California utility PG&E faces billion$ in fines, lawsuits for wildfire death and damages


Click to enlargeDavid Paul Morris/Bloomberg

❝ Late Friday, California confirmed what many across the state’s devastated wine country had suspected for months: Equipment owned by utility giant PG&E Corp. ignited some of the deadliest and most destructive wildfires that tore through their homes in October.

The most unexpected and crucial part of the findings, though, was at the very bottom of California’s end-of-day statement: The state had found evidence of alleged violations of law by PG&E in connection with eight of the blazes…

❝ That evidence — which California’s fire agency has now sent to county prosecutors — could make or break PG&E in the dozens of lawsuits over the Northern California fires that altogether killed 44 people, consumed thousands of homes and racked up an estimated $10 billion in damages. The alleged violations could also expose PG&E to criminal charges only two years after the San Francisco company was convicted of breaking safety rules that led to a deadly gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, California.

I have no idea what portion of American corporations are dumb enough to think that skipping safety requirements to save a buck or two ever pays off over time. PG&E has to be as short-sighted as derivative investors in 2007 – or Trump voters.

Fire season coming to Southern California and no clouds in sight!


Not getting any better in New Mexico either

❝ June Gloom season is upon Southern California. For as long as anyone can remember, that’s meant clouds wrapping the landscape in a milky white cocoon as cool, moist ocean air known as the marine layer moves inland. But as with everything in our world, this is now changing.

June — and summer as a whole, it turns out — is becoming less cloudy in parts of Southern California. Great for your garden perhaps, but new research shows the trend is also increasing the risk of wildfires, which are on everyone’s mind after last year’s record-setting Thomas Fire. The findings could add a key variable for firefighters and meteorologists to look at to gauge how bad fire conditions will get in a given year.

❝ The research…uses a novel approach of looking at sky observations taken continuously at airports and military airfields from San Diego to Santa Barbara since the 1970s, and linking them up with weather observations. Specifically, the researchers were looking for the occurrence of stratus clouds, which tend to hang out lower as part of the marine layer and keep things cool.

The data shows that stratus cloud cover from May-September has declined 25-50 percent across a number of sites in Southern California owing to the growing urban heat island and climate change. All this extra heat causes the clouds to dissipate or form in areas with less of a cooling impact…

❝ All that extra sunlight coming in is causing more evaporation. Figuring out how much the ground and vegetation are drying out is the key to understanding the relationship between cloud loss and fire conditions.

Interesting article whether you live in wildfire country or not. One more change to the negative side of climate equations. Ignored by flat-earthers and their ilk.

New California Building Code = more insulation, energy-efficient windows and, yes, rooftop solar panels


Wakeland Housing and Development Corporation

❝ How would you like living in a home with a dramatically reduced electric bill? That will be a reality for most new homes in California starting in 2020, thanks to a new building energy code adopted today by the California Energy Commission. The updated code — the first of its kind in the nation — will combine rooftop solar panels with enough energy efficiency measures like insulation and better windows that all new single-family homes and low-rise apartments will use net-zero electricity. This means that their solar array should offset all electricity use for cooling, plug-in equipment, and lighting on an annual basis.

❝ The groundbreaking decision to make these new homes net-zero electricity, coupled with major savings from more efficient lighting required by the updated code for commercial buildings, will save Californians more than $1.7 billion in net energy savings over the next 30 years and reduce carbon pollution statewide by 1.4 million metric tons. This is equivalent to the emissions from the annual electricity use of all households in the city of San Francisco.

The fifth-largest economy in the world runs right past the rest of the United States – once again.

Wet/Dry Whiplash is Hitting California and it’s Going to Get Worse


K Street in Sacramento during the Great Flood of 1862

❝ Abrupt transitions in California from a parched winter to a soggy one, as observed in the mid-2010s, will become more common if greenhouse gases continue to increase, according to a study published Monday in Nature Climate Change. This “precipitation whiplash” has implications for both wildfire and flood risk. The research also suggests that California’s wet season is likely to contract, and the shorter wet seasons will become more variable, with an increase in both extra-dry and extra-wet winters.

❝ Led by Daniel Swain, UCLA, the study employed 40 climate simulations from the NCAR Community Earth System Model. This large ensemble…has been used to simulate climate in preindustrial times as well as the 21st century. Swain and colleagues examined output for the high-emissions or “business as usual” scenario…It assumes that fossil fuel burning will continue to add ever-increasing amounts of greenhouse gas to the air until the late 21st century.

One of the most worrisome findings is an enhanced risk of extremely wet winters. The modeling indicates that 40-day-long rainfall stretches on par with those observed during the “Great Flood” winter of 1861-62 will be more than three times more likely by the 2070s-2090s than they were prior to human-produced greenhouse gases. A large swath of California’s Central Valley was inundated in early 1862 by torrential rains that produced more than 10 feet of flooding, putting downtown Sacramento under water…a repeat of this event could produce hundreds of billions of dollars in damage…

Although wet seasons are expected to get shorter on average—pinched between drier autumns and drier springs statewide—the study also projects that the midwinter jet stream will tend to carry more moisture, a well-understood byproduct of a warming climate. At certain times, this juiced-up jet stream could pack a very big wallop. More than two-thirds of the 40 ensemble members indicate that two or more 1862-magnitude rain events could occur in this century across the state.

Which is why “climate change” is a more accurate term than global warming, etc., which infers only one style of dynamic change. Nope. We all can look forward to lots of mostly unhappy stuff happening.

Saving the life of a creature in danger of being burned alive

❝ More than 100,000 acres in Southern California have been burned by wildfires in the last week, with some 27,000 residents being forced to flee areas like Bel Air and the Getty museum. More than 1,000 firefighters are now battling the biggest blaze, named Thomas, which is far from under control…

But as more and more people are forced to flee their homes, there are some uplifting stories coming out of the destruction. In Ventura County, as residents fled Thomas Fire on Highway 1, a passing news crew was able to capture footage of a man doing something pretty amazing at the side of the road…

AFAIK, the young men wouldn’t give his name, didn’t care to be interested by the TV crew.

Thanks, UrsaRodinia

The Militarization of America’s Cities by Maj. Danny Sjursen

❝ I can remember both so well.

2006. My first raid in South Baghdad. 2014. Watching on YouTube as a New York police officer asphyxiated — murdered — Eric Garner for allegedly selling loose cigarettes on a Staten Island street corner not five miles from my old apartment. Both events shocked the conscience.

It was 11 years ago next month. My first patrol of the war and we were still learning the ropes from the Army unit we were replacing. Unit swaps are tricky, dangerous times…

❝ Officers from incoming units like mine were forced to learn the terrain, identify the key powerbrokers in our assigned area, and sort out the most effective tactics in the two weeks before the experienced officers departed. It was a stressful time…

Major Sjursen quickly learned to rearrange his response and definitions to war, honesty, actual military and political goals to the realities of the American War on Iraq. Short, worthy read on its own.

❝ Years passed. I came home, stayed in the Army, had a kid, divorced, moved a few more times, remarried, had more kids — my Giants even won two Super Bowls. Suddenly everyone had an iPhone, was on Facebook or tweeting or texting rather than calling.

Somehow in those blurred years, Iraq-style police brutality and violence — especially against poor blacks — gradually became front-page news. One case, one shaky YouTube video followed another. Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile and Freddie Gray, just to start a long list.

So many of the clips reminded me of enemy propaganda videos from Baghdad or helmet-cam shots recorded by our troopers in combat, except that they came from New York or Chicago or San Francisco…

The tactics, intent, goals began to more than resemble his life in an occupying army thousands of miles from home. And that’s what the rest of his article is about.

Fake president claims environmental regulation kills jobs — California proves he’s wrong [as usual]

❝ The California economy is thriving, according to a new report released Monday — and that’s despite the state instituting relatively restrictive environmental rules.

According to the assessment, after the passage of California’s trademark — and controversial — 2006 cap-and-trade law, statewide per capita emissions fell by 12 percent. For every fossil fuel job in the state, California has 8.5 in solar and wind energy…Most notably, the report finds the state’s per-capita GDP grew by almost double the national average since cap-and-trade passed. In fact, the state is now the most energy-productive economy in the world — meaning it uses the least amount of energy to gain each dollar of GDP…

❝ The research, published by the public policy nonprofit Next 10, suggests California is emerging as the sixth largest economy in the world while becoming cleaner and greener. That fact sits in direct opposition to the principle now undergirding policy in Washington: that unbridled industry is a key ingredient to U.S. prosperity…

“The narrative that strict environmental policies that impact large parts of the economy are always bad is simply not the case,” says economist Adam Fowler, the report’s lead author. “These policies have pushed innovation, and innovation is always good in a capitalist system.”…

❝ “Being a leader environmentally is something the state has done for half a century, and the state continues to prosper,” says Charles Kolstad, a Stanford University economist who was not involved in the new report.

Trump has brought the coal industry about 800 verifiable new jobs nationwide while alternative and renewable energy projects offer jobs in the thousands, tens of thousands. Trump’s lies are meaningless in the face of real economic growth. The fools who believe those lies are stuck with the results – and diminishing returns on their ignorance.

What do you think 102 million dead trees mean for wildfire danger in California?


Click to enlarge

The number of dead trees in California’s drought-stricken forests has risen dramatically to more than 102 million in what officials described as an unparalleled ecological disaster that heightens the danger of massive wildfires and damaging erosion.

Officials said they were alarmed by the increase in dead trees, which they estimated to have risen by 36 million since the government’s last survey in May. The U.S. Forest Service, which performs such surveys of forest land, said Friday that 62 million trees have died this year alone….

Scientists say five years of drought are to blame for much of the destruction. The lack of rain has put California’s trees under considerable stress, making them more susceptible to the organisms, such as beetles, that can kill them. Unusually high temperatures have added to the trees’ demand for water, exacerbating an already grim situation…

Although California enjoyed a wet start to the water year in Northern California, the central and southern parts of the state remain locked in what federal officials classify as “extreme” and “exceptional” drought.

Sooner or later – hopefully, the former – folks will realize that climate change means more than a couple paragraphs about global warming. Distorted climates produce untypical environments, often ending in disaster.

California leads the fight to prevent women bleeding to death in childbirth


Kristen Terlizzi

❝ In the US, childbirth has been growing more dangerous recently. Maternal mortality — defined as the death of a mother from pregnancy-related complications while she’s carrying or within 42 days after birth — in the US soared by 27 percent, from 19 per 100,000 to 24 per 100,000, between 2000 and 2014.

That’s more than three times the rate of the United Kingdom, and about eight times the rates of Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden, according to the OECD.

❝ It’s a stunning example of how poorly the American health care system stacks up against its developed peers. More women in labor or brand new mothers die here than in any other high-income country. And the CDC Foundation estimates that 60 percent of these deaths are preventable…

❝ But as the mortality rate has been edging up nationally, California has made remarkable progress in the opposite direction: Fewer and fewer women are dying in childbirth in the state.

So how did California manage to buck the trend? I was curious, particularly as American women’s health is under assault, with the GOP push to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act…

RTFA. Long and detailed, Julia Belluz went to California to meet Dr. David Lagrew, an OB-GYN at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange County. A founding member of the CMQCC, the California Maternal Care Quality Collective. Dr. Lagrew leads the fight for sensible hemorrhage protocols that save lives – and the fight to end unnecessary C-sections which set the stage for so many deaths-by-hemorrhage in the United States.

California has beaucoup solar power — so much that other states are sometimes paid to take it

❝ On 14 days during March, Arizona utilities got a gift from California: free solar power.

Well, actually better than free. California produced so much solar power on those days that it paid Arizona to take excess electricity its residents weren’t using to avoid overloading its own power lines…

The number of days that California dumped its unused solar electricity would have been even higher if the state hadn’t ordered some solar plants to reduce production — even as natural gas power plants, which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, continued generating electricity…

❝ Why doesn’t California, a champion of renewable energy, use all the solar power it can generate?…

❝ The answer, in part, is that the state has achieved dramatic success in increasing renewable energy production in recent years. But it also reflects sharp conflicts among major energy players in the state over the best way to weave these new electricity sources into a system still dominated by fossil-fuel-generated power

That’s the polite way to put it.

❝ …The California Legislature has mandated that one-half of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2030; today it’s about one-fourth. That goal once was considered wildly optimistic. But solar panels have become much more efficient and less expensive. So solar power is now often the same price or cheaper than most other types of electricity, and production has soared so much that the target now looks laughably easy to achieve.

At the same time, however, state regulators — who act independently of the Legislature — until recently have continued to greenlight utility company proposals to build more natural gas power plants.

Generally, when folks are sleeping in a strange bed it involves sex or money or both. RTFA and decide how much of each is involved.