Environment Archive

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Water enforcement dropped in business-friendly Haslam administration

Posted on 06 April 2018 (0)
Mike Brown / USAT Network

Mike Brown / USAT Network

Year after year, the inspectors found the same violations. Norfolk Southern Railway, they noted, allowed construction dirt to wash into tributaries of the Wolf River, a hunting source for bald eagles that flows from northern Mississippi to Memphis.

The railroad had graded much of 380 acres of farmland, exposing tan earth before paving the way for the Memphis Regional Intermodal Facility. With state-of-the-art cranes, the terminal would allow Norfolk Southern to rapidly transfer cargo containers from trains to trucks. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, shovel in hand, posed at the 2011 groundbreaking and hailed the potential transportation jobs.

That same year — Haslam’s first in office — his administration began reshaping the state Department of Environment and Conservation to be more “customer focused.” Haslam’s hand-picked commissioner merged the three water protection divisions into one, shed a quarter of their positions, and nearly stopped penalizing polluters. The agency prided itself on helping companies comply with the law before resorting to fines.

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Sempra facility a major polluter long before gas leak

Posted on 25 February 2016 (0)
Map by Mike Reicher

Map by Mike Reicher

Even before a catastrophic well failure turned Aliso Canyon into an international greenhouse-gas pariah, the natural gas storage facility was one of the industry’s worst climate polluters. Carbon dioxide flowed from its heavy machinery, and methane seeped from valves and equipment.

Only two other underground fields in the United States discharged more greenhouse gases in 2014, according to an analysis of the most recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data.

As Porter Ranch residents prepare to return home and regulators tighten well-safety rules, the long-term environmental costs of storing pressurized gas remain.

The facility in the hills above the San Fernando Valley emitted 206,268 combined tons of natural gas, carbon dioxide and other pollutants in 2014, roughly the same amount as 43,000 cars driven for a year.

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Greenhouse Gas Emissions Interactive Map

Eelgrass: Boon to the Ecology, Bane to Boaters

Posted on 03 December 2011 (0)
(Don Leach, Daily Pilot)

(Don Leach, Daily Pilot)

Los Angeles Times

To some swimmers and boaters it’s a messy, gunk-filled weed, but to the federal government, this ribbon-like plant is crucial to the ecology of coastal bays.

Eelgrass, a protected species of marine life, provides sea creatures with food and protection. Yet many Newport Harbor-area residents and boat owners consider the plant a major headache. They say stringent federal protections instituted 10 years ago make it too expensive to dredge beneath their docks. They say so much silt has accumulated underwater that the keels of sailboats are scraping bottom.

“Boats are hard to use when they’re on the sand,” said home and dock owner Seymour Beek.

The city of Newport Beach is requesting an exemption from federal regulations, saying that an experimental technology used in the Bay Area is one of several new strategies that can help preserve eelgrass at a fraction of the current expense.

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Cell towers get poor reception

Posted on 03 August 2008 (0)


Daily Pilot

CRYSTAL COVE STATE PARK — He fought powerful interests: Caltrans, Orange County, the state parks system and the Irvine Co., all in the name of ocean views.

Dale Ghere, then a high school biology teacher, spent the late 1990s eradicating a towering brush from swaths of Crystal Cove State Park. The saltbrush was blocking views — not from his home — but from Coast Highway, where he rode his bike each day.

Everything was clear until May, when a cell phone company stuck a pole next to the state-owned highway. It was not one of those lunar rover-looking towers, but a slender, 30-foot tall pole. Still, Ghere — and a few others — were surprised to see it: The company didn’t announce it publically, nor did it apply for a California Coastal Commission permit or inform the state parks it was erecting the pole.

“They just don’t get it. People have been working for four decades to get this park developed,” Ghere said, agitated. “For me it’s just one more little chink, just one more little thing that gets in the way of the open space.”

Click here to read the rest of the story in the Daily Pilot and here here to read the version in the Los Angeles Times.