More measurement gadgets!
We are absolutely delighted that the EPA is launching a NEW TOOL “to Estimate Emissions Benefits of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Policies.” We also see it as yet another example that great profit center so frequently touted as a reason for our own “public research university” in Merced – “high-tech/bio-tech engine a’ growth,” as the UC executives put it. In this arena, there seems to be a potent mixture of public funds, regulatory non-enforcement, and university research-for-(economic) growth.
The San Joaquin Valley public, concerned in this drought year for its collective human respiratory system – not to mention pets and livestock – don’t, and let us repeat this strenuously, DON’T GIVE A DAMN ABOUT NEW MEASUREMENT TOOLS.
This press release is an excellent example of somebody’s “high-tech engine a’ growth” exploiting no less than pollution producers the political sham and shambles of regulatory agency enforcement of environmental laws like the federal Clean Air and Clean Water acts in a season of what must be described as a dire crisis. Learned scientists and older farmers compare this year with 1976-77, but few of them add that we had roughly half the population in California in 1976-77 than we have today (20.5 million v. 38 million).
Some Californians are growing irritated with these regulatory eunuch, morally disadvantaged bureaucracies announcing each new technological measuring tool like it was a new wonder for their own cosmetic surgery, perhaps carving permanent furrows in their brows to make us believe they are hardworking, efficient and care.
But they do not care about the children and the elderly that are already suffering great respiratory harm in Central California this summer and are going to suffer much more of it before this drought is done. And the drinking water situation for farmworkers is a catastrophe that excited the attention of the United Nations It too is spreading but it not yet the classless force that air pollution is.
There is another form of measurement, let's call it ethical measurement, that each generation must rediscover for itself under the ceaseless onslaught of the high-tech/bio-tech authoritarian fundamentalism that just keeps on truckin' us all off the cliff. The best minds of our generation aren't mad; they got lost in their little machines and cannot find their way home.
Of course, on second thought, since all the people involved in such events believe sincerely that they are doing the best they can and behaving in a morally responsible manner, we must look elsewhere than from the usual definition of ethics for better views because the world in which the actors must operate, the present political economy, has demonstrated consistently that it doesn't give a damn about the drinking water quality of people like farmworkers or the respiratory condition of the elderly and children in the San Joaquin Valley.
So, just as long as everyone is doing the very best they can, everything must be all right in our best of all possible worlds. -- blj
Environmental Protection Agency
EPA Launches New Tool to Estimate Emissions Benefits of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Policies
EPA's State and Local Climate and Energy Newsletter
EPA’s State and Local Climate and Energy Program has launched a new tool that estimates the emissions benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy policies and programs. The AVoided Emissions and geneRationTool (AVERT) is a free tool with a simple user interface designed to meet the needs of state air quality planners and other interested users. Non-experts can easily use AVERT to evaluate county-level reductions of electric power plant emissions due to energy efficiency (EE) and renewable energy (RE) policies and programs.
State air quality planners, energy office staff, public utility commission staff, and other organizations interested in knowing the emission benefits of EE/RE policies and programs can use AVERT to:
· Quantify the nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (S02), and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions benefits of state and multi-state EE/RE policies and programs.
· Examine the regional, state, and county level emission impacts of different EE/RE programs based on temporal energy savings and hourly generation profiles.
· Include AVERT-calculated emission impacts of EE/RE policies and programs in air quality modeling and Clean Air Act plans used to meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, with the concurrence of the appropriate EPA regional office.
· Compare the emissions impacts of different types of EE/RE programs, such as the emissions impacts of wind installations versus solar installations.
· Understand the emissions impacts of different EE/RE policies and programs during high electricity demand days.
· Analyze the emissions benefits of EE/RE programs implemented in multiple states within an AVERT region.
· Share information about location-specific emissions benefits in easy-to-interpret tables and maps.
Natural Resources Defense Council
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press contact: John Walke, NRDC, Washington, DC 202-289-6868; Brian Smith, Earthjustice, San Francisco 415-627-6700; Dr. David Pepper, Medical Alliance for Healthy Air, Fresno 559-459-5705; Kevin Hall, Sierra Club, Fresno 559-227-6421
Public Health And Environmental Coalition Sues EPA For Allowing Corporate Agriculture In California To Evade Clean Air Act
Sector Granted Special Treatment To Avoid Air Pollution Permits
FRESNO, CA -- A coalition of medical and environmental groups filed suit today against the US Environmental Protection Agency in the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco for exempting an entire California industry, agriculture, from clean air regulations.
On December 7, 2001, in direct violation of the Clean Air Act, the EPA approved 34 California air district programs that exempt giant farms from the requirement to obtain air pollution permits. Giant farms are the San Joaquin Valley's largest source of air pollution, putting out more smog and soot than any other source, including cars, trucks, oil refineries, or power plants. The suit was filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the Fresno-based Medical Alliance for Healthy Air, the Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Big Ag Lobby Wins Unlawful and Unfair Exemption from Clean Air Act
Since passage of the Clean Air Act more than 30 years ago, the Central Valley's giant farms have repeatedly lobbied local, state, and federal officials and won exemptions from important public health protections that apply to other industries. The results are disturbing. In the agriculture-dominated San Joaquin Valley, pollution levels are now higher than in Los Angeles. Farm equipment and animal lot waste are the two largest sources of air pollution in the valley.
EPA's approval of the exemption for agriculture means that giant diesel engines used on farms to run irrigation pumps can continue to pollute without any controls. The same engines anywhere else in the state, such as on oil production fields, are required to reduce their pollution. EPA's action also exempts giant dairy, poultry, and livestock factory farms from all clean air regulations, though they produce the most air pollution of any industry in the San Joaquin Valley.
EPA's special deal for agriculture has particularly grave consequences in San Joaquin Valley. Since passage of the 1990 Clean Air Act, the San Joaquin Valley has never had a federally approved plan to fix its PM-10 (particulate matter/soot) problem. On December 31, 2001, the valley missed it second consecutive deadline for attaining the PM-10 standard. In 2001, the San Joaquin Valley violated the 8-hour ozone standard on more than 101 days, overtaking Los Angeles's long-held title as dirtiest air in the nation. While Los Angeles has made notable progress in improving air quality, powerful industrial interests, including agriculture, have stymied any progress in the valley.
"EPA's action is patently illegal and patently unfair to every other sector that is working to clean up the air," said Bruce Nilles, attorney for Earthjustice who represents the coalition. "Congress did not authorize EPA to give breaks to one industry at the expense of everyone else in the Valley. Even your grandma must get her car smog checked. This lawsuit is about fairness."
"We have a public health crisis in the San Joaquin Valley," said Dr. David Pepper of the Medical Alliance for Healthy Air. "Living in the valley is like smoking a packet of cigarettes a day. EPA is playing favorites and the only winners are the corporate farms. The rest of us are paying with our health and higher medical bills."
Kevin Hall, with the Tehipite Chapter of the Sierra Club, noted, "Over the past twelve months we have sued EPA and they have taken some initial steps to turn around years of neglect. Now the neglect is back. EPA is well aware that a large corporate poultry or dairy facility can emit as much pollution as a factory. These factory farms must be part of the solution."
John Walke, with the Natural Resources Defense Council noted, "EPA knows that air pollution from corporate agriculture harms public health, and they have already prevailed in clean air enforcement cases against corporate farms. If EPA won't uphold the clean air laws that protect public health, citizens will."
Study Links Asthma to Air Pollution
The suit comes less than a week after the release of a University of Southern California study concluding that dangerous air pollution levels found throughout the Central Valley, Los Angeles, and the Bay Area actually cause asthma in children.
Asthma is now the leading cause of hospital admissions of young children in California. More than ten percent of all Central Valley residents suffer from the disease, including 7,000 children in the Fresno School District. Everyone pays higher health insurance premiums and taxes because of California's persistent air pollution problems. For example, each emergency room visit for a child suffering from a severe asthma attack costs an average of $6,300; and the statewide costs of asthma-related hospitalizations total about $350 million annually, with nearly a third of that bill paid by state Medi-Cal program.
State Plagued by Bad Air, Scant Water
Much of California is plagued this year by bad air and scant water. The two conditions are not unrelated. A few wet winter storms would help ease both problems, but the underlying situations that helped create the problems may not be fixed by weather.
Poor air quality -- the worst is in the Central Valley where residents are warned on some days not to go outside -- is exacerbated by drought. However dry, stagnant air isn't the only problem. California generates a good portion of its own foul air with auto emissions and manufacturing pollution, but some problems come from elsewhere.
According to researchers, polluted air from China is making its way across the Pacific to the U.S., and it is increasing air pollution problems on the West Coast in particular.
In an ironic twist, about one-fifth of China's pollution can be attributed to the country's export industry making goods sent mostly to the United States.
According to research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last month, China's export industry was responsible for about 20% of the pollutants Chinese industry sent into the atmosphere in 2006. That accounts for at least one day's worth of pollution in California that exceeded U.S. health standards for air quality.
The nine scientists in the U.S., China and United Kingdom who conducted the research point out that companies seeking to avoid stricter air quality controls and more expensive labor in the U.S. Europe and Japan do not escape global impacts by manufacturing in China.
"Outsourcing production to China does not always relieve consumers in the United States -- or, for that matter, many countries in the Northern Hemisphere -- from the environmental impacts of air pollution," researchers wrote.
"Rising emissions produced in China are a key reason global emissions of air pollutants have remained at a high level during 2000–2009 even as emissions produced in the United States, Europe, and Japan have decreased," researchers concluded.
Steve Davis, a scientist at UC-Irvine and co-author of the study, called it a "boomerang effect."
"As much as one-third of Chinese air pollution is related to goods that are exported from China, and some of that pollution blows across the Pacific," Davis said on his website.
"We find that, while outsourcing of manufacturing from the U.S. to China has probably improved air quality in the eastern U.S. (where such manufacturing was previously located), it therefore worsens air quality in the western U.S."
Davis said he hoped research like this would help show the need for international agreements to limit air pollution.
"We need to move beyond placing blame for who's creating these emissions and realize that we all have a common interest in reducing the pollution," Davis said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.
Central Valley Areas Hardest Hit
The hardest-hit regions for both bad air and low levels of potable water are in the Central Valley.
This winter -- the most polluted on record in the Central Valley -- the air is so full of dangerous breathable particles that residents have been warned to stay indoors on particularly polluted days.
One of the most dangerous forms of air pollution is fine particles -- known as PM2.5 -- that can lodge in the lungs. According to the World Health Organization, chronic exposure to air with high levels of PM2.5 can contribute to developing cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. PM2.5 was designated as a carcinogen in October.
The concentration of fine particulates in the air has risen to nearly three times the federal standard this winter, according to the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.
Winter storms, which finally brought rain to California last week, were expected to improve the air quality in much of the state, but the amount -- and quality -- of drinking water is not expected to improve much.
Greater Strain on Areas With Contaminated Water
With California experiencing its driest year on record, the state Department of Public Health identified 17 communities -- mostly in the Central Valley -- with particularly compromised water systems.
State officials said they would provide extra support and guidance in reducing water consumption and generating more potable water in these communities, most of them rural.
"As the severe drought continues, we're working with impacted communities to identify alternative water sources and additional resources," said DPH Director Ron Chapman in a prepared statement.
For areas already coping with contaminated water, the drought is particularly problematic, according to Linda Rudolph, co-director of the Center for Climate Change and Health at the Public Health Institute and former deputy director at the California Department of Public Health.
