Morning Splash: Japan Nuke Crisis; Legislators Cut $7.4 Billion; PUC Threatens Fines for PG&E
- High Radiation Severely Hinders Emergency Work to Cool Japanese Plant (NY Times)
Amid widening alarm in the United States and elsewhere about Japan’s nuclear crisis, military fire trucks began spraying cooling water on spent fuel rods at the country’s stricken nuclear power station late Thursday after earlier efforts to cool the rods failed, Japanese officials said. The development came as the authorities reached for ever more desperate and unconventional methods to cool damaged reactors, deploying helicopters and water cannons in a race to prevent perilous overheating in the spent rods of the No. 3 reactor. Moments before the military began spraying, police officers in water cannon trucks were forced back by high levels of radiation in the same area.
- US authorizes American evacuations out of Japan (AP)
The United States has authorized the first evacuations of Americans out of Japan, taking a tougher stand on the deepening nuclear crisis and warning U.S. citizens to defer all non-essential travel to any part of the country as unpredictable weather and wind conditions risked spreading radioactive contamination.
- Legislators cut $7.4 billion, stall on redevelopment funds (Sacramento Bee)
Lawmakers took their first bite out of Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget Wednesday, cutting about $7.4 billion across state government and clearing a significant share of the $26.6 billion deficit. But Democratic leaders, and Brown in particular, spent much of the day behind closed doors in an unsuccessful effort to persuade reticent legislators to eliminate roughly 400 agencies that fund redevelopment projects and save the state another $1.7 billion.
- PG&E threatened with fines by PUC (SF Chronicle)
California regulators threatened to impose fines Wednesday against Pacific Gas & Electric for what they said was PG&E’s “inexcusable” refusal to turn over documentation despite orders to justify safe pressure levels for untested gas transmission lines. Under a deadline Tuesday, the utility had provided an accounting to regulators in which it said about one-quarter of its 1,805-mile urban system was safe based on pressure levels set under a 1970 law. It did not provide any engineering documents to support the safety of those lines, as demanded by federal investigators after inadequate record-keeping by the utility came to light following the deadly Sept. 9 San Bruno pipeline blast that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.
- Plan would grant PG&E more money to maintain pipes (Bloomberg)
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. may soon get more money to spend on maintaining and repairing its natural gas pipelines. Late Tuesday, the California Public Utilities Commission issued a proposal that would increase the amount of revenue PG&E collects from customers to run its natural gas system. The maintenance of PG&E’s pipelines has come under intense scrutiny after one of the lines exploded in San Bruno on Sept. 9, killing eight people. The proposal does not cover the costs of the emergency repairs, inspections and document searches that have followed the explosion.
- Blue Shield relents on proposed rate increase (SF Chronicle)
Blue Shield of California has abandoned a push to raise health care premiums starting May 1 for individual and family members in the wake of bad publicity over the hikes. The San Francisco insurer infuriated many individual policyholders by increasing rates in October, again in January and then again this spring. The highest cumulative increases, had they all gone into effect, would have been nearly 87 percent for some customers.
- San Jose: Chief says local cops shouldn’t be involved in immigration enforcement (San Jose Mercury News)
As some states such as Utah look to put cops on the front lines of immigration enforcement, San Jose Police Chief Chris Moore and other prominent law enforcement officials warned Wednesday that using their shrinking pool of officers to target illegal immigrants is inefficient, costly and would make their cities more dangerous, not less. “I am looking at laying off 300 officers, so now more than ever I need to focus on partnerships with communities,” Moore said during a national teleconference sponsored by the Police Executive Research Forum. “This (the issue of immigration enforcement) has become a wedge in our communities and we need to remove that wedge.”
- Twitter names its staying price (SF Chronicle)
Twitter, which has been eyeing a move to the Peninsula, said it would remain in San Francisco if City Hall extends the proposed payroll tax exemption being considered by the Board of Supervisors. The company would spend $30 million more over five years if it stayed in San Francisco, Twitter CFO Ali Rowghani wrote in a letter to Mayor Ed Lee and Board of Supervisors President David Chiu that was released Wednesday. However, he said that if the proposed tax break is approved, Twitter would move from its South of Market headquarters to the vacant Furniture Mart building on Market Street between Eighth and Ninth streets.
- UC regents get a grim financial forecast (SF Chronicle)
Annual tuition increases at the University of California, significant layoffs, larger classes and reduced enrollment. That’s the likely future unless state lawmakers put a tax extension on the ballot and voters approve it, UC finance experts told the regents Wednesday in San Francisco.
- Spooked Marin residents make run on iodide; health officials warn against taking drug (Marin Independent Journal)
Unnerved by the mounting nuclear plant crisis in Japan, Marin residents are attempting to stock up on potassium iodide, a drug that protects people from radiation-caused thyroid cancer. Several Marin pharmacies said Wednesday that they had been deluged by calls from people seeking to buy the drug, which can be purchased in an over-the-counter form — even though U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission say they do not expect harmful radiation levels to reach the United States from Japan.
- Tsunami by the Bay: A Worst Case Scenario (Bay Citizen)
…Rick Wilson of the U.S. Geological Survey has worked with city planners around the Bay Area to be ready for a large tidal wave. According to Wilson, the worst-case scenario involves a 9.0 or larger quake coming from the Aleutian Islands, west of Alaska. That region has subduction zones, in which tectonic plates move under one another, much like those around Japan.The wave sparked by this hypothetical quake would then hurtle toward the Californian coast. In about four and half hours, Pacifica would see 20-foot-tall waves that would surge onto land. San Francisco, at the mouth of the bay, would see waves around 12-15 feet above sea level, Richmond and Alameda would get 8- to 10-foot waves, Sausalito 8-foot waves. Wilson said that Half Moon Bay would be particularly hammered: waves there could reach 30 feet above sea level.
- Minimum-wage violators in San Francisco say competition is to blame (SF Examiner)
Lacrouts-Lyonnaise French Laundry, located in the Mission district, has violated San Francisco’s minimum-wage ordinance four times — a city record — and had to pay workers $177,346 in settlements, according to the Office of Labor Standards and Enforcement. But owner Kevin Lacrouts said he’s struggled to pay The City’s minimum hourly wage — now $9.92 — because most of his competitors are located in Marin, Oakland and South San Francisco and only have to offer employees $8 an hour — the state’s wage limit.
- Sonoma-Marin rail agency ponders cuts (Santa Rosa Press Democrat)
The Sonoma-Marin rail agency on Tuesday reviewed a list of cost-cutting measures ranging from deferring train stations to trimming a bicycle-pedestrian path as it struggles to build a commuter line. The list of cutbacks, totaling $106 million, are meant to close the funding gap between what the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit can afford and what it hopes to build.