March 2, 2016 (Ocotillo) – The numbers are in –and for the third straight year, the Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility has fallen far short of the 34% capacity factor that Pattern Energy predicted the project would generate in its applications for lucrative federal subsidies. In 2015, the Ocotillo project generated just 23.06%. In 2014, it hit 26.4% and in 2013, when it was offline two months for hurling off a multi-ton blade, it produced a scant 15.7%.
We’re not surprised, since our award-winning 2014 investigative article, Was It Fraud? included forecasts by an international wind expert,Nicolas Boccard, who accurately predicted the project’s failure before it was built. He suggested the federal government had grounds for a False Claims Act suit against Pattern Energy. We again raised questions about the project’s viability last year, in a second story.
New Program to Reduce Blighted Properties and Encourage Community Gardens in Neighborhoods
East County News Service
March 1, 2016 (San Diego) — The San Diego City Council unanimously approved an Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone, a program that will help expand community access to fresh produce through a property tax incentive for urban agriculture on vacant, blighted land.
Viejas announces funding for EMF measurements at school
By Miriam Raftery
February 29, 2016 (Alpine) -- The San Diego County Office of Education on Friday released a draft Survey and Exposure Assessment or electrmagnetic fields (EMF) for Alpine Elementary School. The study concludes that the Sunrise Powerlink transmisison line buried on Alpine Blvd.does not pose a significant safety or health risk to the school site." The study further finds that readings in and around buildings at Alpine Elementary "while not representative of a pristine EMF environment, were within a normal range of exposures one could expect in a society with electric power."
The County study examines 94 measurements taken inside and outside the school and cites several reasons for concluding the site is safe.
February 27, 2016 (San Diego) – An environmental health symposium and public forum featuring acclaimed scientist Dr. Gilles-Eric Seralini in his first U.S. appearance will be held on Sunday, March 6 from 3- 7 p.m. at the Hilton San Diego. Dr. Seralani has exposed dangers of glyphosate (the ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup) in a landmark study.
Click link above to hear our interview, which originally aired on the East County Magazine Radio Show on KNSJ 89.1 FM on December 14, 2015.
By Miriam Raftery
Photo: Ice core sample, Creative Commons image from AntarcticGlaciers.org
February 27, 2016 (San Diego’s East County) – Jeffrey Severinghaus, PhD, is one of the world’s top climate scientists. A professor of geosciences at Scripps Institute of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, he was recently appointed to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Severinghaus has pioneered research efforts measuring trapped gas bubbles in ice cores in Antarctica and Greenland to detect past ocean temperature changes – with astonishing results.
Asked about climate skeptics who claim climate change is merely cyclical, he quickly dispels the theory that recent warming is part of an age-old trend. That’s because molecules from burning fossil fuels are chemically different from carbon naturally seeping from the ocean floor. The differences are obvious, measurable, and provide clear evidence that man’s actions are rapidly accelerating climate change.
February 27, 2016 (Boulevard) --The Boulevard Planning Group has a packed agenda for its meeting on Thursday, March 3 at 7 p.m. in the Boulevard Fire Training Room (39923 Ribbonwood Rd., Boulevard). The agenda includes three action items and 14 discussion items ranging from major energy projects impacting the region to a water rate hike, parks and land use issues.
The action items include:
a county presentation on a proposal to divide the Mountain Empire Parkland Dedication area into 41 separate units,
a discussion and vote on whether to submit comments on local concerns over a new multli-agency renewable energy land ues and transmissions plan to meet state renewable energy mandates,and
a discussion and vote related to Live Oak Springs Water company's proposed rate hike and authorization for bulk water sales.
February 27, 2016 (San Diego) -- Join volunteer naturalist Don Endicott in the Visitor Center Theater at Mission Trails Regional Park on Saturday, Feb. 27 at 1 p.m. for a multi-media introduction to the natural history of the mountain lion, our region's seldom seen apex predator.
His talk will describe the amazing attributes and signature behaviors of our big cats, show how relationships between mountain lions and people changed over time, and outline their key contributions to a healthy wilderness environment.
"When a child could get cancer, you take action." -- Alpine resident Bree Rowand (photo, left), mother of Kylie Rowand, toddler who died of neuroblastoma.
"We're here because we'd really like to ease your minds...There is no conclusive evidence that EMFs cause health risks....You have EMFs probably everywhere you go. They are coming out of your cell phone." -- Don Parent, SDG&E, which offered to conduct free measurements for any concerned property owners.
"I'm very concerned for the health of my students and health of my staff...but right now we have having safe levels [in classrooms.]" -- Bruce Cochrane, Superintendent, Alpine Union School District, adding that campus-wide results of an independent expert will be posted Friday.
"This is a failure in our system. Regulatory agencies should be the ones monitoring...If every one of you would e-mail the president of the California Public Utilities Commission as I have and ask as I have for someone to come down here and meet with the community, maybe we will get results."
By Miriam Raftery
February 25, 2016 (Alpine) – Over 230 people came to a community meeting at Alpine Elementary School Tuesday evening to learn more about electromagnetic field measurements in Alpine, ask questions of local officials and SDG&E, voice concerns and at times, shout out frustrations. (View video highlights from 10 News.)
February 24, 2016 (San Diego) - The Resource Conservation District (RCD) of Greater San Diego County, in conjunction with Altman Plants of Vista, has announced its seventh annual School Plant Giveaway. Interested elementary schools throughout San Diego County may sign up to receive a mixed flat of twelve vegetable and herb seedlings, just in time for spring planting.
Warner Springs Ranch Habitat and Cultural Conservancy oversees protection of the resort currently under renovation
February 22, 2016 (Warner Springs) – Warner Springs Ranch Resort has formed the nonprofit Warner Springs Ranch Habitat and Cultural Conservancy to protect and manage the property’s numerous historic, cultural and natural assets.
Photo: Sunrise Powerlink (left) transmits 500 kilovolts of electricity above ground across most its its route, but was installed underground in Alpine, where it flows beneath the main street in the rural mountain town.
February 20, 2016 (Alpine) – East County Magazine reached out to San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) after reviewing results of two studies measuring electromagnetic field (EMF) levels in Alpine. (The first study, done by an engineer and contractor, found high levels along Alpine Blvd. above the underground Sunrise Powerlink. The second, commissioned by the County Office of Education, measured levels at Alpine Elementary School. It found relatively low levels at most places on the campus, though two outside areas nearest the boulevard were higher, one substantially so. View details here.) Those reports raised concerns among some community members about potential health risks for chlidren, though medical studies have shown conflicting results on this issue.
We asked SDG&E if it has plans to measure EMF levels at other locations, what EMF levels it would consider safe, what fixes or mitigation might be possible, and what EMF research the company supports. Below are our questions and the answers provided by Allison Torres, SDG&E media representative:
Superintendent issues correction: EPA has not issued recommended EMF safe levels.
Meetings Feb. 23 and 25 will address EMF issues in Alpine.
By Miriam Raftery
February 20, 2016 (Alpine)—The Alpine Education Foundation has agreed to fund hiring a professional independent expert to measure electromagnetic frequency (EMF) readings along the route of the buried Sunrise Powerlink in Alpine, AEF president George Barnett has informed East County Magazine.
Padre Dam and Helix Water Districts to develop new source of drinking water that is safe, locally-controlled and drought-proof
East County News Service
February 18, 2016 (Santee) - Padre Dam Municipal Water District’s Board of Directors accepted the East County Advanced Water Purification Program study at its February 3 board meeting. Additionally, the Board authorized a contract for $3,497,500 with Kennedy/Jenks Consultants to provide as-needed engineering services for the program.
Photo: Supervisor Dianne Jacob, speaking against Powerlink at a 2010 rally
Update: SDG&E, the Alpine Union High School District, and the Alpine Community Planning Group have responded to community concerns. The County Board of Education has measured levels at the Alpine Elementary School and found them within EPA recommended levels. SDG&E has offered to meet with any concerned residents or business owners and take measurements. We have also provided additional a broader range of studies on possible health issue. See our new article here with the latest details: http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/alpine-powerlink-concerns-spark-responses
February 17, 2016 (Alpine) – Today, Supervisor Dianne Jacob sent a letter to California Public Utilities Commission chairman Michael Picker requesting an immediate investigation and independent review of high electric magnetic field (EMF) levels in Alpine. Copies of Jacob’s letter were sent to Governor Jerry Brown, Attorney General Kamala Harris and all CPUC commissioners.
Update: SDG&E, Supervisor Dianne Jacob, Alpine Union School District and the Alpine Community Planning Group have issued responses to the concerns raised by this study; also the County Dept. of Education had new EMF readings taken at the Alpine Elementary School that appears to have reassuring results for parents. View responses: http://www.eastcountymagazine.org/alpine-powerlink-concerns-spark-responses.
By Miriam Raftery
February 12, 2016 (Alpine) - Electric magnetic field (EMF) levels along the route of the underground Sunrise Powerlink high voltage line have been measured at dramatically higher levels than before the line was installed. High EMF levels have been linked to leukemia in some studies.
February 13, 2016 (Stockton, CA) — Inside a dark, high-ceilinged machine shop, Mark Hope leans over a motionless conveyor belt, picking through the black scraps. He finds what he’s looking for and holds it up—a web of silver wires sandwiched between two layers of black rubber. “There’s a lot of metal in tires,” he says. “Ten, fifteen percent.” The wire is tough on the equipment, he says. He points up to the shredder, a grimy box with one conveyor to drop tires into the hopper on the top and another conveyor to carry the shredded tires away. The shears are inside the box. “We have to change these out all the time,” he says. They’re constantly going dull from the wire.
February 9, 2016 (Washington D.C.) – The U.S. Supreme Court has thrown a monkey wrench into U.S. compliance with the landmark climate change accord signed in Paris by 195 nations, blocking a key action aimed at reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants.
February 1, 2016 (San Diego’s East County) — Founded in 1990, the Back Country Land Trust (BCLT) began working with the California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) and the United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) in 2009 to protect lands in the Long Potrero Valley, located in the historic “Las Californias” region in the south-easternmost part of San Diego County.
January 30, 2016 (Lakeside) – On Tuesday, February 2, the Lakeside Community Planning Group is expected to vote on over $250,000 in improvements to Lindo Lake Park. Final public comments will be heard from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the meeting in the Lakeside Community Center, 9841 Vine Street in Lakeside. After several community workshops, planning group members are set to approve a final design concept from among four plans considered.
January 28, 2016 (San Diego) – By a 3-2 vote, the California Public Utilities Commission today voted to retain net energy metering that supporters say is crucial to support growth of rooftop solar power. Though some changes will be made, the ruling protects compensation for consumers who produce surplus solar power for the grid.
Hailed as a victory for rooftop solar advocates, the decision has drawn praise from environmentalists but criticism from San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E).
January 28, 2016 (Jacumba Hot Springs) – Jacumba Solar LLC has cancelled its contract with the Jacumba Community Services District to purchase water for a large-scale solar project.. The project would include over 81,000 solar panels on 304 acres near the SDG&E substation.
“I I think it’s for the best,” Eric Kallen, vice chair of the Jacumba Community Services District, told East County Magazine.
The contract called for Jacumba Solar to pay a $100,000 “gift” on signing with an additional $250,000 lump sum payment due January 15th. The District was to provide 40 acre feet of water with an option for Jacumba Solar to purchase 28 additional acre feet if needed for construction, plus three or four acre feet a year long-term for maintenance after the project was built. The solar projecrt was proposed by Nextera, a Florida-based company.
Photo: Scientific Visualization Studio/Goddard Space Flight Center, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
“Climate change is the challenge of our generation, and NASA’s vital work on this important issue affects every person on Earth. Today’s announcement not only underscores how critical NASA’s Earth observation program is, it is a key data point that should make policy makers stand up and take notice - now is the time to act on climate.” – NASA Administrator Charles Bolden
January 26, 2016 (San Diego)--2015 was the warmest year worldwide since modern record-keeping began in 1880, according to a new analysis by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and a separate analysis by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
“The Water-Wise Garden Tour” Will Showcase Drought-Tolerant Home Gardens
January 21, 2016 (El Cajon)—The Water Conservation Garden invites the public to its first annual Water-Wise Home Garden Tour. The tour will highlight a variety of five beautiful gardens utilizing an array of color, variety, and low water usage. The gardens also emphasize plants from semi-arid regions of the world including Australia, New Zealand, Southwestern U.S. and South Africa.
January 19, 2016 (Los Angeles) – Southern California Gas (SoCalGas) announced yesterday that its relief well drilling to stop the massive Aliso Canyon natural gas leak north of Los Angeles is “proceeding ahead of schedule and the company expects to stop the leak by late February, if not sooner.”
The relief well drilling began December 4th and must reach a depth of 8,500 feet. “Once the well is sealed, it will be taken out of service permanently,” a SoCalGas press release states.
In addition, the company announced it has abandoned its earlier proposal for a gas capture system to burn off leaking gas because of safety concerns expressed by its engineers. State regulators had also expressed concerns that the plan could potentially result in a fire.
January 18, 2016 (Alpine) – Clearing local watersheds of the arrundo donax, a hardy bamboo-like, non-native plant that is a major fire fuels hazard, and other invasive species is tough work. To clear a four-mile stretch of Alpine Creek required contacting owners of about 700 private and public parcels, mapping the terrain and securing liability insurance and contracts. So far, the initial work has been done on about 50 parcels, funded mainly by private donations. But a lot more work is needed, including maintain those parcels already cleared.
Leak at So Cal Gas facility exposes nationwide problem of aging gas infrastructure at hundreds of sites
By Miriam Raftery
January 17, 2016 (Los Angeles)—The news sounds like the plot of a disaster thriller movie, but it’s real. The worst environmental disaster since the BP oil spill, a methane gas leak that began Oct. 23 at a storage well in Aliso Canyon in northern Los Angeles has pumped over 85,000 metric tons of methane into the air. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, each day of the leak spews as much climate pollutant into the air as 4.5 million to 9 million cars.
The leak at the site operated by Southern California Gas (a Sempra Energy company that also supplies San Diego’s gas) is endangering health and safety of residents as well as contaminating the environment and pumping a powerful climate pollutant into the atmosphere. But it may soon get a lot worse.
A Los Angeles Times investigation reveals that efforts to plug the leak has been halted—after a backwash from those efforts caused a crater 80 feet long, 30 feet wide and 25 feet deep, leaving the wellhead itself exposed and now at risk of a catastrophic blowout. Access to control valves are cut off, documents revealed. Should a massive explosion and fire occur with a 10-mile-long plume of methane over suburban neighobrhoods, the scenario would be horrifying.
13 projects will boost conservation, habitat, water recycling and more
Source: County Water Authority
January 17, 2016 (San Diego) -- The San Diego region has been awarded $31.1 million in grant money by the state Department of Water Resources for a variety of projects that will increase local water supplies, decrease water demands, improve water quality, manage storm water, restore habitat and enhance species.
The awards include several East County and inland region projects, notably expansion of Padre Dam’s advanced water treatment reclamation facility, a program to improve water quality in disadvantaged rural communities, habitat recovery at Sweetwater Reservoir, water-wise educational programs for Lemon Grove and Spring Valley schools, water capture and grey water reuse in the Chollas Creek/Encanto area, as well as rehabilitation of the San Diego River headwaters including removal of invasive plant species, feral pigs, unauthorized trails/campgrounds and restoration of sites.
January 16, 2016 (San Diego) – The National Park Service has announced it must change the names of some of its most iconic landmarks due to a copyright claim filed by Delaware North, the former park concessionaire. Items slated for name changes include the historic Ahwahnee Hotel and Wawona Hotel (both Native American names), as well as Curry Village, Yosemite Lodge and Badger Pass http://www.sacbee.com/news/state/article54736110.html).
January 14, 2016 (Alpine)--The Cleveland National Forest Foundation (CNFF), Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation (CERF), and Save Our Forest and Ranchlands (SOFAR) announced that they have filed a lawsuit challenging the County of San Diego’s approval of a firearms training facility for military and law enforcement at Covert Canyon within the boundary of the Cleveland National Forest outside of Alpine.
The suit seeks an injunction and restraining order to shut down commercial firearms training at the facility, among other remedies.
The lawsuit cites alleged violations of the California Environmental Quality Act, abuse of discretion in changing the use classification of the commercial firearms shooting facility, and violation of the California Land Conservation Act of 1965 (commonly referred to as the “Williamson Act”).