Dirty Money

Green is not necessarily good for environment.

All public offices are now officially for sale — thanks to last year’s disastrous U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing corporations to buy elections with unlimited corporate donations. The corporatizing of Congress and state legislatures has been discussed forever.  But the upcoming Nov. 2 election is an eye-opening example of Big Business aiming to further its interests to the detriment of our environment.

We have Texas Oil and the Koch Brothers trying to buy California’s air quality, the state’s economic future and a stabilized global climate through Prop. 23.  And some members of the auto industry have been funding the “No on Prop. 21” campaign because they fear opening the flood gates on vehicle license fees.  One would think that the folks that build cars would realize that people generally drive to state parks so protecting them and operating and maintaining them is probably good for the environment and good for the auto industry. And it’s hardly a surprise that the petrochemical industry has heavily backed Prop. 26, the initiative that would take away government’s fee programs to actually provide services like processing permits and regulating and enforcing pollution requirements.

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A Real Bag Giveaway

Why does Santa Monica keep punting on its bag ban?

By many measures, Santa Monica is one of the greenest cities in America.  It has a strong sustainable city program that includes ambitious environmental, economic and quality of life goals and objectives.  It has tough and effective water quality and water supply programs.  Its alternative fuels fleet policy has generally been excellent.  And city leaders have developed and approved a very tough ordinance that banned single use polystyrene packaging.  And for the last three years, they have talked about banning plastic bags.  And talked.  And talked.

The issue hits home for me in a number of ways.  Banning plastic bags in California is one of Heal the Bay’s highest priorities.  Also, as the three-year co-president of the Heal the Bay-Surfrider Club at Santa Monica High School, my son Zack has worked with teacher Ben Kay and his fellow students to ban plastic bags in the city since his freshman year.  Zack is a senior now.  While the city of Santa Monica has studied the issue to death, residents and visitors have disposed of at least 200 million plastic bags, and far too many of them have ended up in Santa Monica Bay and the Pacific beyond.

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Clear Victory for Malibu Lagoon

The Coastal Commission voted 11-0 to support Lagoon plan.

The California Coastal Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to support the State Parks and Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission plan to restore Malibu Lagoon. The 11-0 vote provided the last needed permit approval before the rehabilitation of the brackish wetland can proceed next summer. The restoration will increase salt marsh acreage by four acres and will provide long-needed water circulation to the often stagnant marsh, but there was still vocal opposition against the project. The challengers even brought in a high-priced attorney and an East Coast wetland restoration consultant to bolster their case, which argued against the use of heavy machinery to repair the wetland.

Despite these efforts, the recommendations of the Bay Commission, Coastal Conservancy and State Parks prevailed. Heal the Bay helped put together the plan back in 2004. Key testimony from renowned UCLA coastal ecologist Rich Ambrose and wetland nutrient scientist Marth Sutula was very persuasive.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state Fish and Game, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Regional Water Board all had previously signed off on the project. Environmental group support from Santa Monica Baykeeper, the local Audubon, Surfrider and Sierra Club chapters, Malibu Surfing Assn. and Friends of Ballona didn’t hurt either.

Evidently, successful wetland restorations at Bolsa Chica, Carpinteria and San Diego County that used earth moving equipment helped sway the commission that the Malibu plan is prudent.

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Another Malibu Morass

Malibu Lagoon is sick and needs repair.

Tomorrow marks a milestone day for environmental rehabilitation in Malibu, Surfrider Beach and Santa Monica Bay. The much-needed restoration of oxygen-starved Malibu Lagoon faces one more regulatory obstacle Wednesday — California Coastal Commission approval. Because the project has gone through an extensive public involvement and CEQA process, including a legally unchallenged EIR approved in 2006, one would have hoped that the effort to remove polluted sediments and rebuild the lagoon would remain free of controversy.

The plan remains one of the five highest priorities in the Bay Restoration Plan assembled by the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission. The Malibu Lagoon restoration effort, which has been led by Heal the Bay scientists under the auspices of State Parks and the Coastal Conservancy, took more than two years to develop.

Some of the foremost wetland scientists in California participated in assembling the plan, including UCLA’s Rich Ambrose, Humboldt State’s Bob Gearhart, UCSB’s Andy Brooks, L.A. County Natural History Museum’s Kimball Garrett, USF’s John Callaway and the Southern California Coastal Waters Research Project’s Marth Sutula.

But welcome to Malibu, where every issue is destined for controversy.

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Playing Politics with MPAs

Palos Verdes' Rocky Point: a political pawn

Sanity was restored last week to the California State Fish and Game Commission’s efforts to establish a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Southern California. The Schwarzenegger administration has long made it a priority to meet the requirements of the Marine Life Protection Act, which calls for establishing a statewide network on MPAs. 

But pressure has built from opposition groups the past few months to extend the Draft Environmental Impact Report comment period for the South Coast.  The end result would have stalled MPA implementation in Southern California, an area where protections are much needed.

In the days leading up to last week’s hearing, Fish and Game Commissioner Michael Sutsos was removed from the panel and replaced by Jack Baylis, an environmental engineering executive at AECOM who previously served as a State Parks Commissioner, Coastal Conservancy member and Heal the Bay vice-chair.

In a compromise measure, the commission voted 5-0 to extend the DEIR comment period by 15 days.  This move provided additional time for public comment, but will not affect the timing of the commission’s final vote on Southern California MPAs, scheduled for mid-December.

A disturbing side issue has been the effort by the L.A. County Sanitation Districts to use the Marine Life Protection Act implementation process to lobby the State Water Board.  The Districts’ sewage outfall sits about two miles from the proposed MPAs, so officials fear that their sewage discharge will lead to tougher water quality requirements to ensure clean water in the reserves. 

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