Environment

Conservation groups' letter to the Governor in defense of CEQA

Submitted: Jul 25, 2007

For Immediate Release, July 24, 2007

Contacts:
Brian Nowicki
Center for Biological Diversity
bnowicki@biologicaldiversity.org, 520-449-3898
Others

For Immediate Release, July 24, 2007

Conservation Groups Call on Governor Schwarzenegger to Stand Up for Global Warming Law:
Senate Republicans Hold State Budget Hostage to Favors for Development and Fossil-Fuels Lobby

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— Conservation groups called on Governor Schwarzenegger today to publicly oppose efforts by the Republican minority in the California State Senate to exempt greenhouse gas emissions from environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act.

“California’s budget bill is currently being held hostage by a small minority of senators trying to force the majority into accepting a measure to exempt new projects from CEQA’s requirement to analyze and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We ask that you speak out publicly against this and any future attempts to roll back California’s efforts to fight global warming,” read the letter.

The California Environmental Quality Act, a bedrock state environmental law, requires all state and local agencies to assess and reduce significant environmental impacts from new developments and other projects. The California Attorney General and many conservation organizations have sought to hold agencies and project applicants accountable for compliance with respect to greenhouse gas emissions.

On June 21, 2007, the California Building Industry Association, Western States Petroleum Association, and other fossil-fuel interest groups sent a letter to the governor and the state legislature seeking an “administrative or legislative remedy” to exempt the greenhouse gas emissions of developments and other projects from review under the Act.

On Friday, July 20, after the state assembly passed a budget bill and sent it to the Senate, Senate Republican leader Dick Ackerman halted passage of the bill and set out a number of demands, including a provision to exempt developments and other projects from review of greenhouse gases. Such a measure is completely inappropriate for the budget bill and being introduced in an insidious, back-door fashion to forestall public outcry and legislative debate.

After an all-night session through Saturday morning, Senate President Pro-Tem Don Perata adjourned the Senate until Wednesday, with instructions to Senate Republicans to provide a unified list of demands for the passage of the budget. It is uncertain whether the California Environmental Quality Act exemption for greenhouse gases will be part of this list of demands.

California is a national leader in efforts to fight global warming, and the California Environmental Quality Act is prominent among the laws and policies that are addressing greenhouse gas pollution. Other critically important laws and policies include the California Global Warming Solutions Act, which requires California to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and Executive Order S-3-05, which sets a goal of reaching emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

The groups’ letter to the governor is attached.

July 24, 2007
Honorable Arnold Schwarzenegger
Governor
State of California
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger,

We ask that you issue a public statement of opposition to the current minority attempt in the California state Senate to eliminate the California Environmental Quality Act process to analyze and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The State of California has long been a champion of environmental protection and is the undisputed leader in climate change policy nationally. The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), our state’s flagship environmental law, is a key component of the suite of laws and policies already on the books to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our state. CEQA provides an established system with a proven track record of assessing and reducing the significant adverse environmental impacts of new projects. Greenhouse gas emissions are among the most important of such impacts that CEQA addresses.

California’s budget bill is currently being held hostage by a small minority of Senators trying to force the majority into accepting a measure to exempt new projects from CEQA’s requirement to analyze and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We ask that you speak out publicly against this outrageous demand and any other attempt to roll back California’s efforts to fight global warming.

CEQA requires all state and local agencies to assess and reduce, to the extent feasible, all significant environmental impacts from new project approvals. The CEQAenvironmental review process is fully established throughout the state, with a proventrack record of ameliorating impacts relating to air pollution, water quality andavailability, land use, endangered species, and many other aspects of California’s
environment. This process represents a wonderful opportunity, and also a legal mandate, for cities, counties, and other agencies to consider the greenhouse gas emissions from new projects they approve and then to adopt the many measures readily available to reduce those emissions. While the passage of the California Global Warming Solutions Act certainly heightens the urgency of ensuring CEQA compliance, state and local
agencies’ legal obligations under CEQA with regard to greenhouse gas emissions predate and are separate from and complementary to the new mandates.

The California Attorney General, many of our organizations, and others have sought to hold agencies and project proponents accountable for compliance with this bedrock environmental law with respect to greenhouse gas emissions. Faced with the irrefutable argument that agencies must assess and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the extent feasible in the CEQA process, a number of special interests are now seeking to eliminate CEQA’s requirements with regard to greenhouse gas emissions.

The June 21, 2007 letter you received from the California Building Industry Association, Western States Petroleum Association, and other industry groups completely misrepresented efforts to enforce CEQA as efforts “to implement AB 32 (The Global Warming Solutions Act) and Gubernatorial Executive Order S-3-05,” and sought an “administrative or legislative remedy” to exempt greenhouse gas emissions from CEQA.

To suggest that efforts to implement and enforce an existing law such as CEQA, constitute premature enforcement of the Global Warming Solutions Act is disingenuous. While the Global Warming Solutions Act is a critical component of the state’s efforts to address greenhouse gas pollution, the statute states repeatedly that it does not excuse compliance with any existing law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or protect the
environment. See, e.g., Cal. Health and Safety Code §§ 38592(b), 38598.

Scientists tell us that greenhouse gas pollution must be slashed eighty percent or more by mid-century to avoid disastrous climate change. Your Executive Order to reduce California emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 is consistent with this mandate. But actually reaching the targets identified by scientists, your Executive Order and the California Global Warming Solutions Act will be challenging. To succeed we
must get started immediately and pursue all possible avenues. To this end, California is fortunate to have CEQA, which provides one of the most promising and important means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from new development and other projects. With California’s population projected to approximately double by mid century, we must improve the way we grow in order to actually achieve the pollution reductions we need to preserve the environment and our quality of life.

During the budget bill crisis of the past few days, special interests opposed to regulation of greenhouse gases attempted to insert a provision into the budget bill to exempt greenhouse gas emissions from new development and other projects from CEQA review. It is possible that this item will be presented once again when the Senate reconvenes this Wednesday.

We ask that you publicly oppose this bald attempt to roll back California’s efforts to fight global warming. As governor, you have demonstrated leadership in fighting global warming, including the issuance of Executive Order S-3-05. We ask that you continue that commitment now by releasing a public statement of opposition to this and any legislative efforts to undermine efforts like Executive Order S-03-05, the California Global Warming Solutions Act, and CEQA, to induce real actions and changes in the fight against global warming. A statement from you would help clarify that attacks against these efforts are working against the interests of the state of California, and against the commitment the state has made to fighting global warming.

Considering the growing impacts and risks of global warming to the environment, the economy, and public health, the benefits existing law can provide to California and the world in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from new projects are tremendous. Full CEQA enforcement with respect to greenhouse gas emissions deserves your full support and enthusiastic endorsement.

We thank you for your leadership in addressing the climate crisis, and look forward to working with you and your staff on this critically important issue.

Sincerely,

Adrienne Bloch
Senior Attorney
Communities for a Better Environment

Michael E. Boyd
President
Californians for Renewable Energy, Inc. (CARE)

Ingrid Brostrom
Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment

Stuart Cohen
Executive Director
Transportation and Land Use Coalition (TALC)

Kim Delfino
California Program Director
Defenders of Wildlife

Drew Feldman
San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society

Susan Frank
President & CEO
Steven and Michele Kirsch Foundation

Garry George
Executive Director
Los Angeles Audubon

David Gordon
Executive Director
Pacific Environment

Ralph Salisbury, Chair
Sierra Club, San Gorgonio Chapter

Bill Hatch
San Joaquin Valley Conservancy

Tam Hunt
Energy Program Director / Attorney
Community Environmental Council

Dan Jacobson
Legislative Director
Environment California

Linda Krop
Chief Counsel
Environmental Defense Center

Paul Mason
Sierra Club California

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center

Brian Nowicki
Center for Biological Diversity

Gary A. Patton
Executive Director
Planning and Conservation League

Michelle Passero
Director of Policy Initiatives
The Pacific Forest Trust

Nancy Rader
Executive Director
California Wind Energy Association

Robert Ryland
Central Valley Safe Environment Network
(CVSEN)

Scott Smithline
Director of Legal and Regulatory Affairs
Californians Against Waste

Ms. Gabriel Solmer, Esq.
Legal Director
San Diego Coastkeeper

V. John White
Clean Power Campaign

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Another piece of good news!

Submitted: Jul 13, 2007

California Native Plant Society
Defenders of Wildlife
Butte Environmental Council

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – July 13, 2007

Contact: Carol Witham, California Native Plant Society, (916) 452-5440

Brian Segee, Defenders of Wildlife, (202) 682-9400 x 121

Barbara Vlamis, Butte Environmental Council, (530) 891-6426

Court Issues a Preliminary Injunction
against destruction of vernal pool habitat
in the Sunrise Douglas area of Rancho Cordova

On Tuesday, Federal District Court Judge Martin J. Jenkins issued a preliminary injunction against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permits related to the Sunrise Douglas Development in the City of Rancho Cordova, Sacramento County, California. The court ordered the wetland permits suspended and enjoined any further construction, groundbreaking, earthmoving, or other on-the-ground activity that may affect vernal pool habitat or endangered or threatened species. On Thursday, cease-and-desist orders were issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to seven separate, but interrelated projects: North Douglas, Montelena, Douglas Road 98, Sunridge Park, Anatolia IV, Sunridge Village J and Grantline 208. Two additional projects, Douglas Road 103 and Arista del Sol, will also be subject to the force of the court order. The injunction will remain in effect until the case before the court has ruled on its merits. The lawsuit also names as defendants the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In issuing the preliminary injunction, Judge Jenkins found that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers environmental assessments of these projects failed to take a “hard look” at, and independently analyze, the environmental consequences of the proposed projects in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act. The judge issued the preliminary injunction based upon the irreparable harm that could be caused to the vernal pools while the case is being heard by the court.

“This is a victory for the environmental community that has spent more than a decade trying to protect vernal pool grasslands and their associated endangered species in the Rancho Cordova area” says Carol Witham of the California Native Plant Society (CNPS). “CNPS has long considered the Sunrise Douglas area being as the Yellowstone of vernal pool landscapes.”*

“We’re elated that the court found that the Army Corps’ reliance on documents submitted by the developers was insufficient, and that they independently analyze environmental impacts of the proposed projects,” stated Barbara Vlamis, Executive Director, Butte Environmental Council. “While this may not stop development, it will force the regulatory agencies to look holistically at vernal pool wetlands and endangered species in the Sunrise Douglas area and the impact of new development projects in this area.”

“California’s vernal pools are an integral part of the state's natural landscape and heritage, and are a vital resource for numerous native plants and animals,” said Brian Segee, Defenders of Wildlife. “Today’s decision moves us one step closer to ensuring that these crucial habitat areas remain intact.”

Plaintiffs are represented by attorneys and students in the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic and by Neil Levine. For more details about the legal aspects of the case, contact Stanford Clinic Director Deborah Sivas at (650) 723-0325.

*Last week, in a separate case filed by CNPS, the California Superior Court found that the City of Rancho Cordova violated several state laws in their approval of an adjacent Angelo K. Tsakopoulos development called “The Preserve at Sunridge”. And, earlier this year in a lawsuit by the Vineyard Area Citizens against the City of Rancho Cordova, the California Supreme Court ruled that the original Sunrise Douglas environmental analysis document failed to consider the environmental impacts of long-term water supply and ground-water pumping activities on endangered fish in the Cosumnes River.

###

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Three pieces of good news

Submitted: Jul 12, 2007
This means that other communities will be saddled with a potentially unnecessary NBAF and unjustified hazards. "We remain vigilant and plan tstand with communities across this country to oppose the proliferation ofthese exceedingly dangerous labs." said Miles, Tri-Valley CAREs, July 11, 2007

Three pieces of good news:

1) No biowarfare lab for Livermore Lab Site 300 near Tracy. One San Joaquin County reporter said today that he'd heard the decision was actually made in June, as scheduled, but only announced now. Possibly, the consolation warpork prize for Livermore Valley was a head-trauma clinic for Iraq veterans.

2) The House Natural Resources Committee is looking into the revolving door policy at the Department of Interior, by which Jason Peltier, a top water official, is leaving to become assistant general manager of Westlands Water District. Committee questions to Interior Secretary focus on projects Peltier has been involved in that would have benefitted Westlands.

3) Hank Shaw, capital reporter for the Stockton Record, reported yesterday on his blog that Section 123 has been removed from the Farm Bill. The section would have prohibited states or local jurisdictions from banning cultivation of genetically engineered crops within their borders. Four counties in California have such laws and others are working on them at the moment. Shaw said he confirmed the news with several reliable sources among Agriculture Committee members and committee staff. It would appear he's scooped the nation on his blog, but he hasn't written the article for his newspaper yet, nor have either the news services or GE_NEWS@eco-farm.org (the indespensible anti-GMO clipping service) yet picked up the story.
We'll see ...

Bill Hatch
----------------------

7-11-07
NORTHERN CALIFORNIA COMMUNITIES DEFEAT BIO-WARFARE AGENT RESEARCH PROPOSAL
AT LIVERMORE LAB SITE 300
For more information:
Marylia Kelley, Executive Director, Tri-Valley CAREs, (925) 443-7148
Loulena Miles, Staff Attorney, Tri-Valley CAREs, (925) 443-7148
Bob Sarvey, Business Owner and opposition leader in Tracy, (209) 835-7162
http://www.trivalleycares.org/pressRelease/prjul07.asp

Activists and Business Owners Rejoice as Dept. of Homeland Security Rejects
Livermore Lab Application for National Bio and Agro Defense Facility
(NBAF); Claim Public Opposition Tipped the Scales

TRACY - Following a year of community outreach, meetings with elected officials, neighborhood "house parties", door to door petitioning, Tracy City Council action, and other escalating opposition, the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) apparently got the message. There is no "community acceptance" for a bio-warfare agent research facility in Northern California.

Today, elected officials leaked the names of the 5 finalist locations for the Dept. of Homeland Security's National Bio and Agro Defense Facility, or NBAF. Livermore Lab's Site 300 is NOT on the list, despite heavy lobbying by the Lab and the University of California, which manages Livermore Lab
and submitted its NBAF application.

The NBAF will be one of the largest and most dangerous biodefense facilities in the world. Reportedly, the "finalist" contenders to house NBAF are located in Texas, Georgia, Kansas, North Carolina and Mississippi.

Local grassroots organizing carried the day in eliminating Livermore Lab's Site 300 high explosives testing range from consideration. Tri-Valley CAREs, a watchdog group that monitors Livermore Lab, and its allies
generated more than 7,000 calls and letters to the Department of Homeland Security opposing a bio-warfare agent research facility at Site 300.

