How to prevent ‘megafires’

Good morning, California.

It might be one of these cases where you have to poison the Delta to save it.”— UC Davis professor Jay Lund, a water expert, as quoted by The Sacramento Bee.

One state agency uses Roundup to kill invasive weeds in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and another state agency lists the herbicide as a carcinogen. Bayer, the product’s manufacturer, says Roundup is safe.

GOP leader: How to prevent 'megafires'

Fire devastation. (Thinkstock)

After touring the Carr fire devastation in his Northern California district, Assembly Republican leader Brian Dahle on Monday added urgency to his call for legislation that would permit forest thinning to prevent fires.

Infernos this past week: Eight deaths, including six in Dahle’s district; more than 220,000 acres charred; and almost 1,000 structures destroyed. Gov. Jerry Brown has declared states of emergency for four fires and requested federal aid for the Carr fire.

Dahle sits on the special two-house legislative committee considering liability for wildfires. He said the committee also needs to streamline permits so people can “mechanically thin” forests by taking out smaller trees that fuel fires.

Dahle told me he felt sick after touring the fire zone:

“Firefighters have been set up for catastrophe. There is so much fuel out there. They’re doing the best they can, but we have to get rid of fuel.”

Dahle serves on the Sierra Nevada Conservancy board and was involved in a study two decades ago that predicted the advent of megafires. He’s also been a target in fund-raising appeals by environmentalists opposed to more logging.

What’s next: Assemblyman Jim Wood, a Democrat who also sits on the special committee on liability, represents the Santa Rosa neighborhoods devastated by last October’s fire. Wood and Dahle are allies on the need to act to implement steps to prevent fires.

CA v Trump on pesticides

Former U.S. EPA director Scott Pruitt.

A panel of California scientists urged regulators Monday to list a widely used agricultural pesticide as a toxic air contaminant, a step the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency opted against taking.

Chlorpyrifos, manufactured by Dow Chemical, is used on 60 crops including citrus, almonds, and grapes. Its use has declined from 2 million pounds used a decade ago to 900,000 pounds in 2016.

A scientific review panel of the state Department of Pesticide Regulation concluded the insecticide is a neurotoxin and places children at risk. The recommendation to the state Department of Pesticide Regulation won’t result in an immediate ban. But it likely will result in tighter restrictions on chlorpyrifos’ use, assuming the state takes final action later this year or early in 2019.

Californians for Pesticide Reform told the state: “Action is needed to address unsafe exposures – even before further refinement to the risk analysis is conducted.”

Citrus and cotton growers: “Chlorpyrifos is an important crop protection tool for California producers … The listing of chlorpyrifos as a toxic air contaminant will add restrictions on its use that would very likely eliminate it as a viable product in California.”

The Obama administration moved to regulate the product. But President Donald Trump’s first EPA director, Scott Pruitt, intervened to delay that action.

An alternative: Chlorpyrifos is an old-style pesticide. Newer pesticides, known as neonicotinoids, may be less toxic to humans but have been associated with bee deaths.

California Dream: Why our birth rate is falling

Angela George’s newborn Mateo takes a nap in her arms. (Photo by Amita Sharma).

California’s birth rate is lagging the nation, and experts are blaming the high cost of housing and life’s other necessities.

Angela George is a nurse who gave birth to a baby boy named Mateo 10 weeks ago and wants a second child, KPBS’ Amita Sharma reports in the latest install of the California Dream project, in collaboration with CALmatters.

But she and her husband, Tacito who is a Marine, are weighing the reality of the high cost of housing and childcare, and thinking long and hard.

George: “We’re really thinking we should just have one. It breaks my heart. It really does.”

The impact ripples beyond any one couple. Dowell Myers, a professor of urban planning and demography at the University of Southern California:

“Those kids are important for all of us because they are our future taxpayers and homebuyers. If you don’t have those kids, who’s going to buy my house? Who’s going to pay the taxes to support me in my old age?”

Congressman Ron Dellums, 1935-2018

Former Congressman Ron Dellums, an anti-war activist who became an enemy of President Richard Nixon, died Monday. He was 82.

Spiro Agnew, Nixon’s first vice-president, called Dellums a “radical extremist” for his stand against the Vietnam War. Dellums got his start as a Berkeley City Councilman, became House Armed Services Committee chairman, and succeeded Jerry Brown as Oakland mayor in 2007.

In 2000, he told journalist and author Ethan Rarick, then of the Contra Costa Times:

“Our generation didn’t make the world perfect, but our generation changed the world. I will die confident we changed the world. We ended the war in Vietnam. We stopped the deployment of a whole lot of mad nuclear weapons out there. … We did start to grapple with the overt vestiges of institutional racism. We did open the doors for women. Now it’s up to the next generation to take it forward.”

Walters: Community colleges vital to CA’s future

CALmatters’ commentator Dan Walters writes about big changes coming to the California Community College system, some of them pushed by Gov. Jerry Brown, who began his political career a half-century ago as a community college trustee in Los Angeles. And those changes ought to be welcome.

Walters: “California has a looming shortage of college-educated workers and if the gap is to be closed, community colleges must be full partners and not merely academic stepchildren.”



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