Cardoza, gutless wonder...Badlands Journal editorial board
The visit from Hoyer highlights Cardoza's pull in Washington at a time when he's facing vocal critics at home. It's also notable that he didn't invite San Francisco-based Pelosi, who could have tarnished his reputation as a Blue Dog -- fiscally conservative -- Democrat. -- Merced Sun-Star, Aug. 26, 2009
First, from Cardoza's twisted viewpoint, it would make more sense to bring the Majority Leader from Maryland rather than the Speaker from California, since Cardoza lives in Maryland.
Second, former Rep. Gary Condit, D-Ceres, brought Rep. Nancy Pelosi to one of his congressional breakfasts in 2000. She was just as liberal as she is now and wasn't even the Speaker yet. And she brought Dolores Huerta with him. Condit was one of the founders of the Blue Dog Coalition. So, once again, we have the Gutless Wonder in action.
Badlands predicts that any member of the Berryhill family capable of tying his shoelaces will take this bozo in 2010 if Cardoza doesn't vote a straight and ruinous Republican line all the way. Cardoza's elementary failure to show the minimal solidarity of continuing to live in the district he represents as it goes through massive economic trauma -- his whole cut-and-run attitude -- has made him despised by the people who voted for him. His idea of a district visit is meetings and calls with local fat cats and a drop-in to the editorial boards.
As far as getting more stimulus funds for his district, it probably didn't help us all that he expressed his contempt for the Obamas by not attending Michelle Obama's commencement address at UC Merced, choosing instead to go to the Preakness in Baltimore with Blue Dog contributors. It probably didn't help our cause when he, along with representatives Radanovich, Nunes and Costa, thugged around Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Interior's point man on California water, David Hayes, in Fresno in front of a crowd of farmers not even in our district (a place where water deliveries were just fine this year).
His major contributors of the moment are agribusiness (which established this dysfunctional economic base at the beginning), oil companies, bankers and medical PACs. At a time when real unemployment, as calculated by Great Depression measures, is closer to 40 percent than 20 percent, Cardoza is going to sell out the most vulnerable people in his district on health care and he doesn't have the guts to face them to tell them that. If there is any public option, it is beginning to sound like it will resemble the business model of a grain silo in Podunk, North Dakota or Dunkpo, Montana.
The meetings have become lightning rods, often filled with shouting that's highlighted on TV news networks. "We will not achieve a consensus that's good for the American people if we're all shouting at each other," he said.
Yo, Gutless. There is no consensus on healthcare and how dare you tell the American people what's good for us. You haven't a clue. We're just beginning the depression. The pain is still raw yet. We haven't yet succumbed to a zombie state of despair. There are people out there who still believe in democracy and its oldest, pre-Revolutionary, pre-federal government, pre-Congress institution, the town hall meeting.
In times like these, the district can no longer afford a babbling coward to represent it in Congress.
Cardoza brings a House leader along to talk about issues facing Valley
Addressing the issues Representative switching focus to job creation...SCOTT JASON
Rep. Dennis Cardoza said Tuesday he's pushing the Obama administration to emphasize job creation, especially in the Valley where the unemployment rate in some areas is at Great Depression-era levels.
"Really, what we need now is jobs. We need people to be put back to work," said Cardoza, D-Merced. "Twenty percent unemployment is not a sustainable situation."
The congressman shifted his emphasis from foreclosure assistance -- long one of his major platforms -- to job creation through federal grants. He lamented that his calls for homeowner help fell on "deaf ears" for more than a year.
Cardoza, along with House Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, spent an hour with The Modesto Bee and Merced Sun-Star editorial boards discussing the decision not to hold town hall meetings, health care reform, the economy and America's two wars.
Hoyer, a representative from Maryland and the leading House Democrat besides San Francisco Rep. Nancy Pelosi, spent the day in Merced County so he could see firsthand the issues Cardoza has been talking about in House leadership meetings.
Cardoza wants to change the Economic Development Administration so that more money can be directed to the Valley for job training and road investment. The federal program, which falls under the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has to be reauthorized every five years. The congressman is looking to make changes through legislation or through the administration's powers.
The visit from Hoyer highlights Cardoza's pull in Washington at a time when he's facing vocal critics at home. It's also notable that he didn't invite San Francisco-based Pelosi, who could have tarnished his reputation as a Blue Dog -- fiscally conservative -- Democrat.
Cardoza was dismissive of both the people calling for town hall meetings through letters to the editors and of his newly minted 2010 Republican challenger.
Cardoza said no one he's spoken with during his visit has asked him to hold a town hall meeting to discuss health care reform. The meetings have become lightning rods, often filled with shouting that's highlighted on TV news networks. "We will not achieve a consensus that's good for the American people if we're all shouting at each other," he said.
He touted his telephone town hall meetings that reach about 4,000 people at a time and don't provide controversial fodder for news outlets.
Cardoza said he's committed to making sure health care reform helps the Valley by bringing in more doctors and nurses, and by supporting a UC Merced medical school.
Cardoza said there are 155,000 people in his district without health insurance. Twenty-two percent of residents in the district have private insurance, Cardoza said, and 28 percent have no insurance at all. "That is not acceptable," he said.
Frustration with Cardoza led Mike Berryhill, a member of the Turlock Irrigation District board of directors, to announce Monday his intention to run for Cardoza's seat. The challenge won't be a distraction, Cardoza said, adding that he was elected to represent California's 18th congressional district. He won't focus on re-election until the middle of next year.
Hoyer said he believes the recession is making Americans frustrated and scared, which manifests itself at the town hall meetings.
While the national economy has shown slight signs of recovery, Cardoza suspects it will be slow coming to Merced. "We're still having a difficult time digging out," Cardoza said. "We're in a deep hole."
On national security issues, Hoyer said Obama made a wise decision by keeping Robert Gates on as secretary of defense. Hoyer fears that American troops will leave Iraq before there's stability, which will lead to increases in violence there.
U.S. forces face a challenging environment in Afghanistan, Hoyer said, adding that he's concerned about its future because no superpowers have had much luck stabilizing the country.
"I'm worried about Afghanistan -- that we'll get sucked in to an increasing large commitment," he said.
Hoyer didn't offer any thoughts on what should be done to rebuild the Valley's economy, which he said is up to Cardoza and other House representatives. He did, however, commit himself to building support for Cardoza's initiatives.
Letter: No town hall needed...JOHN ALEXANDER, Merced
Editor: I watch the news and listen to people criticize our political leaders for not having town hall meetings during their congressional break.
Until such time as a health care reform plan has been crafted, it doesn't make sense to create a forum for complaining.
Everyone knows there is a problem, and there are many people working to create a solution: both Democrats and Republicans. The solution will require collaboration and creativity.
In the meantime, I think Sun-Star readers should know that Rep. Dennis Cardoza is working hard to support the process. He and his Blue Dog colleagues will ensure fiscal responsibility and access to care for a maximum number of people.
Readers should also know that Cardoza made a personal stop in Livingston and took time out of his schedule to thank all the employees of Livingston Medical Group for their dedication and service.
He spent time touring our facility and thanking everyone from receptionists and medical assistants, to providers and referral clerks.
Cardoza is knowledgeable and influential. He thoroughly understands the problems and challenges that face his constituents. He does not have to have town hall meetings to get the message: he is an expert.
Letter: Dismaying letter...DAVID R. BORBOA, Firebaugh
Editor: I was greatly dismayed in reading Los Banos Mayor Tommy Jones' letter Tuesday defending Reps. Dennis Cardoza and Jim Costa in regards to their handling of the Westside water crisis.
Neither Cardoza nor Costa has taken an active part with the Latino Water Coalition. True, they were at the San Luis Reservoir on the last day of the march for a photo op with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. But where were they during the three-day march from Mendota to Los Banos?
Nowhere to be found.
In fact, Costa has done much to hurt the efforts of Valley activists like Paul Rodriguez and other members of the coalition.
While it is true that Cardoza and Costa have managed to get some water to be released to the area, it is literally a drop in the bucket as our beloved area continues to dry up.
We need the pumps turned on now to save Valley farming. Cardoza and Costa evidently can't -- or won't -- work to that end.
And hopefully, it is a problem that can be rectified next year in the voting booths.
Fresno to study 3 water conservation plans
City Council will take up measures after task force formed...Russell Clemings
Three months after forming a task force on water, the Fresno City Council will consider Thursday three water-conservation measures prompted by the drought.
Written by Council Member Andreas Borgeas, the measures:
-- Call for plans for reusing "graywater" -- waste water from washers, showers, bathtubs and other less-than-hazardous sources -- for landscape irrigation and limited indoor use.
-- Expand an existing rebate program for highly efficient home plumbing fixtures so businesses can qualify for the rebates, too. The program is funded at $22,000 in the fiscal year that started July 1.
-- Start a process leading to requirements for highly efficient fixtures in new construction in the downtown freeway triangle.
The council has previously called for changes in state and federal water policies, voting in July, for example, to back legal challenges to rules protecting two fish species from water project operations in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
The city also tightened its outdoor watering rules in April, banning all irrigation between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m.
But Borgeas said the city also should be "taking a good look into our backyard and seeing what we can do."
The measures have support from the Fresno Chamber of Commerce and the Building Industry Association "with one condition -- that they work with us on implementation," said Michael Prandini, the association's president and chief executive officer.
"We just don't want them to jump out too far in front" of what the association considers to be viable technologies, Prandini said.
Borgeas said the graywater measure is intended to give the city power to adopt tighter standards than those announced in July by the state Building Standards Commission.
Similarly, the downtown standards would complement recently adopted state standards. Water supplies downtown are considered a major limitation on higher-density development envisioned there.
The council's water task force, on which Borgeas serves, was formed in May but has not yet had a formal meeting because of more pressing council business like the city budget, followed by vacations in July and August.
U.S. ag secretary acknowledges dairy hardships...Robert Rodriguez
U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Tuesday that the federal government is doing what it can to assist dairy operators through one of the milk industry's worst downturns in years.
Nationwide, the dairy industry has struggled for months with weak demand, low prices and sluggish exports.
In remarks to The Bee's Editorial Board, Vilsack said the USDA has boosted the dairy industry by increasing the price-support program, buying products to be used in the school lunch program and making exporting easier.
Today in Modesto, he will take part in a town hall meeting. Vilsack has been hit with questions about the dairy industry's troubles at every one of his first 17 stops nationwide.
And he likely will hear from more dairy operators in Modesto. California, led by Tulare County, is the nation's top milk producer.
Vilsack said he understands the problems the dairy industry is facing and he said the department also is looking at long-term solutions, including creating better price stability.
"What is important is that we can't have the volatility that we are experiencing," Vilsack said. "It just makes it much more difficult for people to decide to get in the business, stay in the business or get out of the business."
Vilsack's Valley visit was the second Tuesday by a high-ranking Washington official. Earlier, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., toured Mendota with Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno.
Hoyer flew over the west side to view thousands of acres of fallowed land. In Mendota, he watched hundreds of people line up for a food drive -- one of many the city has held for people out of work because of the drought.
He later met with about a dozen people including farmers, local elected officials and city residents.
Hoyer, who is the second-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, vowed to do what he could to help find a solution to the region's water shortages.
"There is no excuse in a country as rich and innovative as ours to have thousands of acres laying fallow and have people who are starving," Hoyer said.
Nestle Waters to build bottling plant in Sacramento...Jim Downing
Nestle Waters North America announced today it plans to build a water bottling plant in a warehouse at the Florin Fruitridge Industrial Park in South Sacramento.
The $14 million plant is scheduled to begin operations early next year and will employ 40 people. It will bottle water for the Nestle Pure Life and Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water brands, a news release states.
The plant will be supplied with piped water from the city of Sacramento, as well as water trucked from several private springs in Northern California, a spokeswoman said. It will initially bottle as much as 50 million gallons a year, primarily for distribution in Northern California.
Information on job opportunities at the plant is available at www.nestlewatersca.com/sacramento/ or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
California property assessment values fell for first time since 1933...Matt Glover
The price Californians are paying for a prolonged recession and housing crisis hit home with a thud Tuesday.
For the first time since the California Board of Equalization began keeping records in 1933, the value of all assessed property statewide declined in a year-to-year comparison.
Amid the dismal numbers in BOE's annual report, the Sacramento region was among the hardest hit.
BOE said assessments statewide for the 2009-10 period totaled $4.44 trillion, a drop of $107.2 billion, or 2.4 percent, from 2008-09.
The value of county-assessed property fell by $107.6 billion, or 2.4 percent, to $4.37 trillion. The value of state-assessed property, mainly privately owned public utilities and railroads, totaled $76.1 billion, a slight increase of $400 million, or 0.5 percent, BOE said.
"We've just gotten these figures in from the county assessors who are responsible for assessing property locally, and the (value) declines show that the housing market has been hit hard," said Anita Gore, BOE spokeswoman. "Several factors are responsible for affecting values, including people buying homes at auction and foreclosures."
Year-to-year percentage changes ranged from a high of a 7.1 percent gain in San Francisco County, to a low of a 13.4 percent decline in Merced County.
Thirty-eight counties posted year-to-year declines, with 14 declining by 5 percent or more.
That included Sacramento County. The 2009-10 locally assessed value of property totaled $126.4 billion, down 7.2 percent from $136.2 billion from 2008-09; the state-assessed property value for the county was $1.5 billion, down slightly from $1.6 billion the previous year.
The total of all assessments in the county came to about $128 billion, down 7.2 percent from about $137.8 billion in 2008-09.
Only San Francisco and Trinity counties saw a positive growth rate exceeding 5 percent in the most recent period.
The decline in assessed valuation was especially concentrated in the Central Valley. Values dropped 9.9 percent in the northern San Joaquin Valley, 4.8 percent in the greater Sacramento area and 4.2 percent in the southern San Joaquin Valley.
The depressed inland assessments were reflected in BOE's overall numbers.
The value in California's 43 inland counties fell 4.8 percent, twice the state average. In contrast, property values for the state's 15 coastal counties – which BOE said account for nearly 60 percent of valuation statewide – fell only 0.6 percent.
Gore noted that the decline of property values inland also reflects the housing boom that preceded the state's housing crisis and a national recession.
"Inland is where they had most of the growth in recent years of new construction, and it's those newly constructed homes that had high values. But those values have come way down," she said.
Of the 12 California counties with values exceeding $100 billion, three Bay Area counties saw an increase in assessed valuation. Besides San Francisco, San Mateo was up 0.5 percent and Santa Clara edged up 0.1 percent.
Sacramento County's 7.2 percent decline in property values was the second-worst percentage behind Riverside County's 10.5 percent decrease among the 12 highest value counties.
Totals from other area counties included:
• El Dorado County – Total property value of $27.7 billion, down 2.1 percent from $28.2 billion last year.
• Placer County – Total property value of $58 billion, down 2.4 percent from $59.5 billion in 2008-09.
• Yolo County – Total property value of $20.94 billion, down 0.2 percent from $20.98 billion last year.
Los Angeles County, with the largest assessment roll at $1.08 trillion, was down $6 billion, or 0.6 percent, from 2008-09.
S.J. wants canal out of plans...The Record
STOCKTON - Water-related legislation under discussion in Sacramento is, for the most part, not what San Joaquin County wants to see become law, a county consultant said Tuesday.
At least one of the bills wending through the process during the final weeks of the legislative session would set the stage for a peripheral canal, said Terry Dermody, the county's water attorney.
The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta provides water to about 25 million Californians.
Opposition to a canal that would divert river water around the Delta on its way to trans-state delivery pumps near Tracy appeared in the county's legislative framework, a document approved by the Board of Supervisors in April.
The framework's purpose is to state where the county stands on various issues as bills move through the legislative process.
"We don't need those bills right now. There's no need to rush through this," Dermody said. "(Legislators) should take the time and do it right."
Based on the framework, the county could support only one of five closely watched bills related to water, Dermody said.
