20 Years Camping on the Parkway with County Approval

So reports the Sacramento Bee, paragraph in bold.

An excerpt.

“Sacramento County officials plan to clear a longstanding encampment of homeless seniors Thursday — this time for good.

“The secluded riverfront camp near Discovery Park, known as Bannon Island, is home to roughly 30 seniors. Some of them have been living there for more than 20 years.

“County officials have largely allowed the camp to stay put, even providing water drop-offs at one point. But last month’s major rain and windstorm caused severe flooding there, county spokeswoman Janna Haynes said. The park rangers posted notices to the camp Tuesday ordering them to leave by Thursday afternoon.

“Sacramento is expected to experience rain and a windstorm Thursday and Friday, but even after the storm passes, people will not be able to return to the island, Haynes said. That’s a change from the county’s handling of the January storm.

“Bannon Island has been closed to all (Discovery) Park users since January, not just campers,” Haynes said in an email. “It is currently far too dangerous to have people there. We currently have temporary signs posted stating that the area is closed to the public and more permanent signs will be put in place soon. This will be a long-term closure.”

“Crews are still clearing debris, trash and downed trees from the January storm, which block access for first responders, making it unsafe to live there, Haynes said.

“Twana James, the island’s unofficial mayor, said she is suffering from pneumonia and does not know where she will go.

“I hate it,” James, 54, said Wednesday. “I can’t move. I don’t know what to do. I’m real sick. I can’t breathe, can’t do anything.”

“The camp is mostly secluded from the public, but clearing it will be physically taxing. In the summer of 2021, The Sacramento Bee journalists were the first members of the media to visit the site and report on the residents. Journalists observed about 60 tents, some of which had multiple rooms with furniture and carpeting. Cables were draped between the surrounding trees, holding dog leashes and colorful beach towels.

“Following the planned clearing, county staff will store all personal property that is not perishable and/or unsanitary for 90 days, said Ken Casparis, a county spokesman, in an email.

“Park rangers have offered shelter to the people living on the island in the past, Haynes said. It’s unclear if county officials will offer to transport anyone to a shelter or motel Thursday.

“As many shelters are temporary with limits on number of pets and amount of possessions. What the residents really want is permanent housing, several have told The Bee.”

Sacramento County, CA, to clear Bannon Island homeless camp | The Sacramento Bee (sacbee.com)

And this article from KCRA 3 validates the point, Bannon Island homeless encampment asked to clear out (kcra.com)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Downtown Sacramento

Currently, great article from California Globe.

An excerpt.

“The Sacramento State of Downtown and the city was held Tuesday morning at the Sacramento Convention Center. With Sacramento’s downtown still hurting from Covid business lockdowns, as well as the riots of Summer 2020, city leaders are rightfully concerned with how to rejuvenate the Capitol City of California.

“Traditionally, Sacramento’s downtown was where residents commuted in to the city for work, and went home at 5:00pm. Over the years, business owners in downtown Sacramento build a bustling restaurant and bar scene. Entertainment venues were refurbished and renovated, and new ones were established, balancing out Sacramento’s downtown night life.

“But when Gov. Gavin Newsom locked down the entire state on March 4, 2020 over the Covid virus, followed by the 2020 riots, the grinding halt of business deeply hurt the city. Many businesses were unable to recover.

“A local radio show broadcast Tuesday morning from the Convention Center and spoke with the Downtown Partnership, Convention Center management, and Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg.

“The Downtown Partnership and Convention Center have had a challenging time attracting events and conventions to the city, largely because the city does not have the hotel rooms to accommodate really large events and conventions. There was good news too, but only because of the Herculean efforts by these organizations.

“But another issue has caused concern and isn’t going away –  the large homeless population and increasing crime.

“Several downtown streets look like no-go zones with abandoned buildings and storefronts, no-tell motels, open drug and sex trade, and shady characters up to no good.

“The Mayor’s interview however, was disconcerting in that rather than accepting responsibility for the state of the city, Democrat Mayor Steinberg pivoted from the huge drug-addicted homeless population and crime, to shaming business owners for not doing their part.

“He said business owners really needed to step up their help to the city, and told them they need to stop focusing on “me” and focus on “we.”

“Actually Mr. Mayor, no. Business owners are in the business of running a business and are not responsible for helping you clear the city of the homeless drug addicts and criminals. I recognize that your job hasn’t been particularly rewarding since you were elected, but you are the Mayor.

“Sacramento business owners are suffering, as business owners in nearly every Democrat run city are, across the county: They are fighting off crime, which goes unpunished; homeless addicts stealing from them, blocking their doorways, defecating and urinating on sidewalks in front of businesses, and harassing customers and employees.

“Business owners still operating have lost business because of the deplorable conditions in cities. Many are fighting to stay afloat. Many more have closed their doors.

