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Coastal panel spawned by 1930s oil scandal is now a player in California governor’s race 

Ho, Lawrence K. –– – 096410.FI.0421.DRILL.2.LKH Oil platforms off the Southern California Coast in the Santa Barbara Channel. Pic. shows surfers at Sea Cliff with silohuette of oil platforms in the background.


June 22, 2017, 12:05 a.m.

When John Chiang joined the State Lands Commission, it quickly became a platform to showcase his environmental record, starting with his 2007 vote to block construction of a shipping terminal for liquefied natural gas in Ventura County.
The commission has served the same purpose for Gavin Newsom, who often uses his seat on the panel to remind Californians that he opposes offshore oil drilling.
Now that both Chiang and Newsom are running for governor, they are drawing rare attention to the little-known but powerful State Lands Commission.
It oversees 4 million acres of land beneath California waters: the state’s entire Pacific coast and its lakes, rivers and inlets, along with the harbors of San Diego, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco.
Shipping, fishing, oil and gas wells, waterfront real estate development — it all falls under the State Lands Commission.
State Treasurer John Chiang, campaigning for governor near the Golden Gate Bridge on June 7, has promoted his environmental record during his eight years on the State Lands Commission as state controller. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

By law, the commission is composed of two elected officials — the state controller and lieutenant governor — and the state finance director.
What does the commission do?
It oversees the land beneath the public waterways that California acquired when it became a state in 1850, including the ocean, up to three miles from shore.
The commission manages these “sovereign lands” as a public trust for the benefit of all Californians. Fishing, boating, commerce, recreation and ecological preservation are the main legal uses.
In places where landfill has extended the shoreline since 1850, such as San Francisco’s Embarcadero, the State Lands Commission maintains control over the added land.
Why was it created?
In the 1930s, state Finance Department officials were accused of taking bribes in return for coastal oil leases.
That and other irregularities led California lawmakers to create the State Lands Commission in 1938.
“The necessity of an independent commission that makes its decisions in public was made apparent by the behavior of these individuals,” the commission says on its website.
Does it make its decisions in public now?
Not always. In a closed meeting in 2014, the commission voted to sue San Francisco to overturn a city ballot measure that restricted the height of waterfront buildings.
Once the suit was made public, the commissioners refused to say which of the three voted to authorize it, citing “attorney-client privilege.”
“It’s confidential information, because it was a vote taken in closed session,” said Jennifer Lucchesi, the commission’s executive officer.
The commissioners also do not disclose their private meetings with paid lobbyists who try to influence their votes.
On May 8, for instance, Newsom, the lieutenant governor, and Betty Yee, Chiang’s successor as state controller, met separately with Barbara Boxer, who was representing Poseidon Water LLC, a water treatment company.
Boxer, a former U.S. senator, urged them to approve Poseidon’s plan to build a seawater desalination plant in Huntington Beach, a project that some environmentalists oppose.
Newsom and Yee, who are likely to vote on the project at the State Lands Commission’s Aug. 17 meeting, disclosed their conversations with Boxer only in response to questions from The Times. Neither has met privately with opponents of the plant.
Sunrise on the Gaviota Coast north of Santa Barbara on Feb. 10, 2016. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
How does the State Lands Commission differ from the Coastal Commission?
Unlike the Coastal Commission, the State Lands Commission is in effect a giant landlord, issuing leases and contracts for use of its vast properties, from kayak piers on Lake Tahoe to oil tanker terminals in San Francisco Bay.

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Saudi Prince Has the Throne in His Sights. Now for the Hard Part

By Marc Champion
June 21, 2017 4:01:00 PM PDT

Mohammed bin Salman facing tough challenges at home and abroad
Whatever setbacks are in store, the buck now stops with ‘MBS’

Saudi Arabia's Shake-Up
Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mohammed bin Salman just consolidated his position and power. Now he’ll need all the help he can get.
Shortly after dawn on Wednesday, King Salman announced that his 31-year-old son, widely known as MBS, was now heir to the throne. His older cousin, former Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, had been pushed aside to make way.
The move, if not the timing, was expected. Yet bin Nayef also lost his post as interior minister, a powerful role in which he oversaw the nation’s domestic security forces and counter-terrorism efforts. Those areas will now be in the hands of a close MBS ally. The prince already has substantial control over defense, economic and foreign policy.
Power on that scale comes with a catch.

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Bay Area to cap refineries’ greenhouse gases — and greens are mad

By David R. Baker
June 20, 2017 Updated: June 20, 2017 5:04pm

Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle

The Shell refinery in Martinez is one of five oil refineries in the Bay Area that under a proposal would get firm limits placed on greenhouse gas emissions, the first such caps in the nation.

On Wednesday, Bay Area regulators are expected to approve the nation’s first firm limits on greenhouse gas emissions from oil refineries.
And some of the environmentalists who spent years pushing for the caps are furious.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is scheduled Wednesday morning to vote on the proposal, which would set specific annual limits on the amount of greenhouse gases each of the region’s five refineries could produce.