That bill, by state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, would create a Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy and strengthen local representation on the Delta Protection Commission. Wolk's district includes a portion of San Joaquin County.
Council OKs funds for Delta pumping...David Siders
STOCKTON - The City Council awarded $184 million in contracts Tuesday to build the Delta Water Supply Project, Stockton's bid to pump drinking water from the Delta.
It is the largest public works project ever undertaken by City Hall.
"This is one of the most important days in Stockton history," Municipal Utilities Director Mark Madison said.
The project is to divert 33,000 acre-feet of water annually from the San Joaquin River. The council's action Tuesday allocated most of the project's estimated $217 million cost. The council has endorsed the project for years and in July ordered water rates raised to pay for it.
Construction will begin next month, and the project is to be operational by February 2012, Madison said. It was once expected to be operational this year but was delayed in part because of the city's inability until recently to obtain permits to build and operate it.
The project is to pump water from the San Joaquin River in northwest Stockton to a treatment plant north of Eight Mile Road and west of Lower Sacramento Road. From there, the water is to be piped to homes, relaxing Stockton's reliance on groundwater and water from east of Stockton and serving new development, officials said.
"It's important for the future of Stockton," City Manager Gordon Palmer said.
The project has had little opposition, in part because the Municipal Utilities Department's budget is separate from the general fund, the account at the center of Stockton's financial crisis.
The council voted 7-0 to pay CDM Constructors Inc., a Rancho Cucamonga arm of Cambridge, Mass.-based CDM Inc., $166.5 million to build a water treatment plant and pipeline, and to pay Preston Pipelines Inc. of Milpitas $16.2 million to build an intake and pump station at the river. It voted to pay Phoenix-based Carollo Engineers $1.6 million for construction management and inspection services.
Officials said the project will put almost $80 million into the local economy, including labor and materials.
The only member of the public to address the council on the subject Tuesday was Bobby Bivens, president of the Stockton branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He called on the city and CDM Constructors Inc. to employ minorities.
Mayor Ann Johnston said the project will involve opportunities for "a lot of people" throughout the city.
Nestle on the Prowl - Poised to Steal Sacramento's Water...Save Our Water
Nestle is planning a move to Sacramento...
On July 26, with a brief back page article, the Sacramento Bee broke the story that Nestle Waters is coming to Sacramento. A glowing article in the Business Journal and a critical article in the News and Review followed, and then the story was mostly forgotten.
Since this initial publicity, Nestle and the city of Sacramento have worked hard to quietly fast-track this project so Nestle can open its south Sacramento bottling plant in the next few months. City staff consider this project "non-discretionary," which means if all goes as planned, there will be no public comment, no city council vote and no environmental impact report.
Down the Drain
Nestle claims that their Sacramento plant will be a "micro-bottling plant," bottling only 50 million gallons of water. According to Nestle, approximately 30 million gallons will come from Sacramento's municipal water system and 20 million will be trucked to the plant from nearby "private springs." City staff have refused to answer questions about the springs and Nestle has provided no information about their location, other than telling the Sacramento News and Review that they are in the Sierra Nevada foothills. A search of water extraction permits issued by the State of California over the last two years reveals nothing. The only clues come from other communities struggling to keep from being robbed of their water. In July of 2008 Attorney General Jerry Brown delivered a near fatal blow to Nestle's plans for their massive bottling plant in the small mountain town of McCloud California. That same month, developer Lawrence Adams filed an application to increase the amount of water he could extract from a parcel of land he owns in Shingletown, California. Adams was granted permission to increase the amount he pumps from 26,000 gallons a day to 288,000 gallons a day. Despite requests from Shingletown residents, Adams has refused to disclose who he plans to sell the water to. This foothill town, looted for water in the same month that Nestle's McCloud deal crumbled, is the only site we can locate that could possibly be Nestle's mysterious private spring. If Nestle is Lawrence Adams’ secret customer, then quite possibly the fate of this town’s water depends on whether or not the Sacramento bottling plant is built.
The tactics Nestle is using in Sacramento are a noticeable departure from the methods they have used in other towns from whom they hoped to profit. Unlike many of their past endeavors - where Nestle negotiates backroom deals for access to inordinate amounts of water - in Sacramento there is no agreement to provide a specified amount of water. In fact, there is no agreement at all. If everything goes as planned, Nestle just hooks up to our water system and pumps as much as they want. The only limit on the amount of water Nestle pumps, as I was told by one staff member at the Economic Development Department, is the size of their pipes. The three bottling plants already in Sacramento are among the city's top 20 water users. All three have increased the amount of water they pump in the last two years, one as much as 54 percent. Why would Nestle be any different?
Nestle has fought for the last 6 years, without success, to establish a bottling plant in the town of McCloud, California. While rumors abound that Nestle is abandoning their plans for McCloud, the company has indicated that it all depends on what happens in Sacramento. Before bowing to pressure from the public, courts and the Attorney General, Nestle planned to pump 520 million gallons of spring water a year and unlimited groundwater from the aquifers of McCloud. If Nestle pumps 520 million gallons of water in Sacramento that would make them the city's number one water user (pumping over 200 million gallons more than the runner-up, the Sacramento Power Authority). And why not? Once they are connected no one can control how much water they pump. They have a ten year lease (with an option to extend) on their warehouse space at 8670 Younger Creek Drive. The plant will supposedly be 214,000 square feet, but it is within a 548,000 square foot warehouse (see diagram below). This is considerably bigger than the size of their proposed McCloud plant and presumably would make it easier for them to expand if they increased production.
Marketing the Region
So whose idea was it to allow a notoriously gluttonous corporation unlimited access to our water in the 3rd year of a major drought? The answer is the Sacramento Area Commerce and Trade Organization (SACTO). SACTO is a chamber of commerce type organization that describes itself as "the region's leading marketer." SACTO has claimed responsibility for pimping us out to a greedy robber baron in exchange for the promise of a few jobs and, according to their press release, "we look forward to a strong relationship with them for years to come.” It seems like they are off to a good start.
Even if Nestle only bottles 50 million gallons of water a year in Sacramento, that would result in the creation of 800 million water bottles annually. It requires over 400,000 barrels of oil to produce that much plastic. The production of that many bottles creates an astronomical amount of non-biodegradable trash - which ends up not only in our landfills, but also in our forests and streams. The diesel required to truck 20 million gallons of water from the "nearby springs" to Sacramento and then truck 800 million bottles across the state is enormous. According to SACTO board chairwoman Jeanne Reaves, "This is exactly the type of light, clean industry SACTO works to attract to this region," yet this is an industry that requires petroleum, plastic and pollution. These are exactly the kinds of issues that the Attorney General brought up in his letter to Nestle demanding that they do an Environmental Impact Report for their project in McCloud. Yet, despite these identical problems, Nestle and the City of Sacramento plan to do no environmental review.
In exchange for the theft of unknown amounts of our water, Nestle claims the bottling plant will provide Sacramento with a mere 40 jobs. This is pretty meager, considering that in Sacramento County over 83,000 people are currently unemployed. More importantly, there are only 12 job openings for Sacramento posted on Nestle's website. In McCloud, independent economic analysis also found Nestle's claims of economic benefit to be fraudulent. Additionally, there is no guarantee that this handful of jobs posted all over the internet will go to people in the area or benefit anyone in Sacramento at all.
Water bottling is not a clean industry. The resources required to bottle millions of gallons of bottled water would put an unnecessary strain on this whole region and our environment. The number of jobs Nestle will provide in Sacramento is minimal. The whole industry is useless. Nestle will take our tap water and sell it back to us after marking it up over 1,000 times what they paid for it. If Nestle is allowed to build a water bottling plant in Sacramento they can take as much water as they want, for as long as they want, without any limits or accountability. As the
population grows and the drought continues water is becoming more scarce. The water in Sacramento should be for the plants, animals and humans in this region to live on, not for big companies to amass obscene amounts of wealth. If Nestle is allowed to build this plant, we give up even more control of our water for as long as that plant exists.
If you are interested in discussing options for mobilizing against Nestle, join us on Thursday, Sept. 3 at 6:30 pm. The meeting will be held at midtown friends 1812 J Street # 16
Below are some of the sources for this article and information for further research.
News and Review aricle about the Nestle Bottling Plant in Sacramento.
http://www.newsreview.com/sacramento/content?oid=1050642 Attorney General's press release about the Nestle Bottling Plant in McCloud.
Article from the Sacramento Business Journal
The Sacramento Bee Article
SACTO Press Release
Article from a real estate web site called Costar Group
Website about Shingletown water removal
McCloud Watershed Council
Exposing Nestle's predatory behavior
All Bottled Up: Nestle's Pursuit of Community Water
Inside Bay Area
Car fire near UC president's home not an arson, authorities say...Kristin Bender, Oakland Tribune
OAKLAND — A car fire last Thursday near the home of University of California president Mark Yudof likely was started by an electrical malfunction, police said Tuesday.
The fire was not an arson, said Officer Jeff Thomason, Oakland Police Department spokesman. The cause is undetermined, but there are some indications that it was caused by an electrical problem, he said. There is no indication that an accelerant was used, he said.
No one was injured in the fire, which also burned part of a tree.
Federal agents and arson investigators from the Oakland police investigated the fire that broke out at 1:45 a.m. Aug. 20 on Woodmont Way in the Grizzly Peak Estates neighborhood of the Oakland hills.
Sgt. J.D. Nelson, Alameda County sheriff's spokesman, said the bomb squad responded because there was a report of the sound of explosions but quickly determined that no explosives were involved. UC police also responded because the fire was near Yudof's home.
Contra Costa Times
Fixing Delta comes with high price tag
Costs could total $54 billion, a consultant estimates...Mike Taugher
The Delta fix supported by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and many of the state's largest water agencies could carry a staggering price tag of $23 billion to $54 billion, a consulting economist was planning to tell lawmakers Tuesday.
The estimate, provided in a paper by Steven Kasower, appears to be the first time that potential costs of different pieces of the proposed fix — storing and moving water, offsetting environmental damage caused by those projects and restoring habitat — have been compiled in one place.
But he emphasized that the numbers were very preliminary and that lawmakers would be foolhardy to pass a package of bills before better numbers are available.
Some critics of Delta planning efforts have observed the state could end up committing money for new water and environmental solutions that could otherwise be used for programs that have been hit by budget cuts.
"It is astounding that at the same time the Legislature is slashing funding for education, health and public safety, they're considering a multibillion-dollar package with no critical analysis of how much it will cost," said Jonas Minton, a water policy analyst at the Planning and Conservation League, a conservation group.
The annual cost to finance such a massive public works project could run from $1.5 billion to $3.4 billion a year for projects that are most likely to be paid for through water rates and $416 million a year from taxpayers to repay general obligation bonds, Kasower's report states.
A top water industry representative said the numbers were not surprising and a reasonable price tag considering earlier generations spent about $50 billion in today's dollars to build the state's major water delivery projects.
Those projects were good for delivering water cheaply but were not designed to protect the environment. The next phase of investment is to modify the water delivery systems to work in a more environmentally friendly manner, said Tim Quinn, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies.
"Water costs will go up, but it probably doesn't cost as much as cable television in this state," Quinn said. "It's going to be expensive, but our grandchildren will be better off for it."
The figures compiled by Kasower included $4.2 billion to build a new aqueduct around the Delta and $9.8 billion to maintain levees to allow water agencies to continue taking water from the Delta. They also include rough estimates for environmental projects and new dams. The high end, $54 billion, would be reached if the state tunnels under the Delta to move Sacramento River water to the south instead of moving it through a new aqueduct.
Kasower came up with the very rough estimate that a Delta tunnel would cost $33 billion by comparing the project to the cost of the Chunnel, which connects Britain and France beneath the English Channel.
The Delta is the largest remaining estuary on the West Coast and a key supply of water for much of California. Two million acres are irrigated by water delivered from the Delta major export pumps near Tracy and two in three residents get at least some of their water from the Delta, ranging from the Contra Costa Water District which is virtually 100 percent dependent on the Delta to Southern California, which gets about one-third of its water from the Delta.
Since 2000, water deliveries out of the Delta hit record highs and Delta fish populations collapsed. The diversions were a likely cause of the environmental decline but not the only cause. Pollution, particularly from sewage treatment plants, and invasive species are also culprits.
Lawmakers meant to address the twin water supply and environmental crises this year but their intentions were trumped by the budget mess. Now, in the waning days of the legislative session lawmakers are trying to come up with a fix in the coming weeks.
"I don't think that's realistic, not given these kinds of costs," said Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Delta Stewardship and Sustainability.
The package of bills addresses how the Delta's environment and water diversions would be balanced and policed; mandates that a new plan be written to address the environment and water demands in the Delta; creates a conservancy to protect land in the Delta; sets statewide water conservation goals, and regulates groundwater.
It is unclear whether the package can pass, and if it can whether Schwarzenegger will sign it. He's threatened to veto it unless major changes are made, including that lawmakers meet his demand that financing be made available for new dams.
Wolk has scheduled a hearing for today on how to pay for the Delta plans.
She said the costs are so high, and the state is so strapped, that it might make sense to put off decisions on dams and canals and that those plans might have to be scaled back because the state might not be able to pay for them.
"The numbers are astronomical, and they're incomplete," she said. "Back to the drawing board."
Westside farmer sells water for $77 million...Seth Nidever
Forget gold. In Kings County, water gets most of the attention. More specifically, it’s the prospect of losing local water rights to outside entities that gets everybody’s dander up.
That's why the Kings County Water Commission spent a good chunk of a Monday night meeting talking about a Westside landowner who plans to sell 14,000 acre-feet of water a year to the Mojave Water Agency in San Bernardino County for $5,500 per acre-foot.
That’s $77 million of the wet stuff headed out of the county for likely urban development (an acre-foot is enough water to supply a typical home for a year, according to Wikipedia).
The tradeoff is that the unnamed landowner — a member of a Bay Area company called Sandridge Partners, based in Sunnyvale — plans to cut down 2,500 acres of his almond trees along Interstate 5 near Kettleman City.
Normally, that probably wouldn’t rank high on the concerns of the water commission — The land is far away from Hanford, it doesn’t affect Kings River water users and it’s California Aqueduct water coming from the Sacramento River, anyway.
But the concern is that the pattern could become more common as scarce water becomes more valuable as a commodity than as a way of growing crops.
“Higher bidders are bidding for the water and are willing to pay more,” said Don Mills, commission member.
Mills said he’d like to stop Sandridge from selling the water, but that Kings County “has no legal authority (to stop it).”
Dudley Ridge Water District, where Sandridge’s land is located, has adopted a policy divvying its water among member property owners. That gives each the right to sell their share.
No representatives from Sandridge Partners or Dudley Ridge Water District spoke at Monday’s meeting.
According to Mills, however, Sandridge plans to use part of the $77 million to buy groundwater rights on adjacent land in Kings and Tulare counties in order to keep at least some of its almond trees alive.
The groundwater might be lower quality, but it is a more reliable water supply than Aqueduct water, which has been reduced severely due to drought and environmental issues in the Sacramento River delta.
“It’s a matter of economics,” said Mark Gilkey, general manager of the Tulare Lake Basin Water Storage District, in an interview.
Property owners in his water district have done the same thing in the past, Gilkey said.
As with most water discussions in Kings County, Monday’s comments quickly turned to the topic of new dams — a sore point in Sacramento as Democratic legislators balk at new storage projects and Republican lawmakers, along with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, say they won’t support anything that doesn’t include new dams.
“The answer’s got to be more [water] contracts,” said commission member John Howe, adding that the reshuffling of the existing water supply is “delaying the inevitable.”
Los Angeles Times
Plans for the San Joaquin delta meld policy with plumbing
An overall strategy to manage the hub of the state's water supply finally has it right...Timothy F. Brick. Timothy F. Brick is chairman of the board of directors of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, representing the city of Pasadena.
Ageneration ago, Southern California water managers thought they had the solution for dealing with the hub of the state's water system -- the magnificent Northern California estuary known as the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. They wanted to build a canal from the delta to the existing aqueduct system that sustains San Joaquin Valley agriculture and Southern California.
They were wrong. And now we finally have the chance to do it right.
Five draft bills as part of an overall plan have been introduced in the Legislature that could lead to better governance in the delta and wise water management statewide. Like all drafts, some areas need refining. Like all complex packages, there are voices calling to delay and to defer. But delaying and deferring are no longer options. The Legislature in the coming weeks must put the delta on a path to recovery for the sake of the environment and the state's $1.8-trillion economy.
In 1982, I was an activist and among the critics who successfully fought the so-called peripheral canal in a historic statewide election. Why? The solution's sole purpose was water supply. There was no visible effort to conserve water, to diversify supplies through recycling or to restore the delta itself. To paraphrase a fellow critic, the plan was all plumbing and no policy.
The Legislature now finds itself in another delta debate brought to the forefront by a generation of gridlock, half-steps and a true environmental crisis. That has brought us to these new plans for a delta water conveyance system -- whether it will be a canal, a tunnel or some combination is still to be decided. But this time, there is also a plan to mandate water conservation statewide and one to bring water management and the collection of water-use information into the 21st century.
Most important, there is a proposal to restore tens of thousands of acres of delta habitat to provide much-needed shelter and food for salmon and other threatened species. Its scope and sophistication are precisely what the delta needs at this critical moment. Dwindling fish populations have triggered new and extraordinary delta water-supply restrictions. They threaten to indefinitely keep Southern California and much of the state in shortage or near-shortage conditions.
There is no hiding that "the canal" remains a lightning rod, given the 1982 battle, which was arguably the most regionally divisive issue in state history. Any sustainable conveyance system, which would be funded by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and other water agencies and not the state general fund, needs to be large enough to capture some of the runoff during the occasional big storms. The system, however, also has to be carefully operated and legally linked to a real habitat strategy for the delta.
California has never had a comprehensive plan like this for the delta. But it will, hopefully by the end of 2010, in conjunction with the Legislature and through a state and federal effort known as the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, which is supported by several key environmental groups and many water districts. The BDCP's goal isn't just bare-bones compliance with the Endangered Species Act but rather species recovery, the highest bar of any environmental law in the country.
As the provider of delta water supplies to a six-county region, the MWD seeks to meet and exceed that goal. We also support legislation mandating statewide water conservation, including more in our own backyard, better reporting of water use and better science in the delta.
Southern California doesn't seek more water from the delta. But it is obvious that a major investment in a new and better way to move water supplies across the delta is necessary to maintain something close to our traditional supply. The alternative is to risk losing this supply altogether through additional environmental restrictions or a collapse of the system from a large earthquake that seismologists predict for the coming decades. The region's water system depends on reliable baseline supplies to make emerging strategies work, such as recycling, conservation and groundwater cleanup.
For the delta, chances like this don't come along very often. We've never seen an entire package like this that advances water policy and makes the responsible plumbing changes. We're at the brink of a sustainable water future for California -- if we seize the moment.
California property values fall for the first time in 76 years
The 2.4% drop in the assessed value of all taxable property statewide means less money and more misery for state, local and school district treasuries...Marc Lifsher and Nathan Olivarez-Giles. Times staff writers Catherine Saillant, David Kelly and Garrett Therolf contributed to this report.
Reporting from Los Angeles and Sacramento
The Golden State officially isn't worth what it was a year ago.
Tax officials reported Tuesday that total statewide property values fell by 2.4% in the latest fiscal year, the first such drop since California began keeping records 76 years ago in the depths of the Great Depression.
The drop results from county tax assessors across the state hustling to lower the values of residential, commercial and industrial properties to reflect damage wrought by the deepest national recession since World War II.
As of June 30, the assessed value of all taxable property in California was $4.448 trillion, down $107.2 billion from a year earlier. The loss means less money and more misery for already strapped state, local and school district treasuries.
Essential public health and safety programs are facing more budget cuts and personnel layoffs, while schools probably will pack more children into each classroom, tax collectors warn.
"It's pretty astounding. This is something we haven't been through before," said Howard Roth, the chief economist at the state Department of Finance. "This will hurt and have a lagging effect on revenues" that could last years.
Thirty-eight of California's 58 counties suffered year-to-year declines, with 14 counties posting drops of 5% or more, the state Board of Equalization reported.
Southern California values dropped by an average of 2.5%, close to the statewide average. The damage ranged from a decline of 0.6% in Los Angeles County to a decrease of 10.5% in Riverside County.
Regionally, the Central Valley, which experienced a housing construction and sales boom early in the decade as coastal residents sought affordable mortgages, was the hardest hit by the collapsing market. Assessed values fell 9.9% in the northern San Joaquin Valley, 4.8% in greater Sacramento and 4.2% in the southern San Joaquin Valley.
San Francisco was the only highly urban county to show a significant increase in real estate values, 7.1%.
Historically, increasing property values always have been taken for granted in California, a state that for decades has welcomed new residents from across the country and across the world, said Betty Yee, chairwoman of the Board of Equalization, the agency charged with keeping track of real estate tax revenues.
But California can't count on a natural rebound in housing construction and consumer spending as it did in previous recessions, such as the military-base-closure crisis of the early 1990s and the high-tech bust in 2000-01, Yee said.
The slight rise in housing sales this summer is a hopeful sign but won't do much to boost tax revenues because homes are "being sold for much less," Yee said.
In past tough times, Ventura County always managed to post some growth because of sales of higher-priced older properties, Deputy Assessor Huiling Tanouye said.
Her office has reviewed and lowered tax rates on 65,000 out of 90,000 parcels in the last year.
That's about 25% of the county's tax roll, Tanouye said. In the meantime, homeowners who think their assessed values are still too high are filing appeals at triple the rate of last year, she said.
"We hear from people who are in dire straits, and they will vent their frustrations to our staff," Tanouye said. "We are here to listen, but we can't control what's going on."
Foreclosures, she added, are pushing down assessed values even more in poorer parts of the county like Oxnard.
Bank-owned houses, some of which are being sold for as little as a third of their value compared with a few years ago, drive down government revenues because tax bills are recalculated based on the sale price when a property changes hands.
Although the first-ever statewide drop in property values is eye-opening, it shouldn't be overly alarming, said John Husing, an independent analyst with Economics and Politics Inc. in Redlands.
"Everything was too overpriced, inflated beyond what the market could afford, and so now we're getting back to reality, now we're readjusting to the market," Husing said. "Supply is answering demand again."
He placed much of the blame for the busted housing market on speculators and mortgage companies, which rushed to put people into loans they couldn't afford.
"A lot of people wanted houses and there weren't a lot of houses to be had, so prices went up because we had a shortage," Husing said. "So all these speculators were diving into the market, buying houses not to live in but to flip them."
When the economy turned sour, the new homeowners "left the keys on the table and walked away from their homes, and that resulted in the foreclosure crisis," he said.
Sierra Club's top 20 eco-friendly colleges include 3 in California
UC Santa Cruz, UC Berkeley and UCLA are seventh, eighth and ninth on the list...Amy Littlefield
These days "cool school" doesn't just mean that a university has laid-back drinking policies. A "cool school" is one that recycles waste, provides transit and saves energy, according to the Sierra Club's report card for eco-friendly universities
With about two-thirds of applicants reportedly taking eco-friendliness into account when choosing a college, three California schools that were among the Sierra Club's top 20 have something to brag about. The report, released Thursday, ranked UC Santa Cruz, UC Berkeley and UCLA seventh, eighth and ninth, respectively.
Santa Cruz received a perfect 10 for its transportation system, which includes bike shuttles that transport up to 300 commuters and their bikes to campus each day. Many of the cyclists are former drivers who just needed a little help up the hill, according to Larry Pageler, director of transportation and parking services at UC Santa Cruz.
UCLA scored a 10 for waste management practices. It composts leftover dining hall food, uses biodegradable eating utensils and recycles water from labs and air-conditioning. The university also boasts its own natural gas-fired cogeneration plant, which provides 70% of the school's electricity and 100% of its heating and cooling. The plant is twice as efficient as a conventional power plant and gets 7% of its gas from a nearby landfill.
The University of Colorado, Boulder, ranked first in the survey, followed by the University of Washington at Seattle, Middlebury College in Vermont, the University of Vermont, College of the Atlantic in Maine and Evergreen State College in Washington state.
New York Times
Already Facing Supply Crises, Corporations Craft Resource Plans...TARYN LUNTZ of Greenwire
In 2003, a PepsiCo plant in Kerala, India, lost its operating license after local officials worried it would parch local water supplies.
A year later, a $21 million Coca-Cola bottling plant there suffered the same fate when community organizers blamed it for a sudden dip in local water levels and accused it of polluting aquifers.
And last year, the Canadian government scaled back Nestle's groundwater permit after residents bemoaned a private company profiting from a public resource -- the same point that has sparked a groundswell of opposition to Nestle's bottled water operations in Michigan and California.
While federal governments are just beginning to grapple with the looming specter of worldwide water shortages, corporations for years have seen the economic impacts of water crises around the globe.
The fallout has prompted some to take a comprehensive look at the way they use a resource that is growing chronically scarcer, placing them ahead of many countries in planning for growth in a water-poor world.
As populations and living standards increase, the world is expecting more from a finite resource. Freshwater accounts for just 2.5 percent of the world's water, and most of that is locked up in the polar ice caps.
Agriculture is the world's largest freshwater consumer by far, accounting for 70 percent of global withdrawals, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. But industry's 23 percent share puts it well ahead of domestic and municipal users, who use only 7 percent.
If, as research suggests, two-thirds of the world's population will face water scarcity by 2025, corporations will provide a highly visible target for community resentment, observers note.
"A lot of companies are operating in countries where basic protections in terms of water quality and access are not being implemented by the host governments," said Brooke Barton, director of water programs at CERES, an investor advisory and sustainability advocacy group. "The companies are exposed to reputation risk by the mere fact that they may have access to resources, but a number of people around them do not."
Coca-Cola learned that lesson after its local battle in India sparked national backlash and global publicity.
In the wake of the fiasco, Coke teamed up with WWF to launch what the environmental group terms a "transformational partnership," one in which the company aspires to make deep operational changes to reduce its environmental footprint.
"With situations like India, I think we saw that there was a great amount of time where we and other companies just focused on using water as efficiently as we could -- our focus was insular," said Lisa Manley, Coke's director of environmental communications. "India was an excellent example for us, and I think a learning opportunity. It showed us that we have to be much more engaged with the communities where we operate and we need to be much more aware of the water stresses there."
As part of the deal, Coke committed $20 million in 2007 to help conserve seven of the world's key freshwater river basins. The company also pledged to improve its water efficiency by 20 percent by 2012, and ultimately to recycle all of the 180 billion liters of water it uses each year for manufacturing.
Manley says Coke had a strong economic incentive to partake in the initiative: The company needs both water to manufacture its products and customers who can pay for them.
"The future growth of our business depends upon communities that are developing economically, and if you look at what are the key ingredients to that, I think a fundamental building block is that the community have access to safe water and sanitation," she said. "Also, our business is a water business. Every single beverage we make, the key ingredient in any of it is going to be water. We need to have access to safe, quality water in the areas where we work."
Looking at the "water footprint"
Last week, WWF announced a partnership with SABMiller, the world's second-largest brewer, to study the company's "water footprint," an emerging companion to the better known carbon footprint.
Water footprinting entails examining a company's water use through the entire value chain, from crop cultivation to distribution. It's a key element of the United Nations' CEO Water Mandate, a voluntary corporate sustainability program launched in 2007 that boasts as signatories such corporate giants as Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestle, Cadbury, Dow Chemical Co. and Royal Dutch Shell.
According to a 2008 analysis by JP Morgan, the sectors at greatest risk from burgeoning water issues are power generation, mining, semiconductor manufacturing and food and beverage.
Some of the biggest players in those industries have already taken notice.
Calif.-based Intel, which requires vast amounts of ultra-pure water to manufacture its semiconductors, reported that it reclaimed more than 3 billion of the 7.8 billion gallons of water it used last year through wastewater collection systems.
Australian miner Rio Tinto, which has developed a comprehensive water stewardship program, says it saw a 6.3 percent reduction in freshwater withdrawal per metric ton of product last year over 2003 levels.
Consumer goods giant Unilever, which makes brands such as Lipton and Ragu, is experimenting with water-saving drip irrigation among its tea- and tomato-growers, and says it reduced its overall water use by 7.8 percent last year through recycling and improved cooling technology.
"I don't think it's a trend -- I think it's a way of doing business," said Suzanne Apple, vice president of business and industry for WWF U.S. "If you look at water around the world, population is growing, there is an increasing demand for water, and there are many river basins and watersheds that are either in drought conditions or are polluted. Communities need access to water, and companies need access to water."
Pressure to change
For some companies, the pressure to commit to wiser water use is coming from within.
Last year, Pepsi, Intel and AIG all received shareholder resolutions asking them to endorse the human right to water -- a right now inscribed in non-binding U.N. resolutions and recognized by a growing number of national governments in developing countries.
Investors also increasingly are requesting that companies disclose their water practices and policies, including the environmental and social impacts of their water use.
According to a February report by the Pacific Institute, a nonprofit focused on sustainability issues, shareholders filed 18 such resolutions between 2006 and 2008, more than quadruple the number filed between 2000 and 2002.
The food, beverage, oil and chemical industries are particularly susceptible to investor advocacy around water issues, the group says. Coca-Cola has seen one or more water-related shareholder resolutions every year since 2004.
But despite growing corporate awareness, advocates assert that most companies have miles to go. Even those that recognize the threat of stressed water supplies are mainly looking to their operations for savings, neglecting to trace the water use of their suppliers or distributors.
J.P. Morgan says the problem is acute in the food and beverage industry.
"The large food and beverage companies are directly involved in agriculture only to a very small extent," the company's risk assessment report states. "However, their businesses are critically dependent upon agricultural commodities, and the threat of supply disruptions due to a shortage of fresh water resources is not well defined."
And not everyone is a fan of corporate sustainability programs. Some groups see them as little more than savvy public relations moves aimed at luring customers to buy products from companies that ultimately still tread heavily on the environment.
"The public is very easily convinced through glossy sustainability reports and high-priced advertising campaigns that basically paint these companies green," said Richard Girard, research coordinator for the Polaris Institute, a Canadian public-interest advocacy group. "I think people put a lot of faith into what corporations say, and they put a lot of money into convincing us that what they're doing is the right thing. We can't just believe what they're saying, we need to verify it, and verifying it is very difficult.
Many companies' sustainability reports are not verified by independent sources, or only minimally so, Girard said.
The Polaris Institute, along with the Africa Water Network and watchdog groups Corporate Accountability International and Corporate Europe Observatory, argue initiatives such as the U.N.'s CEO Water Mandate provide a platform for water privatization by encouraging corporate interests to participate in global water planning.
In a March letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the groups wrote: "Led by Coca-Cola, which has a highly questionable track record when it comes to water takings and water pollution, the companies which have signed on to the CEO Water Mandate all have a vested interest in gaining control over water in times of increasing scarcity."
"The UN should be looking to local communities and representative governments, rather than for-profit corporations, to set the global policy agenda and lead the development of solutions to the world water crisis."
Girard asserts that encouraging multinational corporations to participate in water dealings in Third World countries exposes powerless local communities to manipulation from an outsized opponent.
"It's a huge power imbalance when a multinational is dealing with local governments and securing a resource that many people there don't have access to," he said. "The United Nations is putting a lot of faith in these multinational corporations, who basically exist to make profit for their shareholders."
But Apple, of WWF, sees the potential for big business to be one of the conservation community's most powerful allies.
"If we can engage business in the solution, then we get to the solution faster," she said. "We can do the best conservation on the ground, but if we aren't really looking at who's using the water on the Yangtze River, we'll still be cleaning up the water 10 years from now.
"We've had companies see the value of that," she added, naming as an example Coca-Cola's work in the Mekong Delta teaching farmers how to curb pollution from fertilizer runoff. "We have seen firsthand the benefit of working with them and really actively engaging them."
Study Warns of ‘Energy Sprawl’...Kate Galbraith, Green Inc.
A paperpublished on Tuesday by the Nature Conservancy predicts that by 2030, energy production in the United States will occupy a land area larger than Minnesota — in large part owing to the pursuit of domestic clean energy.
The authors call it “energy sprawl” — a term meant to draw attention to habitat destruction, and to warn that biofuels in particular will take up substantial amounts of land.
“There’s a good side and a bad side of renewable production,” said Robert McDonald, a Nature Conservancy scientist and one of the authors, in a telephone interview.
The paper looked at several scenarios, including a “base-case” derived from current Energy Information Agency forecasts for the country’s energy mix in 2030, as well as various permutations of efforts to cap greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change.
The study took into account only land impacts in the United States; thus for example the land required to drill for oil in Saudi Arabia, one of the United States’s biggest suppliers, was not considered. Nor was “indirect land use” taken into account. That is the controversial idea that growing soy for fuel in the United States could simply push soy-for-food production to, say, Indonesia, where CO2-sipping forests would then be razed for soy farming.
Nuclear power is the most compact in terms of the amount of land taken up per unit of energy, according to the study; coal and geothermal energy also took up relatively small amounts of space. Biodiesel made from soybeans, the burning of energy crops to create electricity, and ethanol production had the highest “sprawl” impact.
Asked about the assertion by some solar advocates that covering a 100-mile by 100-mile square of Nevada desert with solar arrays could power the United States, Mr. McDonald said that the study was “trying to avoid that kind of maximal estimate,” and be more realistic about the projected energy mix.
As for climate change, Mr. McDonald said that the Nature Conservancy believes that this is “something humanity absolutely has to deal with,” and the paper highlights several ways to reduce the sprawl. These include reusing already-developed sites, as well as a flexible cap-and-trade system that allows for the development of new nuclear plants and the sequestration of carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants.
But perhaps the most important is energy conservation.
“Saving energy saves land,” Mr. McDonald said. “There’s a real link there.”
Forests, Deserts in Climate Measure May Spawn ‘Energy Sprawl’...Jim Efstathiou Jr.
Aug. 26 (Bloomberg) -- More forests, deserts and grasslands in the U.S. will be used to produce energy under a proposal to cap greenhouse gases, an unintended consequence of efforts to fight global warming, according to a Nature Conservancy report.
A bill that boosts energy from wind turbines and biofuels will increase the amount of land needed for energy development as much as 48 percent, or almost 100,000 square kilometers (38,600 square miles) during the next 20 years, said Robert McDonald, a scientist with the Arlington, Virginia-based Nature Conservancy environmental group. An area larger than Minnesota will be affected even without any climate change bill, he said.
Less land will be needed to grow corn for cleaner-burning ethanol and to support electric-generating wind turbines if legislation gives carbon-dioxide emitters more options to reach targets, said the report, published today in the online journal PloS One. Greater energy conservation can also reduce the amount of land needed for development.
“Climate-change legislation could have a significant impact on land use in the U.S. but it might not if it’s properly designed,” McDonald, lead author of the report, said in an interview. “We’re tying to make sure that energy sprawl is one of the things policy makers are thinking about.”
Biofuel made from corn, along with biomass burned to make electricity, affects the most land for every unit of energy produced. Nuclear power uses the least amount of land, the report said.
Corn for Ethanol
Growing corn for ethanol on land already used for agriculture is one way to reduce the area needed to meet future energy needs, McDonald said. Allowing utilities and manufacturers with carbon-dioxide caps to use offsets -- credits from projects that lower emissions -- to meet pollution targets also reduces land use for energy. The report analyzes the land-use implications of a climate- change bill that failed in the U.S. Senate last year. A bill that passed the U.S. House in June would have a “very similar” effect, McDonald said.
“Depending on the details of the bill, there may be millions of acres of new development,” McDonald said. “While we’re changing the rules of the system, we want to think about the land-use impacts.”
Without climate-change legislation, new coal-fired power plants will be built on over 26,000 square kilometers of conifer and deciduous forests, grasslands and desert, according to the report. Under a climate bill, costs for power from burning fossil fuels will rise, and the area needed for coal-burning power plants will be reduced by 7,500 square kilometers.
More land, meanwhile, will be needed for lower-emissions energy from biomass, biofuels and wind turbines. More than 49,000 square kilometers will be needed just to grown biomass that can be burned for electricity under a climate-change bill.
“In the scenarios we considered, there is a tendency for greater reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions to be associated with a greater total new area affected by energy development,” the report said. “A decrease in U.S. emissions increases the new area impacted, although the magnitude of the effect is policy-specific.”
Highway stimulus: Just a 'down payment'
The Recovery Act's funding for highway projects won't make enough of an impact on jobs and necessary infrastructure projects. Much more is still needed...David Goldman
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The government promised $27.5 billion in stimulus funds to help fix the nation's crumbling roads and bridges as part of a broader effort to save jobs. The effort is working...sort of.
Nearly three-quarters of the funding has gone to short-term, road paving projects rather than longer-term work like repairing bridges and building new highways. Furthermore, jobs that paving projects create or save last for a shorter duration than other types of road construction.
It's not that the plan is entirely missing the mark, but there is a balancing act going on between fast-acting and long-lasting stimulus.
"The whole reason why we needed to pass stimulus right away was because the economy needed it right away," said Dan Clifton, head of policy research at Strategas Research Partners. "But while just spending money will result in GDP growth, the problem is we're not creating full-time, permanent, productive jobs."
The Recovery Act stipulated that states had to get 50% of their highway funding allocations approved by the Department of Transportation by June 30, or lose the money.
Under the gun, states had largely assigned paving jobs for stimulus money, since they are among the most "shovel-ready" kinds of projects. States can often complete the bidding and planning for a paving project in just a matter of weeks before contractors begin work. Compare that with building a bridge, which could take years, between permits, environmental reviews, and a slew of other requirements.
Road paving has also made up the bulk of the projects due to the stimulus plan's focus on speedy job creation. With construction unemployment at 18.4% -- nearly double the national rate -- Congress needed to move fast.
Of the 1,500 highway stimulus projects that the Department of Transportation says will be underway by the end of the month, 1,071, or 71%, are for repaving or pavement-widening. In dollar terms, $5.1 billion worth of projects are underway, with $3.7 billion, or 72%, allocated for paving.
A good start but more needed. Experts say paving projects are not enough to affect the much-needed improvements to the nation's highway infrastructure.
"Stimulus is a down payment on infrastructure, not a solution," said Wayne Klotz, president of the American Society of Civil Engineers. "Shovel-ready projects mean that they have to be in a state where they can literally be put under construction in just two or three months. When you [mandate] that, you immediately eliminate the bigger projects."
In January, the ASCE gave the nation's highway system a "D-" in an infrastructure survey. The report called on the federal government to more than double its annual infrastructure spending.
And road paving factors into that as a concrete need. In fact, many of the paving jobs receiving stimulus money topped states' lists of projects that urgently had to be completed but lacked the funding.
More is still needed.
"It's necessary, but it's not sufficient for the long-term fix that's needed," said Ken Simonson, chief economist for The Associated General Contractors of America. "No one is pretending the the stimulus money is the be-all and end-all."
Simonson estimates that the amount of spending needed simply to preserve the country's current highway infrastructure is about $150 billion per year. We spend just over half of that. Last year, the country doled out $81.8 billion, half of which comes from the cash-strapped states. Even with the $27.5 billion in highway stimulus spending between this year and next, levels are still far short of what's necessary.
Congress calls for more funding. Congress has taken notice of the funding shortfalls. A House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee bill would nearly double the amount of federal spending on transportation infrastructure to $75 billion a year from its current $40 billion.
"The problem with major projects is that they take a long time to go from the drawing board to hiring people to ribbon-cutting and getting money into the economy," said Jim Berard, communications director for the committee. "That's why we're working now on a bill that addresses the long-term need to rebuild our infrastructure with major projects."
