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Environment

Policy Center Gives State An ‘F’ For Efforts To Address Lead In School Drinking Water

THE SEATTLE MEDIUM — Reacting to pervasive lead contamination in schools’ drinking water, Environment Washington Research and Policy Center (RPC) and WashPIRG Foundation gave Washington State an “F” grade today for addressing the problem, according to a new national report.

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By Seattle Medium

Reacting to pervasive lead contamination in schools’ drinking water, Environment Washington Research and Policy Center (RPC) and WashPIRG Foundation gave Washington State an “F” grade today for addressing the problem, according to a new national report. In the second edition of our Get The Lead Out study, the state showed poor progress as Washington State received an “F” grade in 2017. Rep. Gerry Pollet and Steve Gilbert, a toxicologist, joined Environment Washington RPC and WashPIRG Foundation in calling for swift action to ensure lead-free water in Washington’s schools and daycares.

“Schools should be safe places for our kids to learn and play, but Washington is still failing to protect our kids from lead in drinking water,” said Bruce Speight, Environment Washington RPC Director.

As more Washington schools test their water, they are finding lead.  For example, a February 2019 report by Environment Washington found that more than 60 percent of drinking water taps in Washington schools that were tested for lead had elevated levels of lead, above 1 part per billion (ppb). Of the 199 schools and preschools tested, 97 percent had at least one tap where lead was detected at 1 ppb in the water. Recognizing that there is no safe level of lead, especially for children, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is urging schools to limit lead in drinking water to 1 part per billion.

“Lead is a potent neurotoxin, affecting the way our kids learn, grow, and behave,” said Steven G. Gilbert, PhD, DABT, INND (Institute of Neurotoxicology & Neurological Disorders). “There is no safe level of lead for children. We need policies that actually get the lead out of faucets and fountains in our schools and pre-schools. We have an ethical responsibility to ensure our kids and grandkids can reach and maintain their full potential free of lead.”

Most schools and pre-schools still have fountains or faucets that contain lead, and wherever there is lead, there is a risk of water contamination.

Nevertheless, current WA state law does far too little to prevent children’s drinking water from becoming laced with lead at school.  While the state of Washington has implemented a voluntary testing program, it is not mandatory; most importantly, there is no state requirement for schools and daycares to remediate. Washington State law does not require pro-active replacement of fountains, faucets and/or other lead-bearing parts, does not require pro-active installation of filters certified to remove lead at every outlet used for drinking or cooking, does not require immediate shut off of potable water outlets that exceed testing standard for lead, and allows lead in drinking water up to 15 parts per billion.  In Environment Washington RPC and WashPIRG Foundation’s comparison of 31 states, these shortcomings gave Washington State an “F” grade.

HB 1860, championed by State Rep. Gerry Pollet, would require schools to notify parents when tests detect lead levels at 1 part per billion (ppb), and to fix water outlets where lead levels reach 5 ppb or higher. The measure has wide support, including 18 co-sponsors. Unfortunately, it did not advance out of the Education Committee before cutoff, however, legislators are looking into including funding for action on lead in school drinking water in the state budget.

“No parent should have to worry about their child drinking water with lead,” said State Representative Gerry Pollet, who is on the UW School of Public Health faculty. “We have got to do better than that. We owe it to our kids.”

Environment Washington’s counterparts are working with doctors and parents and community leaders in seven other states to advance policies that Get the Lead Out of schools and daycares.

“We were disappointed to find that Washington State’s efforts are at the back of the class for protecting children from lead at school,” said Elise Orlick, WashPIRG Foundation Director. “Our kids deserve better.”

This article originally appeared in The Seattle Medium

Community

PG&E Announces Major New Electric Infrastructure Safety Initiative to Protect Communities from Wildfire Threat

PG&E’s commitment represents the largest effort in the U.S. to underground power lines as a wildfire risk reduction measure.

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Power Line Grids Photo courtesy of Fre Sonneveld via Unsplash

Pacific Gas and Electric Company on July 21 announced a major new initiative to expand the undergrounding of electric distribution power lines in High Fire Threat Districts (HFTD) to further harden its system and help prevent wildfires.

The new infrastructure safety initiative, announced in Butte County by PG&E Corporation CEO Patti Poppe, is a multi-year effort to underground approximately 10,000 miles of power lines.

PG&E’s commitment represents the largest effort in the U.S. to underground power lines as a wildfire risk reduction measure.

“We want what all of our customers want: a safe and resilient energy system,” Poppe said. “We have taken a stand that catastrophic wildfires shall stop. We will partner with the best and the brightest to bring that stand to life. We will demand excellence of ourselves. We will gladly partner with policymakers and state and local leaders to map a path we can all believe in.”

In addition to significantly reducing wildfire risk, undergrounding also benefits customers by lessening the need for Public Safety Power Shutoffs, which are called as a last resort during dry, windy conditions to reduce the risk of vegetation contacting live power lines and sparking a wildfire. Undergrounding also eases the need for vegetation management efforts, leaving more of California’s trees untouched.

Today, PG&E maintains more than 25,000 miles of overhead distribution power lines in the highest fire-threat areas (Tier 2, Tier 3 and Zone 1)—which is more than 30% of its total distribution overhead system.

About 10,000 miles of PG&E lines represents approximately the distance of 11 round trips from Chico to Los Angeles or almost half way around the world. The exact number of projects or miles undergrounded each year through PG&E’s new expanded undergrounding program will evolve as PG&E performs further project scoping and inspections, estimating and engineering review.

Public Engagement with Stakeholders to Guide New Undergrounding Plan

PG&E will engage customers and stakeholders as it develops a plan and reviews potential additional undergrounding sites based on a variety of factors, including local municipal planning and safety considerations.

Engineering an underground electric system requires designing the system around existing water, natural gas and drainage systems, as well as planning for future road widening. PG&E intends to work closely with customers and local, state, federal, tribal and regulatory officials throughout this new safety initiative.

Learning from Projects to Inform Expanded Undergrounding Effort

In the past, undergrounding has been done on a select, case-by-case basis, and largely for reasons other than wildfire risk reduction. Thanks to breakthroughs PG&E has achieved on undergrounding projects in recent years, undergrounding can now play a much more prominent role in PG&E’s ongoing efforts to harden the electric grid.

Following the devastating October 2017 Northern California wildfires and the 2018 Camp Fire, PG&E began to evaluate placing overhead power lines underground as a wildfire safety measure, and to better understand the construction and cost requirements associated with undergrounding for system hardening purposes. These demonstration projects were part of PG&E’s Community Wildfire Safety Program (CWSP) and included the following:

  • From 2018-2020, PG&E completed multiple demonstration projects aimed at converting overhead power lines to underground in high fire-threat areas of Alameda, Contra Costa, Nevada, and Sonoma counties.
  • As a part of the rebuild efforts following the October 2017 Northern California wildfires, PG&E completed undergrounding eight miles of power lines in the Larkfield Estates and Mark West Estates communities in Sonoma County in 2018.
  • In 2019, PG&E announced it would rebuild all its power lines underground in the town of Paradise as it helps the community recover from the Camp Fire. The company is also rebuilding power lines underground within the 2020 North Complex Fire footprint in Butte County.

Through these demonstration projects and rebuild efforts, PG&E has been able to refine the construction and cost requirements associated with targeted undergrounding, enabling the acceleration and expansion of undergrounding projects. Learnings include:

  • Implementing new planning systems and strategies and using new materials and new equipment to make undergrounding more cost effective.
  • Building strong partnerships with material suppliers and contractors to accelerate undergrounding efforts.
  • Partnering with natural gas projects as well as phone and internet providers to joint trench and share costs, where possible.
  • Using new technology and construction methods to increase trench production.
  • Bundling work into larger blocks to take advantage of economies of scale.
  • Testing new cable and conduit materials to accelerate undergrounding work processes.

Ongoing PG&E Wildfire Mitigation and Resiliency Efforts

In addition to significantly expanding its undergrounding, PG&E’s ongoing safety work to enhance grid resilience and address the growing threat of severe weather and wildfires continues on a risk-based and data-driven basis, as outlined in PG&E’s 2021 Wildfire Mitigation Plan (WMP).

This includes:

Learn more about PG&E’s wildfire safety efforts by visiting pge.com/wildfiresafety.

To watch a recording of the July 21 announcement, visit PG&E’s YouTube channel.

Deanna Contreras is the North Bay and North Coast spokesperson

for PG&E’s North Bay, Sonoma and Humboldt Marketing and Communications Divisions

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Community

Gov. Newsom Statement on Proposed $26 Billion National Opioid Settlement

“If approved, this settlement agreement would provide an important investment in opioid treatment and prevention. The agreement would also require the industry to make important changes to help combat this epidemic.”

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Pills on a spoon with a wooden bottom and white background; Photo courtesy of Michael Longmire via Unsplash

Governor Gavin Newsom released on July 21 the below statement on the proposed $26 billion settlement announced by California Attorney General Rob Bonta and state attorneys general across the country to resolve investigations and litigation over the role of major pharmaceutical companies in America’s devastating opioid epidemic.

The proposed settlement with opioid distributors Cardinal, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen and manufacturer Johnson & Johnson will provide relief for Americans suffering with addiction and includes important changes to the industry to combat the opioid epidemic.

“California strongly supports continued investment in combatting the devastation that our communities have suffered because of the opioid epidemic,” said Newsom. “The opioid epidemic continues to pose a serious threat to the health of Californians. In 2019, California experienced nearly 12,000 opioid-related emergency department visits and more than 3,000 deaths.

“If approved, this settlement agreement would provide an important investment in opioid treatment and prevention. The agreement would also require the industry to make important changes to help combat this epidemic.”

“We eagerly anticipate the finalizing of the proposed opioid settlement and partnering with local governments across California to leverage the funding that will help expand opioid prevention and treatment resources.”

This report is courtesy of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s press office. 

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Barbara Lee

Congresswoman Barbara Lee Advances Over $10 Million in Appropriations Spending Bills for California’s 13th District 

Lee successfully fought for this funding to be included through several Appropriations subcommittees, including Labor, Health and Human Services, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and more.

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Graffiti that reads lets love our community photo courtesy of Mike Erskine via Unsplash

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13), senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, celebrated the inclusion of funding for projects across California’s 13th district in this year’s Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) Appropriations Bills.

Lee successfully fought for this funding to be included through several Appropriations subcommittees, including Labor, Health and Human Services, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and more.

“In order for our nation to build back bolder from this pandemic and economic crisis, we must take this opportunity to strengthen our infrastructure, public health services, and cultural institutions,” said Lee. “I’m proud to have secured critical funding in this year’s FY22 Appropriations bills for housing, public health services, and violence prevention programs in California’s 13th district. It is more important than ever that we make bold investments to support the health and well-being of our community.”

CA-13  Community -Based  Projects:

  • $500,000 – East Bay Performing Arts for music education, City of Oakland, CA
  • $1,250,000 – West Oakland Health Council for facilities and equipment, Alameda County, CA
  • $350,000 – Oakland LGBTQ Community Center for facilities and equipment, City of Oakland, CA
  • $500,000 – Youth ALIVE! and Community & Youth Outreach (CYO), City of Oakland, CA
  • $1,000,000 – Oakland Cultural and Commercial Corridor Recovery Project, City of Oakland, CA
  • $1,230,000 – Oakland Mental Health Resilience Project, City of Oakland, CA
  • $1,000,000 – African American Holistic Resource Center, City of Berkeley, CA
  • $2,000,000 – Affordable Housing Development/Corporation Yard Environmental Clean-Up and Improvements, City of Emeryville, CA
  • $1,500,000 – Veteran’s Court Seawall for construction design, City of Alameda, CA
  • $1,000,000 – Trash Capture Project to install full trash capture devices, City of San Leandro, CA

 Sean Ryan is the communications director for Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s media office

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