Martinez: New ‘flood zone’ boundaries, more to need flood insurance

MEG Editor’s Note: And somehow this article manages to avoid the phrase “climate change induced sea level rise”.

By Dana Guzzetti Correspondent     Contra Costa Times

MARTINEZ — The city’s “flood zone” boundary will officially extend further inland as of Sept. 30, meaning that homeowners with federally insured loans who live near water could be required to buy flood insurance.

And homeowners who already have flood insurance but who have not made arrangements for their plans to be “grandfathered in” can expect substantial insurance rate increases, as all standard flood insurance rates are going up.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has made new maps of the coastal and aquatic areas of the entire United States. The map of the area including Martinez also shows areas where the flood plain has been decreased and where zone designations have been changed.

The city of Martinez has participated in the National Flood Insurance Program since 1995, and the local code must conform to the FEMA designation for the flood plain. For that reason, the city council on July 15 unanimously agreed to amend the city’s Flood Management Ordinance to conform to new FEMA maps, designations and rules.

This ordinance also requires additional permitting and evaluation before any new development takes place the affected zones.

The flood zone in Martinez was enlarged to include areas where “storm induced wind and wave action” could affect properties north of the railroad tracks, according to City Engineer Tim Tucker.

Homeowners who might be in the newly designated flood areas were invited to a public workshop in July, and only one person came, according to Xing Liu, FEMA Area 9 community compliance agent.

Tucker said the low turnout might have been because much of the impacted area belongs to the city, Shell Martinez oil and Caltrans. And, “Maybe the other property owners don’t have a loan,” Tucker said. “Even people without mortgages may want to purchase flood insurance in these areas.”

Richard Verrilli asked the council how he could find more information rate increases, which impact his property near Alhambra Creek in an existing flood zone. Mayor Rob Schroder said FEMA subsidizes all flood insurance rates, and that all of the different company’s rates are about the same, except for Lloyd’s of London (not subsidized). But the subsidy amounts are decreasing.

“I am concerned about the absolute surety that we are going to have an earthquake,” Verrilli said. “There is more danger of an earthquake … we don’t have earthquake insurance (mandated).”

Rate increases for existing flood insurance policies start to increase 20 percent every year beginning Oct. 1 and continuing until the rate reaches the full-risk rates for such zones.

Visit (for maps click on search all products) or call Xing Liu, FEMA agent for this area at 510-612-5601 or City Engineer Tim Tucker, 925-372-3562.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

California oil refineries’ gross profits nearly double in 2015



As Los Angeles drivers shelled out more than $4 a gallon at the pump in recent weeks, the state’s oil refineries pocketed record amounts of money — as much as $1.17 a gallon in gross profits.

From Jan. 1 to July 6, oil refineries almost doubled the typical amount they collect on a gallon of gasoline, state data show.

California refineries reaped an average of 49.3 cents on a gallon of gasoline from 1999 to 2014, according to the California Energy Commission. But this year, the average ballooned to 88.8 cents, triggered when refinery troubles in February disabled 7% of the state’s capacity at a time of low inventories.

With oil prices falling, refinery costs stable and gasoline prices soaring in California, refineries are experiencing a boom in profits.

A lucrative business in California
“Is it unusual? Absolutely,” said Gordon Schremp, a senior fuels specialist at the California Energy Commission. “They are making more money. And yeah, consumers are, unfortunately, having to pay significantly more.”

In May alone, the state’s fuel-making companies took in a record high of $1.17 a gallon at the refinery level, according to an analysis of the commission’s data by the advocacy group Consumer Watchdog, set to be released Wednesday.


The commission’s gross profit statistics for refineries, called “refiner margin,” represent a mixture of costs and profits at the state’s 11 fuel-producing plants. Because refiners don’t reveal their costs or earnings in the state, the energy commission approximates local profits by subtracting the cost of oil as well as taxes, distribution and marketing from the retail price of gasoline.

On July 6, for example, the state’s average retail price for name-brand gasoline was $3.432 a gallon, according to a weekly survey by the U.S. Department of Energy. Of that, $1.36 represented the cost of crude oil; 32.6 cents was attributed to distribution and marketing costs; 58 cents went to taxes and fees — leaving $1.166 in refiner gross profits.

