesses caused by other chemicals and toxins.
In the nation’s largest dairy states, like Wisconsin and California, farmers have sprayed liquefied animal feces onto fields, where it has seeped into wells, causing severe infections. Tap water in parts of the Farm Belt, including cities in Illinois, Kansas, Missouri and Indiana, has contained pesticides at concentrations that some scientists have linked to birth defects and fertility problems.
In parts of New York, Rhode Island, Ohio, California and other states where sewer systems cannot accommodate heavy rains, untreated human waste has flowed into rivers and washed onto beaches. Drinking water in parts of New Jersey, New York, Arizona and Massachusetts shows some of the highest concentrations of tetrachloroethylene, a dry cleaning solvent that has been linked to kidney damage and cancer. (Specific types of water pollution across the United States will be examined in future Times articles.)
The Times’s research also shows that last year, 40 percent of the nation’s community water systems violated the Safe Drinking Water Act at least once, according to an analysis of E.P.A. data. Those violations ranged from failing to maintain proper paperwork to allowing carcinogens into tap water. More than 23 million people received drinking water from municipal systems that violated a health-based standard.
In some cases, people got sick right away. In other situations, pollutants like chemicals, inorganic toxins and heavy metals can accumulate in the body for years or decades before they cause problems. Some of the most frequently detected contaminants have been linked to cancer, birth defects and neurological disorders.
Records analyzed by The Times indicate that the Clean Water Act has been violated more than 506,000 times since 2004, by more than 23,000 companies and other facilities, according to reports submitted by polluters themselves. Companies sometimes test what they are dumping only once a quarter, so the actual number of days when they broke the law is often far higher. And some companies illegally avoid reporting their emissions, say officials, so infractions go unrecorded.
Environmental groups say the number of Clean Water Act violations has increased significantly in the last decade. Comprehensive data go back only five years but show that the number of facilities violating the Clean Water Act grew more than 16 percent from 2004 to 2007, the most recent year with complete data.
Polluters include small companies, like gas stations, dry cleaners, shopping malls and the Friendly Acres Mobile Home Park in Laporte, Ind., which acknowledged to regulators that it had dumped human waste into a nearby river for three years.
They also include large operations, like chemical factories, power plants, sewage treatment centers and one of the biggest zinc smelters, the Horsehead
Corporation of Pennsylvania, which has dumped illegal concentrations of copper, lead, zinc, chlorine and selenium into the Ohio River. Those chemicals can contribute to mental retardation and cancer.
Some violations are relatively minor. But about 60 percent of the polluters were deemed in “significant noncompliance” — meaning their violations were the most serious kind, like dumping cancer-causing chemicals or failing to measure or report when they pollute.
Finally, the Times’s research shows that fewer than 3 percent of Clean Water Act violations resulted in fines or other significant punishments by state officials. And the E.P.A. has often declined to prosecute polluters or force states to strengthen their enforcement by threatening to withhold federal money or take away powers the agency has delegated to state officials.
Neither Friendly Acres Mobile Home Park nor Horsehead, for instance, was fined for Clean Water Act violations in the last eight years. A representative of Friendly Acres declined to comment. Indiana officials say they are investigating the mobile home park. A representative of Horsehead said the company had taken steps to control pollution and was negotiating with regulators to clean up its emissions.
Numerous state and federal lawmakers said they were unaware that pollution was so widespread.
“I don’t think anyone realized how bad things have become,” said Representative James L. Oberstar, a Minnesota Democrat, when told of The Times’s findings. Mr. Oberstar is chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which has jurisdiction over many water-quality issues.
“The E.P.A. and states have completely dropped the ball,” he said. “Without oversight and enforcement, companies will use our lakes and rivers as dumping grounds — and that’s exactly what is apparently going on.”
The E.P.A. administrator, Ms. Jackson, whose appointment was confirmed in January, said in an interview that she intended to strengthen enforcement of the Clean Water Act and pressure states to apply the law.
“I’ve been saying since Day One I want to work on these water issues pretty broadly across the country,” she said. On Friday, the E.P.A. said that it was reviewing dozens of coal-mining permits in West Virginia and three other states to make sure they would not violate the Clean Water Act.
After E.P.A. officials received detailed questions from The New York Times in June, Ms. Jackson sent a memo to her enforcement deputy noting that the E.P.A. is “falling short of this administration’s expectations for the effectiveness of our clean water enforcement programs. Data available to E.P.A. shows that, in many parts of the country, the level of significant noncompliance with permitting requirements is unacceptably high and the level of enforcement activity is unacceptably low.”
State officials, for their part, attribute rising pollution rates to increased workloads and dwindling resources. In 46 states, local regulators have primary responsibility for crucial aspects of the Clean Water Act. Though the number of regulated facilities has more than doubled in the last 10 years, many state enforcement budgets have remained essentially flat when adjusted for inflation. In New York, for example, the number of regulated polluters has almost doubled to 19,000 in the last decade, but the number of inspections each year has remained about the same.
But stretched resources are only part of the reason polluters escape punishment. The Times’s investigation shows that in West Virginia and other states, powerful industries have often successfully lobbied to undermine effective regulation.
State officials also argue that water pollution statistics include minor infractions, like failing to file reports, which do not pose risks to human health, and that records collected by The Times failed to examine informal enforcement methods, like sending warning letters.
“We work enormously hard inspecting our coal mines, analyzing water samples, notifying companies of violations when we detect them,” said Randy Huffman, head of West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection. “When I look at how far we’ve come in protecting the state’s waters since we took responsibility for the Clean Water Act, I think we have a lot to be proud of.”
But unchecked pollution remains a problem in many states. West Virginia offers a revealing example of why so many companies escape punishment.
One Community’s Plight
The mountains surrounding the home of Mrs. Hall-Massey’s family and West Virginia’s nearby capital have long been mined for coal. And for years, the area enjoyed clean well water.
But starting about a decade ago, awful smells began coming from local taps. The water was sometimes gray, cloudy and oily. Bathtubs and washers developed rust-colored rings that scrubbing could not remove. When Mrs. Hall-Massey’s husband installed industrial water filters, they quickly turned black. Tests showed that their water contained toxic amounts of lead, manganese, barium and other metals that can contribute to organ failure or developmental problems.
Around that time, nearby coal companies had begun pumping industrial waste into the ground.
Mining companies often wash their coal to remove impurities. The leftover liquid — a black fluid containing dissolved minerals and chemicals, known as sludge or slurry — is often disposed of in vast lagoons or through injection into abandoned mines. The liquid in those lagoons and shafts can flow through cracks in the earth into water supplies. Companies must regularly send samples of the injected liquid to labs, which provide reports that are forwarded to state regulators.
In the eight miles surrounding Mrs. Hall-Massey’s home, coal companies have injected more than 1.9 billion gallons of coal slurry and sludge into the ground since 2004, according to a review of thousands of state records. Millions more gallons have been dumped into lagoons.
These underground injections have contained chemicals at concentrations that pose serious health risks, and thousands of injections have violated state regulations and the Safe Drinking Water Act, according to reports sent to the state by companies themselves.
For instance, three coal companies — Loadout, Remington Coal and Pine Ridge, a subsidiary of Peabody Energy, one of the largest coal companies in the world — reported to state officials that 93 percent of the waste they injected near this community had illegal concentrations of chemicals including arsenic, lead, chromium, beryllium or nickel.
Sometimes those concentrations exceeded legal limits by as much as 1,000 percent. Those chemicals have been shown to contribute to cancer, organ failures and other diseases.
But those companies were never fined or punished for those illegal injections, according to state records. They were never even warned that their activities had been noticed.
