Archive for the ‘Delta & Environment’ Category

Major Bay protection and restoration efforts in S.F. Estuary Blueprint get federal boost

Thursday, March 24th, 2022

San Rafael Bay. Photo by Mark Prado

$24 million for clean water program

Money to restore San Francisco Bay and address impacts from climate change received a $24 million boost via the federal omnibus spending bill signed into law this week by President Biden.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022 provides funds to implement the priority actions identified in the San Francisco Estuary Partnership’s Blueprint. Specifically, the money will go toward the U.S. EPA’s San Francisco Bay Area Water Quality Improvement Fund, which has focused work on removing pollutants, improving wetlands and reducing runoff.

The $24 million annual earmark is the biggest increase to the fund since it began in 2008, with a push from Sen. Dianne Feinstein. The Water Quality Improvement Fund currently receives about $5 million annually to advance wetland restoration, water quality improvement and green urban development projects.

“Thanks to the efforts of Rep. Jackie Speier and our members of Congress, the new law provides funds to implement the priority actions identified in the Estuary Blueprint,” said Caitlin Sweeney, Director of the Estuary Partnership. “This is a huge development and is critical for the long-term health of San Francisco Bay.”

With the support from the Appropriations Act, federal funding for San Francisco Bay will be on par with regional funding from sources like the Bay Area’s Measure AA, which passed in 2016 and dedicates $25 million annually to fund multi-benefit shoreline projects that protect and restore the bay.

The new law also provides a bump in funding for the National Estuary Program, bringing the San Francisco’s Estuary Partnership appropriation this year to $750,000, a $50,000 increase.

Enactment of the omnibus spending bill augments the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed by Congress in November 2021, which allocates approximately $5 million annually over the next five years to the Water Quality Improvement Fund and dedicates about $4.5 million over the same period to the Estuary Partnership for implementation of the Estuary Blueprint.

The San Francisco Estuary Blueprint — being updated for 2022-2027 and due out later this year — is a five-year roadmap for restoring the estuary’s chemical, physical, biological, and social-ecological processes to health. The Blueprint identifies the top actions needed for thriving habitats and wildlife, improved water quality for animals and people, increased scale and pace of climate change adaptation and planning, and healthier human and wildlife communities.

Hosted by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), the San Francisco Estuary Partnership is a collaboration of local, state and federal agencies; non-governmental organizations; and academic and business leaders working to protect and restore the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary. The Estuary Partnership was established in 1988 by the state of California and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Water Act’s National Estuary Program when the San Francisco Estuary was designated as an estuary of national significance.

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Seeno’s attorneys request new trial following Save Mount Diablo legal victory against Faria project in Pittsburg hills

Thursday, March 3rd, 2022

The now named Thurgood Marshall Regional Park is directly adjacent to the Pittsburg City Council approved Faria project. Herald file graphic. Credit: Save Mount Diablo/Google Earth.

607-acre, 1,650-home development next to planned Thurgood Marshall Regional Park

SMD leader says motion for new trial “should be denied”

By Allen D. Payton

Last Friday, Feb. 25, 2022, attorneys representing Discovery Builders and their Faria new home development requested a new trial for the lawsuit by Save Mount Diablo, following a judge’s decision in favor of the environmental group to stop the project. As previously reported, on March 30, 2021, Save Mount Diablo filed a lawsuit challenging the City of Pittsburg’s approval of the 1,650-unit Faria project, on the ridgeline between Pittsburg and Concord. According to the agenda item documents, the master plan overlay district encompasses approximately 607 acres of land. (See related article)

The motion for a new trial was filed “on the basis that the Court’s decision is not supported by the evidence and controlling legal authorities. Specifically…that there were several portions of this Court’s February 10, 2022 Statement of Decision that may not have fully considered evidence in the administrative record.” In addition, the motion asks that the “Court vacate its Statement of Decision and enter a new decision denying SMD’s motion” and “conduct a new hearing”.  Faria project Motion for New Trial    Parsons Dec. ISO Mot for New Trial    Raskin Dec. ISO Mot for New Trial    Faria project new trial Proof of Service

A hearing date on the motion for a new trial has been set for April 14, 2022.

The Pittsburg hills where the Faria project has been approved for construction, as seen from the San Marco neighborhood in Pittsburg. Photo: Scott Hein

On the day of the decision, Save Mount Diablo issued the following press release about their legal victory:

“On February 10, 2022, the Contra Costa County Superior Court handed Save Mount Diablo a major victory in its legal challenge to the City of Pittsburg’s approval of the 1,650-unit Faria/Southwest Hills Project.

According to the ruling, the city’s environmental review was inadequate in numerous ways. Faria was proposed by Seeno companies/Discovery Builders, Inc./Faria Investors LLC on the spectacular and highly visible major ridgeline between Pittsburg and Concord and could include grading and houses visible across the ridge.

As a result, the City of Pittsburg is required to overturn approvals for the project and correct environmental review. The city and Seeno/Discovery Builders will also be required to pay Save Mount Diablo’s legal fees.

It remains to be seen whether the developers, Discovery Builders, Inc. and Faria Land Investors, LLC, or the City of Pittsburg will appeal the decision.

The Pittsburg City Council—then-Mayor Merl Craft; then–Vice Mayor Holland Barrett White; and Councilmembers Shanelle Scales-Preston, Juan Antonio Banales, and Jelani Killings—all voted to approve the proposal in February 2021. (The mayor and vice-mayor designations rotate among the councilmembers.) They ignored hundreds of letters and public comments that opposed the project. Save Mount Diablo filed a lawsuit challenging the project’s approval in March 2021.

If the project had moved forward, it would have meant the development of a major, new residential subdivision on 606 acres of ridgeline and hillside grazing land in what is currently unincorporated Contra Costa County, immediately south of the City of Pittsburg.

The biologically rich site supports sensitive wildlife species and rare plants and is in one of the most visible and most environmentally constrained areas of the county. The Faria project would have fragmented open space and damaged wildlife corridors.

The proposed housing development would have changed the beautiful green hills forever by annexing the property to the City of Pittsburg and locating 1,650 new residences far from jobs, transit, and services.

The Faria project would have also impacted the new East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) Thurgood Marshall Regional Park – Home of the Port Chicago 50 at the Faria site’s southwestern edge, formerly part of the Concord Naval Weapons Station. Save Mount Diablo and its partners advocated for the creation of this new park over many years. The Faria project would have been located directly above the new park on a ridgeline, degrading views from surrounding areas.

The Contra Costa Superior Court ruled that the City of Pittsburg’s environmental review of the project was inadequate in four major ways:

  1. It failed to analyze any impacts that would results from the 150 accessory dwelling units that were added by the City of Pittsburg at the last minute. This is important because the number of units affects every part of environmental review from traffic to water supply to schools, etc. and will make correcting the environmental review complicated;
  2. It failed to include a baseline description of biological resources that could be impacted by the project, specifically special-status plant species;
  3. It failed to consider the water supply impacts of adding 1,650 new housing units in the area, which is especially important given years of drought and increasing fire danger; and
  4. It failed to adequately disclose or mitigate the project’s air quality impacts, including greenhouse gas impacts, without which development will continue to make the climate crisis much worse.

“The court’s decision says to developers: ‘You don’t get to kick the can down the road. You have to do a thorough analysis of your project’s impacts before you lock in project approvals,’” said Winter King, Save Mount Diablo’s attorney from Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger. “The court got it right.”

The court’s ruling means that the City of Pittsburg’s approval of the project is null and void.

The court also noted that additional impacts—such as geologic hazard impacts resulting from grading and filling, and impacts on streams and agricultural lands—would need to be addressed in more detail.

Save Mount Diablo Executive Director Ted Clement said, “Throughout the East Bay, residents have worked hard to protect our ridges and views, flora and fauna, and to defend our parks. In this case that was just decided in our favor, Save Mount Diablo had to stand up against some very powerful interests to help further the work of protecting these treasured resources, which add so much to our collective quality of life.”

