Valley attorney wins lawsuit challenging adequacy of County’s Climate Action Plan

by Sonoma Valley Sun : sonomasun – excerpt

Superior Court Judge Nancy Case Shaffer in Santa Rosa has ruled in favor of local Sonoma Valley attorney Jerry Bernhaut’s lawsuit challenging Sonoma County’s Climate Action 2020 Plan. A lawyer with River Watch, a Sonoma County firm active in filing environmental challenges, Bernhaut’s suit argued that the county’s plan violated various provisions of CEQA, the California Environmental Quality Act…

Commenting on the ruling, Bernhaut said, “The court’s ruling validates River Watch’s contentions that:

1. By failing to account for GHG emissions from global tourist travel and global distribution of wine and other Sonoma County products, the CAP grossly understated the true GHG emissions generated by activities in Sonoma County…

Bernhaut added, “It’s time to admit that perpetual growth on a planet with limited resources and carrying capacity is not sustainable.”

The County’s Climate Action Plan 2020 was adopted by Sonoma County last year, but River Watch’s legal action has placed the program on hold. The plan was that all nine Sonoma County cities would join the county and sign-on to the plan, conforming to its goals and methodology. That process was halted while the lawsuit proceeded, and now that the court has made its ruling, it’s unclear as to the next steps. The county can appeal the court decision, or it can decide to revamp and reissue the plan in accordance with the corrections and changes the court decision highlights.

Of particular note is the court’s reference to the need to use VMT calculations (Vehicle Miles Traveled) to better asses and calculate the full impacts of GHG (Greenhouse Gas emissions). During the recent, successful appeal of the certification of the EIR for the proposed hotel on West Napa Street, appellants objected to the fact that VMT methodology was not used to calculate the project’s GHG impacts, but city staff and the EIR consultant argued that calculations using VMT need not be used. It’s unclear what, if any, this court decision will have on that EIR, which is currently undergoing review and amendment…(more)

DWR Certifies EIR for WaterFix, Triggering 30-Day Deadline for Opponents to File Suit

by Downey Brand LLP : dsupra – excerpt

On July 21, 2017, the California Department of Water Resources (“DWR”) certified the final environmental document and issued its Notice of Determination for the California WaterFix, a significant new water infrastructure component proposed by DWR and United States Bureau of Reclamation. DWR’s action triggered a 30-day statute of limitations to raise CEQA challenges to the project, which has been the subject of steadily accelerating public discussion and debate over the last two years…

WaterFix, sometimes referred to as the Delta Tunnels, would divert water from the northern Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta just south of Sacramento, under water right permits held by DWR and Reclamation. According to its advocates, WaterFix is intended to improve and update the existing Delta conveyance systems, while preserving the vulnerable species populations that rely on Delta waters…

The approval is one of several required before the WaterFix project can move forward…

Our CEQA attorneys are carefully tracking these legal developments, and will offer thoughts and analysis in future alerts as this situation (and the complicated legal issues surrounding it) evolves… (more)

Kushners face heated trial over suburban Jersey mall project

By Garance Burke and Bernard Condon, Associated Press : sfchronicle – excerpt

Days after a seaside reception for his father-in-law’s presidential campaign, Jared Kushner set out to pitch a deal to a small-town mayor: Kushner Cos. would transform an aging shopping mall into a live-work destination, bringing culture and commerce to a scraggy stretch of the Jersey Shore.

The mayor, a retired police officer, viewed it as a brilliant offer his town couldn’t refuse. But hundreds of Eatontown residents turned out in opposition, packing borough council meetings last year to protest the Monmouth Mall expansion as a giveaway to Kushner.

Kushner soon won approval to build 700 apartments atop his mall parking lot as part of a $300 million expansion deal — an agreement that now is the subject of a heated lawsuit set for trial Monday…

Plaintiffs in the mall suit are claiming town officials privately negotiated with the Kushners for half a year without telling the community, then rushed a vote on new zoning rules that benefited only Kushner’s company after the deal already had been rejected.

“People are mad. They’re mad at the mayor, and they’re mad at the backroom deals,” said plaintiff and longtime resident Sara Breslow… (more)

Sounds like familiar tactics used all over the country in “progressive” cities like San Francisco.

More hearings on Water Quality and Groundwater Safety concerns

Guest writer:

Dear Water Warriors,

If SF has plenty of water in storage*, why is the city blending?
The state may be requiring SF to do so but…why?
How much is DPW involved in this “blended” water project?
After all, pipes are repaired, re-routed by DPW…& if there is an “emergency,” aren’t there federal funds?**  Could this be part of OneBayArea Plan to support the 1 million people for our future city? But since we don’t have the $, do they need to mess with it and then “fix” it? Hate to think so…but really, why? See some detailed information about other city experiments with changing water sources in the links below:

“San Francisco Ordered to Stop Using Century-Old Water Rights” (KQED 6/26/2015)
https://ww2.kqed.org/science/2015/06/26/san-francisco-ordered-to-stop-using-century-old-water-rights/ according to Steve Ritchie: “We have plenty of water in storage.”

