State Government

Conservation groups' letter to the Governor in defense of CEQA

Submitted: Jul 25, 2007

For Immediate Release, July 24, 2007

Brian Nowicki
Center for Biological Diversity, 520-449-3898

For Immediate Release, July 24, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The groups’ letter to the governor is attached.

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

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Adrienne Bloch
Senior Attorney
Communities for a Better Environment

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

Ingrid Brostrom
Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment

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

Kim Delfino
California Program Director
Defenders of Wildlife

Drew Feldman
San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society

Susan Frank
President & CEO
Steven and Michele Kirsch Foundation

Garry George
Executive Director
Los Angeles Audubon

David Gordon
Executive Director
Pacific Environment

Ralph Salisbury, Chair
Sierra Club, San Gorgonio Chapter

Bill Hatch
San Joaquin Valley Conservancy

Tam Hunt
Energy Program Director / Attorney
Community Environmental Council

Dan Jacobson
Legislative Director
Environment California

Linda Krop
Chief Counsel
Environmental Defense Center

Paul Mason
Sierra Club California

Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center

Brian Nowicki
Center for Biological Diversity

Gary A. Patton
Executive Director
Planning and Conservation League

Michelle Passero
Director of Policy Initiatives
The Pacific Forest Trust

Nancy Rader
Executive Director
California Wind Energy Association

Robert Ryland
Central Valley Safe Environment Network

Scott Smithline
Director of Legal and Regulatory Affairs
Californians Against Waste

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

V. John White
Clean Power Campaign

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Hun talks on water

Submitted: Jul 18, 2007
"There's no better place in California to illustrate the water crisis happening right now
in our state," the governor said (standing on the shores of the San Luis Reservoir in
Merced County
) -- Merced Sun-Star, July 17, 2007

No, Governor, the state does not have a water crisis. It has a population crisis: the natural resources -- land, water, air -- can no longer carry the population in a healthy way. Puppet governors like you call it a water crisis in drought years (quite common in California) and an air pollution crisis because of urban sprawl in Central California, particularly the San Joaquin Valley. We also have a financial crisis in the north San Joaquin Valley caused by urban development "led" by local government: the northern three counties now lead the nation in per capita mortgage foreclosures.

The second worst air pollution area in the nation is in the most rapidly growing part of Southern California -- more dependent than ever on water from the San Joaquin Delta.

You cannot fix the levees in the Delta. You can't stop the overpumping from the Delta that is now extirpating aquatic species. You can't control snow and rain. You cannot improve air quality and slow the increase of asthma for children and the elderly. You cannot stop the extinction of wildlife species. You cannot improve the quality or quantity of groundwater.

So, now you propose that the people of California indebt themselves another $6 billion on top of the billions the state has already been indebted by governors and the Legislature since January 2001, when the state had a $12-billion surplus? To build two storage dams and a peripheral canal around the Delta?

You want to build Temperance Flats Dam above the Friant Dam on the San Joaquin, which would wreck the San Joaquin River settlement that would permit the river to once again flow through 60 miles of riverbed that has been dry sand for 50 years? For what? For the developers of Oakhurst? For a new Temperance-Kern Canal? So that Fresno can expand up the Sierra to 7,000 feet?

You come down to the land of subsidized cotton and bemoan the lack of subsidized water, meanwhile proposing to stop the state subvention of Williamson Act contracts for property-tax relief for farmers. Do you have any idea how much land in farming will be sold for real estate if that plan is realized? Probably, you do, and finance, insurance and real estate special interests, whose puppet you are, have told you to break the back of agriculture so that it will no longer compete with municipal and industrial water demand. Incidently, you will destroy what's left of wildlife habitat in the process.

Do you also support selling San Luis Reservoir to Westlands Water District? How about finally building the San Luis Drain so that all the selenium-rich agricultural drainage can flow into the Delta to feed its species and improve its drinking water?

How much Wall Street money does it take to make another snowflake? A peripheral canal around the Delta won't add water. Because the government refuses to fix the levees, you propose to create this bypass to lower the flow of fresh water through the Delta so that Los Angeles can still get fresh water, Southern California can still keep growing and the salt water flows up the Delta to Sacramento?

Finance, insurance and real estate speculators have made fools out of federal government. Increased off-stream water storage in California means -- as do more highways -- more growth, the destruction of more natural resources including air and water, and more risk to public health and safety for residents.

And what is our return for supporting policies designed by finance, insurance and real estate lobbyists? Better education? Better jobs? Better health care? Better quality of life? A better environment? More culture? More leisure? Better government? Cleaner air? More water?

No, but we get more comedy. We get to see another Big Shot from Hollywood make a fool out of himself while trying to make fools out of all of us. If California really is in the weather condition water people are describing as "La Nada" and the drought does continue, we look forward to seeing you trying to seed clouds over the Sierra with Wall Street dollars and the ash from your expensive cigars.

Bill Hatch

Merced Sun-Star
Governor in county to float $5.9B water bond...Michael G. Mooney, Modesto Bee

With a depleted San Luis Reservoir at his back, Gov. Schwarzenegger touted his $5.9 billion comprehensive water plan Monday, saying California must have more storage and new delivery systems. "There's no better place in California to illustrate the water crisis happening right now in our state," the governor said. ...the reservoir, which serves as a giant holding tank for San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta water bound for Central Valley farmers and Southern California city dwellers...state Department of Water Resources, which operates the federally constructed reservoir, said capacity was at 21 percent, or about 424,000 acre feet of water. "That's very low," the spokesman said, "even for this time of year." The reservoir normally is drawn down during summer months to provide irrigation for thousands of acres of farmland, as well as 25 million Californians. This year's draw-down is more problematic, however, because of the dry winter and persistent
droughtlike conditions the state is experiencing. Last month's nine-day shutdown of delta water pumping stations near Tracy exacerbated the situation. Without the pumps pushing water through the California Aqueduct, there was less available to divert into the reservoir — a vital cog in the state's complex water storage and conveyance system. Additionally, water districts in Sonoma and Santa Cruz counties have initiated mandatory water rationing. The governor's plan would provide:
About $4.5 billion to develop new surface and underground water storage.
Another $1 billion to rebuild aging delta levees and new delivery systems such as a new
peripheral canal project.
About $450 million for a variety of projects, including restoration and new conservation
Senate leader Don Perata, D-Oakland, said he supports putting a bond measure on the 2008 ballot to fund water supply and conveyance projects. But under Perata's plan, the state's different regions would have the authority to select which projects to pursue with the money...the measure would dovetail with legislation already authored by Perata, SB 1002, which would use money from recently approved state bonds to protect the delta and boost groundwater supplies. "Rather than re-living the water wars of the past over false
choices like dams and canals," Perata said in a statement issued Monday, "I have advocated since January for a new water policy that delivers the least expensive, quickest and most flexible solutions to water supply."

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The Hun's dilemma

Submitted: Jul 05, 2007

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has replaced the former chairman of the California Air Resources Board with Mary Nichols, secretary of the Resources Agency during the Gov. Gray Davis administration. The occasion for the switch according to the Hun's flaks was CARB's approval of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District's decision to forestall the cleanup of Valley air for another 11 years, thereby, in the infinite legerdemain of air pollution regulations, also forestalling a possible cessation of federal highway funds. To keep on growing and adding to air pollution, you gotta have more roads funded by the federal government.

The problem with the appointment of Nichols comes clear when you see her relationship to UC Merced, the UC Merced Parkway project, and the Mission Interchange, the anchor tenant of which is the proposed WalMart Distribution Center that will add 1,200 diesel trucks a day to the City of Merced, smack dab in the middle of the worst air pollution region in the nation.

But (one can hear the Hun's brain ticking), she's a woman and a Democrat who served in the administration of the governor I defeated in the recall election. What's not to like about her?

The Hun has been schnookered by the Valley again. His legacy is supposed to be his support for AB 32, the California global warming bill that, without teeth, is supposed to do ... well, whatever. So, the Hun is against global warming and its man-made causes, some of which are connected to air pollution (if you do not remain skeptical about the power of computer modeling).

But the Hun is also an ardent supporter of the San Joaquin Valley Partnership and the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint, regional "planning processes" superceding local general plans.

The latter is co-chaired by Stockton-based Fritz Grupe, the largest developer in the north Valley and one of the principle funders behind representatives Pombo and Cardoza's last unsuccessful assault on the Endangered Species Act (2006).

But, says the ticking mind of the Hun, Grupe contributes to Democratic candidates, like Angelo Tsakopoulos does. I am safe.

However, Alex Spanos, whose construction company builds Grupe's subdivisions, is a Republican and a heavy contributor to the Hun.

It would be beyond the Hun to suspect political intelligence from the Valley. One cannot imagine what he thinks about the present situation on the Delta. Could the malevolent intelligence of agribusiness emanating out of Westlands Water District be involved with the probable extinction of the Delta Smelt? Impossible! Those people come from places like Fresno and Stockton, places that do not exist in Mondo Hun. Why Jason Peltier was assistant undersecretary of water for the Department of Interior (former water lobbyistm now future assistant general manager for Westlands via revolving door) or why RichPAC Pombo is now Stockton's water lobbyist would be quite beyond the Hun's comprehension.

The question to Schwarzenegger and Nichols is: Will CARB overturn its decision to approve the Valley air board's decision, which may have been the only course left open for it, considering it is dominated by pro-growth county supervisors like Mike Nelson, who calls the critical public "socialists" and others of Nelson's political stripe, who call them "asthma terrorists"?

Will the fine people who spoke and demonstrated before the regional air board be able to maintain their focus and publicly insist the Hun and Nichols overturn the decision?

Or, will everybody reach a happy, pointless consensus to chit-chat about it, while layer upon layer of regional planning grind on to the destruction of natural resources, wildlife species, quality of life and public health and safety in the San Joaquin Valley?

An irony local air quality activists should not be paralyzed by is that Nichols corrupted every state and federal environmental law that obstructed siting the UC Merced campus, working at the direction of former Rep. Gary Condit, former Assemblyman Dennis Cardoza, and both Condit's children, who were members of Gov. Gray Davis' staff at salaries of about $100,000 a year. These activists might ask why. They could consult former Condit chief of staff, Mike Lynch, now at UC/Great Valley Center. But, here's a version they might consider after going through that exercise in mindless obfuscation.

Davis won a stunning primary victory in 1998 over two candidates far better financed than he was. He did it again in the general election by employing an ancient political strategy: he took the San Joaquin Valley. Condit and Lynch were heavily involved in Davis' campaign strategy and tactics. Condit was the first member of the Democratic Party California Congressional Delegation to announce his support for Davis.

What Condit demanded in return was UC Merced. Davis promised it and delivered it and Nichols was his tool to get the campus through almost all of the permitting process in what state Senate Pro Tem John Burton, D-SF, called the biggest "boondoggle" he'd ever seen, and what Sacramento Bee political commentator Dan Walters described as "nothing but a land deal."

