Tag Archives: Sierra Club

City Workers Endorse Yee for Mayor

SEIU 1021 reject Lee, back Yee in Mayor’s Race

SAN FRANCISCO – Senator Leland Yee has landed the first choice endorsement of the largest organization of city workers – Service Employees International Union (SEIU 1021) – in his campaign for San Francisco Mayor. The move by the 54,000 member union is a complete rejection of the city’s top official, interim Mayor Ed Lee.

The endorsement comes after Yee has landed virtually every major labor endorsement in the race, including the California Nurses Association, California School Employees Association, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council, Laborers International Union, United Brotherhood of Carpenters, Communication Workers of America, and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, among others.

Yee has also been endorsed by the major environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and San Francisco Tomorrow.

“I am proud to be the labor candidate in this race and honored to receive the endorsement from SEIU 1021 and our city’s workforce, who run our city and provide us essential services,” said Yee. “SEIU 1021 represents some of our lowest paid and hardest working employees, including healthcare workers, nurses, and janitors. Together, we have fought to ensure greater transparency and accountability at City Hall and within state government. I look forward to working with SEIU as we move San Francisco forward.”

“Clearly, Leland Yee is the best choice to stand up for working families,” said Jim Stearns, Yee’s campaign manager. “Unlike some candidates, Leland doesn’t believe public employees are the enemy and he’ll fight for good-paying jobs and benefits for those who provide essential services to San Francisco residents.”

SEIU 1021 also endorsed John Avalos as a first or second choice and Bevan Dufty as a third choice.

SEIU 1021 was founded in 2007 when 10 local unions came together in northern California to form one larger, more powerful union. SEIU 1021 represents public service workers in cities, counties, courts, schools, private non-profits, special districts, public health care, and nursing.


Yee immigrated to San Francisco at the age of 3. His father, a veteran, served in the US Army and the Merchant Marine, and his mother was a local seamstress. Yee graduated from the University of California – Berkeley, then earned a Ph.D. in Child Psychology, and later served in various mental health and school settings. He and his wife, Maxine, have raised four children who all attended San Francisco public schools. Yee has served in the State Legislature, Board of Supervisors and Board of Education.

Read more at www.lelandyee.com


Amazing News from Last Night! – The Sierra Club Endorses Leland Yee for Mayor

Last night, the Sierra Club endorsed Leland as their choice for the next Mayor of San Francisco.

The Sierra Club is the oldest and largest environment organization in the country with over 30,000 members in the San Francisco Bay Chapter alone.  We could not be more honored to have their support.

Will you make a contribution right now to help us get the message out on the big news.

Every contribution to the campaign is matched 4 to 1 – so a $20 donation today is worth $100 to the campaign.  Please donate.

Last year in the State Senate, Leland was one of only two Senators to receive a 100% rating from the Sierra Club, League of Conversation Voters, and Clean Water Action.

Recently, Leland authored and passed legislation to stop offshore oil drilling, protect the Farollon Islands, build the Devil’s Slide Tunnel along Highway 1 and respond to the 2007 San Francisco Bay Cosco Busan oil spill.

That’s why John Rizzo, Political Chair of the Sierra Club – San Francisco Bay Chapter, said “Leland’s vision will help San Francisco lead the nation in environmental stewardship.”

As the race for mayor starts to heat up, you can make a big difference.

Will you make a contribution to help us get the message out about the Sierra Club endorsement?

We have many environmental successes in our city but there is much more we can do.  That’s why Leland’s goal is for San Francisco to have 100% clean energy and recycle 100% of our waste by the year 2020.

Help Leland get to City Hall so we can turn these goals into realities.

If you can, please make a contribution today and help San Francisco become the greatest city in American by 2020.

Thank you for all your help and support.


Jim Stearns

Campaign Manager

Why Switching to Electric Vehicles Improves National Security, the Environment, and Our Economy

Originally written for the Sierra Club's Go Electric campaign and posted as a Guest Commentary at http://www.kcet.org/updaily/so…

I just bought a new car and will never need  to buy gasoline again.  The reason I have been able to happily drive  past increasingly expensive gas stations isn't because I haven't been  driving the car, it's because the car I bought runs entirely on  electricity.  