The group collected more than 2,000 paper petitions against the bio-facility, many of them distributed from neighbor to neighbor and through Bob Sarvey's shoe store in Tracy. In addition, the group's members
wrote numerous letters to the editor and spoke out at Tracy City Council and other key meetings.

On Tri-Valley CAREs' behalf, Working Assets Long Distance asked its local customers if they would be willing to pay a small fee to send a letter-gram telling DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff to stop the bio-lab from locating at Site 300 -- and more than 3,000 did so. Hundreds more made phone calls.

A colleague organization, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, sponsored an Internet forum that enabled nearly 2,000 people to send their email messages opposing the facility to DHS.

And, following advocacy from community members, the Tracy City Council, Site 300's closest neighbor, voted in January 2007 to oppose the bio-lab. The City of Tracy then sent a letter to DHS announcing its opposition.

According to Marylia Kelley, Executive Director of Tri-Valley CAREs, "The community opposition was impressive. So many bright lights came out to oppose this dangerous bio-warfare agent research proposal. I believe it was public outcry that caused Homeland Security to eliminate Site 300 from consideration."

Kelley continued, "I am ecstatic that we were able to achieve this victory and I salute all the community members who spoke out."

The proposed NBAF will cover 520,000 square feet, roughly the size of 5 Wal-Mart stores. It will house the most lethal pathogens on Earth, with both BSL-3 and BSL-4 capacity.

Biosafety Level-3 facilities experiment on infectious or exotic pathogens that are potentially lethal, such as live anthrax, plague and Q fever. Biosafety Level-4s are reserved for extremely exotic biological agents for
which there is no known cure, such as Central European tick-borne encephalitis. The biological research at NBAF will spread across a minimum of 30 acres to test on large animals, according to the DHS request for
proposals in the federal register.

Local businessman and resident Bob Sarvey said today, "I am glad that we in Tracy will not be subjected to both increased bomb testing at Site 300 and live anthrax, plague, bird flu and other pathogens. I am celebrating this victory while continuing opposition to further bomb testing with depleted
uranium at the site. The end goal is to obtain cleanup of existing contamination and safe research at Site 300."

Moreover, building this research lab at Site 300 would have meant collocating bio-warfare agent research with nuclear weapons, sending the wrong signal to the rest of the world. "Building this facility at Site 300
would have weakened the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC)," stated Loulena Miles, the staff attorney at Tri-Valley CAREs. "Today, there exists a bright line, with no country locating its advanced biological warfare
research in classified nuclear weapons facilities. I am particularly joyful that the rejection of Site 300 by DHS preserves this clear and important distinction."

Miles elaborated, "If the line is ever breached, collocating 'bugs and bombs' will raise suspicions worldwide about the intent of the U.S. biodefense program. This will have a corrosive effect on universal acceptance of the BWC." The Biological Weapons Convention is the international treaty to prevent the spread of bioweapons.

Additionally, the NBAF is part of what many community groups are calling an unnecessary and dangerous "biodefense building boom."

Tri-Valley CAREs and its allies have asked Congress and the Bush Administration for a national "needs assessment" to be undertaken. This logical first step would provide the government and the public with an
accurate picture of what biodefense capabilities presently exist in the United States, and what if any additional capability is needed.

Stated Kelley, "It is shocking that no such overarching assessment exists and that each federal agency is moving forward willy-nilly with its own proposals for more labs."

This means that other communities will be saddled with a potentially unnecessary NBAF and unjustified hazards. "We remain vigilant and plan to stand with communities across this country to oppose the proliferation of these exceedingly dangerous labs." said Miles.

Homeland Security will make the final site selection for NBAF by October 2008. The Environmental Impact Statement process, pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act, is now slated to begin immediately.

7-12-07
Tracy Press
Tracy dropped from bio-lab list...Rob L. Wagner
http://tracypress.com/content/view/10137/2242/

Tracy didn’t make the cut to host a $450 million national lab where killer germs like anthrax, avian flu and foot-and-mouth disease will be studied, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced Wednesday...the federal government has selected finalists from five other states for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility. The decision eliminates the potential to bring hundreds of highly skilled jobs to the city but is considered a victory by many residents who were troubled by the secrecy and possible threat posed by the project. When federal officials whittled down the list, it eliminated Tracy, the only bidder west of the Rocky Mountains. The five that are left are Flora Industrial Park in Madison County, Miss.; Texas Research Park in San Antonio, Texas; Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan.; Umstead Research Farm in Granville County, N.C.; and the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga. It’s likely Tracy didn’t make the cut because of its lack of community acceptance. Earlier this year, the City Council voted to oppose the project. In a Feb. 9 letter to the Department of Homeland Security, Lawrence Livermore officials and other federal officials, City Manager Dan Hobbs cited both the proximity of Site 300 to the city and residents’ public health and environmental concerns. Perhaps equally important was the lack of answers from federal officials about specific testing at the proposed facility, Sarvey said...more than 4,000 signatures and about 2,000 letters were sent to Homeland Security in opposition to the proposed project. Chris Harrington, spokesman for the University of California, which is associated with Lawrence Livermore on the project, said, "The University of California is disappointed that its proposal for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility was not selected by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for further review and consideration." He also said that while UC’s proposal is no longer under consideration, university officials hope Homeland Security will not rule out options to place a bio- and agro-defense facility in California in the future.

San Francisco Chronicle
UC out of the running for controversial biodefense lab...David Perlman
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/07/12/BAG61QV3GK1.DTL&hw=uc&sn=003&sc=644

The University of California lost its bid Wednesday to build a huge new biodefense lab where scientists would study highly dangerous microbes at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's property near Tracy, federal officials announced Wednesday. UC officials had lobbied strongly for selection of the Livermore lab as home for the new facility. Livermore scientists had planned to locate the lab at the Site 300 property near Tracy -- well away from the main Livermore campus. But local opposition may have helped derail the plan. Tri-Valley Cares, the activist organization that has long been a thorn in the side of the Livermore lab's nuclear weapons work, vigorously lobbied against locating the new biodefense facility anywhere near Tracy or Livermore. More than 3,000 petitions and 2,000 e-mails from Tracy residents, plus 2,000 paid telephone messages carried by the Working Assets Long Distance phone service, opposed the new lab, according to Marylia Kelley, a leader of the organization formally known as Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment. The Tracy City Council also voted to oppose the lab... The National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility is planned as a huge, heavily shielded structure covering more than 500,000 square feet -- larger than five average Wal-Mart stores. Within the building, under a variety of high-tech containment labs, scientists and technicians would study the effects of the world's most dangerous microbes on animals and seek new ways to protect both humans and domestic animals against the germs, according to homeland security planners. A statement from UC's Washington office said the university "is disappointed" that it was not selected and added that it is "a leader in the field of biotechnology and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the area of biosecurity research. We will continue to apply our premier scientific and technological expertise to the homeland security work of our nation."

7-11-07
Tracy Press
Tracy's dropped from bio-lab list...Cheri Matthews
http://tracypress.com/content/view/10137/2242/

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has just announced that Tracy was cut from its list of proposed locations for the National Bio and Agro Defense Facility.
The list was narrowed from 18 sites to five. The sites under consideration are in Texas, Georgia, Kansas, North Carolina and Mississippi.

Kansas gears up effort to win bio lab
By JASON GERTZEN
The Kansas City Star
http://www.kansascity.com/business/story/186415.html

“…We can make a very strong case that we are the best possible location.”
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius

Kansas officials aim to blend scientific strengths with political savvy after the state emerged Wednesday as a finalist for a $450 million federal biodefense laboratory.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security leaders included a proposed location on the campus of Kansas State University in Manhattan among spots in five states that now will undergo an intensive review. Officials plan to name a winner by the fall of 2008 for a substantial lab complex that will employ hundreds of scientists and bring a boost to the bioscience prestige and economy of the successful region.
Kansas is vying with Texas, Georgia, North Carolina and Mississippi for the 500,000-square-foot facility that is to develop new measures for detecting and countering foot and mouth disease, various strains of swine fever and other pathogens with the potential to devastate the nation’s food supply.
Another Kansas site in Leavenworth County and one in Missouri near Columbia were trimmed from 17 locations across the country under consideration for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility. Federal officials intend to move the scientific work from an animal disease lab at Plum Island, N.Y., that is viewed as inadequate because of its aging facilities.
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, viewed Wednesday’s much-anticipated announcement as a big win for his state and said he was optimistic about its prospects.
“There is still much work to be done, but our state can be proud that we are considered one of the premier centers of biological and agricultural research, businesses and education,” Roberts said. “The merits are on our side" ...

Atlanta Journal-Constitution
UGA on short list for national bio-defense facility
By KEN FOSKETT
http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/stories/2007/07/11/biodefense_0711.html

The University of Georgia is a finalist for a major new bio-defense facility dedicated to combating contagious human and animal diseases.
The state's top university was among five sites chosen Wednesday by the Department of Homeland Security as potential homes for the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility, according to Bert Brantley, a spokesman for Gov. Sonny Perdue.
The research facility, part of the national strategy to combat terrorism, is intended to counter threats to the nation's food supply and limit the chances of animal diseases spreading to humans.
The state of Georgia has proposed investing up to $154 million to land the project, including $10 million to attract researchers to the university system and $120 million in new UGA facilities.
"Just being on the short list is a very big win for Georgia," said Mike Cassidy, president of the Georgia Research Alliance, which supported UGA's bid. "We're thrilled" ...

7-12-07
Brownfield
M-U no longer finalist for National Bio and Agro-Defense facility
by Julie Harker http://www.brownfieldnetwork.com/gestalt/go.cfm?objectid=BAC0E949-CF20-D683-59E70F731A958A2E

The University of Missouri-Columbia has been dropped as a potential site for a new national bio and agro-defense research facility. The Homeland Security Department narrowed its list on Wednesday to five potential sites: in Georgia, Kansas, Texas, Mississippi and North Carolina.
The Missouri Cattlemen’s Association recently came out in opposition to the Columbia location, saying it was too risky to animal and human health to have the level-four facility in such a populated area.
Other ag groups, including the Missouri Farm Bureau and the Missouri Pork Producers Association, supported the location.
----------------------

Rep. Miller News--New "Revolving Door" concern at Interior Depart ment
Date:
Thu, 28 Jun 2007 13:31:15 -0400
From:
Lee, Danielle
To:
Miller, George

MEMO

To: Interested Parties
From: The office of Congressman George Miller
Date: 6/28/07
Re: New "Revolving Door" concern at Interior Department

-- California water
-- Lobbyists / "Revolving Door"
-- Interior Department

Senior members of the House Natural Resources Committee wrote to the Interior Department today to request information on Administration officials' use of the "revolving door" and its possible impact on federal policymaking. The letter follows below.

For more information, please contact Daniel Weiss at (202)225-2095.

Background

Jason Peltier once ran the Central Valley Project Water Association, an organization that lobbies on behalf of federal water contractors in California. He then became one of the Bush Administration's lead officials on Western water policy, apparently overseeing projects and policy decisions that directly affected his former clients. He most recently served as the Interior Department's Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water and Science.

This week, he accepted a job with the largest irrigation provider in the country and one of the largest water customers of the Interior Department, the Westlands Water District, despite having been directly involved in a number of federal decisions that may impact Westlands.

Mr. Peltier was profiled last year in an article in the New York Times ("For Thirsty Farmers, Old Friends at Interior Dept."), questioning his role in influencing water policy decisions. The Westlands Water District recently revived a lawsuit against the United States charging that the government should be using less water to restore the environment under the Central Valley Project Improvement Act.

The congressional letter comes at a time when the Bush administration's Interior Department faces increased scrutiny. Yesterday, the Washington Post revealed that Vice President Dick Cheney's political interference led to a decision to withhold water from salmon, leading to a massive fish kill with devastating consequences for the Pacific Northwest ("Leaving No Tracks"). Earlier this week, the former second-ranking official at the Interior Department, J. Steven Griles, was sentenced to 10 months in prison for his role in the Jack Abramoff scandal.

Today's letter

The congressional letter sent today calls for an accounting of the decisions Mr. Peltier made as an Interior official that would affect his new employer, and requests an explanation for, and documentation of, the steps taken by the Department of the Interior to screen for and prevent conflicts-of-interest in the case, as well as in a similar earlier case.

The request was sent by Congressman George Miller (D-CA), a senior member of the House Natural Resources Committee, and Congressman Nick Rahall (D-WV), chairman of the Committee.

The full text of the letter to Dirk Kempthorne, Secretary of the Interior, is below. The letter was copied to Earl Devany, the Department's Inspector General.

< <20070628MillerRahallDOILetter.pdf>>

***
The Honorable Dirk Kempthorne
Secretary
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20240

Dear Secretary Kempthorne:

We write today expressing great concern over the imminent departure of the Department of Interior's Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water and Science-Mr. Jason Peltier-who is leaving the Department to become the Chief Deputy General Manager of the Westlands Water District, the largest irrigation district in the country and one of the largest customers of the Bureau of Reclamation. While serving at the Department for the past six years, Mr. Peltier has played a major role in a number of California-related water issues that impact his prospective employer.

As members of Congress and Committees with oversight of the Department of Interior and its stewardship of the nation's natural resources, we are deeply troubled by the potential impact Mr. Peltier's use of
the "revolving door" will have on the Department's policymaking.

Although we have been advised that Mr. Peltier may have removed himself from decisions on some California-related water issues, former Secretary Gale Norton once described Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Peltier as dealing "frequently with California water issues" on behalf of the Department. Accordingly, we respectfully request that you provide us with the documentation and communications addressing Mr. Peltier's involvement with California water, the San Luis Unit of the Central Valley Project, and the Westlands Water District, including Mr. Peltier's:
* role in implementing the Central Valley Project Improvement Act and the CALFED program;
* participation in the development of the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan;
* policymaking role regarding the Central Valley Project, including the renewal and awarding of contracts for Westlands and other CVP water users; and
* involvement in Trinity River matters.

In addition, it is our understanding that Mr. Peltier is actually the second official from the Department of the Interior to have joined the Westlands Water District within the last year. We have learned that Ms. Susan Ramos, the former Assistant Regional Director of the Bureau of Reclamation, presently represents the interests of Westlands in negotiations with her former office, the Bureau of Reclamation.

