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By Peter Allen
Leave it to Governor “Moonbeam” to take a stand for the future of the human race. Last week, on a field trip to the NASA Ames Research Center for a conference with climatologists, Jerry Brown lambasted the mainstream media for ignoring the threat of climate change and demonstrating more concern for the Super Bowl than for rising sea levels. As quoted by the Sacramento Bee [http://www.sacbee.com/2013/05/27/5450068/the-buzz-jerry-brown-slams-media.html], Brown’s comments are the stuff of those who believe we have nothing left to lose, especially when it comes to the planet and public health: "Everything these guys are saying either is not true, not relevant or totally distorted – or it's not important."
This comes on the heels of the Governor voicing his support for net metering, a statewide policy that gives consumers credit for the power their home solar panels deliver back to the grid for the utilities to sell to other customers. A January study by Crossborder Energy found that net metering provides more than $92 million in annual benefits to ratepayers of California's three investor-owned utilities – a.k.a. PG&E, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Southern California Edison. But it also threatens to undermine the current power grid, which is focused on centralized energy sources and accounts for the majority of the profits for these IOUs.
Not surprisingly, utilities are engaging in extensive and expensive PR and lobbying campaigns to stop net metering and rooftop solar to limit competition. This is why groups like recently-formed CAUSE (Californians Against Utilities Stopping Solar Energy) [http://causecleanair.org/] are so important. They take the money out of the picture and focus on the human element: our health, our well-being, and our economy. They remind the public that there are alternatives. And when the public is properly informed, they can encourage smart policy from our elected leaders. Because in a democracy, if there’s one thing a politician must respect more than money, it’s public opinion.
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California-bashing Republicans and the oil company-funded California Manufacturing and Technology Association are unusually quiet in their daily bashing of California's economic climate today. Probably because California has received Area Development Magazine’s ‘Silver Shovel Award’ for excellence in job creation, for the first time since the award was created in 2006. The award is based on projects submitted by the Governor's job-creating office that demonstrate California’s growing ability to create high-value jobs and ranks California among the top states in the nation for job creation. GO-Biz was created as the result of legislation penned by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez.
“This award demonstrates California’s on-going ability to create high quality jobs in a wide array of industries across the state,” said GO-Biz Director Kish Rajan. “Area Development bases their ranking on actual job creation so it’s not surprising that when a state ranking is based on real results, California stands out as a leader.”
As part of the criteria for the award, participating states must submit information about their top ten job creation and investment projects, which are compared to projects in other states with comparable populations based on the number of high-value added jobs per capita, amount of investment, number of new facilities, and industry diversity.
“The states receiving 2013 Shovel Awards deserve special recognition for their efforts to attract new businesses and to help their existing corporate citizens to expand their businesses,” said Geraldine Gambale, editor of Area Development. “They have managed to thrive and emerge from the recession as economic leaders.”
Area Development recognized the Samsung Semiconductor expansion in San Jose as the second most significant manufacturing project in the nation. California projects submitted for the award spanned the entire state and included such industry leaders as Sutter Health (Roseville), Amazon (San Bernardino and Patterson) Caterpillar (Kern City) and more. The California entries were all signature GO-Biz projects that required significant staff time and resources to complete.
“These projects are prime examples of public private partnerships between GO-Biz, our regional partners and the private sector to bring new jobs to California,” said Deputy Director for Business Investment Services, Leslie McBride. “GO-Biz project specialists worked countless hours to incentivize these companies to either relocate into California or expand within our borders.”
The Award will be presented to GO-Biz Director Rajan and will be on display at their offices in Sacramento. A report on the 2013 Shovel Award winners will be published in the Spring 2013 issue of Area Development and are posted online at www.areadevelopment.com/awards. View this GO-Biz Press Release online HERE.
