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EV Charging Stations Multiply, But Are Often Out of Reach for Disadvantaged Populations

Melina Walling
Jul 22 2021

California will prohibit the sale of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035. But charging-station infrastructure takes time to develop. Already, some places are in danger of being left out, perpetuating historical disparities. Can supporters of a green future avoid the mistakes of the past?

An EVgo charging station in Venice in 2019 during an opening ceremony attended by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Reinventing the Gas Station An EVgo charging station in Venice in 2019 during an opening ceremony attended by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.   EVGO via Flickr

By Melina Walling

Andrea Talley loves her electric Kia Soul, but she doesn’t love charging it.

“Finding charging stations is a real struggle in my life,” said Talley, who lives and works in West Oakland, where she is a co-owner of a grocery cooperative. Until recently, since neither her apartment nor her neighborhood had outdoor charging ports, Talley needed to drive two miles north to Emeryville. With her car parked at the charging station next to an Urban Outfitters, she would plan her evenings around the hours needed to replenish her car battery.

Now, she charges at a brand-new charging station in Old Oakland, one of ten in a part of Oakland separated from her neighborhood by the I-980 freeway. It’s closer to where she lives, but not close enough. In West Oakland, there are no charging stations at all.

There are parallels between Talley’s work at Mandela Grocery Cooperative and her search for charging stations. The neighborhood now lacking charging stations was once devoid of groceries as well, in part because of decisions made the last time the American public shifted its primary mode of transportation.

The crossing of Interstates 980 and 580 in Oakland.

The crossing of Interstates 980 and 580 in Oakland.   Chiara Coetzee via Flickr

In the 1950s, cars replaced trains and soon highways were built cutting through urban neighborhoods. The construction of I-980 cut West Oakland off from the rest of the city. Urban renewal projects led scores of homes to be razed, while mortgages for new home purchases were scarce due to redlining practices. Major retailers fled. As profits declined, major grocery stores left. For the next 50 years, West Oaklanders had few places to buy fresh and affordable food, particularly produce. Mandela Grocery was founded in 2009 and helped alleviate the problem.

As for charging stations, it’s not clear whether any major companies will step up to do the same for West Oakland’s EV owners.With America on the verge of another transformation of transportation technology, will West Oakland again be denied a basic resource?

“Most people I talk to already understand the benefits of an electric car and love the idea,” said Talley. “ do you charge if you’re not a homeowner, and you don’t have a driveway with a charging port or an outlet?”

A BART train crosses a viaduct near the Nimitz Freeway in West Oakland.

A BART train crosses a viaduct near the Nimitz Freeway in West Oakland.   Thomas Hawk via Flickr

‘A Window of Opportunity’

Current projections suggest electric vehicles will account for a quarter of car sales by 2035, and will achieve cost parity with gas-powered vehicles by 2025, according to the online magazine Utility Dive. Although fleet turnover will take time, governments are depending on widespread electric-vehicle adoption to stay on target with the goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. Biden’s infrastructure proposal has a significant EV incentive plan, including installing 500,000 more charging stations across the country, though the budget for that plan may hit partisan roadblocks.

California is at the forefront of the transition, with more electric vehicles than any other state: 425,300 at the end of 2020, compared to 58,160 in Florida, the next largest market, according to the Alternative Fuels Data Center. Governor Newsom announced in September that California would ban the sale of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035.

California and the West Figure Prominently in EV Sales

Electric Vehicle Registrations By State as of December 31, 2020

Chart: Electric Vehicle Registrations By State as of December 31, 2020.

Source: Alternative Fuels Data Center

Bill Lane Center for the American West

Of the approximately 9,000 public charging stations in San Francisco, the Peninsula and the East Bay, almost half—about 4,200 of them—are in Santa Clara County, which leads the Bay Area in EV sales. In Alameda County, which has a comparable population but an income level about $5,000 annually lower than that of Santa Clara, there are about 2,000 charging stations.

Interactive Map: Charging Stations

Click to open this graphic in a new browser window.

Click to view in a new window.

Source: Alternative Fuels Data Center

In California, ChargePoint Claims the Lion’s Share of Stations

Chart: In California, ChargePoint Claims the Lion’s Share of Stations

Founded in Campbell in 2011, ChargePoint has installed more than two thirds of the public Level 2 charging locations in the state, with over 9,000 stations holding 15,000 charging ports. Tesla follows with 8% market share, and unaffiliated chargers at institutions like universities at 6%. Electrify America, which got an investment from Volkswagen as part of its diesel emissions fraud settlement, has announced plans to add 1,800 fast chargers and 10,000 individual chargers nationwide by 2025.

Source: Alternative Fuels Data Center

Bill Lane Center for the American West

Charging station availability makes a real difference in ownership. A recent study from UC Davis showed that one in five Californians switched back to gas-powered vehicles after trying an EV, in large part thanks to the inconvenience of charging. For electric cars to gain widespread adoption, all communities must have them, especially low income and majority Black and brown areas, says Chih-Wei Hsu, a transport policy researcher at Humboldt State University. Now people in those neighborhoods are less likely to be able to afford the upfront costs of EVs. They are also more likely to live with the poor air quality fouled by the traffic from nearby highways.

“I see technology adoption as a train, with the head of the train and the tail of the train—we need to make sure the distance between the head and the tail isn’t getting wider and wider, so we’re moving forward together but not that far apart,” said Hsu.

Policymakers and the EV industry can’t solve those problems overnight. The amount of time it will take to preemptively invest in an equitable charging-station network bears a striking resemblance to the decades of chronic disinvestment that left West Oakland without supermarkets.

“We’re in a moment where there’s a window of opportunity for investment,” said Leslie Aguayo, the Environmental Equity Program Manager at the Greenlining Institute, an Oakland nonprofit focused on environmental justice. “If we miss this window, we might be locked in.”

Publicity photo for a newly-opened evGo charging station outside the Brookhurst Community Center in Anaheim, taken in June 2019.

Publicity photo for a newly-opened evGo charging station outside the Brookhurst Community Center in Anaheim, taken in June 2019.   EVGO via Flickr

Because charging takes time, charging stations must be near daily activities.

Unlike filling up a tank with gas, which takes five minutes, it takes hours to charge a battery. How many hours? That depends on how powerful the chargers are, and how much they cost. A Level 1 or 2 charger might take a few hours to fill a battery; their average costs range from $80 to $2000. A Level 3 DC fast charger can fill up a battery in as little as 20 minutes, but costs anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000.

EV Charger Types Balance Speed and Affordability

Fast-charging technology for electric vehicles has advanced quickly, to the point where rapid chargers can top up the battery of compatible vehicles in an hour or less. It’s partly a matter of current – when large amounts of raw power are travelling through a thick enough cable, a car can suck down a large amount of juice. But most homeowners lack an exterior or garage-based 240-volt connection typical for dryers and water heaters, and upgrading home electrical systems can cost thousands of dollars. Here’s a look at the gamut of charging options.

Level 1
Standard AC Plug

Level 2
Charging Device on Large Appliance Outlet

Level 3/DC Fast Charging
Mostly via Public Stations

Level 1: Standard AC PlugLevel 2: Charging Device on Large Appliance Outlet

Level 2: Charging Device on Large Appliance Outlet

Level 3/DC Fast Charging


Charges through 120v AC plug.


No additional equipment needed, but outlets might not be available to apartment dwellers in urban areas.

Charging range per hour

2-5 miles

Time to 100 mi. range

20-50 hours


Charging device connects to 240v appliance outlets, if available.


$80-$2,000+, plus installation.

Charging range per hour

10-20 miles

Time to 100 mi. range

5-10 hours


Charges through 480v AC input using specialized, high-powered equipment regulated by municipalities.


Prohibitive cost and high power levels make these unsuitable for home installation.

Charging range per hour

180-240 miles

Time to 100 mi. range

25-35 mins

Source: Alternative Fuels Data Center

Bill Lane Center for the American West

Local governments with the time and resources to advocate for fast-charging investment often represent more affluent communities where there are already a significant number of EV drivers. And fast chargers are often sited along highways to benefit commuters or long-distance travelers.

“There’s a difference between proximity to a charger versus access to a charger,” said Michelle Solomon, a Guenther Congressional Fellow who previously worked at the California Energy Commission. “Fast chargers are more likely to be along highways, but just because you have a fast charger on a highway near you doesn’t mean it’s something you can easily get to.”

“What is going to get us to California’s decarbonization the fastest: investing in cheaper, lower-powered charging right now to get more people involved in the transition, or going all in on the best technology available that’s more expensive and will block some people out of the system at first?” asked Sindhu Nathan, a former Schultz Fellow at the California Energy Commission.

