California Employers Cited $1.75M in Refinery Worker Death

The Cal/OSHA Process Safety Management Unit cited Valero Refinery of Benicia and three contractors a combined $1.75 million for serious safety violations following a confined space death of a 35-year-old worker who suffocated in a regenerator overflow well.

Cal/OSHA inspectors cited three of the four employers with willful and serious violations after determining that they failed to follow confined space guidelines, including the failure to determine acceptable entry conditions for the employee, which reportedly resulted in exposure to an oxygen-deficient atmosphere.

California Fire Destroys Mansions; New Mexico Wildfire Grows

The largest wildfire in the U.S. was spreading toward mountain resort towns in northern New Mexico, prompting officials to issue another set of warnings for more people to evacuate.

Meanwhile, a wildfire that erupted Wednesday afternoon in coastal Southern California raced through coastal bluffs of multimillion-dollar mansions, burning at least 20 homes, fire officials said. The flames were fanned by gusty ocean winds but they were dying down Wednesday night. No injuries were reported but several streets were ordered evacuated.

California Water Use Up Dramatically Amid Worsening Drought

California’s water use jumped dramatically in March, state officials said Tuesday, as one of the driest stretches on record prompted a wave of homeowners to start watering their lawns earlier than usual in defiance of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s pleas for conservation amid a severe drought.

Newsom last summer asked residents to voluntarily cut water use by 15% compared to 2020 as climate change intensified a drought that threatened to drain the state’s reservoirs to dangerously low levels. Water conservation increased gradually through December, aided by some intense fall and early winter storms that reduced water demand.

California Trying to Reduce Flood Risk Along Rivers

Between vast almond orchards and dairy pastures in the heart of California’s farm country sits a property being redesigned to look like it did 150 years ago, before levees restricted the flow of rivers that weave across the landscape.

The 2,100 acres at the confluence of the Tuolumne and San Joaquin rivers in the state’s Central Valley are being reverted to a floodplain. That means when heavy rains cause the rivers to go over their banks, water will run onto the land, allowing traditional ecosystems to flourish and lowering flood risk downstream.

California Drought Deepening as Wet Season is Anything But

California is experiencing one of the driest starts to spring in decades, data showed Friday, and absent a heavy dose of April and May showers the state’s drought will deepen and that could lead to stricter rules on water use and another devastating wildfire season.

New readings showed the water in California’s mountain snowpack sat at 38% of average. That’s the lowest mark since the end of the last drought in 2015; only twice since 1988 has the level been lower.

State officials highlighted the severity of the dismal water numbers as they stood at a snow measuring station south of Lake Tahoe, where the landscape included more grass than snow. At the deepest point measured there, there was just 2.5 inches of snow.

California Imposes New Round of Water Cuts to Deal with Severe Drought

California’s urban water users and farmers who rely on supplies from state reservoirs will get less than planned this year as fears of a third consecutive dry year become reality, state officials announced.

Water agencies that serve 27 million people and 750,000 acres of farmland, will get just 5% of what they’ve requested this year from state supplies beyond what’s needed for critical activities such as drinking and bathing.

That’s down from the 15% allocation state officials had announced in January, after a wet December fueled hopes of a lessening drought.

Extreme Wildfires Expected to Increase 30% by 2050

Indonesia’s peatlands, California’s forests, and, now, vast swathes of Argentine wetland have all been ravaged by extreme wildfires, heralding a fiery future and the dire need to prevent it.

With climate change triggering droughts and farmers clearing forests, the number of extreme wildfires is expected to increase 30% within the next 28 years. And they are now scorching environments that were not prone to burning in the past, such as the Arctic’s tundra and the Amazon rainforest.

“We’ve seen a great increase in recent fires in northern Syria, northern Siberia, the eastern side of Australia, and India,” said Australian government bushfire scientist Andrew Sullivan, an editor on the report, released Wednesday, by the UN Environment Programme and GRID-Arendal environmental communications group.

California Wildfire at 20% Containment, Evacuation Orders Lifted

A wildfire near Bishop, California, is only 20% contained, however evacuation orders have been lifted.

The Airport Fire, which started on Wednesday, has burned 4,136 acres. At one point it had threatened 150 structures, according to CalFire.

“Forward rate of progress has been stopped north of Hwy 168 and firefighters continue to construct containment lines and mop-up on the north end of the fire,” a CalFire incident report states.

Researcher Seeks Answers to Question: How Does A Town Rebuild After a Wildfire?

Three months after the most destructive fire in California’s history, the residents of Paradise were sifting through the rubble of their houses, moving out of shelters and into less temporary but not permanent housing, considering the future of their home.

Catrin Edgeley took her notebook and recorder to the destroyed town. She wanted to understand the ecology of the human response to the Camp Fire. For how often this happens, there are still so many unknowns.

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