A ten-point plan to improve natural resource management in California and ensure outdoor recreation opportunities for our growing urban populations.
Bill Jones on the Environment
Stewardship for the next generations . . .
Commitment to environmental progress helps define the California way of life. The natural beauty of this state has drawn millions to come here to build their lives, and to stay here and enjoy the bounty of our coast, mountains, valleys, rivers, and deserts.
But our growing population also poses continuing challenges to our ability to maintain our progress towards clean air, safe water, and preservation of our native lands. Each year, we drive more, we need more land for housing and jobs, and we need reasonably priced food, energy, and other resources to maintain our quality of life. We can meet these challenges, but it requires a renewed application of the California creative spirit to develop the tools to meet our environmental challenges of tomorrow.
As a third generation farmer and rancher in California, Bill Jones believes in the adage that we are all stewards of the land. Each generation must leave the land in better shape for the next, and this responsibility holds true in private life as well as an ethic to be followed for the state as a whole:
In approaching our environmental challenges, Bill Jones recognizes that the goal is to meet the needs of our population. They demand clean air and safe water. They want inner city sites cleaned up quickly and returned to productive use. They want recreational opportunities, whether the chance of a wilderness experience, parks in our urban settings, or beaches free from pollution or access restrictions. They also want government to make these decisions, and fulfill the environmental promises made by the federal agencies over 30 years ago and California agencies some 40 years ago.
- California has the country's pre-eminent environmental programs, surpassing the talent, resources, and effectiveness of the national programs in most cases. But continued progress by California in meeting its environmental goals is often hampered by the fact that there are too many agencies with different sets of rules. California's environmental challenges must be solved with California solutions, and not held back by federal rules that have been designed to meet the lowest common denominator of the differing needs of 50 states.
- The current situation is made more difficult by the fact that federal agencies have surrendered much of their decision authority to special interests in Washington acting through the courts. Whether in the case of endangered species listings or EPA rulemakings or critical forest management, the timing and allocation of federal environmental resources is now driven more by litigation brought by special interests rather than a reasoned program of environmental management. This situation creates more process for bureaucracy's sake at a time the public is calling on government to simply do its job--to protect their health and safety along with the natural resources that define the California way of life.
- The federal process and its enormous costs in time and paperwork must be brought under control. The federal EPA alone administers 10 comprehensive environmental statutes, with thousands of pages of federal regulations. After 30 plus years of federal experience with modern environmental management, it is past time to look at how the environmental goals can be achieved smarter, better, and quicker. We need to bring the 19th Century concept of bureaucracy into the 21st Century of technology and information exchange. We need to do more with the federal resources at hand to bolster the efforts and success of the front-line programs at the state and local levels.
By contrast, Barbara Boxer touts herself as an environmental leader, but her record shows little of substance to address the day-to-day environmental needs of Californians. The legislative successes she can claim are protecting dolphins in the South Pacific, elephants in Africa, and caribou in Alaska. These are worthy issues in themselves, but they reflect the environmental priorities of the San Francisco elite, not the day-to-day needs of the California population as whole.
Far too many of California's environmental needs have languished at the federal level. Californians deserve action now, and Bill Jones will provide new leadership in the Senate on the following issues to put our state in better shape for the next generations to come:
1. Redirect Federal environmental dollars from supporting bureaucracy to cleaning our environment. Federal environmental grants should be combined into a block grant to the State, to be spent on the critical environmental needs identified by Californians. California's state and local environmental agencies receive funds from a wide range of federal environmental programs. All too often, these federal funds must be spent according to federal rules and on federal agency priorities, regardless of whether those choices make the best sense for California. Additional environmental dollars are wasted on grant applications and red tape, rather than being spent directly on environmental improvement.
2. Protect our coast by enacting lasting solutions to ban offshore oil and gas. Barbara Boxer has made much of the offshore oil issue throughout all of her political career. But like much of her environmental record, she has kept offshore oil alive as a wedge issue, and has yet to secure a lasting solution to what the California public demands. In her 22 years in Congress, Boxer has offered, sponsored, or joined in dozens of bills, amendments, and resolutions related to offshore oil in federal waters off California. Boxer points to this record as demonstration of her environmental commitment, yet, the federal program continues off our coast.