Remington Coal declined to comment. A representative of Loadout’s parent said the company had assigned its permit to another company, which ceased injecting in 2006. Peabody Energy, which spun off Pine Ridge in 2007, said that some data sent to regulators was inaccurate and that the company’s actions reflected best industry practices.
West Virginia officials, when asked about these violations, said regulators had accidentally overlooked many pollution records the companies submitted until after the statute of limitations had passed, so no action was taken. They also said their studies indicated that those injections could not have affected drinking water in the area and that other injections also had no detectable effect.
State officials noted that they had cited more than 4,200 water pollution violations at mine sites around the state since 2000, as well as conducted thousands of investigations. The state has initiated research about how mining affects water quality. After receiving questions from The Times, officials announced a statewide moratorium on issuing injection permits and told some companies that regulators were investigating their injections.
“Many of the issues you are examining are several years old, and many have been addressed,” West Virginia officials wrote in a statement. The state’s pollution program “has had its share of issues,” regulators wrote. However, “it is important to note that if the close scrutiny given to our state had been given to others, it is likely that similar issues would have been found.”
More than 350 other companies and facilities in West Virginia have also violated the Clean Water Act in recent years, records show. Those infractions include releasing illegal concentrations of iron, manganese, aluminum and other chemicals into lakes and rivers.
As the water in Mrs. Hall-Massey’s community continued to worsen, residents began complaining of increased health problems. Gall bladder diseases, fertility problems, miscarriages and kidney and thyroid issues became common, according to interviews.
When Mrs. Hall-Massey’s family left on vacation, her sons’ rashes cleared up. When they returned, the rashes reappeared. Her dentist told her that chemicals appeared to be damaging her teeth and her son’s, she said. As the quality of her water worsened, Mrs. Hall-Massey’s once-healthy teeth needed many crowns. Her son brushed his teeth often, used a fluoride rinse twice a day and was not allowed to eat sweets. Even so, he continued getting cavities until the family stopped using tap water. By the time his younger brother’s teeth started coming in, the family was using bottled water to brush. He has not had dental problems.
Medical professionals in the area say residents show unusually high rates of health problems. A survey of more than 100 residents conducted by a nurse hired by Mrs. Hall-Massey’s lawyer indicated that as many as 30 percent of people in this area have had their gallbladders removed, and as many as half the residents have significant tooth enamel damage, chronic stomach problems and other illnesses. That research was confirmed through interviews with residents.
It is difficult to determine which companies, if any, are responsible for the contamination that made its way into tap water or to conclude which specific chemicals, if any, are responsible for particular health problems. Many coal companies say they did not pollute the area’s drinking water and chose injection sites that flowed away from nearby homes.
An independent study by a university researcher challenges some of those claims.
“I don’t know what else could be polluting these wells,” said Ben Stout, a biology professor at Wheeling Jesuit University who tested the water in this community and elsewhere in West Virginia. “The chemicals coming out of people’s taps are identical to the chemicals the coal companies are pumping into the ground.”
One night, Mrs. Hall-Massey’s 6-year-old son, Clay, asked to play in the tub. When he got out, his bright red rashes hurt so much he could not fall asleep. Soon, Mrs. Hall-Massey began complaining to state officials. They told her they did not know why her water was bad, she recalls, but doubted coal companies had done anything wrong. The family put their house on the market, but because of the water, buyers were not interested.
In December, Mrs. Hall-Massey and neighbors sued in county court, seeking compensation. That suit is pending. To resolve a related lawsuit filed about the same time, the community today gets regular deliveries of clean drinking water, stored in coolers or large blue barrels outside most homes. Construction began in August on a pipeline bringing fresh water to the community.
But for now most residents still use polluted water to bathe, shower and wash dishes.
“A parent’s only real job is to protect our children,” Mrs. Hall-Massey said. “But where was the government when we needed them to protect us from this stuff?”
Regulators ‘Overwhelmed’
Matthew Crum, a 43-year-old lawyer, wanted to protect people like Mrs. Hall-Massey. That is why he joined West Virginia’s environmental protection agency in 2001, when it became clear that the state’s and nation’s streams and rivers were becoming more polluted.
But he said he quickly learned that good intentions could not compete with intimidating politicians and a fearful bureaucracy.
Mr. Crum grew up during a golden age of environmental activism. He was in elementary school when Congress passed the Clean Water Act of 1972 in response to environmental disasters, including a fire on the polluted Cuyahoga River in Cleveland. The act’s goal was to eliminate most water pollution by 1985 and prohibit the “discharge of toxic pollutants in toxic amounts.”
“There were a bunch of us that were raised with the example of the Clean Water Act as inspiration,” he said. “I wanted to be part of that fight.”
In the two decades after the act’s passage, the nation’s waters grew much healthier. The Cuyahoga River, West Virginia’s Kanawha River and hundreds of other beaches, streams and ponds were revitalized.
But in the late 1990s, some states’ enforcement of pollution laws began tapering off, according to regulators and environmentalists. Soon the E.P.A. started reporting that the nation’s rivers, lakes and estuaries were becoming dirtier again. Mr. Crum, after a stint in Washington with the Justice Department and the birth of his first child, joined West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection, where new leadership was committed to revitalizing the Clean Water Act.
He said his idealism was tested within two weeks, when he was called to a huge coal spill into a stream.
“I met our inspector at the spill site, and we had this really awkward conversation,” Mr. Crum recalled. “I said we should shut down the mine until everything was cleaned up. The inspector agreed, but he said if he issued that order, he was scared of getting demoted or transferred to the middle of nowhere. Everyone was terrified of doing their job.”
Mr. Crum temporarily shut the mine.
In the next two years, he shut many polluting mines until they changed their ways. His tough approach raised his profile around the state.
Mining companies, worried about attracting Mr. Crum’s attention, began improving their waste disposal practices, executives from that period said. But they also began complaining to their friends in the state’s legislature, they recalled in interviews, and started a whisper campaign accusing Mr. Crum of vendettas against particular companies — though those same executives now admit they had no evidence for those claims.
In 2003, a new director, Stephanie Timmermeyer, was nominated to run the Department of Environmental Protection. One of West Virginia’s most powerful state lawmakers, Eustace Frederick, said she would be confirmed, but only if she agreed to fire Mr. Crum, according to several people who said they witnessed the conversation.
She was given the job and soon summoned Mr. Crum to her office. He was dismissed two weeks after his second child’s birth.
Ms. Timmermeyer, who resigned in 2008, did not return calls. Mr. Frederick died last year.
Since then, hundreds of workplaces in West Virginia have violated pollution laws without paying fines. A half-dozen current and former employees, in interviews, said their enforcement efforts had been undermined by bureaucratic disorganization, a departmental preference to let polluters escape punishment if they promise to try harder, and a revolving door of regulators who leave for higher-paying jobs at the companies they once policed.
“We are outmanned and overwhelmed, and that’s exactly how industry wants us,” said one employee who requested anonymity for fear of being fired. “It’s been obvious for decades that we’re not on top of things, and coal companies have earned billions relying on that.”
In June, four environmental groups petitioned the E.P.A. to take over much of West Virginia’s handling of the Clean Water Act, citing a “nearly complete breakdown” in the state. The E.P.A. has asked state officials to respond and said it is investigating the petition.
Similar problems exist in other states, where critics say regulators have often turned a blind eye to polluters. Regulators in five other states, in interviews, said they had been pressured by industry-friendly politicians to drop continuing pollution investigations.
“Unless the E.P.A. is pushing state regulators, a culture of transgression and apathy sets in,” said William K. Reilly, who led the E.P.A. under President George H. W. Bush.
In response, many state officials defend their efforts. A spokeswoman for West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection, for instance, said that between 2006 and 2008, the number of cease-operation orders issued by regulators was 10 percent higher than during Mr. Crum’s two-year tenure.
Mr. Huffman, the department’s head, said there is no political interference with current investigations. Department officials say they continue to improve the agency’s procedures, and note that regulators have assessed $14.7 million in state fines against more than 70 mining companies since 2006.
However, that is about equal to the revenue those businesses’ parent companies collect every 10 hours, according to financial reports. (To find out about every state’s enforcement record and read comments from regulators, visit www.nytimes.com/waterdata.)
“The real test is, is our water clean?” said Mr. Huffman. “When the Clean Water Act was passed, this river that flows through our capital was very dirty. Thirty years later, it’s much cleaner because we’ve chosen priorities carefully.”
Some regulators admit that polluters have fallen through the cracks. To genuinely improve enforcement, they say, the E.P.A. needs to lead.
“If you don’t have vigorous oversight by the feds, then everything just goes limp,” said Mr. Crum. “Regulators can’t afford to have some backbone unless they know Washington or the governor’s office will back them up.”
It took Mr. Crum a while to recover from his firing. He moved to Virginia to work at the Nature Conservancy, an environmental conservation group. Today, he is in private practice and works on the occasional environmental lawsuit.
“We’re moving backwards,” he said, “and it’s heartbreaking.”
Shortcomings of the E.P.A.
The memos are marked “DO NOT DISTRIBUTE.”
They were written this year by E.P.A. staff, the culmination of a five-year investigation of states’ enforcement of federal pollution laws. And in bland, bureaucratic terms, they describe a regulatory system — at the E.P.A. and among state agencies — that in many ways simply does not work.
For years, according to one memo, federal regulators knew that more than 30 states had major problems documenting which companies were violating pollution laws. Another notes that states’ “personnel lack direction, ability or training” to levy fines large enough to deter polluters.
But often, the memos say, the E.P.A. never corrected those problems even though they were widely acknowledged. The E.P.A. “may hesitate to push the states” out of “fear of risking their relationships,” one report reads. Another notes that E.P.A. offices lack “a consistent national oversight strategy.”
Some of those memos, part of an effort known as the State Review Framework, were obtained from agency employees who asked for anonymity, and others through Freedom of Information Act requests.
Enforcement lapses were particularly bad under the administration of President George W. Bush, employees say. “For the last eight years, my hands have been tied,” said one E.P.A. official who requested anonymity for fear of retribution. “We were told to take our clean water and clean air cases, put them in a box, and lock it shut. Everyone knew polluters were getting away with murder. But these polluters are some of the biggest campaign contributors in town, so no one really cared if they were dumping poisons into streams.”
The E.P.A. administrators during the last eight years — Christine Todd Whitman, Michael O. Leavitt and Stephen L. Johnson — all declined to comment.
When President Obama chose Ms. Jackson to head the E.P.A., many environmentalists and agency employees were encouraged. During his campaign, Mr. Obama promised to “reinvigorate the drinking water standards that have been weakened under the Bush administration and update them to address new threats.” He pledged to regulate water pollution from livestock operations and push for amendments to the Clean Water Act.
But some worry those promises will not be kept. Water issues have taken a back seat to other environmental concerns, like carbon emissions.
In an interview, Ms. Jackson noted that many of the nation’s waters were healthier today than when the Clean Water Act was passed and said she intended to enforce the law more vigorously. After receiving detailed questions from The Times, she put many of the State Review Framework documents on the agency’s Web site, and ordered more disclosure of the agency’s handling of water issues, increased enforcement and revamped technology so that facilities’ environmental records are more accessible.
“Do critics have a good and valid point when they say improvements need to be made? Absolutely,” Ms. Jackson said. “But I think we need to be careful not to do that by scaring the bejesus out of people into thinking that, boy, are things horrible. What it requires is attention, and I’m going to give it that attention.”
In statements, E.P.A. officials noted that from 2006 to 2008, the agency conducted 11,000 Clean Water Act and 21,000 Safe Drinking Water Act inspections, and referred 146 cases to the Department of Justice. During the 2007 to 2008 period, officials wrote, 92 percent of the population served by community water systems received water that had no reported health-based violations.
The Times’s reporting, the statements added, “does not distinguish between significant violations and minor violations,” and “as a result, the conclusions may present an unduly alarming picture.” They wrote that “much of the country’s water quality problems are caused by discharges from nonpoint sources of pollution, such as agricultural runoff, which cannot be corrected solely through enforcement.”
Ultimately, lawmakers and environmental activists say, the best solution is for Congress to hold the E.P.A. and states accountable for their failures.
The Clean Water Act, they add, should be expanded to police other types of pollution — like farm and livestock runoff — that are largely unregulated. And they say Congress should give state agencies more resources, in the same way that federal dollars helped overhaul the nation’s sewage systems in the 1970s.
Some say changes will not occur without public outrage.
“When we started regulating water pollution in the 1970s, there was a huge public outcry because you could see raw sewage flowing into the rivers,” said William D. Ruckelshaus, who served as the first head of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Richard M. Nixon, and then again under President Ronald Reagan.
“Today the violations are much more subtle — pesticides and chemicals you can’t see or smell that are even more dangerous,” he added. “And so a lot of the public pressure on regulatory agencies has ebbed away.”
 
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10-12-09

 

10-12-09   
Merced Sun-Star
UC Merced founding chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey dies...JONAH OWEN LAMB
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/v-print/story/1108829.html
The founding chancellor of UC Merced, Carol Tomlinson-Keasey, who saw the institution through its infancy, died Saturday of complications related to cancer, according to a statement from the university.
She was 66.
As the first chancellor of UC Merced from 1999 to 2006, Tomlinson-Keasey was the driving force behind creating a research university from scratch in a Valley woefully underserved by the UC system and higher education in general.
Tomlinson-Keasey watched over every step of the university's berthing pains from the campus' groundbreaking to the arrival of its first class. As a tireless champion of the university and its benefits to the San Joaquin Valley, Tomlinson-Keasey led the university as it faced off against state legislators opposed to the project, environmental lawsuits, federal regulators and local skeptics -- all the while fighting breast cancer.
"Simply put, UC Merced would not exist were it not for her visionary leadership, her tireless determination and her remarkable gift of persuasion," said UC Merced Chancellor Steve Kang in a statement after the announcement of her death.
In 1998, Tomlinson-Keasey was appointed to lead the planning efforts for UC Merced. At the time, she had been working in the UC president's office as vice provost for academic initiatives, according to a UC Merced representative.
Before her appointment, said Rep. Dennis Cardoza, there was no one in the UC system fighting for UC Merced. Cardoza and others knew that if they didn't have a chancellor for UC Merced its needs would be sidelined. "The challenge was that the other UCs didn't want to share resources. There was a new baby in the nest and the big birds didn't want to share with the little bird."
When then-UC President Richard Atkinson appointed Tomlinson-Keasey -- after some pressure from Cardoza and others -- she was not a popular choice. She had to little experience, said Cardoza. But she proved everyone wrong. "She was tough, she was tenacious, she was smart and she was terrific," he said.
When she first arrived, recalled Cardoza, she was only on assignment, doing her job. But she soon began to really care for the plight of the Valley, said Cardoza. "She really grew to understand how important this campus is to the Valley," he said. "She was committed to serving the diverse population that wasn't being served by the UC system."
In 1999, Tomlinson-Keasey was named UC Merced's founding chancellor but it wasn't until 2002 that ground was first broken at the future site of the university.
In October of that year, at the golden-shoveled groundbreaking ceremony, Tomlinson-Keasey told the gathered crowd why she believed in UC Merced. When the UC system opened up in 1868, she said, it was with the promise of making a university system for all, equal to the nation's best private universities. "Our new campus, UC Merced, will help keep the promise that California made to its citizens in 1868," she said that day, according to a story in the Sun-Star.
That day, Ben Duran, president of Merced College and part of the committee that chose Tomlinson-Keasey for the chancellor post, stated why she was chosen to lead the university. "We knew that with her at the helm, we would get this university built, in spite of ardent detractors and hurdles that at times seemed insurmountable," he said, according to a story in the Sun-Star.
Duran's words ended up being prophetic.
"I think she was given a once-in-a-lifetime task to take on a challenge and I think that was Carol's spirit," said Larry Salinas, associate vice chancellor for governmental relations at UC Merced. "The campus is her legacy."
Salinas, who was hired by Tomlinson-Keasey in 2000 as a liaison between lawmakers and UC Merced, said her task was not an easy one. From the start, she and her staff were beset on all sides, he said. The state repeatedly threatened to take away UC Merced's funding, the federal government's environmental regulations threatened to stall campus construction and a lawsuit filed by local environmentalist, which eventually failed, slowed the initial groundbreaking by several months.
"The biggest challenge was getting the buy-in on the vision from all the parties involved," Tomlinson-Keasey told the Fresno Bee in 2005. "I had to work harder than I had expected."
Indeed, the campus' scheduled 2004 opening was put off for a year because of budget woes in Sacramento.
Even after the funding came through in 2005 many legislators opposed UC Merced, said Salinas.
To counter pessimists, Tomlinson-Keasey traversed the state and used her passion and drive to convince those in Sacramento and Washington that UC Merced was a good thing, said Salinas.
She even faced off with state Senate Pro Tem John Burton, who was against the project. Salinas, who was at their half-hour 2004 meeting, told Tomlinson-Keasey if they got the whole half-hour and Burton didn't swear -- Burton used a lot of profanity -- then they would win, said Salinas. Burton only swore once and they got the whole half hour. Burton saw that Tomlinson-Keasey believed in UC Merced more than he opposed it, said Salinas. "He didn't stand in our way after that," said Salinas.
State legislators were not UC Merced's only opponents. Federal regulators also slowed the progress of the campus' expansion. It wasn't until 2009 that the university was finally given the go-ahead to expand from its original parameters. Along with these regulatory and financial obstacles many locals were still skeptical of the university. It took continued wooing from Tomlinson-Keasey to finally get them on board.
"I really thought this job was about academia," she told the Fresno Bee in 2005. "But I had to become a politician overnight."
As she faced off with state leaders and local opponents, she was battling breast cancer, said Salinas. She missed one work day a week for her chemotherapy, he recalled.
In 2006, a year after the university opened its doors to the first class of 1,000, she stepped down from her position as chancellor.
"Together we have founded a university that will endure. I take pride in what we have created together and smile at the generations of students who will grow intellectually and socially on our campus," she wrote at the time. "I think of a growing campus that will power the regional economy and provide an enviable quality of life to our community. All of this will follow from our efforts."
Born in Washington, D.C., Tomlinson-Keasey received her bachelor of arts degree in political science from Penn State University, a master's degree in psychology from Iowa State University and a doctorate in developmental psychology from UC Berkeley. She was the author of three books and numerous articles.
She is survived by her husband, Dr. Blake Keasey, two grown children and three grandchildren.
More articles:
Merced welcomes university champion...Diane Flores, Modesto Bee
Editor's note: This story was first published in the Modesto Bee on July 16, 1999.
Carol Tomlinson-Keasey, the University of California vice provost for academic initiatives who has laid the early foundation for UC Merced, was named the founding chancellor of the campus Thursday.
President Richard Atkinson announced the appointment after a closed session meeting of the UC Board ofRegents. Her position becomes official Aug. 1...
UC Merced chancellor's hard work pays off...Lorena Anderson, Modesto Bee
Editor's note: This story was first published in the Modesto Bee on August 31, 2005.
Even the briefest meeting with Carol Tomlinson-Keasey leaves no doubt: She knows where her talents lie, what she wants and how to get things done.
She'd better.
"There's no road map for this," said Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced. "They're building a university from scratch, and she's had to change the recipe a few times, too."...
UC Merced shocker: Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey resigning, will return as professor...Lorena Anderson, Modesto Bee
Editor's note: This story was first published in the Modesto Bee on March 9, 2006.
Carol Tomlinson-Keasey, who has been chancellor at the University of California at Merced since 1999 -- before the school was built -- announced Wednesday she is resigning her position as of Aug. 31.
"These have been very intense, demanding years in which family priorities move down the list, sometimes too far," she said during a news conference on campus Wednesday. Though she was treated a few years ago for breast cancer, she said she is in good health. She said she's looking forward to spending more time with her husband, Blake Keasey, and her children and grandchildren.
But Tomlinson-Keasey won't leave UC Merced, to which she said she is "committed, heart and soul." She'll take a sabbatical, during which she plans to work with Jane Lawrence, vice chancellor for student affairs, and Karen Merritt, director of academic planning for the UC Office of the President, on a book chronicling what it took to open the first new UC campus in 40 years...
Fresno Bee
State lawmakers deadlock over water...E.J. Schultz, Bee Capitol Bureau
SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state lawmakers remained locked in a showdown over major water legislation Sunday night as they sought a deal that has eluded them for years.
Looming over the all-day negotiations was a midnight deadline for the governor to sign bills passed during the year.
He had threatened to veto "a lot" of the bills if lawmakers did not reach an accord to remake how the state moves, stores and conserves water.
As negotiations dragged into the late night, the governor signed 168 bills and vetoed 183 bills but held onto more than 300 bills, including some that his staff said could hang in the balance.
"The governor will make a decision on a number of bills based on how the water negotiations go," said Aaron McLear, his press secretary.
Leaders reported some progress but did not give details.
Even if an agreement is reached, they'd still have to sell it to rank-and-file lawmakers, who will be lobbied hard by regional water districts and environmentalists -- all of whom have different needs.
Outstanding issues appear to include policy proposals favored by Democrats to mandate conservation, set new rules for groundwater monitoring and crack down on illegal diversions of water.
Environmentalists, backed by Democrats, say the plans will "break the cycle of conflict and environmental damage that have plagued California's water management system for decades," according to a letter sent to leaders by a key coalition of environmentalists.
But Republicans, farm groups and some industrial water users oppose the plans as written, saying they would create a "vast new government bureaucracy."
"I expect we have much more work to be done, but there's at least a hope now that serious negotiations have begun," said Assembly GOP Leader Sam Blakeslee, heading into a late-night negotiating session.
Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said he was trying to "land on a package that ... will earn the support of all of our members."
Also unresolved is the size and scope of proposed borrowing to pay for projects, including dams -- possibly including one near Fresno -- which Republicans favor.
The policy changes don't require GOP votes, but Republicans have made it clear they won't sign off on bond financing -- which does require their votes -- until their policy demands are met.
The governor's veto threat is a potentially bigger deal to Democrats, who are the authors of most bills on the governor's desk. But leaders brushed off the ultimatum.
"I believe that he is going to sign and veto bills like he would any other year," said Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles.
"I don't believe that he is just going to have a mass veto because that would be completely irresponsible."
The bills acted on by the governor include the following:
Signed
* AB 91: Requires DUI offenders to put Breathalyzer-type devices on cars. The pilot program covers four counties, including Tulare.
