Defying Trump, Hawaii Becomes First State to Pass Law Committing to Paris Climate Accord

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Kauai Island Utility Cooperative’s Anahola solar array in Hawaii in 2015. Hawaii passed legislation on Tuesday to align the state’s goals to the Paris climate accord. Credit: Kent Nishimura for The New York Times

 

Hawaii on Tuesday became the first state to pass a law committing to the goals and limits of the Paris climate accord, defying President Trump, who announced last week that he would withdraw the United States from the historic agreement.

The state’s governor, David Y. Ige, signed two bills at a ceremony at the state’s capitol rotunda in Honolulu. One of the bills was explicitly geared toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with the landmark goals adopted by world leaders with the Paris Agreement in 2015. The other will establish a task force to help the state improve soil health and remove carbon from the atmosphere.

He was joined by mayors from around the state, who signed an agreement to commit to the goals of the accord.

“Many of the greatest challenges of our day hit us first, and that means that we also need to be first when it comes to creating solutions,” Mr. Ige, a Democrat in his first term as governor, said in remarks before the signing. “We are the testing grounds — as an island state, we are especially aware of the limits of our natural environment.”

Climate change is real, regardless of what others may say,” he added.

Mike Gabbard, the chairman of the state senate’s agriculture and environment committee was more blunt.

“I don’t think it’s a surprise for any of us to be here, when the president of the United States had climate change removed from the White House website,” he said.

Many references to climate change were removed from the White House site in January, as part of the routine digital turnover from one administration to the next. In April, the Environmental Protection Agency removed much of the climate change information from its website, saying in a news release that the updates were made to “reflect the approach of new leadership.”

Hawaii is one of more than 10 states that have joined the U.S. Climate Alliance, a coalition committed to upholding the Paris accord despite the federal government’s withdrawal from it. The alliance, announced by the Democratic governors of California, Washington and New York last week, also includes Minnesota, Virginia, Massachusetts and Vermont.

Those states are working parallel to a broader effort being coordinated by Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, of cities, corporations and universities that together will submit a plan to the United Nations pledging to meet the targets for the United States specified by the accord. It is unclear how exactly that submission will take place.

On Tuesday, Gov. Jerry Brown of California met in Beijing with President Xi Jinping of China, upstaging the White House and further suggesting the determination of some states to hew to the climate accord.

Hawaii is on the front lines of climate change, so much so that in September, President Barack Obama used it as the base from which to discuss his legacy on the issue, as well as the continued threat from rising seas, extreme weather and other byproducts of a warming planet. A report published by the Environmental Protection Agency last August named a shortage of fresh water, ocean acidification and shoreline loss as threats that the state faces as a result of climate change.

The Paris accord, which required that each country submit an individual plan for reducing its carbon emissions, was agreed to by 195 countries in 2015. Though the plan was nonbinding, supporters saw it as an important framework for holding countries accountable in the fight against climate change.

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China and California sign deal to work on climate change without Trump

Governor Jerry Brown says president’s decision to pull the US out of the Paris agreement will be only a temporary setback

China and California have signed an agreement to work together on reducing emissions, as the state’s governor warned that “disaster still looms” without urgent action on climate change.

The governor of California, Jerry Brown, spoke to reporters at an international clean energy conference in Beijing about Donald Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Paris agreement, saying it would ultimately prove to be only a temporary setback.

For now, he said, China, European countries and individual US states would fill the gap left by the federal government’s decision to abdicate leadership on the issue.

“Nobody can stay on the sidelines. We can’t afford any dropouts in the tremendous human challenge to make the transition to a sustainable future,” Brown said. “Disaster still looms and we’ve got to make the turn.”

Brown later held a closed-door meeting with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, during which the two pledged to expand trade between California and China with an emphasis on so-called green technologies that could help address climate change, Brown said. Trump’s announcement last week that he wanted to pull out of the Paris accord did not come up, according to the governor.

