Ensuring the San Diego Port Commission reflects the whole community is vital to having a "Port for All"

laura hunter environmental health coalition port commission priorities

The position of Port Commissioner is a regionally very important one. The Port not only manages one of the region's premier economic assets, it has primary steward responsibility for the premier environmental asset in the region—San Diego Bay.

We are very appreciative of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner and the City Council for taking some time to look into the best way to seat the City of San Diego's Port Commission appointments. The way it has been done in the past can definitely be improved. Here are EHC's top priorities for improving the City of San Diego's Port Commission appointment process:

1. Increase Diversity of Port Appointments:

We support the clear guidance in the Council Policy 000-13 that aspires to a diversity on Board that 'reflects the entire community'. But, all too often, there is very little ethnic, gender, or economic diversity on the Port Commission. EHC would recommend that the city explore ways to increase the diversity of candidates.

The position is unpaid and time-consuming, so it's hard for most regular people to even consider applying for the Commission. To help alleviate the time burdens of the position, the City can improve staff support and resources to Port Commissioners.

To ensure broad community understanding of the Port Commission, the City should develop and post Port Commission job descriptions, standardize applications, offer more time in the appointment process for community groups to iprovide input, and increase community outreach related to the Port and opportunities to be a Port Commissioner.

The Port and the city would be better served with a diverse Board membership that reflects the community it seeks to serve. Without a concentrated effort to address this issue, the Port appointments will remain an insiders' game—which we do not think is in the highest public interest.Environmental health coalition port commission appointment priorities

2. Ensure Appointees Have Needed Skill Sets:

In terms of skills that are needed to do the job, the best Port Commissioners are those who can understand, are sensitive to, and can forge agreement among a wider diversity of stakeholders. The city will also be well served if your commissioners are experienced in working with the public and marrying the function of government and public input together.

The Port is also a regulatory agency. It has responsibility as landlord, but it also must enforce those leases and environmental rules like the Regional Storm Water Permit, CEQA, and others. In the past, the failure of the Port to be a strong enforcer has lead to multiple multi-million dollar cleanups of the Bay—a huge economic hit in addition to degrading the health of the Bay and communities around it. Failing to regulate the tenants is NOT good for the Bay, the city, or the economy. Commissioners must be clear on this important role.

3. Consider Appointments within Core Experience Areas:

In terms of selection, since the charter responsibilities are largely around commerce, recreation, and environmental protection, we would recommend that the city seek one Commissioner with skills in each of these focus areas. We agree with the Mayor's vision that Commissioners should be chosen to reflect some core experience areas.

At the end of the day, these adjustments to the process would ensure that the requisite skills and experience needed would be reflected on the Port Commission, in addition to the diversity of the community. Thank you Mayor Filner for your leadership in changing the appointment process to better serve all residents of San Diego. Thank you to the City Council Rules Committee under the leadership of Chair Sherri Lightner for spending the time to develop a clear vision and process for the Port Commissioner selection. We look forward to continued participation with the Mayor and City Council to ensure that our Port is one that reflects and represents our community.

whack a mole energy strategyOriginally published in the UT San Diego, February 8, 2013.

In early February, we watched the implosion of the South Bay Power Plant— just one day after the California Public Utilities Commission heard public comments on two new SDG&E-proposed fossil fuel power plants in San Diego.

We're playing a game of Whack-a-Mole with our regional energy policy at ratepayers' expense. Though the demolition of the South Bay Power Plant is striking, we can't let SDG&E continue to turn a blind eye to the reasons why we don't need that plant anymore.

Reliance on fossil fuels has led to an Orwellian-esque era where each year is becoming the hottest on record and we are suffering through a series of costly and deadly weather events. In San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography warns us to expect hotter and more humid mid-summer heat waves that are worse than many inland areas while freshwater in the Southwest is becoming scarcer and our oceans are rising faster than expected.

So why is SDG&E proposing to build unneeded fossil-fuel power plants using the expensive, dirty and outdated centralized power plant model when we're barely scratching the surface of our clean energy and smart grid potential?

San Diego deserves better than this.

On top of the harmful impacts to public health and our climate from the greenhouse gases, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide that would be emitted by these two power plants, the nearly $1.6 billion dollar price tag of the power plants would be passed on to ratepayers over the next 20 years, according to the California Energy Commission.

Perhaps what's most perplexing about SDG&E's proposal, though, is that the energy from these plants is not even needed, according to both the Administrative Law Judge and the lead California Public Utilities Commissioner for the proceeding. Both have issued proposed decisions denying the plants due to a lack of need.