It is because of the growth induced by this boondoggle land deal that the northern San Joaquin Valley now tops the nation in per capita mortgage defaults.

Neither the Hun or Nichols are friends of San Joaquin Valley air quality.

Valley air quality activists should demand CARB rescind its decision on Valley air pollution. They won't achieve their stated goal but they will reveal a bit more of how willing developers are to threaten public health and safety for their profits and what total control of the state Capitol developers exert. And they will jam the Hun, Nichols and the Legislature up against their collective hypocrisy. Something closer to what we need could fall out of that confrontation.

It should be noted that this entire political fandango is occurring during the July 4 holidays. If might be the Best of Hollywood rerun but it's lethal political crap for the 20 percent of the Valley population that suffers from asthma. The probability of fire in the mountains and grasslands is higher now than it has been since 1988, when the most destructive forest fires in California history occurred. The sky is blue as I write. The odds are it won't be by the weekend. That smoke, trapped in this air pollution basin, again will cause untold misery here in the San Joaquin Valley among the young and the elderly. I hope we beat the odds for this weekend and the rest of the summer.

Bill Hatch

Sacramento Bee
New air board chief named...Peter Hecht

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday turned to a former top environmental official for Democratic Govs. Jerry Brown and Gray Davis to replace the ousted chairman of the state Air Resources Board. The move is being closely watched to gauge the governor's commitment to carrying out California's tough anti-global warming law, Assembly Bill 32, approved last year. In naming Nichols to the post, Schwarzenegger said he selected her to lead his effort "on clean air and climate change" based on her "30-year record of fighting for the environment. But environmentalists and Democrats criticized the characterization of the
personnel moves as a cover story for an administration that was micromanaging the air board and working too closely with industry lobbyists. Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, a leading proponent of AB 32, had charged that Sawyer and Witherspoon left their posts because "the administration was tying their hands behind their backs" and not allowing them to fully implement the law.

What were they thinking?

Reading this morning’s Merced Sun-Star article, “Freeway work has chopped up roads,” we couldn’t help asking the obvious question: What were our leaders – local, state and federal elected officials, their staffs, the staffs of the city and county of Merced, business and financial leaders, large land owners and the newspaper – thinking?

So, we return to the elemental parental question, when the child returns injured or having damaged his family’s or someone else’s property: “What were you thinking?”

What were the UC Regents thinking in 1995 when they certified the UC Merced environmental impact report and conceptual plan so vague it was meaningless?

What were the members of the board of the Virginia and Cyril Smith trusts thinking when they donated land full of highly environmentally protected wildlife habitat and endangered species for the campus?

What were they thinking when local, state and federal politicians began the backroom process in Sacramento, called the” Red and Green teams,” in 1998, to “fast-track” the environmental permitting process to get the UC Merced campus located on highly environmentally protected land?

What were the UC Regents and administration thinking when they ignored the opinions of the best biological experts on the ecology of that land, its own faculty?

What were Valley legislators and UC administrators thinking when they condemned the sound research in the Legislative Analyst’s Office report questioning the demographic and economic assumptions behind “Tidal Wave II,” that a tsunami of college students existed that would a new UC campus?

What were they thinking when they bussed to Sacramento enough grammar school pupils from Merced in brand new little UC Merced T-shirts, to fill the first-floor corridors of the state Capitol, cute little lobbyists for what the Senate President Pro Tem, John Burton, D-SF was calling a “boondoggle”?

What were they thinking at the county when they split the UC Merced planning process away from the county Planning Department, establishing a separate planning agency to focus on the project without any guidance from a functional General Plan?

What were they thinking when the county enthusiastically embraced UC Merced and the great growth it would induce when its General Plan did not even contemplate a UC campus? What were they thing when they kept amending it until it became an absurd document offering no planning guidance?

What have they been thinking at the Sun-Star all these years? They started off at least making good advertising dollars on months of UC Merced Supplements, written by UC bobcatflaksters, paid for by the public. Now, they regurgitate everything a new generation of bobcatflaksters utter, and call it news.

What were UC, the state Department of Fish and Game and the Wildlife Conservation Board thinking when they spent millions of public funds on easements to mitigate the impacts of the campus, a number of which have now been judged by resource agencies to be useless – not mitigating the takes of endangered species and lacking funds to monitor the easements?

What were UC Merced administrators thinking when they obliterated a municipal golf course to build the first phase of the campus without having applied for their Clean Water Act permit to build the next phases?

What were they thinking when UC proposed and the board of supervisors approved a plan to build a whole new town, the University Community, beside the campus but outside the city limits of Merced?

What was the City of Merced thinking when it violated its own ordinance against providing sewer and water facilities outside its corporate city limits, when it provided sewer and water facilities to the first phase of the campus? What is the City of Merced thinking by not annexing the campus and the area of the proposed new town? What are they thinking now about UC’s “sovereign” land-use authority?

What were the supervisors and local farm groups thinking when – after eight years of UC planning and building and many subdivisions besides with more to come – they still will not establish a ratio of acreage to mitigate for the last of farm land?

What were they thinking when they planned the UC Merced loop road, linking an interchange at Atwater with UC Merced and an interchange at Mission Ave, south of Merced?

What are the opponents of the WalMart distribution center and the Riverside Motorsports Park thinking: that local government would not attract these projects to help pay for these interchanges for this UC loop road?

What was the City of Merced leadership thinking when it refused join the League of California Cities, Berkeley, Davis, the San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center, Protect Our Water, and other groups in support of the City of Marina, et al against CSU Monterey Bay in the state Supreme Court? In that case, which CSU lost, CSU argued that state agencies should not be required to pay for any impacts from their projects that occur off the site of the project. In UC’s letter of support for CSU, it argued it would have to pay $200 million in off-site mitigations in Merced if CSU lost the case.

What was the entire leadership class of Merced thinking when not one of them even questioned, let alone opposed UC Merced’s memorandum of understanding with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory? It was as if all the little Mr. and Ms. UC Merceds in the circle haven’t a clue what kind of science and technology UC does in Livermore and, perhaps, how quickly it could come to Merced. LLNL is already trying to site the most toxic level of biodefense labs just outside Tracy. A whole new generation of nuclear weapons are currently being designed at both Livermore and UC’s other national lab, Los Alamos.

What were they thinking when they unleashed rapid urban development without a ground water plan?

What where they thinking when Applegate Zoo received an orphaned baby bobcat and UC Merced adopted it as their mascot?

What were they thinking when they adopted a Williamson Act area that included virtually all of unincorporated Merced County? Did it have anything to do with farming or was it just a gift to developers buying rural land? We think the chances are that if it had genuinely had anything to do with farming, it would have passed 30 years earlier.

What are the City of Merced planners and council members thinking about siting a project in an enterprise zone that will bring in nearly a thousand diesel trucks a day, seven days a week, 24 hours a day, into one of the nation’s top two worst air quality regions?

What were they really thinking about when they turned in their resignations — Publicist James Grant, Vice Chancellor Lindsay DesRochers, founding Dean of Social Sciences Kenji Hakuta, Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey, Vice Chancellor and Provost David Ashley, and Environmental Compliance Director Rick Notini? Did they think the permitting process a done deal?

What are UC Merced administrators thinking — if there are any UC Merced administrators at the moment – about having to move the next phase of the campus down onto the land planned for their University Community if they cannot get a Clean Water Act permit through normal channels and may not have the clout to get it through those other channels?

What were they thinking when UC Merced unveiled Cat Spots asking businesses to create a discount program or other incentives that will benefit student pocketbooks? The city-funded California Welcome Center will print another 1,000 window decals incorporating its logo with UC Merced’s. What about students of Merced College?

What were they thinking when UC Merced partnered with the Great Valley Center? Grants, grants and more grants? For what? Well you might ask!

And while we are at it, what were the UC Regents thinking – as some were speculating on Merced land for development — when they approved a campus in an already imperiled air quality region, heading the wrong way fast? A research medical facility to specialize in respiratory diseases?

What was Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, thinking when he introduced two bills to gut the critical habitat designation of the Endangered Species Act before teaming up with Rep. Richard Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, to gut the whole ESA?

What was the county thinking when it did not notify resource agencies about the deep-ripping or disking of – at a minimum – 6,000 acres of land in the federal critical habitat designation area for 15 endangered species?

What have they been thinking all these years as they have been breaking every environmental law and regulation and putting political pressure on every resource agency not to enforce environmental law and regulation?

What were they thinking when, having lost their sales tax increase/ transportation fund initiative in the primary, they decided to try it again in November?

What were the governor and some of his cabinet thinking when they made the Merced County Association of Governments the point agency in a San Joaquin Valley-wide regional planning “partnership” effort?

What are they thinking now that the arrogance and corruption of government in Merced, among its local, state and federal representatives and their staffs, are beginning to stink beyond the county line? Consider, for example, the federal case concerning the former DA, the Sheriff, the worst scofflaw developer in the county, other prominent investors, a prominent real estate agency and the indicted, incarcerated perp who owned land on the proposed UC Merced loop road.

Badlands editorial board

Merced Sun-Star
UC Merced expansion may hit a roadblock…Corinne Reilly

After more than $500 million in building, development costs and more than a decade of planning…vision for the expansion of UC Merced beyond its first 100 acres could be forced to change… permit the university needs to build on federally protected wetlands will likely not be granted to allow the university to move forward with its current 900-acre expansion plan, according to a senior manager at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “We feel that the project they have proposed, at this point, isn’t permittable,” Kevin Roukey, the Corps’ senior project manager in charge of UC Merced permitting. Failure to secure the federal permit — or a move to an alternate location to secure it — would mean the most significant setback to date for the university, and would force Merced city and county planners to redraw current plans for the 2,000-acre University Community… A corps of engineers analysis of UC Merced’s plan - one of the earliest steps in the wetlands permitting process - revealed vernal pools of extremely rare density and quality at the site,…”Unfortunately for the UC, vernal pools at the site they’ve picked have basically been determined to be the best in the state, and maybe even the country,” Roukey said. Officials at UC Merced say they’ve proposed mitigation measures far beyond the norm, and have purchased more than 25,000 acres of land for preservation. But Roukey said university planners failed to consider the quality of the land they’ve offered for mitigation. Roukey… “The land they’ve purchased to preserve is different from what would be destroyed. Basically they went out and bought a ton of property without knowing what was on it”…mostly grassland that contains vernal pools inferior in quality and quantity to those that would be destroyed…UC Merced spent more than $15 million in state grants and private donations. Roukey said…still possible UC officials could propose new mitigation measures to save their current plans. “But he said to date, they have not presented anything that would meet permittable standards.” “Of the alternatives laid out, there are three that would be far less environmentally damaging than theirs,” said Alexis Strauss, director of the EPA’s Water Division in San Francisco. “And building asphalt parking lots on vernal pools isn’t really a good show of damage avoidance.” “Where we are in the process is not a place where anyone can make that kind of comment,” UC Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey said. Tomlinson-Keasey, who plans to step down from the university’s top post at the end of August, said in March when she announced her decision to leave that she would see the campus through its next phase of environmental review; that no longer appears feasible. It could take the agency more than a year to make its final determination. Livingston - more than 20 miles away - won’t be considered a practical option…remaining two alternatives would place the rest of UC Merced just south of the university’s preferred site, along Lake Road…would place the rest of the university closer to its first phase, but wouldn’t allow for the contiguous campus UC Merced proposes. And UC and county officials say both options would devastate plans for the University Community, a massive development… About $4 million in state grants were spent by the county to develop the community plan that could now be rendered largely useless…many fear UC Merced could develop into a second-class citizen among its prestigious sister campuses. The city of Merced, which has expressed interest in annexing the community, could step up to fund a new plan;… Alternative options could draw heavy opposition from the local farming community. But some say university officials have ignored signals that came as early as 2002 indicating their plans would likely have to change, and moved forward with their first phase of development despite the warnings. The EPA registered a formal objection to the proposal in April of 2002, suggesting UC planners consider moving south. “We’ve been urging them for years to consider decreasing the footprint of the campus,” said Strauss of the EPA. “You can’t just mitigate your way around the law to get a permit for the most damaging alternative.” Istas said the choice to move forward with the university’s first phase, even without a permit for the rest of the campus, was the best one for the Valley. Congressman Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, reaffirmed his support for UC Merced’s proposal this week. “The campus is absolutely in the right location,” said Cardoza. “One way or another, it’s going to turn out OK.”

