The long awaited Bay Delta Conservation Plan documents, totaling 34,000 pages, have just been released. Here's the announcement from the California Natural Resources Agency, overseen by Secretary John Laird:
The state of California and its federal partners have announced the release of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan for formal public review. This is a significant milestone in the effort to restore ecosystem health and secure reliable water supplies for California. The release is a key step toward completion of a final plan and corresponding environmental documents.
The plan seeks to protect delivery of the mountain snowmelt that supplies water to two-thirds of the state's population from San Jose to San Diego and thousands of Central Valley farms. It focuses on the estuary where the snowmelt flows, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and aims to both reverse the ecological decline of the region and modernize a water system that now depends on hundreds of miles of earthen levees vulnerable to earthquake, flood, and rising sea levels.
Release of the public review draft of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan and its corresponding Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) triggers a 120-day period for the gathering of public comments, from Dec. 13, 2013 through April 14, 2014. Citizens, organizations, and government agencies are urged to review and comment on the documents.
From mid-January through mid-February, experts will be available at a dozen separate public meetings to facilitate review of the plan, and to hear public comments on the plan and accompanying environmental documents.
All substantive comments received during the public review period will be considered and discussed in a final EIR/EIS. Completion of the final documents would allow project proponents to begin seeking the many permits necessary to implement the comprehensive plan.
The Bay Delta Conservation Plan aims to both stabilize water deliveries from the Delta and contribute to the recovery of 56 species of plants, fish and wildlife over the 50-year life of the plan. The Legislature delineated those co-equal goals in the 2009 Delta Reform Act.
The 9,000-page Bay Delta Conservation Plan and its corresponding 25,000-page EIR/EIS reflect significant revisions since the informal release of administrative review drafts last spring and summer. The public review draft documents reflect changes such as:
• Changes to the alignment of the proposed water conveyance tunnels that would significantly reduce disruption to north Delta communities and reduce by half the project's permanent footprint.
• More detail about the plan's critical adaptive management process, which would use research, monitoring, and adjustment of actions to ensure that environmental measures truly contribute to the recovery of covered species.
• Refinement and revision of how the plan would be governed.
• A description of the tools and sources of funding potentially available to support the adaptive management process if additional Delta flows and water supply are needed.
• Additional design criteria and operational constraints for the proposed north Delta intakes, including fish studies that would influence facility design.
• Addition of further measures to protect the greater sandhill crane, giant garter snake, and saltmarsh harvest mouse.
"This is a rational, balanced plan to help meet the needs of all Californians for generations to come," said California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird. "By meeting the state's dual goals for BDCP of ecosystem restoration and water supply reliability, we will stabilize and secure against catastrophe the water deliveries that sustain our homes, jobs, and farms, and do so in a way that not only protects but enhances the environment."
The plan proposes to change the way the State Water Project (SWP) and Central Valley Project (CVP) divert water from the Delta. It proposes the construction of new intakes in the north Delta along the Sacramento River about 35 miles north of the existing pumping plants. Twin tunnels would carry the water underground to the existing pumping plants, which feed canals that stretch hundreds of miles to the south and west.
A northern diversion on the Sacramento River would minimize environmentally harmful reverse flows in the south Delta that are caused when the existing pumping plants draw water from nearby channels.
The Bay Delta Conservation Plan has been developed through seven years of analysis and hundreds of public meetings. It is a habitat conservation plan under the federal Endangered Species Act and a natural community conservation plan under California law. It describes 22 separate conservation measures that would be undertaken by the California Department of Water Resources, operator of the SWP, in coordination with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, operator of the CVP.
The plan would provide a stable regulatory environment for operation of the SWP, while working toward the recovery of imperiled fish species.
Water users served by the SWP and CVP - primarily in Southern California, the Santa Clara Valley, and the San Joaquin Valley - would pay most costs under the plan, including the entire $16 billion cost associated with new intakes and tunnels.
To read the public review draft Bay Delta Conservation Plan, get guidance on how to comment on the plan, and see the schedule of public meetings, please visit http://baydeltaconservationpla...
The Brown Administration will release its long-awaited Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) to participating agencies on Friday, December 6.
The administration will then release the documents of the controversial plan to build two massive water export tunnels to the public, most likely, on Monday, December 9, according to Californians for a Fair Water Policy.
The group announced today that it will present a panel of experts in a teleconference call on Friday, December 6 at 2 pm in advance of the project's release to brief interested media on what to look for in the 30,000-page project EIR/EIS.
The experts will address the anticipated cost and financial burden of the proposed Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), whom would benefit, whether it violates the law, and potential better solutions.
The panelists will include: Dr. Jeffrey Michael, Business Forecasting Center at the University of the Pacific; Conner Everts, Exec. Director, Southern California Watershed Alliance; Bob Wright, Senior Counsel, Friends of the River; and Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director, Restore the Delta.
For more information, contact: Steve Hopcraft 916/457-5546; steve [at] hopcraft.com Twitter: @shopcraft
Restore the Delta will be sponsoring the following rallies with dozens of other community, environmental, government, and water agencies:
Monday, December 9, 2013
Rally at the Santa Clara Valley Water District
Location: 5700 Almaden Expressway, San Jose, CA 95118
Starting Time: 9 a.m. (there was a time change)
Press Conference: After Secretary Laird finishes his talk
This Rally and Press Conference is sponsored by Restore the Delta, Food and Water Watch, Californians For A Fair Water Policy, 350 Silicon Valley, the Dean Democratic Club of Silicon Valley, the Environmental Water Caucus, and First Generation Farmers.
Monday, December 9, 2013
Press Conference and Rally at the Capitol
Location: Starting in Room 112, moving to West Steps if needed
Starting Time: Noon with 12:30 p.m. press conference - arrive as early as 10:30 for possible walk to California Resources Agency
This rally is sponsored by Californians for A Fair Water Policy and dozens of other environmental, fishing, farming, government, and water agencies.
