11/10/10

Neighborhood Parks Council (NPC) was awarded $175,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to heighten local community involvement in the execution of the Blue Greenway through a Brownfields Area–wide Planning process. The Blue Greenway is San Francisco's vision for 13-miles of waterfront parks and trails running from the Giants' AT&T Park to Candlestick Point. Since 2003, NPC has advocated for this "green" corridor of activity, relaxation, and discovery along the Southeast shore of the city. Today the Blue Greenway gets one crucial step closer to becoming a reality.

Citywide momentum has been building on the Blue Greenway project over the last decade. San Franciscans' desire for a world-class waterfront along the eastern shoreline launched the Blue Greenway vision and led NPC to create a Task Force of more than 50 NGOs and government agencies to transform idea of the Blue Greenway into reality. This vision stresses contiguous waterfront revitalization that will include bike trails, parks, and other recreational opportunities that improve human and environmental health and neighborhood vitality. NPC's advocacy efforts also led to the adoption of the 2008 Parks Bond, which granted $22 million to the Port of San Francisco for several Blue Greenway projects now being planned for Port property.

"San Francisco is re-envisioning and revitalizing our Southeastern waterfront to create a Blue Greenway for future generations to enjoy," said Mayor Gavin Newsom. "Through the vision of the Port of San Francisco, the stewardship of the Neighborhood Parks Council, and support of the Environmental Protection Agency, this grant brings us another step closer towards realizing our vision of 13 miles of majestic waterfront parks and trails."

The geographic area of focus of NPC's Area-Wide Plan will include brownfield-impacted land currently not funded for remediation along the Blue Greenway alignment in Bayview, and India Basin. These neighborhoods represent the historical industrial heart of the city and are plagued by Brownfields, areas of containing industrial waste and toxins.

With the support of the EPA's Brownfields Area-Wide Planning Pilot Program, NPC will facilitate local engagement in area-wide planning of the Blue Greenway for the revitalization of the brownfield-impacted community of Southeastern San Francisco.  "EPA is excited to initiate this new program to help residents more fully participate in planning efforts in brownfields-impacted communities," said Jane Diamond, Director of EPA's Pacific Southwest Regional Superfund Division.  "With a combination of grant funding and technical assistance, EPA looks forward to seeing the results of the community's participation in the planning and development of the Blue Greenway in San Francisco."  

Drawing upon expertise from the Center for Creative Land Recycling (CCLR), EPA funding will also be used to generate an area-wide plan with the community that will address how to remediate and transform 5-10 areas along the Blue Greenway that continue to have negative health and safety impacts for adjacent low-income neighborhoods.

"The Blue Greenway project will completely transform our city, making the southeastern waterfront a world-class recreation destination that connects us to nature and creates a unique trail corridor for bikers, pedestrians, kayakers and others," Meredith Thomas, NPC Executive Director said. "To successfully implement this vision, we need to have strong leadership that will engage local residents in planning. Neighbors understand best what their communities need to become more green and prosperous."  

The NPC-led engagement process will give the neighbors an opportunity to express their open space, park and recreation needs.

CCLR is excited to be partnering with NPC on this important initiative designed to support a full community process for the development of parks and open space along our long neglected southeastern waterfront. CCLR will bring its expertise in the redevelopment of contaminated land having assisted hundreds of communities across the state with the clean up and revitalization of historically-neglected and environmentally-challenged property.

"In our work we witness the devastating effect that contaminated land can have on the landscape. The very existence of these neglected properties shrouded in some toxic mystery can have a suffocating effect on a community's sense of worth. We have also seen first-hand how the revitalization of these sites can breathe new life into old properties and lift the community spirit. We hope to bring this revitalization process to the southeastern waterfront," said Stephanie Shakofsky, Executive Director, CCLR.

The area-wide planning process will leverage existing efforts to identify and reduce threats to human health and the environment, and will facilitate assessment and revitalization of brownfields in the target area by identifying site-specific reuses for them. The plans will integrate site cleanup and reuse into coordinated strategies to lay the foundation for addressing community needs such as economic development, job creation, housing, recreation, and education and health facilities.

 

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11/9/10

Out-of-state interests working to defeat a bill to ban plastic bags were among the top spenders on lobbying to influence California legislators' votes this summer.

South Carolina-based plastic bag manufacturer, Hilex Poly Co., was the state's second-biggest spender, paying about $1.08 million for lobbying activities between July 1 and Sept. 30.

Number four on the list was the Virginia-based American Chemistry Council, of which Hilex is a member.

Both Hilex and the council joined forces in a furious effort to defeat a bill that would have made California the first state to ban plastic grocery carry-out bags.

The chemistry council spent more than $942,000 on lobbying during this same period, according to the most recent reports filed with the California Secretary of State's Office.

Together, the council and Hilex invested more than $2 million in lobbying just as legislators were ending their session this year on Aug. 31.

The joint lobbying effort surpassed that of the California Teachers Association,  the No. 1 spender.

The CTA, a perennial big gun in state politics, spent $1.5 million on lobbying between July 1 and Sept. 30.

The Western States Petroleum Association came in third, with about $1.01 million in lobbying expenditures.

The plastic-bag bill fell short of enough votes in the state Senate the last night of the session.

The chemistry council also worked to kill a bill this summer that would have banned the chemical BPA in baby bottles and toddlers' sippy cups sold in California.

Hilex's burst of lobbying payments this summer was especially noteworthy. The company had no record of spending earlier this year.

As likely action on the paper-bag bill grew closer, Hilex paid $181,000 in fees to Sacramento-based Mercury Public Affairs and nearly $903,000 in "other payments to influence."

At the same time, the chemistry council spent $942,050 of its own, including $862,118 in "other payments to influence," which can include purchasing ads.



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11/10/10

The U.S. Environmental Projection Agency (EPA) has issued a subpoena to Halliburton (NYSE: HAL), following the company's refusal to fully comply with a request for information about the chemicals used in its hydraulic fracturing (aka fracking) process for natural gas extraction. 

EPA said Halliburton is the lone holdout, among nine companies from which the agency requested information.

EPA’s congressionally mandated hydraulic fracturing study will look at the potential adverse impact of the practice on drinking water and public health. The agency is under a deadline to provide initial results by the end of 2012 and the thoroughness of the study depends on timely access to detailed information about the methods used for fracturing, EPA said.

According to a MSNBC report, a Halliburton spokeswoman, Teresa Wong, said the agency's request, made in September, was overly broad and could require the company to prepare about 50,000 spreadsheets.

"We have met with the agency and had several additional discussions with EPA personnel in order to help narrow the focus of their unreasonable demands so that we could provide the agency what it needs to complete its study of hydraulic fracturing," Wong said.

 

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11/3/10

Health testing of California beaches has been extended for another year, giving temporary relief to the state program to protect swimmers from contaminated ocean water.

The State Water Resources Control Board voted Tuesday to spend $984,000 in state bond money to continue testing for pathogens at hundreds of beaches through 2011.

Beach water-quality monitoring has been in jeopardy because of state and county budget cuts. A Times investigation this summer found that testing had sunk to its lowest level in more than a decade, leading to fewer beach closures and advisories and putting swimmers, surfers and divers at a greater risk of getting sick.

The reprieve comes two years after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the $1 million the state had provided each year to test beaches across the state.

Since then, emergency bond funds and stimulus dollars have been tapped to keep the program afloat. But those funds were set to run out at the end of the year, leaving health agencies with the prospect of discontinuing testing and ending public alerts when the ocean poses a health risk.

In addition to the one-year extension, the water board called for wastewater agencies to coordinate their ocean water testing programs with health departments to save money.

A permanent source of funds for the tests, according to water board officials, can be authorized only by the Legislature and the next governor.

 

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11/1/10

The number of salmon in the Pacific Ocean is twice what it was 50 years ago. But there is a downside to this bounty, as growing numbers of hatchery-produced salmon are flooding the Pacific and making it hard for threatened wild salmon species to find enough food to survive.

In the American Northwest, the struggle to save endangered runs of salmon is one of the epic crusades of the contemporary conservation movement. Seventeen strains of Pacific salmon are currently listed as threatened or endangered. Two more are labeled “species of concern,” meaning they are close to jumping onto the list.

So what are we to make of this: A recent study published in the journal Marine and Coastal Fisheries found that the north Pacific Ocean may be nearing the limit of its salmon-carrying capacity. The North Pacific is becoming “overcrowded with salmon,” according to Randall Peterman, one of the study’s authors and holder of the Canada Research Chair in Fisheries Risk Assessment and Management at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, B.C. He and his co-author, Seattle-based fisheries biologist Greg Ruggerone, recently set out to compile the most complete set of data on Pacific salmon abundance. What they found is that today’s total Pacific salmon population is twice what it was 50 years ago. “We’re seeing more total salmon now than we’ve ever seen before,” says Peterman.

A surprising number of those fish — more than one in five — originate in hatcheries. And that has created its own set of problems. Masses of hatchery-bred salmon are gobbling up smaller fish, krill, and other prey, reducing food supplies in the North Pacific for endangered wild runs and hampering their recovery. In addition, hatchery fish, which come from limited brood stock with less diverse DNA, aren’t as genetically fit as wild salmon to support the long-term survival of the species.

How can numerous Pacific salmon runs be on the verge of extinction while total salmon numbers are straining the limits of the ocean’s capacity to support them?

According to the researchers, the abundance of some salmon species has been caused by a resurgence in wild salmon populations due to productive ocean conditions, as well as to the ever-increasing production of hatchery fish. But the problem is, the resurgence of wild populations hasn’t been universal. Five species of salmon exist in the Pacific: Pink, chum, sockeye, coho, and Chinook. (The Atlantic Ocean has only one species, the Atlantic salmon.) Over the past quarter-century, pink salmon populations from around the Pacific Rim have doubled, thanks, in part, to hatchery production. Other runs, such as Upper Columbia River Chinook and Snake River sockeye, limp along in alarmingly low numbers.

 

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