Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Oakland Energy & Climate Action Plan

Public Workshop ~ December 11, 2008

The City of Oakland Public Works Agency (PWA) had its first public workshop to identify, evaluate, and prioritize actions it can take to becoming a model sustainable city. The city intends to do this by reducing and optimizing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. The PWA, under direction of a sustainability coordinator, is drafting an Energy and Climate Action Plan (ECAP) that will be submitted to the Oakland City Council to clarify its policy and recommend priority actions.

The stages of the process include initial public input, early research and analysis, setting targets and objectives, plan development, plan presentation, and a comment period. The second public workshop will be in Spring 2009, with a goal of presenting the ECAP to the City Council in Fall 2009.

During the first meeting, the attendees were asked for input in four areas:
  1. What do you see as the main purposes and benefits for Oakland by addressing climate change locally?
  2. What should the City consider in deciding which greenhouse gas reduction actions to implement?
  3. What actions should the City take to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions?
  4. What other suggestions do you have that might help the City develop its ECAP?
Comments, questions, ideas, and suggestions can be forwarded to the city's Sustainability Coordinator, Garrett Fitzgerald:
City of Oakland, Public Works Agency
250 Frank Ogawa Plaza, Suite 5301
Oakland, California 94612

For more information, please visit http://www.sustainableoakland.com/

Easy Eco Questions

...and some not so easy answers.

You might find this article in New Scientist magazine interesting.
Although it has a slight UK-focus, it provides answers to some common but not so easy questions that you may have been afraid to ask.

(Note: I have not done a QC check on their answers!)

Take Steps to Reduce Junk Mail

Did you know that...?
  • More than 100,000,000,000 pieces of junk mail are delivered each year, more than 800 pieces per household
  • US junk mail accounts for one-third of all the mail delivered in the world
  • 44% of junk mail goes to the landfill unopened
  • It takes the equivalent of >100 million trees to produce the junk mail that arrives in US mailboxes each year

Efforts are underway to create a national Do Not Mail Registry, similar to the Do Not Call Registry that was officially enacted in 2003. It's not there yet, but Forest Ethics has some great tools for helping you get off mass mailing databases. It's easy.

Read more here: http://donotmail.org/index.php

Monday, November 24, 2008

Adopt-A-Tree for Christmas

Dreaming of a Green Christmas

Now through December 8, Friends of the Urban Forest and SF Environment are offering San Francisco residents a chance to order a living, potted Christmas Tree for $90. Each one of the 6-ft to 8-ft tall trees has been handpicked to thrive in San Francisco.

Available trees include Southern Magnolia, Small Leaf Tristania, Strawberry Tree, and New Zealand Christmas Tree.

You can choose which tree you would like to have in your home for the holidays when you pick up your tree at the City Hall Plaza Green Christmas Tree lot on December 7th, from 9 am until 5 pm. Trees will be available on a first come, first served basis. If you miss the tree lot, you can pick up your tree at the Friends of the Urban Forest offices from December 8, 2008 through December 12, 2008. After the holidays, Friends of the Urban Forest will pick up the trees from you and plant them on SF's city streets.

- Urban trees reduce water pollution by capturing street runoff from storms.
- Trees save on energy costs by acting as shade from the sun and as a shield from the wind.
- Street trees help clean the air and can reduce incidences of childhood asthma.

More details here.

Local urban forestry organizations:
Friends of the Urban Forest
Urban Releaf

Friday, November 21, 2008

Planting Daffodils in Oakland

Northgate participated in the City of Oakland’s 5th annual Plant Daffodils program on Saturday, November 15th. The program is sponsored by the City of Oakland, Keep Oakland Beautiful, and The Home Depot.

Organized by the Northgate Green Team Social Justice Task Force, led by Brendan Mulholland, Northgate planted over 200 daffodil bulbs along a 6-block stretch of 23rd Avenue from East 21st Street to East 27th Street in Oakland. The bulbs will bloom by March or April.

Thanks to everyone who volunteered their time and energy!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

LEED for Neighborhood Development

LEED Rating System Open for Public Comment

The US Green Building Council (USGBC) is inviting public comment on the LEED for Neighborhood Development Rating System. The system integrates the principles of smart growth, new urbanism, and green building. The program is a collaborative effort between USGBC, the Congress for the New Urbanism, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The rating system is built upon the LEED for Neighborhood Development Pilot Rating System, which nearly 240 projects have been using since July 2007 as part of a pilot program. Eighteen projects have already been certified.

Any member of the public may submit comments. To view the rating system draft and comment, please go the LEED Rating System Drafts webpage. The public comment period will be open from November 17, 2008 through January 5, 2009.

For more information about the LEED for Neighborhood Development program please visit the USGBC website.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Sustainable Remediation Survey

Please tell us about your sustainable remediation experience!

Are you new to sustainable remediation? Or maybe you've been practicing sustainable remediation for years but have never considered the many attributes that qualify your cleanups as "green"? Have you tried sustainable remediation but encountered resistance?

The Northgate Green Team would like to learn more about your experience...and you might learn a few things about sustainable remediation in the process. We've put together a brief survey to make sharing easy!

Click here to go to the survey.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Northgate's Carbon Footprint

We do indeed have one, but how does it compare?
Maile Smith, November 13, 2008

Earlier this year I calculated Northgate's first, i.e. baseline, carbon footprint. We will update our carbon footprint analysis annually. Our carbon footprint is one way to measure the impact of our operational activities on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases produced, measured in units of carbon dioxide. The guidance for this analysis was the "Greenhouse Gas Protocol", developed by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the World Resources Institute. I also used a companion document called "Working 9 to 5 on Climate Change: An Office Guide".

The organizational boundary for the study encompassed our Oakland and Newport Beach offices and all full-time employees. The operational boundary encompassed:
–Scope 1 direct emissions from company car use
–Scope 2 indirect emissions from office electricity
–Scope 3 indirect emissions from employee commuting, business travel (car and air), and paper use

Measured in tonnes of carbon dioxide (1,000 kg), Northgate's 2007 carbon footprint was:
–Scope 1 direct emissions = 8.0
–Scope 2 indirect emissions = 60.2
–Scope 3 indirect emissions = 158.7

So how do we compare to other environmental consulting firms that have reported their emissions to the California Climate Action Registry? One annual emissions report for a large, nation-wide firm reported no direct emissions (i.e., no company vehicle use) for 2006 for their US operations. Their Scope 2 emissions from energy use was 2,623 tonnes. Another large, multi-national firm reported 107 tonnes of Scope 1 emissions and 165 tonnes of Scope 2 emissions for their California operations. It is unclear if either firm accounted for employee commutes or travel in optional or de minimus emissions calculations. This makes it difficult to compare apples to apples, as Northgate's baseline appears to comprise elements that the others do not.

Is there room for improvement? Definitely. Aside from keeping the lights on, the largest contributors to our carbon footprint are employee commuting, paper use, and airline travel (in decreasing order). And although many Northgate staff already use public transportation, we should continue to encourage mass transit use as well as carpooling, biking, and walking. We have already made strides to increase the recycled content of our paper, and efforts are underway to reduce paper use overall.

Agreement Reached in Klamath Basin

Pact unveiled that would remove dams
Jeff Barnard, Associated Press, November 13, 2008

The Bush administration has announced a nonbinding agreement for removing four dams along the Klamath River, a key to resolving the basin's long-standing trouble balancing the water needs of farms and fish. The deal represents a milestone toward what would become the biggest dam removal project in US history.

Built between 1908 and 1962, the four dams block salmon from 300 miles of spawning habitat while producing enough electricity to power about 70,000 homes. The agreement is a roadmap for turning the dams over to a nonfederal entity and starting to remove them by 2020.

The deal embraces a $1 billion environmental restoration blueprint for the Klamath Basin that has been endorsed by farmers, Indian tribes, salmon fishermen and conservation groups. Besides restoring fish habitat, it guarantees water and cheap electricity for farmers, as well as continued access to federal wildlife refuges for farming. Dean Brockbank, vice president and general council for PacifiCorp, said though the agreement was nonbinding, the utility was committed to seeing it through to removal of the dams.

Read the complete story here: http://www.sacbee.com/827/story/1393837.html

The High Cost of Air Pollution

Bad air costing state's economy billions
Jane Kay, SF Chronicle, November 13, 2008

California has the worst air in the country, and 20 million people living in the dirtiest regions account for billions of dollars a year in economic losses because of premature death, chronic illness, hospitalizations and missed school and workdays, according to a new study.

The cost of air pollution in the Los Angeles Basin and San Joaquin Valley - which are the top violators of the federal Clean Air Act - is estimated at $28 billion a year. But because the state's economy is closely integrated, the costs in these hubs of manufacturing, shipping, entertainment and agriculture put a damper on all of California, the researchers found. The financial burden on families, hospitals, health maintenance organizations and employers from premature deaths and respiratory and heart problems in the two regions - home to more than half the state's population - fans out to the rest of state, the economists found.

The study found that in the San Joaquin Valley, the cost of air pollution comes to more than $1,600 per person per year, which would translate into a total of nearly $8 billion in savings if federal ozone and particulate matter standards were met. In the Southern California counties, the cost is more than $1,250 per person per year, nearly $22 billion in savings if the standards were met, the study said.

The research team includes Cal State Fullerton economics professors Jane Hall and Victor Brajer, plus Frederick Lurmann, manager of exposure assessment studies at Sonoma Technology Inc. in Petaluma. The $90,000 study, peer-reviewed by scientists at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, was financed by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The researchers said they used data and methodology widely accepted by the Environmental Protection Agency and other experts.

Read the complete article here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/11/13/MNQP143CPV.DTL

Monday, November 10, 2008

New ASTM Standards to Support Global Sustainability

ASTM Committee E60 to Develop Standards That Will Drive Mainstream Market Implementation
Market Watch, Wall Street Journal Digital Network, November 10, 2008

ASTM International, one of the world's largest voluntary standards development organizations, announced the formation of ASTM Committee E60 on Sustainability. This new standards development initiative results from the cooperative efforts of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and industry stakeholders who share mutual goals for global sustainable development.

Diverse stakeholders will come together for the newly formed ASTM International Committee E60 to create the consensus standards that will promote and integrate sustainable development across multiple industry sectors. Dr. Mary C. McKiel, EPA Standards Executive, commented, "ASTM's proven ability to produce globally-used consensus based standards in environmental and sustainability areas make it well-suited to support the goals of this new standards writing activity and the open process needed to ensure its utility."

ASTM Committee E60 will build upon previous ASTM technical committee work, including the efforts of ASTM Subcommittee E06.71 on Sustainability, which has contributed numerous standards that support sustainability in the building industry. The initial scope of Committee E60 will focus on Building and Construction, Hospitality, and General Sustainability Standards.

Read the complete article here: http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/New-ASTM-Standards-Initiative-Support/story.aspx?guid={6F34D3B9-4EEC-4C1E-AF9D-4A9642726CC2}

Learn more about ASTM Committee E60 here: http://www.astm.org/COMMIT/COMMITTEE/E60.htm

Green Festival

Green Festival, the nation’s largest green consumer living event will take place in San Francisco on November 14, 15, & 16, 2008 at the San Francisco Concourse Exhibition Center and the Giftcenter Pavilion Theater.

The festival will highlight economic and environmental sustainability issues that have been so relevant in headlines and town halls across the nation. A joint project of Global Exchange and Co-op America, two leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to environmental and social justice for more than twenty-five years, Green Festival is a forum to explore and build sustainable solutions for communities and the environment. The San Francisco Green Festival will host 150 visionary speakers, 400 local and national green businesses, and dozens of community and nonprofit groups. Green Festival attendees will explore the latest in clean technology, green building, socially responsible investing, eco-fashion, renewable energy, green careers/green collar jobs, natural foods, groundbreaking films, eco-tourism and the perfect place to pick up economical, meaningful holiday gifts.

Kicking off the 2008 San Francisco Green Festival on Friday, November 14th at the Giftcenter Atrium is the Word to the Mother (Earth) event. Prominent social justice veterans and hip-hop pioneers will headline, including Chuck D, legendary leader of Public Enemy, Mutabaruka, Jamaica’s revolutionary dub poet, and Drew Dillinger, a spoken word poet, professor, activist, and founder of Poets for Global justice. Dr. Cornel West, best-selling author of Race Matters and Democracy Matters, will talk about his latest book, Hope on a Tightrope. Bay Area green-economy expert and advocate Van Jones will speak in his hometown about how “Green Collar Jobs” can save the polar bears while solving the US financial crisis. TED speaker and New York Times bestselling author of “How to Get Your Brain to do What You Want it to do”, Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, will also present, as well as award winning journalist and host of Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman.

Green Festivals take place in San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, DC, Seattle, and Denver and saw over 170,000 guests in combined attendance in 2007. To reduce the impact of the event on the environment, those who arrive by bicycle are offered reduced admission along with valet bike parking.

Learn more at http://www.greenfestivals.org/.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Green Building Standards

California Adopts Voluntary Green Building Standards
Alyson Wendt, GreenSource Magazine, September 15, 2008

California has become the first state to adopt green building standards into its building codes. The standards, adopted by the California Building Standards Commission, will become part of Title 24, the state’s building and energy-efficiency regulations, in July 2009. Although currently voluntary, the standards will become mandatory in 2011 after another round of code reviews.

The highlights:
- Commercial buildings must use 15%–30% less energy compared with current code requirements
- Commercial buildings must meet 1% of their total energy use with onsite renewable generation
- Residential buildings must meet energy code requirements and include air-sealing measures
- New buildings must demonstrate 20% savings in indoor potable water use compared with current code requirements
- Residential standards limit the use of multiple showerheads in a single shower
- Outdoor water use in commercial buildings must be reduced by 50% compared with current code requirements
- Requires 2.5%, by cost, of the materials used in new commercial buildings to be biobased materials

The standards also contain provisions for rainwater collection and graywater irrigation, as well as dual plumbing in commercial buildings for potable and recycled water. And they include extensive indoor environmental quality requirements for commercial buildings. The green building standards add increased ventilation, daylighting, and occupant control of thermal and lighting comfort to the equation for commercial buildings (California already has limits on formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products). The standards for residential buildings require that homes meet the formaldehyde regulation and avoid paints, adhesives, carpets, and other materials with high levels of VOCs.

Read the complete article here: http://greensource.construction.com/news/080915CaliforniaAdopts.asp

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Eco-Culture Events - Extra

Be part of the story
from Matias Viegener, www.fallenfruit.org

We want your fruit stories!

As part of our participation in "The Gatherers" at Yerba Buena, Fallen Fruit will be holding "in-sessions" in which we'll be gathering stories and data on people's fruit histories. We came upon this idea this spring when we were told of a 1920s cottage complex in Oakland in the middle of which is an ancient lemon tree that arrived as a young plant with the grandmother of the original owner; she carried it from Italy in her corset, and everyone who lives there shares the lemons. We'll be meeting with YBCA visitors, with questionnaires, conversations and video interviews to learn about their own history or family legacy of fruit and homeland. We'll also be doing field work, visiting you to document sites like the lemon tree in Oakland.

