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Heal the Bay Blog

Author: Shelley Luce

HEAL THE BAY WE ARE HERE FOR GOOD BLOG

A Note from our CEO

As the year comes to a close, we feel energized for what’s ahead. 2021 will not be business as usual. There is too much at stake. Now is our chance to take bold action for present and future generations.

Climate change must be slowed or much will be lost. Heal the Bay pushes government leaders to protect water and biodiversity from the San Gabriel Mountains to the Santa Monica Bay.

Clean water and safe, accessible open space are fundamental for public health. Heal the Bay fights for strong permits that require green solutions to our local pollution problems.

The toxic legacy of plastic production and waste impacts our everyday life. Heal the Bay supports a ban on disposables that harm our neighborhoods and wildlife habitats.

A better world is possible when we empower our youth. Heal the Bay gives students the tools to advocate for their future by testifying at hearings and writing letters to elected officials.

We must recover environmental policy rollbacks. Heal the Bay has the expertise to regain ocean, river, and wetland protections, and solve today’s problems by upholding the Clean Water Act.

We are living in a critical decade for our planet. The hard work in front of us won’t happen by itself. Your donation to Heal the Bay supports our mission of making the coastal waters and watersheds in Southern California safe, healthy, and clean through science, education, community action, and advocacy.

Amidst all the challenges, you can trust that Heal the Bay is here for good. We will not stop until we succeed.

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Thank you for doing your part.

Dr. Shelley Luce, Heal the Bay President and CEO

Shelley Luce

Interested in learning more about Heal the Bay’s impact in 2020? View Shelley’s reflection on the year behind us.

 



DDT Dumping near Catalina

Heal the Bay’s Communications team sat down with Shelley Luce, Heal the Bay CEO and discussed her reaction to the in-depth story in the Los Angeles Times uncovering DDT dumping near Catalina that happened more than three decades ago.

What is your reaction to the recent LA Times article on DDT pollution in the Bay? 

I am shocked. We know about the superfund site off of Palos Verdes. We worked on the scientific and legal investigations in the 1980s and 1990s. We supported U.S. and state agencies in their lawsuit against Montrose Chemical Corporation and three other companies, which was finally settled in 2001. Heal the Bay helped create the Angler Outreach Program to inform local subsistence anglers about the toxic waste that contaminates the fish they are catching to feed their families. 

But these thousands of barrels of DDT dumped near Catalina were not part of the discussion.  

It took years to negotiate the cleanup requirements for the Palos Verdes site. It’s just unfathomable the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Justice (DOJ), and the State Water Board all knew about the additional contamination and did not make that part of the cleanup and mitigation requirements.  

The impacts of half a million barrels of leaking DDT are far-reaching.  

DDT is an especially devastating chemical because it never goes away. It gets into ocean animals and concentrates as it moves up the food chain. It harms untold numbers of fish, marine mammals, and birds, as well as people in especially vulnerable communities – people fishing to feed their families.  

And in this time of climate change, this DDT dumped in the waters off Catalina is yet another blow to our ocean. Oceans are already stressed from warming and acidification, as well as overfishing and pollution from products like plastics, that never biodegrade or leave the environment.  

How can we hold polluters accountable? 

It’s so hard. Sometimes as nonprofits we have to fight unethical corporations and our own governments. Today we’re talking about DDT from Montrose Chemical Corporation. Last month we saw Exide Technologies, Inc. was allowed to walk away from the toxic lead and arsenic mess they created for three decades near 110,000+ residents in East LA, Boyle Heights, Commerce, Bell Gardens, Vernon, Cudahy, Maywood, Bell, and Huntington. 1 Support East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice in the fight to hold Exide accountable.

Corporations can leave. Government officials can leave. But our communities stay. 

This DDT was dumped decades ago and a settlement for a portion of the pollution was already reached. Now we will fight again to hold these polluters accountable. We will start by asking the EPA, DOJ, Coastal Commission, and the State Water Board what jurisdiction they have to bring further claims against the parties responsible for the DDT dumping, and by collaborating with agencies who show they want to fix this problem. We demand solutions and will take action to reach them.      

What more needs to be done to protect communities and habitats? 

In addition to legal action, here are three things we must do:   

  1. We need a lot more education for people who rely on fish they catch to feed their families. Heal the Bay’s Angler Outreach Program is the model: we reach the most vulnerable people, in their own languages, and in places where they feel comfortable receiving this information. 
  2. We need more frequent and extensive monitoring of sediment and fish, to track contamination that can harm animals and the people who eat them. Every five years is not enough; we need detailed assessments to understand what is happening to the DDT that is out there.
  3. We must find a way to clean up the DDT and PCBs in our ocean. We know the pilot project to cap the Palos Verdes site was not a success, but that does not mean we walk away. The EPA, NOAA, and other agencies must convene the experts who can come up with the next step and the next, until we find a way to deal with this toxic legacy.   

 Tell us what you think should be done. Contact Us.

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1 East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice



A Note from our CEO

This has been a year of hardship and heartbreak. Many people are lamenting its losses and eager to get out of 2020 and into the new year. I have felt the deep pain of the pandemic, the wildfires, and the unpredictable politics of this unprecedented year. But I am seeing something else too: I see progress. I see change. I see a new future ahead of us.

During these stressful times Heal the Bay worked differently, and harder than ever, to fight for clean water in LA.

This year, people joyfully returned to the beaches and rivers they treasure. Heal the Bay was there. Our most recent River Report Card and Beach Report Card ensured the latest water quality grades were publicly available. But we still have so much more work to do to make our outdoor spaces safe and accessible for all. Heal the Bay is prioritizing water quality monitoring during a health crisis that has caused many public places and services to shut down.

This year, the momentum shifted on plastic trash. More and more people want to rid our environment of this toxic scourge. As a result, we secured more than 800,000 signatures to put a major plastics reduction initiative on the 2022 California Ballot. A robust statewide policy is the logical next step after a patchwork of bans on plastic bags, straws, and Styrofoam have already been implemented. Heal the Bay is pushing for the most comprehensive approach that replaces single-use disposable plastics with sustainable options.

This year, activists put the spotlight on environmental justice. Oil drilling in neighborhoods, polluted water, lack of open space, and many other systemic injustices are being called out for their racist underpinnings. A powerful movement is underway. Heal the Bay is investing more resources to ensure our organization’s impact is equitable for underserved communities.

This year, I saw your commitment. Heal the Bay’s Coastal Cleanup Month mobilized thousands of volunteers to pick up 40,000 pieces of trash from their favorite outdoor places. Our team conducted the first large-scale effort to track PPE litter in the environment. We connected and empowered 4,000 youth and two million individuals and families through science, education, community action, and advocacy. Heal the Bay is amplifying the anti-pollution message far and wide.

The pandemic can’t stop—and won’t stop—the power of water to inspire change!

Thank you for supporting Heal the Bay this year. Every note we get from you, every Zoom we do with you, every phone call we have with you, every gift we receive from you… your commitment motivates us time and time again.

Shelley Luce
Heal the Bay CEO and President



A note from Heal the Bay President & CEO, Dr. Shelley Luce

SoCalGas has supported Heal the Bay’s programs since 1991. For nearly 30 years they have helped to fund our student curriculum, beach cleanup efforts, and bring students to our aquarium.

It’s never been a problem before. We rely on the philanthropy of companies and individuals to uphold our mission: protect California’s coasts and watersheds, and make them safe, healthy, and clean. We have never allowed any corporate contributor to influence our advocacy, and we never will.

However, after great consideration and consultation with my team, I have made the difficult decision to stop accepting contributions from SoCalGas from this point forward.

Turning down funding is never an easy decision, but it is a particularly difficult time for me to make this announcement. As President of an organization that employs close to 40 people in a year when many of us are forced to tighten our belts, it was not easy, but I know that it is the right thing to do.

In order to mitigate climate change, we must transition to renewable energy systems across the board – including the electricity, transportation, residential and industrial sectors, and we must do so swiftly. Sea level rise, ocean acidification, extreme heat, wildfires, and drought will all be more severe unless we drastically reduce our production and consumption of natural gas and, at the same time, prioritize and invest in nature-based projects that sequester carbon and cool our cities. Such projects include living streets, wetland restoration, and the creation of parks that capture and treat stormwater. The intentional obstruction of these goals will have severe consequences, which will be most devastating to frontline communities locally and around the world. We demand a just and equitable transition away from fossil fuels now.

Several recent investigations by the Los Angeles Times have brought to light that SoCalGas is not a good-faith partner in our critical effort to enact sensible climate systems in California. They have sued the state of California to obstruct climate policy and used ratepayer money to evade safety protocols and lobby for the expansion of gas consumption.

