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

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

No 710 Action Committee has a Blog

From Sylvia Plummer, January 31, 2014

You can visit the blog using this link:


SR-710 North Extension - A History

Posted by CV Gal, January 25, 2014


  Sign the Petition at no710.com

In 1958, a Master Plan of Freeways was adopted by the State of California. The Long Beach Freeway was outlined in that plan. In 1964, a 23-mile portion of the freeway was constructed, now called Interstate 710 (I-710). It runs from Ocean Boulevard west of downtown Long Beach and northward to Valley Boulevard in El Sereno (City of Los Angeles), near the Alhambra border. The unfinished corridor now called the State Route 710 (SR-710), was not built at that time but it was planned for the near future. 

1960 - 2000
In the 1960s, in preparation for eventual excavation of the new SR-710 section, 500 houses were purchased to clear a surface route. They were located in El Sereno (220), South Pasadena (112), Pasadena (143) and Alhambra (25). At the time, it was estimated that a total of 976 houses would be needed for the project. The 500 houses are still owned by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) today. Some have been rented back to residents on a month to month basis for decades. Some are vacant. Most are in disrepair.

Over the course of the next forty years, the SR-710 portion of the freeway was not completed, largely due to intense community opposition and judicial injunctions which are still in place. Many freeway “gaps” remain in the region’s original master plan as only 60% of the projects have ever been finished. One example is the SR-2 Freeway that terminates on the south at Glendale Boulevard near downtown Los Angeles, instead of connecting with the I-405 through Beverly Hills as planned.

First Decade of 2000s
Between 2003 and 2009, Caltrans and the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA or Metro) began to look at whether it was feasible to construct a bored tunnel rather than a surface route to extend the SR-710 Freeway and connect it to the I-210. Ultimately, five zones were examined through boring, seismic reflection, and surface wave testing in a geotechnical feasibility study. Upon completion of the study in the fall of 2009, Caltrans reported that it is “technically feasible” to construct a tunnel in any of the five zones which roughly spanned from the I-5 & SR-2 interchange to the I-210 & I-605 interchange. They added that no single route had been chosen. However, based on geologic and financial considerations and actions by the MTA Board and staff, many community members speculated that Zone 3, the original Meridian route through El Sereno, South Pasadena, and Pasadena would be chosen. The final geotechnical report presented in March 2010, indicated that no conditions exist that would stop, prohibit, or otherwise preclude tunneling through any of the five zones, even though seismic faults and contaminants exist throughout. With no accurate project definitions (need & purpose), no true feasibility studies, no examination of alternative transportation modes, or cost-benefit analyses conducted, the project was pushed forward through to the Scoping and environmental analysis stages.

Tunnel Description
The tunnel would be comprised of two 57-foot deep bored holes, approximately 150 feet underground and would require 200-foot wide concrete portals for entrances, exits, toll plazas and ramps. The bored tunnels themselves would measure 4.9 miles in length and would be the longest road tunnels ever built in the U.S.  The portal ends would have about a half a mile of "cut & cover" excavation where the dirt is removed then filled back in. The total project is currently designed to be 6.3 miles in length. (4.9 bores + .7 cut & cover + .7 other)  Ventilation towers and other structures may need to be built at surface level along the route to vent concentrated exhaust or it may just be blown out of the ends and/or vented further down the road.

The plan is to build the south portal in the City of El Sereno, north of Valley Boulevard and CSULA where hundreds of Caltrans-owned homes would be destroyed. The north portal will surface at Del Mar Blvd in Pasadena, right next to Huntington Memorial Hospital and schools. On the north end, the tunnel will only be accessible by the I-210 and SR-134 freeways and will not serve the community of Pasadena. On the south end, drivers must already be driving on the I-710 in order to access the tunnel. There will be no ramps at the portal ends or at any point along the 4.9 mile route.

Tunnel Cost Makes the Tolls Exorbitant
The cost of the project has been estimated by various sources to range from $1 billion and $14 billion and is expected be funded through a public-private partnership (PPP) and $780 million in Measure R funds. MTA is currently using the figure of $5.425 billion in their projections. It is predicted that the tunnel toll would be between $5 and $15 to use each way—a prohibitive expense for most commuters but not necessarily for trucking companies who could pass the cost on to consumers through increased prices. The resulting jobs created by the expansion, would be primarily for expert tunnel builders from outside the State or Country, less so for local citizens. 

A Toll Tunnel Increases Congestion
Building a new tolled roadway will not relieve congestion problems in the region and could actually exacerbate current conditions. Commuters will, almost certainly, continue to use local surface roads to avoid paying tunnel tolls. An analysis by the City of La Cañada Flintridge of three separate highway studies indicates that traffic will increase by 25% and the tunnel will open with a Level of Service classification of “F”, meaning failure or gridlock. Metro’s own forecasts project an increase by over 40% of vehicles on local streets.  Clearly, this massive development would present issues of enormous costs, health consequences due to poor air quality, traffic congestion, noise, and 10 years of disruption due to construction as well as introduce risk from earthquake, fire, flood, and terrorist attacks in the tunnel. Quality of life would change dramatically for all the communities surrounding this area, especially the small towns that would be in the crosshairs of “big city” developers who want to bring “progress” to the area.

Who is For and Who Opposes?
Completion of the SR-710 Extension is being moved forward by Caltrans, MTA, the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments (SGVCOG), the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), and the Cities of Alhambra, El Monte, Duarte and more. It is opposed by the Cities of South Pasadena, Sierra Madre, Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge and by countless community groups in Pasadena, El Sereno, Hermon, Mt. Washington, Glassell Park, Highland Park, Eagle Rock, La Crescenta, and Sunland-Tujunga. In addition, the Los Angeles City Council passed a resolution against portal construction in Zones 1 & 2, reflecting its opposition to building the tunnel within the boundary of the City of Los Angeles.  Metro and Caltrans have disregarded this resolution in their current plan.

Who Benefits?
The SR-710 Extension, whether by surface route or tunnel, will primarily benefit freight-transport vehicles that cross through these communities. Per a report conducted by the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), there are currently 34,000 vehicles that leave the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach every day; 70% are trucks carrying cargo to locations outside the City. By 2020, it is estimated that the number will climb to 92,000 or more.  Forty percent of those trucks could choose to take the new tunnel but considerably more would if the Ports remained open 24 hours a day. By 2030, shipment by containers is expected to triple and miles driven by trucks will almost double from the year 2005 levels.

Traffic congestion is a problem in Los Angeles County but there are many other alternatives to building more freeways. One potential 21st century solution being successfully implemented throughout the United States is the development of intermodal-distribution logistic centers. These “inland ports” use rail lines to move goods from sea ports to outlying areas where the cargo is then loaded on trucks for distribution across the country. This would dramatically reduce the number of container trucks on our local streets and highways. And—for the same price as building large tunnels, the State can do 1,000 neighborhood upgrades at $5 million each, with much shorter timelines. Updating the existing transportation system through “multi-mode, low build” projects, will create jobs for local workers and reduce long-term disruption in our communities. It’s the smarter, more responsible way to go.

Please join us and say NO to the extension of the 710 Freeway. NO ONE’S back yard!

Compiled by Susan Bolan, La Crescenta and Jan SooHoo, La Cañada Flintridge
Members of the No 710 Action Committee, no710extension@aol.com Updated 1-9-14

SR-710 - What Could Happen in a Tunnel?

 Posted by CV Ga
l, January 16, 2014

Tanker Truck Fire at I-5 & SR-2 Tunnel Connector,
July 2013
Gasoline poured into the street and ignited.  Repairs cost $16 million.  Tunnel reopened January 2014
Photo Source: scpr.org

Roadway tunnels are inherently dangerous.  Check out these images from tunnel disasters around the world.

