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    The Compost: Are tax credits for going green scary 🎃 or necessary 👏?
    • October 26, 2023

    Welcome to The Compost, a weekly newsletter on key environmental news impacting Southern California. Subscribe now to get it in your inbox! In today’s edition…

    Fellow work-from-home types can attest: When it’s time for an important call or Zoom, that’s inevitably when either the dog starts to bark, the doorbell rings or the neighbor’s gardener fires up the leaf blower.

    That last one does more than disrupt work meetings and napping babies, though. Operating a commercial, gas-powered leaf blower for one hour puts out the same level of smog-forming pollution as driving a car from Los Angeles to Denver, per the California Air Resources Board.

    That’s why there are more than 300 restrictions on gas-powered lawn equipment across the country, according to data collected by the National Association of Landscape Professionals. Grist reporter Kate Yoder dug in on which cities, counties and states have passed limits on leaf blowers around the nation and what impact those bans are having.

    Since talk of limits on gas-powered gardening equipment first emerged in California years ago, professional landscapers have raised concerns about how such bans might impact their businesses. Most are small. Many are run by non-White and immigrant entrepreneurs. And switching their fleet of gas-powered leaf blowers, mowers, weed trimmers, chainsaws, power washers and portable generators out for electric models won’t come cheap.

    newly proposed tax credit could help.

    Under a bill recently introduced by Rep. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, landscape businesses could write off up to 40% of what they spent the prior year to buy emission-free gear, including plug-in or cordless tools plus any batteries or chargers that power those tools.

    The goal, Correa told me, is to make sure that “good intentions” to clean up the air don’t disproportionately impact some of our most vulnerable neighbors.

    “We should strive to make sure that since the benefits are for everyone equally, the cost should be shared by everyone in society, and do everything we can to make sure we don’t unduly burden any specific group or individuals,” Correa said.

    Both landscape trade groups and environmental groups praised the bill. Britt Wood, CEO of the National Association of Landscape Professionals, called it “an important model for legislation supporting the business community while also protecting the environment.” And Athena Motavvef with Earthjustice said, “This bill will help businesses quickly and affordably transition to zero-emission equipment that will protect both workers and community members from dangerous contaminants.”

    The tax credit does raise interesting questions. As our economy shifts from fossil fuels to renewable energy, what responsibility does the government have to smooth that transition? Can we, or should we, offer financial incentives for individuals and businesses alike to pivot? How much taxpayer money should be used to help make the jump? Should business size or profits, or personal income, be a factor when it comes to such rebates or tax credits?

    If you have thoughts on these questions or other related ones, I’d love to hear them. Reach out at [email protected] or ping me on TwitterFacebook or LinkedIn.

    — By Brooke Staggs, environment reporter

     REGULATE

    Boeing must step up water monitoring: Water quality officials voted to require Boeing to better monitor water discharged from the Santa Susana Field Lab, which is one of the nation’s most polluted areas due to rocket testing and a partial nuclear meltdown in the late 1950s. Our Olga Grigoryants reports two highly toxic chemicals have not been monitored at the site and potentially could leak into the Los Angeles River. …READ MORE…

    Transparency coming: Among the many climate and environment bills Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law before this month’s deadline, the most high profile was a first-in-the-nation requirement for large corporations to publicly disclose their airborne pollutants on an annual basis. Our Jeff Horseman dug in on possible repercussions of the bill, including making public emissions such as diesel exhaust from trucks ferrying goods from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to Inland Empire warehouses. …READ MORE…

    Newsom talks climate in China: Climate change was the first topic of discussion during Newsom’s week-long visit to China. While relations between the United States and China have grown increasingly contentious, Kanis Leung with the Associated Press reports that “climate remains one area where collaboration is seen as possible and necessary.”  …READ MORE…

    Leaded aviation fuel a threat: The Biden administration recently declared emissions from airplanes running on leaded aviation fuel a threat to public health. It’s a first step, Jennifer A. Dlouhy | with Bloomberg reports, toward stamping out a major source of metal pollution linked to developmental delays, kidney disease and other health concerns. …READ MORE…

    The local picture: Lead spews from some Southern California airports, but cleaner fuel is coming.

     PROTECT

    AAPI group convenes on climate: Climate change is “an urgent issue” for Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities, though advocates say these groups often are left out of discussions about solutions. So our Allyson Vergara reports that the AAPI Victory Alliance recently hosted its inaugural “Climate Justice Convening” in Koreatown to talk about ways to close those gaps. …READ MORE…

    Roundup debate in O.C. city: A group of Laguna Beach residents have banded together to push their city to stop using Roundup on trails and neighborhood streets. Debate over the safety of a key ingredient in the weedkiller has raged for years, but Erika Ritchie reports that city officials say Roundup is part of a fire safety plan to keep vegetation at bay. …READ MORE…

    Aliso Canyon questions linger: Eight years after the disastrous Aliso Canyon gas leak, Olga Grigoryants reports that residents are still questioning why government agencies and elected officials didn’t do more to protect their families during and after the devastating event. …READ MORE…

    Scoop the poop: One Los Angeles equestrian facility is leading the charge in trying to convince other stable owners to help keep horse manure out of rivers and other water systems, while avoiding massive fines and potential closures along the way. Grigoryants is back with the scoop on the solution and the problems horse poop can cause. …READ MORE…

    3 million honey bees dead: Over two days, co-owners of the San Diego Bee Sanctuary saw roughly 80 percent of their 64 hives — each with a single queen protected by 50,000 to 100,000 bees — get decimated by a mysterious plague. Now they’re waiting on answers as to what caused the die off, which are happening more frequently with bee colonies each year. ...READ MORE…

    Get prepared: October is National Preparedness Month. With disasters such as wildfires and big storm events becoming more frequent and severe due to climate change, our visual journalist Kurt Snibbe mapped out disaster trends across California and how to be prepared when one comes. …READ MORE…

    Get a roundup of the best climate and environment news delivered to your inbox each week by signing up for The Compost.

     TRANSPORT

    Making public transportation more user friendly: A lack of public toilets at LA Metro train and bus stations has long been among the many problems plaguing public transportation in the greater Los Angeles area. But Steve Scauzillo reports that a new pilot program with a “newfangled portable potty system” aims to help and is going well so far. …READ MORE…

     ENERGIZE

    The great underground power line debate: Riverside wants state regulators to decide if Southern California Edison must bury power lines for a long-awaited project to reduce wildfire risks. Given the need to rapidly boost the statewide grid to meet clean energy goals, one insider told me “all eyes” are on this decision. ...READ MORE…

     HYDRATE

    Water bank opens for business: After three years of construction, water officials just announced completion of the first stage of a high desert groundwater storage project that they say will “significantly increase” Southern California’s water supply in the face of a “rapidly changing climate.” …READ MORE…

    Colorado River situation improves: Disaster has been averted on the Colorado River for now, federal officials say, thanks to a wet winter and a multi-state plan to conserve water. The news from Denver Post colleague Elise Schmelzer comes after the river was on the verge of seeing failing hydroelectric systems and places like Southern California that depend on the river for water facing severe mandatory cuts. …READ MORE…

    Quote: “We’ll take the breather, but we recognize it’s just that — a breather.”

     REMEMBER

    Honoring a climate hero: Cindy Montañez was a trailblazing San Fernando leader and environmental advocate who had a local elementary school named in her honor. She recently died at just 49, and our Linh Tat has the obituary. …READ MORE…

     CELEBRATE

    Warehouse shot down: Climate, public health and social justice advocates are celebrating after a judge blocked a 396,000-square-foot warehouse project in Moreno Valley. Our Jeff Horseman has the tale. …READ MORE…

    Quote: “Our lungs are not for sale.”
    Context: In the past 20 years, the Inland Empire became ground zero for a logistics boom that’s transformed the region.

    Rare sight: Whale watchers off Dana Point got a special treat on a recent trip, when a rare northern right whale dolphin without a dorsal fin stopped by. Erika Ritchie has the story and photos. …READ MORE…

     PITCH IN

    Go green this Halloween: For this week’s tip on how Southern Californians can help the environment… One frightening topic that isn’t inspiring any horror movies or haunted mazes this Spooky Season is climate change. The good news is that there are lots of ways to make Halloween more sustainable without sacrificing the traditions that make this season so fun. So I rounded up some ideas for how to go green this Halloween, from pumpkins to costumes to trick or treating.

    Thanks for reading, Composters! And don’t forget to sign up to get The Compost delivered to your inbox.

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