Shattering the Myth

Dockweiler Beach at Imperial Highway made Heal the Bay's Honor Roll this year, dismissing the notion that urban beaches can't be kept clean year-round.

Heal the Bay released its 20th annual Beach Report Card for California yesterday. Many of the usual suspects populated the Beach Bummer list, with such perennial polluted beaches as Avalon and Cabrillo in the top three.

But the big news of the report card focused on clean beaches during dry weather. Some 76 out of 323 beaches in California received perfect scores during dry weather. That’s right, a full 23% of the state’s beaches monitored year-round never exceeded fecal bacteria water quality and public health standards.

These beaches made up the Honor Roll, and their presence shatters the myth that beaches cannot be clean and safe all of the time. The urban legend is perpetuated by the Coalition for Practical Regulation cities and Los Angeles County. Both entities have long opposed making beach water quality requirements enforceable.

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Steinberg Steals the Show

State Sen. Pro Tem Steinberg expressed his support of AB 1998 at Heal the Bay gala Thursday night.

Heal the Bay celebrated its 25th anniversary Thursday night with a fundraiser on the beach in Santa Monica.  Sandwiched between freaky winter weather, the gala unfolded on a cloudless, balmy evening that afforded us an extraordinary sunset on the Bay.

More than 900 people came out to celebrate Heal the Bay’s long history of coastal  protection and to recognize the environmental achievements of honorees Nicolas Cage, Jack Baylis, Luann Laval Williams and the Walt Disney Co. Incredible board members Barry and Jennifer Gribbon really outdid themselves this year, putting on such a fun and inspiring event that captured the spirit of the organization.

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Paradise Lost

Enough Inhofe: Senators need to start thinking less about the welfare of the petroleum industry.

Today marks the one-month anniversary of the Gulf oil spill.  What are you doing to celebrate? On Tuesday, U.S. Sen James Inhofe, the infamous climate change denier, decided to give BP a $9.925 billion dollar gift by opposing the effort to raise the oil spill liability cap to $10 billion. That sure beats a Starbucks gift card. 

Inhofe’s bogus argument (similar to Alaska Sen. Murkowski’s excuse last week) is that increased liability cap would penalize small, mom-and-pop oil companies. (Are there any?)

Wake up Congress!! There shouldn’t be a liability cap at all!!  If the oil spill causes damages, then the companies responsible must be forced to pay the entire cost of cleanup. This seems fair and equitable. Our representatives need to start thinking about natural resources and economic damages rather than the welfare of the petroleum industry.

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A Slick Ad

The Washington Post published an eye-opening ad today that implores the public to stop the Obama administration from allowing oil exploration in the Beaufort and Chuchki Seas.  Environmental groups including the Sierra Club, NRDC, NWF, Oceana, WWF and Pew paid for the ad.

I’m proud to say that my brother Josh, a long time ad man, wrote the copy. As a lifetime surfer, he had to include a surf report. And he added the typical Gold touch of sarcasm, important for any story, from food to polluted beaches.

The ad got it right. If the oil industry and the nation are practically helpless dealing with an oil spill in a heavily populated region of the country, how could they possibly manage a spill in the Arctic?  The seas are too rough.  The temperatures are too cold.  There’s no daylight for half the year.  And there just aren’t any people, let alone Coast Guard resources or infrastructure, to undertake a massive cleanup. Deployment of oil absorbent material will be limited to seal fur and seabird feathers.

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A Torrent of Advice

If you thought the Gulf spill was bad, just wait for the next Arctic disaster. Failure is inevitable.

I’ve held back on providing commentary on the Gulf oil spill. After all, the story has led the news for two and half weeks and every newspaper seems to have an Op-Ed on the topic every other day. Besides, I didn’t want to write a raving anger piece laced with numerous F-bombs and other expletives.

Many have commented that the spill should get President Obama to retract his misguided support of drilling off the mid-Atlantic seaboard and exploratory drilling off of northern Alaska in the Beaufort Sea. This is a great idea and the most obvious of recommendations in the wake of the ongoing Gulf disaster.

Many have demanded a moratorium on new offshore oil drilling exploration in U.S. waters. Yet McClatchy News reported that the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service has granted oil and gas companies at least 27 exemptions from doing in-depth environmental studies of oil exploration and production in the Gulf of Mexico since the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig exploded April 20.

That’s not exactly consistent with the temporary moratorium that the administration announced shortly after the beginning of the blowout. If the National Environmental Policy Act ever needed to be followed to the letter for oil drilling, now is the time.

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Nerd Alert!

Water Effects Ratios in L.A. River are no joke.

Warning!  Sometimes I’m prone to write in nerd-speak about the confusing labyrinth of water quality regulations that weaken water quality protection. With apologies to the reader, this is one of those times.

The Los Angeles Regional Water Board approved Thursday yet another Water Effects Ratio (WER) for a polluted water body. A WER is a pseudo-scientific modeling exercise to determine how much of a pollutant is bioavailable to kill or poison aquatic life.

The only time anyone ever does a WER study is to get out of complying with water quality standards to protect human health and aquatic life. To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever done a WER study that has resulted in tougher water quality standards. So in essence WER really stands for Water Effluent limit Reductions.

Because the Regional Water Board has become WERS ‘R’ Us, Heal the Bay has begged the board to develop some semblance of a policy or guidance to bring strong science to the WER development process.

Once again, the board pointedly refused our pleas and granted a WER/effluent reduction by a factor of nearly 4 for copper discharges to the Los Angeles River from Burbank and L.A. sewage treatment plants.

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The Fish Won!

The State Water Board voted to curtail once through cooling.

Going into Tuesday’s State Water Board hearing on California’s once-through-cooling policy for power plants, you couldn’t blame me for my usual cynicism about our ability to care for the environment.

 After all, the ongoing Gulf spill is causing catastrophic damage to one of America’s most critical estuaries and fisheries. And Gov. Schwarzenegger decided this week that his personal right to light up a stogie in a state park or beach is more critical than stopping marine debris. (Remember – only you can prevent forest fires!)

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