Tunnel Dangers

Concerns from the Beginning
From 1947 through the 1990s, communities opposing the extension of the 710 freeway were focused on preserving the character of their neighborhoods and solving their transportation issues through other projects. Carving up the beautiful historic homes and small town businesses to send more vehicles through the area just doesn’t make sense. These communities already have more than one freeway. Why add more?

Feasibility of Using a Bored Tunnel
In 2002, after years of litigation with the City of South Pasadena and others, Caltrans and Metro shifted their plans and began to explore the feasibility of using a bored tunnel to extend the freeway. This concept raised new concerns for the communities: huge costs, concentrated pollution emissions, but more importantly, safety. Los Angeles is well known for its high incidence of earthquakes and other natural disasters. The public now had to consider the danger of being inside a 5-mile long tunnel during a substantial earthquake, rising flood waters, or a natural or man-made fire.

Dangers Come from within a Tunnel
Modern roadway tunnels are built with safety features incorporated into their design. Some earth movement is expected and planned for so that the passageway is able to “flex” with a shifting environment. The amount of “flexing” that a tunnel is able to do without damage, depends on many factors. An earthquake will not collapse a well-built tunnel. The greatest risk comes from cars, trucks, and busses filled with passengers and gasoline, shaking inside the tunnel, deep underground.

Tunnel Safety Measures
Every large tunnel built for vehicles has 24 hour monitoring of events inside, typically two, stationed control rooms, one at either end of the tunnel that are responsible for systems maintenance, observation of problems, and collection of tolls. Emergency escape exits and phones are located at intervals along the route. Most of these require a person to be “able-bodied” to use. Emergency response time can vary greatly depending on the severity of the problem, level of communication between jurisdictions, and specific training of first responders.

The Longest Roadway Tunnel in the United States
Los Angeles does not currently have any long, road tunnels. There are some short tunnels intermittently on area freeways where the freeway meets a rise in elevation, such as the SR-110 freeway near Dodgers Stadium or like the long underpasses at the connection of the I-5 and SR-2. The closest modern, roadway tunnel, the Caldecott Tunnel near Oakland California, consists of three tunnels, just about 4,000 feet long. If the 710 Extension iss built underground, it would have two 57-foot diameter tunnels, each 4.9 miles long, the longest road tunnels in the United States. Even the Central Artery Tunnel in Boston, also known as the Big Dig, is only 3.5 miles long. Ours will be an even Bigger Dig.

Big Rig Accident on I-5 Freeway
Locally, in 2007, an accident involving five big rigs in a small 550-foot long underpass tunnel on the I-5 freeway, just north of the SR-14 connector, resulted in a fireball so hot that the vehicles burned down to their cores and concrete exploded off the walls.  The Los Angeles Times reported, that “fire, police and Caltrans officials spent the day trying to assess damage to the concrete but were hampered by a continuing blaze in the tunnel's center, and heavy smoke and high concentrations of carbon dioxide [monoxide], particularly on the tunnel's north, or uphill, end. They could not get very far past the mouths of the tunnel.” Sadly, 3 people lost their lives and 10 others were treated at area hospitals. It was estimated that 10 to 20 people were able to flee the short tunnel on foot. This accident is a very small example of the type of emergency that can happen in a roadway tunnel. A longer tunnel with a higher number of trucks carrying cargo, would increase the potential for fire and death exponentially.

Mont Blanc Tunnel, Margarine and Flour Fire
The Mont Blanc Tunnel between France and Italy became the focus of an investigation in 1999, when a truck carrying margarine and flour caught fire midway through the 7-mile tunnel. Apparently the driver did not notice the smoke coming from his vehicle for about a mile as opposing cars waved at him. When he finally stopped to inspect, the truck ignited, sending smoke and dangerous levels of carbon monoxide throughout the area. The drivers in the vehicles behind the truck became trapped, unable to turn around, as the smoke was drawn uphill from the grade and overcame them. The truck’s cargo of margarine volatized and fed the fire that burned at about 1800OF for 53 hours. A total of 38 people died within 15 minutes of the incident; one first responder died later.  Prior to that day, it was believed that food cargo posed no transport risk; it was considered combustible but not flammable under normal conditions. However, investigators who examined this accident began to consider that even innocuous food goods and road pavement materials could become flammable when heated by fuels and other flammables, causing them to emit dangerous chemicals when burned in a contained space.

St. Gotthard Tunnel Fire, Smoke Caused Fatalities
Roadway tunnels all around the world have a disturbing history of fatalities. A tunnel full of vehicles contains 15 gallons of gas on average per vehicle.  Add to that, some trucks and busses have larger 150-gallon tanks with potentially flammable cargo and plastic that becomes flammable when heated. One accident can cause a chain reaction of explosions to all of those tanks. In 2001, the 10-mile St. Gotthard Tunnel in Göschenen Switzerland had a blazing inferno that killed 11 people. The accident was a collision between a truck and an empty minibus that caused gasoline to pour onto the floor of the tunnel. The result was a blaze so hot that it melted the vehicles causing them to be fused together. It was determined that the fatalities were caused by smoke and gas inhalation and that the ventilation system had not been working properly or was not adequate for such conditions. This tunnel suffered three major accidents in three years.

Caldecott Tunnel, Gasoline Fire
The Caldecott Tunnel as previously mentioned, had a fire in 1982 that caused 7 deaths.  A gasoline tanker crashed into a stopped car and gas spilled into the gutter and ignited.  Smoke travelled uphill, choking the victims who didn’t have a chance to get out the emergency exits. The ventilation system was not even on at the time although it would have been totally inadequate under these circumstances. The same tunnel in 2010, had to close during an intense rainstorm due to flooding. A drainage pipe had filled with debris from runoff and storm water backed up in the tunnel.

Big Dig Tunnel, Shoddy Construction
Sometimes the danger in a tunnel comes from an unexpected cause. The Central Artery Tunnel in Boston, the Big Dig, was damaged when ceiling tiles cascaded to the ground below because an inadequate glue was used to secure the 4,600-pound panels. One woman lost her life when a tile fell directly on her while riding as a passenger in a vehicle, also injuring the driver, her husband. The project manager, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff as well as others, were accused of cutting corners and doing shoddy work. There was also a great deal of investigation on whether the glue manufacturer or the installer were to blame for the tiles falling. The tunnel fully reopened 11 months later.

Flood Water Hazards, Diversion of Traffic
Flooding is a concern for Los Angeles area residents as it is common throughout the rainy season. At a public outreach meeting conducted by Caltrans during the 2010 Geotechnical Study, a question was asked about how flood waters would be managed in heavy downpours in and around the tunnel. Earlier in the week, television news coverage showed that the southern end of the 710 was evacuated due to rising waters. The response by Doug Failing, Executive Director of Highway Programs at Metro, was that the 710 freeway is supposed to flood to keep water out of the area neighborhoods. He stated that it was designed that way. However, one might argue that building a tunnel at the end of a freeway that is designed to flood, could create an inescapable hazard. There are no exit ramps in a tunnel. In addition, unlike the average freeway, when an entire tunnel section does close down for weather, maintenance, or accidents, the resulting overspill of cars and heavy cargo trucks into the local communities is devastating.

Soft Target for Terrorists
As we look to Los Angeles in the future, we must consider that a large tunnel could become the ultimate target for terrorists, as was the case in London in 2005. In a roadway tunnel, since tolls are collected electronically and there are no stops for inspection, it would be easy to trigger an explosion with just a flare and a can of gasoline. An act such as this would yield catastrophic loss of life and property.

Let’s be sure that the supposed benefits of this project far surpass the tremendous risks.