The refiner margin doesn’t represent a net income figure reaped by the refiners, but it indicates the rise and fall of those firms’ profits.

And the profit increase has left motorists unhappy.

At a Shell gas station in Boyle Heights, where a gallon of regular gas was $4.77 with cash payment, Natalia Montes said she has little choice but to pay the higher gas prices.

“I don’t know why it’s so expensive if they’re making a profit,” said Montes, 19. “I can’t go out every weekend because I feel like I’m wasting gas,” she said.

Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, called on lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown to “deter this type of gouging by establishing a windfall profits tax and forcing refiners to open their books and justify their inventories, refinery outages and profits.”

Is it unusual? Absolutely. They are making more money. And yeah, consumers are, unfortunately, having to pay significantly more.
– Gordon Schremp, a senior fuels specialist at the California Energy Commission
Four oil refiners control 78% of the state’s gasoline-making capacity, Consumer Watchdog said in its report. “The consolidation has led to a lack of competition, and unwillingness to undercut competitors’ prices, despite record profits per gallon,” the report said.

But Tupper Hull, a spokesman for the Western States Petroleum Assn., which represents oil producers and refiners, argues that Consumer Watchdog’s view and the energy commission’s refiner margin calculations are overly simplistic.

Hull said the market is responding to the basic laws of supply and demand after the refinery troubles and a drop in gasoline inventories.

“The function of supply and demand work very efficiently to make sure that there’s fuel at that pump,” Hull said.

He said that might mean that prices rise for a period of time because of the decline in refinery capacity from plants that aren’t producing gasoline and from a shortage in inventories, but it will balance out in the long run.

Consumers, Hull said, would be harmed if oil refiners operated with complete transparency because such openness would enable the kind of industry collusion that companies are accused of now.

This year’s record refiner margin through the end of June topped the previous record set in the first six months of 2007. The refineries’ average take during that period was 85.9 cents a gallon, about 3 cents less than this year.

Then, as now, oil companies attributed at least part of the price increase to problems at California refineries.

This time, the primary catalyst was a February explosion that crippled Exxon Mobil’s Torrance plant, which has historically produced about a fifth of Southern California’s gasoline. It might not return to service before Christmas

“As long as Exxon Mobil is offline, the whole market is going to be at an elevated price point,” Schremp said.

That means Exxon Mobil isn’t benefiting from the high gas prices, though others such as Valero and Shell are raking in significant amounts of money.

“That’s their reward, and that’s their motivation to have no problems,” Schremp said.

California prices are almost always higher than national prices. The AAA notes that prices are driven up by higher-than-average taxes and fees, state requirements to produce special low-pollution blends and the relatively small number of refineries in the state.

Part of that cost includes an estimated 10 to 12 cents a gallon for the state’s cap-and-trade market that was instituted to help combat global warming.

From the more affluent to the average Joe, high gas prices are changing behavior. Norm Woods, 45, of Los Angeles said that although the gas prices haven’t hit him hard, the additional cost has forced him to leave his more gas-guzzling Hummer at home in favor of his Acura.

“It’s just ‘politics’ again,” Woods lamented. “Every year, they tell you the profit margin is larger and larger.”

It’s been more difficult for 49-year-old Paul Valles. Valles, filling up his Jeep Commander on Tuesday afternoon at a 76 station near L.A. County-USC Medical Center, estimates that he pays about $30 more for gas than he did a month ago.

The Valencia resident commutes to Los Angeles a few times a week for his medical supply job and said he’s shopping for a hybrid to replace his car, which gets about 10 miles per gallon.

“There’s not much we can do as individuals or small groups,” he said about the refinery profits. “We’re held hostage to it.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Oakland Stop Coal Rally & City Council Meeting Tuesday, July 21



No coal trains, no coal ships, no coal period

 Mile long trains will roll through Oakland to the old Army Base bringing coal to be shipped to climate destroying coal power plants around the world unless we persuade Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and the City Council that the only deal for coal shipments through Oakland is no deal. No matter how many band-aids you try to put on it, coal is a killer.

Join 350 Bay Area, Sierra Club and a coalition of groups to rally for a coal-free Oakland. The rally will be in front of City Hall, where speakers will demand a halt to this proposed dirty coal export project in West Oakland. Stay for the City Council meeting after the rally.

The 350 Bay Area Divestment team will also be there. Stop by their table and be sure to sign the petition to support California’s coal divestment bill, SB 185.

Oakland is not the only affected community. Coal trains would pass through other Bay Area cities, spewing carbon dioxide and toxic pollutants all along the way. Nobody asked the thousands of residents along California and Bay Area rail lines if they want dirty coal trains in their towns.

The health of people and the planet is at stake.
After the rally folks are encouraged to go inside to speak against the proposed coal export terminal in Oakland during public comment at the 6pm City Council meeting.

WHAT: Protest the plan to export up to 9 million tons of coal each year through Oakland;

HOW: Join us at a 5 pm rally and at the 6 pm City Council meeting to demand action to stop coal!

RSVP for July 21 Stop Coal Rally at 5:00 and/or Oakland City Council Meeting at 6:00

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Kyoto Protocol Outdated! “According to the EPA, under the Kyoto metrics, CO2e emissions would decrease by 14%. However, under the new climate metrics, these emissions would increase by 135%.”

Originally posted by Nick Despota of the Sunflower Alliance, July 15, 2015

The methods for measuring effects of climate change are critical to dialogs about climate change. They are at the heart of treaty negotiations and government policies. However, the currently used metrics date back to the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. This new report outlines more stringent metrics for evaluating climate forcing gases.

The addendum to the report evaluates the EPA’s GHG Emissions Reduction Report. That report estimated the effects of conversion from coal to natural gas and continuing implementation of the Clean Air Act, for 2035, 2050, and 2100. According to the EPA, under the Kyoto metrics, CO2e emissions would decrease by 14%. However, under the new climate metrics, these emissions would increase by 135%.

Download report (PDF)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fossil fuel industry must ‘implode’ to avoid climate disaster, says top scientist

Friday 10 July 2015   Damian Carrington, Paris

‘The age of carbon is over’ and a transition to a greener economy is inevitable, says Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, adviser to the German government and Pope Francis.


An “induced implosion” of the fossil fuel industry must take place for there to be any chance of avoiding dangerous global warming, according to one of the world’s most influential climate scientists.

Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, an adviser to the German government and Pope Francis, said on Friday: “In the end it is a moral decision. Do you want to be part of the generation that screwed up the planet for the next 1,000 years? I don’t think we should make that decision.”

Schellnhuber was speaking at a major science conference in Paris, taking place before a crunch UN summit in December, also in the city, at which nations must seal a deal on global warming. World leaders were sent a stark message in the communique issued by the conference, which warned that the opportunity to avoid disaster is rapidly diminishing.

Laurence Tubiana, France’s climate change ambassador, said the aim of the UN summit is to send a signal that the transition from coal, oil and gas to a low-carbon economy is inevitable. If the aim is achieved, Tubiana told the Guardian, “you will see a massive acceleration [to a greener economy], particularly on the investment side in the next five years”.

The conference was addressed by Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, who said the fossil fuel industry faced big challenges: “A mixture of many different changes going on – consumption patterns, civil society, political action – will be disruptive to the carbon economy.”

Stiglitz, Schellnhuber and Tubiana all expressed support for the global divestment campaign, which lobbies investors to sell their stocks in the biggest fossil fuel companies. “I fully support the divestment movement,” said Schellnhuber. “Do you want to be part of an economy that is destroying the world, or part of an economy that protects creation?”

Tubiana said the recent call by major European oil and gas companies for a price to be put on carbon pollution was partly the result of the “very important” divestment movement. She said: “Oil companies are like canaries in the mine. When there is no danger they are silent, but when they feel danger and opportunity they make a move.”

The Guardian is divesting from fossil fuels and is campaigning for the world’s biggest health charities, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust, to do the same.

The Paris conference was attended by more than 2,000 scientists from 100 countries. Schellnhuber told the delegates: “In order to stay below 2C (3.6F) [the internationally agreed limit for global warming], or even 3C, we need to have something really disruptive, which I would call an induced implosion of the carbon economy over the next 20-30 years. Otherwise we have no chance of avoiding dangerous, perhaps disastrous, climate change.”

