Category: Climate change

Health Dangers of Coal Spark Local Debate

Operators at the Spring Creek Mine near Decker, Mont., apply a topper agent as rail cars are loaded with coal to reduce the amount of dust and coal lost during transportation.Photo courtesy of Jo Dee Black, Great Falls Mont.Tribune

Operators at the Spring Creek Mine near Decker, Mont., apply a topper agent as rail cars are loaded with coal to reduce the amount of dust and coal lost during transportation.Photo courtesy of Jo Dee Black, Great Falls Mont.Tribune.

By Tulio Ospina

As hundreds rallied at Oakland City Hall Tuesday protesting possible coal shipments through the developing Oakland Army Base, health concerns were one of the key issues that people raised.

In particular, the effects of exporting 5 million tons of coal per year on the respiratory health of West Oakland residents—who already suffer from some of the highest asthma rates in Alameda County—have been at the forefront of the debate.

According to experts, Alameda County has the third highest asthma-related hospitalization rates of all California counties and 24 percent of children in West Oakland suffer from asthma.

This health disparity has been mostly attributed to a combination of urban poverty, lack of routine healthcare and diesel pollution caused by constant cargo ship and truck traffic.

Dan Jaffe, professor of atmospheric and environmental chemistry at the University of Washington-Bothell, says that after years of studying the impacts of coal in the atmosphere, he believes there are environmental reasons to be concerned.

Regardless of whether coal dust is ever exposed to California air, the west coast of the U.S. would be contributing to its own air and sea pollution by shipping coal to Asia, where dust, ozone smog and mercury would be carried over on westerly winds.

“Pollutants can be transported in 7 to 10 days at high elevations and then touch down here in the US to contribute to the pollution that we breathe,” said Jaffe. “The amount of ozone coming from Asia can cause cities to go beyond their own ozone standards.”

Jaffe also claims that the majority of human-produced mercury found in seafood consumed by the United States comes from Asian coal burning.

The Sierra Club, a leader in the anti-coal fight, has taken a strong position on the carbon fuel’s health dangers.

“Transporting the coal via rail car to the port will increase train traffic and pollution in an area already overburdened by bad air,” according to a press release from the Sierra Club’s Bay Area chapter.

“Each open-top rail car of coal can lose up to one ton of dust between the mines and the port, resulting in the release of 60,000 pounds of toxic fine particulate matter in communities near the rails,” the press release said.

According to Brian Beveridge, co-director of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP), coal dust contains carcinogen and is most likely the cause of black lung and can lead to respiratory ailments such as asthma and lung cancer.

However, supporters of a coal deal claim shipping coal out of Oakland will not harm residents or workers, citing proposals to transport the coal in sealed cars and load cargo ships in ways that limit coal particles being released into the air.

In a statement released Thursday, Oakland Army Base developer Phil Tagami emphasized that no commitment has been made yet to transport any particular commodity through the bulk export terminal.

Tagami said that with whatever commodity shipped through Oakland, all rail transport “will occur utilizing newly designed covered rail cars and other measures to minimize and potentially eliminate fugitive dust issues.”

Dr. Washington Burns, executive director of the Prescott-Joseph Center and founder of the mobile asthma clinic, called the Breathmobile, says he is neutral on passing coal through Oakland but supports the export if the promised physical protections are fully implemented.

(To read Phil Tagami’s July 23 statement, go to http://postnewsgroup.com/blog/2015/07/23/op-ed-developer-phil-tagami-responds-debate-coal-transport-army-base/)

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 19, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

“No Coal, No Way,” Say Protesters

Protesters rally to stop the coal shipments from Utah to the Oakland Army Base, for export to Asia. Photo courtes of Oakland Elects.

Protesters rally to stop the coal shipments from Utah to the Oakland Army Base, for export to Asia. Photo courtes of Oakland Elects.

By Ashley Chambers

A coalition of environmental groups, concerned residents and local leaders held a rally on the steps of City Hall Tuesday demanding, “No coal in Oakland,” opposing a potential project to export the fossil fuel from the Oakland Army Base.

