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David Bernhardt Confirmed As Interior Secretary Despite Ethics Concerns

David Bernhardt, President Trump’s pick to the lead the Interior Department, was confirmed by the Senate on Thursday amid persistent ethical concerns and doubts about his independence from the energy and water industry groups he long represented as a lobbyist. Senators voted 56-41 in favor of Bernhardt’s confirmation. Several Democrats crossed party lines to support the nominee, including Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico. Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, also voted for confirmation.

$250 PG&E Bill: Utility’s Customers Will Pay 50 Percent More If Wildfires Erupt Again, Report Warns

PG&E bills would rocket 50 percent higher if wildfire disasters caused by the embattled utility descend on northern or central California again, according to a report that’s being circulated in Sacramento ahead of a crucial announcement Friday by Gov. Gavin Newsom. An array of catastrophes loom if state officials fail to find a fix for California’s utility-caused wildfire woes, according to the report from Steven Weissman, a lecturer with UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy. “Rates would skyrocket, on average by 50 percent in the first year, to keep up with new fires,” Weissman wrote in his report to the governor’s office. “It’s simple math.”

Faulconer Budget Drawing Praise, But Council Democrats Want Closer Look

The proposed budget that Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer unveiled Thursday is getting praise for avoiding major cuts to key programs, but City Council Democrats say they are eager to analyze the spending plan more closely. Faulconer is touting his $1.57 billion budget, which would cover the fiscal year that starts July 1, as a proposal that reflects priorities shared by residents across San Diego.

Drought Is Not Just About Water. It Affects Air Pollution, Too

The severe drought that struck California from 2011 to 2015 had an obvious impact on rivers, forests, and wildlife. Now, a new study shows it also had some surprising effects on the state’s notorious air pollution, adding new wrinkles to the state’s efforts to clear the skies. Researchers have long known that plants can both help create and cleanse one dangerous air pollutant: ground-level ozone, which causes breathing problems and exacerbates lung damage. Plants can scrub ozone from the air by absorbing the pollutant through their stomata, or pores. But certain plants also emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that react with other atmospheric chemicals to create ozone.

‘Pure Water’ Dominates Infrastructure Spending In Faulconer’s 2020 Budget

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer unveiled his proposed budget for fiscal year 2020 on Thursday, saying it includes the highest infrastructure investment in the city’s history. The proposed $4.15 billion budget is a 19.5% increase over the city’s fiscal year 2019 budget. Despite the spending hike of nearly $700 million, Faulconer was still forced to make an estimated $15.3 million in cuts to various line items such as civilian staff in the police department and tree trimming services.

Balancing Native Plants With A Fire-Resistant Garden

During long years of drought, homeowners were urged to replace thirsty lawns with drought-tolerant plants native to California, and plants from similar Mediterranean climate zones. Now the drought is officially over, but we have another worry: wildfires. Do drought-resistant plants burn more easily? Are we left with the wrong kind of gardens? The answer is: not really. Hydration makes plants are more fire-resistant, and drought tolerant plants, especially California natives, stay hydrated with less water and hold onto it longer than plants that originate in moister places. Plants to remove or avoid are those that shed bark or are fast growing. Also, plants that have a lot of wax, resin, oils, terpenes, or fats, such as chamise, rosemary, and sagebrush.

With An Impending Deadline, Cal Am Pushes For Desal Plant Permits Amid Changing Waterscape.

When you turn on a faucet on the Monterey Peninsula, you’re consuming water that’s been illegally pumped from Carmel River. Now, after more than two decades of this, scores of public officials, utility executives and citizen advocates are working – and sometimes fighting – to replace the region’s water supply before state-mandated sanctions kick in. California American Water is forging ahead with its plan: a desalination plant near Marina. But operating a desal plant is energy intensive and the construction itself will cost about $329 million. Spread across Cal Am’s local customer base of 40,000, that sum averages $8,225 per ratepayer, an expense that would be collected over the course of a few years.