The problem lies in how those limits are set.
As originally proposed, the caps reflected the average annual emissions from each plant, plus a little room on top to account for year-to-year variability. The idea was not to cut emissions, but rather, to keep them from rising substantially.

Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle

The Valero refinery in Bencia,Ca., as seen on Tuesday June 20, 2017. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District on Wednesday is expected to approve the nation's first limits on greenhouse gas emissions from oil refineries.
But, under changes proposed by district staff late last week, the cap at each refinery would be raised to account for upgrade or expansion projects that the district has already approved but that have not yet been built or started operations.
“It’s a matter of not only fairness but also legal necessity,” said Eric Stevenson, the district’s director of meteorology, measurement and rules. “We still expect to be sued by the industry. But because of that, we want to make sure we have the most legally defensible rule possible.”
As a result, however, the emissions from individual refineries could rise 25 percent or more above their current levels, according to the district’s staff report. Environmental groups call that the equivalent of building another refinery.

The new caps, they say, also won’t achieve one of their key goals — making sure Bay Area refineries don’t start using heavy petroleum from Canada’s tar sands. That oil takes more energy to refine and produces more greenhouse gas emissions as a result. And the critics argue that the last-minute changes amount to giving the oil industry a “right to pollute” whenever an expansion or upgrade project wins approval.
“At the 11th hour, the staff turned this thing on its head,” said Greg Karras, senior scientist with Communities for a Better Environment. “Think about how big that problem is — if there’s a vested right to pollute, goodbye EPA.”
The refiners, for their part, consider the new rule overkill.
California, they note, already has regulations and tools — including its cap-and-trade system — to rein in greenhouse gas emissions. The Western States Petroleum Association, the oil industry’s main lobbying group in Sacramento, also complained that the last-minute changes made analyzing the proposal’s impact difficult.

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Utilities in hot water: Realizing the benefits of grid-integrated water heaters

Water heaters offer storage capabilities at a fraction of the cost of batteries. The challenge is getting everyone a piece of the returns.
Herman K. Trabish
June 20, 2017
Utilities have always tried to stay out of hot water with their customers. But now, they're itching to get into it. 
A wave of interest is building in grid-integrated water heating (GIWH) as a path to system flexibility at a fraction of the cost of battery energy storage. At last count, 53.6 million of the 118.2 million U.S. water heaters were electric. Each could act as a battery for load shifting, peak shaving, or to integrate renewables, according to a Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP) paper.
Hot water is used largely by residential utility customers in morning and evening hours, wrote RAP Sr. Advisor Jim Lazar. But it can be heated “when power is most available.”

The stored hot water could then be used during the morning and evening without increasing system burden, Lazar wrote. And, to optimize the use of variable renewables, it could be heated at night to take advantage of high wind production and at midday to take advantage of abundant solar production.
Effective utility control of residential water heating could integrate “up to 100,000 MW of additional variable wind and solar energy in the U.S.,” Lazar wrote.
Transforming the U.S. electric water heater fleet to 100% GIWH represents a $3.6 billion per year market, according to think tank Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI). And “utilities, GIWH manufacturers, installers, solar companies, aggregators, and customers themselves can all capture a piece of this prize.”
Utilities across the country are catching on. There are GIWH pilots at Portland General Electric (PGE), Arizona Public Service (APS), and Green Mountain Power (GMP) in Vermont. PJM has introduced GIWH for frequency regulation and the California Energy Commission is discussing GIWH, according to Brattle Principal Ryan Hledik, co-author of a recent paper describing the GIWH opportunity
In the next 12 months to 18 months, Hledik said, it is likely there will be a utility-led “new wave of grid interactive water heating pilot programs.” The challenge, however, remains in spreading the benefits to all parties involved.

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Judge upholds California’s low-carbon fuel standards

By Bob Egelko
June 20, 2017 Updated: June 20, 2017 3:33pm

Photo: Anne Cusack, MCT

Ethanol is pumped into a truck for transport as ethanol production is coming back and Pacific Ethanol, Inc., in Stockton, California, has weathered bankruptcy and is cashing in on the current boon. (Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

A federal judge has upheld most of California’s pioneering low-carbon fuel standard but allowed oil companies and other fuel suppliers to challenge rules that may favor California ethanol producers over their Midwest competitors.
The standard, part of a 2006 state law intended to reduce air pollution that causes global warming, requires suppliers of transportation fuel sold in California to achieve a 10 percent reduction by 2020 in the amount of carbon released from their products.

Ruling in lawsuits originally filed in 2009 by oil refiners and ethanol producers, U.S. District Judge Lawrence O’Neill of Fresno rejected their broadest arguments: that the California rules conflicted with milder federal clean-air laws and were an unconstitutional attempt to shield the state’s energy producers from competition.
Federal law expressly “preserves the right of the states to enact their own legislation that is more restrictive,” O’Neill said in a 48-page decision Thursday.
In 2011, O’Neill had blocked enforcement of the low-carbon standard, saying it appeared to establish a preference for California-produced biofuels. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco quickly allowed the state to resume enforcement of the rules and later overturned O’Neill’s decision, in language he quoted in his latest ruling.
“There was no protectionist purpose, no aim to insulate California from out-of-state competition,” he said, citing the appeals court’s findings.
But he said ethanol companies in the Midwest, where nearly all of the nation’s supplies of the fuel are produced, could proceed with their claim that the California rules, though neutral in purpose, had a discriminatory effect.

