Dan Bacher

Documents were illegally withheld during interior secretary confirmation process: watchdog

A report by the Interior Department Inspector General reveals that President Trump’s top Interior Solicitor, Daniel Jorjani, illegally withheld public documents prior to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s Senate confirmation hearing and then “perjured himself under oath,” according to a statement by the Western Values Project.

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California water politics takes a weird turn: FBI raids Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and LA city attorney's office

California water politics took a strange turn today when FBI agents raided multiple government offices, including offices of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) and the LA City Attorney, as part of an investigation into the “disastrous rollout of a new customer billing system,” according to the LA Times.

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Extinction 2017: California Edition

One of the least discussed issues in California environmental politics – and one of the most crucial to understanding Governor Jerry Brown’s Delta Tunnels Plan – is the clear connection between the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative and the California WaterFix, formerly called the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP).

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It's Nuts! Since California's Drought Started, Water-Hungry Almonds Planted on 150,000 More Acres

California growers continue to expand their almond acreage in the state during the current drought while the Brown administration has mandated that urban families slash their water usage by 25 percent.

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Activists 'Shut Down' Nestlé Water Bottling Plant in Sacramento

Environmental and human rights activists, holding plastic “torches” and “pitchforks,” formed human barricades at both entrances to the Nestlé Waters bottling plant in Sacramento at 5:00 a.m. on Friday, March 20, effectively shutting down the company's operations for the day.  

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Northern California Reservoirs Run Very Low While Southern Reservoirs Are Near Capacity

The lake is its lowest level ever, 17 percent of capacity and 32 percent of average, since the Bureau of Reclamation filled the reservoir with the clear waters of the North, Middle and South Forks of the American River that drain the Sierra Nevada Range. Because of the record low level of the lake, the cities of Sacramento, Folsom and other communities face dramatic water shortages this year.

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Governor Jerry Brown’s 10 Worst Environmental Policies

On October 17, Governor Brown failed to show up to receive a “Right Stuff” environmental award from the BlueGreen Alliance at a gala dinner at Le Parc Hotel in San Francisco as over 60 people protested outside. 

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California Poised to Enact Dangerous Fracking Bill

Sacramento -- Senate Bill 4, a controversial bill sponsored by Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) that opponents say would clear a path to increased fracking, passed the California Legislature on Wednesday, September 11 and is now headed to Governor Jerry Brown's desk. 

The Assembly passed the bill by a vote of 53 to 18 in the morning. The bill then moved to the Senate for concurrence and was approved by the Senate late yesterday. 

Fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, is a water-intensive process where millions of gallons of fluid – typically water, sand, and chemicals, including ones known to kill fish and cause cancer in humans – are injected underground at high pressure to fracture the rock surrounding an oil or gas well. This releases extra oil and gas from the rock, so it can flow into the well, according to Food and Water Watch. 

"SB 4 would require permits for fracking, acidizing and other oil well stimulation practices, according to a news release from Senator Pavley's office. "It would require notification of neighbors, public disclosure of all chemicals used, groundwater and air quality monitoring and an independent scientific study. The study would evaluate potential risks such as groundwater and surface water contamination, greenhouse gas emissions, local air pollution, seismic impacts, and effects on wildlife, native plants and habitat." 

In response to massive opposition to her bill from a broad coalition of anti-fracking groups, Senator Pavley claimed her bill is “an insurance policy" - and described the bill's passage as a "stunning victory for the public and the environment that moves California a step closer to regulating hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), acidizing and other unregulated oilfield practices." 

“Without SB 4, there will be no public disclosure of chemicals, no groundwater monitoring and no regulation of acidizing, and the oil companies will continue to be able to frack without a permit or any public accountability whatsoever,” she stated. “The world won’t be perfect if SB 4 passes, but it will be a whole lot better. 

Pavley added, “I commend my colleagues for this crucial and difficult vote. There are still many unanswered questions about the use and impacts of fracking and acidizing, and it is in the interest of all Californians to monitor and regulate these practices. Ultimately the oil industry, not the public, should be held accountable for the costs of these activities.” 

In a statement on Wednesday afternoon, Brown's office said the Governor will sign the bill if the legislation reaches his desk. 

"The administration has worked collaboratively with the Legislature to craft a bill that comprehensively addresses potential impacts from fracking, including water and air quality, seismic activity and other potential risks," claimed Brown spokesman Evan Westrup. 

Calling the legislation "an important step forward," Westrup said Brown "looks forward to signing it once it reaches his desk." 

Opponents say legislation undermines existing environmental law 

Bill opponents disagree strongly with the Brown administration's assessment of the bill as "an important step forward. The bill "undermines existing environmental law and leaves Californians unprotected from fracking and other dangerous and extreme fossil fuel extraction techniques," according to a statement from Californians Against Fracking, a statewide coalition of over 100 organizations now calling for a moratorium on fracking. 

The coalition said farmers, environmental justice groups, public health advocates, local elected officials, students, Hollywood, and many others are calling on Governor Brown to and put a stop to fracking in California. 200,000 petitions have been signed urging Governor Brown to ban fracking in California. 

Members of Californians Against Fracking criticized the Assembly's passage of the already weak bill that was further weakened by amendments supported by the Western States Petroleum Association on Friday, September 6 - and urged Brown to ban or place an immediate moratorium on fracking in California. They charged that the bill, as amended, exempts the legislation from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). 

"This vote to allow fracking in California and exempt it from California's benchmark environmental law shows that our Assembly has thoroughly failed at protecting Californians," said Zack Malitz, campaign manager for CREDO. "We're depending on Governor Brown to step in to prevent the wholesale fracking of our state." 

"This legislation does nothing to stop fracking or protect communities across the state from its harmful effects and last minute changes to the bill made it even worse," said Adam Scow, California campaigns director at Food & Water Watch. "The threats to our state's water, air, and climate are real and pressing and we don't have time for half measures like SB 4. We need courageous leadership – it’s time for Governor Brown to act now to ban fracking in California." 

"There's only one prudent next step to protect California's water, air, and climate – for Governor Brown to place an immediate moratorium on fracking, acidizing, and other unconventional methods of exploiting fossil fuels," said Victoria Kaplan, campaign director at MoveOn.org. "Legislators have failed to heed the wishes of a majority of Californians calling for a moratorium or a ban and MoveOn members will continue to organize across the state for an end to fracking." 

“The passage of SB 4 demonstrates the continuing stranglehold that Big Oil has on the political process in Sacramento. Attempts to find common ground with an industry hell-bent on exploiting every last drop of oil regardless of the impact on California’s water, valuable farmland and the climate are inevitably bound to fail. The passage of this mangled bill only confirms the need for a moratorium on these dangerous extraction techniques,” said Ross Hammond, senior campaigner with Friends of the Earth. 

“SB 4 tragically green-lights an extremely dangerous practice with terrible public health impacts near the homes and schools of California’s communities already most overburdened by pollution,” said Madeline Stano, Luke Cole Memorial Fellow at the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment. 

“This bill will not protect Californians from the enormous threats of fracking pollution,” summed up Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “Fracking poses unacceptable risks to the air we breathe, the water we drink and our climate. We’ll keep working to end this inherently dangerous activity in our state.” 

In her comment on the Sacramento Bee website, activist Lauren Steiner, who led a petition campaign which got 20,000 signatures urging Pavley to drop her bill and fight for a ban instead, emphasized, "This bill is just a permitting, monitoring, notification and disclosure bill with a study thrown in. Telling someone when you're going to frack, where you're going to frack and what chemicals you are going to use is like a murderer telling you, 'I'm going to shoot you on your front porch tomorrow at noon using an AK-47.' At the end of the day, you're still dead. And do we really need any more studies to show us the harms of fracking?" 

To read her complete comment and the article it responds to, go here.

At the last minute, the only four NGOs still supporting the bill - the California League of Conservation Voters, Clean Water Action, the Environmental Working Group and Natural Resources Defense Council - pulled their support for the legislation after the Legislature refused to amend the bill as they had requested earlier in the day. Their letter to Pavley is available here.

The evidence of the enormous threat that fracking poses to fish, water, air and the environment continues to pile up. Oil companies have used 12 dangerous “air toxic” chemicals more than 300 times in the Los Angeles Basin in recent months, according to a new report from the Center for Biological Diversity that is already drawing concerned reactions from public health advocates and an L.A. city councilmembers. Air toxics are chemicals considered among the most dangerous air pollutants because they can cause illness and death.  
At the same time that Governor Brown said he intends to sign the gutted fracking bill, the Brown administration continues to fast track the construction of the twin tunnels under the Sacramento -San Joaquin River Delta to export more water to corporate agribusiness interests. The building of the peripheral tunnels under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) will hasten the extinction of Central Valley salmon and steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species.
Californians Against Fracking is a coalition of environmental, business, health, agriculture, labor, political, and environmental justice organizations working to win a statewide ban on fracking in California. For more information and to sign the petitions to ban fracking in California, visit: Californians Against Fracking.

LA City Council Members Call for Fracking Moratorium

LA City Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Mike Bonin on Wednesday, September 4 called for a fracking moratorium in Los Angeles at a press conference on the steps of City Hall.

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Despite Dubious Evidence of Safety, You May Soon Be Eating Unlabeled Genetically Engineered Salmon

On December 21, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a draft environmental assessment (EA) finding, in spite of much evidence to the contrary, that genetically engineered (GE) AquaAdvantage salmon pose no risk to the environment. 

