12-9-08Badlands JournalThe corruption complex in Merced..Badlands Journal editorial board...12-8-08http://www.badlandsjournal.com/2008-12-08/006990“In a government of law, the existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for the law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.” -- US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, 1856-194112-5-7-08CounterPunch.comHow Washington Arrogance Helped Drive the Mumbai Attacks Muslim Revolution By PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS http://www.counterpunch.com/roberts12052008.html-----We were deeply struck by this ancient theme -- that the polis is the teacher of its citizens -- because it is as true now as it has always been.But, what of that other institution so terribly important to the education of our citizens and others, our universities, specifically "the greatest public higher education research institution in the world" ... (listen to those trumpets blare) ... the University of California?Is UC a good teacher?It teaches its students and the society that pays for it -- because it is so, so, very public! -- that a UC administrators and faculty can quit one job, collect a severance package, and go right on to other jobs with UC at higher salaries, later to collect another severance package. We're talking Wall Street levels of accountability if not salaries here, because UC has got to attract the very best and brightest by these means, which amount to the best and the brightest are the best and brightest at looking out for Private No.1. There are probably unsung examples of public-spirited UC executives that tried not to take advantage of every finance game in their system, but they ran up against the Group, and were no doubt told to take the money and shut up for the benefit of the Group.What does that teach the young?Scam the public, rip it off, look down your nose at the public and let UC's superb flakmasters handle the issue with the press. Above all, abuse the power the state gave UC to become the "greatest public higher education research instition in the world."Merced's Sonny Star, the local gigolo media outlet for the McClatchy Co., has once again been shanghied by the artful Bobcatflakers of UC Merced in to several days of propaganda for a UC Merced medical school. It is a very useful diversion from what is really going on in Merced, foreclosures without end, evictions, homelessness, unemployment and the general tendencies that one associates with economic recessions serious enough to be called a Depression, with all the real ugly things that word entails that are still living memory to people of a certain age, because the Depression didn't end in the San Joaquin Valley as soon as it ended in more economically fortunate regions -- not that that prancing ditherhead, Sonny Star, would know it.Fresno is the place for a medical school, not Merced. Fresno was the place for the campus, not Merced. Universities are urban institutions. Fresno is a city. When universities get involved with urban real estate speculative booms, they are correctly called "boondoggles" and "nothing but a land deal." Moreover, the sorts of hospitals where doctors are trained, called training hospitals, exist in large cities with populations of indigent people upon whom the infant physicians can practice their arts under the guidance of wise, old, and severe nurses who actually teach medicine to the sleepless, tottering residents on the ward, where and when it counts.The big argument for UC Merced Med is that there aren't enough doctors in the San Joaquin Valley. For example, the wife of one of UC Merced's greatest legislative boosters, Dennis Cardoza, just moved to Maryland for a job at a medical school.UC Merced, as it stands, would be a good place for an Indian casino and perhaps a Yokuts senior residence, if there are still enough Native people around the foothills that claim Yokuts blood.However, it's also time to look at the state Legislature again, 30 of whose 120 members have on-going business or professional careers that frequently create conflict-of-interest votes. Political economic anarchy in California is very advanced -- perhaps if one looks at the state's history, it would be more accurate to say that it was never quite arrested by various waves of reform. The current situation has been going on for some years, apparently, without much or any media attention. But, that is because the term-limited legislature rarely gets much media attention anyway. Covering the legislature in the largest state in the nation requires an investment of time and effort few media corporations make anymore except at times around certain issues, like water.History rhymes rather than repeating, Mark Twain said. But when the homeless community under the Highway 59 bridge and Bear Creek says that when the cops come it will simply move upstream, out into the country (closer to UC Merced), we are getting back to the Old Valley of informal labor camps, only without the work that supported the camps of 50 years ago.An elemental clash is going on between those who plan for the San Joaquin Valley to be a huge new urban area and an economy that seems to have other plans of its own. Judging from the reputation of the north San Joaquin Valley in international credit markets, the primary means of creating the sort of urban growth that would support a medical school was done by mortgages that are blowing up all over the world. And, of course, UC Merced is planning a large residential and commercial community next to the campus as the amount of empty residential and commercial space grows in Merced, making this plan more redundant by the day.Automatically, without the least reflection, UC Merced seeks to lead us into a new urban, high-tech, extremely dangerous future, as if it were intelligent rather than simply powerful; as if it were humane rather than merely lethal; as if it were involved with life rather than with death on the most massive scale. UC Merced was scarcely open before UC Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory was trying to site the most dangerous biowarfare lab possible outside of Tracy.I happened to be sitting in a bus next to a pre-med student attending UC Merced recently. He got on the bus 200 miles from Merced. I asked why he wasn't taking pre-med courses at some excellent nearby public higher education facilities. He said he wanted to get away from home. Those of us deluged by UC Merced flak in early years remember the constant din of offering a UC campus in the Valley because -- the crudity of this still rankles -- Hispanics won't move away from home. This student was Hispanic and there were two UC campuses closer to his home than Merced. This student is by no means the exception and I quite well understand and am not critical of his desire to go to college away from home.But, what's really going on here? If I understood him correctly, he seemed to be getting his real instruction from contract teaching assistants from Fresno State, presumably masters' students in chemistry and biology (Fresno State only offers two doctoral programs, in physical therapy and educational leadership). The student, whose father he said was a farmworker, seemed like a veritable poster child for the "UC Merced mission" although his educational needs could be met by more rigorous institutions closer to his home. A week ago a conference was held at UC Merced, convened by something called CURAJ Exchange, which appears to be made up of UC professors and associated camp followers. The conference was facilitated by "Open Space," which presents itself as a world-famous facilitation group with a patented "technology" called "Open Space Technology," (getting a bunch of people from different walks of life into a room to talk real fast about issues of common concern under the eagle eyes of value-free facilitators intend on "capturing" on a large pad of paper some extremely rough idea of what the speaker was trying to say before interrupting him or her to go on to the next person. Environmentalists particularly, should be careful of future use of the term, "open space," because it may now be the privately owned brand of this coven of value-free facilitators.The conference notes occurred under the heading, "What could we think of to measure and understand for communities to thrive in the Central Valley," which seemed to be its guiding statement. We read through the 90 pages of notes of the discussion sessions on a variety of topics and couldn't find one new idea. Yet, according to the dictates of "open space technology," new ideas are supposed to spring spontaneously from the people thanks to the miraculous process of value-free facilitation. One fact did spring spontaneously from an early discussion: the San Joaquin Valley is not the Central Valley. The Central Valley runs from Redding to Bakersfield and includes the Sacramento Valley. So, here, once again, we run across the absurd propaganda of this misbegotten campus that it is the "first UC campus in the Central Valley" when in fact UC Davis predates it by close to a century. Given that the question was miscast, the results were inevitable.We were particularly interested in anything the UC Merced function would have to say about natural resources, vernal pools, for example, since the campus has finally applied for its Clean Water Act permit well after it built its first phase without one. (But, legality is one of those value issues shunned by all true value-free facilitators).  