With a final reading scheduled ahead of what appeared to be a quick adoption, Eureka councilmembers held off on making a final call on its proposed coal ordinance this week.
The ordinance regulating the transport by rail and storage of coal and related substances over city property was discussed initially at the council’s Nov. 16 regular meeting following the addition of a clause allowing a small allotted amount, defined at 25 pounds handled per 24-hour period for non-commercial uses.
Talk of an ordinance on the transport of coal comes after talk of potential interest looking to use Humboldt Bay as a port to ship coal to Asian markets. As part of these possible plans, rail lines could transport coal up the coast from the Bay Area.
Exemption clause B states any person who claims they are negatively impacted by the purpose of the ordinance can seek an exemption from the city manager, who has the final determination in a potential appeal case.
“So theoretically, and years from now, somebody could propose to ship coal (to Humboldt Bay) through Eureka and the city manager could grant that without coming to the city council?” Bauer asked.
City attorney Bob Black said that was the case, and that checks on that clause can be added.
“If you want it to come to the city council that’s certainly a possibility,” Black responded. “You could also include a right of appeal of any citizen from the city manager’s decision, and those would then probably end up in your lap which is fine if that’s the way you want to do it.”
“Because the threat, as nightmarish as it seems, is unfortunately real, I think you know the side effects of coal trains and coal exports would range from the health and safety impacts that are targeted by the ordinance,” said Colin Fiske, president of the Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities. “It’s imperative that we do everything possible to stop that from happening.”
Humboldt Baykeeper director Jennifer Kalt said she supports the ordinance but found the waiver clause odd.
“I’m not sure why that would be included. It seems pretty draconian to go around the city council and just have a manager be able to make such a huge decision,” she said.
After some discussion of how to approach the issue, with striking clauses and adding public notices for appeals among the ideas being discussed, Black suggested reintroducing a version of the ordinance that is less vulnerable to legal challenges at a future date.
The storage and handling of coal and petroleum coke on properties held by the city of Eureka will be prohibited, following a unanimous vote to introduce an ordinance barring these activities at its Tuesday night regular meeting.The vote comes after an earlier discussion at the Oct. 19 regular meeting in which city council members received input on a possible ordinance regulating storage, handling and movement of coal and coal-related substances on city-held properties.Because regulating the transport of coal involves the jurisdiction of several agencies at the federal level, and to avoid acting outside its jurisdiction, the city is focusing on regulating the act on property it can directly enforce on.Read More
Anyone who has ever driven south on U.S. Highway 101 between Arcata and Eureka during a storm at high tide can't help but notice how close the water comes to the highway. Sea level rise, which scientists assure us is now inevitable, will only make things worse. The only questions are how much worse and when. If and when the ocean covers the 101 corridor between Eureka and Arcata, nobody will be able to say the issue hadn't been on Caltrans' radar. Whether the agency will have actually done anything, however, remains to be seen.Aldaron Laird of Trinity Associates says the Ocean Protection Council's 2018 sea level rise projections indicate planners should expect the waters along the U.S. Highway 101 safety corridor to rise a foot by 2030, 1.6 feet by 2040, 2.3 feet by 2050 and 3.1 feet by 2060. Some believe those projections are already outdated. The lowest point on the southbound lane of U.S. Highway 101, meanwhile, sits about 2 feet above peak high tide levels.
Hank Seemann, deputy director of environmental services for the Humboldt County Public Works Department, explained the intricate process of planning a workable project. Although the county does not own or operate the freeway — that is Caltrans' domain — it is responsible for several miles of adjacent land that are equally vulnerable to sea level rise. The two agencies will need to work closely together to find solutions that benefit both.
Lessons learned during decades covering nuclear power and, now, its aftermathThe Humboldt Bay Nuclear Power Plant was shut down in 1976 because, suddenly, 13 years after it came online, seismologists found it was built practically on top of the Little Salmon earthquake fault. Its design was not nearly strong enough to be retrofitted against potential shaking and if an earthquake broke open any critical part of the plant, the results could have been catastrophic... The casks now holding the irradiated parts of Humboldt's old nuke are made up of three shells. An inner shell for containment, a series of thick steel intermediate shells for gamma shielding and an outer enclosure shell that houses the neutron shielding material, according to Holtec. The casks, in turn, are tucked inside a vault made of reinforced concrete between 3-feet and 7-feet thick. According to Holtec, the manufacturer, "Humboldt Bay became the first plant to feature subterranean storage, which is so unobtrusive and produces such a negligible [radiation] dose that the path to the beach runs in close proximity to the [storage site]!" The casks are meant to "temporarily" hold the waste for 100 years or so. If the scientists who predict a 240,000-year toxicity are correct, that would leave 239,900 years, and for that, there's no plan. Yet, some local environmentalists are laying the groundwork to plan for site protection at least into the next century. They foresee a drowning bluff and an unsuspecting future generation.
"If the bay is our region's most important resource, the future integrity of the [storage] site, which sits 115 feet from the shoreline, across the mouth of the entrance to the bay, is a big deal," noted Jennifer Marlow, an assistant professor in Humboldt State University's Department of Environmental Science and Management. "For example, with 2 meters of sea level rise in Humboldt Bay, monthly and annual high tides could overtop the protective revetment wall protecting the bluff."
"According to the Ocean Protection Council's 2018 sea level rise projections, 2 meters of sea level rise could occur 'as early as 2076 under the extreme scenario, or by 2093 under the high-risk projection.' If either scenario comes true, it is likely that the spent nuclear waste will still be onsite. The California Coastal Commission has stated that, given the lack of an alternative permanent storage site, it 'must presume' that the spent nuclear waste will remain on site 'in perpetuity.'"
That phrase, "in perpetuity," underscores a heavy responsibility.
"It's unlikely that there will ever be a permanent national repository," said Humboldt Baykeeper Director Jennifer Kalt. "Waiting for that is not realistic. Ultimately, there's no safe place for the waste. Moving it will be dangerous and controversial and expensive, but it needs to be moved farther from the bay, out of the sea level rise hazard area. We need to start figuring out a real plan. Otherwise, we're just leaving the problem for future generations to deal with."
But more work remains: 37 tons of nuclear waste are in an eroding bluff near King SalmonFollowing a years-long effort to decommission the former nuclear power plant in Humboldt Bay, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. recently filed a request with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to terminate the power plant’s license marking a “major milestone” for the Humboldt County community.Decommissioning efforts for the Humboldt Bay Power Plant Unit 3, a 63-Megawatt electric boiling water reactor, began in June 2009, more than 30 years after the power plant had ceased operations. It operated from 1963 to 1976 and was permanently defueled in 1984.At the time of the power plant’s construction, atomic energy was hailed as the solution to global energy needs. Cost-efficient construction methods and innovative engineering made the power plant “the first economically viable, privately funded nuclear power plant in the world,” according to documentation from the Library of Congress.At this point, the site has been remediated to levels “meeting an extensive set of standards and release criteria for a post-industrial, ‘residential farming’ use,” according to PG&E. “The ‘resident farmer’ scenario is the most restrictive level for remediation in (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) guidance for decommissioning former nuclear reactor sites.”However, the work is not over. Buried deep into Buhne Point, a highland bluff directly northeast of King Salmon, is an underground nuclear waste storage facility known as the Humboldt Bay Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation, or ISFSI. While the ISFSI will effectively contain the 37-tons of nuclear waste for approximately 50 years, it is not a permanent solution.“The projections indicate that the sea level will be four feet higher in 50 years than it is today,” said Jennifer Kalt, Humboldt Baykeeper director. “The ISFSI is on the top of an eroding bluff, it’s 44-feet above sea level, it’s buried to 30 feet below the surface, so the bottom is only 10 feet above sea level currently. …What are we going to do, you know? It’s pretty clear that there needs to be a plan to at least move it back from the bay, it’s going to be really expensive and controversial, but leaving it there is not a plan. It’s a nightmare.”It won’t be easy, but Kalt said there needs to be a community process in deciding where to relocate the ISFSI. “It is essential for the community advisory board to continue meeting but we also want the community involved and not just experts researching it,” she said.Matthew Marshall, executive director of the Redwood Coast Energy Authority, also underscored the need to develop a plan to relocate the spent fuel casts. “There will be an ongoing need to address the safe, long-term management of this radioactive waste, and there is currently no viable alternative/permanent storage location,” he said. “But it is great to have the plant decommissioning and site cleanup safely and thoroughly completed after so many years of complex work.”When asked what happens next, PG&E spokesperson Carina Corral said, “PG&E does not currently have plans beyond industrial use for the site as the ISFSI and the Humboldt Bay Generating Station are located within the former (power plant) site boundary.”Read More