“If you look at trends of EV adoption, we’re almost at the stage where it’s going to grow very, very rapidly,” said Nathan. “Really, the thing making me hesitant is, ‘Are we going to do it the right way?’ We have historically designed infrastructure in a way that’s discriminatory. And we also know how to not do that going forward. But old habits die hard.”

Bridging the Rural Divide

A Tesla-only fast charging station in the North Cascades resort town of Leavenworth, Washington.

A Tesla-only fast charging station in the North Cascades resort town of Leavenworth, Washington.   GEOFF McGHEE

Similar to the digital divide in broadband, rural and agricultural areas tend to have less charging station infrastructure. Huron, an agricultural town about 45 minutes from Fresno whose predominantly Latinx population doubles to about 15,000 during harvest season, used to be a prime example. In 2015, it had only four charging stations. Then Mayor Rey Leon stepped in. .

“Currently we have 30 electric vehicle chargers in Huron, 26 of which I had something to do with,” said Leon, who was elected to office in 2016. As part of his broader environmental justice advocacy plan, he and other officials wrote letters seeking better investment from the California Air Resources Board. As a result, California made Fresno a focus area for charging-station development, placing an additional emphasis on including low-income and vulnerable communities in the rollout.

“Electric cars are the best available technology, and they need to be adopted by everybody,” said Leon. He hopes that widespread EV adoption could help a local population whose health is already disproportionately affected by pollution from Interstate 5 and Highway 99, which contribute to skyrocketing rates of asthma and cancer in California’s Central Valley.

With the new charging stations in place, Leon was able to support a local group that maintains an informal ridesharing network, now called the Green Raiteros project. The town provided two electric cars to the existing community network, along with charging stations from EVgo. Neighbors support each other by pitching in when they can to give free rides to medical clinics, the Mexican consulate, or grocery stores, all of which are far from agricultural areas.

A press release announcing the Green Raiteros program on the EVgo website

A press release announcing the Green Raiteros program on the EVgo website.   EVGO

“If we hadn’t had the chargers, the Green Raiteros program would have been a challenge,” said Leon. And while the program has seen success so far, Leon noted that the raiteros need fast charging options, since they often need to charge at least once during the day.

“There’s been occasions where the staff have to drive the vehicle ten miles away to plug into a DC fast charger, which is really inconvenient,” he said. Leon hopes to get more fast chargers installed in Huron, but getting funding has been a hurdle.“It’s just like always,” said Leon. “We had to come to the table and make sure we got attention from the corporations and state agencies, because nobody’s going to fight for us but us.”

Two charging station companies, ChargePoint and EVgo, were asked to comment on their strategy for charging station rollouts and whether equity factored into their business models. EVgo failed to answer a dozen questions about charger siting and equity issues they were sent 11 weeks ago; ChargePoint did respond, saying that their company “works closely with organizations and state and local governments to increase access to public EV charging and electrified public transport.” They also noted that ChargePoint does not own the physical charging stations —the stations in their network are owned by businesses or fleets.

Fast-charging company Electrify America’s 2020 Annual Report to the California Air Resources Board includes initiatives to support low-income communities, but describes its specific station siting process as a “proprietary methodology.” The report also describes challenges with “soft costs” such as zoning and permitting that ultimately resulted in the company installing fewer stations per dollar in California than in other states.

“Private charging companies want to see a return on their investment,” said Aguayo. “They have to be convinced—[they say,] ‘why should I put a charger in a census tract that is low-income, if it’s not going to generate any profit?’”

Who Defines Equity?

Even when policymakers put a focus on equity, barriers arise. Switching to an EV can be a challenge for low-income individuals, because government incentives like rebates don’t account for the burden of upfront payments. Renters and people who own apartments have a harder time charging because they often park on the street or in public lots shared by many vehicles. By contrast, homeowners in wealthier census tracts don’t need access to public chargers because they are more likely to have access to a personal charger in their garage or driveway.

Black- and Hispanic- majority populations are 30 percent less likely to have charger access than other groups, according to Hsu’s latest research.

“When the race group disparities first popped up, that surprised me, because in those programs they always talk about ensuring these investments in communities are disproportionately being harmed,” said Hsu. “But just because it’s in the program design doesn’t mean it’s rolling out effectively.”

