To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Monday, December 9, 2013

What if

By Mayor Steven Placido, D.D.S.
 What if the 710 Freeway were 
never completed?
Note: The traditional rotation of the
mayor took place Nov. 25 in the City
Council Chambers at City Hall. Stephen
Sham replaced Steven Placido, D.D.S., as
mayor, and Gary Yamauchi became vice
The 710 Freeway was originally
designed to connect the 10 and the
210 freeways; yet, for the last 50 years,
residents of Alhambra have suffered
with the effects of an unfinished 710
Freeway. In the coming year, the
Environmental Impact Report (EIR)
will address the affects of five options
for the 710 Freeway. One option
completes the 710 Freeway, another
is a “no-build” option. Residents of
Alhambra support the freeway option
while South Pasadena and La Canada
support the no-build option.
By 2035, the no-build option
would result in staggering changes
for Alhambra and the entire region of
Southern California.
Traffic delays and congestion
will increase by 28% in Los Angeles
During daily peak hours, north-
south roadway congestion will be 15%
greater than east-west travel.
Local street congestion and travel
times will continue to increase due to
an unfinished 710 Freeway.
Regional trips with origins and
destinations outside the study area
or “cut-through” traffic contribute to
congestion on local arterials.
The percentage of cut-through
traffic is expected to increase from ap-
proximately 19% in 2008 to 25% in
2035 on local arterials.
Due to limited north-south freeway
routes, commuter traffic is pushed
onto local streets. Throughout the
study area, four-lane north-south
arterials such as Fremont Avenue,
Atlantic Boulevard, Garfield Avenue,

San Gabriel Boulevard, and Rosemead
Boulevard each carry more than
35,000 commuter vehicles per day. In
contrast to north-south arterials, only
Huntington Drive, a six-lane arterial,
carries comparable traffic volumes in
the east-west direction.
The Southern California Association
of Governments’ six-county popula-
tion will increase from 18.1 million
in 2010 to 22.1 million. Population
within the study area alone, which
includes the western portion of the San
Gabriel Valley, will increase from 1.18
million (2008) to 1.33 million (2035).
For more information from
METRO about the SR-710
Study, visit http://www.metro.
For the no-build fact sheet visit:
What if the 710 Freeway
were completed? 
When measured against the 2035
no-build (or the baseline condition),
the 710 Tunnel is projected to:
Reduce arterial and freeway conges-
tion by over 20%.
Carry up to 51,000 vehicles (north-
bound + southbound) in the four- hour
p.m. peak period.
Handle up to 180,000 vehicles
Remove more than 75,000 daily
trips from the local street system.
Reduce regional cut-through traffic
up to 25% (or one in four vehicles).
Eliminate congestion at 22% of all
intersections studied.
Initial design elements and
features of the 710 tunnel
The initial concept calls for two-
level twin bored tunnels with four
lanes in each direction; short segments
of cut-and-cover tunnels at the south
and north termini to provide access
to the bored tunnels; a portal at the
southern terminus located south of
Valley Boulevard; a portal at the north-
ern terminus located north of Del Mar
The 710 Freeway Gap between the
10 and 210 Freeways is approximately
6.3 miles long. Closing the Gap would
include a bored tunnel (4.2 miles),
cut-and-cover tunnel (0.7 miles), and
at-grade (1.4 miles) segments. The
bored tunnel would have an outside
diameter of about 59.5 feet and would
be located approximately 100 to150
feet below surface.
For the 710 Tunnel fact sheet visit:
2014 promises to be an exciting
year for the 710 Freeway. Show your
support for Closing the Gap at http://
On behalf of the entire Alhambra
City Council, may you and your fam-
ily enjoy a thankful Thanksgiving, a
merry Christmas, and a happy Hanuk-
kah. And may the New Year find you
healthy, active, and joyful.

Mystery object blocking Highway 99 tunnel drill


By Mike Lindblom, December 9, 2013

Nearly three days after an unknown object blocked tunnel-boring machine Bertha, project managers haven’t yet determined the size or how to remove it, according to the state Department of Transportation.

“We don’t know what it is. We don’t know whether it is man made or natural,” DOT spokeswoman KaDeena Yerkan said.

Drilling halted Friday night, about 60 feet deep, along the Seattle waterfront between South Jackson Street and South Main Street. In normal conditions, the team might try a “hyperbaric intervention,” meaning that the tunnel machine could retreat 18 inches, and then divers would explore gaps around the cutting face, at high pressure. (Tunnel projects keep specially-trained divers on call, to work in air and soil that exceeds atmospheric pressure – Bertha includes three hatches where drivers can move to the machine face.) But in this case, there is watery sand and weak fill soil immediately above the machine. So if high air pressure were exerted in front of the machine, the air would push or burst through the soil, said Yerkan.

The problem was discovered Friday night, and reported to state DOT Secretary Lynn Peterson, who was updated on Monday.

“STP (Seattle Tunnel Partners) has not made a decision on how they’re going to move forward yet,” Yerkan said. “They’re talking to their experts, we have been talking to ours.”  Chris Dixon, STP’s manager, hasn’t yet responded to messages requesting comment.

The cutting face, at 57 feet, 4 inches, is the widest in the world. It’s equipped with steel cutting discs to scour and crack boulders, but apparently can’t defeat the large obstruction. Fragments less than three feet diameter can slip through openings in the cutter head, and be removed out the back of the conveyor system.

The tunnel route was intensively sampled by soil engineers from Shannon & Wilson long before the project started, but apparently their narrow test shafts didn’t strike this object. The soil at 60 feet down is considered clean, glacial sediment, but most of the soil above is unstable fill, including wood debris from industries more than a century ago, and spoils from the Denny Regrade in 1898.

One scenario might be to simply excavate from the surface, and pluck out what’s in the way — since the soil above is useless anyhow. A blue crane was being assembled nearby on Terminal 46 Monday, but it’s unknown whether that’s related to the drilling.

Another response could be to send in crews with pneumatically driven drills, hammers or other tools to break the large object. But that task would be hampered by the loose soil, Yerkan said.

Several steel discs on Bertha’s cutter head, designed to gouge and crack boulders, were recently replaced.

Since its start on July 30, the deep-bore tunnel project has advanced more than  1,000 feet, or close to one-eighth of its total distance from Sodo to South Lake Union.

“The machine is running well, it’s functioning,” Yerkan said. There have been no reports of damage to the drill face, where eroded steel discs were recently replaced during routine maintenance.

By early 2014 the machine is supposed to dive under the Alaskan Way Viaduct, causing a temporary highway closure and potential risks of vibration to old brick buildings nearby.

Seattle Tunnel Partners, led by the US branch of Spanish-based Dragados and by California-based Tutor-Perini, has been paid $730 million as of September, or about half the total $1.44 billion contract value, according to a state chart, released under a public-document request.

Asked why officials waited two days to disclose the problem, Yerkan offered two theories: some project staff were gone during the weekend, so Monday was the logical time to regroup for an update; and the team may have wanted to come up with some progress or strategy to offer, before reporting to the public there was a hitch.



 The SR 99 tunnel in Seattle takes shape in October 2013. Two workers walk through the first rings of the tunnel toward Bertha, the SR 99 tunneling machine. Later in the tunnel drive, crews will use special trucks to make the increasingly long trip to the machine.  Learn more about the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program at www.alaskanwayviaduct.org or follow Bertha on Twitter @BerthaDigsSR99.

What Bertha leaves behind,  Fri, Nov 29, midnight 2013

 The SR 99 tunnel in Seattle takes shape in October 2013. Two workers walk through the first rings of the tunnel toward Bertha, the SR 99 tunneling machine. Later in the tunnel drive, crews will use special trucks to make the increasingly long trip to the machine. Learn more about the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program at www.alaskanwayviaduct.org or follow Bertha on Twitter @BerthaDigsSR99.