Friday, December 13, 2013
Friday the 13th Rally to begin the 120 Day BDCP Response Countdown
Location: West Steps of the Capitol
Starting Time: 11:30 a.m.
This rally is sponsored by Californians for A Fair Water Policy and dozens of other environmental, fishing, farming, government, and water agencies.
And don't forget to write your letters to Governor Brown expressing your opposition to the peripheral tunnels plan! Letters should be addressed to:
Governor Jerry Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
The salutation should read: The Honorable Edmund G. Brown
Background: The Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the tunnels will hasten the extinction of Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species, as well as threaten the steelhead and salmon populations of the Trinity and Klamath rivers. The tunnel plan is based on the false premise that you can restore a river system by stealing more water from it.
The purpose of the $54.1 billion plan, masquerading under the "coequal goals" of water supply reliability and ecosystem restoration, is to facilitate the export of more water to corporate agribusiness, developers and oil companies.
In July, scientists from the federal lead agencies for the BDCP Environmental Impact Report - the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service - exposed the terminally flawed science it is based upon in 44 pages of comments. They criticized the draft documents for being "biased," "insufficient," "confusing," and "very subjective."
In other BDCP news, the Delta Stewardship Council has a new web page explaining the relationship between DSC's Delta Plan and BDCP, and DSC's and the Independent Science Board's role in BDCP review:
A U.S. Geological Survey report released on Thursday revealed that land subsidence caused by over drafting of ground water supplies in the San Joaquin Valley has resulted in a threat to water delivery systems, including the Delta Mendota-Canal and the California Aqueduct.
Proponents of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels used the report's release as yet another opportunity to promote the $54.1 billion project as the "solution" to California's water problems, while tunnel opponents said the tunnels will do nothing to address the land subsidence threat.
The report, "Land Subsidence along the Delta-Mendota Canal in the Northern Part of the San Joaquin Valley, California, 2003-10," by Michelle Sneed, Justin Brandt, and Mike Solt, reveals how extensive groundwater pumping from San Joaquin Valley aquifers is increasing the rate of land subsidence, or sinking.
"This large-scale and rapid subsidence has the potential to cause serious damage to the water delivery infrastructure that brings water from the north of the valley to the south where it helps feed thirsty cropland and cities," according to the USGS. "The subsidence is occurring in such a way that there may be significant operational and structural challenges that need to be overcome to ensure reliable water delivery." (http://ca.water.usgs.gov/news/2013/WaterInfrastructureSanJoaquinValley.html)
The report concentrates on subsidence in an original study area along the Delta-Mendota Canal in the northern San Joaquin Valley, but also includes data from a subsequently discovered and much larger subsidence area that touches the canal on the southwest.
"This subsidence is reducing the capacity of the Delta-Mendota Canal, the California Aqueduct, and other canals that transport floodwater and deliver water to agriculture, cities, industry and wildlife refuges," the USGS stated.
"The USGS report was commissioned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to learn more about the challenges we face due to subsidence. It will help us take additional proactive measures to ensure efficient delivery of water to the San Joaquin Valley," said David Murillo, Mid-Pacific regional director of the Bureau of Reclamation.
Phil Isenberg, Chair of the Delta Stewardship Council, who also served as the Chair of the Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force and the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create alleged "marine protected areas" on the Central Coast, was the first to respond to the report's release in a statement.
Isenberg employed the report to promote the California Water Action Plan and the Delta Stewardship Council's "Delta Plan," both of which strongly support the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the twin tunnels. There are currently seven lawsuits by water contractors, environmentalists, Indian Tribes and fishing groups against the severely-flawed "Delta Plan" proceeding through the courts.
"This report reinforces the urgency of understanding and better managing California's groundwater basins," said Isenberg. "The amount and widespread nature of the subsidence found by the USGS is truly alarming and shows that cutbacks in surface water deliveries because of drought or environmental concerns cannot sustainably be replaced or exceeded by continual groundwater extractions."
"The report also underscores the urgency of actions and recommendations included in the draft California Water Action Plan (http://resources.ca.gov/docs/Final_Water_Action_Plan.pdf) and the Delta Stewardship Council's recently adopted Delta Plan (http://deltacouncil.ca.gov/delta-plan-0)," said Isenberg.
Restore the Delta (RTD) responded to the release of the report by saying the Brown Administration's massive water export tunnels would "do nothing" to address this threat to the Central Valley. Restore the Delta Executive Director Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla said, "San Joaquin Valley's land subsidence is the real threat to California's water delivery system."
She noted that the report shows that the Westlands and Kern Water District mega-growers are engaged in "unsustainable growing of permanent crops on arid land, and that the governor's Peripheral Tunnels don't address this root cause of the state's water problem."
"The San Joaquin Valley's complicated system of moving water around depends on maintaining water levels and flows in the Delta-Mendota Canal and in irrigation canals," according to Barrigan-Parrilla. "But groundwater overdraft in parts of the region is causing the land to subside and the canals to sink. One dam and canal in western Madera County are sinking six inches a year, so the dam won't be high enough for gravity to push water down the canal."
An engineering geologist with the Department of Water Resources says that two areas subsided up to a foot a year for the past four to five years. A USGS hydrologist says the lining of the Delta Mendota Canal is actually buckling in some places. One canal has lost 50% of its capacity due to subsidence, according to Barrigan-Parrilla.
"Yet, water rate payers are being asked to subsidize construction of the Brown Administration's peripheral tunnels so that big corporate agribusinesses in the San Joaquin Valley can prop up its unsustainable economic and environmental model," she explained.
"How can California water ratepayers be expected to pay for the construction of the Peripheral Tunnels when the state's existing water delivery infrastructure is breaking down?" said Barrigan-Parrilla. "Exporters have spent millions of dollars creating a public campaign that they are the victims, and that the Delta is the weak link, but these water takers were never supposed to plant permanent crops."
