Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Free screening of film on environmental and social costs of oil drilling Thursday night in Whittier

The documentary Split Estate, will be screened at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 1, at St. Matthias Episcopal Church in Whittier.

The film "maps a tragedy in the making, as citizens in the path of a new drilling boom in the Rocky Mountain West struggle against the erosion of their civil liberties, their communities and their health."

A preview is available on YouTube.

The free screening will be followed by a discussion of oil drilling in Montebello and Whittier, facilitated by the Sierra Club's Save the Montebello Hills Task Force.

The task force and the Whittier Area Peace and Justice Coalition are co-sponsoring the event.

St. Matthias is at 7056 Washington Ave. in Whittier.

For more information, please call (562) 587-6270 or (562) 233-8579.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Community turns up heat on Central Basin MWD

A recent story in the Eastern Group Publications family of newspapers shows that Central Basin Municipal Water District is taking growing criticism for its decision to more than double a surcharge on water to its customers.

The water district is one of four agencies and water districts that is spending millions in taxpayer and ratepayer money on the controversial San Gabriel River Discovery Center project.

The story was originally reported in the Whittier Daily News, which seemed to pooh-pooh the expressions of anger of officials whose cities and agencies buy water from Central Basin.

But then the story was reported by the Los Angeles Times--which also mentioned the district's spending on the Discovery Center in 2008.

From there, the story seemed to grow some legs and traveled out into the blogosphere. And then it appeared in Eastern Group's newspapers and on its website.

Central Basin's rate increase now is attracting the attention not only of ratepayers, city officials and officials at water agencies that buy from Central Basin, but also of the state legislature.

EGP reported that cities that are part of the Southeast Water Coalition have asked for an audit of the water district's recycled water line project and "the district’s justifications for its rate increase."

What I'd like to know is how Central Basin's justifies its financial support of the Discovery Center.

According to EGP, the water district's executive director, Art Aguilar, issued a statement "explaining the rate increase is the result of budgetary difficulties and infrastructure project needs: 'This action reflects our best effort to balance the budget by reducing our agency’s spending coupled with a necessary rate increase to ensure essential services and needed infrastructure projects will continue.'"

Funny how Central Basin tries to defend its rate increase as coming on top of budget cuts and being necessary to provide essential services and to build needed infrastructure projects even as it throws its customers' money at the Discovery Center.

How much has Central Basin spent on the project rejected by the community during hearings on its draft environmental impact report?

Nearly a million dollars--and counting.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Lots of activities still ahead this month

The Friends calendar of activities has been updated, and there's lots of good stuff still ahead of us this month.

This Sunday is the Friends monthly working meeting. Now that the comment periods have closed on the Discovery Center Authority's draft EIR and the Army Corps of Engineers' environmental assessment, we'll probably be discussing next steps in the campaign.

The meeting is at 1 p.m. in the Whittier Narrows Nature Center picnic area.

Also Sunday is a barbecue hosted by the East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice. EYCEJ is a nonprofit organization "working towards a safe and healthy environment for communities that are disproportionately suffering the negative impacts of industrial pollution."

The barbecue is 3 - 5 p.m. at Bristow Park in Commerce. For more info, visit the EYCEJ website.

And don't forget to visit the Natural Area for community events there. This month there are two nature walks (one morning, one evening) and a trail clean up. More info on these activities can be found on the Friends calendar or by calling the Whittier Narrows Nature Center at (626) 575-5523.

See you at the Natural Area!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Montebello Hills super yard sale this weekend

The Sierra Club's Save the Montebello Hills Task Force is having a giant yard sale Friday, Sept. 4, through Sunday, Sept. 6.

The sale is a great opportunity to clear out some clutter or pick up a gently used item--all while supporting the cause of saving the Montebello Hills, the city's last remaining open space.

Items may be brought on the days of the sale at the corner of Avenida de la Merced Ave and Hibiscus Street in Montebello. (Map)

The task force states the remaining 500 undeveloped acres of the hills "are a unique natural area, which support numerous native plants and animals including the now rare coastal sage scrub habitat, the endangered California gnatcatcher, and red tailed hawks, which can sometimes be seen soaring over the nearby Pomona (60) Freeway."

Much of the remaining acreage is under threat of development for residential and commercial use. The Sierra Club and task force propose preserving the hills as a natural park that would provide "recreation, relaxation, ecotourism, and an opportunity to exercise and experience nature for residents of Montebello, numerous nearby cities and developed county areas."

Volunteers are also welcome to help with the yard sale, and any help in promoting the event would be much appreciated.