Lauren Williams

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Record-breaking dry conditions are making Southern California wildfires much harder to fight

Parts of Southern California are experiencing record-breaking dry conditions, making it harder to fight fires when combined with Santa Ana winds.

With the arrival of winter, weather systems move across the region more slowly when compared with the fall. This season that means prolonged dry conditions across Southern California, with some cities seeing no rain at all.

RELATED: The Santa Ana Wildfire Threat Index shows dangerous fire risk wind conditions this weekend

“In December we usually get some storms down here, but we’ve had a ridge over the West Coast that’s blocking everything,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Brandt Maxwell. “Once we get into December the weather patterns are much less changeable, once we get a ridge over the West Coast it will stay for weeks on end. In the fall things move quicker.”

No rain has been recorded since Oct. 1 in Big Bear. Riverside has gotten .03 inches of rain so far this rain season, the second driest start to the rainy season after no rain was recorded in 1929, Maxwell said.

Los Angeles International Airport has had .01 inches this year, a low last seen in 1962.

“One-hundredth of one inch isn’t enough to do any good,” Maxwell said.

Santa Ana has had only .04 inches of rain, the second lowest rain record when compared with .02 in 1976.

“Really you don’t do much good until you get at least one or two inches – at least – hopefully more,” Maxwell said. “Difference between zero and two and three-hundredths is essentially nothing. You’d get more out of fog dripping when you have that low of amounts.”

The record-breaking lows in rain are only exacerbating firefighting conditions, as brush that is normally green by December remains brittle and brown.

Nearly a dozen out-of-control fires from Ventura County to San Diego County have charred some 200,000 acres and claimed dozens of homes. At least one person died while fleeing the fires. Dozens of horses and domestic animals have died as raging wildfires approached stables before many people could evacuate horses, leaving the tight-knit equestrian community shaken.

Dry conditions could continue through the end of December.

“The next 10 days maybe even 14 days will remain dry,” Maxwell said. “Whether it will be dry through the end of December, we can’t be sure.

“At this point it doesn’t look good.”

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/12/10/record-setting-dry-conditions-are-worsening-californias-wildfires/

Real versus fake Christmas tree – which is better for the environment?

As families pick out wreaths and poinsettias, they’re also pondering the centerpiece of their Christmas decorating — the tree — and asking a simple, vaguely familiar question:

Natural or plastic?

If the question hinges on the tree’s environmental impact, the answer isn’t clear cut. Experts who study consumer product life cycles  — everything from manufacturing and delivery to disposal and decomposition — are split on which kind of Christmas tree leaves the biggest carbon footprint.

“I don’t know if it’s a one-size-fits-all,” said John Bock, who teaches in the environmental studies program at Cal State Fullerton and was founding director of the school’s Center for Sustainability.

“A lot of artificial trees are made of PVC (plastic), which doesn’t biodegrade,” Bock said.

That’s bad.

“But a lot of live trees are grown far away,” he added.

That’s also bad.

“It’s not a direct comparison.”

  • A woman and her daughter buying Christmas tree in a market. (Thinkstock)

    A woman and her daughter buying Christmas tree in a market. (Thinkstock)

  • Is an artificial Christmas tree better than a live one? (Thinkstock)

    Is an artificial Christmas tree better than a live one? (Thinkstock)

  • Kids decorate a live Christmas tree in front of the fire place. (Thinkstock)

    Kids decorate a live Christmas tree in front of the fire place. (Thinkstock)

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Consumers also are nearly split on the issue. The National Christmas Tree Association, which represents farmers and dealers of natural trees, said 27.4 million natural trees were sold last year compared with about 18.6 million fake trees. But the association also noted that sales of fakes have been gaining steadily in recent years, and other experts suggest the market could hit 50-50 status within a decade.

What’s more, fakes could be in the midst of a banner year. There’s a shortage of natural trees this year, pushing prices up a bit and nudging consumers toward fakes.

The question is thorny enough that some environmentally-minded Christmas fans are dodging the natural vs. plastic question altogether. A tour of social media finds revelers turning to ordinary household items (Christmas ladders? Yes!), or found branches or, in one case, inverted tomato cages — and stringing lights on them.

Related: Follow these safety tips for your Christmas trees and holiday lights

But most people are more conventional. For them, the natural vs. fake debate matters.

Deepak Rajagopal, an associate professor at UCLA who teaches about the environmental impact of consumer products, says plastic beats natural, but only over time.

“The more years you use the plastic tree, the plastic tree wins out,” said Rajagopal who works at the university’s Institute for the Environment and Sustainability.

But how many years? Many, apparently. A study referenced by the New York Times in 2010 said a plastic tree needs to be used 20 years to out-green a green tree. Real trees generate about one third of the carbon generated by faux trees and they don’t use PVC, which churns up carcinogens during manufacturing and disposal. Both factors work in favor of real trees.

But the story was published in New York and the study was conducted in Montreal, two places fairly close to natural tree farms. Most of the Christmas trees sold in Southern California are trucked from northern California or the Pacific Northwest, meaning a natural tree requires a diesel truck ride of several hundred miles or more.

That drive (plus the drive you make to the tree lot) might swing the break-even number closer to the 10 years suggested by the American Christmas Tree Association, the group that represents the makers and sellers of fake trees.

Other experts say it’s even less than that.

“The tipping point is around 4 to 5 years,” said UCLA’s Rajagopal. “Around the five year mark (plastic) wins out.”

If the number seems optimistic, consider this: the tree at the Rajagopal house is fake.

“We’re going to keep it until it breaks and falls apart, then give to someone on Craigslist,” he said. “It’ll get at least 10 years of use.”

But Bock, of Cal State Fullerton, points out another factor — Asia. That’s where most artificial trees are made and, in Bock’s view, the boat ride to get those trees to this market tips the scale back to real trees.

“If you just take the two extremes, an artificial tree made somewhere else and imported into the United States and used once or twice, has a huge footprint, versus a living tree, or a local tree that you cut at a local Christmas tree farm.”

But few tree consumers shop solely at one end of those extremes.

“A lot of us are going to be in-between,” Bock said.

“I think the most environmentally friendly thing you can (have in your living room on Christmas morning) is a living tree that you can replant. The second most environmentally friendly thing you can do is a fresh local tree.”

Most years, Bock buys potted Christmas trees and re-plants them after the holiday. But he’s run out of places to plant them.

This year, he said, “I think we’ll get a fresh cut tree.”

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/12/08/real-or-fake-christmas-tree-heres-the-environmental-showdown/

County launches formal investigation into Canyon Fire 2

The Orange County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to launch an investigation into whether firefighters responded appropriately to the devastating Canyon Fire 2 wildfire that destroyed 25 buildings, 15 of them homes.

The board awarded SD Consulting Inc. a $75,000 contract to review citizens’ complaints and Orange County Fire Authority protocol during red flag days, when weather conditions create the ideal conditions for wildfires. The investigation will look into how fire-fighting resources were used in battling the blaze, and whether the various agencies coordinated their response.

“We want someone that’s going to be thorough, that’s going to say what needs to be said. … that’s not going to worry about stepping on toes,” said Supervisor Shawn Nelson, whose district incorporates Anaheim, one of the cities most affected by the blaze.

The Canyon Fire 2 blaze started Oct. 9 and ended eight days later and has been described as the biggest wildfire to hit Orange County in a decade. The fire burned through 9,217 acres in Anaheim, Orange and parts of Tustin, prompting school closures, damaging 55 homes and causing the temporary evacuation of some 17,000 residents.

Marc Stone, a battalion chief with the Orange County Fire Authority, said the agency is in the midst of its own investigation, using an investigator from outside OCFA.

“We’re gathering every document we have from the course of the fire,” Stone said. “Chief (Patrick) McIntosh wants to be very transparent. … Our review with our independent auditors will be a deep and solid review.”

Questions of how the Orange County Fire Authority responded to the fire arose weeks after the blaze about the reported timeline of events. While Anaheim public officials first reported the blaze started at 9:45 a.m. documents have shown the first report of a fire came from a driver on the 91 freeway 17 minutes earlier. Questions have also been raised about whether a feud between the county fire authority and Orange County Sheriff’s Department delayed response times at all.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/12/05/county-launches-formal-investigation-into-canyon-fire-2/

Gusty winds expected rest of week, with warm temperatures rolling in for weekend

Parts of Southern California could see gusts reaching 80 miles per hour this week, with residents asked to take extra precautions to avoid any uncontrolled fires.

The windiest times of the week could be through Tuesday morning, with the Los Angeles Basin enduring gusts of 35 mph. The foothills, including such stretches as Pasadena, however, could experience even stronger winds.

A sign in Lyle Creek informs the public that the fire danger is extreme all this week as the Santa Ana winds return on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017. (Stan Lim, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
A sign in Lyle Creek informs the public that the fire danger is extreme all this week as the Santa Ana winds return on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017.<br />(Stan Lim, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

Less-populated areas will see the strongest gusts, with Rialto, Fontana and other communities likely to get them at 55-60 mph, said Brandt Maxwell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. Santa Ana and Riverside are tabbed for 45 mph.

The gusts come as Southern California has caught a fraction of its typical rain for the season, so the region is dry and the winds create dangerous wildfire conditions.

“Basically, the real key is to make sure you don’t set any outdoor fires, don’t barbecue,” Maxwell said. “Obviously, don’t ever throw cigarettes out the window. Don’t do anything that could create sparks like (cutting) down trees. Make sure your car is in good working order – the last thing we need is a car fire.”

Calmness won’t last long.

A second wind surge is expected Wednesday night into Thursday, lasting into the weekend in some regions.

Temperatures Thursday and Friday are expected to reach the high 70s, from Long Beach to Ontario, with even Newport Beach projected to hit 73 degrees. Region-wide, lows are expected in the high 40s.

A student hair blows in the wind as she walks the campus of Cal State San Bernardino on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017.  (Stan Lim, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
A student hair blows in the wind as she walks the campus of Cal State San Bernardino on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017.<br />(Stan Lim, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/12/04/gusty-winds-expected-rest-of-week-with-warm-temperatures-rolling-in-for-weekend/

Man fatally shot in Santa Ana, second deadly shooting in city over the weekend

A man died after being shot in Santa Ana early Sunday morning Dec. 3, police said.

At 2:17 a.m. police officers responded to calls of a shooting at 923 S. Standard Ave., where they found a man with a gunshot wound to the lower part of his body, said Santa Ana police Sgt. Jason Garcia.

The man was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Police are continuing their investigation. It was not clear if the incident was gang-related.

The shooting is the second deadly shooting in Santa Ana in two days. On Friday, a 36-year-old man was shot in the lower torso and died. Four people were arrested in connection with that shooting. crime map

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/12/03/man-fatally-shot-in-santa-ana-second-deadly-shooting-in-city-over-the-weekend/

Race to rewire California will happen one neighborhood at a time

  • Victor Valladares, left, cofounder of ComUNIDAD, talks about his neighborhood in Huntington Beach which surrounds Oak View Elementary School and the plan to transform the low income community into an energy friendly mecca. Robert Flores, center, a researcher at UC Irvine and Dr. Jack Brouwer, right, a UC Irvine professor, listen as they take a tour of the neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Victor Valladares, left, cofounder of ComUNIDAD, talks about his neighborhood in Huntington Beach which surrounds Oak View Elementary School and the plan to transform the low income community into an energy friendly mecca. Robert Flores, center, a researcher at UC Irvine and Dr. Jack Brouwer, right, a UC Irvine professor, listen as they take a tour of the neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A view looking south along Ash Lane mostly two-story apartment buildings and very few large trees in the neighborhood near Oak View Elementary School in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. A plan in the works with the help of UC Irvine researchers could transform the low income community into a more energy friendly neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    A view looking south along Ash Lane mostly two-story apartment buildings and very few large trees in the neighborhood near Oak View Elementary School in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. A plan in the works with the help of UC Irvine researchers could transform the low income community into a more energy friendly neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • An air conditioning unit sits on a window sill of an aging apartment building on Koledo Lane near Oak View Elementary School in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. A plan in the works with the help of UC Irvine researchers could transform the low income community into a more energy friendly neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    An air conditioning unit sits on a window sill of an aging apartment building on Koledo Lane near Oak View Elementary School in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. A plan in the works with the help of UC Irvine researchers could transform the low income community into a more energy friendly neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Children make their way past an aging apartment building on Oak Lane across from Oak View Elementary School in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. A plan in the works with the help of UC Irvine researchers could transform the low income community into a more energy friendly neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Children make their way past an aging apartment building on Oak Lane across from Oak View Elementary School in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. A plan in the works with the help of UC Irvine researchers could transform the low income community into a more energy friendly neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Dr. Jack Brouwer, a UC Irvine professor, talks about the plan to transform a low income community in Huntington Beach into an energy friendly mecca. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Dr. Jack Brouwer, a UC Irvine professor, talks about the plan to transform a low income community in Huntington Beach into an energy friendly mecca. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A woman walks along Sycamore Drive near Oak View Elementary School in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. A plan in the works with the help of UC Irvine researchers could transform the low income community into a more energy friendly neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    A woman walks along Sycamore Drive near Oak View Elementary School in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. A plan in the works with the help of UC Irvine researchers could transform the low income community into a more energy friendly neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Fans sit in the windows of a second floor apartment building on Cypress Drive near Oak View Elementary School in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. A plan in the works with the help of UC Irvine researchers could transform the low income community into a more energy friendly neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Fans sit in the windows of a second floor apartment building on Cypress Drive near Oak View Elementary School in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. A plan in the works with the help of UC Irvine researchers could transform the low income community into a more energy friendly neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Single pan windows are typical of many of the aging apartment builds near Oak View Elementary School in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. A plan in the works with the help of UC Irvine researchers could transform the low income community into a more energy friendly neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Single pan windows are typical of many of the aging apartment builds near Oak View Elementary School in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. A plan in the works with the help of UC Irvine researchers could transform the low income community into a more energy friendly neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Cars parked in car ports in an alley off Koledo Lane near Oak View Elementary School in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. A plan in the works with the help of UC Irvine researchers could transform the low income community into a more energy friendly neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Cars parked in car ports in an alley off Koledo Lane near Oak View Elementary School in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. A plan in the works with the help of UC Irvine researchers could transform the low income community into a more energy friendly neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Laura Novoa, a Ph.D. student researcher at UC Irvine, talks about the plan to transform a low income community in Huntington Beach into an energy friendly mecca. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Laura Novoa, a Ph.D. student researcher at UC Irvine, talks about the plan to transform a low income community in Huntington Beach into an energy friendly mecca. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A utility pole at the corner of Mandrell Drive and Oak Lane in front of Oak View Elementary School in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. A plan in the works with the help of UC Irvine researchers could transform the low income community into a more energy friendly neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    A utility pole at the corner of Mandrell Drive and Oak Lane in front of Oak View Elementary School in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. A plan in the works with the help of UC Irvine researchers could transform the low income community into a more energy friendly neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A view looking west from the intersection of Ash Lane and Sycamore Drive shows the various apartment buildings and homes near Oak View Elementary School in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. A plan in the works with the help of UC Irvine researchers could transform the low income community into a more energy friendly neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    A view looking west from the intersection of Ash Lane and Sycamore Drive shows the various apartment buildings and homes near Oak View Elementary School in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. A plan in the works with the help of UC Irvine researchers could transform the low income community into a more energy friendly neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Victor Valladares, cofounder of ComUNIDAD, talks about his neighborhood in Huntington Beach which surrounds Oak View Elementary School and the plan to transform the low income community into an energy friendly mecca. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Victor Valladares, cofounder of ComUNIDAD, talks about his neighborhood in Huntington Beach which surrounds Oak View Elementary School and the plan to transform the low income community into an energy friendly mecca. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Victor Valladares, cofounder of ComUNIDAD, shows off a tattoo on his arm. Valladares talks about the neighborhood in Huntington Beach which surrounds Oak View Elementary School in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. A plan in the works with the help of UC Irvine researchers could transform the low income community into a more energy friendly neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Victor Valladares, cofounder of ComUNIDAD, shows off a tattoo on his arm. Valladares talks about the neighborhood in Huntington Beach which surrounds Oak View Elementary School in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. A plan in the works with the help of UC Irvine researchers could transform the low income community into a more energy friendly neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Victor Valladares, cofounder of ComUNIDAD, talks about his neighborhood in Huntington Beach which surrounds Oak View Elementary School and the plan to transform the low income community into an energy friendly mecca. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Victor Valladares, cofounder of ComUNIDAD, talks about his neighborhood in Huntington Beach which surrounds Oak View Elementary School and the plan to transform the low income community into an energy friendly mecca. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • An upgraded apartment building at the corner of Mandrell Drive and Oak Lane across from Oak View Elementary School in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. A plan in the works with the help of UC Irvine researchers could transform the low income community into a more energy friendly neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    An upgraded apartment building at the corner of Mandrell Drive and Oak Lane across from Oak View Elementary School in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. A plan in the works with the help of UC Irvine researchers could transform the low income community into a more energy friendly neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Dr. Jack Brouwer is a UC Irvine professor working on making a plan to transform a low income community in Huntington Beach into an energy friendly mecca. Laura Novoa, a Ph.D. student researcher at UC Irvine. Robert Flores, researcher at UC Irvine. Victor Valladares, cofounder of ComUNIDAD, talks about his neighborhood in Huntington Beach which surround Oak View Elementary School. in Huntington Beach, CA on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. (Photo by Mark Rightmire,Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Dr. Jack Brouwer is a UC Irvine professor working on making a plan to transform a low income community in Huntington Beach into an energy friendly mecca. Laura Novoa, a Ph.D. student researcher at UC Irvine. Robert Flores, researcher at UC Irvine. Victor Valladares, cofounder of ComUNIDAD, talks about his neighborhood in Huntington Beach which surround Oak View Elementary School. in Huntington Beach, CA on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. (Photo by Mark Rightmire,Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • One of the few single family homes in the neighborhood surrounding Oak View Elementary School, sits on the corner of Ash Land and Cypress Drive in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. A plan in the works with the help of UC Irvine researchers could transform the low income community into a more energy friendly neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    One of the few single family homes in the neighborhood surrounding Oak View Elementary School, sits on the corner of Ash Land and Cypress Drive in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. A plan in the works with the help of UC Irvine researchers could transform the low income community into a more energy friendly neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A few large trees shade apartments along Queens Lane near Oak View Elementary School in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. A plan in the works with the help of UC Irvine researchers could transform the low income community into a more energy friendly neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    A few large trees shade apartments along Queens Lane near Oak View Elementary School in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. A plan in the works with the help of UC Irvine researchers could transform the low income community into a more energy friendly neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A view looking west from the intersection of Ash Lane and Sycamore Drive shows the various apartment buildings and homes near Oak View Elementary School in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. A plan in the works with the help of UC Irvine researchers could transform the low income community into a more energy friendly neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    A view looking west from the intersection of Ash Lane and Sycamore Drive shows the various apartment buildings and homes near Oak View Elementary School in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. A plan in the works with the help of UC Irvine researchers could transform the low income community into a more energy friendly neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Robert Flores, researcher at UC Irvine, talks about the plan to transform a low income community in Huntington Beach into an energy friendly mecca. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Robert Flores, researcher at UC Irvine, talks about the plan to transform a low income community in Huntington Beach into an energy friendly mecca. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • People walk across the intersection of Ash Lane and Sycamore Drive. Many two-story apartment buildings make up the neighborhood near Oak View Elementary School in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. A plan in the works with the help of UC Irvine researchers could transform the low income community into a more energy friendly neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    People walk across the intersection of Ash Lane and Sycamore Drive. Many two-story apartment buildings make up the neighborhood near Oak View Elementary School in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. A plan in the works with the help of UC Irvine researchers could transform the low income community into a more energy friendly neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A view looking west from Ash Lane shows the rooftops of apartment buildings near Oak View Elementary School in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. A plan in the works with the help of UC Irvine researchers could transform the low income community into a more energy friendly neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    A view looking west from Ash Lane shows the rooftops of apartment buildings near Oak View Elementary School in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. A plan in the works with the help of UC Irvine researchers could transform the low income community into a more energy friendly neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A repaired flat roof of an apartment building along Sycamore Drive near Oak View Elementary School in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. A plan in the works with the help of UC Irvine researchers could transform the low income community into a more energy friendly neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    A repaired flat roof of an apartment building along Sycamore Drive near Oak View Elementary School in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. A plan in the works with the help of UC Irvine researchers could transform the low income community into a more energy friendly neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • One of the few single family homes in the neighborhood surrounding Oak View Elementary School, sits on the corner of Ash Land and Sycamore Drive in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. A plan in the works with the help of UC Irvine researchers could transform the low income community into a more energy friendly neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    One of the few single family homes in the neighborhood surrounding Oak View Elementary School, sits on the corner of Ash Land and Sycamore Drive in Huntington Beach on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. A plan in the works with the help of UC Irvine researchers could transform the low income community into a more energy friendly neighborhood. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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Some families boil water; others turn on the oven.

Still, whatever heat they manage to churn up dissipates quickly, slipping out through thin walls and single-pane windows built decades ago for the homes and apartments in Huntington Beach’s Oak View neighborhood.

Usually in this sunny, Southern California community, the hurdle is staying cool. But that, too, is made difficult by poor insulation and so-so construction.

It’s a common problem. Lower income housing is often energy inefficient. Poor neighborhoods lack plants and greenbelts, a factor that can affect cooling. And they often have fewer trees, meaning less shade and, on hot days, more need for air conditioning.

Soon, however, that might change.

Scientists and community activists connected to UC Irvine and other California schools have been working on plans to improve energy efficiency in Oak View and some other low-income neighborhoods in the Southern California area. The UCI team is talking about better insulation and weather proofing. They want to bring in new windows and working appliances; even solar panels.

And they plan to do all this without pricing residents out of their homes.

“I hope we’re enabled to make a difference,” said UC Irvine engineering professor Jack Brouwer, who is leading the team planning to retrofit Oak View, one of a dozen similar teams working on competing plans to transform existing cities and farms into emission free zones that can be replicated throughout California.

The government-funded competition is a small part of the sweeping push to meet a state law calling for California’s greenhouse gas emissions to return to 1990 levels by 2020.

But in Oak View, residents were leery. Before Brouwer and his crew started to come around, and look at the streets and inside the apartments, people in the neighborhood had heard other lofty promises of revitalization, only to have shoddy work done and rents dramatically raised.

“I was very alarmed,” said Victor Valladares, co-founder of CommUnidad, an advocacy group in Oak View. Valladares said the fear in Oak View is something that might come up a lot in coming years: “Environmental gentrification.”

Green money

The mile-square Oak View neighborhood is made up mostly of apartments with a handful of single family homes.

It’s also an island of sorts.

In a county with a 3.3 percent unemployment rate, only about 48 percent of Oak View residents older than 16 have a job, according to data provided by the city. Likewise, per capita income in Oak View is $16,700, less than half the per capita income countywide.

Rent, however, isn’t cheap, about $1,600 a month on average. That often pushes multiple families to share single apartments, said Valladares, who also sits on the board of the Orange County Community Housing Corp.

The money squeeze in Oak View can limit home improvements, even little things. When light bulbs burn out, for example, residents often replace them with incandescent bulbs, skipping more energy efficient LED lights. Ironically, the choice isn’t cheaper; incandescent bulbs are less expensive to purchase but cost more over time than LED bulbs.

Another issue is fear. Oak View residents are reluctant to ask landlords to perform routine repairs when appliances or windows break. Such improvements, Valladares said, often mean higher rents.

The combination of factors has created a community that consumes — and inadvertently wastes — a lot of energy.

That’s where Brouwer and his team come in.

His dreams aren’t small. Not only does Brouwer envision Oak View getting solar power, he also wants to see the neighborhood use new technology that stores solar energy as hydrogen. He wants to capture gases from the neighborhood dump for use as energy. He’d even like to see energy efficiency to become a micro-industry, providing some residents with jobs, easier transportation and lower utility bills.

“I really have been moved by members of the community who have described what it’s like living there,” Brouwer said.

“We think our advanced energy project, when we build it, could involve some education of members of the community and give them jobs for doing this. They could have advanced energy careers.”

Not ground zero

When envisioning a zero-emission community, it’s easy to imagine starting from scratch, simply using new technology from the ground up.