Compiled by Susan Bolan, La Crescenta Resident
Updated 1-14-14

SR-710, Decades of Opposition - A Timeline

Posted by CV Gal, January 16, 2014


The War Against the 710
Pasadena Magazine, January 2014
Excellent article featuring long-time freeway fighters, Claire Bogaard & Joanne Nuckols   http://www.pasadenamonthly.com/articles/war-against-710-2014-01-06
South Pasadena passed the first resolution against extending the Freeway

Master Plan of Freeways was adopted showing the plan for Route 7, now the I-710 and SR-710

Caltrans bought houses in El Sereno, South Pasadena, Pasadena and Alhambra to build the surface route

Section from Long Beach to El Sereno (Los Angeles) opened

1973 - 1998
Injunction granted to prevent Caltrans from buying additional properties and proceeding with the project

Second injunction granted (still in place)

2002 - 2003
Bored tunnel proposed and presented as an option

2003 - 2004
Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) rescinded their approval for the surface project. Following the FHWA, the State of California also rescinded their approval.

First Route 710 Feasibility Assessment. Determined that more effective study was needed.

2007 - 2009
Second Route 710 Tunnel Technical Feasibility Study. Only geotechnical testing conducted. Five zones studied. $7 million spent.

Final Geotechnical Report presented in March. Conclusion: All zones are viable options for tunneling. No zones eliminated. Surface route not eliminated. MTA Board voted $11.5 million contract to InfraConsult to pursue Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) for 6 projects, including the SR-710 Extension. MTA Board voted to include the SR-710 “Gap Closure” in the Mayor’s 30/10 Initiative (America Fast Forward), 12 fast-tracked projects to be completed in 10 years. MTA Board voted to move to the next steps of the project, to include Scoping (evaluation), Alternative Analysis, and environmental studies. InfraConsult completes Public-Private Partnership report, outlining concept to bundle three highway projects together to attract investors - I-710 Freight Corridor, SR-710 North Tunnel, and the High Desert Corridor.

Scoping process begins. Metro holds a series of community outreach sessions. Study area defined. Work begins on Purpose & Needs statement that does not include port or goods movement considerations. Gloria Molina reveals in a Metro Board meeting the plan to use the original Meridian route in Zone 3 in spite of the supposed “route neutral” study that was conducted. In March, Metro sends out Press Release and Executive Director of Highway Programs, Doug Failing, does interview for “Everything Long Beach” where the 710 North "Gap Closure" is described as necessary to complete the natural goods corridor that was begun several decades ago. Stakeholders submit comments for initial DEIR and Scoping closes April 14. Study area expanded to include La Cañada Flintridge and Glendale. Metro Board Chair, Ara Najarian, points out the vast differences in tunnel estimation costs. Requests a full cost-benefit analysis. Meetings begin with No 710 Action Committee representatives, Metro and InfraConsult to discuss a base-case scenario. CH2MHill awarded $37,300,000 contract for EIR/EIS.

Metro and InfraConsult disclose that their tunnel cost estimates are based solely on the Alaskan Way Tunnel bid amount per linear foot, not a completed project such as the Big Dig that had cost overruns of over $12 billion ($24 billion if you consider full final costs.) It is also revealed that a cost amount over $8 billion would be too high for most investors. SCAG adopts Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) in April, that names the SR-710 as a tunnel in the amount of $5.636 billion with tolls included in revenue projections. Stakeholder cities ask to have the language revised and the project moved out of the constrained plan. Project enters Alternatives Analysis phase. Metro creates three types of committees for outreach purposes – Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), Stakeholders Outreach Advisory Committee (SOAC), and Community Liaison Councils (CLC). TAC presented in April with chart of 42 alternatives and the 11 selected choices at one session, prior to any CLC or SOAC meetings being held. Stakeholders very unhappy about the process. Metro holds a series of Open Houses in May with Technical Team from CH2MHill and Aecom and the Outreach Team from Metro and MBI. It is demonstrated that a tunnel is being designed along the Meridian route from north of Valley in El Sereno, despite the City of LA Resolution against it and to Del Mar Blvd in Pasadena. The tunnel could also have a grade of up to 4% despite Metro's claim that it wouldn't exceed the standard of 2-2.5%. InfraConsult's PPP report is received and filed by the Metro Board in July. Glendale City Councilmember, Ara Najarian dismissed from Metrolink Board by new MTA Chair Michael Antonovich. Further TAC and SOAC meetings reveal a renewed consideration for a route in Zone 2 near Glassell Park and brand new routes in the northwest corner of Zone 3. Resident groups in West Pasadena, Garvanza, Highland Park, and Eagle Rock bring new energy to the cause by showing up to the CLC meetings in high numbers, placing posters around town, writing letters, signing petitions, and connecting with each other through social media. InfraConsult/HDR Engineering Executive Michael Schneider and Metro's Executive Director of Highway Programs, Doug Failing solicit investor interest by making presentations to transportation groups. The SR-710 is shown in the slides as a bored tunnel, not a potential light rail or bus rapid transit system which may reveal a bias in the Alternatives Analysis selection process and a premature marketing plan. Duarte City Council and City Selection Committee member, John Fasana asks member representatives to vote against Ara Najarian for his re-confirmation to the MTA Board, based on his outspoken views on the 710. This has never been done before.

Caltrans releases the final SR 710 Alternatives Analysis Report to the public on January 18, five days before the scheduled Open House meetings. The stakeholders are outraged that there is so little time to review the report prior to the public meetings. The agency listed on the report is Metro, not Caltrans which sparks discussion about who the lead agency truly is. Ara Najarian asks for clarification from the Metro Board on the MOU between the two agencies and is told that revealing this information would violate attorney-client privilege.  The No 710 Action Committee marches in the South Pasadena, Festival of Balloons parade, July 4.  The City of Alhambra hosts a “710 Day” on July 10 which is attended primarily by Alhambra City employees.  Ara Najarian remains on the MTA Board and is reinstated to the MetroLink Board by new Chair, Diane Dubois.  In October, Metro Board votes to add the SR-710 to the list of “Accelerated Funding” projects.

Cost, Tolls, Length, Safety
Over the last two decades, public officials and government sources have quoted project cost ranges between $1 to $14 billion to build the tunnel. The current figure being used by the MTA is $5.425 billion and SCAG is $5.636 billion. The $780 million in Measure R funds may be allocated for the environmental process but the project is being planned as a public-private partnership with tolls. Measure J on the ballot in November 2012 would have extended the half cent sales tax from 2039 to 2069 and could have been used to accelerate the project. It did not pass and transportation leaders are discussing changing the percent needed by voters from two-thirds to 55% for funding of transportation projects.

From $5 to $15 one-way to be collected by a private company through congestion pricing transponders.  Tolls are calculated based on project cost.  Metro/InfraConsult project 180,000 vehicles per day will use the tunnel, 4X the current number of 44,000, with a 35% diversion rate of 63,000 for those who will exit the freeway to avoid the toll.

The project will be 6.3 miles long with the tunnel measuring 4.9 miles. If completed, it will be the longest road tunnel ever built in the U.S. Road tunnels have a history of danger from fire, flood, earthquake, collapse, and terror attack. Threat from these dangers cannot be truly mitigated.

No 710 Action Committee
Updated by Susan Bolan 1/14/14


Obesity And Air Pollution: Overweight People Breathe In More Contaminants


By Lecia Bushak, February 4, 2014


 A new study finds that people who are overweight or obese are at risk of inhaling more air pollutants than those who are at lower weights.

A new study by Dr. Pierre Brochu at Université de Montréal’s School of Public Health has found that adults who are obese or even overweight actually breathe in seven to 50 percent more air per day than adults at healthier weights. This is especially true for obese children, whose daily rates of inhalation are up to 10 to 24 percent higher than other children.

Obese class 2 people, who have a BMI between 35 and 39.99, are considered the most severely obese and can have health problems related to weight, including high risk of obesity-caused death. People in this class had the highest rate of air inhalation, Brochu found, at 24.6 m3 per day. “That’s 8.2 m3 more than the 16.4 m3 an average adult with normal weight breathes daily, or 50 percent more air and pollutants,” Brochu said in a press release. Some of the pollutants Brochu refers to include: sulphur dioxide, ammonia, ozone, and nitrogen dioxide.

Professional athletes also breathe in more air than normal people at rest — but they don’t sustain these high levels of inhalation over a period of years. Instead, their rates of 41.2 m3 (cross-country skiers) to 45.9 m3 per day (Tour de France cyclists) last for the duration of their physical activity. Obese people, on the other hand, sustain high rates of inhalation over the course of their lives. “We observed that half of the type 2 obese cohort breathed 24.6 to 55 m3 of air every day, year after year, so it is clear that the amount of air they inhale every day exposes them to more contaminants than some top athletes,” Brochu said in the press release.

The study observed some 1,900 participants and is based on data from 1,069 people between the ages of 5 and 96. Brochu examined inhalation rates by determining “disappearance rates” of ingested air elements, like deuterium and heavy oxygen, in urine samples. By identifying these elements, Brochu was able to see how much carbon dioxide everyone exhaled.

Furthermore, Brochu presses that obese children are at an even higher risk to inhale air pollutants. Children have a higher metabolism and thus breathe in more air per kilogram of weight than obese adults, in order to maintain their daily functioning. “It remains to be seen if high inhalation rates are a factor in the development of asthma and other lung diseases in adults and children,” Brochu said.
There are other researchers who’ve explored the link between air pollution and obesity, but in an entirely different angle. Take Arne Astrup, for example, who is head of the department of obesity and nutrition at the University of Copenhagen and has suggested that increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the air may be contributing to obesity. “If it turns out that people are increasing their food intake due to this mechanism of global warming and greenhouse gas emissions, we would suddenly be getting a new dimension,” Astrup told Discovery News. “This could give us an explanation for why the entire population on this planet is increasing in body weight as soon as there is available food.” There are studies underway to test Astrup’s hypothesis.
Though clear evidence that pollution causes obesity has not yet solidified, the fact that air toxins can have adverse effects on anyone — especially those suffering from asthma, cardiovascular disease, or obesity — is relatively straightforward, according to the American Lung Association. Children as well as elderly people are more likely to be at risk of damage from air toxins, as well as people with lung diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma. Ozone, in particular, can cause breathing problems like shortness of breath, asthma attacks, and an increased susceptibility to pulmonary inflammation.

Source: Brochu P, Bouchard M, Haddad S. “Physiological Daily Inhalation Rates for Health Risk Assessment in Overweight/Obese Children, Adults, and Elderly.” Risk Analysis, 2013.

Federal Highway Trust Fund faces $172 billion shortfall over next decade, according to new report


By Steve Hymon, February 4, 2014

The federal gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon was last increased in 1993; it funds road and highway programs — and also provides funding for federal mass transit programs. To put it lightly, Metro relies on federal dollars in order to build new projects and ongoing maintenance, among other things.
Metro CEO Art Leahy issued this legislative update Tuesday about the need to raise the gas tax, a task that is ultimately up to Congress:
Congressional Budget Office Projects Massive Deficit For Federal Highway Trust Fund

Earlier today, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued a baseline projection on the federal Highway Trust Fund that predicts a shortfall of $172 billion over the next decade. The CBO baseline projection is the latest evidence that the federal Highway Trust Fund is running out of money at a rapid pace. Last month, in an address before transportation experts in the nation’s capital, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx predicted that the U.S. Department of Transportation could start “bouncing checks” as early as this August 2014. Also last month, our Board adopted a support position for H.R. 3636, legislation authored by Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) that would increase the federal gas tax by 15-cents per gallon over the next three years and simultaneously index the gas tax for inflation. It is estimated that the Blumenauer bill, backed by our Board of Directors, could completely fill the $170 billion shortfall facing the federal Highway Trust Fund over the next decade. Please find here a copy of the baseline projection on the federal Highway Trust Fund that was issued by the CBO earlier today – http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/43884-2014-02-Highway_Trust_Fund.pdf

Understand the health risks of air pollution


Dr. Tze-Ming (Benson) Chen, February 4, 2014

 Dr. Tze-Ming (Benson) Chen Photo: Courtesy Of CPMC
 A sign over Interstate 580 in Livermore warns motorists that a Spare the Air alert is in effect.

As part of my New Year's resolutions for 2014, I vowed to hike more. So bright and early one recent morning, I dragged my family out of bed and headed to our neighboring Rancho San Antonio Park in Santa Clara County. Despite the moaning and groaning of my 5- and 7-year-old children, I was able to persuade them to climb the steep PG&E Trail.

After an hour of hiking, we stopped at a clearing in the trees to take in what we expected to be a spectacular view. My daughter's only comment was, "Daddy, why is everything so foggy in the valley below?"

What we were seeing covering Santa Clara County was the air pollution that had prompted the winter season's 24th Spare the Air day. (We have had several more Spare the Air days since.)

Air pollution is a significant public health hazard and poses acute risks to people with underlying lung disease such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Those risks can range from difficulty breathing to even death among the most vulnerable.

However, physicians have not been very effective in counseling their patients about the negative effects of air pollution on their health and how to cope with this problem.

If you want to deal effectively with the effects of air pollution on your health, there are three steps. The first is to be aware of air quality. Thankfully, this information is easy to find on the Internet and in the weather section of local newspapers, under the Air Quality (AQ) Index heading.

The AQ Index has six risk levels, ranging from "good" to "hazardous," and evaluates ground-level ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and particle pollution. The essentials can be found in the chart that accompanies this column.

The second step is to incorporate the information provided by the AQ Index into how you plan your activities. If you have heart and/or lung disease and the AQ Index is not "good," you may notice shortness of breath, chest pain, wheezing or worse if you are outdoors for prolonged periods of time.
Consequently, adjust your plans for the day so that you avoid strenuous exercise outside and spend most of your time indoors. If going outdoors is necessary, bring an inhaler and try to restrict your activities to the morning.

Finally, if you do develop respiratory symptoms despite your efforts to minimize exposure to air pollution, contact your health care provider for assistance. Treatment may be as simple as an inhaler medication or, in more challenging situations, a course of steroids may be required. In more severe instances, treatment in a hospital setting may be necessary.

With air pollution becoming a more significant problem in urban centers around the world, being aware of your medical problems and how your body responds to air pollution will help you better manage your health.

Just remember the three steps above and have a plan in place when air quality deteriorates. If all else fails, don't forget to contact your health care provider for assistance.


 Dr. Tze-Ming (Benson) Chen is the director of Intensive Care Unit Services at California Pacific Medical Center, San Francisco, and CPMC director of Bronchoscopy Services.


China's Air Pollution Explained


February 4, 2014

ChinaPollution.jpg ChinaPollution.jpg

City of Pasadena to Review EIR for Local Impacts

From Sylvia Plummer, February 4, 2014:

At Monday night's City Council Meeting the issue of Pasadena reviewing the SR710 Draft EIR for City of Pasadena specific impacts was bought up during Public Comment.  City Manager, Michael Beck responded with the following statement: 

"The city staff and the appropriate departments will be reviewing the Draft EIR, providing comments back through our 5 City task force (Alliance), which is also going to be providing some professional analysis to again provide the ability for Pasadena to consider Pasadena specific impacts associated with the EIR.  Council has already directed staff to be looking at those".

To view video of this comment, go to www.ci.pasadena.ca.us/Media/City_Council_Meetings/

City Council Meeting - Feb 3, 2014   The comment takes place at 1:28 minutes (it's easy to skip to it)

Waiting on "Preferred Alternative" for 710

From Sylvia Plummer, February 4, 2014:

An excellent update on SR-710  Study.  This Opinion piece was written by Dr. Bill Sherman who serves on the South Pasadena Freeway and Transportation Commission and represents the City of South Pasadena on the METRO Technical Advisory Committee (TAC).

South Pasadena Review, dated January 29th, 2014, PAGE 4:

O P I N I O N: Waiting on 'Preferred Alternative' for 710

EIR Soon to Move Into New Phase by Dr. Bill Sherman

The 710 Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) is soon to enter a new phase-the Draft EIR/EIS. This means that Metro and their contractor, CH2MHill, have finished acquiring data and are now going to present some conclusion, but perhaps not yet the “Preferred Alternative.”

The study was initiated with a so called project needs statement. They told us our freeways were too
crowded. They presented data showing transit times on I-10, SR-60, SR-101, I-405, I-210, SR-2, SR-
110 were too long and unpredictable during peak hours. Wow, was this a surprise. Those of us living
in Los Angeles always knew that the freeways were in gridlock, but now we really know it is so
because Metro/Ch2MHill told us with graphs and tables. They told us that this gridlock was due to a
North-South “connectivity” problem and told us if only there were a way to improve this connectivity all would be well.

They entered a “scoping” phase were they asked the public for a solution to this identified problem. They also came up with their ideas to solve the problem. There were perhaps 150-200 ideas put forward during this phase.

Winnowing down the multitude of ideas was called the “Alternative Analysis” phase of the study. They created criteria, arbitrary criteria, for a solution to the problems they have identified and applied it to all of these ideas. Did I say all? Some of the ideas were brought up after the AA phase was closed so they never had to be compared to the 145-195 ideas that were rejected. This winnowing left five perhaps six plans: No build, Bus Rapid Transport (BRT), Light Rail, a complex agenda of small projects called Transportation Systems Management/Transportation Systems Demand (TSM/TDM), and our old friend the tunnel. Did I misspeak? Perhaps they meant to say two bored tunnels, one in each direction, or perhaps a single bored tunnel, though the single bored tunnel has escaped the alternative analysis phase of the study.

The winnowing phase has not been concerned with the cost. I guess for Metro money is no object,
but no I am wrong. They are going to finance this with a Public Private Partnership (PPP). You may ask what is a PPP? A PPP is a corporation that is tasked with designing, building, maintaining and operating the project. The corporation finances the project, the project being the tunnel. Eventually the PPP will recoup their monies by charging tolls for use of the tunnel. I guess this is really not a
free tunnel, but a toll tunnel. Was the possibility of tolls considered during the AA phase of the
study? Not on your life. Remember money is no object. Now we have been told that Metro won’t be able to sell this PPP if it cost too much, $7-8 billion. Again this is not a problem. What they are going to do is instead of boring two six mile long tunnels they will bore only one. This cuts the cost by half as well as the capacity by half. Only half the people will want to use the tunnels because they will charge enough money in tolls to discourage some users, but still pay off the investors. Not to worry because some time in the distant future they will just bore another tunnel. Perhaps a second PPP will finance the second phase, but remember money is no object. Who pays these tolls? Well of course it is the public. The toll way users pay it directly and the rest of us pay it indirectly in increased product costs for the products that are trucked through the toll way. They will use “variable tolling which means it will cost more during peak hours and trucks will pay more than cars. PPP’s are not like taxes and bond sales. They do not require public approval. Metro and our elected officials can impose this cost without asking for public approval. This reminds me of taxation without representation.” Didn’t we fight a war with the British over this idea?

There are other costs of the tunnel(s) which we have not considered. There are the costs to our health. At either end of the tunnel there will be a spewing of pollution from the 180,000 (dual bore) or
108,000 (single bore) vehicles per day that will use this tunnel. There is no technology that can “filter’ out the toxic fumes from these cars and trucks. Wait did I say trucks? Metro has not confirmed that they will allow trucks in the tunnel, but if they don’t let trucks into the tunnel
they won’t collect enough tolls to finance the PPP. These fumes will spread out over El Serrano and
Pasadena bringing death and disease to the people living and working there. Let’s not forget the other
people living in communities adjacent to the 210 and 134 who will experience increased pollution and increased disease because of the increased (truck) traffic.

Is it safe? The tunnel crosses an active earthquake fault-the Raymond Fault. The engineers
are very very smart. They can build a tunnel that will not rupture in a major quake. Of course
the soft mushy things in their hard cars will be tossed around somewhat, but the tunnel will not
rupture and if a few of the soft mushy things in the tunnel don’t survive that is just the price of
doing business. If there is a fire in the tunnel it will only be a short walk to safety, less than three
miles, if there is any oxygen left to breath. The old and infirm of course will be left to perish. This
is just another cost of doing business. But not to worry because fires rarely happen. Did we
recently have a tunnel fire in the transition from the Glendale Freeway to the I-5? What about
the fire in the truck tunnel on the I-5 at the 14?

But wait! I did not tell you the good news. In the year 2035, the tunnel will take 25,000 vehicles
per day off the I-5 through the downtown area. These vehicles will be rerouted through the tunnel.
The gridlock on the 210 East, 210 West won’t be helped and perhaps even made somewhat worse,
but that is a small price to pay for this relief on the I-5 through the downtown area. Will Alhambra,
South Pasadena, and Pasadena at last have resolution of the traffic congestion? How about the city of
San Marino, Rosemead, and even Eagle Rock? Well Metro/CH2MHhill has the numbers
to show this as well, but it isn’t much and the numbers are unsubstantiated.

Can this project be stopped? You bet it can. It can be stopped by our elected officials. This is first
the Metro Board which is composed of County Supervisors, L.A. City representatives, and other
representatives from throughout the county. These are elected officials. The California Transportation Commission has to approve the EIR/EIS. These people are appointed by the governor
of California, Jerry Brown. Remember elected officials want to be re-elected officials. They
want your vote.

If all else fails there are still the courts. Metro and Caltrans don’t listen to the public and this
sham of a study can be run anyway they want. They can lie to the public, but they can’t lie to
the courts. Someday if our elected officials don’t step in to stop this boondoggle, Metro and
Caltrans are going to have to explain their illogical arbitrary decisions to a person wearing a
black robe.

Yoga Chandran, the project director of the EIR/EIS from CH2MHill, asked me why I cared
about the tunnel since I lived in South Pasadena and there was to be no exhaust in my city and the
tunnel passed under not through my city. I still live in Los Angeles and the money wasted on this
project will come from my pocket. This project will be like a huge vacuum cleaner. It will suck up
all the monies for transportation projects in Los Angeles County and beyond.

I am also concerned about the health and wellbeing of others in Los Angeles. There are just better
ways to spend my money. There are many good projects that can be built and give employment to L.A. residents, not outsider tunnel borers.

Some people say that the tunnel will never be built, but let me tell you that the planners have many
detailed plans for the tunnel. Their plans even describe the landscaping! So if money is no object
and increased death and disease for those living adjacent to the portals and in the vicinity of the 210
East and 210 West aren’t a problem for you, don’t be concerned with the tunnel. If you think it is
worth $5-10 billion to take 25,000 vehicles a day off the I-5 in 2035 in the down town area, you should not be worried about the tunnel.

Dr. Bill Sherman is the chairman of the South Pasadena Freeway and Transportation Commission and represents the City on the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) of Metro. The TAC is composed of representatives from the Cities and various representatives from public agencies concerned with the EIR/EIS. The TAC is informed by those performing the EIR/EIS about the details and progress of the study.

Letters in Response to Opinion: Too early for conclusions on 710 Freeway tunnels

See: http://www.710studysanrafaelneighborhoodposts.com/2014/02/raising-alarm-about-metros-proposed-710.html


Metro has its mind made up already

Regarding the “Too early for conclusions on 710 Freeway tunnels” letter, I have been actively engaged in this issue for the past five years. I have witnessed countless statements by Metro that they are studying the five alternatives in the same “robust” manner but their behind the scenes actions do not support that.

The study isn’t even compete and they have been marketing the tunnel concept to investors for the past two years. They are not marketing light rail. busways or other strategies. They are only marketing twin bore tunnels along the Meridian route.

Will any of us be surprised when the draft EIR/EIS comes out and names the tunnel alternative as the “preferred alternative”? Metro/Caltrans have been working backward to this conclusion since 2003.

Sign the petition at no710.com.

— Susan Bolan, La Crescenta, Pasadena Business Owner, 

710 tunnel fumes would affect two hospitals

In Alhambra, we are subjected to Chamber of Commerce perspectives. Our City Council uses the All Around Alhambra for their propaganda, in wishful attempts to brainwash their citizenry. Perhaps they think that by inundating us in each issue that the 710 Freeway is good for us we may begin to believe their nonsense.

So, in answer to Metro saying in your newspaper it is too early for our perspectives in opposition to the proposed tunnels, we must speak out repeatedly to counteract the ubiquitous, one-sided pro view. The Jan 27 article about the 710 addressed the impact on Pasadena, specifically mentioning the harm from the fumes from the proposed northern exhaust portal to the Huntington Hospital.

The parallel result is that the portal at the southern end of the 710 tunnel will send exhaust to Alhambra Hospital.

Our planners are gravely lacking in placing their tunnel with exhaust portals that empty their noxious fumes directly into the two hospitals in our neighborhoods. They need to admit that, indeed, freeways anywhere now are a bad idea. There is no good place to put them where they do no harm.

Yes, when the EIR finally is made public, we will again respond to the outdated direction from last century to continue building freeways. We need a new-century idea for addressing traffic problems and resulting health issues.

— Gloria Valladolid, Alhambra

After digging 4 feet, Bertha stopped again, now with a fever

 High temperatures triggered a warning light in the giant Highway 99 drill this week, causing Seattle Tunnel Partners to stop mining again as a precaution.


By Mike Lindblom, January 31, 2014


After spending weeks searching for what might be blocking the Highway 99 tunneling machine, officials say there’s another problem: Bertha is running hot.

Adding to the trouble, project managers say they don’t know why.

High temperatures near the machine’s cutting face prompted contractors to stop mining after the drill advanced a total of 4 feet in test runs Tuesday and Wednesday. And that ended Bertha’s attempt to resume mining after an eight-week layoff.

A warning light was triggered in the control room, Todd Trepanier, tunnel-project administrator for the state Department of Transportation (DOT), said Friday.

Outside experts will confer with the state and tunnel contractors over the next week to figure out what to do next.

This unexplained stoppage is a setback for the world’s widest single-bore tunnel. Since its July 30 start, the machine has mined just 1,023 feet of the 9,270-foot route from Sodo to South Lake Union.

A similar temperature spike occurred in early December, and the rate of dirt removal plummeted. Bertha advanced only 4.4 feet in three hours just before operators shut it down Dec. 6.

It took weeks for Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) to pump away enough groundwater to safely allow an 11-day inspection of the front end, which found a concrete chunk and some steel pieces from a pipe Bertha struck Dec. 3, but no major obstacles.

With steel pieces out of the way, the continued overheating suggests a deeper challenge than, say, taking a fork out of the kitchen disposal.

“Although their (STP’s) investigations to date have provided a great deal of information, we will not be able to definitively identify the issue or issues facing the machine until tunneling experts complete their review,” DOT announced Friday.

Trepanier said he still has confidence in the STP construction team, led by Dragados of Spain, Tutor-Perini of California and engineering firm HNTB based in Kansas City, Mo., as well as the $80 million Hitachi machine.

“There’s a lot of complexity with the machine, a lot of complexity with the mining,” Trepanier said. “We’ve had a lot of conversations with STP about this, and the first thing that they like to tell us, particularly the side that has experience with tunneling, is this should not be alarming. ... When you’re using TBM (tunnel-boring) machines ... issues like this occur throughout the drive.”

Bertha restarted Tuesday and drilled a planned 2 feet, as an experiment after the long outage.

The 2 feet is significant because it allowed workers in back to fasten the 149th of the tunnel’s 6½ -foot-wide concrete rings that will form the highway tube. With the ring in place, STP could then spray concrete grout into the 7-inch space between the ring and the soil, and troubleshoot the grout jets and other components. (The 571 / 3-foot-diameter rotary cutting face is necessarily wider than the tunnel being assembled behind it.)

Temperatures near the cutter reached 140 degrees, at least 1½ times the standard level, DOT managers said.

The contractors made several adjustments, trying to reduce friction and heat, then mined another 2 feet on Wednesday. Temperatures spiked again. The sensors are in the mixing chamber, where soil falls through the spinning face and enters the conveyor system to exit the back of the machine.

STP hasn’t noted any extreme heat or damage in the cutter’s drive-shaft motor or bearings, according to Trepanier. STP has been referring questions this week to the state.

Trepanier said the first 1,500 feet between Sodo and the Alaskan Way Viaduct are a break-in phase, and interruptions are expected.

Colin Lawrence, a New York-based tunneling veteran leading the new DOT technical team, said in a message it would be unprofessional for him to discuss the analysis until it’s done.

The project’s financial risk-review team has also reconvened, but chairwoman Patricia Galloway, of Cle Elum, Kittitas County, declined to comment this week.

The $2 billion tunnel budget currently includes $120 million in contingency funds. Trepanier said Friday he won’t speculate about costs of delays, or how much money STP might seek in claims or lawsuits.

What Will Happen to Public Transit in a World Full of Autonomous Cars?


By Emily Badger, January 17, 2014

What Will Happen to Public Transit in a World Full of Autonomous Cars?

The great promise of autonomous cars is not that we could each own one in our own driveway – the 21st century's version of owning your own Model T, or your own color TV, or your own bulky Macintosh – but that no one would need to own one at all.

That's because when cars can drive themselves, they can drive off when we're done with them. They can pick up other people instead of sitting parked outside. We'll request them on-demand. They'll pull up out front, take us right where we want to go, then do the same thing for a hundred other passengers, a hundred times over. They'll behave, in other words, like sophisticated ride-share services – or like personalized mass transit.

I've daydreamed about this possibility a number of times with transportation geeks, and invariably we always wind up in the same, more sober place: If the autonomous cars of the future will come to look an awful lot like transit, then what will become of the transit we know now?

This isn't an entirely silly question in 2014. We make billion-dollar investments in new transit infrastructure because we expect to use it for decades. Metropolitan planning organizations are in the very business of planning 30 and 40 years into the future. The Washington Area Metropolitan Transit Authority recently released its dream map of subway service in the city for the year 2040. By then, autonomous cars – in some form – will surely be commonplace.

The question of what they'll mean for transit was actually on the program this year at the Transportation Research Board annual meeting in Washington, where several thousand transportation officials and researchers met to talk about state-of-the-art asphalts, biker behavior, and the infrastructure of the future. In one packed session, I heard Jerome Lutin, a retired longtime New Jersey Transit planner, say something that sounded almost like blasphemy.

"We’re just wringing our hands, and we’re going to object to this," he warned the room. "But the transit industry needs to promote shared-use autonomous cars as a replacement for transit on many bus routes and for service to persons with disabilities."

Someone in the back of the room did object that many paratransit passengers need human assistance along the way that an autonomous vehicle alone couldn't give them. But Lutin's broader point is a fascinating one: If autonomous cars can one day better perform some of the functions of transit, shouldn't we let them? Shouldn't we take the opportunity to focus instead on whatever traditional transit does best in an autonomous-car world?

"If you can’t get more than 10 people on a bus, or five people on a bus, then why bother running it?" Lutin asked me after his session. "You’re wasting diesel fuel."

The implication in this raises (at least) two more questions: Exactly where (and when) will it make sense for people to use buses or rail instead of autonomous cars? And if autonomous cars come to supplement these services, should transit agencies get into the business of operating them? In my initial daydream – where shared self-driving cars are whisking us all about – it's unclear exactly who owns and manages them.

Lutin sounds skeptical that transit agencies will be able to move into this space. "They don't adapt well to change," he says. They're also governed by rigid mandates that limit what they can do. A mass transit agency can't overnight start operating something that looks like a taxi service. Public agencies also must contend with labor unions, and labor unions likely won't like the idea of replacing bus routes with autonomous cars.

There's also another consideration.

"There's an opportunity for autonomous taxi services to make money," Lutin says. "And nobody wants the government to compete with private industry and make money. We barely tolerate toll road authorities. If it looks like we can trade in our buses for a fleet of autonomous vehicles, and we can drop fares and at the same time we can make money, somebody in the private sector is going to want that."

And if public transit agencies exist in part to subsidize a service the private sector won't provide, what if that service no longer needs a subsidy?

"It no longer needs to be a governmental function."

That would leave us then with the more traditional forms that transit already takes: buses, subways, light rail, street cars. Lutin is certain that we'll still need transit, particularly in dense cities. An autonomous car, after all, takes up as much physical space as a car with a human at the wheel. We'll be able to fit more autonomous cars on a given roadway, because they'll be smart enough to drive practically bumper-to-bumper without colliding into each other. But there's still a finite capacity on the road. And in densely populated areas, buses and subway cars will still be able to carry more people.

"Theoretically, a highway [lane] can carry 2,200 vehicles per hour," Lutin says. "Even if you go to 4,400 or 6,600 vehicles per hour, there’s still that limit."

So we'll still need transit to get people into the Loop in Chicago, or across the Bay Bridge into San Francisco, or onto the island of Manhattan. These are the things that transit already does best, and that it will still do best in the age of the autonomous car. What's more, the same technology that will bring us autonomous cars will make traditional transit better, too. When buses have the same autonomous, communicating power that cars will have, they'll be able to drive safely within inches of each other, too. Picture a dedicated Bus Rapid Transit lane with moving buses queued up end-to-end.

In this world, cars may start to function like transit, but buses could come to work like trains. And they're a lot cheaper to deploy.

This Warped Map Shows Global Warming's Biggest Offenders


By John Metcalfe, January 17, 2014

 This Warped Map Shows Global Warming's Biggest Offenders

Here's an item to help governments point fingers at the next climate-change conference: a map of the world's countries, scaled to highlight those disproportionately responsible for generating greenhouse gases.

The research team that made it at Montreal's Concordia University deem it a map of "global warming’s biggest offenders." The bulgy-looking cartography is showing the ratio of each nation's geographic area to its historic climate-warming contribution. Countries with large amounts of emissions relative to size are bloated and colored orange or (worse) red, and those with less of an impact on the feverish atmosphere are shrunken and green.

As to what to take away from this distorted view of the planet, Concordia explains:
Western Europe, the U.S., Japan and India are hugely expanded, reflecting emissions much greater than would be expected based on their geographic area. Russia, China and Brazil stay the same. Taken in this light, the climate contributions of Brazil and China don’t seem so out of line – they are perfectly proportionate to the countries’ land masses. Canada and Australia become stick thin as their land mass is much larger than their share of the global-warming pie.
The researchers' biggest claim is that a mere seven nations are behind 60 percent of the world's warming up to 2005. The United States tops their ranking in a big way, a finding that's sure to bring joy to the heart of Americans who insist on being first. The country is to blame for a global temperature uptick of about 0.15 Celsius – or to put it as a piece of the pie, a fifth of all warming since the mid-1700s.

The U.S. is followed by China, Russia, Brazil, India, Germany, and the U.K.. Brazil makes the list not so much for its industry, but for rampant deforestation before its government got serious about regulating loggers. Runner-ups include France, Indonesia, and in tenth place, Canada. All 10 countries earned their "offender" distinctions due to the bulk of all emissions they generated, whether it be CO2 from burning fossil-fuels and land-use changes or less-prevalent gases like methane and nitrous oxide.

The scientists did a second ranking that assesses a country's population size against its contribution to warming. This list is rather different: The U.S. is still the prime emitter, but it's followed by the U.K. and then nobody-lives-here Canada. Due to their swollen, billion-plus populations, India and China fall to the bottom of this ranking.

There are a couple more interesting visualizations of international emissions available in the full study. Among them is this simpler map reflecting national contributions to global warming:

And this breakdown of each country's unique fingerprint on climate warming, displaying temperature categories for fossil-fuel emissions of CO2, land-use-related CO2, other types of greenhouse gases, and sulfate aerosols:

Maps courtesy of Concordia and Environmental Research Letters

U.S. CO2 emissions are on the rise, and coal-loving members of Congress want to keep it that way


By Ben Adler, January 17, 2014


If the steady decline in U.S. carbon emissions in recent years has lulled you into a sense of complacency, this fact should snap you to attention: Last year, U.S. CO2 emissions rose by 2 percent over 2012, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Brad Plumer provides a good explanation in The Washington Post. Over the past few years, the natural gas boom has made gas cheap and helped it displace coal, hence the declining emissions. But the price of gas inched back up last year, thanks to tighter supply and more demand for home heating fuel, causing some power plant operators to turn back to coal.

So how could we get back on track? If polluters had to pay the social costs of their emissions, that would make both coal and gas a lot more expensive, and renewables comparatively cheaper. But that would require an act of Congress, and the votes just aren’t there.

In the meantime, Obama has directed the EPA to exercise its authority under the Clean Air Act and place limitations on CO2 emissions from both new and existing power plants. The EPA already has such rules for other pollutants released by burning coal, such as mercury and sulfur dioxide. Why shouldn’t CO2 be regulated too?

Well, Republicans and the odd coal-state Democrat in Congress have an answer for that: because they don’t care about climate change, but they do care a lot about the coal industry.

Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) are cosponsoring a bill that would strip the EPA of its ability to regulate CO2 emissions from power plants. On Tuesday, it passed the House Energy and Power subcommittee that Whitfield chairs. In light of Republican domination in the House of Representatives, there’s a good chance the Electricity Security and Affordability Act will pass the full Energy and Commerce Committee, and even the full House. But it will be dead on arrival in the Democratic Senate. It is worth looking at, nonetheless, as it shows what Republicans might do if they gained control of the Senate and White House.

For existing power plants, which are responsible for one-third of American greenhouse gas emissions, the bill would simply revoke the EPA’s regulatory power. The agency would be able to set a standard for carbon emissions from plants, but it couldn’t implement the standard unless Congress passed a federal law endorsing it and specifying the date it would take effect. “The standard would be just an academic curiosity, sitting on a shelf gathering dust,” says David Hawkins, the director of climate programs at the Natural Resources Defense Council. With this bill, in other words, Congress would arrogate to itself the EPA’s authority to regulate emissions from existing plants.

For new plants, the bill would theoretically allow EPA to set CO2 standards, but only under conditions that environmentalists say are sure not to be met. According to the bill’s fact sheet, the EPA would not be able to establish a standard for new coal plants unless the standard had already “been achieved over a one-year period by at least 6 units located at different commercial power plants in the United States.” There’s little incentive for six existing coal plants to dramatically clean up their emissions unless they’re required to (and, as explained above, the EPA would no longer be able require it). To make things even more difficult, the law would prohibit any of these six units’ emissions reductions from being obtained via a carbon-capture-and-sequestration (CCS) demonstration project that has received any government funding. “This would hamstring the EPA and tell vendors and coal producers, ‘OK, go back to sleep, ignore impending climate change, and build plants the way you did 50 years ago,’” says Hawkins.

There’s a double irony to this bill moving forward now. First, it’s happening right as the latest CO2 emissions data shows the clear need for limits on coal plant pollution. Second, a chemical spill in Manchin’s home state has just vividly demonstrated the need for more, not less, regulation of pollution. “With everything happening now in West Virginia, it’s hard to imagine there is more appetite for more leeway for polluters to dirty our air and water,” says Terry McGuire, Washington representative for the Sierra Club.

Public support for EPA regulation of CO2 is quite high, according to opinion polls. But the sponsors of this bill don’t care about public opinion or the public interest. They care about serving the coal industry, a powerful force in states such as Kentucky and West Virginia. “It’s putting interests of coal producers ahead of the climate that all Americans, and indeed all of humanity, depend on,” says Hawkins. “It’s an example of congressional chutzpah.”

24 House Republicans Just Voted To Deny The Reality Of Climate Change


By Katie Valentine, January 28, 2014

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

 The House Energy and Commerce Committee Tuesday voted down an amendment that would have stated conclusively that climate change is occurring.

E&C Committee members voted 24-20 against the amendment, introduced by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) to H.R. 3826, the Electricity Security and Affordability Act. That bill, if it makes it through Congress, would put an end to EPA regulations on emissions for new power plants until technologies like carbon capture and storage are commercially viable in at least six states for one year. It passed in Tuesday’s committee, but the amendment, which would have placed on the record that the committee accepts that climate change is happening and is caused by greenhouse gas pollution, did not.

Twenty-four E&C members — all Republicans — voted against the amendment. Among them was E&C Chair Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), who has said before that he doesn’t think climate change is caused by human activity, and Joe Barton (R-TX), who also questions humans’ role in climate change. In total, the Republicans who voted to deny climate change have accepted about $9.3 million in career contributions from the oil, gas and coal industries, according to analysis by the CAP Action War Room.

This isn’t the first time House Republicans have rejected amendments stating the reality of climate change. In 2011, House Republicans voted down amendments that called on Congress to accept that climate change is real, man-made, and a human health threat.

Scientists, of course, disagree with the committee members. Ninety-seven percent of scientific studies that take a stance on climate change agree that human activity is causing climate change. In October, a study found that temperatures in the Canadian Arctic today are warmer than at any point in the last 44,000 years and possibly even as far back as 120,000 years.

“The key piece here is just how unprecedented the warming of Arctic Canada is,” Gifford Miller, UC Boulder Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research Associate Director and lead author of the study said. “This study really says the warming we are seeing is outside any kind of known natural variability, and it has to be due to increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

Teslas drive L.A. to N.Y. in three days, guzzle no gas


By John Upton, February 3, 2014

 Tesla's cross-country rally

In the wee morning hours on Thursday, just a few days after Tesla had installed its 70th Supercharger (it’s pretty much what it sounds like — an electric-car charger that works super fast), a team of the company’s employees departed from Los Angeles for an epic drive to New York City.

By Sunday morning, despite snow and freezing conditions, both Tesla Model S electric sedans had reached their destination.

Tesla LA to NY Supercharger rally just completed in 76 hours across northern route in dead of winter thru heavy snow!

The Tesla team was aiming to break a world record — not a record for speed, but for shortest charge time for an electric vehicle traveling across the U.S. Guinness officials have yet to rule on whether the team succeeded. While awaiting that verdict, Tesla found other things to brag about.

“By normal standards, most people would have considered the conditions that the Model S cars faced [on] Day Three as extreme,” the company wrote on its blog. “Heavy snowfall turned to sleet; morning ice gave way to afternoon slush; fog restricted visibility. In Ohio, the cars sped on in driving rain. In all cases, the Model S prevailed with ease, as did the newly installed Superchargers along the way in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Ohio.”
Maybe Consumer Reports was right.

How the Western World Enables China's Air Pollution


By John Metcalfe, January 20, 2014

 How the Western World Enables China's Air Pollution
 A man wears a face mask during a hazy day in downtown Shanghai in December, 2013.

Since the dawn of the satellite era, scientists have been able to watch as vast plumes of particulate matter swirl off of China and move over America. This image from 2001, for instance, shows a vast storm of dust and invisible pollutants traveling from Asia to the United States:


The Asian smog is always coming, especially in the spring. During sporadic surges once or twice a month, it can spread pollution levels over the West Coast of up to 75 percent of federal standards. But Americans can't complain too much about China's interloping smog. Part of it comes from our rabid consumerism, as the factories churning out the foul air are making our TVs, cellphones, and other valued imports.

Now, researchers have found a way of quantifying how the Western world's hunger for cheap Chinese goods influences trans-Pacific air pollution. A team from UC Irvine, writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, explain that the U.S. and Europe are indirectly responsible for one extra day a year of dangerous pollution in Los Angeles. (Specifically, nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide.) And on bad days, a full quarter of sulfate pollution over the West Coast can be linked to Chinese exports. "Given the complaints about how Chinese pollution is corrupting other countries' air," says Irvine's Stave Davis, "this paper shows that there may be plenty of blame to go around."

This map from the study shows how black carbon relating to exports flows from Asia to North America:

And this one indicates the daily percentages of sulfate pollution in the U.S. that derive from Chinese exports:

It's not easy to shrug off the West's involvement in generating Chinese smog, the researchers explain:
China is not responsible for the lion's share of pollution in the U.S. Cars, trucks and refineries pump out far more. But powerful global winds known as "westerlies" can push airborne chemicals across the ocean in days, particularly during the spring, causing dangerous spikes in contaminants. Dust, ozone and carbon can accumulate in valleys and basins in California and other Western states.

Black carbon is a particular problem: Rain doesn't easily wash it out of the atmosphere, so it persists across long distances. Like other air pollutants, it's been linked to a litany of health problems, from increased asthma to cancer, emphysema, and heart and lung disease....

"When you buy a product at Wal-Mart," noted Davis, an assistant professor, "it has to be manufactured somewhere. The product doesn't contain the pollution, but creating it caused the pollution."
Of course, China's captains of industry could switch to cleaner forms of manufacturing instead of building coal plants all over the place. But that doesn't seem like it will happen soon, with experts predicting that China – despite a government-sponsored anti-smog campaign – will actually use 2.7 percent more coal this year. The researchers suggest that their insights on export-caused pollution one day could be used to negotiate international clean-air treaties, perhaps assigning greater smog-cutting duties to nations that import more fossil-fuel-generated products.

Japan's Drivers Must Obey Creepy Traffic Robots


By John Metcalfe, January 27, 2014

Do American drivers know the extent to which they're being deprived, signage-wise? When motorists enter a construction zone in this country, they'll likely to run into a bunch of orange signs or, at the flashiest, a glowing arrow like this one:

It's fine enough if the goal is to simply get people to move their vehicles safely through the zone. But if construction engineers wanted to add a sense of wonder and fun to the experience – or flesh-tingling creepiness, depending on your viewpoint – what else could they add?
Japan has the answer and, as is often the case, it is: robots. When the country's road crews want to mark out a repair zone, they head to central storage and pull out a variety of anthropomorphic signals with arms that wave drivers into the correct lane. These dead-eyed entities range in sophistication from electronic cartoons to crude scarecrows to quite realistic, but disembodied torsos escaped from the Uncanny Valley to infest our nightmares.

The Japanese call them Anzen Taro, which roughly translates to "Joe Safety," according to traffic-robot fan Patrick Benny. "There are many types around, and complexity goes from a simple-looking metal plate to sophisticated clothed mannequins, but all of them have a robotic arm," says Benny at his Flickr group, "Robots for Safety." Sometimes they even "come in the form of a large LED screen showing a construction worker waving a flag."

I was ambushed by one of these mechanized guys during a recent trip to Tokyo (it was this dude, gesticulating with a light saber). But browsing through Benny's collection, I was amazed at the eclectic variety of arm-churning 'bots earning overtime to make Japan's roads secure for travel. I'm still scratching my head at why Japan uses these things – perhaps a dumb question for a nation whose capital has a giant robot-infested nightclub. But one Flickr user touches on something feasible sounding when he says, "I think people are more responsive to the human form, and so are more apt to pay attention to a robot or mannequin than a sign perhaps."

Please enjoy or be freaked out by the following collection of Anzen Taro, beginning with this advanced model I call the Terminator:

Blurry video of him in action: