Letters | March 26, 2010 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - March 26, 2010


High-speed rail


California's high-speed train planners are committed to the California Environmental Quality Act process. In fact, High-Speed Rail Authority board Chairman Curt Pringle has said publicly that he believes in the environmental review process and that there is no need to shortcut it, not even in the name of federal stimulus funding.

What's more, exempting the high-speed train project from California's state environmental review would not benefit the project's schedule because it must also comply with the National Environmental Protection Act, which also requires rigorous review and public involvement.

The High-Speed Rail Authority is not aware of any bills that would exempt it from state environmental review, and it is not in support of any such legislation.

We are committed to a thorough environmental review process through Palo Alto and city and county through which the planned system will run. We believe it will make for a better project.

Robert L. Doty

Peninsula Rail Program Director

California High-Speed Rail Authority

Landfill energy


I was shocked that Utilities is proposing contracting for energy from yet-to-be-built landfills.

It is one thing to capture methane from existing landfills that already have organic matter (e.g., paper, cardboard, yard trimmings/landscape debris and food scraps) disposed, but it makes no sense to support future landfills so that they can be filled with organic matter, subject it to anerobic conditions to create methane and sell it to the city as "green" energy.

This is like instructing people to print every e-mail and document instead of reading them online, so you can recycle the paper afterward and claim you are recycling more paper.

Landfills recovering methane need a constant supply of paper, cardboard, yard trimmings/landscape debris and food scraps to put in their landfills in order to stay in the business of recovering methane.

Every jurisdiction in California has collection programs in place to divert paper and yard trimmings/landscape debris from landfills. There is now a trend for cities to also implement food-scrap collection programs for composting. Logically, if recyclables and compostables-collection programs are effective and fully utilized by the communities using these proposed landfills, there will be no organic matter to deliver to these landfills and therefore, no methane to capture.

Palo Alto should not be undermining other jurisdictions collection programs (for not wasting) with competing landfill initiatives (for wasting) by supporting/entering into energy recovery from landfills not yet built.

This proposal indicates the city continues to operate in information silos. The city's Climate Protection Plan (ZW Chapter) and Zero Waste Operational Plans call for sending zero waste to landfills and to advocate for zero waste everywhere.

Annette Puskarich

Kendall Avenue

Palo Alto

Renewable energy


I was very disappointed to hear that the Finance Committee voted down contracts that would make the city compliant with the 33 percent Renewable Energy Portfolio that has been a city goal since 2007.

City staff negotiated these contracts on time and below the budget that the City Council set forth for this goal. This is a win-win for any normal business.

I think Vice Mayor Espinosa is correct when he says we are shooting ourselves in the foot, as this will likely cost more the longer we wait.

With this small $3/month increase, our electric bill will still be much less than PG&E ($79 vs. $105 including the increase) and it will be greener too, another win-win.

The time to get serious about renewable energy is now and Palo Alto should act on this.

Already 21 percent of Palo Alto residents have voted with their pocketbooks for Palo Alto Green energy, so there is support in the community for this.

The Finance Committee should be voting on the merits of the contracts and not questioning the goals set forth by the council just three years ago. Global warming has only gotten worse in that time, making our switch to green, renewable energy even more imperative.

David Coale

Josina Avenue

Palo Alto

Bad decision


Tuesday's decision by the Finance Committee to reject proposed contracts to increase Palo Alto's supply of renewable energy is misguided.

In March 2007 the Palo Alto Utilities staff received a directive from the City Council to increase the city's renewable energy portfolio to 33 percent by 2015 and to keep the average retail rate increase to pay it for under 0.5 cents/kWh.

The staff has done exactly that, by producing a set of power-purchase agreements that meet the desired criteria.

The power purchase agreements are reasonable deals given the current demand for renewable energy. This demand will only accelerate as we approach the state-mandated deadline of 33 percent by 2020; locking in rates now is a wise move.

These agreements (four in total) also provide 24/7 base-load power — obtained by generators powered by landfill gas.

Taken together, these agreements will convert 12 percent of Palo Alto's brown power to clean, renewable energy, and retire more than 6 percent of the total carbon footprint of Palo Alto. That's a huge number — we should be grateful for such a reduction.

The arguments advanced by the Finance Committee for not moving forward with the contracts were weak. I'd expect the committee to judge the contracts on their financial merits based on the criteria laid down by the City Council. Instead they seemed to leap to a forgone conclusion based on incorrect assumptions of long-term trends. We need reasoned analysis, not orthodoxy.

I urge concerned citizens to write the City Council in support of the staff's proposal.

Bruce Hodge

Janice Way

Palo Alto


Like this comment
Posted by bikes2work
a resident of Monroe Park
on Mar 26, 2010 at 9:30 pm

Good catch on the landfill gas contracts Annette. I didn't realize they were even talking about NEW landfills. Why would we want to encourage NEW landfills? It would be much better to encourage the segregation, collection and careful processing of organic waste.

Hope you are having a happy retirement.

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