"This issue has been debated for more than 30 years, and to sneak it into a bill that can't be debated is the kind of abuse of power and process that Americans so loathe from the Congress." – Lydia Weiss, The Wilderness Society
By Michelle de Nicola
On Monday the full Senate will consider the Trump Administration's proposed 2018 budget, which includes opening some of the untouched wilderness in northern Alaska in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration. There is no reason to assume the budget won't pass or that Trump won't sign it into law.
This would be a terrible blow to wilderness preservation, and a very bitter end to a lengthy fight to save the Arctic, documented by conservation photographers like Amy Gulick and Florian Shulz.
The only thing that stands between ongoing protection of the refuge, set aside by President Eisenhower in 1960 with the understanding the area would only be "tapped" if world oil supplies were in jeopardy, and destruction of one of the world's most intact wilderness ecosystems is you, your family, your friends, your neighbors – and your phone.
We need to take action IMMEDIATELY. Here's what to do.
1. Call your U.S. senators
Visit the U.S. Senate website to look up your senators, or call the Capitol Hill switchboard and ask to be connected to them at (202) 224-3121. If you're calling your own senator, remind them that you're a constituent. If you call other senators, be sure to say you're calling as a concerned citizen. If you have family or friends in Ohio, have them call their senators. This is an all-hands on deck alert.
The calls eventually go into the office record and the senators are notified. Even a few calls makes a big difference. If no one answers, leave a message on their voicemail. If their D.C. voicemail is full, try calling one of their state office locations.
2. Sign this petition to your senators
This petition includes information about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and why it's crucial to protect it. A few compelling reasons include protecting the "caribou, muskoxen, wolves, 200 species of migratory birds, and polar bears" who call the refuge home. The area is also important "for the Gwich'in Nation, whose home has been the Arctic since time immemorial, [and who] have called for permanent protection of the birthing grounds of the Porcupine Caribou herd for over 30 years."
3. Why the urgency?
Senator Lisa Murkowski and Congressman Don Young of Alaska want to move forward with oil extraction in the 2018 budget resolution. Under Senate rules this only needs a simple majority to pass, instead of the 60-vote majority normally required to get bills through the Senate.
In particular, remind Democratic senators who may be inclined to "thank" Sen. Murkowski for her otherwise sensible no votes against repeated attempts to repeal Obamacare that there is no appropriate quid pro quo vote trade that results in drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Murkowski has built political capital into those Obamacare "no" votes – and she expects a return on her investment from her Democratic colleagues.
4. Why is Arctic drilling so dangerous?
When President Obama crafted Arctic Refuge protections at the end of 2016, the Interior Department posted a press release about the issue, saying "Risks associated with oil and gas activity in the remote, harsh and undeveloped Arctic are not worth taking while the nation has ample energy sources near existing infrastructure."
The Interior documents goes on to say, "Oil spill response and clean-up raises unique challenges in the Arctic and a spill could have substantial impacts on the region, particularly given the ecosystem fragility and limited available resources to respond to a spill. If lease sales were to occur and [oil] production take place, it would be at a time when the scientific realities of climate change dictate that the United States and the international community must be transitioning its energy systems away from fossil fuels."
More to consider – Americans are directly impacted by the drilling
Alaskan natives who live off the coast of the Chukchi Sea worry about how the drilling and its impacts will affect their way of life. Consider Kivalina, a community on a barrier reef island in northwest Alaska, which is already suffering dramatic effects from erosion due to climate change.
Northwest Alaska residents face hunger challenges too, especially as permafrost thaws and ice cellars which have historically provided year-round, freezer-style protection for meat supplies are now melting "at unusual times of the year."
In addtion, as sea ice continues to melt, large fracturies in the ice shelf called "leads" continue to grow. A lifelong resident of Kivalina resident says, "The sea ice used to be 12 feet thick, and there was just one lead. Now it is four feet thick and there are many leads."
