Federal Government

Let them eat subsidized blueberries!

Submitted: Jul 14, 2007
"We are looking for a niche," said (Merced County Planning Commissioner) Cindy Lashbrook, a Merced County organic farmer who grows blueberries and almonds near Livingston. "We're looking to be legitimized, in a way." -- Merced Sun-Star, July 12, 2007

Happy Bastille Day.

If it hadn't been for Dan Morgan's article in the Washington Post today, noting that hundreds of lobbying groups have been going to Washington to state their case for the Farm Bill, we would not have had a clue what was going on in a July 12 story from McClatchy on a group of local organic growers in Washington. Whatever coherence the story may have had was ruined by the quote from Commissioner Lashbrook. But UC/Great Valley Center leadership training doesn't stress coherence. Self-dealing self-promotion is highly prized, however. In passing Morgan's book, The Great Grain Robbery, is an unforgettable classic in agricultural investigative reporting.

Why are organic growers "desperate" if their segment of the market is the fastest growing in the land? Perhaps, these days, land prices and debt prohibit farming in California.

We need to traipse through a little recent history to try to understand what this story is could be about. We won't get beyond tentative suggestions.

In November 2006, the reign of the Pomboza (representatives RichPAC Pombo, R-Tracy, and Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced) ended when Democrats regained a majority in Congress. The Pomboza was unable to gut the Endangered Species Act (although the Bush administration has attempted to do it by fiat since), the House Resources Committee, on which they served (Pombo as chairman) was restored to its former title, House Natural Resources Committee, and Cardoza was assigned a seat on the House Rules Committee. This committee is an exclusive committee. According to Democratic Party House rules, members who serve on exclusive committees cannot serve on other committees. However, Cardoza was given a waiver to serve on the House Committee on Agriculture because of his district and because it is a Farm Bill year that will define federal support for agriculture for the next five years.

Cardoza is a member of the Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry, which makes sense because his district includes the center of the California poultry industry, the administrative center of the dairy industry and because Merced is the second largest dairy county in the nation. Cardoza's top individual contributor is Gallo Cattle Co., owner of the largest dairy in the US.

However, Cardoza is also chairman of the Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture. Although his name does not appear in this story it is rumored that Cardoza is one of the leaders of the opposition to a Farm Bill favoring the large commodities -- rice, cotton, corn and milk -- and we think that somehow his office was involved in this little piece of fluff, which reminds us of the aluminum foil designed to confuse incoming missiles.

What's missing from the story is any mention of commercial rather than organic fruit, nut, vegetable and grape grower groups. Merced is the top producer of almonds in the world. The centers of organic production in California are in coastal counties.

Cardoza represents the largest wine company in the world, the largest dairy in the nation, the largest cheese factory in the world and the largest commercial almond area in the world.

However, all is not well in these giant agribusiness concerns. The largest cheese factory in the world, having polluted its area's groundwater to the point that even the regional water board dared to fine it, is building a new plant in Texas and will soon be gone, taking dairies with it. A French-owned gourmet cheese plant recently relocated from Turlock to Wisconsin. The Totally Illegal 42-inch Ranchwood Sewer Line from Livingston runs through the middle of property owned by the largest dairy in the nation and is headed toward the headquarters of this dairy, whose owner is planning an entire new town, having recently finished a strip mall and a truck stop on Highway 99. The largest dairy in the world is also planning a large residential subdivision near UC Merced. The almond industry is facing an uncertain future due to crashing populations of Honey Bees, required for pollination. Finally, the word in the real estate markets is that one viable sector left is farm swaps, by which developers wishing to buy farmers' land locate comparable acreage in other states for them to move to.

So, although the chairman of the Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture must appear to support the themes of his subcommittee, cotton, poultry, dairy and wine interests will control his voting on the next Farm Bill as they have controlled his agricultural votes throughout his political career. However, the theme of real estate is dearest to Cardoza's heart since he began his political career. No state legislator or House representative did more to promote the speculative real estate boom in his districts in the north San Joaquin Valley, for which reason his present congressional district contains the highest per capita rate of mortgage foreclosure in the nation.

Farmers are landowners. In periods of real estate speculation as reckless as what recently occurred in Cardoza's congressional district, farmers are more landowners than production agriculturalists. Any news, even about organic agriculture, is preferable to more news about the financial hemorrhage going on in the 18th Congressional District of California.

Nevertheless, the public has limits on the amount of inanity it will accept from the press at the behest of congressmen. Merced County Planning Commissioner Cindy Lashbrook transgresses these limits by making the absurd connection between legitimacy and a subsidy of public funds. While Lashbrook is probably sincere in her belief (she has declared war to acquire public funds for self-dealing and self-promotion despite public opposition), many of the Valley's better farmers have always resisted growing subsidized crops in the belief it is not really as legitimate as Lashbrook suggests. They will do it, but it isn't their first choice. The media from the local to the international level have been increasingly critical of farm subsidies, particularly in cotton. In fact, Lashbrook was the moderator of a meeting kicking off a campaign for an anti-growth initiative, which featured author Mark Arax, who signed and sold copies of his expose of the Boswell subsidized cotton kingdom. Would she have felt differently if Boswell had been growing subsidized blueberries in the Tulare Lake all these years? The whole thing is ridiculous and makes you think of Joseph Heller's great entrepreneur, Milo Minderbender, feeding chocolate covered Egyptian cotton to the troops. We aren't dealing with rational thought processes here. We are dealing with public-funds grubbing.

At least until the most recent speculative real estate boom, organic farming has been about the only sector of California agriculture where entry without a fortune has still been possible and its market has steadily grown on the hard work of its farmers, steady improvement of soil quality, and the quality of its produce, for which consumers have been willing to pay a premium. If Lashbrook is still looking for a niche in organic agriculture, one imagines she will never find it because the niche has been there and growing for 30 years and has had recognized USDA federal standards for about a decade. USDA market reporters even report organic produce prices these days. If she hasn't found it yet, her chances are slim at this point.

The present problem in organic agriculture is corporatism -- perhaps a business response to land values. For example, the e-coli outbreak from San Benito County last year was produced not by family organic growers on small, orderly plots, but by a rapidly growing organic produce corporation, which clearly lost control of its quality and safety systems. Corporatism will be the death of organic agriculture, because organics is founded on small farming, greater attention to quality and safety, and modest lifestyles that do not include cruising the halls of Congress. In fact, organic farming is more accurately called organic gardening, because all if its significant techniques emerged from very small plots, few achieving the size of truck gardens, using styles of horticulture begun in ancient Rome and perfected by Parisian market gardeners during the Napoleonic period. These techniques were brought to California in the 1970s by Alan Chadwick of Covelo and UC Santa Cruz and popularized in this country and others by John Jeavons of Willits and J. Mogodor Griffith of Chicago. Nationally, the books of Garden Way Publishing, Rodale Press, and magazines like Prevention and New Farm, from Pennsylvania, for decades have formed the background and underpinnings of the organic movement in the US.

It is not about subsidies to agribusiness corporations that poison people with mass-market produce labeled "organic." Sales, marketing and distribution started small. Organic produce has been the backbone of the growing farmers' market and community supported agriculture movements throughout the nation. Next came regional cooperative markets, a few wholesale stands in places like Jerrold Street, SF and the LA Terminal Market, and companies like Veritable Vegetable and Mountain People Warehouse that frequently grew out of regional cooperatives.

One Badlands staffer has spent decades in and around organic agriculture. In the long complaint that he has heard from organic growers about weather, bugs, water, labor and markets, he has never ever heard an organic gardener or farmer complain to the government about "legitimacy," in any way at all. He’s never known an organic grower with a legitimacy problem. He reasons that organic agriculture would only develop a legitimacy problem when corporations overwhelmed the cooperative roots of the organic movement.

The idea of organic growers whining to Cardoza for legitimacy is unwholesome and against the tradition of organic production and distribution. Once again, Commissioner Lashbrook is ripping off a tradition of great integrity and history for self-dealing and self-promotion or else has been absorbed by an organo-agribusiness campaign for subsidies. But, beyond noticing that that is what is apparently going on, what can you say? Perhaps, one can say that "organic agriculture" as presented by Lashbrook and Cardoza, has cut itself off from its roots so far that it is now lost in the halls of Congress, where all the decent things go to die.

Badlands editorial staff

Merced Sun-Star
Merced second in nation in foreclosures...J.N. Sbranti, Modest Bee

About $925 million worth of mortgages have been foreclosed on since January in the northern San Joaquin Valley, and 2,575 homes have been auctioned off on courthouse steps in Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties. Sean O'Toole, who owns ForeclosureRadar, a research firm based in Discovery Bay has been tracking the rapid rise in foreclosures throughout California. "Foreclosure sales now represent about 16 percent of all home sales in California,"..."Lenders are building a significant inventory (of repossessed homes),"..."Since Jan. 1, 2007, a total of 29,696 California properties have been returned to the lender for an astonishing total loan value of $12 billion. This is unprecedented." The situation may get worse before it gets better. RealtyTrac, another foreclosure property research firm...northern San Joaquin Valley leads the nation when it comes to mortgage defaults...calculated that San Joaquin County had the highest rate of homes in the process of being foreclosed — 1 in 103. Merced County ranked second-worst, with 1 in 121 homes in the foreclosure process. And Stanislaus County ranked fourth-worst, with 1 in 131 homes. For California as a whole, 1 in 315 homes were in the foreclosure process. The nationwide rate was 1 in 704 homes. Traditionally, most homeowners who receive notices of default have been able to refinance their mortgages, catch up on payments or sell their houses before lenders force a foreclose auction. But as home prices fall, mortgage lending requirements tighten and loan interest rates rise, avoiding foreclosure has become more difficult.

