Fracking fight on local ballots

Oct 20, 2014

A proposed statewide fracking ban sank in the legislature this session, but a local ordinance on the ballot next month could have statewide implications.  Paul Rogers has the story in the San Jose Mercury News.


“Activists in San Benito County have placed a closely watched measure on the Nov. 4 ballot to outlaw hydraulic fracturing, the controversial oil-extraction technique known as fracking….


"’I'm hoping every community in California will emulate this,’ said Andy Hsia-Coron, a retired schoolteacher in San Juan Bautista who backs the measure. ‘Too many decisions are compromised by money. We have more potential for democracy reviving itself at the local level.’"


Corruption scandals cost Democrats their super-majority in the state senate this year.  Races in two districts – one in Orange County, one in the Central Valley - will likely decide if they get it back.  From Patrick McGreevy in the Los Angeles Times


“Those two battlegrounds have drawn much of the attention and money of both major parties as the Nov. 4 election approaches. The races are the only two so far in which Gov. Jerry Brown has intervened with broadcast ads for the Democratic candidates….


"’If Republicans can win both of those seats, it will be seen as their first step back toward political relevance in California,’ said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. ‘But if Democrats get the supermajority back, it's difficult to see California becoming a two-party state again any time in the near future.’”


The Democrat-on-Democrat assembly race to replace Isadore Hall is getting ugly, and creating some strange bedfellows.  In Sunday’s Bee, Dan Morain looked at the unlikely coalition seeking to shut down Prophet Walker – and why.


“The Alliance for California’s Tomorrow includes doctors, nurses and firefighters, and oil companies, insurance conglomerates, payday lenders, casino owners and the world’s largest cigarette company, Philip Morris U.S.A.


“On behalf of California’s tomorrow, the Alliance seeks to destroy the Assembly candidacy of a 26-year-old Democrat named Prophet Walker.”


Opponents of Prop 46 have spent more than $50 million to oppose the campaign. Their efforts appear to be working: polls indicate that early support for the measure has eroded.   But, one part of the measure remains popular with voters, drug testing doctors.  Sigrid Bathen looks at the controversial ballot prop for Capitol Weekly.


“The issue of testing doctors for drug use is a key part of Proposition 46, which has become the focus of huge campaign spending — most of it spent to defeat the initiative.  The measure also would raise the cap on pain and suffering awards in medical malpractice cases, which has been $250,000 since the 1970s, to reflect cost-of-living increases. If approved, the new cap would be about $1.1 million.


“The tragic deaths of two young children in 2003, killed by a drug-impaired driver who had been prescribed prescription narcotics by several doctors – a practice called “doctor-shopping” — helped spark the measure, which would also require physicians to consult a state prescription database before prescribing addictive drugs.”


Desalination has long been seen as a possible solution for some of the state’s water woes, but regulations and the expense have kept large-scale operations in the planning stages  in California – until now.  The Sacramento Bee’s Matt Weiser went to Carlsbad, where the largest desalination plant in the US is being built.


“Reverse-osmosis desalination was invented in California in the 1950s. But other nations with fewer natural freshwater supplies – Israel, Australia, Saudi Arabia and others – embraced the technology first and built dozens of projects over the past few decades. When the Carlsbad plant begins operating in 2016, it will be the largest desalination project ever built in the Americas…


“The eyes of a thirsty state are trained on this project: It is a crucial test for an industry eager to expand in California, where residents are famously protective of their coastline and also accustomed to relatively cheap water. In short, the Carlsbad project is challenging California’s status quo while also offering the tantalizing prospect of relief from drought.”


Speaking of water, drought-stricken California can take a lesson from some university students in England who have come up with a novel idea to help conserve water: encouraging students to pee in the shower.  The “Go With the Flow” campaign at the University of East Anglia claims their plan will save 15 gallons per person, per day.   From the BBC:


“The Go with the Flow campaign is the brainchild of students Debs Torr and Chris Dobson, from the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich.


“They want the university's 15,000 students to take their first wee of the day while having their morning shower.


“Mr Dobson, 20, said the idea could ‘save enough water to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool 26 times.’”


h/t to Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me for that one….