Archive for March, 2014

Get the Frack Out of California

Thursday, March 27th, 2014
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FrackingPoisonsFamilies

Take Action Now: Support Bill to Ban Fracking in California. Fracking is a technique used to extract natural gas whereby millions of gallons of water mixed with sand and highly toxic chemicals are injected into the earth. This process has been proven to result in massive environmental effects including wasting large quantities of scarce water resources, ground water contamination, air pollution and earth quakes.

Please take action to ban fracking in California by supporting Senate Bill 1132, which will prohibit fracking until the Secretary of the Natural Resources Agency convenes a committee to review a scientific study and put specific measures in place to ensure that fracking does not pose a threat to the public health and welfare or to the environmental and economic sustainability of the state.

SB1132 is strong on addressing the environmental justice issues raised by fracking. Residents living close to fracking wells or downstream of fracking wells are exposed to hazardous chemicals. This exposure has been illustrated to cause negative health impacts. As Senator Mitchell points out: “There are a million Angelenos that live within a 5-mile radius of the largest urban oil field in the country…when industrial operations like fracking and acidization disproportionately impact minority communities, environmental justice has been breached and needs to be restored. SB 1132 will do that.”

We are thankful for Senator Leno’s comments that “a moratorium on fracking is especially critical as California faces a severe drought with water resources at an all-time low.” While the current drought in California has highlighted the issues related to water and fracking, it is our perspective that fracking is never an acceptable use of the state’s water. Water is scarce in California even when we are not in drought conditions.

Please click here to take action. Ask SB 1132 sponsors to strengthen requirements for environmental assessments for fracking and to ensure that adequate time is provided for public participation in the review process.

EPIC is collaborating with a larger coalition of organizations to support SB1132 and has submitted a letter of support to Senator Leno and Senator Mitchell, thanking them for introducing the bill.

 


Injunction Sought to Halt Unnecessary Caltrans Highway-widening Project in Remote Northwest California

Thursday, March 20th, 2014
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Photo by Scott HardingCaltrans Ignores Impacts to Smith River Canyon, Coho Salmon

EPIC along with several other conservation groups filed for a preliminary injunction in federal court today to halt construction of a Caltrans highway-widening project that would harm threatened coho salmon runs and undermine public safety along the wild and scenic Smith River Canyon in California’s remote Del Norte County. The project is aimed at widening narrow sections of highways 197 and 199 to provide access for oversized trucks. The conservation groups had challenged Caltrans’ approval of the project in federal and state court last year, for its inadequate review of the environmental impacts.

“Caltrans would have us believe allowing oversize trucks to drive faster through the tight Smith River canyon will make this scenic highway safer, yet it will do the opposite,” said Don Gillespie with Friends of Del Norte. “We are challenging this project to protect motorist safety and defend our treasured Smith River.”

Friends of Del Norte, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) seek to halt construction on the $26 million “197/199 Safe STAA Access Project.” It would increase unsafe heavy and oversized truck use on narrow roadways along the designated “wild and scenic” Smith River Canyon, negatively impacting tourism and local residents. Construction would harm habitat for coho salmon runs that the National Marine Fisheries Service (“NMFS”) has identified as facing a high risk of extinction and core to the recovery of the species as a whole.

“The Smith River is one of California’s natural wonders as the last major undammed river in the state,” said Gary Graham Hughes, executive director of EPIC. “Our rivers are under incredible stress due to drought – this destructive highway widening project would unnecessarily put the Smith River and its salmon habitat at risk.”

“We will not let Caltrans degrade the pristine and ecologically important Smith River for its ill-advised network of routes for oversized trucks through coastal northwestern California,” said Jeff Miller with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This type of major roadwork shouldn’t occur along these narrow, rural roads and critical salmon habitat.”

