Third Anniversary Event Photo Gallery
Photos by Deborah Gostin photography. Click here to view the entire set.
If you use these photos for any purpose, please credit them to Deborah Gostin Photography, and please provide Deborah with a link to your site so she can add it to her portfolio – thank you.
By Tommy Hough
An immense thanks to all our sponsors, club members, award winners, friends and special guests who stopped by Ponce's on Sunday, Sept. 24, to help us celebrate our third anniversary.
Special thanks to photographer Deborah Gostin of Deborah Gostin Photography for serving as our event photographer.
Thanks as well to Congressman Scott Peters and State Senator Toni Atkins for paying our event a vist and offering remarks, and congratulations once again to our 2017 San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action honorees:
Finally, a thank you once again to all of our members and event attendees. You're the reason our club is now three years strong – and heading into its fourth year and our second election cycle with more members that ever.
Wear your buttons proud. You're the reason San Diego County is becoming a greener and increasingly greater Democratic stronghold every day.
Third Anniversary event photos courtesy of Deborah Gostin Photography
Award photo by Renée Owens
Button photo by Tommy Hough
By Michael Torti
The Tijuana River Valley encompasses 1,750 miles and is home to an astonishing biodiversity of plants and wildlife in 12 major watersheds, with miles of hiking and horseback riding opportunities and scenic beaches. But as many San Diegans know, there is an odorous issue that inflicts ongoing environmental damage to this otherwise gorgeous area.
Earlier this year, on Feb. 24, the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) alerted authorities that raw sewage from Mexico had been released into the Tijuana River due to rains that overwhelmed upriver pump stations. Estimated to be between 30 and 143 million gallons, the spill entered the Pacific Ocean at the mouth of the Tijuana River just south of Imperial Beach and the Silver Strand. While the spill sickened residents, impacted the local economy and killed wildlife, neither the state or federal government funded an emergency cleanup.
Sadly, this is not a new event. The Tijuana River Valley has been polluted by raw sewage and trash since the 1930s, and as the population of Tijuana has swelled to 1.8 million people, the city's trash collection and sewage infrastructure has failed to keep pace. The result is abundance of trash mixed with sediment and persistent sewage spills.
Raw sewage spills occur when area sewage treatment systems, already overwhelmed by the increase of sewage due to the increase in population, become overwhelmed by rain. This is aggraveted by the concrete channelization of the Tijuana River through downtown Tijuana, built in the 1980s following the calamitous flooding of Tijuana during the 1982 El Niño.
While Mexico's CILA pumping facility went on-line in 1991, it can only collect up to 23 million gallons per day and operates only during dry weather. The nearby Mexican wastewater treatment plant also pumps untreated water into the CILA facility, further limiting its capacity of sewage flows.
On the U.S. side of the border, the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant off Dairy Mart Road is a secondary wastewater treatment facility built in 1997, but it can only treat 25 million gallons of water per day – and this is on a normal day, not during a major rainfall event.
Rain creates smaller, but frequent sewage flows in the Tijuana River. Sixty percent of Tijuana River sloughs and 20 percent of beaches in I.B. are closed each year due to sewage contamination, prompting massive health, economic and environmental consequences. Our nation doesn't need to build an absurd border wall, but it does need to spend money on adequate infrastructure to prevent sewage flows from entering the Tijuana River once and for all.
A coalition of bi-national stakeholders, added on as an accord or "minute" to the larger 1944 water treaty between the U.S. and Mexico, is referred to as the Minute 320 work group. This group has been tasked with proposing waste and pollution solutions. During this month's meeting, the group reviewed the condition of pump stations and how to optimize the diversion of sewage flows. One solution that was discussed was the construction of additional diversions in Mexico, plus new diversions and pumping on the U.S. side of the border. While this is progress, further funding must be secured.
Federal money to support border sewage projects is typically funded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Unfortunately, as we're all well aware, these are not normal times for the EPA, or for responsible levels of environmental funding. In the face of the EPA's politically-fueled intransigence, Senator Dianne Feinstein has requested an additional $24 million in funding for the IBWC, and State Senator Ben Hueso has proposed $2.1 million towards restoration efforts. Baja California has similarly proposed a plan to upgrade Tijuana's sewage system by spending $357 million MXN on upgrading wastewater treatment ponds.
What can you do? There are several ways to make a difference. The first is to contact your federal representatives and demand that funding at last be provided to the IBWC to fund clean-ups, restoration and infrastructure. You can also get involved in the clean-up. Each year the Tijuana River Action Network, a collaboration of local non-profits and community groups, comes together to remove trash and restore the estuary. Last year 2,934 volunteers removed 64,000 pounds of trash.
If you want to get more involved, organizations like Wildcoast, the Surfrider Foundation, and Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve offer a variety of volunteer opportunities, and would be grateful to have your help.
Please take action and together we can protect the Tijuana River Valley, and in time, restore the river to its full health and splendor.
Michael Torti serves as the chair of the San Diego County Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.