“Xi spoke in very positive terms,” Brown told reporters after the meeting. “I don’t think there’s any desire to get into verbal battles with President Trump.”

Trump’s decision drew heavy criticism within the US and internationally, including in China, which swiftly recommitted itself to the agreement forged with the administration of the former US president Barack Obama. Trump argued that the Paris agreement favoured emerging economies such as China’s and India’s at the expense of US workers.

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Chinese president Xi Jinping meets visiting California governor Jerry Brown to discuss a climate deal. Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

 

Tuesday’s agreement between California and China’s Ministry of Science and Technology effectively sidestepped Trump’s move, bringing about alignment on an issue of rising global importance between the world’s second-largest economy — China — and California, whose economy is the largest of any U.S. state and the sixth largest in the world.

Brown signed similar collaboration agreements over the past several days with leaders in two Chinese provinces, Jiangsu and Sichuan.

Like the Paris accord, the deals are all non-binding. They call for investments in low-carbon energy sources, cooperation on climate research and the commercialisation of cleaner technologies. The agreements do not establish new emission reduction goals.

The US has long been a major player in the clean energy arena, driving innovations in electric cars, renewable power and other sectors of the industry. California, with some of the strictest climate controls in the nation, has been at the forefront of the sector.

China in recent years overtook the US as the world leader in renewable power development. But it has also struggled to integrate its sprawling wind and solar facilities into an electricity grid still dominated by coal-fuelled power plants.

At the same time, Chinese leaders face growing public pressure at home to reduce the health-damaging smog that blankets many urban areas.

China is by far the world’s largest user of coal, which accounts for almost two-thirds of its energy use and has made it the No 1 emitter of climate-changing greenhouse gases.

Communist party leaders pledged that greenhouse gas emissions would peak no later than 2030 under the Paris pact, and start to fall after that. They have cancelled the planned construction of more than 100 new coal-fired power plants and plan to invest at least $360bn in green energy projects by the end of the decade.

The nation’s consumption of coal fell in 2016 for a third consecutive year, but rebounded slightly in 2017. It could meet its 2030 target a decade early.

Published in The Guardian 7 June 2017

LAWSUITS ARE CHALLENGING ALMOST ALL TRUMP’S ENVIRONMENTAL OFFENSIVES

By blocking these common sense standards, the administration is reversing progress in cleaning the air we breathe and fighting climate change

On Thursday, President Trump made international headlines by announcing his intent to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement—a landmark decision that was met with outrage and dismay from climate activists and environmentalists. But while the gesture carries great symbolic significance, signaling the president’s disinterest in international climate efforts, any hope of actually achieving our domestic climate goals pledged under the agreement had already long since vanished.

Since January, the Trump administration has taken swift steps to dismantle numerous climate and environmental priorities established under the Obama administration, including the repeal of multiple environmental regulations. And environmentalists are fighting back—by way of the courts, that is. Just about every environment-related action the Trump administration has taken has been met with a legal challenge.

Trump is no stranger to litigation—reports suggest he was sued thousands of times as part of his career in real estate before ever becoming president. But since assuming office, he’s also been met with record-setting numbers of legal challenges. In his first two weeks as president alone, his administration was sued more than 50 times, mostly over the travel ban he implemented shortly after his inauguration. By March, reports suggest the number of lawsuits had risen above 100.

A major reason for the high rate of litigation has to do with the president’s generous use of executive orders, often in ways that environmental and social groups feel oversteps his authority, according to Michael Burger, executive director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School. The travel ban is perhaps the most high-profile example of these.

What we’ve seen with Trump is an attempt to really use the executive order to create whole new policies.

“Executive orders tend to be directives from the president to administrative agencies to carry out internal tasks,” he said. “On occasion, they’re used to set broader policy agendas. But what we’ve seen with Trump is an attempt to really use the executive order to create whole new policies. And some of the policies that these executive orders are seeking to create are at direct odds with the statutes that provide the executive branch with its authority to take any action at all.”