In light of these facts, we request that you provide us with the documentation and communications addressing steps taken by the Department of the Interior to screen for and prevent conflicts-of-interest in these two cases, especially regarding litigation between Westlands Water District and the United States. Specifically, we request:
1 a full-accounting of Mr. Peltier's and Ms. Ramos' efforts to negotiate their new employment, and an explanation of the actions taken to ensure that their exit plans did not and will not impact federal policymaking;
1 information demonstrating that these former government employees' new positions with Westlands Water District will not violate federal statutes prohibiting conflict of interest or "switching sides," including 18 USC §207; and
* any advice, counsel, or opinions the Department prepared on this matter.

We appreciate your prompt attention to our request, and would appreciate your response by July 27 of this year. Please coordinate the production of the requested information with Jeff Petrich, Chief Counsel, Committee on Natural Resources at (202) 225-XXXX.

Sincerely,

GEORGE MILLER NICK J. RAHALL, II

Member, Natural Resources Committee Chairman, Natural Resources Committee

CC: The Honorable Earl Devany, Inspector General, Department of the Interior
----------------------

8-27-02
Environmental New Service
Bush Administration Drops Appeal of CalFed Challenge
http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/aug2002/2002-08-27-09.asp

SAN FRANCISCO, California, August 27, 2002 (ENS) - The Bush administration is dropping its appeal of a federal judge's ruling that environmental groups say could harm a widely supported California water plan.
At stake is the state-federal CalFed plan, which is designed to restore the San Francisco Bay-Delta and improve water supply reliability for California. Congress is now considering legislation to authorize funding for the CalFed plan.

But in February, a federal judge in Fresno ruled that federal regulators improperly allocated water to fish and wildlife. If upheld, the decision will reduce the amount of water available for protecting the environment.

In May, the Department of Interior appealed the judge's ruling, which came in a suit filed by Central Valley agribusiness interests in an attempt to weaken the CalFed plan. Last week, Interior Secretary Gale Norton withdrew the government's appeal, a decision that environmentalists say undermines the cornerstone of the CalFed plan.

"Secretary Norton is walking away from CalFed, even though she had pledged to support it," said Barry Nelson, senior policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). "This is another environmental rollback by the Bush administration, and it has serious consequences for California."

Norton's key staffer on CalFed issues is Jason Peltier, who previously served as a longtime lobbyist for Central Valley agricultural interests. For more than a decade, as the head of the Central Valley Project Water Association, Peltier led efforts to oppose federal water reform.

Despite Peltier's efforts, President George Bush Sr. signed into law the Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA) in 1992. The CVPIA was a major overhaul of the federal project that delivers water to farmers and other California water users. It guaranteed that water would be made available for environmental protection.

The Department of Interior wrote rules to implement the CVPIA, which serve as the foundation of the CalFed plan.

On October 31, 1992, the day after CVPIA became law, Peltier pledged in the San Francisco Chronicle, "We'll do anything and everything to keep from being harmed. If that means obstructing implementation [of the bill] so be it."

"We call on Secretary Norton to explain the role of former water lobbyist Jason Peltier in this decision to capitulate to his former clients," said Nelson. "If Peltier is behind this, then it means he is finally delivering on his decade old promise to block implementation of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act. Industry special interests should not be charged with protecting the environment."

NRDC and other environmental groups are appealing the ruling to the Ninth Circuit court of appeals.
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2-17-07
Water facilities transfer isn't easy
Cleaning up drainage raises complex tangle of legal, finance issues.
By Michael Doyle and Mark Grossi / The Fresno Bee
http://www2.dcn.org/pipermail/env-trinity/2007/001120.html

Serious political and pragmatic obstacles block a new proposal to shift vast San Joaquin Valley irrigation facilities into farmers' hands.

Capitol Hill skeptics hold key leadership positions. Congress is already booked up with another big Valley water plan to restore the San Joaquin River. Technical solutions are complicated.

And history, if it's any guide, suggests it's extremely hard to transfer federal water projects -- especially ones serving California.

"A proposal like this will always face challenges," Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, conceded Friday. "This is not a unanimous consent item."

Costa, nonetheless, said he finds promise in the new notion to deliver into local control the San Luis Reservoir and more than 100 miles of canals and associated pumping plants. He represents much of the 600,000-acre Westlands Water District.

Under the proposal, Westlands would join with the San Luis Water District and other districts in taking over the federal facilities.

The state of California also would play a role.

The water districts would become responsible for resolving the irrigation drainage problems now afflicting almost 400,000 acres of the Valley's west side.

In exchange, the federal government would forgive the districts' $489.6 million construction debt.

"This is an attempt, I think, to think out of the box," Costa said.

Supporters consider the proposal aired this week better than other drainage options estimated to cost as much as $2.6 billion. The government'spreferred drainage option was supposed to be announced Friday, but officials delayed it to discuss the new proposal.

Environmental critics question whether the new idea will really save taxpayer money. If the government remains liable for drainage, irrigation districts would eventually have to repay the federal Bureau of Reclamation for a drainage fix.

Bureau spokesman Jeff McCracken responded that taxpayers still would be providing the upfront funds. The government would allow interest-free payback over 50 years. This amounts to a taxpayer subsidy.

"The reimbursement wouldn't begin until after the facilities for drainage are complete," McCracken added.

But even the 20-page conceptual paper now circulating on Capitol Hill acknowledges numerous difficulties.

Area lawmakers like Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, still must get their potential concerns addressed.

The feds and the farmers, for instance, concede they don't yet agree on the "full scope" of how the government might be shielded from future lawsuits. The farmers originally sued over the government's failure to provide
promised drainage.

Without drainage, selenium-tainted farm runoff has accumulated -- most infamously during the 1980s in the poisoned Kesterson Reservoir in western Merced County.

The written proposal acknowledges other uncertainties, including:

Efforts to understand the financial implications of the transfer are "ongoing," while identifying the dollar value of the water and facilities is "a difficult question to answer."

Farmers and federal officials disagree over the "outstanding" issue of who is responsible for dam safety.

The potential effect on California bond and credit ratings "has not yet been addressed."

Impacts on pumping plant operations are "highly dependent" upon final negotiations.

And then there's the salt.

Many millions of tons of salt have come to the western San Joaquin Valley in irrigation water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, which is where the ocean meets the state's two longest rivers.

"Where will all this salt go?" asked Clovis resident Lloyd Carter, an attorney and environmentalist.

The salt will eventually damage the land unless there is some way to remove it, experts say.

Simply changing the owner won't remove the salt.

"Is this new plan really in the best interest of the taxpayers?" asked Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez.

Miller's skepticism is telling. He is one of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's chief lieutenants. Her chief of staff, John Lawrence, formerly handled Western water issues for Miller. Her chief administrative officer, Dan Beard, likewise worked for Miller and then ran the Bureau of Reclamation during the Clinton administration.

All were around the last time California farmers and their congressional allies tried to seize the Central Valley Project.

In 1995, lawmakers led by Rep. John Doolittle, R-Granite Bay, sought to sell the CVP as part of a larger budget bill. That proposal to sell off the entire Redding-to-Bakersfield water network was far more ambitious than the
new idea. Still, its fate is instructive.

One of the big proponents of the 1995 sell-the-CVP idea was Jason Peltier, then representing Central Valley Project customers.

Peltier now is a senior official in the Interior Department, which helped craft this week's proposal.

The 1995 idea eventually died, with Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein cautioning then that "there are a lot of points that I think need a major hearing." This week, Feinstein said she needs time to analyze the new
proposal.

Congress this year is already being asked to approve an ambitious plan to restore the San Joaquin River, raising questions of how much California water out-of-state lawmakers are prepared to deal with.
----------------

7-10-07
Farm Bill: Genetically modified food piece excised
Hank Shaw Blog, Stockton Record
http://blogs.recordnet.com/n/blogs/blog.aspx?webtag=sr-hshaw

Lawmakers in Congress will not be debating whether to pre-empt local rules governing genetically modified foods, the consumption of foie gras or other controversial food items in this year's Farm Bill. The original draft included a provision known as Section 123, which barred any locality (i.e., Sonoma or Mendocino) from banning anything already given the vaguely papal gesture of the USDA. This provision had organic farmers in an uproar because they fear that the Monsantos and Syngentas of the world will contaminate their crops with GM crops (this happened in Oregon). Some local governments, mostly in California and New England, have banned farmers from growing these "frankenfoods" as a way to stop their spread.
Adding the GM debate to an already contentious Farm Bill battle was just too much for lawmakers, my sources say. House Agriculture Committee spokeswoman April Slayton said she doesn't know what committee chairman Collin Peterson, D-MN, thinks about Section 123. Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, said last month he was concerned about it, especially since he is the chair of the committee's panel on organic agriculture. Is this Dennis at work? We'll see...

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Lloyd Carter: The growing selenium threat

Submitted: Jul 06, 2007
Although drainage flows to Kesterson were halted in 1985 following intense media exposure of the problem, selenium-contaminated farm drainage continues to flow to many wildlife refuges in more than a dozen western states, and food chain levels of selenium in those refuges reveal a continuing threat to bird populations. -- Lloyd Carter, Fresno Bee, July 5, 2007

Prominent people in the public affairs of Merced County, home of the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge selenium disaster, think you need a grant to do "outreach and education." The grant, goes the logic of its recipients, legitimizes the source of the information.

Fortunately for what's left of the Valley's natural resources, not all people wait for the grants and the blessings of the politicians to do their "outreach and education."

At a recent festival on the Merced River-side ranch of a county planning commissioner, a member of the board of the East Merced Resource Conservation District, described a lecture by author Lloyd Carter on the rivers of the San Joaquin Valley as a negative "rant."

Carter is among those who rose to the emergency of Kesterson, sacrificing his career in journalism to do the honest stories that had to be done. He didn't wait for a grant, a politician's or a publisher's blessing. He reported the truth, based on the facts, and still does.

Lloyd Carter, like Felix Smith, Lydia Miller and a few others, have done the work, do the work and will continue to do the work -- without the grant, the political or editorial kisses.

The editors, publishers, federal and state resource agencies and western agribusiness hope that we will forget. Carter, Smith, Miller and a few others won't let them lead us into amnesia.

Bill Hatch
-----------------------

7-5-07
Fresno Bee
LLOYD CARTER: Selenium poisoning is still a threat today
http://www.fresnobee.com/opinion/wo/story/77691.html

It has been nearly a quarter of a century since federal scientists discovered that selenium in Western San Joaquin Valley farm drainwater was triggering massive embryo deformities in ducks and shorebirds and killing all the edible fish at the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge.

The fish die-off and deformities or embryo deaths in more than half the Kesterson nests were caused by selenium that had been leached from the western Valley soils by irrigation practices and then dissolved in subsurface drainwater funneled to the "refuge." Scientists would rediscover that selenium, while a micro nutrient, is the most toxic of all biologically essential elements in mammals.

Officials of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which built the federal irrigation facilities on the west side, and political appointees at the parent Department of Interior initially claimed the Kesterson selenium poisoning was an isolated problem.

But as investigations spread to other national wildlife refuges, selenium contamination was confirmed in the southern San Joaquin Valley (Tulare basin), Salton Sea, Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Arizona and Kansas.

Now 25 years later, with hundreds of millions of dollars on studies and research spent, the Department of Interior still has no selenium safety standards for wildlife, although a committee was appointed in 1989 to adopt such standards. Yet the evidence continues to grow that selenium poisoning, caused by farming, mining, coal burning, oil refining and other industrial activities, is occurring all over America.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey Web site or other Internet scientific sources:

Six horses and between 200 and 300 sheep died from grazing on selenium-laced plants near phosphate mines in Idaho between 1996 and 2003. Phosphate mining of shale soils to make fertilizers generates large amounts of selenium-laced mining wastes, which contaminate waterways and land.

Hay from western states high in selenium is suspected of causing selenium poisoning in horses in Missouri, according to University of Missouri veterinarians.

Fish and ducks in San Francisco Bay have elevated selenium levels.

Cutthroat trout are disappearing from streams along the Idaho-Wyoming border because of selenium contamination from phosphate mining.

Shellfish and birds in the Great Lakes region have elevated selenium levels.

Although drainage flows to Kesterson were halted in 1985 following intense media exposure of the problem, selenium-contaminated farm drainage continues to flow to many wildlife refuges in more than a dozen western states, and food chain levels of selenium in those refuges reveal a continuing threat to bird populations.

Dennis Lemly, of the U.S. Forest Service, who is considered a premier expert in America on selenium poisoning of wildlife, has described the disappearance of fish in southeast Idaho as "an insidious ticking time bomb."

Seventeen of 26 closed phosphate mines in Idaho have been designated Superfund sites by the Environmental Protection Agency. EPA officials say not a single closed phosphate mine has ever been cleaned up. The current Secretary of Interior, Dirk Kempthorne, formerly served as a public relations spokesman for one of those phosphate mining companies.

Although Reclamation officials claimed they were surprised at Kesterson, it is only because they did not do their homework. Selenium poisoning of livestock and forage foods had been known for decades in the Dakotas and the southwest. High levels of selenium were confirmed in the Coast Range -- parent soil material of the western San Joaquin Valley -- in 1939.

Time magazine complained in a 1933 article that the U.S. Department of Agriculture was "inclined to silence" about selenium poisoning of cattle fed wheat, corn and alfalfa grown on high selenium soils in the American Southwest dating back to the 19th century.

The late David Love, "grand old man of Rocky Mountain geology," warned in a famous 1949 memorandum, which he later claimed was suppressed by the Department of Agriculture, that farming and irrigating high selenium soils in the American West would create an environmental disaster.

And closer to home the Westlands Water District, which once funneled its selenium-laced waste waters to Kesterson, now faces a drainage disposal problem that may cost in excess of $2 billion. Surrealistically, Interior officials are suggesting the construction of more Kesterson-like evaporation ponds as a "solution" to the farm drainage problem. Federal irrigation districts north of Westlands now drain their selenium-laced waste waters into the polluted lower San Joaquin River and want to continue doing so.

In 2007, with the Kesterson debacle a memory, the federal government is still "inclined to silence" about the extent and seriousness of the selenium problem. You don't hear politicians giving speeches about the selenium threat.

Federal scientists tell me selenium impacts on bird reproductivity are still occurring here in the Valley and elsewhere in America where farming and mining on high selenium soils is slowly but surely contributing to the steady decline of bird and fish populations.
Lloyd Carter, a Fresno lawyer, is director of the California Water Impact Network.

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Hun fires CARB chairman, appoints another

Submitted: Jul 03, 2007

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger probably didn't fire California Air Resources Board Chairman Robert F. Sawyer because Valley citizens spent the last several months looking for win-win, public-private solutions to air pollution in the Valley while the regional board voted to extend the deadline for air cleanup 11 more years. The governor probably didn't fire Sawyer because local anti-pollution activists had followed the advice of Merced County supervisors who say the public should come to them as politely as developer lobbyists, or Merced City Councilman Rick Osorio, who says anti-WalMart Distribution Center activists should not come to council meetings and wag fingers in the faces of council members, but should -- as Councilman Carl Pollard recommends -- go out into the community and raise consciousness. In other words, go anywhere but where the decisions are made.

The governor probably fired Sawyer, whose board approved the Valley regional air board decision, because the public went to both regional and state air board hearings and protested this outrage against public health and protested the blatant lies told by the regional board executive director. He may also have listened to state Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter on the subject of Valley air pollution and the witless corruption of the regional air board. The governor may also have been influenced by a large number of honest expressions of disgust with the regional air board in letters to the editor in Valley newspapers, as well as editorials including a blunt one in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Nope. The chances are better that the governor responded to old-fashioned political pressure from the public, which faces intimidating slurs like "asthma terrorists" and "socialists" from public officials when they testify.

Developers and their bought local legislatures in the San Joaquin Valley have mounted a massive campaign, including much subtle propaganda, to convince the Valley public that professionally facilitated "value-free" consensus groups spouting a brand of niceness that would make the Buddha puke, will find a plan to create a slurbocracy and gain all the federal highway funds developers and public officials desire, while simultaneously cleaning up the air quality in the worst pollution region in the nation.

These are the same business and political leaders that have caused a financial hemorrhage in mortgage defaults that currently leads the nation on a per capita basis as the speculative housing boom continues to bust.

Locally, the boom was more accentuated due to the presence of our anchor tenant, UC Merced, which came to the Valley to give us all college educations. One of the curious sociological facts that emerge among a population below the national and state norms for college degrees is the touchingly sweet belief that UC tells the truth.

UC does not tell the truth and it hasn't, possibly since it began work on the Atomic Bomb. UC Merced has a memorandum of understanding with UC/Bechtel/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which now appears to be in the final running as a site for a biodanger-level 3 and 4 biowarfare laboratory near Tracy that will study the most infectious diseases on earth, including those for which there are no cures yet available. The UC flak on this biowarfare facility is that it will be primarily devoted to animal diseases and might replace Plum Island NY Animal Disease Laboratory, which also engages in expert propaganda about its defensive intent.

These labs aren't secure and cannot be made secure.

Three infectious germs, Bb (Lyme Disease), West Nile virus, and duck enteritis virus -- all foreign germs -- have infiltrated the American landscape. All three emerged from the same geographic locus. All three occurred in the vicinity of a high-hazard, high-containment foreign germ laboratory with demonstrably faulty facilities and pitiable biological safety practices -- flaws that cause proven germ outbreaks in the past, and infections amongs its employees. The public is asked to accept that none of these three outbreaks is connected to Plum Island.
That's what one calls blind faith...
Lab 257, Michael Christopher Carroll, p. 38.

UC flak is already busy guiding our blind faith in public-private, win-win partnerships between lethal animal pathogens and agricultural industries. Among the blindly faithful, according to UC's "agricultural division’s government and external relations director, Steve Nation," is the California Farm Bureau, the California Cattlemen’s Association, a woolgrowers association and Foster Farms.

On July 3, the Hun appointed Mary Nichols to become the new chairperson of the California Air Resources Board to appease the clamor of the same environmental groups that worked so hard to replace Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, with Rep. Jerry "HiTech" McWarpork.

Presumably, the Hun and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez can once again sit on a Capitol balcony puffing cigars in peace like two Boston lawyers.

However, the northern San Joaquin Valley public is not made restful by the Hun's most political choice. We remember Nichols as secretary of the state Resources Agency in the Gov. Gray Davis administration, where she played the role of top conductor in the orchestration to steamroll any and all state and federal environmental law and regulation that stood in the way of the UC Merced permitting process. Whatever Nichols might have done elsewhere on behalf of state natural resources, here in the former Condit Country she corrupted the law and her agency's duties.

From Nichols, we look for smooth flak on Valley air pollution and no action. Nor do we look for any help from her regarding the Livermore Lab's program to accelerate bomb testing eight-fold, vastly increasing the amount of radioactive waste, where the biowarfare lab is proposed.

Badlands editorial staff
---------------------

6-29-07
Fresno Bee
State air board chief is let go...E.J. Schultz, Bee Capitol Bureau
http://www.fresnobee.com/263/story/72738.html

Gov. Schwarzenegger on Thursday fired the chairman of the California Air Resources Board, days after the governor criticized the board for agreeing to delay a clean-air deadline for the San Joaquin Valley. Robert Sawyer, a Democrat and former university professor, was forced out after an 18-month reign in a signal that the governor isn't happy with the board's direction. Environmentalists came to his defense, saying he was a scapegoat. "We think that the board as a whole and its staff need to be more aggressive," said Bill Magavern, senior representative for Sierra Club California. "Sawyer wasn't the problem." Michael Marsh, chief executive officer of Western United Dairymen, also termed Sawyer's dismissal "disappointing."..."From our industry's perspective, we've long advocated a science-based approach to air regulation," Marsh said. "It's just disappointing that a scientist with that kind of prestige, who reviewed issues and used a science-based approach, won't be on the board any more. If you're going to have a meaningful reduction in smog and ozone, you have to follow the science. You can't just make stuff up."

7-3-07
Fresno Bee
ARB official quits in air rift...E.J. Schultz
http://www.fresnobee.com/263/story/75973.html

The executive director of the California Air Resources Board quit Monday -- and on her way out the door accused Gov. Schwarzenegger's top aides of blocking efforts to clean the air and fight global warming. "I believe the governor cares deeply about air quality, but no one in his inner circle does," Catherine Witherspoon said in an interview with The Bee. Witherspoon's departure comes less than a week after Schwarzenegger fired air board Chairman Robert Sawyer.... Witherspoon said that was a "cover-up." In reality, she said, Schwarzenegger's aides were worried that Sawyer was moving too aggressively on rules to implement the state's new global warming law, known as AB 32. "The real reason for firing him was climate-change policy," she said. Sawyer "sought to adopt more early-action measures than the Governor's Office wanted."

7-2-07
Contra Costa Times
Thousands of cancer-stricken nuclear workers' claims languish...AP
http://www.contracostatimes.com/search/ci_6277685

A government program designed to compensate cancer-stricken nuclear workers has paid only 38 percent of the thousands of claims is has received since 2001...vast majority of the 148,181 claims filed by the terminally or seriously ill have languished or been denied since the government started the federal Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act, The Contra Costa Times reported. The program was created to provide money, medical expenses and lost wages to Cold War-era workers exposed to radioactive or toxic materials while on the job...the government initially thought it would cover more than 3,000 workers at a cost of $13 million a year for a decade. To date, $2.8 billion has been paid to claimants, and millions more have been spent on administrative costs. Former Sandia/California National Laboratories employee Gerry Giovacchini applied for compensation in 2002 after learning he had tumors in his neck, arm, eyes and spinal column. Five years later he is still waiting to see if he'll be paid. For 14 years at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Tom Chatmon oversaw the transport of plutonium, uranium and other radioactive materials. He developed multiple myeloma, a cancer linked to radiation exposure. His claim was denied in November. "At the time, I didn't know anything about plutonium or uranium," said Chatmon. "We were told we weren't dealing with anything dangerous." Seventy-three percent of compensation decisions for former employees of Lawrence Livermore Lab have been denials. At Lawrence Berkeley Lab, its 76 percent denials. Giovacchini and other have also dealt with the labs' inability to locate key medical and other records so that they can prove their cases.

6-29-07
UC Merced cancer research gets a boost...Victor A. Patton
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/13739491p-14323632c.html

Researchers at UC Merced say two recently awarded seed grants will help jump-start the campus' much-anticipated cancer research program. The grants, which total $90,000, were awarded last week to UC Merced by the UC Cancer Research Coordinating Committee and will fund the research for one year, according to Maria Pallavicini, dean of UC Merced's School of Natural Sciences. Pallavicini was the recipient of a $40,000 grant, which will be used to study how stem cells change in the formation of cancerous tumors. Pallavicini and Manilay's research will be conducted in labs on UC Merced's campus and could shed light on how stem cells are altered in cancer. UC Merced Professor Jennifer Manilay received a $50,000 grant to study the role of hormone and receptor pairs in the development of T-cells. The grants are the first UC Merced has received to fund cancer research... The grants are the first UC Merced has received to fund cancer research. UC Merced Chancellor Steve Kang said in May that a business plan and economic impact study for the new medical school will likely be submitted to University of California's Office of the President sometime this summer...a price tag of $200 million and could be completed by 2013.

1-24-07
Tracy Press
Supes vote to back bio-lab…John Upton
http://tracypress.com/content/view/7317/2/

Acting on the advice of its agricultural committee, the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 on Tuesday to support an anti-biological terrorism laboratory that could be built southwest of Tracy to research incurable fatal diseases that affect both animals and people. Superintendent Steven Gutierrez voted against his colleagues, saying it was too early to determine whether the research activities would help safeguard and support the general public. “What research activity” Gutierrez said. “You don’t know what they’re going to do.” The Department of Homeland Security and Lawrence Livermore have not yet announced what types of diseases will be studied at the bio-lab, how the pathogens will be shipped in and out of the bio-lab, or whether accidents will be publicly reported. The Tracy City Council is expected to vote on whether it supports the bio-lab proposal at its meeting Feb. 6. Lawrence Livermore is managed by the University of California. The university’s agricultural division’s government and external relations director, Steve Nation, said after the meeting that the agricultural industry strongly supports the proposed bio-lab. He said the California Farm Bureau, the California Cattlemen’s Association, a woolgrowers association and Foster Farms support the bio-lab …

7-3-07
Capitol Notes
Former, And Future, Air Board Chair
http://www.kqed.org/weblog/capitalnotes/2007/07/former-and-future-air-board-chair.jsp

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, seeking to end the controversy over his administration's interaction with the California Air Resources Board, today named a new leader of the agency... the same person who led the agency under former Governor Jerry Brown. At a news conference this afternoon, the governor announced that he has appointed Mary Nichols to be the chairperson of the ARB, replacing Robert Sawyer, whom Schwarzenegger fired last week.
Nichols has a long tenure in and out of state and federal government, last serving as secretary for Resources under former Governor Gray Davis. Environmental groups quickly praised the selection of Nichols. And it seems likely that she will quell some of the enviro groups' anger that surfaced this week about the alleged relationship between the governor's inner circle and ARB officials. In particular, the last few days have brought to light allegations that the governor's top advisers have attempted to micromanage, and slow down, the ARB as it makes its initial decisions on reducing greenhouse gases under AB 32...

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People with passion and people who babble about it

Submitted: Jul 03, 2007
Mr. Carter will give us the BIG picture on the Merced River - where it comes from and where it goes - as well as the importance of the river to our communities. Lloyd Carter is very knowledgeable about water issues and will also be speaking at the later in the day...Lloyd Carter continues his exploration of water and river issues in the San Joaquin Valley context. 1.5 hour talk at Heartland Festival/River Fair, Riverdance Farm, 2007.

At the public meeting of the East Merced Resources Conservation District on June 20, held at the Golden Bi-Product Tire Recycling Co. offices, Glenn Anderson, a district director, made an interesting comment about a speaker at the recent Heartland Festival/River Fair, held at the farm of another director, Merced County Planning Commissioner Cindy Lashbrook. The EMRCD was the main sponsor of the River Fair.

Anderson described Lloyd Carter, the best natural resources journalist the San Joaquin Valley has ever had, as "not positive or forward-looking." Anderson, not really attending the speech but overhearing it while waiting for a ride to another part of the farm, said Carter sounded like he was on a "rant."

Lashbrook noted that Carter's talk was the best attended of the day, and that a little controversy is OK. The term she used was a "pepper of controversy." Perhaps a small slice of jalapeno in a salad of old green jeans in what she meant. One is never sure.

These are the sort of people who use the word "passion" like the T shirt they bought at their last workshop on "organics and global warming."

Lloyd Carter's passion for the truth about agribusiness, subsidized water, the death of the San Joaquin River, the wildlife tragedy of the Kesterson Wildlife Refuge and in Boswell's Tulare Lake, selenium and other heavy metals, crooked Valley politicians, state and federal water policy and US Fish and Wildlife Service whistleblowers was stronger than his desire for a steady job in the newspaper business. And so he does something else now for a living instead of the journalism at which he excelled magnificently, and we only get to read him rarely in opinion pieces and letters to the editor, mostly in the Fresno Bee.

Researching an article on another topic that Carter knows a lot about, we found this following piece written by him in 1999 for a national audience. Readers will learn and enjoy this fine writer on the beat he has paid dearly to cover because, unlike the T-shirt passion set, Lloyd Carter speaks the truth to the most powerful people in our Valley -- with real passion.

Badlands editorial staff
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The destruction of the American West -- starring big agribusiness and the government that supports it
By L. G. Carter
Penthouse Magazine, January 1999
Reprinted without permission
http://www.chebucto.ns.ca/~rakerman/articles/ph-Destruct_USA_West.html

Way out West the big farmers fly Lear jets, have private airstrips on gargantuan factory farms, control politicians in both major parties, and harvest barrelfuls of taxpayer subsidy money. They also dry up rivers, pollute aquifers, and conscript an army of Third World families to bring in the crops at below-povertyline wages. Grotesque deformities in ducks and geese, poisoned national wildlife refuges, massive fish kills, and pesticide-sprayed fields littered with thousands of dead birds are common, and unpunished, depredations in California's agricultural heartland, despite numerous state and federal wildlife-protection laws.

Meanwhile, the small farmers, whom Thomas Jefferson called the backbone of democracy, continue to disappear from the American landscape at a rate of more than 100,000 a year as a result of governmental and banking policies and the greed of food processors and exporters.

By 1989 only 1.9 percent of Americans lived on farms (compared to 90 percent in 1900), and the 1989 figure is misleading at that because the U.S. Department of Agriculture lists as a "farm" anyplace selling as little as $1,000 worth of agricultural products.

