Purpose

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, March 17, 2015

Call to Action

From Sylvia Plummer, March 17, 2015


We are asking everyone to write a letter to Caltrans and request/demand:  
 

(1)  More time to review the SR-710 Draft EIR - At least 60 more days for a total of 180 days

(2)  More Public Hearings - At least two additional Public Hearings  for a total of five .   The Public Hearings should take place on a Saturday.
 


Below this paragraph you will find a sample letter .  You may copy and use the same wording, modify or   add to it.  We suggest you write your letter in a Word document  t hen copy and paste your letter into the Caltrans online Comment box .  (Calt rans is not accepting any letters by email.)  Save the Word document for your records and email a copy to the addresses shown below.    
 


Jan SooHoo:     jan@soohoos.org

No 710 Action Committee:     no710extension@aol.com


Here's the link to Caltrans online Comment box 
 :

 




Sample letter:
 




(date), 2015


Garrett Damrath, Chief Environmental Planner
Caltrans District 7, Division of Environmental Planning
100 South Main Street, MS-16
Los Angeles, CA 90012


SCH #: 1982092310
File: 07-LA-710 (SR 710)
Project: EFIS 0700000191 (EA: 187900)
State Route 710 North Study



Dear Mr. Damrath,


I am currently reviewing the SR-710 North Study Draft EIR which was released on March 6, 2015, with an 120-day public comment period ending on July 6, 2015.  I am requesting a 60-day extension and two additional Public Hearings.


I would like to submit comments on the DEIR in a timely manner. However, given the size of the entire document, 26,625 pages, the complexity of the DEIR documents and technical reports, and the timing of the DEIR release during the  busy spring and summer holidays, I am requesting an extension of the comment period by an additional 60 days for a total of 180 days. This time frame is consistent with other projects of this scope such as the I-710 Expansion and the High Desert Corridor.  The additional time would allow me to study the report further and to provide better, more informed comments.

To date, only two Public Hearings are scheduled; both are in April, one month after the release of the DEIR.  That is hardly enough time to read 26,625 pages and comment effectively at either Public Hearing.  The third Public Hearing has not been scheduled yet.  I am requesting at least two additional Saturday Public Hearings, one of which must be in Pasadena.  
 

The Public Hearings should be scheduled closer to the end of the comment period and on a Saturday, in the ground zero cities of Pasadena and El Sereno.  The Public Hearing that is currently scheduled on a Tuesday night in Pasadena is absolutely unacceptable.  A weekday meeting held at 5 pm, will be very difficult for people to get to on the clogged 210 Freeway.  It does not make sense.  Remember, this Public Hearing is not just for the citizens of Pasadena , but for anyone in the 100-square mile study area.  Additionally, the Saturday Public Hearing scheduled for East L.A. College is one hour longer than the Tuesday night Public Hearing in Pasadena .   There needs to be parity in all meetings held. 
 


Please contact me with your response by email at:  Your email address



Your Name
Your Address

----------------------------------------------------------------------




** The No710 Action Committee wants to keep track of all online comments.  Please remember to email a copy of your letter to: 

Jan SooHoo:     jan@soohoos.org
No 710 Action Committee:    no710extension@aol.com
 


------------------------------------------------------------------------

For helpful instructions on how to respond to the Draft EIR go to No710.com
and click on the green " DEIR-Info" button.



Please forward this message to your friends and neighbors.
 

Our Roads Need Nearly $60 Billion Worth of Work

http://www.laweekly.com/news/our-roads-need-nearly-60-billion-worth-of-work-5436401

By Dennis Romero, March 16, 2015




 Our Roads Need Nearly $60 Billion Worth of Work



We don't need to tell you, but California's roads need some serious help. Our grand potholes, rough pavement and aging bridges are a national embarrassment.

Late last year national transportation group TRIP concluded that Angelenos pay $2,458 a year for "extra vehicle operating costs (VOC) as a result of driving on roads in need of repair, lost time and fuel due to congestion-related delays, and the cost of traffic crashes in which roadway features likely were a contributing factor."

The state Senate Committee on Transportation and Housing recently met informally in Los Angeles, and the topic was how to get our crappy roads fixed, and fast.

The organization SCAG (formerly the Southern California Association of Governments) says that delayed repairs "are costing the region billions of dollars and thousands of jobs."

The group says the state has a $59 billion "backlog" of road work and that California cities have an additional $70 billion backlog for local street repairs.

SCAG argues that we can actually save cash by getting our asphalt up to par: "Every dollar spent on preventative maintenance today will save as much as $20 in emergency repairs," the organization says, paraphrasing data presented by SCAG executive director Hasan Ikhrata.

"Accelerating highway and transportation projects is in everyone’s best interests," he said.
State Sen. Jim Beall, chairman of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Housing, said keeping our roads in shape is good for business:
Fixing our existing 50,000 lane miles of aging highways, 12,000 bridges and cracked surfaces of countless municipal roads is a formidable hurdle, but by taking action now, the ripple effect will benefit our economy and environment.

Scientists warn G20 that $60 trillion infrastructure plan is "doubling down on a dangerous vision"

http://news.mongabay.com/2015/0313-hance-g20-infrastructure.html

By March 13, 2015

 

  Sprawl near Law Vegas.

  Sprawl near Las Vegas.

 If there's one thing most governments and even political parties appear to agree on it's a desire for more infrastructure, i.e. more roads, dams, bridges, power plants, airports and seaports, sewers, pipelines, and telecommunication systems. At the most recent G20 meeting in Brisbane, the world's biggest economies agreed on the need for more infrastructure around the globe, including a plan to boost infrastructure spending by trillions of dollars by 2030 and setting up a so-called Global Infrastructure Hub.

Yet, despite its political popularity, there are dark sides to infrastructure. Governments have tended to support monster projects that may sound impressive but don't always meet economic or social goals. Moreover, local people are sometimes left facing direct impacts from mega-projects, including evictions, loss of access to local resources and land, and devastated livelihoods. Then there are the environmental impacts: roads cut into pristine wildernesses, dams flooding primary rainforests, and, of course, the continuing rise of carbon emissions as even today most countries choose fossil-fuel based energy sources, instead of renewable projects.


It's in this context that 88 scientists, environmentalists, and thought-leaders have sent a stern letter to the G20 asking them to rethink business-as-usual when it comes to infrastructure, including focusing on smaller and more decentralized projects, conducting rigorous environmental assessments, and using improved economic assessments that adds in externalized impacts such as pollution.

"This unprecedented level of investment in a 21st century economy must be approached with the highest sense of scrutiny and analysis," reads the letter. "Our survival, or our quality of life, may directly depend on the decisions these investments will set in motion."

While the signatories admit that business-as-usual has raised living standards in some parts of the world and brought about new technologies, it has also left the world with gaping inequality and an increasingly degraded planet.

"Corporate-led economic globalization...has transferred and consolidated power, effectively crippling the people’s governing rights. It has concentrated wealth within the top one percent and caused record-setting gaps between rich and poor," the letter reads, which was organized by Foundation Earth, a think tank established by Randy Hayes, the founder of the Rainforest Action Network. Some signatories include economist Herman Daly, ecologists Paul Ehrlich and William Laurance, environmentalist David Suzuki, author Deepak Chopra, and activist Van Jones among many others.

The letter goes on to state that many of the "accomplishments" from the current economy "have also come at a great price to the health of the planet" and "are not sustainable for another century; let alone for the next few thousand years."


Logging road in Borneo

They further warn that increasing climate change and a booming global population could lead to a world of "incalculable tragedy for millions if not billions and much of the web of life." Such statements are not science fiction, but are backed up by decades of research across various scientific fields. Indeed, most of the world's governments have publicly recognized the global threat of climate change, natural resource depletion, and unsustainable practices in general, even as they have moved little toward rectifying them.

"Developing more infrastructure in support of this failed economic model is doubling down on a dangerous vision. We must not lock-in problematic technologies for generations to come," the signatories write.

For one thing, the letter argues that investing what they say could equal $60-70 trillion over the next decade-and-a-half in mega-infrastructure projects could tip the world into catastrophic climate change scenarios. Governments have agreed to keep global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average, however pledges to that end are still wide of the mark.

"The G20 infrastructure framework and action plans could hasten global warming beyond the two degree centigrade average rise that sovereign nations will seek to stay below at the climate meetings this December in Paris," reads the letter.

The letter's authors also criticize proposed financing for the infrastructure boom, including a blend of private and public fundraising to offset financial risks for investors, noting that this plan bears a "scary resemblance to financial schemes involved in the sub-prime mortgage bundles that caused the global economic meltdown of 2008."

Indeed, infrastructure financing is often much more risky than portrayed by economists and governments.

"Studies show that for the past 70 years, nine out of ten infrastructure projects have experienced cost overruns, delays, and benefit shortfalls," argues the letter's authors, who add that "this process is beset with other problems like corruption, cost overruns, fiscal accountability, and human rights abuses."


Mining road being built in Indonesian Borneo.

The letter is all the more timely as the World Bank--one of the biggest funders of massive infrastructure projects--recently admitted after that it had little knowledge of the negative impacts inflicted on local people from its projects, such as resettlements.

"We found several major problems. One is that we haven’t done a good enough job in overseeing projects involving resettlement; two, we haven’t implemented those plans well enough; and three, we haven’t put in place strong tracking systems to make sure that our policies were being followed," said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. "We must and will do better.”

For years, activists have been calling out the World Bank for its involvement in controversial projects that have come with large social and environmental impacts, and it appears from the bank's own internal audit that activists may have been right.
So, what can be done?

The letter calls for a slew of changes in how infrastructure projects are evaluated and rolled out. These include rigorous environmental assessments by independent parties with a focus on how new projects may affect the nine recognized planetary boundaries. These boundaries include pollution, climate change, ocean acidification, biodiversity loss, and the nitrogen cycle among others. In addition, it calls for changes in how such projects are evaluated in economic terms, including full-cost accounting.

"The point is not to internalize pollution externalities, but to eliminate most of those impacts in the first place," the letter reads.

On specifics, the group calls for doing away with most mega-dams, especially in the tropics where they are major emitters of methane; shifting away from industrialized agriculture towards "sustainable agroecological farming"; and focusing solely on renewable energy projects.

"No further coal power plants should be built and all existing ones should be phased out as soon as renewables (including geothermal) can replace them, followed by oil and gas infrastructure," the letter reads.

The signatories are not against infrastructure full-stop, far from it. But instead are advocating for a different type of infrastructure, one they call "smaller-scale, ecologically smarter and more flexible" than the mega-projects that have become increasingly popular in recent decades.

"The G20 must ask the most important questions as to whether these new mega-infrastructure projects will help to heal the Earth or seriously damage life-support systems causing modern civilization to further transgress the carrying capacity of what makes life possible. There is no vibrant economy or coveted economic growth on a nearly exhausted planet," reads the letter.

The G20 is due to meet in November in Turkey, one month before the Climate Summit in Paris.

LETTER -- Regarding: G20 Plans for Infrastructure Finance [Full version]

Dear [G20 President]:

Overview

The undersigned individuals are concerned citizens, farmers, scientists, authors, philanthropists, Indigenous leaders, and opinion setters. Many are knowledgeable leaders who have experience with ecological and economic issues including large infrastructure projects, especially in such critical areas as transportation, energy, agriculture, forests, and water. We are deeply concerned about the G20’s focus on mobilizing as much as $60-70 trillion dollars of investments in large infrastructure projects over the next 15 years. The Economist magazine has called this “the biggest investment boom in history.” Hence we are writing to you and the other nineteen country leaders.

We understand that the G20 nations are pursuing mega-infrastructure as a coordinated strategy to stimulate a sluggish global economy. We recognize and appreciate the need to promote global economic and political stability and to broaden access to the fruits of modern society, particularly to the neediest populations and communities. While there are several noble statements in the written goals of the G20 Presidency, there is much that we find deeply alarming. This letter lays out our concerns with the current approach, offering suggestions on changing the economic model, and pointing to new scientific findings on the kind of infrastructure that would support a new ecologically minded economic model. This unprecedented level of investment in a 21st century economy must be approached with the highest sense of scrutiny and analysis. Our survival, or our quality of life, may directly depend on the decisions these investments will set in motion.
A Problematic Economic Model, Planetary Life-Support, & Model Changes

Corporate-led economic globalization hasn’t delivered nearly enough for at least two of the more than seven billion people on Earth. It has transferred and consolidated power, effectively crippling the people’s governing rights. It has concentrated wealth within the top 1 percent and caused record-setting gaps between rich and poor. While many accomplishments have been made in raising living standards and advancing technologies, they have also come at a great price to the health of the planet. Many such accomplishments are not sustainable for another century; let alone for the next few thousand years. The latest projections from the United Nations Population Division are positively frightening—up to 12 billion people by 2100. This must be addressed. If in the next two to five decades the Earth’s temperature rises from two to four degrees centigrade, industrial agriculture will largely fail as will much of our current global food delivery systems. This will be an incalculable tragedy for millions if not billions and much of the web of life. Developing more infrastructure in support of this failed economic model is doubling down on a dangerous vision. We must not lock-in problematic technologies for generations to come.

The G20 infrastructure framework and action plans could hasten global warming beyond the two degree centigrade average rise that sovereign nations will seek to stay below at the climate meetings this December in Paris. Should the G20 facilitate the wrong path at its November meetings in Turkey this could nullify any gains made in Paris as well as the upcoming UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The G20 must ask the most important questions as to whether these new mega-infrastructure projects will help to heal the Earth or seriously damage life-support systems causing modern civilization to further transgress the carrying capacity of what makes life possible. There is no vibrant economy or coveted economic growth on a nearly exhausted planet. As the head of a sovereign state it is your duty to support all life for the long-term. We recommend that you seek top advisors with commensurate political power who understand earth systems. If corporate executives and finance ministers drive this agenda with a flawed ideology, our future may be doomed to rapid ecological deterioration with limited chance for recovery.
PPP & Financing Concerns

The G20 infrastructure framework relies heavily on public-private partnerships (PPPs) to build these mega projects. PPPs are not a responsible way to finance or operate infrastructure assets vital to public services when they aggressively downsize the workforce, defer necessary maintenance, and transfer high level risk to local or national governments.

What is particularly problematic is that the G20 is promoting a financing model that will use alternative investment to offset the risks to partnering private firms. Allowing both public money and outside groups to invest in large-scale infrastructure partnerships will enable financial institutions to sell investors new “financial instruments or financial products” consisting of a portfolio of PPPs. Such packages of big projects bear a scary resemblance to financial schemes involved in the sub-prime mortgage bundles that caused the global economic meltdown of 2008.

This financialization of infrastructure will enable risky assets to be packaged with safe ones so that investors do not know the real value of the product they are investing in. Of special concern is the plan for expanded use of public money (taxes, pension funds, and aid) to offset the risks involved in huge projects. Reliance on PPPs neglects the poor track record of accountability and failure of PPP mega infrastructure projects.

Much of the corporate profit is falsely realized because they externalize the ecological and social costs onto the backs of other people and ecological systems. Examples include air pollution, intensified disturbance of weather patterns emissions of Greenhouse Gases (GHGs), and runoff of chemicals into freshwater systems and oceans. The current economic model privatizes the profit while socializing the risk (i.e. financial cost and damage to the planet).

Furthermore, studies show that for the past 70 years, nine out of ten infrastructure projects have experienced cost overruns, delays, and benefit shortfalls. This dismal track record is not improving. Oxford University Professor Bent Flyvbjerg has prepared scholarly papers providing more in depth information on these issues, including “Survival of the unfittest: why the worst infrastructure gets built—and what we can do about it.”

Trillions of dollars spent in pursuit of typical mega-projects in the energy, transportation, agriculture, and water sectors could put in place infrastructure that eliminates wildlife habitat, destroys fisheries, undermines vital ecosystems, and further destabilizes the Earth’s climate. This process is beset with other problems like corruption, cost overruns, fiscal accountability, and human rights abuses. The highest environmental and social safeguards should apply to any and all finance arrangements. Privatization of infrastructure is the wrong direction.
Infrastructure: Old or New?

New general principles must be taken into account on every large infrastructure project. For example, every publicly funded investment should help to expand the highest environmental performance standards, assist in reducing GHG emissions (including the 15% annually that come from deforestation) and render runaway climate destabilization less likely. This would mean no industrial agriculture (or related infrastructure) projects should be funded that erode existing farm and forest land or contribute to additional nitrogen or phosphorus runoff or increasing atmospheric temperature levels.

Listed below are criteria for evaluating large infrastructure projects—criteria that if followed, could lead to a shift away from the business-as-usual approach to infrastructure in energy, transportation, water, and agriculture towards ecologically sustainable methods.