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By Amy Trainer, West Marin Environmental Action Committee
Drakes Bay Oyster Company Should Disclose Backing from Right-Wing Groups, Lobbyists Helping to Break Deal with Park Service
Following news yesterday that the Drakes Bay Oyster Company is breaking ties with Cause of Action, the right-wing legal group that has been bankrolling its legal efforts for nearly a year, the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin (EAC) called on the company's owners to fully disclose the funding sources behind the Washington, D.C.-based group as well as other conservative-backed lobbying efforts that seek to overturn their agreement with the National Park Service to vacate when their lease expired, transitioning Drakes Estero to marine wilderness as long promised and paid for.
The oyster company failed miserably in hiding it’s deep connections to right-wing interests, as demonstrated by the PBS NewsHour report that detailed the company’s attack on our national parks, and it's ultra-conservative partnerships have been a PR nightmare for it. Only the most gullible observer would believe the owners of Drakes Bay Oyster Company were taken by surprise by Cause of Action's efforts to eventually sue PBS over the fair, balanced report given their tactics to-date. The company still has Pacific Legal Foundation – directly funded by the Koch Brothers -- advocating for it, is still working with arch-conservative members of Congress, and continues to appear on numerous extreme right-wing talk and television shows, so firing Cause of Action in no way severs the oyster company’s ties to the ultra-conservatives interests that want to develop our nation’s national treasures like Point Reyes Seashore.
Both the Marin Independent-Journal and "Energy and Environment" news reported yesterday that the Lunnys severed relationships with the conservative legal nonprofit group Cause of Action after the law firm submitted a Freedom of Information Act demanding PBS release videotapes it used in developing a recent "PBS NewsHour" segment about the Drakes Bay controversy that the Lunnys continue to criticize as "inaccurate." But this move comes only after the right-wing group donated hundreds of thousands of dollars of pro bono legal assistance to help the company and just weeks after the group represented it at the 9th District U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
PBS got the story right, which is why it was attacked. The oyster company should be honest with our community and disclose the funders of the effort to challenge PBS as well as their effort that got Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter to try to insert language in the Keystone Pipeline bill and involve the Republican Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee from Washington State to get involved in this issue.
Cause of Action is linked to the Koch Brothers, oil billionaires who have poured millions of dollars into conservative causes. According to public records, the majority of it's 15 staffers have worked for Koch-funded conservative groups.
The Lunnys also have appeared repeatedly on Fox News and been highlighted in national conservative publications. For the past year this has been a cause celebre for the right-wing because they know if the Lunnys are allowed to renege on their agreement with the National Parks Service, it will pave the way for more development of National Parks and other public lands.The owners of Drakes Bay Oyster Company owe it to our community to disclose who is bankrolling their efforts to sue the Obama Administration and curry favors for it in Congress.
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The Assembly Budget Committee has approved a balanced budget proposal that pays down the state’s structural deficit, creates a revamped “Rainy Day” fund, and will reduce fees by 40 percent for middle class students attending a college in the state’s UC and CSU systems. The bill passed 16 – 10.
“Today’s action by the Budget Committee sets the stage for the Assembly to approve a responsible, on-time balanced budget by our constitutional deadline of June 15th,” said Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles). “This budget includes $2.5 billion in reserves and set-asides, approves targeted investments in K-12 and higher education to strengthen the middle class, and creates new efficiency standards in state government, and we will move swiftly to approve our third consecutive on-time budget.”
The budget proposal adopted by the Assembly Budget Committee is balanced, with structural surpluses ranging from $1.5 billion to more than $4 billion over the next several years. It provides a total of $4.7 billion to continue paying down California’s debt, which will be paired with a genuine rainy day fund to be put forward to the voters for their consideration in the 2014 General Election.
“California has clawed its way to a budget surplus and we are not taking it for granted,” said Bob Blumenfield (D-San Fernando Valley), Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee. “This budget saves money for a rainy day and pays down debt. It also invests in better opportunities for our children, veterans, and small businesses. We must continue our commitment to fiscal discipline while laying the groundwork for long term prosperity.”
In addition to strengthening fiscal responsibility, the Blueprint for a Responsible Budget calls for new investments in middle class Californians, including the adoption of the Middle Class Scholarship Act. It also calls for targeted investment in childcare funding to keep low income parents working; funding to reduce California’s worst-in-the-nation child poverty rate; and investments in targeted interventions for low income and English-as-a-second-language students to ensure their success.
The budget approved by the Assembly will next be sent to the Legislative Budget Conference Committee, which will put forward a budget proposal to be considered and adopted by both houses of the Legislature by the June 15th Constitutional Deadline to pass a budget.
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Several months ago, the Drakes Bay Oyster Company and its lobbyists decided to cozy up with right-wing special interests in a last-ditch effort to break their agreement with the National Park Service.
First, Republican David Vitter (R-La.) took up their cause, trying to sneak language in legislation to keep the Keystone pipeline forward. Then, Rep. "Doc" Hastings (R-Washington), the GOP Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee who has a zero (0) rating from the League of Conservation Voters, championed the company, attacking the Obama Administration for its public-interest decision.
Meanwhile, an ultra-conservative law firm with links to the oil billionaires Koch Bros. called Cause of Action waged war in the courtroom. Earlier this month, it represented the company in the Ninth U.S.Circuit Court of Appeals in yet another attempt to renege on the agreement the Lunny family made to close the oyster operation after Nov. 30, 2012.
Today Energy & Environment reports that the company has "severed its relationship" with Cause of Action. The law firm had written PBS with a Freedom of Information Act request to try to get the media outlet to release all of its tapes after it reported the facts about the close-knit relationship between the oyster farm's effort and right-wing interests. Cause of Action also is withdrawing from the lawsuit it pushed.
But it's too little, too late for the oyster corporation, which produces just 3 percent of the oysters on the west coast. The move to cozy up to the right-wing clearly has hurt the company's efforts to portray itself as the little guy vs. big government. And that's something -- like the agreement the Lunny family made to shut down -- it simply just can't walk away from and pretend didn't happen.
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By Nancy Vogel, Dept. of Water Resources
State water officials joined business, labor and agricultural leaders in Silicon Valley today to release information on the costs and benefits of Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP). The BDCP is a proposal to provide long-term restoration and protection of fish and wildlife in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta while creating a more reliable means to supply water to 25 million Californians and over 3 million acres of farmland.
Information made available today includes cost estimates for implementation, potential funding sources, and the cost-effectiveness of new water tunnels proposed in the habitat conservation plan for the Delta. The continued degradation of the Delta’s ecology and potential levee failure due to earthquake or pressure from sea level rise and increasingly violent storms would have catastrophic consequences for California’s economy.
“California’s current water supply system is clearly vulnerable to many threats, and the cost of its failure would be enormous,” said California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird. “As public officials, we are duty-bound to address these threats. The BDCP provides the most comprehensive, well-conceived approach to ensuring a reliable water supply to 25 million people and restoring the Delta ecosystem.”
The BDCP is designed to meet the co-equal goals mandated by the state in the 2009 Delta Reform Act: Restoring the Delta’s fragile ecosystem and improving the reliability of water it supplies to two out of three Californians. The BDCP is a natural community conservation plan under state law and a habitat conservation plan under federal endangered species law. It includes large-scale habitat restoration and the return of more natural flow patterns through the Delta. The Brown administration’s proposal for new intakes in the northern Delta and tunnels to carry water under the interior Delta also would protect against future water supply disruptions triggered by earthquakes, large storms, and sea level rise.
As detailed in Chapter 8, Implementation Costs and Funding Sources, the BDCP is a “beneficiary pays” project. It is expected to cost $24.5 billion during its 50-year implementation period, with water users expected to pay an estimated 68 percent of the total price tag for design, construction, operation, mitigation, and adaptive management of a new water conveyance system. The remaining balance, an estimated $7.9 billion for habitat restoration, pollution control, anti-poaching programs, and other measures to reduce ecological stress, could be funded through a variety of sources, including state and federal financial participation. An exact financing plan is not yet developed, but will be under discussion. Although the final federal and state allocation of costs and funding sources are yet to be determined, the BDCP assumes that California taxpayers would fund the state’s share of the non-conveyance costs primarily through passage of two general obligation bonds in future years.