“Fight over senior water rights splashes into the Capitol” (SF Chronicle 3/21/16)
http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Fight-over-senior-water-rights-splashes-into-the-6932476.php

Senior water rights data – California
http://hosted.ap.org/specials/interactives/_data/ca_water_rights/

PBS link to “Poisoned Water” video about the Flint, Michigan, water crisis:
http://www.pbs.org/video/3001355667/

** Flint received $10 billion from the federal government to “fix” the water emergency problem (subsidies ran out, water rates increased): http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/senate-approves-bill-water-projects-millions-flint/

Flint said it was costing them too much for their water system so was this all just to get $$$? to be used like wherever the officials wanted? This is so weird.

There’s a bunch of other articles on Flint on the pbs website:
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/tag/flint-water-crisis/

Oregon Organic Farm Threatened With Forced Herbicide Use Reaches Settlement With County

vineyards1

by Darren Smith : jonthanturley – excerpt

Last weekend we featured two articles (HERE and HERE) describing a controversy involving the forced use of chemical herbicides on an organic farm that according to County officials was out of compliance in controlling noxious weeds that were threatening neighboring farms and crops.

The 2,000 acre organic farm in North Central Oregon is facing what could be a be an existential threat to its operations after county weed control authorities sent notice mandating that the farm use chemical herbicides to eradicate weed growth.

I attended the public hearing held at the Sherman County seat located in Moro, Oregon. Due to a very high volume of interest expressed by residents and those outside the community, the venue was changed from the County Courthouse to a gymnasium at the Sherman County High School. There was a great deal of uncertainty manifest in this hearing with strongly held opinions on many sides and one can say with near certainty that the publicity generated caused turmoil in this small community. In fact, the concern was so great, that a number of law enforcement officials were dispatched to the area to provide security to address a worry that things might get out of hand. But in the end the two sides reached an agreement that precludes the forced use of herbicides–and offered both a carrot and stick for both parties to strongly consider…(more)

How much damage can the government do before the public reacts? It appears we had two good outcomes in two states this week that prove when the public protests buildings casting shadows on parks and forced use of poisons on organic farms the government sometimes still listens.

Continue reading

Oregon County Mandates 2,000 Acre Organic Farm Sprayed With Chemical Herbicides

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor : jonathanturley – excerpt (includes video)

An Organic Farm Under Threat from Azure Standard on Vimeo.

Action Request!!
Azure Farm, a Certified Organic farm in Central Oregon, is under threat from the local county government who wants to spray Azure’s Certified Organic farm with herbicides like Roundup (Glyphosate). Here’s what you can do to help. Contact Sherman County court via email at lhernandez@co.sherman.or.us or call Lauren at 541-565-3416 and express your concern. See azurestandard.com/healthy-living/info/azure-farm-moro/ for more details.

A 2,000 acre organic farm in central Oregon is facing what could be a be an existential threat to its operations after county weed control authorities sent notice mandating that the farm use chemical herbicides, such as Roundup, to eradicate weed growth.

The mandate would bring to an end nearly 18 years of organic farming, placing a significant loss of organic food to the public.

Azure Farms is a certified organic farm located in Moro, Sherman County, Oregon. The farm produces almost all the organic wheat, field peas, barley, Einkorn, and beef for Azure Standard.

Sherman County could issue a court order on May 22, 2017 to quarantine Azure Farms and possibly to spray the entire farm with poisonous herbicides contaminating them with Milestone, Escort, and Roundup.

Such a unilateral action on the behalf of the few individuals representing county government could set a precedent in damaging perhaps one of the few remaining healthy alternatives to mass-market agribusinesses… (more)

RELATED FOLLOW-UP

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor:

Yesterday I fielded an article concerning a rather distressing mandate by an Oregon county weed control agency seeking to force the application of hazardous herbicides onto a 2,000 acre organic farm owned by Azure Farms. Sherman County Oregon maintains this scorched earth policy is necessary to abate, or more specifically “eradicate”, weeds listed by state statute as noxious.

Now, the scientific community is responding to this overreaching government action by acting in the interests of health and responsible environmental stewardship through advocacy in the hopes that officials in Sherman County will reconsider their mandate.

Dr. Charles Benbrook is a highly credentialed research professor and expert serving on several boards of directors for agribusiness and natural resources organizations. Having read news of Sherman County’s actions, he penned an authoritative response I believe will make informative reading for those concerned by present and future implications in the forced use of herbicides under the rubric of noxious weed eradication, and the damage to organic farming generally arising from such mandates… (more)

Dakota Access pipeline has first leak before it’s fully operational

: theguardian – excerpt (includes video)

Leak raises fresh concerns about hazards to waterways and outrages indigenous groups, who have long warned of threat to environment

The Dakota Access pipeline has suffered its first leak, outraging indigenous groups who have long warned that the project poses a threat to the environment.