To date, several dozen of the lawsuits currently filed against the Trump administration are directly related to climate and environmental issues. A number of them, although certainly not all, are related to executive orders.

In regard to Paris, White House advisers had actually cited potential lawsuits as an extra reason the president should withdraw from the treaty. Prior to Thursday’s announcement, they’d suggested that if the U.S. remained in the treaty while failing to enforce greenhouse gas-reducing regulations—namely, the Clean Power Plan, which the Trump administration has been actively working to unravel—environmental groups could pin new lawsuits advocating for climate regulations on the commitments laid out in the Paris agreement.

But as The Washington Post’s Amber Phillips recently pointed out, Trump’s getting sued for his environmental policies either way. He’s already facing a handful of cases over major policy points—and now that the Paris announcement has dashed hopes that the administration will make climate action a U.S. priority, more may be coming in the future.

We’ve put together some of the major examples of recent federal actions and the lawsuits they’ve inspired so far.

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What we’ve seen with Trump is an attempt to really use the executive order to create whole new policies

The promised border wall

A cornerstone of President Trump’s campaign, from its earliest days, was the promise of a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. And a January executive order on the topic of immigration sealed his intent, calling for the immediate construction of a wall along the Mexican border.

The idea has been met with resistance from a wide array of social communities and organizations, but it’s also been challenged by environmentalists concerned about its effect on the natural landscape. In April, conservation group Center for Biological Diversity and Arizona Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration that would block the project’s construction, claiming that the government failed to adequately assess the wall’s potential environmental impact. The plaintiffs express concern that the wall could have a negative impact on water systems and native species, particularly endangered ones like jaguars.

The revival of the coal industry

Another key Trump campaign promise involved the reinvigoration of the declining coal industry. And in March, the Trump administration took a step in that direction by lifting an Obama-era moratorium on new coal leases on public lands. This directive was also issued in an executive order.

Almost immediately, the Northern Cheyenne tribe in Montana, along with a group of environmental organizations, sued the Trump administration for lifting the ban without completing an environmental review of the coal-leasing program. The plaintiffs suggest that the government should have first evaluated the program’s “significant environmental, health, and economic impacts—including impacts from climate disruption caused by the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, and socioeconomic and environmental impacts to local communities.”

Another chance for Keystone XL

Among the most controversial environmental issues that arose during the Obama administration was that of the Keystone XL pipeline. This proposal called for a new pipeline branch between Alberta and Nebraska, running through parts of Montana and South Dakota in the process. The idea was met with fierce protests from Native American, social justice and environmental groups, and it was ultimately rejected by President Obama.

But in January, Trump signed an executive order aimed at advancing the project, and in March the administration officially approved the pipeline’s construction. In response, multiple environmental organizations sued the administration, arguing that the approval of the project relied on an outdated environmental assessment and ignored new information about the pipeline’s potential impact. A separate lawsuit was also filed by conservationists and representatives of indigenous groups.

Tough breaks for wildlife

In yet another reversal of an Obama-era rule, Congress voted in February to undo a regulation aimed at protecting certain Alaskan wildlife from predator control operations on public lands, prohibiting the shooting of denning mother bears and wolves as well as certain types of trapping and aerial hunting. President Trump signed the reversal into effect.

In April, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the strategy Congress used to repeal the regulation—a little-known law that allows Congress to overturn federal regulations within a limited amount of time after they’re finalized. The case challenges an aspect of this law that stipulates that after a rule has been repealed in this manner, no substantially similar regulation may be enacted again without congressional approval. The case argues that “this constraint on future rulemaking violates the separation of powers that must be maintained between the legislative and executive branches under the U.S. Constitution.”

At the time it was filed, Reuters reported that the lawsuit—the first of its kind to make such a challenge—stood little likelihood of success.

The expansion of offshore drilling

Last month, President Trump signed an executive order that could expand offshore oil and gas drilling, directing Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to review an Obama ban on drilling in certain parts of the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. In May, a group of environmental groups responded with a lawsuitchallenging the president’s authority to make such a move.

The plaintiffs point out that President Obama initiated the ban in the first place under a law called the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, which provides guidelines for oil and gas development leasing. They argue that this act allows presidents to withdraw certain areas from consideration for leasing—but that “neither OCSLA nor any other provision of law authorizes Presidents to undo such withdrawals.”

Attacks on energy efficiency programs

It’s not just environmental groups that are pushing back against the Trump administration’s environmental policies—states are jumping on the bandwagon now as well.

By blocking these common sense standards, the administration is reversing progress in cleaning the air we breathe and fighting climate change.

In January, the White House directed federal agencies to place new or pending regulations on hold until they could be reviewed by incoming Trump administration agency heads. Among the regulations delayed as a result were a series of energy efficiency appliance standards introduced by the Obama administration. Energy efficiency standards are widely regarded by environmentalists as an important way to cut down on the energy consumption of individual households, businesses and other buildings, reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the process.

As a result, in April a coalition of state attorneys general filed a notice of intent with the Department of Energy to sue within 60 days. The states were joined in their protest by the city of New York and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

In a statement at the time, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman decried the delays as harmful to both public health and the environment. “By blocking these common sense standards, the administration is reversing progress in cleaning the air we breathe and fighting climate change – and denying consumers and businesses some $24 billion in savings,” he said.

Written by CHELSEA HARVEY, published in FUSION 5 June 2017.

Wind Project in Wyoming Envisions Coal Miners as Trainees

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A Goldwind project in Shawmut, Mont. The company has an agreement to supply turbines for a project in Carbon County, Wyo., that will provide 200 jobs.

 

Goldwind Americas, an arm of a leading wind-turbine manufacturer based in China, has been expanding its business in the United States. It has been careful to seek out local, American workers for permanent jobs on the wind farms it supplies.

Now it is trying to extend that policy to an unlikely place: Wyoming, which produces more coal than any other state and has hardly welcomed the march of turbines across the country, even imposing a tax on wind-energy generation.

On Thursday at an energy conference in Wyoming, the company announced plans for a free training program for one of the nation’s fastest-growing jobs: wind farm technician. And it is aiming the program at coal miners having trouble finding work, as well as those from other industries.

Called Goldwind Works, the program would begin next month with a series of informational meetings in Wyoming and include a safety training and tower climb at a wind farm in Montana.

The company has an agreement to supply turbines, potentially 850, to a project in Carbon County, Wyo., where the state’s first coal mine opened a century ago. Once construction is completed, as many as 200 workers will be needed to maintain and operate the plant.

The chief executive, David Halligan, said in a telephone interview that he expected coal workers to have relevant skills, mainly electrical and mechanical, and experience working under difficult conditions.

“If we can tap into that market and also help out folks that might be experiencing some challenges in the work force today, I think that it can be a win-win situation,” he said. “If you’re a wind technician, you obviously can’t be afraid of heights. You have to be able to work at heights, and you have to be able to work at heights in a safe manner.”

The program could offer a needed boost. Hundreds of coal miners were laid off in Wyoming last year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that national employment for mining and geological engineers will grow by 6 percent between 2014 and 2024, while employment for wind turbine technicians is expected to grow by 108 percent.

Robert Godby, director of the Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy at the University of Wyoming, said the announcement could lead to a shift in thinking about the potential economic development benefits of wind projects. The state has some of the most robust winds in the country and has attracted keen interest from developers.

“This is actually a realization of these benefits in a way that hasn’t been apparent before,” Mr. Godby said. “The more you hear these positive stories and you start to see more direct benefits, it changes local perspectives and kind of begins to open minds.”

He cautioned, though, that the program could hardly make up for job losses in the coal industry, in part because each coal job results in related jobs, given the supply chain involved in handling and transporting the fuel.

Beyond Wyoming, the program could have implications for complex trade relations with China. In 2013, the Commerce Department finalized steep tariffs on some wind towers after finding that China was providing unfair subsidies to manufacturers that were then selling their products at below-market prices.

“This seems to be an effort — and perhaps a smart effort — by a Chinese company to win its way into the hearts of this administration and get beyond what’s happened in the past by targeting a core group of supporters of this president,” said Rory MacFarquhar, a visiting fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

“But this administration has been talking much more about manufacturing than about services,” added Mr. MacFarquhar, who helped set international economic and trade policy in the Obama White House. “They seem to want to actually have factory jobs back in the United States.”

Mr. Halligan said that Goldwind did not have plans for American manufacturing, but that the Wyoming wind project could generate thousands of construction jobs and hundreds of full-time operations and support positions.

The company plans to use the Wyoming program as a pilot. It hopes to eventually roll it out in other states where it supplies turbines, like Texas.

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What Does Trump’s Budget Mean for the Environment?

His proposal would gut federal enforcement and effectively halt many Superfund cleanups.

Didn’t we just go through this?

In early March, President Trump proposed a budget that would have scaled back the federal government’s stewardship of the environment beyond recognition. The budget traded historically unprecedented cuts to the EPA for $50-billion boosts to defense spending, and it shuttered long-running programs that protect wild areas outside of any one state’s dominion, like the Chesapeake Bay, the Great Lakes, and the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

The budget scared environmental leaders, who also assured supporters that such a plan could never pass Congress. (Among American adults, environmental protection is really quite popular.) And they were right. After two months of negotiations, Congress approved a bipartisan spending bill that preserved nearly all of the EPA’s funding while actually increasing support for renewable-energy programs.

In other words, all those Trump proposals—slashing the EPA’s budget by $3 billion, laying off 3,500 EPA employees, and closing many regional programs—never became a reality. Congress would not accept them. Trump signed the budget on May 5.

But that bill—and that fiscal year—will expire on September 30, 2017. So now the White House and Congress must go through the entire ordeal again for 2018. And it seems neither irresponsible nor inappropriate for the average news consumer to ask: Well, will this time be any different?

Trump’s approach this time around certainly seems no different in ambition. The White House’s proposed plan for the 2018 budget, unveiled Tuesday, adopts many of the same cuts that made the previous edition. Some cuts are even more severe. The highlights include:

  • Trump wants to cut the EPA’s budget by nearly a third, reducing its overall funding level to $5.6 billion. On a percentage basis, that is the largest proposed cut to any federal agency. It would give the EPA its smallest budget in 40 years, adjusting for inflation.
  • This would cut the EPA’s workforce by 20 percent, removing 3,800 jobs.
  • Most significantly, Trump wants to cut by 40 percent the EPA’s federal enforcement office—the people who make sure corporations are complying with federal regulations. Scott Pruitt, the agency’s administrator, has previously said that he believes that states—and not the EPA—should oversee enforcement of rules themselves. But Trump’s budget would alsocut by 45 percent the grants that allow states to do that enforcement. These changes would almost certainly ensure far less enforcement of existing environmental rules than happens now, at federal and state levels.
  • The EPA office which determines standards for the amount of acceptable pollution in drinking water will also have its budget cut by half. (Earlier this year, the same office struck the words “science-based” from its mission statement, replacing them with “economically … achievable.”)
  • Superfund, the EPA program that cleans up toxic-chemical spill sites that have become public-health hazards, will have its budget cut by 25 percent. Such a cut will halt many cleanups.
  • Trump also wants to shut down many of the same EPA programs targeted in March. He would terminate the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, and Puget Sound cleanup programs. He would also close Energy Star, which informs consumers which home appliances are most energy-efficient.
  • Beyond the EPA, the budget also slashes environmental-science programs throughout the government. Many of these target climate change. Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s budget director, has said that he considers climate science to be a “waste of your money.” So Trump’s budget cuts $59 million in Earth-science research grants from NASA. Meanwhile, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s research office would see its budget reduced by one-fifth.
  • But the slashed science programs go far beyond climate change. Trump proposes to end a NOAA program to research and better predict tornadoes in the south, and he also cuts $11 million from a tsunami-warning program for the Pacific coast. He also wants to slash NOAA’s weather-satellite budgetby 17 percent.
  • Finally, he proposes to savage Department of Energy programs with environmental ends. While that department’s overall budget is only reduced by five percent, he would cut many of its greenest programs. Trump wants to close ARPA-E, the government’s energy-innovation R&D lab; and many of the loan-guarantee programs that support renewable-energy companies.
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Donald Trump meets with his cabinet in early March. Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator, and Mick Mulvaney, the budget director, sit together at the end of the table

These are—to state the obvious—a lot of cuts.

Taken together, they advance a sweeping—and there is no word but radical—plan to roll back the government’s stewardship of the environment and natural resources. By the standard of the last 30 years of American politics, these are unprecedented proposals for the EPA specifically. For comparison, President George W. Bush (today considered no friend of the environment) proposed to cut the EPA’s budget by only 5 percent in his first budget.

Of course, Bush ran as a compassionate conservative; Trump promised during his campaign to abolish the EPA “in almost every form.” And this budget—while not zeroing out the agency—does point to how the White House could effectively knee-cap it. You cannot cut funding for the EPA office of enforcement by 40 percent, while slashing enforcement grants for states by 45 percent, and not expect to see a dramatic increase in unlawful pollution.

And yet. Trump can be as ambitious as he fancies in this document, because his plans are still extremely unlikely to go anywhere. As my colleague Annie Lowrey wrote in March, any federal budget passed before 2021 has to meet certain criteria created six years ago as part of the Budget Control Act. That law—usually called “sequestration”—set certain automatic spending cuts into effect. It also prohibited increasing defense spending while cutting non-defense discretionary spending. This is exactly what Trump proposes to do in 2018.

Congress can get around those rules, but it would need to clear the 60-vote filibuster threshold in the Senate. That means that Republican leaders will need some Democrats in the Senate to help them shepherd a budget through. And Senate Democrats will not agree to a 30-percent cut to the EPA.

And there is even some mild Republican opposition to some of these cuts. Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin, wants to save the Great Lakes cleanup program. And it’s unlikely the 16 senators from states that touch the lakes would let it die.

But Republicans may still try to get many of smaller cuts through. Paul Ryan said Tuesday that “the aspiration and the goal [of this budget] is right on the target.” The budget hacks so far into the social safety net—Medicaid would be cut 47 percent by 2027—that Democrats may have to cede environmental ground to preserve some semblance of anti-poverty programs. And any cuts to the EPA that Republicans propose—even if they exceed the Bush 5-percent reduction—will seem moderate compared to Trump’s proposed lopping.

And even if the budget preserves Obama-era funding for the EPA, the agency won’t necessarily go about its Obama-era work. Many of Pruitt’s goals for the agency will require plenty of policy-writing staff. And elsewhere he can accomplish his means by other ends. For instance, even if the entire enforcement division survives, Pruitt can order the agency to hinder actual enforcement. There’s evidence he’s already doing exactly that.

Which is to say: None of the disclaimers—about Congressional intent, about political reality—make Trump’s proposal any less striking. This budget proposal has a clear goal. If he had the power, Donald Trump would allow polluters to spew carbon and chemicals into the air and water, muzzle the science that identifies why that’s a problem, and cut off the research and development which is finding a more renewable way of generating power.

As I wrote last go-round, Trump’s budget remains a kind of fiduciary fan fiction for Freedom Caucus conservatives, who can fantasize about a skinnier government without ever living with the political consequences. So even if it never come to pass, it’s worth noting: This is what they want.

Written by ROBINSON MEYER, published in The Atlantic 24 May 2017

California redwoods license plate dies for lack of interest

A proposed new license plate to raise money for California’s state parks system won’t be printed. It needed 7,500 pre-paid orders by May 18, 2017 and failed to hit that target.

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Millions of Californians visit the state’s majestic redwood forests every year. Their love for the venerable trees, however, apparently doesn’t extend to their license plates.

A four-year campaign to raise money for California’s state parks system with a new commemorative license plate featuring redwood trees has failed for lack of support.

Under state law, new specialty license plates need 7,500 pre-purchased orders before the Department of Motor Vehicles will produce them. And when the deadline passed last Thursday, the parks plate had sold only 2,581.

People who pre-ordered a specialized license plate will get a refund, state parks officials said Monday.

“Though this unique opportunity to support California’s state parks faltered, we are grateful for the public support of California’s amazing natural and cultural resources, and we encourage everyone to continue visiting their state parks,” said Gloria Sandoval, a spokeswoman for the state parks department.

The state parks plates cost $50 for the first one issued and $40 each year after, and for personalized plates, $98 for the first one and $78 each year after.

California has 12 specialty license plates on the road. They include a Yosemite plate that has raised $19.6 million for projects in Yosemite National Park; a recently approved Snoopy plate that raises money for California museums; a whale-tail plate that has generated $26.5 million for coastal programs; and a veterans plate that has raised $12.7 million for military veterans programs.

Together, they have raised a combined $217 million over the years, with the KIDS plate, featuring a small hand, generating the most — 61.9 million for child abuse prevention and children’s health issues.

The redwoods plate was designed by Wyn Ericson, an artist and middle school teacher in Napa County. Ericson’s work won first prize in a contest in November 2015 to select the best design. The plate was originally authorized under a law that passed in 2012, and pushed by former state Assemblyman Jared Huffman of Marin County, who now is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Various theories for why the redwoods plate failed have circulated privately among its supporters, including failure to mount a sustained public relations campaign; the fact that Southern Californians may not identify with redwoods, a Northern California tree, as much as Northern California residents do; and the fact that Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed a 12-cent gas tax increase to fund highway and road repairs.

The redwoods plate isn’t the first environmentally themed plate this year to die, however.

A plate designed to raise money for environmental restoration at the Salton Sea — a vast inland body of water in Imperial and Riverside counties — died earlier this year when it sold only 151 copies, according to the Desert Sun newspaper in Palm Springs.

 

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A proposal to create a new license plate to help fund environmental restoration at the Salton Sea in Imperial and Riverside counties in the Southern California desert failed in the spring of 2017 when it did not reach the required number of 7,500 pre-purchases

written by , published in The Mercury News 22 May 2017

 

Farewell, giant pine: Climate change kills a champion at Washington Park Arboretum

One of the state’s biggest pines is headed for the saw, after climate change and bugs weaken a champion at the Washington Park Arboretum

Written by  and published in The Seattle Times the 13 May 2017

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The state’s champion pitch pine towers over David Zuckerman, manager of horticulture at the Washington Park Arboretum. The tree has died and must come down. (Alan Berner/The Seattle Times)

 

It saw the flight of Boeing’s first jet; the World’s Fair, the founding of Microsoft. It survived the eruption of Mount St. Helens, witnessed the state’s centennial, and the confession of the Green River Killer.

But after 72 years, Pinus rigida 212-45-C, the state’s champion pitch pine, has died and will be cut down at the Washington Park Arboretum.

The cause of death was climate change: steadily warming and drier summers, that stressed the tree in its position atop a droughty knoll. Red turpentine beetles, catching the scent of stress chemicals emitted by the tree as it struggled, bored in.

The beetles chewed and fed on the tree’s phloem, conduits just below the bark for the tree’s life-giving juices. Just as damaging, the beetles were vectors for fungus that plugged up other conduits carrying water into the tree. It wasn’t long before arborist Clif Edwards, making his usual rounds, noticed something amiss in the pinetum, the collection of pines at the arboretum.