Merced Sun-Star
Freeway work has chopped up roads…Chris Collins

Merced County Supervisor John Pedrozo…five trucks filled with dirt did the unthinkable — they pulled a U-turn on the freeway. That little stunt is one of the many inconveniences and dangerous maneuvers that have county and Merced city officials frustrated with the way trucks working on the Mission Avenue interchange have damaged roads and clogged up local traffic. The dirt-hauling phase of the $68 million project ended Tuesday. The bad news is that for the past few months more than 1,000 trucks a day moved in and out of the construction zone with loads of dirt… truck traffic resulted in more than $1 million of damage to local roads, said county Public Works Director Paul Fillebrown… scheduled to open September 2007.

Sacramento Bee
From tiny acorns… UC officials hope the new Merced campus someday grows to a mighty oak, but for now it’s struggling to meet enrollment goals…Eric Stern

With the political power and money already behind it, it’s easy to imagine the University of California’s newest campus in Merced - in the middle of Central Valley pastureland, miles from a stoplight - as a major research institution with 25,000 students. UC Merced still has a long way to go…about to start its second year, is struggling to get students there - and to get them to stay. If history repeats itself, UC Merced could follow the erratic - even negative - growth patterns the UC system saw when it added campuses in Irvine, San Diego and Santa Cruz in the 1960s. UC Merced isn’t exactly close to the beach…is likely to fall short of its target of 5,200 students by the 2010-11 school year. UC Merced offers a chance to get a University of California diploma that might not otherwise be available…eligibility requirements for UC Merced are equally as demanding as the other UC schools, but the incoming freshman at UC Merced have the lowest average grade-point average and SAT scores in the UC system. “If you build a campus basically in the middle of nowhere, it’s not surprising that this is not going to be the first choice for many students,” said Patrick Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. “There was a certain amount of gamble (from the UC)…that they could basically hang their shingle out anywhere and be overrun by applications.” He fears the $500 million campus could drain resources from the other UC schools until Merced gets its footing. “It took a long time for Davis to become Davis.”

Santa Cruz Sentinel
Ruling favors town over gown…Roger Sideman

Santa Cruz city…this week’s state Supreme Court decision further obligates universities to pay for costs incurred by campus expansion… local governments now have a legal precedent to push the university to cover more of the cost…court ruling resolved a 10-year legal battle between Cal State Monterey Bay and several cities near its growing campus at the former Fort Ord. The university’s board of trustees maintained it didn’t have to pay for fire prevention and traffic, sewage and drainage improvements off the campus. UCSC’s commitment has been disputed by local government leaders who charge the university understates off-campus impacts and that it won’t fully reimburse government coffers. Contributions by UCSC are presently made on a project by project basis. Government leaders want UCSC to make a total contribution rather than having dollars come in piecemeal fashion. Wormhoudt… the court’s decision also lessens the chance UCSC would sue the city over this November’s ballot measure…voters will decide whether to force the school to address concerns over campus growth by withholding the city’s water supply. Moose, Santa Cruz’s attorney…there’s a chance UCSC would come back to the table and offer a better approach to traffic mitigation. One sticking point - who will pay for increased water use - was not addressed in the CSU decision…

Modesto Bee
Wal-Mart foes show up in red…Leslie Albrecht

Residents who don’t want Wal-Mart to build a 1.2 millionsquare-foot warehouse in southeast Merced wore red shirts to a public meeting last week about which issues should be studied in the environmental impact report on the project…meeting was meant to solicit input about which issues - such as air quality, traffic and noise - should be studied when city-hired consultants write the EIR about the proposed distribution center…how would 450 trucks driving in and out of the center daily affect Merced’s already poor air quality, said Randy Chafin of EDAW Inc., the Sacramento consulting group that’s writing the report…Marilynne Parreira asked that the impact report examine specifically how the center would affect Golden Valley students…Susan Boykin said a climatologist should contribute to the impact report…”When
we take acres and acres of trees and pave it with acres and acres of asphalt, we are creating heat islands,” Boykin said. The city will solicit comments on what should be studied in the impact report until Aug. 11. SEND TO: Kim Espinosa, Planning Manager, City of Merced, Planning and Permitting, 678 W. 18th St., Merced 95340, PHONE: 385-6858, FAX: 725-8775 E-MAIL:

Free the UC bobcat; protesters urge…

Businesses put out invitation to Bobcats…

Spencer purchased land from jailed man…Chris Collins

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer has launched a third investigation into Merced County District Attorney Gordon Spencer, this time examining whether Spencer committed a crime when he and a group of local investors bought a piece of property from a man who was sitting behind bars and facing charges from the District Attorney’s Office. The latest investigation comes on top of an ongoing criminal probe into Spencer’s potential embezzlement of public funds and an inquiry last December that found Spencer had impersonated an investigator. The attorney general is now looking into a 21-acre lot on Bellevue Road that Spencer, Sheriff Mark Pazin, Ranchwood Homes owner Greg Hostetler, and five other prominent locals purchased in 2004. The intersection of the two events created a clash that was “absolutely impermissible” by attorney ethics standards, said Weisberg, the Stanford law professor. “There was a conflict of interest. ” Dougherty, the county’s presiding judge, said Spencer never told Byrd’s attorney about his involvement in buying Byrd’s land. Kelsey said she always has been troubled that the sheriff and district attorney joined one of the county’s biggest developers to buy the land.

Reply to a local planning official


Lydia Miller, President
San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center, Merced CA

Steve Burke
Protect Our Water, Modesto CA


Merced County Board of Supervisors
Merced CA

December 21, 2004

(via fax and email)

Re: December 21, 2004 Board agenda item: 10:30 a.m. Planning - 2004 Cycle III General Plan Amendment; University Community Plan.

The following is submitted for the record regarding the Board’s consideration of the University Community Plan.

An article titled “Reply to the Chancellor on UCP” was recently posted on the Badlands website ( A local planner responded with the question: What do you think will happen if we don’t plan for the growth that will result from UC Merced?

It is a serious question, we appreciate it, and will try to articulate what we think about Merced County/UC Merced planning.

The first word that caught our attention in the planners question was the word, we. Who, we wondered was the planner intending to include in the word, “we”?

Participants in the sordid political deal in which Merced got the UC in return for Condit delivering the Valley for Davis in 1998, ripping the campus from the talons of Fresno where they had committed to locate at least a medical school as early as 1965, and had land already donated in Kearney Park?

Participants in the whole cover up, inconsistency, tendentious obfuscation, regulatory-agency avoidance in the process to streamline UCM permitting run out of the governor’s and congressman’s office?

Participants in the process of gagging the press, buying the press, and intimidating reporters so that no critical questions would appear in the media about the UC project?

Participants in the UCM propaganda machine, which featured huge, UC-produced, publicly paid-for PR supplements in the local paper? Local-paper regurgitation of UCM press releases as objective journalism?

Tiny tots in UCM T-shirts lining state Capitol corridors?

Greenlining Institute, proclaiming all Hispanic students would, should, and could go to UC if only they could stay in their family homes here in the Valley?

Promoters of a campaign to name a mascot that gave the prize to a species that does not appear in Nature.

Great Valley Center’s smart-growth propaganda, emanating from that tower of planning rectitude, Modesto?

Dot-driven public focus groups confronting lists of projects that contained all pre-cooked possibilities but no project?

The Nature Conservancy?

Producers of meaningless planning documents like the CAA, CPAC, CAPS, various MCAG plans, Merced Water Supply Plan, NCCP/HCP, storm drain master plan?

Grant hustlers using the East Merced Resource Conservation District to legitimize bogus plans and be a conduit for mis-spending public funds?

Authors of numerous General Plan amendments that have rendered a weak document utterly unintelligible as a planning tool?

The red and green teams?

The black-and-blue team?

Scientists scouring the pastures for endangered species who also found a dead baby Black Bear?

Participants in the political process of suppressing ground-truthed science about the biological inventories on UCM land?

The political geniuses behind adopting a blanket Agricultural Preserve over most of the county to mitigate for UC, the most significant restriction of private-property rights in the history of the county?

Right-wing propagandists who whipped up a mob of land owners against the much less intrusive Critical Habitat Designation?

Every scofflaw in the county Planning Department?

Members of a county bureaucracy that systematically obstructs public access to public documents?

Aggregate-company and developer lawyers who write planning documents and General Plan amendments?

Private and publicly funded indemnifiers against lawsuits opposing local land-use decisions?

Politically directed judges?

Contemptuous EIR-writing, finger-flipping, harassing consultants?

Packard Foundation money launderers? Venal, punitive local political staffers, hit squads for congressmen, state legislators and the special interests who pay them?

Land-boom speculators in elective and appointed public offices?

Elected officials that constantly, publicly harass members of the public who object to what only the county calls a planning process?

Returning to the question: “What do you think will happen if we don’t plan for the growth that will result from UC Merced?”, the next word that perhaps requires more definition is the word “plan” itself. Now, what could the planner have meant by this pregnant term?

A hopelessly out-of-date General Plan created in 1992 as the result of a lawsuit brought by the public against a county that could not provide the court with evidence that there was a Merced County General Plan; a General Plan the state Attorney General directed the county to update at least every decade; a General Plan that was never followed anyway, but has now been rendered absurd by the superimposition of huge development amendments over a plan that valued the county’s agricultural and natural resources?

The donation of a large tract of land to UC by a land trust too hapless to run a golf course during the height of popularity of that sport, manipulated by a local water lawyer, (his partner under indictment for defrauding Waterford), and a county planning department unwilling to enforce environmental law on its wetlands takes?