The Week in Livable Streets Events


By Damien Newton, December 9, 2013

Weekends are so packed, and weekdays/nights are so light, that I’m starting to think we should do this on Friday’s. Two transit groups have holiday parties, a chance to give back or go caroling, Transportation Committee and more…
  • Monday - Santa Monica city staff will present an update on the Michigan Avenue Neighborhood Greenway. The project will enhance Michigan Avenue and nearby streets to become a safe walk/bike route to the beach for you and your family. We’re hearing some NIMBY grumbling on this one, and while Paul Koretz has no political power in Santa Monica, one should never doubt the ability of a determined group of homeowners to block something in the public good. Get more details at Santa Monica Next.
  • Wednesday – The City Council Transportation Committee meets to discuss a full agenda. Wow Mike, back to back weeks. You’re keeping the midnight oil burning, huh. We’ll have more on the 2 pm meeting tomorrow, but if you want to peruse the agenda, you can do so here.
  • Thursday – The Transit Coalition goes straight to the top for its guest at this month’s dinner meeting: Metro CEO Art Leahy. Come here all about Measure R++, P3′s and everything else Metro has in store for 2014. Reserve a ticket at Event Brite.
  • Friday – The Young Professionals in Transportation host their holiday party at Casey’s Irish Pub on Grand Street in DTLA from 6 pm to 9 pm. If you’re young, a professional or into transportation this is the holiday party for you. Details in our calendar section.
  • Friday – It’s the biggest charity toy ride I’ve ever heard of, the annual Midnight Ridazz All-City Toy Ride. For this ride we ask that all participants bring one new un-wrapped toy/gift valued between $5-$25.Toys will be donated to charity. Routes are posted at Midnightridazz.com. You need to RSVP to get into the venue at the end, so go here to do that.
  • Saturday – The Southern California Transit Advocates host their end-of-the-year banquet with special guest Matthew Barrett from the Metro Library. Can someone please find out what is up with the Los Angeles Transportation Headlines page? I miss it. A lot. ost is $25. There will be a gift bag of transit trinkets for attendees plus drawings for door prizes. Get the details, here.
  • Sunday - Eastside Riders is helping 5-7 families together and is looking for donations. ESR will cook all these families plus people who has helped is over the year a nice hot meal on Sunday December 15th 2013. Kaiser will donate Boxes of Love to us to send home with all 7 families. This event will take place at the Bernice Watkins Seniors Center in Watts. Get more details on the event Facebook Page.
  • Sunday – Every year, the LACBC completed a holiday caroling ride in Greater Larchmont. Maybe when Sammy can pedal himself…sigh…Anyway, get the details here.

California High Speed Rail: Media Piling-on Continues, as Does the Project


By Roger Rudick, December 9, 2013

 TGV High Speed Rail in France. Photo: TGV
TGV High Speed Rail in France.

Last week, the media reported, once again, that the California High Speed Rail (HSR) project is in its death throes.

The latest batch of articles are based on a Nov. 25 decision by Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny. The judge ordered the California HSR Authority to revise a 2011 funding plan before it issues state bonds under Prop. 1A, the 2008 measure that set California’s HSR project going. The ruling also green-lighted work on the Central Valley portion of the project.

What does that really mean?

“All you have to do is front-load the federal money. Spend the $3.4 billion from the Feds,” explained Rod Diridon, Executive Director of the Mineta Transportation Institute and Chair Emeritus of the California HSR Authority board, referring to stimulus spending that’s available from Washington. “Then you spend the state part later.”

Plaintiffs include John Tos and Aaron Fukuda, Central Valley landowners in the way of the tracks. It’s one of many suits pending. The Authority tried an omnibus lawsuit, where it essentially sued itself as a defense against the many different legal actions lining up to stop the bonds. Judge Kenny didn’t go for it. “All the judge said is the Authority can’t have blanket validation of the bonds,” said Diridon.

There was a third “key setback,” as the Los Angeles Times describes them. On Dec. 5, the Surface Transportation Board of the US Department of Transportation rejected an application from the California HSR Authority to expedite review of the entire 114 mile Central Valley portion of the project.

The sticking point is a five-mile section of the 29-mile Madera-to-Fresno segment. Under the worst-case scenario, sources close to the bid said the Authority will renegotiate a $511 million agreement with Tutor-Perini, the construction contractor, to work around it. Meanwhile, Dan Richard, the project chairman, said they will comply with the orders and construction will start as soon as next month.

When it was placed on the ballot, Prop. 1A was the only way to give the project a serious financial and political shove forward, by taking it directly to the voters. Still, it was for a $9.95 billion bond issue; a downpayment on the project. The costs for even the earliest incarnations for California HSR were more than three times that much.

It’s a different state now. The Legislative Analyst’s Office is projecting $10 billion budget surpluses by 2018.

“When I ran for governor in California the first time,” said Jerry Brown at a HSR event, “California’s private wealth, together, was about $350 billion. Now it’s almost $2 trillion.” France, Japan and Germany built modern rail networks with much less wealth. In other words, many are saying Prop. 1A is less important now. And, for future segments, maybe Washington doesn’t matter either.

