To Ban or Recycle Styrofoam
At a recent Culver City Council meeting there was heated discussion of whether to ban or recycle Styrofoam. This was followed by thoughtful and analytic feedback by way of letters to the editors (LTEs) in the Culver City News. The interesting thing is that there has been no rebuttal to those LTE’s! This is an opportunity for me to weigh in as a physician, environmental activist and a Democrat.
As a physician, I am aware and alarmed that there are approximately 90,000 workers exposed to styrene, particularly, those who manufacture boats, tubs and showers. The health effects include irritation of the skin, eyes, upper respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts. Chronic exposure affects the central nervous system with resultant symptoms that include depression, headache, fatigue and weakness, not to mention effects on kidney and blood function. Styrene is classified as a possible human carcinogen by the EPA and by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Workers who manufacture Styrofoam are at risk for benzene exposure and we are all aware that benzene is a known human carcinogen.
From a chemical perspective, the National Bureau of Standards Center for Fire Research reported that 57 chemical by-products are released when polystyrene foam is made. After it is manufactured, polystyrene foam takes more than 500 years to decompose. Americans throw away 25,000,000,000 expanded polystyrene foam cups, which is enough to circle the earth 436 times! As it is with most things, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
Who among us would entertain the idea of having a polystyrene recycling plant next to our neighborhood, considering the adverse health effects of this chemical? Who among us would subject another human being to the ill effects of this chemical by employing them in an industry recycling polystyrene. It would be unthinkable, unconscionable, and immoral. The only logical answer is to ban polystyrene. I understand that there will be a meeting of the Sustainability Committee of the Culver City Council at 9 AM on September 14th. The residents of Culver City who feel strongly about Styrofoam should make a tour de force effort to be there to voice your concerns.
The Clean Water Parcel Tax
When I attended the Culver City Council meeting on Monday, July 11th, it was to mainly voice my opinion as a member of the Culver City Community Coalition. I was there to insist that we continue to have our City Council members retain the responsibility of hiring and firing our police and fire chiefs. I was there to insist that we continue to have two year terms for our council members instead of the three years that some were proposing. This would assure fresh voices and a diversity of opinions to be represented on the council. Almost at the end of the session on July 11th, I was surprised to find that there would also be a Clean Water Parcel Tax.
It turns out that Culver City is required to comply with measures required by the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Program (NPDESP). To fund this campaign, the Culver City Council is proposing a $ 99/parcel of residential land taxation to be voted on come November 8th. According to a previous survey of residents, the Council surmised that 75% of the residents were supportive of this measure. Since I never received any survey, it makes me wonder what the sample size of the survey was and whether it was a statistically significant sample size to begin with. Even taxing all the residents, the Council was aware that it would cover 10% of the entire $50million dollar liability/fines/expenses it would incur. So where would or should the other 90% come from? At the July 25th City Council meeting, Dr. David Haake, Chair of the West LA Sierra Club and we, as members of the Sierra Club and the Executive Director of Citizens Coalition for a Safe Community (CCSC), Paul Ferrazzi, recommended that Freeport- McMoRan Oil and Gas Company (FMX) shoulder the other 90% of the tax burden, as they have been responsible for the run off into the Ballona Creek since 1920. According to the minutes of the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board meeting that was conducted at Culver City’s City Hall on 2-7-13, Ms. Cassandra Owens, Unit Chief Watershed Regulatory Officer indicated that: a) there have been two violations by FMX since 1994 regarding effluent (oil production waste) release, and b) that FMX must submit a final compliance schedule by February 7, 2017 regarding effluent quantification and speciation.
The interesting thing to me at the end of the session was that Mr. Herbertson of Public Works reminded the Council that it was not the purview of the Council to tax FMX. He felt that it was the responsibility of the LA Water Board to tax FMX, but to our knowledge, the Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) has only given FMX extensions on its deadlines to meet the specifications of the permit. FMX has never been levied fines to the best of our knowledge by the RWQCB. It would only be fair if FMX could shoulder a part of the Clean Water Tax as it has been polluting the Ballona Creek for 96 years!
The Culver City Democratic Club’s July meeting will feature a talk by C. Tom Williams, Ph.D. (Geology) on how to evaluate a draft environmental impact report (EIR). This will be in anticipation of the draft EIR that Culver City hopes to roll out to the public in the September/October period. The EIR will cover oil and gas exploration in the Culver City portion of the Inglewood Oil Field which covers 10% of the entire field.
According to case law, the EIR is at the heart of CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act), a California statute passed in 1970 after the US federal government passed the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to institute a statewide policy of environmental protection. CEQA requires state and local agencies within California to follow a protocol of analysis and public disclosure of environmental impacts of proposed projects and adopt feasible measures to mitigate those impacts. One alternative that a lead agency must usually consider is the no project alternative, which means cancellation of the project and anticipated proposals of new projects in its place. Among all the alternatives, the EIR identifies the environmentally superior alternative; if the environmentally superior alternative is the no project alternative, the EIR identifies the environmentally superior alternative among the other alternatives.
The EIR process begins with the circulation of a Notice of Preparation (NOP) which informs the public, responsible agencies that an EIR will be prepared for a given project. After preparation of the draft EIR, a Notice of Completion (NOC) must be submitted to the Office of Planning and Research which includes project location, location of review copies and public comment review period. If the draft EIR is circulated through the State Clearinghouse, then the public comment period must be 45 days minimally. The lead agency must prepare a final EIR before approving the project. The lead agency then certifies the final EIR and issues its findings. Should significant and unavoidable impacts remain after mitigation, a Statement of Overriding Considerations must be prepared. Finally, the lead agency may decide whether or how to approve or carry out the project after which a notice of determination (NOD) must be filed within five days of approval. Appeal periods and litigation avenues remain after the NOD.
As our Club prepares for the upcoming showing of Robert Greenwald’s most recent documentary, "Making a Killing," I was reading about our state Senate’s approval of eleven gun bills in response to the San Bernadino shootings. As you will all recall on December 2nd, 2015 two attackers killed 14 people in San Bernadino as they were attending an office Christmas party.
According to Senate President Pro Tem, Kevin de Leon (D – Los Angeles), 30,000 people are killed by guns every year in the United States. Gun violence has reached epidemic proportions! The San Bernadino shootings also resulted in a separate gun control initiative by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsome that is expected to quality for the November 8th ballot.
Two of the bills approved by the state Senate would ban the manufacture and sale of semiautomatic rifles with detachable magazines, as well as semiautomatic, center-fire rifles with "bullet buttons." A bullet button is best described as a recessed button that allows the removal of the magazine when pressed by a sharp object. Those already in possession of such guns would have to register them with the state as assault rifles.
Another measure would ban the possession of large capacity magazines, i.e. those holding more than 10 bullets. Another bill written by De Leon would require those buying ammunition to present identification, which would be used by the seller to check to make sure that the buyer is not a felon or otherwise prohibited from possessing guns. This bill is supported by the Los Angeles Police Chief, Charlie Beck and LA County Sheriff, Jim McDonnell as a way to make sure criminals do not get ammunition.
Other bills would require owners of homemade guns to get a serial number for the firearms, register them with the state and undergo a background check. Another would mandate that gun owners report lost or stolen firearms to the authorities within five days of discovery that they are missing.
Other provisions include limiting lending of firearms to specified family members and establishing a Firearm Violence Research Center at one of the UC campuses to study potential policies to reduce shooting deaths and injuries. Please be sure to reach out to your assembly member ASAP as there will be a vote on this in the assembly before the end of June. Let’s make California a safer place for all!