Gov. Goes Green

Do you agree?
The governor goes green with two huge projects: completing high-speed rail from LA to SF and building twin concrete canals in the Delta to bring more water south.

What do you think of these projects?


Steve Scauzillo: Can Gov. Brown make old things new?

Posted:   01/26/2013 06:16:04 AM PST
Updated:   01/26/2013 07:43:24 PM PST

GOV. Jerry Brown likes to quote the Bible.In his state of the state speech Thursday, he cautioned spend-happy legislators citing the Egyptian Pharaoh’s nightmare of over-fed cows being devoured by the starving cows. The Book of Genesis story demonstrates how quickly famine can follow plenty.

When I heard that, I immediately thought of a New Testament principle, one that says old things become new with faith. It’s a metaphor for Jerry Brown, himself approaching the end of his political career yet a man possessed with leaving a legacy.

But it is also about the projects as much as the man. He’s pushing two old ideas to cleanse the air of emissions and boost the Golden State’s economy.

First and foremost, the new/old Brown wants the state water agencies (the ratepayers, that’s us) and the taxpayers (that’s us, too) to pay for a $14 billion twin-tunnels project in and around the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta that sounds very similar to his father Pat Brown’s old Peripheral Canal idea defeated by voters in 1982.

The new/old idea will bring a reliable supply of water from Northern California to thirsty L.A. and San Diego and also to the San Gabriel Valley and Inland Empire cities that don’t have wells or need imported water to supplement well water.

It’s costly, but an idea that water agencies love. There’s nothing more satisfying to water managers than a reliable water supply. It means they can sleep at night.



second project on a list of investments in California infrastructure is the much maligned high-speed rail, a super-fast train that would whisk passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 2 hours 40 minutes. A 432-mile electrical alternative to emissions-spewing automobiles that would cost about $68 billion.Brown wants to make old things new. There’s nothing older than the fight over water in the Golden State. It precedes the skirmishes over gold. Add to that the viewpoint from a typical Northern Californian that goes something like “take our water and give it to people in Los Angeles and San Diego over my dead body” and you know what I’m talking about.

Even the reasons for the new project, something the big folks at Metropolitan Water District support and call the Bay Delta Plan, are old: to ensure a reliable water supply in the event of a major earthquake and to protect the species swimming in the Delta. Oh, let’s not leave out the No. 1 reason for all of this canal talk: Water for California’s $27 billion agribusiness.

Was it serendipitous or good timing on Brown’s part that while he gave his speech, an obscure panel appointed by the Legislature to iron out California’s water problems was meeting that same day, a few miles away.

Brown, the Democratically-controlled Legislature and the Delta Stewardship Council will be working together on rules and plans for this project, for water conservation and environmental stewardship. Look for the Council’s final Delta Plan to be released sometime in the spring.

Meanwhile, his other old idea – a train – has been around ever since the Golden Spike connected the First Transcontinental Railroad in 1869 in Utah and industrialized the West.

Even their high-speed, electrified cousins have been around in Japan and Europe for decades. Now, one is being built in Morocco.

California, the land of innovation, is behind the times. It’s been a slow march for commuter trains and light-rail trolleys (read: less-polluting electric ones) to reach suburbia, where our single-car commuters pollute the air from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. every weekday.

I’m for the future, so I’m for both a fast train to `Frisco and a more reliable water supply. Maybe we can sell these ideas to Hollywood as a kind of “Back to the Future” theme.

The only question is whether the rest of the state will buy into it.

That would take a New Testament kind of change of heart that would come from each Californian to support new infrastructure and invest in new job-creating projects like Californians did in the 1950s and 1960s.

The answer, as the Bible says, lies within.

Steve Scauzillo covers the environment and transportation. He’s the current recipient of the Aldo Leopold Award for Distinguished Editorial Writing from The Wilderness Society. Follow him on Twitter @stevscaz/ or email him at


Storm drain fee hearing’s silver lining

Normally, when you find yourself stuck at a 5-hour public hearing, listening to 200 speakers, it gets  tough.

That happened at the Board of Supervisors meeting last Tuesday. The meeting was long, the place was freezing, I sat from 9:45 a.m. until nearly 5 p.m. — no lunch break, not even a water break.