Why is taking action NOW so important?
According to Lydia Weiss, government relations director for the Wilderness Society, attaching the Arctic drilling measure to the budget "is a way of dodging public debate on the controversial proposal." We agree. Weiss adds, "This issue has been debated for more than 30 years, and to sneak it into a bill that can't be debated is the kind of abuse of power and process that Americans so loathe from the Congress."
CALL TO ACTION
1. CALL your Senators
Visit the U.S. Senate website to look them up your senators here, or call the Capitol Hill switchboard and ask to be connected to them at (202) 224-3121.
2. SIGN this petition to your Senators
This petition includes specific information about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and why it's so important to protect it.
Call now. Write now. By lunchtime on Monday it could be too late.
Photos by Florian Schulz from To the Arctic.
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
SDCDEA president Tommy Hough spoke at the Flip the 50th Empty Chair Town Hall event on Saturday, Aug . 26, at Cuyamaca College in Rancho San Diego.
By Tommy Hough
As a kid growing up in the 1970s and 80s, Congress was often the butt of jokes, but Congress was also still working in what many now refer to as the Golden Age of Congress. For 40 years, between 1954 and 1994, Congress ably utilized the power of government to make the lives of Americans better.
There were some mistakes, but by and large, Congress functioned in a bipartisan manner, working to make the lives of Americans better, and into the 1970s passed environmental legislation that continues to serve us today: the Clean Water Act, the Wilderness Act, the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the EPA – now subverted under President Trump and Scott Pruitt beyond the comprehension of anyone but the most cynical right-wing political operator.
I say "all Americans" because it makes no dissemination between rich and poor, between race or religion. Our environmental laws are not there to make life easier for corporations, they're there to ensure our corporations function in a manner that doesn't harm our nation's health, our citizens, our greater ecology, our air or our water. Damage to our environment is in part death by a thousand cuts, and in part like toothpaste – once it's out of the tube, it doesn't go back in.
This remains an ongoing struggle. There is ongoing give and take. Part of the reason the great legislation of the 1960s and 70s was passed was because engaged Americans and robust citizens' groups were demanding it. But after a while, people begin to assume it was always illegal to dump paint or industrial detergents into a river. And since the radicalization of Congress by the Republican wave of 1994, Congressional Republicans have taken on a far more contrary approach to the environment and conservation – to the point, where, today – they hate it. They despise it.
They reject clear and obvious empirical evidence in order to keep their worldview from being upended, and more important, to fit the desires of their donor class, which has little in common with those who actually vote for Republican candidates. That has only been aggravated by the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision in 2010 – because citizens were not empowered by that decision. Only the weathly.
Today's modern Republicans reject any consideration that doesn't fit with the views of a narrow band of AM talk radio hosts and conspiracy-laden websites. And we are now seeing the results and impact and consequences of 30 years' worth of cumulative exposure to radical, right-wing ideology on the public's airwaves. Today, Republican lawmakers like Duncan Hunter Jr. don't respond to real issues – they respond to issues driven by a Republican noise machine. Lazy governing.
Part of that ideology is an abdication of the conservation tenets of one of our nation's great environmentalists: Theodore Roosevelt – a Republican. This is a president who once ducked out of a cabinet meeting to go hiking with John Muir at Yosemite. And Roosevelt listened and learned at the feet of Muir – and in doing so helped begin the process of building modern American conservation, by way of passing the Antiquities Act in 1906 and embracing the cause of protecting our special places as National Parks and National Monuments.
And what makes the current Congress so unusual, so radical, is it's dogged willingness to ignore actual, pressing issues, like infrastructure and opioid addiction and the cancer of economic inequality and the integrity of our elections – and instead, use the power of government to make life more difficult for regular Americans.
Duncan Hunter Jr. has to answer for that, because he votes the GOP party line – a line that does not benefit his constituents, or the environment. Just last year, in 2016, Congressman Hunter:
I would encourage everyone to contact Congressman Hunter and his office and ask if he knows anything about any of the items listed here. If he did, he would be here today to justify his votes to you, his constituents.
Very soon, possibly under a more organized President Trump, or under a capable and effective President Mike Pence, Mr. Hunter will be able to vote on the radical legislation that we know is ready to go on Capitol Hill, but is stalled by the cruel, disorganized mania of King Donald.
Very soon, Mr. Hunter will have opportunities to blindly vote on legislation that undoes the entirety of the 1973 Endangered Species Act. He will vote on legislation to undo the 1964 Wilderness Act. He will vote to take away any kind of reasonable protections from the worst impulses of corporate America. When even oil companies are telling Trump to slow down on deregulation for the sake of appearances, is there any doubt that Duncan Hunter isn't willing to ape and endorse the extremist right in Congress, or the desires of President Trump or Mr. Pence?
We need to flip districts this election cycle. It must happen here, in the 50th.
You are the beginning of that.
Empty Chair Townhall photo courtesy of James Elia
By Tommy Hough
Today, Donald Trump inflicted a grievous wound upon everything the United States has stood for since 1945.
Today, instead of maintaining our role as a world leader, free with the ideas, empathy and support a nation born in hard-won liberty can provide, we have ceded that leadership.
Under a foul pretense of phony populism and patriotism in a weird, rambling and thoroughly logic-free speech, Mr. Trump has cast our nation's long-standing mantle of leadership into the wind – like a used wrapper or discarded newspaper. China and Russia will surely benefit from our absence.
Today, instead of leading the world by example of American grit, innovation and intelligence, President Trump has moved the United States from a column with 195 nations to a column with two – Syria and Nicaragua, the only other nations, now along with the United States, not a party to the Paris Climate Agreement.
The reasons for Syria's absence from this landmark document are clear. The reasons for the Trump-led United States should be clear as well.
Trump is a man with no moral or ideological center. He is a child, moved only by the last people who spoke with him. In this case, it was White House adviser Steve "Breitbart" Bannon, and EPA administrator Scott Pruitt – a man who has been gleefully tasked with dismantling the once-laudable regulatory agency and gutting its staff of expertise and decades of research with the civility of a dumpster fire.
Trump may believe he's a bold political juggernaut by pulling the U.S. out of a global agreement that brought together an astonishing number of nations to face down and combat climate change, but he is only defying the wishes of over half the nation's citizens in favor of a loud, cruel constituency no longer made up of conservatives or even Republicans – but rather, talk radio listeners, internet trolls, radical authoritarians, deranged Infowars addicts and wealthy suburbanites who can't stop looking over their shoulder.
Trump even turned a blind eye to the dozens of CEOs and corporate leaders (!) committed to becoming more energy efficient and reliant upon renewable energy, including business leaders he brought into his orbit to "advise" him, like Tesla innovator Elon Musk. All now clearly a matter of time-wasting optics.
Even oil companies, which I am the last person to support, aren't so cynical as to have called for the U.S. to leave the Paris Climate Accord, knowing full well that oil is a finite resource that is expensive to find, litigate and extract, and that renewable energy is cheaper to produce and infinite as long as there is sun and wind. But in the Trump White House, only the president's enablers have access to their "useful idiot," as they feed him another scrap of fake news and manipulative compliments.
If Trump or the modern Republican Party actually cared about economic issues, they'd be supportive of the move to cleaner energy for no other reason than it is becoming cheaper to harness and utilize. In developing countries that have no coal industry to protect, the price of solar is now half the price of coal. And even though China remains an importer of U.S. coal, the administration would be loathe to admit that China cancelled the construction of 110 coal plants in January – enough to meet the total annual electricity needs of Germany. China is rolling out solar at an unprecedented rate, and the whole world understands it is a far better economic move to go with un-subsidized clean energy than to stick with coal.