Even without San Onofre coming back online, SDG&E has ample power reserves to "keep the lights on." On the hottest day of the year last September, SDG&E had approximately 24 percent more energy than was needed. Further, the state agency that manages our energy grid, the California Independent Systems Operator, said the way to address the San Onofre shut down was through fixes to our transmission lines, not construction of new power plants.

Our regional leadership must embrace a strategy that prioritizes building a better future for our children by integrating demand management strategies, conservation, local clean energy generation, and energy storage into a smart modern grid that benefits all communities in San Diego.

In fact, San Diego is on the cutting-edge in this arena already. SDG&E proudly announced smart grid breakthroughs just last week that will allow them to prevent blackouts and integrate renewable resources seamlessly. UCSD has its own nationally recognized microgrid -- an on-site energy generation, distribution, and management network that balances renewable energy, electric vehicles, storage, and demand management. The microgrid is connected to SDG&E's grid but can disconnect and operate independently in "islanded mode" as needed, such as during the SDG&E blackout of September 2011, giving UCSD energy independence and security. Our local military bases are also investing in this new smart grid/microgrid approach to maximize the security and reliability of their energy needs. Naval Base Coronado and the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar are both pursuing these new solutions/grid-independence.

Environmental Health Coalition knows from our recent educational efforts within the local communities that small changes to our daily habits can result in drastic reduction in energy use.

With a newly elected Mayor Bob Filner in the City of San Diego and other progressive elected officials who have pledged to pave a new pathway for our energy future, we are excited to build a new energy paradigm as part of San Diego's innovation economy. We look forward to working with our partners in local government, labor, the business community, the military and our educational institutions to create local, family-wage, career-track jobs while reducing our carbon footprint and protecting the health of every San Diego family.

It's time we put a stop to the Whack-A-Mole approach to energy. We must demand more from our energy utility so that it produces big new solutions to the big challenges we face.

Nicole Capretz
Green Energy / Green Jobs Campaign Director for Environmental Health Coalition
City Heights Resident

blood lead testing king chavez 2013 2On February 26, 2013, EHC, the San Diego Housing Commission and La Maestra Health Center hosted a blood lead testing event for kids at King Chavez Primary Academy. This was our seventh blood lead testing event, testing 79 kids and bringing the total up to 542 for the program since October 2010. The testing events help families know if their children have any levels of lead in their blood and provide education on eliminating lead from their homes.

Blood-lead level testing is important because lead poisoning does not produce physical symptoms. Childhood lead poisoning is a silent disease. We don't see it. We don't smell it. Yet it is hidden in the paint of many of our older homes. There is no safe level of lead exposure.

Blood-lead levels can be detected easily with noninvasive portable blood analyzers. The blood analyzers require only a small pinprick to a child's finger and provide results within three minutes. Families with children who test positive are referred for further medical evaluation.

The blood lead testing events are a part of the "Home Safe Home" program. Visit the San Diego Housing Commission's YouTube channel for a video about the event.  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. at EHC for more information on future events.

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February's implosion of the South Bay Power Plant was a cause for great celebration. South Bay became a different place when the Power plant was built and will be a different and better place, when it is removed. Its removal is a victory for community health, the environment, and for quality economic development.

For the first of a three part series written by Laura Hunter, who led a 20 year effort to stop the South Bay Power Plant from operating, she'll explain why the end of this dirty power plant means the end to decades of damage to downwind environmental justice communities of Chula Vista and San Diego.

Top 10 Ways to Poison-Proof your Home

  1. Keep the 24/7, free poison center helpline on you at all times (such as in your cell phone). 1-800-222-1222
  2. Be sure that cosmetics, personal care products, prescription and OTC medications, cleaning products, dietary supplements and vitamins, pesticides and lighter fluid, and household plants locked away or out of reach of children.
  3. Always keep cleaning products, gasoline, lighter fluid, antifreeze, pain and paint thinners in the containers that they came in.
  4. Never put something that it not food in a food or beverage container.
  5. Do not store food and household cleaners in the same cabinet.
  6. If you are caring for a little one, put purses or bags that may contain above mentioned products where a child cannot reach.
  7. Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in the home. Make sure they work and change the battery every 6 months.
  8. Never call medicine candy.
  9. Do not take medicine in front of children; they love to do what adults do.
  10. Objects that use small batteries, like toys or remotes, should be kept out of reach of small children. Disc batteries are both poisonous and a choking hazard.

4 million poisonings occur each year – over half to children. Please take these simple precautions to protect your family.