Transportation: Dramatically divergent choices confront global transportation policy: whether to put more money into cars, trucks, and highways or to emphasize mass-transportation and improved passenger and freight railroads. The lowest impact choices such as walkability, bikeability, and public transit in our urban areas do not typically fit into a mega-project framework. Highway spending primarily to service the automobile has taken the vast majority (80 percent) of the U.S. transportation budget.

Energy: As with transportation, the most beneficial choices in energy from a planetary survival standpoint do not fit into a mega-project framework. Wind and rooftop solar are fundamentally decentralized technologies, less vulnerable to weather disasters and sabotage, not dependent on water, and avoid conflicts from a shortage of fuel.

Water: As climate destabilization intensifies, hydrological cycles of the past are disrupted with increasing flood/drought episodes. Relying on infrastructure such as large dams whose economic justifications depend on water flow records of the past is economic folly. Dams are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, and are responsible for one-fourth of human-caused methane releases . Furthermore, dams can destroy vital carbon sinks such as rainforests, which exacerbates the GHG buildup, reduce vital habitat, and lead species extinction. Tropical rainforests are the heart of the planet, pumping life force into the metabolism of the biosphere.

The large GIBE III dam presently being built in Ethiopia illustrates the wrong kind of infrastructure project. It will displace several hundred thousand farmers in Ethiopia, send water for irrigation out of the Omo River Basin, and will destroy Lake Turkana, the world’s largest desert lake, which provides fisheries and livelihood for several hundred thousand Kenyans.

Agriculture: The nitrogen/phosphorus cycle is one of the nine planetary boundaries (life-support systems) already in a condition outside of the safe operating zone. Such chemical and waste runoff is also responsible for significantly contributing to over 400 dead zones in the already acidifying oceans, which are the base of the food chain. Large agricultural projects could come in the form of mega-dams that would supply irrigation. Project investment packages could include massive fertilizer plants to service giant monocultures such as oil palm, sugar cane, corn and soybean plantations and animal feeding operations along with large harbor projects to serve as global export points for this industrial agriculture. It is vital that all new agricultural infrastructure deal with the serious global situations associated with excessive and unsustainable nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer impacts.
Conclusion

We are at a critical moment where two strategies to steer future infrastructure are diverging. One path could lead to smaller-scale, ecologically smarter and more flexible systems that could be maintained and without damaging life-support ecosystems on the Earth. By contrast, the proposed path of the G20 appears headed toward the replication and intensification of numerous unsustainable projects that will cause human civilization to further exceed the Earth’s carrying capacity. Each year we are already consuming about one-and-a-half planets’ worth of resources. Infrastructure choices need to be made to alleviate rather than exacerbate this situation. That requires changes in our overall economic model. We summarize with these main points:
  • The most serious threat of our day is the demise of the biosphere’s life-support systems, including climate change, biodiversity loss, ocean acidification, and an overloaded nitrogen/phosphorous cycle.
  • Catastrophic damage to Earth systems (planetary boundaries) would destroy the economy, social stability, and much of the web of life.
  • Current governance decision patterns (nationally and globally) fall far short of the steps needed to restore ecological sanity and planetary health. Short-term political expediency and a business-as-usual attitude (from most business leaders including the B20 ) will not help us shift toward ecologically resilient economies.
  • The precautionary approach and bold action is called for now, not in two or four decades. The accelerating transgression of planetary boundaries must be reversed.
  • The current G20 plans will advance old-school global infrastructure that would lock us into two to four decades of ecologically destructive projects with massive GHG emissions.
  • In contrast, bold new infrastructure directions could spur job creation, and provide for an important shift in the economic model, away from industrial agriculture and towards productive and sustainable agroecological farming worldwide.
  • The infrastructure and institutions of continental and sub-regional markets are key as regional food self-reliance is a fundamental component of adaptation to climate change.
  • The new economic model will employ meaningful full-cost accounting, factoring pollution impacts (externalities) into reviews of alternatives and into final decisions. The point is not to internalize pollution externalities, but to eliminate most of those impacts in the first place.
  • If we act now in these already proven ways, we may avoid the worst outcomes and be able to work to adapt to the already damaged global weather systems and diminished web of life.
  • The G20 can help make the economic model shift that includes at the outset an infrastructure that supports the new model from the outset. Ecologically informed public governance is essential in order to help solve these problems.

To be clear about the need for fundamental changes in the economic model we note these main points:
  • Carrying Capacity Analysis & Protection: The economy needs institutions with the power to ratchet down or shift economic activity when carrying capacity limits are being approached. We cannot continue to overshoot the planetary boundaries by over drafting aquifers, polluting air and water, and destroying habitat. Mandatory disclosure of ecological impacts that are third party certified and show how they affect the nine planetary boundaries would advance this goal.
  • A True Cost Economy: Use techniques, not limited to full cost accounting, to expose ecological impacts (externalities). Show us what is under the rug! Implementing the existing IMF and G20 commitments to eliminate ecologically perverse subsidies to oil and gas is further enabled when there is a big drop in energy prices. If adopted, renewable energy would already be cheaper than fossil fuels or nuclear energy. Subsidies distort markets by hiding risk. Four of the nine Planetary Boundaries are already surpassed. Projects that further exceed the already overstressed Planetary Boundary system should not be funded with public or private money.
  • Continental/Regional Self-Reliance: Self-reliance in basic needs (food/clothing/shelter) and comfort items should be maximized at the continental and sub-region level. A model of continental networks of regional economies that produce most of what people need. This model fosters resilience and local jobs for local markets. While global trade will always be necessary, the infrastructure investment for increased self-reliance is a higher order priority. This would be even more critical if we a two or three degree average temperature rise occurs. As a start, much of the external aid should be used to increase regional self-reliance and promote compassion for others in need.

The undersigned individuals and organizations urge the G20 nations to:
  1. Rethink the proposed 80 trillion dollars of industrial infrastructure spending in light of the last seven decades and a 90 percent failure rate of such projects to provide accurate cost estimates, completion dates, and benefit projections.
  2. Adopt the Flyvbjerg proposal to correct this failure : appoint an independent body to compare any proposed infrastructure project to the historical record of project types of this size on cost estimates, completion dates, and benefit projections. Do not support projects that are way outside of the historic range.
  3. Schedule time at the November 15th – 16th annual meeting in Turkey to discuss significant changes to the economic model in the directions we have highlighted.
  4. Educate each other in the Planetary Boundaries scientific framework and consider creating and supporting institutions with tools and approaches to assess ecological carrying capacity on each continent, sub-region and country and provide policy guidance for the shift to sufficiency. It could be called: “Continental - Local Carrying Capacity Analysis & Protection Institutes”.
  5. Formally adopt as design principles that projects must be:
    • Comprehensive — Applies a whole systems approach to all facets of the design and development process; aims to simultaneously address multiple goals, requirements, conditions and issues;
    • Anticipatory — Factoring in critical future trends and needs as well as projected impacts of implementation in the short and long term;
    • Ecologically responsible — Reflecting nature's underlying principles while enhancing the Earth’s life-support systems;
    • Feasible — Relying on current know-how, tested/acceptable technology and existing resources;
    • Verifiable — Able to withstand rigorous empirical testing;
    • Replicable — Able to scale and adapt to a broad range of conditions.
  6. Clarify the types of infrastructure that would support the new approach and fund those projects. For example: No further coal power plants should be built and all existing ones should be phased out as soon as renewables (including geothermal) can replace them, followed by oil and gas infrastructure.
  7. Review possible ways to foster mandatory corporate disclosure of ecological impacts.
  8. Require ecologically perverse subsidies to be “shadow priced” when comparing alternative investments.
  9. Incorporate The Nine Important Issues For "Reducing the global environmental impacts of rapid infrastructure expansion” Details of these nine points are in this important report that the scientists from around the world have put forth. The maps & criteria are important worldwide planning tools showing where roads can be built to expand commerce and not undercut ecological values.
    1. In intact habitats, avoid the first cut
    2. Upgrading existing roads can have serious induced impacts
    3. Secondary effects of projects can be severe
    4. Greater emphasis on ‘offshore’ projects is vital (meaning no road linkages)
    5. Rigorous early screening is vital
    6. Better decision-making tools are needed
    7. Financial institutions need more environmental and social expertise
    8. Avoid the “devil you know” dilemma
    9. Greater NGO and public engagement is vital
  10. Follow the UN FAO’s lead and hold a series of high level discussions on how to shift from industrial agriculture for global markets to agroecological models primarily for regional/continental markets. Work with the Millennium Institute to explore implementation options for ecologically sustainable ways to nourish people with healthy, affordable and sufficient food.
  11. Take special note of the many suggestions and petitions previously submitted by civil society , including phasing out fossil-fuel subsidies, transparency, community/gender participation, and ‘bottom up’ project identification.
  12. Work to harmonize ecological safeguard policies and national environmental laws UPWARD, incorporating the Planetary Boundaries framework. Work to get all public and private finance institutions to do the same, especially new multi-lateral financial institutions such as those initiated by China and Brazil.

We are in the midst of a deep planetary emergency. We are in general agreement with this letter. A holistic approach starts with an active respect for the earth systems science. Ecological wisdom and support for the entire web of life is what shows both short-term and long-term compassion for all people, as nature ultimately nourishes all things.

CC: Minister of Finance; Minister of Environment; Sherpa to the G20
Attachments: Planetary Boundaries Overview; Mandatory Corporate Ecological Impact Disclosure: A Working Paper

Respectfully,
Randy Hayes, Executive Director Foundation Earth. Washington, DC USA
and dozens more.




Will Federal Officials Fix the Trust Fund or Just Play Games?

http://www.metro-magazine.com/government-issues/article/293528/will-federal-officials-fix-the-trust-fund-or-just-play-games?ref=Express-Tuesday-NEW-20150317&utm_campaign=Express-Tuesday-NEW-20150317&utm_source=Email&utm_medium=Enewsletter

By Cliff Henke, February 24, 2015





By now, it is common knowledge both the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), and the Mass Transit Account within it — the latter established by the 1982 surface transportation bill that was signed by President Ronald Reagan — will run out of money this year, even if the law that governs these funds didn’t expire on May 31. These are no longer “what ifs” being chewed over in policy circles.

Nor is the range of options of what to do about it. Some have argued for simply letting the trust fund run out, while others are proposing a range of “bailouts” and longer-term fixes. Still, others are pointing to a series of measures, such as new bond funding and other financing ideas, that go beyond a trust fund fix.

How we got here

This has been a problem that members of Congress have known about for many years, and several blue-ribbon panels have been organized to address the challenge. Now, the reckoning has come. Put simply, both the Highway Trust Fund and Mass Transit Account are nearing insolvency — for the latter, that point legally comes when the account’s balance goes below $2 billion. However, members of Congress refuse to raise the HTF’s revenues — mostly taxes on gasoline and other fuels — sufficiently to pay for how much we want to spend on highway, public transportation and other surface transportation programs.

Each year since about 2006, Americans have driven less than the year before. A recent study by the Pew Foundation showed the trend really started in all but a handful of states in the 1990s, dispelling the notion that somehow the trend would reverse itself when the economy finally started getting better.