Sacramento may vie to do this on its own, through carbon offsets, the transportation budget, and perhaps through a “franchise bid.” Under this idea, explained Diridon, an Asian or European railway consortium pays to link, for example, Los Angeles with the Central Valley. In exchange, they would collect all the profits from HSR operations for a period of several decades.

Bottom line, construction on a segment from at least Madera to south of Fresno will move forward. After that, more segments will be built. There will be more legal battles. The political winds will, no doubt, generate stops and starts. But despite all the doom-and-gloom reporting, California HSR isn’t dead. However, given the many challenges, by the time the first train runs from Los Angeles to San Francisco in less than three hours, everyone reading this may be.

Petition Asks for Better Alternatives to Freeway Tunnel Linking 710 to 210


December 9, 2013


An update on the SR-710 North Extension study (including the proposed freeway tunnel linking the 710 to the 210) is on the agenda of the California Transportation Commission (CTC) meeting in Riverside this Wednesday, December 11th.

Members of the No 710 Action Committee have gathered more than 1,100 signatures to date on a petition calling on Governor Jerry Brown, the CTC and elected officials to Remove the F7-X Tunnel Alternative from SR-710 North EIR/EIS in Favor of Better, more Fiscally and Environmentally Responsible Solutions.

While the tunnel route isn’t within Glendale, if it is eventually approved (the EIR is scheduled for release in Spring 2014), the 134/210 interchange will be adversely impacted during excavation and construction, as will streets providing access to Old Town Pasadena (think 405). Further, a tunnel will direct more regional truck and vehicle traffic onto the 210 and 134 freeways. The No 710 Action Committee is urging alternative investments in Transportation System Management / Transportation Demand Management (TSM / TDM), Bus Rapid Transit and Light Rail, individually or in combination, instead of a freeway tunnel.

Check out and consider signing the No 710 Action Committee petition on Change.org.
An update on the SR-710 North Extension study (including the proposed freeway tunnel linking the 710 to the 210) is on the agenda of the California Transportation Commission (CTC) meeting in Riverside this Wednesday, December 11th.
Members of the No 710 Action Committee have gathered more than 1,100 signatures to date on a petition calling on Governor Jerry Brown, the CTC and elected officials to Remove the F7-X Tunnel Alternative from SR-710 North EIR/EIS in Favor of Better, more Fiscally and Environmentally Responsible Solutions.
While the tunnel route isn’t within Glendale, if it is eventually approved (the EIR is scheduled for release in Spring 2014), the 134/210 interchange will be adversely impacted during excavation and construction, as will streets providing access to Old Town Pasadena (think 405). Further, a tunnel will direct more regional truck and vehicle traffic onto the 210 and 134 freeways. The No 710 Action Committee is urging alternative investments in Transportation System Management / Transportation Demand Management (TSM / TDM), Bus Rapid Transit and Light Rail, individually or in combination, instead of a freeway tunnel.
Check out and consider signing the No 710 Action Committee petition on Change.org.
- See more at: http://sunroomdesk.com/2013/12/09/petition-asks-for-better-alternatives-to-freeway-tunnel-linking-710-to-210/#sthash.E4gqXhg8.dpuf

O.C. votes to expand 405 Freeway without adding toll lanes


By Paloma Esquivel, December 9, 2013

No toll lanes
 The toll lanes on the 91 Freeway.

 Orange County transportation leaders voted Monday to expand a clogged stretch of the 405 Freeway without adding toll lanes, which were strongly opposed by cities along the project route.

Ending months of rancorous debate, Orange County Transportation Authority board members voted to pursue an expansion plan that would add one free lane in each direction along a 11-mile stretch of the 405 from the 605 Freeway to Euclid Street.

The most controversial alternative would have added two high-occupancy toll lanes in each direction along a 14-mile stretch of the freeway.

Before the Orange County Transportation Authority board meeting began Monday morning, Assemblyman Allan R. Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa) and representatives of cities along the improvement corridor gathered to denounce toll lanes.

Mansoor said he expects to introduce legislation next year to block toll lanes by either barring them from the 405 or the county or requiring residents to vote to approve toll lanes.

On Monday, OCTA CEO Darrell Johnson said the toll lane proposal had become so divisive that the agency was at risk of losing the confidence of voters who years ago approved a half-cent sales tax to widen the freeway.

EU study blames air pollution for deaths

Long-term exposure to particles of soot and dust in pollution from road traffic and industry raise the risk of premature death, a new study says. 


December 9, 2013

Europeans with long-term exposure to particulate pollution from road traffic or industry run a higher risk of premature death, even if air quality meets EU standards, a study says.

Published in The Lancet on Monday, the paper pointed the finger at fine particles of soot and dust, emissions of which are also stirring a health scare in parts of Asia, especially China.

Scientists led by Rob Beelen of Utrecht University in The Netherlands looked at 22 previously published studies that monitored the health of 367,000 people in 13 countries in western Europe.
The individuals, recruited in the 1990s, were followed for nearly 14 years. During the time of the study, 29,000 people died, according to the data.

Beelen's team went around to all the study areas to get readings of traffic pollution between 2008 and 2011.

They used these as a basis for calculating the long-term exposure of local residents to two kinds of particulate matter and to two kinds of gas emissions.

They took into account factors such as smoking habits, socio-economic status, physical activity, body mass index and education that can skew the results.

The biggest source of concern was PM2.5, meaning particles measuring under 2.5 microns, or 2.5 millionths of a metre, across, they found.

Previous research has found PM2.5 is so small that it can lodge deep in the lungs, causing respiratory problems, and may even cross over into the bloodstream.

The risk of early death rose by seven per cent with every increase of five microgrammes of PM2.5 per cubic metre, the new study found.

"A difference of five microgrammes can be found between a location at a busy urban road" and a quiet street, Beelen said.

European Union guidelines set down maximum exposure to PM2.5 of 25 microgrammes per cubic metre.

But even in locations where the pollution levels were well below this, there were still higher-than-normal cases of early death.

In an email exchange with AFP, Beelen said that the loss of life expectancy through background exposure to PM2.5 was likely to be "up to a few months".
"Although this does not seem to be much, you have to keep in mind that everybody is exposed to some level of air pollution and that it is not a voluntary exposure, in contrast to, for example, smoking."
The study - the first of its kind in Europe - reflects similar findings in investigations in North America.
There was one important difference, though: exposure to PM2.5 was linked to mortality in men, but not in women.
Beelen said the work adds weight to the argument that the EU should toughen up its air pollution standards and adopt the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines of 10 microgrammes per cubic metre.
In October, the European Environment Agency (EAA) said that urban levels of PM2.5 had fallen by 16 per cent between 2002 and 2011, but many people still lived in areas where exposure breached both EU and the tougher UN marks.
Shanghai on Friday became the latest Chinese city to undergo a pollution alert, with concentrations of PM2.5 24 times higher than UN levels.
Beelen said that such levels were far higher than those in Europe, but he could not venture an opinion as to how dangerous they were.
"Our study focuses on long-term exposure ... exposure to daily variation with sometimes high peaks is another research question."
The WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in October classified outdoor air pollution as a leading cause of cancer, placing it in the riskiest of four categories of sources.
A worldwide study called the Global Burden of Disease found that outdoor air pollution was to blame for 3.2 million deaths per year.

Taking the train to LAX — it’s a connection we can’t afford to miss: Eric Garcetti and Mike Bonin


By Eric Carcetti and Mike Boninm December 6, 2013


Traffic drives into the departure level the day after a gunman entered terminal 3 at Los Angeles International Airport where he killed a TSA agent and wounded several others. Los Angeles, CA. 11/2/2013. 

Earlier this fall, a sleek new international terminal debuted at Los Angeles International Airport to widespread acclaim. The new building is a key first step in beautifying and modernizing LAX and making it one of the world’s finest airports again.

Meanwhile, a new transit system is rising in Los Angeles County. Two new rail projects are half-complete and three should soon be underway. Our transit map will soon look like our freeway map: a vibrant tangle of lines connecting our neighborhoods, job centers and major destinations.

And that means a train must go to LAX, the sixth-busiest airport on the planet and the gateway to our region for residents, visitors and those who both do business and create jobs here.

It is embarrassing and inexplicable that the Green Line opened in 1995 within sight of the airport’s runways but a long 2.5-mile bus ride to the terminals from the nearest train station.

That is one reason that the vast majority of the airport’s 63.7 million passengers in 2012 arrived and departed the airport by car. Improved transit to the airport promises an alternative to traffic. Transit has also proven to be a smart way for riders to reduce greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

Metro is currently studying six options for connecting the Crenshaw/LAX Line and Green Line to the airport terminals via either a light rail line, an automated people mover or a combination of those. As members of the Metro Board of Directors, we agree it is essential to study all options, and analyze the costs and benefits.

A particularly strong and promising alternative is called LAX Connect. It is part of the modernization plan adopted by LAX and the City Council. Under the plan, a rail spur from the Crenshaw/LAX and Green lines would deliver passengers to a new transportation hub built on airport land with airport money near Parking Lot C.

Think of the hub as a state-of-the-art front porch to greet those who arrive at LAX by train or bus. The hub would be a place where people could conveniently check in for flights, grab a coffee or a meal and then easily connect directly to their terminals via a free, automated people mover.

Getting this done won’t be easy. Four major agencies — including two from the federal government — must get on the same page for anything to happen. Additional funding is needed to supplement the existing seed money from Measure R.
The good news is that the wheels are in
motion and that we believe the project is both viable and attainable in the near term.

On the local front, Metro and LAX have been working together. In October, we met with U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in Washington, D.C. He and other key transportation officials understand and agree that connecting LAX to our rail system must happen.

They are watching us. They are eager to help. And that’s the reason we can’t squander the opportunity to act now.

One of the myths that we both despise about Los Angeles is that we are beholden to traffic and that we can’t build big things. Or that we can’t do them right, symbolized by the Green Line veering south of the airport.

This project is a chance to shatter that myth, move Los Angeles into the future, and to build a transit system that connects our region to the rest of the world.

Eric Garcetti is mayor of Los Angeles. Mike Bonin is an L.A. city councilman whose 11th district includes LAX.

Report knocks public-private agreements–includes I-95 express lanes


December 9, 2013

A recent report by the  Washington, D.C., advocacy group In the Public Interest paints an unseemly picture of public-private partnerships, something that in recent times has become quite the rave in various sectors, such as healthcare, utility services and prison systems.

But public-private partnerships also are big in transportation nowadays.

We have a big one right here in our neck of the woods–the Interstate 95 express lanes, the nearly $1 billion project that will extend the HOV lanes in the median of the interstate to Garrisonville.

Work continues on an I-95 express lanes ramp just south of State Route 234 in Prince William County on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013.

It’s hard to argue against having more lanes on I-95, but the agreement the state entered into on the I-95 and I-495 express lanes have stipulations that could backfire. (Click here for a recent Free Lance-Start story.) The stipulations in those agreements require the state to pay the private toll operators if a certain percentage of non-paying car-poolers use the toll lanes.

The most egregious cases in the report were related to such sectors as healthcare and prisons systems, but we should take heed of the express lanes agreements, because more such public-private projects will be coming down the pike.

Eastern States Press Midwest to Improve Air


By Coral Davenport, December 9, 2013


Gov. Dannel P. Malloy of Connecticut is leading an effort by Eastern governors to reduce pollution from out-of-state sources.

WASHINGTON — In a battle that pits the East Coast against the Midwest over the winds that carry dirty air from coal plants, the governors of eight Northeastern states plan to petition the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday to force tighter air pollution regulations on nine Rust Belt and Appalachian states.

 The East Coast states, including New York and Connecticut, have for more than 15 years been subject to stricter air pollution requirements than many other parts of the country. Their governors have long criticized the Appalachian and Rust Belt states, including Ohio, Kentucky and Michigan, for their more lenient rules on pollution from coal-fired power plants, factories and tailpipes — allowing those economies to profit from cheap energy while their belched soot and smog are carried on the prevailing winds that blow across the United States. 

All the governors on the petition are Democrats. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a Republican and a potential presidential candidate in 2016, has not signed it. 

The petition comes the day before the Supreme Court is to hear arguments to determine the fate of a related E.P.A. regulation known as the “good neighbor” rule. The regulation, officially called the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, would force states with coal pollution that wafts across state lines to rein in soot and smog, either by installing costly pollution control technology or by shutting the power plants. 

Even if the regulation is upheld, the Eastern governors are seeking stronger constraints on pollution from the Midwest and Rust Belt states. 

The Obama administration issued the “good neighbor” rule, which would apply chiefly to power plants in 27 states east of Nebraska, half of the country, in 2011, but the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck it down, ruling that the E.P.A. had not followed the Clean Air Act when it calculated how to assign responsibility for cross-state air pollution. The rule is part of President Obama’s growing effort to use E.P.A. regulations to crack down on coal pollution. 

In the case before the Supreme Court, the E.P.A. argues that the cross-state air rule, which it is required to issue under the Clean Air Act of 1990, is necessary to protect the health and environment of downwind states. The utilities and 15 states on the other side argue that the rule, as written by the Obama administration E.P.A., gives the agency too much regulatory authority and places an unfair economic burden on the states. 

The Supreme Court is allowing 90 minutes to listen to arguments, rather than the traditional 60 minutes, signaling that the justices have a particularly keen interest in the case. 

Like the petition from the Northeastern governors, the court case reflects the growing anger of East Coast officials against the Appalachian states that mine coal and the Rust Belt states that burn it to fuel their power plants and factories. Coal emissions are the chief cause of global warming and are linked to many health risks, including asthma and lung disease. 

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy of Connecticut, who is leading the effort by East Coast governors to crack down on out-of-state pollution, called it a “front-burner issue” for his administration. 

“I care about this because it’s put Connecticut at an economic disadvantage,” Mr. Malloy said in an interview. “We’re paying a lot of money to remove these compounds from the air. That money is reflected in higher energy costs. We’re more than willing to pay that, but the states we’re petitioning should have to follow the same rules.” 

Mr. Malloy said that more than half the pollution in Connecticut was from outside the state and that it was lowering the life expectancy of Connecticut residents with heart disease or asthma. “They’re getting away with murder,” Mr. Malloy said of the Rust Belt and Appalachia. “Only it’s in our state, not theirs.” 

Judging by history, environmental advocates said the governors’ petition had a good chance of success. In 2000, for example, the E.P.A. granted petitions from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania to require 12 states, including Ohio and Indiana, to control nitrogen emissions from nearly 400 large coal- and gas-fired power plants. 

In the last three years, Republicans and the coal industry have campaigned aggressively against the E.P.A. regulations as they have accused Mr. Obama of waging a “war on coal.” 

Across the Midwest, many lawmakers see the regulations as a serious economic threat. 

Representative Fred Upton, the Michigan Republican who is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has said that the cross-state air rule will force families to face “the threat of higher power bills, less reliability and job losses.” 

 Murray Energy Corporation, an Ohio-based coal company, is among the parties suing the E.P.A. in the Supreme Court. Gary Broadbent, a spokesman for the company, called the cross-state air rule “absolutely irrational, exorbitantly expensive,” and said it “would kill thousands of jobs, with no environmental benefit whatsoever.” 

 The Northeast has long had some of the nation’s dirtiest air. In the 1970s and 1980s, East Coast pollution was produced largely by dense cities and busy highways, particularly Interstate 95. A 1990 clean-air law placed tight regional restrictions on pollution from ozone, a primary contributor to smog, on the New England states as well as on New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and the metropolitan area of Washington. 

But East Coast governors say that after a decade of cleaning up their air — by, for example, putting “scrubbers” on smokestacks and requiring vehicle emissions tests, which are not mandatory in many other parts of the country — they have squeezed all the pollution they can out of their economies. While Northeastern air is often still so polluted that it violates federal law, the governors say that is because of a problem they cannot control: the wind pattern across the continental United States that typically blows from west to east. 

At the same time, Midwestern states enjoy the benefits of fresh air blown in from the Mountain West. E.P.A. data cited in briefs for the Supreme Court case shows that in many parts of Eastern states, half or more of the smog and toxic air pollution originates from out of state. The briefs say, for example, that 93 percent of the ozone pollution in New Haven, Conn., originates from out of state. 

The soot, smog and toxic chemicals like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide that spew from smokestacks and tailpipes are linked to severe health risks. The E.P.A. estimates that the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule would prevent up to 34,000 premature deaths, 15,000 nonfatal heart attacks, 19,000 cases of acute bronchitis, 400,000 cases of aggravated asthma and 1.8 million sick days a year. 

The E.P.A. also estimates that the rule would cost businesses $800 million annually because of the expense of installing smokestack scrubber technology and shutting the dirtiest coal plants. That burden would be borne disproportionately by the Rust Belt states, which would have to modify their coal plants. Ohio, for example, gets 78 percent of its electricity from burning coal. Coal is responsible for 83 percent of the electricity in Indiana and 93 percent of the electricity in Kentucky. 

Coal industry advocates say that adding new regulations to those states would not make a difference to air quality on the East Coast. 

“It’s been very convenient for Northeastern states to blame their ozone problem on Midwestern power plants, but they’re a very small part of the problem,” said Jeffrey Holmstead, an assistant administrator for the E.P.A. during the administration of George W. Bush who now lobbies on behalf of coal companies. “It mostly comes from all those vehicles and businesses along the Eastern Seaboard.”

Smog makes you funnier and smarter, Chinese media claims

As eastern China chokes on toxic pollution and skyscrapers disappear into the fog, an editorial goes viral after arguing that smog is bringing "major benefits" to Chinese people


By Tom Phillips, December 9, 2013

As eastern China chokes on toxic pollution and skyscrapers disappear into the fog, an editorial goes viral after arguing that smog is bringing  Models wearing masks present jewellery to a mask-clad audience on a smoggy day in Nanjing, Jiangsu province

Toxic air pollution may be pulverizing the alveoli of hundreds of millions of Chinese but it is also making them more equal, more humorous and even more intelligent, state media claimed on Monday.
In a controversial and widely mocked comment piece entitled, “Five unexpected gains the haze has brought”, a journalist from state television channel CCTV argued that while Chinese people might “hate” the pollution, it was not a “completely useless” phenomenon.
For while filthy air was a dangerous “enemy”, it was simultaneously bringing "major benefits" including making people more united, more sober, more equal, more humorous and better informed.
Smog was making Chinese people equal since it affected the lungs of both rich and poor, the article argued. It was sobering since it made Chinese reflect on the cost of their country’s economic boom. It was also a boon for Chinese humour, since residents of mainland China were turning to comedy in order to keep “light hearts” in the face of what has been dubbed the “airpocalypse”.
But perhaps most importantly, pollution was improving Chinese minds, CCTV's journalist argued.

Update: Bike rider killed in Pacoima train collision; eighth SoCal train victim this year


Eighty-one. And eight.

That’s how many bike riders have lost their lives in what has turned out to be a horrible year for SoCal cyclists. And how many of those riders have died as a result of train collisions.

According to the LA Times, a male bike rider was hit and hilled by a Metrolink train in Pacoima this afternoon. The victim, who has not been publicly identified, was riding on Van Nuys Blvd when he attempted to cross the railroad tracks just north of San Fernando Road around 3:50 pm.

The paper reports he apparently tried to beat the train, despite the fact that the warning gates had already been lowered. He was struck by the 218 train on its way to Union Station in Downtown LA, and pronounced dead at the scene.

With this death, nearly 10% of the fatalities involving Southern California bike riders have been the result of train collisions — the easiest type of collision to avoid. All you have to do is stay off the tracks when there’s a train coming.

Unlike motor vehicles. trains are restricted to a specific pathway, and can’t vary their route in any way. And they have warning systems to let you know when they’re coming; all you have to do is squeeze on the brakes.

At least three of those eight deaths resulted from riders attempting to beat the train or ride around the warning gates. Which makes me wonder if they were truly attempting to beat the gates, or if at least some might have been fixie riders forced to ride through because they lacked the skill to stop in time.

Unfortunately, we may never know, since none of the reports identify the type of bike the victim was riding.

But it’s a question worth asking as we struggle to understand why so many riders have died in a type of collision that’s so easy to avoid.

This is the 81st bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the 33rd in LA County. This is also the 14th rider to lose his life in the City of Los Angeles since the first of the year, three time the average for the city.

Update: According to KCBS-2, the victim, identified only as a 30-year old Hispanic man, was riding west on Van Nuys at the time of the collision. 

 My deepest sympathy and prayers for the victim and his family.

Cyclist killed in collision with sheriff patrol car

By Amina Khan, December 8, 2013

A bicyclist was fatally struck by a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department patrol car in Calabasas on Sunday afternoon.

The male cyclist and the patrol car collided at 1:05 p.m. while both were traveling northeast on Mulholland Highway near Paul Revere Drive, said Lt. Michael Williams of the department’s Malibu/Lost Hills station.

The cyclist was pronounced dead at the scene.

The impact smashed the patrol car’s windshield, leaving the deputy with cuts on his arm and glass in his eyes.

An accident investigation through the department’s Traffic Services Detail is underway. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Malibu/Lost Hills station at (818) 878-1808, or the anonymous “Crime Stoppers” line at (800) 222-8477 or lacrimestoppers.org