This project has the working title of "The Colonial History of Fruit," and we're going to take it around the globe. We're interested in juxtaposing two kinds of history: the "objective" history of how the fruit we eat came from a specific place and ended up on our tables, through specific economic, historical and political forces, and the "subjective" history, the anecdotal tales of how we find new fruits, rediscover old ones, or carry along others from distant places. We think of this in the light of colonialism because of the colonial origins of fruit and the variety of personal and familial histories of various immigrants, colonizers and colonialists.

So please come talk to us!
Our dates at Yerba Buena are:
Sunday Nov 2, 12-5pm
Friday Nov 7, 12-5pm
Saturday Nov 8, 12-5pm

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Eco-Culture Events

Two upcoming eco-minded events at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

The Gatherers: Greening Our Urban Spheres
October 31, 2008–January 11, 2009

Opening night party: Thursday, October 30, 6:00 to 9:00 pm

The Gatherers is an exhibition combining art and cultural activism to explore how we ensure sustainability for our growing urban populations. The Gatherers explores the differences and similarities of different cultural attempts to green urban spaces. The exhibit touches upon a broad range of interlinking matters, from environmental issues to urban spatial justice, through interactive programs, urban interventions and public dialogue.

Artists and artist collectives in the exhibition include:
Fallen Fruit, Amy Franceschini with Wilson Diaz, The National Bitter Melon Council, Oda Projesi, Marjetica Potrc, Public Matters, Ted Purves and Susanne Cockrell, Rebar, roomservices and Åsa Sonjasdotter.

More about The Gatherers.

Community Conversations: What Does it Mean to be Green?
November 11, 2008
6 pm, Grand Lobby, Free (Tickets required. Call YBCA Box Office at 415.978.2787)

A lively public conversation exploring the complexity and contradictions around greening urban environments.

Conversationalists include:
Matthew & Terces Englehart, Founders, Café Gratitude
Lynda Grose, Eco-fashion Instructor, California College of the Arts
Eliza Thomas, Editorial Director for
Common Ground Magazine/Lime Network
Casey Harre,
Slow Food Nation curator
Nwamaka “Maka” Agbo, Ella Baker Center’s Green Jobs Corps

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Bike to Work Incentive

Bailout gives tax break to bicycle commuters
Rachel Gordon, SF Chronicle, October 9, 2008

Starting in January, workers who use bicycles as their primary transportation mode to get to and from work will be eligible for a $20-a-month, tax-free reimbursement from their employers for bike-related expenses. In return, employers will be able to deduct the expense from their federal taxes.

Section 211 of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 allows for a "qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement" for "reasonable expenses incurred by the employee during such calendar year for the purchase of a bicycle and bicycle improvements, repair, and storage, if such bicycle is regularly used for travel between the employee’s residence and place of employment."
Other transportation-related items in the bill include credits for biofuels and other "alternative" mixtures, plug-in electric vehicles, and - so no one's left out - benefits for oil and natural gas producers too. Another section includes incentives for green construction and renewable energy production.

Read the complete Chronicle story here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/10/09/BA1D13DRO7.DTL

And, if you're really brave, read the complete bailout bill here: http://banking.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?Fuseaction=Articles.Detail&Article_id=76b1aea4-39b8-404f-b3cd-f8b6c46e3b14&Month=10&Year=2008

Schwarzenegger Signs SB 375, Sustainable Land Use Planning Bill

Objective is to reduce greenhouse gases by planning cities with more transit options

On September 30, 2008, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed SB 375, which provides a plan for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through strategic land use and development. The bill directs the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to set regional caps for automobile and light truck emissions that would help the state achieve its GHG emissions cap of 1990 levels by 2020. The bill also sets forth a “Sustainable Communities Strategy,” which directs metropolitan planning organizations to examine land-use patterns and create long-term housing and transportation plans that can be used to achieve the regional caps.

SB 375 will:

- Require the regional governing bodies in each of the state’s major metropolitan areas to adopt, as part of their regional transportation plan, a “sustainable community strategy” that will meet the region’s target for reducing GHG emissions. These strategies would get people out of their cars by promoting smart growth principles such as: development near public transit; projects that include a mix of residential and commercial use; and projects that include affordable housing to help reduce new housing developments in outlying areas with cheaper land.

- Create incentives for implementing the sustainable community strategies by allocating federal transportation funds only to projects that are consistent with the emissions reductions.

- Allow home builders some streamlined environmental reviews under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) if they build projects consistent with the new sustainable community strategies.

The Governor also signed SB 732, which will provide a comprehensive statutory framework to implement new programs under Proposition 84, the $5.4 billion initiative voters passed in 2006 for safe drinking water, water quality and supply, flood control, natural resource protection, and park improvements.

Read the complete bill here: http://www.pewclimate.org/docUploads/SB%20375.pdf
Read the governor's press release here: http://gov.ca.gov/press-release/10697

Carbon Footprints of Six Everyday Items

Everybody's talking about it. But what exactly is a carbon footprint? And how is it calculated?
Jeffrey Ball, Wall Street Journal, October 6, 2008

What are the carbon footprints of some of the common products we use? How are they calculated? And what surprises do they hold? The Wall Street Journal looked at six everyday items -- cars, shoes, laundry detergent, clothing, milk and beer -- and the numbers that go with them.

The CO2 equivalent emitted by the manufacturing, shipping, storage, and use of the following items:
Car (Prius?) - 97,000 pounds
Timberland's Winter Park Slip On Boot - 121 pounds
Tesco Laundry detergent - 31 pounds
Patagonia Talus jacket - 66 pounds
Aurora Organic Dairy 1.2 gallon milk - 7.2 pounds
Six-pack of Fat Tire Amber Ale - 7 pounds

To help you put it in perspective (from the International Energy Agency):
The US emits the equivalent of about 118 pounds of carbon dioxide per resident every day.
Annually, that's ~20 metric tons per US citizen.
The average US citizen emits about five times as much CO2 compared to citizens of the world at large.

Read the complete story here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122304950601802565.html

Monday, September 29, 2008

Launch of US Carbon Market

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) had its very first auction for CO2 allowances last week. All allowances offered in Auction 1 were sold at $3.07.

RGGI (commonly pronounced "Reggie") is the first mandatory, market-based effort in the US to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Ten Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states will cap and then reduce CO2 emissions from the power sector 10% by 2018. In cap-and-trade, global warming pollution is limited to an agreed-upon cap that declines over time. The governing authority issues "permits", also called "allowances", corresponding to the cap, with one allowance equal to a ton of CO2 or its equivalent in greenhouse gases. Companies must have allowances for any global warming pollution they emit.

Under RGGI, states will sell emission allowances through auctions and invest proceeds in consumer benefits: energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other clean energy technologies. RGGI hopes to spur innovation in the clean energy economy and create green jobs in the participating states.

Learn more here: http://rggi.org/rggi

Monday, September 22, 2008

Cleanup Design

In Italy, a Redesign of Nature to Clean It
Elisabeth Rosenthal, NY Times, September 21, 2008

In many parts of the affluent coastal region southeast of Rome and northwest of Naples, canals dumping effluent into the Mediterranean from farms and factories coexist with fishermen and beachgoers. There is little doubt that this area would need considerable work to return to a more pristine state. For places as far gone as this one, however, a new breed of landscape architect is recommending a radical solution: not so much to restore the environment as to redesign it.

“It is so ecologically out of balance that if it goes on this way, it will kill itself,” said Alan Berger, a landscape architecture professor at M.I.T. who was excitedly poking around the smelly canals on a recent day. Instead of simply recommending that polluting farms and factories be shut, Professor Berger specializes in creating new ecosystems in severely damaged environments: redirecting water flow, moving hills, building islands and planting new species to absorb pollution, to create natural, though “artificial,” landscapes that can ultimately sustain themselves.

Two thousand years of “water management” have turned the once-malaria-infested Pontine Marshes into a region, Latina Province, that is among Italy’s most prosperous. It is home to industrial parks, resorts filled with weekend homes, and farms. Professor Berger, who is the founder of P-Rex, for Project for Reclamation Excellence, at M.I.T., recently signed an agreement with Latina Province to design a master ecological plan for the most polluting part of this region.

He wants the government to buy a tract of nearly 500 acres through which the most seriously polluted waters now pass. There, he intends to create a wetland that would serve as a natural cleansing station before the waters flowed on to the sea and residential areas. Better regulation is also needed, to curb the dumping of pollutants into the canal, but a careful mix of the right kinds of plants, dirt, stones and drainage channels would filter the water as it slowly passed through, he said.

Professor Berger was quick to acknowledge that the approach was vastly different from the kind normally advocated by established environmental groups like the World Wildlife Fund or the Nature Conservancy, which generally seek to restore land or preserve it in its natural state, often by closing down or cleaning up nearby polluters.

Read the complete story here: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/22/world/europe/22marsh.html

Friday, September 19, 2008

Siemens Supports Students to Support Sustainability

Siemens Sustainability Challenge
September 19, 2008

Middle school students across the US are being encouraged to "go green" and team up for the Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge.

The Siemens Foundation, Discovery Education, and the National Science Teachers Association have partnered on this initiative to educate, empower, and engage students, teachers, and communities to become "agents of change" in improving their community. Student teams from sixth through eighth grade can register for the Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge at www.wecanchange.com.

Beginning in fall 2008 through March 15, 2009, teams composed of a teacher or other adult mentor and two or three students will be challenged to create sustainable, reproducible environmental improvements in their local communities. Top prizes will include a chance to appear on Discovery Network's Planet Green, a share in thousands of dollars in cash prizes, a Discovery Adventure trip and more. The mentors of the first 100 teams to register and complete a project for the Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge will receive an award-winning Planet Earth series DVD set.

Submissions from middle school students will be accepted through March 15, 2009. The initiative expands to elementary schools in 2009 and to high schools in 2010.

Learn more at www.wecanchange.com.

PUC Wants Green Buildings

Big PUC push for energy-efficient construction
David R. Baker, SF Chronicle, September 19, 2008

A plan adopted by the California Public Utilities Commission on Thursday expands on an idea that has already become a guiding principal of the state's energy policy - that finding ways to use less electricity is cheaper than building power plants and will help cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Housing developments built according to the plan's guidelines would use far less energy than they do today. Almost all their power would come from their own solar panels, windmills, or small electrical generators. Under the plan, new residential developments in the state would need to be "zero net energy" by 2020. That means they would generate most of their own power and feed any excess to the state's electrical grid. The same standard would apply to commercial construction starting in 2030.

Changes in building standards would need to be approved by the California Energy Commission. But an energy commission spokeswoman on Thursday said her commission supports the plan.

Read the complete article here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2008/09/19/BU3D130NBR.DTL

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Going Green Will Boost California's Economy

Increase in jobs and income by reducing greenhouse gas emissions
Jane Kay, SF Chronicle, September 18, 2008

Taking strong measures to reduce greenhouse gases to combat global warming would help California's economy, boost employment, and increase household savings and personal income, according to a new analysis. Under the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32), the state must impose a limit on the amount of pollutants companies emit and expand renewable energy.

The Economic Evaluation Supplement to CARB's Draft Scoping Plan, released Wednesday, predicts that implementation of the Scoping Plan will benefit California’s economy above and beyond the business-as-usual projections by:
- Increasing production activity by $27 billion
- Increasing overall Gross State Product by $4 billion
- Increasing overall personal income by $14 billion
- Increasing per capita income by $200
- Increasing jobs by more than 100,000

Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board (CARB), said the analysis shows that going ahead with the state plan is good for the economy and the environment. "Our historic effort here in California to deal with the crisis of global warming will also have the benefit of saving families and citizens money," she said.

So far, investors have shown an interest in creating new technologies that would replace outdated fossil-fuel plants and inefficient buildings and appliances, the study says. The new analysis shows an increase in venture capital investment in the state over the last decade. In 2007, there was $1.2 billion in investments for energy innovation.

A separate analysis showed that the measures designed to curb greenhouse gas and save energy also would improve public health. In 2020, the measures would avoid an estimated 300 premature deaths, nearly 9,000 cases of asthma and other respiratory symptoms and the loss of 53,000 workdays.

Read the complete article here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/09/18/MNVQ13000N.DTL

Read the Economic Evaluation Supplement to CARB's Draft Scoping Plan here: http://www.arb.ca.gov/cc/scopingplan/document/economic_analysis_supplement.pdf

Coastal Cleanup Day This Saturday

24th Annual California Coastal Cleanup Day is September 20, 2008

Coastal Cleanup Day is the highlight of the California Coastal Commission's year 'round Adopt-A-Beach program and takes place every year on the third Saturday of September, from 9 a.m. to Noon. In 2007, more than 60,000 volunteers worked together to collect more than 900,000 pounds of trash and recyclables from our beaches, lakes, and waterways.

Coastal Cleanup Day is a great way for families, students, service groups, and neighbors to join together, take care of our fragile marine environment, show community support for our shared natural resources, learn about the impacts of marine debris and how we can prevent them, and to have fun! Coastal Cleanup Day is also the kick-off event for Coastweeks—three weeks of coastal and water-related events for the whole family.

For more information, contact (800) COAST-4U or coast4u@coastal.ca.gov, or visit the Coastal Cleanup website to find a location to volunteer near you.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Doing More With Less

California farmers could save the equivalent of three to 20 dams' worth of water annually
Kelly Zito, SF Chronicle, September 8, 2008

In a study released today, researchers at Oakland's Pacific Institute say that before Californians take on costly new dam and reservoir projects, state and federal policymakers need to build on existing methods for reducing agricultural water use. The report, titled "More with Less: Agricultural Water Conservation and Efficiency in California - A Focus on the Delta," stresses that agriculture remains an important part of California's economy. However, with farmers using about 80 percent of the water drawn from the critically ill Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, agricultural water conservation must expand quickly.

While water use in California has been a historical source of conflict between urban and agricultural consumers, the issue has taken on new urgency in recent years amid predictions of a drier climate, booming population growth and ecological damage to the delta. The agriculture industry, however, bristles at the notion that its operations are wasteful. "The idea that farmers are not seeking more efficient ways to do business is an insult to California agriculture," said Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition. "Changes are occurring when it's cost-effective and when the technology is available."

The researchers suggest that dams, or a proposed peripheral canal - which would route water around the delta, where certain fish populations are crashing - may be necessary. But first the state must create a better system for tracking water use. The study also recommends that the state develop a more rational water rights system aimed at cutting waste. Under the law, users with the earliest water claims have the highest priority for receiving water. Experts say it may be time to re-evaluate how and to whom water is allocated.

Read the complete article here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/09/07/BA7H12PDTU.DTL

Download the report here: http://www.pacinst.org/reports/more_with_less_delta/more_with_less.pdf

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Commuter Survey

I am in the process of calculating Northgate’s baseline CARBON FOOTPRINT.

That’s right... We have one. And we don’t know what size of sandals we need for that upcoming vacation in Cabo.

So, please take a few minutes and complete a brief survey about how you get to and from work.



Let Your Fingers Do the Walking

Are you tired of annually lugging 20 pounds of paper to the recycler?

Unsolicited phonebook delivery may soon go the way of the $1.99 toll for directory assistance (try 1-800-GOOG-411 if you haven't already).

Yellowpagesgoesgreen.com will contact the local telephone company on your behalf and ask them to stop delivering the yellow and/or white pages to your doorstep. The service doesn't cost you a cent.

It's similar to the National No-Call Registry that aims to stop (or at least decrease) the number of unwanted telephone solicitations.

Click this link to sign up: http://www.yellowpagesgoesgreen.org/stop-yellow-pages/

Monday, August 18, 2008

Investing in Ecosystems

Stanford biologist sees money in preservation
Carrie Sturrock, SF Chronicle, August 18, 2008

Gretchen Daily, a Stanford biology professor, is working to protect the planet by convincing governments and big investors there's money to be made - or at least saved - in preserving nature instead of exploiting it.

Daily is the co-founder and chair of the Stanford-based Natural Capital Project. Under her leadership, a team of scientists has created software called InVEST, which can estimate the worth of a natural resource. In November, it will be distributed free. Already the Colombian government plans to use it to relicense water and land access.

Daily is the first biologist to attend a brainstorming session at Goldman Sachs, where she and some of Wall Street's brightest minds discussed how to create a financial model for pricing nature. She is working with economists, lawyers, and businesspeople to try to forge a new paradigm for the conservation movement.

She recently won the Sophie Prize, one of the environmental world's most esteemed honors. However, she makes clear that her "ecosystem services" ideas aren't new: the notion that nature provides invaluable services can be traced to Plato.

Read the complete story here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/08/18/MNH31227HE.DTL

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Follow the Money

Clean-tech investment leaps 83% in a year
Deborah Gage, San Francisco Chronicle, August 5, 2008

U.S. venture investments in clean-technology companies climbed to a record $961.7 million in the second quarter of 2008 - up 41 percent from the first quarter and 83 percent from the same quarter last year, according to a new report from Ernst & Young.

"It's not just energy - there are a host of markets, from fuels to electricity to storage to efficiency to water treatment," said Jeff Grabow, head of Ernst & Young's clean-tech unit for the Pacific Northwest.

Read the complete story here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2008/08/05/BUQE11TFP5.DTL

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

3.1 Billion Water Bottles

California AG threatens lawsuit to block bottling plant
Associated Press, July 29, 2008

Attorney General Jerry Brown says he will sue to block a proposed water-bottling operation in McCloud, California, unless its effects on global warming are evaluated. Nestle Waters North America wants to pump about 200 million gallons of water a year from three natural springs that supply McCloud, a former lumber town located about 280 miles north of San Francisco.

Brown said the project's previous environmental review had "serious deficiencies", including failure to evaluate if the operation will contribute to global warming through the production of plastic bottles, the operation's electrical demands, and the diesel soot and greenhouse gas emissions produced by trucks traveling to and from the plant.

Read the complete story here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2008/07/29/financial/f135206D79.DTL

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

WCI Partners' Plan to Combat Global Warming

Western Climate Initiative Cap-and-Trade Proposal
Matthew Yi, San Francisco Chronicle, July 23, 2008

California, six other Western states and four Canadian provinces will launch a market-based carbon trading system in a major North American effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions, according to a draft proposal released today. The proposal is a key component for the Western Climate Initiative, a partnership created in February 2007 among California, Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington. The group - which also includes Utah, Montana, and the Canadian provinces of Manitoba, Quebec, British Columbia, and Ontario - has set a regional goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent of 2005 levels by 2020.

When it officially begins in four years, the program will first target heavy polluters such as electric utilities, oil refineries, and large industrial and commercial facilities, which would be required to begin reporting emission levels beginning in 2011. The plan also includes an offsets system.

The WCI “Draft Design of the Regional Cap-and-Trade Program” builds on the draft recommendations released by the group in May. The Draft Design being released today will be discussed at WCI's third Stakeholder Workshop, which will be held in San Diego on Tuesday, July 29.

Read the complete story here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/07/23/BAF511TSGO.DTL

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Transportation Survey

The results are in.

On behalf of the Green Team, Taylor surveyed the Oakland office to determine our commuting preferences, and the results look good.

Some snippets from our respondents:
- most regularly take public transportation, bike, or walk to work rather than drive their personal car

- most drive less than 5 days per month

- there is interest in carpooling or joining a car-share program to further minimize personal driving

Contact Taylor for more information, the full results (also posted in the kitchen), or if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Science Café

Science Cafe
Monday, July 21, 7:00pm-9:00pm
Atlas Cafe, 3049 20th St, San Francisco, 415-648-1047

Down to a Science presents Dr. Paul Blanc, Professor of Medicine and Chief of the Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the University of California San Francisco, to share the hidden health dangers of many everyday products.

The presentation is free.

Down to a Science is a "Science Café", a casual forum where scientists discuss their research with the public. The mission is to promote civic discourse through scientific dialogue with a focus on science in the Bay Area.

Down to a Science also features a blog with content related to the topics. The next science cafe is titled "Robots and Representational Democracy".

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Green Building

California sets standards for green construction
Matthew Yi, San Francisco Chronicle, July 17, 2008

California became the first state to enact green building standards under a voluntary plan that cuts energy and water use. The plan adopted by the California Building Standards Commission calls for all new construction to cut energy use by 15 percent, water use by 20 percent, and water for landscaping by 50 percent. The code is scheduled to kick in starting July 1, 2009. The code will be voluntary while the commission works on a mandatory regulation, which the panel hopes to have in place by end of 2010 or beginning of 2011.

Read the complete story here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/07/17/BAMG11R59J.DTL&tsp=1

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Support Your Local Farmer(s)

Consider joining a CSA!

A CSA (short for Community Supported Agriculture) is a nifty way for you to have a closer relationship with the food you eat by directly supporting a farm in your local area. Many farms offer produce subscriptions, where buyers receive a weekly or monthly box of vegetables, fruit, flowers, eggs, grass-fed beef, olive oil, milk, coffee...all sorts of delicious stuff. By making a financial commitment to a farm in advance, you become a member, shareholder, or subscriber of the CSA. Some CSAs also welcome (or require) members to work a small number of hours on the farm during the growing season.

There was a decent article in the NY Times today about CSAs.

Find a CSA that serves your neighborhood at Local Harvest.

And, joining a CSA is a great way to meet the 100-mile diet challenge (see Sarah White's July 8, 2008 email...thanks, Sarah!).

Feel welcome to ask me about my experience with CSAs too...I used to get produce from mariquita farms, and currently subscribe to eating with the seasons...and they're great!

Monday, July 7, 2008

What, Why, Where, When, and How of Recycling

Local information on recycling and product stewardship

Earth911 is a great resource for learning about recycling options in your ‘hood. Besides showing us local recycling options, the site has product stewardship info, provides periodic updates on federal, state, and local environmental laws, and links to up-to-date water quality conditions at local beaches…fun stuff!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Update from SuRF 7

Sustainable Remediation Forum (SuRF)
Maile Smith, June 10-11, 2008

The seventh meeting of the Sustainable Remediation Forum (SuRF) took place at BP's Houston, Texas office. The theme of this meeting was "How do we balance on-site cleanup with off-site impact? and who should decide?" A quick show-of-hands at the start of the meeting revealed that the mix of attendees included about 10-15 industry representatives, 10-15 consultants, 5 regulators, 1 academic, and 1 attorney.

Whereas I was assuming the theme was posed to get at the question of the societal and global benefit of sustainable remediation, there wasn't clear consensus amongst the group regarding what those two questions meant. Several participants envision "sustainable remediation" projects as having a much smaller sphere of influence, and decision-makers consisting solely of the project-specific client/consultant/regulator population. Others considered the questions from a more broad perspective.

What is clear, however, even after seven quarterly SuRF meetings, is that there is general agreement amongst RPs and regulators that cleanup projects should be as green as possible. It is also clear that there continues to be wide-ranging definitions of "green" and "sustainable" (as it relates to remediation), and ideas on how to implement those green and sustainable solutions. Regulators in attendence (e.g., US EPA, DTSC) are not yet at the point where they are committing to select or eliminate a remedy due to sustainability issues.

The DoD is tasking its various departments (Army Corps of Engineers, Navy, and Air Force) to frame and adopt sustainability criteria to help achieve federal mandates for green house gas reductions. The Air Force Center for Environmental Excellence (AFCEE), Navy, and USACE have funding proposals in the hopper right now for sustainable remediation initiatives. The next Federal Remediation Technologies Roundtable (FRTR) meeting will be on sustainable remediation. And the Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council (ITRC) Remediation Risk Management group currently has a proposal in to develop green/sustainable remediation guidance.

Several of the presentations from the meeting are available for review (feel welcome to ask via leaving a comment).

Friday, June 27, 2008

CARB Has a Plan

Draft AB 32 Scoping Plan Released for Public Comment
June 26, 2008

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has laid out its draft plan for achieving the objectives of AB 32: to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions statewide to 1990 levels by 2020.

The AB 32 Scoping Plan contains the main strategies California will use to reduce GHGs that cause climate change. The Plan has a range of GHG reduction actions that includes direct regulations, alternative compliance mechanisms, monetary and non-monetary incentives, voluntary actions, and market-based mechanisms such as a cap-and-trade system.

The draft Scoping Plan was released for public review and comment on June 26, 2008. Workshops will follow in July 2008. Comments are requested by August 1, 2008. The Plan will go to the Board for adoption in November, 2008.

Read the draft plan here: http://www.arb.ca.gov/cc/scopingplan/document/draftscopingplan.pdf

Find a staff presentation summarizing the plan here: ftp://ftp.arb.ca.gov/carbis/board/books/2008/062608/08-6-4pres.pdf

Comments on the draft plan are requested by August 1, 2008. An electronic comment form can be found here: http://www.arb.ca.gov/cc/scopingplan/spcomment.htm

Read AB 32 here: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/05-06/bill/asm/ab_0001-0050/ab_32_bill_20060927_chaptered.pdf

Friday, June 20, 2008

Water Industry’s Role in Reducing Greenhouse Gases and Promoting Energy Savings

A Presentation from California's Water Energy Climate Action Team (WETCAT)
May 29, 2008

Craig Gaites and Mallika Kumar

This presentation emphasized the role of the water industry in achieving the goals of Assembly Bill 32 (AB 32). Water conservation will be a major component of emissions reduction as 19% of all electricity generated in California is used for the production, treatment, and conveyance of water and 33% of non-power plant natural gas is used for water production, treatment and conveyance.

AB 32 requires a 173 million metric ton reduction in carbon emissions. Currently the state’s Climate Action Team (CAT) has identified ways to cut 72 million tons of emissions. The CAT’s plan is designed to be non-punitive and to stimulate the cleantech economy in California. The plan will be designed to prevent emissions “leakage” (the migration of emissions intensive industries out of California) and will be an example for other states to follow. The plan will likely employ each of the following mechanisms: Market Driven Emissions Controls (Cap and Trade, Carbon Offsets, etc…), Incentives and Rebates, and Direct Regulation of Industry.

The plan will be released on June 26th, 2008. Workshops will be held throughout the state in July.

A supplement to the plan explaining the analysis that went into the plan will be released in late-July. Workshops on the related to the plan supplement will be held in August.

The WETCAT is the arm of the CAT tasked with identifying emissions reduction strategies associated with water conservation. The WETCAT has identified five likely strategies for achieving emissions reduction through water conservation:

1. Water Recycling
The CAT plan may include a mandate that up to 32% of all treated wastewater be used for direct reuse. Wastewater can be used for agriculture, irrigation, industrial cooling, wetland restoration, groundwater recharge, etc…

2. Urban Water Reuse
This strategy involves the capture and utilization of rainwater for non-potable water uses. It also involves the capture of runoff from urban irrigation and other outdoor water uses. Water can also be detained for percolation, or redirected to high permeability areas for percolation, and then recaptured via groundwater wells or simply be used to increase ambient soil moisture and reduce irrigation demands. Modification of existing storm water collection infrastructure will likely be mandated in the plan.

3. Water Conservation Planning
This strategy seeks improvement of water use efficiency through improvement of the water use planning process. WETCAT estimates that a water use reduction of 20% of the current water use can be achieved through improved planning.

4. Improve Efficiency of States Water Delivery Infrastructure
This strategy involves reducing the amount of water lost and energy used during the conveyance of water. The strategy will seek to incorporate energy generation into the conveyance process to offset emissions by producing clean energy.

5. Improve Efficiency of Water Treatment Processes
This strategy involves reducing energy use during the wastewater treatment process and will mirror strategy 4. This strategy will seek to incorporate energy generation into the treatment process to offset emissions by producing clean energy.

Learn more at California's Climate Change portal: http://www.climatechange.ca.gov/index.php

Stanford Symposium Update

Sustainable Places: Leadership in the Public and Private Sectors
Stanford University, March 4, 2008

Mallika Kumar

This symposium brought together sustainability professionals, policy leaders and Stanford faculty to discuss practical solutions to manage carbon emissions, water usage and energy efficiency.

The first panel discussion, moderated by James Sweeney, Professor, Stanford University and a member of Governor Schwarzenegger’s Council of Economic Advisers, focused on sustainability efforts, incentives and challenges in the private sector. The panel comprised of Christina Page, Director, Climate and Energy Strategy, Yahoo, Joseph Stagner, Executive Director, Sustainability and Energy Management, Stanford University and Peter Williams, Chief Technology Officer, Big Green Innovations, IBM. The panel outlined several initiatives undertaken at their respective organizations to combat climate change such as usage of green screens which tracks electricity use, passive cooling to reduce the heat load from servers and deploying new technologies to reduce electricity consumption. Monetary benefits, company policy, brand management and personal commitment were identified as the primary incentives for technological innovations. Employees are also given several incentives to motivate them to reduce energy consumption. For instance, Yahoo set a target of reducing the company’s energy consumption for a month by 20% and the reward was a sumo wrestling match between the Yahoo co-founders!! All the panelists identified the need to understand one’s impact and leverage points before moving forward on sustainability. Misinformation and long-term behavioral changes were identified as the key challenges in the quest for sustainability.

The second panel discussion, moderated by Felicity Barringer, National Environmental Correspondent, The New York Times, focused on municipal and state leadership. The panel comprised of Larry Goulder, Professor, Stanford University, Dian Grueneich, Commissioner, California Public Utilities Commission, San Francisco Mayor, Gavin Newsom and Mary Nichols, Chairman, California Air Resources Board. The panelists discussed the need for uniform regulations at both the state and federal levels and for coordination between the states. For instance, most states do not have any building standards but California has decided to adopt a zero net energy building standard. This lack of uniformity could result in leakage and movement of industries from out of California. The panelists also outlined several strategies to raise public awareness about climate change such as programs in schools, taxes on pollution and lower payroll taxes and an instrument to calculate carbon dioxide output in real time on the MUNI bus.

The symposium was sponsored by Stanford University’s Woods Institute for the Environment and the Energy Crossroads.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Science Academies Call for International Action on Climate Change, Global Health

The National Academy of Science, June 10, 2008

Today the science academies of the G8 countries, as well as China, India, Brazil, Mexico, and South Africa, issued statements urging leaders worldwide to take action on two pressing global challenges. To mitigate and adapt to climate change, nations must begin a transition to being "low-carbon societies," a shift that will require energy-saving changes in all sectors -- from housing to transportation to industry -- and the development of a range of clean energy sources. Meeting global health challenges, such as infectious disease outbreaks and the rising incidence of lifestyle-linked diseases such as diabetes, will require stronger collaboration among nations, as well as the strengthening of their health systems and health work force.

Read the complete statement here: http://www.nationalacademies.org/includes/climatechangestatement.pdf

Monday, June 9, 2008

No Water? No Condos.

Water-starved California slows development
Jennifer Steinhauer, NY Times, June 7, 2008

As California faces one of its worst droughts in two decades, building projects are being curtailed for the first time under state law by the inability of developers to find long-term water supplies.
Water authorities and other government agencies have begun denying, delaying or challenging authorization for dozens of housing tracts and other developments under a state law that requires a 20-year water supply as a condition for building. The state law was enacted in 2001, but until statewide water shortages, it had not been invoked to hold up projects.

“The water in our state is not sufficient to add more demand,” said Lester Snow, the director of the California Department of Water Resources. “And that now means that some large development can’t go forward. If we don’t make changes with water, we are going to have a major economic problem in this state.”

Governor Schwarzenegger sees addressing the state’s water problem as one of his key goals, and he is hoping against the odds to get a proposed $11.9 billion bond for water management investments through the Legislature and before voters in November. The plans calls for water conservation and quality improvement programs, as well as a resource management plan for the delta. Among its most controversial components is $3.5 billion earmarked for new water storage, something that environmentalists have vehemently opposed, in part because they find dams and storage facilities environmentally unsound and not cost effective. The critics also point out that the state’s agriculture industry, which uses far more water than urban areas, is being asked to contribute little to conservation under the governor’s plans.

Read the complete story here: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/07/us/07drought.html?ex=1213416000&en=bb2d5c43a447a415&ei=5070&emc=eta1

Friday, June 6, 2008

Heated Exchange: Update

Vote on climate bill is blocked in Senate
H. Josef Hebert, AP, June 6, 2008

Senate Republicans blocked a global warming bill that would have required major reductions in greenhouse gases, pushing debate over the world's biggest environmental concern to next year for a new Congress and president.

Democratic leaders fell a dozen votes short of getting the 60 needed to end a Republican filibuster on the measure and bring the bill up for a vote. The Senate debate focused on bitter disagreement over the expected economic costs of putting a price on carbon dioxide, the leading greenhouse gas that comes from burning fossil fuels. Opponents said it would lead to higher energy costs.

Read the complete story here: http://news.wired.com/dynamic/stories/C/CLIMATE_CONGRESS?SITE=WIRE&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2008-06-06-10-56-14

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Let's Get Ready to Ration

Schwarzenegger declares statewide drought in California
Don Thompson, AP, June 4, 2008

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proclaimed a statewide drought after two years of below-average rainfall, low snowmelt runoff and the largest court-ordered restrictions on water transfers in state history.

The governor issued an executive order Wednesday that directs the state Department of Water Resources to speed water transfers to areas with the most severe shortages. Schwarzenegger has ordered state officials to help local water districts with water conservation efforts and directed them to help farmers suffering losses from the drought.

Dry conditions are damaging crops, harming water quality, and causing extreme fire danger across the state. Many communities already are requiring water conservation or rationing.

Find the story here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2008/06/04/state/n092400D94.DTL&tsp=1

More here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/06/04/BANO1138CB.DTL

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Heated Exchange

Is the US Ready to Put a Price on Carbon?
Zachary Coile, SF Chronicle, June 3, 2008

The Lieberman-Warner bill titled the "Climate Security Act" (S2191) began debate in the Senate this week. The bill's aim is to reduce US carbon emissions by nearly 70% by 2050. President Bush has already threatened to veto it, but it is unlikely to reach his desk. Senate Democrats acknowledge the bill has little chance of passing, but believe the debate will increase the chances for passage in the next Congress. The bill would require about 2,100 major U.S. emitters - mostly coal-fired power plants, oil refineries, and chemical plants - to pay for the right to emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Proceeds from selling or trading those permits could total over $6 trillion over the next 40 years, and would be reinvested in renewable energy and rebates to consumers.

Read more here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/06/03/MNPU111UGU.DTL

...and read and hear more from Marketplace, American Public Media:

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Quicker Cleaner-Upper

Nanowire mat could be an important new tool for cleaning up oil and other organic pollutants
Elizabeth A. Thomson, MIT News Office, May 30, 2008

MIT researchers and colleagues have created a membrane that can absorb up to 20 times its weight in oil, and can be recycled many times for future use. The oil itself can also be recovered. In addition to its environmental applications, the nanowire paper may also have applications for filtering and purifying water.

Two key properties make the system work. First, the nanowires form a spaghetti-like mat with many tiny pores that make for good capillarity, or the ability to absorb liquids. Second, a water-repelling coating keeps water from penetrating into the membrane. Oil, however, isn't affected, and seeps into the membrane. The membrane is created by the same general technique as its low-tech cousin, paper.

Read more about it at: http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2008/oil-paper-0530.html

Friday, May 23, 2008

EPA Joins Sustainable Remediation Bandwagon

Green Remediation: Incorporating Sustainable Environmental Practices into Remediation of Contaminated Sites Green Remediation: Incorporating Sustainable Environmental Practices into Remediation of Contaminated Sites (EPA 542-R-08-002)
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, April 2008

The EPA has issued a primer on "green remediation". The primer, which provides topical introductory information as opposed to "guidance", outlines the principles of green remediation as the EPA views the subject. The document describes opportunities to reduce the footprint of cleanup activities throughout the life of a project, and best management practices (BMPs) to help decision-makers, communities, and other stakeholders identify sustainable strategies. The EPA views these strategies as complements rather than replacements in the process used to select remedial options. BMPs can be incorporated into all phases of remediation, including site investigation, remedy construction, O&M, monitoring of treatment processes and progress, and site closure.

Follow this link to the document: http://www.clu-in.org/download/remed/green-remediation-primer.pdf

Northgate also has a copy of the primer available on our internal server.

Study on Premature Deaths Associated with Particulate Matter

Pollution danger higher than earlier estimated
Jane Kay, SF Chronicle, May 23, 2008

The State of California just released a draft report titled "Methodology for Estimating Premature Deaths Associated with Long-term Exposures to Fine Airborne Particulate Matter in California". The study presented in the report found a direct correlation between increased pollution from specks of dust, soot, metals and soil and a greater number of hospitalizations, emergency visits and missed school days. Assuming that a safe level is 7 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic meter of air, there would still be about 14,000 to 24,000 premature deaths every year in California associated with these small particles. That is two to three times the number of deaths previously predicted.

The California Air Resources Board will accept comments on the report until July 11.

Read the complete article here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/05/23/BAFB10RFT5.DTL

Read the complete report here: http://www.arb.ca.gov/research/health/pm-mort/pm-mortdraft.pdf

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Pollution to Profit

Once Polluted, Now Profitable for New Jersey Builders
Alex Tarquinio, NY Times, March 5, 2008

A decade or two ago, New Jersey’s brownfields would not have appealed to many developers, no matter how many carrots the state dangled in front of them. But in the past decade, the state has protected large swaths of relatively pristine land through statewide conservation initiatives, while also providing incentive programs for redeveloping brownfields.

“We want to encourage much more development in our urban centers, where we already have the infrastructure and transportation,” said Kenneth J. Kloo, the administrator of the brownfield program of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. The state defines brownfields as former commercial or industrial sites where the authorities know or suspect that the soil or the groundwater has been contaminated.

The Brownfield Reimbursement Program, which the state created in 1998, allows developers to recoup 75 percent of the costs they incur for the environmental cleanup of brownfields.

Read the complete story here: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/05/business/05brown.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Stay Classy San Diego

Nearly built-out city revamps its long-term growth plan
Lori Weisberg, San Diego Union-Tribune, March 2, 2008

With just 4 percent of its 331 square miles available for new development, San Diego faces the daunting challenge of absorbing future growth without expanding ever outward into distant suburbs.

On March 10, the City Council will be presented with a general plan of more than 360 pages that seeks to guide San Diego's evolution over the next two to three decades as its population grows as much as 25 percent from its current 1.3 million.

Eight years in the making, the plan has been the product of hundreds of public meetings and formal hearings. Among the plans's key elements are: land use and community planning, mobility, public facilities, conservation, recreation, and economic prosperity.

However, according to community activists, the proposed general plan is chock-full of well-meaning goals and principles, but in the end, they're still just platitudes. Assurances are needed that ensure public facilities and services in older neighborhoods will be paid for before new development is allowed to proceed. While city planners have long promised that a detailed financing plan would be crafted, it remains unfinished.

Read the complete story here: http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/business/20080302-9999-1h02genplanm.html

Friday, February 1, 2008

Future Retro

Green Energy Industry Takes Root in California
Matt Richtel and John Markoff, New York Times, February 1, 2008

Interest in alternative energy is climbing across the United States...and in California, especially solar. Entrepreneurs, academics and policy makers say solar industry of today is different from what was tried in the 1970s, when Jerry Brown invited derision for envisioning a future fueled by alternative energy.

In recent months, the industry has added several thousand jobs in the production of solar energy cells and installation of solar panels on roofs. A spate of investment has also aimed at making solar power more efficient and less costly than natural gas and coal. At present, solar power is three to five times as expensive as coal.

There has been a surge in private investment, led by venture capitalists. In 2007, VC put $654 million in 33 solar-related deals in California, up from $253 million in 16 deals in 2006, according to the Cleantech Group, which tracks investments in alternative energy. California received roughly half of all solar power venture investments made in 2007 in the US.

Read the complete story here: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/01/technology/01solar.html?pagewanted=1&ei=5087&em&en=3c94b2d421f827be&ex=1202014800

Thursday, January 24, 2008

2008 Environmental Performance Index

The results are in...and we come in 39th.
Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, Yale University, Daniel C. Esty Director

The 2008 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) quantitatively tracks national performance on a core set of environmental policy goals for which every government can be – and should be – held accountable.

The EPI focuses on two overarching environmental objectives:
1. Reducing environmental stresses to human health, and
2. Promoting ecosystem vitality and sound natural resource management.

The two overarching objectives are gauged using 25 performance indicators tracked in six well-established policy categories, which are then combined to create a final score.

Switzerland, Norway, and Sweden top the list, while Sierra Leone, Angola, and Niger rank at the bottom.

See the rankings and learn more about the index at http://epi.yale.edu/2008EPIOverview.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Advancing the New Energy Economy

Green Jobs and Investment in California
Green Tech Summit, Yerba Buena Center, San Francisco, January 14, 2008

This one-day summit was attended by nearly 800 investors, policy makers, educators, industry experts, and labor leaders to discuss investment, growth, and job opportunities in green tech. It was a very interactive and educational meeting with the primary goal to identify mechanisms to achieve tangible economic, environmental, and social benefits through California's progressive climate and environmental policies.

The summit began with opening addresses from Timothy Alan Simon, Commissioner for the California PUC, Willie Brown, former Mayor of San Francisco, and Gavin Newsom, Mayor of San Francisco.
- Amongst other things, Willie Brown said buy his "g*ddamn book".
I missed a lot of what he said because the audience was laughing so loudly.
- Gavin Newsom basically said that San Francisco is committed to going green, and showed a very hip music video to prove it. He also mentioned some more concrete examples, including the transition to natural gas-powered taxis, the carbon neutralization of the city through the purchase of locally based carbon offsets from three SF-based trading companies, and the move toward replacing revenue from city payroll taxes by assessing carbon taxes.

Later in the day we were also treated to video feeds from California State Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez (live) and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (not so live), as well as a visit from Attorney General and former Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown. Jerry Brown had some pithy advice for the forward-looking audience:
- There will be resistance to moving towards a green economy. Some people think that talking about the future is 'flaky', so try to make it all sound like yesterday.
- Try not to get too far ahead of yourself.
- The road ahead is rocky, with obstacles, and strewn with Republicans.

The first panel, moderated by Phil Angelides, Chairman of the Apollo Alliance and former Treasurer and Democratic candidate for Governor, focused on how to prepare California for a booming green economy. The panel comprised Van Jones, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Peter Darbee, Chairman of the Board, CEO, and President of PG&E, Nancy Pfund, JPMorgan, Dr. Marshall Drummond, Chancellor of the LA Community College District, and Jay Hansen, Legislative and Political Director of the State Building & Construction Trades Council. The panel identified that there are large gaps between labor demand and supply, and a significant need to develop a diversified and skilled green workforce. Some key comments:
- Training and education in green technologies needs to begin with vocational training and adequate training investment, starting in primary and secondary schools, community colleges, and prisons.
- There needs to be equity in the new green workforce. The green economy should be inclusive, especially of those who were left out of petroleum-powered industry jobs.
- With only 4% of the world's population, the US accounts for 25% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions and 25% of the prison population (of those known to be incarcerated?).

The second panel, moderated by Dan Kammen of UC Berkeley, focused on how to go from investment and innovation to green jobs to meeting the state's climate change goals. The panel comprised Julie Blunden of SunPower, Nancy Floyd of Nth Power, Joseph Perkins, President and CEO of the Home Builders Association of Northern California, and Dan Reicher, Director of Climate Change and Energy Initiatives for google.org and former Assistant Energy Secretary under President Clinton. The panel proposed that in addition to private investment, there need to be government incentives to initially subsidize the green economy, just as the petroleum economy has been subsidized historically. Some key comments:
- Solar/thermal energy technology and application is growing exponentially. It is estimated that solar energy costs will decrease 50% by 2012 as compared to today's costs.
- 10% of today's venture capital dollars are going to research, development, and product innovation in new energy technologies.
- 50% of US energy still comes from coal. We need a carbon price and cap immediately.
- The easiest and largest energy efficiency gains to be made right now come from conservation.

The third session consisted of interactive break-out groups of approximately 150 people each. Each group focused on a different topic, with the goal of developing strategies and solutions that advance clean energy investment in California. My group was moderated by Jose Carmona, policy coordinator for the non-profit Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technology (CEERT). Honestly, I didn't hear any concrete solutions come out of our or the other sessions, except one guy did propose that if we could convince 14-year old girls that fuel inefficiency was really uncool, they would never date another guy who drove a Hummer, which would ultimately drive up CAFE standards.

The fourth and final panel was moderated by Bob Epstein, co-founder of Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2). This session basically verbalized the perspectives, experiences, and opinions of the panel members, who comprised Dr. Philip Day, Chancellor of City College of San Francisco, Raquel Pinderhughes, Professor of Urban Studies at SFSU, Peter Liu, founder of New Resource Bank, and Tom Martinez, Business Development Director for the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).

The summit hosts included the California Public Utilities Commission, the Willie L. Brown Jr. Institute on Politics and Public Service, the California Clean Energy Fund, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, and the Apollo Alliance.

Other sponsors included Manatt, PG&E, Southern California Edison, Morrison Foerster, Cal-Am, Independent Energy Producers Association, Goodin MacBride Squeri Day & Lamprey LLP, Constellation NewEnergy, Merriwether & Williams Insurance Services, Shell, Blaylock & Co., Grant Capital Management, Renewable Energy Marketing Board, Woodside Natural Gas, EnXco, Bloomenergy, Navigant Consulting, and many others.

And here's a link to an article about the summit published last week in the SF Chronicle.