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25Apr/17Off

California, SF seek oversight for PG&E transmission spending

By David R. Baker

April 24, 2017 Updated: April 24, 2017 5:13pm

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Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle

Transmission lines and wind turbines in the delta area outside Rio Vista, Calif., on Wednesday, September 21, 2016. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year repairing and upgrading its electricity transmission system without any government agency screening the projects in advance to see if they’re needed. Now, California utility regulators want to change that.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year repairing and upgrading its electricity transmission system without any government agency screening the projects in advance to see if they’re needed.

Now, California utility regulators want to change that.

The California Public Utilities Commission, joined by San Francisco city officials, filed a complaint with the federal government in February arguing that such projects should face some form of state-level review, particularly considering the amount of money involved.

By the commission’s estimate, PG&E will spend $1.5 billion from the start of 2016 through the end of this year on transmission projects selected solely by the utility’s own executives, without outside approval. That’s equivalent to about $139 per year per PG&E customer, including both businesses and homeowners, though the amount on actual bills would vary.

“We’ve got to look at all of this and be more involved,” said Traci Bone, an attorney for the utilities commission. “Are they gold-plating the system? Are they doing the right things at the right time?”

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Friday’s blackout in San Francisco, with 88,000 PG&E customers losing power after a substation fire, focused attention yet again on the company’s maintenance of its vast networks that deliver electricity and natural gas. The utility, California’s largest, was in the midst of upgrading that substation’s aging equipment.

The complaint filed by the commission, however, focuses on repairs and upgrades to PG&E’s high-voltage transmission network, not on the work at the Larkin substation at the heart of Friday’s outage. Transmission lines and related infrastructure — think of the tall metal towers paralleling Interstate 5 through the Central Valley — have a different system of government approval than neighborhood lines and stations.

http://www.sfchronicle.com/business/article/California-SF-seek-oversight-for-PG-E-11095829.php?t=5ea6e369f3&cmpid=twitter-premium

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25Apr/17Off

California lawmakers push to link public health efforts to climate programs

BY CHRIS MEGERIAN

April 24, 2017, 7:19 p.m.

Reporting from Sacramento

Chris Megerian

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) is pushing revised legislation on climate change. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

California’s fight against climate change would be overhauled under legislation advanced by an Assembly committee on Monday.

The legislation, a revised version of a measure introduced earlier this year, would link the state’s efforts against greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming, and other pollutants, which cause public health problems such as asthma.

Facilities such as oil refineries would face tighter restrictions, and the cap-and-trade program — which requires companies to buy permits to emit greenhouse gases — would become less flexible.

The goal of the legislation, Assembly Bill 378, is to broaden the benefits of California’s internationally recognized initiatives on climate change. But it will face resistance from a variety of sources, most notably industry groups that oppose stricter regulations.

Lawmakers are debating the future of the cap-and-trade program because there's uncertainty over whether it can keep operating after 2020. Gov. Jerry Brown wants lawmakers to extend the program with a two-thirds vote, the higher threshold required for tax measures, to insulate it from legal challenges.

“We’re taking care of the global community," said Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), who co-wrote the measure. "And we’re also taking care of the disadvantaged communities in our backyards.”

At this point, the legislation appears to be the focal point for conversations about about cap and trade.

http://touch.latimes.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-93136250/

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25Apr/17Off

Appalachian Power CEO: ‘West Virginia May Not Require Us to Be Clean, but Our Customers Are’

Chris Beam is the latest CEO to talk about the realities of the energy transition. That, plus other stories we’re reading this morning.

by GTM Editors

April 25, 2017

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Charleston Gazette-Mail: Appalachian Power President Says Company Is Looking Toward Renewables

When Chris Beam, the new president of Appalachian Power, talks about economic development, he brings a message that may not be very popular among the coal-focused political leadership in West Virginia.

Giant businesses Appalachian would like to lure to the state as its future power customers -- the Amazons and Googles of the world -- make it very clear that when they are scouting locations for facilities like new data centers, they have to go somewhere that can guarantee them a power supply that is generated from 100 percent renewable sources.

“At the end of the day, West Virginia may not require us to be clean, but our customers are,” Beam said. “So if we want to bring in those jobs, and those are good jobs, those are good-paying jobs that support our universities because they hire our engineers, they have requirements now, and we have to be mindful of what our customers want.”

https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/appalachian-power-ceo-says-customers-are-asking-for-more-renewable-energy

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24Apr/17Off

Is grid defection still a threat to the utility business model?


