Ag Today November 12, 2019

NASA identified California’s ‘super-emitters’ of greenhouse gases. Here’s where they’re coming from. [San Francisco Chronicle]

When it comes to pollution, not all greenhouse gases are created — or emitted — equally. Methane is 25 times as efficient at trapping radiation in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, making it an especially potent greenhouse gas. During five campaigns between 2016 and 2018, NASA flew a specially-equipped plane equipped over 272,000 “infrastructure elements” to identify where the state’s methane emissions were coming from. They found 564 sources — or just 0.2% of all sources surveyed — were responsible for 60% of all methane emissions. These sources were dubbed “super-emitters” in the study published last week. While the scientists didn’t publish the precise locations of these “super-emitters,” nor the individuals or corporations responsible, they did give a breakdown of which industries are the worst offenders. Landfills emit 41% of the state’s methane, followed by dairies and the oil and gas sector (both tied at 26%). The NASA study identified a “subset of landfills” that reportedly showed “persistent anomalous activity” — or especially high methane emissions. Fifty to 65 percent of methane emissions result from human activity, according to the EPA. The largest natural source of methane emissions come from organic materials decomposing in wetlands.


California has six of the nation’s 1,680 high-hazard dams deemed in risky condition [Los Angeles Times]

On a cold morning last March, Kenny Angel got a frantic knock on his door. Two workers from a utility company in northern Nebraska had come with a stark warning: Get out of your house. Just a little over a quarter-mile upstream, the 92-year-old Spencer Dam was straining to contain the swollen, ice-covered Niobrara River after an unusually intense snow and rainstorm. The workers had tried but failed to force open the dam’s frozen wooden spillway gates. So, fearing the worst, they fled in their truck, stopping to warn Angel before driving away without him. Minutes later, the dam came crashing down, unleashing a wave of water carrying ice chunks the size of cars. Angel’s home was wiped away; his body was never found. “He had about a five-minute notice, with no prior warning the day before,” said Scott Angel, one of Kenny’s brothers. State inspectors had given the dam a “fair” rating less than a year earlier. Until it failed, it looked little different from thousands of others across the U.S. — and that could portend a problem.


‘Scariest tree pathogen in the world’ spreading rapidly in California [San Francisco Chronicle]

Sudden Oak Death (SOD), a deadly disease for oak trees, is on the rise in California. According to a survey conducted by UC Berkeley scientists, the number of infected trees has almost doubled since 2018. Matteo Garbelotto, the director of the UC Berkeley Forest Pathology and Mycology Laboratory, has been involved in conducting the survey of 14 California counties (stretching from Humboldt to Monterey) for the past 12 years. This year, two aspects of the results stood out to him. “We found this year the most sharp increase ever in the number of trees affected,” said Garbelotto. However, this was expected due to the wet winters we’ve had in California for the past two years — the spores spread faster with significant rainfall….”I saw a lot of outbreaks that we had seen before in the 12 years of our program, but I saw all the outbreaks being expressed at once this year,” he said. In previous years, some outbreaks would decrease while others would flare up — this year, every outbreak flared up. “This patterns shows me that the organism has really spread into the ecosystem of Coastal California. Now it’s already established everywhere, and it flares up when the weather is favorable. ”


No. 1 milk company declares bankruptcy amid drop in demand [Associated Press]

Dean Foods, America’s biggest milk processor, filed for bankruptcy Tuesday amid a decades-long drop-off in U.S. milk consumption blamed on changing trends and a growing variety of alternatives. The Dallas company said it may sell itself to the Dairy Farmers of America, a marketing cooperative owned by thousands of farmers. “Despite our best efforts to make our business more agile and cost-efficient, we continue to be impacted by a challenging operating environment marked by continuing declines in consumer milk consumption,” CEO Eric Berigause said in a statement. Since 1975, the amount of milk consumed per capita in the U.S. has tumbled more than 40%. Americans consumed around 24 gallons per year in 1996, according to government data. That dropped to 17 gallons in 2018.


Opinion: New questions in judge’s ruling on water rights [Imperial Valley Press]

Back in August of 2017, Judge L. Brooks Anderholt ruled that farmers, and not the IID, held rights to Colorado River water. The IID appealed his ruling. In April of this year, other interested parties submitted four amici or “friend-of-the-court” briefs to aid the judges. Since then, the court has been silent, as if those hundreds of pages of documents were in hibernation. On Oct. 28, the case came back to life when the appeals court ruled to accept all the briefs, one of which was filed on behalf of the I.V. Coalition for Fair Sharing of Water on the side of the IID, an organization I belong to. This set the process in motion once again. With exquisite timing, a test case of Judge Anderholt’s ruling was on the IID agenda for their Nov. 5 meeting. IID directors were to vote on an amendment to a water supply contract with Heber Geothermal Co. Since 1994 Heber Geothermal has had an agreement with the IID to purchase up to 1,800 acre-feet of water for its cooling system. With a change in its technology, Heber Geothermal was asking to purchase 500 more acre-feet per year.


Editorial: Dead dogs and toxic fish: Welcome to Stockton, a city choking on California water policy [Los Angeles Times]

Stockton is a city simultaneously in recovery and under stress. The municipality of about 300,000, some 50 miles south of Sacramento and 80 miles east of San Francisco on California’s extraordinary inland delta, became the largest U.S. city to file for bankruptcy in 2012 (Detroit followed in 2013). It was then, and remains today, one of the nation’s most violent cities, and it still struggles with deep poverty, even as its emergence from insolvency sparks civic renewal and innovation. The city’s fate is linked inextricably with the San Joaquin River, which runs through town after its long trip down the western slope of the Sierra and a sharp turn north through the San Joaquin Valley. Much of the water upstream is diverted for agriculture, although a legal settlement ensures that the river no longer runs dry. Additional diversions at the downriver end — this time for urban as well as agricultural use — greatly reduce the amount of water that actually makes it through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the San Francisco Bay and then the Pacific. It is as if one of the state’s two great arteries (the other being the Sacramento River) is detached from its heart.