"Most of us are used to having clean, safe drinking water come right out of the faucet. We do not worry about how to get water to cook or to wash our hands with. Unfortunately, even before the drought, this was not the case in some California communities," Rudolph wrote in a guest editorial last week in the Sacramento Bee.
"In parts of Fresno and Tulare counties, mostly due to fertilizer runoff, communities are already either drinking contaminated water, paying more to connect to other sources of water, or drinking unhealthy alternatives like soda. Seventeen rural California communities are already in danger of running out of water in the next few months. The drought puts even more strain on these communities; it also puts all of us at risk. And it has real impacts on our health," Rudolph wrote.
Rudolph said state policy makers should work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and consider the health and environmental implications of desalination projects, reusing water and water transfer projects.
"We have seen a little bit of rain over the last week," Rudolph wrote. "That is a very good thing. But a few drops of water today won't solve tomorrow's problems. Let's use this emergency to push for long-term solutions that protect both water and health."
U.N. water report focuses on California problems
by Dan Bacher
“Hardworking farmworker families with annual incomes well below the poverty line are often forced to pay twice for water – once for a monthly water bill for water they can’t drink and then again when they are forced to seek alternative water sources, usually from neighboring towns,” says Maria Herrera, the community outreach coordinator for the Community Water Center in Visalia.
U.N. water report focuses on California problems
California has acquired a reputation over the years as a national "leader" in environmental policy, but this reputation proves to be false when one considers the state's often deplorable record on water, fisheries and environmental justice.
In fact, California’s failure to provide clean, safe drinking water to its residents is so alarming that it captured the attention of the United Nations in a special report released in August as a package of "human right to water" bills proceeds through the State Capitol.
Reporting on her mission to the United States last winter, Catarina de Albuquerque, the U.N. Special Rapportuer on the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation, cited a host of worrisome drinking water supply and sanitation conditions in California.
“Ensuring the rights to water and sanitation for all requires a paradigm shift towards new designs and approaches that promote human rights, that are affordable and that create more value in terms of public health improvements, community development, and global ecosystem protection,” de Albuquerque wrote.
While her mission and report touched on issues around the nation, the bulk of her findings addressed problems in California, specifically the San Joaquin Valley, where she cites “enormous challenges” particularly with nitrate contamination of drinking water. While occurring naturally, nitrate levels are elevated by crop fertilizers and animal manure and are known to harm respiratory and reproductive systems as well as the kidney, spleen and thyroid, according to a news release from the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee and Community Water Center in Visalia.
“Because it is difficult to assign responsibility for this type of pollution (non-point source pollution), no one is obliged to pay for the clean-up costs. In these circumstances, the affected community inevitably bears these costs,” she reported.
Central Valley groundwater is contaminated with nitrates
De Albuquerque pointed out this is especially disturbing because groundwater, which is vulnerable to nitrate contamination, serves as the primary source of drinking water for almost 90 percent of Central Valley residents. For instance, in Tulare County she reported that approximately 20 percent of the small public water systems are unable to meet the nitrate maximum contaminant level (MCL) on a regular basis and another 20 percent are over half the nitrate MCL.
“The goal of universal access to clean and safe water has yet to be attained. Infants, older persons, persons with certain medical conditions and other vulnerable groups remain at risk from exposure to water that does not meet federal standards. Moreover, hundreds of substances found in water remain unregulated, and some sources of water, namely private drinking-water supplies, are also unregulated,” she wrote.
The Community Water Center in Visalia, an advocate for safe drinking water in the Central Valley, is especially familiar with this reality.
“Hardworking farmworker families with annual incomes well below the poverty line are often forced to pay twice for water – once for a monthly water bill for water they can’t drink and then again when they are forced to seek alternative water sources, usually from neighboring towns,” said Maria Herrera, the Center’s community outreach coordinator.