By Tommy Hough
Two years ago this body gave its support to the city of San Diego's landmark Climate Action Plan. In doing so, it gave Democratic lawmakers on city council the confidence to move forward with advocating for that plan, knowing the party's "rank and file" had their back.
Ultimately, the Climate Action Plan was passed on a unanimous vote by San Diego City Council. Democrats and Republicans, seeing the environmental writing on the wall of a warming planet, and perhaps seeing things through the political filter of necessity – but seeing the future nonetheless – understood this city must do its part to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in conjunction with the rest of the state, the rest of the nation, and the rest of the world.
This body created the opportunity for our elected officials to succeed, and move the ball down the field to a cleaner future. We are all components in making this happen – every person here. In 2015, we did that.
The city of San Diego's Climate Action Plan is a legally binding plan. It's ambitious, and it's not going away. Community Choice Energy, or Community Choice Aggregation, is a crucial component of that plan. The mayor must begin to meaningfully move forward on implementing it, and in a manner that is more substantive than simply painting bicycle lanes onto busy city streets and creating P.R. and press events.
Community Choice Energy provides consumer choice by expanding your energy purchasing and energy consumption options. It enables cities and counties to purchase cleaner power provided to consumers at a competitive or lower price. It is a partnership between the city San Diego, and the lone utility that serves this county: San Diego Gas and Electric.
Community Choice Energy – or CCEs for short – will provide you, your friends, and your families with choice. CCEs create competition between energy providers, some of whom may utilize one source of energy, some of whom may utilize multiple sources.
But you will get to determine who you want to buy from, and the idea is you may go with the greenest options available. Or not. It's up to you – it's your choice. But, over time, standard Community Choice Energy options based upon renewable sources have been demonstrated to beat the rates of competing utilities.
San Diegans pay the highest electricity rates of anyone in California. Part of the reason for that is we are currently subject to a power monopoly which doesn't allow other options. Without competition, there is no other market-based mechanism to provide a counterweight. Community Choice Energy enables local control and accountability for electricity rates, while reducing our region's carbon footprint by providing a greater mix of clean energy sources on our grid.
The city of San Diego is legally bound to get to 100 percent renewable energy sources by 2035, and we can't get there without clean energy provided by a multitude of Community Choice Energy providers. Over time, local community choice programs may be able to purchase increasing amounts of solar, wind or geothermal power from local sources, thereby supporting local, union jobs and local economic development in a burgeoning green-collar economy.
There are already eight operational CCE programs covering 70 cities in the Golden State, some with several counties joining together under joint operating agreements. In each case, they're offering residents competitive if not lower rates, more clean energy, and exceeding state climate goals – with more scheduled to launch in 2018.
When this body gave its approval to the Climate Action Plain in 2015, we were in the vanguard in San Diego. But over the last two years, the rest of the state saw what we were doing, and picked up the ball. Now, we're getting lapped. We were first, but among large California cities we're now being passed by.
CCEs are going on-line in next year in Los Angeles County, Riverside County, the Coachella Valley, Alameda County and the city of San Jose. These areas represent a wide swath of the state's political spectrum, and no one is going to mistake Riverside County as a hotbed of progressivism. But all see the value for their residents and constituents, and the promise of cleaner air and more renewable energy on the grid.
The city of San Diego recently published a technical study that concludes the CCE program is not only feasible, but will:
The next step is for the City Council to vote to enable staff to move into the second phase of CCE evaluation in January.
We're on track, and we're pushing for this resolution so our city officials see the support for CCEs are as strong now as they were in 2015 when this body helped greenlight the city's Climate Action Plan. We need the implementation of CCEs to get underway now so that by 2035 we won't be reacting to a deadline, but instead, will be comfortably arriving at our destination with a portfolio of functional renewable energy options available to consumers.
We can do this. We have the opportunity to move this process along tonight.
Now, I want to make this next point perfectly clear – and our club says as much in the language of this resolution. This is not a resolution that is aimed at harming anyone. This is not an anti-this or anti-that resolution.
You and I all have friends, colleagues, and family members who work for SDGE. These are dedicated professionals who love and value this community, and with our union brothers and sisters work hard to keep the lights on. They are our neighbors and they have an extraordinary volume of institutional knowledge about this region's energy needs. They have been assets to this community, and we need them more than ever. We need that knowledge. We need that aptitude. That's part of the reason SDGE has had a seat at the table on Community Choice Energy since Day One.
For CCEs to be successful, we need to utilize SDGE's transmission lines and transmission network. We need their billing capabilities. These aren't asides or minor items or small asks. SDGE has an opportunity to play a significant role in making CCEs successful as our city meets our Climate Action Plans by 2035. And as is the case with other utilities in the state, SDGE will remain whole.
You and I have a chance to get this right – tonight. We have a chance to demonstrate leadership – tonight. We have a chance to do right by our families and our neighbors and people who believe competition is inherently American and essential for a fair marketplace. And that 100 percent renewable energy, powered by good-paying, union jobs is not only attainable – but is necessary if we are going to be planning a future beyond 2035 at all.
The tipping point is here. We're on it. We've arrived. We are at the very early stages of coming to grips with rising sea levels affecting our beach communities, and wildfires that kill people and destroy lives when they dash in from the county's interior. We are fighting a two-front war against climate change in this county that grows more intense each year. Let's show the state that we know where San Diego's energy and environmental priorities are by supporting the resolution before you.
The time is now. We're not going to sit on our hands as others would prefer we do. Delay is death. Our leaders need to hear us from Downtown to Sacramento to Washington. We're not going to wait. San Diego is not only doing its part, we're leading, we're paving the way, and with your help, support and your vote in favor of this resolution we will continue to be leaders in this state and this nation in arriving at a green, renewable future.
We can do it, and we're going do it tonight.
Photo by Tommy Hough
By Richard Ram and Tommy Hough
Several large California utilities, including San Diego Gas and Electric, are pressuring state lawmakers to add amendments to legislation that will impose a moratorium on Community Choice Energy (CCE) programs operated by local governments as alternatives to existing power companies.
Put simply — this is an emergency, and we are calling on all Democrats and environmentalists to stand with us and contact legislators in Sacramento. The bills that threaten Community Choice Energy could be voted on any moment.
One of the principles our club was founded upon was to give Democratic lawmakers the opportunity to succeed when green legislation is at stake. This is one of those moments, and frankly, the stakes are very high.
Almost everything our club has been working towards over the last three years as far as implementing the city of San Diego's landmark Climate Action Plan is on the line.
Community Choice Energy (CCE), also known as Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), is under attack from large utilities who want to maintain their monopolies and deny ratepayers the ability to choose locally-developed renewable energy. CCE is a key component of San Diego's Climate Action Plan, and in similar plans in municipalities around the state.
San Diego Gas and Electric and other large utilities have engaged in last-minute backroom deals with state legislators to block the ability of cities and communities to choose their own energy, resulting in two bills, AB 726 and AB 813, that would essentially freeze Community Choice Energy. For us, this is a non-starter.
Another bill, SB 100, enjoys wide support among proponents of clean energy, but is threatened by potential amendments that would similarly freeze CCE programs. If CCE provisions are gutted in SB 100, we'll lose an important engine of innovation and consumer empowerment needed to reach our renewable energy goals.
If you believe in free markets, it's hard to see how you can abide by monopolies. Pushing for competition is the best way to ensure consumers have the best, greenest options available to them. But as we know, monopolies are loathe to give up their power.
So we need you to call and make an ask of legislators.
Ask our Democratic lawmakers to stand firm with us at this crucial moment, and ensure that Community Choice Energy isn't stripped away or shut down by these 11th-hour, backroom deals with utilities. We will remember those who demonstrate courage and steadfastness on this issue. CCE is the wave of the future and one of the ways we can ensure we have cleaner air and more renewable energy -- and meet our climate goals. Please vote NO on AB 726, and vote NO on AB 813.
Please contact your state senators and assembly members. Let them know we'll have their back for taking a stand for energy choice and competition. Now is the time to do the right thing for ratepayers, our environment, and communities working hard for a greener future.
State Assembly Members
Todd Gloria (AD-78)
(619) 645-3090 (district office)
Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (AD-80)
(610) 338-8090 (district office)
MESSAGE: Vote NO on AB 276 and NO on AB 213. Please reach out to Speaker Anthony Rendon to let him know you will vote NO on AB 276 and AB 813 because of the harm they will cause Community Choice Energy efforts and program.
Toni Atkins (SD-39)
(619) 645-3133 (district office)
Ben Hueso (SD-40)
(619) 409-7690 (Chula Vista)
(760) 335-3442 (El Centro)
MESSAGE: Vote NO on AB 726 and NO on AB 813. Please reach out to Senate Pro Tem Kevin DeLeón to let him know that you will vote NO on AB 726 and AB 813 because of the harm they will cause Community Choice Energy efforts and program.
Also, please urge your elected officials that NO amendments be made to SB 100 that would freeze or otherwise negatively affect Community Choice Energy provisions.
Thanks for making calls on this very important matter. The legislative session ends this Friday.
In addition, San Diego County Democrats For Environmental Action will present our club's Community Choice Energy resolution before members of the San Diego County Democratic Party Central Committee this upcoming Tuesday, Sept. 19.
We're seeking the support of local Democrats, Democratic clubs, and especially voting members of the county Democratic Party Central Committee in passing this resolution, and your active support and attendance is requested at the Central Committee meeting this Tuesday, Sept. 19, beginning at 7 p.m. at the Machinists Hall in Kearny Mesa at 5150 Kearny Mesa Road.
Thank you for all of your help with these efforts. We're up against powerful special interests lobbying to maintain their monopolies, and seeking faultlines upon which to drive wedges into our Democratic coalition.
Don't let them. Stand up now for Community Choice Energy.
"People of privilege will always risk their entire destruction rather than surrender any material part of their advantage." — John Kenneth Galbraith
The blog component of San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action welcomes content from SDCDEA members, guests and leadership.