“When City Council Oakland made plans to boost our economy for the public benefit, then public health and safety must be a primary factor in these decisions,” said Margaret Gordon, co-founder of West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP), speaking at the protest.

“For all the citizens of Oakland, we hope that our public officials will stand by this policy and put an end to this dirty, backroom deal,” she said.

The plan to bring coal to Oakland has become public in the last few months, after Phil Tagami’s California Capital Investment Group (CCIG) became involved in a $53 million investment with four Utah counties with the potential of transporting coal by train and exporting up to 5 million tons of the commodity from a terminal at the Oakland Army Base.

Citing dire health and environmental risks to West Oakland and other parts of the city, local environmental groups including the Sierra Club, WOEIP, 350 Bay Area, and Communities for a Better Environment have called for keeping fossil fuels out of Oakland.

Youth added their voices to the protest, talking about the damaging impacts a coal terminal on already overburdened communities.

“Not all of us have the resources to live a healthy life, but exporting this coal in the city is allowing pollution to happen, making it difficult for a future,” said Allyson Dinh, 16, with the Summer Climate Justice Leadership Academy, speaking at Tuesday’s rally.

“The color of our skin, where we live or how much we make should not dictate if we get to live a long, healthy lifestyle,” she said. “I deserve to live better, we all do.”

Community members called on the City Council and the mayor to do everything in their power to stop the coal terminal.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 24, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Pope Francis Returns to South America, Calling for Climate Justice for the World’s Poor

He says government should include indigenous groups, people of African descent, women in decision-making

Pope Francis arrives in Ecuador. Photo courtesy of the Guardian

Pope Francis arrives in Ecuador. Photo courtesy of the Guardian

By Tulio Ospina

Pope Francis arrived in Ecuador on Sunday, visiting his home continent for a three-country tour that includes Bolivia and Paraguay.

The pope’s visit to Quito—Ecuador’s capital city—attracted over one million people who traveled from across the country and camped out overnight to get a good view of the pontiff.

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa, right, welcomes Pope Francis upon his arrival at Quito Airport, Ecuador, Sunday, July 5. Photo courtesy of Fox News

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa, right, welcomes Pope Francis upon his arrival at Quito Airport, Ecuador, Sunday, July 5. Photo courtesy of Fox News

The pope, who is Argentinian, had been expected to address the exploitation of the Amazon—the planet’s most ecologically important rainforest—following the release of his extensive encyclical on the environment.

The encyclical reveals his deep scientific, economic and social knowledge surrounding the causes and effects of “the harm we have inflicted on [the planet] by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.”

In accordance with Francis’ concern for the poor, the encyclical asserts that while human-induced global warming—based on “a very solid scientific consensus”—concerns all people, “its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries” and the world’s neediest populations.

Pope visits nursing home in Quito, Ecuador. Photo courtesy of the New York Times

Pope visits nursing home in Quito, Ecuador. Photo courtesy of  the Associated Press.

Known informally as “the pope of the poor,” his visit to the region has focused on a message that uplifts family values, communal love and unity.

“The people of Ecuador are beyond excited and pleased, the majority of them being Catholic,” said Azalia Cruz, a Post correspondent in Quito. “In Quito, it was extremely cold, and it was raining a lot when he arrived. Despite this, thousands of people gathered to greet the Pope.”

In one of Latin America’s oldest Catholic churches, Francis pressed a variety of issues,

Addressing ecological concerns, he reminded the Ecuadorean people that “when exploiting Ecuador’s natural resources, the focus should not be on instant gratification” and that appropriate environmental caution and gratitude must be paid when managing these resources.

“Groups of environmentalists opposing petroleum extraction in the Amazonian Yasuní National Park were trying to get a letter to the pope to get a statement out of him,” said Cruz.

These groups have come together in protest to Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa’s intention to open the park’s untouched interior for oil extraction, which will strongly affect the lives of the region’s indigenous tribes and the environment around them, as it has in the past.

Over many years, Ecuador and it’s peasant and indigenous populations have been involved in ongoing international legal battles with Chevron, accusing the oil company of deliberately dumping more than 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater and 17 million gallons of crude oil and leaving behind hundreds of open pits filled with hazardous waste.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, July 12, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

 

 

Residents Support Water Cutbacks But Worry About Rate increases

east-bay-municipal-utility-district-photo4

By Nikolas Zelinski

A recent Field poll indicates that 65 percent of Californians support Gov. Jerry Brown’s mandatory 25 percent reduction of water use in urban areas.

At the same time, seven out of 10 homeowners say that it would be a “serious problem” if their water bill increased by 15 to 25 percent.

East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) customers have already been asked to reduce their water use by 20 percent, with a goal of 35 gallons per day, per person, for indoor use.

Residential water use accounts for around 68 percent of EBMUD’s water demand, while commercial use is around nine percent, and around 11 for industrial, according to Nelsy Rodriguez, spokesperson for EBMUD.

Current demand is going down because of conservation and is around 151 million gallons per day.

Also, a surcharge will be discussed by the EBMUD Board of Directors on June 9, and if approved, will go into effect July 1. The temporary surcharge would be removed if the EBMUD board decides the drought is over, according to Rodriguez.

Rodriguez went on to explain that about 100 people have protested the surcharge, using Proposition 218.

Prop 218 was passed in 1996, and requires local governments to have a vote when considering any new taxes on property owners. The law recently gained traction in April, when a California Court of Appeals said that the law extends to water municipalities.

Residents in Morada, a small town just north of Stockton, protested against increased water rates. Prop 218 allowed the town to keep water costs at a flat rate, as long as the majority of customers protested the hike.

However, the same Field report also indicates that 57 percent of California residents believe that agriculture can reduce water consumption without hardships.

In an interview with the Post, Dr. Peter Gleick, founder of Oakland-based Pacific Institute, said:

“The biggest source of water out there is the water that we waste every day, doing the things that we do. A lot of the water we use now can be used more effectively. We could grow more food with less water, with better irrigation technology. And we could supplement that with more efficient toilets and washing machines at home. That’s probably the biggest source of untapped water, is the water that we’re wasting.”

Gleick went on to explain that “in the short run, individual behavior plays a significant role during droughts, because it takes time to implement new policies or technologies. But in the long run, changes in technology will be very important. We have a short term drought, and a long term water problem.”

Looking at possible solutions, Gleick said, “We treat waste water, and treat it to a fairly high standard, and then dump it into the ocean. But now there’s more of an effort to put that waste water to re-use. For instance, we use recycled waste water for our office landscaping.”

“We need to expand our storage capacity, but there are innovative ideas around groundwater storage,” he continued. “We over-pump our groundwater now, but we could be refilling those aquifers during rainy years.”

“There are proposals for conjunctive use – it’s the joint management of surface water and ground water together, and I think that offers far more potential than any new surface storage,” Gleick added.

“The reason the idea is so appealing is that it doesn’t require any more damage to rivers, and water isn’t lost to evaporation. I think the concept has great potential,” he said.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, June 5, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Lynette McElhaney Puts Damper on Tagami’s Coal Plan

Demonstrators rallied Thursday morning out the Rotunda Building in downtown Oakland where Phil Tagami's office is located, calling on him to keep his promise not to ship coal through the Port of Oakland. Photo by Ethan Bruckner.

Demonstrators rallied Thursday morning out the Rotunda Building in downtown Oakland where Phil Tagami’s office is located, calling on him to keep his promise not to ship coal through the Port of Oakland. Photo by Ethan Bruckner.

By Ashley Chambers

News has spread of developer Phil Tagami’s plan to negotiate a deal with four counties in Utah to ship coal to a new export terminal at the Oakland Army Base that could begin operation as early as 2017.

However, opposition by city officials and community activists indicate tat they are many in the city who have no intentions of allowing the greenhouse gas producing material to be exported from the city’s port.

Last month, the Utah Permanent Community Impact Fund Board approved a $53 million loan to the four counties – Sevier, Sanpete, Carbon and Emery – to lease a large share of the Oakland terminal to export five to six million tons of coal each year.

Moving forward with this project would directly conflict with a resolution passed by the Oakland City Council last year “opposing the transport of coal, oil, petcoke (a byproduct of the oil refining process) and other hazardous materials by railways and waterways within the city.”

Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney, whose district includes West Oakland, the Oakland Army Base and the Port of Oakland, has voiced her opposition to the export of coal from city land, saying, “West Oakland cannot be subjected to another dirty industry in its backyard.”

“We were told that this new terminal on city property would increase economic growth, but I see coal exports as the Trojan horse in the development of the Oakland Army Base. It is not the type of economic development that we want – no thank you!”

McElhaney said, “Since coal was not contemplated to be exported when the Army Base Development project was approved, the community has not yet had the chance to make their voices heard on this subject. This is unacceptable.”

Last year, Port Commissioners voted to reject a proposal to construct a coal export terminal.

Activists rallied Thursday across from Oakland City Hall in front of the Rotunda building – where Tagami’s California Capital & Investment Group (CCIG) is located – demanding that the developer keep the promise he made to bring no coal into Oakland.

“CCIG is publicly on record as having no interest or involvement in the pursuit of coal-related operations at the former Oakland Army Base,” Tagami wrote in a 2013 newsletter.

Coal is one of the largest producers of carbon dioxide. The health impacts of bringing this fossil fuel to the city would affect residents, workers at the port, and disintegrate the global environment.

Photo by Ethan Buckner.

Photo by Ethan Buckner.

Former Port of Oakland executives Omar Benjamin and Jerry Bridges, who were supporters of the failed coal terminal proposal in 2014, are involved in the project with Tagami and recently met with the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP) and explained their plans to use “clean” coal.

They said they would use clean, contained cargo shipping train cars that will be unloaded inside contained warehouses. Clean coal refers to the process of capturing and storing carbon dioxide emissions underground.

It has also been said that coal would be covered on the trains to reduce the spill of coal dust.

However, these efforts will not eliminate the health effects that the West Oakland community will be exposed to, according to many.

Jess Dervin-Ackerman, Conservation Manager of the Bay Area Sierra Club, said harmful health impacts would take effect immediately “in a community already overburdened with air pollution, and diesel particulates from trucks, trains, and ships.”

Residents would experience higher risks of asthma, heart and lung disease, and cancer from “one of the dirtiest energies on the planet,” she said.

Local residents would be exposed to coal dust and diesel particulates in the air that they can easily breathe in, even through walls, and enter into their lungs and blood stream, explained Dervin-Ackerman, a resident of Emeryville.

“We have to be moving away from these fuels if we want to have food and a world to live in that isn’t blazing hot, or flooded under rising sea levels, ” said Brian Beveridge of WOEIP.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 16, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Why Supporting the Fight Against Racist Police Killings Could Mean a New Chapter in Environmentalism

black lives matter milwaukee protest

By Katie Valentine,ThinkProgress

The Sierra Club has had its share of environmental successes over the years. It prevented the damming of the Grand Canyon in the 1960s. It ran successful efforts to expand Sequoia National Park in 1926 and create the Redwoods National Park in 1968. And it has helped persuade multiple college campuses to divest from fossil fuels and phase out coal-fired power plants on campus.

But until recently, there’s one thing the Sierra Club — and, some say, the broader environmental movement — hasn’t done well. It hasn’t shown support for other social movements, hasn’t added its voice to other calls for change. That’s something Michael Brune, president of the Sierra Club, wants to change.

“Whenever we see things that threaten our democracy, whether it’s the influx of corporate money into our political system or the erosion of voting rights, or things like [police violence] that are a violation of human rights, we feel it’s our job to speak up,” he said. “And we’re happy to do so.”

And, for Brune, the recent police killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York and Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio have touched a nerve. During the first week of December, the Sierra Club posted multiple statements in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has grown out of the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2012 and the high-profile police killings that have taken place in the last few months.

“Whether it’s the planet itself or the people who inhabit it, we hold the ideals of respect and reverence in the highest regard,” the organization wrote on its Facebook page on December 4. “For these reasons, we stand in solidarity with the organizations who are protesting and demanding justice in the deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown and every other victim of injustice.”

The choice to have the Sierra Club show support for the movement was simple for Brune, as he explained in blog posts following the Facebook-issued statements. All people, regardless of race, deserve a clean and healthy planet, he wrote. They also deserve to be able to live their lives without being fearful of the police, and without being subjected to discrimination.

These two issues, Brune wrote, “are not separate. Indeed, we believe that working toward a just, equitable, and transparent society is not only morally necessary but also exactly what we need to confront the unprecedented environmental challenges we face.”

Opal Tometi, Executive Director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration and one of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter Movement, agrees. She said in a statement to ThinkProgress that environmental issues are “inextricably linked to a racial justice agenda,” and that she’d like to see more people of color — especially those who are already leaders in the environmental justice movement — rise up to leadership roles in the larger, national organizations — organizations that, as a whole, have been found to skew white.

“Black communities in the U.S. and around the globe are impacted the worst and should be central in shaping and leading the national environmental justice movement,” Tometi said.

Brune isn’t the only one in the environmental movement who thinks so. The Sierra Club was among multiple environmental groups to put out statements of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in recent months: the National Resources Defense Council, for one, published a blog post this month stating the group’s support for the movement, and Greenpeace did the same in August.

In November, Friends of the Earth International put out a statement of support for the protests that erupted in Ferguson after unarmed teen Michael Brown was fatally shot by a police officer, saying that the shooting was “an affront to Friends of the Earth International’s vision of a society of interdependent people living in harmony.” The group’s U.S.-based arm put out another statement in December, after the police officer who used a chokehold to kill unarmed Eric Garner wasn’t indicted.

These types of statements are a sign of progress for the environmental movement, said Van Jones, environmental and civil rights advocate and founder of Green for All and Rebuild the Dream. Jones said environmental groups need to continue to engage with relevant social causes if they want to grow and evolve, and also if they want to gain supporters from the non-white community, a demographic which, polls have found, is often supportive of efforts to protect the environment.

A Yale poll from 2010 found that black Americans, Hispanics and people of other races are “often the strongest supporters of climate and energy policies and were also more likely to support these policies even if they incurred greater cost.” A 2012 poll found that 71 percent of Asian Americans would call themselves an environmentalist, compared to the national average of about 41 percent. And, according to a 2013 poll, 86 percent of black Americans support the President taking “significant steps” on climate change, compared to 76 percent of Hispanics and 60 percent of whites.

“It’s only natural that, if people who make up a large part of your growing base are under fire — literally — that you should express some sympathy and some concern,” Jones said. And, he said, now that these statements have been made, environmental groups should be sure to make their members aware of any legislation that might come out of the Black Lives Matter movement.

May Boeve, executive director of 350.org, said she hopes environmental groups’ statements of support for the Black Lives Matter movement is a sign of a new era in environmentalism.

There have been other signs in recent years that major environmental groups are starting to branch out: the Sierra Club came out in favor of immigration reform in 2013, an issue that had sparked internal arguments in the group in past years. It was joined by 350.org and Greenpeace. And Friends of The Earth has been fairly outspoken in the past about issues that fall outside of the traditional bounds of an environmental organization. The group’s D.C. office marched in support of healthcare reform in 2010, and President Erich Pica said they’ve also supported the marriage equality movement.

Pica said the Black Lives Matter movement was another reminder that the group that it can’t achieve its mission — to defend the environment and champion a healthy and just world — if it doesn’t address the “deeper, systemic” issues in American society.

“As an environmental group, we can focus too much on the healthy world piece,” Pica said. “On the justice piece — the ‘just’ piece — it’s hard for Friends of the Earth to accomplish that mission if there are blatant injustices that are occurring out there, where Americans — African Americans, black Americans — don’t have the basic rights to a justice system, where they fear that an encounter with a police officer could be their last.”

For the groups that issued statements of support for the movement, the decision to do so was fairly easy. But not everyone is happy about these statements — or, at least, not everyone on the Sierra Club’s Facebook page. Some wondered why a group whose main goal was the protection of the earth and the advancement of renewable energy sources bothered to put out a statement of support for a cause that, at first glance, had little to do with the environment.

One commenter called the Sierra Club’s statement “out of line,” and said he was disappointed that the environmental organization would choose to associate itself with “controversial criminal justice cases.”

Brune said he understood why some people were confused about the group’s statement — police violence, after all, isn’t an issue that’s typically discussed in the same conversation as carbon regulations and sage grouse protection. He can see why some might be concerned about the implications of the Sierra Club putting out statements of support for other issues: that it could water down the environmental movement or make the public confused about the movement’s goals.

But ultimately, Brune doesn’t agree with those concerns. He didn’t think twice about making the statements of support, and he wants to do more to address social issues in the future. He and his family have joined in some of the marches against police violence, and he said that Sierra Club organizers are “working in solidarity,” with Black Lives Matter organizers.

“I’m proud of the way in which we’re acting and engaging. For us, it’s not just about a post on Facebook or a blog entry or a series of supportive statements — we’re determined to engage on these issues over the long-haul,” he said. Externally, we’re always thinking about ways to both strengthen the environmental progress that we’re making and address some of the underlying obstacles towards that progress.”

Courtesy of Think Progress, December 16, 2014 (thinkprogressnow.org)

Civicorps and City of Oakland Work Together to Train Youth as Truck Drivers

Recycling and organics truck driver Wulliam Montolla

Recycling and organics truck driver Wulliam Montolla

By Ken Epstein

Oakland may become the only place in the nation where job opportunities for young people are written into a city’s franchise agreement to pick up the trash.

As part of the Oakland City Council’s recent 10-year contract with Waste Management, Civicorps – which provides high school diplomas and job training for young adults – is negotiating agreements that will allow its participants to work in jobs picking up green waste and enter relatively high paid positions as truck drivers.

Though the deals are not yet finalized, Alan Lessik, executive director of Civicorps, is optimistic that young people in the program will soon be driving trucks to pick up organic waste at commercial establishments throughout the city, to be delivered to East Bay Municipal Utility District’s green digesters at the Army Base in West Oakland where bacteria will turn the garbage into electricity.

Currently trainees can earn their Class B drivers license through the recycling program. Under the new agreement, these trainees they will become Teamster Local 70 Apprentice drivers, which will allow them to become union truck drivers and earn substantial raises in pay.

“We don’t have numbers yet, but their wages will almost double when they move from the pre-apprenticeship to the Teamster apprenticeship program,” said Lessik.

Although Civicorps provides young people with work experience, education is at the heart of the program.

For the first four months in Civicorps, students go to school 30 hours a week, full time. After that, they go to a job site for 30 hours a week and attend school for eight hours a week.

Civicorps is the only accredited high school and job training program for youth 18-26 years old in the East Bay. As a charter school in Oakland for the last 10 years, the school offers students a real high school diploma, not a G.E.D.

Civicorps Graduates Nykimbe Broussard, Harris Cox, and Michael Wilder.

Civicorps Graduates Nykimbe Broussard, Harris Cox, and Michael Wilder.

About 75 percent of the program’s students graduate, a higher rate than Oakland public high schools. Over 75 percent of Civicorps graduates go onto college or jobs, an impressive achievement for a program whose students had previously dropped out of high school.

In school, students study English, math, science and social studies. They explore career and college and can act in Shakespeare plays.

“What we know is everyone can learn, no matter what their past history has been,” said Lessik. But in order to be successful in their studies, he says, young people may need support to overcome serious obstacles, such as homelessness, before they can focus on schoolwork.

Civicorps works with about 130 students at time. About 90 percent are from Oakland, the rest from other parts of Alameda and Contra Costa counties. Thirty percent have been involved in the criminal justice system; 28 percent are from foster care.

Ninety-eight percent are students of color.

“All of our students are poor – the school system has failed all of our kids in the past,” said Lessik.

As the young people progress through the program, they begin “traditional conservation corps work,” which provides them with basic skills training.

Civicorps has contracts with EBMUD, the cities of Berkeley and Oakland, as well as the East Bay Regional Parks District. The youth do fire prevention, build trails, clean out streams, pick up litter and learn to handle small tools.

“Our aim is to integrate our kids into the community in a positive way,” said Lessik. “They’re doing environmental and social good in the community and are seeing themselves as part of the community.”

In Civicorps’ recycling program, young people can earn their regular drivers’ license and a Class B License that enable them to drive garbage trucks and other large vehicles.

“Through our program, they can get experience,” Lessik said. “We keep them for two years, because you have to show you have two years of violation-free, drug-free work experience to be eligible for fairly well-paying jobs as drivers.”

Civicorps, located at 102 Myrtle St. near the West Oakland BART station, has year-round enrollment for its school, job training and recycling truck driving program. For more information, call (510) 992-7800 or go to www.cvcorps.org.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 16, 2014, (postnewsgroup.com)

 

 

Plan to Divert Garbage from Landfill to Produce Green Energy Awaits Waste Management OK

EBMUD green digesters at Oakland Army Base in West Oakland

EBMUD green digesters at Oakland Army Base in West Oakland

By Ken Epstein

Oakland’s renegotiated trash deal may mean better rates and services for the city’s residents. But the agreement does not settle whether Oakland’s food waste will end up in a landfill or be diverted to East Bay Municipal District’s green digester that turns the garbage into electricity energy.

Under the now defunct plan the city had with California Waste Solutions (CWS), green waste from commercial establishments, such as restaurants, hospitals and cafeterias, would go to the EBMUD plant at the Oakland Army Base. CWS and EBMUD had a signed memorandum of understanding.

William "Bill" Patterson

William “Bill” Patterson

However, the terms of the city’s contract with Waste Management only require the company to negotiate with EBMUD.

“We are at a much earlier stage with Waste Management (than CWS),” said Abby Figueroa, EBMUD spokesperson. If the parties reach a deal, “We would end up being a subcontractor with Waste Management,” she said.

“This contract (would) enable us to put more resources into the plant, turning discarded food scraps and other digestible organic materials into renewable energy,” said William “Bill” Patterson, member of the EBMUD Board of Directors, speaking at a recent City Council meeting.

The idea behind EBMUD’s green digester is quite simple and utilizes technology that has been around for years. Carbon-rich food waste is blended and dumped into one of EBMUD’s 12 tanks to be decomposed by bacteria.

“The (2-million gallon) tanks are kept at about 100 degrees for 2-3 weeks (where the) bacteria chomp away and release byproducts, most of which is methane gas,” said Fugueroa.

The gas is captured and fed into EBMUD turbines or engines to create electricity. Most of what goes into the digesters at present are solids from wastewater, she said.

The digesters were built in the 1980s when the East Bay was still a center of the food processing industry. Most of that capacity is unused at present.

In 2001, EBMUD started collecting food waste to utilize its excess capacity in the digesters. This includes wastes from wineries, dairies, food processors, grease from restaurants and commercial food scraps, said Figueroa.

On average, every day about 10 tons of food waste is delivered to the plant.

In 2012, EBMUD became the first wastewater utility in the country to produce enough energy from biodegradable waste to power its plant and sell extra energy back to the grid, said Figueroa.

This cuts fossil fuel use, greenhouse gas emissions and saves about $3 million each year in electricity bills, she said. Last year, EBMUD produced 6 megawatts of power. Currently, the excess power that is generated is sold to the Port of Oakland.

If EBMUD contracts with Waste Management to take Oakland’s commercial food waste, the utility estimates it will receive 70-100 tons of food waste per day.

“We estimate this will produce 1 megawatt of power, or enough to power 1,200 homes,” she said. “ The alternative is to send all this food waste to landfills, where methane will be produced naturally but not captured for energy production.”

Figueroa said that EBMUD responds immediately to concerns of West Oakland community members about odors that intermittently come from the utility’s plant,

She emphasized that the utility takes these concerns seriously and has spent millions of dollars for the latest technology and uses chemicals to reduce odors. In addition, she said, the odors that cause the concerns come mostly from the wastewater treatment plant, not the digesters.

“We’ll continue our commitment of being a good neighbor in the West Oakland community. We are using the state-of-the-art odor control technology,” said Patterson, EBMUD board member.

EBMUD daily treats about 63 million gallons of wastewater from nine East Bay cities, including Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, El Cerrito, Emeryville, Kensington, Oakland, Piedmont and part of Richmond.

The utility has been treating the East Bay’s wastewater since 1951.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 10, 2014 (postnewsgroup.com)