Barrigan-Parrilla concluded, "They've exhausted their own groundwater supply, and now they are coming after the Delta and upstream rivers to support farms that are not environmentally and economically sustainable. Sending them water is like enabling a drug addict. Is the state's entire water supply to be sacrificed for almonds to export to China?"
The construction of the $54.1 billion tunnels would hasten the extinction of Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta smelt, longfin smelt and green sturgeon, as well as imperiling the steelhead and salmon populations of the Trinity and Klamath rivers.
However, the way the state and federal governments are managing Delta water, many of these fish could become extinct before construction of the tunnels ever begins. The 2013 Fall Mid Water Trawl (FMWT) abundance indices recently released by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife reveal that populations of Delta fish are only a small fraction of their historical abundance before Delta water exports began.
The indices for Delta smelt (7), striped bass (23), threadfin shad (70), and American shad (135) were the second, second, third and second lowest, respectively, in the 46 years of the survey. The index for longfin smelt (36) was comparable to the very low indices of recent years.
Delta smelt, striped bass, longfin smelt, American shad and threadfin shad populations in 2013 have plummeted 98.9, 99.6, 99.7, 89.1, 98.1 percent, respectively, from the average of the initial six years of the survey (1967-1972), according to Bill Jennings, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA) and a board member of the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN) and Restore the Delta. The Sacramento splittail index was not released, but the 2012 September-October index was zero.
Massive water exports to corporate agribusiness interests on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, combined with increases in toxic chemicals and invasive species, have resulted in these fish population collapses, according to state and federal scientists.
Yet Brown is not only promoting the construction of the twin tunnels, but on September 20 signed legislation, Senate Bill 4, giving the green light to the expansion of fracking in California. This will only result in increasing pollution of already contaminated ground water and surface water resources with the toxic brew of fracking chemicals that oil companies refuse to disclose.
With about one year left until the 2014 election, the GOP field for the second spot in the top-2 governor's election seems to be a very intriguing trio.
Abel Maldonado and Tim Donnelly have more or less made their candidacies official. On the other hand, former Goldman Sachs (and TARP administrator) Neil Kashkari has been less forthcoming on official news. However, he clearly seems to be building a campaign, and a non-traditional GOP campaign at that. He's clearly trying to come at it from the middle, but Joe Garofoli of the SF Chronicle looks at some who wonder at how that will fare in the CRP.
Two of California's likely Republican candidates for governor are going to put that to the test: Are voters - particularly conservative ones - ready for GOP candidates who are pro-choice, pro-same-sex marriage rights and pro-pathway to citizenship for those in the U.S. illegally?
It is a long shot. Those positions contradict the Republican national platform, and they're deal killers to the hard-core conservatives who make up the bulk of GOP primary voters.
"This is test case nationally of what the Growth and Opportunity Project (postmortem) was suggesting," said Alex Carey, a Sausalito resident and veteran GOP strategist who was an adviser to GOP Minnesota governor and 2012 presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty.
"California could be on the leading edge of what the party wants to do," Carey said. "But some conservatives will have to look beyond what their differences are with the candidates."
For years, the media has been trying to shoehorn some level of moderation in the CRP. And for a while, maybe there was some there. Gov Schwarzenegger wasn't exactly moderate, but nor was he what you would call right-wing these days. And Duf Sundheim, a former chair of the party, worked to create a somewhat inclusive party. But in the end, if you look around at today's CRP, you don't find a lot of inclusion there. You find Tim Donnelly.
While the media likes to think that because we have a pretty progressive majority in the Legislature and our representatives, that the CRP must reflect that as well. They would be wrong. The California GOP is just as hard-core and full of true believers as any, right up there with Dixie. It turns out that the fog of progressivism doesn't really roll all the way into every California community.
Maybe Kashkari can draw enough interest to finish in second place and get to a one on one matchup with Governor Brown. But when running against Maldonado, considered to be the GOP's legislative version of a moderate, how does he carve out the votes in what will likely be a low turnout June election? Will the two "moderates" open up a path to the general election for Donnelly?
While a moderate and vigorous GOP, or any strong second party, would be of considerable value for the state, that isn't where the Republicans are headed right now. And ignoring the social issues tends to only work if you are a some sort of movie star. Kashkari might draw a fair share of interest, but I find it hard to believe that a pro-choice, pro-marriage equality candidate, who also happens to have spent a fare share of time at Goldman Sachs, can really be welcome in today's GOP.
Opponents of Governor Jerry Brown's Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels asked how taxpayers would trust "deadbeat state agencies" to pay billions for seized farmland and habitat when news reports reveal that the agencies owe counties over $17 million.
Restore the Delta (RTD) today responded to news reports in the Sacramento Bee and on Capital Public Radio that the State of California has failed to pay for land it acquired from thirty-six counties.
This report of defaulted payments comes as the State pursues its plan to purchase, or seize through eminent domain, tens of thousands of acres of farmland to build a pair of water export tunnels to deliver massive quantities of Sacramento River water to corporate agribusiness, developers and oil companies.
"Why would we trust these same agencies to keep their promises about the $54.1 billion tunnels, the land they will purchase or the 'habitat' they will buy and manage?" asked RTD Executive Director Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla. "The failure to repay for lands is just one in a long series of broken promises by these same agencies. They are not trustworthy."
The $54.1 billion cost of the tunnels includes $14.5 billion for construction, $1.5 billion for O&M (operation and maintenance), $26.3 billion for interest on tunnel revenue bonds, $7 billion for habitat and conservation, $3.2 billion for interest on General Obligation Bonds and $1.6 billion for administration and research.
The state currently owes the counties more than $17 million, according to California Public Radio (http://www.capradio.org/articles/2013/11/12/fish-and-wildlife-owes-counties-millions-of-dollars/
Bob Moffitt at California Public Radio explained, "The Department of Fish and Wildlife long ago bought properties for wildlife projects in three dozen counties. The department agreed to make yearly payments equal to the amount of property taxes that counties would lose as a result of the sale."
