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Citing concerns about water use and contamination, a Monterey County Superior Court judge has ruled that San Benito County unlawfully approved a dangerous new oil-development project near Pinnacles National Park that could result in hundreds of wells being drilled in important agricultural and wildlife habitat in the Salinas Valley watershed. As the judge’s ruling notes, “There are numerous opportunities for toxic spills to occur that the County has apparently not contemplated.”
The ruling comes in response to a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity challenging the Indian Wells project, which would use cyclic steam injection, a water-intensive and polluting form of oil extraction. The court agreed that San Benito County unlawfully failed to consider development of the oil field beyond the initial 15 “pilot” wells in the challenged approval as required by the California Environmental Quality Act. The court also found that the county failed to properly analyze the huge water usage, water pollution risks, greenhouse gas emissions, and threats to the California condor — even from the initial 15 well approval.
The project site drains to the Salinas River, an important source of drinking and irrigation water for some of the world’s most productive farmland. The site is also important foraging habitat for the California condor, a critically imperiled species with a population of only about 430 individuals. “This legal victory helps protect California’s water, wildlife and climate from dangerous new oil development,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “It makes no sense to fast-track dirty and risky new oil projects when it’s painfully obvious we have to shift to clean energy sources to respond to the climate crisis.”
Read More | Center for Biological Diversity
Previous Coverage: Lawsuit Targets San Benito County's Approval of 15 Oil Wells in Endangered Condor Habitat
|| San Benito County Residents Reach Signature Goal for Fracking Ban Initiative
In response to pressure from conservation groups, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announced an area closure for the swordfish drift gillnet fishery in the Pacific Ocean off California from July 25 through August 31 to prevent entanglements and drownings of endangered loggerhead sea turtles. This year’s El Niño conditions, warmer than normal waters, attract the endangered loggerhead sea turtles to the nutrient-rich waters where the deadly fishery operates.
This is the first time the conservation area has been closed since it went into effect over a decade ago. Today’s action came after the Center for Biological Diversity
, and Turtle Island Restoration Network
called upon NMFS earlier this month in a letter urging them to implement this important closure. “We are glad to see that Pacific loggerhead turtles are now protected in California’s coastal waters,” said Todd Steiner, a biologist and executive director of Turtle Island Restoration Network. “But enough is enough. It’s time for California to follow the lead of Washington and Oregon, and close this deadly fishery to protect not only sea turtles, but also whales, dolphins and sharks regularly killed by this fishery.”
NMFS is required by law to close the more than 25,000-square-mile Pacific Loggerhead Conservation Area to protect the sea turtles during June, July and August when an El Niño event is occurring or forecasted. The seasonal closure protects loggerhead sea turtles that follow warmer waters off California in search of their preferred prey, pelagic red crabs. Although NMFS implemented the conservation area and drift gillnet prohibition almost two months late, conservation groups commend the agency for taking the proper steps to ensure protection of endangered loggerhead sea turtles as the fishery picks up in mid-August. The swordfish drift gillnet fishery operates from May 1 to January 31, but over 90 percent of the fishing occurs from August 15 through January 31.
Previous Coverage: Whales and Sea Turtles Win One: No Driftnet Expansion in California
On June 30, the United States Supreme Court denied the petition for review filed by the Drakes Bay Oyster Company, a private business that has been operating in the Point Reyes National Seashore. The company sued the Interior Department in December of 2012 after former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar decided to let their 40-year lease to expire on its own terms. This decision affirms the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal's denial of the Company's preliminary injunction lawsuit. Environmental groups now hope the Department of the Interior will set in motion a timeline for the company to remove its oyster operation from Drakes Estero.
“The Court made the right decision in upholding the long-anticipated oyster lease expiration that protects Drakes Estero, the wild ecological heart of Point Reyes National Seashore, which is particularly important on the eve of the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act,” said Amy Trainer, executive director of the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin. “We look forward to a time of healing in the community and stand ready to do our part to support the workers’ transition.”