To address these concerns, the l AB2127, which the California legislature enacted in 2018, requires the California Energy Commission to assess charging station access in relation to census tract data every two years. But agencies like the Air Resources Board, the Energy Commission or the utility companies have no common definition of equity or shared metrics to know if it has been achieved.

“Because charging infrastructure is dependent on manufacturing companies that make vehicles, private companies that make the stations, and utilities that supply electricity, that back-and-forth on ‘what is equity?’ can create a lot of unnecessary barriers to the acceleration of the deployment,” said Aguayo. “If we’re trying to reach zero emissions goals by 2035, it’s not going to be helped by bureaucracy.”

Nathan, who formerly worked at the California Energy Commission, also stressed the need for community-specific research in the face of a new technology whose convenience, cost and reliability fluctuate. “It’s not only about access but about behavior,” she said. “It’s going to take very intentional planning on a local level, a concerted inclusion of every community and their needs to design the system appropriately.”

She pointed out that equity does not always mean expensive DC chargers at apartment buildings, but should include plans for communal or public transportation and be tailored to a specific area’s needs. “We have to make sure not only that the chargers are in place,” added Nathan, “but that people in those communities want and are able to use them.”

The Port of Oakland as seen from a BART station in 2018. As of the summer of 2021, West Oakland has no public charging stations.

The Port of Oakland as seen from a BART station in 2018. As of the summer of 2021, West Oakland has no public charging stations.   DAN BREKKE via Flickr

West Oakland still has no public charging stations. In 2015, the city proposed adding one in the parking lot of De Fremery Park, in the center of town. In principle it seemed a fine idea. But not in practice, said C.N.E. Corbin, an expert on green cities.

Corbin is now a professor at Portland State University. Five years ago, she was on the Oakland Parks and Recreation advisory commission. Defremery Park, she said, has served as a social and political hub for decades. Its parking lot has long been home to high school reunions, festivals, the historic Black Cowboys parade, and funeral repasts.

“This [parking lot] is where people are saying ‘bye’ to community members who have passed away,” said Corbin. “There’s food, and family members, and I just cannot see a bunch of outsiders...charging up their electric vehicles in the middle of community grieving.”

The city pulled the proposal.

The specter of “green gentrification”

EV charger companies like Chargepoint, above, provide guides for apartment charging stations.

EV charger companies like Chargepoint, above, provide guides for apartment charging stations.   Chargepoint

Concerns about green gentrification remain. Like free WiFi at a Starbucks, chargers drive foot traffic, increase property values, and improve air quality, said Catherine Brinkley, an urban planner at UC Davis. That makes them a double-edged sword. Their arrival could prevent another chapter of environmental racism, but it could also attract wealthier EV owners, driving up rents and forcing longtime residents out of their homes.

Measuring the threat of gentrification against public health outcomes complicates matters. Stanley Young, communications director at the California Air Resources Board, called zero-emission vehicles “a crucial solution to the air pollution challenges that communities face, especially those adjacent to ports or close to goods corridors.” Corbin is not so sure that they will “solve the [injustice of] multiple generations of Oaklanders who have been exposed to pollutants.”

For Hsu, “It’s a balancing act. What has more risk, and what has more harm—a complete lack of investment, or some investment with a risk of gentrification? For me, some investment is always better than no investment.” Aguayo agreed, highlighting the concern that fears of green gentrification could be weaponized to justify a failure to invest in communities that need additional support.

Aguayo, along with Leon, Corbin, and Nathan, also believes policy makers must ensure that community members have a seat at the table when making decisions about charging station infrastructure. And back in West Oakland, Talley believes community connections will be an asset in cultivating equity as the future of transportation, food and housing begins to take shape. “Investing in each other and our children’s futures by being hyper-local, taking care of our neighborhoods, and taking pride in them,” said Talley, “that’s my hope.”


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Edited by Felicity Barringer and Geoff McGhee.


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Articles Worth Reading: July 6, 2021

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More Impacts of the Drought: A Grasshopper Plague, Trees Dying of Thirst and Farmers Razing Almond Trees. Grasshoppers thrive in warm, dry weather, and populations already were up last year, setting the stage for a bigger outbreak now under way. Such outbreaks could become more common as climate change shifts rainfall patterns, scientists said. In Arizona, up to 30 percent of junipers are dying off. In California, farmers are deciding to cut down their almond trees. Associated Press The Conversation Atlas Obscura

Low Wages Lead Firefighters to Leave California. Starting pay for members of highly-trained “hotshot” teams that fight the kind of wildland fires that have devastated the state: $13.45 an hour, similar to what high schoolers make at fast-food restaurants. Unemployment checks can be higher, and their state counterparts are paid twice as much. KNTV Newsweek

New Mexico Oil Boom Brings Production Back to Pre-pandemic Levels. The state’s oil production now exceeds North Dakota’s, putting it No. 2 in the country. Drillers pumped a record 1.18 million barrels a day in March, up from 1.13 million barrels a day in the same month a year ago, legislative staffers told the state's finance committee earlier this week. Texas, the biggest oil-producing state, produced 4.7 million barrels a day in March, down from 5.4 million before the pandemic, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. E&E Daily

The Country’s Cultural Divide Reflected In a Fight Over an Oregon Trail. “Yamhill is the urban-rural divide personified,” said one resident. In Oregon, as in other Western states, The “urban-rural divide” is shorthand for the cultural, Yamhill County received a grant to purchase the abandoned railway right of way to be repurposed it as a public trail. An early phase would span 2.8 miles, connecting the towns of Carlton and Yamhill/ The towns differ widely. Though Carlton grew with timber, wine revived it. Nearly every Main Street storefront houses a wine-tasting room. In Yamhill, most storefronts stand vacant, and yard signs and flags project a different vibe: “Blue Lives Matter” and “Don’t Blame Me, I Voted for Trump.” Trail construction between the towns began in 2020. But by spring 2021, building stopped. High Country News

Vivid Pictures of the Drought’s Impact on the Lake Shasta Reservoir Los Angeles Times

Articles Worth Reading: June 21, 2021

CNN Is Highlighting the Most Relevant Maps of drought conditions, stream flow and projected rainfall. CNN

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Articles Worth Reading: June 7, 2021

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Articles Worth Reading: May 25, 2021

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Democratic Leaders In New Mexico Have Not Passed Meaningful Legislation to Curtail Fossil Fuel Use, despite their promises of a green future. An investigation from Searchlight New Mexico reveals that more than a third of New Mexico’s state budget comes from oil and gas revenue, and that Democrats as well as Republicans accepted large contributions from oil and gas companies. Searchlight New Mexico

California Farmers Are Deciding Which Crops to Save and Which to Jettison as a severe drought puts irrigation systems in jeopardy. That choice often means abandoning labor-intensive foods and concentrating on crops that require less water or are more lucrative. Because of the six-year-old Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, farmers and ranchers can’t depend on groundwater reserves in the future. So they are evaluating their water portfolios, attempting new agricultural techniques, and bracing for losses. That could mean higher prices at the supermarket. San Jose Mercury News

Tazlina Villagers in Rural Alaska Are Fundraising to Buy Back Their Traditional Lands from the Catholic Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau, which has put the property up for sale for $1.86 million. The church offered to sell the land to the village before putting it on the open market, but a realtor has suggested that the asking price is high and the villagers are scrambling for funds. Even so, tribal representatives remain optimistic that they will be able to make the purchase. Indian Country Today

A Cultural Group is Crafting Hawaiian Names for Seabirds after European arrivals stripped many of their native taxonomies. Climate change threatens many of the birds in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument; the nomenclature committee hopes the new names will bring new awareness and concern to these vulnerable species. Hakai

The History of Stanford’s Searsville Lake. With this podcast and multimedia piece, KQED’s Bay Curious podcast investigates the history of Searsville Lake at Stanford’s Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve KQED

Dive Into a Detailed Infographic of the Colorado River Basin with this map that explores water, agriculture, and wildfires. Lincoln Institute

Articles Worth Reading: May 10, 2021

The Department of the Interior Dropped a Deregulation Proposal from the Trump administration that would have weakened rules on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic. The proposal, announced in December 2020, was among a series of attempted environmental rollbacks at the end of Trump’s presidency and would have made it easier for drilling companies to file exploration plans. Associated Press

Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon Approved Litigation Funds to sue other states that block energy imports from the state’s dwindling coal industry. The move from Wyoming may complicate the plans of West Coast states seeking to reduce their reliance on coal power. While Wyoming coal advocates have cited concerns about their workers’ futures and have proposed carbon capture technology as an alternative avenue for the state to reduce emissions, legal and energy experts insist that coal’s market will continue to decline. Denver Post

The Electric Vehicle Transition Is Driving Demand For Lithium, which could be a boon for California’s Imperial Valley. Near the Salton Sea, an Australian company called Controlled Thermal Resources has invested in a geothermal energy facility that will also expose reserves of lithium without producing significant carbon emissions. Experts are optimistic that the market focus on renewable energy and the development of the Salton Sea lakebed could align, leading to a new “Lithium Valley” in the state. NPR

Southwestern Tribes Are Calling For An End to Water Insecurity after the COVID-19 pandemic revealed severe inequities in access to water on reservations. A new report highlights the challenges faced by Indigenous communities; many lack basic indoor plumbing and running water or rely on contaminated water sources. Tribal leaders now hope to use the new report in crucial negotiations over the management of the Colorado River. Experts say that river’s flow will continue to diminish as a result of climate change, exacerbating water shortages. Insideclimate News

An ASU Professor Has Created the First Parcel of Land to be Legally Owned by Wildlife by expanding on existing legal frameworks for “pet trusts,” which provide legal protections for animals. Professor Bradshaw has turned an acre of her property into a wildlife-friendly habitat, and hopes that a practice of transferring ownership to backyard animals will help homeowners cultivate a sense of stewardship for the environment. Some conservationists and legal experts are unsure of the solution’s practicality, but Bradshaw says that the future of U.S. biodiversity cannot rest on public land management alone. Arizona Republic

Robert Bullard’s Fight for Environmental Justice Isn’t Over despite a lifetime of pioneering work exposing the unequal impacts of pollution on Black and brown communities. Bullard, a professor at Texas Southern University, recently received a lifetime achievement award from the United Nations Environment Program, but says that his work continues as a teacher of future generations of environmental and climate justice advocates. Texas Observer

See How The West Has Changed Since The Last Census in this data visualization showing population and apportionment of Congressional seats. California was the only Western state to lose a seat, while Montana, Oregon, Colorado all gained a seat; Texas gained two. High Country News

Articles Worth Reading: April 26, 2021

Governor Gavin Newsom Announced Plans to Ban Hydraulic Fracturing in California by 2024 as part of a longer-term goal to cease oil extraction in the state by 2045. While fracking does not represent a majority of California’s oil production, Newsom has described the move as a symbolic action. Environmental advocates say Newsom’s proposed clean energy timelines are not fast enough, but he has faced opposition in the state legislature toward more aggressive proposed measures to ban oil and gas production. Some speculate that the guarded anti-fracking move was made with an eye on Newsom’s upcoming recall election. NPR The New York Times

Idaho’s State Senate Voted to Allow Private Contractors to Kill 90 Percent of Wolves in the state to protect hunting and agricultural interests. The population has held steady at about 1500 wolves for the past two years, but ranchers and farmers say reducing the number to 150 could reduce the financial losses associated with wolves attacking sheep and cattle. If the wolf population falls below 100, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may resume management in the area. Associated Press

The Environmental Protection Agency Is Reversing Its Decision to Keep California From Requiring More Stringent Tailpipe Emission Controls than those of the federal government. With 13 other states signing on to California standards, 36 percent of the U.S. auto market is in states abiding by the tougher rules. The Trump administration sought to throttle California’s decades-old freedom to set standards to clean the nation’s dirtiest air. The Washington Post

Researchers Consider Environmental Impacts of the Border Wall in Southern Arizona, which ecologists say threatens wildlife and poses greater risks of damage from flash floods. Indigenous communities mourn the damage to sacred lands, which they say cannot be undone by removing the wall. The Biden administration must now decide whether halting construction is enough, or whether further action is necessary to improve conservation outlooks and land management practices at the border. Arizona Republic

East Palo Alto Residents Collaborate With Scientists and City Government to Fight Sea Level Rise in this multimedia feature from the Pulitzer Center’s Connected Coastlines Initiative. Although East Palo Alto’s budget is hundreds of times smaller than San Francisco’s, their plans to mitigate the threat of sea level rise are well ahead of much of the Bay Area. Even so, a historical legacy of disinvestment, racial segregation, and regional disparities could undermine East Palo Alto’s strategies, which include replacing old levees and accounting for infrastructure upgrades to sanitation systems and electrical towers. Experts say a coordinated effort will be necessary to keep the entire Bay safe from catastrophic flooding. KQED

Native Fishermen Compete With Industrial Trawlers For Declining Halibut Populations off the coast of Alaska, where warming temperatures wreak havoc on Bering Sea ecosystems. Crab, pollock, salmon and halibut numbers are all shrinking, but industrial fishermen don’t feel the pressure; even as they target lower-value species, they waste millions of more expensive fish like halibut as bycatch. Now, fishery managers are discussing new limits that would reduce waste and even the playing field for Native fishermen, but industrial operations are fighting the new restrictions, saying it’s unrealistic to reduce bycatch in practice. National Geographic

Anglers On The Los Angeles River Face A Tenuous Future as the city plans to revitalize the waterway with a new system of parks and cultural centers. Many destitute Angelenos rely on the river for food, shelter and refuge; the city will likely remove homeless encampments as part of their new investments. Homeless advocates worry that the new parks will create a wave of “green gentrification” that leaves out already marginalized communities. High Country News

Eastern Washington Is Investing In Clean Hydrogen Energy Infrastructure amidst debate over the alternative fuel’s viability. Supporters believe producing combustible hydrogen could help eliminate fossil fuels used by heavy emitters like the construction and aviation industries, but the technology is costly. However, the Pacific Northwest has an advantageous surplus of clean power from wind and solar farms, which engineers say makes the region an optimal place to test a pilot program. Inside Climate News

Wind Turbine Techs Brave Heights in this photo feature on blade technicians who climb and belay on the enormous fiberglass structures to perform maintenance. Patagonia

Articles Worth Reading: April 12, 2021

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland Visited Bears Ears as crowds of tourists and looters frustrate advocates seeking to restore the original scope of the national monument. Former President Trump shrank the areas of monuments at Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in 2017, reversing Obama-era protections. Haaland must decide whether to recommend that Biden restore the previous boundaries. Indigenous groups want to see the monument expanded, while Republican politicians, ranchers and miners in Utah resist increased federal protections. Washington Post

Las Vegas Pushing to Become First City to Ban Ornamental Grass. This desert gambling metropolis, whose utility has for nearly two decades rewarded homeowners for replacing grass with dry landscaping – xeriscaping – is planning to go one step further. The utility is asking Nevada state legislators to outlaw about 40 percent of the remaining greensward, arguing that there are almost eight square miles of grass in medians or office parks that no one walks on. Last year was among the driest in the region’s history; for a record 240 days, there was no measurable rainfall. About 90 percent of southern Nevada's water comes from the Colorado River, whose reservoirs at Lake Mead and Lake Powell are near record lows. Associated Press

What’s In Toxic Wildfire Smoke? To find answers, scientists chase storms and rig cargo planes to become flying laboratories. Chemists, immunologists, and other experts have begun using air and ash samples from recent catastrophic fire seasons to unravel the human health impacts of wildfire emissions, though they say fully understanding the long-term effects may take years. National Geographic

Three Interest Groups Face Off In a Scramble Over Temperate Rainforests on the southwest corner of Vancouver Island. A century of logging has depleted about 80 percent of the old-growth trees on the island in British Columbia. An anti-logging group is blockading an area near Fairy Creek. But the Pacheedat First Nation, which gets provincial compensation in exchange for allowing logging in their territory, has not agreed to the blockade, though some tribal members sympathize. Legal action is pending. The Tyee

A New Wildlife Refuge In Albuquerque will become the first urban wildlife refuge in the Southwest, officially opening this fall. The Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge promises more open space for historically disenfranchised Chicano communities. The new amenities are expected to raise property values, opening the town to potential gentrification, cultural change and excess tourism. Equitable representation for community members in the preserve will be key to grounding the refuge in the values of environmental justice, the refuge’s supporters say. High Country News

Cattle Ranchers Seek Control of Free-Roaming Tule Elk In Point Reyes, prompting opposition from conservationists. When Congress designed the national seashore as public land not only for nature preservation but also for farmers’ “cultural heritage,” it sowed the seeds of repeated conflicts. In the late 19th century, human development nearly drove the elk extinct. Though herds were reintroduced in the 1960s, the species returned to a landscape shaped by cattle. Now, it’s unclear who will control the future of that landscape. Biographic

‘Glamping’ Project In Joshua Tree Puts Sustainable Development To The Test as Airstream tourism company AutoCamp breaks ground on its first high desert tourism attraction. While its designers tout the eco-friendly features of the campus, residents worry that tourism could send housing prices soaring and that heavy tourist traffic could harm desert ecosystems. Desert Sun

Grasshoppers, Opera, And Ecological Collapse intertwine in this audio story of a Wyoming entomologist and his quest to find the truth about a melting glacier. Atlas Obscura

Articles Worth Reading: March 29, 2021

Latino Neighborhoods in the Southwest Are Far Hotter than Anglo neighborhoods, which have more trees and shade. The difference is as much as seven degrees in southern California, according to a new study of 20 urban areas. It shows the poorest 10 percent of neighborhoods are much hotter — four degrees Fahrenheit on average — than the wealthiest neighborhoods nearby. In particular, areas with large Latino populations bear an unequal burden. Arizona Republic

The Interior Department Rescinded a Decision That Had Eliminated Tribal Ownership of a portion of the Missouri River on the Fort Berthold Reservation and given it to the state of North Dakota. Under the Trump administration, a department statement said, Interior had agreed that North Dakota owned mineral rights despite eight decades of legal precedent to the contrary. Now the department says it needs to look more closely at the legality of ignoring the ownership rights of the Mandan, Hidatsa and the Arikara Nation. The Hill

A Republican Congressman’s Proposal to Breach Four Snake River Dams has reopened more than a century of arguments over the structures. Their construction violated treaties, flooded 14,4000 acres, crippled salmon runs and provided both a modest amount of electricity and the ability to barge inland crops to Pacific ports. Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson’s $33.5 billion plan to breach the four dams has renewed that debate. A look at the pros and cons of the proposal, and an advocate’s website visualizing the impact of dam removal. Oregonian Spokesman-Review Magic Valley Save Our Wild Salmon

What Western Governors Say They Care About is reflected in this summary – complete with a word-cloud graphic – from their association’s office’s report on recent state-of-the-state addresses. Not surprisingly, the most prevalent word is “Covid.” It’s followed by “Vaccine,” “Education,” “Infrastructure,” and “Broadband.” Western Governors Association

Covering 4,000 Miles of California Canals With Solar Panels would annually save 63 billion gallons of water from evaporating and provide 13 gigawatts of renewable power, according to a feasibility study published in the journal Nature Sustainability. That is roughly half the new capacity the state needs to meet its decarbonization goals by the year 2030. Wired

The West is Losing the War to Preserve Sage-Grouse Habitat. Human activity and fire have destroyed millions of acres of habitat for the greater sage grouse. A new federal study is deeply pessimistic about the future of the bird as it loses its essential range. Expanding, ferocious wildfires play a major part in the destruction, but so do invasive, quick-burning plants like cheatgrass. Federal and multistate efforts have helped cut the rate of destruction, but a warming climate means land managers are losing their fight. E&E Daily

Ways of Emitting Less Methane, both from leaking oil and gas wells, intentional venting of gas, and even cow burps, are getting new attention. New Mexico’s Oil and Gas Commission just adopted new rules to control oil fields’ venting and flaring of gas. And researchers at the University of California, Davis have increasing evidence that adding tropical red seaweed to cow feed can reduce bovine methane emissions by up to 82 percent. Associated Press Grist

As the Nation’s Largest Wind Farm Is Readied In the Wyoming Town of Rawlins, immense pride in the coal mining that used to power its economy remains. The New York Times “The Daily” Podcast

Larry McMurtry, Novelist of the West, Dies at 84. McMurtry’s stock in trade was de-mythologizing the West of early paperbacks and mid 20th-century television series, and offering a portrait that was more raw and more real. He did so most memorably in the 843-page novel “Lonesome Dove,” about two Texas rangers driving stolen cattle from the Rio Grande to Montana in the 1870s. He was also part of the creative force behind the movie “Brokeback Mountain.” The New York Times Dallas Morning News

Graphics & the West

Where California Grows Its Food

See the most detailed survey ever done of crops and land use in California. It covers nine million acres of land devoted to grapes, alfalfa, cotton, plums, you name it – food for people and animals all over the world. View map »

California's Changing Energy Mix

A look at the energy sources California utilities have used gives us insights into the state’s progress in decarbonizing its electricity supply. In 2015, 35% of total electricity generation (in-state generation plus imported electricity) came from zero-greenhouse-gas sources, which include solar, wind, hydropower, and nuclear. View Graphic »

U.S. Conservation Easements

Conservation easements of various kinds cover more than 22 million acres of land in the United States, according to the National Conservation Easement Database, a public-private partnership. Take a look at our interactive map of nearly every conservation easement, with details on over 130,000 sites. View map »


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