Of her measures that have passed, Boxer has offered little in the way of permanent solutions. Her approach has been temporary delays, calls for studies, and resolutions and letters with no force of law that have kept these activities alive to be milked for political gain another day. Even with her own party in control of Congress and the White House, Boxer was unable to muster the support of her own political allies to end offshore oil drilling in California.
Enough is enough. More than most other issues, the California public has been clear and consistent in stating their opposition to new drilling offshore. To bring an end to this issue:
The confusing array of state, local, federal, and international agencies involved in the Territorial Sea has fed offshore oil as a political issue for over 30 years. It is time we put the resources under the control of one agency--the State--who will make decisions in the best interests of the California public.
- Buy out the 36 undeveloped leases off the coast of Southern California. The federal government entered into a similar agreement for areas off Florida, and what's good for that state will work here as well. The Department of Justice has now begun settlement negotiations with the leaseholders that can provide a framework for this type of deal. The level of participation needs to be raised, and the necessary implementing actions enacted quickly by Congress.
- To ensure that these or other lease areas off our coast are not offered again in the future, transfer the remainder of the Territorial Sea to the coastal states. California--like every other state except Texas and Florida--controls only the first three miles off our coast. Extending State ownership over the full 12 miles of the Territorial Sea would bring all developed and undeveloped federal leases under State jurisdiction, severely reduce the number of agencies with decisions over offshore oil leasing in California, and place this issue squarely under State determination. President Reagan secured the 12 miles as Territorial Sea, and it is time to bring in state ownership as the final step in his initiative.
3. Develop the energy resources for tomorrow's economy. To ensure lasting protection for our coast, we must reduce our reliance on imported oil and gas. The current federal offshore oil program was born in the economic crises of the oil shocks of the 1970s and 1980s. The recent OPEC decisions to keep oil prices high by cutting back on production is a stark reminder that we remain as vulnerable today as we were then. Every Californian is now seeing the results in their gas prices, and cannot keep our coast at risk to crisis management under such conditions.
- Renew the federal commitment to the health of our oceans. Our coastal and marine resources play a critical role in the economy and quality of life of California. The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy just released their recommendations on steps to ensure improved management of these key resources. Congress must act soon to review and implement the needed measures.
If we are not to develop the offshore oil resources, we need better efforts to produce from our onshore resources where feasible and environmentally sound, including greater use of slant drilling where the risks can be controlled. And as major consumers of energy--in particular imported energy of every form--Californians cannot simply say no to offshore oil and then expect the rest of the nation to take up the slack.
We cannot solve our future energy needs by simply voicing the politically correct calls for more conservation and a move away from fossil fuels. The public needs fuel to get to work and get their children to school. We need power for our homes and jobs. We have attained a standard of living, and we want California to be even better for those who come after us. We won't meet these energy needs simply by wearing more sweaters or by telling others to stop consuming:
Many of these technologies are now under development--and many of these in California universities and national labs. We need to speed their commercialization by the same scientific force used in the Manhattan Project, creation of Silicon Valley, and the race to the Moon.
- In the short term, we need to increase dramatically the use of alternative energies that are commercially viable today--wind energy, solar applications, and liquid fuels such as ethanol that can be easily blended into our existing distribution systems and provide immediate environmental and energy security benefits.
- In the longer term, we need the federal equivalent of a Manhattan Project for energy independence. Both President Bush and Governor Schwarzenegger have committed to the rapid commercialization of hydrogen fuels. Fuel cell technology has made tremendous strides as a result of California's low and zero emission vehicle programs. New distributed energy technologies hold promise to solve the State's pending electricity problems. Energy efficiency that improves our productivity can rebuild the State's competitiveness in the world economy.
4. Secure a safe and reliable water supply for California's needs. The CalFed project was started 10 years ago to provide solutions to California's needs for improved water quality and water supply reliability for urban, agricultural, and environmental uses from the San Francisco Bay-Delta system. Bill Jones was an early leader in securing the initial funding for this massive undertaking which continues today as one of the largest environmental restoration efforts in the nation's history:
Since these early actions, the State has maintained its financial obligations to fund the CalFed projects, but Congress has failed to meet their share. CalFed is now literally making decisions every month to maintain compliance with their Record of Decision on the projects needed to secure the state's water supply, and the ten years of this program are now in jeopardy if the federal agencies do not step up to the plate to meet their commitments as well:
- Co-sponsor of Proposition 204, a bond issue that provided $1 billion for Bay-Delta improvements, water recycling, water supply rehabilitation, ecosystem restoration, and flood control. This measure was the largest water bond package approved by the voters since the 1962 funding for the State Water Project.
- By working with both parties in Congress, secured over $500 million in matching funds as the federal share for the initial actions under the CalFed program.
And with water, we have not added significant new storage for 30 years, and today our state is more vulnerable to drought than ever before. The dramatic supply shortfalls to 50% of deliveries and increasing water quality and fishery problems now being caused by severe drought along the Colorado River are affecting our supplies from that source. More importantly, they presage the larger problems for the state that could result from drought coming back to the Sierras and Northern California.
- Congress must pass a significant CalFed funding appropriation. This program is now in jeopardy due to the failure of the federal government to meet its funding commitment in recent years.
- California must continue to improve water supply reliability through a menu of solutions that includes greater flexibility in operations between the state and federal water projects and additional storage to meet future urban, agriculture, and environmental needs. California spent 20 years ignoring its infrastructure. We stopped building new roads, and we created congestion. We did not build new power plants, and when demand grew past supply, we had blackouts. We have not built new refineries, and as our gasoline use exceeds that supply, prices are skyrocketing.
5. Restore the health of our national forests. Last year's fires in Southern California demonstrated the dire consequences that can result when environmental agencies cannot do their job. For too many years, the battles between competing special interests tied up forestry management programs in litigation and process and inaction. Without active management, federal forests continued to increase their fuel loadings, and drought conditions further worsened the situation by increasing the trees' susceptibility to bark beetle and other infestations.
The threat of forest fires will increase as our wildland interface becomes more complex as a result on California's continued growth. In the absence of further action, more structures and lives will be at risk, and the damages from each event will get worse:
In 1997, after years of clear-cutting through the national forest land north of Lake Tahoe and countless arguments over the future of timber harvests in the region, an accord was reached between Sierra Pacific Industries (the biggest logger in the region), the U.S. Forest Service, California-based environmental groups, and affected local citizens. The meetings began in the Quincy Public Library in 1992 partly because participants could not shout at each other in a library.
- California is now pursuing an expedited program of forest management on state and private lands to reduce the risk of fires. The federal forests need to join in and coordinate their actions closely with state and local efforts.
- Forest management must refocus their efforts to sustainable resource management. Just as water quality is now benefiting from multi-stakeholder efforts through watershed management and planning, federal forests can benefit as well from partnership efforts such as the Quincy Library Group that provided greater cooperation between the state, federal, and local interests.
In July 1997, Senators Boxer and Feinstein introduced a bill together to implement the Quincy Library Group plan. However, by the fall of 1997, nationally based environmental groups began lobbying against the bill, saying it was too friendly to the timber industry. Opponents of the plan took out a full-page ad in the New York Times depicting a cartoon of Boxer and Feinstein dragging a Trojan horse up the steps of the U.S. Capitol. In December 1997, Boxer pulled her support from the measure, and ". . . Began blasting the Quincy proposal and praising her own environmental credentials. [Boxer's] about-face seems nothing other than a capitulation to national environmental organizations that are attempting to squash the grass roots Quincy effort." [Sacramento Bee, December 19, 1997]
6. Complete the Tahoe Environmental Improvement Program (EIP). The Tahoe EIP is capital program designed to restore the Tahoe Basin in nine environmental program areas. In 1997, California, Nevada, and the federal government agreed to share the over $900 million cost of this effort. To date, California and Nevada are ahead in their 10-year funding commitment:
7. Improve urban recreation opportunities. The focus of federal lands legislation all too often remains on major land acquisitions or redirection of producing lands into preserves and wilderness designations. While many proposals have merit, they continue to add to the financial burden on the federal lands and parks agencies, and divert limited funds away from critical maintenance and visitor serving activities.
- The federal government must meet its share for full funding of the EIP, with a particular emphasis on O&M costs as the capital improvements are completed.
- The federal government must join with the state in its fuel management efforts to reduce the risk of fire in this critical environmental region.
Equally important, these additions and redesignations often miss critical recreation needs of California's growing population. Many of our urban and suburban areas lack adequate green space and parks serving the immediate needs of our citizens. According to Trust for Public Land, Los Angeles as a whole is at the national average (for high density cities) of 4.2 acres of parks and open space per 1000 people, but wide areas such as the south central area are critically short, down to 0.3 acres per 1000 people.
As the state's population grows, the need for recreation, parks, and open space opportunities closer to where people live will grow in importance. Federal sources such as the Land and Water Conservation fund must take these needs into account.
8. EPA must meet its commitments under the Federal Clean Air Act. The federal process for developing a federally-approved clean air plan (State Implementation Plan or "SIP") remains backwards and continues to place the onus of federal failures on the states and local regions. This issue will increase in importance as a result of the recently revised federal clean air standards.
Under federal law, states are pre-empted from regulating certain emission sources, primarily interstate transport and certain engine classes (the "federal sources"). EPA is required to promulgate regulations for these sources, but often has missed the deadlines and frequently does not adopt controls that achieve the maximum level of technologically and economically feasible emission reductions. Furthermore, these emission reductions are often unknown at the time the state and local air districts prepare their plans, leaving them to guess on how much to allocate as a federal responsibility. If the federal EPA then fails to achieve what the state considers feasible, the state and local air districts are the ones who are penalized and required to come up with even more costly replacement measures.
This issue is of primary importance to California. We have two of the most difficult air quality problems in the nation (Southern California and San Joaquin Valley), and continued adoption of California-only measures in the transportation and manufacturing arenas can serve as a disincentive for needed job growth.
9. The federal superfund programs must refocus their efforts to finish site cleanups. The federal superfund program under the 1980 Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation & Liability Act (CERCLA) has largely failed in its purpose. After 23 years of operation, the program has succeeded in cleaning up only 17.5% of the sites listed on the National Priorities List (as of the end of FY03).
- The federal portion of SIPs should be replaced with a performance-based emissions target. This allows states and local air districts to complete their planning and regulations development with greater certainty on the federal contribution to clean air. This change would provide more equity, by ensuring the federal government lives up to its commitments as a partner in environmental betterment.
This program began with the intent of returning contaminated sites to productive use. But the fundamental flaws in the effort have led to drawn-out process, delayed decisions, and more built-in incentives to litigate rather than resolve the decisions needed to clean these sites.
The program originally was supported by taxes on crude oil and certain chemicals, later supplemented by a broader tax on businesses in the US. This funding authority expired in 1995, and today continued remedial actions are supported by cost recovery against responsible parties, fines, and some general funding from EPA's budget.
EPA itself has recognized the challenges of this program, and instead diverts most new sites into alternative programs, including their Brownfield program, Superfund Alternative Sites program, and state efforts that have been successful in cleaning far more sites than the federal effort.
Barbara Boxer has called for reinstating the Superfund taxes. However, raising taxes on oil at a time of high gasoline prices and adding new taxes to business at a time of economy recovery make little sense under most circumstances. This action is even less justified for a program with less than an 18% success rate in over 2 decades of operation:
10. Remove low level radioactive waste from our neighborhoods. Barbara Boxer counts among her environmental successes the opposition to the Ward Valley low level radioactive waste disposal site. This project was proposed in accordance with California's obligations under federal law, and would have provided a central disposal facility for these wastes from hospitals, research labs, businesses, schools, construction, energy, and a wide variety of other sources.
- EPA should continue to be held accountable for its performance on the Superfund sites by having to compete for general funding before Congress. The concept of "polluter pays" remains since EPA is required to seek reimbursements from those parties who actually caused the pollution. The old concept of taxing all businesses for the actions of a few violates this principle.
- EPA needs to provide greater assistance to the states in their Brownfield programs, particularly states such as California that pioneered this concept. States have the incentive to move sites through the process quicker, remove this blight, and restore these lands to productive use in their communities. Funding assistance can expedite these actions along with delegating CERCLA certification authority to the states, consistent with clean-up standards and decision process of the state Brownfield programs.
However, after leading the efforts to stop the Ward Valley proposal, Boxer has since done nothing to remove these wastes from hundreds of temporary storage sites in our cities and our neighborhoods. Rather than centralizing disposal at one isolated location, they remain throughout California and vulnerable to release as a result of fire or earthquake.
- The federal Low Level Radioactive Waste Act is a failure, largely because of efforts by politicians like Boxer who opposed states' efforts to comply with the Act but offered no feasible alternatives to deal with these wastes. This Act should be repealed, and the responsibility for management and disposal given to a federal agency such as the Department of Energy or US EPA.