“Although I’ve worked for Save Mount Diablo on this issue, I’m also a Concord resident,” said Juan Pablo Galván Martínez, Save Mount Diablo’s Senior Land Use Manager. “This project infuriated me as an open-space lover, a wildlife enthusiast, and someone who is deeply worried and taking action to stop catastrophic climate change. Since this affects both cities, I want both city councils to work together to protect the hills and ridgeline.”

“This is a major victory for Pittsburg’s hills,” stated Save Mount Diablo Land Conservation Director Seth Adams. “Open space, habitat for wildlife, and the community’s scenic views have won the day, and poorly planned development will not go forward, for now. We are very happy with the court’s decision.”

“On the other hand,” said Adams, “while our victory is costly for the city and Seeno/Discovery Builders in time and money, it does not stop the project forever. After correcting environmental documents, the Pittsburg City Council can approve Seeno’s huge project again if they choose. But now they have a second chance to make it better by protecting the ridgeline and neighboring regional park. We don’t have to argue about protecting ridgelines in other cities. The Pittsburg City Council should do the right thing.”

Save Mount Diablo Says Motion for New Trial “Should Be Denied”

Asked about the motion for a new trial, Save Mount Diablo Executive Director, Ted Clement responded, “Regarding the Seeno companies/Pittsburg request for a new trial, the Court has already rejected their arguments for reasons fully set forth in its decision. Their Motion for New Trial does not question the adequacy of the administrative record on which the Court properly based its decision (and which the City itself prepared) or suggest there was any other irregularity or unfairness in the hearing. Instead, they seek a second bite of the apple.”

“Their Motion reargues issues that were fully briefed and addressed in the Court’s Decision,” he continued. “They also seek to introduce irrelevant and improper extra-record evidence, violating black letter law that CEQA actions must be decided on the record that was before the agency when it made its decision.”

“Because their Motion provides no basis for this Court to order a new trial solely on the issues decided adverse to them, it should be denied,” Clement concluded.

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Contra Costa Supervisors on 4-1 vote approve all-electric buildings ordinance banning natural gas installations

Wednesday, January 19th, 2022

Starting June 1, 2022; 200-gallon natural gas tanks still permitted for rural users

“Many of my constituents view this ordinance as an overreach ordinance and I happen to agree with them” – Supervisor Andersen

By Daniel Borsuk

Starting June 1, Contra Costa County will be the first county in the Golden State requiring all new residential, business, commercial and hospitality developments have electricity, and outlawing natural gas installation. On a 4-1 vote Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors approved the ordinance that attracted scant public opposition. District 2 Supervisor Candace Andersen was the lone opposition vote.

The new ordinance applies to all new residential, commercial, office, and hospitality developments proposed for unincorporated Contra Costa County.  It does not apply to incorporated areas, except the City of Richmond that has adopted its own electricity building ordinance.

“Many of my constituents view this ordinance as an overreach ordinance and I happen to agree with them,” said Andersen of Danville, who cast the lone opposition vote.  “It is my concern this ordinance might impact commercial development nearby the Byron and Buchanan airports.”

There was no opposition to the Board’s ordinance that was up for second reading.

“This is a good environmental policy for the county,” said District 1 Supervisor John Gioia, who championed the resolution.

“I am concerned about the equity issue.  This could raise rents of low-income housing tenants,” said Board Chair Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill, who voted in favor of the ordinance anyway.

“I am supportive of this ordinance,” commented District 3 Supervisor Diane Burgis after planning department staff answered her question on whether rural constituents could still own and use 200-gallon natural gas tanks for “emergency use.”  Planning officials confirmed 200-gallon natural gas tanks will be permitted for rural users.

“While this proposed ordinance has been charactered as an electrification ordinance, its purpose is to stop new buildings from burning fossil fuels,” wrote Gary Farber on behalf of the environmental group, 350 Contra Costa. “Therefore, solar thermal space heating and water heating systems ought to be allowed and encouraged.  We look forward to working with the County on additional programs to phase out fossil fuels in transportation and all buildings, new and existing.”

