It May Be Hot. It May Be Not. But It Is Our Desert.
The desert environment has been a hot bed topic for years. No one is going to forget the last BARSTOW TO LAS VEGAS RUN or HINKLEY. However, like it or not, the desert is our home and we need to preserve and protect it — sometimes from ourselves… sometimes from others. Here are a few of the environmental issue to consider:
Solar’s biggest year was 2015, when 7,260 megawatts of solar power was installed in the United States for a gain of 16 percent over 2014, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. The SEIA, a leading trade group, predicts that number will double this year. Residential solar is leading that growth, increasing 66 percent from 2014. At the same time, larger solar farms and utility photovoltaic plants are also adding to the country’s renewable energy portfolio. But not without controversy.
The Ivanpah solar plant built in northeast San Bernardino County came on line in 2014. But because the plant burns natural gas as part of its process, it is not 100 percent green and is being labeled by some as a “hybrid.” The plant produced 46,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide in its first year of operation. It also came under fire during construction for displacing more than 100 desert tortoises, a species threatened with extinction, and for its towers that burn birds in mid flight.
In this small town devastated by cancer-causing chromium-6 in its drinking water, news of recovery began to surface this past year. The Lahontan Regional Water Control Board in November approved a comprehensive cleanup plan for the world’s largest known plume of the cancer-causing chemical. The order requires Pacific Gas & Electric to further define the plume, monitor it and reduce chromium-6 concentrations, especially in the core area near its Hinkley natural gas compression station.
In January, the community learned the toxic plume had shrunk by half over the previous four years. The community had hope that it could begin to rebuild, to attract more residents and to re-open Hinkley School, which closed in June 2013. From 1952 until 1964, San Francisco-based PG&E discharged untreated chromium-6 from cooling towers in its Hinkley station into unlined ponds, a common practice during that era, before the cancer-causing properties of chromium-6 were fully understood. From the ponds, chromium-6 percolated into the ground. Hinkley’s water contamination problems were thrust globally into public view in the 2000 film “Erin Brockovich” starring Julia Roberts.
Various fixes to the Salton Sea, a dying lake occupying about 378 square miles in Imperial and Riverside counties, include a geothermal operation and algae harvesting.
Brown’s 2016-17 budget includes $80.5 million for the giant lake, labeled as a start but nowhere near the full amount needed to restore the sea.
Some have suggested that economic activity would pay back the cost of restoration, which at one point was tagged at $9 billion. Bruce Wilcox, whom Brown appointed as secretary for the Salton Sea Policy within the California Department of Natural Resources, spoke publicly about what can be done to save the lake. If nothing is done, the giant sea will have shrunk by about 100 square miles by 2050, resulting in dust storms and hydrogen sulfide “bumps” that affect air quality throughout Southern California, documents show.
California’s public lands are under assault from the Trump administration, and the desert is particularly vulnerable. Using its connections in the administration, Cadiz is trying to undermine environmental protections and avoid federal oversight. We’re not opposed to smart investments in California’s water infrastructure. In response to the historic six-year drought, we both championed legislation to increase the efficiency of California’s water use and its capacity for water storage.
The Cadiz project is not just a bad investment. It could destroy the Mojave Desert. Knowing that its project would be an environmental disaster, Cadiz is desperately trying to exploit an obscure 1875 law that would allow the company to avoid any federal environmental review if it uses the railroad right of way. To do this, Cadiz is claiming that burying its pipeline next to the tracks will somehow benefit the railroad — a laughable claim.
Opponents have been able to delay the Cadiz project at the federal level for almost two decades. But the Trump Administration is now dismantling the regulatory framework that prevented Cadiz from exploiting the railroad law. None of this comes as a surprise. President Trump has long made clear his preference for corporate profits over the environment, and Cadiz has close ties to his administration. (SEE IMPORTANT UPDATE, HERE)
Nestle’s use of water from the national forest has sparked strong opposition during the past two years. The issue prompted a federal lawsuit, an investigation of the company’s water rights claims by state regulators and a review of a Forest Service permit allowing the company to continue using its wells, pipelines and water collection tunnels in the forest.
A 2015 investigation by The Desert Sun revealed that the Forest Service has been allowing Nestle to continue drawing water from the national forest using a permit that lists 1988 as the expiration date. The Forest Service subsequently announced a review of the permit and in March 2016 released a proposal to grant the company a new five-year permit to operate its wells and pipelines in the mountains near San Bernardino.
Under the proposed management plan, water extraction would only be permitted when it’s demonstrated “that the water extracted is excess to the current and reasonably foreseeable future needs of forest resources.” Like Cadiz, Nestle is obtaining the necessary traction for continued profiting from the Trump Administration. SEE CADIZ ABOVE.
Steve Loe, a former Forest Service biologist, has called for the agency to limit Nestle’s use of water from the national forest to protect Strawberry Creek and the wildlife that depends on it. In an email to Forest Service supervisors in March, Loe said limiting the amount of water Nestle takes would help groundwater levels recover after more than five years of severe drought. “Everything we can do to reduce the take of groundwater will help with recovery and will help improve the health of the Strawberry Creek ecosystem, especially in the summer low-flow period,” Loe said in the email. “It is becoming increasingly clear that the Forest Service has the authority and responsibility, in cooperation with the State, to manage and restrict the take of groundwater involved in this permit.”
But will the Forest Service be allowed to under the Trump Administration?
THE CANDIDATES POSITION:
Dr. Rita Ramirez has stated that, “God created our environment for our survival, not to destroy it. We need to safeguard Mother Earth. At the end of the day, The Environment will both protect and save us.”