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.

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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Acting Locally to Make a State Bag Ban Possible

Bag Monsters
We have come a long way in the fight against plastic bags.

Only a few years ago the idea of stemming the flow of plastic trash into the Bay seemed like an overwhelming problem. One million plastic bags were entering the Bay every year. While we recognized that plastic trash was affecting all of California’s waterways and ocean coast, we knew we had to tackle the problem in our own region, because that’s where we knew we could make a difference.

I’m proud to report that California’s legislature has passed a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags through Senate Bill 270, which is awaiting Governor Brown’s signature. And the reason this is possible is because we laid the groundwork locally.

We began by advocating for trash to be classified as pollution, and regulated like other toxics in stormwater. We won new permit limits requiring the elimination of trash from Bay stormwater by 2022. Then we worked directly with cities to reduce throwaway plastics at the source, through local bans on plastic bags and Styrofoam food ware. Bay Area cities responded, and four years later more than 75% of the Bay Area population lives where a ban on single-use plastic bags is in force.

But many communities across the state are far behind. A state bag ban can close the gaps and make a bigger dent in plastic trash that plagues our neighborhoods, waterways, and beaches.

California has tried for many years to pass a bag ban law. What’s different this time? Mainstream business organizations like the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and the California Grocers Association are lining up behind the state ban. Businesses and consumers find the bill palatable because the Bay Area has demonstrated the value of a consistent regional approach to regulating bags. By working locally, we’ve secured collaboration and coordination between cities and counties, so supermarket chains and other businesses face the same laws region-wide. We’ve proven that bans work to keep plastic out of our waterways, prompt consumers to switch to reusable bags, and don’t harm businesses.

It’s remarkable that an idea once considered controversial has become mainstream so quickly, after just four years of advocacy by Save The Bay and our supporters. How did we get here?

  • In 2009 twenty-six waterways that flow to the Bay as well as the lower and central portions of the Bay itself were found to be so filled with trash that they violated federal Clean Water Act standards. Photographic evidence of shoreline trash submitted by Save The Bay supporters was convincing to the State Water Board and U.S. Environmental Protection agency.
  • Save The Bay convinced Bay Area water quality officials in 2010 to adopt the first-ever trash regulations under the Clean Water Act, requiring cities to reduce trash flowing into the Bay under the Municipal Regional Stormwater Permit. Cities must demonstrate that they have reduced trash flowing into the Bay by 40 percent by September 2014, and eliminate all trash flowing to the Bay by 2022.
  • When we suggested cities could advance compliance by banning plastic bags, some people thought we were crazy and predicted shoppers would revolt. The first cities to pursue bans were sued by front groups for the plastic industry. But shoppers adjusted.  Retailers adjusted. The lawsuits failed.
  • Local bag bans work: One year after San Jose’s ban went into effect plastic bag trash had decreased by 69% in the city’s creeks and 89% in its storm drains. The average number of single-use bags per customer dropped from 3 bags to 0.3 bags per visit.

On September 1, California state legislators passed SB 270, but it still needs a signature from Governor Jerry Brown. It feels good knowing that Bay Area residents and their representatives have embraced the value of conservation over convenience for the sake of the Bay. The Bay Area should be proud of its leadership on reducing plastic trash – now it’s time for all of California to catch up.

Ask Governor Brown today to sign SB 270 into law and make plastic bags history in California.

Cargill Tries to Gut the Clean Water Act to Build Homes in The Bay

Cargill Salt and its developer partner DMB revealed last month that they attempted to secure a key exemption from the federal Clean Water Act that would have weakened the nation’s top water pollution law for the benefit of their reckless development scheme in Redwood City. And they almost succeeded: the companies convinced a key official at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers headquarter to unilaterally reinterpret the law. Thankfully, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency intervened to block Cargill’s effort, at least temporarily.

The revelation shows Cargill is still desperate to advance its massive housing development on Bay salt ponds, and even is willing to gut the nation’s most important water protection law without any public process or Congressional debate. Through vigorous behind-the-scenes lobbying of a few federal government lawyers, Cargill almost upended laws that have reduced water pollution and protected public health for more than 40 years.

In August, Cargill released documents to a Redwood City newspaper showing that general counsel of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tried to instruct the agency’s San Francisco District to decline federal oversight of the Redwood City salt ponds where Cargill wants to build thousands of homes.

The Daily News reported that the Corps’ Chief Counsel, Earl H. Stockdale, signed a memo in January exempting the Saltworks site from Clean Water Act coverage because the ponds contain “liquid” that has “been subject to several years of industrial salt making processes.” His memo repeats nearly verbatim arguments DMB made two years ago that the concentrated bay water in the ponds is actually not water.  Stockdale’s memo also suggests that most of the ponds are also not covered by the Rivers and Harbors Act, which discourages construction of structures on “navigable water”.

If adopted as policy, Stockdale’s memo would overturn decades of Corps precedents in San Francisco Bay, including the Corps’ 2010 conclusion that development on the Saltworks site does require federal permission because those ponds do contain water protected by the Clean Water Act and Rivers and Harbors Act. Stockdale’s memo was issued without any public process or review, and without consultation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has primary authority over implementation of the Clean Water Act.

When the EPA discovered Stockdale’s memo, it intervened to halt any hasty decision about the Saltworks property. EPA officials realized that Stockdale’s reinterpretation could not only block protection of Bay salt ponds, but also jeopardize regulation of polluted runoff from mines and other sites across the nation. EPA Region 9 Administrator Jared Blumenfeld insisted that EPA have final say on the Clean Waters Act “in light of the significance of the issues raised by the Corps’ proposed approach and the ecological importance of the San Francisco Bay waters at issue.”

The EPA’s intervention prompted senior Army Corps officials to suspend any action on the Cargill site. They have launched an internal review of Stockdale’s memo and how its sweeping change to federal water law could be snuck through the regulatory process without their knowledge, public review, EPA consultation, or action by Congress.

Even if Cargill wins the ruling it seeks from the Army Corps, it will still face hurdles from other state and federal agencies to secure permits for developing on the Bay shoreline.  And no development project on the Redwood City salt ponds can advance without initial approval from the city itself.  Cargill’s formal project proposal was withdrawn from the city in May 2012, after three years of strenuous opposition from local residents and Bay Area elected officials prevented the completion of even a draft environmental analysis.

Residents objected to the city council considering the project because it was at odds with Redwood City’s General Plan and zoning, state and federal laws. Local opposition to the project prompted hundreds of residents to establish a new citizens group, Redwood City Neighbors United. These residents continue to object that Cargill’s plan would destroy restorable wetlands, add to traffic gridlock, overtax drinking water supplies, encroach upon industries at the Port of Redwood City, and put thousands of new residents at risk of floods from rising seas.

For years, Cargill and DMB have acted as if they were above the law, but they have made no progress convincing local, state and federal agencies their Saltworks project is legal. Now they have arrogantly disclosed their own effort to gut the laws that protect San Francisco Bay and the nation’s water so they can boost their profits.

These companies have been tireless and shameless, but Save The Bay and our allies remain vigilant to Cargill’s sneak attacks, and we have mobilized more than 25,000 Bay Area residents and more than 150 elected officials to tell Cargill to abandon its plan to build in the Bay.

Please help us spread the word! If you haven’t already signed our petition telling Cargill to abandon its plan, do so today, and spread the word to your friends here today.

OP-ED: Whatever Federal Agencies Decide, Any Saltworks Plan for Redwood City Is Still a Bad Idea

More than two years have passed since Cargill/DMB’s Saltworks plan was defeated in Redwood City, but they are still working behind the scenes with plans to build on the Bay. Redwood City residents are staying vigilant in their strong stand against this reckless development. Dan Ponti, president of Redwood City Neighbors United recently published this OP-ED in the Daily News

The Aug. 16 Daily News story, “Report favoring Saltworks plan stalled,” strongly suggests that DMB/Cargill is hoping that some media attention will short-circuit a formal review process that would determine whether their controversial plan to develop the salt ponds in Redwood City is subject to federal government oversight.

More than two years have passed since DMB/Cargill withdrew their initial plan to build a city in the bay, but the bitter controversy that pitted Cargill and its developer DMB against the residents of Redwood City, neighboring communities, and environmental groups has not gone away. They still intend to develop the site and are hoping that if they can get federal agencies to bow out, it will be smoother sailing for their project.
The findings in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers documents that DMB showed the press, if adopted, would reverse long-standing policy regarding salt ponds in San Francisco Bay. As an example, crystallizer ponds located near Napa (and very similar to the Redwood City salt ponds) were deemed “waters of the United States” subject to the Clean Water Act and permitting requirements. Those ponds are now being restored.

Doesn’t it seem odd that the Corps would claim jurisdiction and require permits for salt pond restoration projects, yet now claim no oversight role over a huge development on similar ponds? And there are other oddities — for example, the Corps attorney’s bizarre use of the term “liquid” to describe water in the salt ponds. Apparently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) thinks something is amiss too, and is reviewing the Corps’ decision, in part because of “issues raised by the Corps’ proposed approach.” What would this reversal on the federal jurisdiction mean for other salt ponds and former salt ponds throughout San Francisco Bay? Both the Corps and EPA oversee implementation and enforcement of the Clean Water Act. Review by both agencies is a required part of the process in making these determinations — and it should be allowed to play out.
However, all of this is just a distraction because a jurisdictional determination does not address the real issue here: that growing Redwood City on the salt ponds is a really bad idea.

In the two years since the Redwood City City Council turned its back on Saltworks, things have changed. Fueled by a new General Plan and an ambitious Downtown Precise Plan, housing is being built at an astonishing pace, focused in the downtown area where infrastructure and transit already exist. This is true smart growth that limits traffic impacts, makes efficient use of resources and preserves our open spaces.

In contrast, any new Saltworks project would contradict both the letter and spirit of our General Plan. Instead of growing Redwood City within our core, developing the ponds means more traffic gridlock on our freeways and city streets, needless destruction of restorable wetlands, and threats to the jobs and viability of our port and nearby industries. Add concerns about our water supply, liquefaction and seiche hazards, and the risk of placing thousands of additional residents in the path of rising seas to the list and you have to wonder why anyone would consider building out there. Simply put, Redwood City has neither the need, nor the capacity, to build in the bay.

So what part of “no” does Cargill/DMB not understand? Redwood City is moving on. Developing on the salt ponds never made sense to our community, and scaling back a bad idea doesn’t make it a good one. And that’s something you might think about while sitting in traffic on 101.

Dan Ponti is a Redwood City resident and president of the local advocacy group Redwood City Neighbors United: Responsible Growth — Not Saltworks (www.rcnu.org)