Caltrans’ approval of the project did not follow the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires a full evaluation of the potential environmental impacts of a project and consideration of viable alternatives. Caltrans’ project approval also violated the Wild and Scenic River Act and the Department of Transportation Act. NMFS is named on the lawsuit for violating the Endangered Species Act by failing to properly analyze whether the project will jeopardize protected coho salmon or their habitat.

Caltrans did not properly evaluate the threat project construction poses to salmon habitat and water quality along the Smith River or safety hazards from increased truck traffic. Caltrans refused to consider alternatives besides widening the highway, adopted unsubstantiated findings about impacts and mitigation measures, and avoided looking at the cumulative impacts of numerous associated Caltrans highway-widening projects in Northern California for oversized truck access. NMFS ignored its own data, including dire warnings concerning the status of coho in the Smith River, and rubber-stamped the project without giving it anything close to a sufficient review.

Background
Highway 199 is a scenic byway along the Smith River Canyon that passes through the Six Rivers National Forest and the Smith River National Recreation Area. It provides access to Redwood national and state parks, one of only two UNESCO World Heritage sites in California. The Smith River is the only undammed river in California, with the longest stretch of designated “wild and scenic” river in the lower 48. A 1989 Caltrans report acknowledged the physical constraints of the narrow, steep and rocky Smith River Canyon and concluded that environmental concerns make Highway 199 “a poor candidate for extensive upgrading.”

Highway 197 is a 7-mile, two-lane country road that runs north to south along the lower Smith River, just northeast of Crescent City. It is a rural-residential route with 72 driveways directly entering onto the road. In order to avoid Jedediah Smith State Park at the western edge of the project, oversized trucks would divert off Highway 199 and travel along Highway 197 to the north of Crescent City to reach Highway 101.

Court challenges to the related Caltrans project through Richardson Grove on Highway 101 in Humboldt County have resulted in rulings determining that Caltrans failed to adequately analyze the potential impacts of highway development on the ancient redwoods protected in Richardson Grove State Park.

A recently released independent review of Caltrans called for sweeping reforms of the agency and cited a “culture of fear” within Caltrans when it comes to deviating from standard policies. The statewide Caltrans Watch coalition has highlighted the agency’s pervasive refusal to consider reasonable alternatives to massive highway projects, shoddy environmental review, lack of transparency, reliance on flawed data and disregard for public input.

The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys Stuart Gross and Sharon Duggan, and the nationally recognized firm of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy.

Motion for Prelimiary Injunction

Click here to view EPIC Press Release

Click here to learn more about EPIC’s work on the Smith River project.


El Radio Fantastique plays the Arcata Playhouse Thursday, April 3

Thursday, March 13th, 2014
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11x17-ElRadioFantastique-POSTER-ARCATAEPIC is proud to host El Radio Fantastique at the Arcata Playhouse (1251 9th St.) Thursday, April 3. The Playhouse provides the perfect intimate and theatrical atmosphere for guests to enjoy the wild musical styling of El Radio Fantastique. Come thirsty and hungry. Doors open at 6:30 for specialty cocktails, beer, wine and delicious morsels. Show starts at 8pm. $12-20 sliding scale.

El Radio Fantastique features the beautifully dark songwriting of frontman and multi-instrumentalist Giovanni Di Morente. Di Morente is no stranger to the spotlight. As a member of the pop duo Times Two in the late 1980’s, he and his partner made a fairly standard pact with the Devil. In return for sacrificing their musical standards and artistic control, they scored a top 40 Billboard hit, made an appearance on American Bandstand with Dick Clark, and even were featured in the teenybopper staple magazine Tiger Beat.

El Radio Fantastique represents musical redemption for Di Morente, a way to wash away his musical sins of the past… and he is relishing the opportunity to rise again, this time with his musical integrity fully intact. His influences are as diverse as can be, citing Henry Mancini, Nina Simone, Morgana King, Big Maybelle, Louis Prima, Whispering Jack Smith , Julie London, Jeri Southern, Leiber and Stoller, Burundi music, Sex Pistols, Public Enemy, and The Beatles as being the ones he has most tried to emulate. Other influences include pieces of soundtracks, bits of nursery rhymes, 50’s instrumental lounge, noise, old punk rock, classical pieces, forgotten jazz, marching band, hip hop, gospel, and African pop.“When I write songs,” DiMorente says, “I try to tap into my subconscious while I am awake.” 

The band’s latest album is Waking The Dead. The first single off the album, ‘How Does It Make You Feel?’, was a semi-finalist in The International Songwriting Competition (ISC) whose judges include Tom Waits, Frank Black, and Suzanne Vega.  The album also charted in the Top 10 on the highly influential KALX radio station in Berkeley, CA. As Paul Liberatore of the Marin Independent Journal wrote in his review, “There is no way to capture the energy and excitement of El Radio’s live show on a studio recording, but the arrangements and instrumentation on this album are unfailingly inventive and often surprising. ‘Waking the Dead’ is the kind of showcase CD that could break this band onto the national scene.”El Radio Fantastique’s album Waking The Dead can be purchased on their website www.elradiofantastique.com or on iTunes.

All proceeds from the evening benefit the continued protection of Northern California’s incredible ecosystems!

El Radio Pic


Take Action to Prohibit Wildlife Killing Contests in California

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014
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dead_coyotesTake Action Now: Please join EPIC, and our allies, in calling on the California Fish and Game Commission and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to prohibit predator killing contests statewide and to develop comprehensive regulations and policies to reform and modernize predator management in California. Killing predators – or any wild animal- as part of a ‘contest’ ‘tournament’ or ‘drive’ is ethically indefensible, ecologically reckless, and contravenes new legislation (AB 2402) that Governor Jerry Brown signed into law requiring the Fish & Game Commission to use “ecosystem based management” and the best available science in the stewardship of California’s wildlife. Such wildlife killing contests have no scientific basis and degrade the reputation of the ethical sportsman of California.

We would like to thank Project Coyote for providing content for this action alert. Here is a link to their petition on Change.org.


Endangered Species Act Protection Sought for Rare Coastal Plant in Oregon and California

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014
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Silvery Phacelia (Phacelia argentea) Silvery Phacelia Threatened by Off-Road Vehicles and Development

EPIC joined a coalition with seven other organizations to file a petition last week with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seeking Endangered Species Act protection for silvery phacelia, a rare plant that grows on a 130-mile stretch of coast from Coos and Curry counties in southern Oregon to Del Norte County in northern California. The flowering plant is at risk of extinction due to off-road vehicles, development and nonnative beach grass. There are fewer than 30 surviving populations of the silver-leaved plant.

“Silvery phacelia is a unique part of the natural heritage of our coast but we could lose it forever if we aren’t careful. Endangered Species Act protection is the best hope for protecting this beautiful plant for future generations,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity.

The range of silvery phacelia extends from just north of Bandon, Ore., south to Crescent City, Calif. It grows on sand dunes where it is at risk of being crushed by off-road vehicles. It is also threatened by development on private lands as well as at Bandon State Natural Area where a proposed land exchange would carve out 280 acres of currently protected land to build a golf course. Another threat is competition from nonnative plants like European beach grass and gorse.

“Protecting silvery phacelia will not only ensure a future for this one plant species, but will also help safeguard our coastal environment for the quiet enjoyment of humans and for other rare species,” said Doug Heiken, conservation and restoration coordinator at Oregon Wild.

“Our organization is proud to support this important effort to secure legal protections for a disappearing species whose continued existence is threatened by inappropriate off-road vehicle and development activities,” said EPIC executive director Gary Graham Hughes.