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Not so green: how the weed industry is a glutton for fossil fuels

Producing a few pounds of weed can have the same environmental toll as driving across America seven times – harming cities’ and states’ plans to curb emissions

Paul Isenbergh pays at least $4,000 a month for electricity to grow cannabis. Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty

Oliver Milman in Denver

Tuesday 20 June 2017 07.00 EDT
Last modified on Tuesday 20 June 2017 09.45 EDT
s he opens the steel door to the jumble of his office, located in a cloistered warehouse on the west side of Denver, Paul Isenbergh is barking down the phone about a duplicitous business rival. He’s wearing a shirt and rust-colored tie. Yards from his desk, rows of drying cannabis plants are strung up on two clothes lines.
Isenbergh spent 30 years as a real estate broker in Florida. When he moved to Denver in 2011, he didn’t even know medicinal marijuana was legal in Colorado.
“I had been doing my own research and development, you could say, since the 1970s, but I didn’t really know anything about it until I came here,” he said.

Canadian province gambles future on marijuana's 'extreme growth potential'
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He now owns three cannabis-growing facilities, all housed in what were shuttered Denver warehouses. The second largest, a windowless blockhouse that holds around 500 cannabis plants, throbs with energy.
Large 1,000-watt lamps bathe the plants in a blueish hue during the vegetative phase, when the plants are gaining mass, while a fizzing yellow light scorches the vegetation as it enters its flowering phase, producing the buds of weed that are trimmed, cured and sold for around $1,400 a pound. (It used to be much more, before a stampede of growers saturated the local market).
“We are consuming a lot of energy compared to what we would with LED lights,” said Isenbergh, who pays at least $4,000 a month for electricity. “We tried LED but we couldn’t get the right yield from the plants. And this is a weight game. The LEDs just don’t have the horsepower.”
The legalization of cannabis (recreational weed was approved in a statewide ballot in 2012) has reinvigorated previously dilapidated industrial areas of Denver and generated more than $1bn a year in taxable sales. But the voracious energy consumption of growers is rubbing up against the city’s ambitions of cutting greenhouse gases.
And with around half of all US states now allowing cannabis for various uses, hothoused cultivation is increasingly a concern for governors and mayors promising to fill a Donald Trump-sized hole in emissions reductions.

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Houston fears climate change will cause catastrophic flooding: ‘It’s not if, it’s when’

Human activity is worsening the problem in an already rainy area, and there could be damage worthy of a disaster movie if a storm hits the industrial section


Houston has more casualties and property loss from floods than any other locality in the US. Photograph: David J Phillip/AP

    Friday 16 June 2017 06.00 EDT

    Sam Brody is not a real estate agent, but when his friends want to move home they get in touch to ask for advice. He is a flood impact expert in Houston – and he has plenty of work to keep him busy.

    The Texas metropolis has more casualties and property loss from floods than any other locality in the US, according to data stretching back to 1960 that Brody researched with colleagues. And, he said, “Where the built environment is a main force exacerbating the impacts of urban flooding, Houston is number one and it’s not even close.”

    Near the Gulf Coast, Houston is also at annual risk from hurricanes: it is now into the start of the 2017 season, which runs from this month to November. Ike, the last hurricane to hit the Houston region, caused $34bn in damage and killed 112 people across several states in September 2008.

    There is little hope the situation is going to get better any time soon. Earlier this month, days after Donald Donald Trump announced the US will withdraw from the Paris accord on climate change, a new report warned that rare US floods will become the norm if emissions are not cut.

    Brody, a professor in the department of marine sciences at Texas A&M University’s Galveston campus said the requests for help in Houston from people moving homes inspired him to create a forthcoming web tool so that people can type in an address and get a risk score.

    “If you can see your crime statistics, shouldn’t you be able to see your flood risk also? And other risks as well, human-induced risks?” he said. The site will be named Buyers Be-Where.

    In May 2015, eight people, many of them motorists, died in Harris County when a storm dropped 11in of rain in parts of the city in 10 hours.

    Last year, another six lost their lives in an April storm that hurled 240bn gallons of water at the Houston area. An inch of rain fell over the county in only five minutes, with a peak of 16.7in in 12 hours.

    The events damaged thousands of homes, turning major freeways into canals and piling up vehicles as if they were in a junkyard. The 2016 flood cost an estimated $2.7bn in losses and prompted more than 1,800 high water rescues.


    Homes and property are flooded due to heavy rains in Richmond, Texas in June 2016. Photograph: Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Significant rains have always been a feature of life in south-east Texas. What bothers Brody and local environmentalists is the extent to which human activity is making things worse.

