PG&E: Monopoly Power and Disasters by the Rich 1%

Authors Peter Phillips and Tim Ogburn

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The Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has diverted over $100 million from safety and maintenance programs to executive compensation at the same time it has caused an average of more than one fire a day for the past six years killing over 100 people.

PG&E is the largest privately held public utility in the United States. A new research report shows that 91% of PG&E stocks are held by huge international investment management firms, including BlackRock and Vanguard Group. PG&E is an ideal investment for global capital management firms with monopoly control over five million households paying $16 billion for gas and electric in California. The California Public Utility Commission (PUC) has allowed an annual return up to 11%.

Between 2006 and the end of 2017, PG&E made $13.5 billion in net profits. Over those years, they paid nearly $10 billion in dividends to shareholders, but found little money to maintain safety on their electricity lines. Drought turned PG&E’s service area into a tinderbox at the same time money was diverted from maintenance to investor profits.

A 2013 Liberty Consulting report showed that 60% of PG&E’s power lines were at risk of failure due to obsolete equipment and 75% of the lines lacked in-line grounding. Between 2008 and 2015, the CPUC found PG&E late on thousands of repair violations. A 2012 report further revealed that PG&E illegally diverted $100 million from safety to executive compensation and bonuses over a 15-year period.

Salmon jumping spectacle in Marin draws thousands of viewers

Author

Watching coho salmon jump through the Inkwells is like watching a Fourth of July fireworks show: At each jump, people ooh and aah at the electrifying sight. You then can crown the day with a grand finale of your own to a nearby mountaintop.

What started as a cult event a few years ago — salmon watching in Marin — has turned into a show that attracts thousands of viewers. The annual spectacle started this week in the Lagunitas Creek watershed along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard in west Marin County.

You then can top the day with a hike to nearby 1,466-foot Barnabe Peak, about a 5-mile round trip on a new suggested route, with a payoff view that reaches from the flank of Mount Tamalpais to the coast and Point Reyes National Seashore.

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California Court Upholds Challenge to Controversial Walt Ranch Vineyard Napa County Failed to Mitigate Climate Harms of Destroying 14,000 Trees

NAPA, Calif.— A California appeals court ruled yesterday that Napa County violated state law in approving the large Walt Ranch vineyard development in the mountains east of the city of Napa. The decision sends the project, which would destroy more than 300 acres of riparian, oak and native grassland habitat and convert it into vineyards, back to the trial court.

Responding to an appeal from the Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club, the court held that Napa County failed to provide a clear plan to address the climate harms from the vineyard’s proposed destruction of 14,000 large trees.

“This is a victory for Napa County’s forests and California’s fight against climate change,” said Aruna Prabhala, urban wildlands director at the Center. “The court agreed that officials can’t let a developer destroy thousands of trees with no concrete plan to address the resulting harm to our climate. It’s time for Napa County to rethink its reckless rubber-stamping of vineyard conversions.”

The appeals court determined that Napa County failed to show how preservation of unspecified woodlands on the site would offset the climate harms of cutting down thousands of trees. Forests are critical to a healthy climate because they store carbon dioxide, while destroying forests releases carbon dioxide. The ruling could have statewide implications for developments that plan to destroy forests without addressing climate harms.

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‘Scariest tree pathogen in the world’ spreading rapidly in California

Author: David McNew/Getty Images

Sudden Oak Death (SOD), a deadly disease for oak trees, is on the rise in California. According to a survey conducted by UC Berkeley scientists, the number of infected trees has almost doubled since 2018.

Matteo Garbelotto, the director of the UC Berkeley Forest Pathology and Mycology Laboratory, has been involved in conducting the survey of 14 California counties (stretching from Humboldt to Monterey) for the past 12 years. This year, two aspects of the results stood out to him.

“We found this year the most sharp increase ever in the number of trees affected,” said Garbelotto. However, this was expected due to the wet winters we’ve had in California for the past two years — the spores spread faster with significant rainfall.

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Emergent crowns and light-use complementary lead to global maximum biomass and leaf area in Sequoia sempervirens forests

Sequoia sempervirens forests set global records for biomass, leaf area, and carbon.

Decay-resistant heartwood allows Sequoia to repair damage to crowns and flourish.

Sequoia forests develop trees with emergent crowns that live for millennia.

Emergent crowns facilitate biomass and leaf area maxima in perpetuity.

Whole plant equations (180) were generated to quantify aboveground biomass.

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