“The promise of the fossil fuel age has never been fulfilled,” he said. “We still have 2bn people living on $2 (£1.30) a day – that is crazy.” He called for two strong messages to come from December’s UN summit: that “the age of carbon is over” and that “it is not the poor of the world who will pay for the transition”.

To achieve these outcomes, Schellnhuber said: “We need a global social movement and it is already happening.” He said the best analogy for the transition from dirty to clean energy was the abolition of slavery, which was fundamentally driven by ethical concerns.

The scientists’ communique said that tackling climate change is economically affordable, but that nations “waiting on the sidelines” will cause the costs to rise. It said global warming is already inflicting damage across the globe and that failing to act will lock in the dangers.

Stiglitz backed the affordability of tackling climate change: “Creating a green economy is not only consistent with economic growth, it can promote economic growth,” especially when there is a lack of demand in the global economy.

He said the best option for an enforceable climate deal was for willing countries to introduce carbon taxes and then penalise nations refusing to do the same with border taxes on their exported goods.

A voluntary agreement could not solve the climate crisis, he said: “The atmosphere is a public good – all want to get the benefits, but no one wants to pay the cost.” He also dismissed carbon markets as being too prone to political lobbying: “It is basically giving away money.”

Stiglitz said it was unsurprising that a carbon price has proven hard to implement on a worldwide scale. “If you own fossil fuel assets, and the impact of any global agreement on climate change is going to push their value down, you are going to resist, using whatever tactics. But the interests of global society have to overcome these narrow special interests.”

• This article was amended on 13 July 2015 because an earlier version incorrectly converted a 2C increase to 36F. This has been corrected to 3.6F.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What Is Community Choice Energy? Find out on July 11th!

CCE_July 7_flyer

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

RALLY Saturday, July 11th

Richmond Action Flyer

Image | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Drought-stricken California loves gasoline more than water


Just about everyone in California is being forced to conserve water as the state faces its worst drought in over a century, but its water-guzzling refineries don’t have to.

Mandatory water restrictions have yet to extend to California’s refining sector, according to a special report from Platts issued to subscribers Friday.

“The state seems hesitant to force refiners into the processing rate cuts that would surely follow, which would only present a new set of problems,” the report said, noting that the state’s refining sector uses “hundreds of millions of gallons” of water every day.
District officials have asked refiners to try to voluntarily reduce water use by 5%, the report said, citing comments from Jennifer Allen, public affairs director of the Contra Costa Water District.

That water district is home to two refineries: Shell’s RDS.A, -1.81% RDS.B, -1.70% 165,000 barrel-a-day Martinez plant and Tesoro’s TSO, -0.88% 166,000 barrel-a-day Golden Eagle facility. Shell’s Martinez refinery consumed 4.057 billion gallons of water, or 1.11 million gallons a day, in 2014, which is almost 20% of the county’s total consumption, Platts reported.

“The state’s refiners have avoided mandatory limits to date partly because their usage, while not insignificant, is minuscule compared with the agriculture sector and residential use,” Platts said.

Besides, if refineries significantly cut down their water use, that would curtail production and boost prices for the “boutique,” gasoline and diesel fuel California requires, prompting the state to rely more heavily on gasoline and diesel imports, the report said. California has stringent environmental regulations on fuel.

That state does have a good excuse to shield its refining sector from any potential production slowdown.

The average price for a gallon of regular gasoline at the pump cost $2.785 on Friday, but California pays $3.554, according to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report. That’s the highest price in the nation.

{Editor’s Note: So the  oil companies take our water AND we get to pay the highest prices in the country???]

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Walk to Heal, A Walk to Reimagine

[The next walk is on June 20th – join us!]

Honoring the Water

The walk started with a morning water ceremony in Martinez Waterfront Park. Pennie Opal Plant and Isabella Zizi, healing walk organizers, walked down the rocks to collect water from the adjacent bay for the ceremony. Martinez is home to two large refineries belonging to Shell and Tesoro, which are close to residential neighborhoods. (All Photos Rucha Chitnis)


“There are toxic places by the San Francisco Bay. We walk to understand what some frontline communities experience everyday living next to the oil refineries,” says Pennie Opal Plant of Yaqui, Choctaw and Cherokee ancestry, one of the organizers of the Refinery Corridor Healing Walks.

“We want to imagine our future beyond fossil fuels to have clean water, air, soil and healthy jobs,” she says. The Refinery Corridor Healing Walks are inspired by the long tradition of healing walks —such as the Tar Sands healings walks in Alberta that raise awareness on the impact of Canadian oil sands on First Nation communities. There are five refineries east of the San Francisco Bay Area. The healing walks hope to bring attention to the environmental and health risks posed by the refineriea_walk_to_heal_a_walk_to_reimagine3_-_rucha_chitniss, including threats from derailment of crude by rail

In the past six years or so, crude by rail has increased by 4,000 percent across the United States. Local community members are concerned that crude by rail could start in the Valero refinery in Benicia, a historic town, which used to serve as California state capital. Two years ago, 2013, we witnessed an unprecedented number of crude spills from train derailments in North America, including one that killed 47 people in a town in Quebec. Because of this fatal explosion and others crude by rail is often referred to as bomb trains.

“Why healing walks? Because Mother Earth needs to heal. We continue to poison our waters with fracking. Where does this water go? Into our wells and streams,” says Wounded Knee DeOcampo, a Coastal Miwok Native elder with Sacred Sites Protection and Rights of Indigenous Tribes. The healing walk members have planned four walks each year for four years. The walks are led by Native American elders in prayer, followed by community ma_walk_to_heal_a_walk_to_reimagine2_-_rucha_chitnisembers and environmental advocates in contemplation and dialogue. The walks begin with a water ceremony and song led by Native American elders, followed by a march along the refineries, neighborhoods, rail tracks and other toxic sites dotting the bay. In each of the walks, local community members share their hopes for healthy environment, jobs and transition to a just economy. The next walk is on June 20, which will traverse through Benicia to Rodeo – home to Conoco-Phillips refinery.

“Climate change is here, and nobody is going to save us. It’s up to us to transition to a safe energy future,” says Opal Plant. “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

ShellNo! protestors are locked down at the Port of Seattle and need your support!

shell noBREAKING: ShellNo! protestors are locked down at the Port of Seattle right now and need your support!

Early this morning activists set up and deployed a range of technical blockades outside entrances to the port using U-locks, chains, lockboxes, rocking chairs, and other devices. Every entrance of the port was shut down, effectively stopping work on the rig. To sustain this bold action, we need YOU! Come on down and join us right now for an inspiring blockade. Bring your camera, musical instruments, banners, and passion for justice.

LOCATION: Terminal 5, West Seattle (W. Marginal Way and Spokane Street,
Spokane Street Bridge)

As we all know, time is of the essence when it comes to stopping the Polar
Polluter and its evil twin, the Noble Destroyer.

“Shell only has until the end of June to make it up to the Arctic in time to drill this summer. We want to stop them from leaving,” said Blaine Doherty, who is sitting in the road chained to another Seattle resident. “The Port of Seattle has let us down and President Obama has let us down. We can’t afford to let Shell drill in the Arctic if we want this planet to remain habitable.”

After May’s Festival of Resistance, organized by the Shell No! Action Council, another autonomous group called Stop Shell Seattle has called for a month of actions using the tag “June Against Doom”. There have been pickets at the Port for the past 5 days. The goal is to disrupt work on the rig in order to delay its move out of Seattle.

shirly 2The Seattle Raging Grannies chained themselves to rocking chairs for today’s action. “My generation is responsible for how things are today. This rig will destroy any hope of a liveable future for our children and grandchildren,” said Annette Klapstein. “It’s our duty to be out here.”

The groups locked down also highlighted how climate change is already affecting vulnerable communities around the world, such as the recent heatwave in India that has so far resulted in over 2,000 deaths. “The people most impacted by Arctic drilling, and the 2 degrees Celsius warming it will bring, are indigenous people around the world, poor people, and people of the global South,” said Zarna Joshi, one of the Seattle residents who locked down. “When it’s 122 degrees and you’re poor there’s nowhere to hide. The fossil fuel industry’s drive for profit is literally killing people. We’re here to take a stand against these climate-destroying corporations and the governments who support them.”

You can support today’s action with your physical and online presence! Join us at the port and follow our updates via Facebook and Twitter. Donate to our fundraising campaign to support us in paying legal fees. Tell everyone you know and spread the word: Seattle says SHELL NO!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment