Sonoma County Conservation Action Newsletter
“Western Growers Association” Wants to Buy Your Vote
By Dennis Rosatti, Executive Director
Sonoma and Marin Counties have long been considered among the strongest environmental advocates in California, if not the nation. We have had a great succession of legislators who not only value our parks and open space, but whom are willing to fight to ensure that these resources are adequately funded and protected.
This year, with the open primary, there is a very real threat to our environmental values—and big agriculture has taken notice. Western Growers Association, an agribusiness trade association backed by Monsanto, has opened a political action committee against Assemblyman Michael Allen because he had the audacity to support the labeling of genetically modified organisms (Proposition 37) and supported legislation requiring shade and water to be made available to farmworkers in the fields.
This political action committee has dropped $117,000 on negative attack pieces against Assemblyman Allen and is working hard to ensure that he doesn’t return to Sacramento to continue protecting our working men, women, and the environment.
The contributors to the PAC have a long history of environmental abuses and worker rights violations. In 2010 Tom Bengard Ranch, Inc, was fined for violating air quality regulations. Kern Ridge Growers were fined in 2010 for using illegal pesticides. In both 2009 and 2012, Paramount Farming and Turlock Fruit Company were fined for non-compliance with smoke emission standards.
Mann Packing Co, Inc. made the most egregious abuse towards workers this year. They were fined for both refusal to pay overtime wages and for not providing meal and rest periods for their workers. This news proceeds a 2008 judgment that forced Mann Packing Co, Inc. to pay a six-figure settlement for water contamination in Salinas.
Often times, interest groups define the candidates for us, and in this election they give us a very stark contrast. Michael Allen is supported by every environmental group in Sonoma and Marin Counties, including SCCA. His opponent is not supported by any of these respected organizations; rather, he is relying upon Big Ag and Big Chemical companies to negative campaign for him. Michael Allen’s campaign contributions come from liberal environmentalists while his opponent’s come from conservative developers, real estate interests and large corporate polluters.
We cannot afford to let these interestes buy our Assembly seat in November. Vote Michael Allen for State Assembly on Nov. 6th .
Michael Allen is running for the seat vacated by Jared Huffman due to his being termed out. Michael is a sitting Assemblymember who’s district was eliminated during the latest round of redistricting in CA. He recently moved to San Rafael and has lived and worked in Sonoma County for over 30 years.
Excerpt from Spring 2011 Newsletter
Supervisors Ignore Green Voter Mandate
By Dennis Rosatti, Executive Director
Sometimes government fails the people. This was the case on December 7th and 14th, 2010 at the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors meetings. I gave public comments expressing frustration that I and many others in the environmental community felt about that Board pushing through a resource extraction agenda, prior to losing two members to retirement. Over the course of 8 days, the board approved the Dutra Asphalt Plant in Petaluma, the Syar Gravel mining project in the Russian River, the Barella rock quarry on Roblar Road, and the wine industry’s self-regulated Frost Protection Ordinance.
These decisions are an affront to the Sonoma County voter. The Board rushed these major, decades long impacts through the process just to capture votes that may or may not have been on the Board when the new Supervisors Rabbitt and McGuire were seated in January.
Just six weeks prior to the Supervisors approval of Dutra Asphalt Plant, the voters of Petaluma clearly expressed their support for the renewal of the Petaluma Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) by a 65% majority. The Dutra project lies within the UGB of the City of Petaluma, whose City Council, on at least three different occasions has sent unanimously approved letters to the Board of Supervisors demanding that they reject Dutra and leave that land- use planning to the city, and respect the fact that the land lies within the UGB of Petaluma. Yet the Supervisors ignored that clear and fresh voter mandate.
The Board of Supervisor’s can do better. I have heard from many of our SCCA members and allies in the months since the hearings, and there is a general feeling of discontent with the way the County is being run. The message the average citizen is getting, is that the Supervisors are going to do what they want, extract the resources, and if the public has an issue with that, sue us. What kind of government is that? It’s certainly not the one that the voters thought they were electing when casting votes on Election Day. And by casting these votes in lame duck session, there is no accountability going forward for the two who are retiring, yet the projects and their decades-long impacts remain, and the public must deal with them.
The County Supervisors should not allow the public of Sonoma County to be marginalized by industry and big money interests that seek to profit off our natural resources.
The voter elected them to do the people’s business, and to steward the local environment in a way that promotes and protects what are the commons- the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the landscape we enjoy.
Supervisors like to project an image of being a friend of the environment during campaign time- December proved their failings. The Supervisors were not elected to serve resource extraction industries, even if they gave contributions to their campaigns.
I hope beyond hope that the new Board will alter course. Sonoma County residents deserve better.
I was recently asked on a radio program which of the four resource extraction issues was the most concerning to the public of Sonoma County. I responded that the Roblar Road Quarry conservation easement issue (See front page article by Ted Eliot) was the most damaging long term. By allowing a private developer to use taxpayer funded open space land to offset impacts of his new development, County Supervisors place all the land in conservation easement in Sonoma County at risk due to the precedent it sets. Join me in taking action! Write/email your County Supervisor and tell them to reverse course on this decision, and to hold true to the voters of Sonoma County who I sincerely doubt would have approved the Open Space District tax by a 75% majority if this type of use was on the table!
Details on how to take action can be found at:
Excerpt from Winter/Spring 2010 Newsletter
Dutra Presents Misleading Information to Coast Guard
Sheri Chlebowski, President, Moms for Clean Air
As many of you know numerous community organizations, the majority of Petaluma’s residents, and the City of Petaluma have been protesting the proposed Dutra Asphalt plant project at Haystack Landing, across the river from Shollenberger Park.
This project has become a confusing and flawed project in many ways. The public’s understanding surrounding the project worsens with each modification made by Dutra and subsequent vote postponement by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.
The project proponents continue to push forward even in the face of inadequacies and impossibilities. Recently the proponents have had issues with the Coast Guard, PG&E, and a new proposal to use the Shamrock facility upstream.
In December, the Dutra Group solicited an opinion from the United States Coast Guard regarding navigational river safety of their proposed barge and mooring facility. The Coast Guard issued a letter of support but quickly recanted it after discovering that their decision was based on incorrect river maps provided by the Dutra Group consultant and a site visit which confirmed the river’s inadequacies to dock a barge in the proposed location.
Based on this new information, they informed the Dutra Group that their barge facility would in fact create a safety hazard on the river. The Dutra Group’s response was to issue a letter to the County arguing that the Coast Guard opinion would interfere with other commercial uses on the river jeopardizing the ability to receive federal funds to dredge the river. Arguing further that without the funding to dredge the river, the commercial and recreational uses of the river would be impaired, as well as flooding of downtown Petaluma. These are inaccurate and misleading arguments designed to scare the County and community into supporting this project.
Dredging is based on annual tonnage, commercial and recreational use of the river, and the importance of the river to the surrounding area. The Petaluma River has the third highest commercial tonnage in our state. Commercial tonnage on the Petaluma River has grown to 1.2 million tons in 2007. The San Rafael canal receives federally funded dredging absent any commercial tonnage. Federally funded dredging is not jeopardized by an absence of this asphalt plant project.
In addition, there are two PG&E 12" High Pressure Gas Transmission Pipelines that cross the Petaluma River and traverse directly through the Dutra Parcel. This location is noted briefly in the Draft Environmental Impact Report, and is verified by PG&E maps, 4'x8' Warning signs reading "DO NOT ANCHOR OR DREDGE", plastic flagging on site, and recorded easements.
However, the official maps supplied to the county for the project depict the pipelines crossing the River through Shamrock’s parcel upstream, instead of their real location on Dutra’s proposed site. This inaccurately gives the appearance that the pipelines bypass Dutra’s proposed tug and barge mooring site. As a result of these previously hidden problems, Dutra has been forced to acknowledge that their barge and mooring facility is infeasible and thus has completed a new proposal to use the Shamrock facility upstream. The meager 5-page long proposal to use the Shamrock Facility just up the river for their barging facility proposes a plan without adequate discovery of its viability. The Shamrock facility is already operating at its capacity, and has received a letter from the County Code Enforcement Officer in December of 2009 stating it is out of compliance with several of their permit conditions.
With all of the inconsistencies, inadequacies, and impossibilities surrounding this project it cannot be allowed to move forward. Contact your Sonoma County Board of Supervisors and tell them to vote no on this project and join us at the public meetings. For more information visit www.momsforcleanair.net and www.saveshollenberger.com.◊
Sheri Chlebowski, President, Moms for Clean Air