The company has been operating for 19 months past its lease expiration under the soon-to-be-lifted court injunction. The company's workers living on-site will be allowed to remain in the housing for the foreseeable future until equivalent housing can be located, and they will receive a generous relocation package allowed under federal relocation assistance laws.
Read More | Save the Point Reyes Wilderness
Previous Related Indybay Feature: Drakes Bay Oyster Company Seeks to Privatize Point Reyes National Seashore
The U.S. Forest Service is proposing to log 661 million board feet of timber in the area burned by the Rim fire last summer in California’s Stanislaus National Forest. The new proposal, issued as part of a draft environmental impact statement, would sell almost four times the timber volume sold by the Forest Service in the entire state of California in 2013. It would ignore longstanding rules protecting old-growth trees and destroy habitat for roughly 60 percent of imperiled black-backed woodpeckers.
"It’s little more than an excuse to cut old trees in forests that would otherwise be protected," said Randi Spivak of the Center for Biological Diversity. "Decades of science have shown the importance of preserving burned areas for wildlife like black-backed woodpeckers and the function of these complex ecosystems. Throwing that away to make the timber industry happy is shortsighted.”
The forests in the Rim fire area continue to thrive: Hillsides are now covered with blooming flowers and plants, birds are feeding off of the dead trees, new conifers are sprouting, and deer and other wildlife thrive.
Read More |
Center for Biological Diversity |
See Also: New Report: Logging Would Impede Rim Fire's Benefits for Wildlife, Water, Forest
Lawsuit Launched to Protect Rare Black-backed Woodpeckers in California, Oregon, S. Dakota
New Study: Sierra Forest Fire Severity Is Not Increasing
In a move that stunned but was welcomed by long-time opponents, the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) suspended
the permit for the Caltrans Willits Bypass on Friday, June 20. ACE is the agency that regulates impacts on federally protected wetlands. This project has been highly contested, with Native American involvement and over 50 arrests last year.
“This appears to be the first time ACE has ever pulled a permit on an approved project under construction,” said Ellen Drell, co-founder of the Willits Environmental Center, one of the project’s opponents. ”We are surprised and elated that ACE has finally acted, although we have been pointing out the enormous problems with Caltrans’ plans for years."
Over 50 people were arrested last year in protests to stop Caltrans' construction and advocate for alternative plans. In addition to the issues of wetlands destruction, a long list of violations of the Migratory Bird Act, Clean Water Act, and numerous permit violations and other habitat threats, it has come to the attention of local Tribes that archaeological sites were buried with new fill without Tribal consultation, as required by law.
Read More | See Also: Ceremony to Protect Wetlands Brings Together Environmentalists, Indigenous People
Previous Coverage: Occupation of the Willits Bypass on Highway 101
| Action Camp to Defend Little Lake Valley Established
California is experiencing a serious drought and the media is filled with recommendations about how to save water: Switch to dry landscaping; don't run water when you are shaving or brushing your teeth; install low-flow showerheads; and don't wash your car. All those ideas would help, but much less than people think.
According to a 2012 report by the Pacific Institute, only 4% of California's water is used by individuals. An astounding 93% of California's water goes to agriculture; and most of that 93% is misused or wasted. Humans drink less than one gallon of water per day. A cow drinks 23 gallons per day — and we have 5.5 million of them.
Low-flow showerheads help save much less water than people think. Most people shower once a day and use an average of 14 gallons of water. You could save more water by reducing your beef intake by one pound than by not showering for six months!
Read More |
"California's Water Footprint" report by the Pacific Institute
, "The movement to create healthy communities begins with appreciation. We want to create a day where we not only express gratitude to the hardworking people who put food on our plates, but also educate the community about the connections between food, climate change, and health. Farmworker Appreciation Day will be held on Sunday, June 15
, (Father’s Day) at Closter Park in Salinas, from 11 - 3pm."
On Saturday, May 24, people all around the world united, including in Santa Cruz, California, to March Against Monsanto, calling for the permanent boycott of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and other harmful agro-chemicals. Marches occurred on six continents, in 52 countries, with events in over 400 cities. In the USA, demonstrations were held in 47 states.
The Santa Cruz rally and march was organized by GMO-Free Santa Cruz. The group’s main focus coalesced around Proposition 37 to Label GMOs in California. The March Against Monsanto (MAM) movement was founded by Tami Monroe Canal in response to the failure of Proposition 37 in California, a 2012 ballot initiative that would have required labeling many of the food products made from genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Canal says she was inspired to start the movement to protect her two daughters. “Monsanto’s predatory business and corporate agricultural practices threatens their generation’s health, fertility and longevity. MAM supports a sustainable food production system. We must act now to stop GMOs and harmful pesticides.”
Read More with Photos | GMO-Free Right to Know! Santa Cruz
In Solidarity with People whose homes are threatened, In Honor of unpermitted public Art, In Defense of spaces free and wild everywhere, To Keep the Albany Bulb Natural and unlandscaped, To Preserve Habitat for Birds, Insects, and other migratory Animals, including Humans, We Declare the Bulb an Autonomous Zone , a space where Art and Music continue to flourish, where People assemble Freely, where Dogs run unleashed, and where long-term Residents can continue to maintain and improve their Homesteads.
The healthy 110-year-old tree near the sidewalk at 407 Broadway in Santa Cruz is a Red Horse Chestnut, and it is slated to be cut down to make space for a Hyatt Place Hotel to be built. Gillian Greensite of Save Our Big Trees states that it is the oldest of only three red horse chestnut trees in the city, and the group has issued a call of action to save it.
It is a designated Heritage Tree in the city of Santa Cruz, and featured in the city’s heritage tree brochure which was distributed by Santa Cruz Parks & Recreation on April 19, 2014 to commemorate Earth Day in San Lorenzo Park. The Planning Commission and Santa Cruz City Council have given the Hyatt Corporation a green light to cut the tree down and build the four-story Hyatt Place Hotel.
Read More with Photos | See Also: 'Save Our Big Trees' Lawsuit Costing City $80,000
A new report documents, for the first time, widespread pesticide use near California schools, including in Monterey County. Many of the pesticides profiled are used in large amounts and linked to impacts on children’s health and learning. A coalition, which includes Californians for Pesticide Reform and the Monterey Bay Central Labor Council, has called for reforms in addressing pesticide use to protect children in Monterey County.
California is a state where many powerful corporate interests are based, ranging from corporate agribusiness in the San Joaquin Valley to the computer and technology industry in the Silicon Valley, but none are more influential in state politics than the oil industry. Stop Fooling California recently released a chart revealing that the oil industry, including the Western States Petroleum Association, Chevron, BP and other oil companies, spent over $56.63 million on lobbying at the State Capitol in the five years from 2009 through 2013.
This money amounts to an average of $471,000 for each California
Senator and Assemblymember, according to the organization (http://www.stopfoolingca.org
), "an online and social media public education and awareness campaign
that highlights oil companies’ efforts to mislead and confuse
Californians." The money spent by Big Oil on lobbying has apparently been a very good
investment, since the industry was able to make sure that the only
fracking legislation passed by the Legislature and signed by the
Governor last year was Senator Fran Pavley’s SB 4, the“green light for
fracking bill." SB 4 is an ominous piece of legislation that will
result in the expansion of hydraulic fracturing in Kern County,
coastal areas and offshore waters.
Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), the most powerful corporate lobbying group in California, placed first in "The Big Oil Dirty Dozen” with $23,987,896 spent on lobbying in Sacramento from 2009 through 2013. The organization spent $5,331,493 in 2009, $4,013,813 in 2010, $4,273,664 in 2011, $5,698,917 in 2012 and $4,670,010 in 2013.
Read More |
Western States Petroleum Association spent $1,456,785 in 3 months |
On April 17, International Day of Peasant Resistance, and to mark the 30th anniversary of the Movimento Sem Terra (or Landless Workers Movement) in Brazil, Bay Area delegates from the 6th MST Congress presented a thorough report on what they had experienced and learned during their trip. The presentation at La Peña in Berkeley took an honest look at many aspects of the MST and the difficult and sometimes deadly struggle for poverty reduction and agrarian reform in Brazil.
In February, thousands of Brazilians and approximately 200 members of the international community attended the 6th Movimento Sem Terra Congress. Delegates from the San Francisco Bay Area were in attendance. While the primary events were held at a large stadium in Brasília, actions during the Congress included an enormous march, a student occupation of the Ministry of Education building, and tear gas attacks by greatly outnumbered police at the Ministry of Justice.
Speakers at the Bay Area delegates presentation noted that it was the MST that inspired the local food sovereignty activists of Occupy the Farm
to reclaim at least a portion of the Albany Gill Tract for farming on Earth Day 2012. After over a decade of struggle by a number of different groups fighting for community involvement with the land, the Gill Tract Farm Coalition celebrated the first Community Farm Day
with a spring planting on April 26.
Full Coverage of Report Back with Audio, PDF, and Photos |
Landless Workers Movement: Video from the 6th MST Congress in Brazil, February 2014
A unique partnership between community members, UC Berkeley students, academics and staff has been working toward creation of a 1.5 acre urban farm, education and research center on the Gill Tract in Albany. The Gill Tract Farm Coalition has invited members of the public to "Come join us for a Spring Planting Celebration on Saturday, April 26, from 11-3 pm, at the corner of Marin and San Pablo in Albany as we celebrate this new joint venture by planting, learning, playing, and eating together!"
Community members from Albany, Berkeley and other nearby cities will be gathering with university students at the newly prepared site to start the first step in the production of fresh produce for those in the wider community who are least able to afford good food. In addition to putting seedlings into the ground, information and hands-on activities for all ages will be available. Lunch will be provided by the Berkeley Student Food Collective. Feel free to bring additional salads, snacks, or desserts to share our bounty together as a community!
Following ‘Occupy the Farm’ events on Earth Day 2012, attention has been drawn to the need for land where local food can be grown. Since then the University of California has restored oversight of a section of this agricultural land to the College of Natural Resources for 10 years and began collaborating in a community-university partnership to cultivate a 1.5 acre section known as "Area A". The Gill Tract Farm Coalition, an alliance of community members is part of this collaboration.
Read More |
Keep building momentum for the Gill Tract! |
Gill Tract: Students Successfully Petition UC to Temporarily Halt Development
Previous Related Indybay Features:
Farmers Target Four Sprouts Locations to Save Gill Tract Farm |
"Occupy the Farm" Continues to Fight Against Unsustainable Development at the Gill Tract |
University of California Razes Publicly Planted Crops on Gill Tract |
Occupy the Farm Activists Reclaim Prime Urban Agricultural Land in SF Bay Area
On April 11, the California Coastal Commission approved the development of a large hotel and condominium complex sited on beach and dune habitat on Monterey Bay in Sand City. The developer calls the 360-unit complex, with parking for almost 1,000 cars, the "Monterey Shores Eco-resort." Environmental groups have opposed the project for years. At risk is a population of Western Snowy Plovers, a federally threatened species who nest and raise their broods in the footprint of the proposed resort.
Instead of requiring Monterey Shores Eco-resort developer Ed Ghandour to work collaboratively with biologists from USFWS to draft a binding Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) and apply for an "Incidental Take Permit," pursuant to the Endangered Species Act, the Coastal Commission ruled that a revised "Habitat Protection Plan" (HPP) was enough to safeguard three federally listed species located on the property. In addition to the plover, the Smiths Blue Butterfly and several native plant species will be impacted by the project. "Ghandour's claim that Snowy Plovers will thrive on the hotel property just doesn't make biological sense. With only about 28 coastal nesting locations remaining along the Pacific, the population cannot afford another loss," explained Jones.
"The California Coastal Commission failed the public today," said Audubon California Coastal Program Director Andrea Jones. "The process of approving this project, which has been going on for 15 years, went against the very intent of the Coastal Act by ruling in favor of the destruction of Snowy Plover and coastal dune habitat."
Read More | Approval of Sand City Resort and Condominium Project Undermines Rare Species Recovery Plan | See Also: Sierra Club Submits Letter Opposing Monterey Bay Shores Resort to CA Coastal Commission
6:30PM Friday Aug 1