H.D. Palmer of the California Department of Finance told Moffitt that the state hasn't made a payment since the end of the 2001 fiscal year.
"The rural counties have sent letters to the governor seeking that those payments be re-instated and we are still working on the decisions on the budget that the Governor will submit in January," Palmer said. "So, we can't say one way or the other what will be in that budget regarding the in-lieu payments."
"This week, Yolo County sent the Department of Fish and Wildlife a past-due invoice for about $1.4 million. The county says property like the one known as 'No Man's Land' near the Yolo Causeway are not generating tax revenue because they are owned by the state and are a burden on neighboring landowners who pay more than their fair share for fire protection services," Moffitt reported.
The state owes Riverside $2.7 million - the most of any county- followed by Napa, Yolo, Butte, Merced, Lassen and San Diego, according to Moffitt.
Protesters have greeted Governor Jerry Brown at his recent appearances throughout the state to oppose his support of fracking, the peripheral tunnels, massive fish kills on the Delta and REDD. (http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/10/18/18745051.php
Big Oil treated legislators to $13,000 dinner before fracking bill vote
The oil industry, the largest and most powerful corporate lobby in Sacramento, dumped millions of dollars into its successful lobbying efforts to eviscerate an already weak fracking bill, Senator Fran Pavley's Senate Bill 4, at the end of the Legislative Session.
Chevron, the Western States Petroleum Association and Aera Energy LLC spent the most money lobbying legislators in the third quarter of 2013, according to California Secretary of State documents.
Chevron spent $1,696,477, the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) spent $1,269,478 and Aera Energy LLC spent $1,015,534. That's a total of $3,981,489 just between July 1 and September 30, 2013. In the first three quarters of 2013, WSPA alone spent a total of $3,578,266 on lobbying legislators. (http://cal-access.sos.ca.gov/Lobbying/Employers/Detail.aspx?id=1147195&session=2013&view=activity)
In a classic example of the "pay to play" and "wine and dine" corruption that infests California politics, nearly $13,000 of the Western States Petroleum Association's third quarter spending went toward hosting a dinner for 12 lawmakers and two staff members in September.
According to Lauren Rosenhall of the Sacramento Bee, the dinner took place at "one of Sacramento's poshest venues: The Kitchen, known for its interactive dining experience where guests sit in the kitchen as cooks share details of the five-course meal. Moderate Democrats seemed to be the target audience for the treat: Assembly members Adam Gray, Henry Perea and Cheryl Brown attended, as did Sens. Norma Torres, Ron Calderon and Lou Correa." (http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2013/11/oil-industry-treated-legislators-to-13k-dinner-as-fracking-bill-loomed.html)
The dinner was held on September 4, as Senate Bill 4 was awaiting a vote on the Assembly floor. The oil industry the next day added amendments that further weakened the already weak legislation opposed by a broad coalition of over 100 conservation, environmental justice and consumer groups, including Food and Water Watch, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Credo Campaign and California Water Impact Network (C-WIN).
These amendments including the following:
• Language added to the bill specifies that "no additional review or mitigation shall be required" if the supervisor of the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources "determines" that the proposed fracking activities have met the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act. (http://www.sandiegolovesgreen.com/activists-urge-senator-pavley-to-withdraw- dangerous-fracking-bill/)
"This provision could be used by DOGGR to bypass CEQA's bedrock environmental review and mitigation requirements," according to a statement from the anti-fracking groups. "This language could also prevent air and water boards, local land use jurisdictions and other agencies from carrying out their own CEQA reviews of fracking."
• In addition, under existing law, the governor and DOGGR can deny approvals for wells that involve fracking or place a partial or complete moratorium on fracking. The new language states that DOGGR "shall allow" fracking to take place until regulations are finalized in 2015, provided that certain conditions are met.
"This could be interpreted to require every fracked well to be approved between now and 2015, with environmental review conducted only after the fact, and could be used to block the Governor or DOGGR from issuing a moratorium on fracking prior to 2015," the groups stated.
At the last minute, the League of Conservation Voters, NRDC and two other Senate Bill 4 backers withdrew their support for the legislation. However, the bill, having been given "green cover" by these NGOs, passed through the Legislature a week after the dinner.
Governor Jerry Brown, a strong supporter of the expansion of fracking in California, then signed the legislation on September 20.
"For Perea, Correa, Calderon and Torres, the September dinner was not the first time they'd been treated to The Kitchen by the oil industry. They were among 11 legislators who attended a Western States Petroleum Association dinner there last year, valued at nearly $11,000," Rosenthall noted.
Oil lobby has spent $45.4 million since 2009
Prior to the latest Secretary of State filing, a report released by the American Lung Association revealed that the oil industry lobby, the biggest corporate lobby in California, has spent $45.4 million in the state since 2009. The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) alone has spent over $20 million since 2009. (http://blog.center4tobaccopolicy.org/oil-lobbying-in-california)
Oil and gas companies spend more than $100 million a year to buy access to lawmakers in Washington and Sacramento, according to Stop Fooling California, an online and social media public education and awareness campaign that highlights oil companies' efforts to mislead and confuse Californians.
In addition, Robert Gammon, East Bay Express reporter, revealed that before Governor Jerry Brown signed Senator Fran Pavley's Senate Bill 4, Brown accepted at least $2.49 million in financial donations over the past several years from oil and natural gas interests, according to public records on file with the Secretary of State's Office and the California Fair Political Practices Commission. (http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/fracking-jerry-brown/Content?oid=3726533)
The oil industry not only exerts influence by direct contributions to political campaigns, but by getting its lobbyists and representatives on key panels like the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Blue Ribbon Task Force. (http://www.elkgrovenews.net/2013/10/oil-lobby-has-spent-over-45-million-in.html, http://topics.sacbee.com/Marin...
