Tuesday, February 12, 2019

BROWN’S LEGACY PROJECTS WON’T HAPPEN AS PLANNED


CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, MARCH 8, 2019 OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
       “BROWN’S LEGACY PROJECTS WON’T HAPPEN AS PLANNED”


          The farther four-term Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown gets from the state Capitol’s “horseshoe” office suite, the less anyone in power has seems to care about completing either of his two “legacy” projects.


          For one,the fate of the high speed rail “bullet train” project authorized under a 2008 ballot proposition just became more clear. New Gov. Gavin Newsom has decided the state should keep and use bridges and viaducts already built in the Central Valley. But not as part of a Los Angeles-to-San Francisco bullet train. Rather, he sees a high speed rail project of a different scope, confined to running between Bakersfield and Merced.


Not exactly the same vision Californians voted for, as they figured on eventually whisking from one metropolis to the other in about two hours.


“Let’s be real,” Newsom said in his first state of the state speech. “The project as currently planned would cost too much and take too long.” So he’ll shorten it, while not wasting work that’s already done.


The shortened high-speed route, he predicted, will “unlock the enormous potential of the Central Valley.”


          Newsom, who predicted last year that the bullet train could help solve housing affordability problems by linking the Central Valley and its lower-priced homes to high-priced, high-salary areas of both the San Francisco Bay and Los Angeles areas, has concluded that won’t happen.


          Newsom never made any such hopeful prediction about Brown’s other big plan, the so-called “Twin Tunnels” water project to bring more reliability to supplies of Northern California river water flowing toward urban Southern California and farms in the San Joaquin Valley.


          The Twin Tunnels, planned to run beneath the Delta of the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers to the point near Tracy where giant pumps now send millions of gallons southward, now won’t happen as designed. Instead, Newsom indicated he’ll try for a single tunnel because, as he put it, “The status quo is not an option. We need to protect our water supply from earthquakes and rising sea levels, preserve Delta fisheries and meet the needs of cities and farms.”


The two-tunnel notion earlier suffered a huge setback midway between Newsom’s election and his inauguration, when the state Department of Water Resources withdrew certification of the plan.


          This essentially sent the tunnels back to the drawing board just as Brown left office.


          Newsom had little to say about the tunnels plan during his campaign and remained noncommittal when Brown, Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Bakersfield Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House GOP leader, agreed in late 2018 to try to extend a federal law aiming to deliver more Northern California water south over environmental objections.


          They backed an extension beyond 2021 of key provisions in the 2016 federal Water Infrastructure for Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act via a year-end federal spending bill.


          This will make almost $1 billion in federal funds available for new California water storage, both surface and below ground, and lets the federal Central Valley Project provide some water to the state project to increase southward water deliveries. The one-tunnel approach will be cheaper than two and provide most of the same benefits, Newsom seemed to say.


          Whether or not that’s correct, statements by lawyers for outfits like the Natural Resources Defense Council make it seem certain that the WIIN funding won’t come for years while legal infighting persists in both federal and state courts.


          Newsom sees the single tunnel as a way to improve drinking water quality in much of the Central Valley, while also stabilizing water supplies and fishing, goals not nearly as ambitious as Brown had for the plan.


          But unlike Brown, whose father Gov. Pat Brown pushed through the state Water Project in the 1960s, Newsom has no family legacy at stake here. This might make it easier for him to take a cool, clearheaded look at Brown’s ambitious plans.


          Which means that no matter how unhappy it might make Brown in his Colusa County retirement, neither of his largest plans will proceed in anything like the form he envisioned.


    -30-
    Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net.

WILL CALIFORNIA GOP BECOME A DINOSAUR?


CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, MARCH 5, 2019 OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
          “WILL CALIFORNIA GOP BECOME A DINOSAUR?”


          In mid-2016, just before Donald Trump won the presidency, California’s Republican Party was on pace to become the third choice of state voters within three years, the first “major” political party to fall that low since Whigs became extinct just before the Civil War.


          The pace quickened after that election. Democrats made small gains in voter registration, Republicans suffered losses and the “no party preference” category moved into second place among California’s registered voters even sooner than expected.


          Yes, there is constant churn in the voter rolls, with many thousands of voters moving, both within California and to other places, and many thousands more entering the voting lists from other states and via naturalization of immigrants.


          But simple churn can’t explain away the fact that between September 2014 and September 2018, the four years between mid-term elections, California’s Democratic registration rose by about 680,000, while Republicans dropped by 310,000 and NPP’s climbed by 1.03 million. In percentage terms, Democrats now have almost 45 percent of all voters, NPPs amount to slightly less than 27 percent and the GOP has just 24.5 percent. That’s a rise of almost 2 million no-party-preference voters since 2010.


          Yet, only one NPP candidate qualified for the statewide runoff ballot last year, former Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, a onetime Republican who says he long wanted to shed his former GOP label but could not until state voters adopted the open primary election system in 2010.


          So independent voters have not yet asserted themselves much at the polls, but the makings are there for a centrist third major political party that could seriously challenge the leftist-dominated Democrats and the right-oriented Republicans, if it could find prominent, capable leadership.


          If past is prologue, the registration shifts will be even more striking during next year’s presidential election season, independent of the strong feelings Trump regularly elicits from supporters and opponents.


          In 2016, registration rose almost 2 million above the previous mid-term election numbers, which were a record for off-year balloting. And last year, despite the churn of the previous two years, the 19.1 million registered voters and the portion of eligible Californians who registered (76 percent) were almost as high as during last the presidential year. That means registration will likely reach 20 million two years from now, with about 80 percent of eligible citizens signed up to vote.


          There’s some comfort here for Democrats, even though their registration numbers have increased far less than the no-party-preference ranks, where there is growth without any organized sign-up effort of the sort both major parties regularly run during election seasons.


          Democrats have seen many thousands of former Republican voters convert to their column or drift into NPP-land. But far more ex-Republicans so far choose to switch to the NPP column than into the Democratic fold, which translates as a warning to the Dems: don’t get smug.


          The corps of ex-Republicans among NPP registrants is one reason GOP candidates like 2018 gubernatorial hopeful John Cox consistently run ahead of their party’s registration numbers. No Republican seeking statewide office won last year, but all were far ahead of the 24.5 percent level where GOP registration was mired.


          This makes it clear that for many longtime Republicans leaving their traditional fold, it’s still not easy to mark a ballot for a Democratic candidate. This suggests that a centrist third party would find a natural recruiting ground available. But it also should tell the state GOP it is hurting because it’s out of step with the majority of Californians whose votes on ballot propositions have long favored gun controls, legalized marijuana and higher tobacco prices, just a few causes few Republican officials ever back.


          The Whigs learned that when a party gets too far out of step with the voters its candidates seek to represent, it is doomed.


          Doom is not yet inevitable for the California Republican Party. But the latest results should ring alarm bells: If the party doesn’t make its outlook more contemporary, those ex-Republicans who now find it difficult to mark ballots for Democrats may find the task growing easier with each election cycle.

                
    -30-
     Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, go to
www.californiafocus.net
 

Monday, February 11, 2019

HARRIS AS PREZ? STRANGER THINGS HAVE HAPPENED

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, MARCH 1, 2019 OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
 “HARRIS AS PREZ? STRANGER THINGS HAVE HAPPENED”


          There’s a tendency among some pundits, political consultants and other so-called “experts” to label the presidential candidacy of Kamala Harris as a fanciful, wishful-thinking effort by a first-term senator better known for hectoring presidential appointees than almost anything else.


          And yet…it might not be smart to simply dismiss Harris, California’s third woman U.S. senator and the state’s former attorney general.


          For one thing, it’s usual to compare the achievements of Democrats who are relative newcomers on the national political scene and have the gall to declare themselves presidential material with Barack Obama, a community organizer, part-time law school professor and ex-Illinois state senator who spent not quite two years in the U.S. Senate before running for president in 2008.


          Obama lacked many solid achievements, other than having written a best-selling autobiography “Dreams From My Father” about 12 years before he began his first run for president.


          Compared with this record, Harris is a virtuoso politician. She beat two-term ultra-liberal incumbent Terence Hallinan to become district attorney of San Francisco in 2003 and was unopposed for reelection four years later. In 2010, she beat the popular Republican Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley in a race not decided until three weeks after Election Day, then was easily reelected four years later.


          She won consumerist victories in both jobs, started anti-recidivism programs for ex-convicts and got California a large share of a national mortgage fraud settlement that followed the Great Recession of 2008-11.


          As a senator, she’s been in the minority party, where it’s hard to get legislation passed, making performances in televised committee hearings a key part of the job. Harris stands out there.


          Her record before becoming a presidential hopeful dwarfs Obama’s.


But at 54, should she wait another four years to run? Probably not, despite the massive Democratic field around her. Among the other known and likely candidates: Former Vice President Joe Biden, ex-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Kirsten Gillebrand of New York, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro is running; so will failed Texas Senate candidate Robert (Beto) O’Rourke and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. There could be more, like California Gov. Gavin Newsom.


          All relish the idea of taking on incumbent Donald Trump, whose ratings both in surveys of popularity and trustworthiness are among the lowest in American history. And yet…Trump was written off as a sure loser in 2016 until the last moment, when he won by a slim Electoral College margin while losing the popular vote. Since then, he’s alienated myriad interest groups from farmers to auto workers.


          So there’s little doubt the Democratic nominee will have a chance. It could be Harris. Said South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham, a firm Trump supporter, “Anyone who underestimates her will do so at their own peril.”


          One who downplayed her was former Trump chief of staff John Kelly, a retired Marine Corp. general. Just after Kelly was confirmed in his prior Trump-appointed job as secretary of Homeland Security and was tasked with enforcing Trump’s travel ban on people from several Muslim-majority nation, Harris got hold of his home phone number and called him unexpectedly at night.


          “He was not too happy,” she said. “Later, I learned that’s just not something senators normally do.”


          She seemed to wonder why they don’t.


          So that prospective huge field of Democratic possibilities can be sure of one thing: In their debates starting early this summer, Harris likely will not take a back seat to anyone. As a junior senator, she may have to wait her turn asking questions in Senate hearings. There is no such pecking order in political encounters, something Trump demonstrated while interrupting, insulting and badgering rival Republicans all through the 2016 primary season.


          All of which means Graham is probably right: Taking Harris lightly just because she hasn’t been on the national scene very long could be a serious mistake.


    -30-
    Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visitwww.californiafocus.net.

ANOTHER PHONY-LOOKING PG&E BANKRUPTCY


CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2019 OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
          “ANOTHER PHONY-LOOKING PG&E BANKRUPTCY”


          It’s no secret that to many California consumers, this winter’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. looks as phony as a $3 bill.


          That’s because bankruptcy filings are intended to protect companies and individuals whose financial survival is threatened. There is no evidence this state’s biggest utility is in such deep trouble right now.


          Yes, PG&E has other kinds of trouble. It was convicted of criminal negligence in the 2010 San Bruno natural gas pipeline explosion that killed eight persons. A federal judge supervising the company’s probation in that case accuses the company of “killing people.” It faces myriad lawsuits claiming it caused much of the damage done by the massive wildfires of the last two years.


          But with a reported $1.5 billion cash on hand, PG&E is not broke like most supplicants in bankruptcy court. It collects more than $1 billion every month from millions of gas and electric consumers. California authorities absolved the company of most blame for damage in the 2017 Tubbs fire, reducing its potential lawsuit liability by several billion dollars. Plus, PG&E has an assured $5 billion in outside financing to get it through any impending tough times. And so far, not a single 2017 or 2018 wildfire-related lawsuit has been settled or adjudicated, meaning PG&E’s supposedly massive liabilities right now are mere theoretical speculation.


          It’s ludicrous for any company to seek relief from all its other debt and possible release from many contracts just because it might, maybe, possibly lose some lawsuits.


          There’s also the big utility’s past bankruptcy history: during the energy crunch in the first years of this century, PG&E suddenly declared itself insolvent, then emerged as a stronger company without divesting anything but debts, stiffing some creditors. Rates to consumers rose steeply, while executives cleared more than $80 million in bonuses for their actions during that bankruptcy.


          All this explains why today’s PG&E bankruptcy filing drew criticism the moment it was announced.


          PG&E, of course, claims it is blameless. Never mind that no executive has ever been punished for the San Bruno disaster. Never mind that the corporate board of directors has not suffered for any of this. Never mind that PG&E customers paid many billions of dollars for gas and electric line repairs and maintenance over more than 65 years before San Bruno, with the company and its regulators at the state Public Utilities Commission unable or unwilling to say where much of the money went.


          The bottom line here is that there is no bottom line. No one knows how much PG&E might eventually pay in wildfire lawsuit settlements, even though the company says its liabilities might top $30 billion.


          The Tubbs Fire ruling, however, means many lawsuits might not get far. At this point, while PG&E lines are suspected of sparking the ultra-disastrous Camp Fire in Butte County, which destroyed most of the town of Paradise and much more, there is so far no official finding of blame.


          So why should PG&E be allowed to enter bankruptcy while it has cash on hand, more arriving daily and still more available, with no real idea how much it may owe in damages? Especially when the company listed far more in assets than liabilities in its filing, $71 billion in assets against $52 billion in actual and potential debt.


          This company is not broke, but would like to evade whatever its wildfire liabilities might turn out to be; bankruptcy will at least delay related lawsuits. PG&E also might want to ditch expensive electricity contracts signed during the energy crunch and later on under California’s renewable energy campaign. Some of those deals see PG&E import solar and wind energy to its service area from far away.


          Critics like Democratic state Sen. Bill Dodd of Napa say they’re “disappointed” by the bankruptcy, calling for “change at PG&E in both its leadership and corporate culture.”


          For sure, bankruptcy will harm shareholders who depend on PG&E stock dividends for income and wildfire victims who blame the company. Customers also could face higher rates.


          But phony or not, no one yet has even tried seriously to stop this bankruptcy and its far-reaching potential harm to Californians.

                
    -30- 
     Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, go to www.californiafocus.net

Monday, February 4, 2019

CALIFORNIA CAMPUSES TAKE LEAD AGAINST BOYCOTT


CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2019, OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
          “CALIFORNIA CAMPUSES TAKE LEAD AGAINST BOYCOTT”


          For most of the last decade, California campuses have been at the center of a rise in anti-Semitism in academe, where tactics ostensibly designed to target the nation Israel inevitably have led to mistreatment of Jewish students, even those who have never set foot in that country.


          These moves are led by a nationwide group called Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), with chapters on dozens, maybe hundreds of campuses. They have caused Jewish students to be harassed while walking to class, seen their right to serve in student government questioned and often led to their feeling physically threatened.


          In California, speeches by Israelis of many stripes are regularly disrupted or shut down. Jewish students have been stopped at mock military checkpoints set up by Palestinian students and their “progressive” allies. And student government representatives have been subjected to intimidation.


          This has been so serious that some university officials, notably the president of San Francisco State University, apologized for it to their Jewish students.


          Studies also show that the more ostensible anti-Israel activity there is on any particular campus, the more openly anti-Jewish activity will follow. Similarly, those reports indicate that the more actively anti-Israel faculty members a college has, the more outright anti-Semitic activity that campus will see, swastika daubings and all.


          But backlash is coming. Just as the SJP’s campaign encouraging universities to boycott, sanction and divest (BDS) investments from Israel first achieved real prominence in California, now a new drive to resist that campaign is getting its first big exposure here.


          The most significant move came when the chancellors of all 10 campuses of the University of California signed a statement very close to one suggested by the AMCHA Initiative, a privately-funded national group dedicated to fighting on-campus anti-Semitism.


          It represents a repudiation of the SJP aim of singling out Israel among all other nations as retribution for supposed sins. “We write to affirm our longstanding opposition to an academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions and/or individual scholars,” the chancellors said. “Our commitment to continued engagement and partnership with Israeli, as well as Palestinian colleagues, colleges and universities is unwavering. We believe a boycott of this sort poses a direct and serious threat to the academic freedom of our students and faculty…including debate and discourse regarding conflicts in the Middle East.”


          The statement wasn’t nearly as strong, nor as specific, as the one made by the president of tiny but prestigious Pitzer College in Claremont as he vetoed a faculty vote to end a study-abroad exchange program with Haifa University, located in Israel’s most pluralistic city.


        Sharply criticizing Pitzer’s faculty, President Melvin Oliver said it is plain wrong, discriminatory and inconsistent to boycott Israel so long as Pitzer, along with many other American colleges, “promotes exchanges and study abroad in countries with significant human rights abuses.” He added that “China, for example, has killed, tortured and imprisoned up to 1 million people in Tibet and utterly obliterated the Tibetan nation. China currently has 1 million Muslims imprisoned in ‘re-education’ camps. Why would we not suspend our program with China? Or take our longest-standing program in Nepal…they have had a bloody civil war that killed 10,000 people. Why Israel?”


        As Oliver implied, Israel is singled out among all nations for student and faculty protests because it is primarily a Jewish state. And one definition of anti-Semitism is singling out Jews or Israel to be punished for supposed but unproven actions that have been documented on a much larger or much more brutal scale in many other countries.


          No college faculty, for example, has even considered voting to boycott Saudi Arabia for its state-sanctioned assassination and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. But Israel is excoriated for defensive acts.


          Oliver’s statement is the most articulate argument yet made by an academic against the decade-long BDS campaign. Its logic is unassailable. The real question is why no distinguished, high-ranking officials said anything similar before.


          The fact that all UC’s chancellors soon followed with their own statement, even if it wasn’t quite as strong, is a sign of real movement against the anti-Jewish discrimination that has insidiously become a significant force on many campuses here and elsewhere.

         
     -30-       
Elias is author of the current book “The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government's Campaign to Squelch It,” now available in an updated third edition. His email address is tdelias@aol.com

CALIFORNIA DEMOCRATS: ARE THEY REALLY DEMOCRATIC?

CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2019, OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
  “CALIFORNIA DEMOCRATS: ARE THEY REALLY DEMOCRATIC?”


          It was one of the biggest disconnects in last year’s elections. In early 2018, three months before the June primary election, 54 percent of delegates to a convention of the California Democratic Party voted to desert longtime U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and endorse the termed-out former president of the state Senate, Kevin de Leon of East Los Angeles.


          Voters demurred. In the primary, rank-and-file Democrats backed Feinstein by about a 70-30 percent margin. But the party organization ignored them. Its executive board voted to endorse de Leon anyway in their Democrat-on-Democrat November runoff election. Again, Feinstein won.


          This proved the state party organization comes nowhere near representing the wishes, philosophies or preferences of the party’s membership. The question for many analysts was, why the disconnect?


          For an explanation, fast forward to January, when Democrats staged caucuses in all 80 California state Assembly districts, choosing 14 delegates per district for the next party convention, set to begin May 30 in San Francisco.


          Trouble was, the party didn’t notify most Democrats of the vote. No postcards, no emails, no phone banks to let voters know the where, when and who. There was notice on the party website and via its internal listserv. But most who attended were informed by candidates or word of mouth.


          The vast bulk of candidates leaned strongly left, many sporting “Bernie” t-shirts and pledging universal health care, free college tuition and more, but never mentioning how to pay for anything.


          Those who turned up for caucuses could hear a few speeches, for no more than half an hour in most districts, then wait in line to vote. When they voted, no one verified where they lived or whether they had voted before and then gone to the end of the line and waited to vote again. The only hindrance to this was a hand stamp some (but not all) voters received, which could be washed off in moments. In this “honor system,” anyone could vote, citizen or not, district resident or not, Democrat or not, multiple times.


          The only check on this was one laptop computer per caucus, used to verify identification via a voter database – but only if someone challenged the legitimacy of a would-be voter.


          This, said state party spokesman Roger Salazar, made becoming a delegate “depend on the organizational skill of the candidate.” It also set apart California Democrats as “the most (lower-case) democratic political party in America,” he claimed. Certainly more democratic than this state’s Republicans, most of whose party convention delegates are chosen by elected officials, past candidates (winners and losers; mostly losers in California), and by the party’s county central committees.


          There was also the matter of who won these delegate elections. First, the party created two gender categories: “self-identified female” and “male/other than self-identified female.” Voters could mark seven in each category, but no matter who got the most votes, the top seven of each would become delegates. So if 14 self-identified other-than-females got more votes than the leading female, seven would be knocked out.


          This is democracy?


          “This is the type of election system the Democrats want not only for their party, but the entire state and nation,” chuckled Republican campaign manager and blogger Stephen Frank, a candidate for his party’s state chairmanship in the GOP’s state convention starting Feb. 22 in Sacramento.


          “Honesty and integrity is not the hallmark of that party,” Frank added. “They stuff ballot boxes even against themselves.”


