Crossing the Rubicon

Sep 25, 2019

Nancy Pelosi begins Trump impeachment inquiry after Democrats call for investigation


Sacramento Bee's KATE IRBY: "Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Tuesday that the House of Representatives would launch a formal impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, saying he had betrayed his official oath and the security of the nation in seeking Ukraine’s help in discrediting Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden."


"The actions of the Trump presidency reveal the dishonorable fact of his betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections,” Pelosi said after emerging from a meeting of House Democrats in the basement of the Capitol. “Therefore, today, I’m announcing the House of Representatives is moving forward with an impeachment inquiry."


"The announcement followed a flood of calls for impeachment from Democrats, including all of California’s seven freshmen Democrats who defeated Republican incumbents in 2018. It was a stunning development that unfolded after months of caution by congressional party members, who have been divided over using the ultimate remedy to address what they have called flagrant misconduct by the president. The inquiry has the potential to reshape Trump’s presidency and to cleave an already divided nation only a year before he plans to stand for re-election."


READ MORE related to Impeachment Inquiry: What is a formal impeachment inquiry, and what happens next for President Trump? -- Sacramento Bee's ANDREW SHEELER; California Democrats say they're ready for an inquiry -- Sacramento Bee's KATE IRBY; Democrats embrace risks -- and potential rewards -- with Trump impeachment inquiry -- McClatchy's ALEX ROARTY/DAVID CATANESE; Accusations test Biden's claim he can go toe-to-toe with Trump -- LA Times's JANET HOOK/EVAN HALPER


Edison might cut power to 89,500 amid increased fire risk to SoCal


LA Times's ALEX WIGGLESWORTH: "Swaths of Southern California face an increased fire risk Tuesday because of a combination of Santa Ana winds, high temperatures and low relative humidity, with Southern California Edison saying it could shut off power to thousands."


"On Sunday, Southern California Edison began notifying customers in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Bernardino and Riverside counties that their power may be shut off starting Tuesday. About 89,500 customers — most of them in San Bernardino and Riverside counties — could be affected, according to the utility."


"The mountains and valleys of Los Angeles and Ventura counties could see wind gusts between 25 and 40 mph, the National Weather Service said. The windy conditions are expected to persist through Wednesday morning and are also forecast along the south coast and mountains of Santa Barbara County, as well as the Central Coast."


Dry autumn winds bring fire threat -- again


SCOTT SORIANO in Capitol Weekly: "California’s relatively mellow start to the 2019 fire season may be the calm before the firestorm, according to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC)."


"California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection CAL FIRE agrees with the NIFC that when fall’s arid winds kick in — as they have in the last few days, prompting red flag alerts — California could experience another period of record wild fires. The fight against fires also is likely to be affected by a dispute with the Trump administration over money owed to local fire departments."


"CAL FIRE reports that from Jan. 1 through Sept. 8 the state had 3,993 wildfires. The number is slightly below the five-year average of 4,346 and last year’s 4,378 fires over the same time period."

For California wineries during harvest, PG&E power outages could be disastrous


The Chronicle's SHWANIKA NARAYAN/ESTHER MOBLEY: "Jon Phillips, a Santa Rosa winemaker, walked into his local hardware store in search of a generator only to learn another customer had walked out with the last one."


"I missed it by minutes,” said Phillips, who owns Inspiration Vineyards and Winery."


"For months he’s debated investing in a generator, but there was a fresh urgency Monday: PG&E warned of a planned power outage that could have affected 124,000 customers, part of a preemptive measure to lessen the risk of wildfires. PG&E ended up calling off the shut-off in Sonoma, Napa and Lake counties, but the threat remains, with outages still possible Tuesday and Wednesday."


California may postpone shutdown of power plants that kill fish and sea lions. Here's why


Sacramento Bee's DALE KASLER: "California has been pushing for years to drive fossil fuels out of its electricity grid. Now it thinks it might have tap the brakes — and keep a fleet of natural gas-fired plants operating past their scheduled expiration dates — to make sure the state has enough power."


"The proposal is prompting environmentalists to warn that California might backslide in its commitment to fighting air pollution and climate change. There’s also a threat, because of the specialized nature of these power plants, to fish species."


"California has been at the forefront of incorporating solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy into its grid. The state’s utilities get about one third of their power from renewables already; state law says they must raise that to 50 percent by 2026, 60 percent by 2030 and go completely green by 2045."

Trump threat on California highway funds may be a first. Newsom calls it payback


Sacramento Bee's DALE KASLER/SOPHIA BOLLAG: "The federal government has fought with California officials for years over the state’s chronic air pollution. It’s even threatened to withdraw highway funding from parts of the state because of selected shortcomings in California’s anti-pollution strategies."


"But the Trump administration’s threat to pull billions of dollars in highway funding from vast stretches of California over a broad range of pollution issues appears to be unprecedented."


"Critics said the threat, spelled out in a letter Monday from the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to the chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, represents payback for California’s efforts to push stricter controls on greenhouse gas emissions from cars. The Trump administration is resisting those efforts."


Will moving to Iowa hurt Kamala Harris with California voters?


The Chronicle's JOE GAROFOLI: "It started as an offhand comment Sen. Kamala Harris made to Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono last week to describe the plan to refocus her flagging campaign on the Iowa caucuses. Then it turned into a T-shirt that her husband, Douglas Emhoff, touted on Twitter:"


"I’m f—ing moving to Iowa."


"But could that tossed-off remark — now celebrated by Harris’ inner circle — come back to haunt the California Democrat if this whole White House run thing doesn’t end up at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.? Will her U.S. Senate opponent in 2022 dust this line off as an illustration of her inattentiveness to her day job?"


Stop vaping immediately, California says


Sacramento Bee's SOPHIA BOLLAG: "Californians should stop vaping until state, federal and local officials find the root cause of a mysterious lung illness linked to vaping, the California Department of Public Health announced Tuesday."


"Ninety Californians with a history of vaping have been hospitalized for breathing problems and lung damage, according to the department. Two have died."


"Several government agencies, including the California Department of Public Health, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are investigating what’s causing the illness."


California, environmental groups sue EPA over protection of SF Bay salt ponds


The Chronicle's PETER FIMRITE: "California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Bay Area conservation groups sued the Environmental Protection Agency Tuesday for failing to protect Redwood City’s salt ponds under the Clean Water Act, a decision they say will harm the San Francisco Bay ecosystem."


"The lawsuits, filed separately in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, claim the Trump administration’s decision to halt protections of many waterways, including the 1,365 acres of salt ponds, under the Obama-era Waters of the United States rule was illegal."


"It’s a sad day when the country’s ‘environmental protection agency’ looks at San Francisco Bay and doesn’t see a body of water that it should protect,” Becerra said in a statement. “This unlawful proposal is simply an attempt by the EPA to overlook its obligation to protect our nation’s waters in order to fast track development."


The oceans are taking a beating under climate change, UN report warns


LA Times's JULIA ROSEN: "The planet is in hot water — literally — and that will have dire consequences for humanity, warns a new United Nations report on the state of the world’s oceans and ice."


"Over the next century, climate change will make the oceans warmer and more acidic. Melting ice sheets will drive up sea levels at an accelerating pace. Marine heat waves will become 20 to 50 times more frequent, harming sensitive ecosystems. And the total biomass of animals in the sea could drop by as much as 15%, according to the sobering assessment by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change."


"The oceans and ice are in trouble, so we’re all in trouble,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a climate scientist at Princeton and a lead author of the report."


Plans to phase out natural gas in all new SF buildings gain traction


The Chronicle's TRISHA THADANI: "Two San Francisco supervisors announced legislation Tuesday that will eventually phase out natural gas in all new buildings constructed in San Francisco."


"Supervisor Vallie Brown introduced legislation to ban natural gas in all new construction and major renovations of municipal buildings starting Jan. 1, 2020. Supervisor Rafael Mandelman introduced an ordinance to make it more costly and difficult for developers to construct buildings with natural gas. Mandelman also said Tuesday that he will propose legislation in the next six months that will ban natural gas in all new residential and commercial buildings in San Francisco."


"These efforts in San Francisco come after Berkeley became the first city in the nation in July to ban the installation of natural gas lines in new homes. The push comes as local officials grapple with how to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy as concerns about lowering carbon footprints to combat the climate change intensify."


SF officials blast federal proposal that could kick millions off food stamps


The Chronicle's DOMINIC FRACASSA: "San Francisco city officials have joined elected leaders across the country — including mayors, governors and congressional delegations from several states — in condemning a proposed policy shift by the Trump administration that could purge millions of people nationwide from the federal food-stamp program."


"Mayor London Breed and City Attorney Dennis Herrera sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Monday calling the agency’s proposed rule change “misguided, cruel and harmful.” The proposal, if enacted, would deprive more than 3,200 low-income San Francisco households of critical food assistance. Breed and Herrera urged the agency to “withdraw the proposed rule in its entirety.” The agency received just under 80,000 comments on the proposal, some of which praised the rule change."


"Taking food from hardworking families is a new low for an administration that cuts taxes for billionaires,” Herrera said in a statement. “If this rule takes effect, families won’t be able to put enough food on the table. They’ll also have less money for other necessities, like health care and housing."


Judge moves forward felony eavesdropping case against Alameda sheriff's sergeant


The Chronicle's MEGAN CASSIDY: "A judge on Tuesday denied an Alameda County Sheriff’s sergeant’s request to reduce his four felony eavesdropping charges to misdemeanors and moved the case forward for a trial arraignment."


"Sgt. James Russell, 45, is accused of illegally recording privileged conversations between four juvenile robbery suspects and their attorney while the teens were held in custody last year at the Eden Township Substation in San Leandro."


"Alameda County Superior Court Judge Morris Jacobson’s ruling comes after a daylong preliminary hearing, where three sworn colleagues were called as defense witnesses. Defense witnesses are unusual at this stage of trial, but Russell’s attorney, Judith Odbert, called them to argue that a department policy was at odds with the law her client is accused of breaking. The witnesses also spoke about Russell’s character."


Fatalities rise in California from people stepping in front of moving trains


The Chronicle's RACHEL SWAN: "The number of people who step in the path of a moving train is ticking up each year in California, already the state with the highest number of trespasser deaths on railroads."


"In 2016, the state witnessed 232 fatalities and injuries on train tracks, not including collisions at railroad crossings, according to records from the Federal Railroad Administration. The count rose to 247 in 2017 and hovered at 246 in 2018. The administration logged 142 people hurt or dead through June of this year."


"Incidents at crossings also surged to 190 last year — up from 166 in 2017. Officials blame haste, distracted driving, the dominance of headphones and smartphones, and rising suicide rates."


Man credited with aiding arrest of Democratic donor Ed Buck says he's homeless, trying to rebuild life


LA Times's RICHARD WINTON: "He said he met Ed Buck through the dating website Adam4Adam."


"Months later, he found himself drugged inside Buck’s apartment. Authorities said the man was able to escape, and that was key in arresting the Democratic donor and West Hollywood activist last week."


"But now, as national attention has focused on the Buck case, the man who Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey said “gave us the break we needed” is without a home and facing an uncertain future."

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