Monday, March 29, 2010

Grist: Silicon Valley investors place bets on sustainable ag

There's an interesting article in the Grist environmental website about Silicon Valley investors looking at ways to invest in sustainable agriculture, during a big event that happened this weekend in Palo Alto:

I attended an agriculture conference this week at the Four Seasons in Palo Alto.

There were no pickup trucks in the BMW-packed parking lot, and few farmers with dirt under their fingernails could be found milling about the sleek hotel lobby. But the place was swarming with venture capitalists from some of Silicon Valley's marquee firms looking to grow profits with investments in sustainable agriculture.
Welcome to Agriculture 2.0.
That was the name of the conference and represents a growing effort to scale up sustainable agriculture from a hodge-podge of hippies and back-to-the-land types into a viable big business by bringing together venture capitalists and startups doing everything from rooftop farming to high-tech soil mapping to identifying the best areas for growing crops.
The big idea is that venture capitalists can help disrupt industrial agriculture much as they have the computer, entertainment and energy industries by investing in sustainable ag and using information technology to connect producers and consumers.
Let's hope that some of that effort at investment is done locally, in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties!


Friday, March 26, 2010

Lehigh Hanson Quarry/Cement Plant violation

(This doesn't look good, and we'll be following the issue. It's the text of a letter from the Regional Water Board to Lehigh Hanson quarry/cement plant operators.  -Brian)

Sent via certified Mail - Return Receipt Requested
March 26, 2010
Lehigh Southwest Cement Co.
c/o Scott Renfew, Environmental Manager
24001 Stevens Creek Boulevard
Cupertino , CA 95014

Subject: NOTICE OF VIOLATION and required corrective actions for failure to protect stormwater at industrial facility

Facility: Lehigh Southwest Cement Co. (formally Hanson Permanente Cement) Industrial facility, located at 24001 Stevens Creek Boulevard,
Cupertino, Santa Clara County
WDID No. 2 43I006267

Dear Mr. Renfew:

You are hereby given notice that the industrial facility indicated above (Facility) is in violation of stormwater protection requirements. On behalf of Water Board staff, a PG Environmental, LLC, inspector recently inspected the Facility, and noted numerous water quality violations. You are required to correct the problems noted in the attached Inspection Findings, Violations, and Corrective Actions Report and send us documentation of your corrective actions by the dates indicated in this Report.

The Facility is in violation of the NPDES General Permit for Discharges of Storm Water associated with Industrial Activities Excluding Construction Activities, Order No. 97-03-DWQ (Permit1) and the San Francisco Bay Water Quality Control Plan (Basin Plan2).

Permit violations

The Permit requires industrial facility owners to implement controls that reduce pollutants in stormwater discharges to the Best Available Technology Economically Achievable/Best Conventional Pollutant Control Technology (BAT/BCT) performance standard. Development and implementation of a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan that complies with the requirements in Section A of the Permit and that includes Best Management Practices (BMPs)
that achieve BAT/BCT constitutes compliance with this requirement. Our inspector observed that the Facility does not meet this standard, and therefore, the Facility is in violation of the Permit.

Basin Plan Prohibition violations

Additionally, the Facility is in violation of the Basin Plan, which is the Regional Water Board’s master water quality control document. The Basin Plan applies to all discharges within the Regional Water Board’s jurisdiction, including discharges from this Facility. We observed during the February 10, 2010, inspection evidence of discharges that are in violation of, at a minimum, Basin Plan Prohibition 7:

Prohibition 7 prohibits rubbish, refuse, bark, sawdust, or other solid wastes into surface waters or at any place where they would contact or where they would be eventually transported to surface waters, including flood plain areas.

Please refer to the attached inspection report for the details of the violations and required corrective actions.

Consequences for not coming into compliance

Failure to return to compliance with the Permit and failure to comply with the Basin Plan prohibitions are violations of CWC Section 13385(a)(2) and (a)(4), respectively, for which the Water Board may impose civil liability in the amount not to exceed $10,000 per day of each violation, plus $10 per gallon in excess of 1,000 gallons per discharge.

Additional notes

If you need guidance, the California Stormwater Quality Association (CASQA) publishes a handbook for Industrial Stormwater Best Management Practices3. The CASQA handbook is one of many online resources that describe industry standard BMPs. Please note that Water Board can not specify means of compliance. It is your responsibility to select and correctly implement an appropriate suite of BMPs. Use of the CASQA handbook or other similar guidance documents may help you achieve compliance, but it does not guarantee compliance.

If you have any questions regarding this letter, please contact Christine Boschen at (510) 622-2346 or by email at


Dyan C. Whyte
Assistant Executive Officer
Encl.: February 10, 2010, Inspection Findings, Violations, and Corrective Actions

San Jose Business Journal might want to work on its reporting

Unfortunately, and in our opinion a case of poor journalism, the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal took Stanford's press release on our lawsuit with Stanford and ran it nearly verbatim, with cursory changes and no attempt to contact us for our side of the story.

Below is something we sent to the Business Journal with the documentation about their lax reporting, but we've not heard back from them:

Your article on our organization's litigation against Stanford appears to be a barely-retouched version of Stanford's press release.  One can easily compare here:
and here:
I will note that we were never contacted by your newspaper for a contrasting position.  If, however, you have no problems running press releases as articles, ours is here:
Please contact me with any questions, comments, or new or altered articles on this issue, preferably sooner rather than later.
Brian Schmidt
Committee for Green Foothills 

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Accomplishments of the Environmental Advisory Committee for the Water District

On Tuesday, I presented an accomplishment report for the Santa Clara Valley Water District's Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC), where I've been the chair for the last two years.  You can hear (and possibly see) the proceedings here at their webcast archive.  My portion starts at 1:17:30, which you can find by scrolling down to Item 3 directly below the video and clicking, which occurred on the agenda out of order, after Item 13.  I didn't discuss much of the accomplishment report, but you can read it by clicking the different Item 3, just to the left of the video (hope that's not too confusing!).

Anyway, the Board of Directors had very nice things to say about our work.  Director Kamei and Director Mann said that we got a lot accomplished, and Director Santos complimented me for my work on behalf of CGF, "taking a stand" that has a significant influence in the County.

Director Wilson had a compliment for the entire EAC that I transcribed below:
This Commitee is one that has really learned how to bring about real change through its efforts and to understand the policy process that we have to go through and we've made real changes that I think you're going to see more, based on input from the Environmental Advisory Committee.  I don't know of any committee that's had a greater impact in the last three or four years.  Thank you very much.
The whole thing's about six minutes.


Monday, March 1, 2010

Housekeeping - reduced blog posting

Just a note that I'll be on vacation until March 22, so there won't be much blogging until then.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!