If we do not come together as Democrats and jettison the rudderless suspicions and trivial intraparty spats when there is zero sunlight between us on the biggest issues of our time, and effectively take on the Trump White House and ongoing GOP machine of lies, evasion and ignorance, we do not deserve to inherit the leadership our nation so desperately needs.
To defeat the Wall of Ignorance across the aisle we need to repeat realities again and again, like how the state of California employs more people in the renewable energy sector than there are coal jobs in all of the United States. As the memory of a functional, bicameral legislature working on a shared reality in the interest of all Americans slips into obscurity, it has become our charge to rescue our nation from a new Dark Age.
If we don't come together at this moment, we will miss the opportunity to reclaim the direction of our nation and willfully carry what I call the "burden of the party of good government." We must focus, NOW on 2018 and 2020. We must unify NOW. We must show the world Americans are still committed to the same American values of progress and equality that have inspired so many corners of the globe. We must reclaim our planet's health in the name of all Americans and citizens of earth.
Our democracy has never faced a threat quite like the mania of the Trump administration and the runaway nihilism of the 115th Congress. We must counter Mr. Trump and his cabal at every turn, and we must decisively defeat them in 2018 and 2020. Only then can we begin to assess the damage and re-build what Trump is rapidly desecrating.
We begin by coming together NOW and moving forward together. We begin by unifying over our abundance of common ground. We begin by acknowledging that what has become of our nation cannot stand. We begin by ignoring the small grains of sand on the floor and instead fight to keep the landslide next door from inundating our families and ourselves.
To our president, I can only add:
History will not be kind to you, Mr. Trump, and neither will we. You are a child who cannot weigh the abundant evidence around you, or consider our nation's standing in the world without squandering it.
You recklessly fail our country, and now, our planet, at every turn – even as immense opportunities for progress stare you in the face and lie within your grasp. If only you and your family weren't so busy raiding our nation's coffers to notice. If only you cared to act upon the opportunities of your office like a man instead of a child. In the end, you're incapable of even making your own bad decisions, unless they come down to 140 characters.
In a matter of months you have become the president of nothing. All but the paranoid and prejudiced loathe you.
We will move this nation forward in spite of you, but we will not forget your treacherous ignorance, and the damage and humiliation you continue to pile upon our country, which we remain proud of and believe in, in spite of you.
You sir, have become liberty's darkest hour.
We will remind you at every turn of what you have done. And we will defeat you on any level playing field of ideas, reality and reason.
History will not be kind, sir. And neither will we.
Bald eagle photo by Randy Hume
Tree of nations graphic by Marie Guillard
By Tommy Hough
Throwing all environmental law and conservation policy norms out the window, President Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday directing the Interior Department to conduct a "review" of the establishment of all National Monuments going back to 1996, with the clear intent of undoing or shrinking some or all of these federally-protected areas.
As we've been expecting, it is the most full-fledged, naked assault on conservation policy in modern U.S. history, and another attempt by the GOP to ultimately privatize public land that belongs to you and I. The established National Monuments being subjected to "review" include:
As if Donald Trump hasn't already done enough to ensure his place as the most anti-environmental, anti-conservation president in U.S. history, all within a matter of weeks, he's now seeing fit to appease the Cliven Bundy fringe of Republican party extremism – the most reactionary wing of his constituency.
Almost all of the National Monuments listed above came together according to the guidelines set down by the landmark Antiquities Act of 1906. Signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt, one of our nation's greatest conservationists, the Antiquities Act is one of the most powerful pieces of policymaking available to the President of the United States. Along with preserving dozens of other sites under the policy, President Roosevelt used the Antiquities Act to preserve what is now Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona and Olympic National Park in Washington as National Monuments in 1908 and 1909, respectively.
Theodore Roosevelt also established Pinnacles National Monument here in California in 1908, which became a National Park in 2013. Death Valley and Joshua Tree were both established as National Monuments by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1933 and 1936, and both became National Parks in 1994 with the passage of the California Desert Protection Act, which also established Mojave National Preserve.