But the Senate and the Obama administration both want to push the bill off for 18 months, calling for a more thorough examination of the nation's transportation needs. Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., wasn't happy to hear that.
"The nation doesn't have 18 months for a head start program in transportation for the planners at the White House," he said earlier this month. "People need jobs now."
The good news is that there's still another half of the stimulus money for highway infrastructure left to be allocated. States have to assign those funds by Feb. 17, 2010, and Simonson and Klotz believe many of those projects will be longer-term, high-impact infrastructure projects.
And there may be more than half left -- many current projects have been underbid by contractors, leaving money on the table. In a number of recent letters to governors, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood urged states to use those funds for more highway projects, lest they lose it.
Anti Corruption Republican
Kevin Ring Exhibits: Julie Doolittle...8-23-09
This is the second installment of our review of the Kevin Ring Trial Exhibit List. Today, we look at those exhibits related to Julie Doolittle, alleged Abramoff co-conspirator and wife of former Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.).
EXHIBIT 10: Janis, Schuelke & Wechsler Draft Memorandum from Fourth Meeting with Kevin Ring 7/1/2004 and attachments:
Government's Basis for Admission
The memo reflects Ring's statements including statements concerning his role in getting a job for Julia H. Doolittle. The attachments will be offered not for their truth, but for the fact that they were shown to Ring and his responses to them.
Mr. Ring and his lawyers object to this exhibit based on the claim that it is hearsay and that the attached emails focus primarily on the severed counts of the Ring indictment. (Two counts related to alleged false statements Mr. Ring made to the Schuelke investigation were severed.) While the ACR Blog has no insight into the attached emails, we do know that Mrs. Doolittle's job is the one area where the remaining counts I-VIII and the severed counts IX & X intersect. It doesn't matter. U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle won't allow this exhibit at trial. RESULT: Inadmissible
EXHIBIT 311: 5/20/2000 Email from Abramoff to Ring; RE: Doolittle
The defense objected to this email because it mentions fundraisers. During the courtroom discussion, the government mentioned that this email also includes information regarding the job for Mrs. Doolittle. Judge Huvelle made a comment during the discussion that the job for Mrs. Doolittle was an important part of this case. Judge Huvelle's statement is very similar to a statement the government made in support of Exhibit 328: "The job for Julia Doolittle is central to the indictment." That can't be good for Mrs. Doolittle. RESULT: Admissible because of the reference to the job, but the government is instructed to redact the reference to fundraising.
EXHIBIT 312: 5/24/2000 Email from Abramoff, Jack; To Abramoff, Jack; Subject call David Lopez re job for Julie Doolittle
The defense did not object to this exhibit and the government doesn't provide any background on it. After Mr. Abramoff (who was on the Host Committee) and Mr. Ring attended a fundraiser for Mr. Doolittle at the Capital Grille, Mr. Abramoff sent this email as a reminder to himself to call Mr. Lopez about a job for Ms. Doolittle. RESULT: Admissible
EXHIBIT 328: 8/16/2000 Email from Abramoff to Ring, "RE: Julie Doolittle"
Government's Basis for Admission
[T]he email chain begins with Ring writing to Abramoff, "David Lopez asked me if we had come up with anything regarding [Julia Doolittle] and employment. Ugh. Any ideas?" Abramoff replied, "Yes. Confirm with him that she only needs $2k/month and I'll set it up." The job for Julia Doolittle is central to the indictment.
The defense objects on the grounds that the email mentions a legal fundraiser. RESULT: Presumably admissible; fundraiser reference will likely be redacted.
EXHIBIT 382: 8/22/2002 Abramoff calender entry re: meeting with Julie Doolittle
The defense did not object to this exhibit and the government doesn't provide any background on it. Mrs. Doolittle subsequently received payment of $1,612.90 from Greenberg Traurig for the rest of August and $5,000 per month thereafter until February 2004. RESULT: Admissible
EXHIBIT 383: 8/29/2002 Letter from Julie Doolittle to Abramoff
Government's Basis for Admission
Though Ring is not on every exhibit regarding the job for Julia Doolittle, he is on several. Those he is not on, such as this exhibit in which Julia Doolittle wrote that she looked forward to working with Abramoff, place Ring's involvement in procuring the job in context and show the end result, that Abramoff in fact hired Julia Doolittle. Moreover, Ring is responsible for acts of his coconspirators taken in furtherance of the conspiracy. His coconspirators include Abramoff and Julia Doolittle.
The defense objects to this exhibit claiming it isn't relevant because this letter was not sent by, to, or carbon copied to Mr. Ring. Judge Huvelle wasn't impressed. RESULT: Admissible
EXHIBIT 384: 9/10/2002 Email from Abramoff to Litwack, "Mrs. Julie Doolittle"
Same legal arguments as GX 383. Mr. Abramoff wanted to hire Mrs. Doolittle to "work" for his "non-profit" organization, Capital Athletic Foundation (CAF). He wrote this email to Greenberg Traurig legislative assistant and CAF "consultant" Maury Litwack:
Text of Email
Mrs. Julie Doolittle. She is [John Doolittle]'s wife. She is on my payroll and will be available to work for [CAF]. [C]an you call her to get her involved? Her home phone is the best place to reach her. I want her to help, but not be overburdened with work. [P]lease refer to me when you call her.
Interestingly, Mr. Litwick appeared on Mr. Doolittle's payroll about three months later. RESULT: Admissible
EXHIBIT 385: 9/11/2002 Email from Abramoff to Litwack, "RE: Mrs. Julie Doolittle"
Same legal arguments as GX 383. Mr. Abramoff reiterated to Mr. Litwack that Mrs. Doolittle need not work too hard:
Text of Email
I am not sure what role she should play and it does not have to be significant. She should just be helpful to you as you need her. I don't want her to have to do too much, though, since she has responsibilities at home as a mother and wife.
EXHIBIT 396: 3/19/2003 Email from Abramoff to Lane, "RE: The Spy Event"
Same legal arguments as GX 383. The ACR Blog doesn't know any specifics about this particular email. Rodney Lane worked with Mr. Abramoff in a variety of capacities: as (1) an assistant at Greenberg Traurig, (2) CEO of Signatures, Abramoff's restaurant; and (3) Board member of CAF. The Spy Event was a CAF fundraiser organized by Mrs. Doolittle that was canceled due to Operation Iraqi Freedom which began on the date of this email. Even though the event was canceled, Mrs. Doolittle continued to get paid. RESULT: Admissible
EXHIBIT 409: 7/7/2003 Email from Abramoff to Julie Doolittle, "RE: Retainer"
EXHIBIT 411: 7/11/2003 Email from Lane to Julie Doolittle, "RE: New Project"
Same legal arguments as GX 383. Nothing else is known about these emails. RESULT: Admissible
EXHIBIT 422: 2/19/2004 $5000 Check from GT to Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions, Inc.
Government's Basis for Admission
This check is one of the payments Abramoff caused GT to make to Julia Doolittle and is the basis for the interstate wiring predicating Count VIII.
Mr. Ring objected to this exhibit claiming it isn't relevant. Mrs. Doolittle deposited this check on February 23, 2004. RESULT: Admissible
EXHIBIT 425: 3/30/2004 Email from Julie Doolittle to Schaut, "SDFS, Inc. Retainers Received 2002-2004" and attachment.
Same legal arguments as GX 383. Nothing else is known about this email. RESULT: Admissible
The ACR Blog believes that when you consider the totality of 1) "The job for Julie Doolittle is central to the indictment" (Exhibit 328); 2) "His [Ring's] coconspirators include Abramoff and Julia Doolittle" (Exhibit 383), 3) Judge Huvelle allowing the Government to use essentially all of the information in the Exhibits above pertaining to Team Abramoff's role in securing a job for Mrs. Doolittle that things don't look good for Mrs. Doolittle. We are glad we're not in her shoes, but we're looking forward to the possibility of learning more about Mrs. Doolittle's "job" if Mr. Ring doesn't plead guilty.