Dream Schools

LAUSD is taking smart steps to save water.

Today a guest post from Susie Santilena, a member of Heal the Bay’s Science and Policy department:

I graduated from Middle College High School in Los Angeles Unified School District nearly a decade ago, and I’ve had nightmares about returning ever since. In one vivid scene, I come back and end up taking a pop quiz I didn’t study for. Or there’s the one where after years of thinking I graduated, I find out I’m missing a single credit that prevents me from getting my diploma and nullifies all of the college degrees I’ve received since.

After being haunted by these crazy visions, who knew that my work as a Water Quality Engineer at Heal the Bay would bring me back to LAUSD this month? Or that my return would have such a dreamy ending?

On Dec. 14, I testified at an LAUSD School Board meeting on behalf of Heal the Bay in support of a resolution that is sure to save the district a lot of water and a ton of money. That’s great news for all of us.

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Let It Rain!

Low Impact Development will be reality in L.A.

What a surprising way to end a two-year journey.  As rain fell outside City Hall on Friday morning, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved the proposed Low Impact Development ordinance . . . on consent.  For more than a year, the Building Industry Assn., the Central City Assn. and others provided numerous objections on the LID ordinance. As a result, staff included a number of changes to accommodate developer concerns.

The measure now includes a grandfather clause to exempt most proposed development in the city approval pipeline.  Also, the “in lieu fee clause” option has been eliminated because it’s viewed as a fee rather than an alternative for developers to comply with the LID  requirements.  The proposed measure now includes a strict biofiltration option to be used if on-site LID approaches prove unfeasible.

With all of these changes and yet another pitch for greater exemptions for the LID regulations, the environmental community expected success at City Council, but not without a fight from the development community.

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A Well-Earned MPA Victory!

After years of debate, Point Dume has been designated as a Marine Protected Area by the state of California.

After two years of marathon stakeholder negotiation sessions, endless contentious public hearings and reams of studies and environmental documents, the California Department of Fish and Game today finally established a network of Marine Protected Areas in Southern California, passing a slightly revised version of the Integrated Preferred Alternative by a 3-2 vote.

The final vote reflects tough compromise. The maps protect some key places from extractive uses, like Point Dume, Naples and La Jolla, but fail to meet scientific guidelines in some locations. (For example, the fishermen won the battle for Rocky Point, and the MPA at Farnsworth Banks is little more than a paper park). The  commission also made a few small changes at Swami’s and La Jolla in San Diego County.

The final hearing and vote took place in Santa Barbara, a fitting location given that the northern Channel Islands became  California’s first designated marine protected areas years ago.

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Cooling Off

The State Water Board rebuffed DWP's effort to water down new cooling policies at plants like its Scattergood facility.

In a nail biter, the State Water Resources Control Board got the three votes it needed Tuesday to turn down a broad amendment that would have gutted California’s new Once-Through Cooling policy for power plants. Board members Tam Doduc, Fran Spivy-Weber and Art Bagget supported the motion to uphold the policy and oppose the amendment.

The board also agreed to expedite analysis of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s implementation plan next summer. Over the past year, the DWP has argued numerous times that it can’t meet the OTC policy compliance deadlines for re-powering three of its power plants by the end of 2021.

Earlier, the DWP promised to phase out all OTC, but it wanted until 2031 for Scattergood and up to 2040 for co-generation power plants.  But, then DWP lobbied the State Water Board for a policy amendment to extend the compliance timeframe in exchange to phasing out OTC at all three power plants.  Instead of introducing a narrow amendment for DWP, the State Board proposed an expanded amendment, opening up a Pandora’s box in the OTC policy for co-generation and fossil fuel plants up and down the entire state coastline.

As a result, a number of enviro and fishing communities joined to oppose the expanded amendment for gutting the policy. Linda Sheehan, the executive director of California Coastkeeper Alliance, took lead in the comment-writing and organization effort. Santa Monica Baykeeper, NRDC, Sierra Club and Surfrider also strongly opposed the amendment at the hearing.

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A Holiday Gift to Big Oil

Another 30 years of tankers in Santa Monica Bay?

No surprises. Today, the State Lands Commission provided an early Christmas present to Chevron.

As if they needed it.

The Commission voted 2-1 (controller Chiang was the no vote) to approve a 30 year lease for the offshore marine terminal used by oil tankers. No changes and nearly free rent of the Bay for the next 30 years (any renters out there getting longer than an annual lease? Even a 5 year lease?). And worse, no new marine mammal protection measures. Zero. Zed. Zippo. Zilch.

Was it the support from Manhattan Beach, El Segundo, the Sea World Hubbs Research institute, the Tree Musketeers, the Roundhouse, and the long beach sportfishing community? I felt bad that all of the recipients of Chevron’s philanthropy were obligated to speak in support of the lease. But I don’t think it influenced the Commission’s decision. That was greased long ago between Chevron, Maldonado and the Governor.

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A Good Start …

Lowenthal: bag hero in L.B.

So far, so good.  Yesterday was the first critical date for the coast this month and Long Beach and L.A. got the ball rolling.  Last night, the Long Beach City Council voted 6-2 to approve a single-use plastic bag ban ordinance identical to the L.A. County’s recently enacted measure.  Like the county, grocers and other retailers can sell green paper bags for a dime with 100% of the proceeds going to the store.  The only difference in the ordinance is that the start date is Aug. 1 next year instead of July 1.

The momentum on local bag bans is definitely growing.  Long Beach is a city of nearly half a million people and it joins the over 1 million people in the county’s unincorporated area with bag ban ordinances in place locally.  Vice Mayor Suja Lowenthal led the way on advocating for the bag ban measure. Support from the environmental community, some grocery store chains and the grocers’ union made a big difference in the final vote.

Meanwhile n Los Angeles, the city council’s Energy and Environment committee finally heard the Low Impact Development ordinance that the Board of Public Works unanimously approved in January.  Although the panel did not vote on the proposal, it appears that chair Jan Perry and members Paul Krekorian and Paul Koretz support the measure.  Perry postponed the vote to the Dec. 14 meeting, but she made it clear that she wanted the full council vote before members go on winter recess on Dec. 17.

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A December to Remember

Packages

Who's naughty or nice? This holiday season holds the promise of great gifts for the regional environment

December brings connotations of the holiday season.  Office parties, vacations, holiday shopping, football bowl games, family gatherings, overeating, lighting the menorah, and Christmas lights and trees.  For Heal the Bay, this December is anything but a time to ease into the new year.  As always, there is our push for year-end giving.  Tis the season for charitable write offs.  Also, once again, Heal the Bay is spearheading the Day Without a Bag event.  Over 25,000 bags will be given away at over 150 locations throughout L.A. County on Dec. 16 as a reminder to bring reusable bags whenever you go shopping.  Once again, partners include L.A. County, Los Angeles, other cities, retailers, grocers and other environmental groups.  This year, the event has spread across much of the state with counties from San Diego to San Francisco participating.

However, this December is as busy as any previous December I can remember.  Continue reading