Archive for March, 2009

Permits? You don’t need no stinking permits, well unless you’re expanding or starting a public facility in the land of the AQMD. Those enviros nailed ‘em again. Well it snows, it smogs. We apologize in advance for the snarkiness.

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

From a recent Pasasdena Star News story (one of many on this important subject lost in the economic collapse and greenhouse gas frenzy):

“Don’t plan on seeing the opening of any new public facilities or for that matter new small businesses which have generators or other polluting devices.

Local government and others can’t get the necessary permits from the South Coast Air Quality Management District due to a November court decision that many are just learning about.

If this issue is not resolved, it could mean that the Whittier police station or a Los Angeles County fire station on the border of La Mirada and Habra – both under construction – can’t open.

Both have small emergency generators and need permits from AQMD. Construction on both is expected to take another year.

“It compromises the level of public safety,” La Mirada City Manager

Contractors continue to work on the new Whittier Police Department building project at the corner of Washington Avenue and Penn Street on Thursday March 26, 2009. The 55,000 square-foot police building is expected to be completed in June 2010. (SGVN/Staff Photo by Keith Durflinger)Tom Robinson said of the moratorium established by the AQMD.

Other types of new businesses affected are auto body shops, service stations, printers, and even car dealerships.

“It’s safe to say that cities throughout Southern California are very concerned about the moratorium,” Robinson said. “Everybody else in the country is trying to put people to work and here’s a ruling that’s going to put people out of work.”


Around the smoggy globe we go. Kids, take notes. Earth Day, afterall, approaches.

Thursday, March 26th, 2009


Coal forever? Oh, please. Here’s an interesting blog entry about Caltech laying waste to another myth.

L.A. and Houston have warred for years over NOT being coronoated as America’s smoggiest metropolitan area. Now, the lone star state is looking to kick California’s butt by actually claiming a new title: the solar power honco of states. See link.

Right-wingers will disparage this as more proof of Obama’s socialistic leanings. Enviros and moderates, especially those familiar with Los Angeles’ efforts to get the toxic chemicals creating smog labeled a health threat, about time. Carbon dioxide has both a direct link to smog and a horrifying lexus with global warming, which will be giving us refugee crises, reinvigorated diseases like Malaria and Dysentary, drought, hunger and other “indirect” consequences. A pretty big story lost in news of the emasculated economy.

A view of how things stand from the Coalition for Clean Air, including a move by the South Coast Air Quality Management District to limit toxic volatile organic compounds in paint thinners and such.

A terrific global warming overview from folks who know their stuff: the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Smogtown getting good and Googled: how lucky can a couple guys be?

Thursday, March 19th, 2009


In the months since we released our social history of one of the planet’s first true environmental crises, Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles, we’ve been scurrying around appearing on a bunch of terrific platforms. We’re talking the West Hollywood Book Festival, Patt Morrison’s NPR-syndicated radio show, “Deadline L.A.,” ABC public radio, several New York Times blogs, to name a few. This spring, we’re booked for a couple panels at the L.A. Times/UCLA Festival of Books and at a Los Angeles Public Library ALOUD program moderated by activist/author/ex-lawmaker Tom Hayden, blogger/writer Kevin Roderick and a Coalition for Clean Air official. Exhilirating as all that is, this Monday will be extraordinary. Why, you might ask? We’re slated to give a talk at Google’s Santa Monica offices, and like the technology titan itself, this ain’t your ordinary book club.

Here’s a brief description of the program. To think we’ll be part of the same club with these luminaries is beyond supremely gnarly and flattering. It tells us people still care about Southern California’s voyage and back from the crisis that sometimes felt had no end.

The Authors@Google program brings authors of all stripes to Google for informal talks centering on their recently published books. Through the program, we invite authors to our Mountain View headquarters as well as our New York, Santa Monica, Cambridge, Ann Arbor, and other offices, where Googlers are treated to readings of everything from serious literature and political analysis to pioneering science fiction and moving personal memoirs; past participants have ranged from novelist Salman Rushdie and economist Jeffrey Sachs to journalist Bob Woodward and U.S. presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain. When possible, we share these remarkable conversations with the world outside the Googleplex through our YouTube channel.

Mishmash Wednesday – step up right now and get your hot links

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009


* Air pollution and headaches. A connection, or stretch? LA Times story Here’s an MSNBC piece about traffic smog & heart attacks.

* A dimming world … MSBNC reports.

* Haven’t we heard this one before? Mother Nature Network post.

* A greenhouse gas market similar to Southern California’s smog market is coming, and the auditors are going to be kept busy. Washington Post story

* Beware the danger of cheap, recession-pummeled gasoline prices. It’s haunted us before, and seems to be happening again. L.A. Times story.

* Global warming California-style won’t wait: story

Booklist magazine’s top environmental books for 2009. From L.A. smog and artic melting to albatross, the honey bee and grease.

Friday, March 13th, 2009


From the opening (link)

The first lesson in Ecology 101 is that everything is connected. This means that a book about bees relates strongly to books about ranching, a river in New York, a Wisconsin prairie, and Los Angeles’ smog. The best “green” books reviewed in Booklist over the past year take distinctive perspectives on the same matrix of forces human and wild, explicating problems, offering solutions, and telling compelling stories of hubris and hope.

Albatross: Their World, Their Ways. By Tuie De Roy and others. 2008. Firefly, $49.95 (9781554074150).

American Earth: Environmental Writing since Thoreau. Ed. by Bill McKibben. 2008. Library of America, $40 (9781598530209).

Fruitless Fall: The Collapse of the Honeybee and the Coming Agricultural Crisis. By Rowan Jacobsen. 2008. Bloomsbury, $25 (9781596915374).

