Environment in the news

DOWNEY -- Last week's Downey Patriot contained rich fodder for environmental discussion, including two articles relating to waste management, one on transportation, and the concluding summary article in this column's series on water conservation.Significantly, these subject areas comprise three of seven "urban themes" adopted by 53 mayors from cities around the globe in the "Urban Environmental Accords" of 2005. Recognizing that national agendas were not sufficiently confronting urban environmental issues, these mayors gathered in San Francisco and forged a 21-point action plan addressing the following urban themes: 1. energy (renewable energy, energy efficiency, greenhouse gas reduction) 2. waste reduction (zero waste, manufacturer responsibility, consumer responsibility) 3. urban design (green building, urban planning, slums) 4. urban nature (parks, habitat restoration, wildlife) 5. transportation (public transportation, clean vehicles, reducing congestion) 6. environmental health (toxics reduction, healthy food systems, clean air) 7. water (water access & efficiency, source water conservation, waste water reduction) These same seven themes, slightly rephrased for clarity, are also echoed on the City of Downey Green Task Force webpage and became a framework for the original Task Force's "Final Report," also available on the webpage, which at this time seems just a distant whisper of a vision forgotten under the weight of budget constraints. Yet these environmental issues continually find new and intriguing ways to present themselves. Take last week's Downey Patriot articles, for example: a front page story detailed rate increases in CalMet's services--all an expected part of a long-term contract between CalMet and the city, as well as a transfer of billing responsibilities to CalMet. Not as visible, on page 11, the Patriot also ran an article describing a California superior court's upholding of the Los Angeles County ban on plastic grocery bags. The article closed with the suggestion that a statewide ban may again be introduced to the legislature this summer. So the ever popular and controversial topic of banning plastic bags is back in the spotlight. That's not the only subject of interest in the area of waste management and waste reduction, however, for the Downey business community will soon be called upon to significantly improve its recycling percentages under AB 341, a state law ultimately requiring 75% trash diversion rates for businesses and apartment complexes, which will begin to take effect on July 1. A third Patriot article discussed a recent Green Task Force meeting at which the idea of 20 mph residential speed limits in Downey was assessed. This concept is based on the highly successful European residential speed limit program widely known as "Twenty Is Plenty." Unintentionally, this transportation discussion was also very timely, inasmuch as this week the Southern California Association of Governments, which includes representation from and has jurisdiction over the City of Downey, is scheduled to approve a quadrennially revised Regional Transportation Plan that will affect how all residents and businesses get around in southern California for the next twenty-five years and beyond. We will address both these fascinating and important environmental issues--waste management/reduction and transportation--in upcoming issues, beginning next week with an examination of transportation challenges in southern California in general, as well as in Downey in particular.

********** Published: April 5, 2012 - Volume 10 - Issue 51