Environmental Report for February, 2018

February 6, 2018


 I.  Climate Change


Arctic Leases Challenged On Climate Change Grounds
Story from inside climate news, Feb. 2, 2018

The National Petroleum Reserve Area in Alaska

The Administration’s unprecedented oil and gas lease offering in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska has brought on lawsuits from several environmental organizations challenging the lease sales.

  • Earthjustice’s lawsuit charges that the Trump Administration violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by not accounting for the green house gas emissions created by burning the fossil fuels it’s making available.
  • Trump’s new Environmental Quality Council withdrew from such a policy last year but this will bring the issue into the courts where there is ample precedence in ruling in favor of concern for climate change.


Relating Individual Weather Events to Climate Change
Story from Scientific American, Jan. 2, 2018.

Image result for pictures of weather events

Attributing any single weather event to climate change has been something scientists were unwilling to do until now.  The new reality is that scientists are now able to assess the impact of climate change on the previous year’s extreme weather phenomena.

  • A new “sub-field” in meteorology is making breakthroughs with better modeling that can now predict changes and how much climate change affected certain past events.
  • The science is maturing and stirring a lot of enthusiasm and may one day bring governments and corporations to justice for their lack of concern.


King Tides Bring Us Closer to Climate Change Reality
Stories from California King Tides Project website; San Francisco Baykeeper, Jan. 2018.

In December and January, the phenomenon of King Tides were experienced around the Bay Area, which are traditionally 7 to 8 feet higher depending on location.  As sea level rises, King Tides can give us a view of what future rises of normal tides may look like.

  • They are predictable and caused by the gravity forces acting on bodies of water due to the juxtaposition of the earth, sun, moon, along with the earth’s rotation.
  • The gravitational force is greatest when the moon is at perigree (closest to the Earth) and when the Earth is at perihelion (closest to the sun) on about January 2 of each year.  The opposite (lowest tides) occur on around July 2.
  • The Super Moon phenomenon had the potential to produce even higher tides but due to local weather conditions and the fact that San Francisco has taken steps to handle higher tides it was not  as dramatic as expected.
  • San Francisco Baykeeper pictures of 2018 King Tides.



II.  Fossil Fuels


Oakland’s Coal Terminal Trial Winds Down
Story from No Coal in Oakland website, Jan. 16, 2018.

“No Coal in Oakland” (NCIO), the grassroots efforts to stop the Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal (OBOT) that surfaced when in 2015 it was found that a certain Oakland Commissioner and developer, Phil Tagami along with  developer colleagues, made a deal with four Utah counties to fund a terminal for shipping their coal to other ports.  The City of Oakland voted in 2016 to ban coal storage and handling citing public health concerns, Mr. Tagami sued, and the 3-day trial centered around whether the City had a right to ban coal and to terminate the city’s contract with Mr.Tagami.

  • The trial began on Tuesday, Jan. 16 and ended Friday, Jan. 19, and is waiting for final judgement.
  • Experts on the hazards of transporting and storing coal supported Oakland’s case.
  • Since it’s a ‘bench trial’ more post-trial documents are to be submitted and a decision is to be made in about a month with a possible final hearing scheduled for Mar. 28.


New York Sues Fossil Fuel Companies
Stories from inside climate news, Jan. 11, 2018, Jan. 9, Jan. 20, 2018; Sheldon Whitehouse website, Jan. 11, 2018.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the suit was filed by the NYC government  against the largest publicly traded oil companies to hold them accountable for damages to the city from climate change.  The suit names five companies as defendants:  BP, Chevron, Conoco-Phillips, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell.


Trump’s Offshore Drilling Plan
Stories from DW, Jan. 5, 2018; Bureau of Ocean Energy Management website; Politico, Jan. 10, 2018.

Trump’s National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Draft plan  (Sec.was released by Ryan Zinke of Interior) on Jan. 4, featuring 47 new leases in the Pacific, Atlantic, & Arctic Oceans and the Gulf of Mexico.  After meeting with Rick Scott, Governor of Florida, that state was exempted on Jan. 9.  

  • It’s the most aggressive campaign since the Reagan Administration when oil prices favored domestic development.
  • As planned, it would open up more than 90% of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) for development even though 94% of the OCS is protected since the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill.
  • The West Coast and the Northeast will dispute the program and defend their coastlines.



III.  Water and Food Reports


Newsweek Story Tries to Discredit Organic Farming
Stories by Organic Consumers Association, Jan. 23, 2018; the Hoover Institute website, Jan. 18, 2018.

The article by Henry I. Miller, which first appeared on the Hoover Institution website, now has been printed by Newsweek, Jan. 19.  It appears to discredit organic farming and touts the merits of GMOs and the use of chemicals on our fields.  The Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank supports the corporate structure in agriculture and elsewhere in our economy.

  • Henry Miller’s opinion first appeared as an OpEd article in Newsweek on Oct. 4, 2015.
  • His claims that organic agriculture is actually “more harmful” than conventional practices leads one to recognize Monsanto’s fingerprints on the story.
  • The chemical companies continually try to muddy the waters regarding ‘organic’ and actually tout the safety of using their toxic products.
  • It uses the “meaninglessness” of the term “organics” and how that misleads the nation as a premise of its argument.


Germany to Ban Glyphosate
Story by Alt Health Works, Jan. 21, 2018.

What, at first, seemed like an endorsement for the Monsanto – Bayer merger, the new Merkel government coalition (Christian Democratic Union with Social Democratic Party) has reversed its decision and is now closer to banning Glyphosate.  This is a serious decision that puts a damper on the Bayer-Monsanto mega-merger that is still undergoing approval process.

  • The decision is sending shock waves through the pesticide manufacturing industry.  
  • This marks a huge departure from the earlier, pre-election decision to allow the herbicide permit to expire in five years and possibly renew it again at that time.


Trump’s USDA Tampers with Classifying “Organic” Eggs
Story from Organic Consumers Association, Jan. 11, 2018.

The Obama Administration spent years on rules regarding what “organic” means and developed the Organic Livestock and Poultry Pralctices Rule (OLPP).  Trump has delayed the rule for a year and is trying to throw it out completely.

  • The industry fought for ‘animal welfare’ rules in an attempt to give consumers some say for choosing nutritional quality in their animal products.
  • The big egg producers would like to rid themselves of dealing with ‘animal welfare’ standards, which stands in the way of higher profits.


 Pesticide Spraying in the East Bay Hills
Stories from EBMUD Board of Directors public meeting, Jan. 9, 2018; Death of Million Trees website; and . 

map of targeted east bay forestsThe East Bay Municipal Utilities District (EBMUD – the East Bay Water supplier) and the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD – the regional parks caretakers) in a joint project have approved the EBMUD Master Plan that supports the killing of over a half million trees and other foliage in the hills.  The City of Oakland has drawn up a Vegetation Management Plan that will affect over 1400 acres of City property that covers about 300 miles of roadside vegetation (see the black areas in the photo).

  • Public comments by the Coalition to Defend East Bay Forests and other groups were given in protest to a consultant’s evaluation of EBMUD’s Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program.
  • Treating the stumps of cut trees with herbicides like Glyphosate is an integral part of the program.
  • The combination of plans involve the use of thousands of gallons of herbicides as a wildfire hazard reduction effort and to remove non-native plants.
  • This program is pitting Environmentalists against Environmentalists while Monsanto reaps the rewards of massive use of chemicals.
  • Merkel’s new coalition government (the Christian Democratic Union and the liberal Social Democratic Party) has reversed its decision and is now considering a total ban on Glyphosate.
  • A new book on the use of weed killersWhitewash:  The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science by Carey Gillam.



IV.  Politics


Trump’s First Year Environmental Policy Changes
Story from National Geographic, 2017-18. 

The most damaging changes of theTrump Administration’s first year have been environmental and mostly done under the radar of the media.  The title link to National Geographic’s abbreviated stories for the year make for an easy way to grasp the scope of Trump’s attack on the Environment. 

The list includes:

  • Steep budget cuts for the Environment and Climate Change declared no longer a threat to National Security.
  • Members of EPA and National Parks Advisory Boards resign, are reassigned or dismissed.
  • EPA and other government websites ‘censored’ and scrubbed on climate change.
  • U.S. pulled out of Paris Agreement and scrapped the Clean Power Plan.
  • Downsizing of national monuments and the largest ever oil and gas lease auctions.
  • The one bright spot!!! – the delayed new rule on Ozone health standards now to move forward.
  • Rules to protect whales and endangered species revoked.
  • Science integrity, funding, standards, under attack.
  • Etc.


One Florida Congressman Stands for Climate Action
Stories from Yale Environment 360, Jan. 18, 2018; Climate Solutions Caucus website; Politico, Aug. 19, 2017.

Representative Carlos CurbeloRep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) of South Florida goes separate ways from his Party on this issue.  He is a co-founder of the Climate Solutions Caucus and speaks out for his district that is “most vulnerable to sea level rise”.


V.  Miscellaneous Items


Hunters Point Radiation Cleanup Scandal
Stories from notes of Navy Community meeting, Jan. 31, 2018; San Francisco Chronicle, Jan. 31, 2018.

