Letter from Sacramento: The Power of People and a Few Good Lawyers

By Newsroom America Feeds at 24 Sep 2017

Dear Eric,

There's something that is easy to forget when you sit in Sacramento: the legislature and the governor are just part of the process.

They, alone, don't control environmental policy in California.

A few fine examples of this have blossomed this week. One involves the proposed twin tunnels that would draw water from the river system above the San Francisco Bay Delta and send it south, bypassing the Delta itself. Another addresses irrational border walls. And the third relates to bee-killing pesticides.

Together, these examples show that the right policy can prevail, given steady public pressure and, sometimes, a few good lawyers.

Delta Tunnels As I wrote in the Letter from Sacramento (http://www.sierraclub.org/california/letter-sacramento-we-still-oppose-delta-tunnels) last month, we oppose the tunnels and there are a few big events coming up in the near term that could decide the tunnels' fate.

On September 19, the board of the Westlands Water District, one of the organizations that was expected to provide about a quarter of the funding for the tunnels, voted 7 to 1 not to fund the $17 billion project. Then, the same day, the L.A. City Council committee responsible for directing the city's position on a key upcoming vote for financing by a Southern California water wholesaler, voted to oppose the financing until some difficult-to-meet conditions are met.

Those two decisions, taken together, are like a one-two punch that leaves a boxer flat on the mat. Does this mean the tunnels are dead? Not yet.

But it shows that months and months of steady work by grassroots advocates around the state to stop the tunnels are paying off.

There are more meetings and decisions ahead. But this week's Delta tunnels news is encouraging for everyone who wants a sensible water policy in California.

Border Walls There are a lot of reasons to hate the Trump Administration's enthusiastic pursuit of an expensive border wall between Mexico and the United States.

Among those are the environmental reasons.

Sierra Magazine (http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/2017-5-september-october/feature/how-trumps-border-wall-could-block-most-exciting-wildlife) recently published a compelling story about how the border wall threatens the comeback of the jaguar and the existence of various other species.

On September 20, California's attorney general, Xavier Becerra, filed a lawsuit to stop the border wall (http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-xavier-becerra-trump-wall-lawsuit-20170920-story.html). The AG's office is arguing that the federal government violated the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Coastal Zone Management Act when it began building the wall. The legislature couldn't come to an agreement about how to stop the border wall this year. Thank goodness the AG and his staff are taking action.

Save the BeesAnother thing the legislature hasn't been able to do in the last couple of years is stand up to Big Agriculture and the pesticide industry to adequately control neonicotinoids.

Neonics, as they are commonly called, are the pesticides that have helped cause a dramatic decline in bee populations.

Fortunately, a few good lawyers and judges have come to the rescue.

On September 19, a three-judge California Court of Appeals panel decided (http://earthjustice.org/news/press/2017/court-of-appeal-rejects-california-s-approval-of-bee-killing-pesticides) that the California Department of Pesticide Regulation did wrong by expanding the appropriate use for certain neonics, and violated the California Environmental Quality Act in the process.

Our friends at three groups that work on pesticide issues were represented by EarthJustice in the case, which has been wending its way through the courts since 2014.

Perhaps this signal from the courts will revive legislative efforts. And even if it doesn't, it will certainly help save some bees.

Sincerely, Kathryn Phillips Director

Thank you for being a part of our work! You may securely donate http://click.emails.sierraclub.org/?qs=3367c7483553483f955beb6af5a61c30f9b293b9cd980d7ca0e6e898bee856a169a32a186910fe4711dc1291d3fb006f8b1c06557336bcfc33e48e5f447e6de4 online or by sending a check to Sierra Club California at 909 12th Street, Suite 202, Sacramento, CA 95814.

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