But the speakers were interesting. And the topic is fascinating to me (you can go to and search for “storm drain” or “urban runoff” to see the past stories I’ve written on the topic).

But best of all, Supervisor and Chairman of the Board Mark Ridley-Thomas was a study in how to keep order and do it gtacefully. He was also a master at conducting a public hearing.

It was one of the best run public hearings I’ve been to. And that is saying something since I’ve been covering local news for 32 years in four counties.

Anyway, the Board said the storm water cleanup fee needed more time. Zev said it “was not ready for prime time.” They asked for numerous revisions from the Department of Public Works and County Counsel. It should come back before the Board of Supervisors March 12.

You can click on the link below and read my column about Ridley-Thomas.





Keep criminals out of our Angeles National Forest

Make our forest a park; criminals, keep out

 Give us your murderers, arsonists, your body dumpers, your candle- burning and chicken-sacrificing cultists, your transients, your pot growers, your illegal barbecue lighters, hordes of litterers …

That crazy talk might as well be inscribed on the entrances to the Angeles National Forest.

Better still, just stretch yellow crime scene tape around the whole 677,000 acres and be done with it.

The forest has become a playground for criminals, evildoers who seemingly arise out of an Elmore Leonard novel. It’s the go-to place to dump a body, commit a crime, grow acres of marijuana, sacrifice a few chickens for the gods, light some candles or illegal campfires and burn the place down or just trash the place with beer cans and diapers.

Just Wednesday, the coroner and homicide detectives were probing a shallow grave found in the forest near Sunland. No remains were found, but leading to the hole were drops of blood, burnt cloth and chicken bones. “Signs of a possible religious ritual,” said news reports.

No body, thank God. But remember, it was cultists with candles practicing animal sacrifice who started the massive Curve Fire in 2002 that destroyed 72 structures and burned 18,700 acres. Many forest lovers lost their cabins in that fire above Azusa. The forest forever changed when those responsible citizens who were the eyes and ears for a thinly staffed Forest Service were no longer there.

At that time, our paper reported investigators were looking for “a satanic cult or a group of `witches’ that are regularly seen in the forest lighting candles and cutting off chicken heads.”

Don’t forget that the Station Fire, the largest fire in the history of the Angeles, established in 1892, was intentionally set by an arsonist on Aug. 26, 2009. The crime is murder, because two firefighters lost their lives fighting the massive blaze.

But who cares about most of the crooks in the hills, right? After all, this vast wild land surrounded by 18 million urban dwellers is, as advertised by the Forest Service itself, “The Land of Many Uses.”

Wrong. Many do care. Many fishermen, hikers and responsible off-roader groups care so much they pack out trash after each visit. Unfortunately, the vast Angeles National Forest suffers from an identity problem. Too many uses, too few watchers.

Rest assured that the good people of the Forest Service, who now work in a new modern headquarters off the 210 Freeway in Arcadia, agree that body dumpers, murderers, arsonists and cultists are not the kind of uses Teddy Roosevelt had in mind when he established the first protected forests in the United States.

But unfortunately, these evil folks just keep on going up there to commit crimes.

Former Star-News reporter Howard Breuer covered the case of the Pasadena pediatrician who strangled his lover with a Snoopy necktie in – you guessed it – the San Gabriel Mountains.

The Hillside Strangler dumped a body in the Angeles.

One Yelp commenter writes, “Is it just me or is the Angeles National Forest the epicenter for dumbass hikers or killers looking to dump bodies? I say shut it down and request id before entering.”

Cary C writes on an Internet site: “I had to go out there a couple of months ago for a site visit on one of my cases, and the stories the field personnel that live up there were telling me about the body dumping, etc., were scary and creepy.”

Criminals are soiling the reputation of my forest. A place I hike every chance I get for the solace it brings and for observing God’s living creation. John Muir described the Angeles as having a rugged beauty with unexpected meadows bursting with surprising flowers and breathtaking waterfalls. I understand Cary C’s passion, but that may not be the best solution. There is a movement underway by the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society and San Gabriel Mountains Forever to bring in the National Park Service to create a National Recreation Area around most of the forest and the San Gabriel and Rio Hondo rivers. The plan would augment the under-resourced Forest Service by adding additional recreation guides, experts and nature interpreters.

The place needs new signs and a new identity. More like Yellowstone or Yosemite. It needs to be a park.

Now is the time to open a dialog about re-claiming the forest for legitimate, peaceful uses.

Your ideas are welcome.

Will you use recyclable cup at Starbucks?


Steve Scauzillo: Starbucks now asks `Paper or plastic?’

Posted:   01/05/2013 06:17:38 AM PST
Updated:   01/05/2013 06:18:48 PM PST


This undated photo provided by Starbucks Corp., shows a reusable cup. Starbucks Corp. is rolling out a $1 reusable plastic cup at its cafes starting Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013. The Seattle-based coffee chain already gives customers a dime discount each time they bring in reusable cups for refills. Now it’s hoping the new cups — which bear its logo and resemble its white paper cups — will increase the habit. (AP Photo/Starbucks Corp.)

Carol Keefer likes her Starbucks soy mocha with whip.

But after finishing the delectable coffee beverage, she feels guilty about tossing the paper cup in the trash because it messes with the environment, not to mention her conscience.

Well, Keefer doesn’t have to feel guilty anymore. On Friday, she ordered her coffee drink at the Irwindale Starbucks in a sturdy plastic cup, which she can return next time and have it re-filled. Starbucks will even rinse it in hot water and give her a 10-cent discount each time.

Other users are reporting the cup can withstand about 30 runs through the dishwasher. And according to the barista I spoke with, it can be recycled. “Take it down the street to that recycling center,” she said, referring to Allan Company, 14618 Arrow Highway.

The whole program is new. It was rolled out Thursday by the coffee-giant and is getting high marks from customers.

“Yeah. I hated having to throw those cups out every time. So, this is cool,” said Keefer, showing me the plastic cup before the manager threw me off the premises.

Starbucks, according to their website, wants to reduce its mountain of paper cups by selling more coffee in reusable plastic cups. Something about reducing their carbon footprint, a noble goal indeed.

Let’s look at the numbers.

The Seattle-based coffee chain, the world’s largest coffee shop operator according to Bloomberg, produces about 4 billion cups each year across the globe. Can you say landfill crisis?

The company hopes the reusable cup will raise the percentage of sales in non-throwaway containers to 5 percent by 2015, from 1.9 percent in 2011, Bloomberg reported.

Already, sales of coffee in the reusable plastic cups went up 26 percent in test-market stores in the Pacific Northwest in November compared to the previous November, according to company spokesperson Jim Hanna.

For customer John Ceyla of West Covina, the promotion is nothing new. He admits to owning “about 15” Starbucks travel mugs that he hands to the barista for a new fill up (well, not all at once!) every morning. Lately, he’s partial to the stainless steel variety.

“I don’t like the paper cups because the coffee gets cold too quickly,” he said in between sips from his well-used silver and black tumbler.

I’m going to ask the barista to put my grande skinny vanilla latte in one of those reusable cups next time, I said to myself.

I repeated my good intentions to Sara Vida, who was sitting in a darkened corner tapping away on her laptop. She agreed the reusable plastic cup was worth trying.

“It relieves waste. And it makes people more aware. The more trash we are creating the more we are dumping into the landfill,” Vida said.

See, that manager should hire me, not toss me. In a few short conversations, I made customers cognizant of the chain’s green promotion, something for which I did not see a sign anywhere.

Nine out of 10 customers didn’t know about the plastic cups until I told them.

But assuming they know now, will they remember next time?

Ah, that’s the rub.

It’s one thing to market the heck out of a green idea. Why? Well, it boosts the company’s image and it may help the environment, too.

But it will only work if the customer remembers to bring back the plastic cup. Acting green means altering our habits, even impulsive acts like stopping for a soy mocha latte at the Starbucks drive-thru.

For example, how many times have I forgotten to bring my cloth bags into the supermarket or the Trader Joe’s? I’m ashamed to say it’s about 50 percent. It’s still not ingrained.

If the store is located in an unincorporated part of the county, you must go bagless. There is no paper or plastic choice; you must bring cloth bags, period. (I know from personal experience).

Some ladies said they aren’t going to remember to carry their Starbucks cup. Besides, it won’t fit in their purse. And us guys, we can barely remember our car keys.

“That is the hardest part. Thinking about it,” Vida said.

Being green takes effort. Do I hear a New Year’s resolution in the making?