Clarity Blog

Clarity Blog

Posts Tagged ‘environmentalists’

Crazifornia: Regulating the rockets’ red glare

The following article by Laer appears on today’s Daily Caller website:

It should come as no surprise that the leftist legislators and authoritarian bureaucrats who run California are vehemently opposed to fireworks shows. After all, the shows are always fun and usually patriotic.

And against them they are. The California Coastal Commission has led the charge with a multi-year assault on the Sea World theme park in San Diego, which blasts fireworks over Mission Bay every night. That effort shipwrecked on the rocks of Sea World’s considerable political clout and even more considerable legal budget, so the Commission looked for a more vulnerable, less wealthy target.

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Brown Takes on Greens over (Some) Anti-Growth Litigation

Governor Brown almost sounded like a frustrated land developer earlier today when he talked about the impact litigation by environmental activists has on projects that are essential to meeting California’s demographic growth and protecting its frail economy.  Unfortunately, he wasn’t talking about the ecos’ endless legal challenges to new housing developments.

From the Sacramento Bee:

“In Oakland, I learned that some kind of opposition you have to crush,” Brown, the city’s former mayor, said at a renewable energy conference in Los Angeles.  “Talk a little bit, but at the end of the day you have to move forward, and California needs to move forward with our renewable energy.”

Brown said his office will “act to overcome the opposition,” helping projects overcome permitting and environmental challenges. The Democratic governor announced Friday that he had filed a legal brief urging a federal judge to deny litigation seeking to block a solar energy project in the Mojave Desert.

Yes, the governor is willing to “crush” the very environmentalists who were his strong supporters in the 2010 election – but only as long as it’s over government-subsidized alternative energy schemes. Providing housing for Californians? Rebooting the failed economy? Putting thousands back to work? That’s apparently not worth fighting for.

We’re not sure what we feel about government “crushing” environmental litigators. Having seen them slow so many very well-planned new home communities, driving up costs for consumers and driving down profits for businesses in the process, we confess we’re a bit tickled by the idea.

But two things bother us:  First, we can’t deny we’re sticklers for due process and are more than a little concerned when government gets heavy-handed and agenda-driven.  And second, we’d like to see an acknowledgment that useless litigation is just as bad when it’s used as a tool against home builders and, ultimately, home buyers.

Fact-Checking Democrats’ Water Statement

Last week’s Congressional water hearing in Fresno, if nothing else, produced thousands of acre-feet of hyperbole – if politically expedient but morally challenged statements can be measured that way.  The Natural Resource Defense Council’s particularly reprehensible propaganda is discussed in the post below; this post focuses on an article covering the position of Congressional Democrats regarding the hearing, “California Lawmakers Seek Statewide Approach to Water Supply.”

The article quotes Grace Napolitano as the lead spokesperson for the Dems.  We like Napolitano on water issues.  Her district runs from East Los Angeles to Pomona, so she understands that her constituents are largely dependent on water delivered to Southern California from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the Colorado River.  As the former chair and current ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Water and Power, she has done a lot to support a Delta solution and to bring federal dollars to groundwater clean-up, recycling and desalination efforts.

Fortunately for our positive view of Napolitano (just on water issues, mind you), the statement that we’re fact-checking here was not attributed to the Congresswoman, so we must credit it to the editors and writers at Environmental Protection, where the article appeared.  Here it is:

Last year, the state reported that the closure of salmon fishing cost the economy at least $250 million. Recent studies have estimated that nearly 2,000 salmon fishermen have been unable to work over the last three years, job loss figures comparable to the number of farm workers who could not work due to pumping restrictions during the drought. (emphasis added)

On its face, this statement is true.  Job losses among salmon fishers are comparable to job losses among farm workers who couldn’t find work because drought and environmental restrictions shut of the spigot to many Central Valley farms.  The comparison is this:  Salmon industry job losses are probably one percent or so of agricultural job losses.

In the town of Mendota alone, which I visited when its unemployment rate hit 38 percent at the peak of the weather-and-regulatory drought, if we assume half of the town’s population of 10,000 is made up of workers, then 1,900 people were unemployed in that town alone. There are towns like Mendota every few miles throughout the  Central Valley, so the editors of Environmental Protection are guilty of minimizing human suffering for political gain, a not uncommon but always unwise tactic.

Besides, there is no consensus whatsoever that the decline in California salmon populations can be tied to pumping water south from the Delta.  In fact, the consensus seems to be shifting to blaming any number of other causes, including ammonia from sewage treatment plants, predation by non-native striped bass, oceanic conditions’ impact on salmon food supply, overpopulation of protected predatory sea mammals, and others.

Everything I’ve learned in a career in public affairs and strategic communications tells me the complex debate over California water supply and the challenging (and likely impossible) effort to find a course of action that pleases all constituents is not furthered by this sort of destructive and divisive language.

Watered-Down Truth

It’s interesting that the Natural Resource Defense Council’s blog is called “Switchboard,” since switchboards use electricity, and electricity is, you know, destroying the planet.  Be that as it may, the blog is often a source for remarkably thoughtful dissertations from an environmental perspective, so I read it regularly.

Today, however, Switchboard switched me back to the Cold War, when the Soviet propaganda machine was churning out half-truths nonstop.  How can one forget the Pravda headline about a baseball game that said “Soviets come in second, US next to last,” without mentioning only two teams were playing?

NRDC staffer Doug Obegi is at the same game with his post today,Important Facts for Today’s Congressional Hearing on California Water Supply.” His use of the word “facts” might as well have a big red star on it, for it’s a very loose interpretation of the whole concept of truth.  (For a more balanced report on the hearing, read this Fresno Bee article.)

Here’s his first “fact:”  “ESA protections have had no impact on water allocations this year.”  That’s like saying it rained a little after Noah built his ark.  The 2010-2011 rain year was one of the wettest in history, with nearly 80 feet of snow falling in the Sierras, so more than enough water is flowing through the Sacrament0-San Joaquin Delta to allow the pumps to run, despite Endangered Species Act protections on Delta smelt and salmon.  It wasn’t that way last year and it’s not likely to be that way next year.

Besides, it’s only April of “this year.” Who knows where we’ll be in August or December?

Obegi also points to the “fact” that “Recently, lack of demand completely shut down the Delta pumps.”  Are we to believe that everyone in every Southern California metropolis suddenly packed up and moved to Pago Pago, Tahiti? That every farmer in the Central Valley decided that fallowing fields was the new way to sudden wealth?  Of course not – it’s the Noah’s ark thing again, showing the author is not afraid to make a dishonest point twice.

Then there’s Obegi’s argument that protecting the endangered species of the Delta protects jobs. That’s true – but just barely.  If one focuses only on the Delta, and only on the fisheries jobs in the Delta – a $250 million industry in the best of years – we can nod our heads and give Obegi a kudo.  But, pardon the pun, the Delta fisheries industry is small fry by California standards.  Pumping curtailments in 2009 and early 2010 caused billions of dollars in losses to Central Valley agriculture alone, and forced water users throughout much of the state to pay billions more for water due to rate increases.

There are many more similar corruptions of the public dialog in the piece, but I can’t end without bringing up Obegi’s characterization of the 2009 legislative water package.  Laer Pearce & Associates used our public affairs contacts and skills to shore up support for the package among the Orange County delegation, so we can take some credit in its passage – which is why Obegi’s characterization is so offensive.  Here it is:

California Law Requires Reducing Reliance on the Delta and Strengthening Environmental Protections

In 2009, California adopted a landmark package of water legislation, and established a state policy of reducing reliance on water exports from the Delta and investing in regional tools like water efficiency, wastewater recycling, groundwater cleanup, and stormwater capture. Instead of waiving environmental laws, this legislation strengthened environmental protections in the Bay-Delta. These policies are the cornerstone of a 21st Century water policy for California, and are the most cost-effective way for California to prepare for the next drought.

What the legislation actually required was recognition of the “co-equal goals” of, first, protecting and enhancing the Delta’s ecosystem and, first (since that what co-equal means), ensuring a reliable water supply.   He’s right that the legislation heightened protections on the Delta (so why is he so freaked out?), but he’s wrong in saying the environmental protections are the cornerstone of 21st Century water policy for the state. The cornerstone is the co-equal goals, and trying to pretend it’s otherwise is just like pretending the Soviet team came in ahead of the U.S. one in that baseball game Pravda covered.

Obegi should apologize to his readers for assuming they’re a bunch of rubes instead of well-informed citizens. And maybe the NRDC should commit to telling the truth instead of propagating propaganda.

Laer’s Op/Ed on CalWatchdog

Laer is becoming quite the prolific op/ed writer.  His latest appeared today on the Pacific Research Institute’s CalWatchdog blog.  Here’s an enticing bit of it:

If Gov. Jerry Brown has any chance of draining California’s budget swamp of red ink, he’s going to need more than aggressive spending cuts and votes for more taxes, as he proposes. He’s also going to need a resurgence in California’s business environment, but at one of the state’s few commerce success stories, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, there are more signs of classic California non-competitiveness than there are of a return to health for the state’s business sector.

Yes, activity is up by single digits over last year at the ports, which are America’s busiest, as companies slowly bring in more goods from Asia to rebuild inventories they had let drop through the Great Recession. But even as more than 12 million containers will be unloaded at Southern California docks this year, there are grave threats to the future of Southern California’s logistics behemoths, and they’re posed by exactly the same elements that threaten the rest of the state’s economy – powerful unions and California’s incessant compulsion to be a world leader in the environmental movement without thought to the cost.

Please read the rest of the op/ed by clicking through to CalWatchdog.

Happy New Year, You’re the Bane of the World’s Existence

The Center for Biological Depravity…er, Diversity, announced its top 11 priorities for bringing the U.S. economy to a halt in 2011.  It was going to go with 12, but making sure Jerry Brown appointed an ultra-enviro to head California’s Resources Agency has already been crossed off the list.

As you’d imagine, this year’s agenda is filled with plans to protect a whole slew of species from various man-made dangers.  If you’re a wolf or a bluefin tuna, this just might be your year.  Humans…not so much.  After taking baby steps last year, the Center hid in the middle of its list a rather Maoist priority to “Challenge the Overpopulation Paradigm.”  That’s right Joe Citizen, you and your 2.3 adorable kids (and their future kids) now have big fat target on your back.  As if an economic meltdown and global terrorism weren’t enough.

We’ll continue to encourage other groups to tackle overpopulation this year. We’ll distribute hundreds of thousands of condoms and ramp up the overpopulation dialogue through high-profile projects, including a study on the connection between overpopulation and diminishing water supplies in the Lower Colorado River Basin, the Center’s unique newsletter, Pop X, and targeted actions to Congress.

We’ll be interested to see their study on the Colorado River, which is facing challenges.  But that’s more so from several years of drought than too many newborns from too many “What Happens in Vegas…” nights.

Maybe the Center is grabbing for headlines to boost its coffers.  Maybe it’s tired of fighting on the environmental front lines and has chosen to try the back door.  Maybe it just doesn’t care for chubby babies with good short games.  Maybe all of the above.

Either way, it’s time to come to grips with the fact that you and your family are the bane of the world’s existence.  Happy New Year!

Read the rest of the Center’s 2011 priorities here.

Water Weekly 3: I’m Backin’ Up

What were the three biggest California water stories of the past seven days?  Well, the news-heads and policy wonks here at Laer Pearce & Associates have compiled them for you here.  You’ll find the Big Three here every Thursday, or you can follow LPAWater on Twitter for up-to-the-minute news and analysis. You can also sign up to receive the Weekly 3 via email here.  This week:

Back to the Drawing Board

This week, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service teetered in the latest Sacramento Delta teeter-totter, as did its friends among the more radical environmental groups.  Judge Oliver Wanger threw out the Service’s current Delta smelt biological opinion – basically the fed’s fishy protection plan – calling portions of it arbitrary, capricious, biased and, overall, a failure in justifying the pumping cutbacks that have hurt farmers and city-dwellers alike.  Cheers and howls followed – but we know what’s next:  just more studies and more strife.  We have to ask, though: Just how much more lousy federal science can we tolerate?

Breeze through the 225-page decision here

Read the best news coverage of the decision here

And for the “fish not folks” side, read this

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The Weekly 3: Land Development

August 2, 2010

What are the three biggest stories each week in the world of California land development?  You’ll find them right here each Monday, or follow LP&A all week long on Twitter at @LPALand for up-to-the-minute news and analysis.  This week:

What could you do with this raw land?

1. Builders beginning to buy raw land with eye on market turnaround.

Standard Pacific CEO Ken Campbell made the news recently when he predicted a 2014 housing comeback and said he’s buying raw land in a big way.  That’s a sure sign the supply of already-approved lots is drying up … and it also means there will be a new wave of activism from the environmentalist/NIMBY cabal.  New legislation and policy have prioritized infill development and attempted to make greenfield development neighborhood non grata in California.  That will make entitlement a challenge … but one with great potential financial upsides for those who purchase wisely.

>> Read More

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The Weekly 3: Land Development

What are the three biggest stories each week in the world of California land development?  You’ll find them right here each Monday, or follow LP&A all week long on Twitter at @LPALand for up-to-the-minute news and analysis.  This week:

1. Is Developing Alameda Point worth the hassle?

Alameda Point - What Could Have Been

The city of Alameda voted last week to terminate an exclusive negotiating agreement with SunCal for development of the city’s former Navy base, which closed 15 years ago.  SunCal invested nearly $15 million during its four-year process, but was stymied by ever-changing political winds, a city staff with personal agendas and a public that’s not happy without a fight on its hands.  SunCal came on board in 2006 after a partnership of Shea and Catellus got fed up and walked away, which begs the question:  Is developing Alameda Point worth the hassle?  >>Read More

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Water Bond Battle Already Underway

cali-aqueduct2We recently attended the Southern California Water Committee board of directors meeting and were very pleased by that group’s early and unanimous support of the $11 billion water bond that will be on this November’s ballot.

Laer Pearce & Associates played a small but important part in getting the comprehensive water legislation passed last November, pulling together a coalition of important local business organizations and taking their pro-water message to Orange County’s Sacramento delegation. We’re proud that an OC senator, Tom Harmon, was the deciding vote in favor of the bond.
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