Chapter 8 also examines the ability of California water users to pay for the BDCP. Chapter 8 notes that the annual cost of financing the BDCP’s proposed water conveyance system is “far below the cost thresholds typically used for evaluating ability to pay.”
As required by the U.S. Endangered Species Act, Chapter 9, Alternatives to Take, analyzes a range of approaches that would cause different levels of harm and benefits to protected Delta fish and wildlife species. Appendix 9.A of the chapter compares the economic outcomes of these various approaches against future conditions assuming the BDCP is not implemented.
The report demonstrates net benefits over a 50-year period of approximately $5 billion for the Brown administration’s proposal for the agricultural and urban water districts expected to pay most of the costs. In comparison, a conveyance facility of 3,000 cubic feet per second (one-third the size of the preferred BDCP alternative) would cost approximately $1 billion more than its total benefits to water users.
The benefits to water users analyzed include improvements in water supply reliability and water quality and reduced seismic risk to Delta supplies.
A broader economic analysis of the statewide economic impacts of the Brown administration proposal is expected to be released by the Natural Resources Agency in July.
”The draft chapters released today demonstrate the value of the benefits of our proposed project to water users and we can consider the cost from the perspective of our nearly $2 trillion economy,” said Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin.
“Meanwhile, we urge Californians to get acquainted with the details of the draft plan and to bear in mind the high costs – from species extinction to water supply disruptions in the Delta – of doing nothing."
In recent years, Delta water deliveries have been restricted in order to protect endangered fish. Federal and state water projects that supply two-thirds of California’s population and 3 million acres of farmland draw water from the Delta through the State Water Project, operated by the California Department of Water Resources, and the Central Valley Project, operated by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
In addition to analysis that looks more deeply into benefits to the California economy, the state is continuing to evaluate 15 project alternatives under California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) requirements. An administrative draft BDCP Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement prepared by the state’s consultant, ICF, was made available to the public May 9.
State and federal agencies welcome comments on the current administrative draft of the plan. The agencies will respond to formal public comments submitted during the official comment period that begins with the release of the Public Review Draft BDCP expected October 1. A robust public participation process, including in-Delta office hours, educational workshops and formal public comment hearings will accompany the release of the Public Review Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement later this year.
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By Peter Allen
The battle over Net Metering in California has emerged as a central flashpoint in discussions on the future of the state’s electrical grid, and California’s elected representatives are beginning to get questions about where they stand on the policy that has driven rooftop solar’s prolific success from San Diego to Sacramento.
Last week Governor Jerry Brown commended the net metering policy at an event held at a GRID Alternatives rooftop solar installation in Long Beach, CA. His support for the policy demonstrates his ongoing commitment to rooftop solar and renewable energy.
CAUSE (Californians Against Utilities Stopping solar Energy), a coalition of public health leaders and solar energy companies, applauded the Governor for his position. “Governor Brown’s praise for net metering demonstrates his commitment to the continued success of rooftop solar,” said former State Senate Majority Leader Richard Polanco, a CAUSE spokesperson. “Ending net metering like utilities are trying to do would stifle the economic growth and public health benefits that rooftop solar delivers to all Californians.”
Net metering gives consumers fair credit for the power their solar panels deliver to the grid. A January study by Crossborder Energy found that net metering will provide more than $92 million in annual benefits to ratepayers of California's three investor-owned utilities. These utilities — Pacific Gas & Electric, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Southern California Edison — are trying to end net energy metering (NEM) because they see rooftop solar as a threat to their monopolies.
GRID Alternatives leads teams to install rooftop solar systems exclusively for low-income homeowners and brought the Governor and other elected officials together in support of Assembly Bill 217, the Equitable Access to Solar Energy Bill. This bill would leverage the successful net metering policy to help ensure that GRID Alternatives can continue to bring rooftop solar to more low-income families throughout California.
“Net metering is critical to the success of these initiatives that promote solar in low-income communities,” added Polanco. Two-thirds of California home solar installations are now found in low- and median-income neighborhoods, according to a July 2012 California Solar Initiative report issued by the California Public Utilities Commission. Ending net metering would undermine AB 217 and limit low-income communities from using rooftop solar.
“Rooftop solar and net metering are critical policies to advance the new, sustainable economy. That means a healthier California for all of us," said CAUSE co-Chair Dr. Luis Pacheco. "Governor Brown’s comments show that he understands what’s needed to advance long-term economic development and public health in California."
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Speaker Perez's Middle Class Scholarship to Bring Relief to Middle Class Families, Slash College Fees by 40% Wins Key Vote
Advancing one of Assembly Democrats top priorities, a key Assembly committee today approved the Middle Class Scholarship Act to reduce student fees by up to 40 percent for middle class UC and CSU students.
“Taking action to lower the outrageous cost of higher education is essential for California’s middle class families, and I am very pleased the Budget Committee has approved funding for the Middle Class Scholarship Act,” said Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles). “By taking this action, we are making a dramatic investment in opportunity for millions of middle class families, and that is an investment that will bring our state enormous returns in the future.”
The Assembly Budget Sub Committee on Education Finance approved funding for the Middle Class Scholarship Act using revenues from a corporate tax loophole what was closed through Proposition 39, which was passed by the voters in November 2012. The Sub Committee approved $200 Million to fund the Scholarship, which will be available to any California UC or CSU student whose parents earn less than $150,000 annually, beginning in the Spring Semester of 2014.
“This is common sense,” said Bob Blumenfield (D-San Fernando Valley), Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee. “We must invest in students to revitalize the power of our public universities and to help ensure the competitiveness of our future workforce. Creating this scholarship will validate our society’s belief that hard work should be rewarded with opportunity.”
The Subcommittee’s report will be adopted by the full budget committee in the coming days, and will be included as part of the final on-time, balanced budget the Assembly will pass by its June 15 Constitutional Deadline.
The Middle Class Scholarship Act is one component of the Assembly Blueprint for a Responsible Budget, which calls for continuing fiscal responsibility, more efficiency in government services, and strengthening California’s middle class families.
Projected Student Fees After the Implementation of the MCSA:
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By Lou Paulson, President, California Professional Firefighters
California Professional Firefighters Fire Back at Bee Over Editorial on Speaker Perez Death Benefits Bill
In an op-ed appearing in several newspapers owned by the parent company of the Sacramento Bee, the president of the California Professional Firefighters is making its case that its legislation to provide firefighters with health benefits is the right thing to do.
The bill, sponsored by California Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, received strong bipartisan support in the Assembly in a vote last week.
Paulson's op-ed notes:
"Over the course of a career, firefighters are relentlessly exposed to a hellish mix of toxins. These exposures put firefighters at a substantially greater risk of getting cancer — a reality documented in more than 80 peer-reviewed medical studies.Personally, I don't need the studies. In my three decades in the fire service, I've seen many succumb to job-caused cancer, including my best friend. Often, they leave behind wives and young children who not only lose a cherished loved one but also the family breadwinner. This sacrifice, every bit as noble as that of one who dies in a fiery instant, makes it hard not to take The Bee's attack on Speaker John Pérez's survivor benefits legislation personally."
Read the full op-ed here: http://www.modbee.com/2013/05/21/2726031/is-the-bee-suggesting-firefighters.html
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By William Reilly, former administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and current Board Director of the Delta Vision Foundation
After years of analysis and debate, the California Natural Resources Agency has released its draft plan to restore the Delta and improve water supply reliability for California. It is a promising beginning for the development of a comprehensive, science-based strategy to address the Delta’s many challenges. As expected in discussions about water in California, reaction has been swift and argumentative. But in spite of combatants staking out their usual positions, the Governor now has an opportunity to craft a workable Delta solution. However, the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan is only part of the fix.
The BDCP advances several important elements to address the Delta’s challenges, but upon analysis it falls short of the linked-actions approach set forth in the 2008 Delta Vision Strategic Plan, which formed the basis for subsequent planning efforts. The Delta Vision Foundation reviewed the initial chapters of BDCP and found that, in its current iteration, the plan leaves out critical components for achieving the legally adopted Two Co-Equal Goals of restoring the Delta ecosystem and ensuring a reliable water supply for California.
The Governor’s Administration continues to focus solely on conveyance and habitat restoration in BDCP without sufficient attention to the linked and integrated actions outlined in the Delta Vision Strategic Plan. These actions are supported by scientific evidence that, to ‘fix’ the Delta, fish need more water at the right time and the right temperature than conveyance alone will provide. And, unless additional facilities are provided to capture water when it is truly surplus to the environment, both fish and farms are going to continue to suffer shortages in most years.
A workable solution would incorporate a “big gulp little sip” strategy, which provides water supply reliability while leaving enough water for fish when they need it. BDCP does not include storage to capture water when it is truly surplus to the environment, or improved capacity and security to move water through the Delta.
The Delta Vision Foundation recommends development of a “BDCP Plus” plan, to establish legal commitments and assurances for these other elements of the “Delta fix” without delaying implementation of BDCP. If the State puts off embracing a “BDCP Plus” strategy, it will no doubt run the risk of further dissipating consensus among stakeholders and a return to the water wars of the past.
Last January, several environmental and business organizations proposed an alternative plan to BDCP that includes a number of components that are generally acknowledged as critical to achieving the Two Co-Equal Goals. The “Portfolio Alternative” includes important elements such as conveyance, storage, and water use efficiency among others, and is supported by a significant group of heavy-hitters. While it too is insufficient on its own to solve the Delta’s problems, the proposal underscored the wisdom of linked actions and signaled serious problems for a BDCP-only solution.
The Portfolio Alternative proposes the core concept of linked actions to identify efficient, effective means for accomplishing the Two Co-Equal Goals while protecting and enhancing the Delta as an evolving place. However, its conveyance approach is likely too small to accomplish three core objectives: minimize fish degradation; divert more water in wet years and less in dry years; and provide long-term security against seismic and flood catastrophes.
In short, neither plan on its own can get the job done. But together, BDCP and the Portfolio Alternative present an opportunity for immediate and long-term progress in the Delta. Conveyance improvements and habitat restoration are critically important, and should be implemented without further delay. However, the State cannot and should not proceed with their plan without linking other critical elements and right-sizing conveyance facilities to ensure efficient investment of public resources.
Harmonizing these plans would start with the Natural Resources Agency and Delta Stewardship Council reaching out to stakeholders to develop specific policy, legal, and financial linkages. The two agencies should describe and quantify the water supply reliability, ecosystem, risk reduction and economic benefits of the integrated, linked actions. Importantly, the Governor and Legislature should validate this approach and direct the necessary resources to assure progress this year.
These actions will reinforce the critical concept of linked, integrated actions to address Delta conflicts and achieve the Two Co-Equal Goals. The Delta Vision Foundation “BDCP Plus” concept can be the framework for a broadly supported Delta solution. After fifty years of fractious debate, stakeholders are finding common ground on major elements of a true “Delta fix.” It is important not to waste this opportunity.
Bill Reilly served as administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is a Board Director of the Delta Vision Foundation, which monitors, evaluates, and provides information to government officials, policymakers, and the public about implementing the Delta Vision Strategic Plan recommendations as a set of integrated and linked actions.
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The Majority Vote
The Echo Chamber