Local growers in Washington to push farm bill...Michael Doyle, Sun-Star Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON...on Capitol Hill, the House Agriculture Committee is poised in coming days to divvy up billions of dollars in a new farm bill... With the House panel planning to write its farm bill over the course of three days next week, Teixeira and several dozen other organic farmers are taking a desperate stab at changing the course of federal agricultural policy. So far, success is elusive. Existing cotton, rice, wheat and corn subsidies would stay essentially the same, under the current bill written by the agriculture committee chairman, Rep. Colin Peterson, D-Minn. Federal crop subsidies totaled about $17 billion last year. The politically vocal American Farm Bureau Federation likewise supports Peterson's stay-the-course approach to traditional subsidies, as does the National Milk Producers Federation. California at Davis agricultural economist Dan Sumner allies himself with California's fruit and vegetable growers, who seek a bigger share of the farm bill. The bill coming before the House committee next Tuesday does boost some specialty crop funding. Even so, specialty crop advocates — and organic growers in particular — complain the current House bill shortchanges the fastest-growing sector of U.S. agriculture. "We are looking for a niche," said Cindy Lashbrook, a Merced County organic farmer who grows blueberries and almonds near Livingston. "We're looking to be legitimized, in a way."
Hear an audio interview with Merced County farmer Cindy Lashbrook about the proposed Farm Bill.

Houston Chronicle
July 13, 2007, 11:55PM
Public support for Congress at lowest in a year By DARLENE SUPERVILLE
Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Too much bickering and not enough legislating.
That, in just a few words, explains why public approval of Congress' job performance has fallen 11 points since May, to 24 percent, its lowest level in a year, an Associated Press-Ipsos poll finds.
That's lower than for President Bush, who isn't exactly "Mr. Popularity," either ...

Washington Post
Democrats divided over Farm Bill changes...Dan Morgan

When freshman Ohio Democrat Zack Space replaced veteran Republican Rep. Robert W. Ney after the 2006 elections, groups lobbying for a major revamping of farm subsidy programs were elated. House Democrats, with their base in urban areas and coastal regions, were not beholden to programs weighted toward large commercial farmers in the grain and cotton belts. And Space's eastern Ohio district of small and medium-size farms was far down the list of those receiving government farm payments. But, as the House Agriculture Committee prepares to take up a new five-year farm bill on Tuesday, Space, one of nine freshmen Democrats on the panel, is opposing major changes in the traditional price and income support programs that in 2006 paid farmers $19 billion. Space's resistance to change highlights the struggle within the Democratic Party as the farm bill moves to center stage on Congress's legislative agenda. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) have told Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin C. Peterson (D-Minn.) that they will not support a "status quo" bill. A coalition of Democratic-leaning environmental organizations, anti-poverty groups and church organizations are pushing to redirect some subsidies to conservation, wetlands preservation, rural development and nutrition. But top Democrats are reluctant to push too hard for changes that could put at risk Democratic freshmen from "red" states, which backed President Bush's reelection in 2004 and where the farm vote is still a factor in close elections. At stake in the new farm bill are billions of dollars affecting the fortunes of farmers, as well as groups that include soft-drink manufacturers using corn sweeteners and poor families relying on food stamps. In 2006, more than 475 organizations reported lobbying on agricultural issues, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Peterson, whose northwest Minnesota district grows wheat, corn, soybeans and sugar beets, has vowed to protect the traditional programs... Peterson's draft has been criticized by fellow House Democrats representing farming interests that receive little direct help. Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.), a senior member of the Agriculture Committee, complained that the bill would provide $465 million in new money over five years to support fruit and vegetable growers. "That's not even a crumb," he told reporters, adding that unless improvements are made the bill will face a battle on the House floor. The debate over subsidies is coming in the midst of nearly unprecedented prosperity in U.S. farming. Farm income and the value of farmland and farm assets have been rising, spurred by strong exports and a boom in the demand for corn, which is used to make ethanol.

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Another piece of good news!

Submitted: Jul 13, 2007

California Native Plant Society
Defenders of Wildlife
Butte Environmental Council


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

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

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.

Tracy Press
Tracy dropped from bio-lab list...Rob L. Wagner

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

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."

Tracy Press
Tracy's dropped from bio-lab list...Cheri Matthews

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
The Kansas City Star

“…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

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" ...

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
Thu, 28 Jun 2007 13:31:15 -0400
Lee, Danielle
Miller, George


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.


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
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.



Member, Natural Resources Committee Chairman, Natural Resources Committee

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

Environmental New Service
Bush Administration Drops Appeal of CalFed Challenge

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.

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

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

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.

Farm Bill: Genetically modified food piece excised
Hank Shaw Blog, Stockton Record

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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Extinction no solution to water pollution -- Felix Smith

Submitted: Jul 04, 2007

When one looks seriously at the probable extinction of the Delta Smelt, the only thread in the history is the one most denied in the San Joaquin Valley: the systematic, long-range, politically rigged destruction of Public Trust law and natural resources by agribusiness lords and by the aggressions of water agencies led by Wetlands Water District. The entire violation of public trust exploded in Merced County in 1983 at Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge, where it was discovered that agricultural drainage piped from the south San Joaquin Valley with its highly concentrated amounts of Selenium, sickened, deformed and killed living beings -- people, livestock, and aquatic and avian species. Through more than 20 years of government propaganda denying it, coverups, harassment of government staff, ranchers, farmers, environmentalists and journalists that have told and continue to tell the truth, the destruction has continued to unfold.

Badlands is honored to publish these remarks sent to us by former US Fish & Wildlife Service biologist, Felix Smith, before a House Natural Resources Committee hearing on July 2 in Vallejo on the Delta. Smith has never stopped doing his duty as a federal wildlife biologist by speaking the uncomfortable, officially denied truth, since at Kesterson he held the first deformed bird in his hands. The best account in book form of what Smith and others went through to reveal this painful truth, describe its origins and predict its consequences, is available in Tom Harris' Death in the Marsh. Other books include Reisner's Cadillac Desert and The King of California: J.G. Boswell and the Making of a Secret American Empire, by Mark Arax and Rick Wartzman. The best reporter and commentator on the subject is Lloyd Carter.

The worst newspaper coverage of the Kesterson disaster was by the Merced Sun-Star, on top of the story but, judging by its archives from the time, running away from it as fast as it could.

Badlands editorial staff

House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power,

Hearing on

“Extinction is Not Sustainable Water Policy: the Bay-Delta Crisis


Implications for California Water Management”,

July 2, 2007 at Vallejo, California.

To Chairwoman-Representative Napolitano and other members of this subcommittee.

My name is Felix E. Smith. I appreciate the opportunity to provide these comments. Please include these comments into the record of this hearing.

I held the first deformed migratory bird, an American coot hatchling, found at Kesterson NWR in 1983. At that time I was a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist recently assigned to look into the emerging issues involving agricultural drainage and wastewater. That experience impacted my life. Some of my concerns regarding Selenium contamination of the lands and waters and associated resources, uses and values are described in my article, “The Kesterson Effect: Reasonable Use of Water and the Public Trust”, published in the San Joaquin Agricultural Law Review, Volume 6, Number 1 - 1996. I submit this article for the hearing record by this reference.

Water is the environment in which fish and other aquatic resources must carry on all their life processes. Such resources, associated uses and values are inextricably tied to the physical, chemical and biological aspects of that aquatic environment. Healthy and diverse aquatic populations are indicative of good water quality conditions (flow, temperature, oxygen and chemical parameters). Good water quality allows for near optimum use of water as an M & I supply, an irrigation supply and as an environment for fish and other aquatic life. For healthy and sustainable fish populations to exist (also wildlife populations), the total aquatic environment (the water, the bed, the riparian vegetation and associated insect life, the food web) all interact and therefore must be suitable for aquatic life at the individual, population and community levels.

The Federal Clean Water Act, as amended, and the Public Trust embrace affirmatively and positively that the people are to be protected against all unwise and unreasonable uses of Federal and State waters. Uses of water can be considered unreasonable because they pollute; because they offend our sense of aesthetics or natural beauty; because they interfere with the right of the public to enjoy a natural resource of state or national significance; because they threaten in a harmful way to upset the ecological balance of nature, or because to allow this unreasonable use confers a valuable privilege which is inconsistent with protecting the public trust.

Agencies like the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and California’s EPA were established to protect the public interest and quality of the Nation’s lands and waters. Such agencies are not to squander clean air, allow the pollution of our rivers, streams and groundwater, allow the pollution or other degradation of our land leaving a degraded legacy for our grandchildren or allow the pollution of the body’s of our children, our fish and wildlife resources or our food supply. These same agencies should not look like shills for corporate farms or massive water districts (Boswells Farms, Westland Water District).

Any effort at maintaining sustainable water quality, agriculture and wetland ecosystems (fish and wildlife resources) must involve an understanding of the interaction between the soil and the flow of water over, through, and under the soil well beyond the point of application. Preserving soil fertility is critical to sustaining its productivity. Preserving and maintaining water quality is critical to the productivity of water as an ecosystem and as a commodity for domestic and industrial uses. Unlike soil, which can be built up over time, water can’t be built or enhanced. A river can be lost to a farmer; to a species of fish or to fish resources; lost as a place to recreate or as a water supply. It can be diverted, polluted, misused or over appropriated. Aldo Leopold’s Round River makes the principles of ecology clear and vivid, suggesting that nature is a “Round River”, like a stream flowing into itself, going round and round in an unceasing circuit, going through all the soils, the flora and fauna of the earth while supporting many resources, beneficial uses and values. Destroying one part can destroy it all and all its benefits to society.

A use of the lands and waters of a watershed that so degrades the sustainability of a downstream ecosystem or a component of that ecosystem to make it unsuitable for sustaining viable agriculture, wildlife, fish and other aquatic life, or which makes fish unsuitable for human consumption, or which is a hazard to other fish and wildlife, or which degrades ecological, aesthetic, recreational uses, small craft navigation, and scenic values, is inconsistent with public trust protection, the reasonable use of water is therefore a nuisance. When chemicals enter the bodies of children, or enter the domestic or wildlife food supply to toxic levels without our consent, it is a trespass.

Here is an example brought to you in part by the Federal Bureau of Reclamation and the Central Valley Project.

It was known for a long time that the soils of the Westside of the San Joaquin Valley were derived from parent material formed in an old seabed. The California Department of Water Resources Bulletin No. 89, Lower San Joaquin Valley Water Quality Investigation – 1960, discusses concerns about the chemicals and various salts in the soils and drainage from the area. The soils and parent material extend throughout the Westside, south to the end of the Valley. The sodium ion was a major concern along with a variety of sulfates, boron and numerous trace elements. Even at that time drainage was believed to be a serious and emerging problem. Drainage from the Panoche area was highly concentrated from a quality standpoint and “unusable for beneficial purposes” (see pg. 95 of DWR –Bull. No 89). At that time the San Joaquin River was already seriously polluted from agricultural drainage and wastewater.

The observation “that the drainage was highly concentrated from a quality standpoint and unusable for beneficial purposes”, sparked little attention. With the application of vast quantities of Bureau of Reclamation water to the highly saline / seleniferious soils, the need for drainage works quickly become apparent. Surface waters and the San Joaquin River showed additional evidence of pollution.

By 1982 some people, including a few Grassland duck club owners, believed that something was wrong in the northern Grasslands. They had noticed sick and dead birds in 1981 and 82. In 1983 the first deformed young of migratory birds were found on Kesterson NWR by researchers from the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Kesterson Reservoir (NWR) was the then terminus of the San Luis Drain. People were disturbed by the pictures of dead and grossly deformed waterfowl and shorebirds obtained from Kesterson Evaporation Ponds that were appearing on the nightly television news at dinnertime. Selenium (Se) in the agricultural drainage accumulated via the food chain to high levels in their tissues resulted in dead adults, dead and deformed young. Several species of fish had elevated Se levels in their tissues.

In September 1984, California’s State Board, in its Agricultural Water Management Guidelines for Water Purveyors, stated, “Failure to take appropriate measures to minimize excess application, excess incidental losses, or degradation of water quality constitutes unreasonable use of water” (Emphasis added).

The State Board followed with its Order WQ 85-1(February 1985). The State Board found that agricultural drainage and wastewater reaching Kesterson Reservoir “is creating and threatening to create conditions of pollution and nuisance” (Emphases added). The Order then warned “If the Bureau closes Kesterson Reservoir and continues to supply irrigation water to Westlands Water District without implementing an adequate disposal option, continued irrigation in the affected area of Westlands Water District could constitute an unreasonable use of water” (Emphasis added).

From 1986 to today (2007), Selenium contamination is sufficient to cause deformities and threaten reproduction of key species within the area of the greater Grasslands, in the San Joaquin River to the Bay-Delta estuary. Deformed migratory birds have been found in every year field investigations were conducted for such evidence. Selenium concentration was also high in eggs that were sampled, which in turn could have lead to deformities. Fish resources continue to show high levels of Se because of a Se -contaminated food chain. Selenium has been found in what is usually called edible tissues and in reproductive organs of birds and fish.

Human health advisories have been issued against consuming Se contaminated edible tissues of fish (bluegill and largemouth bass) and of migratory birds (ducks and coots). Women of childbearing age and children are cautioned against eating such tissues. State Board reports indicate that in the Bay-Delta, surf scoter, greater and lesser scaup and particularly white sturgeon appear to be the most at risk to Se toxicity because they feed on filter feeders (i.e. bivalves). Concentrations Se found in 62 white sturgeon muscle samples and 42 liver samples far exceed tissue thresholds for reproductive effects. Recent findings add the Sacramento splittail to the list of species exhibiting elevated Se levels.

The USGS report (Report) ”Forecasting Selenium Discharges to the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary; Ecological Effects of a Proposed San Luis Drain Extension” by Drs. Samuel N. Luoma and Theresa S. Presser –2000), indicates that the reservoir of Se on the Westside of San Joaquin Valley is sufficient to provide loading at an annual rate of about 42,500 pounds of Se to the Bay-Delta disposal point for 63 to 304 years at the lower range of its projection. This is with the influx of Se from the Coast Range curtailed.

Selenium bioaccumulation is a major water quality problem. The combination of California’s climate, hydrology, Se loading, Se reactivity, and Se bioavailability poses a significant threat to the aquatic ecosystem of the Lower San Joaquin River and Bay-Delta. Selenium contamination is damaging beneficial uses, degrading food sources of humans and wildlife, aesthetic, recreation and ecological values. Risks to fish and bird reproduction could lead to extinction via contamination of the invertebrate food supply. Filter feeders are great concentrators of Se. Aquatic insects were the primary food item of shore birds. The Report concludes that bivalves appear to be the most sensitive indicator of Se contamination in the Bay-Delta. In the Bay-Delta and the lower San Joaquin River tidal action will increase the resident time of Se, exposing all aquatic organisms and increasing the ability of food organisms to accumulate greater amounts of Se and pass it up the food chain to predators.

Studies indicate that the highest concentrations of Se (12 to 23 ppb) were measured in green sunfish (lepomis cyanellus) from the San Luis Drain where seleniferous drainage is most concentrated. The second highest concentrations of Se (7.6 to 17 ppb) were measured in green sunfish (lepomis cyanellus) and 14 to 18 ppb Se in bluegills (Lepomis macrochirus) taken from North Mud Slough. The high levels (body burden) of Se could be related to the Se sequestered in the sediments and benthic organisms that is mobilized by the detritus–based food chain. (USGS, Biological Resources Division “Effects of an Agricultural Drainwater Bypass on Fishes Inhibiting the Grassland Water District and the Lower San Joaquin River, California” by Saiki, Michael J., Barbara A. Martin, Steven E. Schwarzbach, and Thomas W. May. In North American Journal of Fisheries Management, Vol. 21:624-635, 2001.

One can conclude that water borne Se is the single most predictor of pollution, that it can and continues to have an adverse affect on the aquatic ecosystem, associated fish and wildlife resources, uses and values (Saiki, et al-2001)

The bottom line is that saline / seleniferious soils of the Westside of the San Joaquin Valley contain a reservoir of Se, other trace elements and a variety of salts, that with irrigation, will continue to leach from the soils to the shallow groundwater for years and years to come. This Se leachate / drainage will continue to degrade down slope lands, surface and groundwater, fish and wildlife habitats and other beneficial uses of the receiving waters including the San Joaquin River and Delta.

Today we have the longest Selenium hazardous waste site know to man, extending from at least the Mendota pool and the Grasslands (near Los Banos), downstream via the San Joaquin River to the Delta, Suisun Bay and adjacent marshes. This involves 130 miles of San Joaquin River, miles of waterways in the Delta and 1,000s upon 1,000s of acres of San Joaquin Valley lands and aquatic ecosystems.

With the above information one could allege that the continued irrigation of saline / seleniferious soils of the Westside of the San Joaquin Valley and Se contaminated discharges to the San Joaquin River constitute a waste and unreasonable use of the State’s water, and a nuisance.

This Committee or a court should review the drainage issue and associated impacts to determine if such a use of water is both beneficial and reasonable within the context of continuing shortage of water, the broadened meaning of beneficial use of Section 8 of the Reclamation Act of 1902 and the contemporary equal priority setting of CVPIA, Section 3406 (a) (3) and the Clean Water Act, as amended.

To me this irrigation use of water, associated drainage, Selenium and other impacts is just as inconsistent with reasonable use and public trust protection as is the filling of tidelands (Mark v. Whitney 6 Cal, 3d 251 -1971); as is allowing mining waste and debris that impacted water quality and impede navigation (Woodruff v North Bloomfield Gravel Mining Co. (Fed Rpt. Vol. 12 – 1884) and People v Gold Run Ditch and Mining Co. (4 Pac Rpt at 1152 – 1884); as is a ranch or farm which allows animal wastes and other filth to contaminate the waters of a stream which impacts the water supply and beneficial uses of downstream users (People ex rel Ricks Water Co. v Elk River Mill and Lumber Co. (40 Pac Rpt 486 –1895); as is the deposition of mill wastes and other debris which destroys aquatic life and a fishery ( People v Truckee Lumber Co.(16 Cal 397, 48 Pac 347 - 1897) , and as is the diversion of water which destroys numerous uses and values protected by the public trust reaffirmed or clarified in Audubon (National Audubon Society v Department of Water and Power, City of Los Angeles (33 Cal 3d 419, 658 P 2d 709, 189 Cal Rpt.346; cert denied 464 U.S. 977 – 1983).

The point made by the Elk River Court that if the conformation of the defendant’s land is such that he cannot carry on a dairy without putting such filth directly into the water, then he must find some other use for the land (emphases added). This rational thinking of over 110 years ago is particularly relevant to today’s Se, salt, drainage and wastewater issues associated with the irrigation of selected lands in the San Joaquin Valley. Following the thinking of the Elk River Court, if the Westside farmers cannot carry on their operations without polluting the local ground and surface waters, then they must find some other use for the land. And there is no taking issue for a use that is deemed unreasonable and a nuisance (Audubon).

Some Suggested Actions

Control of agricultural pollution also might be achieved by instituting best management practices, land retirement, and by economic incentives (substantial fines, forfeiture of all or a portion of appropriated water rights or contract allotments). Land retirement is an important option. Removing Federal irrigation water from being use on the Se source lands. Taking the land out of production that is the source of the majority of the salt and selenium problems should have quick and positive results and many public benefits. This can be attained by direct purchase of land or the irrigation rights, leasing land, purchasing the irrigation water allotment to such lands while prohibiting the use of groundwater on those lands.

Retiring lands containing significant levels of selenium or other toxic materials would have just a one time cost. A long term lease might also work, for there would be little if any maintenance costs. Land not needed for conservation purposes such as restoring native grasslands and related fauna of the San Joaquin Valley, could be sold, with title restrictions, for selected compatible uses such as dry land farming, grazing, etc. Within the Westlands Water District problem soils have been estimated at 100,000 to 275,000 acres (USBR, April 1991).

At a cost of $1,000.00 per acre it would cost $100,000,000.00 to retire 100,000 acres or $275,000,000.00 for the 275,000 acres. Lands acquired should be purchased with today's realities in mind. This includes limited or poor ground water, extensive selenium and sodium sulfate problems. Any value added to the price of land should not be based on speculation, the availability of Federally subsidized water, or on the potential construction of a Federal drainage facilities. A reality is that problem soils without water are just about worthless.

For each acre of irrigated land retired, there would be commensurate saving of about 2.0 to 3.5 acre feet of water per acre (depending on crop) or about 200,000 to 350,000 acre feet for each 100,000 acres taken out of irrigation. This water is firm yield water imported from northern California. For each irrigated acre taken out of production there would be a reduction of 20 to 60 pound of pesticides (active ingredients) plus 80 to 250 pounds of carrier materials, (oils, etc.) not applied to the soils. There would be a reduction of the amount of drainage and wastewater generated of about .6 to .8 acre feet per acre of land retired or 60,000 to 80,000 acre-feet for each 100,000 acres retired. There would be a saving in electrical energy by not having to pump water from the Delta. There should be benefits to fish resources and associated fisheries as up to 600,000 to 900,000 acre-feet would not have to be pumped from the Delta.

The water savings could be used to restore or otherwise benefit fish resources and fisheries throughout the waters of the Bay-Delta watershed. Any remaining water could be sold for municipal uses.

Economic incentives may be effective because of the existence and potential threat of law suits using the public trust doctrine, waste and unreasonable use, and the State's enforcement powers. A finding of a waste and unreasonable use of water by a court or the State Board or a finding based on the public trust could bind all entities discharging selenium, boron and sodium sulfate laden drainage and wastewater in to state waters.

Based on the State Board's 1984 (Agricultural Water Management Guidelines for Water Purveyors) and 1985 State Board Order WQ 85-1 definition of what constitutes an unreasonable use of water, the effects from irrigating saline, seleniferious soils are such that this use must be considered a waste and unreasonable use of water and the resultant drainage and wastewater a nuisance. This violates Article X, Section 2, of the State Constitution. The premise of the Federal Clean Water Act, as amended, is violated. The impacts violate Section 8 of the 1902 Reclamation Act, which requires compliance with State laws. Section 8 also says; Provided, That the right to the use of water acquired under the provisions of this Act shall be appurtenant to the land irrigated, and beneficial use shall be the basis, the measure and the limit of the right.

Thank you.

Felix E. Smith

4720 Talus Way

Carmichael, CA 95608


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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

Fresno Bee
State air board chief is let go...E.J. Schultz, Bee Capitol Bureau

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."

Fresno Bee
ARB official quits in air rift...E.J. Schultz

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."

Contra Costa Times
Thousands of cancer-stricken nuclear workers' claims languish...AP

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.

UC Merced cancer research gets a boost...Victor A. Patton

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.

Tracy Press
Supes vote to back bio-lab…John Upton

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 …

Capitol Notes
Former, And Future, Air Board Chair

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

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

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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Of "oxygen sags" and Smelt slaughter

Submitted: Jun 28, 2007
On a related note: despite claims from state officials that Delta smelt are no longer in the vicinity of the export pumps, DWR acknowledged it collected 327 smelt at the salvage facilities yesterday. The actual number of smelt killed is likely 30 times that number. -- Bill Jennings, CSPA Executive Director, June 29, 2007

Meanwhile, Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, continues to deny he is a Nancy Boy and fiddles with the controls on his home solar system while the Delta Smelt goes extinct for subsidized cotton.

Cardoza is about as "independent" of special interests as Strom Thurmond, as "moderate" as the Boll Weevil Democrats of 1948, and as "conservative" as the cotton and dairy subsidies in the next Farm Bill.

Come to think of it, the "political science" out of the Shrimp Slayer's office is as weird as fish biology of Los Banos. It makes you wonder if there isn't a huge oxygen sag that envelopes the entire entourage of the Valley's rich and famous.

Badlands editorial staff

California Sportfishing Protection Alliance
“An Advocate for Fisheries, Habitat and Water Quality”
3536 Rainier Avenue, Stockton, CA 95204
Tel: 209-464-5067, Fax: 209-464-1028, E: deltakeep@aol.com
For immediate release:
28 June 2007
For information:
Bill Jennings, CSPA Executive Director, 209-464-5067, 209-938-9053 (cell)
State and Federal Export Pumps Trigger Massive Killing Zone in Delta at Stockton

(Stockton, CA) Resumption of massive water exports from the Delta by the State Water Projec (SWP) and federal Central Valley Project (CVP) has caused a massive killing zone of low dissolved oxygen to develop in the San Joaquin River at Stockton California. Adequate levels of dissolved oxygen are crucial for the survival of aquatic life. When the Central Valley and State
Water Project (CVP/SWP) export pumping was ramped up (from 850 cfs to 4,500-5,200 cfs) following a brief closure to protect Delta smelt, the majority of water flowing down the San Joaquin was siphoned across Old River to the pumps. Flows in the San Joaquin River near the Port of Stockton (Port) dropped from over 1,000 cfs to as low as 98 cfs (Friday, June 22) and
minus 6 cfs (Wednesday, June 27). In other words, the giant CVP/SWP reversed the flow of the San Joaquin River on June 27. As a result, dissolved oxygen in a 3-5 mile reach of the river, as measured by the Department of Water Resource’s (DWR) real-time monitoring gage at the Port, plummeted to as low as 1.8 mg/L (June 25, and considerably less at depth), which is far below
the water quality standard of 5 mg/L. Significant direct mortality to fish and other aquatic life occurs at these levels.

“Here is yet another painful example of the harmful effects of the excessive export of water from the Delta and the blatant failure by regulatory and resource agencies to enforce the law to address long-standing violations that are cumulatively causing the disintegration of the Delta’s biological tapestry,” said Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance. “The Delta is dying because political pressure is preventing agencies charged with protecting the estuary from complying with their statutory mandates,” he said.

Oxygen sags in the Deep Water Channel at the Port occur when algae, fueled by nutrients discharged by upstream farms, encounter the deeper slower-moving water in the ship channel and die, exerting an oxygen demand. However, oxygen sags, which have been observed ever since the CVP/SWP began operation, do not occur whenever San Joaquin River flows are above
900 cfs at Stockton.

The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board developed a TMDL, through a 6-year stakeholder driven process, to address the problem. The causes of oxygen depletion in the San Joaquin River were identified as reduced flow, discharge of agricultural pollutants and the deepening of the channel to accommodate ships at the Port. However, the Regional Board bowed to political pressure and no meaningful control measures were required, excepting more publicly funded studies and a publicly funded small demonstration aerator project. Meanwhile, aquatic life in the river continues to perish whenever the CVP/SWP pumps siphon off the majority
of water flowing down the San Joaquin River.

Cardoza objects to story...Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced...Letters to the editor

I am writing to set the record straight about my role on the House Rules Committee in response to Saturday's article by Sun-Star Washington Reporter Michael Doyle. The overall tone of the piece suggested that I agree with Democratic leadership 100 percent of the time. While I am proud to be a Democrat, I don't agree with anyone 100 percent of the time and I will continue to put the interests of my district before party politics. It is important for me to address misrepresentations in the article because my seat at the leadership table has enhanced the position of moderates and conservatives in the Caucus, not undermined them. My moderate and independent views have not changed.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Sun-Star asked Jamie McInerney, Cardoza's press secretary, to clarify what was misrepresented in the story. He responded that he felt the story should not have termed Cardoza a "lieutenant" of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He listed no other misrepresentations.
The Sun-Star stands behind the accuracy of the story and feels it contained no misrepresentation.

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We sicken for the benefit of greedjerks

Submitted: Jun 24, 2007
vanitas vanitatum dixt Ecclesiates, vanitas vanitatum omnia vanitas ... omnia tempus habent et suis spatiis transeunt universa sub caelo ... tempus destruendi et tempus aedificandi...

-- Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3.

The chamber needs to move forward and advocate for business, including the planned Wal-Mart distribution center. Good-paying jobs are needed in Merced, with people here making money to fill all the vacant homes, Wells said. -- Merced Sun-Star, June 19, 2007

What a joke. And the apple-pie tossers never seen no man bleeding on the floor of a Delano bar for his pro-labor sympathies. They say the people will rise but they don't make the bet with their bodies or their checkbooks. So, they don't count. They are merely decoration.

The Valley Directorate, the finance, insurance and real estate special interests that rule us -- landowners up close and personal, financial institutions far, far away -- our various tribunals and courts, cannot govern justly for man nor beast. They refuse to deal with an asthma epidemic related to air quality, terrorizing members of the public who raise the issue with the appelation, "asthma terrorists." Their courts summon more panels of scientists on the Delta Smelt problem, because they aren't all dead yet so there's
still time to study the thing. Meanwhile the pumps continue to send water to Valley cotton growers whose subsidies are assured by Democrats in majority but without program or control except power anxiety, and to Southern California, which keeps on growing and extinguishing fish.