In one of biggest environmental scandals of the past decade, Reheis-Boyd served as chair of the MLPA Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create alleged "marine protected areas" in Southern California. She also served on the North Coast, North Central Coast and Central Coast task forces from 2004 to 2011, from the beginning of the process to the end of the process. (http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/mpa/brtf_bios_sc.asp)
The MLPA Initiative process overseen by Reheis-Boyd and other ocean industrialists created fake "marine protected areas" that fail to protect the ocean from fracking, oil drilling, pollution, wind and wave energy projects and all human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering.
State officials and representatives of corporate "environmental" NGOs embraced and greenwashed the "leadership" of Reheis-Boyd and other corporate operatives who served on the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Forces to create "marine protected areas" that fail to actually protect the ocean. By backing her leadership as a "marine guardian," they helped to increase the already powerful influence of the Western States Petroleum Association and the oil industry.
The California Coastal Commission and other state officials acted "surprised" when FOIA documents and an Associated Press investigation revealed that Southern California coastal waters have been fracked repeatedly, over 200 times according to the latest data. Yet independent investigative reporters like David Gurney and myself warned, again and again, that this would happen when an oil industry lobbyist was in charge of marine "protection."
There's no doubt that the Western States Petroleum Association, Chevron and other oil companies use every avenue they can to dominate environmental policy in California, including lobbying legislators, contributing heavily to election campaigns, serving on state regulatory panels, and wining and dining politicians. Until we get the big corporate money out of politics, Californian will continue to be awash in a sea of oil money.
It's official now - Bay Delta Conservation Plan officials announced yesterday that the release of the peripheral tunnel plan documents has been postponed until December 13, 2013.
The announcement takes place as state officials are amping up their campaign to convince the public of the "need" to build the twin tunnels by spending taxpayer dollars on high powered public relations firms and setting up Astroturf organizations.
According to yesterday's announcement, "As a joint effort of state and federal agencies preparing the BDCP, the recent shutdown of the federal government and associated staff furloughs have delayed the development, review, and ultimately the release of the Public Draft Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) and Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS). The Public Draft BDCP and EIR/EIS are now scheduled for release on December 13, 2013 for 120 days of formal review."
During the formal public review period running from December 13, 2013 to April 14, 2014, the public, agencies, and other interested parties will be able to access copies of the document online, in repositories throughout the state, and request copies for review.
"The State and Federal lead agencies also will hold a series of public meetings during January and February 2014 to provide information about the project and accept formal comments. Formal written comments on the Public Review Draft BDCP and EIR/EIS will be accepted during the official comment period and all significant environmental issues raised in comments received during the public review period will be addressed in the Final EIR/EIS. Details on how to provide comments will be available in December," according to BDCP officials.
The end of the announcement claims, "No final decisions have been made regarding going forward with the BDCP or in selecting an alternative; those decisions will only occur after completion of the EIR/EIS processes."
Actually, this is a false statement since BDCP officials, since the beginning of the process, have decided that a peripheral canal or tunnels is the "solution" to the "coequal goals" of "water supply reliability" and "ecosystem restoration," instead of evaluating other alternatives, including the Environmental Water Caucus Reduced Exports Plan.
On the same day the delay was announced, Restore the Delta called upon the State of California to cease funding multiple public relations firms around the state to sell the Governor Jerry Brown's peripheral tunnels to export massive quantities of Delta water to corporate agribusiness interests.
"It is outrageous that taxpayers are paying for a statewide propaganda campaign for these unnecessary tunnels," said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta. "These front groups have not disclosed that funding when pumping the tunnels. It's unacceptable, especially since the State has said it has not yet chosen a preferred alternative."
She asked, "How many firms and groups are being paid to pump this project? Has the Southern California Water Committee disclosed that the State is paying it to promote this project?"
The State has not disclosed its contracts with "community groups," including the Southern California Water Committee, nor disclosed that PR firms, including Katz & Associates (San Diego) and Milagro Strategy Group (LA), are being paid to push the tunnels, according to Barrigan-Parrilla.
The Metropolitan Water District (MWD) reported to its BDCP committee on October 22 that they are working with a statewide network of State-paid Public Relations firms to sell the tunnels.
"The governor stacked the Resources Agency, and Department of Water Resources with dozens of flacks. Now they're spending our tax funds to spread disinformation throughout the state through paid front groups and PR firms," she said.
The construction of Governor Jerry Brown's peripheral tunnels would hasten the extinction of Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt and green sturgeon, as well as imperil salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers. It will take vast quantities of fertile Delta farmland out of agricultural production, under the guise of "habitat restoration," to facilitate the diversion of massive quantities of water to irrigate corporate mega-farms on toxic, drainage impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.
The tunnel plan is a badly-conceived Nineteenth Century "solution" to Twenty-First Century problems that will cost Californians an estimated $54.1 billion.
Governor vetoes a few notable pieces of legislation on last weekend
by Brian Leubitz
When you have both the legislative and executive branches controlled by the same party, you would expect a pretty high percentage of legislation signed. However, while the odds have been better for Democratic legislation under Gov. Brown than the previous administration, some Democratic legislators have been a little frustrated with Gov. Brown's vetoes of major legislation. With that being said, the two year session that ended last year ended up with the Governor vetoing about 13% of the 1,866 bills that reached his desk.
That's about half as many as Schwarzenegger, but his rate went down this year to 10.7%, something of a record. And some of those he signed are pretty important:
Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday wrapped up action on bills for the year by approving a measure aimed a protecting against false confessions by minors in homicide cases and giving some non-violent felons the ability to have their records expunged.
In all, Brown acted by Sunday's deadline on 896 regular-session bills sent him by the Legislature this year, down from the nearly 1,000 bills that landed on his desk last year. He vetoed 10.7% of the bills, the lowest rejection rate for any of his three years this term. (LA Times)
He also acted on a few other bills of note. He signed Sen. Hancock's SB 54, which had caused a dustup in the labor community (including a "Save Our Jobs" campaign), however he vetoed some of the so-called "LIFE Act" gun safety legislative package. Needless to say, many progressives are disappointed.