The capital of America's Agropolis is California's San Joaquin Valley, a cornucopia of more than 200 crops that generates $14 billion a year in gross farm income. And the uncrowned king of Agropolis is J. G. Boswell II, a reclusive, unassuming man who calls himself a simple cowboy. In fact he grows more cotton than any other individual in the world. No one knows how rich he is, but his power is vividly illustrated by some of his "accomplishments" during the past half century:

Along with a handful of other big growers, he got the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (funded, of course, by the American taxpayer) to build four "flood control" dams on rivers flowing out of the Sierra Nevada so Boswell et al. could safely farm the bottom of what was once the biggest body of water west of the Mississippi River, the legendary Tulare Lake. Boswell now controls rights to public water that could well be worth nearly $1 billion. His property in California alone is estimated at 250,000 acres.
When big-rainfall winters reflood the old Tulare Lake Basin, Boswell collects millions of dollars in federal subsidies for not growing crops on the bottom of a natural lake bed.
Boswell persuaded the U.S. Supreme Court to let the richest grower with the most land in a California water district--namely, himself--control district water policy, creating what Justice William 0. Douglas called a "corporate kingdom undreamed of by those who wrote our Constitution."
Boswell got his lawyers to set up a trust for his employees in 1989 to evade federal acreage limitations for cheap federal irrigation supplies in the Westlands Water District, reaping an extra $2 million a year in water subsidies, according to a General Accounting Office study.
In 1982 Boswell was instrumental in blocking a "peripheral canal" to shunt fresh northern California water around the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta region in order to retain possible future access to north-coast California rivers.
As the U.S. Justice Department looks the other way, his 3,000-acre Tulare Basin evaporation ponds for toxic farm drainage water are triggering deformities in migratory ducks and shore birds supposedly protected by federal law.
Boswell has so far not taken any responsibility for a massive fish and wildlife kill on a 25 mile stretch of canal in h is cotton kingdom that in the late summer of 1997 destroyed 100 million fish and thousands of birds.
This sad spectacle is what is known as agribusiness.

Boswell has plenty of company in irrigation country out West, where growers have industrialized the fields and gained control of entire rivers. These corporate farmers usually don't live down on the farm. In California they often live in mansions in the city. One zip code in an exclusive neighborhood in Fresno--the nation's farm capital--receives more farm-subsidy checks than anywhere else. Fresno was the top farm-subsidy city in America between 1985 and 1995, with area residents receiving 22,419 checks totaling $103.4 million in taxpayer farm subsidies.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, just six percent of our farms--the so-called megafarms--produce 59 percent of the crops in America. Eighty percent of the beef slaughter in America is controlled by just four meatpacking conglomerates, which more than doubled their market share in the past 18 years.

Boswell's domain is the Tulare Lake Basin, comprising parts of Kern, Kings, and Tulare counties in central California. His water rights are a real gusher, all granted from the public: They are equivalent to the needs of a city of three million people and are worth nearly $1 billion, more than twice the value of the land, according to a 1989 article in Forbes magazine, thus placing Boswell in the billionaire club. He also has extensive cotton lands in Arizona, pioneered the cotton industry in Australia, and has long been involved in urban development and real estate in Southern California and Arizona.

Boswell, who helped launch the political careers of three governors--Edmund G. "Pat" Brown, Ronald Reagan, and Pete Wilson--is legendary for his behind-the-scenes ability to avoid legal problems or get water laws either interpreted liberally or simply rewritten.

In 1969, when heavy rains hit California and the old Tulare Lake bed began to fill up, Boswell, as the largest landowner in the Tulare Lake Basin Water Storage District, shunted floodwater away from a planned district overflow area because he wanted to plant that area to cotton. Instead the water flowed into the lake, flooding his land and that of other nearby landowners, including the Salyer brothers, the second-largest growers in the lake basin. The Salyer Corporation sued the Tulare Lake Basin Water Storage District over an existing California water-code section that allowed one vote for every acre--in other words, giving the largest landowner the most votes and control of district policy and elections. Boswell simply used his acreage-based votes to direct the water-district board to flood out his neighbors' fields and keep the planned floodwater storage basin dry.

The Salyer suit finally worked its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, and in 1973 a young Nixon High Court appointee named William Rehnquist, fresh from a law firm in Phoenix, wrote the majority decision, which in effect ruled for the Boswell corporation, arguing that even though water districts were political subdivisions of the state of California, the one-man, one-vote rule should not apply because the largest landholders had the most at stake during flood situations. Constitutional-law textbooks now refer to this decision as an "anomaly" in the American franchise system based upon the hallowed democratic tradition that corporations do not get to vote--and one person, no matter how rich, gets only one vote.

Justice Douglas castigated the Rehnquist ruling in a strongly worded dissent: "It is indeed grotesque to think of corporations voting within the framework of political representation of people," he wrote. "One corporation can outvote 77 individuals in this district."

Boswell, who has escaped major media attention for decades despite his enormous wealth and influence in agriculture, is famous for reaping government windfalls while decrying government support programs. When the rivers of the Southern Sierra flooded the Tulare Lake Basin, as they had done from time immemorial, Boswell collected more than $10 million in federal flood-relief money because his canals and water-delivery systems and cotton fields--located on the lake bed--had been flooded out or damaged. In addition, according to the Washington Post, Boswell got $3.7 million worth of grain from the controversial payment-in-kind program "for idling land that was under floodwater and could not have been planted."

In 1982 Congress, prodded by Western-state lawmakers, "reformed" the 1902 Reclamation Law, which President Theodore Roosevelt had pushed through Congress to put "family farmers" onto the Western deserts. The 1982 bill (1) eliminated the residency requirement, which had never been enforced (so the big growers can continue living in their mansions in town) and (2) raised the acreage limitation for receiving cheap federally subsidized water from 160 acres (which was routinely circumvented) to 960 acres. Even 960 acres wasn't enough for Big Ag. The loopholes in the 1982 "reform" law were large enough to drive John Deere tractors through, and Boswell and the other big Western growers promptly found ways to evade the 960-acre limitation, primarily through leasing arrangements and complex trusts.

In 1989 the U.S. General Accounting Office said Boswell had set up a trust for 326 salaried employees to evade the 960-acre cheap-water cap on his 23,238 acres in the Westlands. Those acres continued to be farmed as one unit by Boswell, who has managed to reap $2 million a year in water subsidies alone from the trust arrangement.

Boswell doesn't have to worry about wildlife laws either. Routine botulism outbreaks in the Tulare Basin, which can kill tens of thousands of migratory birds at a time, are usually attributable to agricultural and irrigation activities, yet enforcement actions are rarely undertaken by the California Department of Fish and Game or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In September 1997 an estimated 100 million fish and 2,300 federally protected birds died in an unexplained disaster along a 25-mile canal on the Boswell holdings. Local game wardens said they could not remember a bigger wildlife die-off in the valley. Crime investigators from the federal and state wildlife agencies were quoted in local newspapers as saying they would uncover the source of the deaths (one potential cause was pesticides) and prosecute those responsible. Nearly a year later no action had been taken.

Boswell has now retired to Ketchum, Idaho, and his son James runs the cotton empire from his home in suburban Los Angeles, although it is believed the elder Boswell still holds the reins.

While Boswell has escaped media scrutiny, he and his cohorts face an ominous threat, which, fittingly enough, they brought upon themselves. Irrigated agriculture on millions of acres of unsuitable soils in the American West is destroying aquifers, salting up land, and poisoning wildlife that once filled the rivers and wetlands west of the Mississippi.

A trace element called selenium, leached from the soil by flood irrigation and dissolved in drainage water flowing from the big irrigation projects, is moving into downstream food chains and causing deformities in migratory birds at--of all places--national wildlife refuges throughout the West. And selenium isn't the only problem. Depending on the soils being drained, the drainwater can also contain dangerous levels of dissolved boron, molybdenum, mercury, arsenic, lead, vanadium, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, sulfates, and even uranium.

Drainage water from irrigated agriculture is created because searing summertime temperatures in California and Western desert lands bring salts, trace elements, and heavy metals to the surface on ancient-seabed shale soils. This witch's brew of chemicals slowly rises into the root zone of crops, threatening productivity. Irrigation waters imported from other areas carry more salts. Flood irrigation in areas with subterranean clay layers further exacerbates the problem of shallow salty groundwater. Agricultural scientists have known for decades that the only way to keep crop production up is to lower the water table below the root zone by pumping the toxic wastewaters out of the ground and sending them somewhere else.

"Since the 1930s an army of government scientists has provided a plethora of disturbing hard facts about selenium," says Joe Skorupa, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist who investigated the bird deformities at Boswell's pond. "Unlike other major pollution problems, however, such as acid rain, oil spills, or smog, the government has not only failed to move an inch toward protecting the American public and a wide diversity of public-trust resources, but, incomprehensibly, actually continues to completely exempt agricultural pollution from the Clean Water Act. In the San Joaquin Valley alone, every year of inaction adds the equivalent of about 13,000 Exxon Valdez spills of selenium-tainted wastewater to the legacy of runaway pollution that our children and grandchildren one day will despise today's spineless federal government for."

Skorupa, a fierce critic of the Department of the Interior's alleged selenium policy, adds, "The truly tragic public-policy aspect of all this is that most of the selenium pollution is as economically senseless as it is environmentally senseless, and those facts have been documented in excruciating detail by the federal government's own General Accounting Office. What may amount to America's biggest dirty little secret has been impervious to rational policymaking for more than 60 years, and counting."

The West's selenium trouble, like many problems in irrigated agriculture, is magnified in the western San Joaquin Valley, where Boswell and other growers in the Westlands have successfully evaded any serious federal efforts at a cleanup or prosecution under wildlife laws.

For more than a decade, attorneys from the U.S. Justice Department, under pressure from elected officials who are under pressure from their agribusiness patrons, have simply refused to enforce the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a tough bird-protection law with penalties that include both prison time and stiff fines. The treaty has been invoked only once, in 1985, against the federal government itself, to close down farm-drainwater evaporation ponds at the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge in central California, scene of the first confirmed bird deformities from selenium, discovered in 1983.

Boswell and the other big growers have also managed to avoid paying for the mess their drainage water created. In 1995 the Interior Department's Inspector General's Office also reported that Westlands Water District growers (Boswell has 23,000 acres in the Westlands) had managed to evade the $110 million tab for the Kesterson cleanup and related drainage studies. The $110 million bill was accumulating interest at the rate of $7 million a year, with the taxpayers picking up the tab.

But the Kesterson cleanup tab pales in comparison to the boondoggle desalinization plant in Yuma, Arizona, where Reclamation Bureau engineers have tried without success for decades to pull the farm-pollution toxins and salts from the Colorado River, which is tainted by agricultural return flow. Another Interior Inspector General's report, issued in 1993, said $660 million had been spent on the Yuma desalting plant with no success, and the bureau planned to spend another $1.5 billion by the year 2010, with no guarantee of any success.

The Environmental Protection Agency has been impotent to stop the farm-drainage pollution of rivers and wetlands because farm runoff was exempted from the Clean Water Act in 1977, including the highly toxic end-of-the-pipe subsurface drainage loaded with selenium as well as surface runoff. Indeed, as the Stockton (California) Record reported on June 19, 1998, the E.P.A.--siding with agribusiness--now wants to set standards for selenium and other trace elements and heavy metals in California that officials of the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service contend will not protect many species of fish in the San Francisco Bay-Delta region.

Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, and his four immediate predecessors--Manuel Lujan, Donald Hodel, William Clark, and James Watt--have tried to cover up the Western drainage problem (Watt), to exercise benign neglect (Clark and Hodel), to claim ignorance (Lujan), or just to leave it for the next guy (Babbitt), because the only economically viable solution seems to be to retire the badlands being irrigated. And that solution is political suicide in farm country.

Only Hodel, who, ironically, is an oilman, tried to do the right thing in 1985 when he ordered Kesterson closed because his attorneys told him that Reclamation Bureau officials might be breaking criminal laws operating the Kesterson ponds. But even Hodel quickly experienced an agribusiness backlash and soon fell silent, allowing Kesterson to stay open another 18 months.

No wildlife refuge receiving toxic farm-drainage water in the West has been closed to the inflow of poisons since the Kesterson debacle 15 years ago, although selenium levels high enough to cause deformities have been confirmed at numerous wildlife refuges in several Western states and at a number of evaporation facilities operated by either local water districts (like Boswell's) or private corporations.

Interior Secretary Lujan, in an August 1991 visit to Yosemite National Park, claimed he was unaware of the bird killings and deformities, which by then had been documented for eight years and were confirmed in several states. Lujan said he did not know why aides would not keep him informed.

Environmentalists say the continued bird deformities and government paralysis or inability to halt the aquatic and avian food-chain poisoning demonstrates the still-potent clout of California agribusiness, which produced some $24.5 billion worth of food and fiber in 1996, but today represents less than three percent of the trillion-dollar annual California economy, which is nowadays primarily fueled by computers and electronics, defense, banking, and tourism.

Marc Reisner explained the Alice in Wonderland quality of California agribusiness this way in a 1993 revised version of his book Cadillac Desert: "Enough water for greater Los Angeles was still being used, in 1986, to raise irrigated pasture for livestock. A roughly equal amount--enough for 20 million people at home, at play, and at work--was used that year to raise alfalfa, also for horses, sheep, and (mainly) cows.... In 1985, however, the pasture crop was worth about $100 million, while Southern California's economy was worth $300 billion, but irrigated pasture used more water than Los Angeles and San Diego combined. When you added cotton (a price-supported crop worth about $900 million that year) to alfalfa and pasture, you had a livestock industry and a cotton industry consuming much more water than everyone in urban California--and producing [only] as much wealth in a year as the urban economy rings up in three or four days."

Not only are huge tonnages of California's river water required to grow cotton and food for dairy and beef cows raised in the central California desert, a 1997 Pacific Gas & Electric Company report on the 450-mile-long Central Valley (Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys combined) estimated that agricultural groundwater overdraft (extracting more than can be replenished annually) totals 15 percent of the entire state's annual net groundwater use. At current agricultural extraction rates, the San Joaquin Valley's groundwater supply will disappear in the next few decades.

To make matters worse, the Central Valley now has 1,600 dairies, the vast majority in the San Joaquin Valley, and the 850,000 cows on those dairies create as much natural waste as a city of 21 million people. There are only three state regulators to oversee disposal of this mountain of manure and river of cow urine, which is either kept in leaky lagoons that pollute the aquifer with nitrates or dumped into the San Joaquin River, which runs down the center of the valley The San Joaquin River is often called the most-abused river in the U.S., and in 1997 was named one of the nation's ten most-endangered rivers by American Rivers, a Washington-based advocacy group.

A May 1998 U.S. Geological Survey Report on San Joaquin Valley groundwater supplies, serving more than 2.5 million valley residents, said San Joaquin groundwater is among the poorest in quality in the U.S. The report said 25 percent of valley wells had nitrate levels--probably from fertilizers--that violated national drinking-water standards, and more than half the wells tested positive for pesticides, many of which don't have drinking-water standards.

