Tagged: California

High levels of a carcinogen found in fracking waste water

Hoping to better understand the health effects of oil fracking, the state in 2013 ordered oil companies to test the chemical-laden waste water extracted from wells.

Data culled from the first year of those tests found significant concentrations of the human carcinogen benzene in this so-called “flowback fluid.” In some cases, the fracking waste liquid, which is frequently reinjected into groundwater, contained benzene levels thousands of times greater than state and federal agencies consider safe.

The testing results from hundreds of wells showed, on average, benzene levels 700 times higher than federal standards allow, according to a Times analysis of the state data.

The presence of benzene in fracking waste water is raising alarm over potential public health dangers amid admissions by state oil and gas regulators that California for years inadvertently allowed companies to inject fracking flowback water into protected aquifers containing drinking water.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency called the state’s errors “shocking.” The agency’s regional director said that California’s oil field waste water injection program has been mismanaged and does not comply with the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

Read it and weep, folks. Shocking, I say – shocking.

Except I’m not shocked. BITD, I worked in and around oil fields in Louisiana and there is no other class of business [in my experience] that spends 24 hours a day looking for ways to circumvent regulations. Especially requirements for environmental health and safety.

The article is the sort of thing LA Times journalists are thorough about. They don’t skimp on excellence. And, no, I don’t think the Feds have any right to be shocked. They should have been watching these sharks like tuna on toast.

Apple’s 25-year solar agreement will provide 130MW of clean energy


Apple’s new Campus 2 – under construction in Cupertino, California

Apple’s landmark solar power deal…is a long-term sustainable energy solution that should generate enough to power essentially all of the company’s California operations, including the upcoming “spaceship” Campus 2, by the end of 2016.

The green energy will be purchased from First Solar, Inc., through an $848 million agreement that will last for at least 25 years, making it the largest of its kind in the industry. First Solar will be providing electricity through its forthcoming 2,900-acre California Flats Solar Project in Monterey County…

In total, the solar plant will output 280 megawatts of electricity, 130 megawatts of which will be bought by Apple. The remaining 150-megawatt capacity will be sold to Pacific Gas & Electric under a separate long-term power purchase agreement…

Cook said…that Apple will buy enough electricity to power nearly 60,000 California homes. That’s enough to offset the electricity used by Apple’s upcoming Campus 2, as well as all 52 Apple retail stores in the Golden State, and its data center in Newark.

The Apple CEO also made it clear that climate change is a very serious issue for him and his company, which is why they are taking the lead on renewable and sustainable energy. Cook also noted to investors that the agreement makes sound financial sense as well, as the $848 million deal will result in “very significant savings” on the cost of energy.

So, the most valuable corporation in the world says it makes economic sense to move eletricity generation away from fossil fuel, away from coal and oil.

Congressional pimps and cowards, Republican conservatives and Blue Dog Democrats, bleat this isn’t possible.

Which side are you on?

Ground broken for California’s 130-miles high-speed rail project

Gov. Jerry Brown and state political leaders on Tuesday celebrated their perseverance over lawsuits and skeptical lawmakers and voters as they ceremonially started work in the Central Valley on the initial 29 miles of the nation’s first high-speed rail system.

Speaking to about 700 supporters of high-speed rail in a vacant lot in Fresno, the governor was cheered when he called critics — about 30 of whom protested outside the fenced-off festivities — “pusillanimous … that means weak of spirit,” and said the state owed it to the future to think big and invest in projects like high-speed rail.

Brown noted that the State Water Project, BART and the Golden Gate Bridge all faced opposition in their time. “We need to be critiqued,” he said, “but we still need to build…”

While high-speed rail backers made speeches and signed a symbolic section of rail in lieu of cutting a ribbon or wielding golden shovels, a new Congress whose Republican majority has vowed not to contribute more federal funding to California’s high-speed rail project took office in Washington. They include House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, whose district would be bisected by the fast rail line…

Surely no one expects a 21st Century Republican to favor transportation, logistics and commerce considered modern in most nations.

Along with the financial challenge comes the need to complete the project without significant delays or massive cost overruns, and the question of whether state legislators have the political will to keep the project going when it runs into trouble.

The current construction is expected to be completed by 2018…The authority expects to award a contract this month for the next phase, which would take the tracks south to Bakersfield. Once that stretch is completed, with work overlapping the initial leg, the plan is to work on a connection to Palmdale, not from Bakersfield but from Burbank. Not only is that a critical stretch in connecting high-speed rail into the Los Angeles area, but officials believe it could operate as a profitable line even before the connection to the valley is completed.

By 2017 or 2018, the agency expects to have a 130-mile stretch through the valley that can be used as a test track for high-speed trains. And by 2022, it expects to be able to run trains from Merced to the Burbank Airport. Connections to San Francisco’s Transbay Transit Center and Los Angeles’ Union Station would be finished by 2029.

Critics…waved signs with such messages as blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!

In the same time period China is scheduled to build several hundred miles of standard rail – only travel at 110mph – for Thailand connecting Bangkok and major cities to Laos and southern China. Myanmar’s main industrial areas will be linked to the deep-sea port of Dawei. 2000 miles of rail will be built in a trilateral project for India, Myanmar and Thailand – linking those nations to Laos, Cambodia and VietNam. The ASEAN north-south corridor will be extended down to Malaysia and Singapore.

Besides ASEAN nations, there are six more partner countries – China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, combining half of the world’s population.

Good thing ain’t many of them as backwards as American conservatives.

New NatGas power plant will integrate renewable energy power plants into grid

GE just announced the largest debt financing this year for a thermal power plant in the US. Located in Riverside County, California, the massive 800 MW Sentinel Facility will help facilitate the integration of renewable energy into the power grid. The plan is being funded by a union of mega companies including GE Energy Financial Services, Diamond Generating Corporation and Competitve Power Ventures, and when it is completed it will produce enough power for 239,000 homes.

The thermal plant is part of California’s program to derive 33% of its power from renewable energy by the year 2020. In addition to the CPV Sentinel Facility, Riverside will welcome the Blythe Solar Project, a 968 megawatt solar power plant, driving the state even further toward their goal.

Aside from generating power, the $2 billion project will also give way to 300 construction jobs and 400 employment jobs — expected to inject $55 million into the local economy. Sales tax alone from the project will bring $30 million, and property taxes will provide the county with an additional $6.4 million.

And it ain’t going to buy coal from the Four Corners and PNM.

Oh yeah – that’s more post-construction direct permanent jobs than the whole Keystone XL pipeline.

Thanks, Mike

World’s biggest solar power plant is now up and running


Click to enlarge

Did you hear about the largest solar power plant in the world and how it is now producing electricity? Did it make the nightly broadcast news?

Probably not, but Solyndra was all over the news media for a while. There’s a blatant lack of coverage for solar success stories, so it wouldn’t be surprising if most people aren’t hearing about them. California’s Topaz project is the largest solar power plant in the world with a 550 MW capacity, and it is now in full operation. It is located in San Luis Obispo County and has 9 million solar panels. Construction began just two years ago.

The electricity produced by the plant will be purchased by Pacific Gas and Electric. The solar panels were manufactured by First Solar and the project was developed by First Solar.

SEIA says about 200 homes in California are powered for each MW of solar power capacity. So, for a 550 MW solar plant, about 110,000 homes could be powered when the sun is shining. First Solar has said this figure could be 160,000 homes in the case of Topaz…

Using the electricity created by this huge solar plant rather than fossil fuels will prevent the generation of about 377,000 tons of CO2 annually. It will also not produce harmful air pollution the way coal power plants do.

There’s more, of course. If you’re interested enough in solar power to read through a post like this you may already know something of the life and cost of solar panels. Though it’s nice to dust them off to keep efficiency up, that’s about it for maintenance. Convertors to kick DC electricity over to AC need replacement a few times in the life of a system; but, you can expect these critters to last 20 or 30 years with very little reduction in output.

Compared to the cost of coal or even natural gas, compared to the cost of maintaining a nuclear power plant – this is going to cost peanuts. And only squirrelly politicians and flat-earthers would rather spend the extra money for dirty electricity.

Thanks, Mike — GMTA :)

First electric biker to earn Iron Butt

When someone tells Terry Hershner that an electric motorcycle can’t do a certain feat, he immediately begins trying to figure out how to prove them wrong. Seriously, the man is on a mission to show the world that electric transport is superior transport, with the two-wheeled mode being his validator of choice. The most recent example of this obsessive compulsion has led to him acquiring an iron butt.

For those unfamiliar with that term, relax, it’s not a medical condition. Rather, it means that he has officially traveled 1,000 miles or more in less than twenty-four hours on a motorcycle. In this case, an electric 2012 Zero S that he’s extensively modified, including the addition of an aerodynamic body kit created specifically for him by Craig Vetter, bunches of batteries (now 21 kilowatt-hours!), and nine separate chargers…

According to Hershner, he’s been told many times that this trip, with its lengthiness and time constraint would be impossible on a battery powered bike. So, he decided that the first day of National Drive Electric Week would be a good time to surmount the insurmountable.

Starting at 1:00 PM at Chargepoint headquarters – he would use that company’s chargers for the entire trip – he headed towards the Mexican border, about 500 miles away to the south. After covering 1,047 miles in 22 hours and 57 minutes, making nine charging stops along the way, he pulled back into that same parking lot with a big smile and joined the 53,000-plus members of the Iron Butt Association (IBA). Yes, there is such a thing.

I’m tired and tender just from watching his achievement.

California first in line to ban single-use plastic bags in the United States

California lawmakers have approved a measure that would make the state the first to impose a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags.

SB270 cleared the Senate on a 22-15 vote Friday and sent to Gov. Jerry Brown. It was approved by the Assembly a day earlier.

Senators who had previously opposed the bill, including incoming Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, a Los Angeles Democrat, this time supported the measure after protections were added for plastic bag manufacturers.

The bill by Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla of Los Angeles would prohibit single-use plastic bags at grocery stores and large pharmacies in 2015 and at convenience stores in 2016.

It includes $2 million in loans to help manufacturers shift to producing reusable bags and lets grocers charge 10 cents each for paper and reusable bags.

Typical American copout politicians. There isn’t a single one of these companies that needs a loan to shift production. If they’re that incompetent – they shouldn’t be in business.

The bill had sparked one of the most contentious debates in the last weeks of the legislative session, with aggressive lobbying by environmentalists and bag manufacturers.

For years, a statewide plastic bag ban has been an elusive goal for lawmakers trying to reduce the buildup of plastic waste in oceans and waterways that costs millions of dollars to cleanup. About 100 local jurisdictions in California already have adopted similar bans, including Los Angeles and San Francisco.

You may as well ask your Congress-critter, now, when will they get round to passing a matching national regulation. I expect I won’t still be alive when that happens.

Thanks, Mike

Exposure to agricultural pesticides during pregnancy can lead to autism

Pregnant women who lived in close proximity to fields and farms where chemical pesticides were applied experienced a two-thirds increased risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorder or other developmental delay, a study by researchers with the UC Davis MIND Institute has found. The associations were stronger when the exposures occurred during the second and third trimesters of the women’s pregnancies.

The large, multisite California-based study examined associations between specific classes of pesticides, including organophosphates, pyrethroids and carbamates, applied during the study participants’ pregnancies and later diagnoses of autism and developmental delay in their offspring…“While we still must investigate whether certain sub-groups are more vulnerable to exposures to these compounds than others, the message is very clear: Women who are pregnant should take special care to avoid contact with agricultural chemicals whenever possible…”

Twenty-one chemical compounds were identified in the organophosphate class, including chlorpyrifos, acephate and diazinon. The second most commonly applied class of pesticides was pyrethroids, one quarter of which was esfenvalerate, followed by lambda-cyhalothrin permethrin, cypermethrin and tau-fluvalinate. Eighty percent of the carbamates were methomyl and carbaryl…

The researchers found that during the study period approximately one-third of CHARGE Study participants lived in close proximity – within 1.25 to 1.75 kilometers – of commercial pesticide application sites. Some associations were greater among mothers living closer to application sites and lower as residential proximity to the application sites decreased, the researchers found.

Organophosphates applied over the course of pregnancy were associated with an elevated risk of autism spectrum disorder, particularly for chlorpyrifos applications in the second trimester. Pyrethroids were moderately associated with autism spectrum disorder immediately prior to conception and in the third trimester. Carbamates applied during pregnancy were associated with developmental delay.

Exposures to insecticides for those living near agricultural areas may be problematic, especially during gestation, because the developing fetal brain may be more vulnerable than it is in adults. Because these pesticides are neurotoxic, in utero exposures during early development may distort the complex processes of structural development and neuronal signaling, producing alterations to the excitation and inhibition mechanisms that govern mood, learning, social interactions and behavior.

You ain’t much safer in the heart of suburban America, either. Comparable recent studies of urban communities draw similar conclusions from industrial and transport pollution.

Poisonally, I’d suggest a return to xeriscaping nationwide. I don’t care how much rainfall you may experience, lay off the chemicals sold to dress your home up with a green, green lawn. You may be harming your next generation almost as much as the crabgrass you’re trying to eliminate.

Oh, yeah. Please lay off the spooky crap about vaccination. You’re just increasing the range of lifetime handicaps you may be inflicting upon your kiddies.

Great minds and all. Mike was noting this in “Suggestions for Posts” as I was putting it on the schedule. :)

California traffic stop leads to meth lab at retirement community

Fresno police say they made a routine traffic stop on Robert Short, 64, at Olive and Rowell on Saturday night and found he had meth in his car. Investigators then went to Short’s apartment near Willow and Butler, where they say he was cooking and distributing drugs.

Neighbors who live in the California League-Fresno Village say their retirement community is quiet and safe. So naturally neighbors were appalled to hear one of the tenants is in the Fresno County Jail for dealing and cooking meth in this complex.

“It’s shocking, I would never guess that anything like that would go on at a senior citizen village,” said Robin Schramek.

When Action News knocked on Short’s door, no one answered. But there were signs all over the door that demand privacy and no visitors. Neighbors say despite the tight-knit community there they didn’t know Short, who kept to himself…

When officers pulled Short over it was for a routine traffic stop. Since he’s on supervised release for previous meth sales they searched his car.

“When the officers searched the car they located four ounces of methamphetamine in the car, which is a lot of methamphetamine, so that’s consistent with somebody who’s selling,” said Fresno police Lt. Joe Gomez.

After searching his apartment, they found a half pound of meth, heroin and materials for a meth lab.

“Just shocking someone that age would do that, but actually a perfect place to do it, right? Retirement village, who would suspect it going on there?” said Gomez.

Well, what kind of community do you want to have? I’ll wager it took the coppers who stopped Short only a minute or two to check his priors, to find out he’s on supervised release for previous meth sales.

Don’t want to be surprised about drug dealers in your tight-knit community? Collectively set standards – legal standards – and check folks out before they move in. It’s not uncommon in the best of low-income projects to have rules established about evicting folks convicted of dangerous crimes.

Just don’t get silly and purist about your standards. Folks trying to go straight need all the help they can get.