Three studies debate solar-plus-storage economics, but all agree the technology will disrupt the power sector

AUTHOR

Peter Maloney

@TopFloorPower

PUBLISHED

April 18, 2017

Grid defection has become a much discussed topic in the energy storage world. It has been the subject of academic papers, including a recent paper by researchers from the University of Texas at Austin and another paper by researchers from the Rochester Institute of Technology, that examined the economics of combining energy storage with rooftop solar panels.

Those papers referenced an earlier 2014 paper on the Economics of Grid Defection by analysts at the Rocky Mountain Institute. The key points of the RMI paper were that solar-plus-storage technology has reached grid parity in some locations and continued technology cost declines will lead to wider adoption and, as a result, further utility “revenue decay” as customers reduce their reliance on the grid.

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These changes are all happening within most utilities’ 30-year planning horizon, RMI said, and, therefore, grid defection could disrupt their business models and leave them with stranded investments in outdated assets.

The authors of all three papers say that while they are largely on the same page as their colleagues, there are important differences.

The RIT study found a more limited case for grid defection than did RMI, and the Austin paper noted that energy storage could increase energy consumption and undercut the environmental benefits of rooftop solar.

In a blog, James Mandel, a principal at RMI responded to some of the claims in the RIT paper. Chief among Mandel’s criticism is that the RIT researchers focused on present day costs and did not consider how those costs might change over the next decade. Mandel also says the RIT paper did not give sufficient consideration to a wider suite of distributed energy resources and use-cases.

As a result of those “framing” issues, Mandel says the RIT paper arrives as some mistaken conclusions. For instance, he challenges RIT’s idea that using the grid as a battery is the most economical choice for customers. It could be an economical choice for customers in the short term, but in a wider context the “grid battery” requires costly investments to maintain, such as investing and operating gas-fired peaking plants.

http://www.utilitydive.com/news/is-grid-defection-still-a-threat-to-the-utility-business-model/440272/

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24Apr/17Off

The new all-of-the above: HECO looks to wind, solar and beyond for 100% renewables mandate


Hawaiian Electric Co.'s roadmap to a 100% renewables grid will rely on EVs and DERs alongside established central-station renewables

AUTHOR

Robert Walton

@TeamWetDog

PUBLISHED

April 20, 2017

Colton Ching missed seeing Tom Brady's incredible Superbowl comeback in February, but not because—as so many fans—he had given up on the game.

Ching, who is senior vice president of planning and technology at Hawaiian Electric Co., lost power during the second quarter and didn't witness the Patriots march back from a 25-point deficit late in the game. A storm that socked the windward side of Oahu downed trees and caused widespread blackouts, frustrating football fans and highlighting the unique challenges faced by HECO.

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The largest power provider in Hawaii must ultimately deliver 100% renewable power across a geographically diverse set of islands. It's a high bar for any utility in the country, but while Hawaii has plenty of wind and solar potential, it still wont be enough in some areas. On Oahu, where about two-thirds of the state's population resides, Ching said covering every rooftop with solar panels wouldn't even work.

In fact, wind and solar and battery storage combined still wouldn't reliably get the job done, he said. That means HECO is turning to a wide range of resources and deploying them in ways that, because of the state's unique geography, look different than what utilities on the mainland might execute.

"One of the things that makes the Hawaii grid different from the mainland is the reliance on distributed, connected resources. Whether they be solar PV or electric vehicles or dedicated storage, they are going to be relied on more heavily to actually operate the grid," said Ching. "Not just at the distribution level, but the entire system."

Demand management

Demand response and other demand side management programs have traditionally been used to shift bulk load to cheaper or less congested times of the day. The programs typically go after large customers first, simply because it is the easiest to dispatch and monitor and provides a large chunk of demand. But in Hawaii, for several reasons, these programs are altered.

"Demand response and demand side management will be different in a couple of ways," said Ching. "Traditional DR was all about reducing your peak for the day. For Hawaii, we see a role for demand response to do that, but also to provide a role to help us manage the grid at all hours of the day."

If a forecast predicts little solar energy will be generated on a particular day, but wind is expected to be strong, the utility works to move demand over to evening hours. On the other hand, when the sun is shining bright HECO tries to move electric vehicle charging over to those hours.

http://www.utilitydive.com/news/the-new-all-of-the-above-heco-looks-to-wind-solar-and-beyond-for-100-ren/439219/

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24Apr/17Off

The US wind industry now employs more than 100,000 people

By THE WASHINGTON POST

April 23, 2017 at 12:04 am

By Brady Dennis, The Washington Post

The fastest-growing occupation in the United States – by a long shot, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics – might surprise you: wind turbine technician.

