TOPIC: Clean Air

Raptor deaths dirty California’s cleanest energy source

Federal wildlife conservation officials have launched an inquest into the deaths of protected birds at a California wind farm, Louis Sahagun of the Los Angeles Times reports, highlighting a potentially crippling drawback of one of the world’s cleanest power sources.

A total of seven golden eagles are believed to have been killed over the course of two years after colliding with one of 90 windmills at the Pine Tree windmill site. The windmills, operated by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power in the Tehachapi Mountains went on-line in 2009 and are spread out among 8,000 acres, generating 120 megawatts of electricity. (more…)

High speed rail funding leaves one coast for the other

A major windfall in federal funding offered to Florida for a new high speed rail effort, just might end up in America’s other sand-and-sun tourist destination — California.

Arguing that local matching funds and future operating and maintenance costs would be an albatross around Floridians’ necks, Florida’s Republican leadership recently rejected the $2.43 billion Washington offered for that state’s long planned fast train project. Now, according to Rich Connell of the Los Angeles Times, the race is on to get that money and California is hoping for a healthy slice, if not the whole pie. (more…)

Will California reach down deeper for renewable energy sources?

Tidal Farm

Less than five months after California voters strongly rejected a Republican effort to neuter the state’s commitment to renewable energy, the California legislature doubled down yesterday, advancing a bill to the governor’s desk requiring a sharp increase in the use of renewable energy. (more…)

From Fukushima to Diablo Canyon, it’s a small world . . . with a lot of nuclear power plants

With an emergency back up cooling system inadvertently disabled, Pacific Gas & Electric’s Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant was in a highly vulnerable condition for a year and a half, reports David R. Baker of the San Francisco Chronicle. In the event of an accident, the plant would have been unable to pump water to cool nuclear fuel rods — much the same problem as has struck the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan due to the earthquake and tsunami there.

The fault was corrected only after it was exposed during a drill. The incident, along with 13 others, is included in a report released Thursday by the Union of Concerned Scientists, which reviewed plant inspections by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The report lauds the NRC for catching and correcting problems, but criticizes the agency for failing to examine and fix the underlying systems or procedures that contributed to specific problems. (more…)

Progress on “perc” won’t take cleaners . . . to the cleaners

A stringent California regulation phasing out the use of a toxic chemical by dry cleaners, has received crucial approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, reports Susan Carpenter of the Los Angeles Times.

While the 1990 federal Clean Air Act urges the dry cleaning industry to reduce its dependence on perchloroethylene or perc, the act’s language is purely voluntary. But a regulation approved by the California Air Resources Board in 2007 added a deadline — the chemical’s phase out in dry cleaning is required by 2023. (more…)

Monday wakeup call: Fracking dangers demand immediate action and new attitude

Two different reportorial and editorial approaches to the fraught question of fracking — one from Abrahm Lustgarten in ProPublica and one from Ian Urbina in the New York Times — together make it clear that the use of hydraulic fracturing to produce natural gas is already a major threat to the environment across the entire country.   The federal government must react decisively both to protect the potential of natural gas as a path away from foreign oil dependence and to reduce the risks of fracking to the water we drink and the air we breathe. (more…)

Saddling up the Iron Horse in California

In what may be another windfall for California’s high speed rail project, Florida officials, led by that state’s governor yesterday rejected almost $2.5 billion in federal matching funds for a high speed rail link connecting Orlando and Tampa.

As Michael Doyle reports in The Sacramento Bee, that money could conceivably find its way into California’s coffers. Several months ago, after newly elected republican governors in Ohio and Wisconsin rejected federal money for high speed rail projects in their states, federal officials redirected the money to California. (more…)

On that clean water thing, call me back in four years, OK?

In a strange but typical story, the EPA has announced an initiative to remove from drinking water such dangerous chemicals as perchlorate (a component of rocket fuel, explosives, and fireworks that causes birth defects).  But, as John Broder reports in the New York Times, deciding just how much perchlorate should be allowed in your water is going to take at least two more years, as the EPA

did not establish an actual limit on the amount of perchlorate allowable in drinking water, but set in motion a rulemaking process to set a standard.

The agency actually said it would be three or four years before the limit could be determined. (more…)