The move by the Board of Supervisors occurs when there is skepticism on whether the State has an adequate supply of wind and solar renewable energy in the Golden State to meet the demand for all electric homes and businesses.  The California Clean Energy Act of 2018 established a target for renewable zero-carbon resources to supply 100 percent of electrical needs throughout the state by 2045, 23 years from now.

Retain $2,500 Campaign Contribution Limit

Even though briefly considered a recommendation boost, the Election Campaign Contribution limit from $2,500 to $4,900, Supervisors voted to retain the Election Campaign limit at $2,500.

“I feel comfortable at the $2,500 limit,” commented District 2 Supervisor Andersen.

Supervisor Glover said as much as he’d preferred to go with the State-recommended $4,900 limit, he said “I’d vote for more money, but I don’t think we should.  Elections are getting more expensive.” Glover is not up for re-election this year.

44th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Ceremony Honorees

Supervisors also recognized 44th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. honorees – Gigi Crowder, an Antioch resident, who is the Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness as the Adult Humanitarian of the Year and Pittsburg resident, Kaia Morgan, a Senior at Ygnacio Valley High School as the Student Humanitarian of the Year. (See related articles here and here)

 

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Save Mount Diablo protects almost 154 critical open space acres on Mount Diablo

Saturday, January 15th, 2022

Aerial view of the nearly 154 acres of open space on Mount Diablo’s North Peak, owned by the Concord Mt. Diablo Trail Ride Association, which has been permanently protected. Credit: Cooper Ogden.

Purchases land, uses conservation easement

By Queenie Li and Ted Clement, Save Mount Diablo  

In December 2019, Save Mount Diablo and the Concord Mt. Diablo Trail Ride Association (CMDTRA) signed a two-year option agreement, giving Save Mount Diablo time to raise over $1.04 million to permanently protect almost 154 acres of open space on Mount Diablo’s North Peak with a conservation easement.

Save Mount Diablo raised the necessary funds. And on Tuesday, January 11, 2022, the parties closed escrow, with Save Mount Diablo successfully purchasing the conservation easement and thereby forever protecting this highly strategic land.

“We are so happy and grateful to start 2022 by permanently protecting almost 154 acres on Mount Diablo! The land that we just conserved is contiguous with Mount Diablo State Park and other lands protected by Save Mount Diablo. I want to thank our terrific Save Mount Diablo supporters and our wonderful partners at Concord Mt. Diablo Trail Ride Association for making this possible,” said Ted Clement, Save Mount Diablo’s Executive Director.

This Mount Diablo open space land that was protected by Save Mount Diablo on January 11 had been vulnerable. More than 15 houses and other buildings had been constructed near the approximate 154 acres just conserved with a Save Mount Diablo conservation easement.

A conservation easement is a perpetual legal agreement between a landowner and a qualified organization, like a nonprofit land trust or government agency. It restricts future activities and development on the land to protect its conservation values for the benefit of the public.

The newly protected land will continue to be owned by the Concord Mt. Diablo Trail Ride Association with Save Mount Diablo overseeing its conservation easement with annual monitoring.

“It is with great happiness and a sense of future vision that the Conservation Easement Agreement between the Concord Mt. Diablo Trail Ride Association and Save Mount Diablo is signed. This agreement will assure that future generations will be able to fully enjoy the natural beauty of this area of California without the threat of development. Save Mount Diablo took into consideration the history of our equine needs while sculpting the agreement,” said Diane Jorgensen, CMDTRA Board member.

“It is almost surreal that after more than 15 years in the making, we are finalizing the Conservation Easement between Concord Mt. Diablo Trail Ride Association and Save Mount Diablo. This agreement affords us the security of knowing that a beautiful piece of the mountain will be forever protected from urban development without sacrificing land ownership,” said Elaine Baker, CMDTRA Board President. “The heritage of horses on Mt. Diablo can continue indefinitely. We are eternally grateful that Save Mount Diablo has been so supportive and patient, tirelessly navigating us through the entire process. I hope that other landowners will follow in our footsteps to protect their land too.”

“I would like to thank Ron Brown, Seth Adams and Ted Clement for their patience, determination and love for Mt Diablo that facilitated the formation of the unique Save Mount Diablo/CMDTRA Conservation Easement,” said Chris Barnhart, CMDTRA Board Treasurer. “This partnership allows all of us to protect this vital, beautiful piece of Mt Diablo for perpetuity while allowing CMDTRA to retain ownership and the right to use the property as we always have in the past and will in the future. This agreement took over 15 years to finalize. Save Mount Diablo was very supportive of the needs of CMDTRA and are a wonderful group of caring and dedicated people who are dedicated to preserving Mt Diablo in perpetuity for future generations to come. It is with pride and love for Mt Diablo that CMDTRA has agreed to place the Conservation Easement on 154 acres of CMDTRA land.”

The $1.04 million needed to purchase this permanent conservation easement, along with additional transaction costs, was raised through Save Mount Diablo’s Forever Wild Campaign, which was completed in 2021.

The mile-wide property is part of the “Missing Mile,” a square mile of privately owned open space land on Mount Diablo’s North Peak. The property is adjacent to Save Mount Diablo’s Young Canyon property and our North Peak Ranch project and is also surrounded by Mount Diablo State Park on three sides.

It rises from 1,100 feet to 2,010 feet with views from the Carquinez Strait and Suisun Bay to Lassen Peak and the Sierra Nevada Range.

The property’s rich biodiversity is due to the complicated geology of Mount Diablo’s main peaks, including serpentine soils that host dozens of rare plant species like the Mount Diablo globe lily.

The now protected property will help secure the extremely important Mount Diablo high peaks area local ecosystem and preserve the scenic value the mountain affords to countless numbers of people.

The Concord Mt. Diablo Trail Ride Association will keep a separate approximate 47 acres where the association’s buildings are located, next to the almost 154 acres of open space just conserved with Save Mount Diablo’s conservation easement.

­­­­­About Concord Mt. Diablo Trail Ride Association (CMDTRA)

Nestled on the northeast slope of Mt. Diablo, you’ll find one of the best kept secrets in the East Bay—the Concord Mt. Diablo Trail Ride Association. CMDTRA is a family-oriented nonprofit organization founded in 1941 dedicated to horsemanship, land preservation, and fun! In 1959, CMDTRA purchased more than 500 undeveloped acres on Mount Diablo and began building trails, a clubhouse, residences, and other horse-related recreational facilities. In 1965, CMDTRA sold 312 acres to Mount Diablo State Park and retained about 200 acres. Learn more at https://www.cmdtra.org/.

About Save Mount Diablo

Save Mount Diablo is a nationally accredited, nonprofit land trust founded in 1971 with a mission

to preserve Mount Diablo’s peaks, surrounding foothills, watersheds, and connection to the Diablo Range through land acquisition and preservation strategies designed to protect the mountain’s natural beauty, biological diversity, and historic and agricultural heritage; enhance our area’s quality of life; and provide educational and recreational opportunities consistent with protection of natural resources. To learn more, please visit www.savemountdiablo.org.

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Antioch Council votes to ban oil and gas drilling in city, but owner of permits and rights can still drill, claims it won’t protect environment

Thursday, January 13th, 2022

Sunset Exploration’s drilling rigs at their Deer Valley Road site just outside Antioch city limits. Herald file photo.

“Local produced oil and gas will be replaced by foreign fuel imports which are significantly more harmful to the environment” – Bob Nunn, Sunset Exploration, owner of the drilling permits in Antioch

By Allen Payton

During their meeting Tuesday night Jan. 11, the Antioch City Council on a 5-0 vote approved a ban on oil and gas drilling, production and exploratory operations in the city in a stated effort to protect the health of residents and the environment. However, Bob Nunn, president of Sunset Exploration which owns permits and rights in Antioch, can still drill when he’s ready and says the action will actually harm the environment more. His company has the oil drilling site off Deer Valley Road south of Kaiser outside both the city limits of Antioch and Brentwood. (See related article) Antioch Oil & Gas Drilling Ban ACC011122

In addition, although he was not made aware of the council’s agenda item by staff or council members, Nunn sent an email to all five council members on Tuesday which pointed to a state report that shows importing oil and gas into California is worse for the environment by a factor of two-thirds than producing it locally.