“The problem with cities is not that business owners won’t help – plenty do. The problem with cities is the Democrats who run them. Most elected officials have no empathy with business owners because they’ve never run a business or signed the front of a paycheck. It’s easy to pick on a business owner who drives a nice German car when politicians don’t know he works 7 days a week, and has as many sleepless nights. It’s easy to call business owners selfish when elected officials don’t know how many homeless people the owner tried to help, but got fed up when the last one shattered his store window or ripped him off.

“The Sacramento Mayor is talking about how Sacramento will need to change, but recognized that many offices full of workers will not be returning to downtown. He acknowledged that housing is an issue in Sacramento, and that it is too expensive.

“The other huge issue killing Sacramento is crime which goes unpunished, thanks to Proposition 47 passed in 2014 – which then-Senator Steinberg supported. Proposition 47, passed by misinformed voters and flagrantly titled “The Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act,” reduced a host of felonies to misdemeanors, including drug crimes, date rape, and all thefts under $950, even for repeat offenders who steal every day – which many do.

Prop. 47 decriminalized drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor, and also removed law enforcement’s ability to make an arrest in most circumstances, as well as removing judges’ ability to order drug rehabilitation programs rather than incarceration.”

OPINION: The State Of Downtown Sacramento | California Globe

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Water Policy Change

From Cal Matters.

An excerpt.

“IN SUMMARY Angering environmentalists, the water board decided that cities and farmers would get more Delta water while restricting flows for endangered salmon and other fish. The move came after Gov. Gavin Newsom suspended key environmental laws.

“California’s water board decided Tuesday to temporarily allow more storage in Central Valley reservoirs, waiving state rules that require water to be released to protect salmon and other endangered fish.

“The waiver means more water can be sent to the cities and growers that receive supplies from the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta through the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. The state aqueduct delivers water to 27 million people, mostly in Southern California, and 750,000 acres of farmland, while the Central Valley Project mostly serves farms.

“The flow rules will remain suspended until March 31.

“Environmentalists reacted today with frustration and concern that the move will jeopardize chinook salmon and other native fish in the Delta that are already struggling to survive. 

“The flow standard they relaxed is probably the most important regulation we have,” said Gary Bobker, program director at The Bay Institute. He said the rule is aimed at simulating natural runoff in rivers, which is critical for native fish to reproduce and thrive.

“The order from the State Water Resources Control Board, signed by Executive Director Eilleen Sobeck, comes eight days after Gov. Gavin Newsom suspended two state environmental laws and urged the board to act. Water suppliers and growers had criticized the state for “wasting” water during the January storms by letting it flow through rivers out to sea instead of capturing it in reservoirs.”

Water board waives Delta rules that protect salmon – CalMatters

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

City County Homelessness Coordination

Almost funny, if not so sad.

Article from KCRA 3 At MSN.

An excerpt.

“It has been more than two months since the city and county of Sacramento reached an agreement to coordinate efforts to address the homelessness crisis.

“KCRA 3 News checked in to see what has happened since the new partnership agreement was adopted in early December.

“Lots of work being done,” said Assistant City Manager Mario Lara.

“He explained that the city and the county have been meeting weekly, working out the details on how they will share data and what metrics they will use to measure progress or refining protocols for a shared training program to standardize how they are conducting outreach and assessments.

“I think the relationship and the communication has improved significantly, especially as a result of the partnership agreement because now it focuses us and we’re clear as to what exactly we’re working towards,” Lara said.

“The city and county have been combining resources for outreach teams, which include mental health workers that go out to encampments.

“Three days a week, we are out there, feet on the ground, working side-by-side county and city,” said Cait Fournier, mental health program coordinator with Sacramento County Behavioral Health Services.

“There are currently three outreach teams, but the goal is to increase that to 10 within six months.

“In the last couple months, we have added on; we are onboarding, interviewing and onboarding new staff as well to expand,” Fournier said.

“Another important piece of the puzzle is making sure there are enough beds to get people off the streets.

“The city announced it will reopen the Miller Park Safe Ground site by the end of the month after it closed during severe storms last month. However, instead of tents, it will offer travel trailers this time, accommodating up to 45 people.

“It is only a temporary option, Lara said.

“Clearly, Miller Park was never intended to be a long-term solution. It’s not an ideal site, and it is very costly to operate the way that we were operating it,” he said.

“Lara said the focus over the last few weeks has been on finding a more ideal location.”

What has happened since Sacramento city, county partnership to reduce homelessness? (msn.com)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Salmon & Water Policy

Excellent article from California Globe.

An excerpt.

“As Californians dig out from several major storms just since December, major reservoirs in the state are already filled to within 86 and 104 percent of their historical average for this date, and the Sierra snowpack sits at 205 percent of normal. With additional precipitation likely before the end of California’s attenuated rainy season, and massive projected snowmelt poised to cascade downstream later this spring, water managers are already deciding what to do with the all this water.

“To the uninitiated, such a policy decision might seem obvious: Once summer is imminent, and no more storms ought to threaten to overwhelm the spillways and cause flooding down in the valley, let the reservoirs fill to capacity. Save another five million acre feet behind the dams. But when it comes to water policy in California, complexities are layered atop complexities, and nothing is obvious.

“Water management in California revolves around several distinct priorities that are often in conflict. Reservoirs provide flood control and store water for delivery via aqueducts to farms and cities, but they also have disrupted the natural flow of the rivers they span. As a result of in-stream dams, the aquatic environment is irrevocably altered. California’s water managers now have to balance the water requirements for food and people against the need to preserve a viable habitat for aquatic species.

“For years, controversy has flared over just how much water should be released to preserve endangered species of fish, and how much should be reserved for farm irrigation and urban water agencies. One of the most critically endangered species of fish are the native salmon. This anadromous species of fish was once so abundant that hundreds of millions would hatch from eggs in the headwaters of California’s rivers and fight their way to the ocean, then after a few years return as adults by the millions to fight their way back to those spawning grounds.

“Today, many of those spawning beds in California’s upper watersheds are blocked by dams. While some streams remain unobstructed and fish hatcheries raise millions of fingerlings for release downstream each year, California’s salmon population is a fraction of what it was. There is concern the fish could disappear altogether from California’s rivers.

“Maintaining a hospitable environment for salmon doesn’t merely require adequate flow in the river during the spawning run upstream, or the subsequent migration of fingerlings downstream to the ocean. The temperature of the water in the river is also a factor. Salmon don’t tolerate water hotter than around 68 degrees, which in shallow waters during a hot summer can be easily exceeded. To cope with this, more water has to be released, preferably from deep reservoirs like the massive Lake Shasta, from which the water initially entering the river is much colder.

“If you care about salmon, these gyrations make sense, but during drought years they come at a cost that many of California’s farmers would consider existential. Over the past few decades, and especially over the past few years, as withdrawals from rivers for irrigation were increasingly limited for environmental reasons, farmers were forced to pump groundwater. The resultant overdraft was compounded by the fact that using river water for flood irrigation in many cases was used to replenish those same aquifers.

“What frustrates many of California’s farmers is the wisdom they have acquired over generations seems to be dismissed as folklore by the experts, hired by environmentalist activists, that inform legislators and regulators. But farmers in California never wasted water. They know when the ground is thirsty and able to percolate flood irrigation to recharge aquifers. Orchardists understand the water saving benefit of drip irrigation but also understand that each year, in most cases, there is a moment when a half-foot of flood irrigation will percolate to aquifers, flush away accumulated salts, eliminate gophers, and saturate the earth for a winter cover crop.

“California’s family farmers, who have watched the rivers naturally rise and fall for countless seasons, also know that in dry years the salmon don’t run. The salmon instinctively sense if the rivers and streams are running dry, they stay in the ocean, and they wait for a wet enough year to make the final journey back to their spawning headwaters.

“The Underreported Variable – Bass Eat Salmon

“An almond farmer in the San Joaquin Valley who once worked as a fisheries biologist is Christine Gemperle. She shared a revealing story about salmon in California’s rivers, and what may constitute a greater threat to their survival than reservoirs and warmer waters could ever be. Gemperle participated in radiotracking studies back in 2000, where they were tagging salmon smolts (youthful salmon that have migrated from their spawning grounds into estuarine waters en-route to the ocean). As they monitored the smolts, they noticed significant numbers of their trackers moving upstream. This would be completely contrary to the natural path of smolts, since their goal is to make it to the Pacific Ocean.

“As it turned out, the trackers, along with whatever remained of the smolts, were in the stomachs of striped bass.

“This evidence, that striped bass eat salmon, has probably been known by anglers ever since striped bass were introduced to California’s rivers over a century ago. But marine biologists have had evidence of this for over 20 years.

“A recent article written explicitly on this topic, from an expert source, provides an example of current thinking on the issue of striped bass and salmon in California’s rivers. Titled “The Delta Divide: Bass Trends In Salmon Migration Corridors,” the article opens by clearly stating the problem:

“Recent research has established that very few juvenile Chinook salmon survive the migration from their birthplace in California’s Central Valley tributaries, through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and out to the Pacific Ocean. Records from rotary screw traps on the Stanislaus and Tuolumne rivers show that most young salmon do not even make it as far as the San Joaquin River, still hundreds of miles away from the Golden Gate Bridge. Numerous elements contribute to the low survival of juvenile salmonids, including habitat alteration, pesticide pollution, and predation by non-native fish.”

“And predation by non-native fish. But how much of a contributing factor is this predation? How decisive is it in affecting salmon populations?