The $3.8bn oil pipeline, which sparked international protests last year and is not yet fully operational, spilled 84 gallons of crude oil at a South Dakota pump station, according to government regulators.

Although state officials said the 6 April leak was contained and quickly cleaned, critics of the project said the spill, which occurred as the pipeline is in the final stages of preparing to transport oil, raises fresh concerns about the potential hazards to waterways and Native American sites.

“They keep telling everybody that it is state of the art, that leaks won’t happen, that nothing can go wrong,” said Jan Hasselman, a lawyer for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which has been fighting the project for years. “It’s always been false. They haven’t even turned the thing on and it’s shown to be false.”

The pipeline, scheduled to transport oil from North Dakota to Illinois, inspired massive demonstrations in 2016 and was dealt a major blow when the Obama administration denied a key permit for the project toward the end of his presidency. But shortly after Donald Trump’s inauguration, the new administration ordered the revival of the pipeline and worked to expedite the final stage of construction

The April spill, which was first uncovered this week by a local South Dakota reporter, illustrates the need for the more robust environmental assessment that the tribe has long demanded, said Hasselman… (more)

Freight Rail Fight Could Impact Calif. High-Speed Rail Project

By

AN FRANCISCO (CN) – An impending decision by the California Supreme Court over whether the state or federal government has jurisdiction in railway decisions could have major implications for the Golden State’s high-speed rail project.

The justices heard oral argument by the North Coast Railway Authority, which argued the federal government’s decision to allow freight service to resume on a 316-mile line that runs through northern counties outweighs the state’s environmental rules under the California Environmental Protection Act.

“Federal courts have universally ruled that open-ended pre-clearance processes like CEQA are preempted by the authority of federal regulators,” said Andrew Sabey, attorney for Northwest Pacific. The railroad operates the freight trains that traverse through Sonoma, Humboldt and Mendocino counties…(more)

Calif. Central Valley Sank 3 Feet During Historic Drought

By Matthew Renda : courthousenews – excerpt

PALO ALTO, Calif. (CN) – While this past winter busted California’s five-year drought, a new Stanford University study shows how the dry years did permanent damage to Central Valley aquifers.

A satellite remote-sensing study performed by Stanford researchers shows a portion of the Central Valley sank by as much as three feet due to overpumping of groundwater during the drought, permanently reducing the region’s capacity for water storage.

“California is getting all of this rain, but in the Central Valley, there has been a loss of space to store it,” said study co-author Rosemary Knight, a professor at Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences.

The alteration of the clay layers that comprise the San Joaquin Valley translates into a permanent loss of natural storage capacity of anywhere between 360,000 to 600,000 acre-feet of water, the study says.

As a point of comparison, the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir – which provides water to San Francisco and is roughly the size of the Yosemite Valley – holds about 360,000 acre-feet of water… (more)

Next time you hear about rising sea levels remember that land can also sink. the effect is the same. San Francisco is embarking on a plan to blend groundwater with Heth Hetchy water for half the city’s water customers. EIRs do not seem to study the effects of removing ground water or much else that effects the environment and as we know there is no real mitigation done to protect one from any of the negative results anyway.

 

The Sad State of the University Degree for Planners & Designers

by Rick Harrison : newgeography – excerpt

For the past four decades, technology has improved nearly all aspects of our life – except for the physical land development patterns of our cities. The 1960’s suburban pattern, still in use today, is unsustainable. However, the ‘architectural’ answer to the ‘planning’ problem of sprawling subdivisions has been to simply go backwards to the gridded past.

Without a high degree of architectural and landscaping detail, this model, known as New Urbanism, does not work. As such, there are few (if any) affordable New Urbanist non-subsidized developements. The Congress of New Urbanism (CNU) boasts of their success in gentrification, but instead of reinventing ‘design’ to address the problems, the architect’s answer is to make site plan function as if it as a simplistic rectangular floor plan.

The CNU objective is to create a pedestrian oriented society and do everything possible to do away with car ownership. To combat suburban sprawl, they attack those who invest in suburban homes even though they represent 80 percent of the housing market growth. Even with the nearly three decades New Urbanists have promoted this singular solution, there are relatively few actual CNU projects.

ne of the largest groups of CNU followers are university professors who teach young, impressionable minds that suburbia is terrible and only high density is the answer. These students go deep into debt thinking that they will be part of a vast new era of change, however, when they look for employment in the real world, they are miserably unprepared. The technical skills taught in Urban Planning and GIS (Geographic Information Systems) revolve around software and training supplied by ESRI, and for architectural or civil engineering students, most likely an AutoCAD targeted module like Civil3D or Revitt, the current industry-leading software products… (more)