The federal contractor, Tetra Tech EC (TtEC), is being charged with falsifying data used to clean up the many historical layers of radiation waste that haunts the development of the Hunters Point Shipyard.  The Shipyard Superfund Site was to be cleaned up for civilian use by the City of San Francisco.  Thanks to a whistle blower from the contractor, the work of GreenAction, student lawyers and volunteers, it was found that something like half of Tetra Tech EC’s data was falsified.  The Navy held a community meeting (Jan. 31) to explain the allegations and the plans for re-doing the questionable data.

  • Bradley Angel with his GreenAction for Health and Environmental Justice played a leading role in continuing the struggle that threatens the Hunters Point community.
  • The falsified data was first revealed in 2012, TtEC revealed their discrepancies in 2014 with Navy oversight, more extensive falsifications were reported by a former employee of TtEC in 2016, and the Navy began a probe into the matter in 2017.
  • The picture below shows the high percentage of falsified data in most of the six different parcels of the Shipyard.

  • The fraud implicates many stakeholders, including SF City Hall, U.S. EPA, California EPA, and the U.S. Navy.
  • Lennar/FivePoint, the developer, has already started building on some of the parcels with their plan to gentrify the neighborhood with upscale housing. 
  • They had hoped for a cleaner bill of health on other parcels by now.


China Halts Recycling Many of West’s Products
Story from mother nature network, Jan. 18, 2018.

a bale of recycled plastic bottles ready for processingMany western countries have been sending their plastics to China and the worst case scenario has finally happened – China refuses to continue being the “world’s garbage dump”.   The ban starts on Jan. 1, 2018 and covers 24 kinds of solid waste, including unsorted paper and low-grade polyethylene terephthalate (PET).  China claims that large amounts of contaminants were included in the recyclables as the reason for the change.

  • China had been processing at least half of the world’s exports of waste paper, metals, and used plastic — 7.3 million tons in 2016.
  • Plastic recyclables are building up in Britain, Canada, Ireland, Germany, other European nations, the U.S. and cities like Hong Kong.
  • It completely changes the markets for recyclables and will be felt by consumers, e.g., a tax on plastics will be proposed in the EU.


Sierra Club’s Top Ten Stories for 2017
Story from Sierra Magazine, Dec. 26, 2017.

In case you missed this, here are the ten capsulized stories from Sierra Club:

  1. Storms — “of Biblical Proportions”.
  2. Trump responded to the Paris Agreement and the Clean Power Plan.
  3. Pruitt plows the EPA regulations.
  4. The protest marches starting the day after inauguration.
  5. The attack on public monuments.
  6. Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
  7. Automobiles to continue to be a major source of pollution.
  8. The low response to electric vehicles in the U.S. vs commitments to zero-emission vehicles in other countries.
  9. De-listing the Grizzly Bear from Endangered status.
  10. Monsanto’s herbicides — Glyphosate and Dicamba.



 VI.  Events


Thursday, Feb 8, 8:30am, Community Choice Rally – Hearing

  • Community Choice is under attack and needs public witnesses: 
  • Rally at 8:30am,Hearing at 9:30am, 505 Van Ness (corner of McAllister St.)


Thursday, Feb 8,  1:30pmRally Against Offshore Drilling in Sacramento

  • Buses leave (11:00am) for Sacramento from 1150 Market St., San Francisco (Civic Center BART Stn) & 555 40th St., Oakland (MacArthur BART Stn).  Returning at 6:00pm.
  • 1:30pm – Rally Against Offshore Drilling at the State Capitol, 1100 L St.
  • 3:00pm –  Attend the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management meeting, 828 I St.


Friday, Feb 9, 7:00 – 9:00pm, Sierra Club’s Green Friday

  • 2530 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley
  • Discussion on important environmental issues.


Tuesday, Feb 13, 7:000pm, Climate Action in the City – Part 2

  • 630 Valencia St., Mission District Police Station, Community Room, SF
  • Panel discussion on the effects of Climate Change – what to do about it.


Wednesday,  Feb. 28, 8:30am – 7:30pm, EPA Listening Session on Repealing the Clean Power Plan

  • SF Main Public Library, Koret Auditorium



Other Sources of Events:

350Bay Area – Includes other 350.org branches in the Bay Area.
Planet Drum – San Francisco bioregion awareness center
David Brower Center  –  The environmental center in Berkeley
Ecology Center – Berkeley sustainability center
Sunflower Alliance – Bay Area umbrella organization for activism
Sierra Club San Francisco – Bay Area Website



Republicans on Climate Change



The  End