Scott Pruitt’s EPA: A dark day for America

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Today, the U.S. Senate confirmed Scott Pruitt as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

This is a big victory for polluters, and a huge loss for America and our Bay.

The danger Scott Pruitt poses to San Francisco Bay is very real. The EPA has a central role in protecting the Bay, particularly by enforcing the Clean Water Act. For years, Pruitt has been a fierce opponent of that law—along with many other critical environmental protections. As Oklahoma attorney general, Pruitt attacked the EPA’s cleanup of Chesapeake Bay—a case that’s directly relevant to future of San Francisco Bay.

So much of the progress we have achieved is under threat all over again. Restorable wetlands we’ve fought successfully to protect—like the Cargill Salt Ponds in Redwood City—are newly vulnerable.

The scary truth is, as long as Scott Pruitt leads the EPA, we cannot count on our federal government to protect the Bay. In this new era, environmental progress and protection will be fought and won locally. That’s why Save The Bay’s effective work with Bay cities and state agencies is more important than ever. To beat Pruitt and the anti-environment Congress, we need more resources to block wetlands destruction, create critical habitat for fish and wildlife, and reduce trash and toxic pollution from cities.

We are ready to fight—here’s what we’re doing:

  • Pushing back fiercely against every effort to undermine environmental protections
  • Pressuring California’s elected leaders to offset disastrous environmental policies from the Trump Administration with strong statewide protections
  • Rallying local communities as grassroots activists and environmental volunteers to protect and restore our Bay

It’s a dark time for environmental protection in America, but we’ve been here before and persevered. We’ve been mobilizing grassroots victories since 1961—before the EPA, before the Clean Water Act … before “environmentalist” was even a word. Today, our work is more essential than ever, and we won’t shy away from the fight.


Are you looking for a way to resist the Trump Administration’s assault on the environment? We need your support.

Scott Pruitt is terrible news for the Bay

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President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is an ardent foe of environmental protection who has attacked the laws that protect our water, air and land. In short—he poses a big threat to the Bay.

Trump selected Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to run the federal agency that protects public health and the environment. It’s a frightening choice. Pruitt led attacks against the EPA’s regulations and challenged the legitimacy of the agency itself through lawsuits.  He is unapologetically anti-science and anti-environment, with close ties to the very corporations and industries he would be regulating.

For years Pruitt has attacked the EPA and the Clean Water Act – the cornerstone of pollution prevention and wetlands protection here in the Bay and throughout the nation. He has fought EPA action against climate change, and sued to dismantle crucial laws and regulations that protect all of us.

Pruitt was one of the first to sue the Obama administration to block EPA from protecting the drinking water sources of 117 million Americans, and attacked the rules that prevent development in “waters of the U.S.,” which protect Bay wetlands against filling. He led other state attorney generals in trying to block restoration of Chesapeake Bay by filing an amicus brief on supporting draconian litigation, even though that Bay is more than 1,000 miles from Oklahoma.

He also crusaded against the EPA’s standards for reducing soot and smog pollution, its protections against toxic pollutants from power plants, and its authority to improve air quality in national parks and wilderness areas.

Pruitt proudly touts himself as a fan of fossil fuels.  And he supported fracking throughout Oklahoma with minimal regulation to protect groundwater.

I have no doubt that he would lead the Trump Administration’s effort to defund the EPA and cripple its enforcement against polluters. So to save the Bay, we must fight to stop Scott Pruitt’s nomination, and we need your help now.

For the Bay we love, the air we breathe and the water we drink, we call on the U.S. Senate to oppose Scott Pruitt’s nomination.

With the help of our thousands of members and supporters, Save The Bay will:

  • Demand that the U.S. Senate oppose Scott Pruitt’s nomination. We need help from our supporters to mobilize California’s Senators and others throughout the nation to block Scott Pruitt from becoming EPA Administrator.
  • Support our elected officials here in California to pursue strong state protections for the Bay, to counter the Trump Administration’s anti-environment policies.
  • Continue our leadership to protect and improve our environment, right here in the Bay Area. In the Trump era, effective local organizing and action is more important than ever.

We will stand up and fight for the health of our Bay and our environment. But we can’t do this important work without help from our supporters.

I’ve seen anti-environment Presidents before. They come to Washington, DC, and try to destroy protections for water, air and land that are essential for public health, wildlife, and the planet.  It takes strong, coordinated advocacy from people and organizations at the local, state and federal level to block them, and Save The Bay will join that effort with our colleagues and environmental champions in government.

We’ve also proven how much we can accomplish for the Bay without relying on the federal government for help.  New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has observed:

“If you want to be an optimist about America, stand on your head — the country looks so much better from the bottom up. What you see are towns and regions not waiting for Washington, D.C., but coming together themselves to fix infrastructure, education and governance.”

The Bay Area is a shining example of that, and Save The Bay has been a leading force for regional progress:

  • We worked for over a decade to create a new Bay Area funding source to accelerate Bay marsh restoration, building a broad coalition that ultimately won 70% voter support for the Measure AA parcel tax in the nine counties this June.
  • We endorsed nine successful local bond and tax measures for transportation, housing and infrastructure that can help the Bay Area grow sustainably, to be healthy and resilient.
  • We’re convening mayors and city staff from all nine counties to promote green infrastructure that adapts our communities to climate change, reduces Bay pollution and improves natural resources.

In Save The Bay’s 2020 Strategic Plan we set ambitious goals for improving the Bay and the Bay Area, and most of that is within our power as a region and a state.

We will combat the Trump Administration’s anti-environment agenda, and we will continue to make more progress—for the planet, and right here at home for San Francisco Bay.


Please consider supporting Save The Bay as we fight Scott Pruitt’s nomination and Donald Trump’s dangerous attacks on our environment.

Climate change is now, not tomorrow

A volunteer assesses the difference between a normal high tide and Monday's King Tide. Photo by: Vivian Reed
A King Tide offers a preview of what’s coming as global climate change raises sea levels. Photo by: Vivian A. Reed

Climate deniers and climate supporters have long voiced their opinion about climate change and its projected impacts on the planet. While throwing a snowball in the senate certainly adds color to the conversation, within the last month we’ve witnessed a dramatic shift in climate change discourse on a global scale.

In America, the federal court confirmed the Environmental Protection Agency’s legal right to curb greenhouse gases from large power plants, refineries and chemical factories.  And on the international stage, Pope Francis called for swift, unified action on climate change in his encyclical.

Climate disruption in our own backyard

So what does climate change mean for us here in the Bay Area? This news segment by ABC 7 News (KGOTV) explains:

According to the newscast, the Bay Conservation and Development Commission estimates that a 55 inch rise in sea level could cost San Francisco $62 billion and put 270,000 people at risk of flooding. But, we’re expecting much more water to flood the region — another recent study estimated $10.4 billion from potential flooding damage after an extreme storm.

One significant way to prepare for the risks of a changing climate is to restore wetlands along the Bay shoreline. In addition to carbon sequestration and protecting endangered wildlife, transition zone wetlands act as a natural buffer that protects local communities, businesses, and residents from flooding by slowing down and soaking up large quantities of water runoff during rainstorms and tidal inflow.

Act Locally
Each weekend hundreds of community volunteers actively discover the many benefits our wetlands provide. Youth and adults dedicate 3 hours of their time to help restore our shoreline by planting native plants, removing invasive species, or cleaning up trash. Taken together, we know first hand the impact you can make:

Thanks to more than 65,000 volunteers and a dedicated staff, we’ve made a lot of progress in restoring our wetlands. With the projected impacts of climate change, it’s going to take all of us to help protect our region from an uncertain future.

National and global leaders have made it clear, climate change awareness isn’t enough, action is required on our part. Are you in?

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Lessons from the Latest Spill

Pres. Nixon visits Santa Barbara beach
President Richard Nixon’s visit to the oiled beaches of Santa Barbara in 1969 prompted stronger federal environmental protections. Photo credit: National Archives

The images from 1969 and 1971 are still fresh in my mind.  When the massive oil spill from offshore rigs coated Santa Barbara beaches and wildlife in 1969, I was just seven years old, but I remember the TV and newspaper photos of the oiled birds and seals.  People flocked to the beaches, desperately trying to soak up the oil by tossing hay into the water and raking it ashore. 

Just two years later, two Standard Oil tankers collided near the entrance to San Francisco Bay, spilling more than 800,000 gallons of oil, and those scenes were repeated again at Ocean Beach, Crissy Field and the Marin Headlands. For me and a whole generation, these were local events that helped shape our awareness of the environment, its fragility, and how quickly it could be destroyed.

They clearly shaped the Californian in the White House, too.  Richard Nixon’s visit to the oiled beaches of Santa Barbara prompted the first serious talk of bans on offshore drilling, and his Administration soon created the Environmental Protection Agency and signed national air and water protection laws.

We came to realize that with oil spills in the bay or ocean, cleanup is nearly impossible, so prevention is essential.  Last week, when more than 100,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into the Pacific Ocean near Santa Barbara, they came not from a tanker collision or an offshore drilling rig, but from a pipeline on land that flowed to the coast.

We have those pipelines here in the Bay Area, and they pose the same threat to our Bay. The same company that owns the ruptured pipeline in Santa Barbara—Plains All American Pipeline—owns facilities in the Bay Area. And they’ve been cited for 175 federal safety and maintenance violations since 2006. 

In 2004, a Kinder-Morgan pipeline spilled 60,000 gallons of diesel fuel into the Suisun Marsh, a sensitive wildlife area just upstream from the Carquinez Strait near Fairfield.  The buried pipeline burst just 3 feet below the surface, and pipeline operators waited nearly a day before notifying state authorities.

In 1988, more than 400,000 gallons of oil leaked from a tank at Shell’s Martinez refinery when a drain valve was mistakenly left open, killing hundreds of birds and mammals.

Over the years, Save The Bay has advocated for better prevention to protect San Francisco Bay and its wildlife from the ravages of oil spills. 

When the Cosco Busan sideswiped one of the Bay Bridge towers in heavy fog, and spilled more than 50,000 of bunker oil into the Bay in 2007, we supported a package of legislation to improve oil spill prevention and response, and investigations to tighten safety procedures for ship navigation and regulation of bar pilots who guide ships in and out of the Bay.  But just last year, reports revealed a crucial ship navigation beacon on the Bay Bridge – designed to prevent a repeat of the Cosco Busan – was not operational.  It took CalTrans months to complete a permanent fix.

And we’ve warned about the increase in trains carrying Bakken crude oil on the Bay Area’s rail lines, posing threats to both populous communities and the Bay’s shoreline.  Save The Bay has supported legislation to increase oversight, notification, safety requirements, and funding for emergency response for the many ways oil threatens San Francisco Bay fish and wildlife.

In response to last January’s spill of “Mystery Goo” near Alameda that killed and damaged hundreds of birds, Save The Bay endorsed State Senate Bill 718 by Senators Mark Leno and Loni Hancock to fund state response to non-petroleum spills in the Bay. The bill establishes that “the state’s top priority during a spill of any kind is to immediately protect waterways and wildlife, regardless of what type of substance caused the problem.”

Last week’s Santa Barbara oil spill provides another wake-up call to reduce our dependence on oil and improve safety protections from oil accidents for our natural resources and the communities where we live.

Tell the EPA to Protect SF Bay against Cargill

Since last week over 1,600 people have taken action against Cargill and told the EPA to protect the Redwood City salt ponds. Now Bay Area members of Congress are also calling on the federal government to uphold the Clean Water Act and protect the Bay. Read more in the San Mateo Daily Journal and take action below. 

Redwood City Salt Ponds in Jeopardy
Tell the EPA to support the Clean Water Act and stop Cargill’s Bayfill development plan.

Two years ago, Save The Bay exposed Cargill’s goal of bullying federal agencies to declare the salt ponds in Redwood City exempt from the Clean Water Act and other protections.  After (temporarily) stopping them in their tracks, Cargill, the largest privately held corporation in the United States, is continuing its drive to pave over 1,400 acres of restorable salt ponds — again putting San Francisco Bay’s fragile shoreline at risk from development.

A leaked memo from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lawyers says the federal government should no longer apply Clean Water Act regulations to Cargill’s Redwood City salt ponds. This is exactly what Cargill has been heavily lobbying for behind the scenes. This dangerous re-interpretation of the Clean Water Act was created in secret, with no EPA participation, no approval from Congress, and no opportunity for public input. It’s outrageous!

Now we know Cargill has managed to convince an Army lawyer to support reversing decades of federal protection for Bay salt ponds. Any day, that agency could act on the memo and breathe life into the company’s reckless plan to pave over these Bay salt ponds.  But the EPA can still preserve legal protection for the Bay’s salt ponds. The agency has the authority to overrule the U.S. Army Corps and preserve Clean Water Act authority over Bay salt ponds.

Scientists agree that Cargill’s salt ponds in Redwood City are one of the most important shoreline habitats on the Bay. Surrounded by the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, the ponds are a wintering and migratory spot for tens of thousands of shorebirds. What’s more, some of the world’s last remaining endangered western snowy plovers depend on these ponds as breeding grounds.

Redwood City salt ponds offer a rare opportunity to restore San Francisco Bay’s tidal marshes, to benefit wildlife and the people of the Bay Area. We know it works because nearly-identical retired salt ponds near Vallejo were recently reconnected to the Bay, and wildlife is already flocking back. Redwood City’s salt ponds can have the same future if the EPA preserves Clean Water Act protection.

This issue is bigger the Bay. The Clean Water Act is the primary federal law governing water pollution—and undermining it here in San Francisco Bay puts wetlands across the United States at greater risk of development. It takes every one of us doing our part, working together, to protect and restore our most precious natural resource. Please donate today to support this important work.

TAKE ACTION and support SF Bay today!

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