The wholesale use of programmatic UC EIRs to secure mandates for “plans to make plans” that avoid any concrete analysis of inevitable negative impacts to natural resources, public health and safety that set a new, low, irresponsible planning standard for Merced County? ?

Lawyer-guided, side-stepping of inconvenient permits, and building without them?

The policy of UC to continually whine that UCM is the first campus it has attempted to build since serious environmental protection laws were passed, therefore it can’t really be held accountable to laws of the land?

The splitting of land-use authority in two pieces: the county and UC?

The splitting of local planning offices in two: the county Planning Department and the UC Development Planning Office?

Wholesale confusion and lack of coordination between the two offices and between one or the other or both of them with the City of Merced?

The complete lack of an adequate, comprehensive water plan for eastern Merced County?

The disturbing eagerness and insanity of UC and its speculating boosters, landowners, and surrounding developers to double and triple the size of the Merced population in what has become the worst air-pollution basin in the nation?

The willingness of the City of Merced to break its own ordinance to supply water and sewer services to UCM, once UC promised to indemnify it from legal challenges to its decision?

A resource-easement program designed to fail?

The wholesale, unrelenting stream of planning propaganda in place of accurate information, leaving the public in as much dark as could be decently managed at every step in the process? (For just one example, the completely bogus presentation of the Williamson Act as mitigation for UC and its induced development.)

Leading the public into unpleasant speculations about future suburbs that could be named Smithville, Kelseyville, Crookhamton, Cardoza/Coelho Azorean Estates, Cuidad Cortez-Keene, Lynch-Adam-dAdamoville, Tatum Corners, Wellman Retirement Community, Lyons Industrial Park?

Every project in the county driven by the heretofore not really, fully, completely permitted location of UCM?

Rumblings of bribery and corruption in the county Planning Department?

In conclusion, what do we think will happen if we don’t plan for the growth that will result from UC Merced?

Well, Mr. Planner, the only answer we can give is: what’s happening at the moment. Merced’s agricultural and natural resources are being auctioned off to the highest bidders because of what you and your fellow planners did, while subjecting the public to an endless barrage of bureaucratic procedures and documents claiming you would not do exactly what you have done, are doing and will continue to do until your actions become so transparently corrupted that even the local judiciary will be unable to blind itself to them.


Lydia Miller Steve Burke

Cc: Interested parties

Attachment: Badlands article “Reply to the Chancellor on UCP”, published December 17, 2004.

FOR YOUR ENTERTAINMENT!! Another Dull-witted boy story

DQ -- UC Gravy Train

One morning, when the dull-witted boy and his friend, Hector, reached the
railroad tracks while biking to school, they encountered a stalled train.
Behind them, as far as they could see, were automobiles waiting to get
across the tracks. Looking down the tracks in both directions, they saw
thousands and thousands of sheets of paper littering the gravel, the yards
beside the tracks and the streets behind them and beyond them.
They saw it was a strange train, made up of cars they had never seen.
Instead of flat cars, box cars, lumber cars, cattle cars or car cars, each
car of this train looked like a passenger car with a suite of offices inside
it. Before them was a suite with large, corner offices with big windows for
bosses at both ends of the car and little cubicles with tiny windows for
secretaries in the middle.
But what caught their attention most of all was the name of the train.
Little Hector, as some readers may recall, was a train fanatic who knew the
names of a lot of different railroad companies by heart. But he had never
seen this one.
It was called the "UC Gravy Train." The gold letters were painted on royal
blue. It didn't even have any graffiti on it. Hector was amazed.
Just then an old brakeman passed by, walking up the track through the paper
"Why's the train stopped?" the dull-witted boy asked.
"Son, it's derailed but that ain't half the story," the brakeman said. "This
is the longest train in the history of California gravy trains. It's got 47
locomotives.This train is actually goes all the way to Sacramento, stalling
car traffic all the way."
"Wow, this UC Gravy Train is one long train," the dull-witted boy said.
"You can say that again," the brakeman said.
"Wow, this UC Gravy Train is one long train," Hector said.
"Where is it derailed?" the dull-witted boy asked.
"Right here in Merced, wouldn't you know it?" the brakeman said. "Three
blocks from City Hall."
"Why here?" Hector asked.
"Human error," the brakeman said.
"What are all these offices doing on it?" the dull-witted boy asked.
"Well, that's your staff," the brakeman said.
"What's staff?"
"Well, your staff is what makes up most of your gravy train," the brakeman
explained. "You can't have a gravy train what without you have staff, see.
The two go together."
"Well, where's the gravy?" Hector asked.
"And where's the potatoes to put the gravy on?" the dull-witted boy said.
"This is pretty deep stuff for youngsters your age, mebbe it's out of your
depth," the brakeman said.
"Try us," the dull-witted boy replied. "We ask dumb questions."
"You too?" the brakeman asked. "OK, I'll give it a try. Where to begin?
"Well, you see, you got your taxpayer -- that's the ones that work for their
livings, like me. And your taxpayer pays his taxes to your government. Your
government is run by those crooks we elect every two or four years or six
years and, of course, their staff. You still with me?"
"You mean like Mr. UC Merced and Senor UC Merced, that Rusty guy from Los
Banos, who thought about selling his water to LA once, and them others?" the
dull-witted boy asked.
"Say, you're well informed for a youngster," the brakeman said. "You must
read the newspapers."
"Nope, I can't say as I do," the dull-witted boy said. "I got uncles."
"Well, anyways, as I was saying, "you can't have your gravy train without
your politicians making a pork barrel. It's your pork barrel that attracts
your gravy train. Those are the essential ingredients," the brakeman said.
"To repeat: politicians, pork barrel, gravy train."
"What's a pork barrel?" the dull-witted boy asked. "A pig in a bucket?"
"You pour the gravy in the pork barrel?" Hector, who was still only in the
second grade, asked.
"You boys have your dumb questions down real good," the old man said.
"You're pretty close there, boy, but -- on account of it's a government
thing -- it's not as simple as it sounds. But ..." he paused and scratched
his head, "actually it is as simple as that but they make it look as
complicated as they can because the taxpayers don't like to see their money
turned to gravy but your politicians are trying to get all the tax money
they can to build projects in their home districts they can put their names
on. For instance, since Senor UC Merced won the election, he's gonna want
his name on the football field at the new UC Merced, right up there with
Coca Cola and your state Holstein Breeders Association. But he can't get his
name up on it if it don't exist so he has to get his pork barrel going, see.
"Your pork barrel is kinda like home brew," the brakeman said. "Your uncles
make home brew?"
"Yep," the dull-witted boy said.
"It sort of smells, don't it? And it attracts flies?"
"Well, your political pork barrel ferments just like your home brew," the
old brakeman said. "But in the beginning, it's just an idea, an idea that
looks like it's going to make money for people who like to make money, see?
But what makes the greed turn sweet, taste fine and go down like velvet is
that it ain't gonna cost them nothing. The money is gonna come from somebody
else's taxes. That's your gravy. You got to have the pork barrel to get the
gravy, understand?"
The dull-witted boy and Hector found this more interesting than a book full
of fractions.
"Now, the way it works is this: once you get your pork barrel working in
your district and your politicians working in government, the next thing you
know you got a gravy train full of staff."
"Yeah, but what's staff?" the dull-witted boy asked. "I don't understand
"You staff just shows up," the old man said.
"Where from?" Hector asked.
"Nobody knows the answer to that," the brakeman said, scratching his head.
"It's just a fact of nature that when your get your pork barrel filling with
tax money, your staff shows up. It's like them mud holes out east of town.
When you got your pork barrel working, here came the scientific staff came
in on the gravy train and the next thing you know, them mud holes are being
called "vernal pools" and new little critters are being discovered every
day. Every year, when they fill up with water, here come them fairy shrimp
-- just like staff to a pork barrel, see?"
"I think so," the dull-witted boy said.
"Then, when the mud holes dry up, the fairy shrimp go away. Some say they go
into the mud and go to sleep in little seeds. Nature's a mysterious thing,
boys. Mebbe it's the same with staff. You can never tell. But when you got
your pork barrel and your tax dollar working together, they produce staff
and a gravy train. Fact of life."
"What's a pork barrel look like?" Little Hector asked. "I never seen one."
"Well, of course your essential pork barrel is an invisible Wish. It could
start working anywhere -- like in a donut shop or over a steak dinner or at
a service club lunch speech. But it starts as a wish, a dream, a fantasy.
"It's just like an invisible little seed in the beginning, see," the old
brakeman continued. " It starts out in somebody's mind like an itch. He
can't see it, it itches and he wants to get rid of it so he starts
broadcasting it here and there around town, telling his friends and bankers.
But it won't ever amount to anything unless it's fertilized."
"How do you make something invisible grow?" the dull-witted boy.
"That would be your application of large quantities of bullshit," the old
man said. "Your farmers will say horseshit's good for trees, old chicken
shit works for other crops but to get your pork barrel out of the conceptual
stage, liberal quantities of bullshit is the only form of fertilizer ever
known to work.
"But once you get germination and growth, your genuine political pork barrel
comes to life in many different forms," the old brakeman said, "oftentimes
in the form of roads, paid for by federal highway funds.
"In fact, in Washington, DC, where they make federal highway funds, they
have a cult of religious visionaries called The Lobbyists. These mystics
believe federal highway funds are the Mother of the Pork Barrel and the
Grandmother of the Gravy Train.
"Other times it's your dams. Lord, how the politicians love a dam,
particularly out here in the West. You have no idea how much bullshit
mystical lobbyists have been spread around trying to grow dam wishes. They
say there ain't no river around that couldn't be improved by putting a
tax-paid dam on it.
"Then you got your irrigation canals," he continued. "You have to have your
> canals so you can grow your cotton so the taxpayer can pay the cotton grower
the difference between the world price of cotton and what the American
cotton grower can get his congressmen to get the taxpayer to believe it
should be worth to a patriotic American cotton farmer to grow it.
"Now, this is too deep for you or me, boys," the old brakeman paused. "Some
call your water and your agricultural subsidies the highest, most mysterious
of all pork barrels. When you talk water and agricultural subsidies you're
talking about the highest mysteries of tribal cults. Nobody but members of
the tribe understand them or get any benefit from them. These subsidies
don't leave a trace except in the US Treasury and some local bank accounts.
"Take rice," he continued. "See, your genuine, patriotic American farmer
can't be expected to grow cotton or rice for what they'd pay a Chinese or an
Indian farmer to grow cotton in their countries, could they? That ain't
American. So we pay for the canal and for half the crop. Same for rice, only
rice takes more water. And then there's your ranchers. Everybody knows the
cowboys are true-blue red-blooded Americans. Just look at their hats. So
whenever they have a drought -- or staff says there might be a drought
coming -- your taxpayer pays your rancher something for the grass that
didn't grow.
"Like I said, those pork barrels surpass human understanding because they
involve tribal religious issues.
"But here in this congressional district, they dreamed up one helluva pork
barrel, mebbe the best pork barrel ever invented -- a public, tax paid
university campus and a nuclear research lab, so mebbe some day soon you
boys will be playing Nintendo on nuclear energy.
"See, it's better than a dam because it's new technology. A dam just
produces energy from water making a turbine spin and everybody knows how to
do it now. Nuclear energy is better because it's new technology."
"Why is new technology better?" asked the dull-witted boy.
"Because when you get new technology you get more staff and a longer gravy
train and that's what your politicians and your business leaders call Real
Good," the old brakeman said. "See, when nobody knows how to use a new
technology and it could be dangerous, your staff gets bigger and your gravy
train gets longer.
"Why?" Hector asked.
"In words you might understand, son, 'just because,'" the brakeman said.
"The other thing is project gets so big and expensive nobody can calculate
how much tax money is going to go into it. Then you have to hire on more and
more staff to contain costs.
"Then you got your locals standing around the pork barrel watching it boil,
bubble, sprout and grow," he continued. "Your locals come in two varieties.
"In a pork barrel like this, the people who support it are called Leadership
and the people who ask questions about it are usually called
Environmentalists. Your leadership is Real Good because they got Faith and
your environmentalists are called dog doo because they have Doubts."
"I don't get it and I gotta go to the bathroom," Hector said.
"Third willow on the right," the brakeman said, pointing to bushes plastered
with pieces of paper beside a fence.
Hector departed the conversation to answer the call of nature.
"That's a real smart little kid," the brakeman said. "Always glad to meet a
youngster interested in the railroad. It's getting so that young people
don't learn about railroads anymore."
The dull-witted boy agreed that Hector was an intelligent boy.
"Got a sense of history, that kid," said the brakeman. "You can't teach that
anymore. It's illegal these days, I think."
"Mister, do you know who are those people in that car up front staring out
the window at Little Hector taking a pee?"
The brakeman squinted at the car for a moment, then said, "That's just
another urban planner car. I think they said there were more than 300 urban
planner cars on this gravy train."
"What do urban planners do?" the dull-witted boy wanted to know.
"It's like I'm trying to tell you," the brakeman said. "They're just staff.
It don't matter what they do or if they do anything at all. What matters is
they are staff and they show up. Urban planner staff are the ones that stand
up in front of your elected officials and give your power point
presentations of boxes and arrows and especially of maps: subdivision maps,
annexation maps, specific plan maps, urban development plan maps, spheres of
influence maps and the like. Your power point presentation is one of the
strongest ingredients of your bullshit, see?
"You look at that thing and it looks just like a train, any old train," he
continued. "But, Bud, that train has mystical powers: a genuine gravy train
can stop most human thought for 50 miles either side of the track it sits
"Why?" the dull-witted boy asked.
"Because people go mad when they get near it. See, son, they just gotta get
on it! This derailment was caused by the last lawyer in the state that
wasn't invited to the party. They say he was so upset he drove his car right
into this here gravy train in the hope somehow he'd get in on the deal. All
he achieved was a few hours of posthumous fame and get me a little
overtime," the brakeman said, chuckling.
Now the car he drove into was one, just one of a dozen cars packed with
lawyers on the UC Gravy Train. Those are special cars. They got "On
Retainer" written on their cars."
Little Hector returned from the willow bush.
"Better zip up, kid," the brakeman said, "you're exciting the secretaries."
Hector, a fastidious second grader, blushed, turned around and zipped up.
"See, boys, your real gravy train -- like this UC gravy train -- just goes
on and on," the old man continued. "Right now, even as they're sweeping off
the mortal remains of that unpopular lawyer, they're putting on 15 more
cars full of land speculators at the other end -- right next to the
plutonium cars full of nuclear weapons researchers -- your 'academic
"What's that?" Hector asked.
"Well, this is a UC gravy train, so a university campus is involved," the
brakeman explained. "You have a university, you got to have your faculty and
you have to have something for them to do -- that's your academic component.
Don't get me wrong, it's just one part of it and not a very large part of
it, unless it blows up, of course.
"The biggest part is your development community that's going to build houses
around the nuclear research laboratory. Some people like to live near
plutonium, I'm told. Personally, I prefer sagebrush, roadrunners and coyotes
when I can get them. But that would be your water problem which, like I said
before is an issue of tribal religions too deep for you or me."
"But, what do staff do?" the dull-witted boy asked, trying to get the old
man focused on the original question, just once.
"Well, you see how all these cars are connected?"
"Yeah, just like on a regular passenger train."
"You got it," the old man beamed. "They've got people in there, the
conductors say, that do nothing but go back and forth talking to each other.
A little known fact about gravy trains is that no one ever gets off them
unless they get pushed because they're afraid that if they get off them,
they'll never be able to get back on. So, to keep their places, they have to
constantly talk to each other. The conductors say this is what staff calls
'staying on the same page.' There's only one thing that can get a staffer
upset -- he's got his salary, his benefits and his position on the car --
but if he's even once accused of not 'staying on the same page' with all the
other staffers, your staffer is gonna have a panic attack because he knows
what's next. That would be when they push him off the train."
"I don't understand what 'staying on the same page' means," Hector said.
"Well, the conductors tell me it means that everybody constantly has to be
talking to each other to make sure nobody gets any ideas of their own or
even looks out the window much."
"So what do they actually do?" the dull-witted boy asked, again.
"I tole you twice," the old man said. "They run back and forth between all
those thousands of cars agreeing with each other for fear if they don't,
somebody will push them off. When everyone is in full agreement -- they call
that 'consensus' -- somebody writes up a memo and makes a diagram with boxes
and arrows on it and they make a power point presentation out of it to put
on their computers and then they show it to each other."
"It sounds sort of stupid," Hector said.
"Hush, boy. There is one thing you cannot say about people on the UC Gravy
Train and you just said it. You can't say it because every one of them but
the secretaries has not only one but two or more degrees from universities,
and their studies were mostly subsidized by taxpayers.
"Now UC has its tribe of lobbyists too, just like the highway and the water
people and the farmers and ranchers," the old brakeman said. "They all dress
in simple robes of blue and gold. They look like monks. There are hundreds
of them, each with a begging bowl, swarming over your seats of government. I
ain't saying educational funding is any less mysterious than highway money
but the approach is different. There's a holiness about educational funds
that's lacking in highway deals. I actually feel sorry for the politicians
when they get in the clutches of the Holy Order of Higher Education
Lobbyists promising salvation and better school grades in their districts.
"But back to your highly educated staff," he said. "Every one of them
studied Gravytrainology and each and ever' one knows deep in his heart, mind
and marrow that anyone who isn't on that UC gravy train is dumb as a post --
like all the taxpayers that paid for their campuses and their professors.
Once again, it comes from learning in school how to stay on the same page by
talking to people like themselves and nobody else. They ain't like you and
me, just friendly strangers sitting by the side of the tracks talking 'till
the train clears. At your departments of gravytrainology in institutions of
higher learning, the first thing they teach you is who to talk to and who
not to talk to. That's the secret of professional success and the
fundamental premise of gravytrainology."
Just then a huge rumbling and crashing split the air like the biggest
thunderclap in the universe. Both the boys jumped a foot off the ground.
"No need for worry, boys," the old brakeman yelled, "That's the sound of a
gravy train starting up again."
"Where's it headed if the project is here?" the dull-witted boy screamed.
"Why aren't they getting off?"

"Kid, you're not as bright as you look," the brakeman bellowed. "I tole you:
nobody gets off unless they get pushed off. In a pork barrel project like
this UC Merced, the last place a staffer wants to end up is in the barrel,
on the ground, at the project. You want to be ON the gravy train, not on the
bottom of the pork barrel."
"Why?" Hector asked.
"Because then that staffer ain't going to be talking to other staffers. He's
gonna have to talk to the public, the people who live here where they're
gonna build this radioactive pork barrel with a college attached to it. Now
the staffers don't know the public don't know much about the project. The
reason they don't know that is because that ain't their department. That's
your public relations department, also known as the Mothers of the Power
Point Presentation.
"Like I say, the staffer only really knows one thing: he's got to stay on
the same page with all the other staffers. But they think the public knows
all about the project. And since the public can't be on the same page with
all the staffers because the staffers ain't dumb enough to share the page
with the public, they figure the public is mad."
"Why don't they share the page with the public?" asked the dull-witted boy.
"You don't get to see the page until you get on the gravy train," the old
man explained.
"Well, how do you get to see it?" Hector asked.
"That would be your 'emerging community leader' deal, which is a multi-step
deal. Your first step would be to start parading around your town calling
yourself an emerging leader. That's a wannabe leader. Then you borrow some
computer time from your boss and look up 'emerging leader' on the Internet
and get connected with the People Who Can Help You, that's a non-profit
foundation that gets its money from people who build huge factories and want
to save what they call signature landscapes and quaint rural people. The
step after that is buying a lot of clothes that make you look like you
really don't come from your town -- Ceres, Livingston, Red Top, Fowler,
Goshen, Orosi, Buttonwillow, Arbuckle, Gridley, Williams, Lamont,
Strathmore, Clements, Milton, Hilmar, Denair, El Nido -- places like that.
Then you gotta quit sounding like you come from places like that. When
you're really almost ready for the Interview, you gotta quit thinking like
you came from places like that. Finally, if you're lucky, you get a call
which would lead you to the Interview. So then you would go up to Modesto to
meet the Rich Ladies, aka The People Who Can Help You. If the Rich Ladies
decide you really, really don't look or think like your neighbors anymore,
they'll give you a peek at one little corner of the page -- something so old
it's been released to the public -- and ask you if you can get on it. Now,
there's three ways you can make it. You can talk your way in, you can write
your way in, but the best way is to make some charts, graphs -- they love
numbers -- put a bunch of boxes and arrows around them, and maybe you'll
make it."
"Make what?" the dull-witted boy said.
"Make it on the UC Gravy Train, stupid," Little Hector said.
"OK," the dull-witted boy said, "but what's all this paper littering the
tracks and everything?"
"That's different from your page," the brakeman said. "This is your flack.
There's cars and cars up there full of writers that do nothing but write
flack. Then they got other staff people to print it. When they print it they
chuck out the door into the world. It's part of the reason people go mad for
50 miles around a gravy train.
"See this one here," the brakeman said, picking up one of the sheets of
paper. "'Chancellor Tests First UC Merced Building.'
"Hmmm," he read on. It seems that 25 of the state's finest civil engineers
designed a 'non-chemicalized, totally self-contained personal sanitary
depository of wood in a style sensitive to prevalent local aesthetic design
standards, including a moon-shaped window.' Then they hired a construction
company out of Orange County to build it. Prominent university, local, state
and federal officials did a tour and the chancellor was given the honor of
being the first person to test it."
"What is it?" Hector wanted to know.
"Boys, this is good flack," the old brakeman said. "The essence of good
flack is that it leaves you with important questions, like 'what is it?'
Real Good Flack -- and the UC Gravy Train has the finest flack staff tax
money can buy -- is kinda like the old-time Chinese Buddhists. What they say
all points to what they haven't said. Real deep and mystical.
"Now in the case of this latest flack release now littering the entire
Central Valley, what you got is the announcement of the completion of an
outhouse on a cow pasture. It has to be an outhouse because they don't have
any sewer lines. It can't be a chemical outhouse because the
environmentalists would get after them for pollution. Now the chancellor of
these cow pastures which the pork barrel, the gravy train and the staff are
going to transform into a university, and the high officials apparently went
out to this outhouse. Then, if I am translating the flack accurately, the
chancellor went in the outhouse and used it. It doesn't mention if other
high officials also used it. However, it does say that when she emerged from
the outhouse, there was a 'warm round of applause.' Good flack always has a
happy ending."

