Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Chevron's Richmond Refinery a Water-Use Role Model

From my vantage point, this story sells itself in two ways: 1) Chevron uses an almost incomprehensible 11 million gallons of water EVERY DAY. That makes it East Bay MUD's biggest water user. And 2) Thanks to the construction of a new treatment plant adjacent to the refinery, 7.5 million of those 11 million daily gallons are recycled and reclaimed effluent from the West Count Wastewater District. You can fault Chevron for using so much damn water to refine oils we probably shouldn't be using (and polluting our air in the process), but this isn't a zero-sum gain. 7.5 million gallons of recycled water is 7.5 million gallons of potable water, EVERY DAY, that they're saving (enough water to serve half of Richmond's population). And no one's making them do it. So, while Chevron's environmental and humanitarian record is still deeply flawed, this is an accomplishment worth praising. Water conservation is one of our state's greatest challenges, and the Richmond refinery is leading the charge toward greater and smarter use of recycled water among Bay Area refineries and indeed all East Bay water users. Let's at least recognize them for that, and hope more industrial and commercial users follow suit. According to East Bay MUD, the Conoco Phillips refinery in Rodeo may already be getting in line.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Berkeley Gets Creative with Energy-Efficiency Rebates

There are three things I like about this story: 1) Berkeley's innovative approach to energy-efficiency rebates. They operate on a tiered scale related to percentage reduction in whole-home energy use, rather than a single appliance-based flat rate; 2) The ME2 program puts federal stimulus money directly in the hands of Berkeley homeowners, at up to $5,000 at a time; and 3) A small, isolated program like Berkeley's ME2 is all fine and good, but the fact that PG&E is getting in on the holistic energy-efficiency rebate act is better. The utility is using Berkeley's program as a pilot, and plans to roll out a similar program statewide this fall. That means efficient homes could one day become the rule across California, and not the Berkeley exception.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

SF Chron: Legislature Votes Down Plastic Bag Ban

For more on the local context of AB 1998, read my story on East Bay cities' efforts to enact plastic bag bans of their own. Most were waiting on this decision to proceed. Since the statewide ban has failed, it's likely local municipalities will now attempt to proceed with their own legislation: "The Plastic Bag Waiting Game."

Here's the news on the failure of AB 1998, in today's Chronicle:

Legislature votes down plastic bag ban

By Wyatt Buchanan, Chronicle Sacramento Bureau

Plastic bags will remain in grocery stores and unloaded handguns can still be brought into Starbucks, but from now on shoppers might know what kind of animal fur was used in their new coat.

The Legislature failed to approve bans on single-use plastic bags and the open carrying of guns as the two-year legislative session came to a close Tuesday night.