    “Houston is situated in a low-lying coastal area with poorly draining soils and is subject to heavy rainfall events and storm surge events, which makes it very prone to flooding. And the climate is changing. In Galveston Bay the sea level is rising. We know the area is experiencing more heavy downpours,” Brody said.

    “It pales in comparison with the other driving force, which is the built environment. If you’re going to put 4 million people in this flood-vulnerable area in a way which involves ubiquitous application of impervious surfaces, you’re going to get flooding.”

    In other words: there is a lot of concrete in Houston. In 2000, 4.7 million people lived in the Houston metropolitan area. Now the population is about 6.5 million. While efforts are under way to densify and improve public transport in the urban core, much of the growth has been suburban, where houses are big and cheap and commuters drive long distances on some of the world’s widest freeways. The city keeps loosening its belt: a third ring-road cuts through exurbs some 30 miles from downtown, spurring more expansion.

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    Your gas appliance is making climate change worse

    JUNE 15, 2017 1:00 PM


    Special to The Bee

    Rachel Golden is senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club in Oakland. She can be contacted at


    California leaders have said loud and clear that we won’t back away from our commitment to build clean energy and reduce climate pollution.

    But for California to achieve its goals, it must address a source of climate pollution that is largely unchecked and literally hits close to home: the buildings where we live and work.

    Gas-powered appliances such as space and water heaters produce massive amounts of climate-damaging pollution. In fact, gas burned for heating is responsible for nearly as much carbon pollution as all of the state’s power plants combined.

    A recent investigation by the California Energy Commission and the Public Utilities Commission found that the state’s dirty gas networks leak more methane – 86 times more damaging than carbon – every year than the entire Aliso Canyon gas blowout, which is considered one of the worst man-made environmental disasters ever.

    Our buildings are a major source of pollution because there is a lack of public education and funding. Those who want to do something about climate change are missing one of the easiest ways to act – switch from gas appliances to cleaner, electric ones.

    Communities are already benefiting from doing so. The state is home to several of the nation’s largest all-electric low-income housing developments. Residents in these homes with on-site solar have utility bills about 90 percent lower than residents with gas appliances and no solar. The $1,000 a year in savings is no small change to families that are struggling to make ends meet.

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    Pedal-ins and car burials: what happened to America’s forgotten 1970s cycle boom?

    ‘Bicycle madness’ once saw US bike sales outstrip cars, and spawned ambitious plans for 100,000 miles of cycle paths. Then the music stopped


    Democrats and Republicans addressed a pro-bicycle rally at Denver Civic Center in October 1972. Photograph: John Sunderland/Denver Post via Getty Images

    Friday 16 June 2017 02.00 EDT

    “The bicycle’s biggest wave of popularity in its 154-year history,” gushed Time magazine in 1970 at the start of America’s five-year love affair with the bike. “Some 64 million fellow travellers are taking regularly to bikes these days, more than ever before,” the report continued, “and more than ever [they are] convinced that two wheels are better than four.”

    US bicycle sales, which had been rolling along at 6 million a year, shot up to 9 million in 1971, 14 million in 1972 and 15.3 million the following year, according to a Bank of America report. While most pre-boom bikes had been sold for children, suddenly 60% were destined for adults.

    Highly placed politicians – a few of whom were cyclists – told planners to get on and build miles and miles of urban bikeways. “Both national and local governments have recognised the phenomenal growth of bicycling,” reported Time, “and the Department of the Interior has plans for nearly 100,000 miles of bicycle paths to be constructed in the next 10 years.”

    In 1973, 252 bicycle-oriented bills were introduced in 42 states. The Federal-Aid Highway Act of the same year provided $120m for bikeways over three years.

    “Bikes are back,” claimed National Geographic writer Noel Grove in the magazine’s May 1973 edition. “Glutted roadways, ecological concern, the quest for healthful recreation, and the sophistication of geared machines have all contributed to a flood of cycling activity,” he explained, adding that “legislators are beginning to think bikeway as well as highway”. He concluded that “with bikeway construction and ecological concern marching hand in hand, America’s bicycling boom could harbinger a whole new era in transportation”. What went wrong?


    A 1970 anti-automobile cartoon by Richard Hedman. It originally appeared in Autokind V Mankind by Kenneth R Schneider. Photograph: Richard Hedman

    Ecological concern was certainly one of the drivers of the boom. During the 1967 Summer of Love, the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco reeked of patchouli oil, weed and incense. With flowers in their hair, some of the area’s self-styled “freaks” protested not just against the Vietnam war but also against waste.

    We’re at the final stages of the climax of the automobile era … We’ve gone as far as we can go

    US interior secretary Stewart Udall in 1972

    The automobile became a potent symbol of everything that was wrong with the “military–industrial complex”. In February 1970, 19 humanities students at the San Jose State College bought a brand new Ford Maverick and, with the blessing of their professor, buried it in a 12 ft-deep hole dug in front of the campus’ cafeteria. This crowdfunded destruction of the hated motor car made news around the world.

    Chicago-based Edward Aramaic explicitly linked cycling with environmentalism when he founded the Bicycle Ecology group and organised a “pedal-in” in October 1970. This was the era of “-in” demos – which started in the 1960s with “sit-ins” protesting against racial segregation at American colleges and universities. Later, there were “teach-ins”, “love-ins” and, in 1969, the famous “bed-in” with Yoko Ono and John Lennon who espoused world peace from the presidential suite of Amsterdam’s Hilton Hotel, and who were gifted a White Bicycle by the city’s Provo anarchist group.

    “Bicycle Ecology … want to ban trucks, buses and automobiles from [downtown] and replace them with bikes,” reported the Chicago Tribune. “1,500 to 2,000 enthusiastic riders of all ages … braved a stiff north wind and temperatures in the 40s to wheel down major arteries to the civic centre, where speeches extolled the bicycle as good for the individual and for the environment.”


    A Bicycle and Equestrian Day in Los Angeles in September 1971. Photograph: AP

    New York urban planner David Gurin joined with other activists to form a Triple-A with a difference. An Action Against Automobiles demo in November 1972 called for an end to highway spending, and for cars to be barred from downtown Manhattan. Riders met in Central Park and rolled past the Greater New York Automobile Show, chanting “Cars must go! Cars must go!”

    Speaking to a crowd of cyclists, Gurin applauded the radical bicycle activism of the Provo anarchists, and urged New Yorkers to adopt similar “eco-tactics”. One of the posters he designed to promote the AAA protest rides promised “massive demonstrations … until the streets are cleared of the auto gangrene.”

    (In 1978 Gurin, who had been writing anti-car polemics in Village Voice since the mid-60s and was a friend of Jane Jacobs, became NYC’s deputy commissioner for transport, a post he held for 12 years. In the late 1980s the city banned not cars but bikes. Action Against Automobiles continues as Transportation Alternatives.)

    Congressman Ed Koch – who would become New York’s mayor in 1977 – rode on some the early 1970s protest bike rides, and in 1971 he stressed: “The only way to ensure safety for the many thousands of New Yorkers who want to bicycle is to designate official and exclusive bike lanes.” Koch installed bikeways when he became mayor – but he also ripped them out again.


    Bike Boom is published by Island Press

    In Portland, Oregon, the bike lanes stuck. Sam Oakland, a Portland State University professor who led a group known as the Bicycle Lobby, told the Associated Press in 1971: “We want to redesign Portland to make it a city for people … instead of what it now is: a giant, smelly parking garage for commuters.” His lobbying for funds worked and a bill was passed which set aside 1% of state transportation spending for bike-specific facilities – the first designated state funding for cycling in the US.

    A citizen Bicycle Path Task Force was appointed to oversee the programme, and Oakland was appointed chair. The Task Force met with resistance from the city’s car-centric engineers who had little interest in the use of bicycles for transportation and instead wanted to use money from the highway pot to build recreational trails. “As long as the bicycle continues to be considered a toy for recreational use only, we’re not going to get anywhere with paths in the city,” complained Oakland. After many struggles with city officials, the Task Force was able to push through a plan in April 1973. By the following year, 60 miles of bikeways had been striped statewide, with another 50 miles under construction and 70 miles to be delivered. Mighty oaks from little acorns grow; Portland is now one of America’s most cycle-friendly cities.

    In March 1972, interior secretary Stewart Udall – one of the greenest US politicians of his generation – told the New York Times: “We’ve got to get away from the pretence that there is some easy painless way that we can save energy. We’re at the final stages of the climax of the automobile era … We’ve gone as far as we can go.” Give people a choice, he said, build more bikeways. “People cling to their cars because there is no alternative.”

    Students, too, were keen on cycling. In 1972, University of Montana students could choose from geology, psychology, biology or – new for that year – bikeology, a combination of bikes and ecology.

    And hundreds of articles in the mainstream press demonstrated that there was an alternative. If National Geographic was to publish a spread today similar to the one from 1973 it would likely have glossy adverts from the likes of Cannondale, Specialized and Trek, America’s leading homegrown bicycle brands. The three were founded during the boom years.


    A cyclist marks Earth Day 1970 on 5th Avenue in New York. Photograph: Bettmann Archive

    In Washington DC, there was a young Post staff reporter called Carl Bernstein – later to become half of the Pulitzer Prize-winning pair – known as the “office hippie” and a “long-haired freak who rode a bicycle …”

    “Many cyclists harbour fierce antipathy for what they regard as an automobile culture that is choking the nation with fumes, speed, noise and concrete,” he wrote in the Post in 1970. He went on to describe a “growing group of cyclists who regard pedalling as an almost political act and inevitably flash the two-finger peace symbol upon encountering another person on a bike”.

    The facilities for DC cycle commuters had been poor, but improved by the early 70s, partly because of John A Volpe, President Nixon’s secretary of transportation. In 1969, Volpe – who routinely rode a fold-up bicycle to work – told the city council chairman to build bikeways for the growing number of cyclists who, like him, were not all long-haired hippies. As Bernstein wrote in the Post, bike-boom cyclists were just as likely to be “stockbrokers and congressmen, secretaries and lawyers, students and government clerks, librarians and teachers, youngsters and oldsters”.