While National Monuments can be passed as legislation by Congress in the same manner as a National Park, the Antiquities Act gives the president the ability to immediately designate an area of federal land as a National Monument with the stroke of a pen. The idea is to quickly protect any area that may be threatened, or designate an area of importance if Congress is moving too slow on National Park or Wilderness legislation, or if Congress shows little interest in advancing a conservation option for the area at all.
While Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego won't be affected by the Interior Department review (it was established by President Woodrow Wilson in 1913), it's no accident the National Monuments called into question by the Trump executive order stretch back to 1996, the year President Bill Clinton protected what is now Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which lies adjacent to Bryce National Park in Utah. The "cutoff" date on the executive order is a clear indication of the lobbying and influence of far-right and anti-conservation groups within the Trump administration and western counties in Utah, Nevada and elsewhere.
As today's Republican-controlled Congress moves further to the right and away from the political center of the American mainstream, conservation initiatives and protecting clean air, water, wildlife habitat, open space and our country's natural heritage have become another matter of kneejerk partisanship for Republicans – even in districts where many of our nation's natural wonders can be found, despite the fact many of those monuments have become economic engines by way of eco-tourism and park visitation.
In his remarks, President Trump specifically referred to Bear Ears National Monument in Utah, which was established as a National Monument by President Obama in December. Located along the borders of Canyonlands National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Bear Ears also surrounds Natural Bridges National Monument, and had been the subject of a lengthy, grassroots effort to protect its sage and oak woodland habitat going back to the 1980s, as well as areas within the monument sacred to the Navajo, Hopi, Ute, Uintah, Ouray and Pueblo people.
Trump referred to the Bear Ears designation as a "land grab," parroting earlier and equally absurd charges made by anti-conservation extremists. It's anything but a land grab – and demonstrates the president's complete ignorance on the subject. Bear Ears has been managed by the federal government as public land since Utah was a territory. Declaring Bear Ears to be a "land grab" implies that the land was sitting around with no owner, or was seized (!) as part of the Obama designation in December.
While Trump probably doesn't know better, those who make the "land grab" charge are yelling fire in a crowded theater in a manner to incite fools like the Bundy clan, who conducted an armed seizure of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, Oregon, in late 2015, citing the "tyranny" of federal land control – apparently without noticing the Malheur has been a National Wildlife Refuge since 1908 (!) and is a center of jobs and economic activity for Harney County. Some tyranny.
Any and all land designated as National Monuments are already on federal land, there's no practice of seizing or taking land from others – unlike the kind of eminent domain laws Mr. Trump benefits from in order to build his buildings. The only thing that changes with the National Monument designation is the understanding that the area will be managed for long-term conservation, not for short-term gain. It is to be managed for all Americans to enjoy and revel in, not for a few to profit from at the expense of habitats and our environment. As a result, use of recreational machines may be curtailed and resource extraction may no longer be allowed, but hiking and hunting are prime activities.
The likelihood that the executive order's Interior Department "review" will ever lead to the undoing of an actual National Monument is dubious, as is the chance that it would survive any kind of court challenge, but it is the beginning of a larger assault on our public lands. Even though the Antiquities Act is 111 years old and has been used by over a dozen administrations to protect cultural or environmentally-valuable areas, no president has ever tried to undo a National Monument that was established by a previous administration or an Act of Congress. It's unheard of.
Typically a National Monument is managed by the National Park Service, which falls under the auspices of the Department of the Interior. However, since 1980, it has become more common for the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to manage areas designated as National Monuments. The new(er) Sand to Snow and Mojave Trails National Monuments in California are good examples of monuments managed by the BLM.
This is a developing story, so please check back.
Sand to Snow National Monument photo by Mitch Barrie
Carrizo Plain National Monument photo by Tommy Hough
Sand to Snow National Monument sign photo by Jay Calderon / Palm Springs Desert Sun
Giant Sequoia National Monument signing ceremony photo by Harold Wood
By Tommy Hough
It may hard to believe in 2017 that the idea ever went forward, but in the pre-Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima days of 1969, the first reactor of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) went on-line, located on the beach near the San Diego and Orange county line just south of San Clemente.
The namesake San Onofre State Beach (i.e., Trestles) was established just north of the facility in 1971, and the second and third reactors went on-line in 1983 and 1984. Legend has it surfers used to enjoy paddling out near the facility due to the abundance of warm seawater that discharged back into the sea from the plant, where it was used as part of the plant's cooling system to cool off super-heated fuel rods.
The original reactor was shut down in 1992 as the second and third reactors headed into their second decade, but following several high-level press accounts of mismanagement and a series of accidents, culminating in the shutdown of reactor two in 2012, SONGS reactors two and three were decommissioned by Southern California Edison in June 2013. The plant is currently undergoing the de-comissioning process, with the plant's lease due to expire in 2022.
While the closure of San Onofre may be good news given the plant's spotty safety record over the course of its service and the controversial nature of nuclear power since 1979 – greenhouse gas emissions from power plants in California have increased by 35 percent since 2011, which some say is due to the early closure of San Onofre. Even more controversial is the plant's legacy of nuclear waste, which while small, remains in the facility just yards from the Pacific Ocean.
How the nuclear waste will be handled and where it will go became an issue in the 49th congressional district in the 2016 race between GOP incumbent Darrell Issa and Democrat Doug Applegate (whom this club gave an early endorsement to). How Issa will pivot on San Onofre ahead of 2018 remains to be seen, particularly as Applegate and new Democratic challenger Mike Levin stake out positions.
The term "on the beach" in the title of this post is used half-ironically too, as it was also the name of a 1957 novel by Nevil Shute, and a 1959 Stanley Kramer movie starring La Jolla native Gregory Peck. Both the book and the movie depict the final months on Earth following a nuclear holocaust – typically viewed from the periscope of a submarine that escaped the initial disaster.
Photos by Tommy Hough and Jim Herrington
By Tommy Hough
Thanks to everyone who joined us on Sat., April 8, for our hike into the wetlands of the Tijuana River Valley Estuary – the largest such river mouth in Southern California.
While the spring wildflower bloom was nothing short of spectacular, our hike comes at a criticial moment for estuaries managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), now faced with draconian cuts from the Trump administration to NOAA coastal management funds.
While a variety of agencies like California State Parks, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Fish and Wildife Service manage entities within the reserve, overall funding comes from NOAA, which manages 28 different National Esturary Research Reserves (NERRS) around the nation.
These are areas crucial for conservation, recreation, and wetland management. Natural wetlands and estuaries not only provide and protect wildlife habitat, they also play a signficant role in cleaning water and runoff before it enters the sea. Estuaries and wetlands also protect inland areas from storm surges during hurricanes and severe weather events, and support fish and wildlife and local economies.
Unfortunately, the Trump administration's budget would eliminate NERRS altogether, including the Tijuana River Estuary, with cuts of up to $250 million in targeted NOAA grants and programs supporting coastal and marine management, research, training and education. This would effectively be the end.
For reference, last week's cruise missile strikes on the Shayrat Airbase in Syria cost about $93 million in hardware and facilitation by the U.S. Navy.
Congress needs to hear from us – right now – so that elected officials can questions, act on evidence, grandstand, draw media attention and make the risks of the proposed cuts to the Tijuana River National Eestuarine Research Reserve clear to all.
According to Chris Peregrin with California State Parks, the Tijuana River Estuary:
These are measurable benefits to the environment, and to the communities and quality of life of the South Bay – they could all be lost by the stroke of a very ignorant pen. Contact your congressional representatives and urge them and their colleagues in Congress to reject the Trump administration's proposal to drastically cut funding to NOAA and eliminate the NERRS program.
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