My decision to purchase an electric car was driven by a variety of  reasons, but the simplest reason was this: The cost of filling up with  gas is just too much.  I'm not just writing about the price we're paying  at the pump; I am also referring to the cost to our future generations,  our national security, and our economy.  As a veteran, I have seen the  toll these costs take and I am doing what I can to stop contributing to  the problem.

Tim Goodrich, right, stands next to his new electric car with founding member of Plug in America, Paul Scott | Photo via Tim Goodrich 



At the age of 18, I enlisted in the active  duty Air Force and went on to deploy three times to the Middle East, supporting the no fly zones over Iraq, the initial response to  Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks, and the pre-war bombing of Iraq. My unit also supported homeland defense operations and after my honorable  discharge, I traveled to Baghdad as part of a fact finding delegation.  


Through these experiences, I came to see that our foreign policy  needs to evolve in order to provide smarter national security here at  home. After all, how much sense does it make to spend $400 per gallon  getting gas to our service members in remote regions of Afghanistan?   How much sense does it make to send money to countries that don't like  us, don't share our values, and sometimes find ways to get that money  into the hands of terrorist organizations?  The Rand Corporation found  that US armed forces spend up to $83 billion annually protecting  vulnerable infrastructure and patrolling oil transit routes. US Navy  Secretary Roy Mabus recently said, "The Army did a study and found that  out of every 24 fuel convoys we use [in Afghanistan], a soldier or  marine is killed or wounded guarding that convoy. That's a high price to  pay for fuel."


For these reasons, our military is currently researching and using  alternative energy technologies in the field. If our military as a whole  sees the importance of getting off fossil fuels, and the lives of our  service members depend on it, I want to support that effort.


As a child, growing up in a small suburb of Buffalo, NY, I was  introduced to environmental technology at an early age when my parents  installed a passive solar heating system on our house. I thought it was  amazing that, despite the sub-zero temperatures outside, we could get  free heat from the sun distributed throughout the house. All the kids  from school who came to see it on a field trip thought so too. Now that  I'm older and see the importance of using technology in a way that will  allow us to leave the earth in better condition than when we found it.


My current home, Los Angeles, has the second smoggiest air in the  country. Most Americans drive less than 40 miles per day, and most new  electric car models go up to 100 miles before having to recharge. Just  think of how much cleaner our air would be if even a third of the  population purchased an electric car, which studies have shown are 35 to  60% cleaner than traditional vehicles -even on today's electricity  grid.   In future years, as we shift to an energy portfolio containing  more renewable resources like solar and wind, driving will actually  become greener.America's  addiction to oil is as damaging to our economy as it is to our  environment.  Every year, we send at least $250 billion  to overseas  countries because the cars we drive have an insatiable thirst for oil.  In other words, about half of our trade deficit is due to imported crude  petroleum.  This trade deficit has contributed to circumstances that  created one of the worst economic downturns in this country since the  Great Depression.  Wouldn't it be great to save money by fueling our  vehicles with electricity rather than gas and also have that money stay  in our country where it can be reinvested in our economy?

If you're like me and want to breathe cleaner air, support our service  members and national security, and improve our economy, consider making  the switch to an electric car. Besides being patriotic, getting thumbs  up at red lights all over town and saving a ton of money by driving past the pump feels pretty good.



Help Support GoSolarSF

In San Francisco, great policy still isn’t always enough. Sometimes we need public support to help our friends and colleagues in city government make the right choices.

That’s why the Sierra Club and many others are rallying this morning at San Francisco City Hall at 9:30 AM today (Thursday, May 18) in support of GoSolarSF – the pioneering local solar incentive program that has helped more than quadruple the number of solar roofs in San Francisco in just three short years.

GoSolarSF is creating green jobs, attracting new green industries, helping fight climate change and helping to make our nation more energy independent.

All of that – and a new study that shows adding solar pays for itself by increasing the value of homes. That means that the GoSolarSF program is more than paying for itself in the long run with higher tax revenues captured from the higher valuations of solar homes (once the homes are sold, assessments don’t go up for those who install solar).

So what’s the catch?

Beats me.

But for some reason the SF Public Utilities bureaucracy is digging in their heels – trying to dramatically cut one of San Francisco’s most effective environment efforts and economic development initiatives.

