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California Judges barred from Boy Scouts

by: Veppy

Tue Jan 27, 2015 at 09:06:33 AM PST

According to an article in today's (26 Jan) Los Angeles Daily Journal, the California Supreme Court has voted unanimously to bar judges and justices in the state from being a part of the Boy Scouts, because of that organization's discriminatory practices and policies.

The article (behind a paywall,of course), notes that this was first suggested some 13 years ago, but the idea went down in flames.  It has been raised several times since then, but has always had opposition from the far right. And more opposition is expected to this latest ruling. No statement or rationale accompanies the ruling.  The chair of the Ethics committee,Justice Richard Fybel of the 4th District, who recommended the measure, said it was "the right thing to do."

The right wing, of course, has slammed the decision as 'tyrannical'.  they are the same ones that claim this will forbid judges from being members of churches.  Purest hyperbole, though, has not won this time, and it's about time.

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New Economic Policy Institute Report Details Economic Challenges Facing UC Workers

by: California Labor Federation

Mon Jan 26, 2015 at 15:10:05 PM PST

By Jason Rabinowitz, Secretary-Treasurer, Teamsters Local 2010

More than 80 percent of University of California (UC) support staff employees are paid wages too low to provide the basic necessities of life in the areas where they live and work, according to preliminary findings of a study conducted by the Economic Policy Institute.  

As Governor Brown and UC President Janet Napolitano meet to discuss the financial future of the UC, it's imperative that they recognize the dire financial situation of many UC employees. The UC is the third largest employer in California, employing nearly 200,000 workers, directly creating 1 in 46 jobs in the state, and generating $46.3 billion in economic activity annually. The 14,000 administrative and essential support services workers in the UC system are 81% female and over 50% people of color, and include administrative assistants, collection representatives, childcare assistants, and 911 dispatchers.  

Between 2007 and 2011 these essential support workers received no pay increases, while student tuition skyrocketed. The workers have also fallen behind due to substantial increases in costs for retirement and healthcare, parking fees, and inflation.  During the same period, the state slashed funding to UC, and currently contributes $460 million less per year in funding than it did in 2007. On a per-student basis, state funding for UC has decreased by more than half since 1991.

"Our voices have been silenced for too long, and need to be heard," said Catherine Cobb, President of Local 2010 and former employee at UC Irvine. "The answer is not more pay-cuts and tuition increases. The time has come for the state to fund the University of California."

Elise Gould, Senior Economist with EPI explains:

The Economic Policy Institute has calculated basic family budgets for every area of the United States for over a decade now. Our methodology is so respected that the family budget data has been used and cited by groups ranging from living wage advocates to private employers to academics to policymakers. These basic family budgets measure how much it costs various representative family types to have an adequate but modest standard of living in over 600 local areas across the country. Applying the basic family budget data to the reported wages of University of California union workers indicates that 82.5 percent of University of California support employees in the clerical and related classifications would not earn enough from their wages, even if they worked full-time, to exceed the basic family budget for a family with one adult and one child in their respective metropolitan areas.

It's unfortunate that the University is contributing to the national problem of declining middle-class wages and increased income inequality. The UC is one of the leading economic forces in California, and has a tremendous impact on the economy of our state.  We need UC to be a force for good jobs in our communities and a fair economy. The Legislature and the Governor must renew California's commitment to adequately fund higher education.

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Oil lobbyist/former MLPA chair praises release of fracking EIR

by: Dan Bacher

Tue Jan 20, 2015 at 18:44:25 PM PST

The oil industry praised the release of the California Natural Resources Agency's draft environmental impact report of fracking operations in California, while environmental groups slammed the report for failing to address the many major risks posed by the controversial well stimulation technique.

Catherine Reheis Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) and former Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create so-called "marine protected areas" in Southern California, praised the Brown administration's release of the regulation in a statement.

"The release of the draft EIR on Well Stimulation Operations marks an important milestone in meeting the deadlines set by Senate Bill 4. WSPA and our members are reviewing the details of the draft EIR and will continue to participate in workshops and public discussion regarding SB 4," said Reheis-Boyd.

"While we are pleased with the state's process on implementing Senate Bill 4, it is important to note the draft EIR contemplates hypothetical development scenarios and provides a high level review. To date, well stimulation in California has never been associated with any known adverse environmental impacts," Reheis-Boyd claimed. (http://www.wspa.org/blog/post/wspa-president-comments-report-detailing-environmental-impact-well-stimulation-operations)

In contrast with Reheis Boyd's claim that the release of the draft regulations mark an "important milestone" in meeting the deadlines set by Senate Bill 4, the Center for Biological for Biological Diversity said the draft environmental review of fracking "fails to adequately analyze many major risks from fracking, including air and water pollution and risks to public health."

The group noted that the review by California's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources was released even though state scientists are still six months away from completing their analysis of the risks and harms of the controversial form of oil and gas extraction.

"The California Council on Science and Technology today released the first volume of a state-commissioned, three-part fracking study," according to the Center. "The other two volumes won't be released until July, and the first volume addresses only the extent of fracking in California and does not assess risks."

"State oil officials' deeply flawed fracking review shows the urgent need for Gov. Brown to institute an immediate moratorium on fracking and other dangerous oil and gas development," said Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity. "State regulators are shrugging off the grave threats to our air, water and health from oil and gas wells. Instead of whitewashing the risks, California needs to follow New York's lead and halt these dangerous activities immediately."

The science council reported that fracking is heavily concentrated in communities in the San Joaquin Valley, which already suffers some of the nation's most polluted air.

According to a recent American Lung Association report, the five cities with the most polluted air in the nation are in California - and three out of these five are in the San Joaquin Valley. (http://www.stateoftheair.org/2014/city-rankings/most-polluted-cities.html

These five cities are:
#1: Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA
#2: Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, CA
#3: Bakersfield, CA
#4: Fresno-Madera, CA
#5: Sacramento-Roseville, CA

But the council also said that fracking has occurred in at least 96 different oil and gas fields around the state and reiterated concerns about the risk of contaminated oil industry wastewater potentially being used to irrigate crops.

"The draft report from DOGGR focuses almost exclusively on fracking and other well-stimulation techniques, rather than considering the risks and harms associated with all phases of drilling and production, which cannot be separated from well stimulation," said Siegel. "Because of this flawed approach, state regulators can't fully analyze the environmental risks, but even this incomplete review admits fracking causes significant and unavoidable damage to California's air, biological and cultural resources, public safety and climate."

She also said the DOGGR review downplays the risks of water pollution, despite a previous finding from state scientists that fracking in California occurs at shallower depths than elsewhere, increasing the potential threat of contaminating groundwater, and despite the state's failure to protect groundwater from pollution by oil and gas wastewater, as required by federal law.

The Environmental Protection Agency has found "serious deficiencies" in California's effort to protect water supplies from contaminated oil industry wastewater, according to Siegel. Almost 3 billion gallons of oil industry wastewater have been illegally dumped into central California aquifers that should have been protected under federal law and are clean enough to supply drinking water and farming irrigation, according to recently released state documents obtained by the Center.

The wastewater entered the aquifers through at least nine injection disposal wells used by the oil industry to dispose of waste contaminated with fracking (hydraulic fracturing) fluids and other pollutants. (http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/california_fracking/pdfs/20140915_State_Board_UIC_well_list_Category_1a.pdf)

Siegel said thousands of wells have already been fracked in 15 counties across California, as well as in the state's coastal waters.

The oil industry has been fracking like crazy off the Southern California coast over the past two decades, including the years that the WSPA President served as the Chair of the MLPA Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create questionable "marine protected areas" in Southern California.

"In waters off Long Beach, Seal Beach and Huntington Beach - some of the region's most popular surfing strands and tourist attractions - oil companies have used fracking at least 203 times at six sites in the past two decades, according to interviews and drilling records obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request," stated am Associated Press report published on October 19, 2013 (http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/10/19/calif-finds-more-instances-of-offshore-fracking/3045721/)

New York health officials recently released a fracking analysis that found that fracking posed significant threats to the environment and public health, noted Siegel. On the basis of that report, New York's Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a ban on fracking in that state.

"Gov. Brown must follow New York's lead and protect our health and climate from oil and gas pollution," Siegel concluded.

Background: Big Oil Money and Power in California

While there are many powerful industries based in California, ranging from the computer and high tech industry to corporate agribusiness, no industry has more influence over the state's environmental policies than Big Oil.

The oil industry has spent over $70 million on lobbyists in California since January 2009, including record amounts of money spent during the third quarter of 2014, according to a recent report written by Will Barrett, the Senior Policy Analyst for the American Lung Association in California. (http://www.lung.org/associations/states/california/advocacy/climate-change/oil-industy-lobbying-report.pdf)

The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) the most powerful corporate lobbying organization in Sacramento, topped the oil industry spending with a total of $31,179,039 spent on lobbying since January 1, 2009. Chevron was second in lobbying expenses with a total of $15,542,565 spent during the same period.

From July 1 to September 30 alone, the oil industry spent an unprecedented $7.1 million lobbying elected officials in California "with a major focus on getting oil companies out of a major clean air regulation," said Barrett.

And this doesn't include spending on ballot measures or the recent election, including Chevron spending $3 million (unsuccessfully!) to elect "their" candidates to the Richmond City Council. Big Oil also dumped $7.6 million into defeating a measure calling for a fracking ban in Santa Barbara County and nearly $2 million into an unsuccessful campaign to defeat a measure banning fracking and other extreme oil extraction techniques in San Benito County.

Not only does Big Oil spend many millions every year on lobbying and campaign contributions, but its representatives also serve on state and federal regulatory panels and fund "Astroturf" campaigns to eviscerate environmental laws.

In one of the most overt conflicts of interest in California history, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association, served as the Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Blue Ribbon Task Force to create fake "marine protected areas" in Southern California. Not only did she serve on this panel, but she also was a member of the task forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast.

These so-called "marine protected areas" fail to protect the ocean from fracking, offshore oil drilling, pollution, military testing, corporate aquaculture and all human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering.

Not only did these so-called "Yosemites of the Sea" fail to protect the ocean, but they violate the traditional fishing and gathering rights of the Yurok Tribe and other Indian Nations and are based on terminally flawed and incomplete science. In fact, Ron LeValley, the Co-Chair of the MLPA Initiative Science Advisory Team for the North Coast, is currently in federal prison for conspiracy to embezzle $850,000 from the Yurok Tribe.

People need to understand that the millions Chevron and other oil companies have spent on lobbying, campaign contributions and setting up "Astroturf" groups promoting the oil industry agenda are small change to Big Oil. The five big oil companies - BP, Chevron, Conoco-Phillips, Exxon Mobil and Shell - made a combined total of $93 billion in profits last year. Big Oil's estimated profits in 2014 were over $96 billion. (http://www.stopfoolingca.org/)

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Delta smelt reaches new record low in fall survey

by: Dan Bacher

Wed Jan 14, 2015 at 16:10:38 PM PST

The Delta smelt, an indicator species that demonstrates the health of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, reached a new record low population level in 2014, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's fall midwater trawl survey that was released Friday, January 9.

Department staff found a total of only eight smelt at a total of 100 sites sampled each month from September through December

The smelt was once the most abundant fish in the Bay-Delta Estuary. It is considered an indicator species because the 2.0 to 2.8 inch long fish is endemic to the estuary and spends all of its life in the Delta.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has conducted the Fall Midwater Trawl Survey (FMWT) to index the fall abundance of pelagic (open water) fish, including Delta smelt, striped bass, longfin smelt, threadfin shad and American shad, nearly annually since 1967. The index of each species is a number that indicates a relative population abundance.

The dramatic decline of fish species this year is part of a long term decline of fish species, due to massive water exports out of the Delta, increases in toxic chemicals and the impact of invasive species.

Scientists and leaders of fishing groups, Indian Tribes and environmental organizations pinpoint the export of massive amounts of water to corporate agribusiness interests on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, Southern California water agencies, and oil companies conducting steam injection and fracking operations in Kern County as the key factor behind the fishery collapse.

"The 2014 Delta Smelt index is 9, making it the lowest index in FMWT history," wrote Steven Slater, CDFW environmental scientist, in a memo revealing the results of the survey. "Delta Smelt abundance was highest in 1970 and has been consistently low since 2003, except in 2011."

Found only in the upper Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the fish mainly inhabits the freshwater-saltwater mixing zone of the estuary, except during its spawning season when it migrates upstream to freshwater following winter "first flush" flow events from approximately March to May.

Because of its one-year life cycle and relatively low fecundity, the Delta smelt is very susceptible to changes in the environmental conditions of its native habitat.

The survey also revealed the continuing collapse of striped bass, longfin smelt, threadfin shad and American shad in the Delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas.

The 2014 age-0 striped bass index is 59, making it the third lowest index in the survey's history. Age-0 striped bass abundance was highest at the survey's inception in 1967, according to Slater.

The index for longfin smelt, a cousin of the Delta smelt, is 16, making it the second lowest index in history. Longfin smelt abundance was also highest in 1967.

The 2014 threadfin shad index is 282, the sixth lowest in history and the seventh in a series of very low abundance indices. Threadfin shad abundance was highest in 1997, a year of high outflows into San Pablo and San Francisco bays.

"The 2014 American Shad index is 278, which is the second lowest in FMWT history and only slightly higher than the 2008 index of 271," said Slater. "American Shad abundance was highest in 2003."

Delta advocates pointed to mismanagement of Central Valley reservoirs and the Bay Delta Estuary by the state and federal governments as the primary reason for the decline.

"These crashes in fish populations show that the Delta was not managed for fish protection in 2014," responded Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta. "We know from research that outflows to San Francisco Bay were needed to stop salinity intrusion at the state and federal export pumping facilities."

"Thirty years of overpumping have led to the destruction of our fish species during the current severe drought. The question is whether proposed federal drought relief legislation proposed in Congress is going to even worsen the bad management practices and destroy Bay Delta fisheries in 2014," Barrigan-Parrilla stated.

The surveys were initiated in 1967, the same year the State Water Project began exporting water from the Delta. The surveys show that population indices of Delta smelt, striped bass, longfin smelt, threadfin shad and American shad have declined 95.6%, 99.6%, 99.8%, 97.8%, 90.9%, respectively, between 1967 and 2013, according to Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA) and Board Member of the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN).

Both the 2013 and 2014 indices for Sacramento splittail, another native fish found only in the estuary, were not released, but results from 2012 reveal that splittail indices have dropped 98.5% from 1967 levels. In 2011, the Brown administration presided over a record "salvage" of 9 million splittail in 2011, a record year for exports by the federal and state projects.

The release of the survey takes place as Governor Jerry Brown continues to back the controversial Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the twin tunnels under the Delta. The plan is based on the premise that taking more water from the Sacramento River above the Delta will "restore" the collapsing estuary.

The $67 billion plan will hasten the extinction of Central Valley salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species, as well as imperil the salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers.

You can read the full report with graphs at: https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHan...

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Statewide Tour Urges Governor Brown to Stop Fracking

by: Dan Bacher

Wed Jan 14, 2015 at 14:11:55 PM PST

Coalition Calls on California to Move to 100% Renewable Energy  

Governor Jerry Brown has constantly touted his "green energy" and carbon trading policies at press conferences and photo opportunities while he enthusiastically supports the expansion of fracking in California and is rushing the most environmentally destructive public works project in California history, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels.

In his Inaugural Address on January 5, as his "green" environmental policies had driven Delta smelt and American River steelhead to the lowest population levels in recorded history, the Governor gushed:

"In fact, we are well on our way to meeting our AB 32 goal of reducing carbon pollution and limiting the emissions of heat-trapping gases to 431 million tons by 2020. But now, it is time to establish our next set of objectives for 2030 and beyond.

Toward that end, I propose three ambitious goals to be accomplished within the next 15 years:
Increase from one-third to 50 percent our electricity derived from renewable sources;
Reduce today's petroleum use in cars and trucks by up to 50 percent;
Double the efficiency of existing buildings and make heating fuels cleaner."

While Brown and his staff continue to greenwash the Governor's neo-liberal environmental policies, thousands of Californians will convene over the next week as part of the "California Crossroads Tour" calling on Governor Jerry Brown to ban fracking, stand up to Big Oil, and "move California beyond fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy," according to a news release from Californians Against Fracking.

By standing up to Big Oil, anti-fracking activists are taking on the most powerful corporate lobby in California, the oil industry. The oil industry's campaign to expand the environmentally destructive practice of fracking in California is overseen by Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) and former Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create fake "marine protected areas" in Southern California's heavily-fracked waters.

"California is at a crossroads," said David Braun of Californians Against Fracking and an organizer of the tour. "Our governor and our elected officials need to decide if we're going to be a real leader on climate change, or if we will continue to allow fracking and other dangerous extractions methods that put our communities and environment at risk."

"Californians around the state are affected by the oil industry in different ways-whether they are exposed to dangerous toxins from living near a drilling site, have potentially explosive trains rumbling through their neighborhoods carrying crude oil-but we all stand to lose if we continue to ignore warnings that spell out doom if we don't put an end to the use of fossil fuels," said Braun.

Leaders from Californians Against Fracking are traveling to eight cities over nine days as a part of the California Crossroads Tour, designed as an opportunity for community members and experts to speak out against the negative health and environmental impacts of high-risk oil drilling, wastewater injection into deep disposal wells, and the prospect of a dramatic increase of oil by rail.

The tour kicked off on Monday, January 12, at the King Chavez High School auditorium in San Diego and will stop in Los Angeles, Oxnard, Santa Barbara, Delano, San Juan Bautista, and Oakland. It will culminate Jan. 20 at the State Capitol in Sacramento, where residents will deliver messages from communities across the state to Gov. Jerry Brown, organizers said.

"In California, communities facing the threat of fracking are taking actions to protect themselves," according to the coalition. "In 2014, Santa Cruz and Mendocino counties joined the city of Beverly Hills in passing measures to ban fracking and similar oil extraction techniques. San Benito County voters also approved a fracking ban with a 59 percent majority, despite a $2 million opposition campaign by the oil industry."

The City of Los Angeles is considering a ban and two cities in Los Angeles County-La Habra Heights and Hermosa Beach-are slated to vote on fracking and oil projects in March. A livestream of the event at the Holman United Methodist Church in Los Angeles will be available Jan. 13 from 7-9 p.m.

The tour will be followed up by the February 7 "March for Real Climate Leadership" in Oakland that is hosted by a broad group of partner organizations and will bring thousands of people from across the state into the streets of Oakland to "call on Governor Brown to ban fracking, stand up to Big Oil, and move beyond fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy." More information is available at marchforclimateleadership.org.

Californians Against Fracking is a coalition of about 200 environmental business, health, agriculture, labor, political and environmental justice organizations working to win a statewide ban on fracking in California. Follow @CAagainstFrack on Twitter

CONTACT: Juan Gastelum at 310-905-3191, Juan.Gastelum [at] berlinrosen.com
Niketa Kumar at 610-659-2544, Niketa.Kumar [at] berlinrosen.com

Big Oil Money and Power in California

While there are many powerful industries based in California, ranging from the computer and high tech industry to corporate agribusiness, no industry has more influence over the state's environmental policies than Big Oil.

The oil industry has spent over $70 million on lobbyists in California since January 2009, including record amounts of money spent during the third quarter of 2014, according to a recent report written by Will Barrett, the Senior Policy Analyst for the American Lung Association in California. (http://www.lung.org/associations/states/california/advocacy/climate-change/oil-industy-lobbying-report.pdf)

The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) the most powerful corporate lobbying organization in Sacramento, topped the oil industry spending with a total of $31,179,039 spent on lobbying since January 1, 2009. Chevron was second in lobbying expenses with a total of $15,542,565 spent during the same period.

From July 1 to September 30 alone, the oil industry spent an unprecedented $7.1 million lobbying elected officials in California "with a major focus on getting oil companies out of a major clean air regulation," said Barrett.

And this doesn't include spending on ballot measures or the recent election, including Chevron spending $3 million (unsuccessfully!) to elect "their" candidates to the Richmond City Council. Big Oil also dumped $7.6 million into defeating a measure calling for a fracking ban in Santa Barbara County and nearly $2 million into an unsuccessful campaign to defeat a measure banning fracking and other extreme oil extraction techniques in San Benito County.

Not only does Big Oil spend many millions every year on lobbying and campaign contributions, but its representatives also serve on state and federal regulatory panels and fund "Astroturf" campaigns to eviscerate environmental laws.

In one of the most overt conflicts of interest in California history, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association, served as the Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Blue Ribbon Task Force to create fake "marine protected areas" in Southern California. Not only did she serve on this panel, but she also was a member of the task forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast.

These so-called "marine protected areas" fail to protect the ocean from fracking, offshore oil drilling, pollution, military testing, corporate aquaculture and all human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering.

People need to understand that the millions Chevron and other oil companies have spent on lobbying, campaign contributions and setting up "Astroturf" groups promoting the oil industry agenda are small change to Big Oil. The five big oil companies - BP, Chevron, Conoco-Phillips, Exxon Mobil and Shell - made a combined total of $93 billion in profits last year. Big Oil's estimated profits in 2014 were over $96 billion. (http://www.stopfoolingca.org/)  

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Tunnel critics respond to secret settlement as Delta smelt nears extinction

by: Dan Bacher

Tue Jan 13, 2015 at 07:58:03 AM PST

When you think that things can't get worse in the toxic nightmare that is California water politics, be assured - "Yes, They Can!"

Restore the Delta (RTD), opponents of Governor Jerry Brown's rush to build massive Peripheral Tunnels that would drain the Delta and doom sustainable farms, salmon and other Pacific fisheries, today responded to the prospect of a secret settlement of the debt Westlands Water District owes to US taxpayers and the near extinction presently of Delta smelt.

Restore the Delta Executive Director Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla stated, "The idea that the Westlands Water District can secretly negotiate a settlement with the Federal Government that secures Westlands' water rights, by circumventing state water rights, and that lets Westlands walk away from hundreds of millions of dollars of debt that they owe to U.S. taxpayers is incomprehensible. Worse, Westlands is not being required to document how they will continue to farm without belching polluted discharge water back into the watershed, or how their farmers will pay for the approximate $2 billion that it will cost to fix their drainage issues."

"American taxpayers should not be on the hook to subsidize water profits for 600 rich farming corporations. Westlands should not be given Federal entitlements to water right seniority over California farmers who were in production decades before Westlands farmers, especially during times of water scarcity, as during this drought. It seems that Westland's extensive lobbying and media efforts are buying the best government available in Washington," she said.

Barrrigan-Parrilla emphasized that this deal is "especially disturbing" considering the recent numbers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Fall Midwater Trawl Survey that show that the Delta Smelt population has reached a new record low. (https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentId=92840)

"The smelt, which was once the most abundant fish in the Bay-Delta Estuary, is an indicator species, meaning that it demonstrates the health of the Bay-Delta estuary," continued Barrigan-Parrilla. "The species is nearly extinct; other Bay-Delta fisheries are in rapid decline, and nobody is thinking about the economic damage that will be inflicted on commercial fisheries and their connected economies resulting from the over pumping of the Delta."