Silvery phacelia is in the Forget-Me-Not family of flowering plants and grows to be 18 inches tall. It has white flowers that are a rich source of nectar and pollen for native bees. The number of bees and variety of bee species in dune vegetation is higher in places where phacelia grows. Its silvery hairs, an adaptation to the harsh coastal environment, keep salt off its leaves, decrease water loss and reflect excess light. The name “Phacelia” is from the Greek “phakelos” meaning cluster, for its lovely clustered flowers; and the Latin “argentea” meaning “silvery,” for the appearance of the leaves. Silvery phacelia blooms from March to September.

The petitioning groups are the Center for Biological Diversity, Oregon Wild, Friends of Del Norte, Oregon Coast Alliance, the Native Plant Society of Oregon, the California Native Plant Society, the Environmental Protection Information Center, and the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center.

Silvery phacelia grows on federal public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management including the New River Area of Critical Environmental Concern, Floras Lake, Four Mile Creek, Lost Lake, and Ophir Dunes in Oregon. It is also found on state lands including Lone Ranch State Beach, Bandon State Natural Area, Pistol River State Park, Humbug Mountain State Park, and Cape Blanco State Park in Oregon, and at Tolowa Dunes State Park in California. It also grows on some private lands along the very immediate coast.

Recent Press: Protection Sought for Rare Beach Plant Threatened by Off-Road Vehicles – KCET

Click here to view the complete silvery phacelia petition

 


Action Alert: Protect Marine Mammals from Navy Sonar and Weapons Testing

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014
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NOAA_whalecalfTake Action Now! The US Navy has prepared an Environmental Impact Statement to assess the impacts associated with a five-year authorization of military testing and training operations off the coast of the Pacific Northwest in an area that stretches from Cape Mendocino all the way north to the Canadian border, including Alaskan waters. The proposed activities are expected to injure, disturb or kill more than a hundred thousand individuals consisting of 29 different marine mammal species, which are supposed to be protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Proposed activities would subject marine mammals, fish, sea turtles and other sea life to countless impacts including mid-frequency sonar, which is noise that is billions of times more intense than natural sound. The use of sonar has been directly connected to many instances of beached whales that have died from baro-trauma after military sonar exercises.  Even 300 miles from the source, sonar can be up to 140 decibels, which is 100 times more intense than the level known to alter whale behavior.

Additional testing and training activities that would affect marine mammals include the use of explosives, electromagnetic devices, physical strikes from missiles, underwater detonations and ships, entanglement and ingestion of toxic chemicals and munitions. These activities often result in the disruption of basic behaviors of marine mammals including activities necessary for survival such as migration, surfacing, navigating, hearing, nursing, breeding and feeding.  Many of the species that would be affected are listed as threatened or endangered, making the Navy’s proposed project a direct violation of the Endangered Species Act.

EPIC has participated in the scoping process of this project, attended public meetings, compiled related action alerts and will continue to stand up to the Navy in an effort to stop the unnecessary killing of marine mammals and other marine species. We need your help to show the Navy that people on the North Coast care deeply about ocean life.

There are several things you can do to help:

  • Attend public meetings, including a meeting this Thursday, March 6 at the Red Lion Hotel in Eureka from 5-8pm.
  • Submit comments to the Navy.
  • Share this action with your friends via social media networks.
  • Contribute to our efforts to fund this campaign.

Please click here to take action now.  Tell the US Navy to rescind the proposed training and testing activities and explore other alternatives to train military personnel that do not significantly degrade the environment and put hundreds of thousands of marine animals at risk in the global commons. If you can add a personal touch, your comment will go even further in letting the US Navy know that the public does not approve of the Navy’s destructive training operations.

Public “open house information sessions” will be held at multiple locations along the Pacific Coast, including one in Eureka this Thursday, March 6, at the Red Lion Hotel Redwood Ballroom at 1929 4th Street.  If you live outside of the Humboldt Bay area, you may be able to attend one of the other sessions in your area.  All written and verbal comments delivered during these meetings will be added to the administrative record, so please urge as many as you can to turn out and let the Navy hear your voice.