Under the rubric, "Environmental Justice," we found a discussion about grant applications made on behalf of the town of Fairmead. Under "Natural Resources Management and Protected Areas," we found mention of a discussion of forests, mountains and tourism. We could only assume that some of the burning natural resource issues in the Valley -- from air quality to rivers to groundwater -- intimidated the value-free facilitators because it would be difficult to extract all the values from the issues and have anything left to talk about at all. How does one "measure" the Public Trust?UC Merced is with us and unlikely to depart, much as some would prefer a decent casino on the site. Casinos frequently add needed funds to worthy pubic institutions like public libraries, after school programs, police and fire protection, even programs at UC campuses, in addition to helping Native American families. Nor do casinos create cities around them as UC campuses do. UC Merced will continue to be a very powerful, destructive voice against the natural resources and environmental concerns of the San Joaquin valley in order to justify its location. Since it must simultaneously claim to be the greenest facility since the Garden of Eden, this is going to lead to endless amounts of double-talk that will spread confusion rather than enlightenment for miles around it.What has UC Merced taught its surrounding communities?To begin, UC Merced has taught its surrounding communities the full meaning of the term, "political pork barrel." Whether it ever becomes a school remains to be seen. At the moment it is merely a corrupt state corporation that lies, cheats and steals. The politics behind UC Merced gave its surrounding communities a fantastic show of vanity, greed and political sleeze by every political and business leader (including UC regents) from the city council to the governor's office.UC Merced corrupted the local planning process and it corrupted the UC system planning process. Will the City of Merced ever get back from UC its $8-million "loan" for the UC sewer and water hookup? Will the UC budget allow the Merced campus to be built out in anything less than 250 years?UC Merced corrupted superior and state appellate courts, which made a series of decisions (never published) detrimental to both regional resources and to taxpayers pocketbooks.UC Merced propaganda, since 1995, has been a such voluminous source of endlessly repeated half-truths and lies that it has reminded local residents with any capacity to think critically that UC is one of the world's premier Cold War institutions, inventors of the atomic bomb and the top on-going researcher and developer of nuclear and biological weapons of mass destruction. Once UC decides upon a course, its propaganda kicks in and it will say anything to get its wish. We were astonished at how it exploited the Valley's Hispanic community, including throngs of third graders marched to the state Capitol to demonstrate for the Merced campus. This campus was presented to be primarily for the Hispanic population of the Valley, who, according to some UC "research," were less likely than other ethnic groups to leave home to go to college. These days -- and probably always for internal UC consumption -- the campus mission is described as serving "diverse students from throughout the state" that are financially supported at a level 50 percent higher than students at regular UC campuses, which makes it an extremely expensive, inefficient community college.Perhaps worst of all, UC propaganda, in order to sell the Merced campus, tried to convince every child and parent in the area that without a UC degree, they were pretty much worthless. The inflation of the value of academia in life was particularly nauseating in a region filled with people involved in productive agriculture who may have relatively little or no college education. It was a grotesque act of urban snobbery that raised class issues in the Valley with a propaganda violence no other campaign before it ever had.UC Merced is a relentlessly urbanizing institution that has turned the mind of every farmer in the region away from the value of agricultural production to the value of land for speculative real estate purposes.UC Merced's only achievement has been to be the anchor tenant for a huge speculative real estate boom that busted and put Merced and surrounding counties on the global finance map for their foreclosure rates. As the state budget diminishes, it is possible UC Merced will be the victim of the corrupt finance, insurance and real estate special interests and their bought politicians behind its founding.A possible ending to the UC Merced saga would be the collapse of the "green" campus as the gigantic WalMart distribution center rises on the interchange on Highway 99 created for the Campus Parkway. The WalMart project will cause more local air pollution, in the worst air-pollution basin in the nation, than any project before it. The land on which the distribution center will be located is owned by Bill Lyons, Jr. Lyons got the City of Merced to annex it about the time he became secretary of the state Department of Food and Agriculture, thanks to financial contributions to former Gov. Gray Davis, and not long before UC Merced was certified a "done deal" by the state Legislature and was put on an environmental permit fast-track by the Davis administration. Land speculation among public officials became spectacular, ending finally in an apparent shakedown of a landowner incarcerated in the county jail that allegedly involved the DA and the sheriff, among other parties. However, the true extent to which public officials, directly involved in land-used decisions, benefited from UC Merced will probably never be known. It would make an excellent research project in value-free, quantitative measurement.A worry, for those who have value-laden concerns for their community, is that UC Merced, desperate to justify its existence, will attempt to become a refuge for some of the dirtier science in the UC system. Nearby residents recognize that UC practices some of the dirtiest, most dangerous science in the world, right over the Altamont Pass in Livermore. When the Lab was established, Livermore was a cowtown, too.Finally, the state of democracy in Merced County. The founding of UC Merced and the speculative real estate boom it stimulated in the area was the work of finance, insurance and real estate corporations, hand-in-hand with local elected officials, the only authorities that could have even challenged the process from boom to bust. This "process" of corruption passed entirely over the heads of the public-at-large. The propaganda of UC and the real estate industry, obediently broadcast by all local media, was overwhelming to most citizens who do not spend much time investigating political economic issues in their communities. In fact, today there are probably bankers in Shanghai and Berlin, examining slivers of foreclosed subprime mortgages from Merced, that may have pieced together more of the story than the former homeowner even knew about what hit him.Because the only opposition to the project and the speculative boom came from local environmentalists, fairy shrimp lovers and the like, criticism could be easily dismissed as the usual knee-jerk reaction. In fact, the full responsibility for political economic analysis fell on people committed for 30 years to economic, social and environmental justice in the Valley. The predictive quality of their analysis was excellent. The larger problem during the boom was that UC Merced and real estate propagandists had managed entirely to erase reason from public discourse. Democracy went south with reason. Even now, in the bust, we can only think of one real challenge to a local incumbent and that challenge lost, decisively.Oh, well. Whatever. Merced Sun-StarTreasurer: State to halt infrastructure spending...JULIET WILLIAMS - Associated Press Writer. Associated Press Writer Samantha Young also contributed to this report. http://www.mercedsunstar.com/280/story/585041.htmlSACRAMENTO California will have to stop financing nearly all infrastructure projects within two weeks if lawmakers don't immediately solve the state's $11.2 billion budget shortfall, state Treasurer Bill Lockyer warned Monday as legislators met in a rare joint session.If the Legislature fails to act, Lockyer said about $5 billion in loans for highway projects, school construction and other public works would be cut off, just as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and others are urging greater investment in such initiatives to help shore up the faltering economy.Loss