3rd Round of AC Transit Cuts Averted – For Now

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AC Transit and the union representing its bus drivers and mechanics reached a new three year contract deal on Tuesday after months of painful arbitration. Both parties were ordered to binding interest arbitration after the union took the agency to court over an imposed contract in July. The agreement will save the agency a projected $38 million over the life of the contract.

The new contract will require that union members make co-pays for medical visits and take a stepped-down pay decrease over the next three years (6 % in the first year, 5% in year two, and 3% in year three).

The agreement avoids the December implementation of deep weekend service cuts that could have been a debilitating blow to an already tested ridership that has borne both two rounds of cuts (amounting to over 14% of service) and a fare increase during the past year. AC Transit has also instituted management cuts and spending reductions during its fiscal crisis.

Interim General Manager Mary King issued a statement saying, “There are no winners or losers in this arbitration. Both AC Transit and the union focused on what is best for the riders and taxpayers of this district and what is in the long-term interest of maintaining public transit for the people we serve.”

Although the December cuts have been avoided for now, the agency will still be struggling with a budgetary deficit.

Read more at AC Transit’s website and in the SF Examiner.

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PCL’s 8 Affordable Water Strategies

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The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The environmental lobby group Planning and Conservation League (PCL) has released a set of 8 strategies to cost-effectively meet the many challenges facing California’s water infrastructure.

PCL cites fisheries collapse, climate change and fiscal meltdown as key challenges for California’s water future moving forward, and created the 8 strategies to step back from CA’s contentious water politics and offer practical, actionable solutions that could be applied cost-effectively.

The eight “solutions” offered by the PCL are:

1-Use already approved bonds first. With $3 billion remaining in already approved voter bonds, these funds should be allocated to highest priority projects before considering any new borrowing.

2-Increase water supplies through safe recycling. PCL recommends that the Department of Health develop a broad set of criteria for safe water recycling.

3-Develop flow standards for the Delta and major rivers. Water diversion efforts and fisheries could be more successful side-by-side with greater amounts of scientific data on flow rates and how much water is needed to reliably retain health in the waterways.

4-Analyze a smaller Delta tunnel. Instead of a large-scale peripheral canal to meet the water needs to the south, PCL advocates a smaller, less costly tunnel diversion and a new series of  diversions from already existing Southern Delta facilities.

5-Require water-neutral development. Aggressive conservation standards and use of state of the art technologies in new development can help counteract the water needs of the expected 10 million growth in California over the next 20 years.

6-Convert unfarmable land to solar production. PCL advocates transforming failed and unfarmable agricultural lands on the West side of the San Joaquin Valley into large scale solar fields.

7-Protect California’s major water source. Protecting against degradation in the Sierra Nevada headwaters should be a top priority.

8-Consider a smaller water bond when the economy improves. Only if the economy rebounds in the next 2 years, should a new water bond be put to voters to improve drinking water safety and supply.

Download the full report from the Planning and Conservation League’s website here.

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Historic Vote by US Building Officials

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Reuters reports that US building officials nationwide have voted to support the first building codes that require 30 percent more efficient buildings for every state under the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code.

Delegates also voted to eliminate the weaker Energy Chapter of the International Residential Code, supplanting it with a single nationwide uniform energy code for residential and commercial buildings.

Although some states, like California, have long had energy efficiency requirements in building codes, with a resulting flat-lining in home energy use in the state since the 1970s (to about half the average US use) most states have little or no requirements for reducing energy use. The International code has been the lowest common denominator; compelling safety, but little else in building codes. The minimum standards allowed energy to be wasted in heating and cooling homes in non compliant states by not requiring weather tight walls, roofs, windows or doors.

… … …

“It is notable that the votes that will have the most profound impact on national energy and environmental policy this year weren’t held in Washington or a state capital, but by governmental officials assembled by the International Code Council (ICC) in Charlotte, NC,” said William Fay, Executive Director of the Energy Efficient Codes Coalition.

You can read the entire article here.

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Assorted Links

GM and PG&E reassure us that electric cars won’t bring down the grid (assuming we get smart grid communications).

CNN Money on what the election means for renewable energy.

National Geographic looks at why solar energy is so expensive.

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Free Event 11/9 in SF – Energy Modeling

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The SF AIA Committee on the Environment (COTE) presents:

Energy Modeling for the Small and Midsize Architecture Firm

November 9, 2010 –  6:00 – 8:00 pm

AIA San Francisco, 130 Sutter Street, Suite 600

With the development of LEED and other energy efficiency standards, energy simulation has developed tremendously over the last decade. It is becoming imperative that architects better understand the available tools so that they can make informed decisions throughout the design process. Given the complexity of energy modeling, this session will focus on how architects in small and mid-size firm can best use energy simulation. What types of questions should be answered with energy models? What types of energy modeling information is most useful, and when during design should it be used? What simulation tools are favored among small and mid-size firms? How do they develop expertise within their design teams and address budgetary constraints? A panel of Bay Area architects and designers, all of whom are noted for advances in sustainable design, will address these questions. Following the panel discussion, the presenters will be available for an extended question-and-answer session.

MODERATOR:

Claire Maxfield

PANELISTS:

Philip Banta, Charlie Stott, David Scheer, & Stet Sanborn

For more information and moderator and panelist bios, see the AIA SF event site, here.

This is a FREE event.

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10 American Cities Running Out Of Water?

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Las Vegas, Nevada (Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

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24/7 Wall St. evaluated a couple recent studies (from Ceres and the NRDC) and also conducted some of its own analysis, focusing on the 30 largest American cities,  to  come up with the following list of 10 large American cities at the greatest risk of running out of water:

10. Orlando, FL

9. Atlanta, GA

8. Tucson, AZ

7. Las Vegas, NV

6. Fort Worth, TX

5. San Francisco Bay Area, CA

4. San Antonio, TX

3. Phoenix, AZ

2. Houston, TX

1. Los Angeles, CA

You can read more about their analysis and reasons for inclusion of each city here.

A note from Anna – I do not know much about 24/7 Wall St. or their track record on this sort of analysis. I think this sort of list is good for raising awareness that it is not just cities in the dry Southwest that are facing future water shortages. However, there are a few items in this article that gave me pause – first is the consistent misspelling of San Francisco as “San Fransisco”, second is the consistent listing of the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) as the “National Resources Defense Council.”

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Assorted Links

A home in Berkeley is the first in California to have permitted interior use of rainwater.

A new British law imposes fines for landlords renting out energy-inefficient property.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood talks about livable communities.

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Prop. 26 and the Environment

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The November 2 midterm elections are over and the returns are in.  And while Californians handily defeated Prop. 23, an attempt by non-California based oil companies to delay and effectively repeal California’s landmark climate legislation AB 32, another proposition with a group of oil, tobacco, alcohol and other business backers managed to fly under the radar.

Prop. 26 re-frames the practice of charging regulatory fees for certain harmful or polluting corporate and industrial activities as levying a “tax”, and will now require a 2/3 vote  for implementation of such “taxes” rather than the simple majority required to implement a fee.

Prop. 26 directly challenges the ability of the state legislature to hold polluters accountable and instead may create a climate of political gridlock as the high bar of a 2/3 majority can paralyze necessary actions toward the implementation of Prop. 23.

Prop. 26 is also a strong step away from the concept of “extended producer responsibility”  that has been gaining support across the country, and will likely result in a loss of revenue for the state.

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See Anna’s  post on Prop. 23 and Prop. 26 funders.

See my  post on Extended Producer Responsibility.

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Regional Bike Sharing in the Bay Area

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photo: a bike sharing system in the St. Etienne metro region wikimedia commons

Regional transit authorities have recently announced that they will go ahead with a new bike sharing program slated to start next year and  attributed as the first of-its-kind regional effort at a comprehensive bike sharing program in the nation.

The pilot program will put 1,000 new bikes on the road, and up to 100 kiosks around the Bay Area, with approximately half the amount being placed within the City of  San Francisco, and the other half being placed along the peninsula transportation corridor that includes Redwood City, Mountain View, Palo Alto and San Jose.

With transportation accounting for more than half of the air pollution in the Bay Area (SFMTA), the bike share project aims to reduce the number of vehicle miles traveled by encouraging people to increase bike travel for short trips in dense urban and downtown areas.

The Metropolitan Transit Commission (MTC) has approved an initial $4.29 million grant for the estimated $7 million project, that will be managed by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) and facilitated by a regional partnership between BAAQMD, SFMTA, SamTrans, Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority, San Mateo County and Redwood City. The participating jurisdictions and transit agencies will also contribute to the funding of the program.

When rolled out, the bike system will require users to buy a yearlong subscription and will utilize smart cards, GPS tracking and wireless technologies.

Read more:

San Francisco Bike Sharing Moves Ahead with Regional Plan and Funding: MTC grant to area partnership moves SFMTA plan forward, San Francisco Metropolitan Transit Authority(SFMTA) press release

Bike sharing project expected to begin next year, SF Chronicle

Bay Area maps out bike sharing effort, New York Times Green blog

Upcoming Webinars

I just want to remind folks that we have launched a “Webinars” page to feature interesting online presentations. You can navigate to the Webinars page using links at the right side of the blog.

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November 10, 2010 (Wednesday)

Pacific Energy Center: “Chris Hammer – What’s Behavior Got To Do With Energy Efficiency?”

6:30 pm – 8:00 pm

We often look to technology to capture energy savings. What about the behavior of individuals in the home and workplace? Chris Hammer will describe occupant actions that save energy, discuss social science research on behavior and energy, and review case studies of organizations that implemented behavior change programs.

Free event. For more info and links to register here.

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November 18, 2010 (Thursday)

Build It Green: “Passive House – A Sustainable Building Revolution in California”

11:00 am – 12:30 pm

Expectations for building occupant comfort, health and efficiency are increasing simultaneously. The Passive House standard meets all of these requirements at once. By producing buildings with energy demands that can be met at a renewable scale of production, Passive House can future-proof our communities and put California on track to meet our greeenhouse gas emission reduction targets. The future of building is here!An in-depth look at the Passive House standard by the leading local experts in the field, this webinar will:

  • Detail current retrofit and new construction Passive House projects and approaches in the Bay Area
  • Retrofit lessons learned and phased approaches
  • Illustrate how Passive House meets or exceeds the California Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan, and makes net-zero and energy-positive buildings feasible TODAY in the most cost-effective way possible
  • Explore how the Passive House standard can integrate with and enhance GPR and other green building rating systems.

Free for Build It Green members, $10 for non-members – more info and links to register here.

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