This behavior has made it clear that SoCalGas will not take the actions necessary to phase down the consumption and distribution of gas unless they are compelled to do so. It is up to us as an environmental advocacy group to hold them and our public officials accountable so that we continue our progress towards meeting our climate goals. That is why we joined the Los Angeles City Council meeting this morning, to give public comment in support of Councilmembers Bonin, Lee and Koretz in their call for a feasibility study to explore options for the closure of the Playa Del Rey Gas Storage Facility.

We support the feasibility study for three reasons:

  1. Its long-term existence stands counter to the urgent need to address the Climate Crisis.
  2. The Gas Storage Facility is located in a densely-populated area of our city, making it a health and safety risk to the communities of Playa Del Rey, Westchester, Marina Del Rey, Playa Vista and beyond.
  3. It abuts the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve, affecting native species and endangered wildlife.

The Playa Del Rey facility stores gas that is used by the Chevron refinery and coastal power plants that deliver electricity to homes across the LA area. It is up to all of us to reflect on our personal consumption habits and do everything in our power to reduce our impact. It is up to our political leaders to regulate the fossil fuel industry and guide us to a renewable-powered, climate-stabilized future.

We would like to thank SoCalGas for their decades of support and ask that they change course to meet the urgent demands of the climate crisis.

Shelley Luce

 

 

 



Even though it is raining (and snowing) this week across the region, this season’s California snowpack is still well below the historical average for the start of April. Millions of Californians rely on this critical source of water for drinking and irrigation. A small snowpack points to the urgent need for us to conserve and reuse local water. Dr. Shelley Luce, Heal the Bay President and CEO, shares what was top of mind before the COVID-19 response, and why we can’t lose sight of our water.

At the end of last year, I was high up in the mountains with family and friends. We spent our time playing outside, laughing for hours and sledding on a snowy hillside. When I caught my breath, I took cold air deeply into my lungs. The mountain air felt so fresh. There was no wind, and the tall trees on either side of our sledding hill were perfectly still except for the bounding echoes of our joyful voices. It was a beautiful moment.

At the bottom of the hill the dark brown earth, which smelled of moss and mud, peeked through the white snow. I heard the sound of running water and looked closer: there was a stream of clear water flowing down through the tiny meadow toward the road. And I was struck: this is our water. This is Sierra snowmelt. This is the backbone, the source of drinking and irrigation water for millions of people in California. First seeping through a meadow that holds water like a sponge, then emerging as a trickle that builds to a stream that meets others to form a river that supplies a farm or a city. This is our water. And it’s in danger.

Far away on the coast people are drinking, cooking and showering with this very water. This very water is being washed down a drain, through a pipe to a treatment plant and then pushed out to sea. So much energy expended to take this very water from the mountains and valleys it nourishes, down to our homes and businesses in Los Angeles, to filter our waste out of it, to send it into the ocean and then to keep taking more and more every day of our lives. All of this is happening while the climate changes and the snowpack, that backbone, is diminishing and its future is in question.

However, we are changing this wasteful system. In 2019 Mayor Garcetti announced a plan to reuse all the water from our City’s treatment plants. That’s millions of gallons a day of water that will get reused here in LA, so we can stop draining it from our mountain streams. This is proof: we can adapt to climate change by changing a wasteful, linear process to a sustainable, circular system that supports people and nature.

This was our greatest victory last year and the culmination of decades of hard work. We have much more to do in this uncertain climate to protect our water and the awe-inspiring life it nourishes. Together, let’s take action. In the year ahead, we need to sound the alarm on the climate crisis, we need to enact strong science-based policies, and we need to remember the earthly moments that move our hearts and embolden us to take on new challenges with compassion and fortitude.

I look forward to working alongside you in 2020 as Heal the Bay celebrates its 35th anniversary! Thank you for continuing on this epic journey with us.

Dr. Shelley Luce
President and CEO

 

This article was originally published in Heal the Bay’s 2019 Annual Report in February 2020.

 

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HTB chief Shelley Luce talks about her appointment and shares her philosophy about protecting our state’s most precious natural resource.

California is blessed with more than 1,100 miles of coastline. The ocean is a defining feature of our geography, our culture and our economy. We are proud of its beauty, and we depend on it for sustenance, for trade and tourism, and for our own recreation and relaxation.

I am now honored to help protect our coast by serving as an alternate to California Coastal Commission member Mark Vargas. Anthony Rendon, the Speaker of the California State Assembly, appointed me to the position earlier this month. Commissioners serve four-year terms.

As an alternate member, I will vote on matters at monthly Commission meetings any time Vargas cannot attend.

It’s long been a dream of mine to serve on the Coastal Commission because I understand how important the panel has been to preserving what makes California special. I’ve devoted my career to the coast, and I deeply understand the need to balance development, conservation, and public access on 1.5 million acres of land along California’s highly desirable coastline.

The California Coastal Act of 1976 created the Coastal Commission to “protect, conserve, restore, and enhance the environment of the California coastline.” The commission remains a powerful land-use authority that must approve changes to coastal land uses, or the local coastal plans that govern those changes. All development from single-family homes up to giant commercial or resort ventures must comply with the Coastal Act or be denied a permit to proceed.

The commission is charged with protecting coastal access and views for the public, as well as safeguarding Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas, including all wetlands.

The demand for new development in the coastal zone keeps the 12 volunteer commissioners and approximately 150 full time staff very busy, resolving complicated issues around rights of property owners and the general public.

The panel grapples with the legal, scientific, political and human complexities of how and where property owners can profit from our coastline, while protecting unique resources for the benefit of all Californians and visitors. The work is often contentious, with public hearings occasionally devolving into name-calling and accusations of backroom deal-making.

I will always listen with an open mind to all parties involved in a given matter. And I promise to always vote my conscience, placing the highest emphasis on the continued ecological health of our ocean and shorelines. I’m confident that my education and experience will guide me well when making tough decisions.

As a Ph.D. in environmental engineering, I know we must we rely on the best science to guide our decisions. As the leader of one of the state’s leading ocean protection groups, I know that education, transparency and public engagement are the best tools to build consensus around solving thorny issues.

Please email me at sluce@healthebay.org to share your thoughts about our coastline and how to best protect it.




Shelley enjoying a session in North L.A. County

Heal the Bay president Shelley Luce reflects on a very special place in L.A. – and in her heart.

As I write this note, I’m on a long highway, headed to Yosemite for the holidays with my family. I’m surrounded by mountains, but my mind is on the ocean yet again – Leo Carrillo State Beach, to be exact.


Leo Carrillo State Beach, Photo: Dana Roeber Murray

Like Yosemite, this idyllic, sweeping cove near the L.A. County border is one of my favorite places on Earth. Sometimes I paddle my surfboard past the breaking waves and float above the kelp. The water is so clear I can see the golden kelp waving below and orange Garibaldi flitting among the rocks.

I daydream about resting at the bottom of the sea, holding fast to a rock. I want to sway with the swell, watching the other creatures flicker in and out of the dappled light. My preteen daughters paddle out with me. They squeal about the cold water before they plunge in. They roll around in the seaweed, laughing and buoyant in their slick wetsuits.

It’s a peaceful spot that I go back to in my mind, when I’m feeling stressed or when I need a mental pick-me-up. I’m so glad I can get into our ocean, enveloped by thrilling waves and thriving sea life. I’m so thankful our beaches are open to all, regardless of socio-economic status, and visited by more and more people every year. I’m glad the Bay continues to Heal.

I want everyone in greater L.A. to come to our beaches to swim, fish, play and explore. I want Heal the Bay’s Aquarium at the Santa Monica Pier to inspire people from around the world. I want our Beach Report Card to empower people to dive in with confidence – assured that the water is safe for swimming. I want people, regardless of their native language, to understand which fish are safe to eat, and which fish pose potential health risks.


Leo Carrillo State Beach, Photo: Dana Roeber Murray

I’m grateful to all of you for supporting our work to make all these things happen. We live in a place where people dream big and almost anything is possible. Every day I fight for the future we all wish to see. Heal the Bay protects the beauty and diversity we have today, and we fight to make it better.

And now, we take the time to feel gratitude for the ocean that sustains Heal the Bay – and the people like you who care enough to learn, share, volunteer and act. It’s a blessing.

Thank you. Happy Thanksgiving.

P.S. — As the holidays approach, please consider making your tax-deductible Year-End Gift to Heal the Bay early this year. Nearly 70% of individual donations are made by people like you in the next 60 days. It’s a critical lifeline for us.