Their key issue: the veto of SB 374 by Senator Darrell Steinberg," which conservatives called called "draconian" - but which progressives supported for its ban on future sales of most semi-automatic rifles.
We just talked to Paul Song, head of the progressive Courage Campaign, who told us that his group was "devastated" by Brown's actions.
"We expected that in a solidly blue state, where he doesn't have to worry about recall, he would have shown a little bit of courage or backbone - and set an example for the test of the country. He let us down," Song said. "And just like the prison expansion (issue), he's been to the right of a lot of Republican governors." (SF Gate)
He did sign some of the package, including banning kits that enable magazines to hold more than 10 bullets, but the vetoes gathered more attention. While this does move the ball forward, ultimately we need federal gun legislation in order to really be effective.
Jerry Meral, the Deputy Secretary for the California Natural Resources Agency, and other Brown administration officials promoting the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), have tried to portray the growing movement against the tunnels as only "token" opposition.
The attempts to marginalize the opposition were exposed as completely false when Restore the Delta (RTD), opponents of Governor Jerry Brown's rush to build the twin tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, rallied over 700 tunnels opponents on Thursday evening at a gala fundraiser and awards ceremony in French Camp.
RTD presented Delta Advocate Awards to a host of very deserving folks, including the Delta Congressional Delegation, Dr. Jeff Michael of the University of the Pacific, Delta Geotechnical and Engineering Expert Dr. Bob Pyke, San Joaquin County Supervisor and Chairman-elect of the Delta Protection Commission, Larry Ruhstaller, Delta farmer Rogene Reynolds, activist Jerry Cadagan, Adam Scow of Food and Water Watch, and Conner Everts, executive director of the Southern California Watershed Alliance.
Elected officials recognized for their ongoing leadership efforts included Assemblymember Joan Buchanan, Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman; Assemblymember Jim Frazier; Senator Cathleen Galgiani; Assemblymember Kristin Olsen; Senator Lois Wolk; Assemblymember Mariko Yamada, and County Supervisors Don Notolli, Sacramento and Ken Vogel, San Joaquin.
I applaud all of these folks for their great work fighting the twin tunnels proposed under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP)! I am also very thankful of the group for giving me the "Journalistic Excellence Award" at RTD's fundraiser last September.
The construction of the peripheral tunnels will hasten the extinction of Central Valley chinook salmon, steelhead, Delta and long fin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species, as well as imperil the steelhead and salmon populations on the Klamath and Trinity rivers.
For more information, go to: www.restorethedelta.org
Note: I will be doing a more in-depth article on this event with photos later.
Well, it took many years, and Gil Cedillo wasn't the one to pass it, but drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants is going to happen in California.
Two decades after California barred illegal immigrants from obtaining driver's licenses, Gov. Jerry Brown Thursday signed legislation that restores the privilege, ending a policy battle that liberal Democrats had been fighting -- and losing -- for years. (Oakland tribune)
In the end, this bill makes Californians safer. It makes all Californians who use the roads safer, as there aren't a big group of drivers without licenses. And it makes people feel more human:
While overtime pay has been required for decades in most industries, domestic workers have always been exempted. While the logic is far from clear, home health care workers, nannies and other home care workers were simply left out of the arrangement. AB 241 changes that:
"Domestic workers are primarily women of color, many of them immigrants, and their work has not been respected in the past," said Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), the bill's author. "Now they will be entitled to overtime, like just about every other California working person."(LA Times)
Now, that is not to say that AB 241 goes as far as Asm. Ammiano wanted to go with his domestic workers bill. Last year's AB 889, which was vetoed by the governor (veto message here), would have guaranteed meal breaks and other rights. However, this bill does commission a study to review the totality of working conditions for domestic workers to be completed by 2017 and that could provide the data for further protections.
All that being said, overtime is a great first step for domestic workers, and groups like Mujeres Unidas y Activas celebrated the victory yesterday at the signing.
MUA is so proud of this victory and the role we have played in this work over the past 8 years. We know that the work truly just begins now - the work of educating workers about their rights and employers about their responsibilities, the work of building the base of organized worker to reach the thousands and hundreds of thousands in California, the work of sharing the story and model of our organizing campaign with our sisters across the country who are just starting this journey, the work of winning even more rights and protections for domestic workers, and the work of changing our culture to respect and recognize the work that makes all other work possible.
Not only is Jerry Brown standing up to Arne Duncan on testing, but he's also something of a pioneer in tweaking the school funding formulas. Sure, our per pupil spending is still shockingly low, but with our recovery, we have a little more money to shift around. It's how that shifting is going to work that has brought the state into the disagreement with so-called education reformers.
As I noted in a post last week, California and Washington have taken distinctly different approaches to achievement gaps that increasingly are most closely associated with economic inequality. Rather than focusing on firing "bad" teachers and closing schools, California has moved to direct more resources to low-income districts and increase local decision-making, with sanctions a last resort after support and technical assistance have failed. ...
In March, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, headed by Brown's appointee Linda Darling-Hammond, pushed back against the federal predilection to ensure teacher quality by de-emphasizing preparation standards in favor of a holy grail of downstream effectiveness measures. The Commission voted to ramp up pre-service training requirements for interns teaching English learners and in-service supervision requirements for all interns, particularly those teaching ELs. And Washington's darlings, Teach for America and the charter school lobby, suffered a rare loss when the credentialing commission determined "innovation" can't excuse putting teachers who know little or nothing about teaching English as a second language in front of English learners.(EdSource)
I had a few friends that went through the TeachForAmerica program, and I know it was an extremely beneficial experience for them. However, it is far from clear that the same can be said to be true for the students. Test results don't really bear it out, and simple common sense should dictate that enthusiasm alone won't replace the years of training that helps to make good teachers for our students.
Moreover, the Governor has been one of the bigger supporters of reforming our testing system, as shown through that recent fight with Sec. Duncan over testing and the new Common Core Curriculum. NCLB has been something of a disaster for our long term competitiveness. It made many of our students good test takers and really solid at learning how to jump through hoops. But "fill in the bubbles" testing gives us a very two-dimensional description of our students. Gov. Brown has been focused on testing that covers more ground and emphasizes the skills that the students need.
These tests are a little more difficult to develop, and in the best case scenario aren't delivered as often. That, of course, doesn't make the education reformers all that happy. But it is in the best interests of our students and our teachers. While some would argue that "America's Greatest Eduation Governor 2013" is too close to CTA, it is clear that he is working with the teachers for the benefit of our students. We need to keep good teachers in the classroom, and encourage below average teachers to become better. The Governor is working with CTA to do that, a laudable goal from any perspective.
The whole EdSource article is worth a read, but if nothing else, this is a solid takeaway:
Is it too much to hope that Washington will begin taking notice and start moving toward the anti-poverty educational policies being pursued in the state where one in eight public school students attend school? Or perhaps the best we can hope for is that continued partisan gridlock in D.C. will continue to create opportunities for California to go its own way.(EdSource)
Not only should California be allowed to develop our own reforms, other states should work to emulate our programs where they prove to be successful. Gov. Brown deserves a lot of credit for his continued strong education record.
Court is putting finger on the scales toward a settlement
by Brian Leubitz
The Court has been pretty upfront with their displeasure with the progress on prison population reduction. But perhaps they are also less than thrilled with the simple private prisons option and see a ray of light with the proposals that the Senate Democrats brought to the issue. Either way, the Court granted the state four weeks, moving the date back from the end of the year until Jan 27, 2014. (PDF of the order). Here's the important part for that delay:
The December 31, 2013 deadline shall be extended until January 27, 2014, without prejudice to the parties' filing a joint request for a further extension or the Court so ordering. During the meet-and-confer process and until further order of the Court, defendants shall not enter into any contracts or other arrangements to lease additional capacity in out-of-state facilities or otherwise increase the number of inmates who are housed in out-of-state facilities.
Now, four weeks, you are thinking? Well, the judges have a plan for those four weeks. As mentioned in that last paragraph (actually the third of three paragraphs in the order), the state and the plaintiffs in the case were ordered to a negotiation process overseen by First District Court of Appeal Justice Peter Siggins. Justice Siggins will then notify the Three Judge Panel on Oct 21 whether there is hope for a settlement. Specifically, he was tasked with looking at a number of options to reducing populations, which apparently the Court finds preferable to the leasing additional capacity.
The meet-and-confer process shall explore how defendants can comply with this Court's June 20, 2013 Order, including means and dates by which such compliance can be expedited or accomplished and how this Court can ensure a durable solution to the prison crowding problem. The discussions shall specifically include: (a) three strikers; (b) juveniles; (c) the elderly and the medically infirm; (d) Immigration and Customs Enforcement prisoners; (e) the implementation of the Low Risk List; and (f) any other means, including relocation within the state, that are included in defendants' May 2, 2013 List. Justice Siggins and the parties may also discuss any necessary or desirable extension of the December 31, 2013 deadline beyond that provided for in the final paragraph of this order, as well as any other matters they deem appropriate.
These criteria are remarkably similar to a letter written by the ACLU to the Governor on how we could release prisoners without leasing additional capacity. So clearly the court is looking for an option beyond the Governor's plan, and appreciates the dialog that the Legislature had with the Senate's plan. Of course, at the heart of the Senate Democrats plan was a three year delay brought about by a settlement with the plaintiffs.
This is a lot of reading of tea leaves out of a three paragraph order. But if some progress can be made over the next four weeks, maybe we can spend a little more time reforming the heart of the troubling system as the Senate Democrats hoped to do.
The key to all of the Senate Democrats plans to get real reform in our corrections system was a three year delay on the court ordered return to 137.5% of prison capacity. Gov. Brown has now gone ahead and asked the court for the delay:
Gov. Jerry Brown has asked federal judges for a three-year delay in their requirement that the state release thousands of inmates by year's end to ease prison overcrowding.
If the judges reject his request, the administration would spend $315 million this fiscal year to house the inmates in private prisons and county jails instead of turning them loose.(KTVU/AP)
Now, the state did try to offer a few other promises to get the courts to go along with the delay, including spending additional resources on rehabilitation services. But the court, given their previous writings on the case, seems unimpressed with the state's track record on the issue, and it would take something of a change of heart for the delay to be allowed. And the plaintiffs are objecting to any delays:
"There is no timetable, there's no promise of what programs will be in place when, all there is is a promise to talk some more even though they've had five years to evaluate these different alternatives," said Don Specter, director of the nonprofit Prison Law Office that sued over inmate crowding. "The definite trend in the rest of the nation is to go away from incarceration. Instead, California is going in the direction of another incarceration binge."
These other states that have moved away from the "incarceration binge" include such notable progressive bastions as Kansas and Mississippi. What they discovered is that there are better ways to reduce and control crime than simply creating bigger jails.
Whether we get the delay or not, we still need to work over the next three (+/-) years to truly reform our corrections system so that we are locking up the right people, reducing recidivism, controlling costs, and keeping our communities safer. There is a way to thread that needle, to reach for all of those goals, but we have a long way to go.
Ten years after Gov. Davis signed the bill for the first time, we may get them for real
by Brian Leubitz
Asm. Alejo's AB 60 to provide drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants was presumed to be in a holding pattern for next year. However, at the last minute yesterday, the logjam cleared, and the Legislature sent the bill to the Governor.
The governor, for his part, says that he will sign it.
"This bill will enable millions of people to get to work safely and legally," Brown, a Democrat, said in an email sent to reporters shortly after midnight. "Hopefully it will send a message to Washington that immigration reform is long past due."
California will not be the first state to have such a license, Utah has one that says "temporary visitor's drivers license" in big letters on the front. California will attempt to be somewhat more discreet, but it still must be clearly labeled to comply with federal law.
After the change was made, the bill even got a handful of Republican votes. It seems a few GOP legislators understand that the risks of inaction were higher than the risks of action. Sen. Canella (R-Ceres) even led a group of Republicans calling on the federal government to take action on immigration reform.
It seems that bifurcation has ended upon the oil and gas friendly amendments made to the bill in the Assembly. The only remaining California bill this term to address fracking (SB 4) passed through the Assembly yesterday morning with new amendments by the oil and gas industry that undermine the bill's original intent. The Natural Resources Defense Council, California League of Conservation Voters, Clean Water Action and Environmental Working Group no longer support SB4 due to these amendments.
"Californians deserve to have their health and drinking water sources protected from oil and gas development. Last-minute amendments, added due to oil industry pressure, threaten to weaken the environmental review required by CEQA," said Miriam Gordon, California Director of Clean Water Action.
"This unfortunate turn of events should give Governor Brown even more reason to immediately put in place a moratorium on fracking and well stimulation while the state evaluates the risks," said Damon Nagami, senior attorney for NRDC.
Prior to the introduction of the new amendments that compromise the bill, NRDC, CLCV, CWA and EWG had been working to put the critical safeguards that SB4 contains - new permit requirements, groundwater monitoring, public notification, inter agency management and independent hazards study - in place to protect Californians from risky fracking activities.
The bill has now passed the Senate concurrence as well, and is as good as on the Governor's desk. For better or worse, it looks like he is leaning toward signing it:
"The administration has worked collaboratively with the Legislature to craft a bill that comprehensively addresses potential impacts from fracking, including water and air quality, seismic activity and other potential risks," Brown spokesman Evan Westrup said in an email.(Bee)
Governor said he supports a transitional curriculum year without mandatory testing
by Brian Leubitz
School "reformers" in DC really love testing. Looooooovvvve it. Testing for good reasons. Testing for bad reasons. Testing to see what kids know of the subject matter. Testing to see how well kids can take a test.
But with the change to the new "Common Core" curriculum, the designers of the California STAR tests haven't been able to keep up. The new tests that teach to the new curriculum won't be available until next school year. So, no reasonable person would be pushing testing on an old curriculum, right?
Well, see the first paragraph. Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education, really loves testing. Loves it so much that he wants the STAR tests to continue, despite the fact that our students are being taught different material. Asm. Bonilla's AB 484 would allow school districts to opt out of the testing for a year while the curriculum changes. It would also set up an opt-in program for computerized testing for the common core standards.
Really, testing for the current curriculum seems quite simple, but it never is. That being said, it looks like the Governor is undeterred by DoE threats to hold back money:
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said California's request for a one-year reprieve from using STAR tests in math and English for the current school year is unacceptable and may force his department to "take action."
"No one wants to over-test, but if you are going to support all students' achievement, you need to know how all students are doing," Duncan said in a statement Monday night. ...
"There is no reason to double-test students using outdated, ineffective standards disconnected from what's taught in the classroom," (Brown spokesman Jim) Evans added.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, who is sponsoring Bonilla's bill, was in the Capitol on Tuesday talking to lawmakers about the importance of AB 484. The former legislator said it is a better investment to redirect the $25 million used to give the outdated STAR tests to instead allow more students to try new computer-based assessments.
"I'm disappointed someone in Washington would want to interfere in the legislative process in California," (SSPI) Torlakson told The Bee. (SacBee)
Look, the testing will be back next year. But can't we just agree that we should be testing on what we are teaching our students? Will one year really make or break the whole system?
Brown's plan basically holds, with hope held out for greater reform
by Brian Leubitz
With time running out on funding and planning prison transfers, Sen. Steinberg has compromised to something appearing very similar to Gov. Brown's original plan:
A modified version of Gov. Jerry Brown's prison housing plan appears headed for approval after Brown and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, the plan's chief critic, announced today they reached a compromise.
The state will proceed with Brown's plan to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to reduce California's prison population by moving thousands of inmates to local lockups and out of state, but only if federal judges overseeing California's prison overcrowding case do not give the state more time to address overcrowding.(Sac Bee)
That "but only if" is the compromise that Steinberg was able to get from the Governor. It also represents the great hope of his own plan that perhaps the court would grant the state additional time to deal with the overcrowding and get back to 137.5% of capacity. That delay is still quite speculative at this time. If it is ultimately denied, this plan looks pretty close to what Gov. Brown offered up originally. If there is a delay, perhaps we can really work on some of those needed reforms.
I will be on KPFK's Uprising tomorrow at 8:20 to discuss the prison mess, as the legislative session draws to a close with no clear plans to comply with the court order.
by Brian Leubitz
Right now, the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee is holding a hearing on the prison proposals. Suffice it to say there is a lot of political posturing going on right now. You can watch now on the CalChannel.
The committee will hear testimony on AB 84, the Senate Democrats' Safe, Sustainable and Fiscally Responsible Plan to Reduce Crime and Settle the Prison Overcrowding Crisis. The plan, which avoids any early releases of inmates, offers settlement of a federal court order to reduce California's prison population by approximately 9,600 inmates by December 31, 2013. The committee will also review the Governor's proposal - which is in included in SB 105 in the Assembly - which relies solely on temporary expanded prison capacity. More details of the plan are available in this post.
However, here are a few numbers from a recent David Binder poll that should probably factor into the decision:
Sacramento and Northern CA
Los Angeles Area
San Diego and Inland Empire
Public safety commission
Provide treatment for mentally ill
Incentives for Evidence Based Programs
These goals are the heart of the Senate plan, and they are nothing but laudable. However, as the Governor and supporters of his plan are quick to point out, the Senate plan requires a quick settlement with the plaintiffs as well as approval from the courts for a three year delay. And that's where you get much of the tussling in today's hearing.
There is no question that our prisons are overcrowded. We are locking up unheard of percentages of our population, and not coming up with any good solutions on how to reduce these numbers. Perhaps the Senate's plan is a bit of wishful thinking, but our previous attempts have been simplistic and led directly to our current crisis.