The Republicans gained power in order to destroy government. The people restored Democrat power and the Democrats don't know what to do with it, because of course the last thing they would do is listen to the people's extensive list of grievances. We are sure that Dennis Cardoza is "proud to be a Democrat," because like Cardoza, the Democratic party stands for Zilch. Those few, who happen to be Demcrats, like Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, and who happen to have political integrity enough to stand up for the Constitution, do it by themselves, certainly without the backing of numbnut knuckleheads like Cardoza.

Our local land-use authorities cannot be engaged in reasonable discussion and our air board and courts are even less accessible. They have power, you see, and power is very important to them. But, when political power is all one has, the worm appears and begins to feed.

The power structure of the northern San Joaquin Valley is terrified because it is
standing on a financial whirlpool of debt, disappearing into sandy loam at a terrific rate, as a result of decisions made by municipal and county land-use authorities that paid far, far more attention to finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) special interests than it did to the public. The exact simile is what happens to San Joaquin River water when it hits the middle of Fresno County and goes underground. The local land use authorities, which produce a comfortable majority of the members of the air board, were indemnified by developers every step of the way. FIRE is a gracious and omnipotent conglomerate. It made all decisions very easy for them, through the vehicle of legal indemification, by which all legal costs arising from lawsuits opposing local land-use decisions on development projects are paid by the developers.

"No skin off my back," the elected officials said, Back in The Day, before the boom began to bleed. "It's value-free growth."

Tiny people, most no doubt reduced to their stature by Carol Whitesides' Great Valley Center leadership training sessions in smart growth before it was absorbed by UC Merced.

Yet, down where the sun is more heavily filtered, state Sen. Dean Florez lurks, speaking something like a truth: it cannot go on, down here where Hollis Roberts began the California almond deal with an ante of 2,500 acres in the late Sixties. It simply can't go on, despite his own ambitions, he has been saying at considerable political price for several years. It cannot go one. Smog at this level is unsustainable. Period.

"Board members have fallen into the trap of believing in their own self-importance -- that somehow they are the experts when it comes to cleaning the air," he said after the meeting.

Up here, above the metropolis of Fresno where UC San Joaquin Valley belonged, we have Congressman McPendejo, who will not oppose Uc/Bechtel/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's plans to blow up eight times the radioactivity of former years and site a biodanger level-4 biowarfare lab on Site 300 outside Tracy, too. And we have Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Nancy Boy-Merced, a gutless Blue Dog without belief or integrity who doth protest absurdly while voting against termination of the School of the Americas, home of US military torture training.

The deciders are in the limelight, for all to see. And they look very bad, almost as if they believed all the rightwing cant and hypocrisy that got them there. So, all they have is the power of positions granted them by the public they abuse. Minute elements of the public struggle to speak truth to power appear and are flipped off by the great Invisible Middle Finger of the Market. The people of the Valley, never before inhibited by lack of academic education, have been silenced by the professoriate, and UC Merced cut their tongues out for agendas like establishing a biodanger level-4 biowarfare lab near Tracy and blowing up eight times the depleted uranium and other radioactive substances there in the coming year.

Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. The wise remain silent and flakfools fill the airwaves with propaganda and the politicians betray and betray and betray, hoping thereby to erase any memory of the Valley as a place and a home for the benefit of finance, insurance and real estate special interests -- spasmatic greedjerks without place or home, wandering over others' places and homes.

Bill Hatch

Fresno Bee
Air board does it again...Editorial

The Valley air district's governing board voted 6-3 on Thursday to support the status quo, an action that's becoming a habit. The vote sets the district in opposition to legislation that would change the makeup of the board by adding four members -- two medical experts and two representatives of Valley cities. The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District board's majority objects to "appointed" members, ignoring the fact that none of them were elected to the air board by voters. They were, in every case, appointed by the city councils and county boards of supervisors on which they serve. And not one of them ran for those offices on a platform centered on air quality issues. The majority also said they don't believe state-appointed medical experts would represent the interests of Valley residents. The board majority also seems to imply that health expertise isn't needed on a board whose sole task is to clean up dirty air that adds more than $3 billion to Valley health costs each year, costs hundreds of lives and many thousands of hours of illness and lost work, and cripples children and adults alike with respiratory ailments. It's clear that the board, whose 11 members include eight county supervisors from up and down the Valley, isn't interested in sharing power with more urban representatives. That leaves a majority of Valley residents without effective representation on a board that has great power to affect the quality of life in the Valley -- and to regulate economic behavior.

Valley regulators issue guidelines to get to clean air faster...Garance Burke, AP

Air managers in the San Joaquin Valley issued a list of voluntary guidelines Thursday aimed at cleaning up the valley's smog-laden air before 2023, the year the local air district will need to prove the polluted region meets federal air quality standards...unofficial measures issued Thursday - none of which are immediately enforceable - propose to explore new technology, green building tactics and incentives to replace polluting vehicles to curb ozone pollution before then. Environmental groups were disappointed that the bulk of the guidelines were voluntary, and weren't included in the official plan approved by the state last week. The district also voted Thursday to join Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in filing suit against the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency if the agency did not act on California's long-standing petition to implement greenhouse gas reductions on automobiles. If the EPA doesn't act by Oct. 22 on California's request for the federal waiver needed to enact the state's tailpipe emissions law, the governor has said the state will sue.

Fresno Bee
Air board opposes expansion proposal...Mark Grossi

State Sen. Dean Florez clashed Thursday with local air board members who voted to oppose legislation that would add board seats for two medical experts and two representatives of Valley cities...governing members of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District voted 6-3 to oppose expanding the board... majority said they did not think state-appointed medical experts would represent Valley residents. The bill appears to be "a solution where there's no problem to be solved," said board member Michael G. Nelson,
a Merced County supervisor. Florez, D-Shafter, said he believes the board needs more diverse voices to advocate for health issues and understand the complexities of air quality. He told the board that their action was "knee-jerk, premature and immature." "Board members have fallen into the trap of believing in their own self-importance -- that somehow they are the experts when it comes to cleaning the air," he said after the meeting. Arvin City Council Member Raji Brar..."Why wouldn't anyone want a doctor on the board? This is all about health. That's the bottom line."

San Francisco Chronicle
Sacramento...Agency's 3 new rules on warming criticized...Mark Martin

State regulators approved the first new rules in California's landmark effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on Thursday, but environmentalists and some Democratic lawmakers complained that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's appointees were acting too meekly to combat global warming. The California Air Resources Board voted to implement three new rules requiring cleaner gasoline, less methane emissions from landfills, and a ban on the sale of refrigerants for air conditioners in cars...vote was the first action by a board that ultimately will make scores of decisions with profound potential effects on the California economy, as the state works to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by 25 percent by 2020. But the board's moves Thursday were attacked by some, and three members, including the chairman, dissented in a 6-3 vote. "When the Senate confirmed members of the Air Resources Board, we asked for a commitment from them to take bold actions on reducing greenhouse gas emissions," Senate President Pro Tem Don
Perata, D-Oakland, said in a statement. "Unfortunately, today they flunked the test." Environmental groups and some Democrats argued the board should have done much more. A committee comprised of environmental justice advocates that is advising the air board had drawn up a list of more than 30 items... The board is considering many of those items but decided not to enact them quickly, generating complaints from many who are fighting climate change in California...

Modesto Bee
Judge denies request to reduce pumping in delta fish tussle...Garance Burke, AP

A federal judge denied environmental groups' request for a temporary order to cut back water supplies sent to farms and Southern California, but asked all sides to reconvene so experts can present evidence about whether pumps in the delta are killing off a threatened fish species. "There isn't anybody in the courtroom who wouldn't agree that the species is in a critical stage," said U.S. District Court Judge Oliver Wanger. But, the judge said, the evidence does not show that "the last smelt in existence is at the pumps and their destruction will extinguish the species." Wanger denied that motion
Friday, but recommended that the groups arrange a hearing so he could hear more evidence from environmentalists, numerous federal and state agencies, and other stakeholders about the biological risks to the smelt.

Modesto Bee
Car seller battling state over air rules
California wants regs stricter than the feds'