The three of them stood beside the tracks and watched endless cars full of
offices lurch slowly past them.
"Where'd you say it was going again?" the dull-witted boy asked.
"Where it goes, nobody knows, kid," the brakeman said. "It just keeps going
until the money runs out."
As if to confirm the wisdom of the ancient brakeman, a window opened in the
office car inching through the intersection and a young man, kicking and
screaming, his hands desperately grasping at the window casing, was being
slowly ejected from the opening by a crowd of men and women insistently
pushing and pushing until, finally, he fell to the gravel bed of the
railroad tracks below.
The young man, scratched and bleeding, immediately leapt to his feet and
began pounding his fists against the slowly moving office car, imploring his
former office mates to let him back in.
"For God' sake, it was just a simple observation," he cried. "You can't be
serious! Let me back in immediately. I have a masters degree from UCLA. I
didn't write it down. I didn't do any analysis on it. IT WAS JUST A SLIP OF
His former office mates closed the window and drew the curtains.
As his office inched away, he hobbled along beside it, pounding it, crying
out in despair until it was clear he could expect no pity from those within.
He was off the UC Gravy Train.
The kindly old brakeman led him away from the train, fearing he might throw
himself under its wheels, something similarly ejected staff had done before,
causing a time-consuming mess for railroad employees when they did. The old
man brushed off the fellow's khakis and pressed blue oxford shirt and picked
up his briefcase for him, saying, "There, there, the world ain't come to an
end. There's more than one gravy train come along these tracks. Just you
wait. Life ain't over," and soothing things in this vein.
But the young man was hysterical.
"I am a certified traffic consultant," he stated wildly. "Certified, I say.
I have advanced academic degrees and certification. I am a professional."
"I can see that myself," the old brakeman said. "You look every inch the
professional traffic consultant. If I saw you in a crowded Starbucks, I'd
say: 'By Golly, that man is a professional, certified traffic consultant.'"
"That's right, I am," said the gravy-train reject. "I want that clearly
"It is perfectly clear," the brakeman said. "No arguments here, right boys?"
The dull-witted boy and Hector shook their heads.
"Well, why did they do this foul, unjust thing to you?" the brakeman asked.
"It was just a casual, totally unquantified observation based on anecdotal
information," the consultant said.
"About what?" Hector asked.
"All I said, and absolutely all I said -- and just to my secretary, that
bitch Irene -- who blurted it to my supervisor because ... well, I won't go
into the social habits of the people in that office. Beasts, absolute
beasts. But all I said was that since the UC Gravy Train had derailed, it
was blocking every intersection in Merced and streets in every city from
here to Sacramento. Judging from the line of cars of people trying to get
to work this morning at this one intersection, I said I would have to call
the LOS -- that's the Level of Service for you lay persons -- unacceptable
this morning. Then I said something about Merced City not having been able
to afford to have more than one overpass on one of its two sets of railroad
tracks in town, and no underpasses. Then I wondered -- out loud, in front of
Irene, what a fool I was --if this might pose a problem we could look into.
"It was meant as a kind of joke, don't you see?" he whined. "It wasn't
serious! I mean who cares about traffic congestion in Merced or anywhere
else along the route of the gravy train. Certainly not UC. We're building
roads around Merced. I personally have -- had -- total control of the
planning for six feet of that beltway. Did I say that I have a masters
degree and am a certified traffic planning consultant?"
"Yes, yes, you mentioned that several times," the old brakeman said gently.
"Please go on."
"Every certified traffic consultant on the UC Gravy Train at the moment is
totally focused on the traffic congestion for Phase 1 of its project --
that's the part that won't impact anything except the golfers who lost their
municipal course. Forget the rest! Forget the other phases, the new town,
the nuclear lab and all the development around it. That's what I said:
Forget it! Forget it! Forget it!
"But they wouldn't and they pushed me out and that Irene was right in there
with the rest of them, laughing as she did it. The last one we pushed out
was at night when the train was doing about 40 miles an hour. He screamed
when he landed. I think he died or something."
Suddenly, the rejected consultant sobbed, grabbed his briefcase and dashed
up the tracks to begin his fruitless pounding on the sides of his former
office car on the UC Gravy Train.
"Boys, that's the saddest part of the gravy-train business you're looking
at," the old man said. "You might wonder how come I know so much about what
goes on inside those offices. It's from dusting off young fellows like that
one, the rejects you find wandering along the tracks, mumbling to
themselves, crazy as loons. Sometimes you can see their camp fires at night
in the old jungles where the fruit tramps used to gather. They all got a
tale to tell about their part of the project and they all tell the same
tale: once you're off the UC Gravy Train, they never let you back on it."
The old man paused and scratched his head, trying to remember something.
"Oh yeah, I should tell you this. I hate to mention it -- it ain't sad, it's
just mean -- but if them little backpacks of yours contain any paint cans,
don't do it on this train. Personally, I have enjoyed the peoples' art ever
since it started, but if you're artists, consider another canvas. They got a
private crew of graffiti dicks, all former Texas Rangers, that have zero
tolerance for taggers. I mean zero and I seen the bodies to prove it.
They'll track a tagger all the way to Utah and do him in and age is no
consideration. Younger the better, is their motto. Each one of them has a
special authorization letter from very high officials to enforce this
no-tolerance policy. UC definitely don't like anybody defacing its Gravy
Little Hector said, "I never."
"Me neither," said the dull-witted boy.
"Good," the old brakeman said.
"Tell us about some of the other cars," the dull-witted boy said.
"That's a tall order, boy, and we'd be here for months if I told you about
all the cars on the UC Gravy Train.
"There's your Governor's car and your Legislature cars. There's specially
made out of bullet-proof, foot-thick black glass. Nobody can see in. Nobody
can see out. They're blocked at each end and nobody can get in or out
"But the fanciest cars are for the high UC officials," he continued. "The
paint on those cars is so clean and shiny it blinds the eyes. Hundreds of
little businessmen, all dressed in blue suits with gold ties are constantly
washing and polishing the UC officials' cars. You can't see inside those
cars because they have thick, brocade curtains of blue and gold. The
businessmen who clean the cars say the thread in these curtains is made of
pure gold. Every once in awhile one of the high officials opens the window
to give an official address. Official UC addresses are done by the official
dangling his or her backside out the window and permitting the businessmen
and prominent local officials to kiss it.
"Down the line you might see more than a hundred cars with fly-specked
little windows. That would be your secretarial pool cars. You'll see women
answering telephones behind the little windows. They all say the same thing
to whoever is calling. The message is: 'whoever you're calling is out of the
office.' That's an essential component of a gravy train and staff."
"Why?" Hector wanted to know.
"Well, your key difference between staff and ordinary people is that staff
has secretaries to tell anyone trying to call that staff is out of the
office. Otherwise you wouldn't be staff. Get it?"
"No," Hector said.
"Well, you're young yet," the old brakeman said. "You see those plumes of
smoke up ahead, looks like burning rice fields?"
"Yeah," the dull-witted boy said.
"That's your public records cars. See, to get back to the beginning, your
pork barrel, because it's a public project using tax money, has to comply
with all local, state and federal regulations. That means about half the
staff on the gravy train are constantly writing reports on the development
of the pork barrel so the public will know what's going on. Get it?"
"But since your leadership don't want the public to know anything about the
pork barrel except flack, as soon as those staff reports are written and
read by leadership, they run them over to the incinerators in your public
records cars before the environmentalists get hold of them. Get it?"
The dull-witted boy bit a finger nail and said nothing.
"I know it takes awhile," the old brakeman said.
"But all the public records don't get burned up because copies of them go to
place like the natural resource agency cars. Now these cars look kinda like
old-time Pullman cars, a little worse for wear. The blue and gold paint is
chipped and you can see the old Pullman green underneath it. That's because
there's more money in pork barrels than there are in resource agencies. And
there's only a handful of people in each car. But you can't see these people
because the windows are blocked by signs. Each sign is just one big letter.
Put all the letters together and they spell, 'Sue us, please!'
"Then you got your punishment cars," he continued. "There done in an Old
West motif, real graphic and meant to show the public what can happen if
anybody asks any dumb questions and does anything that displeased any
powerful person on the gravy train.
"You got a few emaciated journalists prowling around open cages begging food
from passers-by. Then they've got a former congressman tacked up to a cross
with real nails. Then they've got the skin of a baby black bear tacked up
for some reason, right over the hide of the guy who shot it, making a
charming Western tableau. Then they've got their wanted posters -- mainly
pictures of vernal pools. They've got see-through padded cells for
consulting biologists who went nuts trying to prove they could build the
project without threatening endangered species.
"Then you have your road-kill panels," he continued grimly. "Oh, yes. Car
after car fitted out with tall, white walls on which they tack up dead
squirrels, skunks, coyotes, mice, dogs, cats and whoever else they can
scrape off the roads. If you look at this project from a raptor's point of
view, it looks like Sherman's march to the sea, burning crops all the way or
maybe what the Spanish did in Peru when they burned all the amaranth.
"Next to the flack cars, you find your newspaper cars," the old brakeman
explained. "The newspaper cars are connected to the flack cars by fax
machines. In the beginning of the gravy train you could still see through
the windows into the newspaper cars but that hasn't been true for a year
because fax flack has filled the newspaper cars entirely. Sometimes, if the
train is stalled and you're near a newspaper car you can still see movement
inside. Sometimes the paper seems to move about and you can imagine there
are editors within but you never see them anymore and they sure as hell
can't see you. Every once in awhile some editor gets so burned out, his
frying mind sets fire to the fax flack and one more local newspaper
uncouples from the line.
"Next to the newspaper cars, you have your dog-and-pony cars. They're set up
like theater stages, complete with adoring audiences of reporters and local
leaders hanging on every bark and whinny. One stopped near where I was
working on the track for several hours. It drew a crowd because people are
naturally curious when they see dogs and ponies dressed up like college
"So, we're all standing there watching the dogs bark, the ponies whinny, the
local leaders acting like they understand every word and asking important
questions about growth and prosperity and the reporters scribbling away in
their notebooks. But, boys, none of us out here on the track could speak
either dog or pony so we couldn't make head nor tails out of it.
"My personal favorite car on the UC Gravy Train is a special glassed-in car
full of naked lawyers who were too stupid and corrupt to be of any use on
the project. They don't feed them anything so every couple of days or so
they hold a trial, convict one of their mates and eat him. It's something to
"Then, of course, you got your boosters -- confetti and pompom girls. A lot
of those cars are filled with school kids and your ethnic minority groups.
No gravy train can do without your smiling children and your smiling,
grateful minority people -- just glad to be here in the US improving
themselves through education. They tend to work on your politicians' hearts
and minds. Who ain't gonna vote for more tax money for a university in their
region after your school children and your minority leaders have come to
them begging for the chance to be Real Successful Americans like that
traffic consultant and telling you that if you don't vote for that campus
and the nuclear research lab in your backyard you're just condemning those
people to ignorance and privation.
"Then you got your school teachers and your school administrators cars," he
continued. "These look like floats at the homecoming parade. They are alters
made of wire and blue and gold paper napkins. It ain't Christian exactly
because they're worshiping a Golden Bobcat, a creature that does not occur
in nature but which they highly exalt anyway. They kneel all around it and
pray 24/7.
"The UC Gravy Train goes on and on," the old brakeman said. "You got your
developer cars and your land speculator cars. The only way you can tell the
difference is your developer cars have little slit windows about an inch
thick that double as rifle ports. Land speculators don't have any windows at
"Boys, you see that boxcar coming up?"
"Yep," the dull-witted boy said.
"Well that's my car and I'd better hop it or I won't get any lunch. See you
With that the spry old brakeman disappeared in the open door of the boxcar.
The boys were hoping to see the cannibal-lawyers cage but gave up after a
couple of hours and went home.