Greasy Rider: Two Dudes, One Fry-Oil-Powered Car, and a Cross-Country Search for a Greener Future. By Greg Melville. 2008. Algonquin, paper, $15.95 (9781565125957).

Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution—and How It Can Renew America. By Thomas L. Friedman. 2008. Farrar, $27.95 (9780374166854).

The Hudson: America’s River. By Frances F. Dunwell. 2008. Columbia Univ., $74.50 (9780231136402); paper, $29.95 (9780231136419).

Nature’s Second Chance: Restoring the Ecology of Stone Prairie Farm. By Steven I. Apfelbaum. 2009. Beacon, $25.95 (9780807085820).

Smogtown: The Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles. By Chip Jacobs and William J. Kelly. 2008. Overlook, $26.95 (9781585678600).

Trespass: Living at the Edge of the Promised Land. By Amy Irvine. 2008. Farrar/North Point, $25 (0-86547-703-5).

Why I Came West. By Rick Bass. 2008. Houghton, $24 (9780618596751).

Bill interviewed for a New York Times blog by prolific writer Jim Motavilli. The subject: are Hollywood’s actions as “green” as its propaganda?

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009


“As The Times reported on March 2, Fox’s action-packed program “24″ has proclaimed itself “carbon neutral.” That means not only switching to hybrid cars whenever possible, but burning 20 percent biodiesel in location generators. Since that didn’t go nearly far enough, the producers also paid for carbon credits to offset 1,291 tons of carbon dioxide (slightly more than a half season’s worth).

Partly by switching to hybrids during season seven, the show saved 1,300 gallons of gasoline, which, according to press materials, “would be enough to drive a traditional midsized vehicle from Los Angeles to New York 10 times …

William J. Kelly, co-author of the new book “Smogtown: The Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles,” said that Hollywood film stars were willing recruits in campaigns against the smog problem as early as the 1950s. “Part of the reason was that they had to breathe the air,” he said. “But also the image of Hollywood was being sullied by air pollution.”

Mr. Kelly added that his home in Los Angeles is a block from a location site for the movie “Jurassic Park” and is frequently used for film sets. “They use a lot of lights, and huge diesel generators that run for days on end,” he said. “To haul the dressing rooms, bathrooms, lighting and camera equipment, they use a lot of semi trucks.”

The final word should belong to the man widely considered to be one of Hollywood’s greenest actors, Ed Begley Jr. In an e-mail message, he said: “The film and television industry should do much more, but they have done a lot since they started taking action on the environment in 1990.”

Here’s the link to Jim’s New York Times blog, Wheels. We recommend it, and we’re not just saying that because he noticed our book, Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles. FWIW, Jim also interviewed Chip on Tuesday for his radio program.

Mother Nature Network excerpts Smogtown. Read it while you can.

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009


Smogtown: The Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles, by journalist Chip Jacobs and environmental spokesman William J. Kelly, chronicles the history and impact of smog in LA, exposing the dirty facts behind the unparalleled crises and the ways in which the city tried to combat it. This history explores the fate of a culture whose addiction to cars and mass manufacturing has shrouded cities like LA in thick layers of smog, quite literally changing the face of the earth. MNN is proud to present your exclusive excerpt.

Chapter One: State of Siege

“The beast you couldn’t stab fanned its poison across the waking downtown. Cunning and silent, its gray mist engulfed buildings and streetcars, obscuring the sun and killing all sense of direction as it assaulted Los Angeles’ citizenry with a face-stinging burn. Through nobody realized it then, the mystery cloudbank would rattle the planet—making “green” a cause, not just a color—but first there was the suffering, a city full of it. Inhaling the viscous stuff socked folks with instant allergies whether they had them before or not, eyes welled, throats rasped, hands grasped for hankies and for answers. On July 8, 1943, crowds from Grand Avenue to Union Station muttered surprise at the abruptness of the confounding haze, later mouthing anger at whoever was responsible. The pall, which seemed to have lunged from everywhere and nowhere at once, was a real day-wrecker. After a few hours, what had been a steamy West Coast morning in the town that had shredded notions that one place couldn’t have it all felt more like a party crashed by industrial fire.

Peoples’ attempted escapes from the noxious cloud bred hair-raising street drama. Blinded drivers jerked from side to side to avoid collisions. Mothers snatched up frightened children into ornate lobbies for shelter. If it was hard on pedestrians, it was hellish for the beat cops supervising public safety, let alone for any dangling window-washers. Whatever had summarily blanketed downtown was reminiscent of a harsh, pea-soup London fog. Then again, this was Southern California, where fabulous sunshine was a birthright. Try telling that to the beast.

From within the horn-honking turmoil spread a wild rumor that the cloudbank meant war—chemical munitions the Japanese had lobbed in a sneak attack. With Pearl Harbor and the Imperial Navy’s shelling of Santa Barbara, might this be the first salvo against L.A.? Was mustard gas next? By hour two, the tendrils of the murky climes had thickened and widened, edging toward the northern foothills, which the big-spenders lived against the national forest’s piney backdrop. An irritating haze had intermittently gripped the central city since the turn of the century. Never a crisis before, it was fodder for blue ribbon committees and the reason for a drawer full of ordinances targeting smoke, soot, and odors. Now the stuff had re-materialized with a vengeance and, maybe, an agenda. Deprived of the sweet air they’d taken for granted, tens of thousands of Angelenos hacked: the thin and sickly, the corpulent money-men of Spring Street, jug-eared Boy Scouts, grimy trench diggers, haberdashers, transplanted Okies. A judge furious that acrid air had invaded his courtroom threatened to adjourn for the day, the docket be damned.