Source: Los Angeles Times
News
Oct. 6, 2017

A California Energy Commission committee is urging the state to reject a proposal to build a new natural gas plant in Ventura County.

Called the Puente Energy project, the 262-megawatt power plant would be owned and operated by NRG, a Houston-based electricity company. NRG contracted with Southern California Edison to supply power to the utility.

In what the regulators themselves called an “unusual” statement, the two-member committee said that the proposed plant, set for construction on Mandalay Bay in Oxnard, conflicted with state laws and goals for communities and the environment.

News
Sept. 27, 2017

When California rolled out new standardized tests, experts said scores would improve when students got used to them. But three tests in, rather than showing strides from familiarity, their scores have stagnated in English and math.

About 3.2 million students in third through eighth grade and 11th grade took the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress in the spring. The tests are aligned to the Common Core standards, and demand mastery — which means they’re harder than California’s old standardized tests.

This year, 49% of students passed the English exam, compared with 48% in 2016. In math, 38% of students met or exceeded the state’s standard, compared with 37% last year. Fifth-graders’ scores dropped slightly in English.

News
Sept. 26, 2017

The City Employees’ Retirement System board, which oversees pension benefits for thousands of city workers, voted unanimously to cut its assumed rate of return — the yearly earnings expected from the agency’s investment portfolio — to 7.25%, down from 7.5%.

The decision is expected to shift $38 million in retirement costs onto the general fund budget, consuming funds that would otherwise pay for basic services. And it comes at a time of increased concern over the city’s growing pension burden.

Another pension agency, which oversees benefits for thousands of retired firefighters and police officers, recently reduced its own rate of return and recalculated the expected lifespan of its beneficiaries. Meanwhile, growth in the overall city payroll is also expected to push pension payments upward.

News
Sept. 25, 2017

The passage of Santiago’s bill highlighted a continually messy debate at the state Capitol concerning which projects deserve breaks from strictly complying with the California Environmental Quality Act, the primary environmental law governing development. The law, known as CEQA, requires developers to disclose and reduce projects’ effects on the environment, often a time-consuming and costly process made longer by lawsuits that can last years.

Legislators have long talked about overhauling CEQA — Gov. Jerry Brown has called doing so “the Lord’s work” — but the rare measures that advance often only provide relief for deep-pocketed developers or have the backing of Sacramento’s most powerful interests.

News
Sept. 20, 2017

Labor influence over climate policies occasionally made Democrats uncomfortable last week. One late addition to state budget legislation, Assembly Bill 134, directs regulators to develop a process for determining whether automakers are “fair and responsible” in their treatment of workers.

If lawmakers approve the process next year and companies fall short of that standard, their electric cars could become ineligible for California rebates that are crucial to making zero-emission vehicles more cost competitive. Tesla, the state’s only automaker, has resisted efforts to unionize the workforce at its Fremont factory.

The provision was supported by the California Labor Federation, a coalition that includes the United Auto Workers, as a way to ensure public money doesn’t flow to companies that mistreat employees. But these kinds of rules could end up “undermining our own goals” of fighting climate change with more electric cars, said Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco).

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