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Feature Archives

Just months after Monterey County voters approved a ban on underground injection of oil waste, California regulators have announced a plan to turn an underground water supply in the county over to the oil industry for injection of contaminated waste fluid. The proposal — announced by California's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources — seeks to exempt an aquifer that runs under the town of San Ardo from the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. A similar aquifer exemption is currently under consideration in Livermore.
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) released a report last week detailing the 2014 results of their Pesticide Illness Surveillance Program. The report, documenting all reported pesticide-related illnesses from all California counties, shows 20.1% of agricultural pesticide-related illnesses occurred in Tulare County, making it the county with the most agricultural pesticide illnesses in the state. Santa Cruz County came in second with 17.2%. Of the 53 counties with documented pesticide-related illnesses in 2014, Tulare County accounted for over 1 in every 5 cases of poisonings from agricultural pesticides.
A lawsuit filed on December 13 by civil rights groups charges the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) with violating the constitutional rights of homeless people by confiscating and destroying their property in ongoing sweeps. Plaintiffs have lost cherished and necessary items, including family heirlooms, photographs of loved ones, tents, sleeping bags, warm weather clothing, tools, food, camp stoves, bicycles, and personal documents. “Caltrans has been a major obstacle to getting my life together," said plaintiff James Leone. "Twice in six years, I’ve been left with only the clothes on my back. Twice I’ve lost everything I own in the world.”
In a slap in the face to fishermen, Tribes, environmental justice advocates, conservationists and family farmers, President Obama on December 16 signed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act into law with an environmentally destructive rider sponsored by Senator Feinstein (D-CA) and Congressman McCarthy (R-CA). The controversial rider, requested by corporate agribusiness interests, allows San Joaquin Valley growers and Southern California water agencies to pump more water out of the Delta, driving numerous fish species closer and closer to extinction, according to Delta advocates.
The California Secretary of State’s Office announced that voters narrowly defeated Proposition 53, an initiative requiring voter approval of revenue bonds over $2 billion. Governor Jerry Brown is celebrating the victory because it would have required a vote on his controversial “legacy” projects, the Delta Tunnels and High Speed Rail. Dan Bacher writes: The results of the Proposition 53 vote are disappointing for those who care about salmon, the Delta and the public trust. However, there is no doubt that if an initiative solely requiring a public vote on the Delta Tunnels had been on the ballot, it would have been decisively approved.
The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) is not a household name in California and the West, but it should be. WSPA is the trade association for the oil industry and the largest and most powerful corporate lobbying organization in California. It represents a who's who of oil companies including Aera Energy, Chevron, California Resources Corporation (formerly Occidental Petroleum), ExxonMobil, Phillips 66, Shell, Valero and many others. Yet most people — even many environmental activists — have never heard of the organization and the enormous influence it wields over politicians and regulators in the western states.
Santa Cruz police initiated a raid at City Hall on November 23 at 3:30 am, shortly after it stopped raining that evening, to clear from the area approximately two dozen individuals who had been sleeping and sheltering themselves from the weather under the eaves of the buildings in the complex. Officers issued citations to individuals, and made one arrest. Many of those sleeping at City Hall were participating in the weekly Freedom Sleepers sleep protest, while others were simply sheltering themselves from the wet weather temporarily with the group.