Short Bits of Interest and Positivity

Gov. Newsom Signs Executive Order to Conserve Coastline

The order sets a first-in-the-nation goal to conserve 30 percent of the state’s land and coastal water by 2030 to fight species loss and ecosystem destruction and to combat the biodiversity and climate crisis. According to a statement released by the governor’s office, California is considered one of the world’s 36 “biodiversity hotspots” because of its high concentration of unique species that are also experiencing unprecedented threats. Of the estimated 5,500 plant species found in California, 40 percent are “endemic,” found nowhere else on Earth. California relies on 100 million acres of land for food, water and habitat, and feeds the nation and world through its agricultural activities. The $50 billion California agriculture industry produces over 400 commodities, including over a third of the nation’s vegetables and two-thirds of the nation’s fruits and nuts.

The executive order states that State agencies must come together with tribes, community and business leaders and other experts and, using best available science and traditional ecological knowledge, establish a baseline assessment of California biodiversity. The collaborative must then report back to the Governor with conservation strategies no later than February 1, 2022.


Six Hundred Law Students Sign Pledge Not to Work for Law Firm Defending Exxon’s Role in Climate Crisis

After the new 2020 Climate Change Scorecard found that the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP conducts more litigation exacerbating climate change than any other law firm and rated the firm an ‘F,’ law students delivered pledge signatures to the firm’s NYC headquarters. In the last five years, Paul, Weiss has represented ExxonMobil in 21 cases relating to efforts to hold the oil giant accountable for climate damages. The firm’s tactics are extreme. The Attorney General of Massachusetts, Maura Healey, called Paul, Weiss’s work “absurd” and “blatantly obstructionist.” With the help of Paul, Weiss, the fossil-fuel industry has defended itself by “trotting out fake experts, promoting conspiracy theories and cherry-picking evidence.” 

Said William Rose, a second-year student at NYU School of Law who helped deliver the pledges in Manhattan, “We won’t work for you as long as you’re working for ExxonMobil—and literally hundreds of students from your top recruitment schools have made the same pledge. If you want our generation’s talent, stop helping to destroy our generation’s future.”


Study identifies traits of climate-resilient red abalone

Red abalone mothers from California’s North Coast give their offspring an energy boost when they’re born that helps them better withstand ocean acidification compared to their captive, farmed counterparts, according to a California Sea Grant-funded study from the Bodega Marine Laboratory at the University of California, Davis.

The study also found that farmed abalone grew about three times faster than their wild-sourced North Coast counterparts. While growing abalone quickly makes sense from a market standpoint, the researchers found that the fast-growing abalone were also the most susceptible to dying from ocean acidification.

“Somehow, the wild abalone evolved to give their babies a better start in life,” said study author Dan Swezey, project scientist at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory. “The more energy the mom gave, the more tolerant her offspring were of acidification stress. That energy boost carries over and makes a big difference.”


Maui Files Climate Lawsuit Against Big Oil

Maui County, HI claims that companies like Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell PLC deceived consumers for years about fossil fuel contributions to climate change. Attorneys for the county filed suit at the state’s 2nd Circuit Court using a combination of state laws that include public nuisance, negligence and trespass.

“Maui County taxpayers should not be left to bear the staggering costs of climate change impacts,” Victorino said in a statement. “We are seeking relief in state court to hold Big Oil companies accountable for their decades-long disinformation campaign to keep the public in the dark over the climate crisis.”

Many cities and states have turned to litigation as a tool to fight the companies contributing to climate change, much in the way that lawsuits against Big Tobacco and Big Pharma worked to increase regulation on those industries. The fate of lawsuits against Big Oil are in question as the Supreme Court weighs in on a technical jurisdictional question concerning federal officer involvement. 


Dakota Access Pipeline Clears Hurdle for Expansion, Despite Being Temporarily Shut Down by the Courts

The Illinois Commerce Commission has approved a permit for the parent company of the Dakota Access Pipeline, Energy Transfer, LLC, to expand its pump stations and increase pumping capacity from 570,000 barrels a day to 1.1 million barrels a day. The pipeline was ordered to shut down in August when a judge determined that the Army Corp of Engineers failed to perform necessary environmental reviews. The fate of the pipeline is currently in the hands of the U.S. Court of Appeals. A panel of judges for the circuit court is scheduled to hear arguments in November on upholding the lower court’s decision.


Friends of the Dunes is Interim Owner of Samoa Dunes and Wetlands

Friends of the Dunes has completed a deal with Security National, the Humboldt Bay Harbor Recreation and Conservation District, the Wildlife Conservation Board, the California Natural Resources Agency, and the California State Coastal Conservancy to acquire the Samoa Dunes and Wetlands for the purposes of conservation and public access. The Samoa Dunes and Wetlands is a 357-acre coastal dune and bayfront property that includes the former Dog Ranch.

“Friends of the Dunes does not see ourselves as the long-term landowner of the Samoa Dunes and Wetlands, and we do not plan to do any development of trails, parking areas, or restoration activities during our tenure as interim land manager,” said Carol Vander Meer, the Board President of Friends of the Dunes. “We are cooperating with our county, state, federal, and Tribal partners to determine what ownership or management is in the best long-term interests of this land and our community.”

“All of the partners working on this project are committed to protecting the beauty and diversity of this remarkable piece of land,” said Vander Meer. “That’s really the core of this conservation project—working cooperatively with committed partners so that the beauty and diversity of our coast can be enjoyed for generations to come.”