This breakdown shows the average carbon intensity of California’s imported oil vs. what is produced by Nunn’s company on Deer Valley Road in Brentwood. GHG means greenhouse gases. According to Nunn, these figures are from the State of California’s Air Resources Board. Source: Sunset Exploration.

According to City Attorney Thomas L. Smith, “presently there are no plans for oil or gas drilling in the city. There is a complete permit to allow gas and oil exploration, but that was put on hold.” The council action “will ban oil and gas drilling in the city with no apparent impacts,” he said.

Yet, neither Smith nor any of the council members mentioned the email sent by Nunn:

Sent: 1/11/2022 2:58:11 PM Pacific Standard Time

Subject: Item 9, 01-11-22 Antioch City Council agenda

Dear City Council Members

Re:   Introduction of Ordinance of Amending the Antioch Municipal Code Sections 9-5.3803 and 9-5.3834 to Prohibit Oil and Gas Drilling, Production, and Exploratory Operations as Permitted Uses in the M-2 and S Zones.

I have reviewed the above referenced Ordinance and do not object to the prohibition of future oil and gas permits in the areas referenced therein. However please be advised that my company, Sunset Exploration, Inc., currently has valid permits both within the City of Antioch and Contra Costa County that allow for future oil and gas activities and those rights remain unaffected by this proposed Ordinance.

Furthermore, I have attached a link below from the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which conducts annual crude oil life cycle assessments that compares the environmental impacts of various oil fields in California as compared to the oil California imports. Currently California imports 90% of its natural gas needs and 63% of its crude oil needs. Any oil and gas California does not produce is imported. Ironically, the oil and gas we and others produce in this vicinity emits, on average, 1/3rd the amount of the carbon of foreign sources.

Deer Valley Road oil drilling site production vs. Top CA oil fields 011222. Source: Sunset Exploration

Prohibiting local oil and gas production does not affect the local or statewide demand, but it does increase rather than decrease the environmental impact of oil and gas production and use and does not achieve the stated goal of this Ordinance to reduce air emissions or provide any other environmental benefit.

Local produced oil and gas will be replaced by foreign fuel imports which are significantly more harmful to the environment.

Until we completely transition to 100% green energy sources, which California and the local community is not projected to do in the next two decades (and potentially far longer for heating and other utility needs), producing the cleanest fossil fuels available will have the least impact on climate change and the environment.

I recommend the City acknowledge that by adopting this Ordinance and prohibiting locally sourced oil and gas, it will result in the need to import more oil and gas, shifting the environmental impacts to other communities and causing an overall increase in impacts on the environment.

That is at least according to the California Air Resources Board.  Deer Valley Rd. oil production Comparison 011222

Sincerely
Bob Nunn

President
Sunset Exploration, Inc.

https://ww2.arb.ca.gov/resources/documents/lcfs-crude-oil-life-cycle-assessment

Antioch and Brentwood area oil gas wells and fields DCA SEC Map-1-22-2020. Most wells are capped and no longer in production. Source: CA Delta Conveyance Authority

Following public comments, mostly from people outside of Antioch thanking the council for protecting residents’ health and the environment, District 4 Councilwoman Monica Wilson, who proposed the ban, made a motion to approve the ordinance.

District 2 Councilman Mike Barbanica said, “I just wanted to note that property owners that could have been affected…didn’t show up. To me, that speaks volumes.”

“I’ve been on the front lines for many years on social justice and environmental justice and I can’t take any of the credit,” District 1 Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker said. “I would just like to thank the Antioch residents on the frontline…and council members who have been working on this since before me.”

“After this then, we will be requesting and bring forward…a resolution to ask the county to no longer engage in this,” Mayor Lamar Thorpe said.

The motion passed 5-0.

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Save Mount Diablo expands free Discover Diablo hikes and outings program for 2022

Wednesday, January 5th, 2022

Hikers trekking through Curry Canyon Ranch in May 2021. Photo by James Fong.

By Laura Kindsvater, Communications Manager, Save Mount Diablo  

Explore some of the East Bay’s premiere hiking spots with Save Mount Diablo in 2022, including areas rarely open to the public. The Discover Diablo hikes and outings series offers guided hikes and themed walks; mountain biking, rock climbing, and trail running events; and property tours, all free to the public. Trailblazers of all ages and skill levels are welcome.

In response to growing demand, Save Mount Diablo is offering hikes as well as new activities in the series for a total of 36 excursions. New offerings will include a plein air painting walk and a trail run.

The ever-popular tarantula walk will be offered twice, and we are offering three meditation hikes in 2022. We will also be offering rock-climbing and mountain-biking events, and bilingual hikes in Spanish and English.

Generously sponsored by the Martinez Refining Company, the 2022 Discover Diablo free public hikes and outings series will begin on January 22nd.

“Through the Discover Diablo series, people are fortunate to be able to explore and discover the beauty of Mount Diablo with experienced guides,” said Ann Notarangelo, Community Relations Manager for the Martinez Refining Company. “Our refinery has sponsored these hikes since 2017 in the hopes people will enjoy learning more about the mountain, while spending quality time with family and friends.”

The Discover Diablo program was started by Save Mount Diablo in 2017 to connect local communities with the amazing natural world of the Mount Diablo area and to build awareness about land conservation.

Hikes take place on one of Save Mount Diablo’s conserved properties or on a collaborating partner’s land that Save Mount Diablo helped to protect in years past. These include Mount Diablo State Park, East Bay Regional Park District, and Walnut Creek Open Space Foundation lands.

Discover Diablo hikes are guided by experts steeped in the natural history and lore of the region, who both educate and entertain while emphasizing the breathtaking beauty that the Diablo Range has to offer.

Save Mount Diablo hopes the Discover Diablo series will spark a passion for the Diablo Range and deepen people’s connections to the land and nature. All Discover Diablo hikes are subject to, and will honor, all applicable COVID-19–related restrictions then in place for our area.

According to Ted Clement, Executive Director of Save Mount Diablo, “It is the goal of the Discover Diablo program to build connections between people, Save Mount Diablo, and the land, helping our communities develop a strong sense of place and a deepened appreciation for our collective backyard. Most importantly, we want to cultivate a love of the land in participants, as that is what it will take to ensure the precious Mount Diablo natural area is taken care of for generations to come.”

There is something for us all to discover in the nooks and crannies surrounding Mount Diablo, so be sure to hit the trails in 2022 and find your own individual inspiration!

RSVP required. To ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to attend, registration for hikes and outings in March onward will open two months prior to each hike’s date.

See our full schedule of upcoming hikes and outings; view and RSVP online here: bit.ly/Discover-Diablo-Hikes-Calendar

You can also download and print a flyer of the schedule here: http://bit.ly/DiscoverDiablo

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U.S. Fish & Wildlife seeks public comment on proposed Endangered Species Act protections for Foothill yellow-legged frog

Monday, December 27th, 2021

Juvenile Foothill yellow-legged frogs look similar to adults except for their smaller size, more contrasting dorsal coloration and lack of significant yellow on their undersurfaces. Credit: Rebecca Fabbri, USFWS

Four of the Six Distinct Population Segments of the Frog Warrant Protection; comment period Dec. 27, 2021 – February 28, 2022

In response to a Center for Biological Diversity petition and lawsuit, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for four geographically and genetically distinct population segments (DPS) of the Foothill yellow-legged frog.

“At last, these little lemon-legged frogs, who are such an integral part of our natural stream ecosystems, have gotten the protection they need to survive,” said Jeff Miller, a senior conservation advocate at the Center. “Protecting these precious creatures will also help safeguard the coastal and Sierra foothill rivers and creeks we all rely on for clean drinking water and recreation.”

The Foothill yellow-legged frog, named for its yellow belly and underside of its rear legs, is found from the Willamette Valley in Oregon to the Santa Lucia mountain range in southern California and from the Pacific coast to the western slopes of the Cascade and Sierra Nevada mountains. The amphibian faces several threats, including altered waterflows related to water infrastructure; competition with and predation by non-native species; disease; precipitation and temperature changes related to climate change; high-severity wildfires; water-related recreation; and habitat conversion and degradation.

“We closely examined the condition of each DPS and the threats they face. Using the best available science, we determined which populations warranted protections under the ESA and where future recovery efforts should be focused,” said Michael Fris, field supervisor of the Service’s Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office.

To assess the condition of each DPS, the Service evaluated data collected on the frog’s occupancy of streams in its historical range. The Service is proposing to list the South Coast DPS and South Sierra DPS as endangered due to a strong pattern of declining stream occupancy, as well as rapid reductions in occupied range. The North Feather DPS and Central Coast DPS are proposed to be listed as threatened due to decreasing levels of stream occupancy and the potential for a variety of threats to cause additional declines. The North Coast DPS and North Sierra DPS are not warranted for listing after the data showed high levels of occupancy in streams located throughout their ranges, making them more resilient to environmental changes and catastrophic events.

“Our goal is to help the foothill yellow-legged frog recover across its range,” said Fris. “Ongoing collaboration with a number of partners will result in positive conservation gains and put this frog on the road to recovery.”

The Service is working closely with partners at the Oakland Zoo, U.S. Forest Service, Garcia and Associates, Pacific Gas and Electric and California Department of Fish and Wildlife to raise foothill yellow-legged frogs in captivity and release them into Plumas National Forest. The first group of captive-reared frogs, 115 in total, was released in July 2020. A second group of 36 was released in April 2021.

A copy of the finding will publish in the Federal Register on December 28, 2021, and is available for public inspection now. The Service plans to develop and propose critical habitat at a later date. The public can submit comments on the proposed listing and read supporting information at www.regulations.gov by searching Docket Number FWS–R8–ES–2021–0108. Comments should be submitted by February 28, 2022.

About USFWS

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information about our work and the people who make it happen, visit the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office website. Connect with us via FacebookTwitterYouTube, and Flickr.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit http://www.fws.gov/. Connect with our Facebook page, follow our tweets, watch our YouTube Channel and download photos from our Flickr page.

Meghan Snow, Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office and Herald Publisher Allen Payton contributed to this report.

 

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Contra Costa, 22 other DA’s reach settlement with gas station owner for underground storage tank environmental violations

Monday, November 22nd, 2021

Gas station underground storage tank diagram. Source: EPA

$1.1 million in civil penalties; 113 tanks statewide, seven in Contra Costa County

By Bobbi Mauler, Executive Assistant, Contra Costa County Office of the District Attorney

Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton announced today that the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, together with 22 other California District Attorneys and City Attorneys, have reached a settlement with the Orange, California-based Hassan & Sons, Inc., H&S Energy, LLC and H&S Energy Products, LLC (formerly known as Colonial Energy, LLC),  (collectively referred to as “H&S Energy”) over allegations that the companies violated state laws regarding the operation and maintenance of motor vehicle fuel underground storage tanks (“USTs”). The settlement includes $1,100,000 in civil penalties, and investigative costs. H&S Energy has 113 fueling stations in California, of which, seven locations are in Contra Costa County. The settlement follows an investigation by local environmental health agencies of H&S Energy stations’ non-compliance with many provisions of the UST regulations.

The companies, started in 1996, have built and acquired gasoline and convenience stores throughout the state under the Chevron, Texaco, Shell, Extra Mile, and their own, Power Market brand, including locations in Bay Point, Brentwood, Oakley, Pittsburg and Martinez.

“UST owners and operators must comply with the applicable regulations in order to prevent potential harm to the environment,” said D.A. Becton. “H&S Energy was cooperative with the People’s investigation and expended significant resources in order to bring their stations into compliance.”

Under the settlement, which includes a Final Judgment and Permanent Injunction entered in Solano County Superior Court Case No. FCS057332 by the Honorable E. Bradley Nelson, H&S Energy must implement certain compliance assurance programs including hiring an environmental compliance manager and bi-annual environmental audits and reports submitted to the People. In addition, H&S Energy must pay $900,000 in civil penalties and $200,000 in costs. $550,000 is due within five days after entry of judgment, and the remaining $550,000 is due October 22, 2022.

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

 

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