A Modesto car dealership is ground zero for a challenge to California's effort to
regulate greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles.
Central Valley Chrysler Automotive and nine other dealerships want to stop implementation of regulations adopted by the California Air Resources Board more than two years ago.
The rules would raise fuel efficiency standards for new cars sold in the state, pushing them up to 40.6 mpg for cars and light trucks and up to 25.9 mpg for heavy-duty trucks by 2016.
Ten states are waiting to adopt California's regulations, and six more are considering them, but none can push forward unless California gets a waiver from the federal government.
Auto manufacturers say states have no business setting standards stricter than those set by the federal government, and dealerships in the San Joaquin Valley have signed on to help make their point.
"They could have cars that come into California and cars that couldn't come into California," said attorney Timothy Jones of Fresno, who represents the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.
Manufacturers can sell any combination of vehicles as long as the average fuel economy of their fleet meets the overall standard.
Under federal rules, they must meet fleetwide standards of 27.5mpg for passenger cars and 23.1 mpg for heavy-duty trucks.
To meet California rules, manufacturers might have to limit the availability of
low-gas-mileage vehicles, build smaller cars or invest in technology that would raise sticker prices.
Valley car dealers would take the biggest hit, Jones said, because heavy-duty trucks used in agriculture-related industries make up a high proportion of their sales.
Sued state in 2001
So the Modesto dealership — which sued the air board in 2001, forcing the state to scrap a requirement that 10 percent of new autos be zero-emission vehicles — is the lead plaintiff..."Brand loyalty to Chrysler and Jeep vehicles will have reduced value if Central Valley Automotive cannot offer updated models of the vehicles that our customers know," Gardner told the court. "Our revenues will suffer as a result."Owners of other dealerships that are party to the lawsuit filed similar statements.
They include Leonard Harrington of Tom Fields Motors Inc. of Turlock, which sells Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep and Suburu; and Brian Wells of Courtesy Automotive Center in Merced, which sells Chevrolet and Cadillac..."They're suing to maintain a dinosaur fleet of huge, gas-guzzling vehicles that are destroying the environment," said David Jones, who drives a Toyota Prius, a gas-electric hybrid that emits fewer greenhouse gases than traditional
Erin Rogers, California outreach coordinator for the Union of Concerned Scientists, said manufacturers fought seat belts and air bags too, then complied with new regulations without going bankrupt.
Her group recently unveiled plans for a minivan that could be built with existing technology and cut tailpipe pollutants by 40 percent, more than enough to meet California's proposed standards.
The minivan is not a gas-electric hybrid. It would cost $300 more than its peers, the scientists said, and consumers would save $1,300 in two years, by getting better gas mileage.
"Cars of all sizes and shapes in all classes can be made cleaner," Rogers said.
The state air board's rules come from Assembly Bill 1493, which was approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Davis in 2002.
Lawmakers told the air board to design rules aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles.
The air board adopted regulations in September 2004, and the car dealers challenged them in federal court three months later.
The litigation has drawn nationwide attention, with five environmental groups intervening to argue in favor of California's emission standards.
Supporters of stricter standards say lawmakers must deal with auto emissions because they contribute to global warming, which has caused rising sea levels, decreased snowpack and spring runoff as well as more severe weather and wildfires.
In legal papers, the state attorney general's office argues that California can regulate greenhouse gas emissions under a waiver provision in the 1975 federal Clean Air Act.
That law carved out a loophole for California because the state had regulated air pollution long before the federal government got involved.
The loophole also lets other states adopt stricter rules, as long as California does so irst.
Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington plan to implement California standards if California gets a waiver from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Now it gets more complicated.
The auto industry argues that only the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration may set fuel standards.
And the federal EPA in 2003 said it cannot regulate greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles under the Clean Air Act.
So Massachusetts challenged the federal government. The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in November and a ruling is expected this summer.
All of this leads back to Modesto, because the lawsuit brought by Central Valley Chrysler Automotive and others is on hold until the high court makes a ruling in the Massachusetts case.
If the EPA wins, California would have little chance of getting a waiver and demanding more fuel-efficient cars, making the car dealers' lawsuit moot.
"If we lose, we need to turn to Congress," Rogers said.
If Massachusetts wins and California gets its waiver, the court battle in Fresno will continue.
"The dealers are very concerned," Timothy Jones said.

Bingham McCutchen
Supreme Court Decision Forces EPA to Reconsider Greenhouse Gas
April 1, 2007

In a 5-4 decision in Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency (No. 05-1120) (Apr. 2, 2007), the U.S. Supreme Court rejected EPA's position that it does not have authority under section 202 of the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas ("GHG") emissions from new motor vehicles. EPA can now avoid regulating these emissions only if it determines that GHGs "do not contribute to climate change or if it provides some reasonable explanation as to why it cannot or will not exercise its discretion to determine whether
they do."

The Court's decision has implications for pending and potential regulation, litigation, and legislation. Among these implications are:
Regulation Under the Clean Air Act:
EPA must now reconsider regulation of GHG emissions from new motor vehicles under section 202 of the Clean Air Act. Although the opinion preserves EPA discretion to decide whether, and how, to regulate such emissions, the Court concluded that EPA had "offered no reasoned explanation for its refusal to decide whether greenhouse gas emissions cause or contribute to climate change." The reasoning and the tone of the majority opinion
indicate that any EPA decision not to regulate GHG emissions from new motor vehicles would be viewed with a high degree of skepticism. Given the extensive use of the term "air pollutant" throughout the Clean Air Act, the Court's decision likely will require EPA to consider regulating GHG emissions from other mobile sources and may require EPA to consider regulating stationary sources of GHG emissions, as well.
Pending and Potential Litigation:
The Court's decision likely will be raised in several important pending cases involving GHG emissions including cases: (1) that involve other Clean Air Act provisions that use the term "air pollutant" (e.g., Coke Oven Envtl. Taskforce v. EPA, No. 06-1131 (D.C. Cir. Apr. 7, 2006) (alleging, inter alia, that EPA failed to regulate carbon dioxide from new coal-fired power plants)); (2) that challenge California limits on carbon dioxide emissions from new motor vehicles (e.g., Central Valley Chrysler-Jeep Inc. v. Witherspoon, No. CV-F-04-6663 (E.D. Cal.2006)); and (3) that allege that GHG emissions create a public nuisance (e.g., California v. General Motors, No. 3:06-cv-05755-MJJ (N.D. Cal. 2006)). Given the Court's holding that states have "special solicitude" in the
standing analysis, the Court's decision may also encourage future litigation by states, particularly in the environmental arena.
Federal Climate Change Legislation:
The Court's decision may prompt the U.S. Congress to act more quickly to pass national legislation addressing climate change. The Clean Air Act does not provide guidance on, and its provisions are not particularly well-suited for, addressing climate change through the regulation of GHG emissions. Therefore, Congress may seek to avoid the incremental regulation of GHG emissions under the existing Clean Air Act by passing comprehensive climate change legislation.
The Decision
In 1999, a group of environmental groups filed a rulemaking petition asking EPA to regulate GHG emissions from new motor vehicles under section 202 of the Clean Air Act.
Section 202(a)(1) of the Clean Air Act provides that EPA "shall by regulation prescribe … standards applicable to the emission of any air pollutant from any class or classes of new motor vehicles or new motor vehicle engines, which in his judgment cause, or contribute to, air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare." Nearly four years later, EPA denied the petition, finding that the Clean Air Act does not authorize EPA to issue mandatory regulations to address global climate change and that, even if EPA had the authority to set GHG emissions standards, it would be unwise to do so at this time.
Writing for the majority, Justice Stevens, joined by Justices Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer, issued three major holdings:
The Court held that petitioners1 have standing to challenge EPA's denial of their rulemaking petition. The Court found that, as a state, Massachusetts is entitled to "special solicitude" in the standing analysis based on two factors. First, states are forced to surrender to the federal government certain sovereign prerogatives. In return, the federal government takes on responsibility for protecting the states. In this case, Congress ordered EPA via the Clean Air Act to protect Massachusetts and other states from the effects of air pollution. Second, Congress provided a procedural right under the Clean Air Act to challenge the rejection of a rulemaking petition as arbitrary and
capricious. Accordingly, the Court held that "[g]iven that procedural right and
Massachusetts' stake in protecting its quasi-sovereign interests, the Commonwealth is entitled to special solicitude in our standing analysis." The Court then found that petitioners' submissions, as they pertain to Massachusetts, satisfy the Article III requirements of a concrete and particularized injury that is either actual or imminent, causation, and redressability.
Statutory Authority:
The Court held that EPA has statutory authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate GHG emissions from new motor vehicles. In rejecting EPA's arguments on this point, the Court found: (1) that the Act's definition of "air pollutant" includes carbon dioxide and other GHGs; (2) that EPA did not identify actions suggesting that Congress meant to curtail EPA's power to treat GHGs as air pollutants; (3) that the Court's decision in Brown v. Williamson Tobacco Corp. (holding that tobacco products are not "drugs" or "devices" subject to Food and Drug Administration regulation, based on a "'common sense' intuition that Congress never meant to remove those products from circulation") was inapplicable; and (4) that EPA's responsibility to protect the public health and welfare is "wholly independent of [the Department of Transportation's] mandate to promote energy efficiency" through mileage standards.
EPA's Denial of Petition:
The Court held that EPA must ground its reasons for action or inaction in the Clean Air Act. In other words, EPA's refusal to decide whether GHGs cause or contribute to climate change was arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise not in accordance with law. Although EPA had offered a "laundry list" of reasons not to regulate, it had not grounded those reasons in the statutory text.
Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Scalia both filed strong dissenting opinions, which were joined by each other and Justices Thomas and Alito. On standing, Chief Justice Roberts found petitioners' challenges to be nonjusticiable. He rejected the majority's "special solicitude" for States and the finding that Massachusetts adequately demonstrated injury, causation, and redressability. On the merits, Justice Scalia argued that EPA could decline to make a judgment as to whether GHGs endanger public welfare for the reasons it had stated in its order rejecting the petition and that EPA's interpretation of the term "air pollutant" was consistent with the Clean Air Act...

