Wednesday Must Read: Are We Headed for Another Drought?; Romney Edges Santorum in Iowa

by

comment

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. The Sierra snowpack is almost nonexistent right now, raising concerns that California may be headed for another drought. The Chron reports that the state snowpack is only at 19 percent of normal for this time of year. At Echo Summit, it was just 1 percent of average — the lowest ever measured for this time of year. However, many of the state’s major reservoirs still have plenty of water because of last year’s heavy precipitation. In addition, forecasters noted that January and February are traditionally California’s wettest months.

2. Ex-Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney squeaked out a win in Iowa last night, defeating ex-Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum by just eight votes in the first Republican presidential contest, the LA Times reports. Romney and Santorum both got 25 percent of the vote. The surprising showing by the ultra-conservative Santorum indicates that he may become Romney’s chief rival for the GOP nomination as the race heads into New Hampshire and South Carolina.

3. A state panel appointed to analyze California’s high-speed rail project is strongly recommending that the legislature not approve $2.7 billion in bond funds that are needed to launch the controversial program, the Chron reports. The panel argues that future funding for high-speed rail is too uncertain and that the bond funds could ultimately be wasted. But the legislature and the governor appear likely to ignore the panels’ recommendations and move forward with the first phase of the project in order to secure $3.5 billion in federal funds.

4. Reforming California’s public-employee pension system could end up costing taxpayers lots of money in the short-term, the Orange County Register reports, citing analyses by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office (h/t Rough and Tumble). The LAO examined two proposed ballot measures that would convert public employee pensions to 401k-style retirement plans and concluded that they would force local governments to contribute much more than they do now to the state’s pension system. The reason is that pulling new employees out of the current pension system would starve it of funds needed to pay retirees. In fact, it could take twenty to thirty years before such pension reform starts to save taxpayers money.

5. Patagonia, the outdoor clothing company with a conscience, was among the first businesses to sign up to become a “benefit” corporation under the state’s new program for companies that honor the triple-bottom line — people, planet, and profits, the Ventura County Star reports (h/t Rough and Tumble). The new program allows participating businesses to fend off the demands of investors who want companies to put profits above all else. The program also provides a strict peer review that promises to weed out businesses that engage in greenwashing.

6. And a Superfund site in Richmond that was supposed to have been cleaned up is still leaking two pesticides — DDT and dieldrin — at astonishingly high levels even though the toxics haven’t been used in decades, the CoCo Times reports. Some fish around the site, which leaks into the bay, now have higher levels of pesticides than those measured before the Superfund clean-up.

Add a comment