Day and Night

EPA chief Lisa Jackson tests water in Compton Creek.

Wednesday was a rewarding whirlwind: An extraordinary afternoon in the Compton Creek, a stimulating evening roundtable at the Skirball, and an after-hours meal in Venice. 

A few weeks ago, the federal Environmental Protection Agency reached out to Heal the Bay to let us know that chief Lisa Jackson would be visiting the L.A. area and that she wanted to visit Compton Creek.

Heal the Bay contacted Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’ office and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority to set up a tour for Jackson at Compton Creek. The agreed-upon plan was to announce the long-anticipated purchase of the four-acre soft-bottomed section of Compton Creek and a request to Jackson for federal assistance to develop a flood-control improvement plan based on a low-impact development approach rather than raising the walls on the river.

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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 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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Nature Control

The L.A. "flood control channel" River.

Last Thursday, the Regional Water Board voted to approve a Waste Discharge Requirement (WDR) for the Los Angeles County Nature Control District’s “channel maintenance” activity. After all, to the County, our LA, Santa Clara and San Gabriel Rivers are flood control channels, not living ecosystems and habitats.

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Bay Day

Majora Carter keynoted the "State of the Bay" event, sharing tips on how to green the jobs sector.

The Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission hosted a daylong conference yesterday on the overall state of the bay. The well-attended event at LMU blended science and policy, focusing on such topics as marine debris, climate change, invasive species, contaminated fish risk communication, beach water quality and marine protected areas.

The high points of the day included an overview of the well-written State of the Bay report, which chronicles the status of various bay water quality and coastal resources. Mas Dojuri, the director of the city of Los Angeles’ Environmental Monitoring Division, and Rich Ambrose, a marine ecology professor from UCLA, made a compelling presentation that showcased reductions in sewage solids to the bay and improved summer beach water quality. The scientists also highlighted the current state of bay watershed habitats.

The lunchtime keynote speech from Majora Carter, one of the nation’s foremost environmental justice leaders, inspired the crowd. She gave an impassioned speech on the need and way to green even the most blighted urban environments.The founder of Sustainable South Bronx emphasized the need for community involvement to successfully green education and job programs.

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Left Holding the Bag

NB ACC Bag (3) - CROPPEDShocked doesn’t begin to describe what Heal the Bay staff felt Friday when we opened the Coastal Cleanup Day trash bags sent to us by the California Coastal Commission.  Betrayed isn’t quite right either.  Nauseous is more like it.

The plastic trash bags included the logos of some of our biggest opponents in the fight against marine debris: the American Chemistry Council, California Film Extruders and Converters Assn. and other plastics producers.  Coastal Cleanup Day – brought to you by the very polluters that are causing the global marine debris crisis. Continue reading

Oh Susana!

The Santa Susana Field Lab fired over 30,000 rocket tests leaving grossly polluted soil and groundwater. Image:

The Santa Susana Field Lab fired over 30,000 rocket tests leaving grossly polluted soil and groundwater. Image:

The old Rocketdyne Santa Susana Field Laboratory site in eastern Ventura County overlooking the San Fernando Valley has long been notorious for horrific pollution problems.  The hilltop site, located near residential communities, operated for over 60 years as a rocket testing site and hosted nearly 30,000 tests. It also operated as a nuclear reactor test site and suffered a scary accident in 1959, when more than a dozen uranium fuel rods in the reactor ruptured and partly melted.  As a result, extensive groundwater and soil contamination plagues the facility, which Boeing now uses as a research outpost. Polluted runoff discharged from the site has exceeded water quality standards on dozens of occasions.

Last Friday, the Regional Water Board inexplicably voted to weaken stormwater regulatory requirements for two drainages leaving the site despite its long and dark history.  Continue reading

L.A’s Sister River

Tel Aviv's Yarkon River mirrors L.A.

Tel Aviv's Yarkon River mirrors L.A.

Many Americans first became aware of Israel’s polluted rivers after a horrific bridge collapse on the Yarkon River near Tel Aviv in 1997.  An Australian athlete who fell into the toxic waters actually died from exposure to pollution. The catastrophic event catalyzed a movement to clean up and restore Tel Aviv’s major river and others in Israel. 

That terrible event played in my mind as I sat with my Israeli colleagues during the recent L.A.-Tel Aviv environmental exchange, which I have been posting about over the past week. There are many connection points between the L.A. River Revitalization Plan and the Yarkon River Authority’s efforts to restore its waters. Continue reading

Diamond in the Rough

Machado Lake is most famous for being the former home of Reggie the Gator. But in the water quality world, the lake is better known as one of the most polluted bodies of water in the L.A. region, with trash, nutrient, legacy pesticide and contaminated sediment problems.

Last week, the city of Los Angeles hosted a tour of the Proposition O-funded Machado Lake project. Tucked away off the Harbor Freeway between Harbor College and the Conoco Phillips refinery, this valuable lake-freshwater marsh system spreads over 40 acres at Ken Malloy Harbor Regional Park. It serves as one of the last remaining coastal wetlands in Los Angeles County.

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