California Pushes EPA On Emissions Laws
Top Officials Implore Agency To Permit State To Impose Reductions Of Greenhouse Gases On Auto Industry
WASHINGTON, May 22, 2007(CBS/AP)

Top California officials implored federal environmental regulators Tuesday for
permission to unilaterally impose reductions on greenhouse gases from cars and other vehicles. An auto industry official dismissed the state's approach as
If California gets the federal waiver from the Environmental Protection Agency that it needs to implement its emissions law, at least 11 other states are prepared to follow its lead.
"This is more important than any issue that EPA's going to have to face," California Attorney General Jerry Brown told an EPA air quality hearing board.
Brown asked the regulators to relay a message to EPA administrator Stephen Johnson.
"We want him to speak truth to power," said Brown. "There is a tremendous influence of the oil industry. We know (Vice President) Cheney and (President) Bush are oilmen, they think like oil folks. ... We say grant the waiver."
The EPA panel that gathered in suburban Arlington, Va., was led by Margo Oge, director of EPA's office of transportation and air quality. She gave no indication of how the agency might be leaning as a daylong hearing got under way.
At issue is a 2002 California law that requires automakers to cut emissions by 25 percent from cars and light trucks and 18 percent from sport utility vehicles starting with the 2009 model year. The law can't take effect unless California gets a federal waiver.
While air pollution standards typically are set by the federal government, California has a unique status under the federal Clean Air Act that allows the state to enact its own rules as long as it receives permission from the EPA. Other states can then choose to follow either the federal or California standards.
The EPA has declined to say how it will act on the waiver request, and Tuesday's hearing came after more than a year of inaction since the state submitted its petition in 2005.
The session included some two dozen witnesses from environmental groups and other states including Illinois, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Maryland speaking in favor of California's law. A representative from the Manufacturers of Emission Controls Association was in favor of the law, as was the owner of a chain of car dealerships.
Adam Lee, president of a chain of Maine auto dealerships, said automakers have hurt their reputations by opposing other federal requirements in the past, such as smog controls and seat belts, reports the Detroit Free Press. Lee also pointed out that many companies give rebates on larger models such as the GMC Yukon.
“I think the auto industry needs to try a little harder, and I don’t think they will try any harder until enough states force them to,” Lee said.
A lone voice of opposition came from Steve Douglas of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. He contended that California had not proven that its rules would actually reduce global warming, and that a national approach would be better.
"A patchwork of state-level fuel economy regulations as is now proposed by California is not simply unnecessary, it's patently counterproductive," Douglas said. The state's waiver request "contains many assumptions and undocumented claims" about its benefits in countering global warming, he said.
Automakers also contend that California officials underestimated the costs of its proposal, the Free Press reports.
The auto industry has sued California and Vermont in an attempt to block the regulation, arguing that emissions standards are de-facto fuel economy standards — which can only be set by the federal government.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last month said the state will sue if the EPA does not act on the state's request by October 25.
"We're preparing a lawsuit but we certainly don't want to bring it," Brown told the panel Tuesday.
The auto regulations are a key part of California's overall strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which scientists blame for the Earth's warming temperature over the last three decades. The state is the world's 12th-largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions, 40 percent of which come from transportation sources.
The state last year embarked on a statewide effort to reduce emissions by 25 percent by 2020. A 2006 law relies on the auto regulations to accomplish 17 percent of the overall target.
President Bush last week signed an executive order giving federal agencies until the end of 2008 to continue studying the threat of greenhouse gas emissions and what to do about them. Critics fear the directive could undermine state efforts.
In an opinion piece published in The Washington Post on Monday, Schwarzenegger and Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell said Mr. Bush's directive "sounds like more of the same inaction and denial."

Article:San Joaquin air cleaner, and becoming more
Article:San Joaquin air cleaner, and becoming more

Air quality in the San Joaquin Valley is better than it has ever been in recorded
history. With tough regulations, innovative measures and investment by businesses and residents, air pollution has been reduced significantly throughout the valley. Despite this tremendous progress, the valley's pollution-retaining geography and meteorology make meeting new federal ozone and particulate standards a challenge that is unmatched by any other region in the nation.
Having already reduced valley smog by 80 percent since the 1980s, virtually eliminating the remaining 20 percent will not be cheap and cannot happen overnight. On April 30, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District's governing board adopted the first eight-hour ozone plan in California. This overarching and comprehensive plan is designed to help the valley attain cleaner air, as measured by the federal smog standard, as expeditiously as practicable. The regulatory cost to businesses will be about $20 billion. The governing board members should be commended for their courage, resoluteness and commitment to clean air. Instead, The Chronicle condemns them.
For many of us in the valley, The Chronicle's May 2 editorial ("A smog board that likes smog") is as unfair and as frustrating as the air pollution from the Bay Area that is responsible for 7 percent to 28 percent of the valley's smog problem, with the most impact being in the northern valley.
In fact, given that California's air quality agency has designated the Bay Area as an "overwhelming" contributor to the valley's ozone problem, it would have been fair and balanced for The Chronicle to ask Bay Area residents and policymakers to do what they can to minimize or mitigate pollution that ends up in the valley. Additionally, more than 80 percent of our smog-causing pollutants come from mobile sources (cars, trucks and locomotives), over which local air districts in California have no jurisdiction.
Nonetheless, here are the facts.
A child born today in the San Joaquin Valley breathes air that is 80 percent cleaner than it was 25 years ago and is no longer exposed to unhealthful levels of particulates 10 microns in size and smaller. The San Joaquin Valley is the only "serious" noncompliant area in the state to meet the standard for scrubbing from the air particulates of this size, and we did it five years ahead of the federal deadline. The valley also is on track to meet the one-hour ozone standard by 2010, the only "extreme nonattainment" area in the state on track to do so. Meeting this health-based standard will further diminish the
proven respiratory and health-related ailments associated with excessive ozone concentrations.
The district's recently adopted plan to meet the new federal health-based ozone-standard is the first of its kind in the nation. Under the plan, 50 percent of the valley's population will live in "attainment" areas, that is, areas without any recorded violations of the air-pollution standard, by 2015; that number will increase to 90 percent by 2020. By law, the valley cannot claim attainment because in a couple of areas we will still see a few days when the air pollution exceeds the standard.
Undisputed analysis by experts shows, even if money were no object and we ignored all logistical constraints, that the technology available today and in the foreseeable future could not achieve enough reductions in smog-forming emissions for these areas in the valley to attain the clean-air standard any sooner than 2023. In this situation, the only option provided under federal law is to seek an "extreme" designation and incorporate future technology when it becomes available -- thus, the proposed deadline of 2023. All local measures that can be adopted by the air district will be in place by 2010. As a result, every area in the valley will see significant, steady reductions in ozone
concentrations and the number of days with poor air quality.
The measures contained in the ozone plan also will help the valley meet the federal standard for fine particulates standard by 2015. (Fine particulates are those 2.5 microns in size or smaller.) This makes the valley the only non-compliant area in the state on track to meet this standard by the deadline. Doing so will eliminate more than $3 billion per year of the estimated $3.1 billion per year in health-related costs attributed to particulates in the valley's air.
With public health as the foremost priority, the air district governing board also acted to seek other innovative and creative strategies aimed at cleaning the air. These measures, which focus on alternative modes of goods- and people-movement, as well as alternative fuels and energy, will require broad support from the general public, as well as business and government.
By any objective measure, the plan adopted by the air district is a comprehensive effort that leaves no stone unturned to bring the valley into attainment with federal air quality standards as quickly as possible. Those who champion clean air should refrain from petty attacks and join us on this challenging but fulfilling journey to cleaner air in the valley.

A smog board that likes smog
Wednesday, May 2, 2007

SOME PEOPLE don't get it. While California works to clean both factory and vehicle emissions, the local smog board overseeing the state's dirtiest air has bailed in the fight.
The stakes couldn't be clearer. The vast San Joaquin Valley may be famous for lush crops and verdant fields, but it's also notorious for polluted air and the go-easy controls that permit such conditions. Bakersfield and Visalia are, once again, on the top-10 roster of dirty-air cities in a Lung Association study released this week.
The causes are many: the bathtub geography that cups in pollution between mountain ranges, car-centric development and industries that include oil, trucking, farm equipment long exempt from tailpipe controls, and even dairies with thousands of methane-producing cows.
For years, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District dodged stricter emission rules, nodding along with industry arguments that tougher rules were costly and impractical. In 2003, Sacramento reined in the problem partly by taking away agriculture's exemption from smog rules.
But after a lengthy meeting on Monday, the valley smog board, dominated by
business-oriented country supervisors, showed it still isn't listening. It voted to
postpone a federal clean-air deadline.
Even by its own lowly standards, the board's action is a stunner. It wants to stall lower pollution limits from 2013 to 2024, a full 17 years from now.
Record asthma rates? Eye-burning smog? A job-killing reputation for dirty air,
grit-covered car hoods and stay-indoors school days? The board ignores these dismal distinctions -- and its public duty.
The smog board is ducking its job because it isn't likely to be penalized. The statewide air board generally defers to regional panels. Federal regulators, who can withhold highway funds, aren't likely to bring down the hammer. The valley panel is betting it can get away with doing nothing.
But it could have taken steps to chip away at the problem. The state air board is due next month to announce a statewide clean-air plan, complete with suggested steps and technologies to tap. Instead of waiting for guidance, the Fresno-based board voted for its forever-and-a-day delay plan.
Also, clean-air bond money, recently passed by voters, could be tapped to replace older buses and trucks with less polluting new models. Fees on trucks serving the valley's booming warehouses and office parks could also be used to replace older, smog-spewing engines.
What will it take to correct the panel's continual cave-ins to the dirty-air lobby? Two valley state senators -- Dean Florez, D-Shafter, and Mike Machado, D-Linden -- want to remake the smog panel, adding extra seats for small cities, where elected leaders are closer to the problem, and slots for health experts. A similar plan was shot down last year in the Legislature. The measure, SB719, is also a chance for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to continue his push for clean air in a local setting.
For too long, the valley has allowed big interests and tame politicians to set the
pollution rules. It's time for a change in leadership and direction.

