TOPIC: Global Warming

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…)

Five feet high and rising (the ocean, that is) at Hampton Roads

Darryl Fears reports on a realistic approach to climate change in a great Washington Post snapshot of the area around Hampton Roads, Virginia.  Including the cities of Norfolk and Virginia Beach, this part of the country is particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels because the land itself is sinking due to long-term geological processes. In a few generations, Virginia Beach could be left without a beach, and the Norfolk Naval Station could be more underwater than even the Navy likes to be. (more…)

Water, water not everywhere (especially not in the Southwest)

As trapped carbon dioxide raises temperatures around the world, water will become even more scarce in the already arid southwest, according to a report released yesterday by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, together with the Army Corps of Engineers.

While a story by Bettina Boxall in the Los Angeles Times says California as a whole will end the century receiving about as much water as it does today, though precipitation will be distributed differently. (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…)

California salmon situation finally spawning good news

Chinook salmon

California’s vanishing salmon are suddenly bouncing back. After four years of declining populations that have worried scientists, bankrupted fisherman and launched desperate conservation measures, a near record year is predicted for Chinook or King salmon, prompting regulators to prepare plans for opening the Pacific for the first real commercial and recreational salmon fishing season since 2007.

The federal Pacific Fishery Management Council released three conceptual options for the coming season yesterday, reports Peter Fimrite of the San Francisco Chronicle. All three options allow for much more fishing than last year, predicated on estimates derived from the number of two-year-old salmon, known as ‘jacks,’ that returned to spawn a year ago. (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…)

Fresh start for fresh water in California?

Water management must be completely reworked in California, with antique regulations jettisoned along with the usual way wildlife conservation is looked at in the state, say eight academic experts whose 500-page book on California’s water crisis was released this week. (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…)