Even if their driving had not peaked, however, U.S. cars and trucks have been consuming less fuel, thanks to regulations and technology. That, of course, means less gas taxes paid and less HTF revenue. This long-term challenge will worsen even further when the fuel economy standard the Obama Administration negotiated with auto manufacturers kicks in, which will push fuel efficiency well above 50 miles per gallon for new cars and light trucks sold in the next decade.

At the same time, demand for new and repaired transportation infrastructure has grown. According to the World Economic Forum, the U.S. is now ranked 18th for the condition of its transportation network, which drags its overall competitiveness ranking downward further each year. America now only spends a paltry 1.5% of its gross domestic product on infrastructure, a rate that is one-half of what it used to be several decades ago; the U.S. now ranks in the mid-30s in infrastructure spending as a share of its economy and its ranking continues to drop with the issuance of each report.

Hampered by concern about mounting federal debt and annual deficits, members of Congress and presidents of both parties have tried to address the issue with record nominal levels of funding in the various authorization bills that have been passed, but none of them since the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century that was passed in 1998 have come with new gas tax increases to pay for them. Even the 1990s-era tax increases began as deficit reduction, and then, were transferred to the HTF later when deficit reduction cooled as an issue.

At the same time, states and local jurisdictions through direct referenda began to accelerate spending on roads and public transportation faster than the federal government. More than 70% of such measures have passed each year, a trend that began in the 1990s and continues to this day, according to data compiled by the Center for Transportation Excellence.

The Great Recession produced another bipartisan call for more surface transportation spending, but the consensus has ended as to how to pay for it on any sustainable basis. Several histories of the Obama Administration’s response to the crisis with the Recovery Act of 2009 note that pushing the stimulus money through existing surface transportation programs — which also meant a deficit-financed bailout of the HTF — was the only way to meet the Recovery Act’s goals of “timely, targeted and temporary” spending. While that approach succeeded in pushing through the programs what former FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff called “an extra year of spending” in those fiscal years, has since worsened the hole in the HTF and increased the “bailout need,” even if funding is to remain constant, Rogoff and others explain.

Conservative thoughts

Some conservatives, such as former Nixon transportation official Ken Orski as well as Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), have argued that the time has come for simply ending the HTF. While a fringe wants to end the federal programs altogether, a line of thinking that was defeated before in the mid-1990s, most in this camp simply want to have Congress pay for any spending on a year-to-year basis. After all, they argue, since the HTF is basically broken, the arguments for how the HTF’s “contract authority,” which allows state officials to contract with the private sector ahead of the grants’ actually arriving, is breaking down anyway.

Other conservatives say this is nihilistic and not really even conservative. For example, Pete Weyrich and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, who now heads the Free Congress Foundation, say that such devolution of the federal highway and transit programs is not consistent with conservative principles of restraint and long-term planning based on realistic assumptions. Others, like current House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman Bill Shuster, have said that ending any long-term federal commitment ignores the country’s founding principles of federal leadership in building the nation and promoting and regulating commerce. He also likes to quote political philosopher Adam Smith, who argued for a governmental role in infrastructure with fees on the users as necessary to the health of capitalism.

Courtesy the White House
President Obama’s FY 2016 budget, announced at press time, calls for a mandatory 14% repatriation fee to fund a variety of programs, including a six-year, $478 billion surface transportation reauthorization proposal.
Courtesy the White House
President Obama’s FY 2016 budget, announced at press time, calls for a mandatory 14% repatriation fee to fund a variety of programs, including a six-year, $478 billion surface transportation reauthorization proposal.
Ideas for solutions abound

Even conservative Senators James Inhofe (R-OK), chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), chair of the Finance Committee, respectively in the Senate, are warming to the idea of a gas tax increase, with possibly an indexation provision raising it with inflation increases in future years. Although President Obama has not supported such an increase in the past, some have said he might do so if it were in the context of a tax reform package.
However, the tax increases proposed by Inhofe and Hatch would only erase the hole in the funds and allow some short-term program spending increases, and no one except liberal Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT.) support tax increases to pay for long-term trust solvency. Such proposals amount to well more than a dollar per gallon tax increase.

What appears to be gaining traction at press time are ideas for “repatriation” of cash held by U.S.-based multinational corporations overseas to avoid U.S. taxes. Congressman John Delany (D-MD) has proposed a scaled-down version of his infrastructure repatriation bond fund idea that he introduced in the last Congress. This year’s version would dedicate $120 billion of an estimated $170 billion that would come from a one-time repatriation tax rate of 8.25% to fill the Highway Trust Fund with $70 billion, including the traditional 20% designated for the Mass Transit Account, for the next six years, but also put another $50 billion to the creation of an American Infrastructure Fund, which would provide loans and other financing tools to states and cities for a gamut of infrastructure projects, from sewer improvements to broadband access. The rest of the $170 billion repatriation would be used in corporate tax reform.

A similar idea was announced in the Senate at press time. The unlikely duo of U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Rand Paul (R-KY) have introduced their own Highway Trust Fund solvency bill with repatriation of overseas corporate revenues, now. Their proposal calls for a repatriation rate of 6.5%.

“I hope this proposal will jumpstart negotiations on addressing the shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund, which is already creating uncertainty that is bad for businesses, bad for workers and bad for the economy,” said Boxer during the idea’s press announcement. She also pledged to work with Chairmen Inhofe and Hatch, with whom she had a productive relationship when they worked together to craft MAP-21.

Still other ideas abound for repatriation and infrastructure financing, including resurrection of the Recovery Act’s successful Build America Bonds, a National Infrastructure Bank, expansion of existing or new state infrastructure banks with tax-preferred investment incentives as part of a tax reform package, or even the creation of a government-sponsored enterprise for transportation investment similar to the mortgage-backed enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. None of those ideas, however, have gained much traction, particularly the last, in the wake of the financial crash of 2008, and certainly not nearly the traction recently gained by repatriation in the wake of tax reform.

Expiration focuses attention

Ironically, lawmakers seem to be gravitating toward the ideas floated by the Obama Administration in their recent budgets. The president has called for tax reform and using money from winding down the Middle East wars to pay for a HTF bailout and a national infrastructure bank. His FY 2016 budget, announced at press time, calls for a mandatory 14% repatriation fee to fund a variety of programs, including a six-year, $478 billion surface transportation reauthorization proposal.

The real short-term challenge looms as we get nearer to the end of May, the expiration deadline. Most experts, including some members of Congress, privately expect to see a short-term extension while longer-term legislation is worked out. While no one will admit it, the deal will likely be very similar to the president’s proposals.

Some have said that ever since his opposition party took over the House majority, the president is most successful when he allows others to craft the bill ultimately adopted. Surface transportation funding looks increasingly likely to be one of those instances this year.   

Beyond ‘Measure R-2’: A Coherent Strategy For Funding Transportation

http://citywatchla.com/8box-left/8643-beyond-measure-r-2-a-coherent-strategy-for-funding-transportation

By Ken Alpern, March 17, 2015



GETTING THERE FROM HERE-This article is dedicated to someone who almost everyone knew in the circles of transit advocacy--Ken Ruben, who just passed away at the age of 72.  He was a sweet and outgoing man whose passion for transit and mobility knew no bounds.  From his hometown of Culver City to the headquarters at Metro, he was a regular attendee in meetings of Southern California Transit Advocates and The Transit Coalition. 

Ken Ruben (photos) was affected by many of the ills facing LA County (as well as all major metropolitan regions):  lack of mobility, lack of affordable housing, and lack of job opportunities.  Major cities/urban areas usually like to presume that they have the majority of the enlightened residents, but urban streets are often the "mean streets" with respect to upkeep and allowing middle-class jobs--and the money for their upkeep always goes somewhere...else. 

The currently-proposed Measure "R-2" isn't just about more transit lines and freeway projects.  It's also about repairs and operations.  We can't have more transit lines if we don't have enough trains and properly maintained rail lines.  Ditto for roads and freeways--they can't be allowed to fall into disrepair, and the money that is supposed to go for their upkeep is to be spent for that purpose ONLY. 
Maybe we need to have a Measure "R-2", and maybe we don't.  I'm inclined to think we do need it, but without spending restraints it's best we not do more taxes--because otherwise the money gets diverted towards "the general budget" or a public sector union raise we just can't afford (and we're still trying to recover from the spending orgies that local governments throughout the state embarked upon between 2000-2009). 

If we do create a "Measure R-2", then the following is needed: 

1) Create a nexus between employer taxes/developer fees and the mobility needed to make businesses and developments thrive.  Keep the taxes/fees local and relevant, and there will be less resistance to their payment. 

2) Separate the flimsy and nebulous promises of "affordable housing" for megadevelopments and require specifically-defined senior affordable housing, student affordable housing, and workforce affordable housing, and make sure that "affordable" is equated with "you don't need a car to live here". 

3) Parking lots and structures matter.  Too many jobs change that require long-distance driving, and if our transit lines have no place to put parking, commuters will often not use transit they'd otherwise use.  If a development wants to weasel out of its parking requirements, then let the equivalent money be required for creation of parking in the area--this is a big-time cost that shouldn't be ignored under the guise of being "pro-transit". 

4) Bus shelters matter.  Treating bus commuters as inhuman or lower life forms won't encourage transit.  They should be located appropriately, and should be built with the understanding that convenience and dignity are basic human rights. 

5) Coordinate Metrolink and MetroRail.  For example, why are the proposed Eastside Light Rail Extension bus stops not co-located next to Metrolink stations?  Furthermore, why are the funding and operations of Metrolink so screwy?  With Art Leahy moving from leadership of Metro to Metrolink, the time is NOW to make sure that long-distance commuters have pedestrian-friendly links that make sense. 

6) Coordinate bus service and MetroRail service.  Why will light rail lines like the Expo Line start earlier and end later than local bus services such as Culver City Bus and the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus?  How are workers and other commuters supposed to access the Expo Line without bus linkage...and if there is woefully insufficient parking on the Expo Line, how are commuters supposed to get to the stations? 

7) Telecommuting and staggered work shifts are still valid ways to keep people employed and not deal with our nightmarish traffic.  Are there policies in place that reward businesses that use these policies to keep commuters off the roads during peak traffic times?

The late Ken Ruben has a nice online tributeand I'm pretty sure he would have appreciated the aforementioned ideas.  LA City and County need not be the mean streets for those who just want a job and an opportunity to live with dignity--let's make any Measure "R-2" or other efforts one that establishes transportation operations that work, and which benefit the lives of everyone.

2 options considered for reconstructing part of congested 710 Freeway

http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-california-commute-20150317-story.html

Project Labor Agreement Failure: Is Seattle’s Tunnel the West Coast’s Big Dig Boondoggle?

http://thetruthaboutplas.com/2015/03/13/project-labor-agreement-failure-is-seattles-tunnel-the-west-coasts-big-dig-boondoggle/

March 13, 2015


Bad news continues to plague Washington state’s Highway 99 tunnel mega-project underneath Seattle’s downtown waterfront, contradicting a number of key points lawmakers and construction union lobbyists use to sell government-mandated project labor agreements (PLAs) to owners, taxpayers and the media.

Broken Promises
It has not been a model government-mandated project labor agreement, as media reports indicate the job has been plagued by delays; increased costs; union strikes, featherbedding and labor disputes; a poor safety record; jobsite boozing; sexual harassment allegations; and violations of state and federal minority contracting rules.

Yesterday, the Associated Press reported about an alarming number of construction injuries, despite claims by PLA advocates that PLAs lead to a safer jobsite (“Injuries on the rise for troubled Seattle tunnel project,” 3/12/15):
At least 117 workers injured at the project between 2012 and the end of 2014 resulted in an estimated $1 million worth of workers’ compensation claims, according to data collected by the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health and released to the AP through a public records request. The agency did not have complete claim amounts for the end of 2014 so that total will increase. It also did not have data for 2015.
In February, King 5 reported that a whistleblower complained to state authorities that construction workers were showing up to work drunk and the jobsite had a pervasive quid pro quo system of needing to bring alcohol to the foreman in exchange for perks such as overtime, better shifts, and assistance with tasks at the job site (“Booze-for-perks scheme alleged at Seattle tunnel site,” 2/25/14):
“It’s an ‘I’ll take care of you, you take care of me’ atmosphere,” said the current worker who witnessed the exchange of alcohol. “In 30 years in the trade, I’ve never seen anything like this…They (field managers) are on a power trip and like to bully.”
“(My co-worker) got all the overtime and gravy work because he’d buy them gallons of alcohol,” said a former employee. “I’m dumbfounded at the entire thing. I can’t believe it….In 17 years in the business I’ve never seen such a hostile environment.”
The whistleblower also made sexual harassment accusations King 5 corroborated with other witnesses:
“Five employees interviewed by KING 5 said women were harassed in their work area. Two employees reported seeing pornography displayed in what is known as a “dry shack” where crew members take breaks and eat lunch.”
In Jan. 2014, TheTruthAboutPLAs.com noted the project suffered productivity delays due to needless union featherbedding, and the Washington State Department of Transportation announced prime contractors violated its contract by creating barriers preventing minority- and women-owned small businesses from winning project subcontracts, therefore breaking federal rules governing the project.
In September 2013, TheTruthAboutPLAs.com reported a strike shut down the project for four weeks, despite the PLA’s no-strike promise.

The Seattle tunnel PLA’s public record of poor performance is already drawing unfortunate comparisons to Boston’s Big Dig, the most infamous PLA boondoggle of all time, which was plagued by delays, accidents, jobsite drinking and cost overruns wasting billions of dollars paid for by local, state and federal taxpayers.

Perhaps Seattle’s tunnel project, and other problematic PLA projects in Washington state, will lead to repeal of Executive Order 96-08. Signed by Gov. Lowry December 6, 1996, it directs “State Offices” and other “State Agencies” to consider PLAs  for appropriate public works projects on a project-by-project basis which meet the criteria established in Executive Order 96-08. Washington is one of several states with a pro-PLA policy while 21 states have laws or executive orders restricting government-mandated PLAs. Seattle also has a discriminatory and costly pro-PLA policy impacting city projects that is ripe for repeal.

The PLA Hustle

In order to create more jobs for union members and increase the unionized sector’s dwindling market share, union bosses market PLAs to public and private construction owners as a tool to guarantee quality construction, safety and labor peace on jobsites in exchange for a requirement by owners to exclusively use contractors that agree to be bound by the union-friendly terms and conditions of a PLA.

Big Labor bosses load PLAs with language favorable to union leaders, union members and unionized contractors hand-picked to receive preferential treatment by a PLA.

These agreements typically force contractors to hire all or most of their tradespeople from union hiring halls, pay into union pension and benefit plans, follow inefficient union work rules, and hire apprentices exclusively from union apprenticeship programs. As a condition of working on a PLA project, provisions in typical PLAs also can force nonunion employees to:
  • join a union or receive unwanted union representation;
  • follow archaic work rules;
  • pay union dues and initiation fees; and
  • forfeit any employer and employee contributions to union benefit plans unless they join a union and become vested in these plans.
Of course, these provisions discourage competition from qualified nonunion contractors and their skilled employees. Costly union rules and less competition results in increased costs. Research across the country has found PLAs increase the cost of construction between 12 percent and 18 percent compared to similar non-PLA projects. Studies have also found numerous PLA projects with delays, safety problems, construction defects, discrimination against minorities and women, decreased competition and increased costs.

Plan to attend the SR-710 North Forum

SR-710 - Extend or Not?


Monday, March 30, 2015 from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM


Cal State LA, Golden Eagle Ballroom, 3rd floor
5151 State University Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90032


Come out and support Ara Najarian and Michael Cacciotti who will represent the NO 710 Tunnel side.
Below is the event flyer.
 
The event is free, but you must Register to attend.  Use link below "Register Now"


When
Monday March 30, 2015 from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM PDT
Add to Calendar
 

Where
Cal State LA, Golden Eagle Ballroom, 3rd floor
5151 State University Drive
Trans. Info. http://tiny.cc/CalStateLACommute
Download the app http://tiny.cc/CalStateLAMobile
Los Angeles, CA 90032

Driving Directions

Contact

Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State L.A.  
PBI- Public Policy Education Program  
  

State Route 710 Forum 
7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.
Monday, March 30, 2015
at Cal State L.A. 

Registration is now open  

PANELISTS
 
Michael Cacciotti,
  Councilmember,City of South Pasadena
 
John Fasana,
  Councilmember, City of Duarte
 
Barbara Messina,
  Councilmember, City of Alhambra
 
Ara Najarian,  
Councilmember, City of Glendale