While ripping off the liquid gold of California's rivers has been an agribusiness specialty for decades, scientists say current methods of disposing of farm drainage may be the final environmental insult that ruins not only aquifers and rivers, and destroys wildlife, but also ruins the very farms that are creating the toxic effluent.

A February 1998 federal-state study of the drainage problem in the western San Joaquin Valley noted 869,000 acres would have a shallow-groundwater problem by the year 2000, and more than 410,000 acres would have salinity and boron problems "sufficiently high to limit agriculture."

To combat the salty-groundwater problem, California growers in the past four decades have installed 33,000 miles of subsurface drainpipes to collect these shallow saline groundwaters and pump them somewhere else--to the nearest river, a public or private evaporation pond, or a low-lying national wildlife wetlands refuge. This "solution" has been bad for the receiving waters and fish and wildlife in every case.

Although estimates of present and future "problem water" are hard to nail down in an atmosphere of nonregulation, U.S. Geological Survey scientist Theresa Presser, who has been studying the selenium problem in California for nearly two decades, estimates that 150 billion gallons of toxic farm subsurface drainage water is generated annually in the Golden State. While the farm wastewater from the San Joaquin Valley flows north into the San Joaquin River or festers in evaporation ponds, the drainage from the Coachella and Imperial valleys at the southern end of the state enters the polluted Salton Sea. Huge fish and bird die-offs are a regular occurrence there, and biologists say the Salton could become utterly lifeless in the near future as the continued influx of salts and toxins in the drainage overwhelms all aquatic species.

While birds were dying by the thousands at Kesterson, Boswell had the audacity in the summer of 1984 to send California Water Commission members on a tour of his 3,165-acre evaporation pond complex and have his drainage district manager, Steve Hall, claim that selenium had not been found in the Tulare Basin soils or evaporation ponds. This, of course, could not have been true, as the bird deformities at the Boswell ponds (first tested and confirmed in 1987) turned out to be far worse than at Kesterson. Hall could only have meant there hadn't been any selenium tests yet of Boswell's drainage. In the manner of other Boswell employees who have moved on to bigger and better things in Water World, Hall is now executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies, where he continues to espouse western San Joaquin Valley agriculture's views on water issues.

Throughout 1984 the Kesterson problem continued to worsen. By early 1985 neighboring cattle ranchers Jim and Karen Claus had won a State Water Resources Control Board cleanup order for Kesterson. A CBS "60 Minutes" segment aired on March 10, 1985, showing the ugly ducklings at Kesterson and embarrassed Reclamation officials fumbling to explain the debacle.

Interior Secretary Hodel had enough when advisers told him local Bureau of Reclamation officials might be violating the criminal provisions of the Migratory Treaty Act by keeping Kesterson open. On the Ides of March 1985 he announced that he was closing Kesterson. The announcement sent shock waves through irrigated agriculture that are still felt to this day.

By 1986 the Kesterson ponds had been dried out and Interior scientists looking around the West were discovering selenium contamination in Boswell's local water-district drainwater evaporation ponds in the Tulare Basin, at the Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge in Southern California, at the Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada (in combination with mercury), and at dozens of other national wildlife refuges around the West. While federal officials began the process of endless studies, no action was taken to halt the selenium poisoning of the wildlife-refuge system, which continues to this day.

A national blue-ribbon 26-member panel of wildlife experts issued a scathing report in August 1991, charging directors of the nation's premier wildlife research center, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Patuxent Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, with harassing field-level biologists and attempting to downplay the threat of the growing selenium pollution problem. The report, obviously referring to federal biologist Harry Ohlendorf (who'd discovered the deformities at Kesterson), pesticide researchers Chuck Henny and Larry Blus, and Joe Skorupa (who had investigated the bird deformities at the Boswell ponds), said government scientists "had paid a personal price for upholding good science in the face of heavy political, bureaucratic, and social pressures." Felix Smith, the federal biologist who first blew the whistle at the Kesterson refuge, was named in news reports as being hounded into early retirement for trying to protect migratory birds.

In a 1994 Audubon magazine article reporter Ted Williams discussed harassment of field-level federal biologists and quoted Felix Smith as saying that the day Fish and Wildlife Service officials agreed to take drainage at Kesterson "was the day we made a bargain with the devil."

When Kesterson erupted in the news in the summer of 1984, President Reagan's old California friend Bill Clark had just taken over as secretary of the Interior; he promised that a solution to the drainage disposal problem was near, adopting the time-honored political tactic of ordering a lengthy state-federal study. His ploy worked. A $50-million state-federal study commenced in 1985 with much fanfare, and ended in 1990 with a whimper. It was full of good recommendations, including one for retiring hundreds of thousands of acres of bad land. It was also promptly shelved.

The Reclamation Bureau has finally launched a modest program to retire the first 12,000 acres of high-selenium soils in the Westlands. At that pace it will take 200 years to retire all the bad land just in the 600,000-acre Westlands. No one even talks about the millions of acres of high-selenium farmland all around the West that should be taken out of production.

Congress passed another reclamation reform bill in 1992 to put more federal irrigation water back into California's depleted rivers and the San Francisco Bay-Delta to help revive the moribund salmon runs, but Westland growers, backed by valley politicians, have been working ceaselessly to rescind or weaken that law.

Fish and Wildlife's Skorupa complained in the Audubon article that he took a solid case for criminal acts at the Boswell killing ponds to Justice Department attorneys just before the 1992 election but that the federal prosecutors got cold feet and weak spines.

"We were told we had an excellent case," Skorupa told Audubon's Williams, "that they had every confidence that it was winnable, but that until we went and got someone at least at the secretarial level in Interior to give a clear policy directive, the Justice Department would not pursue it."

Skorupa says that about half of 161 federal irrigation-project drainage sites in the West studied between 1986 and 1993 have selenium levels high enough to trigger embryotoxicity, which can include deformities. What is more depressing is that federal irrigation projects make up only about a quarter of all irrigated agriculture in the Western United States. The other 75 percent of the irrigated land in the West has not even been looked at for selenium poisoning.

Eleven years after the first confirmed selenium-caused bird deformities at the Boswell ponds, the Department of Justice, with Janet Reno presently at the helm, still has taken no action against Boswell, and any possible prosecutions for the bird deaths Skorupa painstakingly documented beginning in 1987 are falling prey to the statute of limitations. An angry Skorupa can only shake his head.

Although the government has had serious warnings about selenium problems in the West for more than 50 years, the Department of the Interior was still claiming in 1997 that selenium had been an "unforeseen consequence of irrigation drainage. That '97 report from the National Irrigation Water Quality Program also claimed that "because complete investigation of every irrigated area in the Western United States is impractical, managers need to be able to predict where selenium contamination is likely."

But it's not impractical at all, insists Theresa Presser, who was one of the first to document the widespread selenium contamination in the western San Joaquin Valley. According to Presser, selenium contamination is also likely not only where soils have selenium ejected from ancient volcanoes during the Cretaceous age, but also where ancient seabed soils have been uplifted by geologic activity over eons, such as California's Coast Range. In other words, human irrigation and export of the resulting drainage water into evaporation ponds or wetlands is doing in a few years what nature took millions of years to do.

It's clear that no one in the Clinton administration is going to make the hard decisions about getting the toxic soils in the West out of production. In late May 1998 the E.P.A. held a conference in Washington, D.C., that was attended almost entirely by big selenium polluters--oil companies, mining companies, major agribusiness, coal-burning utilities. They all argued against any E.P.A. review of the current standards for selenium in rivers, lakes, and marshes, which scientists say is at least twice as high as it should be and which may lead to the extinction of at least 20 species of fish and wildlife.

Boswell and the other agribusiness lords are determined not to become extinct themselves. Last March a consortium of state and federal agencies that dances to the tune of agribusiness announced a new plan to build a peripheral canal around the Delta and import yet more northern California river water to the selenium fields of the western San Joaquin Valley.

In July the Western Water Policy Review Commission, created by Congress in 1992, issued its report, three years behind schedule. The report identified agricultural wastewater as the single largest source of pollution in the West, recommended phasing out federal water subsidies, and specifically suggested that subsurface drainage water, which triggers the bird deformities, be brought under the Clean Water Act and regulated because it is an end-of-the-pipe type of pollution.

The response of the growers was typical. "The sooner this report gets put on a shelf and starts gathering dust the better," said Jason Peltier, manager of the Central Valley Project Water Association.

Dinosaurs swing big tails going down.

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New Merced County Planning Commissioner: fast and loose with public processes, public funds

Submitted: Jun 29, 2007

The California Rangeland Conservation Coalition recently sent a letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, urging him to terminate his opposition to the Williamson Act. The text of the letter appears below. http://www.calcattlemen.org/index.htm (click on the California Rangeland Resolution) will give the text of the historical coalition resolution developed by cattlemen, government agencies and environmental groups for the conservation of rangeland/seasonal pasturelands, vernal pools, the 15 endangered species associated with them, which also protects Central Valley watersheds. The link will also supply readers with a list of the Coalition's founders and members.

Two Coalition founders from Merced County, the San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center and the San Joaquin Valley Conservancy, signed the Rangeland Coalition letter urging Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger not to terminate the Williamson Act, one of the most valuable land-use tools in California for the preservation of rangeland on the borders of the Central Valley, including a great many acres in Merced County.

Reading the final text of the letter to the governor, the Raptor Center and the
Conservancy were perplexed to find the name of recently appointed Merced County Planning Commissioner Cynthia Lashbrook, signing on behalf of
the Merced Alliance for Responsible Growth (MARG).

Among the numerous environmental organizations that Lashbrook belongs to, MARG is an inappropriate vehicle. It appeared Lashbrook simply grabbed the most convenient organization at her disposal at the time to get her name on the letter signed by a number of prestigious people and organizations with a proven record of commitment to the defense of rangeland. A far more appropriate group would have been the East Merced Resource Conservation District. However, Lashbrook was unable to convince the district board to blindly sign the letter during a teleconference special meeting on June 14.

As founders of the Coalition, the Raptor Center and the Conservancy said that it is a movement and far more than one letter to one governor. In the list of 24 organizations and/or businesses Commissioner Lashbrook is involved with as staff, grant-writer, director, owner or member, we see no real connection to the goals of the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition. The two local Coalition founders said their impression that Lashbrook was indulging in mere self-promotion was deepened by rumors that the commissioner’s opinion is that rangeland should be the site of urban sprawl in preference to Valley farmland. The Coalition founders doubt MARG ever heard of the work and resolution of the Coalition before Lashbrook presented its leadership with a last-minute opportunity to get its name in front of the governor’s staff.

Valley environmental activists are quite familiar with this kind of hustle. We remember a once-prominent environmental attorney whose desks and wallets were stuffed with business cards announcing himself as counsel to organizations that had no clue that he was their counsel. Another shining example was a prominent local rancher/developer and former secretary of state Department of Food and Agriculture who was the president of every USDA-spawned organization in the north San Joaquin Valley and beyond, in a career of prominence in paper groups that started before puberty. A rich man, he bought his state office fair and square from Gov. Gray Davis, along with more than 500 acres, annexed to the City of Merced, in the path of growth to UC Merced.

When Lashbrook, an associate director of the East Merced Resource Conservation District, presented this letter to the district board at its Special Meeting on June 14, the board wisely deferred this matter, appearing not to have read the letter. Nor was it on the meeting agenda.

When she signed this letter on behalf of MARG, which has about as much knowledge of the Coalition as it does about Uruguayan foreign policy, they compromised the integrity of founders and members of the Coalition and weakened the force of the letter. If Lashbrook and MARG has dared to write their own letter, this unpleasantness would have been avoided. We find no evidence on the MARG website, apparently taken over entirely by the Wal-Mart Action Team, that they did write their own letter.

Commissioner Lashbrook habitually promotes herself on other peoples’ work and integrity without consultation but for compensation.

She and the East Merced Resource Conservation District staff and directors castigated the Merced River Stakeholders group a month earlier for not enthusiastically endorsing a half-million-dollar grant proposal sponsored by the district, which claimed stakeholders’ support, without distributing a copy of the final proposal before submitting it to the state Department of Water Resources. Lashbrook, in one or more of her staff capacities, will financially benefit if the DWR approves the grant. There were only two stakeholders who even read the draft proposal.

Lashbrook is playing fast and loose with public processes and public funds. But, in Merced County, this is as good as it gets for appointees and potential appointees to committees, focus groups, boards and commissions, among them the East Merced Resource Conservation District.

If members of the Merced County public do not accept the policy of uncontrolled growth and finance, insurance and real estate propaganda, they can expect to be insulted, intimidated and red-baited by elected and appointed officials and staff.

Badlands editorial board
------------

ATTACHMENTS:

CALIFORNIA RANGELAND CONSERVATION COALITION: Ranchers, Conservationists and Government Working Together for the Benefit of All

June 19, 2007
The Honorable Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor
State of California
State Capitol, First Floor
Sacramento, CA 95812

RE: May Revise – Williamson Act

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger:

Partners to the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition are alarmed by the May revise to your fiscal year 07-08 budget which proposes the elimination of subvention funding to California counties for the Williamson Act.

This proposed elimination is contrary to the underlying goals of our partnership, to protect California’s rangeland landscape.

The California Rangeland Conservation Coalition is an unprecedented group of California ranchers, environmentalists and agencies. Together, we want to preserve private working landscapes, support the long-term viability of the ranching industry, and protect and enhance California rangeland for protected and common species.

We recognize the Williamson Act is intrinsically linked to our Coalition’s ability to fulfill the guiding principles outlined within the enclosed California Rangeland Resolution, the foundation of the Rangeland Coalition.

Partners of the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition are strong supporters of the Williamson Act and we truly recognize the role it plays in preserving rangeland. According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Fire and Resource Assessment Program California is losing tens of thousands of acres of rangeland annually. This significant conversion of rangeland contributes to the loss of open space, groundwater recharge, homes of common and threatened species, and family ranchers.

Research on these rangelands finds that nearly all of the species of grassland birds, most native plants and the threatened vernal pool ecosystem actually benefit from responsible grazing practices. The Williamson Act plays an important role in preserving California’s rangelands which are a critical foundation of the economic and social fabric of California’s ranching industry and rural communities, and will only continue to provide habitat for plants, fish and wildlife if the Williamson Act remains a viable tool for landowners.

The California Rangeland Conservation Coalition strongly supports subvention funding to California’s counties for the Williamson Act. Should you have any questions regarding our support please contact Tracy Schohr, Director of Rangeland Conservation, California Rangeland Conservation Coalition at (916) 444-0845 or
tschohr@calcattlemen.org.

