Short-Haul Intermodal Big Untapped Area for the Railroads

October 31, 2016

Railway Age:  "Steve Ditmeyer, one of the industry’s visionaries and a frequent contributor to Railway Age articles and conferences, offers this analysis: 'In my humble opinion, short-haul intermodal (250 to 700 miles) represents the only opportunity in the near future for railroads to increase their traffic. And they only need to capture just a small fraction of the total short-haul truck traffic to experience a substantial traffic gain.'"

“'Two things are needed to pull this off. The first is new roll-on, roll-off equipment . . . .  The designs for this equipment already exist, and the carbuilders now find themselves with plenty of excess production capacity.'"

“'The second thing the railroads need is a train control system to enable them to run short-haul intermodal trains on precise schedules. Fortunately, their PTC systems will be coming on line in the next year or so. GPS plus digital communications will provide the continuous real-time information to enable them to execute tightly scheduled operations, should they elect to do so.'"


Mass Extinction Underway

October 28, 2016

The Guardian: "The number of wild animals living on Earth is set to fall by two-thirds by 2020, according to a new report, part of a mass extinction that is destroying the natural world upon which humanity depends."

"The analysis, the most comprehensive to date, indicates that animal populations plummeted by 58% between 1970 and 2012, with losses on track to reach 67% by 2020. Researchers from WWF and the Zoological Society of London compiled the report from scientific data and found that the destruction of wild habitats, hunting and pollution were to blame."

"The creatures being lost range from mountains to forests to rivers and the seas and include well-known endangered species such as elephants and gorillas and lesser known creatures such as vultures and salamanders."

"The collapse of wildlife is, with climate change, the most striking sign of the Anthropocene, a proposed new geological era in which humans dominate the planet. “We are no longer a small world on a big planet. We are now a big world on a small planet, where we have reached a saturation point,” said Prof Johan Rockström, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, in a foreword for the report."

"Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF, said: 'The richness and diversity of life on Earth is fundamental to the complex life systems that underpin it. Life supports life itself and we are part of the same equation. Lose biodiversity and the natural world and the life support systems, as we know them today, will collapse.'”

"He said humanity was completely dependent on nature for clean air and water, food and materials, as well as inspiration and happiness."


Placer County Enforcement Action

October 26, 2016

CCEC has initiated environmental enforcement action against Placer County for actions connected with approval of a sprawling second-home development on 662 acres of forest near Kings Beach at iconic Lake Tahoe. The proceeding addresses the county's--

  • Failure to recognize large traffic impacts on the North Shore
  • Failure to report effects of widening highway 267
  • Failure to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions
  • Failure to consider tree mortality epidemic in the Sierras
  • Failure to fund cycling paths as sustainable transportation
  • Failure to consider clustering of homes as an alternative to sprawl
  • Failure to recognize that second homes don't reduce energy consumption.

Petition for Writ of Mandate can be found here.


Climate Change Has Increased Wildfire Area by 16,000 Square Miles

October 12, 2016

New York Times: "In a new study published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists from the University of Idaho and Columbia University have calculated how much of the increased scope and intensity of Western wildfires can be attributed to human-caused climate change and its effects. They state that, since 1979, climate change is responsible for more than half of the dryness of Western forests and the increased length of the fire season. Since 1984, those factors have enlarged the cumulative forest fire area by 16,000 square miles, about the size of Massachusetts and Connecticut combined, they found."

“'People tell me that they’ve never seen fires as active as what they’re battling right now,' Dr. Williams said. 'What we’re seeing in fire world is much different than what we saw in the 1980s, and in the 2030s, fires will be unrecognizable to what we’re seeing now.'"


Cost-Effective Residential Energy Storage Here in 2017

October 09, 2016

Greentech Media: "What the Ice Cub team came up with is sized like a 2.5-ton AC unit, the kind that serves small to medium-sized households. This AC has a special power, though: in between air conditioning cycles or when it's not in use, it freezes water in an insulated tank. It can fill the tank with ice in four hours. Then, on command, the system can switch from conventional AC to using the ice to cool the house for at least three hours, during which time no energy is needed to chill the air."


A Quiet Tragedy

October 05, 2016

The Guardian:  "A quiet crisis playing out in US forests as huge numbers of trees succumb to drought, disease, insects and wildfire – much of it driven by climate change"


Stark Warning from 375 Top Scientists

October 05, 2016

The Guardian:  "Yesterday, 375 of the world’s top scientists, including 30 Nobel Prize winners, published an open letter regarding climate change. In the letter, the scientists report that the evidence is clear: humans are causing climate change. We are now observing climate change and its affect across the globe. The seas are rising, the oceans are warming, the lower atmosphere is warming, the land is warming, ice is melting, rainfall patterns are changing and the ocean is becoming more acidic."