of the $5 billion would cost 200,000 jobs and eliminate $12.5 billion in private sector revenue, Lockyer told members of the state Senate and Assembly."That's the poison apple that nobody asked for and nobody wants," Lockyer said.He warned that the slowdown would hit every area of the state."There's only one way to prevent these shutdowns: Adopt an honest, balanced budget very soon," Lockyer said.The testimony by Lockyer, State Controller John Chiang and other top finance experts was billed as an effort to present a uniform financial picture for a new legislative session that includes 25 rookie lawmakers facing one of the worst budget situations since the Great Depression.Lawmakers are dealing with an $11.2 billion shortfall for the fiscal year that ends June 30. The deficit is forecast to grow to $28 billion over the next 18 months unless steps are taken to eliminate the red ink.Schwarzenegger declared a fiscal emergency last week and for the third time this year called lawmakers into special session.He warned that California is in danger of running out of daily operating cash within two months and proposed $4.7 billion in tax increases and $4.4 billion in program cuts.So far, Democrats and Republicans have been unable to reach consensus on how to close the gap. Republicans have remained steadfastly against raising taxes, but have failed to offer their own balanced budget proposal.Chiang warned that the deficit is growing by hundreds of millions of dollars a week as lawmakers bicker over ideology. He said the state has already borrowed all it can from its own special funds."In the past four weeks that we have argued about the budget, our problem grew by as much as $500 million," Chiang said.The state's nonpartisan legislative analyst, Mac Taylor, told legislators the deficit has grown so much over the last nine months that they can't balance the budget just with spending cuts.For instance, he said, to address the deficit solely by cutting programs, the state would have to end all funding for the University of California and California State University systems, all welfare payments and stop paying for developmental services, mental health and in-home support.To do it through tax increases alone would require a 2 percentage point increase in the state sales tax, a 15 percent personal income tax surcharge and a 2 percentage point increase in the corporate tax rate.Schwarzenegger's budget proposals include raising the state sales tax by 1.5 percentage points - or a penny and a half on the dollar - for three years, broadening the sales tax to include more services and increasing the Department of Motor Vehicles' annual fee for registering vehicles in California by $12.The governor also wants to cut about $2.5 billion in education funding this fiscal year.Schwarzenegger has also lobbied for an economic stimulus plan, and told President-elect Barack Obama at a meeting of governors last week that California has $28 billion-worth of projects the incoming Obama administration could fund within its first 120 days.But the state's own fund to lend money to private firms and others for infrastructure projects is running dry and is needed to keep the state afloat, Lockyer warned Monday.The state usually sells bonds to repay those loans, but Lockyer said the credit market is so bad - and California's finances so ruined - that he can't sell any more bonds until the budget mess is addressed.Assembly Minority Leader Mike Villines, R-Clovis, agreed that Lockyer and the other experts painted a bleak picture, but he said he remained adamant that increasing taxes would further hurt the economy and residents who are struggling."We already have all the information, and the choices are clear. You're going to have to make deep, long cuts," Villines said.Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, said she remains hopeful that legislators can vote on a budget compromise by the end of December, despite weeks of meetings between legislative leaders and the governor that have so far failed to yield a deal.She said she hoped the joint session briefing would serve as a wake-up call of sorts for some legislators."I think some of my colleagues - on both sides of the aisle - are in denial, frankly," Bass said.Bass said she and Assembly Budget committee chairwoman Noreen Evans would travel to Washington, D.C. Monday night to appeal to Congress and Obama's transition team for federal help.Despite his own pleas for an economic stimulus package that includes California infrastructure, Schwarzenegger has scoffed at the idea of asking the federal government to help the state address its financial problems before it deals with its own mess. Employee sues MID claiming harassmentLaMonte Tumbling says he was targeted based on race and ethics....JONAH OWEN LAMBhttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/v-print/story/585518.htmlA Merced Irrigation District employee claims that he faced racial discrimination, harassment and retaliation for reporting unethical behavior by his superiors.The charges came in a lawsuit filed Nov. 21 in U.S. District Court in Fresno. The suit alleges that an MID board member underpaid for water and an MID manager had sexual relations with a subordinate. LaMonte Tumbling, the supervisor of customer service in 2005, was demoted to a weed-sprayer position and racially taunted over several years for refusing to "look the other way" in response to a laundry list of offenses and unethical behavior he witnessed at MID, according to the suit. Tumbling is black.Corbet Browning, a lawyer with the firm representing MID, said the suit had yet to be delivered to his office and as a potential case he could speak little on the matter."It involves allegations that concern personnel, and in this case personnel that remain employed with the district; therefore, we can't comment," said Browning.Tumbling's troubles began in 2004, according to the suit, after he walked in on Mike Higgins, one of his superiors, while Higgins was fondling an unidentified woman, who was willingly participating. After the incident, Higgins threatened Humbling's job, according to the suit.Higgins could not be reached for comment.According to the lawsuit, MID did nothing to reprimand Higgins for either action."MID ignored the supervisor's sexual misconduct and ratified this inappropriate behavior by failing to discipline Higgins," the suit stated.After walking in on Higgins for a second time, Tumbling was targeted for retaliation, including demotion, and faced taunting and racially charged comments such as "boy" and "stay in your place," according to the suit.It also claims that Higgins admitted to Tumbling that he was "guilty as hell, but you have to prove it; I love to eat people like you up. Go ahead and try a lawsuit."The suit says the root of Tumbling's problems stemmed from a discovery he made in 2007 -- not from the sexual encounter he supposedly witnessed. That year Tumbling reported that a board member was using his position to buy water illegally and send it to his land out of the district boundary; however, he paid only much lower in-district prices, according to the suit.According to MID's 2008 water pricing guide, in-district water costs $15.25 an acre-foot, whereas out-of-district water is $60 an acre-foot. (An acre-foot of water is around 326,000 gallons, or a year's supply for an average family in the Valley.)"Factually from what we know, the area we believe to be of concern, regarding water rates, is absolutely inconsistent with facts as we understand them," said Browning of the allegation.Neither he nor the suit mention the name of the alleged board member.The lawsuit further charges that Tumbling's story is just one case illustrating a culture of sexual favors that pervades MID."Some employees manipulated their supervisors by delivering and or promising repeated sexual favors," the complaint said. "Female employees used gender-based charm, flattery, compliments and sexual favors to avoid work and avoid being accountable for their work productivity and performance."Castle manager's debt grows to $2.1MCounty dips into reserve fund to cover revenue gap...SCOTT JASONhttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/v-print/story/585529.htmlThe money Castle Commerce Center's property manager owes to Merced County has grown by half-a-million dollars as another quarterly payment has come due.Federal Development owes the county $2.1 million under the contract it signed in late 2006 to oversee the revitalization of the former Air Force Base near Atwater. It has made $1.4 million in payments during the past two years.As a result of the discrepancy, the county has been forced to tap a reserve account to bridge budget gaps created by the missing revenue.The stack of bills has also prompted talks to figure out what role Federal will play at Castle and what kind of financial agreement will work for both sides."The county continues to have ongoing sensitive discussions with Federal to resolve the issues," county spokeswoman Katie Albertson said.David Gazek, a senior vice president with the Washington, D.C.