          Responded Democrat Salazar, “At least we vote, and we’re working to make it better. The Republicans have no democracy at all and that’s the way they like it. Yes, we need to give more notice of our caucuses. But we can’t afford to send everyone a mailer or an email.” This excuse comes from the free-spending party that inundated virtually every California mailbox with election flyers last fall.


          The bottom line: Neither of California’s major parties is really democratic. While Democrats make a token effort, there’s little participation in their process, along with huge potential for corruption and cheating. Which goes far toward explaining why wise voters in actual elections pretty much disregard whatever the parties recommend.

         
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    Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net

Monday, January 28, 2019

WILL SAN ONOFRE SPUR A YUCCA MOUNTAIN REVIVAL?


SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA FOCUS
FOR RELEASE: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2019, OR THEREAFTER


BY THOMAS D. ELIAS
     “WILL SAN ONOFRE SPUR A YUCCA MOUNTAIN REVIVAL?”


          One thing was very clear after a near-disastrous almost- accident last summer at the now-defunct San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station beside the Orange-San Diego county line:


          Canisters of radioactive waste from the shuttered plant already placed for “temporary” storage on its grounds and new containers not yet placed must go somewhere else, as soon as possible.


          The problem is, there is no other place and virtually no one wants an atomic dump anywhere near their home. That’s why nuclear waste is now stored at more than six dozen active or decommissioned atomic power plants around America.


          The near accident last year saw a 45-ton canister filled with spent fuel with a half life in the hundreds of thousands of years somehow get stuck on the edge of a storage cavity about 18 feet above the floor of San Onofre’s “temporary” storage facility 108 feet from a state beach popular with surfers.


          Plant operator Southern California Edison Co. insisted the incident never posed a danger. It was kept quiet until an industrial safety worker spoke of it during a public meeting about a week later.


          Edison says there was no danger of escaped radiation even if the canister had fallen to the floor of the storage plant.


Others saw it as a cause for action. “You need to quit tempting fate,” an official of the Union of Concerned Scientists told a reporter.


          But how, when no one wants this deadly stuff, which some experts say could harm everyone within a 50-mile radius if its radiation got loose?


          Because all of America’s existing storage facilities are at or beyond capacity, the answer has to be a new dump to house not just San Onofre’s waste, but also residues stored at other sites.


          One candidate for years has been Yucca Mountain, near Mercury, Nev., about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Things have never been simple there, scientifically or politically. That’s why the Yucca Mountain site, first proposed by federal officials in the 1990s, never took off.


          Using it is complete anathema to all Nevada politicians. For years, Democrat Harry Reid, the retired majority leader of the U.S. Senate, blocked it. Nevada’s current senators are just as adamant.


          “I will be working to fight Yucca Mountain every which way,” said newly-minted Democratic Sen. Jackie Rosen within days of her election last fall. Defeated Republican ex-Sen. Dean Heller also fought using the mountain’s cavernous interior for a dump.


          Their opposition is based in part on a theory that radioactivity from Yucca Mountain could trickle into underground water and eventually reach the Colorado River upstream from intakes to the aqueduct of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. Any threat to that supply would create massive pressure to draw more water from Northern California streams.


          This theory has been debunked, geologists saying Yucca Mountain water drains west toward Death Valley, not east to the Colorado. Still, it had enough credibility to make retired California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer a firm Yucca Mountain foe.


          But soon 73 huge radioactive canisters will sit behind a 28-foot beachfront breakwater at San Onofre. The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission has reported a similar container in a South African beachfront storage site failed after 17 years from cracking triggered by corrosive salt in the marine environment, says the website San Onofre Safety.


          Since some spent fuel canisters at San Onofre were loaded as early as 2003, that may mean leakage is possible within the next year. No one knows how this might be managed.


          It all creates pressure for Yucca Mountain.


          Says Bill Alley, co-author of the nuclear waste analysis book, “Too Hot to Touch,” “Especially with Diablo Canyon nearing shutdown in the early 2020s, this is a major California problem and there is no other site being studied.” Added Charles Langley, executive director of the San Diego consumer group Public Watchdogs, “Yucca Mountain (may be) the best in an array of possible solutions ranging from atrocious to absolutely horrible.”


          Plainly, a site safer than the San Onofre beachfront must be found, and Yucca Mountain may be the best option, no matter how imperfect or locally unwelcome.


-30-
    Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It" is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net