    At the first bike-in I burned someone’s driver’s licence on network TV. Heady times

    Marchant Wentworth

    Hundreds of cyclists staged a “bike-in” in 1971, demanding more space on the key commuter route of Beach Drive. “At the first bike-in I burned someone’s driver’s licence on network TV,” bicycle advocate Marchant Wentworth remembers. “Heady times.”

    In 1974, DC cyclists started to take direct action to improve streets. Cary Shaw installed an asphalt bike-ramp where the city Highway Department had refused. When a container of asphalt appeared on his street for a road-mending task, he decided to “borrow” some, adding a big traffic stripe leading to the ramp. “When it was finished, I turned around and almost immediately someone was wheeling her baby carriage up the ramp,” recalled Shaw. “A couple of minutes after that someone whizzed along on a bicycle, saw the thing, zipped up on the ramp, and away he went.” The ramp Shaw built was later adopted by the city, and is still there. Direct action works – sometimes.

    Blame it on the baby boomers

    Shaw, like other cycle advocates, was a baby boomer. The post-second world war birth spike resulted in a glut of teens and 20-somethings at the beginning of the 1970s. Many had cash, were eager for novelty, wanted independent mobility, and were desperate to throw off the shackles of their elders.

    These consumerist kids, who came of age at the end of the 1960s, kept on buying, and despite the bulge predicted in the 1950s, the bike industry was caught off guard when the demographic alighted on their products. It was a perfect storm, with drop-out baby boomers attracted to cycling for its anti-motoring environmentalism; suburban-conformist baby boomers latched on to cycling because it was healthy and “outdoorsy”; and pre-motoring teens upgraded to lightweight 10-speed bikes after having been attracted to cycling because of bikes like the Schwinn Stingray, the cycle that inspired Raleigh to make the iconic Chopper.

    Thanks to the 45 million bicycles sold at the height of the US boom, cycle ownership was higher than ever. The US was on the cusp of building a whole bunch of bikeways, with high-level support from the US Department of Transportation.


    Davis, California – the American city which fell in love with the bicycle

    Read more

    David Rowlands, writing for Britain’s influential Design magazine, was impressed that the Department of Transportation organised a key 1974 conference, Bicycles USA. “What emerged from [this conference] was a far more comprehensive response to an expanding population of cyclists than any other country at present offers. Government assistance has been a major factor in this new awareness of the bike’s potential as a means of transportation in the developed world. It is an example that deserves much wider imitation.”

    A report from the US Environmental Protection Agency, also published in 1974, came to the same conclusion. And the Department of Transportation published its first ever cycle infrastructure style guide, Bikeways: State of the Art 1974.

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    Diesel Was Supposed to Be the Future

    Is the highly efficient fuel doomed?


    On a smoggy day in Paris, police enforce an anti-pollution measure temporarily banning cars with even-numbered license plates.

    Michael Euler / AP

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    Once upon a time, diesel fuel was going to be the future. It was seen as more efficient, on a mileage-per-gallon basis, than other fossil fuels, and for that reason was also thought to be less polluting. About two decades ago, acting on those beliefs, policy makers in Europe—where high energy prices already made mileage a more-pressing issue than in the U.S.—made a number of rules that incentivized the growth of diesel over gasoline for use in passenger cars, moving past its traditional role in trucking and construction.

    These policies were remarkably successful at meeting their goals, and diesel-powered cars soon accounted for half of the cars sold on the continent. Car companies poured resources into developing diesel-related technology. But the result of this success has been not greener, friendlier, cheaper motoring, but the creation of toxic clouds over major European cities. At the end of 2016, Paris was choked by its worst episode of smog in more than a decade, lasting longer than two weeks, according to the city’s pollution-watching agency Airparif, and prompting the city to enact emergency measures that included restricting car use. It was not the first time. During a March 2015 pollution event, Paris was briefly the most polluted city in the world, surpassing famously smoggy Beijing. London shared in the ignominy when it too beat out Beijing for the first time in January of this year.

    Diesels have played the main role in this. Since the 1960s, advances in technology that treats and filters gasoline engines’ exhaust, like the widespread use of catalytic converters, have cut down on the amount of dirty, unhealthy, and smog-producing emissions these engines spew out into the surrounding environment. But while diesels get better mileage and so contribute less to global climate change, the local effects of diesel pollution are much worse than those of gasoline. Diesel is a less refined fuel, and so it contains more of the particulate matter that can have deadly health effects when spewed into the surrounding environment. And burning diesel produces, among other noxious gases, nitrogen dioxide, the main cause of smog.

    In many cases the same regulatory bodies that were trying to get citizens into diesels only a few years ago are now working to get the engines off the road entirely, instituting additional, diesel-specific congestion-charging and other disincentives in cities, in recognition of the fact that their green-friendliness was mistaken. During particularly bad bouts of smog, several European cities have temporarily banned driving outright, or instituted restriction schemes where, for example, cars with odd and even number plates are allowed in on alternate days. The mayors of Athens, Mexico City, and Madrid have committed to ridding their cities of diesel cars altogether by 2025, and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said “there will be no diesel vehicles in Paris in 2020.” Other cities around the continent and world are implementing smaller-scale efforts to discourage diesel too.

    But lately, the biggest story when it comes to diesel remains Volkswagen’s ongoing “Dieselgate” scandal, in which the company installed “defeat devices” that allowed its diesel cars to put out dramatically higher levels of toxic emissions on the road than show up during regulators’ lab tests. A year and a half after the cheating was discovered, the full results of the scandal are still uncertain: The U.S. has levied more than $22 billion in fines against the company, the world’s largest automaker, and more may still be coming. Meanwhile, millions of the deceptive VWs are still on roads around the world, with consequential EU action on the matter minimal.

    Much worse for diesel at large, rumors that the offending practice was not limited to Volkswagen Group, which have been floating around since the scandal first broke, seem to be turning out to be true. The Environmental Protection Agency recently moved against the trans-Atlantic auto giant Fiat Chrysler for using similar devices, and General Motors is being sued in a class action for cheating in its diesel pickup trucks, which outnumber the offending VWs on American roads by several hundred thousand. The EU also started legal action against Italy for failing to meet its obligations as a member state to enforce regulations on Fiat Chrysler.

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    Owner threatens to close Three Mile Island nuclear plant as natural gas boom cuts profits

    Five years of losses has prompted the parent company to consider shuttering the infamous plant as nuclear power plants around the US fail to compete with generating stations that burn plentiful and inexpensive natural gas to produce electricity.

    1. Marc Levy
      Associated Press

    MAY 30, 2017 HARRISBURG, PA.—Cheap natural gas could do what the worst commercial nuclear power accident in US history could not: put Three Mile Island out of business.

    Three Mile Island's owner, Exelon Corp., announced Tuesday that the plant that was the site of a terrifying partial meltdown in 1979 will close in 2019 unless the state of Pennsylvania comes to its financial rescue.

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    Settlements for Company Sins Can No Longer Aid Other Projects, Sessions Says




    Water and sediment gush out of a pipe in a project to restore the beaches near Port Fourchon, Louisiana. Much of the funding came from fines paid by BP from the devastating 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.


    William Widmer for The New York Times

    When companies settle claims of wrongdoing, they are often compelled to pay for environmental or community development projects as well as pay fines and direct compensation to victims. Sometimes the third-party payments are only marginally related to the damages caused by the company’s actions.

    To settle claims from the Gulf oil spill, BP was required to spend billions on coastal restoration projects that were not directly related to spill damage. Volkswagen is financing electric vehicle charging stations under its settlement of the diesel emissions cheating scandal. Duke Energy paid for soil restoration on federal land as part of its compensation for air pollution violations at some of its power plants in North Carolina.

    That longstanding practice is now under attack on two fronts, potentially jeopardizing a source of financing for initiatives across the country that supporters say have paid great environmental and social dividends. Critics say the practice effectively creates “slush funds” for favored organizations or causes.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in a memo issued this week, directed the Justice Department to no longer include funding for projects managed by outside groups in settlements with corporate wrongdoers. The settlement money will instead go exclusively to the federal Treasury or to victims of the company’s actions, Mr. Sessions said.

    “It has come to my attention that certain previous settlement agreements involving the department included payments to various nongovernmental, third-party organizations as a condition of settlement with the United States,” Mr. Sessions said. “These third-party organizations were neither victims nor parties to the lawsuits. The department will no longer engage in this practice.”

    The policy applies only to future cases.

    A bill with similar intent, sponsored by Robert W. Goodlatte, Republican of Virginia, passed a House committee in February. It would prevent the government from using settlement money from civil cases for purposes other than direct victim compensation or remediation, like cleanups of environmental disasters. A version of the bill passed the House last year, but died in the Senate.

    This year, groups including the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Americans for Prosperity, both closely linked to the libertarian billionaire brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch, wrote to President Trump criticizing a recent settlement between the Obama administration’s Justice Department and Volkswagen.

    The $14.7 billion settlement, over Volkswagen’s use of “defeat devices” to cheat emissions rules, included almost $2 billion that Volkswagen was required to invest in electric vehicle charging stations and other clean vehicle technology. The settlement also directed Volkswagen to pay $2.7 billion to programs that would reduce pollution from diesel cars and trucks. Volkswagen had been accused of manufacturing cars that spewed harmful nitrogen oxides at up to 40 times the levels allowed under the Clean Air Act.

    Some of the money was in effect going to pay for clean air initiatives championed by President Barack Obama, the conservative groups said, initiatives that Congress twice refused to fund.

    “Having been twice spurned by lawmakers, the Obama administration leveraged the Volkswagen settlement,” the groups charged. All settlement money, they argued, should “instead be deposited into the U.S. Treasury.”

    The groups said that Congress has not authorized or provided money for electric vehicle infrastructure. They said the plan represents “an end-run around Congress’s lawmaking power.”

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    Brown: ‘Grossly Hypocritical’ To Oppose Oil Production In California

    Monday, June 12, 2017 | Sacramento, CA | Permalink


    Gov. Brown Press Office / Twitter

    Jerry Brown’s trip to China earned him wall-to-wall media coverage — internationally and here at home.

    Much less covered was another environmental visit the California governor took just weeks earlier: to Bell Gardens in Los Angeles County, a transportation corridor with some of the worst air quality in the state.

    “It is a little surprising to actually be there (in Bell Gardens) and witness first-hand the amount of cement, the number of cars and trucks and trains, and the proximity of parks and basketball courts,“ Brown told Capital Public Radio's Ben Bradford in an interview last week during a car ride through Beijing. “But that’s the reality. California has 33 million vehicles and 39 million people. So they have to be somewhere.“

    Those two trips highlight competing tensions as Brown seeks to shape climate change policies in California and around the world.

    Click on the audio player above to listen to part of Brown's interview with Capital Public Radio's Ben Bradford last week in Beijing. The clip begins with the governor answering a question about whether he was surprised by what he saw in Bell Gardens.

    Despite Brown’s ascension to the global stage in the fight against climate change, as evidenced in his journey across China last week, he’s far from universally admired by environmentalists here at home.

    Many of them believe the governor sides too often with oil companies on issues like fracking and isn’t doing enough to force cuts in air pollution in parts of the state with poor air quality.

    Take, for example, Americans Against Fracking co-founder David Braun of Oakland, who wrote in an email: “I'm wondering if you might ask Brown to reconcile the millions of dollars he has taken for himself and his projects from the oil industry, along with firing regulators at the industry's request, with his position on climate change. I'm curious as to how one can do the bidding of the same industry that is the worst polluter as far as climate change is concerned, and how he reconciles that within himself.“

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    Exxon Mobil Calls Emissions Inquiry a ‘Political Witch Hunt’


    Exxon Mobil, in a court filing on Friday, accused the New York attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, of “abuse of the powers of his office” in his investigation of the oil company.

    The accusation was made in a fiery brief in response to a demand by Mr. Schneiderman for company documents. In an earlier filing, Mr. Schneiderman sharply questioned Exxon’s evaluation of its oil and gas assets, suggesting that the process the company says it uses to take the potential cost of carbon pollution into account “may be a sham.”

    Nearly three million pages of evidence filed so far in response to subpoenas have not shown consistent use of what is known as a proxy cost of carbon, he argued, even though the company says that it does incorporate such calculations in its work.

    In Exxon’s response, Theodore V. Wells Jr., its lead lawyer, defended its methods of calculating the proxy cost and wrote that “the attorney general stakes his entire investigation on the logical fallacy that the absence of evidence constitutes evidence of absence.”

    “For a prosecutor proceeding in good faith, the absence of any evidence of wrongdoing is grounds for closing an investigation, not expanding it,” Mr. Wells wrote.

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    Natural gas boom helping to snarl traffic at Houston Ship Channel

    Brian K. Sullivan, Bloomberg Published 4:00 am, Friday, June 9, 2017

    1. pastedGraphic.pdf

    Photo: James Nielsen, Staff

    IMAGE 1 OF 10

    How many ships travel the Houston Ship Channel on a typical day?

    The U.S. Coast Guard provided 2016 transit numbers for its Vessel Traffic Service Area that spans Houston, Galveston, Texas City and about 10

    ... more


    A boom in natural gas exports from the U.S. Gulf Coast is raising the prospect of traffic jams at one of America’s busiest ports.

    Weather delays from fog and storms are nothing new at the Houston Ship Channel, which links the prolific oil and gas fields of Texas and Louisiana to the rest of the world. But as more cargoes of liquefied natural gas and petrochemicals head across the globe from newly built plants, the tanker bottlenecks are poised to get worse, according to Poten & Partners.

    Sixteen months after the first cargo of gas from U.S. shale fields headed overseas, the nation is on the path to becoming a net exporter of the fuel for the first time in decades. The supply surge has created the need for more and bigger roads, pipelines and waterways, prompting a $5.3 billion expansion of the Panama Canal to accommodate the massive tankers used to haul LNG. And with about 20 export terminals already approved or proposed for the Gulf Coast, even more ships are on the way.

    FROM THE CHRONICLE: Companies skip Ship Channel for less crowded, lower-cost ports

    “A lot of waterways in the Gulf aren’t ready for prime time,” Gordon Shearer, a senior adviser at Poten in New York, said by phone. “Everything is going into a very concentrated strip of coastline.”

    Between 1900 and 2010, Texas’ Galveston County -- located at the mouth of the Houston Ship Channel -- has been hit by eight hurricanes of Category 3 or stronger, and neighboring Chambers County has been pummeled by seven, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. The area around Galveston, New Orleans and the southern tip of Florida gets hit by more tropical systems than anywhere else in the U.S.

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