Sincerely,

Partners of the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition
California Rangeland Conservation Coalition

May Revise – Williamson Act

Bruce Hafenfeld
President
California Cattlemen’s Association

Kim Delfino
California Program Director
Defenders of Wildlife

Mark Kramer
Director, Federal Government Relations
California Chapter, The Nature Conservancy

Doug Mosebar
President
California Farm Bureau Federation

Ralph Grossi
President
American Farmland Trust

Mark Bergstrom
President
American Land Conservancy

Aimee Rutledge
Executive Director
Sacramento Valley Conservancy

Nita Vail
Executive Director
California Rangeland Trust

Robert J. Stack, Ph.D.
Executive Director
Jumping Frog Research Institute

Pia Sevelius
District Manager
Butte County Resource Conservation District

Cynthia Lashbrook
Merced Alliance for Responsible Growth

William M. Hatch
San Joaquin Valley Conservancy

Doug Johnson
Executive Director
California Invasive Plant Council

Lesa Osterholm
Bear River Watershed - Coordinator
Nevada County Resource Conservation District - Manager

Lydia M. Miller
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center

Royce Larsen
President
California-Pacific Section of the Society for Range Management

Karen Sweet
Executive Officer
Alameda County Resource Conservation District

John Hopkins
President
Institute for Ecological Health

Lorri Pride
President
Glenn County Resource Conservation District

Vance Russell
Director of Landowner Stewardship Program
Audubon California

Charles (Toby) Horst
Director/Treasurer
Sierra Resource Conservation District

Carol W. Witham
California Native Plant Society

Lesa Eidman
Executive Director
California Wool Growers Association

Tacy Currey
Executive Director
California Association of Resource Conservation Districts

Patti Turner
District Manager
Colusa County Resource Conservation District

Janet Cobb
Executive Officer
California Wildlife Foundation
California Oak Foundation

Francis I. Hodgkins
Board of Trustees Chair
Sacramento River Watershed Program

Jamison Watts
Executive Director
Northern California Regional Land Trust

Judy Ahmann
President
California CattleWomen’s Association

Kirk Ford
Chair, Board of Directors
Tuolumne County Resource Conservation District

Mary Mitchell
District Manager
Western Shasta RCD

Chuck Peck
Executive Director
Sierra Foothill Conservancy
Enclosure: California Rangeland Resolution
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6-29-07
Merced Sun-Star
Ever thought of serving on one of the city's commissions? Now's your chance to volunteer...Leslie Albrecht...6-27-07
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/13731287p-14316332c.html

The city is looking to fill vacancies on seven commissions that advise the City Council on everything from parks to the airport to bringing new business to Merced. Serving on a commission gives citizens an up-close look at how local government works, said city spokesman Mike Conway, but it also helps residents play a direct role in shaping their community. "(Commissioners) get to be part of the solution and they get the satisfaction of knowing that they're helping to build a better Merced," said Conway. To serve on most commissions, you must be at least 18 years old and a registered voter. Here's a quick look at commissions currently looking for warm bodies...

6-29-07
Merced Sun-Star
Loose Lips: Last Updated: June 29, 2007, 03:17:33 AM PDT
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/13739493p-14323639c.html

Red scare at the county building?...The Cold War is over... But this week that old familiar chill was back in the air — at the Merced County Administration Building, of all places. Maureen McCorry of Valley Land Alliance urged the county to look at environmental impacts before letting farmers subdivide their property. Supervisor Mike Nelson greeted McCorry's comment with this zinger: "It's nice to see that socialists are alive and well here." ...communist hordes...could some of them be living here in Merced? Nelson isn't worried about Reds in our midst, he told Lips, but he was serious when he made that remark. "I feel that (McCorry's) comment strikes at the heart of private property rights and is by its very nature socialist,"..."What it ends up being is people who think they can tell other people how to live their lives." That rubs Nelson the wrong way, to say the least. The right to private property, he told Lips, was first and foremost in our forefathers' minds when they founded these United States. Are those rights under attack in Merced County? "No, I'm not worried about the Communist Party taking over Merced County," said Nelson. "But I am concerned about those kind of attitudes and that those seem to be the people that we hear from the most." For McCorry's part, she would like to state for the record that she is not a card-carrying socialist. "I believe I'm functioning in a capitalist society that promotes freedom of speech,"..."We're just saying that we need to have parcels large enough to grow food — if it's socialist to say we have a societal interest in growing food, then I guess we're socialists."

6-27-07
Merced Sun-Star
Real estate broker newest planner...Leslie Albrecht
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/13731309p-14316362c.html

Carole McCoy...Merced's newest Planning Commissioner, she'll sit on the board that advises the City Council on land use and development decisions.
Q: What's your opinion on the development boom Merced has seen in recent years?
A: I think it moved a little bit too fast without a lot of thought to the community this development was serving. They built a lot of new homes specifically for higher-end families. Merced is not a higher-end family city at this time. We're looking for that to come and the university (will contribute to) that.
But they built too many high-end homes with not enough families to support it who were living here and staying here. We had a lot of investors buy and take the money out of our area so it didn't do anything to help our community grow in a progressive manner.
So we need to give more thought to bringing businesses in to help the people that are living here.
Q: You'll be voting on the Wal-Mart distribution center, a controversial project that's drawn ire from local activists. How do you plan to handle that decision?
A: I plan to listen to all of the opinions given. Right now I'm definitely leaning toward the Wal-Mart distribution center because we've heard these same (arguments) before against the university and many other things that have come into our community and have been very successful. But I will definitely keep an open mind.
Q: With five out of the seven City Council members directly involved in the real estate industry, some people feel real estate interests have too much influence in city governance. What do you think?
A: Absolutely not. (Realtors) listen to everyone, that's what our life is all about...

6-27-07
Badlands Journal
Red Menace over Merced...Badlands editorial staff
http://www.badlandsjournal.com/

A rouge pall, like the Delta peat fires of old at twilight, hangs over Merced County. According to Supervisor Mike Nelson, the “socialists” were out this morning at the supervisors’ meeting. A group advocating agricultural preservation was arguing against parcel splits for ranchettes between Gustine and Santa Nella. By contrast, Nelson was a union Atwater City fireman for nine years and now draws a public salary from Merced County of over $65,000 a year plus thousands a month in perks, benefits and retirement, beside what the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control Board pays him to defend special interests from the peril of regulating the worst air pollution in the US. Nelson’s wife is a union public school teacher, drawing a public salary, health and retirement benefits. We suggest Nelson look again at the red menace hanging over the county. If he can see through the merciless rightwing hypocrisy, he will find it is red ink caused by the reckless, uncontrolled growth approved by majorities of the indemnified supervisors and city councils beholden and in some cases directly benefiting from their ties to finance, insurance and real estate special interests that now control local government in Merced lock, stock and barrel.

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Red Menace over Merced

Submitted: Jun 26, 2007

A rouge pall, like the Delta peat fires of old at twilight, hangs over Merced County.

According to Supervisor Mike Nelson, the "socialists" were out this morning at the supervisors' meeting. A group advocating agricultural preservation were arguing against parcel splits for ranchettes between Gustine and Santa Nella.

And I thought I saw Eugene Debs highballing down the Santa Fe tracks last night.

The Badlands editorial staff investigated, and found at least one ringleader of the agland preservationists has a long history of affiliation with red front groups: the Merced County Chamber of Commerce; American Farmland Trust; the Merced County Farm Bureau; and California Women for Agriculture.

By contrast, Nelson was a union Atwater City fireman for nine years and now draws a public salary from Merced County of over $65,000 a year plus thousands a month in perks, benefits and retirement, beside what the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control Board pays him to defend special interests from the peril of regulating the worst air pollution in the US. Nelson's wife is a union public school teacher, drawing a public salary, health and retirement benefits.

We suggest Nelson look again at the red menace hanging over the county. If he can see through the merciless rightwing hypocrisy, he will find it is red ink caused by the reckless, uncontrolled growth approved by majorities of the indemnified supervisors and city councils beholden and in some cases directly benefitting from their ties to finance, insurance and real estate special interests that now control local government in Merced lock, stock and barrel.

Badlands editorial staff

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The silence of the Lamb

Submitted: Jun 15, 2007

It will happen this way, now that the news cycle is over. One day, probably on a weekend this month, the Department of Homeland Security will announce that the UC/Bechtel/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory proposal to place a biodanger level-4 lab near Tracy at Site 300, an LLNL bombing range already laced with depleted uranium and tritium, will make the short list for biowarfare pork. LLNL also recently announced that it will be releasing eight times as much radioactivity in bomb tests this year on Site 300.

But never you mind, public, it’s all perfectly safe under UC and Bechtel management, just like security is perfect at Los Alamos National Laboratory, managed by the same win-win, public-private partnership.

Meanwhile, the congressman for the district, Jerry “The Lamb” McNerney, has been on about a veterans hospital out of his district in Livermore, signing a pledge to make his earmarks public information, and opining that lobbyists shouldn’t be on PACs contributing money, at least to Himself, the Lamb. His ardent supporters out in the blogosphere have been defending him for these radically moral stands, because the Lamb is not Pombo. One assumes he did not do his graduate work in the higher mathematics of political money. Failing to provide any leadership in opposition of the biowarfare lab, which might have energized his core supporters in the 11th CD, the Lamb has probably been terribly impressed by those fine academic minds at the LLNL, just his sort of people, unlike the people in the district he represents.

And, of course, the biowarfare lab security will be perfect and there is no problem, whatsoever, about studying diseases lethal to poultry and cattle upwind from the greatest concentration of poultry and cattle in California. None, whatsoever. The biodanger level-4 designation is for the most deadly pathogens known on the planet. But these will be no problem for the citizens living near the biowarfare lab. None, whatsoever, because the security in these labs is perfect, which was explained so articulately in Michael Carroll’s Lab 257, about Plum Island Animal Disease Laboratory.

Nevertheless, Marylia Kelley, executive director of Livermore-based Tri-Valley Citizens Against a Radioactive Environment, reminded us today that occasionally security breaches occur, even at LLNL, where the new generation of nuclear warheads is being designed. In recent years, employees have lost keys to secure areas and have not informed top management sometimes for months, during which access to these high security areas could have been compromised. The Lab left open a four-lane gate for a weekend. The Department of Energy Inspector General recently reported that a significant number of LLNL former employees still have their security badges and their names still appear on rosters, “which is a huge security risk,” Kelley said.

“The Livermore lab has a history of major security breaches,” she added.

The Department of Homeland Security has repeatedly said that it would take into account local opposition to the biowarfare lab. In Kelley’s view, there is no support for the biowarfare lab or the increase in radioactive explosives at Site 300 among the citizens of Tracy or nearby areas.

“Even where the lab has gotten official organizations for agriculture and elsewhere to support the biolab project,” Kelley said, “polls of the families those organizations represent would show significant opposition.”

“McNerney would do well to campaign against the biolab,” she said.

But Jerry the Lamb says nothing and Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, says even less. If it is possible to be even less sensitive to the dangers of lethal war pork than the Lamb and the Shrimp Slayer, try the San Joaquin Valley Air Quality Control District, which promises to hold a public hearing on the increase in radioactive explosives at the Tracy City Council chambers on June 26, at 7:30 p.m. This is the air board that approved a plan Thursday to put the San Joaquin Valley air basin in the worst air pollution category the federal government has a name for, in order to extend deadlines for cleaning up pollution so that the flow of federal highway funds will not be halted as a penalty for not attaining its air quality goals. Presumably, by 2026, the nation will have yet another category named to which the Valley can apply for further extensions and more growth-inducing highways. Perhaps it could be called the Radioactive Pathogenic WalMart Distribution Center/NASCAR level of non-attainment. Or simply, the San Joaquin Valley Level.

Dean Andal has announced he’s running against McNerney. It has been discovered that Andal is listed as a principle in Gerry Kamilos’ company, currently proposing to redevelop the former Naval Air Station at Crows Landing, downwind from Site 300, into a business park with a short-haul railroad. Andal, although a ferociously righwing ideologue, might have the brains to oppose the biowarfare lab and the radioactive bombing increases for simple self-preservation as well as self-enrichment. If Andal did oppose the Site 300 projects, he might find constituencies of support unique in his long, reactionary political career.

Yo, Dean, think Reinvention! A coalition awaits, and hey, maybe even Tsakopoulos O Megas would throw a few bucks your way.

Meanwhile, over the hill, the Lamb lives pleasantly in Pleasanton, breaking pencils over PACs full of lobbyists.

Badlands editorial staff
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6-15-07
San Francisco Chronicle
Lab managers accused of security breach...Deborah Baker and Jennifer Talhelm, AP
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2007/06/15/national/a054059D54.DTL&hw=livermore+lab&sn=001&sc=1000

Officials with the contractor that runs Los Alamos National Laboratory sent top-secret data regarding nuclear weapons through open e-mail networks, the latest potentially dangerous security breach to come to light at the birthplace of the atomic bomb, two congressmen said...breach was investigated by the National Nuclear Security Administration, which rounded up laptop computers from Los Alamos National Security LLC's board members and sanitized them. But NNSA and lab officials who subsequently appeared before a congressional committee investigating security problems at the nuclear weapons lab never mentioned it, according to a letter the congressmen sent Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman. Reps. John Dingell, D-Mich., chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Bart Stupak, D-Mich., who heads the panel's oversight subcommittee, called that "unacceptable" and demanded an explanation. "This facility's mind-bogglingly poor track record makes me repeat my question: What do we do at Los Alamos that we cannot do elsewhere?" Stupak said Thursday. LANS, which took over the lab's operation, is made up of the lab's former manager, the University of California; Bechtel Corp.; and two other companies. The e-mail case, the latest to come to light, was reported to NNSA by a University of California official on Jan. 19, according to the congressmen. The breach occurred when a consultant to the LANS board, Harold Smith, sent an e-mail containing highly classified, non-encrypted nuclear weapons information to several board members, who forwarded it to other members, according to a Washington aide familiar with the investigation who asked not to be named because the information is sensitive. The notice went out that there had been a breach, an official was pulled out of a White House meeting and told, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory flew a team across California and recovered the laptops within six hours... Lawmakers were assured no damage was caused, according to the aide.

6-16-07
Los Alamos National Laboratory. Energy Dept. acknowledges lab's e-mail security lapse...Keay Davidson
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/06/16/BAGG3QGHF01.DTL&hw=uc&sn=003&sc=793

The latest security breach was acknowledged Friday by Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman after it was revealed by two congressmen. Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., who chairs the oversight and investigations subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee, called the latest security lapse a fresh example of Los Alamos' "mind-bogglingly poor track record" on security issues. The scandal comes less than two years after the Energy Department awarded a consortium led by the University of California and Bechtel Corp. a new contract to run Los Alamos partly in order to prevent a repeat of numerous scandals involving the security of weapons information at the lab. The consortium operates under the name Los Alamos National Security LLC. A similar managerial consortium -- one that is also dominated by UC and Bechtel -- was selected May 8 to manage the nation's other nuclear weapons design lab, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore. "The UC-Bechtel consortium at Los Alamos has taken what was a bad managerial situation and made it a lot worse," said Marylia Kelley, head of Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment, which is based in Livermore. "As long as the United States continues to design and develop new nuclear weapons, some of that information can and will leak out. ... Better management cannot solve that deeper problem." After the news leaked out, Dingell and Stupak wrote Bodman demanding to know why the breach wasn't reported to Congress for six months, even though an unidentified UC official informed the National Nuclear Security Administration of the breach on Jan. 19. The timing delay raises the question of whether another scandal is being covered up -- in effect, the possibility that authorities dragged their feet for almost six months investigating the security breach so that UC and Bechtel could win their joint bid for the Livermore contract without suffering any taint of scandal.

Fresno Bee
Critics unimpressed by smog-plan reform...Mark Grossi
http://www.fresnobee.com/263/story/60000.html

State air officials on Thursday approved a much-criticized smog cleanup plan with a 2024 completion target for the San Joaquin Valley -- but they offered a concession to those who want a quicker fix. In the next six months, the California Air Resources Board will intensely study other pollution-cutting ideas for the Valley, such as banning older vehicles during dirty-air days. Based on the findings, the state air governing board may add more rules to speed up the cleanup. The critics...were not impressed. The state will send the plan to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which also is expected to approve it. EPA approval would remove the threat of federal sanctions for the Valley, such as the delay of $2 billion in road-building funds. In addition, the Valley would become the first place in the nation to be classified in a category reserved for the worst smog offenders, based on how long a cleanup would take.

5-14-07
Monterey Herald
Nuke weapons workers denied...Michael Alison Chandler and Joby Warrick...Washington Post
http://www.montereyherald.com/health/ci_5891631

Hidden costs...Since its inception in 2000, the compensation program has cut more than 20,000 checks and given long-delayed recognition to workers whose illnesses were hidden costs of the Cold War's military buildup...of the 72,000 cases processed, more than 60 percent have been denied. Thousands of other applicants have been waiting for years for an answer. Overall, only 21 percent of applicants have received checks. Even as the nation continues to close and dismantle many nuclear weapons sites, a growing number of those who helped build the bombs are turning to lawyers and legislators to argue they are being treated unfairly. Many complain that the compensation process is slow, frustrating, even insulting. "You get exposed to something that's so bad you have to leave your clothes behind," McKenzie said, "then they try to tell you it's not their fault that you got sick." Feds call program a success...Some evidence suggests the government has tried to limit payouts for budget reasons. Internal memos obtained by congressional investigators show the Bush administration chafing over the program's rising costs and fighting to block measures that would increase workers' chances of compensation. Labor Department officials who oversee the program say it has been successful, pointing to the large sums distributed: about $2.6 billion in payments in five years, far more than some early estimates. Missing or unreliable records and the murkiness of cancer science, the officials say, make it difficult to satisfy all the claimants. 'Normal beans'...Still, Labor's management of the program has drawn bipartisan, and often fierce, criticism from members of Congress. Former congressman John Hostettler, an Indiana Republican who chaired a House subcommittee overseeing the program, said at a hearing last December that Labor Department memos reflect a "culture of disdain" toward workers and raise questions about whether the department exceeded its authority by using "legalistic interpretations" to limit eligible workers. Scant records...The estimates are based largely on personnel files and historical radiation measurements at the plants. But the records are often so incomplete and unreliable that it can be impossible to determine a worker's true exposure. "At every site, you hear stories about workers being told to put their badges in their lockers," said Mark Griffon, a radiation-safety expert who advises the government on worker exposure. "If workers wore their badges and ended up exceeding their quarterly radiation limit, they could be laid off or put in a different job." Another obstacle is that records are becoming harder to track as plants are dismantled. The compensation program does provide a path for the government to help workers if records are lost or questionable. But critics say officials are reluctant to pursue it. No special status...So far, groups of workers from 18 sites have been added to the special exposure cohort, and petitions are pending for workers from a dozen other sites. The process can be difficult... Denver site...plant gone, many workers are struggling to re-create what happened. Many applicants who were denied blame missing or inadequate records and petitioned two years ago for special cohort status.

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Requiem for the Honey Bee

Submitted: Jun 06, 2007

Sonny Star had an intimate chat with Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, the other day and described itself as "encouraged" that he was "leading the charge at the congressional level to get special funding to fight (Honey Bee) colony collapse disorder," but that Congress should get on with the task.

This was the finest bit of witless or cynical buffoonery yet from this newspaper, but you know Sonny.

Any species of wildlife in an endangered condition is dead meat in Cardoza's hands.

Let us speculate how it's going to work. First, independent bee scientists already have a pretty good idea about what is happening, but all the news is bad and much of it relates to a number of other ecosystems crashing in the Valley and elsewhere due to the utterly destructive win-win, public-private relationships between pesticide corporations that are now seed corporations and corporate and university biotechnology.

Migratory birds have been dying for years in the Valley due to pesticides, herbicides and now, probably GMO crops. We have no idea the extent of the ecological catastrophe unleashed by these corporations and their university partners, led by the University of California. And it is not a subject of research likely to get a dime of federal research funds as long as the Biotechnology Industry Organization exists.

Cardoza tipped his hand recently in the agricultural subcommittee he chairs when he added a section to the Farm Bill that outlaws local and state governments from passing laws against genetic engineered crops in their jurisdictions -- a flat payoff to biotechnology corporations and a finger flip in the face of progressive agriculture throughout the nation.

In Merced County, we are deeply experienced in ecological disaster due to the Kesterson Wildlife Refuge. However, Sonny's clipping files will hold almost nothing about the mid-1980s disaster that continues to take wildlife in a toxic soup of heavy metals. Nor has the solution to the problem been found, although a last-ditch atttempt to take advantage of Bush administration corruption is now underway, led by Cardoza's good friends at Westlands Water District.

Initially, Cardoza, then an assemblyman, wanted to look like he was playing nice with agriculture and natural resources. He supported the county's application for the Williamson Act in 2000, while working tirelessly behind the scenes to corrupt the permitting process of UC Merced. He supported the Natural Communities Conservation Plan-Habitat Conservation Plan for eastern Merced County, which would have permitted all the takes of endangered species UC and developers could have asked for, at bargain-basement prices. It was only when the NCCP-HCP was defeated by a coalition of local farmers and environmentalists that the Shrimp Slayer took the gloves off on behalf of the contributors to his career in Congress. Since he has been in Congress, he has introduced two bills to eliminate the critical habitat designation in the Endangered Species Act. Acting as the rear end of the famed Pomboza with former Rep. RichPAC Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, he next introduced a bill to gut the entire ESA.

Let us speculate further how this is going to work. If the Honey Bee goes, the almond industry goes. If the almond industry goes, there is going to be a great deal of farm land on the market at the bottom of the real estate cycle. Although Cardoza will fail utterly by design to get any meaningful research on colony collapse disorder, he will cry to the skies for emergency funds to bail out the poor almond growers. So landowners with almond orchards will very quietly receive their disaster checks from the feds and sell their land to developers.

This will fit marvelously with the Grupe-Spanos California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley, the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint, the bullet train, the eastside freeway, a peripheral canal and an eastside canal -- all aimed at turning the San Joaquin Valley into a giant urban slurb.

Valley farmers/landowners are sunk in such lagoons of hypocrisy and corruption that at one county-sponsored meeting on the problem nearly a decade ago, the representative for the local building industry association looked across the table at the representative of environmental organizations, threw up his hands and asked her why the Hell the BIA and the environmentalists were the only organizations in the room trying to protect agriculture.

There is another pork angle: the new biowarfare lab to excite Cardoza's greed: UC/Bechtel/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory wants to establish near Tracy on Site 300, where the lab tests bombs containing depleted uranium. The biowarfare lab is being promoted as a possible replacement for the Plum Island USDA Animal Disease Laboratory. Cattle and poultry organizations have been brought on board because the biowarfare lab promises to be studying diseases like foot-and-mouth and Avian flu. Strong evidence suggesting Plum Island security lapses resulted in the release of ticks laden with Lyme Disease, and released W. Nile Fever and possibly Newcastle's Disease into its neighborhood, has met a solid wall of denial for reasons of "National Security." But, what the heck, it makes sense to bring these pathogens incredibly lethal to the huge, nearby cattle, dairy and poultry industries, right?

Agriculture does not control agriculture anymore than Cardoza represents agriculture. However, a pork angle exists and no doubt will be exploited. Another win-win, public-private, emergency-funded program, involving all the usual suspects led by UC will be congregated to engineer a Frankenbee to replace the Honey Bee, which is probably toast. The public will pay for the biotech fix, it will take years, by which time it won't matter anymore except for whatever damage the Frankenbee might cause other ecosystems.

It is even possible that, if UC Merced doesn't get exactly what it wants out of federal resource agencies, "for reasons of National Security" it could begin work on something to extirpate the endangered species in the way of the historical UC mission to expand in Merced. UC Merced already has an animal lab, said to be studying human diseases at an undisclosed level of biosecurity. Meanwhile, cattle, dairy and poultry industries downwind from the Tracy biowarfare lab had better play nice with developers on the UC Board of Regents, or something could happen, because biowarfare lab security isn't always perfect.

Valley agriculture has been through disasters before. Each time, it has picked itself up and gone forward, erasing any memory of the last disaster. But, these days, the historical baseline for Valley agriculture is defined by finance, insurance and real estate, a graph without any reference to Nature. One very rarely hears from farmers or ranchers descriptions of a growing season.

However, there is another historical baseline, the ecology of the Valley, which some do remember. Those people note that every advance in the so-called "development" of the Valley in the last four or five decades has been matched by the crash of ecosystems, the endangerment and extinction of species, and the disappearance of generations of farmers who spoke in terms of seasons and of politicians who would defend agriculture.

Silent Spring is high-balling down the tracks.

Badlands editorial staff
-----------------------------

Agriculture doesn't control agriculture.

Silent Spring is coming.

Kesterson showed the way.

What an irony that Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, should be This is a man whose entire political resume has been a fight against endangered species. Even his fight against the Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter, in the state Assembly, was a fight to irradicate an agricultural pest, not to save the most valuable, commercially exploited pollinator in the nation.

It appears, in Merced at least, that the issue is totally economic, concerning the almond crop. If the argument remains in that piddling political frame, the honey bee is history, because the almond crop occurs mainly in only three or four congressional districts out of 435 districts. Incidently, the almond industry would be history, too. The collapse of the population of the nation's major pollinator is a much larger issue than that, but how are other members of Congress going to feel about a member who has introduced three bills to weaken the Endangered Species Act for the benefit of the special interests in his district coming to them to ask them to save a species for the economic benefit of another special interest in his district?

I can't imagine a worse congressman to represent the interests of the honey bee or the almond industry dependent on it. After years of expressing the utmost contempt for habitat critical to the survival of species adapted to living in and near vernal pools, including species of bees that only live near vernal pools, how can Cardoza reinvent himself as the champion of an insect?

An early indication of the strength of the Shrimp Slayer's charge to save the Honey Bee is a section in the current Farm Bill added by the subcommittee he chairs. The section would outlaw state and local anti-genetic engineering laws and ordinances, a great boon to Monsanto and the other members of the powerful Biotechnology Industry Organization. There is already a reputable line of independent scientific research that Honey Bee colony collapse is related to GMO crops. Cardoza's promotion of GMO ethanol-corn varieties and his promotion of UC Merced's biotech future all suggest he would not support research into the relationship between GMOs and the Honey Bee.

If, in fact, the most fruitful line of research is that the Honey Bee is the "canary in the waving fields of golden GMO grain," US agriculture is in big trouble. Does anyone remember in the entire FDA and USDA permitting process for GMOs any discussion about something this drastic before that seed was spread across every major agricultural area in the US and Canada?

In any event, it would take a member of Congress with a touch of heroism to suggest the possibility publicly, and that ain't Cardoza. There may not even be a pork angle for University of California and UC/Bechtel/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory because Penn State seems to be the national center for bee research. However, perhaps UC could get federal funding to genetically engineer a Frankenbee to replace the Honey Bee some day.

It may be essential that the government take draconian action, as if as has been said, this disorder is the foot-and-mouth disease of the Honey Bee. Much of these efforts involve NOT doing things that are being done, rather than doing more for example. Perhaps NOT feeding commercial bee colonies GMO corn syrup might help. Perhaps, NOT stressing colonies with trips across America to California almond orchards would help. Perhaps, if contagion is proved to be an issue, more than half the Honey Bees in the nation should NOT congregate here to pollinate almonds.

While these lines of thought might make sense scientifically and agriculturally, they don't make sense politicially or economically, at least not for the 18th congressional district. This could put Cardoza in the position of harming the almond economy of his district for the greater good -- saving a species vital to all agriculture. If, as bee scientists say to dramatize their arcane research, ever few mouthfuls of food you eat is the result of bee pollination, the Speaker should put the task in the hands of a

Bill Hatch
----------------

6-5-07
Bee deaths at crisis point...Our View
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/13655974p-14249127c.html

In 2005 alone, honeybees pollinated $15 billion of U.S. crops, with a third of that amount coming in California. Based on economics alone, it's essential that government get involved to help fight colony collapse disorder... Merced County is one of the largest almond-producing counties in the world, and any shortage of bees during key pollination times would be detrimental to this region's economy. It's officially a crisis — and the federal and state governments need to get involved to make sure enough money is freed up to fight the problem before it becomes a catastrophe. We're encouraged that Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, is leading the charge at the congressional level to get special funding to fight colony collapse disorder. But we were discouraged to learn that Congress probably won't act on the matter until September, which wastes valuable research time. Beekeepers need help and they need it now. It's up to political leaders to get it.
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SEC. 123. EFFECT OF USDA INSPECTION AND DETERMINATION OF NON-REGULATED STATUS.

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no State or locality shall make any law prohibiting the use in commerce of an article that the Secretary of Agriculture has —
1 inspected and passed; or
2 determined to be of non-regulated status.

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