The U.N. noted this disturbing reality in their report and pointed out that affected households in these small rural areas are paying as much as 20 percent of their income to water and sanitation.
“While there is no federally recognized right to safe drinking water and sanitation, individual states have taken the initiative to consecrate this right,” de Albuquerque says.
Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have a right to clean water in their constitutions and the United States joined international consensus in 2010, recognizing the human right for water and sanitation.
Environmental justice advocates campaign to pass Human Right to Water bill package
In California, the State Legislature is presently considering AB 685 (Eng-D Monterey Park), the Human Right to Water Measure. If passed, proponents say this would be a fundamental first step to addressing many of the recommendations and concerns in the U.N. report.
“A holistic, systemic approach is required, whereby the water sector is not viewed in isolation from the agricultural, chemical, industrial and energy sectors," de Albuquerque said. "The absence of political will inevitably means poor planning and scarce funding, and ultimately leads to pollution that jeopardizes water quality and increases costs."
"It is shocking that in California we have communities where the sole water supply is contaminated, and where families unable to afford treatment are left entirely without safe water,” said Assemblyman Mike Eng, in explaining why he authored his bill. "It is critical that we help communities throughout the state gain access to clean, affordable water.”
AB 685 was held in the Senate Appropriations Commiteee last week. This same bill with almost identical language made it all the way through the Legislature and to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk in 2009 in the form of AB 1242 (Ruskin). Schwarzenegger, bowing to pressure from corporate interests, vetoed the bill.
Four other bills, AB 938 (VM Perez), AB 983 (Perea), AB 1221 (Alejo), and SB 244 (Wolk), are still moving through the Legislative process. They will all be up for floor votes over the next two weeks.
The human right to water bill package, including AB 685, is co-sponsored by the California Center for Public Health Advocacy; California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation; Catholic Charities Diocese of Stockton; Clean Water Action; Community Water Center; Environmental Justice Coalition for Water; Food and Water Watch; Southern California Watershed Alliance; Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry Action Network, CA; Unitarian Universalist Service Committee; Urban Semillas, and Winnemem Wintu Tribe.
AB 685 is opposed by the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), the Western Growers Association and several other water service providers, who contend the bill "may lead to a requirement that water agencies provide water service without consideration to affordability, thereby increasing water bills and have other unintended consequences," according to the Legislative Analysis.
Winnemem Wintu Tribe: 'Water is sacred'
"Water is sacred, water is Life for all," commented Caleen Sisk-Franco, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. "Just as all need to breathe Air, so should be the waters be for all, not just those who market water and ruin the rest in poor planning."
The UN report was released as the Obama and Brown administrations are fast-tracking the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDC) to build a peripheral canal to export more water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to corporate agribusiness interests on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California water agencies.
Canal opponents note that the peripheral canal's construction is likely to result in the extinction of Central Valley steelhead, Sacramento River chinook salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other species. The canal would take vast tracts of Delta farmland, some of the most productive on the planet, out of production to divert water to irrigate drainage impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.
At the same time, the peripheral canal would do nothing to provide clean, safe drinking water for rural communities in the San Joaquin Valley plagued by the contamination of drinking water systems.
More than 11.5 million Californians rely on water from suppliers that experienced at least one violation of State Drinking Water Standards as reported to the Department of Public Health in 2004, according to supporters of the legislative package. As many as 8.5 million Californians rely on supplies that experienced more than five instances of unsafe levels in a single year.
The U.N. mission was coordinated by the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC). For additional information on the U.N. mission and corresponding recommendations, contact Patricia Jones, UUSC Environmental Justice Program Manager at (617) 301 4393 or email pjones [at] uusc.org. The full U.N. report is available online at:http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/18session/A-HRC-18-33-Add4_en.pdf.
For more information about the legislative package and UN report, contact: Maria Herrera, Community Water Center, (559) 733-0219, or Michael Miller, Brown∙Miller Communications, (800) 710-9333.