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Cardoza denies being Nancy Boy

Submitted: Jun 22, 2007

Modesto Bee
Rules Committee position gives Blue Dog's bark more bite...Dennis Cardoza, 18th Congressional District, which includes part of Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties and all of Merced County

I am writing to set the record straight about my role on the House Rules Committee in response to "Cardoza walking fine line in House" (June 18, Page A-1). The overall tone of the piece suggested that I agree with Democratic leadership 100 percent of the time. While I am proud to be a Democrat, I don't agree with anyone 100 percent of the time and I will continue to put the interests of my district before party politics. My seat at the leadership table has enhanced the position of moderates and conservatives in the Democratic caucus, not undermined them. My moderate and independent views have not changed. The most important work on the Rules Committee happens behind the scenes... I act to rein in elements of the agenda that are objectionable to conservative Democrats, many of them Blue Dogs. Since every piece of legislation comes through the Rules Committee... I have a direct line to tell House leadership... This direct access and role is something that Blue Dogs never enjoyed before I joined the Rules Committee. This is not to say that leadership adopts every change I ask for, but when they hear me bark, they know there are problems that need to be addressed before the legislation arrives on the House floor. Therefore, I am often able to prevent bad legislation that would hurt districts like mine from ever making it to a vote. More importantly, my position on the Rules Committee is crucial for my district because I have increased leverage to propose and induce votes on amendments that I know are priorities back home...I help decide what amendments are adopted and look for opportunities to address problems in the valley. ...Be assured, however, that my beliefs remain the same and serving in this capacity provides greater strength to moderates in the House and affords me many additional opportunities to address the needs of my district.

Fresno Bee
Cardoza's ties divide voters. Democratic congressman often walks a fine line with conservative district....Michael Doyle, Bee Washington Bureau

Dennis Cardoza wanted a seat at the table, and he got it...the third-term Democratic congressman from Merced is a Capitol insider, setting the rules for House debate. But in a political twist, the very position that grants Cardoza clout could also estrange some San Joaquin Valley voters. A moderate, Cardoza is nonetheless a lieutenant to liberal House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He has her ear. She, in turn, often has his vote. The result is a fine line to walk for a congressman representing an often-conservative district. "In exchange for having a seat at the table," Cardoza said, "you agree that at the end of the day, you're all going to be on the same page." Cardoza and other members of the House Rules Committee decide how legislation is debated and what amendments can be offered...the 13-member panel shapes every bill considered by the House of Representatives. Rules Committee members have extra leverage with their colleagues, because they have their hands on every bill. Cardoza said the position gives him an opportunity to offer more amendments of his own. On the House floor, Cardoza and other Blue Dogs are generally the Democrats most likely to dissent from the party. But in the confines of the House Rules Committee, which meets on the third floor of the Capitol, Cardoza's voting is uniformly Democratic. Behind the scenes, moreover, Cardoza said the story is even more complex. "If you're on the Rules Committee, you vote with your party," Cardoza said. "That does not mean I'm a lackey for Nancy Pelosi." Cardoza likened his role to a "canary in a coal mine." In essence, he is a designated liaison to the Democrats' moderate wing. He lets House leaders know what might cause trouble for centrists. In turn, he gives the 47-member Blue Dog caucus an early heads-up on bills.

The Nation
No Confidence in a Congress that Bends to Bush
by John Nichols

Confidence in Congress has hit an all-time low. A mere 14 percent of Americans tell Gallup pollsters that they have a great deal or quite a lot of faith in the US House and Senate.Since Gallup began using the current measure of confidence in Congress in 1973, the worst rating had been the 18 percent figure accorded it in the early years of the 1990s, when the House was being rocked by scandals that would eventually see a number of top Democratic lawmakers rejected in their own party primaries and the “Republican revolution” vote of 1994.
To give a sense of just how bad things are for Congress, consider this notion: Americans express more confidence in corporate HMOs–the most despised manifestation of a health-care industry that lends itself to all of the scorn heaped upon it by Michael Moore’s new film Sicko — than in their elected representatives at the federal level.
It is true that confidence in Congress had been sinking in recent years, in large part because of frustration by the American people with the acquiescence by the formerly Republican-controlled House and Senate to the neo-conservative foreign policies of the Bush administration and to the Wall Street-driven domestic policies.
But the shift in control of both chambers after last November elections was supposed to change that.
No one expected Democrats to fix everything that was wrong with the United States, let alone the world.
But there was an expectation of progress–especially on the central issue of the moment: ending the war in Iraq.
That expectation, a basic and legitimate one in a functioning democracy, has not been met. And it has created a sense of frustration, and in many cases anger, on the part of Americans who really did want the Democrats to succeed–not in gaining partisan advantage but in the far more essential work of checking and balancing the Bush administration. Some leading voices of opposition, including anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, have simply given up on the Democratic Party. And no one should underestimate that, even if Sheehan says she no longer wants to be the face of the anti-war movement, Sheehan’s denunciation of the Democrats for failing to seriously challenge Bush’s management of the war is an honest and clear expression of the sense of betrayal that a great many Americans who voted Democratic in 2006 are now feeling.
That’s the bad news for Democrats.
The good news is that they still have time to change course...

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Andale pues, McPendejo

Submitted: Jun 21, 2007
...McNerney's bill would authorize $90 million a year between 2008 and 2012 to support geothermal research at two centers, one in the West and the other in the East.

"There's definitely a chance that one of the plants would be located in Northern California," McNerney said. "It's important that the rocks are suitable for this. They must have fissures and cracks so you can circulate water through them."

Jeff Tester, a professor of chemical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, agrees. "There's a high probability for a research center in Northern California" he said. "One reason is that the demand for the energy that is created is relatively close by." -- SF Chronicle, June 19, 2007

Rep. Jerry "I'm Not Pombo" McNerney, Lambkin-Pleasanton, also got into the San Joaquin County press this week with an article about how his office helped a woman get a passport.

Meanwhile, the candidate that could bury the Lamb, Dean Andal, has recruited a Republican Hispanic group that refers to McNerney as McNada ("McNothing," to be exact in the press.) This attack excited one Anglo pro-McNerney blogger to refer to the group as part of a GOP anti-McNerney "cattle drive," followed by references to Pombo as "el vaquero." Nothing yet could more accurately confirm the impression among the 55 percent of McNerney's district in San Joaquin County that Jerry the Lamb is nothing but a gabacho with no manners. The blogger may have hit exactly on the only political tone guaranteed to unite San Joaquin County voters of all parties against McNerney.

A Democratic Party landslide in 2008 could produce more than 420 Democrats in the House, a handful of Independents, and Andal from the 11th CD of California. Today, this race is Andal's to lose.

The Lamb is facing two challenges. First, he has to get reelected or else all the people who worked against Pombo will be dejected. Secondly, he has to appear in some sense to protect his district from absolute menace. The UC/Bechtel/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, moving along in its decorous academic/corporate way at Site 300 outside Tracy, plans to blow up eight times more radioactivity on the site and establish a biodanger level 4 biowarfare lab there.

The Lamb is silent on thes subjects.

McNerney is revealing himself as a person far more at home with technocrats of weapons of mass destruction than he is with the people of his district or humanity for that matter -- which, in some communities, would mean he might be called "McPendejo."

The geothermal idea is visionary. However, Stockton just hired Pombo as its water lobbyist. The majority of McNerney's district are asking: Whose water are you committing to be pumped 30,000 feet into the earth to produce steam power for whose electricity?

Bill Hatch

San Francisco Chronicle
System using heat from ground to create electricity to be studied
Ralph Hermansson, Chronicle Staff Writer

With oil and natural gas prices soaring, the world seems to be searching for the next great source of energy. And while most people are looking to the heavens -- tapping solar and wind resources -- the answer may lie in the ground beneath our feet.

This subterranean source is known as geothermal energy and it's already being used to heat homes. Now, some lawmakers are pushing for an increase in research and development into the technology.

U.S. Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, is sponsoring a bill that would support the development of this source of power that some people believe can eventually supply electricity to 75 million homes. And if McNerney succeeds, one of the research and development centers created to nurture geothermal energy might be located in Northern California.

The bill, the Advanced Geothermal Energy Research and Development Act of 2007, unanimously passed the House Committee on Science and Technology last week. Its aim is to develop enhanced geothermal energy, using the heat from the ground to create electricity.

Here's how it works: Using a closed system, cool water is pumped into hot, fractured rock reservoirs deep beneath the ground where the water is heated. The steam is pumped back to the surface to a turbine that is attached to a generator and produces electricity.

Some people already use a scaled-down version of this technique to heat their houses, but McNerney's proposal would create geothermal power on a much bigger scale. Instead of tapping heat out of a 200-foot hole in the ground, which is the way it is done for single-home heating systems, geothermal power plants would have holes more than 30,000 feet deep, using underground man-made reservoirs to house the water.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology estimates that such a system could provide more than 100 gigawatts of energy over the next 50 years, supporting 25 million of homes with power.

But that's still a way off. McNerney's bill would authorize $90 million a year between 2008 and 2012 to support geothermal research at two centers, one in the West and the other in the East.

"There's definitely a chance that one of the plants would be located in Northern California," McNerney said. "It's important that the rocks are suitable for this. They must have fissures and cracks so you can circulate water through them."

Jeff Tester, a professor of chemical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, agrees. "There's a high probability for a research center in Northern California" he said. "One reason is that the demand for the energy that is created is relatively close by."

Tester said that, unlike other environmentally friendly sources, geothermal energy does not depend on wind or sunshine. This system can provide an uninterrupted supply of electricity, day or night.

"This is definitely one of the arsenal of tools that will be needed in the future. I think we will need both solar, wind and geothermal energy," Tester said.

The bill has so far had bipartisan support and not caused any controversy. Most politicians seem to agree that alternative energy systems that can help reduce greenhouse gases are worth supporting.

That's why McNerney is optimistic about the future of the bill.

"It may be wrapped up in a bill with other energy-related questions, but I think it could be signed by the president before the end of this year," he said.

Karen Wayland, legislative director at the National Resources Defense Council, said McNerney's estimate is optimistic. "But I think the bill has pretty good chances," she said. "It will probably be part of the energy package that Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi will bring to the floor in July."

Her group supports the increased use of geothermal energy.

"Our only concern is that it doesn't alter the geography of places like Yellowstone (National Park)," she said. "Proper protection and adequate safeguards are always needed."

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