The number of workers maintaining wind turbines, a job with a median pay of about $51,000 a year, is set to more than double between 2014 and 2024, the agency estimates. That’s a more rapid growth rate than that of physical therapists, financial advisers, home health aides and genetic counselors.

There’s a notable caveat, of course. Because “wind tech” remains a small occupation, its rapid projected growth probably will amount to only about 5,000 additional jobs in the coming years. Even so, the proliferation of wind turbine technicians hints at a larger reality: The U.S. wind industry, like renewable energy in general, is continuing to flourish.

http://www.denverpost.com/2017/04/23/us-wind-industry/

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24Apr/17Off

Last lawsuit over PG&E San Bruno explosion close to settlement

By Bob Egelko

April 21, 2017

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Photo: Brant Ward, The San Francisco Chronicle

The last remaining lawsuit over the lethal 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion moved close to resolution Friday when a judge gave preliminary approval to a $90 million settlement of claims by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. shareholders against the utility’s managers and directors.

The last remaining lawsuit over the lethal 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion moved close to resolution Friday when a judge gave preliminary approval to a $90 million settlement of claims by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. shareholders against the utility’s managers and directors.

The shareholders blamed top PG&E officials for their financial losses. Under the settlement, the managers and directors, and their insurers, would pay the funds to PG&E, which would use it for programs intended to upgrade gas operations and corporate governance, said Mark Molumphy, a lawyer for the shareholders.

He said $32 million would be set aside for changes in gas programs and information management, and the rest would pay for changes in company management structure and procedures. San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Steven Dylina tentatively approved the settlement Friday and scheduled a final hearing for July 18.

PG&E declined to comment.

The settlement would bring an end to legal proceedings over the September 2010 explosion and fire that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes. The cause was a defective seam weld in a pipeline that had been described as seamless in PG&E charts.

The state Public Utilities Commission fined PG&E a record $1.6 billion for the blast, with the money to be paid by shareholders rather than customers. The utility has agreed to pay $565 million to settle lawsuits by the victims.

http://www.sfchronicle.com/business/article/Last-lawsuit-over-PG-E-San-Bruno-explosion-close-11090597.php

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24Apr/17Off

In conservative Nebraska, why farmers and ranchers oppose Keystone XL

The group's focus is not the typical environmental concerns against the pipeline. It's money and economics.

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Lane Hickenbottom/Reuters | Caption

APRIL 20, 2017 NELIGH, NEBRASKA —When President Trump handed TransCanada Pipeline Co. a permit for its Keystone XL pipeline last month, he said the company could now build the long-delayed and divisive project "with efficiency and with speed."

But Mr. Trump and the firm will have to get through Nebraska farmer Art Tanderup first, along with about 90 other landowners in the path of the pipeline.

They are mostly farmers and ranchers, making a last stand against the pipeline — the fate of which now rests with an obscure state regulatory board, the Nebraska Public Service Commission.

The group is fine-tuning an economic argument it hopes will resonate better in this politically conservative state than the environmental concerns that dominated the successful push to block Keystone under former President Barack Obama.

Backed by conservation groups, the Nebraska opponents plan to cast the project as a threat to prime farming and grazing lands – vital to Nebraska's economy – and a foreign company's attempt to seize American private property.

They contend the pipeline will provide mainly temporary jobs that will vanish once construction ends, and limited tax revenues that will decline over time.

They face a considerable challenge. Supporters of the pipeline as economic development include Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts, most of the state’s senators, its labor unions and chamber of commerce.

"It’s depressing to start again after Obama rejected the pipeline two years ago, but we need keep our coalition energized and strong," said Mr. Tanderup, who grows rye, corn, and soybeans on his 160-acre property.

Now Tanderup and others are gearing up for another round of battle – on a decidedly more local stage, but with potentially international impact on energy firms and consumers.

The latest Keystone XL showdown underscores the increasingly well-organized and diverse resistance to pipelines nationwide, which now stretches well beyond the environmental movement.

http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/2017/0420/In-conservative-Nebraska-why-farmers-and-ranchers-oppose-Keystone-XL

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24Apr/17Off

A day without power: bad traffic, big losses, some frustration

By Sarah Ravani and Jill Tucker Updated 9:23 pm, Friday, April 21, 2017

A San Francisco power outage that stranded people and left tens of thousands of others in the dark Friday was caused by the massive failure of a circuit breaker that sparked a fire at a power substation. (April 21)

Media: Associated Pres

Traffic was a mess, and restaurants and other businesses lost a sunny day’s worth of revenue while many workers were sent home during Friday’s big San Francisco blackout.

