Short Bits of Interest and Positivity

Trump Administration Makes Moves to Raise Shasta Dam, Expand Reservoir

The outgoing administration announced plans November 19 to expand the Shasta Dam, one of the more controversial water projects in Northern California. The dam impounds one of the largest reservoirs in the state, water which is then transported to farmers in the Central Valley. In addition to being opposed by tribes and conservation groups, the move is also opposed by the State of California, which has sued to block the plan at various stages. 

The plan is an effort to fulfill Trump’s promise to deliver water to the Westlands Water District, the largest irrigation water provider in the country. Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt, was formerly a lobbyist for Westlands Water District, which covers more than 1000 square miles of agricultural land. Farmers within the District produce a variety of crops, but almonds, pistachios, grapes, tomatoes and cotton comprise a large percentage of the acreage.

The plan would further imperil Sacramento River salmon populations and inundate the McCloud River, which is designated as Wild and Scenic. Rep. Jared Huffman has been a vocal opponent of the project. 


Progressives Push for Haaland as Secretary of the Interior

Calls are growing louder for the incoming Biden administration to name New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland as Secretary of the Interior. If appointed to the post, Haaland would not only be the first Indigenous person to lead the agency, which has control over tribal lands and has historically imposed policies that have harmed those lands, but would be the first Indigenous cabinet secretary in U.S. history. Rep. Haaland has been a champion for Indigenous rights, women’s rights, workers’ rights and the environment. 

Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.), who in 2018 joined Haaland to become the first two Native American women ever elected to Congress, said, “Rep. Haaland has been a warrior for Native peoples for decades and profoundly understands the consequences of federal administration on tribal communities. Her historic nomination and her deep respect and understanding for the fundamental principles that any Department of the Interior secretary must abide by would be an invaluable asset.”


Pandemic puts U.S. on track to meet greenhouse gas goals

Despite pulling out of the Paris Climate agreement (which President-elect Biden says he will rejoin on day one of his administration), the U.S. is on track to meet the GHG reduction goals put in place by that agreement due to the pandemic. A new report by BloombergNEF shows that U.S. greenhouse gas emissions will be 9% lower by the end of this year than they were last year, mostly because of an economic downturn related to the novel coronavirus. The drop is the largest in U.S. history, returning U.S. greenhouse gas output to roughly what it was in 1983.

After a year of economic lockdown linked to COVID-19, the country is now emitting about 20% less than it did in 2005 — setting it up to outperform the lower end of the Paris commitment if emissions were to remain on the same trajectory through 2025. An economic recovery is expected, so it is up to the new administration to implement policies that keep us on this trajectory.


EPA Scraps Toxics Rule, But Industry Doesn’t React

The Trump administration finally succeeded in unraveling a Clinton-era rule on toxic emissions, but very few companies seem to be taking advantage of the relaxed regulations. In an official analysis EPA acknowledged that the repeal could lead to as much as 1,260 tons of added annual releases of toxics like benzene, a carcinogen, but as of February, only 69 companies (roughly 3% of those eligible) had made the switch to the laxer option. 

Eric Schaeffer, Executive Director of Environmental Integrity Project, a watchdog group following the rollback, said, even if the agency’s figures are accurate, “it’s small comfort for those communities [close to the 69 companies that took advantage of rollbacks] to hear that 97% of the facilities in other neighborhoods didn’t take advantage of this gift from the Trump administration”


Sacramento City Council to Consider Banning Leaf Blowers on Bad Air Days

According to a report by City staff, “The use of leaf blowers creates several types of emissions, including engine exhaust, refueling emissions and fugitive dust emissions. The most significant health impact created by portable blowers comes from the fugitive dust emissions and noise created during operations.” Vice Mayor Jeff Harris requested that the City consider amending the city code to prohibit the use of all blowers whether electric or gas powered when the AQI is at or above 100, which happens an average of 34.5 days per year. 

Swedish Grocery Store Prices Food Based on Climate Impact

In Sweden an innovative grocery store recently opened called  “The Climate Store,” where food items are priced based on their carbon footprint. The currency at the grocery store is carbon dioxide equivalents and customers have a weekly carbon dioxide budget. This unique pricing structure highlights the true impact of food production on the climate and helps distinguish between low impact (plant-based foods) and high impact foods (animal products). 

“It will be exciting to see how customers react to trading with the CO2e currency and see if they manage to stay within their weekly budget,” Felix Marketing Manager Thomas Sjöberg said. “I think it will be an eye opener for many to see how certain choices affect what [they] can afford to get in the same lunch bag.” Source: