Officially dry

LOS ANGELES is poised today to record its fourth year in a row with below normal rainfall, reports the Los Angeles Times. From July 1 of last year to June 30—the period designated the “rain year”—only about 9 inches fell, compared with the average of just over 15 inches. 

For the full story, click here.

Polluters 5, Environmentalists 0: Supreme Court term reviewed

FURTHER to last week’s 6-3 Supreme Court Decision in Coeur Alaska, Inc v. Southeast Alaska Conservation Council et al,  the Center for Law, Energy and the Environment (CLEE) at UC Berkeley will be holding a live Webcast Tuesday June 30, 10-11.30am Pacific Time discussing the environmental record of the concluding Supreme Court term.

Panelists include CLEE executive director Richard Frank and Berkeley professors Dan Farber and Holly Doremus, and assistant professor Eric Biber.

The cases under discussion will include Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council (environmental organizations’ challenge to the U.S. Navy’s active sonar testing program); Summers v. Earth Island Institute (environmental groups seeking to block the sale of timber from fire-damaged federal lands in California); Entergy Corp. v. Riverkeeper (environmentalists challenging the EPA’s use of cost-benefit analysis for power plant projects); Burlington Northern v. United States (federal government trying a case under Superfund law that would have

Lake or dump? You decide


Slate Lake in the Tongass National Forest, Alaska. Photo: Sierra Club.

FOR THOSE wondering about whether there is recourse to the Supreme Court’s  Coeur Alaska ruling last Monday, there is.

The decision, which by a 6-3 vote upheld the legality of dumping gold mine waste into Lower Slate Lake in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, “can be undone in one of two ways,” said Ed Hopkins, Director of Sierra Club Environmental Quality Program. “One is the Obama administration could issue a rule-making and overturn a rule that the Bush administration did in 2002, which essentially created this problem. Or Congress can pass the the Clean Water Protection Act, which would also overturn the 2002 Bush administration rule.”

The Clean Water Protection Act would return the definition of “fill” to its original meaning (ie: not including pollutants), but it has been stymied in the past by advocates of mountain top removal

Las Vegas from space over 25 years

ON MARCH 1, 2009, NASA’s Landsat 5 satellite turned 25. NASA marked the occasion by publishing these photographs of Las Vegas photographed from space over a quarter of a century. The growth caught from above is sustained by an unyielding search for new water in the Mojave Desert below. This posting connects the NASA photos to that search for water.


In 1984, Greater Las Vegas had exhausted its local groundwater, but grew by finally exploiting an allocation from the Colorado River and the nearby reservoir, Lake Mead.

By 1989, (see photo below), it was clear that Las Vegas was outgrowing its Colorado River allocation and the Las Vegas Valley Water District applied for half of the legally available groundwater in the state of Nevada. The plan was to build hundreds of miles of pipeline north to tap the Great Basin Carbonate Aquifer. Using these as yet unapproved but powerfully

The week that was, 6/21-27/2009

  • “There are lots of ways to lose an audience with a discussion of global warming, and new ones, it seems are being discovered all the time.” From “The Catastrophist,” Elizabeth Kolbert’s New Yorker profile of NASA scientist James Hansen
  • “Eli Raz was peering into a narrow hole in the Dead Sea shore when the earth opened up and swallowed him.” AP / Denver Post on Dead Sea sinkholes
  • “The Sacramento politicians are at it again. They’re back to try and take your water softener away.” ad aimed at scuttling California Assembly Bill  1366.
  • “It’s hyperbole. Clearly, it’s a very reckless and irresponsible attempt to engender fear…” Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles), author of AB 1366, Los Angeles Times
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