The power failure affected almost 90,000 Pacific Gas and Electric Co. business and residential customers, leaving Union Square, the Financial District, the outskirts of Chinatown and several other neighborhoods without electricity just after 9 a.m.

The blackout turned a bright spring day a little dark for retail stores and other businesses and resulted in minor tragedies, including the two large pans of uncooked bacon that went to waste at one Kearny Street cafe.

http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/A-day-without-power-Bad-traffic-big-losses-11090796.php

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24Apr/17Off

PG&E’s blackout record is getting better — no, seriously

By David R. Baker

April 21, 2017 Updated: April 21, 2017 8:18pm

A traffic control officer directs traffic during a blackout in San Francisco on Dec. 20, 2003, when a fire at a PG&E substation knocked out electricity to 120,000 customers. Despite Friday’s blackout, which ... more

Hard as it may have been for San Franciscans to believe Friday, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has made steady, substantial progress in cutting the number and length of blackouts that its customers endure.

Stung by a series of outages and dramatic equipment failures in its San Francisco hometown — including a 2003 substation fire that cut power to one-third of the city — PG&E spent the last decade upgrading its equipment.

And that effort has produced results.

The average PG&E customer lost power 1.02 times in 2016, according to data compiled by the utility. In 2006, blackouts hit the average PG&E customer 1.45 times.

Similarly, the average customer lost power for 109 minutes in 2016. While more than an hour and a half may sound like a long time, it’s a big improvement from 2006, when the average PG&E customer went without electricity for 3¼ hours.

Those figures exclude major weather-related events.

The statistics may come as cold comfort to those in the 88,000 San Francisco homes and businesses that lost electricity in the blackout that started just after 9 a.m. Friday.

PG&E blamed the outage on a fire at an electrical substation that the utility planned to refurbish next year.

“We’ve identified it as a substation that needed to be updated,” said Barry Anderson, PG&E’s vice president of electric distribution, at a news conference Friday. “It just is a case where the equipment failed before we could get to the update.”

While more public attention has focused on PG&E’s natural gas network in the wake of the deadly 2010 San Bruno explosion, the utility’s electricity infrastructure also has a history of highly visible failures.

In June 2009, a power line from the 1920s melted inside a vault beneath Polk and O’Farrell streets, starting a fire that shot flames 30 feet into the air and knocked out power to 8,600 customers.

In August 2005, a transformer exploded beneath a sidewalk in the city's Financial District, shattering windows and severely burning a woman who was walking nearby.

And in December 2003, a fire in a Mission District substation blacked out large swaths of the city, with some customers waiting more than 24 hours for electricity to return.

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But PG&E has been swapping out old equipment and adding new gear that can spot and isolate blackouts quickly. As a result, the number and duration of outages striking PG&E’s system have declined.

PG&E use to consistently suffer more blackouts than the state’s other large, investor-owned utilities, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric. But, in 2015, the latest year for which data from all three companies are available, PG&E had improved its standing compared to its corporate peers.

In 2015, Edison experienced blackouts at a rate of 0.92 per customer, slightly worse than PG&E’s performance of 0.87 per customer. The San Diego utility, meanwhile, reported 0.53 per customer that year.

http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/PG-E-s-blackout-record-is-getting-better-No-11089991.php

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24Apr/17Off

VW Moves Beyond Criminal Case, but Not Without a Scolding


By BILL VLASICAPRIL 21, 2017

Photo

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A Volkswage vehicle emissions test in 2015. Last month, the automaker received approval from the E.P.A. to sell about 67,000 vehicles in an emissions repair program approved by federal and state regulators.

Credit

Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

DETROIT — The criminal case against Volkswagen for its decade-long scheme to cheat on diesel emissions tests ended Friday with a scolding, an apology and $4.3 billion in penalties.

The sentence, affirmed at a court hearing, had been recommended by federal prosecutors in January as part of a deal in which the German automaker agreed to plead guilty to three felony charges for illegally importing nearly 600,000 vehicles equipped with devices to circumvent emissions standards.

The conclusion of the criminal case, 19 months after the vast cheating operation was first revealed, was a milestone in Volkswagen’s recovery from a scandal that badly damaged its reputation and sales. This week it delivered an encouraging quarterly report, and the company has even been given permission to sell — with modifications — the diesel cars at the center of the case.

But the hearing in Federal District Court in Michigan was a reminder of the cloud under which Volkswagen remained.

The judge, Sean Cox, chastised the automaker for the “corporate greed” that led to its “deliberate and massive fraud” against consumers and regulators.

And while seven Volkswagen executives have been criminally charged for their roles in the scandal, the judge said more blame should be put on the company’s top management and its supervisory board.

“It’s not the management at VW, the ones who get paid big salaries and high bonuses, it’s the little guy,” he said. “The person who has really been hurt is the man or woman who labors at Volkswagen to make a car.”

Volkswagen’s general counsel, Manfred Döss, said the company felt remorse for its wrongdoing and was committed to changing its corporate culture and restoring its battered reputation.

“We let people down, and for that we are deeply sorry,” he said.

The settlement of the criminal case brings the financial toll on Volkswagen to more than $20 billion in fines, penalties and other legal settlements, which include lawsuits brought by consumers who purchased cars that emitted illegal levels of harmful pollutants.

Volkswagen will also be on probation for three years and will be supervised by an independent monitor who will oversee compliance with ethics and regulatory measures. Larry D. Thompson, a former deputy United States attorney general, was appointed to the post on Friday.

In addition, the automaker has agreed to cooperate with investigations by the Justice Department and the authorities in Germany and elsewhere. More than 11 million vehicles worldwide were involved in the systematic falsification of emissions tests.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/21/business/energy-environment/volkswagen-diesel-emissions-sentencing.html?ref=energy-environment&_r=0

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24Apr/17Off

VW’s electric vehicle investment plan overlooks poor, critics say

By Dominic Fracassa

April 21, 2017 Updated: April 22, 2017 2:05pm

    An $800 million investment proposal from Volkswagen aimed at increasing the adoption of zero-emission vehicles in California has come under sharp criticism from elected officials, regulators and advocacy organizations, who accuse the automaker of largely overlooking disadvantaged and polluted communities, particularly in the Central Valley.

    The proposal is an outgrowth of the settlement reached last year, in which the company admitted to intentionally programming software in millions of diesel vehicles to cheat on emissions tests.

    VW has pledged $2 billion in total to support the increased use of zero-emission vehicles nationwide through the construction of electric vehicle charging stations and “brand-neutral” educational campaigns about the benefits of zero-emission driving.

    In California, VW plans to spend $200 million in four installments over the next 10 years. The investment plans are being overseen by the California Air Resources Board, the state’s emissions regulator, which will take up VW’s proposal at a meeting on Thursday.

    http://www.sfchronicle.com/business/article/VW-s-electric-vehicle-investment-plan-overlooks-11090700.php

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    24Apr/17Off

    Study calls on big tech companies to move closer to transit

    By Nicholas Cheng

    April 20, 2017 Updated: April 20, 2017 9:59am

      Photo: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle

      Victoria Makras works at her marketing department job at Box Inc. after commuting by Caltrain in Redwood City on Wednesday. Box is one of a few companies that has relocated to more transit-friendly environs and offers free Caltrain transit passes to its employees.

      Victoria Makras used to slog through a nearly two-hour commute from her Laurel Heights home to Box’s office in Los Altos. She’d wake up at 6:30 a.m. and board an Uber to the Caltrain station. The fast Baby Bullets weren’t an option, since they didn’t serve the closest station to Box. So she’d walk more than a mile, taking another 15 minutes before reaching her desk.

      “It was long,” the 33-year-old senior event marketing manager said. But in late 2015, Box moved its headquarters to Redwood City. Instead of running employee shuttles from San Francisco, the company bought transit passes for employees, cutting transportation costs. And it reduced Makras’ rail commute to just 32 minutes.

      “You step off the station and you’re in the office,” said Makras. “I have more time for work, to go to the gym, to see friends and family, or sleep in a little. It’s less stressful.”

      SPUR, a San Francisco planning and research organization, is pushing for other companies to follow in Box’s tracks. In a study released Thursday, it cites Box as a rare example of tech companies that have located near public transportation.

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      Eighty percent of jobs in the Bay Area are concentrated in suburban fringes with little access to regional rail, and three-quarters of Bay Area workers drive alone to work as a result, the study’s authors note.

      The report highlights a seeming irony: Despite pioneering innovations in their products and work spaces, they house their lava lamps and free cafes in suburban corporate campuses with seas of parking lots. It’s a form of office that took shape in the middle of the 20th century. Google, Apple and Facebook’s offices are all more than 3 miles from the nearest rail station.

      This isn’t going to be good for the companies’ economic vitality in the long run, said Allison Arieff, SPUR’s editorial director. “Something’s gotta give.”

      In March, Google said it employed roughly 20,000 people in Mountain View’s North Bayshore area. Google plans to move 6,000 employees to Sunnyvale from Mountain View, partly to address concerns about traffic.

      http://www.sfchronicle.com/business/article/Study-calls-on-big-tech-companies-to-move-closer-11085028.php

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      20Apr/17Off

      Bay Area air-quality agency tackles climate change

      By Kurtis Alexander

      April 19, 2017 Updated: April 19, 2017 6:33pm

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        Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle

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        Pamela DeMartini and Ed Cohen notice gray hazy skies at Walter Haas park on Wednesday, April 19, 2017, in San Francisco, Calif.

        The Bay Area’s little-known pollution control district jumped into the fight against climate change Wednesday with a first-of-its-kind regional plan that promises big changes in residents’ daily lives.

        With calls for charging tolls to drive on freeways, doing away with gas heat and even urging meat-free meals, the agency is reaching beyond its usual targets of oil refineries and diesel trucks to push for cuts in greenhouse gases on a much broader scale.

        “When thinking about the scale of climate change, we realized this had to be an all-in approach, everything in on the table,” said Abby Young, climate protection manager for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

        For its 62-year history, the air district’s main job has been policing the nine-county Bay Area for dirty skies, declaring “Spare the Air” days when ozone and particulate matter levels reached unhealthy levels. Bay Area residents were affected most directly when the agency banned fireplace blazes on pollution-clogged winter nights and won the power to levy fines against violators.

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        Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle

        Vehicles seen on highway 101 with lightest traffic during early afternoon on Wednesday, April 19, 2017, in San Francisco, Calif.

        The agency’s new “Spare the Air, Cool the Climate” strategy makes global warming an equal priority, by targeting heat-trapping emissions.

        The plan, approved Wednesday by a unanimous vote of the agency’s governing board at a meeting in San Francisco, lays out 85 measures that seek to reduce pollutants from industry, transportation, agriculture, homes and businesses.

        http://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Bay-Area-air-quality-agency-tackles-climate-change-11084992.php

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        20Apr/17Off

        LA to study banning oil production around homes, schools, hospitals and other public places

        Emily Guerin April 19, 06:39 PM

        An oil well pumps in a newly constructed neighborhood near Shell Oil Company Alamitos No. 1 discovery well on Signal Hill on May 30, 2003 in Long Beach, California. DAVID MCNEW/GETTY IMAGES

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        http://www.scpr.org/news/2017/04/19/70946/la-to-study-banning-oil-production-around-homes-sc/

        The city of Los Angeles is considering taking its boldest step yet towards restricting oil and gas development. On Wednesday, city council president Herb Wesson introduced a motion calling for a study of what it would take to shut down all oil and gas wells near homes, schools, hospitals, parks and other public places.

        Wesson said he’d been hearing stories for years from constituents who believed that their health problems were either caused or exacerbated by living alongside oil and gas facilities. They complained about noxious fumes, loud noises, and oil mist coating houses and cars.

        “And because of these series of complaints that have gone on for years, I personally got tired of listening to them, and figured it was time for action,” Wesson said. “The number one goal is to make sure we keep the people in our community safe.”

        Wesson’s study will look at the feasibility of creating of a buffer zone, or setback, around places where people live and gather. Inside the buffer zone, no oil development and production would be allowed.

        Community activists are hoping for a 2,500-foot setback. Because there is so much residential development around oil fields in Los Angeles, a setback that large could cause 90 percent of the city’s 322 active wells to be shut down, according to the California Department of Oil Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR).

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        DOGGR estimates approximately 90% of the city's oil wells are within a 2,500-foot buffer around homes, schools, parks, medical facilities and other public places. DOGGR

        That doesn’t go far enough for Monic Uriarte with the environmental justice campaign People Not Pozos. She'd rather see 100 percent of the wells shut down.

        “We don’t need any oil drilling in urban areas,” she said. "Bottom line."

        The last time the city council tried to regulate urban oil drilling in 2014, it specifically targeted hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” and other extraction processes. The city council asked for a study on the feasibility of banning fracking, but it ended up dropping the idea when the city planning department concluded it did not have the expertise to evaluate restrictions on extraction methods.

        In October, the city hired a petroleum administrator to help with such evaluations.

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