Category Archives: Environment

Rise of the Mod Squad

dog_withbonePity the state’s coastal liberals, who thanks to the growing force of moderate Democrats were reminded that they don’t have a blank check in Sacramento any more.

In the waning days of the legislative session, The Mod Squad flexed its common-sense muscles on a number of measures, most notably blocking attempts to cut gas consumption in half by 2030. While perhaps a noble concept, the reality is that Assembly Bill 350 represented government overreach with the likely potential to harm the economy and low-income Californians, especially in the the Central Valley and inland communities.

It is disingenuous to attack these moderate representatives for not toeing the line in support of too-far-to-the-left  proposals, including AB 350, which would have spiked California’s gas prices, already among the highest in the nation. Accusations that these Mods were bought off by the oil industry ring hollow and are an insult to lawmakers and the constituents they represent.

After all, the rise of the Mods is exactly what the voters called for in 2010 by supporting an open primary system, which passed in the hopes it would lead to greater responsiveness to the public,  an end to rigid partisanship and more free-thinking leadership focused on solving problems, not creating more of them.

Like it or not, that is exactly what we have recently witnessed. Moderate Democrats, they should be applauded for standing up to knee-jerk notions that may sound good, but in reality are just bad public policies being promoted by California’s elite.

 

 

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CA Bureaucrats Are Playing God

dog_snarlingWhile Governor Brown roamed the Vatican praying for rain recently, we hope he also asked the big guy upstairs to do him a huge favor:  to remind California bureaucrats that there is a God, but He  just isn’t them . . .  no matter how much they seek to arbitrarily lord over the masses.

There is an incredibly disturbing pattern emerging within the Brown Administration that is going largely unnoticed by the public, unreported by press corps and perhaps even flying under Governor Brown’s own radar. Rogue boards and commissions that are pushing personal agendas and openly defying the will of judges, the state Attorney General, the courts, the Legislature and even Governor himself.

We’re talking about unelected bureaucrats exhibiting the brass-balled temerity to pull rank on (and the rug out from under) the very people voters have elected to represent their interests and protect them.

Bureaucracy running wild promises to be a rich vein for the BlueDog to tap for months to come. But for now, let’s just point out a couple current examples:

Exhibit A – The State Water Resources Control Board Above the Law?

As the result of lawsuits filed by local water and irrigation districts with longstanding water rights, numerous judges and the state attorney’s office told the SWRCB that it cannot curtail water allocations to water districts without citing proper cause and providing those districts with the opportunity to present their positions.

But instead of obeying  these court rulings, the SWRCB has gone ahead and proposed fines to some of the districts that sued the board. In one case, as much as $1.5 million. Those fines were been issued in direct defiance of the court’s requirements. Such actions are as arrogant and retaliatory as they are punitive.

Exhibit B – Brewing Scandal at the California Fish & Game Commission?

Bear, coyotes, mountain lions, bobcats and other predators increasingly are surfacing in California urban areas due to sprawl and drought conditions. These wild animals are ransacking homes, killing pets and attacking children like something out of Little Red Riding Hood. Such episodes highlight the need for responsible predator management polices that protect both animal populations and the public at large.

Historically, responsible hunting and trapping programs have served as a critical tool for keeping wildlife at bay and managing wildlife populations.

In the next few days, the California Fish & Game Commission will be considering proposals that will essentially eliminate bobcat trapping statewide and set a dangerous precedent for effective predator management in the Golden State.

Bobcat Photo

 

 

 

 

These proposals are moving forward in open defiance of the California Legislature and Governor Brown, both of whom supported Assembly Bill 1213, legislation requesting regulations to tightly limit bobcat trapping — but with the clear condition that such policy be made only after comprehensive bobcat population study and thoughtful review of the scientific facts.

The governor should be commended for underscoring this notion when he signed the bill into law. And he should pay attention to what Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) recently told the Sacramento Bee on this issue:

“It’s real simple: There was a bill before the Legislature to ban the bobcat trapping that didn’t pass. You don’t need much more clarity than that to know what the Legislature was OK with. For a regulatory body to go out and basically go against the role of the Legislature is inappropriate . . . One of the real detriments of term limits has been that one branch of government has far exceeded its jurisdiction. The Legislature has so much constant turnover that no one’s there to hold folks accountable.”

We all know what happens when power goes unmonitored and unchecked.

The Department of Fish & Wildlife (DFW) and AB 1213 author (Bloom) have dropped the ball on funding research since the bill passed in 2013. They need to step up to the plate to make sure the necessary data is gathered before promoting regulations.

But rather than obey the Legislature and Governor, the commissioners are being presented a false choice that exploits a narrowly constructed law. It would be a sad commentary on the democratic process if the commission ignored the will of the Governor and Legislature.

One hopes that cooler heads on the commission will prevail, especially since the Governor, to his credit, recently replaced two commissioners whose terms had expired. The new members can play an important role by applying the brakes to this process so that a thoughtful and responsible set of regulations can be developed. There is no urgency on this matter.

Otherwise, the actions and attitude exhibited by both the Fish & Game Commission — and those of the SWRCB — will remain jaw-dropping in their hubris. We’ve already seen how dangerous this can be (CPUC, CalFire, etc.)

Where is the outrage? Where is the accountability? Where is the oversight? Where is the hammer?

Governor Brown is a measured and thoughtful leader. It is hugely disrespectful to him for his  Administration to operate unchecked and contrary to his policies. The Governor needs to focus on reigning them in and demand his bureaucrats stop playing God . . . or heaven help us.

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Filed under California Drought, California Legislature, Environment, Media, Water

Banning BPA = Blind Pandering to Activists

Senator Dianne Feinstein has a well-earned reputation on most issues for her pragmatism, moderation and critical /independent thinking. So it is surprising that she seems to have gotten caught up the swirl of irrational Chemo-Phobia that has long afflicted Sacramento (where, in the interest of full disclosure, the Blue Dog has worked on this issue for industry) and now spread to Capitol Hill.

Feinstein is usually too smart to get suckered by emotion and policy making by anecdote. But there she is, sponsoring legislation to ban a chemical known as bisphonel-A  (BPA) used to ensure the safety of food, packaging and other consumer products.

Never mind that, according to a public policy research article: “On January 15, 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a long-awaited update of its policy regarding bisphenol A (BPA)–an industrial chemical used to add strength and flexibility to many plastic products–finding it safe as currently used. The FDA review was undertaken after intense campaigning by advocacy groups and the media to ban or severely restrict BPA use, which continues even in the wake of the FDA decision. The campaigners’ focus has now expanded to include other regulatory bodies, as well as states and localities. If they are successful, they will jeopardize the system for making regulatory decisions based on sound science.”

If you did not know this and other facts, Feinstein would sound totally reasonable in her May 18th news conference. But when you listen to what she says, there is “no there there.” Just an uncharacteristically rambling statement that cobbles together bits and pieces of information, emotion and childhood memories. Obesity and breast cancer linked to BPA? She always ate from jars and tin cans? In favor of the precautionary principle?

Honestly, Di-Fi, we deserve better from you. Is this really worth your energy and stature?

The Senator would do well to apply her ample and usually open mind to more reading. Perhaps a review of  the American Cancer Society’s recent criticism of the President’s Cancer Panel Report, which it says vastly overstates the risks from environmental sources. According to a story in the New York Times, only two percent of all cancers are related to community or household environmental sources. Di-Fi would should also cuddle up with the body of serious science — and not crumbs of research scattered along her path.

Feinstein should pick up the latest edition of the New Scientist, which features a cover story on “The Age of Denial: Why So Many People Refuse to Believe the Truth.” The special report points out that we live in an era in which special interests — of all stripes — will cherry pick information to make their case. And the  “commitment to a belief takes precedence over the evidence.”

We see science being ignored by the Right and some in corporate America with the denial of  global warming. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence.

Yet we also see this equally on the Left, which for years has been blaming vaccines for autism based on a single bogus study now fully discredited. The attack on BPA and other widely researched chemicals used in commerce are likewise misguided and without credible scientific basis. These issues are being driven by a narrowly focused band of elitist environmentalists bent on injecting terror into consumers on everything from sunscreen, plastic bags, sippy cups and plastic baby bottles (products, incidentally originally created to better protect health and the environment)

If Di-Fi really wants to advance public health, here’s an idea: Transfer the $30-million for yet another BPA study to a another research project — studying the adverse mental and physical health impacts from repeated worrying about unsubstantiated, phantom dangers.

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Filed under Congress, Environment, Media, Politics

Blinding With Science

Main DogYesterday’s post on bisphenol-A and Senate Bill 797 (Pavley) drew a healthy reader comment as well as a few offline requests to see links to the research mentioned in the post.  And why not? We should be making policy on facts and science — not emotion. Here is some of the science underlying the worldwide regulatory view that there is no compelling evidence at this time that BPA poses a health and should be banned. But read and draw your own conclusions:

State of California [OEHHA]:   “Following the staff presentation, comments from the public and committee discussion, the DARTIC determined that, based upon current scientific information, bisphenol A has not been clearly shown to cause reproductive toxicity; and therefore the Committee declined to add it to the Proposition 65 chemical list.”

[As an aside, how do the scientists at OEHAA feel about being dismissed at political appointees? They looked at the research trumpeted by Pavley and bill proponents and rejected it. So how come their public employee union — the California Association of Professional Scientists — isn’t standing up to defend them and their work? ]

Health CanadaHealth Significance of the Survey Results – The provisional tolerable daily intake (TDI) of 25 µg/kg body weight/day has been pre-established by Health Canada as a conservatively safe level for BPA presence in food. Based on the average BPA level in canned drinks (0.57 µg/L*), if an adult (60 kg body weight) consumes one canned drink (355 mL) per day, the dietary intake of BPA would be equivalent to 0.2 µg/day which represents 0.0135% of the provisional TDI. Based on the highest BPA level in canned drinks (4.5 µg/L*), an adult (60 kg body weight) would have to consume approximately 940 canned drinks in one day to approach the provisional TDI set by Health Canada.

The results of this survey clearly indicate that exposure to BPA through the consumption of canned drink products would be extremely low. The low levels of BPA found in canned drink products available for sale in Canada confirm Health Canada’s previous assessment conclusion that the current dietary exposure to BPA through food packaging uses is not expected to pose a health risk to the general population.

European Union: European safety watchdogs reaffirm belief in safety of BPA

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ)FSANZ has assessed the risk to infants from exposure to BPA and concurred with the conclusions reached by the US FDA and the EFSA that the levels of exposure are very low and do not pose a significant health risk.

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Can We Bottle All That Phony Hysteria?

dog_snarling

As California prepares to turn loose tens of thousands of prisoners, extreme factions of the Legislature and activist groups are getting all lathered up about – get this – the supposed hazards of shatter-proof baby bottles (which incidentally have likely saved countless lives by preventing young children from choking to death).

As David Letterman would say: “I’m not making this up.”

Activist groups today are planning to adorn the State Capitol grounds with a 15-foot baby bottle as a PR stunt to push for Senate Bill 797 (Pavley), which would create the Toxin-Free Infants & Toddlers Act.

[Full Disclosure: The Blue Dog is working with opponents to kill this ridiculous bill]

In essence, SB 797 would ban a chemical known as Bisphenol-A (BPA) from baby bottles and other drinking containers used by children three and under. This would be a necessary and commendable goal if there were any serious science underlying the concern. Trouble is, even the state agency lauded by the environmentalists, doesn’t even see any reason for concern.

A scientific advisory board of The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) recently determined that BPA doesn’t even belong on the state’s Prop. 65 list of known carcinogens. Even wine and beer are on this list – but not BPA. Specifically, July 15 OEHHA’s Development and Reproductive Toxicant Identification Committee (DARTIC) unanimously voted NOT TO ADD BPA to the Proposition 65 list.

The Committee – consisting of experts from several California universities spanning a wide range of relevant scientific disciplines – serves as the “State’s Qualified Experts” for determining whether a chemical has been clearly shown, through scientifically valid testing according to generally accepted principles, to cause reproductive or developmental toxicity. If the state’s scientific experts do not believe products containing BPA deserve even a warning label, how is an outright ban warranted?

And the irony here gets quite tasty. Last month some of the proponents of SB 797 lobbied against the agency’s possible elimination, touting OEHHA as leaders in protecting public health through independent scientific research. They sent out press releases and wrote opinion pieces going to bat for the agency.

Now, when science-based policy doesn’t support activist driven policy, OEHHA’s science advisory board becomes the focus. Activists are now pouting that the “committee is made up of political appointees who do not necessarily have the research and science background best-suited to interpret cutting-edge science, as evidenced by this decision.”

So let’s get this straight: last month OEHHA worth saving from the budget ax, but this month the agency is being advised by political appointees who don’t have the expertise to make these decisions? Please, give us all a break.

The SB 797 special interests have also got to be annoyed with our northern neighbors and friends across the pond. After all, the U.S. activists love to fawn all over the EU and Canada when it comes to their chemical policies. So the following facts must also be hard for them to swallow:

  • Just last month, Health Canada released studies of BPA in infant formula and baby food containers and concluded “Based on the overall weight of evidence, as described in the Health Risk Assessment of BPA from food packaging applications, the results of this survey further confirms Health Canada’s previous assessment conclusion that the current dietary exposure to BPA through food packaging uses is not expected to pose a health risk to the consumer
  • Regulatory agencies in the EU, Japan, United Kingdom and Australia/New Zealand have looked at BPA as used in these applications and have not issued any restrictions.  Do we assume that those regulatory agencies are made up of unqualified political appointees too?
  • Finally, SB 797 flies in the face of the Green Chemistry initiative – the Governor and Legislature’s landmark measure to take chemical policy out of the hands of Legislators and into the hands of state scientists.

Why is a bill like this even circulating?

Pavely is a teacher and land use expert. Most, if not all of her colleagues have no serious scientific credentials. I don’t believe there is a toxicologist among them. Yeah, tree-tall baby bottles may make for snappy PR events and great TV news, but if you look inside this big bottle all you will see is special interest scare tactics and specious science.

Meanwhile, how about those freed inmates?

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Trivial Pursuits & Greed in the Bag

dog_snarling“Give Me Men to Match My Mountains,” begs a caption chiseled into a building across from the State Capitol. It’s a majestic call for leadership from another, less cynical era. Here’s something more apt for today: “Give Me Men & Women to Build Our Mole Hills.” 

From all quarters, the inane seems to be the only arsenal available to our elected officials:  To wit:  Sacramento County Supervisor Roger Dickinson, who thinks the critical issue of our time centers on banning plastic bags – a plank in a platform he obviously thinks will catapult him into the state Assembly next year. Way to go Roger, you probably do belong in the Legislature, a place where every day seems disproportionately focused on playing trival pursuit on the malodorous tongue of a frothing, volatile multi-headed leviathan known as the budget crisis, health care crisis, unemployment crisis, homeless crisis, education crisis . . . 

But those matters can wait while our elected officials dicker around with things like Assembly Bill 68 (Brownley), which seeks to impose a 25-cent tax on plastic shopping bags. Proponents trot out “Bag Man” at news conferences where they twist facts like taffy. A preponderance of science and research shows plastic bags to be a non issue. There is even a strong case to be made they actually are better for the environment than paper (note earlier posting here and again full disclosure that the Blue Dog has performed consulting work for firms that produce plastic bags and packaging materials).

Bag Man: A Capitol Policy Maker

Bag Man: A Capitol Policy Maker

The BlueDog- an avid recycler – is old enough to remember when paper bags were evil because they were made by raping our forests. But who the hell cares about  historical perspective? Or  pesky details associated with life cycle analysis, consumer choice, financial impact on shoppers or the Legislature’s abrupt abortion of its nascent plastic bag recycling program? 

This is, after all, California, land of endless opportunity to do something well-meaning, but ultimately amounting to a public policy mole hill. Someone should scratch at beneath the surface in search of motivations. Frustration on the part of our elected officials at their own self-evident impotence in solving what truly matters? A desire to distract us from reality? Control issues? Or is it something less cosmic and more base, like greed?

