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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Will So Cal have enough natural gas (and electricity) this winter because of Aliso Canyon restrictions?

We all remember the uproar caused last year when a natural gas leak developed at the Southern California Gas Company's Aliso Canyon gas storage facility. The uncapped leak spewed about 100,000 tons of natural gas into the atmosphere (almost 1 million pounds per day of methane).

Site of Aliso Canyon well leak
Photo Credit: Earthworks, Creative Commons license, Fair use 

After several months, the leak was stopped and severe restrictions were placed on the facility's ability to store (inject) additional gas until certain safety requirements were met. In the meantime, questions have arisen as to whether there will be sufficient gas available this coming winter for the company's customers, including power companies that utilize natural gas to generate electricity.

To address this, the California Energy Commission, California Public Utilities Commission, California Independent System Operator, and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power yesterday announced that a new winter draft action plan has been prepared that analyzes certain demand scenarios businesses and residents may face. The plan requires, among other things, that gas be brought in from other sources if necessary, and that certain curtailments may be required.

A public workshop to discuss the plan will be held this Friday, August 26, in Diamond Bar, CA.

For more information:

Draft Action Plan

Public Workshop

Friday, August 19, 2016

Harley-Davidson joins the cheater parade - EPA issues massive fine for illegal aftermarket emission control defeat devices

Perhaps wanting to show that anything a German company (Volkswagen) can do, an American company can do better, the Harley-Davidson motorcycle company apparently has been selling aftermarket "performance" devices since 2008 that resulted in higher exhaust emissions than allowed by U.S. law.

Photo: Harley_Davidson website, Fair Use

In a settlement announced yesterday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), government officials said that the company manufactured and sold 340,000 illegal devices called "super tuners" that caused motorcycles to emit higher levels of air pollutants than the company previously certified to EPA. Additionally, the company sold over 12,000 motorcycles that were never certified as meeting Clean Air Act (CAA) emission standards.

In order to avoid additional possible penalties and protracted legal battles, the company agreed to do the following:

  • Buy back, stop selling, and destroy the illegal devices
  • Only sell such devices if they are certified to meet CAA emission standards
  • Pay a $12 million civil penalty
  • Spend $3 million to mitigate the excess emissions caused by the defeat devices through a project that will replace conventional wood stoves with cleaner-burning stoves.

“Given Harley-Davidson’s prominence in the industry, this is a very significant step toward our goal of stopping the sale of illegal aftermarket defeat devices that cause harmful pollution on our roads and in our communities,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden, head of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Anyone else who manufactures, sells, or installs these types of illegal products should take heed of Harley-Davidson’s corrective actions and immediately stop violating the law.”

“This settlement immediately stops the sale of illegal aftermarket defeat devices used on public roads that threaten the air we breathe,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Harley-Davidson is taking important steps to buy back the ‘super tuners’ from their dealers and destroy them, while funding projects to mitigate the pollution they caused.”

For it's part, Harley-Davidson apparently refused to admit that it did anything wrong. As reported by the Associated Press, Harley's government affairs director, Ed Moreland, said the settlement is not an admission of liability and the problems were merely the result of it interpreting the law differently than EPA does.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

More bad news for Kern County - parts of Lake Isabella and Kern River unsafe for people and pets

Things continue to get worse for Kern County's water environments with the news today that parts of Lake Isabella and the mighty Kern River may be unsafe to enter.

Only a week after declaring Lake Ming in Bakersfield unsafe for human contact, the Kern County Public Health Services Department issued a cautionary notice today for Kissack Cove at Lake Isabella and that portion of the Kern River that contains the Keyesville Recreation Area and the Calloway Weir Area.

Lake Isabella, Photo Credit: ©Frank Maccioli

The reason for the notice: potentially harmful blue-green algae (cyanobacteria). The algae bloom is characterized as having a bright green color with streaks that look like spilled paint. They can also appear as floating foam, scum, or mats with a blue-green, white, or brown color. 

Exposure to the algae can cause rashes, allergic reactions, irritation, and gastrointestinal problems. At high levels, serious illness and death are a possibility. Additionally, animals exposed to it can suffer diarrhea, vomiting, convulsions, and death.

The algae was determined to be present following testing by the California Water Resources Control Board. Additional testing is underway.

In the meantime, Kern County officials gave the following advice:

• Stay away from scum, and cloudy or discolored water.
• Do not use these waters for drinking or cooking. Boiling or filtering will not make the water safe.
• Do not let pets or livestock go into or drink the water, or go near the scum.
• Do not eat shellfish from these waters.
• For fish caught here, throw away guts and clean fillets with tap water or bottled water before cooking.
• Call your doctor or veterinarian if you or your pet get sick after going into the water.

EPA and DOT adopt new heavy duty engine program of standards that will pay for itself in two years through fuel savings

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) today announced new and more stringent requirements for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. The new rules will reduce CO2 emissions by over 1 billion metric tons and result in fuel savings for vehicle owners significant enough to recoup their investment in the new technology in less than 2 years.

Video: USEPA, Standard YouTube License, Fair Use

The fuel savings amount to over 2 billion barrels of oil, equivalent to about $170 billion. In addition, the net benefit to society is estimated to be $230 billion, a benefit-to-cost ratio of nearly 8:1.

“The actions we take today on climate change will help lessen the impacts on future generations,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “This next phase of standards for heavy- and medium-duty vehicles will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions while driving innovation, and will ensure that the United States continues to lead the world in developing fuel-efficient technologies through the next decade and beyond.” 

“Today’s ambitious but achievable announcement is a huge win for the American people, giving us cleaner air, more money saved at the pump, and real benefits for consumers across the supply chain,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Today’s action preserves flexibility for manufacturers to deliver on these objectives through a range of innovations and technology pathways.”

For more information, click on the video above or the following link: EPA & DOT medium- and Heavy-Duty vehicle Standards

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Third world water issues hit Bakersfield and Kern County - Lake Ming declared unsafe for human contact

We've been reading a lot recently about the extremely contaminated water issues in the Rio Summer Olympics recently. Despite promises to the contrary by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Rio de Janeiro and Brazilian officials, raw sewage continues to flow into the waters where Olympic swimmers and boaters will be competing. The solution according to officials? Don't swim with one's mouth open.

Photo: Lake Ming - Kern County website, Fair Use

A similar situation has just occurred here in Bakersfield with an announcement today by the Kern County Public Health Department (KCPHD). Testing of samples collected by the KCPHD has revealed that "potentially" harmful bacteria levels are present in Lake Ming, a very popular local recreation spot.

Although the KCPHD described it as "potentially" harmful, nevertheless it issued a no contact advisory for people to avoid water from the lake. The bacteria can be ingested or enter one's body through a skin cut or sore. If this happens, one can become sick, develop a rash, or contract an infection.

The Director of KCPHD, Matt Considine, said, "Issuing a no contact advisory is a preventative measure. We will continue to test and monitor bacteria levels."

Warning signs have been placed around the lake. The signs will not be removed until further testing reveals that bacteria levels are at safe levels.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Elon Musk blames CARB and other car companies for $293.2 M Tesla 2nd quarter loss, says regulations are not stringent enough

Those who follow environmental and business news are used to hearing business and industry complaining that stringent environmental regulations are a major roadblock for profitability. In a twist to that familiar refrain, the leader of the world's largest electric car company blamed its latest huge quarterly loss, in part,  on air pollution regulations that weren't stringent enough!

As reported by The Los Angeles Times and others, Tesla Motors Inc., disappointed investors again by reporting a second quarter loss of $293.2 million yesterday. In explaining what happened, Tesla CEO Elon Musk gave several reasons, but, the most interesting one - or the most bizarre - was his claim that California Air Resources Board (CARB) regulations were "pathetic," implying that they were not stringent enough.

Video Credit: Tesla website - Fair Use

A significant portion of Tesla's business model involves the sale of zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) environmental credits. Under CARB air pollution regulations, ZEV credits can be traded or sold between those who need them to offset emissions from their fossil fuel fired cars and those who generate them by selling electric cars with no emissions such as the Tesla Model S.

According to The Times, Tesla sold about $170 million in emission credits last year. However, Musk apparently believes the standards that help to set the price for those credits are "pathetically low."

Musk added. "There's massive lobbying by the big car companies to prevent CARB from increasing the credit mandate, which they absolutely damn well should. As a result, you can barely sell the credits for pennies on the dollar. CARB should damn well be ashamed of themselves."