More Criticism for Comite Civico-Students Found To Be At Risk-Comite Civico Takes No Action – Desert Sun: Who monitors the monitors? Toxic air alerts went unnoticed

An air monitor at Seeley Elementary School show extremely unhealthful levels of particles in the air, but no one alerted neighbors of school leaders. Now, the same program will be coming to the Coachella Valley.

Neighbors of Seeley Elementary School might have been breathing toxic amounts of dust for weeks during the summer, based on the readings of an air monitor put up at the school by a nonprofit. Despite the sky-high measurements — more than 40 times what the World Health Organization considers a healthy level for PM10 air pollution — no one took action and neighbors were left unaware of the danger.

Now, Comite Civico del Valle, a nonprofit based in Brawley that operates these monitors, is using state funds as it expands its network of monitors to the eastern Coachella Valley, where the same thing could happen again.

Comite Civico says the organization’s goal is to turn community concerns into research — and not necessarily action.

“Everything we did was based on community concerns,” said Humberto Lugo, who manages the organization’s air-monitoring program. “Community concerns (were) that there was not enough regulatory data and not enough air-quality data out there to really make informed decisions about your everyday activities and kind of just understand what’s happening in different neighborhoods throughout the Imperial County.”

Lugo said the organization shares the data it collects through its system of monitors with research partners and legislators, who can use the information to advocate for better regulations and enforcement on sources of air pollution. But in the short term, it is unclear who is tasked with informing the community when monitors show dangerously high pollution levels, just like the one in Seeley did over the summer.

PM10, particulate matter that is 10 micrometers or smaller, could be dust particles or moisture small enough to lodge in the lungs. Six to 10 particles that small can fit across the diameter of a human hair, according to the California Air Resources Board.

According to Lugo, his team was aware of the over 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter averages of PM10 recorded by the school’s monitor, but chalked it up to the construction of a new gym on campus. Up to 20 micrograms per cubic meter is considered a safe level by the World Health Organization.

School was out for the summer, and no action was taken. But as students began filing in for their first week of school in August, the monitor continued to register levels over 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter of pollution. Administrators, educators, parents and students at Seeley said they had no idea.

When The Desert Sun reached out to staff at Seeley Elementary, school officials were unaware of the purpose of the monitor on their campus.

However, they are aware of the often dangerous levels of pollution in the area, and the school has used a flag system to create awareness of the day’s air quality levels. Based on the air quality, the school would raise a flag, colored green, yellow, orange or red to indicate whether it was safe to be outside.

Even though they had a monitor on the campus, Seeley School District Superintendent Cecilia Dial said her staff relied on regional, less granular data provided by the county.

Dial said Lugo’s organization never explained how the monitor could be used by the school or where staffers could access the data it collects. “The monitor was just there as another access point to gather data,” Dial explained.

Students leave Seeley Elementary School on Monday, September 25, 2018 in Seeley, CA. The school is a site for a air pollution monitor operated by the nonprofit Comite Civico del Valle. (Photo: Richard Lui/The Desert Sun)

Please click here to read the entire article.

Voters Favor New Water Bond.

Voters Favor New Water Bond.

One of the most surprising findings in the July PPIC survey is the strong support for an $8.9 billion state water bond among California likely voters (58%). Support for the bond―Proposition 3 on the November ballot―comes close on the heels of California voters passing a $4.1 billion state water and parks bond in June. What’s going on?

Majorities of California likely voters across partisan and demographic groups and the state’s regions say that water supply is a big problem in their part of California. Water supply and drought were the number one environmental problem named by likely voters in the survey (24%). Since Governor Brown took office in 2011, water supply and drought have been among the top environmental issues named by likely voters, and since 2014, together they have been named the most important environmental issue facing the state.

Voters Favor New Water Bond. What Are They Missing? – Public Policy Institute of California

By Ray Dorantes at KYMA: Over 200 million dollars for Salton Sea restoration project

EL CENTRO, Calif. – Over $200 million dollars from Proposition 68 and state funds are being invested in the Salton Sea. State officials at a press conference said they’re working to prevent a regional environmental disaster.

California State Senator Ben Hueso and Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia hold a press conference in El Centro.

West Shores Vice-Mayor Mark Gertz said it’s about time because the area is becoming a major health hazard.

“Because the lives of the residents and the flora and fauna of the Salton Sea basin are life-depending upon that. The local high school in Salton Sea has four times the state level of asthma. School children in mecca are getting nosebleeds and asthma much higher than the state levels,” Gertz said.

Senator Ben Hueso, 40th Senate Disctrict, said he understand the problem.

“It’s not just a Riverside or Imperial Problem, it’s a statewide problem that people should be very concerned about not addressing,” Hueso said.

State Assembly Member Eduardo Garcia explained the allocation of the funds.

“It’s broken down into a 170 million dollars that will go directly to the Salton Sea management program for this first phase of this 10-year plan. It is 30 million dollars that will go directly to the Salton Sea authority to begin these efforts immediately. And then ten million of those will go towards the 20 million-dollar cost of cleaning up the new river,” Garcia said.

Gertz appreciates the amount but said that it’s not enough to solve a problem that has a price tag in the billions.

“This will not fund all of the ten-year plan. To not address the sea at large is going to incur long-term disastrous results,” Gertz said.

You can read the complete story and watch a video here.

Forbes.com: Subsidizing The Rich Through California’s Solar Scheme

We found this article while scanning the web on rooftop solar info. Below is a small pull out, but you can read the complete article here.

Subsidizing The Rich Through California’s Solar Scheme

So what’s the problem? First, the credit paid in California for the excess solar power is far higher than the cost of alternative electricity sources, usually from utilities or from the spot power market. Consumers without such solar installations have to finance that excessively expensive electricity, so that overall power prices are forced above the level that would prevail in the absence of the net metering system. This system, by the way, subsidizes the affluent (median income of those installing solar systems: $91,210) at the expense of all other power consumers (median of $67,821), an embarrassing reality from which the supporters of the net-metering system prefer to avert their eyes. 

Subsidizing The Rich Through California’s Solar Scheme

From the Daily Mail: A ghost town in the making

With sandy beaches and warm water year-round, Salton Sea in California was the perfect family getaway of the 1950s and 60s. It attracted Hollywood’s elite – Rock

Hudson water-skied there, Frank Sinatra and Jerry Lewis visited their friend Guy Lombardo’s yacht which was moored there. The Beach Boys were members of the North Shore yacht club, Sonny Bono was a visitor and President Dwight Eisenhower golfed there.

Business was booming – hotels, motels, casinos and yacht clubs popped up along the lake’s 116-mile shoreline helping to create enclaves including Bombay Beach and Salton City. Residents and developers quickly reaped the benefits of the influx.

Click here to read the complete article.

The new solar mandate: A leap forward or a step back?

This is a great article from our semi-local favorite, the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Here are some pull-outs from “The new solar mandate: A leap forward or a step back?”:

First, rooftop solar systems generate electricity that is anywhere from two to six times more costly than large renewable sources like utility-scale solar farms.

“Rooftop solar is an extremely expensive way to move to zero-carbon energy,” Borenstein said. “It costs a lot more than grid-scale solar. It is not cost-effective for the system as a whole.”That, Bushnell argues, raises the question about whether a mandate was really needed.

“It is a blunt instrument,” Bushnell said. “If you’re building a new home, you have a bunch of choices to make about exactly how energy-efficient you want it to be … And installing solar is now in the ‘you gotta do it’ category.”

Critics worry the new rule could crowd out lower-cost, more efficient renewable energy sources in the future.

As more solar customers get credited at the retail price, there is upward pressure on rates to cover the utilities’ costs (provided the CPUC approves those rate increases).

Borenstein says that leads to costs moving from those who have rooftop solar on their homes to those who do not.

“The CEC says individual homeowners will save money,” Borenstein said. “But they’re only going to save money because they are essentially shifting costs to other consumers, other ratepayers.”

To read the complete article please click here.

Why Am I Paying $65/year for Your Solar Panels?

Below is a great article from Lucas Davis, a UC Berkeley professor that published a report a few years ago about the closing of San Onofre, the nuclear facility north of San Diego, and how replacing the nuclear energy with natural gas was the equivalent of adding 2,000,000 vehicles to the roads of California.

Why Am I Paying $65/year for Your Solar Panels?

700,000 California homes now have solar panels; what does this mean for everyone else’s rates?

“This is the future,” one of my neighbors recently told me, proudly showing off his rooftop solar panels, “Forget the old, inefficient utility.” The panels do look great, and, for a moment, I got caught up in my neighbor’s “green glow” of eco-righteousness. Should I be doing “my part” for climate?

But wait a second. I already am! As Severin Borenstein has been pointing out for years, a big part of the reason why rooftop solar is so popular in California is our electricity rates. And because of the way rates work, every time another neighbor installs solar, my rates go up. I’m tired of it. Why should they get all the “green glow”? Why should I be paying more for their rooftop solar, particularly given that grid-scale renewables are so much cheaper?

Almost 700,000 homes in California have installed solar, about 5% of all homes in California. Today I want to figure out what this means for the rest of us. No fancy econometrics, no complicated model. I just want to do a simple back-of-the-envelope calculation to try to figure out how big of a deal this is.

brick

Note: Green glow. Image licensed under creative commons.

 

Utilities have a lot of Fixed Costs

It is helpful to take a step back and think about what it takes to deliver electricity. Utilities have lots of what economists call “fixed costs”. For example, utilities have to maintain all the transmission and distribution lines used to deliver power. These costs are fixed (not marginal) because they do not depend on how much electricity is consumed.

truck

Note: Utilities have lots of cool trucks. Image licensed under creative commons.

 

Who pays for these fixed costs? We all do. Every time you use electricity, you help pay for these fixed costs. There is a long history in the United States of regulators setting electricity prices equal to average costs.  Economists have argued that it would be more efficient to set prices equal to marginal cost. But the truth is this didn’t matter much in the past, in part because people didn’t have much choice about whether or not to consume electricity.

Until now. Rooftop solar is an opportunity for consumers to radically reduce the amount of electricity they buy from the utility. In Hawaii there is a lot of talk of “grid defection”, but in 99.9%+ of cases solar homes continue to be connected to the grid. Solar homes use the grid just as much as other households, as they are always either importing or exporting electricity, it’s just that they consume much less grid-electricity.

What this means is that good people like my neighbor contribute much less to paying for utility fixed costs. The fixed costs haven’t gone away, but my neighbor now has a lower electricity bill so pays far less of them. This leaves the utility with a revenue shortfall, and it is forced to raise prices. So who pays for the fixed costs my neighbor used to pay? Everyone else.

wires

Note: Utilities have lots of fixed costs.

 

A key subtlety here is “net metering”. Households who install rooftop solar pay only for the electricity they consume “on net” after solar generation. This is easy and simple, but also wrong. Implicitly, this means that they get compensated for their solar panels’ sales to the grid at the retail electricity rate. This is too high, significantly exceeding what the utility saves from not having to supply that electricity. Under an alternative rate structure, in which households were paid the wholesale rate, you would not have this “cost-shifting” away from solar households.

Cost Shifting 

Ok, but how much cost shifting is actually happening? Outside California, Arizona, and Hawaii, probably not much. But California has a lot of solar, about half of all U.S. rooftop solar. How much have California electricity rates increased due to the 700,000 homes with solar?

spiral.png

Note: Utility Death Spiral? Source here.

 

This is tricky because we don’t actually know how much electricity is being produced by rooftop solar. Almost everyone is on net metering, so we only observe net consumption, not solar production. Fortunately, the California Energy Commission has poured over solar radiation information and other data and estimated that total annual generation from California behind-the-meter solar is 9,000 GWh. About two-thirds of this is residential, so about 6,000 GWh. To put this in some context, total annual residential electricity consumption in California is 90,000 GWh.

So how much “cost shifting” does this imply? The average residential electricity price in California is $0.185/kWh, while the average wholesale price is about $0.04/kWh. Accounting for electricity that is lost during delivery to the end customer adds about 9% more per kWh delivered. Thus, each time a California household produces a kWh, the utility experiences a revenue shortfall of about $0.14. Multiply this by total residential distributed solar generation, and you get $840 million annually. California utilities receive $15 billion annually in revenue from residential customers, so the total shortfall is about 5%.

This is a crude calculation, and it could undoubtedly be refined. For example, distributed solar proponents argue that local generation allows the utility to avoid distribution system upgrades, which would represent an additional benefit. These impacts have been found to be relatively small, but this continues to be an area of active research. On the other hand, I’ve also made an assumption that significantly decreases my estimate of cost shift. In particular, I’ve used the average residential retail price, but California customers actually pay increasing block rates so most solar customers face a marginal price well in excess of the average price.

Conclusion

The total revenue shortfall works out to about $0.01 per kWh, or $65/year for the average California household. This is more than I expected. And, I’d bet most Californians are not even aware that this cost shift is happening.

So why am I paying $65/year for other people to have solar? It doesn’t make sense. Sure, I’m concerned about climate change, but my $65/year could go a lot farther if it was used instead for grid-scale renewables. Moreover, this is almost certainly bad from an equity perspective, as we know that high-income households adopt solar much more often than other households. Rooftop solar isn’t getting rid of the utility. It’s just changing who pays for it.

To read the article please click here.

Lucas Davis

Lucas Davis is an Associate Professor at the Haas School of Business, Faculty Director at the Energy Institute at Haas, and Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. His research focuses on energy and environmental markets, and in particular, on electricity and natural gas regulation, pricing in competitive and non-competitive markets, and the economic and business impacts of environmental policy. His work appears in leading academic journals including the American Economic Review, the RAND Journal of Economics, and the Journal of Political Economy. He blogs along with other Energy Institute researchers at energyathaas.wordpress.com.

 

Strange Geographies: The Little Town That Los Angeles Killed (from MentalFloss.com)

A friend of ours in the Coachella Valley sent us a link to this MentalFloss.com article from 2009. In her email to us she wrote:

“If you haven’t seen this article on Keeler, CA, I thought you might want to read it. Keeler is a “living” ghost town of about 60 or less population in the Mojave. Its history is too reminiscent of what could happen in the not too distant future at the Salton Sea. This is a scary scenario for sure, but is extremely relevant in so many important ways.”

People talk about the Salton Sea being “Owens Lake on steroids.” Judge for yourself after you have read the article by clicking here. One more reason to pass Prop 68, the California Clean Water and Parks Act (SB5).

The end of the boat ramp at Red Hill Bay Marina, Salton Sea

Dead Seas

The following article appeared on E&E News. We are posting this article because it highlights the work of an incredible public health champion, Aide Munguia-Fullton, a nurse that runs the Imperial Valley Child Asthma Program. A local leader in environmental justice.

The Imperial Valley Child Asthma Program (IVCAP) is a community-based grant-funded program, the only program in the Imperial County designed to improve the quality of life of children ages 0-18, with special emphasis on low-income Latino families with children ages 0-5 who suffer from asthma. Tthe program seeks to prevent or reduce hospitalizations by enhancing parental asthma management skills through care coordination, case management education, home visitations, community education, and encouraging the adoption of standards of care for asthma among medical professionals What is special about our program is the unique partnerships that allows IVCAP to provide essential asthma management coordination services to both local hospital emergency rooms, pediatric departments, and the coordination of referral services to local pediatricians and clinics. Another important aspect of the program is the asthma staff participations in different coalitions created to advocate clean air policies and a healthier environment for asthmatics.
Aide Munguia-Fullton of the Imperial Valley Child Asthma Program

DEAD SEAS
Shrinking lake spawns public health nightmare

IMPERIAL COUNTY, Calif. — A dust bowl is coming, and people here are scared.

Aide Munguia-Fulton, a nurse who runs a community program for children with asthma, has been seeing referrals for assistance soar in the last three years as the Salton Sea has begun receding due to water management schemes and a persistent drought.

Receiving 400 referrals last year alone, Munguia-Fulton has funding to enroll no more than 200 kids a year. She’s managed to include more children, but she knows the lake is expected to shrivel more quickly starting at the end of 2017, exposing thousands of acres of a dusty, toxin-laced salt bed and exacerbating already high asthma rates.

Munguia-Fulton has worked here for more than two decades, and, three years ago, she too was diagnosed with asthma. Just as she tells her patients, she hides indoors from unrelenting dust on windy days. She carries a dust mask with her at all times.

She doesn’t know how the cash-strapped area will cope if air quality continues to deteriorate.

“I am so concerned for our hospitals that are going to suffer the heavy loads,” Munguia-Fulton said. “We have to be prepared. And I know we are not.”

The recession of California’s largest lake (350 square miles) is exposing a lake bed saturated with arsenic, lead, cadmium and other toxins. By the end of 2017, the shrinking will accelerate under terms of state-backed water transfer from this agricultural area to coastal San Diego (Greenwire, June 13).

More than 100 square miles of toxic salt flat could be uncovered in the coming decades. The Pacific Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, estimates that by 2045, the lake bed could be putting 100 tons of dust per day into the air.

That dust — called coarse particulate matter by regulators — is by nature dangerous because it can penetrate deeply into the lungs. It will make breathing even more difficult in an area whose air quality already ranks among the nation’s worst because of dust from farms and desert.

That pollution is broadcast from this remote corner of southeast California by frequent wind storms whose gusts hit 80 mph.

It’s a “really salty dust, it burns your eyes,” said Bruce Wilcox of the California Natural Resources Agency. “It only lasts for 15 to 20 minutes. But it’s the longest 15 to 20 minutes of your life if you are standing in it.”

Winds carry that dust toward some 650,000 people — a population that’s expected to double in the next 30 years.

Hit hardest by prevailing north-to-south winds is the Imperial County near the Mexico border. With the state’s highest childhood asthma rates, the county is more than 80 percent Hispanic, suffers a 20 percent unemployment rate and nearly more than 1 in 3 of its children live in poverty.

North of the Salton Sea, asthma rates are also high as shifting winds carry dust there.

And new data suggest asthma rates are rising closer to the lake, local health officials say.

You can read the complete article here.