Click Here to Take Action Now!

Click here to see EPIC’s past efforts to stop the Navy’s unnecessary killing of marine mammals for their testing and training operations.


Public Action has Exposed Caltrans Need for Reform

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014
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RGRoadnoTruckOriginally published in the Eureka Times-Standard.

Caltrans is seriously out of step with the times, with the needs of the state of California, and with the North Coast community. EPIC has been voicing this criticism of Caltrans since we first rose to the defense of the ancient redwoods of Richardson Grove. Now an independent study has come to that same conclusion.

The independent report, the SSTI Assessment and Recommendations, commissioned by Governor Brown and authored by the State Smart Transportation Initiative, was released in January 2014. The study finds that Caltrans is stuck in a car-centric culture, perpetually looking to build bigger, faster highways at a moment in history in which Californians are becoming acutely aware of the true financial and ecological costs of addiction to an outdated transportation model. The study also finds fault with the pattern of inadequate response to community concerns about social and environmental impacts of highway development, as well as a “culture of fear” within the agency.

Three Caltrans projects on California’s North Coast stand as examples of this “stuck-in-the-past” project planning.

The Willits Bypass is draining 90 acres of precious wetlands for a giant interchange made for a four-lane freeway that will do little to relieve local congestion. The argument for the need for the Bypass is based on traffic studies from decades ago. Caltrans implementation of the Bypass has been a circus of permit violations, spiced with the destruction of a cultural site, and clouded by an underfunded and unproven mitigation plan.

The highway “realignment” through Richardson Grove State Park seriously threatens mammoth ancient redwood trees, a fact confirmed by the state court of appeal, which recently ruled that Caltrans failed to adequately analyze the impact of their proposed project on the ancient redwoods. Incredibly, instead of designing alternatives and doing an in-depth environmental review that better reflect the desires of Californians and the environmental realities of our times, Caltrans wastes time and tax-payer money disregarding the intent of the courts by arrogantly steamrolling forward with the project. This “bully” behavior confirms the independent review conclusion that Caltrans is oblivious to the concerns of the public while unabashedly promoting environmentally damaging projects.

A related highway development project planned for Highway 199 in the northwestern-most corner of California poses direct and indirect threats to our redwood parks and the unparalleled salmon habitat of the wild Smith River in Del Norte County. EPIC has taken legal action in state and federal court to defend the Smith from this irresponsible highway development.

Our North Coast community deserves an honest, transparent, and open discussion about the impacts of highway development on our irreplaceable natural treasures, and about the costs and the benefits of this infrastructure development. This discussion must include recognizing the viability of alternatives that will meet needs for goods movement and transportation, as well as protect the rare and sensitive environments that make Northwest California such a special place. The imperative for Caltrans to respond positively to the demands of our community is emphasized by the successful efforts to challenge the agency in court, and by the independent review recommending serious reform of the agency.

Yet, Caltrans has refused to be forthright with residents about the direct impacts of their highway development projects, much less been willing to engage the public in a productive manner when concerns are raised, or even when the courts rule against the agency. In the absence of credible leadership by Caltrans, EPIC has challenged the legality of these projects with the immediate intent of protecting rare and sensitive environments, and with the long-term goal of leveraging successful court action into political momentum that will lead to a serious reform of the agency. A major restructuring of the California Department of Transportation is already under way; the question remains whether the recommendations of the independent review combined with the reality check of the court orders will be sufficient impetus to bring Caltrans out of the past.

There is no question that Caltrans needs significant reform to bring it into step with best practices in the transportation field, with the state of California’s policy expectations, and the true needs of North Coast residents. While the lawsuits are effective for enforcing the law, they do not permanently stop projects, and reform is what will lead to viable transportation solutions for our rural communities. This reform is not only the demand of citizen organizations from around the state; it is the recommendation of one of the nation’s leading authorities on sustainable transportation. The time has arrived to rein in Caltrans.