The document claimed that the fish "will not have any significant impacts on the quality of the human environment of the United States." It also claimed that the GE salmon, the first ever intended for human consumption in the United States, is unlikely to harm populations of wild salmon. 

The finding occurs as the Obama administration is continuing and expanding some of the worst environmental policies of the Bush administration, including exporting record amounts of water out of the Delta, killing record numbers of fish at the Delta pumping facilities and promoting the privatization of the fisheries through the "catch shares" program. 

The FDA made the finding in spite of a petition from conservation groups requesting that it complete a comprehensive environmental impact statement on the risks GE fish could present to the natural marine environment. 

Earthjustice filed that petition in May 2011 on behalf of the Ocean Conservancy, Food & Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, Center for Food Safety, the Center for International Environmental Law and Greenpeace. 

“FDA’s narrow analysis fails to seriously consider the risks these genetically engineered fish could pose to our natural environment,” said Earthjustice attorney Khushi Desai. “If these fish mix with wild salmon, the ecological harm could be devastating. This genetically engineered fish puts the entire US salmon industry at risk, and most importantly it could threaten the very survival of our native salmon populations." 

After more than a decade of behind-the-scenes work with the GE fish sponsor, AquaBounty Technologies, the FDA announced last fall that it intended to approve AquaBounty’s application. In response, the public sent over 400,000 comments to the FDA opposing the “Frankenfish” and demanding mandatory labeling of any GE fish approved for sale to US consumers, according to a statement from Earthjustice. 

"Materials submitted to the FDA by the owner of the GE salmon, AquaBounty, raise serious, unanswered concerns regarding potential destruction of wild salmon populations," according to Earthjustice. "These concerns are significant enough to warrant a more thorough environmental impact statement, as required under the National Environmental Policy Act." 

In the draft EA released Friday, the FDA accepts AquaBounty’s representation that no fish will escape, survive, or reproduce in the wild—even though that type of security cannot be guaranteed. 

Conservationists, fishermen and consumer advocates take the company at its word that this is just their first step in a broader plan to produce these GE fish and others like them around the world. 

Vast majority of consumers oppose Frankensalmon 

Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch, slammed the FDA decision to tentatively approve Frankensalmon. 

“Despite insufficient testing and widespread opposition, AquaBounty’s genetically engineered (GE) salmon took the final step towards becoming the first FDA-approved genetically engineered (GE) food animal," Hauter said in a statement. "The Food and Drug Administration released its draft Environmental Assessment, clearing the way for this transgenic organism to be approved by the agency under its new animal drug approval process. 

"Food & Water Watch is far from alone in condemning this historic decision – one that disregards numerous polls revealing that the vast majority of consumers oppose GE salmon. Over 40 members of Congress and scientists at other federal agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, have also voiced strong opposition to GE salmon, citing the lack of scientific rigor and expertise at the FDA," she noted. 

“To add insult to injury, this product may be hitting the market without labeling, meaning that concerned consumers who have demanded labeling will be unable to identify GE from non-GE salmon. Not only does this ignore our fundamental right to know what we are putting on our plates, it is simply bad for business, as many will avoid purchasing any salmon for fear it is genetically engineered," she stated. 

The Obama administration tentatively approved the Frankensalmon less than 2 months after Proposition 37, the initiative calling for the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) food in California, was narrowly defeated on November 6. Pesticide companies, led by Monsanto and Dupont, and other corporations spent nearly $50 million to defeat the grassroots effort. 

Hauter noted that the FDA, tasked with protecting consumer safety, failed to conduct the appropriate studies to determine if it is safe to eat or even if the fish can live up to AquaBounty’s claim of faster growth rates. And, by releasing an environmental assessment instead of a more thorough environmental impact statement, the FDA failed to fully consider the threat this controversial new fish could pose to wild fish populations. 

“Congress can still keep FDA from unleashing this dangerous experiment," Hauter said. "Bipartisan legislation would ban the commercialization of this controversial fish. Food & Water Watch will be examining legal options to force FDA to do a more thorough assessment of this new GE food animal." 

Although Hauter said this latest FDA decision is a blow to consumer confidence, she encourage everyone to contact their members of Congress and demand this reckless decision be overturned. She also said Food & Water Watch and its allies will be collecting comments to deliver to the FDA during their public comment period. 

Jaydee Hanson of the Center for Food Safety noted that the environmental assessment says that the comment period is 30 days, but the Federal Register notice says 60 days. 

"I have confirmed with the relevant FDA staff that the Federal Register notice is correct. So 60 days for comment are in order," said Hanson. 

Caleen Audrey Sisk, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, urges everybody to sign Food & Water Watch's petition telling Congress to stop the approval of GE salmon: 

"Please sign on to this request to keep GE salmon, the Frankenfish, off the market. These Frankenfish are sure to kill wild Chinook salmon!" said Sisk. 

The Obama administration's abysmal record on salmon, fish and water 

The Obama administration's tentative approval of GE salmon for human consumption occurs in the context of an administration that has continued and expanded some of the most odious environmental policies of the Bush administration. 

The Obama administration is the first-ever federal administration to officially endorse the construction of a peripheral canal or tunnel, a project that will hasten the extinction of Central Valley salmon, Delta and longfin smelt and other fish species by diverting massive quantities of water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to corporate agribusiness and southern California. 

The Obama and Brown administrations also presided over record Delta water exports and massive fish kills at the state and federal pumping facilities in 2011. The record water exports resulted in the "salvage" of a record 9 million Sacramento splittail and over 2 million other fish including Central Valley salmon, steelhead, striped bass, largemouth bass, threadfin shad, white catfish and sturgeon.  

These fish kills couldn't occur at a worse time. An analysis by the Golden Gate Salmon Association (GGSA) has found that since year 2000 over one hundred million fish (102,856,027) have been sucked into the Delta pumps. This figure includes twenty six million valuable game fish, many of which are endangered. 

This is in spite of the fact that the Central Valley Project Improvement Act, signed by President George H.W. Bush in the fall of 1992, set a goal of doubling the Bay-Delta watershed’s Chinook salmon runs from 495,000 to 990,000 wild adult fish by 2002. The legislation also mandated the doubling of other anadromous fish species, including Central Valley steelhead, white sturgeon, green sturgeon, striped bass and American shad, by 2002. 

Rather than doubling, the Central Valley Chinook salmon fishery has suffered a dramatic collapse over the past decade, now standing at only 13 percent of the population goal required by federal law.  

As if tentatively approving GE salmon, fast-tracking the construction of the peripheral tunnels, exporting record amounts of water from the Delta, killing millions of fish in the Delta pumps and refusing to enforce the Central Valley Project Improvement Act wasn't enough, the Obama administration has promoted the privatization of fisheries through the "catch shares" program. 

"Under the guise of conservation, a system called 'catch shares' is being pushed by the government and larger members of the fishing industry alike to make a public resource, our fish, like private property," according to Food & Water Watch. "Traditional, small-scale fishermen are being pushed out of the industry as these shares are handed out for free with most going to larger, industrial fishing operations. Worldwide, catch share programs have meant fewer jobs for fishemen - and the effects spread to whole communities - fewer fishermen means less dollars for local shops, restaurants and more. For consumers, it can mean lower quality fish and a further reliance on industrially processed foods." 

Here is a link to the Federal Register notice. 

Federal Grants Include Money to Greenwash Peripheral Tunnels Plan in California

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on August 14 announced $11 million in grants to California projects, including $640,575 for Jerry Brown's plan to build two peripheral tunnels to export more water to corporate agribusiness.

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Why Ratepayers and Taxpayers Could Be Stuck Holding the Bill for a Massive Water Infrastructure Project in California

A LA Times editorial, "Give the Bay Delta Conservation Plan a chance," inexplicably accuses “critics of the proposed tunnel” for claiming that “wasteful Southern Californians intend to suck every last drop of the Sacramento River to water their luxuriant lawns.”  

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The Resnicks Manipulate Water Policy with Big Campaign Contributions

Stewart Resnick, the Beverly Hills agribusiness tycoon who owns 115,000 acres of farmland in Kern County, appears to be putting his bets on Jerry Brown as the winner of the gubernatorial race in the November election - even though Brown hasn't officially declared himself as a candidate.

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NASA Report Highlights Need to Retire Drainage Impaired Land in California

Alarming new space observations revealing increased rates of groundwater depletion in California highlight the urgent need to retire drainage impaired, selenium-filled farmland on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. 

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Environmental Groups Across California Oppose Legislative Water Package

Representatives of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and other corporate environmental groups who have participated in back door negotiations with Legislative leaders, Westlands Water District and Metropolitan Water District claim that the "environmental community" is behind the proposed water legislation currently being considered at the State Capitol.

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Governor Schwarzenegger Holds California Hostage to Peripheral Canal Water Bond

Governor Arnold "Fish Terminator" Schwarzenegger has told Legislative leaders that he wants a water bill package including a peripheral canal and dams on his desk by Friday night before he will act on 700 bills sitting on his desk. He is in effect holding the State of California hostage to his plan to build a monument to his gigantic ego, the peripheral canal, a budget-busting government boondoggle estimated to cost $23 to $53.8 billion to build, according to an analysis by economist Steven Kasower.

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Push for Peripheral Canal in California Ignites Grassroots Uprising

Over 40 people from the Sacramento area and Delta held a lively protest in front of the office of California Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg in Sacramento on Friday, September 4 to protest the dangerous Delta water legislation that Steinberg is trying to ram through the State Capitol.

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