-based company, said that two land sales set for approval by the county Board of Supervisors today and others in the works should eventually cover the money owed."We see a very positive picture, particularly given the economy," he said Monday. "We're looking forward to resolving the outstanding issues."The supervisors, in their role as the Redevelopment Agency, will consider selling 3.61 acres to Thomas C. Williams for $1.28 million and 1.16 acres to Western Farm Service, Inc. for $280,000. Gazek said his business helped bring both deals to fruition.The revenue from the two sales, if approved, will go into a joint escrow account before some of it goes to Federal and some to the county.Albertson couldn't say how much Federal would receive.The county ventured into a public-private partnership in December 2006 in hopes that together they'd turn the 517-acre center into a thriving economic hub.Under the deal, Federal collects the tenants' rent and pays the county $500,000 quarterly, or $2 million a year. The overdue bills began stacking up in the summer of 2007. Finding investors became increasingly difficult because of the foreclosure crisis and credit crunch, Gazek has said.A day after the Sun-Star reported the debt in October, the county announced it would collect and keep rent checks from the 60 tenants at Castle, revenue that totals about $110,000 monthly.That decision cut off Federal's main revenue stream and forced it to downsize its staff, Gazek said. The cutbacks have created more work for Federal's workers but haven't hurt its ability to market the center."The economy is so terrible," he said. "We're trying to maintain a core effort."Gazek said he doesn't believe the county would force Federal to continue quarterly payments without also collecting the rents.He believes a new agreement could be ready to go before the Board of Supervisors in 30 to 60 days.Payments madeFederal Development's payments to the county:2007April 11: $399,979April 17: $100,021Dec. 5: $200,000Dec. 31: $100,000Year's total: $800,0002008Jan. 29: $100,000May 6: $100,000July 25: $200,000Aug. 18: $200,000Year's total: $600,000Still owed: $2.1 millionSource: County records Investigators: EPA officials did not break lobbying lawsRevolves around request to regulate vehicle emissions...MICHAEL DOYLE, Sun-Star Washington Bureauhttp://www.mercedsunstar.com/167/v-print/story/585521.htmlWASHINGTON -- Environmental Protection Agency officials did not violate anti-lobbying laws amid a high-stakes campaign over California's request for permission to strictly regulate greenhouse gas emissions in vehicles, federal investigators have concluded.Rejecting charges by conservatives, the investigators say two top agency officials acted legally when they conveyed information to former EPA administrator William Reilly. A well-connected Republican, Reilly was supporting California's clean-air waiver request."EPA staff did not engage in any effort to influence a member of Congress or other covered official," the EPA's Office of Inspector General concluded in a new audit.The latest investigation may close out the controversy over what happened as the Bush administration considered California's waiver request. The clean-air waiver proposal itself, though, remains alive and kicking.California lawmakers are now urging President-elect Barack Obama to reconsider the clean-air waiver, which a Bush administration appointee rejected in December."I definitely believe that Barack Obama will sign the waiver, because he said he was going to do it, and he's a man of his word," Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer said Monday.At least 18 other states likewise seek more power to regulate emissions, Boxer noted. First, though, the states need a waiver from the federal air pollution law that sets a less stringent national standard. California's stricter rules would cut tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 30 percent by the year 2016.Lobbying controversies have pervaded the clean-air waiver fight from the start. Last year, congressional investigators revealed the Transportation Department was actively lobbying Congress to rally opposition to a waiver. Top White House officials also pressured EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson to deny the waiver, Boxer has previously charged."Relatively early in the process, I had the impression that (Johnson) was quite interested in and was seriously exploring ... granting the waiver," EPA official Jason Burnett told House investigators in a deposition. "His final decision is well known." Burnett refused, however, to explain further what role the White House might have played in Johnson's apparent change of mind.Discussions between Capitol Hill and Obama transition officials now focus on how the waiver might happen. A lawsuit filed by California probably will have to be settled, though it's unclear whether a new public comment period will have to be opened."Combating global warming is not only good for the environment, it's great for the economy," Boxer said, "and I believe that Barack Obama believes that, too." Boxer chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. The senior Republican on her committee, Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, is an adamant critic of the science surrounding greenhouse gas emissions.In March, Inhofe requested that investigators look into how EPA information came into Reilly's hands. Inhofe suggested officials might have violated the anti-lobbying act, which prohibits federal employees from using public funds to influence members of Congress or other government officials. Our View: Cleaning air worth costCalifornia air board should adopt new rules governing diesel engines.http://www.mercedsunstar.com/181/v-print/story/585527.htmlThe state air board will meet this week to consider tough new rules governing diesel engines and the emissions they cause. We urge the board to adopt the rules for the sake of cleaner skies and a healthier California.The new rules are on the agenda of the California Air Resources Board for its meetings Thursday and Friday.They are opposed by the trucking industry, among others, as too burdensome in this time of economic crisis. And we acknowledge that the cost will be high. But the cost of the status quo is even higher.Diesel emissions are the single-most damaging form of pollution in California's air. Trucks and buses are responsible for 40 percent of the harmful particulate matter and 50 percent of the nitrogen oxides -- the main component of smog -- in the state.Particulate matter is very pernicious, especially in the Valley, where pollution is exacerbated by the combination of geography and climate. The tiny particles can penetrate deeply into human lungs and other organs. There they can cause or aggravate a whole array of cardiovascular and respiratory ailments, including asthma.Worse, the children exposed to diesel emissions are at special risk. Particulate exposure can retard lung development in the very young, and has been linked to damage suffered by fetuses and other serious health and reproductive problems.Those emissions are directly responsible for several thousand deaths each year, and cost billions in added health expenses. A telling figure: Truck drivers themselves are almost twice as likely to develop lung cancer as people not so closely exposed to diesel exhaust.Schoolchildren are exposed to high levels of diesel pollution on their school buses. And 50 percent of all Californians live within one mile of a freeway. Very few of us escape the damages from diesel pollution.CARB is considering two rules. One would require more efficient diesel engines, better aerodynamic designs of vehicles and fuel-efficient tires. The second rule would require particulate filters and other emissions controls on trucks and buses.The cost is steep -- CARB estimates it at $5.5 billion over the next 15 years; the trucking industry and others set the figure much higher.And the timetable is tight. Diesel particulate filters would be required by 2014. The new efficiency rules would apply to 2011 models; older trucks and buses would need upgrades by 2012-13.But we have little choice, and over the same 15 years, the savings in lives, health costs and reduced diesel fuel consumption could amount to nearly $50 billion, in CARB's estimate.It won't be easy for truckers to cover the costs of the upgrades, just as it wasn't easy for Valley farmers to comply with new air regulations that began several years ago.The state is committed to easing the truckers' burden with financial help, just as it did with farmers. In fact, the eminently successful Carl Moyer program is a good model for such aid.Under the Moyer program, farmers are given help by the state to replace or retrofit older stationary diesel engines used to power irrigation pumps in the fields. The program has helped remove tons of emissions from thousands of older engines.Such public help is appropriate, because all of us will benefit from cleaner, healthier air. We should all help pay for the cost of those benefits.None