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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Supreme Hope

State's highest court offers hope on bag bans.

The California Supreme court gave the Pacific Ocean hope Thursday by agreeing to hear Manhattan Beach’s appeal on its overturned plastic bag ban. Happy Earth Day indeed!!

The news comes during a week when a dead gray whale was found to have ingested about 20 plastic bags in the Puget Sound area. (No message there for Seattle voters that opposed plastic bag fees at the expense of cetaceans and marine debris.)

The original lawsuit, brought by the eco-terrorists at the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, led to a ruling that Manhattan Beach’s plastic bag ban ordinance did not comply with the environmental review requirements under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Judge Yaffe’s ruling ended up as a de facto requirement that an EIR was needed to ban plastic bags. It cast a potentially chilling shadow on cities’ rights to pass laws without full CEQA review even though the coalition surely wasn’t litigating with environmental protection as a priority. Manhattan Beach appealed the ruling and lost in State Court of Appeals on a 2-1 vote.

The city then petitioned the Supreme Court, where only about one out of every 20 appeals gets heard, and the court ruled on Earth Day that it will hear the case. This time, groups like Californians against Waste, Heal the Bay and numerous cities wrote strong, legal letters of support for MB’s appeal.

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Trashed Beaches, Trashed Bills

Last week's storms trashed Southland beaches (Allen J. Schaben, LA Times)

Today’s guest blogger is Kirsten James, Water Quality Director at Heal the Bay.

Recently seven sperm whales breached off the coast of Italy and died soon thereafter. A report out of Tuscia University found that the guts were filled with plastic debris and that this was the cause of death. This is by no means an isolated incident. Our oceans are full of plastic pollution.

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Memo to Antonio … continued

It's time to treat L.A.'s rivers as habitat rather than flood control channels. Photo: lacreekfreak.org

Yesterday,  I outlined  my top three green initiatives that Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa should tackle in the remainder of his second term. Here’s a look at some other environmental issues that he should make a priority:

Fast-track city approval of a Stream Protection Ordinance in 2010. The Department of Public Works has spent three and a half years working on a stream protection ordinance.  Based on Watershed Protection Division analysis, there are approximately 462 miles of riparian habitat that would receive some level of protection under the draft ordinance.  Council districts 11 (Rosendahl), 2 (Krekorian), and 12 (Smith) all have over 60 miles of habitat, while 11 out of 15 districts have at least 12 miles of habitat.  The ordinance would protect the city’s remaining stream habitat by requiring development buffer zones of 100 feet for soft-bottomed habitat and 30 feet for concrete-lined channels. We need to start treating streams like habitat rather than flood control channels. Unfortunately, the ordinance has been frozen in the mayor’s office for over two years. If the mayor says he wants to protect L.A.’s streams, the ordinance would likely sail through City Council.  Unfortunately, the ordinance is not on the mayor’s radar.

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A Reusable Campaign?

Heal the Bay volunteers handing out bags in Culver City

Yesterday, Heal the Bay spearheaded the 3rd annual “A Day Without a Bag,” which encourages shoppers to make the switch to reusable bags.  The event reached significant proportions with over 50 locations and 20,000 free reusable bags handed out. A remarkable 70 of the county’s 88 cities participated in the “Day Without a Bag” or “Brag About Your Bag” campaigns.  We don’t often see 70 local cities agree on what day it is, let alone the need to move away from disposable bags. 

Corporate sponsors included Albertsons, Ralphs and 99 Cents Only. Local retailers Fred Segal Santa Monica and the Banana Republic’s Third Street Promenade also took part.  Numerous environmental groups, veterans organizations and schools made a difference by organizing efforts to create reusable bags. Particularly noteworthy: the collection of hundreds of tank tops that were then sewn into fashionable reusable bags. Similar “bag days” have now popped up in San Diego, Orange , Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Francisco counties.

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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

Gateway Garbage

Will federal stimulus funds end lawsuits over cleaning L.A. Riverr?

Will stimulus funds end lawsuits over cleaning L.A. River?

Great news from last week.  The Obama administration awarded $10 million in stimulus funds to prevent trash from getting in to the Los Angeles River and San Pedro Bay.  The shocking pictures of Long Beach after a rain often show a few feet of trash piled along the shore.  The L.A. River is so polluted that it ranks on California’s list of impaired waters.  The Regional Water Board even approved river specific water quality standards that require zero trash getting in the river by 2014.  The so-called Total Maximum Daily Load limit is one of the most far reaching environmental regulations in the country.

With the $10 million, the Los Angeles Gateway Region Integrated Regional Water Management Authority (I don’t make up these names) will design and install trash-capture devices to comply with these regulations in the cities of Bell, Bell Gardens, Commerce, Compton, Cudahy, Downey, Huntington Park, Long Beach, Lynwood, Maywood, Montebello, Paramount, Pico Rivera, Signal Hill, South Gate and Vernon.

As required under the trash regulation, the full capture devices are designed to prevent 100% of the trash greater than five millimeters in diameter from reaching the L.A.River after a three-quarter inch storm.  The L.A. Gateway Authority claimed that the stimulus funds will prevent garbage from trashing the river and the bay, and the funds will create over 100 jobs over the next two years.  All great stuff.  Congratulations.

So why don’t I feel all warm and happy inside?

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