The mission for Brouwer and his team is different. They’re drawing up plans to take existing infrastructure — power lines, transformers, thin walls and all — and transform it into a zero emission makeover that can be duplicated in other neighborhoods.

“It’s designed to be scalable and replicable,” said Lisa Alexander, vice president of customer solutions and communications for SoCalGas which is helping to fund the research on the Oak View project.

“Beyond that, (the project) is designed to be inspirational,” she added.

“(It) shows what is possible to solve climate change issues.”

Existing buildings contribute about 40 percent of all energy used in California. For the state to hit its ambitious 1990-by-2020 climate change goal, energy efficiency in existing buildings needs to dramatically improve.

To that end the California Energy Commission held a competition and awarded 12 groups with grants to map out a near net zero emission community.

Not all of the plans are aimed at housing. Russell Teall is among the awardees, and the only one focused on creating a zero-emission farm. He’s looking specifically at ways to retrofit a 1,300-acre Central Valley farm that grows almonds, grapes, tomatoes and onions.

“The idea is to make a farm totally energy and fuel self sufficient,” said Teall, the president and founder of the Ventura-based biofuel company Biodico.

With some 25 million cultivated acres in California, Teall believes his model could be duplicated throughout the state.

“This project can be replicated 19,000 times,” Teall said. “That’s the scale.”

His idea centers on what he calls “agriculture appropriate” technology. Where other plans to boost efficiency on farms have plotted out solar panels that block sunlight from crops, or wind turbines that kill critical birds, Teall’s calls for a shielded “wind scoop” that would funnel air to a cordoned-off turbine that, in turn, would create energy for the farm.

“It’s… more of a farm-oriented structure,” Teall said of his project.

It’s unclear if it will ever be built.

Teall and Brouwer and the other teams are scheduled to present their plans to state officials in March. After that, one of the teams will be awarded $16 million to turn their plan into a reality.

The Oak View plan is comprehensive, and energy efficiency would go far beyond insulation.

For example, one idea is to install an affordable car rental system involving a fleet of zero-emission vehicles that would be powered by a solar carport. With access to affordable, energy-efficient transportation, residents could save money by traveling farther away to buy bulk groceries, rather than by buying small, expensive items at the corner market.

But some of the new ideas aren’t so intricate, and they’ve come from the residents themselves.

After talking with people in the neighborhoods, Brouwer’s team heard from long-time residents who said there used to be trees in the area, but they’d been chopped down decades earlier.

Planting saplings would lower temperatures on sidewalks, for the mostly pedestrian residents, and inside homes by reducing the heat that’s currently reflected directly into buildings.

“That’s a totally legitimate, energy saving idea,” Brouwer said.

“Now… that’s in our plan…. (We) wouldn’t have come up with that idea if we didn’t talk with them. Our research is benefiting from their communication with us.”

 

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/12/01/race-to-rewire-california-will-happen-one-neighborhood-at-a-time/

Banning Ranch development faces another obstacle as Newport Beach council pulls approvals

The Newport Beach City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to remove all approvals for a proposed development on the historic Banning Ranch oil field, a site environmentalists have long contended is home to rich biodiverse land and rare animals.

“I have literally worked on Banning Ranch for the last 18 years. If it’s not the thing I woke up thinking about it’s the thing I went to bed thinking about,” said Terry Welsh, president of the environmental group Banning Ranch Conservancy, asking the council to partner with the nonprofit to purchase and revitalize Banning Ranch.

  • Newport Beach Council members Kevin Muldoon, Diane Dixon and Scott Peotter, from left, listen to speakers during public comments before voting to vacate the approvals it granted for a proposed development on the historic Banning Ranch oilfield at the Newport Beach City Council chambers in Newport Beach on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Newport Beach Council members Kevin Muldoon, Diane Dixon and Scott Peotter, from left, listen to speakers during public comments before voting to vacate the approvals it granted for a proposed development on the historic Banning Ranch oilfield at the Newport Beach City Council chambers in Newport Beach on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Newport Beach City Council listens to Steve Ray, Executive Director of the Banning Ranch Conservancy, during public comments before voting to vacate the approvals it granted for a proposed development on the historic Banning Ranch oilfield at the Newport Beach City Council chambers in Newport Beach on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Newport Beach City Council listens to Steve Ray, Executive Director of the Banning Ranch Conservancy, during public comments before voting to vacate the approvals it granted for a proposed development on the historic Banning Ranch oilfield at the Newport Beach City Council chambers in Newport Beach on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Senior project manager Michael Mohler speaks to the Newport Beach City Council during public comments before the council voted to vacate the approvals it granted for his proposed development on the historic Banning Ranch oilfield at the Newport Beach City Council chambers in Newport Beach on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Senior project manager Michael Mohler speaks to the Newport Beach City Council during public comments before the council voted to vacate the approvals it granted for his proposed development on the historic Banning Ranch oilfield at the Newport Beach City Council chambers in Newport Beach on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • An activist holds up a stuffed owl during public comments before the Newport Beach City Council voted to vacate the approvals it granted for a proposed development on the historic Banning Ranch oilfield at the Newport Beach City Council chambers in Newport Beach on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    An activist holds up a stuffed owl during public comments before the Newport Beach City Council voted to vacate the approvals it granted for a proposed development on the historic Banning Ranch oilfield at the Newport Beach City Council chambers in Newport Beach on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Terri Welsh, President of the Banning Ranch Conservancy, speaks during public comments before the Newport Beach City Council voted to vacate the approvals it granted for a proposed development on the historic Banning Ranch oilfield at the Newport Beach City Council chambers in Newport Beach on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Terri Welsh, President of the Banning Ranch Conservancy, speaks during public comments before the Newport Beach City Council voted to vacate the approvals it granted for a proposed development on the historic Banning Ranch oilfield at the Newport Beach City Council chambers in Newport Beach on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The Newport Beach City Council voted 7-0 to vacate the approvals it granted for a proposed development on the historic Banning Ranch oilfield at the Newport Beach City Council chambers in Newport Beach on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The Newport Beach City Council voted 7-0 to vacate the approvals it granted for a proposed development on the historic Banning Ranch oilfield at the Newport Beach City Council chambers in Newport Beach on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Steve Ray, Executive Director of the Banning Ranch Conservancy, talks with supporters after the Newport Beach City Council voted to vacate the approvals it granted for a proposed development on the historic Banning Ranch oilfield at the Newport Beach City Council chambers in Newport Beach on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Steve Ray, Executive Director of the Banning Ranch Conservancy, talks with supporters after the Newport Beach City Council voted to vacate the approvals it granted for a proposed development on the historic Banning Ranch oilfield at the Newport Beach City Council chambers in Newport Beach on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Senior project manager Michael Mohler speaks to the Newport Beach City Council during public comments before the council voted to vacate the approvals it granted for his proposed development on the historic Banning Ranch oilfield at the Newport Beach City Council chambers in Newport Beach on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Senior project manager Michael Mohler speaks to the Newport Beach City Council during public comments before the council voted to vacate the approvals it granted for his proposed development on the historic Banning Ranch oilfield at the Newport Beach City Council chambers in Newport Beach on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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“I humbly stand before you tonight to plead with you each to prioritize the acquisition of Banning Ranch as an open-space amenity,” Welsh said.

The development’s senior manager said that he is willing to sit down with the council and nonprofit to discuss the fate of the 401-acre property.

“Whether it’s the 40 acres we hoped to develop or another scheme, we look forward to sitting down with you (the City Council) and Terry (Welsh) to have a better communication between us,” said Michael Mohler, the senior project manager for developer Newport Banning Ranch.

“We thought we had a formula that allowed everyone to win,” Mohler said. “It didn’t work.”

The decision by the Newport Beach City Council is in response to a March court order that favored environmental group Banning Ranch Conservancy and found the necessary environmental assessments were not done on the land before a previous City Council approved a plan to build homes and retail space on the land.

Development on the Banning Ranch property has been proposed in different iterations for at least 20 years. Initially, 1,750 homes were planned for the property in 1997, but the builder dropped out after five years.

In 1999 Costa Mesa resident  Welsh formed a Sierra Club task force that opposed development, and the Banning Ranch Conservancy environmental group formally organized in 2008. Both groups advocated that a nonprofit or the city of Newport Beach acquire the land and restore it.

Most recently Newport Banning Ranch, a group of oil companies and a local developer, planned to build 1,375 homes, a boutique hotel and retail space on the property. The group received the approval of the Newport Beach City Council in 2012. Later, Newport Banning Ranch planned a scaled-down plan to put before the California Coastal Commission that included 895 homes, a hotel and hostel and 80 percent open space. That plan was rejected by the commission in September 2016.

“Now we’re at a different place,” said Sam Singer, a spokesman for Newport Banning Ranch, on Monday. “We are looking and evaluating what types of development would work on Newport Banning Ranch, talking with people in Orange County, Sacramento and up and down the state.”

Singer said Newport Banning Ranch is exploring “what would be successful given the rules.”

That could result in a further scaled-down project, Singer said, though developers have said in the past that a significantly smaller project would not be economically feasible.

Vacating the approvals could further delay any building on the land.

“It may take us another year or two to come back with a new plan,” Singer said.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/11/28/banning-ranch-development-faces-another-obstacle-as-newport-beach-council-pulls-approvals/

Newport Beach expected to yank Banning Ranch approvals this week

A long-planned development of hundreds of homes and expansive retail space this week likely will lose the approvals it received from the Newport Beach City Council five years ago, dealing the controversial project yet another blow.

On Tuesday, the Newport Beach City Council is expected to vote to vacate all approvals for the Newport Banning Ranch project, which has been proposed for the 401-acre historic oil field that sits in an unincorporated area at the intersection of Newport Beach, Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach.

The item to vacate all approvals of the Banning Ranch project is a consent calendar item on Tuesday’s council agenda. Such items are typically not discussed and approved en masse.

The city council is expected to vote to vacate its approvals in response to a court decision that found in favor of environmental group Banning Ranch Conservancy in March. The court found the city did not determine where the environmentally sensitive areas were on the property or work with the California Coastal Commission before issuing the project environmental approvals.

At the time of the court decision, representatives for the builders said the ruling would cause a year or two of delay but not totally derail the project as environmental groups have suggested.

Projects proposed for the land on Pacific Coast Highway have taken many iterations in the winding path through regulatory agencies, gradually decreasing in size.

Most recently the project dropped its footprint from a proposed 1,375 homes, many of them condos, in 2012 to 875 homes, with a boutique hotel and hostel when it appeared before the California Coastal Commission in September 2016.

The state agency rejected the project in a 9-1 vote at that time, saying that because the land is perhaps the last undeveloped coastal bluff ecosystem in California it should not be developed without carefully examining how wildlife would be impacted.

Environmental groups have long opposed development because of the plants and animals on the site, saying it hosts several threatened species including the burrowing owl, San Diego fairy shrimp, purple needle grass and the California gnatcatcher.

Newport Banning Ranch, the group overseeing the development, pledged to devote more than 80 percent of the property as restored open space, though the most hotly contested parts of the property were in the southern portion of the property nearest the ocean.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/11/26/newport-beach-expected-to-yank-banning-ranch-approvals-this-week/

Proposed law could mean more drilling off Calif coast

Many of the 27 oil platforms drilling into the underwater shelf off the coast from Santa Barbara to Huntington Beach are decades old and, in the eyes of the oil industry and others, ready to be shut down.

Some cost big money to operate at a time of sagging oil prices. Others need expensive technical upgrades. And all are political targets, widely viewed in a liberal state as bigger environmental risks than the potential reward of pulling yet more carbon-generating oil from the Earth.

  • Oil platforms off the coast in Seal Beach on Wednesday, Nov 22, 2017. Oil platforms in California are aging into obsolescence and throughout the state many will be decommissioned fairly soon. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Oil platforms off the coast in Seal Beach on Wednesday, Nov 22, 2017. Oil platforms in California are aging into obsolescence and throughout the state many will be decommissioned fairly soon. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Oil platforms off the coast in Seal Beach on Wednesday, Nov 22, 2017. Oil platforms in California are aging into obsolescence and throughout the state many will be decommissioned fairly soon. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Oil platforms off the coast in Seal Beach on Wednesday, Nov 22, 2017. Oil platforms in California are aging into obsolescence and throughout the state many will be decommissioned fairly soon. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Oil platforms off the coast in Seal Beach on Wednesday, Nov 22, 2017. Oil platforms in California are aging into obsolescence and throughout the state many will be decommissioned fairly soon. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Oil platforms off the coast in Seal Beach on Wednesday, Nov 22, 2017. Oil platforms in California are aging into obsolescence and throughout the state many will be decommissioned fairly soon. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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But the rigs also represent potential profit. By some estimates at least one billion barrels of oil remain untapped in the shelf off of Southern California, much of it accessible from federal waters, not the state-controlled areas within three miles of the coastline.

And that risk vs. profit conflict — plus Trump-era politics — is why lawmakers representing California are clashing with federal regulators over proposed legislation known as the Strengthening the Economy with Critical Untapped Resources to Expand American Energy Act.

Proponents say the SECURE American Energy Act will create high-wage jobs by making it easier for oil companies to work on federal land and in federal waters, all with less federal oversight.

Opponents view the proposed law as a potential environmental disaster. They describe it as a less-than-subtle money grab at the expense of endangered species and marine life that would be threatened by offshore drilling. The bill also would send a message, some opponents say, by transforming the federal government into a conduit between big business and public resources — and possibly making it tough for future administrations to change course.

“Since Teddy Roosevelt, Republican or Democrat (presidents) have protected public lands and the creation of public monuments,” said U.S. Rep. Alan Lowenthal, a Democrat whose Long Beach-based district encompasses parts of Los Angeles and Orange counties where a cluster of off-shore platforms remain in operation.

“This is the first time we’ve reversed course in 100 years,” he said.

The bill, which this month passed out of the House Committee on Natural Resources on a party line vote of 19 to 14, is expected to be heard on the House floor after the Thanksgiving holiday.

The California Coastal Commission has taken a stance against the bill as written, saying it would provide “a dangerous loophole” in the Endangered Species Act to encourage drilling, undermine the Marine Mammal Protection Protection Act, and prevent future presidents from declaring any ocean water or land a national marine monument.

“The changes would eviscerate any meaningful attempt to protect marine mammals,” reads a letter to congressional leaders from John Ainsworth, executive director of the Coastal Commission.

“The proposed bill language severely undermines the protection of marine mammals from injury … for the purpose of exploration for offshore oil and gas.”

The bill, however, echoes other efforts already underway by the Donald Trump administration.

In April, President Trump signed an executive order to expand offshore oil exploration, a move he described at the time as an effort to overturn an executive order from Barack Obama that limited offshore drilling.

Though it’s still unclear if the the Trump or Obama order will hold up, the Dept. of Interior is in the process of identifying spots for offshore oil and gas exploration in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic for a five-year window starting in 2019. When finalized, the Trump administration’s five-year plan would effectively override work done late in the Obama administration to limit offshore drilling to a handful of sites in the Gulf of Mexico and one bay in the Arctic.

The new push could help an industry that accounts for nearly 6 percent of all U.S. jobs, but it is strongly opposed by many in the environmental community.

“We don’t want any new areas opening up for leasing,” said Alison Dettmer, deputy director of the California Coastal Commission.

The effort to revive offshore drilling also comes at a time when California regulators are making moves to shut down an oil platform off Santa Barbara, the first time in 20 years that a California rig will be decommissioned.

The 51-year-old rig known as Holly (off-shore oil rigs, like ships, are named), was last operated by Venoco Oil, a company linked to a 2015 oil spill that damaged protected wildlife areas along the Santa Barbara coast. In April, Venoco filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy, citing costs connected to the spill and dropping oil prices as factors in its collapse. Since then, no other operator has pushed to get Holly back online.

Dismantling the platform is expected to take at least five years, with about two years needed to plug the 30 wells connected to the rig, said Sheri Pemberton, chief of external affairs for the California Lands Commission, which is helping to oversee the process of capping Holly.

Taxpayers probably will help pay for it. Though the state expects to cash in on a $30-million private bond, Venoco’s bankruptcy means the state will finance much of the  decommissioning process, Pemberton said. Tearing down the platform and plugging wells are expected to cost tens of millions of dollars.

There are 27 such platforms in federal and state waters between Santa Barbara and Orange counties mostly built between the 1960s and 1970s, most of which are reaching the end of their lifetime. Of those, 10 drilling operations are off the coast of Long Beach, Seal Beach and Huntington Beach, according to state records.

Oil prices hit $100 a barrel in late 2014 and then collapsed, falling below $30 a barrel last year before bouncing back to the $50 to $60 range for much of this year.

Oil experts aren’t sure when, or if, oil prices will again hit 2014 levels, and the industry is prepared for a long-term run of extreme volatility. Federal experts believe oil prices will grow less than 1 percent a year through 2024, compared with growth of 8.4 percent a year during the decade that ended in 2014. That forecast is at least part of the reason why some 8,000 permits for oil drilling on federal land are not being used.

So if the SECURE American Energy Act isn’t aimed at boosting exploration in the short term, Lowenthal, the congressman from Long Beach, describes it as something else: A love note from Congress to the oil industry.

“This is a messaging bill to go back to… oil and gas,” Lowenthal said. “It’s a way (for Congress) to say ‘This administration is totally supportive of what they’re trying to do.'”

 

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/11/24/as-california-prepares-to-decommission-oil-platforms-new-bill-could-pave-the-way-for-more-offshore-drilling/

Record-breaking temperatures expected in time for Southern California’s Thanksgiving

Just as Thanksgiving cooks are prepping to roast their turkeys and bakers getting poised to craft their pies, temperatures across Southern California are to heat up this week, with some areas seeing holiday highs in the 90s.

Record-high temperatures are likely to be set Wednesday and Thursday in spots for those calendar days, according to the National Weather Service.

  • A sun-drenched day in Dana Point makes for perfect biking weather near Salt Creek Beach in Dana Point. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    A sun-drenched day in Dana Point makes for perfect biking weather near Salt Creek Beach in Dana Point. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Athletes hit the morning surf as they paddle through the ocean in Dana Point. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Athletes hit the morning surf as they paddle through the ocean in Dana Point. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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“In the West we’re roasting for Thanksgiving, and in the Northeast and the Midwest they’re in the deep freeze,” said Bill Patzert, a climatologist with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “It will be near-record-breaking here.”

Or hotter.

A high-pressure system is expected to linger over the region and will be its strongest just in time for Thanksgiving, with low humidity creating a dry heat, said Stephen Harrison, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Diego.

At the same, time Santa Ana winds are expected to die down, causing the heat to linger from the coast to the inland regions.

“This is abnormally warm for Thanksgiving, definitely,” Harrison said.

Particularly concerning is the lack of rain in recent months, well below the normal precipitation typically recorded, Patzert said.

“It’s a very dry start at the end of a very long dry spell,” Patzert said. “The thing to be cautious about this Thanksgiving is fire. People have to be careful out there.”

Los Angeles International Airport is expected to reach 83 degrees on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 86 on Wednesday and 84 degrees on Thanksgiving.

In Long Beach, a 81-degree high was forecast for Tuesday, and an 86 for Wednesday, with Thursday to get a dip of 2 degrees.

Riverside and San Bernardino will also see highs in the 90s, beginning Tuesday and stretching through Thanksgiving Day.

After the dishes are cleared and clean, cooler temperatures will move in.

Temperatures are expected to drop five degrees or so on Friday, then another five on Saturday and another slide, this one slight, is forecast for Sunday. By early the following week, it could even rain.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/11/20/record-breaking-temperatures-expected-in-time-for-southern-californias-thanksgiving/

Huntington Beach desalination plant challenged in court

A coalition of non-profits is asking a superior court to reverse a state agency’s decision to greenlight a long-proposed, controversial desalination plant in Huntington Beach.

In a lawsuit filed in Sacramento Friday, Nov. 17, the three coastal advocacy groups allege an inadequate environmental review was conducted on the impacts of building a desalination plant and that the State Lands Commission failed to examine the plant’s impacts on the ocean in its entirety.

The Poseidon desalination plant has been proposed for the site of the AES power plant on Pacific Coast Highway in Huntington Beach for nearly 20 years, and has been continually challenged and fought by environmental groups. Its opponents contend that the intake and outfall pipes could suck in tiny marine life and have advocated for subsurface wells that the builder deemed infeasible.

The plant would churn out some 50 million gallons each day of desalted ocean water for use to Orange County residents. It would cost nearly $1 billion in private and public funding to build out the infrastructure to get the water to residents and businesses.

The latest legal challenge, by California Coastkeeper Alliance, California Coastal Protection Network and Orange County Coastkeeper, is the sixth one the Huntington Beach plant has faced.

A representative building the plant was critical of two of the three non-profits, saying they are not invested in Orange County.

“The lawsuit challenging the State Lands Commission’s approval of the Huntington Beach desalination project is a desperate and frivolous ploy by out-of-town special interest groups to deny Orange County a locally controlled, drought-proof drinking water supply,” said Scott Maloni, vice president of project management with Poseidon Water, who is overseeing the building of the desalination plant.

“We are confident the state Attorney General’s office will successfully defend the State Lands Commission’s approval of the Huntington Beach project,” he said.

On Aug. 31 the three-member State Lands Commission voted to renewed Poseidon’s existing lease on the intake and outfall pipes that run under the state beach into the ocean. The move was one of the last three regulatory hurdles the plant faced before construction could begin. Maloni said the latest legal challenge would not slow the plant’s construction.

Proponents of the plant have advocated for its construction, saying the 50 million gallons each day from the plant would be a source of locally produced clean water during California’s droughts and the construction of the plant would create jobs for local workers.

Opponents have long contended the water created by the plant is expensive for ratepayers, microscopic marine life could be affected and other drought-proof measures could be taken before the state turns to desalting ocean water.

Water taken from the county’s underground aquifer costs about $400 per acre foot, while water imported from the Colorado River and Northern California costs about $1,000 per acre foot. Desalinated water costs about $2,100 an acre foot, which could mean a $3 to $6 increase each month for ratepayers.

Advocates for the desalination plant have said that as water becomes increasingly scarce the price of imported water will approach the price of desalted water.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/11/19/huntington-beach-desalination-plant-challenged-in-court/

Huntington Beach desalination plant challenged in court

A coalition of non-profits is asking a superior court to reverse a state agency’s decision to greenlight a long-proposed, controversial desalination plant in Huntington Beach.

In a lawsuit filed in Sacramento Friday, Nov. 17, the three coastal advocacy groups allege an inadequate environmental review was conducted on the impacts of building a desalination plant and that the State Lands Commission failed to examine the plant’s impacts on the ocean in its entirety.

The Poseidon desalination plant has been proposed for the site of the AES power plant on Pacific Coast Highway in Huntington Beach for nearly 20 years, and has been continually challenged and fought by environmental groups. Its opponents contend that the intake and outfall pipes could suck in tiny marine life and have advocated for subsurface wells that the builder deemed infeasible.

The plant would churn out some 50 million gallons each day of desalted ocean water for use to Orange County residents. It would cost nearly $1 billion in private and public funding to build out the infrastructure to get the water to residents and businesses.

The latest legal challenge, by California Coastkeeper Alliance, California Coastal Protection Network and Orange County Coastkeeper, is the sixth one the Huntington Beach plant has faced.

A representative building the plant was critical of two of the three non-profits, saying they are not invested in Orange County.

“The lawsuit challenging the State Lands Commission’s approval of the Huntington Beach desalination project is a desperate and frivolous ploy by out-of-town special interest groups to deny Orange County a locally controlled, drought-proof drinking water supply,” said Scott Maloni, vice president of project management with Poseidon Water, who is overseeing the building of the desalination plant.

“We are confident the state Attorney General’s office will successfully defend the State Lands Commission’s approval of the Huntington Beach project,” he said.

On Aug. 31 the three-member State Lands Commission voted to renewed Poseidon’s existing lease on the intake and outfall pipes that run under the state beach into the ocean. The move was one of the last three regulatory hurdles the plant faced before construction could begin. Maloni said the latest legal challenge would not slow the plant’s construction.

Proponents of the plant have advocated for its construction, saying the 50 million gallons each day from the plant would be a source of locally produced clean water during California’s droughts and the construction of the plant would create jobs for local workers.

Opponents have long contended the water created by the plant is expensive for ratepayers, microscopic marine life could be affected and other drought-proof measures could be taken before the state turns to desalting ocean water.

Water taken from the county’s underground aquifer costs about $400 per acre foot, while water imported from the Colorado River and Northern California costs about $1,000 per acre foot. Desalinated water costs about $2,100 an acre foot, which could mean a $3 to $6 increase each month for ratepayers.

Advocates for the desalination plant have said that as water becomes increasingly scarce the price of imported water will approach the price of desalted water.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/11/19/huntington-beach-desalination-plant-challenged-in-court/

2 burglary suspects fleeing police on 55 freeway are caught hiding in a ditch

Two suspects believed to have burglarized a Costa Mesa business early Sunday were caught after leading police on a brief pursuit, police said.

The burglary was reported at about 7:25 a.m. in the 1900 block of Harbor Boulevard and the two suspects were seen fleeing in a gold colored GMC with paper license plates, said Costa Mesa police Sgt. B. Le.

The suspects fled onto the northbound 55 freeway, leading police on a pursuit.

Near the Baker Street exit, the two suspects stopped the car on the freeway and ran into a drainage ditch, Le said.

Police took both suspects into custody. Their names were not immediately available.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/11/19/two-burglary-suspects-fleeing-police-on-55-freeway-are-caught-hiding-in-a-ditch/

Get ready for an ‘abnormally warm’ Thanksgiving

Just as Thanksgiving cooks are preparing to roast their turkeys and bake their pies, temperatures across Southern California are expected to heat up this week, with some areas seeing holiday highs in the 90s.

Record high temperatures are likely to be set Wednesday and Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.

A high-pressure system is expected to linger over the region and will be its strongest just in time for Thanksgiving, with low humidity creating a dry heat, said Stephen Harrison, a meteorologist with the weather service in San Diego.

At the same time Santa Ana winds are expected to die down, causing the heat to linger from the coast to the inland regions.

“This is abnormally warm for Thanksgiving, definitely,” Harrison said.

At Los Angeles International Airport, Monday is expected to see a high of 75 degrees, slightly increasing each day with 83-degree heat Tuesday, a high of 86 degrees Wednesday and 84 degrees Thursday.

In Long Beach, Monday will see a high of 74 degrees, then a 81-degree high Tuesday, and 86 degrees Wednesday. Thanksgiving day will see a high of 84 degrees.

Highs will stay relatively cool at the coast in Newport Beach with a high of 68 Monday, then a slight increase with a high of 73 degrees Tuesday, Wednesday will see a high of 75 degrees and 77 degrees Thursday.

Highs will reach the 90s in Fullerton this week, with highs reaching 77 degrees Monday, then Tuesday will see a 10-degree jump with highs at 87 degrees, 92 degrees Wednesday and 90 degrees Thursday.

Riverside and San Bernardino will also see highs in the 90s, with Monday reaching 80 degrees in both cities and 90 degrees Tuesday. Wednesday will reach the low 90s in both cities and linger in the low 90s on Thanksgiving day.

But on Friday temperatures are expected to drop across the region when the high-pressure system begins to weaken.

Temperatures are expected to drop about five degrees Friday, then another five Saturday and drop slightly Sunday. The next chance of rain in the region will be the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/11/19/put-away-the-sweaters-temperatures-to-rise-in-days-leading-up-to-thanksgiving/

Police seek witnesses who saw summer attack on jogger in Newport Beach

NEWPORT BEACH – Police are asking for the public’s help in locating a man who attacked a woman jogging early one summer morning.

The woman was jogging in the area of 16th Street and Seagull Lane at about 5:45 a.m. on Aug. 31, police said on Tuesday, Nov. 14, when attacked by a man riding a red beach cruiser and wearing a light-colored, hooded sweater, shorts and white shoes when he fled toward Irvine Avenue.

Police received the initial call from a business in the 700 block of Dover Drive where the woman went for help; she had a cut on her face, said Jennifer Manzella, a Newport Beach police spokeswoman.

Witnesses are asked to call Detective Joshua Vincelet at 949-644-3790.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/11/14/police-seek-witnesses-who-saw-summer-attack-on-jogger-in-newport-beach/

Motorcyclist arrested after allegedly speeding 100 mph through Anaheim with police in pursuit

ANAHEIM – A motorcyclist who lead police on a winding, high-speed pursuit through Anaheim and Stanton early Tuesday was arrested when he tried to flee into a storm channel, police said.

Just after midnight, a pursuit of Jacob Nimz, 28, began near Beach Boulevard and Katella Avenue because he was speeding, said Anaheim police Sgt. Daron Wyatt. The chase at times reached 100 mph, he added.

The pursuit ended when Nimz tried to squeeze into a storm channel in Stanton and was caught. He fought with the arresting officers and was arrested on suspicion of evading police, fighting with police and warrants, Wyatt said.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/11/14/motorcyclist-arrested-after-speeding-100-mph-through-anaheim-in-police-pursuit/

Placentia gas station robbed several times, this time by gun-wielding assailant

An armed suspect robbed a Placentia gas station that has been hit several times in the past, police said.

At 11:06 p.m. Monday an assailant wearing a bandanna brandished a chrome revolver and robbed the Chevron 313 W. Orangethorpe Avenue, said Placentia police Sgt. Bryce Angel.

“This gas station has been hit numerous times in the past and we do believe it has to do with the freeway being right there,” Angel told an overnight photographer.

The suspect was wearing dark clothing and was alone during the robbery. He is described as standing about 5 foot 10 inches tall, weighing 250 pounds and wearing a black windbreaker and blue jeans. The assailant left on foot, and police were unable to locate him.

A small amount of cash was reportedly stolen from the gas station, according to Placentia police.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/11/14/placentia-gas-station-robbed-several-times-this-time-by-gun-wielding-assailant/

Want a French or English bulldog? A Westminster shelter has 78 that need homes

WESTMINSTER – A nonprofit that took in dozens of ailing French and English bulldogs that were seized from a suspected breeder will accept applications for their adoption starting on Tuesday, Nov. 14.

Westminster Adoption Group and Services received 78 bulldogs from a Westminster breeder who had kept the animals in squalor, with every one of the animals suffering some kind of ailment, said Cortney Dorney, the shelter manager for WAGS.

The bulldogs were signed over to the shelter by the owner on Friday, allowing the adoptions to proceed.

Because the animals are expensive to care for, the shelter will do a type of credit check to ensure the new owners can pay for the extensive medical care they could need in their lifetimes; WAGS, which is the official shelter for the cities of Westminster and Stanton, has never included this step before in the adoption process.

“Everyone is eligible,” Dorney said. “(But) we want to be sure the dogs can be paid for long-term. They come with a variety of medical conditions for their entire life. … We want to be sure people can afford to buy these dogs.”

French and English bulldogs typically have chronic skin conditions, are highly allergic and get repeat ear and eye infections because of how those body parts are formed; they also get respiratory infections.

Since news of the dogs Nov. 6 confiscation broke, Dorney has fielded hundreds of calls from those interested in adopting and has posted signs and changed the nonprofit’s voicemail to turn people away until a full assessment could be done on the animals.

“We could have adopted these dogs out 10 times by now,” she said.

Typically, the trendy dogs sell for upward of $3,500. WAGS’ adult dogs will be made available for $500, with puppies under eight months old costing $800.

  • Two bulldogs look on at Westminster Adoption Group and Services. They are two of the 78 seized Monday, Nov.6, from a suspected illegal breeder at a Westminster house. (Photo Courtesy of Mike Dorney)

    Two bulldogs look on at Westminster Adoption Group and Services. They are two of the 78 seized Monday, Nov.6, from a suspected illegal breeder at a Westminster house. (Photo Courtesy of Mike Dorney)

  • A bulldog walk about at Westminster Adoption Group and Services. It was one of the 78 seized Monday, Nov.6, from a suspected illegal breeder at a Westminster house. The dogs were kept in dirty crates and needed medical care.(Photo Courtesy of Mike Dorney)

    A bulldog walk about at Westminster Adoption Group and Services. It was one of the 78 seized Monday, Nov.6, from a suspected illegal breeder at a Westminster house. The dogs were kept in dirty crates and needed medical care.(Photo Courtesy of Mike Dorney)

  • A French bulldog sits at Westminster Adoption Group and Services. It was one of the 78 seized Monday, Nov.6, from a suspected illegal breeder at a Westminster house. The dogs were kept in dirty crates and needed medical care.(Photo Courtesy of Mike Dorney)

    A French bulldog sits at Westminster Adoption Group and Services. It was one of the 78 seized Monday, Nov.6, from a suspected illegal breeder at a Westminster house. The dogs were kept in dirty crates and needed medical care.(Photo Courtesy of Mike Dorney)

  • A bulldog shows its tongue at Westminster Adoption Group and Services. It was one of the 78 seized Monday, Nov.6, from a suspected illegal breeder at a Westminster house. The dogs were kept in dirty crates and needed medical care. Some of the dogs, like the one pictured, had cropped ears.(Photo Courtesy of Mike Dorney)

    A bulldog shows its tongue at Westminster Adoption Group and Services. It was one of the 78 seized Monday, Nov.6, from a suspected illegal breeder at a Westminster house. The dogs were kept in dirty crates and needed medical care. Some of the dogs, like the one pictured, had cropped ears.(Photo Courtesy of Mike Dorney)

  • A brown bulldog walks about at Westminster Adoption Group and Services. It was one of the 78 seized Monday, Nov.6, from a suspected illegal breeder at a Westminster house. The dogs were kept in dirty crates and needed medical care.(Photo Courtesy of Mike Dorney)

    A brown bulldog walks about at Westminster Adoption Group and Services. It was one of the 78 seized Monday, Nov.6, from a suspected illegal breeder at a Westminster house. The dogs were kept in dirty crates and needed medical care.(Photo Courtesy of Mike Dorney)

  • A bulldog sits at Westminster Adoption Group and Services. It was one of the 78 seized Monday, Nov.6, from a suspected illegal breeder at a Westminster house. The dogs were kept in dirty crates and needed medical care.(Photo Courtesy of Mike Dorney)

    A bulldog sits at Westminster Adoption Group and Services. It was one of the 78 seized Monday, Nov.6, from a suspected illegal breeder at a Westminster house. The dogs were kept in dirty crates and needed medical care.(Photo Courtesy of Mike Dorney)

  • This French bulldog was one of the 78 seized Monday, Nov.6, from a suspected illegal breeder at a Westminster house. The dogs were kept in dirty crates and needed medical care. The dogs are being housed at Westminster Adoption Group and Services.(Photo Courtesy of Mike Dorney)

    This French bulldog was one of the 78 seized Monday, Nov.6, from a suspected illegal breeder at a Westminster house. The dogs were kept in dirty crates and needed medical care. The dogs are being housed at Westminster Adoption Group and Services.(Photo Courtesy of Mike Dorney)

  • A bulldog is held by staff at Westminster Adoption Group and Services. It was one of the 78 seized Monday, Nov.6, from a suspected illegal breeder at a Westminster house. (Photo Courtesy of Mike Dorney)

    A bulldog is held by staff at Westminster Adoption Group and Services. It was one of the 78 seized Monday, Nov.6, from a suspected illegal breeder at a Westminster house. (Photo Courtesy of Mike Dorney)

  • A French bulldog stands on a rolling cart at Westminster Adoption Group and Services. It was one of the 78 seized Monday, Nov.6, from a suspected illegal breeder at a Westminster house. The dogs were kept in dirty crates and had received no medical care. (Photo Courtesy of Mike Dorney)

    A French bulldog stands on a rolling cart at Westminster Adoption Group and Services. It was one of the 78 seized Monday, Nov.6, from a suspected illegal breeder at a Westminster house. The dogs were kept in dirty crates and had received no medical care. (Photo Courtesy of Mike Dorney)

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The shelter doubled its population when it took in the bulldogs, requiring medicine, vaccines and increased staffing. Because of those costs, the dogs are more expensive to adopt than typical.

The ailments the dogs suffer from include urine burns on their feet, mange and eye, ear and skin infections. They are five months to about 11 years old.

Applications will be accepted Tuesday through Saturday. Eligible adopters will be chosen on Sunday; they will be able to start seeing the dogs on the next day. Adopters will pick their top three choices, and a lottery will be used to make the final decisions.

“We feel this is the only way to do it, because there has been such a huge outpouring of people,” Dorney said.

The dogs will be spayed or neutered before they head to their new homes.

For information on how to apply: wagspetadoption.org.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/11/13/want-a-french-or-english-bulldog-a-westminster-shelter-has-78-that-need-homes/

New Corvette lifts up SUV in reckless-driving crash, Huntington Beach police say

HUNTINGTON BEACH – A new Corvette crashed into an SUV, lifting the back of the vehicle from the ground in a reckless-driving case, police said on Monday.

At about noon on Sunday, police received reports of a reckless driver on the loose near Beach Boulevard and Warner Avenue, and those were followed by reports of a crash, said Officer Angela Bennett, a Huntington police spokeswoman.

When officers arrived, they found a Toyota Highlander’s rear-end lifted two-feet-plus in the air, with the low-to-the-ground Corvette nosed beneath it.

The Corvette’s driver was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.

No one was injured. Police did not have an estimate on the damages.

Not long after the crash, Huntington P.D. tweeted out the photo and a message:

Here’s how you ruin #SundayFunday! If you’re going to drink, make sure you have a safe ride home. #DontDrinkAndDrive #HBPD.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/11/13/new-corvette-lifts-up-suv-in-reckless-driving-crash-huntington-beach-police-say/

Woman killed in crash on the 91 freeway

A woman was killed in an early morning crash on the 91 freeway on Sunday, Nov. 12, according to officials.

  • The California Highway Patrol investigates a fatal accident on the 91 freeway in Anaheim on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017. Leticia Ocampo Perez was killed when a minivan she was riding in crashed with a car just after 2 a.m. on the 91 freeway, according to the Orange County coroner’s office. (Photo by Southern Counties News)

    The California Highway Patrol investigates a fatal accident on the 91 freeway in Anaheim on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017. Leticia Ocampo Perez was killed when a minivan she was riding in crashed with a car just after 2 a.m. on the 91 freeway, according to the Orange County coroner’s office. (Photo by Southern Counties News)

  • EMTs take a victim involved in a fatal car accident on the 91 freeway in Anaheim on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017. Leticia Ocampo Perez was killed when a minivan she was riding in crashed with a car just after 2 a.m. on the 91 freeway, according to the Orange County coroner’s office. (Photo by Southern Counties News)

    EMTs take a victim involved in a fatal car accident on the 91 freeway in Anaheim on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017. Leticia Ocampo Perez was killed when a minivan she was riding in crashed with a car just after 2 a.m. on the 91 freeway, according to the Orange County coroner’s office. (Photo by Southern Counties News)

  • Members of the Anaheim Fire Department work the scene at fatal accident on the 91 freeway in Anaheim on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017. Leticia Ocampo Perez was killed when a minivan she was riding in crashed with a car just after 2 a.m. on the 91 freeway, according to the Orange County coroner’s office. (Photo by Southern Counties News)

    Members of the Anaheim Fire Department work the scene at fatal accident on the 91 freeway in Anaheim on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017. Leticia Ocampo Perez was killed when a minivan she was riding in crashed with a car just after 2 a.m. on the 91 freeway, according to the Orange County coroner’s office. (Photo by Southern Counties News)

  • The California Highway Patrol investigates a fatal accident on the 91 freeway in Anaheim on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017. Leticia Ocampo Perez was killed when a minivan she was riding in crashed with a car just after 2 a.m. on the 91 freeway, according to the Orange County coroner’s office. (Photo by Southern Counties News)

    The California Highway Patrol investigates a fatal accident on the 91 freeway in Anaheim on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017. Leticia Ocampo Perez was killed when a minivan she was riding in crashed with a car just after 2 a.m. on the 91 freeway, according to the Orange County coroner’s office. (Photo by Southern Counties News)

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Leticia Ocampo Perez was killed when a minivan she was riding in crashed with a car just after 2 a.m. on the 91 freeway, according to the Orange County coroner’s office.

Ocampo Perez was a passenger in the minivan. Her age and city of residence were not  immediately known Sunday.

A black sedan overturned in the crash and parts of the eastbound freeway were closed to through traffic for more than four hours Sunday morning, according to wire reports.

City News Service contributed to this report.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/11/12/woman-killed-in-crash-on-the-91-freeway/