The survey also revealed the continuing collapse of striped bass, longfin smelt, threadfin shad and American shad in the Delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas. The population index for striped bass is the third lowest in history, while the index for longfin smelt is the second lowest ever recorded. The population index for threadfin shad is the sixth lowest, while the index for American shad is the second lowest. (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/01/09/1356714/-Delta-smelt-reaches-new-record-low-in-fall-survey)

Barrigan-Parrilla said, "While Westlands continues to push Federal legislation for increased water exports at the pumps during the drought, enhanced water rights through secret negotiations, an unrestricted license to pollute, and their bills paid by American taxpayers, the Delta ecosystem is unraveling.

Westlands leaders will never be satisfied until they have all the water they want, when they want, without any restrictions, despite the economic and environmental consequences for the rest of California. They want the Delta tunnels so they can take as much water from Northern California as quickly as possible, and without the tunnels they want laws passed that simply let them muscle their way to the front of the line, even before the fish, to take all the water they want.

They talk about feeding the world and their economic importance to the nation - which in reality is 0.3% of California's GDP. The truth is that their free hand of the marketplace is in our back pockets grabbing our tax dollars and the future sustainability of the Bay-Delta estuary for California's children."

She concluded, "We call on the Bureau of Reclamation and the Obama Administration to make public the details of these secret negotiations, and to bring all impacted parties to the table to work on California's water challenges "in a manner that supports the enforcement of existing laws."

For more information about the secret settlement, go to: http://bit.ly/1C0aSyW

Again, please remember that when you think it can't get any worse, the state and federal governments have an uncanny ability to find a new, unprecedented low in their mad race to the bottom.

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Tunnel critics respond to secret settlement as Delta smelt nears extinction

by: Dan Bacher

Tue Jan 13, 2015 at 07:58:03 AM PST

When you think that things can't get worse in the toxic nightmare that is California water politics, be assured - "Yes, They Can!"

Restore the Delta (RTD), opponents of Governor Jerry Brown's rush to build massive Peripheral Tunnels that would drain the Delta and doom sustainable farms, salmon and other Pacific fisheries, today responded to the prospect of a secret settlement of the debt Westlands Water District owes to US taxpayers and the near extinction presently of Delta smelt.

Restore the Delta Executive Director Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla stated, "The idea that the Westlands Water District can secretly negotiate a settlement with the Federal Government that secures Westlands' water rights, by circumventing state water rights, and that lets Westlands walk away from hundreds of millions of dollars of debt that they owe to U.S. taxpayers is incomprehensible. Worse, Westlands is not being required to document how they will continue to farm without belching polluted discharge water back into the watershed, or how their farmers will pay for the approximate $2 billion that it will cost to fix their drainage issues."

"American taxpayers should not be on the hook to subsidize water profits for 600 rich farming corporations. Westlands should not be given Federal entitlements to water right seniority over California farmers who were in production decades before Westlands farmers, especially during times of water scarcity, as during this drought. It seems that Westland's extensive lobbying and media efforts are buying the best government available in Washington," she said.

Barrrigan-Parrilla emphasized that this deal is "especially disturbing" considering the recent numbers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Fall Midwater Trawl Survey that show that the Delta Smelt population has reached a new record low. (https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentId=92840)

"The smelt, which was once the most abundant fish in the Bay-Delta Estuary, is an indicator species, meaning that it demonstrates the health of the Bay-Delta estuary," continued Barrigan-Parrilla. "The species is nearly extinct; other Bay-Delta fisheries are in rapid decline, and nobody is thinking about the economic damage that will be inflicted on commercial fisheries and their connected economies resulting from the over pumping of the Delta."

The survey also revealed the continuing collapse of striped bass, longfin smelt, threadfin shad and American shad in the Delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas. The population index for striped bass is the third lowest in history, while the index for longfin smelt is the second lowest ever recorded. The population index for threadfin shad is the sixth lowest, while the index for American shad is the second lowest. (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/01/09/1356714/-Delta-smelt-reaches-new-record-low-in-fall-survey)

Barrigan-Parrilla said, "While Westlands continues to push Federal legislation for increased water exports at the pumps during the drought, enhanced water rights through secret negotiations, an unrestricted license to pollute, and their bills paid by American taxpayers, the Delta ecosystem is unraveling.

Westlands leaders will never be satisfied until they have all the water they want, when they want, without any restrictions, despite the economic and environmental consequences for the rest of California. They want the Delta tunnels so they can take as much water from Northern California as quickly as possible, and without the tunnels they want laws passed that simply let them muscle their way to the front of the line, even before the fish, to take all the water they want.

They talk about feeding the world and their economic importance to the nation - which in reality is 0.3% of California's GDP. The truth is that their free hand of the marketplace is in our back pockets grabbing our tax dollars and the future sustainability of the Bay-Delta estuary for California's children."

She concluded, "We call on the Bureau of Reclamation and the Obama Administration to make public the details of these secret negotiations, and to bring all impacted parties to the table to work on California's water challenges "in a manner that supports the enforcement of existing laws."

For more information about the secret settlement, go to: http://bit.ly/1C0aSyW

Again, please remember that when you think it can't get any worse, the state and federal governments have an uncanny ability to find a new, unprecedented low in their mad race to the bottom.

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Feinstein delays controversial drought legislation until next year

by: Dan Bacher

Fri Nov 21, 2014 at 09:55:59 AM PST

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) announced on November 20 that she has abandoned the secret negotiations to craft a controversial drought relief bill this year, but said she will try to pass the legislation next year.

The delay is a victory by a coalition of fishing groups, environmentalists, Indian Tribes and family farmers who organized an action alert campaign over the past week to defeat the bill. They said the bill would amount to a water bailout for corporate agribusiness interests on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley that would devastate salmon and other fisheries and family farms.

"Over the past several weeks I have been working closely with members of the California delegation who expressed interest in reaching a bipartisan agreement on legislation to address California's drought crisis without violating the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act or biological opinions," said Feinstein in a statement. "Although we have made progress, it has become clear that we will be unable to present an agreed-upon proposal before Congress adjourns this year." (http://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/press-releases?ID=f9d5560e-d0ea-4376-aa34-0a6d2ed0510d)

Patricia Schifferle of Pacific Advocates responded, "She claims she worked with all Members - then why don't the northern California and Delta Members agree with that statement?"

Congresssman George Miller confirmed Schifferle's assessment. "She's doing the bidding of a very small group of people," Rep. George Miller, D-Richmond, told reporter Michael Doyle of McClatch news Thursday, prior to Feinstein's decision becoming public. "This is just money and politics talking." (http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/article4034913.html#storylink=cpy)

Feinstein also claimed that, in spite of much evidence otherwise provided by opponents of the legislation, that this wasn't "some kind of secret process."

"I deeply believe the people want both parties to work together, and that is the only way we will be able to enact water legislation," said Feinstein. "Claims that this has been some kind of secret process are false. In order to come up with a bill that is ready for public comment, back-and-forth negotiations and consultations are often necessary, including extensive technical assistance from federal and state agencies. That process is ongoing and we have no agreed-upon bill at this time."

If Feinstein asked for "technical analysis" then it would be great to share the agency's "technical analysis" with the public, Delta advocates noted.

The Senator also emphasized that there is a "real human face" to the current drought, although she failed to mention the people most impacted by the drought - recreational and commercial fishing families, family farmers, and Indian Tribes that depend on salmon and other fish as part of their religion, culture and existence.

"It is important to remember there is a real human face to this crisis," Feinstein continued. Some communities can no longer deliver water to homes. Thousands of residential wells have run dry. And many families lack very basic necessities like water for showers and cooking."

Then Feinstein claimed that the bill wasn't "about corporate agriculture," failing to explain why heavy hitters from the water community, including Tom Birmingham of the Westlands Water District, Stewart Resnick of Paramount Farms, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the Kern County Water Agency, were all at the table of the negotiations while fishermen, Tribes, family farmers, Northern California legislators and Northern California legislators were completely excluded.

"California is in a state of prolonged drought, and we must come together to find ways to provide the water necessary for life and well-being. This isn't about corporate agriculture, this is about California," she said.

Feinstein then took aim at drought bill opponents, concluding, "It's my hope that groups critical of this effort will strive to be productive rather than destructive. It's clear that we need to get more water to our cities, businesses, farmers, households, fish and the Delta. And it's equally important that we continue to protect wildlife and the environment. Only together will we stand a chance of agreeing on a bill that can help accomplish all of these goals."

Bill opponents greeted Feinstein's announcement with relief - and vowed to stop similar legislation gutting fish protection and Delta water standards in the 2015 Congressional Session.

"We would like to thank the Senator for listening to our constituents and we hope that she and Senator Boxer will ensure that all Californians are taken into account during the formulation of legislation in the next Congress," said Tom Stokely, water policy for the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN).

In a similar vein, Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta, said, "We are thankful that Senator Dianne Feinstein agreed to use regular bill procedures this time involving public hearings for next year. Thank you to everyone who took action and kept the pressure strong!"

"This bill has been delayed," said Ronald Stork, Senior Policy Director of Friends of the River. "Feinstein said it will be reintroduced and go through the regular order in the new GOP led-Congress instead of being hatched in secret in the back rooms. That's a good thing, but it doesn't matter if California's two Senators are unwilling to stand up to the San Joaquin Valley Congressmen. Somebody has to show some courage."

"The dynamics haven't changed. Feinstein is more than willing to accede to the demands of the Southern San Joaquin Valley Congressmen. Their demands are pretty simple: disrespect the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, Endangered Species Act (ESA) and other peoples' water," concluded Stork.

On November 18, representatives of California's leading grassroots water conservation and environmental water organizations, fishing groups and the Winnemem Wintu and Karuk Tribes signed a letter strongly criticizing the legislation.

"We are disturbed by a resurgence of media reports and the potential movement of a purported 'drought bill' for California," the letter stated. "As we understand it, the draft legislation now being finalized attempts to reconcile provisions from S.2198 and HR.3964," two bills designed to benefit corporate agribusiness at the expense of other water users."

The groups and Tribes expressed concern that there would be "destructive elements" in the reconciled bill that were in past versions of either or both bills. These include the following:

• Water transfers from the Sacramento Valley are expedited circumventing public processes in federal environmental laws.

• Refuges are pushed to turn to groundwater instead of relying on what the Central Valley Improvement Act requires in the way of surface water deliveries.

• Most benefits are for desert agriculture in the southwestern San Joaquin Valley-not California as a whole-and especially not the area of origin where most of the water comes from: the Sacramento River Watershed.

• Permanent, devastating impacts on migratory bird and fish populations in California, Oregon, Washington State and Alaska.

Defenders of the public trust are gearing up for a big battle by Feinstein and the Republican-controlled Senate and House of Representative to pass "drought relief" legislation that serves corporate interests at the expense of fish, wildlife and the people of California during the next Congressional Session.

To read the complete letter, go to this link on the Restore the Delta website: http://restorethedelta.org/blo...

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Goliath Gets Bigger: Prop. 1 War Chest Grows to $16.4 Million

by: Dan Bacher

Sun Nov 02, 2014 at 12:07:54 PM PST

The debate over the pros and cons of Proposition 1, Jerry Brown's $7.5 billion water bond, is very important, but an even bigger issue in any environmental battle or process is the money behind the campaign.

The big corporate money behind the water bond largely determines who the bond will benefit - billionaires, corporate agribusiness, oil companies and the 1 percent, not the people, fish or wildlife of California.

Contributions to Governor Jerry Brown's Yes on Props 1 and 2 Committee have jumped to $13,880,528.43, according to the latest data posted on the California Secretary of State's website.

The contributions feature millions of dollars from billionaires, corporate agribusiness, Big Oil and and the tobacco industry - corporate interests that all expect a big return for their "investment" in the corrupt "play to pay" politics that rules California today.

Contributions to the committee from the period from October 1 to October 18 alone amount to $9,537,048.90. (http://cal-access.ss.ca.gov/Campaign/Committees/Detail.aspx?id=1343257&session=2013)

Expenditures during the period from January 1 through October 18 were $10,728,645.50, with $10,149,477.92 just from the period of October 1 to October 18.

But this isn't the only committee funding the Yes on 1 campaign. When you consider the other committees backing Prop.1 listed on the Secretary of State's website, the total amount of contributions jumps by another $2,541,257.91 to $16,421,785.91!

The "California Business Political Action Committee," sponsored by the California Chamber of Commerce raised, $550,000 for Yes on 1 and 2 during the period from January 1 to October 18, 2014.

The "Wetlands Conservation Committee, Yes on Prop. 1," sponsored by Ducks Unlimited, Audubon California and the Nature Conservancy, raised $215,000 from January 1 through October 18.

Other committees backing Prop. 1 include:

• The "Conservation Action Fund": $818,623.78

• The Sac Valley Water & Rice For Prop. 1: $44,499.00

• Think Long Committee, sponsored by the Nicolas Berggruen Institute Trust, Supporting Propositions 1 and 2: $250,000

• Western Plant Health Association, Supporting Propositions 1 and 2: $100,000

• NRDC Action Fund Ballot Measures Committee - Yes on Prop. 1; $9,514.27

• Environmental Coalition for Water and Wildlife Protection - Yes on Prop. 1: $102,000  

• The Southern California District County Laborers PAC: $58,219.02

• The California Water Association Political Issues Committee - Yes on Prop. 1: $100,000

• Laborers Pacific Southwest Regional Organizing Coalition Issues PAC - Yes on Props 1 and 2: $293,401.84

Background: Oil industry, agribusiness, health care industry and billionaires lead Prop. 1 contributors

While the committees backing Prop. 1 have raised over $16.4 million to date, the Vote No on Prop. 1 campaign, has raised $89,100 and has spent $53,077.(http://ballotpedia.org/California_Proposition_1,_Water_Bond_(2014))

The campaign for and against Proposition 1, the $7.5 billion water bond on the November 4 ballot, remains the classic David and Goliath battle of this election season in California.

Governor Jerry Brown, the Republican and Democratic Party establishment, corporate agribusiness interests, oil companies, construction unions, corporate "environmental" NGOs, prominent billionaires, the health care industry and big water agencies are backing the Yes on Prop. 1 campaign. In contrast, a grassroots coalition of fishing groups, environmentalists, consumer organizations, Indian Tribes, family farmers and Delta water agencies is campaigning to defeat Proposition 1.

The top 18 campaign contributors - those who donated $250,000 or more - have raised a total of $11,835,279 to date for the Yes on Prop. 1 and campaign, according to the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC). (http://fppc.ca.gov/top10Nov2014/)

Dignity Health, which contributed $250,000, is the latest corporate contributor to the Yes on Prop. 1 campaign. That donation followed the contribution of $250,000 to the campaign by Aera Energy LLC, a company jointly owned by affiliates of Shell and ExxonMobil.

The Bakersfield-based Aera Energy is one of California's largest oil and gas producers, accounting for nearly 25 percent of the state's production, according to the company's website. (http://www.aeraenergy.com/who-we-are.asp)

Corporate agribusiness interests, the largest users of federal and state water project water exported through the Delta pumping facilities, have donated a total of $850,000 to the Yes on Prop. 1 campaign. The California Farm Bureau Federation contributed $250,000 and the Western Growers Service Association donated $250,000.

Stewart Resnick, the Beverly Hills agribusiness tycoon, owner of Paramount Farms and largest orchard fruit grower in the world, contributed $150,000 and the California Cotton Alliance contributed $200,000 to the Yes on Prop. 1 campaign.

Resnick and his wife, Lynda, have been instrumental in promoting campaigns to eviscerate Endangered Species Act protections for Central Valley Chinook salmon and Delta smelt populations and to build the fish-killing peripheral tunnels - and have made millions off reselling environmental water to the public.

The largest individual donor in the Yes on Prop. 1 campaign to date remains Sean Parker, who has contributed $1 million to the campaign. Parker is an entrepreneur and venture capitalist who cofounded the file-sharing computer service Napster and served as the first president of the social networking website Facebook. He also cofounded Plaxo, Causes, and Airtime.

Four members of the Fisher family, who own the controversial Gap stores, have collectively donated $1.5 million to the Yes. on Prop. 1 and Prop. 2 campaign. They also own the Mendocino Redwood Company and Humboldt Redwood Company, formerly the Pacific Lumber Company (PALCO), more than half a million acres of redwood forest lands in total. (http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/09/28/18762178.php)

Doris F. Fisher contributed $499,000, John J. Fisher $351,000, Robert J. Fisher $400,000 and William S. Fisher $250,000. The Gap become notorious among labor and human rights advocates for employing sweatshop labor in the Third World to produce its clothes.

Tobacco giant Philip Morris also contributed $100,000 to Governor Brown's ballot measure committee established to support Propositions 1 and 2. On October 20, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) called on the governor to return that money.

In contrast to the $13,212,726 in donations to the Prop. 1 and 2 campaigns listed on the FPPC website, the FPPC states, "No committee opposing this ballot measure raised enough money to reach the reporting threshold."

Folks like Stewart Resnick, the Fisher Family and other billionaires, the oil industry and corporate agribusiness interests aren't dumping millions into the Yes on Prop. 1 campaign for the common good or benefit of all Californians - they're doing it as a relatively small investment to advance their own greedy interests and to further privatize and plunder the public trust for their own personal profit.

Six simple reasons why you should vote no on Prop. 1:

• Prop. 1 will spend $2.7 billion for costly and inefficient dams and bill the public for the expense.

• Prop. 1 would support the Governor's Twin Tunnels project, as indicated by his Stanford speech on October 20. Brown said that Proposition 1 would provide components missing from the State Water Project "enacted by my father." These components, Brown ominously intoned, would "deal with the Delta."

• Prop. 1 violates the public trust. The bond provides hundreds of millions of dollars in funding to purchase water allegedly for public trust purposes, to then divert it from the Delta as "abandoned" water for billionaires' almond orchards.

• Prop. 1 ignores the bedrock realities of California's water dilemma. Consumptive water right claims in California already exceed the amount of available water by 5.5 times. Proposition 1 does nothing to rectify this situation. Indeed, it ignores the one thing that must be done if we're going to stabilize the state's water policies: balance water rights claims to actual water supplies.

• Prop. 1 provides no strategies to mitigate the impacts of drought. The bond is thus a classic bait-and-switch: It implicitly promises drought solutions it does not deliver.

• Prop. 1 underfunds recycling, conservation and other drought solutions that will provide local jobs and reduce reliance on imported water supplies.

For more information, go to http://www.noonprop1.org

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Massive dumping of toxic waste water reveals Big Oil's power in California

by: Dan Bacher

Sat Oct 11, 2014 at 13:03:08 PM PDT

As the oil industry spent record amounts on lobbying in Sacramento and made record profits, documents obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity reveal that almost 3 billion gallons of oil industry wastewater have been illegally dumped into Central California aquifers that supply drinking water and irrigation water for farms.

The Center said the wastewater entered the aquifers through at least nine injection disposal wells used by the oil industry to dispose of waste contaminated with fracking (hydraulic fracturing) fluids and other pollutants. The documents also reveal that Central Valley Regional Water Quality Board testing found high levels of arsenic, thallium and nitrates - contaminants sometimes found in oil industry wastewater - in water-supply wells near these waste-disposal operations.

The illegal dumping took place in a state where Big Oil is the most powerful corporate lobby and the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) is the most powerful corporate lobbying organization, alarming facts that the majority of the public and even many environmental activists are not aware of.

An analysis of reports filed with the California Secretary of State shows that the oil industry collectively spent over $63 million lobbying California policymakers between January 1, 2009 and June 30, 2014. The Western States Petroleum Association, led by President Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the former chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative to create so-called "marine protected areas" in Southern California, topped the oil industry lobby spending with $26,969,861.  

The enormous influence that the oil lobby exerts over legislators, agency leaders and state and federal regulatory officials is the reason why Big Oil has been able to contaminate groundwater aquifers, rivers and ocean waters in California for decades with impunity. The contamination of aquifers becomes even more alarming when one considers that California is now reeling from a record drought where people, farms, fish and wildlife are suffering from extremely low conditions in reservoirs, rivers and streams.

Hollin Kretzmann, a Center attorney, criticized state regulators for failing to do their job of protecting precious water supplies from oil industry pollution - and urged Governor Jerry Brown to take action to halt the environmentally destructive practice of fracking in California.

"Clean water is one of California's most crucial resources, and these documents make it clear that state regulators have utterly failed to protect our water from oil industry pollution," said Kretzmann. "Much more testing is needed to gauge the full extent of water pollution and the threat to public health. But Governor Brown should move quickly to halt fracking to ward off a surge in oil industry wastewater that California simply isn't prepared to dispose of safely."  

Kretzmann said the State Water Resources Control Board "confirmed beyond doubt" that at least nine wastewater disposal wells have been injecting waste into aquifers that contain high-quality water that is supposed to be protected under federal and state law.

"Thallium is an extremely toxic chemical commonly used in rat poison," according to a statement from the Center. "Arsenic is a toxic chemical that can cause cancer. Some studies show that even low-level exposure to arsenic in drinking water can compromise the immune system's ability to fight illness."

"Arsenic and thallium are extremely dangerous chemicals," said Timothy Krantz, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Redlands. "The fact that high concentrations are showing up in multiple water wells close to wastewater injection sites raises major concerns about the health and safety of nearby residents."

The Center obtained a letter from the State Water Resources Control Board to the Environmental Protection Agency stating that the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Board has confirmed that injection wells have been dumping oil industry waste into aquifers that are legally protected under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

The State Water Board also concedes that another 19 wells may also have contaminated protected aquifers, and dozens more have been injecting waste into aquifers of unknown quality.

"The Central Valley Water Board tested eight water-supply wells out of more than 100 in the vicinity of these injection wells," according to the Center. "Arsenic, nitrate and thallium exceeded the maximum contaminant level in half the water samples."

The Vote No on Prop. 1 (Water Bond) Campaign responded to the Center's release of the documents by pointing out the irony of the fact that the same Legislature that nearly unanimously voted to put the water bond on the November ballot also rejected a fracking moratorium in California

"Prop 1 folks tout how it will provide funding to clean up groundwater in the SJ Valley," according to a statement from the campaign. "This is something we want to see too. But if fracking is unregulated and fracking wells are already leaking, shouldn't we work on the fracking moratorium first? Or at least simultaneously. And the legislators who passed Prop 1 voted against the fracking moratorium."

It is no surprise that the State Senators who voted no on the fracking moratorium bill received 14 times more money in campaign contributions from the oil industry than those who voted no on the measure.(thecontributor.com/senators-who-voted-no-fracking-moratorium-received-14 timesmore-money-big-oil)

Restore the Delta responded to the report also: "At RTD, we have always known that water needs to be shared from the Delta- we argue that it must be at levels that are sustainable for the estuary. When we see items like this, however, it's hard to maintain that reasonable stance. We predicted a year ago that SJ Valley fracking sites would contaminate groundwater making the region more dependent on exports."  

Long term threat posed by waste water disposal may be even worse

The Center said that while the current extent of contamination is cause for "grave concern," the long-term threat posed by the unlawful wastewater disposal may be even more devastating.

"Benzene, toluene and other harmful chemicals used in fracking fluid are routinely found in flowback water coming out of oil wells in California, often at levels hundreds of times higher than what is considered safe, and this flowback fluid is sent to wastewater disposal wells. Underground migration of chemicals like benzene can take years," the Center stated.

The state's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) shut down 11 Kern County oil field injection wells and began scrutinizing almost 100 others that were potentially contaminating protected groundwater.

The Environmental Protection Agency, which has ultimate legal authority over underground injection, ordered state officials to provide an assessment of the water-contamination risk within 60 days, and the letter from the state Water Board confirms that illegal contamination has occurred at multiple sites.

California's oil and gas fields produce billions of gallons of contaminated wastewater each year, and much of this contaminated fluid is injected underground. California has an estimated 2,583 wastewater injection wells, of which 1,552 are currently active, according to the Center.

Wastewater injection wells are located throughout the state, from the Chico area in Northern California to Los Angeles in the south, and even include offshore wells near Santa Barbara. Kern County in the Southern San Joaquin Valley is home to the largest number of oil wells in California.

The fracking wastewater poses a huge threat not only to human health, but to fish  including salmon and steelhead and wildlife as the water makes its way to rivers and streams. The last thing that imperiled salmon and steelhead populations need, as they face a combination of drought and poor management of the state's reservoirs and rivers by the state and federal agencies, is the threat of increased pollution of their habitat by Benzene, toluene and other harmful fracking chemicals

For more information, go to: http://www.biologicaldiversity...

Oil industry power and money dominates California politics

As an investigative journalist who has written many articles documenting oil industry power and money in California politics, I find it extremely important to review the latest findings on the oil industry in California.

While there are many powerful industries based in California, ranging from the computer and high tech industry to corporate agribusiness, no industry has more influence over the state's environmental policies than Big Oil. Unfortunately, most of the public and even many environmental activists have no idea how much influence the oil industry has on the Governor, the Legislature and state panels and environmental processes in the state.

An ongoing analysis of reports filed with the California Secretary of State shows that the oil industry collectively spent over $63 million lobbying California policymakers between January 1, 2009 and June 30, 2014. The Western States Petroleum Association led the oil industry lobby spending with $26,969,861.

"The oil industry is spending over $1 million per month lobbying Sacramento, with the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) as the second overall leading spender so far in 2014 with almost $3 million spent in the past six months," according to Stop Fooling California (http://www.stopfoolingca.org), an online and social media public education and awareness campaign that highlights oil companies efforts to mislead and confuse Californians. "Chevron, with $1.3 million spent so far in 2014, is also among the top five. If money speaks, Big Oil has the loudest voice in politics."

WSPA was California's second overall leading lobbyist spender, with $1.5 million spent in the second quarter of 2014. This is the second largest quarter going back to January 2009.

WSPA is on pace to exceed the previous annual (2012) total in 2014. So far this session, WSPA has paid over $2 million to KP Public Affairs, the state's highest paid lobbying firm, during the current (2013-14) legislative session, according to the group. WSPA spent $4,670,010 on lobbying in 2013 and $5,698,917 in 2012.

Chevron is the fifth overall spender in California through the second quarter of 2014, having spent $784,757 over the past quarter, an increase of nearly $300,000 over the prior quarter.

Yet these millions of dollars are just chump change to Big Oil, since the five big oil companies made over $93 billion in profits in 2013. This year, Big Oil's profits are estimated to be over $72 billion to date, based on information from The Center for American Progress (http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/news/2014/02/10/83879/with-only-93-billion-in-profits-the-big-five-oil-companies-demand-to-keep-tax-breaks/)

A report released on April 1, 2014 by the ACCE Institute and Common Cause reveals that Big Oil has spent $143.3 million on political candidates and campaigns - nearly $10 million per year and more than any other corporate lobby - over the past fifteen years. (http://www.indybay.org/uploads/2014/04/10/bil_oil_floods_the_capitol_4.1.14v2.pdf)

But Big Oil exerts its influence not just by making campaign contributions, but also by lobbying legislators at the State Capitol. The oil industry spent $123.6 million to lobby elected officials in California from 1999 through 2013. This was an increase of over 400 percent since the 1999-2000 legislative session, when the industry spent $4.8 million. In 2013-2014 alone, the top lobbyist employer, Western States Petroleum Association, spent $4.7 million.

Oil industry officials serve on regulatory and advisory panels

The oil industry also exerts its muscle by serving on and dominating state and federal regulatory and advisory panels. For example, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association, chaired the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create alleged "marine protected areas" in Southern California. She also served on the task forces to create "marine protected areas" on the Central Coast, North Central Coast and South Coast.

It is no surprise that the so-called "marine protected areas" created under the helm of Reheis-Boyd and other corporate operatives failed to protect the ocean from fracking offshore oil drilling, pollution, corporate aquaculture, military testing and all human impacts on the ocean other than sustainable fishing and gathering.

Ironically, while WSPA President Catherine Reheis-Boyd served on the task forces to "protect" the ocean, the same oil industry that the "marine guardian" represents was conducting environmentally destructive hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations off the Southern California coast.  

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and media investigations by Associated Press and truthout.org reveal that the ocean has been fracked at least 203 times in the past 20 years, including the period from 2004 to 2012 that Reheis-Boyd served as a "marine guardian." (http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/10/19/calif-finds-more-instances-of-offshore-fracking/3045721/)

To make matters worse, Reheis-Boyd also serves on a federal government marine protected areas panel. The National Marine Protected Areas Center website lists Reheis-Boyd as a member of a 20 member MPA (Marine Protected Areas) Advisory Committee.

In addition to the oil industry spending exerting its enormous power through campaign contributions, lobbying legislators and serving on state and federal regulatory panels, the oil industry also has set up "Astroturf" groups, including the California Drivers Alliance and Fueling California, to fight against environmental regulations protecting our air, water, land, fish, wildlife and human health.

"The set up is basically this: some Californian (who is supposed to be your proxy) regurgitates Big Oil talking points that don't resemble reality, equating protecting Big Oil's profits with protecting the people," according to Stop Fooling California.

Most recently, the Monterey Herald reported that San Benito United for Energy Independence, the oil and gas industry-funded group behind a slate of ads airing throughout the Central Coast on TV and radio, raised more than $1.7 million to fight Measure J, an initiative to ban fracking in San Benito Count that goes before the voters on November 4. "While the group touts its local ties, none of the money funding Measure J's opposition comes from San Benito County," said reporter Jason Hoppin.

"San Benito United is entirely funded by an industry-backed group called Californians for Energy Independence. Oil companies have been pumping millions into that group in the last few months, including $2.5 million from San Ramon-based Chevron, $2.1 million from San Ardo-based Aera Energy and $2 million from Houston-based Occidental Petroleum," said Hoppin. (http://www.montereyherald.com/localnews/ci_26698353/big-oil-opens-wallet-fight-fracking-bans)

Politicians like Governor Jerry Brown like to portray California as a "green" leader, but the reality is that the oil industry, along with corporate agribusiness, exerts enormous influence over the state's environmental policies, making the claims of some that California is a "green" state highly dubious.

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The water bond: A classic David and Goliath battle in California politics

by: Dan Bacher

Fri Oct 10, 2014 at 11:02:58 AM PDT

The campaign for and against Proposition 1, the $7.5 billion water bond on the November 4 ballot, has emerged as the classic David and Goliath battle of this election season in California.

The Governor, Republican and Democratic Party establishment, corporate agribusiness interests, construction unions, corporate "environmental" NGOs, prominent billionaires and big water agencies are backing the Yes on Prop. 1 campaign. In contrast, a grassroots coalition of fishing groups, environmentalists, consumer organizations, two Indian Tribes, family farmers and Delta water agencies is enlisted in the battle to defeat Proposition 1.

The contrast between the Yes and No on 1 campaigns is illustrated by the respective money each campaign has raised. Governor Jerry Brown's Yes on Proposition 1 and 2 campaign has raised $6,621,946 and has spent $817,276, while the Vote NO on Prop. 1 campaign has raised a total of $71,000 and has spent $41,036 as of October 6, 2014, according to Ballotpedia:
http://ballotpedia.org/Califor...

The water bond proponents are divided up in two committees. The Yes on Props 1 and 2 committee, "A Bipartisan Coalition of Business, Labor, Republicans, Democrats and Governor," has raised $4,540,580 and has spent $759,649. The second committee, the California Business Political Action Committee, sponsored by the California Chamber of Commerce, has raised $62,500 and has spent $57,627.

The top donor in the Yes on Prop. 1 campaign is Sean Parker, an entrepreneur and venture capitalist who cofounded the file-sharing computer service Napster and served as the first president of the social networking website Facebook. He also cofounded Plaxo, Causes, and Airtime. As of September, 2014, Parker's net worth was estimated to be $3.1 billion, according to Wiikipedia. He has contributed $1 million to the Yes campaign to date.

Also noteworthy is that four members of the family that owns the Gap Stores - Doris F. Fisher, John J. Fisher, Robert J. Fisher, and William S. Fisher - each contributed $245,000 to the campaign.

Corporate agribusiness donates $850,000 to Yes on Prop. 1

Corporate agribusiness interests have donated a total of $850,000 to the Yes on Prop. 1 campaign. Stewart Resnick, the Beverly Hills agribusiness tycoon, owner of Paramount Farms and largest orchard fruit grower in the world, contributed $150,000. The California Farm Bureau Federation contributed $250,000, the Western Growers Service Association donated $250,000 and the California Cotton Alliance contributed $200,000 to the Yes on Prop. 1 campaign.

Resnick and his wife, Lynda, have been instrumental in promoting campaigns to eviscerate Endangered Species Act protections for Central Valley Chinook salmon and Delta smelt populations and to build the fish-killing peripheral tunnels - and have made millions off resellling environmental water to the public. Prop. 1 opponents recently held a "mock reception" outside the Resnick mansion in Beverly Hills to expose the Resnicks, who stand to benefit from the two dams funded by the latest state water bond. (http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/09/28/18762178.php)

Opponents of Proposition 1 criticized Governor Jerry Brown and the backers of Prop. 1 for taking $850,000 in contributions to date from big agribusiness donors to pass public funding for water transfers to enrich them - and to enable the biggest dam-building program in California history.

Adam Scow from Food and Water Watch said, "Corporate agribusiness giants, including Stewart Resnick, are spending big to pass Proposition 1, a bloated $7.5 billion bond measure that would funnel more water to big agribusinesses at taxpayer expense. Prop 1 is a measure to quench their greed-it will not solve California's water problems."

He also noted that the Western Growers Association, the California Farm Bureau Federation, and the California Cotton Alliance have contributed a total of $700,000 to the Prop. 1 campaign to ensure the construction of Sites Reservoir on the west side of the Sacramento Valley and Temperance Flat Dam on the San Joaquin River.

"Proposition 1 burdens taxpayers with debt to build projects for billion-dollar farming conglomerates that make up groups like Western Growers and the California Cotton Alliance," said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla of Restore the Delta, who is the No on Prop. 1 field director.

"It includes the largest appropriation for new dams in California's history that will benefit these corporate farmers who refuse to fund the dam projects themselves. Prop 1 will drive California and its taxpayers even further into debt for illusory and largely bogus 'environmental benefits'. Prop. 1 shifts the financial burden from those who directly benefit from building new dams to the taxpayers," said Barrigan-Parrilla.

These groups are making large contributions as an investment to make sure that their pet projects are passed through the California Water Commission, according to Prop. 1 opponents.

"Prop. 1 will not 'save water' as Gov. Brown claims in ads paid for by these special interests. It's a boondoggle to enrich his big ag contributors," said Barrigan-Parrilla.

The following are the donors who contributed $150,000 or more to the Yes on Prop. 1 and 2 campaign as of October 6, 2014:

Sean Parker $1,000,000
California Alliance for Jobs - Rebuild California Committee $500,000
Health Net $445,600
Laborers Pacific Southwest Regional Organizing Coalition PAC $400,000
California American Council of Engineering Companies $250,000
California Farm Bureau Federation $250,000
California Association of Hospitals and Health Systems $250,000
Northern California Carpenters Regional Council Issues PAC $250,000
Reed Hastings $250,000
SW Regional Council Of Carpenters $250,000
Western Growers Service Corporation $250,000
Doris F. Fisher $245,000
John J. Fisher $245,000
Robert J. Fisher $245,000
William S. Fisher $245,000
California Cotton Alliance $200,000
Northern California District Council Of Laborers Issues PAC $200,000
Stewart A. Resnick $150,000
The State Building And Construction Trades Council of CA $150,000

Organizations backing Proposition 1 include the following:
California Democratic Party
California Republican Party
California Farm Bureau Federation
Trout Unlimited
California Trout
The Nature Conservancy
Audubon California
California Chamber of Commerce
Delta Counties Coalition
Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce
Ducks Unlimited
American Rivers
Silicon Valley Leadership Group
Natural Resources Defense Council
California League of Conservation Voters
Northern California Water Association
State Building and Construction Trades Council of California
Association of California Water Agencies
Western Growers
League of California Cities
California State Association of Counties
California Citrus Mutual

Water districts and boards:
Fresno Irrigation District
Friant Water Authority
Long Beach Board of Water Commissioners
Metropolitan Water District of Southern California
San Diego Water Authority

No on Prop. 1: Water bond enriches speculators

The campaign against the measure is led by Vote NO on Proposition 1, a grassroots coalition of fishermen, environmental groups, consumer organizations, two Indian Tribes, family farmers and Delta water agencies.

Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, summed up why it is so important for people concerned about the future of salmon, the Delta and California to vote against the water bond: "Prop. 1 is a poster-child of why California is in a water crisis: it enriches water speculators but accomplishes little in addressing the drought, solving California's long-term water needs, reducing reliance on The Delta, or protecting our rivers and fisheries."

The following are the donors who contributed $2,500 or more to the No on 1 campaign as of October 6, 2014:
Dante Nomellini $12,500
Jack Klein Partnership $7,500
Conrad Silva Farms $5,000
Del Carlo Farms, Inc. $5,000
Thomas Zuckerman $5,000
Ferguson Farms, Inc. $2,500
George Perry & Sons, Inc. $2,500
Lory & Victoria Mussi $2,500
R&M Ranch $2,500
Rudy and Toni Mussi $2,500
San Joaquin Delta Farms, Inc. $2,500
V and A Lagorio $2,500

Opponents of Prop. 1 include the following:
AFSCME District Council
Ballona Institute
Butte Environmental Council
California Sportfishing Protection Alliance
California Striped Bass Association
California Water Impact Network
Coast Action Group
Center for Biological Diversity
Central Delta Water Agency
Concerned Citizens Coalition of Stockton
Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC)
Environmental Water Caucus
Factory Farm Awareness Coalition
Friends Committee on Legislation of California
Friends of the Eel River
Friends of the River
Food and Water Watch
Foothill Conservancy
Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations
Potrero Hill Democratic Club
Pulga Rancheria Concow Maidu Indians
Restore the Delta
Sacramento River Preservation Trust
San Francisco Baykeeper
San Francisco Crab Boat Association
Save the American River Association
Small Boat Commercial Salmon Fishermen's Association
Sherman Island Duck Hunters Association
Sonoma County Conservation Action
South Delta Water Agency
Southern California Watershed Alliance
Tar Sands Action
Wetlands Defense Fund
Wild Heritage Planners
Winnemem Wintu Tribe

Save the American River Association urges No vote on Prop. 1

Are you still not convinced yet on how to vote on Proposition 1? Well, the Save the American River Association (SARA) Board of Directors has compiled a handy list of reasons of why everybody who cares about the future of fish, rivers, the environment, the economy and the people of California should vote NO on the water bond:

• Prop. 1 does nothing to address drought relief in the near future.

• Prop. 1 adds $7.12 billion to California's debt, debt that will cost taxpayers $14.4 billion when the principal and interest is paid.

• Prop. 1 dedicates only 13% of its funding for conservation, stormwater capture and treatment, and recycling.

• Prop. 1 allocates $2.7 billion for three dams that would increase the state's water supply by only 1%. The money would flow under the provision that allows "continuous funding," meaning there would be no legislative oversight. A number of dam projects that had been abandoned because of low water yield or would not be cost-effective are now being revived.

• When the State Water Project was approved in 1960, it provided that beneficiaries of water projects -- not taxpayers statewide -- would pay for new projects. Prop. 1 reverses that principle. Taxpayers would pay the lion's share of new projects. Taxpayers, for example, would pay 73% of the cost of the proposed Temperance Flat Dam on the San Joaquin River while the beneficiaries -- agribusiness and the City of Fresno -- would pay most of the balance.

• Prop. 1 requires taxpayers to buy water the public already owns to protect fish. It's a retread of programs in force for years that allow speculators to reap huge profits by selling the public's water back to the public. And it will have the additional impact of making more water available to export from the Delta.

• Prop. 1 does nothing to address factors that have worsened the water crisis in California during the current drought: the overdrafting of major reservoirs in Northern California, inequitable distribution of limited water supplies and the failure to balance the Public Trust.

• Prop. 1 contains $1.5 billion for "conservancies" without any language governing how the money is to be spent. Nothing would prevent the conservancies from spending the money on projects that have no impact on water supplies such as bike trails or administrative costs. Critics are calling it "pork."

• Promoters of Prop. 1 note that about 6.9% of the bond will spent to provide safe drinking water and clean water programs to disadvantaged communities. That long overdue initiative should have been presented to the voters years ago as a stand-alone proposition. It is shameful that California government has never addressed the water problems of disadvantaged communities.

For more information on Proposition 1, go to: http://www.noonprop1.org

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Corporate agribusiness dumps $850,000 into Prop. 1!

by: Dan Bacher

Thu Oct 09, 2014 at 17:38:29 PM PDT

Opponents of Proposition 1, the controversial State Water Bond, today blasted Governor Jerry Brown and the backers of Prop. 1 for taking $850,000 in contributions from big agribusiness donors to pass public funding for water transfers to enrich them - and to enable the biggest dam-building program in California history.

Stewart Resnick, the Beverly Hills billionaire "farmer" who has made millions off of reselling environmental water to the public, has donated $150,000 to the Yes on Prop 1 campaign. Resnick and his wife, Lynda, have been instrumental in promoting campaigns to eviscerate Endangered Species Act protections for Central Valley Chinook salmon and Delta smelt populations and to build the fish-killing peripheral tunnels. (http://www.fishsniffer.com/blogs/details/rally-outside-the-resnick-mansion-on-october-2-luncheon-with-the-koch-broth/)

Adam Scow from Food and Water Watch noted, "Corporate agribusiness giants, including Stewart Resnick, are spending big to pass Proposition 1, a bloated $7.5 billion bond measure that would funnel more water to big agribusinesses at taxpayer expense. Prop 1 is a measure to quench their greed-it will not solve California's water problems."

The Western Growers Association, the California Farm Bureau Federation, and the California Cotton Alliance have contributed a total of $700,000 to the Prop. 1 campaign to ensure the construction of Sites Reservoir and Temperance Flat dam.  

"Proposition 1 burdens taxpayers with debt to build projects for billion-dollar farming conglomerates that make up groups like Western Growers and the California Cotton Alliance," said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla of Restore the Delta, who is the No on Prop 1 field director. "It includes the largest appropriation for new dams in California's history that will benefit these corporate farmers who refuse to fund the dam projects themselves. Prop 1 will drive California and its taxpayers even further into debt for illusory and largely bogus 'environmental benefits'. Prop. 1 shifts the financial burden from those who directly benefit from building new dams to the taxpayers."

These groups are making large contributions as an investment to make sure that their pet projects are passed through the California Water Commission, according to Prop. 1 opponents.

"Prop 1 will not 'save water' as Gov. Brown claims in ads paid for by these special interests. It's a boondoggle to enrich his big ag contributors," said Barrigan-Parrilla.

Governor Jerry Brown's Proposition 1 and 2 campaign has raised $6,621,946 and spent $817,276 as of October 6, 2014, according to Ballotpedia:
http://ballotpedia.org/Califor...

The following are the donors who contributed $150,000 or more to the Yes on Prop. 1 and 2 campaign:

Sean Parker  $1,000,000
California Alliance for Jobs - Rebuild California Committee  $500,000
Health Net  $445,600
Laborers Pacific Southwest Regional Organizing Coalition PAC  $400,000
California American Council of Engineering Companies  $250,000
California Farm Bureau Federation  $250,000
California Association of Hospitals and Health Systems  $250,000
Northern California Carpenters Regional Council Issues PAC  $250,000
Reed Hastings  $250,000
SW Regional Council Of Carpenters  $250,000
Western Growers Service Corporation  $250,000
Doris F. Fisher  $245,000
John J. Fisher  $245,000
Robert J. Fisher  $245,000
William S. Fisher  $245,000
California Cotton Alliance  $200,000
Northern California District Council Of Laborers Issues PAC  $200,000
Stewart A. Resnick  $150,000
The State Building And Construction Trades Council of CA   $150,000  

For more information go to http://www.noonprop1.org

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Winnemem Wintu War Dancers: Shasta Dam a 'Weapon of Mass Destruction'

by: Dan Bacher

Thu Sep 18, 2014 at 11:43:18 AM PDT

For the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and National Park Service, the 602 foot-high Shasta Dam on the Sacramento River north of Redding is a keystone of the Central Valley Project and a monument to engineering skill.

"Shasta Dam, dwarfed only by Hoover and Grand Coulee dams when it was completed on the Sacramento River in 1945, is breathtaking not only for its great size, but for its majestic setting in the southern range of the Cascades," according to the National Park Service. (http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/ReclamationDamsAndWaterProjects/Shasta_Dam.html)

However, leaders of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, who recently conducted a "War Dance" at Shasta Dam to protest the federal plan to raise the dam by 18-1/2 feet, have a much different view of the dam and the reservoir it created. Tribal Leaders view the massive curved concrete dam and proposed dam raise as a "Weapon of Mass Destruction." This dam expansion plan would flood many of the remaining sacred sites of the Tribe that weren't inundated by the construction of Shasta Dam in the 1940s.

"In 2004, we held a War Dance on Shasta Dam, because that's the Weapon of Mass Destruction," said Caleen Sisk, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe before the four-day War Dance that ended Sunday, September 14. "That's the weapon that took our lands, flooded our sacred places, covered up our burials - everything. And left us with nothing."

"We gave up a lot of our homeland for the sake of the California people, and got nothing in return. Now the government wants to take our sacred places, and again we get nothing in return. How is this fair, over and over again?" she asked.  

Before the War Dance began Thursday evening, two Winnemem Wintu War Dancers, Jesse Sisk and James Ward, worked hard with their fire kit until they were able to light the ceremonial fire at the center of the dance site overlooking Shasta Dam and Reservoir.

After the fire was lit and the flames leaped into the air on the warm September night, Chief Caleen Sisk gave a blessing and talked about the war dance and four-day fast that the tribe would conduct to stop the federal plan to raise Shasta Dam.  

"We lost our homes on the river to create a better life for everybody else but the Winnemem Wintu Tribe," Chief Sisk said. "The 1941 Act was supposed to protect us, but it didn't."

The law Sisk referred to was 55 Stat 612. When Shasta Dam was first proposed, Congress passed this law authorizing the federal government to seize the lands and burial grounds that the Winnemem had for a thousand year. Unfortunately, promises were made to the Tribe in 55 Stat 612 that still have not been kept.  

"Our sacred places are still here," she emphasized. "We are putting out our way and our songs so we can continue our way of life."

"We will pray so we can have a better life not only for the Winnemem but for indigenous people all over the world," Sisk said, pointing to the battle by Native Hawaiians to stop the the building of a new telescope on their sacred mountain, Mauna Kea.  

"We pray that the spirit beings hear us and bring all of our helpers, from the high mountain meadows all of the way to the ocean," she continued. "Our concern is the health of the waterways. We are here at the dam that blocks the salmon on a river that should be full of salmon."

She said that California should finally acknowledge its unique role as one of four salmon states on the West Coast.

"We should be a salmon state, not a watermelon or pistachio state. We have the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas. We have some of the largest salmon rivers in the West, but people have given these up for agribusiness, for large farms in a desert," Chief Caleen Sisk said.

She reiterated that Shasta Dam is "a weapon of mass destruction" against the Winnemem Wintu and said the idea of dams is a "horrible archaic project."

"Maybe we can't stop them - but we will have a clear conscience the Winnemem did all we could," Chief Sisk said.  

About 15 minutes later, the Winnemem War Dancers, clad in their traditional feathered headdresses and regalia, danced as the Winnemem women, wearing white deerskin dresses and wearing traditional basket hats, sang songs and prayed.  

The Winnemem invoked the War Dance in 1887 against a fish hatchery, the Baird U.S. Fish Hatchery, on the McCloud River that threatened the salmon and the Winnemem way of life.

The Winnemem again held a War Dance at the dam in 2004 to commit themselves to the protection of their land and their salmon. Now that the Winnemem face even more of their sacred sites and culture being submerged by the dam, they conducted  the dance once again this September.

Before the ceremony, I interviewed several of the War Dancers, all of whom emphasized that the Shasta Dam raise is deeply interconnected with Governor Jerry Brown's Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels and Proposition 1, the water bond, which will fund the building of Sites Reservoir.

David Martinez, who also danced during the war dances of 2004, 2009 and 2012, said, "Sites, the water bond, the tunnels and the raise of Shasta Dam are all interconnected. Without one, the others don't work. Right now we transport all of the water that we can to the San Joaquin Valley."

"We need more tunnels and aqueducts - for what? If the dam doesn't go up, Sites Dam doesn't come in and we don't need the tunnels," said Martinez.

He sees the tunnels as Brown's "Zombie Plan back from the dead." "We killed off the peripheral canal with the vote against it in 1982. He's brought it back with 'Zombie Juice' as the tunnels," he quipped.

"Since the 1800s, they've tried to wipe us out, but we're still here," Martinez emphasized. "The main thing is that we keep our sacred sites alive because we still use them. By going there, we are being with the spirits. That's the way our culture doesn't die or disappear."

Martinez noted that there are many Tribal people who don't have what the Winnemem have. "We have an unbroken connection with our sacred sites," he stated. "We do ceremony up and down the river. We were never transported out of here and we're in our original home - we've never lost our songs, culture, way of life. We're still here."

"Every water monger would rather see us drown or go away. We're fighting against almost insurmountable odds -but we will win," Martinez affirmed.

He also invoked Chief Caleen Sisk's characterization of Shasta Dam as "a weapon of mass destruction against us."

"It's just as powerful as a nuclear bomb. It destroyed our home, salmon, our way of life. Now they want to flood us out again. How many times do we have to suffer this? We're not going to go away. We've been here since the dawn of time - and we will be here at the end of time," he stated.

Gary Mulcahy, a War Dancer who served on the stakeholders group during the Delta Vision process from 2005 to 2007, said the Bureau of Reclamation is submitting an EIS/EIR for the dam raise proposal to the Secretary of Interior, set for approval in December. There are three similar alternatives, all of which propose an 18-1/2 foot dam raise and hold the same amount of water.

"If Congress approves a bill written by Congressman Jim Costa, it will fund the proposal to raise Shasta Dam. They just need the recommendation from the Secretary of the Interior to do it," he said.

"We are doing the war dance because we have to let the salmon know that we are fighting for them. The Tribe has to make sure that we bring them home and to ensure the sacred sites that would be flooded by the dam raise will be there for them and for generations to come," he explained.

The one positive development lately that Mulcahy noted is the bill, H. R. 5425, introduced in the House of Representatives last week by Congressmen Ami Beri, Jerry McNerney and John Garamendi to block the use of any federal funds for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels.

"If it is understood that the tunnels are a bad deal, maybe somehow in the mix they will understand the the dam raise is a bad deal also. If the EPA is saying the BDCP is such a bad idea, maybe they will understand raising the dam and committing cultural genocide upon those who gave their land for the lake is a bad idea also," he said.

He emphasized, "We're amazed that people don't understand that the Central Valley Project is from Shasta Dam all of the way to the Delta Estuary. To oppose one is to oppose the other. All that has been presented to the public by state officials are falsehoods and misinformation that the purpose of the dam is ecosystem restoration or salmon restoration when it's actually to provide more water to farmers growing water intensive crops in the desert."

He concluded, "Dams don't create water - I've never seen a dam rain!"

Michael Preston, Winnemem War Dancer, who graduated last year from U.C. Berkeley with a B.S. in Society and the Environment and is currently an Oakland resident, said, "The war dance is against the raising of Shasta dam. It's not against Obama. But if he comes out against us, then it's against him too."

He pointed out that the War Dance is held for both spiritual and political reasons.

"The spiritual reason is because spirits are calling us to tell us what to do to protect the salmon. Then the politics come in - the politics are what threatens our livelihood," he noted.

He strongly disagreed with the contention of Bureau of Reclamation officials that the dam raise would "help" salmon by providing cold water temperatures for Chinook salmon in the Sacramento River below the dam.

"The salmon are threatened and there is no plan for getting the salmon around the dam to swim up to their headwaters in the McCloud River," he said. "The plan does nothing for the salmon. The hundreds of miles of salmon habitat cut off from spawning are what they need, not the Shasta Dam raise."

He concluded the claim that the dam raise will "help" salmon "is just a ploy to greenwash the raising of the dam."

The Winnemem Wintu held the War Dance under a permit issued by The Bureau of Reclamation. The Tribe has held numerous meetings with the BOR to raise questions about the feasibility of the BOR's plans, the impacts it will have on the tribe and their way of life, and the troubled history between the tribe and the BOR.

However, Tribal leaders said that in spite of the numerous terminal flaws with the dam proposal, the BOR is going ahead with plans to raise the dam and will submit its final EIS/EIR to the Secretary of Interior in December. It anticipates the final project plan will be submitted to Congress for approval no later than March 2015.  

The Tribe has consistently requested that the BOR study alternatives to raising the dam such as better management practices for existing reservoirs and conservation options, as well as better protection of the fish populations.

"Any raising of the dam, even a few feet, will flood some of our last remaining sacred sites on the McCloud River - sites we still use today," said Chief Sisk. "We can't be Winnemem any place else but the McCloud River. The dam raise is a form of cultural genocide."    

Background on Shasta Dam Raise and BDCP:

Raising Shasta Dam will damage, destroy and inundate cultural resources along the McCloud River, sites that are vital to future generations and are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places as Traditional Cultural Properties, according to the Winnemem Wintu.

The Shasta Dam raise takes place in tandem with the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and the proposal to build Sites Reservoir on the west side of the Sacramento Valley. The BDCP is an environmentally destructive $67 billion project that will export massive quantities of northern California water for use by San Joaquin Valley corporate agribusiness interests, Southern California water agencies and oil companies conducting fracking and steam injecting operations,

The construction of the twin tunnels will hasten the extinction of Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species, as well as imperil the steelhead and salmon populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers. The project will also take vast tracts of Delta farmland, among the most fertile on the planet, out of production in order irrigate toxic, drainage-impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.

"I'm still appalled that a lot of people don't make the connections between the Shasta Dam raise, the BDCP and Sites Reservoir, which is in the water bond (Proposition 1)," said Chief Sisk. "There is not going to be more water for the tunnels if Sites Reservoir isn't built and Sites can't be filled unless the Shasta Dam is raised."

"The BDCP can't exist without the Shasta Dam raise and the construction of Sites Reservoir to store water for the tunnels. It's all one project - I don't know where people think the water is going to come from," she concluded.

The Winnemem Wintu Tribe over the past 10 years has played a key leadership role in the campaign to oppose the peripheral tunnels and the water bond. The Tribe is also working on a plan to return native winter run Chinook salmon, now thriving in the Rakaira River in New Zealand, to the McCloud River above Shasta Dam. They are researching and developing a proposal for a passageway around Shasta Dam for the returning spawning salmon and the outgoing ocean bound salmon fingerlings.

For more information, visit http://www.winnememwintu.us.

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Was (Is) Six Californias a Trojan Horse?

by: steve.chessin

Tue Sep 16, 2014 at 23:11:27 PM PDT

( - promoted by Brian Leubitz)

[Even though I was planning to take a break from blogging for a while, something has been nagging me at the back of my mind about Six Californias. Since a brief email exchange I had with Mr. Draper indicates he may try again - which is why I have "Is" in the title - I decided I should post my concerns.]

According to the story of the Trojan Horse, the Greek army wanted to invade Troy but couldn't breach Troy's well-defended walls. So they pretended to give up, and built a giant wooden horse as an appeasement gift. The Trojans saw the Greeks sail away, leaving the wooden horse just outside the walls, so in their joy at their apparent victory the Trojans opened their gates and brought the horse inside.

Unbeknownst to the Trojans, the Greeks had left a small band of their best soldiers inside the horse. In the middle of the night, as the Trojans, exhausted from their day-long victory celebration, slept soundly, the Greeks left the horse via a trap door  and opened the gates so that the rest of the Greek army, which had sailed back, could enter Troy and take the city.

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Report #18 (and the last one) on the Six Californias Signature Verification Process

by: steve.chessin

Fri Sep 12, 2014 at 22:58:00 PM PDT

You've probably heard by now that Six Californias failed to qualify for the ballot. You can read about it on the SoS website temporarily here and here, and more permanently here. The official announcement that went out to the County Clerks and Registrars of Voters can be downloaded from here.

Given all that, this will be my final report on the signature qualification effort of Six Californias. It will contain more information than you will read in the media.

The last five counties reported their random sampling results in Friday's final update: Inyo (validity rate 80.7%; they did a full count), Los Angeles (61.4%), Mariposa (67.0%), San Benito (63.1%; full count), and Trinity (66.7%). Raw counts were changed for Plumas County (an increase of 33) and Trinity (a loss of 15), for a net increase of 18 signatures, bringing the final raw count to 1,137,844 (was 1,137,826). In addition, Yuba corrected their duplicate count from 2 to 8, reducing their validity rate from 58.8% to 51.1%.

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Report #17 on the Six Californias Signature Verification Process

by: steve.chessin

Wed Sep 10, 2014 at 18:42:41 PM PDT

Two counties reported their random sampling results in Wednesday's update: Fresno (validity rate 75.1%) and Tuolumne (73.3%). In addition, Tuolumne (which actually did a full count, not a random sample) found an additional 29 raw signatures, bringing the total raw count up slightly to 1,137,826. The overall validity rate is up slightly to 67.96% (was 67.58%, for a projected valid signature count of 768,923, a comfortable 1,688 more than needed to qualify for a full count.

Five counties still have to complete their random sampling. They are (in order of the number of raw signatures they reported) Los Angeles (311,924 raw signatures), Mariposa (945), Trinity (779), Inyo (616), and San Benito (350). Los Angeles has to check 3% of their signatures and San Benito has to check all 350; the other three have to check 500 (unless they want to check them all).

With the Fresno and Tuolumne numbers in, Los Angeles only needs to have a not unreasonable 66.6% validity rate for Six Californias to qualify for a full count without reports from the other four counties. On the other hand, if Los Angeles has less than a 65.7% validity rate, then Six Californias will not qualify for a full count no matter what the other four counties report. This substantially narrows the range where the reports from Mariposa, Trinity, Inyo, and San Benito would matter.

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Dam The Indians Anyway - War Dance at Shasta Dam

by: Dan Bacher

Wed Sep 10, 2014 at 14:59:52 PM PDT

Shasta Dam, on the Sacramento River north of Redding, will be the site of a "War Dance" held by the Winnemem (McCloud River) Wintu Tribe from September 11 through September 15.  

The War Dance is in response to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's proposal to raise the dam that threatens to submerge many Winnemem sacred sites and village areas, according to a news release from the Tribe, The Winnemem lost much of their homelands and their salmon when the giant federal Central Valley Project dam was first constructed.

"Any raising of the dam, even a few feet, will flood some of our last remaining sacred sites on the McCloud River - sites we still use today," said Caleen Sisk , Winnemem Chief and Spiritual Leader. "We can't be Winnemem any place else but the McCloud River. The dam raise is a form of cultural genocide."

The Winnemem invoked the War Dance in 1887 against a fish hatchery, the Baird U.S. Fish Hatchery, on the McCloud River that threatened the salmon and the Winnemem way of life, according to the Tribe. Again the Winnemem held a War Dance at the dam in 2004 to commit themselves to the protection of their land and their salmon. Now, the Winnemem face even more of their sacred sites and culture being submerged by the dam.

"In 2004, we held a War Dance on Shasta Dam, because that's the Weapon of Mass Destruction," said Chief Sisk. "That's the weapon that took our lands, flooded our sacred places, covered up our burials - everything. And left us with nothing."

"We gave up a lot of our homeland for the sake of the California people, and got nothing in return. Now the government wants to take our sacred places, and again we get nothing in return. How is this fair, over and over again?" she asked.

"This is not right," Chief Sisk said. "This is too much to ask of a people."

On September 11, 2014 at a site near Shasta Dam, just before dusk, a sacred ceremonial fire will be lit, and the Winnemem War Dancers will fast for the full four days of the ceremony. For the next 4 days, the fire, the drum, the songs and the dance will carry the prayers of the Winnemem people.

The dance is being held under a permit issued by The Bureau of Reclamation (BOR). The Tribe has held numerous meetings with the BOR to raise questions about the feasibility of the BOR's plans, the impacts it will have on the tribe and their way of life, and the troubled history between the tribe and the BOR.

"Yet, BOR is going ahead with plans to raise the dam and will submit its final EIS/EIR to the Secretary of Interior in December, and anticipates the final project plan will be submitted to Congress for approval no later than March 2015," according to the Tribe.

"When Shasta Dam was first proposed, Congress passed a law (55 Stat 612) authorizing the federal government to take the lands and burial grounds that the Winnemem had for a thousand years, the Tribe said. "Promises were made to the Tribe in 55 Stat 612 that still have not been kept. The Tribe is asking that the BOR fulfill 55 Stat 612 to resolve these long standing debts as well as fully comply with NEPA, NHPA, and other laws that protect sacred and historic sites."

The Tribe has consistently requested that the BOR, study alternatives to raising the dam such as better management practices for existing reservoirs and conservation options, as well as better protection of the fish populations. "Raising the dam will damage, destroy and inundate cultural resources along the McCloud River, sites that are vital to future generations and are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places as Traditional Cultural Properties," the Tribe stated.

The Shasta Dam raise takes place in tandem with the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and the proposal to build Sites Reservoir on the west side of the Sacramento Valley. The BDCP is an environmentally destructive $67 billion project that will export massive quantities of northern California water for use by San Joaquin Valley corporate agribusiness interests, Southern California water agencies and oil companies conducting fracking and steam injecting operations,

The construction of the twin tunnels will hasten the extinction of Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species, as well as imperil the steelhead and salmon populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers. The project will also take vast tracts of Delta farmland, among the most fertile on the planet, out of production in order irrigate toxic, drainage-impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.

"I'm still appalled that a lot of people don't make the connections between the Shasta Dam raise, the BDCP and Sites Reservoir, which is in the water bond (Proposition 1)," said Chief Sisk. "There is not going to be more water for the tunnels if Sites Reservoir isn't built and Sites can't be filled unless the Shasta Dam is raised."

"The BDCP can't exist without the Shasta Dam raise and the construction of Sites Reservoir to store water for the tunnels. It's all one project - I don't know where people think the water is going to come from," she concluded.

The Winnemem Wintu Tribe over the past 10 years has played a key leadership role in the campaign to oppose the peripheral tunnels and the water bond. The Tribe is also working on a plan to return native winter run Chinook salmon, now thriving in the Rakaira River in New Zealand, to the McCloud River above Shasta Dam. They are researching and developing a proposal for a passageway around Shasta Dam for the returning spawning salmon and the outgoing ocean bound salmon fingerlings.

For more information, visit http://www.winnememwintu.us.
Media Contact: Charlotte Berta
Cell: 916-207-2378
Email: char [at] ranchriver.com

War Dance Location Information:
Shasta Dam Bureau of Reclamation
16349 Shasta Dam Boulevard
Shasta Lake, California 96019
Lat/Long 40.7140, -122.4176

Action Alert: Urge Your Congress Member to vote against the Shasta Dam raise!

Representative Jim Costa, of Fresno, has introduced a bill, co-signed by a number of California Democratic Congressmen, to raise Shasta Dam. "There is no mention of the standing debt to our people or the destruction it will cause to our way of life.

Please contact your Senators and Congresspeople (http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml), in any state you're in, to remind them that a debt is still owed by the United States to the Winnemem Wintu people, and ask them to vote NO on any proposal to raise Shasta Dam.

Also, tell the Bureau's Commission Michael Connor to not submit his plan to raise Shasta Dam. Tell him to support Winnemem cultural survival - Michael Connor - comments [at] usbr.gov; (202) 513-0501

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Report #16 on the Six Californias Signature Verification Process

by: steve.chessin

Tue Sep 09, 2014 at 17:50:43 PM PDT

Five(!) counties reported their random sampling results Tuesday: El Dorado (validity rate 76.8%), Glenn (70.1%), Humboldt (60.3%), Lassen (65.9%), and Nevada (72.7%). In addition, El Dorado reported eight fewer signatures in their raw count than they had initially, and Nevada County reported an additional signature, bringing the total raw count down slightly to 1,137,797. The overall validity rate is up slightly to 67.58% (was 67.48%, for a projected valid signature count of 768,923, a comfortable 1,688 more than needed to qualify for a full count.

Seven counties still have to complete their random sampling. They are (in order of the number of raw signatures they reported) Los Angeles (311,924 raw signatures), Fresno (38,382), Tuolumne (4,732), Mariposa (945), Trinity (779), Inyo (616), and San Benito (350). Los Angeles and Fresno have to check 3% of their signatures, and San Benito has to check all 350; the others have to check 500 (unless they want to check them all). I hope we don't have to wait until Friday for them all to report.

My feeling is much of it boils down to Los Angeles. While I don't think Los Angeles by itself will put them over the number they need to qualify for a full count (for that it would have to have a remarkably high 77.0% or better validity rate), it could make it mathematically impossible for the rest of the counties to put them over. That is, if the validity rate from Los Angeles ends up less than about 62.3%, then even if the other counties had 100% valid signatures Six Californias would not qualify for a full count and would not make it to the ballot. (At this point it is mathematically impossible for Six Californias to qualify for the ballot based on random sampling alone, even if Los Angeles had a 100% projected validity rate.)

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Report #15 on the Six Californias Signature Verification Process

by: steve.chessin

Mon Sep 08, 2014 at 22:23:32 PM PDT

Two more counties reported their random sampling results Monday: San Luis Obispo (validity rate 60.2%) and Yuba (57.2%). (San Luis Obispo County also found another raw signature, bringing the total raw count to 1,137,804.) The overall validity rate is down slightly to 67.48% (was 67.6%, for a projected valid signature count of 767,790, just 555 more than needed to qualify for a full count. (I had been rounding the overall validity rate to three significant digits, but as Six Californias is so close to the threshold I'll begin reporting it to four significant digits as the Secretary of State does.)

Twelve counties still have to complete their random sampling, which by law they must do by Friday. They are (in order of the number of raw signatures they reported) Los Angeles (311,924 raw signatures), Fresno (38,382), El Dorado (11,649), Humboldt (7,230), Tuolumne (4,732), Nevada (4,322), Lassen (2,066), Glenn (1,910), Mariposa (945), Trinity (779), Inyo (616), and San Benito (350). Los Angeles and Fresno have to check 3% of their signatures, and San Benito has to check all 350; the others have to check 500 (unless they want to check them all).

Given how close to the threshold for a full count Six Californias is, if the smaller counties were hoping Six Californias would either qualify or fail to qualify without their numbers, so they could skip verifying signatures, they might have have to re-think that position. If I were them, and depending on how long it takes their offices to verify a signature, I wouldn't wait until Friday morning to start verifying.

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Report #14 on the Six Californias Signature Verification Process

by: steve.chessin

Fri Sep 05, 2014 at 18:02:49 PM PDT

Two more counties have finished their random sampling, according to today's update from the Secretary of State's office: one large (Orange County, with a validity rate of 67.9%), and one small (Amador County, 68.1%). The overall validity rate is unchanged at 67.6%, so with 769,154 projected valid signatures, Six Californias may be headed for a full count.

Fourteen counties still have to complete their random sampling, which by law they must do by next Friday. With Orange County having reported, the top ten (by the number of raw signatures they reported) are now Los Angeles (311,924 raw signatures), Fresno (38,382), San Luis Obispo (12,906), El Dorado (11,649), Humboldt (7,230), Tuolumne (4,732), Nevada (4,322), Yuba (3,720), Lassen (2,066), and Glenn (1,910). The top two have to check 3% of their signatures; the others have to check 500 (unless they want to check them all).

--Steve Chessin
President, Californians for Electoral Reform (CfER)
www.cfer.org

The opinions expressed here are my own and not necessarily those of CfER.

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