“I saw this big orange (tree) canopy in the sky, got closer to investigate, and got the not-so-good answer,” Edwards said.

He alerted other experts at the arboretum, who confirmed by the plethora of exit holes about the size of the point of a crayon that the tree was badly infested with beetles. Now the tree must be removed before the infestation spreads to other trees in its grove, noted David Zuckerman, manager of horticulture for the arboretum.

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Since 2005, the arboretum has lost some 40 pine trees in just this way, as warming average temperatures combine with summer’s drought to stress trees. The arboretum has not in the past irrigated its collection of pines. But staff will begin pouring on the TLC with mulch and water this season to help its collection of stressed pines, Zuckerman said.

But for this big old pine, it’s too late. With its witchy, stark bare branches and bronze dead needles, it stands apart in the surging green of spring. It’s studded with a bumper crop of cones, each the size of a chicken egg, hard as a stone, and covered with sharp prickles. Trees near death typically put on a large crop of seeds, a desperate bid to persist into future generations.

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A close-up look at the tree shows exit holes drilled by the beetles that have killed it, along with the pitch produced by the tree to try to heal its wounds. The 72-year-old giant will be cut down sometime this month. (Alan Berner/The Seattle Times)

 

The tree’s yellowed accession card, marked with pencil and scanned for preservation in the arboretum’s digital archives, tells of its life and times. First stratified, or readied for germination by cooling a few weeks after the seeds arrived, the seed for the big pine was planted in flats on May 17, 1945, and transplanted to the nursery at the arboretum in September 1946. On April 16, 1948, it was planted atop the knoll in the prime spot in the pinetum.

In 2004, in a flurry of taxonomic activity, its name was changed from pinus nigra to pinus rigida. And all the while, the tree grew steadily on.

The tree outdistanced all others in its class, becoming the state champion in Washington of its species, at more than 70 feet high with a bigger-than-35-foot crown spread and nearly 6 feet around at its trunk at breast height.

The pitch pine’s rugged form and spiny cones belie a gentle presence. At the arboretum, this pine was graced by a bench in its shade, with a placard advising “peace” on its back. The ground in front of the bench is worn smooth by years of visitors’ feet, and the tree is just steps from the incantations of an active nest of a Cooper’s hawk and red-breasted nut hatch.

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The state’s champion pitch pine, 72 years old and more than 70 feet tall, must be removed so that the beetles that killed it won’t endanger the rest of the pine grove around it at the Washington Park Arboretum. (Alan Berner/The Seattle Times)

Visitors seem to know what is happening; someone inscribed a small purple heart in magic marker on the tree’s bark, the ink still fresh and bright from a recent visit. For the tree’s suffering is evident, in the sawdust heaped by chewing beetles at its feet, and the frass pushed out of their homes, deep within the tree’s sap wood, staining exit holes drilled all through its bark.

The tree has fought back nobly; gobs of hardened pitch, produced by the tree to seal its wounds, mound in golden heaps all over its trunk. But it was not enough.

And so the next stop for this tree is the Cedar Grove composting facility, the only way to safely and quickly dispose of the big logs that this tree will soon become.

Every last bit of the tree will be removed, even grinding the stump. Its tag — already removed, leaving the bare hook bereft in the tree’s bark — will be recycled, and the tree’s epitaph recorded in the arboretum’s saddest ledger: its Dead Plant Report.

In an arboretum boasting more than 21,000 trees, shrubs and vines in its collection, each one, for those who care for them, is an individual. Zuckerman and Ryan Garrison, plant-health specialist at the arboretum, were quiet Friday, as they examined the pine and made plans to cut it down later this month.

“I try to look on the bright side,” Zuckerman said. This pine is survived by two others on the knoll from the same gift of seeds from the New York Botanical Garden. “And this will make space for a new plant,” Zuckerman said. “Something that does not need summer water.”