* SB 680: Renews a law allowing students to easily change schools. More than 370 Valley students take advantage of the "district of choice" program.
* AB 691: Authorizes the Alpaugh Unified School District to operate a four-day school week.
Vetoed
* SB 84: Would have preserved about $400 million in funding for low-performing schools, including $16 million for 19 Fresno schools. The governor says an alternate plan will keep the money flowing.
* SB 14: Would have required all electric utilities to generate one-third of their power from renewable sources by 2020.
* SB 242: Would have made it a civil rights violation to adopt policies against the use of a foreign language in a business.
* AB 98: Would have required health plans to cover maternity services.
Interior's Salazar tours hard-pressed Valley farms...Marc Benjamin
MENDOTA -- Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Sunday his department will do what it can to alleviate suffering from water shortages on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. But long-term solutions will be difficult for a state water system that is a "huge mess that has been created over decades," he said.
Salazar was in Fresno County to get a firsthand look at what a lack of water is doing to Fresno County's west-side farms. Water shortages have prompted west-side growers to fallow thousands of acres and lay off hundreds of workers.
Several local and federal officials attended the meeting with Salazar, along with representatives of farmers and farmworkers.
After touring a west-side farm, the group met in Mendota City Hall for 45 minutes to discuss progress on proposed solutions to bring more farm water to the Valley's west side.
The project that can be built the fastest is the "Two Gates" project. The idea is to submerge massive barriers in river channels of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to prevent threatened delta smelt from swimming toward certain death at the pumps that send water south from the delta.
The goal is to get more water to farmers without harming threatened and endangered species.
Local, state and federal officials collected more than $30 million for the project. But one round of bidding drew just one bid -- of more than $60 million. The bid was rejected, and officials are seeking new bids. Officials still think the project can be done for about $45 million, but they must now find additional money to pay for it.
The speed of even the short-term solutions may not be soon enough for local farming leaders.
Manuel Cunha, president of Nisei Farmers League, which represents more than 1,000 growers, said "Two Gates" must start by December if growers are to get water in time for next year's crops.
Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, said a spring groundbreaking for "Two Gates" is more likely, but that would mean west-side farmers would likely miss out on winter and spring flows.
CARLY FIORINA: Restore water flow to Valley. Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett-Packard CEO, has launched an exploratory committee for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate.  
Common sense would tell us that it shouldn't take an act of Congress to put the urgent needs of people ahead of a small fish. Apparently it does.
As a Californian and a potential candidate for the U.S. Senate, I was recently in the San Joaquin Valley on a fact-finding trip. My goal was to learn more about California's water crisis and the farmers and workers who are deeply impacted by it every day.
The day began with a visit to a local farm and a thorough briefing by water and agriculture experts. They provided a realistic assessment of the ill-considered actions that have literally turned off the spigot and prevented farmers from getting the water necessary to put their land into production.
More profound was my visit later to the west Valley community of Huron where acre after acre of farmland sit fallow because of a lack of water.
It underscored the fundamental reason this issue is so critical: Fertile farmlands create jobs, but fallow lands leave a devastating impact on the workers and their families whose lives and livelihoods depend on these farms.
This human face of California's water crisis saddens me. The facts about the crisis anger me.
Hundreds of thousands of acres in the San Joaquin Valley lie fallow this year. The University of California at Davis estimates that in 2009, the lack of water coming from both the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project could result in the loss of up to 95,000 jobs.
While the persistent drought has certainly contributed to these effects, what would have been a difficult problem has become a crisis due to the aggressive and ill-considered implementation of the Endangered Species Act.
This act has been an important tool in conservation efforts. However, it is also true that the act prohibits the consideration of economic and social impacts.
The recent decision to limit water flowing to the Valley was made by nameless, faceless bureaucrats. These federal officials are unaccountable to voters for their action and there is little recourse to reverse their decision -- unless Congress acts.
Congress tried to act the week before my visit to the Valley, however, Senate Democrats -- led by Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer -- defeated a California water amendment offered by South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint. This amendment should be reconsidered and approved.
The amendment would have removed for one year the bureaucratic roadblocks that deny Californians access to essential water supplies from the Delta. It would have temporarily allowed water to flow and put farmers and their workers back in the fields while further studies could be conducted and a balanced plan of action to address this issue could be developed.
There is precedent for this. In 2003, Sen. Pete Domenici sponsored a similar amendment relating to the overprotection of the silvery minnow which threatened the water supply of New Mexico.
Sen. Domenici was delivering relief for his state in his influential role as Chair of the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee. Both of California's senators supported that amendment. Sen. Boxer now chairs this same committee and has refused to act.
To her credit, Sen. Feinstein is supporting $750,000 in federal funding to study the California water crisis. I don't dispute that further study of this issue is prudent, but in the meantime Congress should take action to put people back to work and stimulate the economy.
Pragmatism calls for a solution that provides economic relief to a devastated region. It continues with a review and improvement of the science as Sen. Feinstein has recommended.
Ideology should not triumph over common sense and compassion. Leaders in our state and nation should focus on our top priority -- jobs and opportunity.
abc30...KFSN-TV Fresno, CA
Water Help on the Way?...John-Thomas Kobos...video
Fresno, CA (KFSN) -- Fresh off taking a beating from Valley Congress Members, US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is back in West Fresno County Sunday, giving farmers hope that help is on the way.
Sacramento Bee
Schwarzenegger calls session to discuss water deal...DON THOMPSON, Associated Press Writer
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders plan a seventh straight day of water negotiations Monday, as the governor summoned lawmakers for a special session on the state's water problems.
Talks on how to address the state's deteriorating and inadequate water system ended late Sunday after nearly 12 hours, though leaders said they moved closer to a deal.
"Over the past few days we have made enough progress in our negotiations that I am calling a special session on water," Schwarzenegger said in a statement late Sunday.
He acknowledged that "we still have a few remaining issues to work out," while the leaders said substantial issues remain - including the amount of a water bond to pay for improving the state's inadequate and outdated water storage and conveyance system.
Democratic leaders presented their proposal and answers to concerns that Republicans had been raising for weeks, said Assembly Minority Leader Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo.
"I think there is evidence now that we are moving in the right direction," Blakeslee said.
Senate Minority Leader Dennis Hollingsworth, R-Temecula, said the same dozen or so issues have been dividing the four leaders and the governor for days: water conservation and balancing water rights with monitoring how property owners pump groundwater. They barely had time Sunday to discuss how to pay for water system improvements.
"We've got a proposal now that we're going to take back and take a look at. I think it moves both sides closer together," Hollingsworth said.
Democratic leaders said they hope to be able to present a water proposal to rank-and-file legislators this week, and perhaps hold public hearings on a water package before week's end. Passing a water deal that includes a bond needs a two-thirds vote in the Legislature, requiring at least some support from Republicans.
Lawmakers are returning to Sacramento to complete other unfinished business, making Schwarzenegger's call for another special session largely symbolic. But Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg welcomed the move.
"I think it again signifies the importance of the issue," said Steinberg, D-Sacramento.
He and Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, said negotiators made significant progress Sunday.
The governor is pushing for more reservoirs and a controversial canal to improve a water storage and conveyance system mostly built in the 1960s.
Stockton Record
Many fear Delta fix will be more hurry up and wait
Pace of other restoration efforts may bode ill for ailing estuary...Alex Breitler
When Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar called fixing the Delta a "huge priority" for the federal government, the estuary in Stockton's backyard joined a short list of sadly struggling natural treasures.
Places such as the Everglades, the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay.
"How we deal with the Bay-Delta system is a defining moment in how this country is going to deal with complex natural resources problems," California Department of Water Resources Director Lester Snow told legislators at a September hearing in Washington.
"If we can't figure out a way to deal with this system, we need to pack it up and go home and wait for the entire system and economy to collapse," Snow said.
There has been a lot of talk lately about working together to fix the Delta. But if these other restoration efforts are any indication, there is a rocky road ahead:
» Nine years after a much-celebrated and "historic" Everglades restoration plan was signed into law by President Bill Clinton, none of the 60-plus projects that are part of the plan have been completed.
» Removing toxic sediment from the Great Lakes is expected to take 77 additional years if the work continues at its current pace, according to a report released last month.
» And at Chesapeake Bay, the Environmental Protection Agency has acknowledged that water quality goals set forth in a 2000 agreement will not be met by 2010 as had been hoped.
"To be fair, there has been great science done by the EPA," said Roy Hoagland, a vice president at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. "They have done really quite a remarkable job in identifying the problems. This is one of the most studied estuaries in the world."
"What they have not done," Hoagland continued, "is implemented a solution. They have not been a leader."
The federal government is promising leadership on the Delta. Grants totaling $400 million have been awarded to bolster California's water supply; six federal agencies have signed an agreement to coordinate on Delta issues.
Already, however, the feds have drawn criticism from more than one side in California's water tussle.
Politicians representing agricultural areas in the south San Joaquin Valley, where water exports from the Delta have declined because of drought and endangered species, have blasted the federal government for failing to act sooner and more decisively.
"We are long past the point of more committees. What we need is action," said U.S. Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Atwater.
On the other hand, some Delta advocates are upset over the Obama administration's decision to seek further review of new rules intended to protect smelt and salmon - rules that also hamper water deliveries to the south Valley and Southern California.
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein requested that review, saying "it may well bring a different point of view. ... And we all ought to be open to a different point of view if it's based on sound science."
If Delta interests' renewed relationship with the feds runs aground at times, that is nothing new. It has happened before with ambitious restoration projects.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation earlier this year sued the EPA over the bay's continually poor water quality. In a story that should sound familiar to those who follow Delta issues, the 200-mile bay that stretches from southern Virginia to Baltimore is overloaded with nutrients and sediment because of agricultural and urban runoff. Algae blooms rob the water of oxygen, killing fish.
Also roughly comparable to the Delta is the situation in the Everglades, once-vast wetlands that were reclaimed by workers who shoveled out 720 miles of canals and piled up 1,000 miles of levees. Farmers later planted sugar cane while the water was diverted for south Florida's growing population.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' implementation of the 2000 agreement to restore what is left of the Everglades was criticized last year by the National Research Council, which found that inadequate project planning and lack of funding left the plan well behind schedule.
Corps spokeswoman Karen Tippett said work is about to begin on one pump station.
"It's been a very long road," she said. "What we hear from our sponsors is that our processes take too long. I don't know how we can improve upon that."
San Francisco Chronicle
Mass veto off, governor signs hundreds of bills...Wyatt Buchanan, Chronicle Sacramento Bureau. Staff writer John Coté contributed to this report
Making deadline calls on hundreds of bills Sunday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger gave Santa Clara a boost in its bid to lure the 49ers south, permitted the killing of birds at airports, and put motorists in Alameda County on notice: Drive drunk just once and face a breath test every time you take the wheel.
Working late into the night Sunday through a pile of about 700 bills, Schwarzenegger signed at least 230. He also vetoed at least 221, including a closely watched measure that would have barred California State University executives from receiving pay raises or bonuses in years when the state cuts their funding.
The actions were announced as the governor and legislative leaders continued tense negotiations on a package to overhaul the state's water system. Lawmakers ended talks without a deal, but the governor said much progress was made and that he would call the Legislature into a special session to discuss water proposals.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said he anticipates holding public hearings on water proposals sometime this week.
A spokesman for Schwarzenegger said the governor would not enact a mass veto on legislation, as he had threatened earlier in the week, because of the level of success of the water discussions. The governor was announcing his actions on bills late into the night in order to meet a midnight deadline to sign or veto the measures.
Measures signed into law include:
-- Senate Bill 43 by Sen. Elaine Alquist, D-San Jose, allowing Santa Clara to award a contract to design and build a proposed 49ers stadium to a firm of the team's choice - rather than to the lowest bidder as normally required under city law.
-- SB792 by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, which allows the state to pursue the sale of up to 23 acres of the Candlestick Point Recreation Area to Lennar Corp. and dedicate the money from the sale to park improvements.
-- SB481 by Sen. Dave Cox, R-Fair Oaks (Sacramento County), which allows for the killing of birds at airports to protect public safety. The measure was inspired by US Airways Flight 1549, which made an emergency landing in the Hudson River in New York in January after striking birds during takeoff.
-- Assembly Bill 42 by Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, increasing the penalty for being a spectator at a dogfight - another response to the dogfighting conviction of professional football star Michael Vick.
-- AB91 by Assemblyman Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles, creating a five-year pilot program in Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Tulare counties in which an ignition interlock device would be installed on vehicles owned or operated by first-time drunken driving offenders. The devices prevent vehicles from being started if the driver is intoxicated.
While announcing his approval of the program, which goes into effect in January, Schwarzenegger said state leaders "must do everything we can to ensure the public's safety on the road."
Measures the governor vetoed include:
-- SB86 by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, which would have prohibited California State University executives from getting raises or bonuses in years when their state funding is cut. Schwarzenegger's veto message called the bill "micromanaging" by the state and said its provisions were not entirely clear.
-- SB218, also by Yee, which would have made auxiliary organizations at UC and CSU, along with community colleges, come under the state's public records laws.
-- AB241, by Nava, which would have placed limits on the number of unsterilized cats and dogs that a busines or person that buys and sells the animals can have.
-- AB1512 by Assemblyman Ted Lieu, D-Torrance (Los Angeles County), which would have imposed a $10-per-day fine on retailers for each package of baby formula and food offered for sale beyond the expiration date. Schwarzenegger said current law already has strong provisions and penalties for tainted food and drug products.
-- SB84 by Steinberg, which would have guaranteed $400 million in funding to 500 low-performing schools. In his veto message, the governor said that the bill is unnecessary and that his administration has found federal funds to provide the money.
The governor also vetoed Yee's measure to protect the freedom of a person to speak any language he or she chooses in a business establishment. The measure would have made it a violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act, the state's highest civil rights law, if a business "requires, limits or prohibits" the use of any language, except if doing so is a business necessity.
"Thank God the Unruh Civil Rights Act happened before this governor," Yee said. "If it were on his desk, he would veto it."
Schwarzenegger also vetoed Leno's SB585, which would have phased out gun shows at the Cow Palace, with a total ban beginning in 2013. In his veto statement, the governor said it would set a "confusing precedent" and reduce state and local tax revenues.
Schwarzenegger had considerably fewer bills to consider this year than last. Lawmakers approved fewer measures with an eye on the state's enormous budget deficit. Last year, the governor vetoed 35 percent of bills, the largest percentage of rejections in the past four decades.
The governor was on pace Sunday night to surpass that mark, as he had vetoed nearly half of the first 451 bills that he acted on. If the governor takes no action, bills become law without his signature. But Schwarzenegger has rarely, if ever, done that.
Indybay
Schwarzenegger Calls Special Session to Approve His Peripheral Canal Plan...Dan Bacher
http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/10/12/18625207.php
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger yesterday backed down from his threat to veto all 704 bills and starting signing and vetoing the legislation on his desk. He then issued a proclamation calling for the legislature to meet in an extraordinary session to "address California's water crisis."
“Over the past few days we have made enough progress in our negotiations that I am calling a special session on water," said Schwarzenegger. "While we still have a few remaining issues to work out, I commend the legislative leaders for their focus and commitment to solving this crisis and I will weigh all the bills on their merits.”
His call for a special session is yet one more episode in Schwarzenegger's campaign to build a peripheral canal and Temperance Flat and Sites Reservoirs through a general obligation bond.
The resolution resurrects the "co-equal" goals of water supply and environmental "restoration" of CalFed, the joint state and federal process that has led to the unprecedented collapse of Central Valley salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, striped bass, threadfin shad, green sturgeon and other species, due to massive exports of water from the California Delta to corporate agribusiness.
The resolution states, "To consider and act upon legislation to protect and restore the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta while also improving the reliability and quality of water supplies from that estuary."
The resolution then reiterates Schwarzenegger's plan to build a peripheral canal and more dams by calling for "improved conveyance facilities" and the building of "additional storage facilities."
The proclamation states, "To consider and act upon legislation to address the short term and long term improvement of California’s water management system including development of new surface and groundwater storage and improved conveyance facilities, ecosystem health and conservation strategies. To consider and act upon legislation to appropriate funds, including appropriations for general obligation and lease revenue bonds, to improve water resource management, build additional water storage facilities, develop groundwater aquifers, improve groundwater quality and flood protection, and restore the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and other important ecosystem restoration projects. To consider and act upon legislation to place a general obligation bond and, as necessary, a lease revenue bond on the ballot."
Amazingly, Schwarzenegger is pressuring the Legislature to approve his obscenely expensive water bond at a time when California is in its greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression. While the budget for heath care for children, teachers and game wardens has been slashed, Schwarzenegger is pushing for the approval of a canal boondoggle that would cost from $23 billion to $53.8 billion, according to a recent analysis by economist Steven Kasower.
The following is the news release and proclamation from the Governor's Office:
GAAS:607:09
For Immediate Release: Contact: Aaron McLear

Sunday, October 11, 2009 Rachel Arrezola
916-445-4571
Gov. Schwarzenegger Calls Special Session to Address California’s Water Crisis
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today issued the following proclamation calling for the legislature to meet in an extraordinary session to address California’s water crisis:
A PROCLAMATION
BY THE GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
WHEREAS, an extraordinary occasion has arisen and now exists requiring that the Legislature of the State of California be convened in extraordinary session; now therefore,
I, ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, Governor of the State of California, by virtue of the power and authority vested in me by Section 3(b) Article IV of the Constitution of the State of California, do hereby convene the Legislature of the State of California to meet in extraordinary session at Sacramento, California on the 12th day of October, 2009, at a time to be determined, for the following purposes and to legislate upon the following subjects:
To consider and act upon legislation to protect and restore the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta while also improving the reliability and quality of water supplies from that estuary.
To consider and act upon legislation to address the short term and long term improvement of California’s water management system including development of new surface and groundwater storage and improved conveyance facilities, ecosystem health and conservation strategies.
To consider and act upon legislation to appropriate funds, including appropriations for general obligation and lease revenue bonds, to improve water resource management, build additional water storage facilities, develop groundwater aquifers, improve groundwater quality and flood protection, and restore the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and other important ecosystem restoration projects.
To consider and act upon legislation to place a general obligation bond and, as necessary, a lease revenue bond on the ballot.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Great Seal of the State of California to be affixed this 11th day of October, 2009.
__________________________
ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER
Governor of California
ATTEST:
___________________________
DEBRA BOWEN
Secretary of State
Contra Costa Times
Legislators reach consensus on water policy...Lisa Vorderbrueggen and Mike Taugher
http://www.contracostatimes.com/top-stories/ci_13541312
SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger lifted his threat of a blanket veto on hundreds of bills Sunday night and announced plans to call a special session of the Legislature after Republican and Democrat leaders came to sufficient agreement over a new state water policy to satisfy the governor.
"Over the past few days, we have made enough progress in our negotiations that I am calling a special session on water," Schwarzenegger said in a statement. "While we still have a few remaining issues to work out, I commend the legislative leaders for their focus and commitment to solving this crisis and I will weigh all the bills on their merits."
The Democrats gave the Republicans a proposed bill to fix the fragile Delta on Sunday, the details of which were not released.
Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, said as she left the governor's office that she expected both parties would bring a proposed bill to their respective party caucuses within 24 to 48 hours.
Assembly Minority Leader Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, said Republicans will thoroughly analyze the document and described the day's developments as "cause for progress."
On the Senate side, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg called the day's negotiations a "significant breakthrough in term of thinking of this an entire package ... and (finding) middle ground on each of the issues."
The leaders said talks would resume this Monday morning.
By early Sunday night, the governor had signed 168 and vetoed 183 bills, and his spokesman said he would make decisions on the remaining 350 bills based on their merits before the midnight Sunday deadline.
Many of the bills he signed earlier in the day were meant to secure federal stimulus dollars or otherwise save California money, and many of his vetoes were expected.
The governor and the leaders of each party in the state Senate and Assembly, called the Big Five, met throughout the day in Schwarzenegger's office.
As expected, the governor signed most of the bills that would have created financial hardships in the state if they had been vetoed, including Senate Bill 19 authored by state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, which will establish links between student achievement data and teacher and principal data. It is a requirement of the federal program "The Race to the Top" on which stimulus dollars depend.
Schwarzenegger also signed a bill that implements a number of reforms in the state prison system designed to save about $280 million.
He had not acted as of 10 p.m. on legislation that would have made the Antioch and Dumbarton bridges eligible for seismic retrofit dollars nor had he issued a decision on a bill that would leverage more than $2.3 billion in federal funds to increase Medi-Cal hospital reimbursement rates. A decision had also not been made on a bill that would appropriate $113 million in federal dollars for energy efficiency and conservation programs.
Among East Bay legislators' bills that were signed into law were state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier's Senate Bill 147, which creates career technical courses at the California State University system and Senate Bill 702, which requires personnel in health clubs' child care centers to follow guidelines designed to shield children from pedophiles.
The governor also signed a bill by Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, that will place on the Web whether or not employers have workers' compensation insurance and a bill by Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, that strengthens human-trafficking penalties.
On the water talks, the final sticking points appear to number about a half-dozen, including whether to monitor groundwater in California for the first time and give added authority to regulators to police illegal water diversions; the makeup of a new Delta council; details of new water conservation requirements; and the size and other details of a proposed water bond.
Meanwhile, two Bay Area water agencies have threatened Democrats' hope for a deal by balking at a provision that would require an evaluation of environmental needs for flows in the Delta. The East Bay Municipal Utility District and the San Francisco Public Utilities District object to that because they fear it will force them to release water from their dams on the Mokelumne and Tuolumne rivers.
They contend responsibility lies with other water users, especially San Joaquin Valley farmers and those in Southern California, a stance that has angered environmentalists and water agencies.
On Friday, environmental groups warned Democratic leaders not to give more ground on many of the key pieces in the plan.
"There's a lot of good and important stuff in this package," said Cynthia Koehler, a senior consulting attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund. "We have stretched and compromised and we are willing to work with other parties that will compromise."
The talks have settled on about $3 billion for water storage as part of a larger package, and the current deal would allow state officials to spend that money without legislative approval, a key concession to water agencies hoping to get new dams built but fearful lawmakers could hold up projects.
"We want very strong groundwater monitoring and conservation provisions since we gave that to them," said Alicia Trost, spokeswoman for Steinberg.
The money would have to be matched by water users.
Still, even if the leaders reach a deal, the road to final passage is rough. As long as the policy and finance pieces of the deal remain separate, lawmakers would have to give majority approval of the policy piece and two-thirds support for the finance package. Voters would then have to approve the bond measure.
Los Angeles Times
Take a deep breath -- more bad news on air pollution
The consequences of breathing bad air is linked to appendicitis and ear infections, new studies indicate...Jill U. Adams
It's easy to see how air pollution would affect respiratory disease: You breathe in smog-filled miasma all day and the ozone, other noxious gases and small particulate matter therein can make you wheeze and cough. Pollutants can trigger asthma attacks and bronchitis in susceptible individuals.
But it's harder at first blush to understand links to other conditions. In two studies reported last week, bad air was associated with higher rates of appendicitis and ear infections.
The new reports have been met with surprise because neither health problem seems obviously linked with the airway or bloodstream. At the same time, they represent a trend toward broadening the research scope of air pollution and health.
"People are looking at everything and air pollution these days," says Francine Laden, an epidemiologist at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.
Research on air pollution has been conducted worldwide for decades and is part of the basis for government regulation of air quality. Study after study has found more hospitalizations and higher death rates when certain pollutants are high. In addition to respiratory effects, research has established that air pollution increases the risk of cardiovascular events such as arrhythmia, heart attack and stroke, and the incidence of certain cancers.
In the appendicitis study, published Oct. 5 in the Canadian Medical Assn. Journal, researchers examined records for 5,191 adults admitted to Calgary hospitals for appendicitis from 1999 to 2006. The dates of the patients' admissions were compared to air pollution levels in the preceding week, using data from three air quality surveillance sites in the city.
The scientists found a significant effect of pollutants on appendicitis rates in the summer months among men, but not women.
The risk of going to the hospital with appendicitis more than doubled when summer pollution was at its highest, says study lead author Dr. Gilaad Kaplan, a physician-researcher at the University of Calgary.
The strongest effects were found when high pollution days preceded hospital admission by at least five days rather than a shorter period. This suggests there is a certain lag time between pollutant exposure and the development of appendicitis.
The study did not examine how pollution might cause appendicitis, but Kaplan speculates that inflammatory processes are involved. Substances the body produces to ramp up inflammation are implicated in appendicitis. Other research has found these substances in healthy volunteers after they breathed diesel exhaust.
A similar argument is used to explain cardiovascular risk factors associated with air pollution: that substances involved in blood clotting are produced after exposure to bad air.
In the ear infection study, presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery in San Diego, researchers compared prevalence of the disease in 126,060 children with trends in air pollution from 1997 to 2006. Health information came from the National Health
Interview Survey, administered by the U.S. Census Bureau, and air quality data came from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency records.
Four pollutants -- carbon monoxide, nitrous dioxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter -- decreased nationwide over the 10-year period. The number of children reported as having more than three ear infections in a year also declined.
Again, the study cannot say air pollution causes ear infections, only that the two are associated. And it did not investigate how pollutants affect the ear canal.
But it's not a stretch to go from respiratory illness to ear infection, says lead author Dr. Nina Shapiro, a pediatric otolaryngologist at UCLA School of Medicine. Pollutants have been shown to damage cilia -- tiny little hairs that line many of the body's passageways.
If that occurs in the ear, Shapiro says, then the cleansing process is damaged or slowed, which could set the stage for infection.
Study coauthor Dr. Neil Bhattacharyya found a similar association between air pollution and sinus infection in adults in an earlier investigation published in Laryngoscope in March.
An inherent weakness in both the ear infection and appendicitis studies -- and in many air pollution studies, for that matter -- is that air quality data for a geographical area are used as an estimate of what an individual actually inhales, says Derek Shendell, a public health researcher at the University of Medicine and Dentistry, New Jersey, in Piscataway.
Air quality measured at a site may not represent what someone living in that neighborhood is actually breathing. It will depend on levels they encounter in their house or workplace.
And even within a given neighborhood, pollution will be greater near busier roads.
Researchers must also be on the lookout for other unrelated factors that may affect the health condition being measured.
For example, Shapiro notes, there was a decline in cigarette smoking during the time period covered by her ear-infection study.
If the children also had less exposure to secondhand smoke -- a known risk factor for ear infections -- that could account for some of the decline in disease.
Pneumococcal vaccine, introduced in 2000 -- the middle of Shapiro's study period -- has also been credited with declining rates of ear infections.
In fact, both the new studies are just first steps. They are sure to stimulate more research on how air pollution might trigger these conditions as well as other nonrespiratory diseases.
Washington Post
Schwarzenegger sets session to discuss water deal...DON THOMPSON, The Associated Press
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/11/AR2009101101185_pf.html
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger late Sunday summoned lawmakers for a special session on the state's water problems, even as legislative negotiators ended nearly 12 hours of talks without reaching an agreement.
The legislative leaders plan to meet with the governor again Monday for their seventh consecutive day of discussions.
"Over the past few days we have made enough progress in our negotiations that I am calling a special session on water," Schwarzenegger said in a statement late Sunday as talks ended for the day.
He acknowledged that "we still have a few remaining issues to work out," while the leaders said substantial issues remain - including the amount of a water bond to pay for improving the state's inadequate and outdated water storage and conveyance system.
California lawmakers had already planned to return to Sacramento this week to complete unfinished business, making Schwarzenegger's call for a special water session largely symbolic.
Democratic leaders presented their proposal and answers to concerns that Republicans had been raising for weeks, said Assembly Minority Leader Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo.
"I think there is evidence now that we are moving in the right direction," Blakeslee said as he left for the night.
Senate Minority Leader Dennis Hollingsworth, R-Temecula, said the same dozen or so issues have been dividing the four leaders and the governor for days: water conservation and balancing water rights with monitoring how property owners pump groundwater. They barely had time Sunday to discuss how to pay for water system improvements.
"We've got a proposal now that we're going to take back and take a look at. I think it moves both sides closer together," Hollingsworth said.
Democratic leaders said they hope to be able to present a water proposal to rank-and-file legislators this week, and perhaps hold public hearings on a water package before week's end. Passing a water deal that includes a bond needs a two-thirds vote in the Legislature, requiring at least some support from Republicans.
"I think we made great progress today," said Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles.
"I feel very good about it right now," added Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.
Schwarzenegger had delayed acting on about 700 bills from this summer's legislative session to pressure lawmakers to improve California's deteriorating and inadequate water system. He faced a midnight Sunday deadline to sign or veto the bills. He said he was pleased enough with progress in the water talks to release all the bills.
He vetoed about half and signed about half the bills, acting on those measures as he would in any other year, said spokesman Aaron McLear.
The governor is pushing for more reservoirs and a controversial canal to improve a water storage and conveyance system mostly built in the 1960s.
"I'm fighting to rebuild our crumbling water system," Schwarzenegger said in his weekly radio address Saturday, repeating his upbeat speech from a water rally Friday. "Water is jobs for California, water is food, water is our future, water is our economy."
The governor periodically schmoozed the four legislative leaders in his smoking tent in a Capital courtyard outside his office, leaving most staff members behind in a neighboring conference room. The tent was set up so Schwarzenegger and his guests could smoke his favorite cigars without violating California's strict laws on smoking in public buildings.
"It's just a little break from being in a stuffy conference room," McLear said.
Also Sunday, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael Connor were in California meeting with farmers along the massive federal Central Valley water project that sends Northern California water to farmers in dry areas of the state that supply much of the nation's fruits and vegetables.
The two federal leaders were also meeting with Latino farmworkers to discuss California's three-year drought and other water issues. The predicament will only worsen as the state's population grows.
 
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