of this will be easy, especially given the fragile condition of both the state budget and the economy. It may take longer than planned to see the benefits of these new rules. But they are badly needed, and we hope CARB will adopt them this week. Fresno BeeMadera County OKs 8,200 homesBoard of Supervisors approves 2 developments in the Rio Mesa area...Chris Collinshttp://www.fresnobee.com/local/v-print/story/1062482.htmlDespite concerns about potential negative environmental effects, increased traffic congestion and inadequate school funding, the Madera County Board of Supervisors on Monday approved two large developments in southeast Madera County's Rio Mesa area.Supervisors unanimously OK'd a 3,000-home development that will border the northwest portion of Millerton Lake and also voted 5-0 in favor of a 5,200-home urban center that would be mostly east of Highway 41 and south of Avenue 15.The approval of the two developments marks a step toward completing a long-planned community in the area that eventually will be home to 100,000 people. A number of other potential developments in the area are seeking approval.The Millerton Lake project, which will cover more than 2,100 acres of land, was approved after receiving an endorsement from the Chawanakee Unified School District, which negotiated a last-minute deal with developers that will ensure that $60 million from the project will be committed to building future schools.But the district was vehemently opposed to the second development, called the Tesoro Viejo project, which will cover 1,600 acres and eventually be home to 13,000 people.School district consultant Marshall Krupp said the district will need $170 million to build future schools in that community, but will be $100 million short after state funds and developer fees. The tab will be picked up by current and future residents of the entire school district, he said"In essence, this developer is burdening this project on the backs of others," Krupp said.But developer Bob McCaffrey said his project would not shortchange the district."Above all, we are committed to higher-quality, well-funded schools," he said.Krupp said that the school district will meet as early as next week and could decide to sue the county in order to ensure adequate school funding.Also, a representative from the Fresno County Department of Public Works and Planning warned that the developments would increase traffic in northeast Fresno County and not provide the money needed to make road improvements."Until those issues are resolved, it's premature to certify [the project]," said Lynn Gorman, the department's deputy director.Nevertheless, the Board of Supervisors said that even though the developments may not be perfect, delays would only harm them."The developer has really bent over backwards to make this happen," Supervisor Vern Moss said of the Millerton Lake development. "I think it's a great project. It has so much going for it."Jad Dennis, a planner with Friant Development, which will build the Millerton Lake project, said he doesn't know when his team will break ground because the sour economy has put everything on hold."We won't build until there's a market," he said.John Sanger, an attorney working on the Tesoro Viejo project, said it would be at least two to four years before developers can start building houses there.Dennis said the Millerton Lake project is environmentally sound. He dismissed concerns about traffic congestion, saying, "Fresno and Madera counties are neighbors, they share traffic and have to work it out."Dave Koehler, executive director of the San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust, a nonprofit seeking to preserve and restore the river, said the Millerton Lake project will leave "very key habitat issues outstanding."Coke Hallowell, who lives on a ranch near the lake, told supervisors that the area is "covered with sensitive species" and urged them to more carefully consider their decision. Public Water Agencies Throughout California File Suit to Prevent Further Water Cutbacks...Monday, Dec. 08, 2008http://www.fresnobee.com/547/v-print/story/1062096.htmlFRESNO, Calif. The Westlands Water District today joined with 31 other public water agencies in the Central Valley in filing a lawsuit to block a new regulation that would enable state Fish and Game officials to cut off up to a million acre feet of water for two-thirds of California’s people. Those reductions in freshwater supplies would come on top of the court-ordered cutbacks that last year reduced the state’s water supplies by roughly one-third in the midst of the drought.“We’re taking this action to protect the public interest in our own water supply,” said Jean P. Sagouspe, a farmer on the westside of the San Joaquin Valley who is the president of Westlands Water District. “The Department of Fish and Game’s plan represents an abuse of power and a failure of good science and common sense.”The lawsuit filed jointly by Westlands and the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority (SLDMWA) is one of three suits filed against the Fish and Game regulation by public water agencies from Northern and Southern California as well as the Bay Area. Together, the public water agencies opposed to the regulation are responsible for delivering water to more than 25 million Californians and nearly two million acres of agricultural land. Fish and Game officials want to shut down the operation of the state and federal pumps in order to protect a species of minnow called the longfin smelt. But Fish and Game’s own studies show that longfin smelt do not live anywhere near the pumps. As a result, the agencies point out that shutting down the pumps will not produce any benefit for the fish.Worse, the Department of Fish and Game is proposing to do nothing at all to reduce the effects of toxic pollution, invasive species, and other problems that the department’s own scientists admit are harming longfin smelt.If the new restrictions are enforced and the drought persists, Water Resources Director Lester Snow has warned that it “could create a water supply and delivery crisis the likes of which Californians have not seen in decades.” In November, the Department of Water Resources joined with public water agencies from throughout California in submitting extensive scientific evidence in an unsuccessful effort to persuade the state Fish and Game Commission not to adopt this rule.“California’s leaders should be working together to conserve our limited water supplies and help the public get through this drought emergency,” Sagouspe said. “Instead we see two state agencies working at cross purposes. Nobody benefits if Fish and Game follows through on this plan that proposes to spill into the ocean enough fresh water to serve five million people for an entire year.”The new rule adds an additional and very expensive measure of uncertainty to the water crisis California is facing. Even if Fish and Game doesn’t start shutting down the pumps, public water agencies are required to make arrangements for alternative supplies in case they do – a process that will add an estimated $220 million to local water bills. Farmers will face additional problems in securing financing to plant their crops if there’s no assurance there will be enough water to grow them. And new housing developments cannot proceed under California law unless they can demonstrate they have a secure water supply.California’s Endangered Species Act requires that actions taken to protect a species have to be proportionate to the actual threat they face. Westlands’ suit, however, points out that if as few as 50 longfin smelt are harmed out of a species that numbers in the millions and ranges as far north as Alaska, Fish and Game would be empowered to begin shutting off water supplies for millions of people at an untold cost of billions to the state’s economy.“There is no proportionality here,” said Sagouspe. “No rhyme or reason to the regulation. It simply reflects a false and destructive obsession with blaming the pumps for every ailment in the Delta.”Although they support the other water agencies’ litigation, Westlands and SLDMWA needed to file a separate action as well because they rely on water from the federal Central Valley Project. The lawsuit filed today is based on violations of State law. Westlands and SLDMWA have an additional reason to ask for the new rule to be suspended because the U.S. Constitution bars the state from imposing these restrictions on a federal system.What’s Wrong with the Longfin Smelt RegulationOn November 13, 2008, 58 public water agencies, which are responsible for supplying more than 25 million Californians and nearly 2 million acres of farmland with water, joined in submitting a detail scientific analysis of the deficiencies in the longfin regulation to the California Fish and Game Commission. This is a summary of the key findings in that document.Major Message Points in Public Water Agencies Cover Letter٠The Proposed Regulation is not supported by available data, provides no measurable   protection to longfin smelt, and violates the most basic principles of regulatory law. ٠The Proposed Regulation calls for potentially enormous reductions in the delivery of water supplies pumped through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to serve the needs of two-thirds of California’s population. ٠It is being proposed in the midst of one of the worst droughts in our history when the State’s water supply systems are already hampered by court-ordered restrictions, and just after the Department of Water Resources (DWR) has announced drastically reduced allocations of water for the coming year. ٠There is no evidence that these costly restrictions would provide any appreciable benefit to the longfin smelt. Worse, the Proposed Regulation ignores important factors driving the decline of longfin smelt in the Delta. ٠This is a prime example of poor science being used tojustify bad public policy.Impacts on Water Supply٠DWR estimates the Proposed Regulation could result in additional water supply impacts of 1,100,000 acre-feet for average year conditions. These cutbacks would come on top of 660,000 acre feet lost in 2008 under court ordered cutbacks intended to assist another species of smelt. ٠The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) contends the likelihood of such a high degree of impact is remote but it also acknowledges severe impacts are possible. ٠Public Water Agencies have to plan for at least a 90% level of certainty when preparing to meet the needs of the public. ٠The lack of certainty resulting from the Proposed Regulation by itself, will result in water being lost because, for example, farmers will be unable to plant irrigated crops for which no water supply is certain. ٠The potential costs of the Proposed Regulation to Public Water Agencies could exceed $220,000,000 per year. The costs to the state’s economy in lost jobs, business failures, and ruined crops would run into many billions of dollars. No Benefit to Fish٠DFG’s own surveys demonstrate that longfin smelt rarely inhabit areas influenced by operation of CVP and SWP pumps. Instead they are found in abundance miles away and seaward. ٠The highest year of longfin smelt entrainment in December was 1997, when an estimated 0.6% of the population was entrained. Entrainment in other years was often zero. ٠The highest percentage of entrainment of larvae and juveniles from March through June occurred in 2002, when an estimated 0.0017% of the population was entrained. Fish and Game Ignores Well Known Threats to Longfin٠The Proposed Regulation fails to offer any measures to address, understand, and control the important threats to the longfin smelt populations in the Delta that DFG itself has previously referenced including invasive species, toxics, predation, ocean conditions, and a changing food web. ٠DFG also turns a blind eye to in-Delta diversions which number in the thousands. DFG previously recognized that these diversions are a source of longfin smelt mortality but nevertheless extended take authorization to them without requiring any monitoring, minimization, or mitigation ٠The Proposed Regulation also ignores DFG’s assurances in a letter to the Bureau of Reclamation March 5, 2008, in which it acknowledged that numerous activities harm the longfin smelt in the Delta and promised to evaluate the adverse effects of those activities and develop protective measures to minimize them. The Proposed Regulation Oversteps the Commission’s Legal Authority٠The Commission has no authority to regulate DWR and Reclamation under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). ٠According to the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the Commission cannot use a state statute to regulate a federal water system. ٠The Proposed Regulation also ignores the proportionality requirements under CESA that bars regulations if their adverse impacts far exceed their benefits.Recommended Alternative٠Omit the sections of the Proposed Regulation related to the CVP and SWP, as the data indicate take has had no measurable impact on longfin smelt population. ٠Authorize continued operation of the CVP and SWP for the longfin smelt candidacy period; provided that DWR and Reclamation continue to monitor and report the take of longfin smelt and meet their other regulatory obligations to protect fish and wildlife. ٠Inventory all sources of industrial and wastewater discharges that affect the region occupied by longfin smelt ٠Require monitoring of all activities producing toxicity that might result in take. ٠Implement analysis program to identify chemical constituents and specific levels of toxicity affecting the natural mortality of longfin smelt. ٠Promulgate regulations to mitigate for these impacts. ٠Prohibit all boating and watercraft activities in areas where monitoring data indicate the presence of longfin smelt, as DFG states that larval longfin smelt reside at the surface of the water column and therefore are exposed to unlawful take by these unregulated activities. State Water Contractors Challenge Fish and Game Commission Decision on Longfin Smelt...State Water Contractorshttp://www.fresnobee.com/556/v-print/story/1064405.htmlNew Regulations Violate California Endangered Species Act, Threaten Water Supply SACRAMENTO, Calif., Dec. 9 /PRNewswire/ The State Water Contractors, a statewide organization of 27 public water agencies, filed a lawsuit today against the California Fish & Game Commission and the California Department of Fish & Game challenging the Commission's recent decision to potentially impose substantial cuts in State Water Project (SWP) water deliveries to much of the San Francisco Bay Area, the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California in an effort to protect the longfin smelt. The lawsuit asserts that the Commission's November 14, 2008 decision opens the door for dramatic new restrictions on SWP and Central Valley Project (CVP) water pumping operations out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta) without any significant corresponding benefit to the fish species and, in so doing, violates key elements of the California Endangered Species Act. Last month, the Commission approved these regulations as a precautionary measure in its desire to protect the longfin smelt, a fish species found in estuaries from Monterey Bay to Alaska.The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, contends that project operations do not have a significant impact on the longfin smelt; that the water supply impact of the regulation is grossly disproportional to any potential benefit the regulation will provide to the longfin smelt and that it fails to maintain the purpose of the SWP to the maximum extent possible -- all as required by the terms of the California Endangered Species Act. The lawsuit also asserts that the regulations are not supported by credible, scientific information demonstrating that project operations are having a significant impact on the longfin smelt.The regulation could reduce water deliveries by the SWP and federal CVP by more than a million acre feet in the face of the ongoing drought currently impacting California. This is enough water to meet the needs of more than five million Californians for a year. The SWP and CVP are California's primary water delivery systems - a cutback in water deliveries of the size that may occur as a result of the challenged regulation will would have very costly impacts on California's economy and the 25 million residents and millions of acres of farmland served by SWP and CVP water. By contrast, the cutbacks would only benefit 50 to 250 fish - much less than 1 percent of the total longfin smelt population. "The economic impact of these new regulations will be huge, especially when combined with drought and existing regulatory restrictions," said Laura King Moon, assistant general manager of the State Water Contractors. "Given the miniscule benefit to the fish, there appears to be something wrong with this picture."The Commission's decision also fails to consider the many other factors that scientists have identified as possible reasons for the decline in fish populations. Invasive plants and aquatic animals are wreaking havoc on chemical and biological balances, toxic runoff from pesticides and wastewater treatment plant discharges are flowing through Delta waters and nonnative predator fish introduced for sport fishing have altered the natural food web. "By focusing only on the pumps, we're ignoring the many other factors that impact the fish. That's a disservice to the people of California and the Delta ecosystem," added Moon.These restrictions are in addition to severe cutbacks already imposed to address the decline of another similar fish species, the Delta smelt. Last year, a federal judge cut 660,000 acre-feet from the water system, a 31% reduction that could have served 5.3 million Californians for one year.In addition to regulatory cutbacks, California has been hit with ongoing dry conditions. State reservoirs are drying up and many are at their lowest levels in years. To make matters worse, our infrastructure is compromised. Twenty-five million Californians and more than three million acres of agricultural land currently benefit from water supplies moved through the Delta. However, the water delivered through the Delta is at risk because of the estuary's failing condition, antiquated levees and the threat of natural disaster. Public water agencies, environmental organizations, and state and federal agencies are working together to develop a long-term solution. The Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), a comprehensive conservation plan for the Delta, will provide a basis for addressing the many threats to the Delta needed for fishery and ecosystem recovery, while finding a way to continue to deliver water to Californians throughout the state. For more information on the BDCP, please visit http://www.resources.ca.gov/bdcp/. The State Water Contractors is a statewide, non-profit association of 27 public agencies from Northern, Central and Southern California that purchase water under contract from the California State Water Project. Collectively the State Water Contractors deliver water to more than 25 million residents throughout the state and more than 750,000 acres of agricultural lands. For more information on the State Water Contractors,Sacramento BeeMy View: The climate has to be top priority...Mike Chrismanhttp://www.sacbee.com/opinion/v-print/story/1452454.htmlHow the world adapts to climate change takes center stage this month as international leaders meet in Poznañ, Poland for the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Just as it did last month in Los Angeles, during Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Global Climate Summit, the world will again come together in the face of its most pressing common problem.No longer is the science in dispute. No longer can there be debate about the link between climate impacts and human behavior. No longer are these problems ours alone. Success in the face of this great challenge will be achieved only through working together with the world community.In the days prior to the U.N. Conference and the Governors' Global Climate Summit, Schwarzenegger signed executive orders to improve planning for sea-level rise and to streamline renewable-energy projects. During the summit, the governors of California, Illinois and Wisconsin signed an agreement with governors from six states and provinces in Indonesia and Brazil to reduce and eliminate unsustainable deforestation. California's climate is expected to shift dramatically during the next several decades. In an effort to be well ahead of these predictions, the governor signed a directive that instructs California's Resources Agency to initiate the state's first comprehensive climate-adaptation strategy. This effort will improve coordination within state government and more effectively address climate impacts from sea-level rise, increased temperatures, shifting precipitation and extreme weather events. It will also allow us to adapt to climate impacts on human health, the environment, the state's water supply and the economy.Under the renewable portfolio standards directive, expedited project approval will increase the state's renewable-energy standard to 33 percent renewable power by 2020. California's transition to a clean-energy economy will be enhanced and state agencies are creating plans that prioritize renewable projects based on an area's renewable resource potential and the level of protection for plant and animal habitat.The deforestation agreement is the first state-to-state, sub-national agreement focused on reducing emissions from deforestation and land degradation. The pact will focus on improving how we account for forest carbon and will link state greenhouse mitigation programs with efforts to reduce deforestation and land degradation in Brazil and Indonesia. For any country to trade in our market, California's strict standards would have to be met.According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, tropical deforestation, the cutting and burning of trees to convert land for crops and livestock, accounts for more than 20 percent of all human-caused carbon emissions in the world. Signatories to the agreement from Indonesia and Brazil represent 60 percent of the world's tropical forests.More than ever, being good stewards of our precious natural resources means that we must adapt to climate impacts, not just in our state or across the country, but around the world. Everything we do – from managing the state's water supply to fighting forest fires to protecting sensitive species and habitat or safeguarding our oceans and coasts – must always involve the consideration of climate change impacts.I'm reminded of something Teddy Roosevelt said in 1907. He was uaware, of course, of climate change's effects or its causes, but he was an ardent champion of conservation."The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem," he said. "Unless we solve that problem it will avail us little to solve all others."Now, more than 100 years later, it is correct to say that unless we aggressively adapt to our climate problem and its impact upon our natural resources, both here in California and around the world, it will avail us of little to solve all others. UC DavisBaby Fish in Polluted San Francisco Estuary Waters Are Stunted and Deformedhttp://www.news.ucdavis.edu/search/news_detail.lasso?id=8887Striped bass in the San Francisco Estuary are contaminated before birth with a toxic mix of pesticides, industrial chemicals and flame retardants that their mothers acquire from estuary waters and food sources and pass on to their eggs, say UC Davis researchers.Using new analytical techniques, the researchers found that offspring of estuary fish had underdeveloped brains, inadequate energy supplies and dysfunctional livers. They grew slower and were smaller than offspring of hatchery fish raised in clean water."This is one of the first studies examining the effects of real-world contaminant mixtures on growth and development in wildlife," said study lead author David Ostrach, a research scientist at the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences. He said the findings have implications far beyond fish, because the estuary is the water source for two-thirds of the people and most of the farms in California."If the fish living in this water are not healthy and are passing on contaminants to their young, what is happening to the people who use the water, are exposed to the same chemicals or eat the fish?" Ostrach said."We should be asking hard questions about the nature and source of these contaminants, as well as acting to stop the ongoing pollution and mitigate these current problems."The new study, published online Nov. 24 by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is one of a series of reports by Ostrach and UC Davis colleagues on investigations they began in 1988. Their goal is to better understand the reasons for plummeting fish populations in the estuary, an enormous California region that includes the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and San Francisco Bay.The estuary is one of the world's most important water supplies for urban use and agriculture, and is also one of the most contaminated aquatic ecosystems.The ominous decline in estuary populations of striped bass, delta smelt, longfin smelt and threadfin shad, named the "pelagic organism decline," or POD, by the region's environmental scientists, was first reported at the turn of the century and has continued to worsen through 2007.Ostrach's lab at UC Davis is part of the multi-agency POD research team and charged with understanding contaminant effects and other environmental stressors on the entire life cycle of striped bass.Studies of striped bass are useful because, first, they are a key indicator of San Francisco Estuary ecosystem health and, second, because contaminant levels and effects in the fish could predict the same in people. For example, one of the contaminants found in the fish in this study, PDBEs, have been found in Bay Area women's breast milk at levels 100 times those measured in women elsewhere in the world.The new study details how Ostrach and his team caught gravid female striped bass in the Upper Sacramento River, then compared the river fishes' eggs and hatchlings (larvae) to offspring of identical but uncontaminated fish raised in a hatchery.In the river-caught fishes' offspring, the UC Davis researchers found harmful amounts of PBDEs, PCBs and 16 pesticides.PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) are widely used flame retardants; PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) are chemicals once used in making a range of products, from paper goods to electric transformers; and the pesticides detected include some currently widely used in agriculture, such as chlorpyrifos and dieldren, and others banned decades ago, such as DDT.These compounds are known to cause myriad problems in both young and adult organisms, including skeletal and organ deformities and dysfunction; changes in hormone function (endocrine disruption); and changes in behavior. Some of the effects are permanent. Furthermore, Ostrach said, when the compounds are combined, the effects can be increased by several orders of magnitude.Ostrach's co-authors Janine Low-Marchelli and Shaleah Whiteman are former UC Davis undergraduate students. Co-author Kai Eder was Ostrach's postdoctoral scholar in Joseph Zinkl's laboratory in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.Since 1988, the Ostrach laboratory has received more than $1.5 million in funding from agencies working on Bay-Delta ecosystem problems and expects to conduct an additional $1.5 million worth of studies in the next few years. Key funders include the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, California's Department of Water Resources, State Water Resources Control Board and Department of Fish and Game, San Francisco Estuary Institute and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.San Francisco ChronicleDiesel truckers at cancer risk from exhaust...Jane Kayhttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/12/09/MNFO14KAA3.DTL&type=printableTrucking company workers who have been regularly exposed to diesel exhaust from vehicles on highways, city streets and loading docks have a higher risk of lung cancer than other workers, according to a new national study.The study, based on 31,135 worker records, found that drivers who do short-haul pickups and deliveries, including loading and unloading containers at ports and working at freight-delivery companies, had the highest rate of deaths and disease.Dockworkers were also at a higher risk, according to the report by researchers at UC Berkeley and Harvard.California's Air Resources Board will consider the study's findings when it meets Friday to vote on a landmark regulation to reduce risk to the general public from 1 million diesel trucks in the state.If the rule is adopted, California would be the first state in the nation to require a retrofit or replacement of every privately owned older, heavy-duty diesel truck on the road - even vehicles registered in other states and nations. The phaseout would begin in 2010."This study confirms that truck drivers exposed to diesel have higher lung cancer rates," said Dr. John Balmes, a member of the state air board and a professor at UCSF and UC Berkeley's School of Public Health.Long-haul drivers were at lower risk. The study's authors believe these drivers are protected because they shut their windows. In contrast, short-haul drivers who often leave their windows open are exposed to the exhaust. The study noted that fresh, newly released particles have a greater potential to cause mutations of DNA.In the last decade, scientists have linked diesel exhaust to higher rates of lung cancer in workers in construction, trucking and railroads who inhale the toxic stew of about 400 chemicals, including benzene, formaldehyde, arsenic, cyanide and lead.8 jobs comparedThis new study compared eight jobs within the trucking industry, including clerks, and found a higher rate of lung cancer among these certain categories. A 2007 study by the same authors compared all jobs within the trucking industry to the general population, and also found higher lung cancer rates in the industry, Balmes said.The research from Harvard University Medical School and UC Berkeley School of Public Health was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives in October.The study analyzes workers' exposure histories up to the year 2000 and health outcomes between 1985 and 2000. There were 4,306 deaths and 779 cases of lung cancer, including 734 deaths where lung cancer was the underlying cause.Workers in the study averaged 22 years on the job and were predominantly Caucasian and lived in the South or Midwest.Most of them worked at four large companies, which weren't named in the study. They were hired after long-haul trucks changed from gas to diesel during the 1950s and '60s but before or during the transition of pickup and delivery trucks from gasoline to diesel during the 1970s and '80s. Diesel forklifts were also used by dockworkers on some loading docks during the 1980s.The state, which listed diesel exhaust as a known carcinogen in 1990, considers more than 40 chemicals in the exhaust to be toxic air contaminants, a designation that warrants the toughest regulation.The fine particles in the exhaust enter lung tissue, where they can accumulate in the lungs and lymph nodes. High concentrations can cause respiratory diseases, and people with asthma, heart disease and emphysema can worsen if exposed to the exhaust. Long-term exposure leads to chronic obstructive lung disease as well as lung cancer.California gradually has tightened restrictions on fleets of diesel buses, off-road equipment, boats and some trucks. There is no worker standard for diesel exhaust."This is the biggest regulation in cleaning up the state's diesel emissions," said air board spokesman Leo Kay.Deadline for standardThe state is trying to meet a 2006 federal standard for fine particles in metropolitan Los Angeles and San Joaquin Valley. Otherwise, it could lose billions of dollars in highway funding, he said.In June, the state released a study that found that the fine particles in West Oakland neighborhoods were coming primarily from diesel trucks on nearby freeways.Diesel engines spew out particles that are 100 times more sooty than gasoline engines for the same load and engine conditions, and about one-quarter of all hazardous particulate air pollution from fuel combustion comes from diesel engines, according to the UCLA Labor Occupational Safety and Health Program.Bob Ramorino, president of family-owned Roadstar Trucking Inc. in Hayward, said the trucking industry supports the need to clean up emissions in California. But it has asked the air board for exemptions as a way to deal with the cost.Retrofitting is expensiveRamorino, who is also president of the California Trucking Association, said he owns 30 large diesel cabs and 60 trailers and employs 60 workers. Retrofitting costs about $20,000 per truck, and a new vehicle runs about $100,000.He also questioned the study, saying it includes exposures from the 1960s through the 1980s. "Trucks manufactured after 1994 are much cleaner than the earlier trucks," Ramorino said.San Francisco resident Tom Howard, whose family has lived on North Point Street for 100 years, said he hopes the state passes a stricter diesel truck rule."We get diesel trucks from Fisherman's Wharf picking up and delivering fish and crab, and truck traffic on Jefferson Street delivering to the In-N-Out Burger, plus diesel trucks going to two Safeway stores," Howard said. "We've got tons of diesel trucks here."Toxic fumesTo read the study, "Lung Cancer and Vehicle Exhaust in Trucking Industry Workers," go to links.sfgate.com/ZFPU.Wal-Mart to pay $54.25M to settle Minn. lawsuit...STEVE KARNOWSKI, Associated Press Writerhttp://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2008/12/09/financial/f055034S47.DTL&type=printableWal-Mart Stores Inc. said Tuesday it will pay up to $54.25 million to settle a class-action lawsuit that alleged the discount giant cut workers' break time and didn't prevent employees from working off the clock in Minnesota.The class includes about 100,000 current and former hourly workers who were employed at Wal-Mart Stores and Sam's Clubs in Minnesota from Sept. 11, 1998, through Nov. 14, 2008.Wal-Mart has also agreed to maintain electronic systems, surveys and notices to stay compliant with wage and hour policies and Minnesota laws.In July, a Dakota County judge ruled against Wal-Mart in the lawsuit, saying the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer violated state labor laws 2 million times by cutting worker break time and "willfully" not stopping managers from having employees work off the clock. Court proceedings had been scheduled for next month to determine punitive damages, and Wal-Mart could have faced more than $2 billion in damages. Instead, the settlement announced Tuesday will have a preliminary hearing for approval on Jan. 14.Justin Perl, a lead attorney for the plaintifffs, said he was "gratified that these hourly workers will now be paid after seven years of litigation."Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar said the company is committed to paying its workers for all time worked and to make sure they get rest and meal breaks. Managers who violate its policies are subject to punishment including firing, he said.An undisclosed part of the settlement will go to the state of Minnesota.Wal-Mart faced 76 similar class action lawsuits in courts across the country as of March 31, the company said in its most recent 10-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.In Pennsylvania, workers won a $78.5 million judgment in 2006 for working off the clock and through rest breaks, and the company was hit with a $172 million verdict in California in 2005 for illegally denying lunch breaks. Wal-Mart has filed appeals in both those cases.In afternoon trading, Wal-Mart shares fell 92 cents to $56.64.