Part of the resistance might just be cultural. The SFPUC is the old water department and its focus is still mostly on tunnels and trenches – not renewables.

But whatever is motivating the resistance – we need to spread the word that San Francisco should continue to fully fund this important and highly regarded program. Just a few facts to consider:

• GoSolarSF has helped Increase the number of rooftop solar energy systems installed in San Francisco from approximately 500 to 2385
• It has helped drive down the installed cost of solar power by 25% by creating more competition and scale in the solar installation sector
• The program attracted over 30 solar companies and organizations to San Francisco and established the City as a solar power leader.
• GoSolarSF has created or retained hundreds of new jobs
• And the solar projects promoted by GoSolarSF are installed at about 10% of the cost of what it would otherwise be if the City had to own the systems outright (a small GoSolarSF incentive unlocks a much larger private customer investment in the SF economy)

With all of the clear-cut benefits associated with the program, it shouldn’t be anywhere near the SFPUC chopping block. GoSolarSF has clearly demonstrated an ability to get San Francisco more while paying less – and that’s the type of program we should be supporting during these challenging fiscal times. Eliminating or reducing a program that is paying for itself in the long run just doesn’t make sense.

If you are in San Francisco this morning – come support this important program at City Hall. Or sign our petition in support of GoSolarSF.

Toyota’s Plan To Close NUMMI Would Kill Jobs, Destroy Communities

For more than 25 years, thousands of workers in northern California have committed their lives to producing high-quality Toyotas at the Bay Area’s New United Motor Manufacturing Inc (NUMMI) auto plant, and hundreds of thousands of car-buying Californians have made Toyota the #1 car company in the state. So when Toyota announced last year that it plans to close down the NUMMI plant on April 1, 2010, the company dealt an undeserved punch in the gut to California’s workers and consumers, not to mention our state’s already faltering economy.

Toyota’s plan to close down NUMMI is the latest in a string of remarkably poor management decisions from the Japanese automaker, which is still in the hot seat after the recent rash of recalls of millions of Toyota vehicles worldwide. As the company struggles to regain consumer confidence, Toyota has absolutely nothing to gain by closing the plant, and both Toyota and California have just about everything to lose.

Closing the NUMMI plant is bad for:

California workers and their families. If Toyota has its way, more than 5,000 autoworkers at the plant will be out of work, and another 1,500 Teamsters who transport the cars from the NUMMI plant to the dealerships will also be jobless. Additionally, as many as 50,000 workers at hundreds of businesses in California are completely dependant on NUMMI to stay afloat, from the suppliers that manufacture car parts to the restaurants where the NUMMI workers go for lunch and even the shoe stores where the plant workers buy their specialized work boots.

Mari Alvarez, a mother of three, has worked at NUMMI for 9 years, and her husband worked there too, before he got injured. Mari said that if the plant closes

We just don’t know what we’re going to do. It’s not just an economic disaster, it’s a human tragedy.

The economy. There’s no doubt that the closure and subsequent layoffs would be devastating to our already faltering economy. California has already lost a million jobs since the beginning of the recession, and the proposed NUMMI closure would be the largest mass layoff in California since the recession began.  

Last week, State Treasurer Bill Lockyer introduced a new Blue Ribbon commission tapped to investigate just how dire the effects of the closure will be across California’s economy.

Lockyer explained:

Californians are deeply concerned about how the loss of this plant might affect their economy, their state and their lives, and it is the job of this Commission to help find the answers to those questions. It is a testament to the quality of leaders on this panel that they have been more than willing to take up this challenge


The commission — which includes representatives from labor, business, consumer, environmental, religious and political communities, as well as actor Danny Glover, who is a lifelong civil rights advocate — will be completing their investigation by Wednesday, and a delegation will travel to Japan shortly thereafter to present the commission’s findings to the Toyota executives.

The environment. Even though Californians buy more Toyotas than anywhere else, Toyota would rather increase their carbon footprint by shipping hundreds of thousands of cars to California from overseas, when they could be making them right here where they sell them.

In fact, if Toyota stuck by their promise to begin manufacturing the Prius (one of the most popular cars in northern California) and other hybrid vehicles at the NUMMI plant, instead of importing them, it would not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it would more than make up for the work lost when GM went bankrupt and was forced to discontinue manufacturing the Pontiac Vive. Toyota claims GM’s pull out was the primary reason for the decision to close NUMMI. In reality, GM production at NUMMI represented only 10% of 2008 production and less than 20% over the past five years.

Carl Pope, president of the Sierra Club, wrote in a letter to Toyota President Akio Toyoda:

California’s leadership in clean vehicles will drive up demand for the very best, and Toyota can show its commitment to the consumers in this state by bringing hybrid manufacturing to NUMMI.

Taxpayers. Toyota has the taxpayers to thank for dropping millions into the “cash for clunkers” program, which benefitted Toyota far more than any other car company. Toyota also received a variety of taxpayer-funded incentives and subsidies for training programs. And if the plant does close, the taxpayers will wind up footing the bill for the shutdown costs.

NUMMI is the last remaining auto plant on the West coast, and Toyota’s only unionized auto plant. NUMMI has consistently won top ratings from J.D. Powers for its outstanding commitment to efficiency, productivity and safety.  But if Toyota shutters the plant, tens of thousands of California workers will be left jobless, despite the fact that the company has never closed any of its other plants, nor have they ever laid off a single Japanese worker.

Toyota might think the NUMMI closure is a done deal, but we don’t. That’s why we’re supporting the UAW along with the AFL-CIO, Teamsters and dozens of other unions, environmentalists and community allies on a massive campaign at Toyota dealerships across the country to urge Toyota to make a U-turn and keep the NUMMI plant open.

Toyota’s plan to close the NUMMI auto plant in Fremont is an outright attack on union workers. And if they won’t employ our workers, then we won’t buy their cars. Sign the pledge today at http://bit.ly/4xYAif and vow not to buy any more Toyotas if the company shuts down the NUMMI plant.

Rebecca Greenberg is communications organizer at the California Labor Federation. Follow her on Twitter @CaliforniaLabor.

‘Tis the season of scorecards

‘Tis the season of scorecards.  First we had the California League of Conservation Voters, then the Sierra Club California.  Now Capital Weekly has produced one that purports to measure the voting performance of the state legislature on a Conservative – Liberal continuum.

Some comments below the fold.

It is interesting that the oft maligned (at least on Calitics) Able Maldonado has a more liberal voting record than several Democrats… notably Roderick Wright and Gloria Negrete McLeod.  That is a likely reflection on the makeup of their districts. That confirms the CW bias for contested districts and centrist legislators.

For all of its imperfections, once again, we found this scorecard to be a worthy exercise. Terms like “liberal” and “conservative” are crude political shorthand, but we think the results give a pretty fair representation of the ideological makeup of the Assembly and Senate.

Also, our scorecard reflects what most Capitol observers know to be true: Democrats in contested districts like Alyson Huber and Lou Correa earn more centrist marks than those lawmakers in more solid, partisan districts.

As for the environmental scorecards, the two major ones scored differently.  In some cases, they took the same position. e.g. AB 64.  Others, they were on opposite sides of the questions, most notably on the Special Session Water Legislation, where the Sierra Club scored SBX7.1 and SBX7.2 (oppose) and the CLCV did not include it.  Since this was the most publicly fought over ecological legislation of the year, it looks like the CLCV took the political stance of ducking hard choices, though they have put a lot of energy into promoting those two bills.

Typical of the results was a 100% score from the CLCV for Jared Huffman (AD-6) while the Sierra Club only gave him 12/15, reflecting his strong support of the water legislation.  

Politics of Water Splits Environmental Organizations

Cross posted from California Greening.

If you want to know more about what we should really be doing regarding water in California, you need to read Mato Ska  here, here, here<>/a>, or here. I want to talk about the politics. That is beginning to splinter over more than North / South, Valley / Coast or even the widening gap between Democrats and Republicans.

More below the line.  

Let me call your attention to two things that happened today. One is the fact that the California League of Conservation Voters sent a floor alert to the members of the California Assembly giving strong support to the Steinberg proposal.  In this, they join three other environmental organizations that have already taken this position: Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense and the Nature Conservancy.  Each of the latter has strong ties to corporate funding and seem to be taking the corporate position.  There is strong evidence that staff for Natural Resources Defense Council have been meeting behind closed doors with the water districts who have the most to gain were the the Steinberg legislation legislation enacted.

Dan Bacher, Ed. Fishsniffer magazine, has harsh words for the CLCV.

NRDC, Environmental Defense, the Nature Conservancy and now the California League of Conservation Voters are giving “green” cover to policies that will lead to the death of the Delta and the extinction of Central Valley salmon and Delta fish populations. We must expose these corporate greenwashers for the frauds that they are!

On the other side of this issue are the Sierra Club, Planning and Conservation League, Environmental Justice,Clean Water Action, Green LA, Heal the Bay, Restore the Delta and others. Together, they have fashioned the basis of a new plan, one that is both equitable and sustainable, but it is not what the legislature is delivering.

Today, Carl Pope, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, weighed in on the controversy at Huffington Post.

Indeed, it’s fair to say that Sacramento is in deep denial of a fundamental reality. California’s landscapes, forests, farmlands, and cities must now be managed primarily to meet the biggest challenge of the 21st century: an adequate, secure, clean, and safe  water supply for urgent human and environmental needs. Water is precious. We need to stop wasting it.

The legislature met today in special session, supposedly to pass legislation that would provide new governance for the Delta and to authorize putting a new bond issue on the 2010 ballot.  The governance creates new bureaucracies rather than rationalizing the existing ones and then gives the new boards and councils no enforcement authority and no funding.  The bonds themselves are a give away to major water users, moving $billions of cost from the actual beneficiaries of new water conveyance… once called a peripheral canal… to the taxpayers.  I am sure that the residents of Eureka or Monterey have no interest in paying for a handout to corporate agriculture.

Handout: that is what you call selling water at around $75 / acre ft. for agriculture when the going rate is over $200 / acre ft and the cost of desalination water can be as high as $1000 / acre foot.   And on top to that, the bond would have the taxpayers fund any and all environmental mitigation that a new canal would require.  Gimme a break.

They say that water flows to toward money.  There can not be any better example of this than what is happening in Sacramento this week.

Behind all of the smoke and mirrors, the legislature is doing nothing to rationalize California’s mixed up system of water right where Government has issued permits for some 5 to 8 times the amount of water that we get in a normal year.  It is time for someone to pull aside the curtain and reveal the Wizard in his shambles.

The Sierra Club Loses Focus

Crossposted from the California High Speed Rail Blog

It wasn’t the article I was hoping to read upon my return from my honeymoon, but it’s not that surprising to read in the Fresno Bee that the Sierra Club and the Planning and Conservation League are hesitating on backing Prop 1 and even considering a lawsuit – and for the nonsensical reason that the choice of the Pacheco route might “induce sprawl.” That objection is bad enough, for reasons I’ll discuss in a moment.

But what’s really disturbing about this move is that it suggests the Sierra Club and the PCL have lost their focus – instead of looking at the big picture of high speed rail and emphasizing the game-changing environmental benefits it brings, they’re focusing on a small non-issue instead. They’ve lost sight of the forest for the trees and instead of providing leadership on this issue they may instead cast their lot with the far right and leave Californians with no viable alternative to soaring fuel prices and a transportation system that is making our environmental problems far worse.

First, their criticisms as reported by E.J. Schulz:

But the environmentalists are still seething over the selection of relatively undeveloped Pacheco Pass as the route to connect the Central Valley to the Bay Area. They favor the more urban Altamont Pass to the north because they say it would induce less sprawl….

Environmentalists would rather see trains run farther north in the Valley before heading west so that more populated cities are served. They like the Altamont route because it would bring trains closer to Modesto, Dublin, Pleasanton and Livermore in the first phase.

By contrast, the Pacheco route — roughly following Highway 152 — is in a less populated area. Environmentalists worry that a planned station in Gilroy would induce sprawl in surrounding rural areas.

These worries are baseless. Gilroy and much of southern Santa Clara County have strict urban growth boundaries. If those places were going to sprawl they would have already done so given their proximity to the job center and hot housing market of Silicon Valley. HSR doesn’t change that dynamic.

More below…

Nor does it change the fact that sprawl is facing hard times. Sprawl is bad, but it isn’t a force of nature. It is instead a product of three major factors: cheap oil, cheap credit, and favorable land use laws. The first is disappearing for good, thanks to peak oil. The second doesn’t exist now, and may never return. Certainly land use policies need to change to limit sprawl, but those changes have long ago been made in southern Santa Clara County. Why should HSR alone carry that burden? AB 32 carbon reduction goals should be applied to new housing developments, and ultimately, localities will have to change their ways.

The loss of cheap oil and the shortage of cheap credit together will lessen sprawl dramatically in the coming decades. I fully support land use changes to further kill off sprawl, but it’s not worth holding HSR hostage to produce the changes that need to happen anyway at the state and local level.

The death of sprawl has already made itself manifest in Gilroy. The Westfield shopping center developers had a plan to convert a significant amount of farmland acreage east of Gilroy along Highway 152 into a huge mall. The plan aroused the opposition of the community and it was dropped earlier this year. High fuel prices, the credit crunch, and public defense of urban growth boundaries all combined to kill that sprawl project. Those factors will do so again.

A Gilroy HSR station would produce strong incentives for transit-oriented dense development in Gilroy, the kind of development that California cities need to focus on instead of sprawl. Gilroy is already partway there, and an HSR station where the current Caltrain station is located at 8th and Monterey would actually discourage sprawl because there would be viable alternatives to building on new farmland. The combination of infill development and strict urban growth rules are what have made Portland’s anti-sprawl plans a success – you need both for the anti-sprawl measures to work. And high capacity mass transit is a necessary component.

Further, since the Authority has rejected plans for a Los Banos stop, and since as Mehdi Morshed explained in the Fresno Bee article that the communities along the Altamont route were not supportive of HSR, what on earth explains the ongoing refusal of the Sierra Club and the PCL to throw their support to Prop 1?

The only answer is a very depressing one, but an answer that is becoming more widely accepted among many environmental activists, sustainability activists, transportation activists, and folks on the left more broadly: the Sierra Club and the PCL have lost their way, and have lost sight of the big picture. In case folks haven’t been paying attention, this country faces a climate crisis and an energy crisis. It’s not like we have a whole lot of time to be fighting over objections that are not grounded in fact. At Netroots Nation two weekends ago Al Gore explained that we need to stop burning carbon and make a bold move to power our society with renewable energy. An electrically-powered high speed train system won’t achieve that 100% renewables goal itself, but it would provide significant environmental benefits:

-Reduce carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to removing 1.4 million cars from the road, and take the place of nearly 42 million annual city to city car trips

-Reduce CO2 emissions by up to 17.6 billion pounds/year

-Reduce California’s oil consumption by up to 22 million barrels/year (same as above)

According to the Final EIR 63% of intercity trips over 150 miles in California are taken by car (scroll to page 12). HSR would provide a huge dent in that figure.

High speed rail is one of those game changing proposals. How can the Sierra Club and the PCL overlook the cars taken off the road? How can they overlook the CO2 reductions? How can they overlook the reduction in pollution, especially in the Central Valley?

Four years ago Michael Schellenberger and Ted Nordhaus criticized the Sierra Club directly in their seminal essay The Death of Environmentalism. In their view the environmental movement, by focusing on small battles, has totally failed to address global warming, and that organizations like the Sierra Club “have little to show” for nearly 30 years of environmental activism after the big victories of the late ’60s and early ’70s. One of their specific criticisms is that the Sierra Club, for example, often eschews big policy changes for a niggling incrementalism that has done nothing to arrest the rate of warming. This has led them to refuse to articulate a bold vision for addressing the global warming crisis that of course hurts the natural environment, and it has led them to ignore the politics of producing change.

The Sierra Club’s failure on high speed rail proves each of Schellenberger and Nordhaus’ controversial charges. Instead of helping change the way Californians get around their state, shifting them away from oil-burning methods of travel to clean methods of travel that limit sprawl and generate urban densities, they are focusing on a small objection that doesn’t even hold up on close examination. They have endorsed the concept of high speed rail in the past but if they don’t endorse Prop 1, what other opportunity will they have to get it passed? If the HSR bonds don’t pass this year, they aren’t coming back anytime soon. It might take 10 years to revive the project – it’s taken 15 in Texas – and that means completion of the line wouldn’t happen until close to 2030.

By then it may be too late. Instead of refusing to support Prop 1 out of pique that they lost the Altamont vs. Pacheco argument, the Sierra Club and the PCL should follow Van Jones’ advice and move from opposition to proposition. We have a proposition – literally – before us. Instead of being on the constant defensive the Sierra Club and the PCL can help California take a bold step in the right direction with Proposition 1. If we pass these bonds in November it will then be a signal to other states and to Congress that HSR is a politically popular project and it will spur similar projects around the country – projects that we desperately need.

Why would the Sierra Club and the PCL oppose these things? They have let their opposition to the Pacheco alignment blind them to the bigger picture. That decision has been made and even though the Sierra Club and the PCL lost, they can still be big winners. Let’s hope they recognize the pressing environmental need for high speed rail before it’s too late.

The peak of stupidity

I have on more than one occasion lamented the fact that our shiny new Democratic Congress in Washington has a hard time getting much more done than renaming post office buidlings and declaring National Asparagus Week.

And, sometimes, I guess, they even have trouble with that.

A bill introduced by Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer would officially change the name of the fourth-highest peak in California to honor longtime Sierra Club leader and Friends of the Earth founder David Brower.

North Palisade, which at 14,242 feet ranks behind Mt. Whitney, Mt. Williamson and White Mountain among the state’s highest points, would be renamed Brower Palisade in recognition of Brower’s contributions to the preservation of much of America’s best-loved and most well-known wilderness areas.

Brower, the Sierra Club’s first executive director, died eight years ago at the age of 88. A tireless crusader who was frequently criticized as arrogant, he led the fight to keep dams out of the Grand Canyon, rallied support for Redwood National Park and the Point Reyes National Seashore, sounded warnings on nuclear energy and, over decades, became one of the nation’s most influential environmental warriors.

A no-brainer, right? Right – unless you, um, actually have no brain. From the same LA Times article:

“I most likely wouldn’t support it,” Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Visalia) said Thursday. “If you look at a lot of these radical groups that were formed, they’ve cost my district thousands of jobs. Take the timber industry: We let our forests burn up and meanwhile buy all our wood from Canada — it’s kind of a sad deal.”

Yes, he really said that. To a reporter. On the record.

Wonder if there might be a sewage treatment plant Rep. Nunes would like to have his name attached to?

SD-03: Joe Nation’s Environmental Problems

With today being Earth Day, I thought readers would enjoy reading my article about Joe Nation’s environmental record.

Ex-Marin Assemblyman and State Senate candidate Joe Nation is working to stay above the fray between Mark Leno and Carole Migden.  Despite his moderate record on other issues, he speaks earnestly about the environment and climate change.  But why hasn’t the Sierra Club endorsed him, and why is he not popular with environmentalists in Marin County?  It may be because when Nation was on the Marin Municipal Water District in the late 1990’s, he proposed bottling water from Mount Tamalpais, voted for a pipeline to siphon water from the Russian River and supported widening the US-101.  Today, Nation is a climate change consultant for ENVIRON, where he primarily advises Coca-Cola – whose environmental record has spawned protests across the globe.  Now Coca-Cola runs a corporate green-washing campaign that pushes “water stewardship” – which is code for privatization of a natural resource, while running bottled water plants in California.

As a newcomer to the very contentious Senate race (and a relative unknown to San Francisco voters), Nation has campaigned on his environmental record in the Assembly – and touts the work that he currently does on climate change.  “I would not be in this race if it wasn’t for that issue,” he said at a candidates’ forum last month.  Therefore, it is helpful to hear what local environmentalists think about him.

The Sierra Club has not endorsed in the race – which is interesting, because Joe Nation has made climate change such a top priority in his campaign.  Nobody on their Board would talk to me on the record (the Club is still deciding what to do), but it was clear from learning about Nation’s history in Marin that he is not well liked among many environmentalists.

After losing an open Congressional race in June 1992, Nation was elected later that year to the Marin Municipal Water District – a very powerful stepping stone for higher office.  Three of Marin’s last 4 Assembly members have served on that board, including Nation – who ran for an open Assembly seat in March 2000.  The Sierra Club did not endorse him in that race, and when two progressive opponents split their votes, Nation eked out a victory.

In 1999, Nation angered environmentalists by sponsoring a proposal that the Marin Water District sell bottled water from Mount Tamalpais.  Activists opposed it because draining water from Redwood Creek (which flows from Mount Tam) would endanger a salmon run.  At a time when Marin residents were being asked to conserve water, they opposed having the District sell off such natural resources.  Bottled water, they said, is also a very wasteful practice – as it consumes large amounts of plastic.

After much community opposition, the Marin Water District shot down Nation’s idea.  Shortly afterwards, they passed an ordinance prohibiting such a proposal in the future.

In 2000, the Marin Water District (with Nation’s support) agreed to move ahead with plans for a new multimillion-dollar pipeline to siphon water from the Russian River.  Again, environmentalists opposed the idea – as it involved extracting natural resources when they urged the need for more conservation.  As he ran for the Assembly that same year, Nation supported widening the US-101 to relax gridlock – a reason why the Sierra Club did not endorse him (as their chosen candidate opposed it.)

Nation did get support from the League of Conservation Voters in his initial Assembly bid – prompting environmental legend David Brower to write an angry press release.  “Industry and pro-development politicians grow increasingly skilled at adopting green camouflage,” said Brower, as he accused Nation of being “the candidate favored by developers.”  At the time, Nation replied that he was a “realist” – not a “purist.”

In the Assembly, Nation’s voting record was solidly pro-environment (the Sierra Club endorsed him when he faced token opposition) – but some complained that he was more of a follower than a leader.  His signature bill was AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed – which capped carbon emissions, but most environmentalists agree is not enough.

Since leaving the Assembly in 2006 (after a second bid for Congress against Lynn Woolsey), Nation now works as a Climate Change Consultant for ENVIRON — which has a global staff of over 1,000 and helps corporations become more environmentally sound.  Most of Nation’s consulting work at ENVIRON, he says, is on behalf of Coca-Cola.

“We do a range of work for Coke,” he said, “and have lots of very smart people who count carbon molecules and do carbon footprints.  We’ll go in their facility and measure their energy use (CO2), and look at ways on how they can reduce it.  We give them recommendations on alternative technologies that they can use.  My expertise is in the area of off-sets and carbon emissions trading.”

Coca-Cola does not have the best environmental record.   The company manages bottling plants throughout the world – and its water-pumping in India has drained the wells of the country’s most impoverished villages.  Students on over 20 college campuses in the U.S. and Great Britain have succeeded in getting their schools to divest from Coke due to its repeated violations of environmental law.

Of course, Nation can argue that he’s helping Coke fix its environmental problems.  But even the company’s “green” improvements are under scrutiny.  “Coca-Cola has done a lot to greenwash their corporate image,” said Nick Guroff of Corporate Accountability, a non-profit organization that monitors corporate violations.  On its website, Coca-Cola features an environmental report that touts its “water stewardship” plan – which critics say is really just an effort to privatize a natural resource that people need in order to survive.

Coca-Cola says it’s doing what it can to reduce waste – as it makes less wasteful plastic bottles and plans to build a plant that will recycle 100 million pounds of plastic every year.  But activists – including Rev. Renee Rico from San Anselmo in Marin County – aren’t buying it.  “Don’t make the [water] bottles in the first place, and you won’t have to waste even more energy to recycle them,” she said.

An online campaign by Corporate Accountability is currently underway – urging consumers to drink tap water rather than buy bottled water from Coca-Cola and other companies.  The group recently convinced S.F. Mayor Gavin Newsom to ban plastic water bottles in all City government buildings.

Nation’s work for Coca-Cola is consistent with his advocacy for bottled water nine years ago on the Marin Municipal Water District.  Today, bottled water is a growing industry – and Coke runs a plant near Mount Shasta despite opposition from the environmental community.  It would help Coke to have someone like Joe Nation in the California State Senate – especially a Democrat who touts his green credentials.

EDITOR’S NOTE: As a private citizen, Paul Hogarth has endorsed Mark Leno for State Senate. He plays no role for the Leno campaign, nor did anyone on that campaign assist in  this story.