“That question is not answered. This article does not suggest that bass are the primary problem with salmon survival. Here’s as close as it gets: “Striped bass, on the other hand, were not frequently recaptured during this study. This lower rate of recapture is likely due to the highly mobile nature of striped bass, but future detection of tagged individuals at PIT tag antennas, in long-term surveys, or by other predator research projects, may help uncover their seasonal movement patterns. Genetic and visual analyses of the diet samples have not yet detected any Chinook salmon, but 43% of collected gut samples contained other fish, including both native and non-native species.”

“Another San Joaquin Valley farmer told me the consulting firms that conduct studies of aquatic species in California’s rivers cannot point the finger at striped bass because that would undermine the larger environmentalist agenda to continue to mandate higher river flow as well as anger the bass anglers. He claimed these experts cannot be forthright because it will offend their clients.

“Gemperle, in a follow up email, corroborated this farmer’s claims, writing, “It is no secret that non native bass species (large mouth, small mouth and especially striped bass) eat juvenile salmon. What most people don’t know is that it was originally documented in the year 2000 and it has taken 23 years for it to be acknowledged as a huge hurdle in the salmon population’s recovery if that is even possible.”

“In a November 2022 presentation by the state’s Delta Lead Scientist Laurel Larsen to the Delta Stewardship Council, titled “The Role of Water Quality in Salmon Predation,” there wasn’t a single mention of striped bass. Larsen explored competing hypotheses regarding what habitat variables render salmon most vulnerable to predation, with the common emphasis being that California’s rivers need more flow and cooler water temperatures.

“In general there seems to be consistent rejection of the theory – evident in plain sight – that salmon smolts are bait for bass. In a 2016 article published by the San Jose Mercury, UC Davis researchers are quoted as saying that even if bass populations are reduced, other predators will take their place. This seems fishy. Environmental remediation invariably prioritizes removing invasive species, often going to extreme lengths to do so. Why are striped bass exempt from the environmentalist penchant for eliminating invasive alien species?

“Water for Salmon, Salmon for Bass, Bass for Anglers, and Farmers Don’t Farm

“One might find a clue to this mystery in the 2012 recommendation from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to triple the catch limit and reduce the size limit for bass. Experts there had clearly determined this would help with salmon recovery. But the state Fish and Game Commission immediately rejected the plan. Why?

“We may begin by recognizing that every agency in California answers to special interests. When it comes to any state agency tasked with managing California’s rivers the most influential special interest is environmental activists. But there is considerable overlap between the agenda of, for example, environmentalist groups such as the Audubon Society, and groups advocating for the sport hunting and fishing industry such as Ducks Unlimited.

“One can only speculate as to the discussions that occur behind closed doors between these and many other advocacy organizations, their lobbyists, their litigators, and their campaign strategists. But this powerful alliance shares a common goal: Leave more water in the rivers. Anglers want the bass protected because fishing for trophy bass is an extremely popular sport in California. Environmentalists welcome the support from sportfishing groups because it adds political weight to their ongoing pressure on water managers to prioritize water to maximize river flow and minimize river temperature.

“And so this year, just as in every year, increasing percentages of available stored water will be sent down the river in hopes that will enable more salmon to survive the gauntlet of voracious bass. The cost of this choice is measured in the tens of billions of dollars. In dry years, which hundreds of years ago were just as common as they are today, the salmon simply stayed in the ocean. Now, instead of keeping millions of acres of farmland in production, in dry years California’s rivers still flow in defiance of historical precedent – in amounts inadequate to nurture healthy salmon but enough to confuse the salmon into migrating up the rivers anyway – while millions of acres of productive farmland are fallowed.”

The Biggest Untold Reason for the Decline of Salmon | California Globe

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Nuclear Energy, An Update

Good story about the greatest renewable energy source out there, from City Journal.

An excerpt.

“For almost a decade, supporters of nuclear power have been predicting a comeback for the beleaguered technology. “In recent years, some eco-pragmatists and climate scientists have begun touting the advantages of zero-carbon nuclear energy,” I wrote in City Journal in 2019. This movement of “pro-nuclear Greens,” as energy analyst Robert Bryce once dubbed them, has grown considerably since then. Many environmental groups have dropped their opposition to the technology. Nuclear power now commands bipartisan support in Congress, and the Trump and Biden administrations have both backed programs to develop and build next-generation reactors. Last fall, inveterate lefty Oliver Stone shocked audiences at the Venice Film Festival with a documentary, Nuclear, that makes a passionate case for the long-demonized power source.

“Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine gave nuclear power another boost. Deprived of Russian natural gas, Europe’s energy grid faced a crisis that has only partially abated, thanks in part to unseasonably warm weather. Most analysts pointed to Germany’s long-running campaign to retire its nuclear fleet while investing heavily in wind and solar power as especially reckless. When wind and solar proved unreliable, Germany desperately rushed to ramp up coal mining and natural-gas imports, emissions be damned. Spurred by Germany’s cautionary example—and by their own energy challenges—the U.K., France, South Korea, Japan, and other countries announced plans to increase their nuclear capabilities. “Nuclear power is making a comeback,” Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, announced last year.

“In the final days of 2022, a cold front across the central and eastern U.S. reminded many Americans of the need for reliable nuclear power. Two decades of subsidies for wind and solar power, combined with closures of coal and nuclear plants, have left the power grid vulnerable. Power companies in the Southeast couldn’t keep up with record demand and had to institute rolling blackouts. In the Northeast, the grid held—but just barely. In the Hudson Valley, where I live, Con Edison texted customers on Christmas Eve warning them to reduce their energy use or risk a blackout. Such warnings were almost unheard of prior to the 2021 shutdown of the Indian Point nuclear plant, which supplied about 25 percent of the New York City region’s electricity. Experts believe they could become commonplace as our power supply becomes less dependable.

“The Christmas cold snap was a wakeup call,” energy analyst Meredith Angwin told me in an email exchange. Angwin is the author of Shorting the Grid, which argues that growing reliance on intermittent wind and solar power, combined with misguided regulatory reforms, has undermined grid reliability. Climate activists have long advocated an “electrify everything” policy: consumers should buy electric cars and switch to heat pumps and electric stoves instead of natural gas. But those same activists also advocate switching the power grid mostly to wind and solar power, which have proved incapable of meeting growing demand except under optimal conditions. “The ‘electrify everything’ movement is having an effect,” Angwin says, “which means that more and more such cold snaps will lead to emergencies of high electricity use.”

“It’s enough to make policymakers and consumers, not to mention grid operators, yearn for a reliable, 24/7 power source that the weather doesn’t affect. In many cases, that yearning is tinged with regret. Over the past decade, nuclear plants have been allowed—or forced—to close in many regions that now struggle to supply enough power to consumers. In addition to New York’s Indian Point, nuclear plants have been prematurely shuttered in states including Vermont, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Iowa, and, most recently, Michigan.

“In the past, green activists and left-leaning politicians cheered such shutdowns. Both Vermont senator Bernie Sanders and former New York governor Andrew Cuomo claimed nuclear closures in their states were victories for “clean energy” (though nuclear retirements invariably lead to increased carbon dioxide emissions). Today, however, such default anti-nuclear sentiments are fading, even on the left. Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer fought to keep her state’s Palisades nuclear plant operating and, since it closed in May 2022, has supported efforts to reopen the facility (a challenging task no nuclear operator has previously attempted). California governor Gavin Newsom dropped his opposition to nuclear power last year and signed a bill to keep that state’s last nuclear facility operating. At the federal level, the Biden administration has offered surprisingly muscular support for nuclear energy, attaching to the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill a $6 billion Civilian Nuclear Credit fund to help bail out nuclear plants at risk of closure. In programs started during the Trump administration and expanded under Biden, the U.S. Department of Energy is helping to fund a wide array of nuclear development projects, including academic research, demonstration plants employing next-generation reactors, and efforts to revive the domestic nuclear-fuel supply chain.

“For years, analysts have assumed that the business of building traditional, full-size nuclear reactors is finished in the U.S. The only such project in the pipeline, two units at Georgia’s Plant Vogtle, has been hammered by delays and cost overruns. Nuclear backers argue that cumbersome regulations, rather than technical limitations, are the main hurdle to building full-size reactors in the U.S. If regulatory barriers could be lowered, building full-size plants could become feasible again, especially given today’s higher energy prices. After all, dozens of full-size plants are planned or under construction around the world, including in high-labor-cost countries such as the U.K. and France. At any rate, even the troubled Vogtle project is finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, with one unit expected to begin making power in April. It will be the first new nuclear reactor to come online in the U.S. in more than 30 years.

“With all this momentum, hopes for a revival of nuclear power would seem to be bright. But reversing the headwinds that have battered nuclear energy for nearly five decades will be a challenge. Until very recently, the nuclear industry faced a unique combination of cultural demonization, political opposition, regulatory obstructions, and economic underinvestment. Many of those obstacles are shrinking, but they haven’t disappeared. “So while the prospect of a nuclear comeback in the U.S. looks better than even supporters could have imagined five years ago, the outlook remains mixed.

“Most of the excitement in the U.S. nuclear industry today centers on the next generation of technology: compact designs, often called advanced Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). “These reactors are designed to be built assembly-line fashion in factories, and then delivered to power-plant locations as nearly complete modules. In theory, at least, that should mean lower prices and faster construction compared with reactors that are assembled on location. The first generation of SMRs are scaled-down versions of today’s conventional power reactors, using ordinary water (or “light water”) to cool the reactor and extract heat, which can be used to make electricity. Other advanced reactors use more exotic materials, such as molten sodium or high-temperature gas, to remove heat from the reactor. These also require less commonly used types of nuclear fuel.

“In a 2020 City Journal article, I profiled some of the leading players in the next-gen nuclear field. These included the SMR pioneer NuScale, along with several other startups, including the Bill Gates–backed TerraPower, the Maryland-based X-energy, and Oklo, a Silicon Valley startup designing an innovative micro-reactor. Two years later, those and many other startups have made progress—but not without hitting some speedbumps.

“Last month, after a long and arduous process, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission gave its final approval to NuScale’s SMR design. That allows the company to move ahead on its plan to build a cluster of six 77-megawatt light-water SMRs on the grounds of the DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory. (A conventional full-size nuclear reactor produces roughly 1,000 MW.) The installation will not only serve as a proof of concept but also produce power commercially for the Utah power grid.

“Meantime, the DOE’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) is pumping more than $2 billion in grant money into a range of startup projects. The agency is backing TerraPower’s plan to build its 345 MW “Natrium” reactor on the grounds of a retiring coal plant in southwest Wyoming. Retired coal or nuclear facilities make attractive sites for next-gen power plants: they already have grid connections, and local residents are more likely to welcome the jobs that a new plant will bring. The DOE is also helping fund X-energy’s plan to build a 320 MW power station in eastern Washington State. That plant will employ four small helium-cooled reactors that operate at extremely high temperatures.

“While X-energy’s first plant will be designed to produce electricity, the reactor’s ability to crank out large amounts of heat opens up other possibilities. Many industrial operations—including manufacturing cement, chemicals, and steel—demand very high temperatures. Today, that “process heat” is mostly produced by burning fossil fuels. But if small, advanced reactors—from X-energy or other companies—were located at industrial facilities, their ample, zero-carbon heat could eliminate those emissions. Industry accounts for a quarter of U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions today, about as much as electricity generation. Developing affordable, clean-heat sources for major industries could benefit the economy and the environment alike. Dow recently announced a plan to deploy an X-energy reactor to produce process heat at one of its Gulf Coast manufacturing sites by 2030.

“Even the most cutting-edge designs can’t run without fuel, of course—a looming problem. NuScale and some other SMR designs use the widely available uranium fuel pellets that power today’s full-size light-water plants. But many advanced reactors will require rarer forms of fuel. TerraPower’s Natrium reactor, for example, runs on HALEU (high-assay low-enriched uranium). More highly enriched than conventional reactor fuel, HALEU allows advanced reactors to operate longer before refueling. But today, Russia is the only commercial supplier of HALEU fuel. Its invasion of Ukraine, and the ensuing trade embargo, left many American nuclear startups stranded. Other advanced designs, including the X-energy reactor, require a type of fuel called TRISO, which usually comes encased in ceramic pebbles the size of billiard balls and is also in short supply.

“American startups building TRISO or HALEU reactors face a chicken-and-egg dilemma. Since no commercial U.S. reactors have employed those fuels before, no domestic manufacturers have had an incentive to start manufacturing them. TerraPower recently announced that it will have to delay its Wyoming plant for two years while it waits for a domestic HALEU supply chain to be established. The DOE is providing seed money to X-energy and other companies that are building TRISO and HALEU production facilities, but it won’t happen overnight. One promising avenue for producing HALEU fuel involves recycling and then enriching the spent nuclear fuel that is stored at dozens of U.S. nuclear power plants today. If successful, a fuel-recycling program would solve two problems at once: enhancing advanced-fuel supplies, while reducing the nation’s stockpile of nuclear waste.

“The biggest hurdle to a U.S. nuclear revival isn’t technical, however, but regulatory. Early last year, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission suddenly denied the California startup Oklo’s application to construct a demonstration version of its 1.5 MW reactor. The company’s leaders were stunned. Oklo has since moved forward with a new application, but the setback exposed an enormous challenge facing next-gen startups.

“The NRC’s massive regulatory apparatus was designed for conventional reactors: enormous machines with intricate plumbing and layers of redundancy. But new designs from Oklo, TerraPower, and other startups are an order of magnitude simpler than legacy designs. They don’t require elaborate cooling systems because, if anything goes wrong, they automatically shut off and cool down without the operators having to do a thing. Backers describe these designs as “walk-away safe.”

Can Nuclear Power Make a Comeback? | City Journal (city-journal.org)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Renewable Energy?

Story from the Heartland Institute.

An excerpt.

“California Governor Newsom is emphatically finger pointing, scapegoating, and complaining that oil companies are making outlandish profits, but he may be out of touch with the elephant in the room, the mirror on the wall.

