3/26/10 A United Nations body overseeing international shipping adopted rules Friday requiring freight ships to burn low-sulfur fuels within 200 nautical miles of much of North America's coastline beginning in 2015.

The International Maritime Organization adopted the rules Friday in London, nearly three years after California implemented a similar plan extending 24 miles from the state's coast. That effort is now considered instrumental in helping develop technology and test the impact of low-sulfur fuels in ships.

State Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, who rallied 55 state lawmakers to formally support the IMO effort, said the initiative will save hundreds of billions in health care costs in coming years by reducing hospital visits from people suffering from respiratory and heart ailments exacerbated by air pollution.

 The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates the rule will cut deadly particulate exhaust 85 percent while also slashing nitrogen oxides 80 percent. Read Full Article

3/29/10 Several hundred acres of local salt marsh will be cleared of an invasive plant in a $1 million effort by the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge to revive the native species that have lost ground over the past 120 years. The project would target Spartina densiflora, a cordgrass that dominates large areas of Humboldt Bay and the Eel and Mad river estuaries. The refuge has already treated 35 acres of salt marsh, and says it has successfully restored native plants there.

Humboldt State University zoology professor and department chair Milt Boyd said that while knocking back the plant may be of benefit to native salt marsh plants, there are concerns that losing the organic material from dying cordgrass could affect the food chain in the bay...Studies are planned or under way to determine the cordgrass removal's effects on invertebrates, and the refuge is hoping to settle the question before there is any attempt at regional eradication. Read Full Article

3/24/10  In a review of more than 80 biomonitoring studies, the known endocrine-disrupting chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) was found in most of the samples taken from thousands of individuals from several different countries. These studies overwhelmingly detect BPA in individuals including adults, adolescents and children. Unconjugated BPA is routinely detected in blood (in the ng/ml range) and conjugated BPA in the vast majority of urine samples (also in the ng/ml range). In stark contrast, toxicokinetic studies propose that humans are not internally exposed to BPA. Some regulatory agencies have relied solely on only these toxicokinetic models in their risk assessments. Read the abstract from Environmental Health Perspectives.

The California Coastkeeper Alliance has developed an online interactive map to help the public and agencies track and improve compliance with water quality laws.  This tool maps all dischargers that have been issued “mandatory minimum penalties” (MMPs) in the ten years since the laws setting these minimum penalties took effect.  State data show that 764 facilities merited 26,286 MMPs from January 2000 through March 2010, and the majority of MMPs occur along the coast.

3/21/10 The State Water Resources Control Board, a powerful state agency with broad authority over water, stayed on the sidelines as the Delta ecosystem crashed and California descended into its worst water crisis since the early 1990s.

Reforms passed by lawmakers in November are bringing the agency back into the game after a decade of inaction, but some question how it will respond.

Critics say they already see some water board members reluctant to act aggressively, taking a more limited view of the new law.

And the board has a history of shying away from the Delta's controversies and complexities.

"All of the laws have put the responsibility to fix this with the state board the whole time," said Michael Jackson, an environmental lawyer and frequent critic of the board. "They've done nothing." Read Full Article