"These facts are incontrovertible. No reputable scientist disputes them. It is the truth."

"Despite these facts, the letter reports that the US presidential campaign has seen claims that the earth isn’t warming, or it is only a natural warming, or that climate change is a hoax. These claims are false."


Wildfire Evacuation Report Released for Homewood per CCEC Settlement

September 28, 2016

Pursuant to our successful appeal and subsequent settlement with the Placer County Board of Supervisors and Homewood Mountain Resort, the Committee has this week received the "Homewood Evacuation and Life Safety Report," prepared under the direction of the North Tahoe Fire.

The report concludes that "any complex evacuation route can become compromised in a major disaster. Therefore, this report, consistent with the Settlement and the direction of NT Fire, includes several items on a programmatic level that will lower the demand on evacuation systems by providing defensible space, fire-safe buildings, increased firefighting capacity and areas of refuge for residents."

"The Settlement required that a finding of 'non-exacerbation' be made for evacuation from the West Shore and, by extension, the North Tahoe Basin, as some evacuation routes are shared by some or all.  Key to providing for 'non-exacerbation' will be to implement a comprehensive fire safety program."

The report continues, "evacuation may not be a realistic possibility at any given time.  In short, immediate evacuation is only one component of a life-safety plan and is easily compromised by events or conditions outside the control of the authorities let alone the Project. The roads leading away from Homewood are low speed two lane roads which are often densely lined with forest. Highway 89 has been closed frequently over the decades by numerous disasters or accidents. The most recent fire related event that closed the road was the relatively small Washoe Fire (19.83 acres in August 2007)."

The further safety elements required to avoid impacting evacuation safety, according to NT Fire, include--

  • New and expanded Homewood Fire Station centrally located in a "hardened" structure
  • A central fire control facility on the Homewood Mountain Resort site
  • Increased fire personnel staffing in the Homewood station
  • New fire fighting apparatus including a Type 1 engine, a Type III brush engine, an ALS ambulance, a water truck, a utility vehicle, a new ladder truck, and a pumper boat that can draw water directly from the lake for fire fighting
  • Lake water flow connected to the project standpipe
  • Shelter-in-place to be designed and built like a "high-rise" package
  • A defensible space vegetation management program
  • CC&Rs and development agreements to ensure continuation of the fire safety program

Under the terms of settlement, HMR is now to work with NTFPD to make the report available to the public and to schedule at least one public meeting to discuss the report. NTFPD was not a party to the litigation but is expected to oversee the public comment process, the specific responses to public comments, and the necessary changes in the report as required by the settlement. (See here.)

The Committee wishes to express great appreciation for the detailed work of NTFPD on this important report.

Homewood Evacuation and Life Safety Report

Appendix A - Homewood Concept Plan and Base Area Map

Appendix B - 8.28.180 High-Rise Building Regulations

Appendix C - Guide to Fire Adapted Communities

Appendix D - Annex I: North Tahoe Fire Protection District, Local Hazard Mitigation Plan (2010)

Appendix E - North Tahoe Fire Protection District, Emergency Preparedness and Evacuation Guide

Appendix F - Placer Operational Area East Side Emergency Evacuation Plan


2016 Now Hottest Year on Record

September 15, 2016

The Guardian:  "This, on current trends, will be the hottest year ever measured. The previous record was set in 2015; the one before in 2014. Fifteen of the 16 warmest years have occurred in the 21st century. Each of the past 14 months has beaten the global monthly temperature record...."


Works of Mercy

September 06, 2016

Washington Post:  "Pope Francis, who has made the environment a clear focus of his papacy over the past three years, deepened his vision Thursday of a green church in which caring for the planet is as important a Catholic commitment as caring for the sick and the hungry."

"Catholics currently subscribe to seven corporal and seven spiritual 'works of mercy' — obligations that include sheltering the homeless, visiting prisoners and burying the dead. On Thursday, in an address explaining why Catholics must make practical changes in their daily routines to safeguard the earth that God created, Francis added care for the environment as an eighth work of mercy."

"The modern world has new forms of poverty, Francis said, and thus requires new forms of mercy to address them."

“'When we mistreat nature, we also mistreat human beings,' he wrote in his message for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, which falls on Sept. 1. He discussed the effect of global warming, which he noted is caused in part by human activity, on the world’s poorest people."

"'This is leading to ever more severe droughts, floods, fires and extreme weather events,' Francis wrote. 'Climate change is also contributing to the heart-rending refugee crisis. The world’s poor, though least responsible for climate change, are most vulnerable and already suffering its impact.'"