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Two Letters to the Editor from the Opinion Page of the Bakersfield Californian on October 27, 2013

Pollution deserves more press

I was depressed to see the article in the Oct. 18 Californian titled, “Air Pollution causes cancer, WHO agency concludes.” I think most of us know that diesel exhaust is carcinogenic, and that air pollution causes asthma and bronchitis, and harms the lung development of every child living with bad air.

But the World Health Organization’s information was a big reminder for all of us living here in the worst air basin in the nation. Equally if not more depressing was the placement of this article on page 35. This should have been first-page, above-the-fold news. It seems every week we hear of yet another project being brought to Kern that, while providing employment, will ultimately lower our quality of life and possibly cause premature and costly death to many.

I am thinking of the Hydrogen Energy California project, with its 500 round-trips of diesel trucks carrying coal every single day for 20 years. I am thinking of the increase in oil development in our valley, with all of those trucks, movement of earth and drill rigs. This is an environmental-justice issue that should be on page 1.

Lucy Clark Granite Station

Bad air and bad decisions

Oct. 24 was the fourth unhealthy air day in a row in Bakersfield. We have had far too many in the past month. ABC’s Diane Sawyer recently compared China’s horrible air with the worst air in the United States — that of Bakersfield. She later mentioned that polluted air has been determined to cause lung cancer.

As a medical doctor and lifelong resident of KernCounty, I have seen first hand effects of air pollution on people’s health. We have a higher asthma rate than the rest of the state. We have a higher death rate due to asthma than the rest of the state. My patients also suffer from valley fever, allergies and host of other ailments due to polluted air. And now we learn that air pollution also causes lung cancer.

It was disheartening to see the Kern County Board of Supervisors sign off so quickly on the Williamson Act cancellation for Hydrogen Energy California, allowing this project to move forward. Especially in light of the 500 tons of new emissions that HECA will further pollute our air with, you would think the supervisors could have been more cautious and consider the public’s numerous questions about the findings our county government must make to justify the Williamson Act cancellation. That was the final “vote” KernCounty gets to make on this huge coal-fueled chemical factory. What a shame for the health of KernCounty.

Steve Newbrough, MD Bakersfield

Future Site of Hydrogen Energy California

Where Black is White.  Where Clean Energy is Dirty.  Where water is wasted to increase supply.  Where CO2 is captured to increase GHG.

Where Black is White. Where clean energy is dirty. Where water is wasted to increase supply. Where CO2 is captured to increase GHG emissions.  Where farmland is destroyed to produce fertilizer.  Where taxpayers subsidize air pollution from private industry.  Where coal is imported to an oil and natural gas producing area.  Where Hydrogen Energy becomes a four letter word.  Where the school was there first.  Where the worst air in the nation gets even worse.

Sierra Club Comments

 Sierra Club’s Comments on Air Quality, Water Supply, Alternatives, Public Health,
and Nuisance

Air Quality, Water Supply, Public Health and Nuisance

Click on either link above to read the entirety of these excellent comments.

An excerpt is pasted below:

“On a common sense level, it is not logical to assume that ERCs, some of which rely on emission reductions that occurred more than three decades ago, will do anything to counteract contemporary emission increases in a region plagued with serious and ongoing air quality violations. No demonstration of net air quality benefit has been produced. Instead, this approach prolongs the exposure of residents in the San Joaquin Valley to extraordinarily unhealthy ozone and particulate matter levels. Thus, the use of ERCs is not valid mitigation under CEQA and should be replaced by post baseline, quantifiable emission reductions that benefit the surrounding community.”

Letter From Kern Resident Opposing HECA

To: California Energy Commission
RE: HECA Project – Opposed to location of project in Kern County

I was out of town breathing clean air in Minnesota thus unable to attend the September Buttonwillow hearing. I appreciate the opportunity to express my opposition electronically. I am a retired widow living on the far west side of Bakersfield, so this project, if approved, will affect the air I breathe and traffic with which I must contend — and may destroy other intrinsic quality of life assets I enjoy in this area of California. I urge the CEC and DOE to look more closely at this new version of HECA, and I believe you will find it does not meet the future needs of Kern County, California or the planet.

As an atmospheric chemist and climate change author said in a long Minnesota evening discussion of global warming, “The best way to sequester fossil fuel is to leave it in the ground.” He and I know that is not likely to happen in the near future. Then he further warned of the methane release that is around the corner from the CO2 release concentrating in our atmosphere. I hope you are thinking 50 and 100 years out, not just five or 25 years. It is time for all of us to make a stand on climate change.

Here I Stand
1. This HECA “demonstration” project keeps getting reinvented. Red flag!
2. First, HECA was not even proposed for California but another state.
3. Then the owner found out the technology could not make any money so they sold it.
4. The current owner/applicant decided the way to make this profitable is to use the ash byproducts and make fertilizer.
 NOTE to CEC – Is the need for more fertilizer in the U.S. documented in the SCS HECA plan? From what I read on a worldwide basis use of fertilizer is declining even as per-acre production rises.
 NOTE to CEC – Are the ash byproducts that will not be made into fertilizer properly calculated and included in waste management plans, including pollution caused by transporting them to a landfill?
5. I don’t know how the applicant picked Kern County but, based on our poor air quality, HECA could not have picked a worse site. The figures that allow our SJVAPCD to find that HECA won’t increase pollution deserve a second look once all mitigation measures are identified. Red flag here, too.
6. HECA promises 300MW of power generation, but that is small compared to the 8,000MW of permitted alternative power already approved in Kern County – wind and solar. However, it now sounds like HECA will need all the energy they produce to turn ash byproducts into fertilizer.
7. If HECA is such a good idea, why does the applicant plan to sell it once it is built?
NOTE to CEC – Does applicant address their ability to sell the plant upon completion? Who would buy it? I know plans address the buyer’s being held to all agreements, but what’s the reality?
8. The volume of water used by HECA is tremendous – as it is for the oil companies using enhanced recovery methods included in the CO2 sequestration process. I would rather see the water used by farmers in the Valley who have demonstrated that they know what crops to plant that can tolerate saline water. The water IS usable.
9. Tule Elk Preserve next to the HECA project is a unique and historic place. We almost lost all Tule Elk in the late1800’s and bringing them back to health is important to California and Kern County.
Note to CEC – There is no way the significant environmental impacts on Tule Elk Preserve can be mitigated – and it is the HECA Project’s next door neighbor.
I support the farming families who stand to have generations of an American way of life upended if HECA is approved. I support families who face daily medical problems due to our bad air but can’t move. I support union workers who would find healthier job conditions in the alternative energy field where 8,000MW are being added to our outstanding energy record in Kern County.I oppose HECA because it is not in the best interests of the majority of citizens in Kern County.
Ann Gallon

A letter opposing HECA in Kern County

Comment Received From: David H. Davis
Submitted On: 9/22/2013
Docket Number: 08-AFC-08A
I’m opposed to the Plant as proposed! Bad idea.
I’m concerned because:
(1) A huge amount of water is required for the plant. We live in the desert!
(2) Every day 350 truckloads of New Mexico coal will pollute the air. We already struggle with air quality!
(3) The proposed site of the plant is on prime agricultural land. We need our agricultural land!