If you read the fine print of AB 68, you’ll see a provision that allows grocery stores and retailers to keep 5 cents for each bag they tax. Wow. The bag itself probably costs less than a penny. Bag bashers like Dickinson and Brownley claim “19 billion” plastic bags are sold annually. So if we do the math, that’s a $4.75 Billion reach into the pockets of Californians — of that, about a Cool Billion will go to grocery stores and retailers. Can they possibly need that kind of jack to administer the program? In an industry with razor thin profit margins, it’s no wonder their associations are on board with measure. Seems like an incentive to push more bags.

The winners in this game of trivial pursuit certainly aren’t average Californians, who have bigger worries on their minds and loftier expectations of their elected officials. Where is our Sir Edmund Hillary? Where are our fearless, dutiful Sherpas?

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When “Green” is Mean, Meaningless Garbage

dog_snarlingComing off Earth Day 2009 is a good time to take a closer look at the notion of “Green.”

California moderates generally embrace “good green” — sensible and effective things like recycling, conserving water, engaging in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas and our respective carbon footprints. There certainly is no shortage of legitimate environmental issues to attack. California has a proud history of leading the nation in many landmark environmental policies. Most of us consider ourselves environmentalists. 

But precisely because of this positive association with being green, our state legislators are susceptible to any proposal masquerading as pro-environment. Among most legislative Democrats, if a proposal comes from an environmental group it must be sponsored by God him (or) herself.

Dance the Elitist Santa Monica Strut, throw out a sweet sounding name like “Heal the Bay” or “Save the Bay” and everyone collects a free pass to suspend common sense, ignore sound science and arrogantly ignore unintended consequences, including harm to average Californians, and yes, even the environment.   The Blue Dog has worked with the business community on related issues and has found the consistent disregard for facts (and constructive partnerships) to be staggering. 

As prime examples, consider the movement to ban Styrofoam food containers and tax or ban plastic bags. Sounds like a good idea, right? After all, activists claim our landfills and oceans are “choking” on this waste.  

While nice sound bites, these are colossal fibs unreflective of reality or the bigger picture.  No one wants this stuff on our streets or in our oceans. But these proposals exaggerate what amounts to a littering issue; they likely mean more harm than good. Consider:

* Plastic bags make up less than one-percent of garbage in landfills. 

* Significantly less energy and fewer carbon emissions are required to make plastic bags and polystyrene foam than paper or cardboard.

* Despite what you hear, San Francisco’s ban on plastic bags had no impact on litter from plastic bags . . . Check out the city’s own litter report.

* In SF delivery trucks dropping off paper bags to stores now need to make six more trips than it used to take for plastic ones, which are lighter and take up less space. That’s a six-fold increase in emissions. Would any serious environmentalist make this tradeoff?  

And what about the human and economic toll? 

* When recommending a ban on polystyrene foam — now embodied in AB 1358 (Hill) — the Ocean Protection Council callously and arrogantly dismissed concerns from real life workers who make these containers. “You can always find another job,” these mostly minority, blue-collar workers were in essence told.

(Hello?  They’re just good paying jobs with benefits in a state with an 11-percent unemployment rate. Anybody home?)

* In addition to the ban bills, AB 68 (Brownley) and AB 87 (Davis) seek a 25-cent tax on every plastic and paper bag given shoppers at grocery/convenience stores. In terms of tone deafness, this is on par with giving pay raises to Capitol staff. A number of local governments are considering the same bad move. 

* Also, don’t forget the legislature recently passed a bill to boost bag recycling – the first in the nation!  Prodded by activists, they now say recycling doesn’t work so it is time to go postal on plastic. 

Due to liberal Democrats’ inability to distinguish good green from bad, these bills can be expected to flutter to the Governor’s desk upon green halo wings.

After all, isn’t it easier to ban or tax than roll up the sleeves to do something substantive — like creating innovative green job programs with incentives to recycle more plastic bags and foam containers?  Or how about simply cracking down rock hard on people who litter? 

One hopes the Governor with see these measures for what they really are: well-intentioned, but ultimately mean and meaningless green garbage from elitist cocktail environmentalists who have perfected the art of insidiously trashing California with misguided ideas.

 

 

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