| »

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

Submitted: Jun 29, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Badlands editorial board


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

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

RE: May Revise – Williamson Act

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Partners of the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition
California Rangeland Conservation Coalition

May Revise – Williamson Act

Bruce Hafenfeld
California Cattlemen’s Association

Kim Delfino
California Program Director
Defenders of Wildlife

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

Doug Mosebar
California Farm Bureau Federation

Ralph Grossi
American Farmland Trust

Mark Bergstrom
American Land Conservancy

Aimee Rutledge
Executive Director
Sacramento Valley Conservancy

Nita Vail
Executive Director
California Rangeland Trust

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

Pia Sevelius
District Manager
Butte County Resource Conservation District

Cynthia Lashbrook
Merced Alliance for Responsible Growth

William M. Hatch
San Joaquin Valley Conservancy

Doug Johnson
Executive Director
California Invasive Plant Council

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

Lydia M. Miller
San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center

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

Karen Sweet
Executive Officer
Alameda County Resource Conservation District

John Hopkins
Institute for Ecological Health

Lorri Pride
Glenn County Resource Conservation District

Vance Russell
Director of Landowner Stewardship Program
Audubon California

Charles (Toby) Horst
Sierra Resource Conservation District

Carol W. Witham
California Native Plant Society

Lesa Eidman
Executive Director
California Wool Growers Association

Tacy Currey
Executive Director
California Association of Resource Conservation Districts

Patti Turner
District Manager
Colusa County Resource Conservation District

Janet Cobb
Executive Officer
California Wildlife Foundation
California Oak Foundation

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

Jamison Watts
Executive Director
Northern California Regional Land Trust

Judy Ahmann
California CattleWomen’s Association

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

Mary Mitchell
District Manager
Western Shasta RCD

Chuck Peck
Executive Director
Sierra Foothill Conservancy
Enclosure: California Rangeland Resolution

Merced Sun-Star
Ever thought of serving on one of the city's commissions? Now's your chance to volunteer...Leslie Albrecht...6-27-07

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

Merced Sun-Star
Loose Lips: Last Updated: June 29, 2007, 03:17:33 AM PDT

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

Merced Sun-Star
Real estate broker newest planner...Leslie Albrecht

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

Badlands Journal
Red Menace over Merced...Badlands editorial staff

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

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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 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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Massacre on the Delta

Submitted: Jun 09, 2007

"The collapse of the Delta Estuary is really a regulatory collapse." Bill Jennings, chairman of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance.

But the regulatory process doesn't collapse all by itself. Delta fish populations were declining 15 years ago. Collapses began a few years ago. Meanwhile, CALFED met to "fix the Delta." The collapses occurred while regulators dithered, environmental stakeholders groups bought into a collaborative process, water agencies sued, and Bush appointees and federal and state legislators muscled resource agencies and starved them of funds.

In Merced, where local, state and federal government officials have continued to buy off most of the public with "citizen" collaborative processes, lawsuits and grassroots campaigns have been successful in stopping some environmental destruction.

The idea of CALFED was to bring state and federal resource agencies, stakeholders and environmental groups together in a collaborative process of regional planning. CALFED failed completely. Yet, today, the governor has initiated two new collaborative planning processes, the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint and the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley in new efforts to stave off environmental lawsuits against ruinous urban growth. The Blueprint and the Partnership will come to be called the children of CALFED.

At the moment, while Congressman Cardoza alarms Lathrop city officials about the terrors of FEMA floodplain maps and poses in farming districts as the savior of the Honey Bee, former Congressman Pombo signs with Stockton to lobby on water issues, and witless Congressman McNerney sojourns in Livermore, Jennings brings us up to date on the slaughter in the Delta...

Much attention has been focused on the expanded salvage numbers of Delta smelt, as identified by DFG, DWR and Bureau representatives in the press. Unfortunately, they have misled the public regarding the actual numbers of smelt killed by the pumps. The real number of smelt killed by the pumps is not 448 (208 by the SWP and 240 by the CVP), but closer to 11,000 smelt killed during May. It is this number that must be compared to the handful of fish found in the Delta by DFG during the May trawls.

I became curious about agency claims after reading a 1994 article in the SacBee by Jim Meyer that quoted DFG biologist Dale Sweetman as saying, “The actual fish kill is at least 12 times the number of fish salvaged” because since “they can’t measure how many fish are killed, the pump’ operators use the number of fish saved by screens as a gauge to estimate the loss.”

I asked biologist Dan Odenweller (retired DFG chief of screening) about the actual killed versus salvaged rates. Dan pointed out that only an estimated 5% of fish are actually diverted around the first set of fish screens to the secondary channel and only about 5% of those are then diverted around the second set of screens to the salvage buckets. In other words, about 99.5% of smelt are neither “salvaged” nor counted. They continue down the DMC toward the Tehachapis. Of course, none of the “salvaged” Delta smelt survive and these numbers don’t include the larval stage of smelt (less than 20 mm) that can’t be detected. Added to the smelt that pass unrecorded through the screens, is the large number killed by predators in Clifton Court Forebay before they get to the pump inlet. The federal facility is somewhat different and doesn’t experience the same degree of predation as the SWP.

Attached is a simple model developed by Odenweller. Based on his best professional judgment, Dan estimates that CVP pumping killed approximately 2,896 smelt during May and the SWP pumping (assuming forebay predation for smelt is the same as salmon) killed 8,533, for an approximate total of 11,429. This is far different that the 448 smelt killed by pumps that we’ve seen widely quoted in the press. The bottom line is that, during May, the project pumps killed somewhere in the vicinity of 300 times the number of smelt DFG found in surveys throughout the Delta.

I’m sure everyone remembers that the CalFed ROD promised state of the art fish screens. That was before the water contractors bluntly stated that they wouldn’t pay for them.

With respect to the current surveys, the 2007 Survey #6 is finished and most of the information has been posted (as of Sunday night). This latest survey found smelt at 6 sites (115 trawls) with a total catch per unit equivalent (CPUE) of 18.28. This compares to last year’s Survey #6 that found smelt at 19 sites (121 trawls) with a total CPUE of 1,273.8. I haven’t seen the total numbers of smelt captured posted but, using the CPUE as an indicator, it’s clear that this year’s Survey #6 shows a massive drop from the corresponding survey last year. Indeed, it’s clear that DFG found far fewer smelt in this year’s Survey #6 than the paltry 25 smelt identified in the immediately preceding Survey #5. The splittail and longfin numbers also reveal a dramatic drop from last year. Striped bass look about the same.

With respect to the alleged reduction (minimized) in pumping at the federal CVP that was almost universally touted in the press, I note that export rate during the first two days in June is exactly the same as pumping throughout May (1,692 Acre Feet, 855 cfs). Farmers get their water despite adverse effects on Delta smelt; municipalities scramble to find supplies from storage. Sound familiar?

Bill Jennings, Chairman
Executive Director
California Sportfishing Protection Alliance
3536 Rainier Avenue
Stockton, CA 95204
p: 209-464-5067
c: 209-938-9053
f: 209-464-1028
e: deltakeep [at]

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Steinberg's Blueprint for Growth

Submitted: Jun 04, 2007
Better regional planning will help make the state's metro areas more attractive and livable, and that will allow them to grow and attract jobs in a cleaner, healthier setting.-- Sacremento Bee editorial, June 4, 2007

Endorsing a bill authored by state Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, the Sacramento Bee editorialized today that the Sacramento Area Council of Government's (SACOG) "blueprint" should be made statewide policy for urban areas.

(That's too much Sacramento for one sentence. Might as well throw in the Sacramento Kings, the Sacramento River, Old Sacramento, and West and South Sacramento, too. Nevertheless, the bill proposed is pure Sacramento.)

We were unable to think of one bit of open space SACOG has ever saved from Elk Grove to Auburn and plenty of ground its transportation policies have made more attractive for development. What little open space that has been saved in the SACOG region has been saved by lawsuits mainly under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). One exception might be the Sunset Industrial Zone between Roseville and Lincoln, designed to provide space for industrial development and job creation. Roseville is very proud of its superior jobs/housing ratio. We would guess the current largest employer in the zone is an Indian casino across the road from a regional land fill. The zone is under constant developer pressure from both Roseville and Lincoln, particularly along transportation corridors.

To get local government buy-in, Steinberg is offering cities and counties certain exemptions from CEQA, while promoting his bill as part of an anti-global warming package in the state Senate.

The devil is in the details, particularly on CEQA exemptions, and this bill is a Steinberg work-in-progress special, but right now it looks like another Developer Trojan Horse.

Counterpunch editor and publisher, Alexander Cockburn, has written a series of recent articles challenging the scientific connection between human activity and global warming. Cockburn has taken a lot of "heat" from environmentalists for his position, but his eye for damaging policies world-wide that result from the global warming panic is dead on.

Trust the term-limited Legislature of California, a wholly owned subsidiary of lobbyists for finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE), to use global warming as an excuse for weakening the best state law in the country for protecting land that is not smog producing.

The hypothesis that carbon emissions are causing global warming is a useful one. Another useful one is that smog has stupefied Sacramento.

Badlands editorial board

Fuelish sprawl...Editorial

Sacramento area's award-winning "Blueprint" plan has hammered home two key points. First, endless sprawl is not inevitable in our region; second, through incentives, local governments can work to contain leapfrog development and promote transit and alternatives to the automobile. The Blueprint doesn't have the sweep of regulatory measures -- such as Oregon's urban growth boundaries -- but it has changed the dynamic of local planning decisions. Every time a major project is proposed, people now ask this question: Does it comply with the Blueprint? That raises another question: Why don't we have Blueprints in every major metropolitan area of California?... state Sen. Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento is working on a measure that could imprint the Blueprint statewide. Senate Bill 375 would require the California Transportation Commission and regional agencies (those with populations larger than 800,000) to conduct the kind of modeling and planning that SACOG has done in this region. If local governments comply with the growth scenarios envisioned by a region, they would be exempted from certain requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act. That's a significant incentive. Steinberg is promoting SB 375 as part of a Senate package to fight global warming. Blueprint planning, the thought goes, would limit the growth of greenhouse emissions from vehicles and trucks. That's a timely and reasonable argument, but the real reason to support this bill is much closer to home. Better regional planning will help make the state's metro areas more attractive and livable, and that will allow them to grow and attract jobs in a cleaner, healthier setting.

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Report of a meeting in Hillmar on transportation politics

Submitted: Jun 03, 2007

Summary of Meeting at Hilmar Grange Hall, 5/29/07, 6:00PM
by Stevinson Citizen's Group

People in attendance: Table in front of everyone - Jesse Brown, MCAG Executive Director; Senator Jeff Dunham; Kome Ajise, Cal Trans rep for Merced County. Others in attendance: Robin Adams, rep for Kathleen Galgiani; Supervisor Deidre Kelsey (arrived at very end); Merced County Planner, Bob King; about five guys from Livingston, including their mayor and city councilmen; Dan Bohan, Developer for Stevinson Ranch; Diana Westmoreland Padrozo, Merced Co. Farm Bureau, ED; Reporter from Modesto Bee; probably about 75 citizens or more. MAC members: Robb Mitchell, Pat Sparks, Karen Wolchek and Connie Lourenco. Didn't see Dave Anderson or any of the others and I continually looked around for them. Even George and Patty were not there. By the way, I sat right by Dan Bohan.

First Speaker was Robin Adams representing Kathleen Galgiani. He said she would do anything that she can to move road projects forward.

Second Speaker was Kome Ajise, Cal Trans. One sure bet of funding is Hwy 99 projects. 1 billion is going to be spent from Bakersfield to Redding. 1/4 billion for Merced County with the projects being the Mission Project to Madera County line widening to six lanes. Other projects next in line are Los Banos bypass and widening of 99 by Livingston.

Jeff Dunham asked Kome what are ways for counties to be self help. His response was 1. Sales Tax measures (19 counties now have it)
2. Traffic impact fees (mentioned El Dorado County has one.
He said Merced County has one too but it is different from
El Dorado County one. He did not elaborate on how it is
3. Toll roads (Area not right for those. Need more pop and
roads that people have no choice but to take)
4. Developer fees (he called it "straight levee on rooftops")
Kome stressed that state is reluctant to take on any more projects than those already in process. Hwy 165 is not considered in process at this time.

Second Speaker was Jesse Brown, MCAG. Said that MCAG is responsible for
creating a regional transportation plan for Merced County. Merced County receives federal dollars every year from our tax dollars, but it is all spent on road maintenance. 1.9 million was available and it was all used for maintenance. 2.6 million came from congestion funds but has to be used for transportation issues like mass transportation.
Jesse Brown stated MCAG's reasons for allocating funds:
1. safety
2. congestion
3. leveraging more money from other sources.
4. efficiency
He spoke about Hwy 165 Bypass:
1. Has to be placed in regional transportation plan, which it is.
2. MCAG only has money for project study report (being done now)
3. Next step is the EIR (8 years)
4. Engineering (1 1/2 years)
5. Right of way (2 1/2 years)
6. Build road (3 years)
He said that MCAG has many priorities before Hwy 165 bypass is in top tier. Top tier projects are proposed to be built within the next 20 years. It was in top tier, but because Measure G failed it no longer is. He said that he can guarantee that the soonest it could be built would be at least 20 years and not before that time. Remember Deidre was always saying 10 to 15 years.
Of course, he stressed that we need to become self help. He thanked Hilmar for overwhelmingly voting to pass Measure G. He said the Measure failed in Atwater and Merced so that is where they will put most of their effort this time around.

Then the floor was open to questions. One of the most interesting was a man from Livingston who is on the city council. He brought a map. He said that he and others are proposing to put the highway interchange in Livingston and route 165 bypass people over there to it. Never gonna happen. He had a very fancy aerial map with the plan on it. He thanked Senator Dunham several times for inviting him to come. So it looks like Livingston is gunning for the interchange. There must be a lot of money to be made by putting fast food restaurants and such by those. Look at what Livingston has done at the interchange at the Winton Rest Stop. They are licking their chops for this one too.

I was the last person to go to the microphone to ask a question. None of the previous questions dealt with developments so I had to think how I could tie it in to the issues discussed. I told Denham and the Cal Trans man about all of the master planned developments proposed that would be serviced by Hwy 165. When I mentioned 3,700 homes in Stevinson the Cal Trans man straightened his back, shook his head and frowned. Denham turned his head and looked at the Cal Trans man when this happened. I said that within a 13 mile stretch 11,000 homes are being proposed (Stevinson, Turlock Golf Course, Turlock's platinum triangle) and that traffic would be serviced by a two lane bypass. I said that it is not going to work. There will be too much traffic for a two lane bypass. Then I said how people have told me that you cannot even speak of four lanes because of costs. So, I just said that the numbers do not add up and the two lane bypass is too costly for the service it will provide.

One man said that it takes too long for EIR's. He said they need to shorten the process. He said that once they are done Mrs. Miller does a lawsuit and it takes another two or three years. He said that she did it on the UC Merced and now she is doing it on the racetrack. Kome said that it cannot be shortened because it is the law. The man said they need to change the laws.

Rob Mitchell got up and gave a very good speech about the idiotic idea of self help. He was pretty mad and said that we have already put in our money and that the self help concept is holding money we have already paid hostage until we put more money into the system. He got a large applause with that comment.

After the meeting I stayed around and talked to people. A woman came up and said that she is sure they are not going to use Griffith. She said they will take property off of the backside of people's land between Griffith and Golf.

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Sonny Star: full of bull and applepie

Submitted: May 20, 2007
About 80 percent of our smog-causing pollutants come from mobile sources over which the air district has no jurisdiction. More than ever, we will need the state and federal government to do their fair share for the Valley by providing funding and regulatory assistance to reduce emissions from cars, trucks and locomotives. -- Merced Sun-Star, May 19, 2007

This ration of the well-known substance was dished out via Sonny Star, McClatchy's local rent-a-rag, by Seyed Sadredin, executive director/air pollution control officer of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, who began his flak during a breezy week by saying:

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 remainder will not be cheap and cannot happen overnight. On April 30, the Air 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 board members should be commended for their courage, resoluteness and commitment to clean air.

Sadredin is willfully confusing the public on behalf of the state regional air board, made up entirely of pro-growth Valley politicians. The board is asking the federal Environmental Protection Agency for the worst air pollution designation it has to offer, "extreme non-attainment," so that federal highway funds will not be pulled back until developers have all the roads they need for more growth, which will equal more pollution, not however the responsibility of the state board. Presumably, in 2023, Sadredin's two-bit flak successor will be saying our air is even cleaner, but that we must apply for the federal "catastrophic non-attainment" designation so that federal highway funds will not be withdrawn.

As long as the Valley keeps growing, it doesn't matter how many restrictions are placed on stationary-source emissions (mainly farm equipment). It is the cars of the new residents that do the damage. It is the destruction of natural resources to build subdivisions that does the damage.

Until a public coalition actually commits to suing both the federal and state governments simultaneously and is willing to endure the long haul such a suit would entail, nothing will improve and Sonny Star will be printing authoritative "expert" flak about how much cleaner our air is getting every breeze May.

Moving from bull to a related topic, apple pie, we note that righteous members of the local Applepiocracy are suggesting that the CEO of Riverside Motorsparts Pork is really not the proper sort of person we should include in our community. Therefore, the Applepiocrats suggest, the board of supervisors somehow renege on their approval of the RMP permits and zone changes. Because, you see, he is not a nice man. Sonny Star, with his unerring instinct for snobbery and with its contemptuous ignorance of law, is also slinging apple pies at John Condren.

The present public commentary in Merced is filled with bull and apple pie. If this keeps up too much longer, the whole county will be buried by flaky crusted compost (which might be a smoother driving surface than our present streets and roads). And that's just dandy, as long as no one imagines it will stop the increase in air pollution coming to the Valley through "planning" promoted by the University of California, the Merced Association of Governments, the Merced Board of Supervisors, the Merced City Council, the finance, insurance and real estate special interests, the air board and the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint. And, of course, by Sonny Star, who knows which side he's buttered on.

The only black box on the horizon is $5 fuel.

Badlands editorial staff

Merced Sun-Star
Breathe easier knowing air is cleaner...Seyed Sadredin, executive director/air pollution control officer of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.

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 remainder will not be cheap and cannot happen overnight. The board members should be commended for their courage, resoluteness and commitment to clean air. About 80 percent of our smog-causing pollutants come from mobile sources over which the air district has no jurisdiction...we will need the state and federal government to do their fair share for the Valley by providing funding and regulatory assistance to reduce emissions from cars, trucks and locomotives. By any objective measure, the plan adopted by the air district is a comprehensive effort that leaves no stone unturned...

Merced Sun-Star
RMP an embarrassment...Marc Medefind, Merced...Letters to the editor

Five months ago, the Merced County Board of Supervisors made a decision that rocked the world of citizens who think that clean air, noise restrictions, ag preservation, and traffic concerns should be pre-eminent in the hearts and minds of those they elected to serve. Since then, the "house of cards" known as Riverside Motorsports Park has taken quite a tumble...Sun-Star has published exposés about the background and character of CEO John Condren...documents the seemingly nefarious ways in which he treated both employees and directors. Other articles have exposed the way the RMP Corp. deceived those who were once strong supporters and flouted the laws in Alameda County...paint a picture of an arrogant, egomaniac who apparently did anything to get what he wanted, regardless of statute or ethics. Sun-Star Sports Editor Steve Cameron...Where's the money coming from to build this gargantuan track? We still have no answers. Kenny Shepherd ("Advocate to Adversary") once again raised huge questions about character and trust where RMP is concerned...far from rolling in the bucks -- RMP can hardly pay its electric bills. After bamboozling most of Merced County's Supervisors into supporting this farce...milked dry and its directors sent packing...filling local racing fans with dreams of grandeur...overturning common sense ordinances... it doesn't seem too unrealistic that the rezoned land will be sold to investors...Mr. Condren will sail off into the sunset... But maybe that was the plan from day one. Still, it's not too late. Our Supervisors have only to revisit and rescind their unfortunate December decision to prevent this embarrassment from staining our county any further.

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