“While the governor is doing everything he can to shut down oil production in one of America’s most oil-rich states,  the governor is blindly pushing California energy policies ahead of our basic energy realities – leaving the state at the mercy of an unstable world for the vast majority of its energy supplies.

“While the U.S. scrambles to protect its energy security, California oil production is down 25 percent under Newsom, costing the state and the country millions of barrels of badly needed supply that could help ease prices at the pump and protect against volatility.

“Under Newsom’s watch in the last few years, two of California’s refineries have virtually shut down and are no longer manufacturing gasoline, aviation fuels, or any oil derivatives for all the products in our society. Those two, Phillips66 at Rodeo that represented 7 percent of petroleum production capacity, and Marathon at Martinez that represented about 6 percent of in-state capacity, are now only focusing on renewable diesel. Shuttered petroleum refinery capacity is gone for good.

“More bad news on in-state refining capacity may occur under Newsom’s second term with the permanent closure of two more California refineries, the Chevron Refinery at Richmond and the PBF Refinery at Martinez. If the courts uphold the 2021 Bay Area Air Quality Management (BAAQMD) rule 6-5 for a further reduction in particulate emissions, both have stated that they will shut down before spending one billion dollars to retrofit their refineries to comply with further particulate emission reductions.

“With refinery closures, a short West Coast gasoline market is the new normal. California gasoline demand is made up on in-state refinery gasoline production, movements from the Pacific Northwest, and imports from abroad. When gasoline production falls short, additional supply comes by tanker from around the globe, but it takes 5 to 6 weeks to get cargo into California from abroad.

“Globally, excluding China, about 3 million barrels per day of refining capacity closed since January 2020. The future does not bode well as 20 percent of the 700 worldwide refineries are expected to close in the next 5 years. Further inflation and shortages in perpetuity are guaranteed, as refineries manufacture crude oil into the derivatives that account for more than 6,000 products for society, as well as manufacturing the fuels for 50,000 jets moving people and products, and more than 50,000 merchant ships for global trade flows, and the military and space program.”

Mirror Mirror on the Wall, Who’s at Fault for California’s High Energy Costs? – The Heartland Institute

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Affordable Housing

In some places it kills housing development, as this story from City Journal reports.

An excerpt.

“Manhattan’s Central Harlem and the South Street Seaport neighborhoods seem to have little in common. Studios in the former can be had for $300,000, while apartments in the latter go for more than $2 million. But the two neighborhoods share an unfortunate link: apartment complexes poised for construction in each are stuck in place and being used as parking lots instead.

“The projects demonstrate the problem with the city’s housing politics, especially its requirement that new projects contain enough affordable—meaning subsidized—units. This “mandatory inclusionary housing” policy, which began under Mayor Bill de Blasio, is a cornerstone of the city’s housing regime. But as Manhattan Institute senior fellow Eric Kober has noted, it poses a fundamental obstacle to the development necessary to reduce housing costs citywide.

“Affordable units were part of both proposed projects. The Seaport development, located at 250 Water Street, would have contained 270 rental units, with 70 set aside as affordable—defined as within the means of a family of four earning just $45,000 a year. Such units are the price that developers must pay to navigate the city’s planning politics, which, in this case, included review by Manhattan Community Board 1, the Manhattan borough president, the New York City Planning Commission, and the city council. They weren’t enough to help the Howard Hughes Corporation in court, however. A state judge halted the project, agreeing with community opponents that the tower would “overwhelm and dominate” the museum district and overruling the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s approval in the process. Though the developers met the affordability criteria, future developers, already facing reduced profits from the mandate, might reduce their ambitions. (One must wonder, though, whether a building that was significantly smaller, reduced by the absence of the affordable units, might have been more acceptable to the neighbors by being lower-rise. It’s entirely possible, as well, that neighbors were unhappy about the low-income units but judged it impolitic to say so.)

“Affordability demands paralyze construction in poorer neighborhoods, too. A parking lot on West 145th Street in Central Harlem was to be the site of a new, 915-unit apartment building. But neighborhood demands that it be “100 percent” affordable—and thus operate at a loss—ensured its status as a truck parking lot instead. The developer had agreed to set aside 40 percent of units as affordable, but that failed to satisfy activists. Indeed, once affordable demands become normalized, advocates admit no limiting principle. Not wanting to operate at a loss, the Harlem developer walked away and is renting the site out to 18-wheelers.

“By demanding affordable “set-asides,” the city forces market-rate units to subsidize low-rent ones. In an ideal zoning regime, the affordability mandate would be scrapped. New York already has more subsidized housing than any other city; let developers build whatever zoning allows and charge whatever rents or prices they think they can get. Some buildings will be fancier than others; others will be simpler and more affordable. This time-honored approach gave New York much of its existing housing stock, from Bay Ridge to Pelham Parkway to the Rockaways.

“Restoring a truly free housing market would be a stretch, given Gotham’s politics. But reinstating the 421(a) property tax breaks on which new residential development has relied, as seems necessary to spark development, could at least let developers satisfy affordability mandates while turning a profit. Before 2008, this tax incentive allowed developers of market-rate buildings to finance lower-income units in lower-cost neighborhoods, where land is less expensive. Requiring affordable units in neighborhoods with higher land costs will inevitably mean that those units will be costlier to build and that the tax subsidies will support fewer units.

“The utopian idea of a socioeconomic cross-section in every building and neighborhood may sound attractive, but it cuts against the grain of Americans’ housing preferences. Census data have long indicated that Americans tend to sort by income and educational status, preferring to live with people like them in those respects.”

Let Housing Markets Work | City Journal (city-journal.org)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Drug Abuse Deaths

Statistics are horrifying and the pictures are worse; Sacramento and San Francisco are highlighted in this story from Daily Mail.

An excerpt.

“The numbers are horrifying, but drug overdose death statistics can’t fully convey the crisis ravaging America, so DailyMail.com has documented the suffering in some of the worst-affected communities.  

“There were 107,622 deaths from drug overdoses in the US in 2021, an increase of nearly 15 percent from the year prior, and shocking national trends show few signs of the crisis abating. 

“Just two milligrams of fentanyl – the amount that fits on the top of a pencil tip – is deadly. Despite successful nationwide stings to bust dealers, authorities admit there’s no end in sight for the epidemic. 

“The animal sedative Xylazine – known as ‘tranq’ – is now exacerbating the crisis. It’s often combined with fentanyl and its horrific effects cause visceral ‘flesh-eating’ abscesses and addicts to zonk out as they lose feeling in their muscles. 

“These harrowing pictures lay bare the devastation across the country – as ‘zombied’ fentanyl and tranq users collapse on needle-littered streets stretching from Washington to Massachusetts, Louisiana to Philadelphia. …

“San Francisco and Sacramento, California 

“Fentanyl has killed thousands of Californians in recent years. According to official data, there were 5,622 fentanyl-related fatal overdoses in 2021 – with nearly 225 of those being teenagers as young as 15 years old. 

“In January, a senate bill was introduced, requiring all K-12 schools to carry a supply of naloxone on-site in the event of an fentanyl overdose at school. The shocking, but perhaps unsurprising change stems from the rampant counterfeit market in California.

“Placer County in Greater Sacramento saw fentanyl deaths increase by 450 percent between 2019 and 2021. 

“And in 2021, half of those fatalities were victims under the age of 25. Targeting schools with antidotes has therefore become a priority in California. 

“Announcing the move as part of a $97million spending budget to tackle the opioid and fentanyl crisis, California Governor Gavin Newsom said: ‘This is a top priority. There’s not a parent out there that doesn’t understand the significance of this fentanyl crisis.’ 

“In Sacramento, drug users continue to smoke fentanyl on the streets, in clear view of commuters, families, and children. DailyMail.com pictures show users, armed with pipes and tinfoil, smoking the deadly drugs before curling up on the concrete floor.”https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11701187/Zombie-Nation-Shocking-images-lay-bare-Americas-drug-crisis.html

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dangerous Out There

Story from MSN.

An excerpt.

“SACRAMENTO — A machete attack and a fire captain punched in the face — it’s what Sacramento Metro Fire is facing with a growing homeless crisis.

“They say their jobs are getting more and more dangerous.

“Squatters in vacant buildings are responsible for fires causing millions in damage.

“Metro Fire Capt. Parker Wilbourn said his agency responded to more than 2,500 fire incidents last year directly related to homeless encampments or people experiencing homelessness.

“Of those fires, 27 were at commercial structures or homes. Wilbourn said they have had an issue with the homeless tampering with fire suppression systems to wash clothes. This has caused false alarms or rendered those systems useless.

“And even if the homeless are keeping to themselves at campsites, what’s left behind is not only a danger to the public but the environment.

“You got bio waste, human fecal matter and urine and syringes in these areas,” Wilbourn said. “And those are actually being washed away into our rivers, streams and our storm drains.”

“He added, “the problem is getting worse and we need to work faster, work quicker to get solutions to prevent potentially more fatal incidents.”

“Sacramento County sent CBS Sacramento a statement, saying it’s working tirelessly to address the issue. The statement reads, in part:

“We have hundreds of shelter beds that are in the works through our new safe stay communities, multi-disciplinary encampment service teams that are made up of mental health, behavioral health and navigation specialists and weather respite shelters. We have sanitation stations and water delivery to support public health efforts and walk-in mental health clinics to welcome in those that need referrals and resources.”

Growing Sacramento homeless crisis producing bigger impact on local firefighters (msn.com)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment