Beginning February 12 in Carpinteria, Southern California Edison will send representatives door-to-door to sign up South County businesses for free energy efficiency upgrades. Every business currently using fewer than 100 kilowatts of energy per month is eligible for up to $5,000 worth of new lighting, refrigeration, and other equipment, with free installation, to be paid for by the California Public Utilities Commission, which draws funds from the public goods fee included on monthly electrical bills. The program is part of an effort to reduce the region’s energy consumption by 10 percent over three years.

The California Department of Fish and Game has asked freshwater boaters to help prevent the spread of the invasive Quagga mussel, which was found in California for the first time on January 17 in Lake Havasu. If the tiny yet prolific Ukrainian mollusks manage to get a foothold at Lake Cachuma – which is a reservoir as well as a recreational boating lake – they could clog water distribution pipes. Boaters using recreational waters are asked to help stop the Quagga mussel by thoroughly washing their boat’s hull and draining all water from the inside of boats after each use.

A small oil spill came dangerously close to a watering hole frequented by endangered California condors in the Sespe Wilderness on January 31. A broken wastewater line was discovered January 30 on an oil field owned by Vintage Productions California LLC. About 200 gallons of light crude that had been floating on the wastewater flowed down Tar Creek until crews using booms, earthen berms, suction trucks, and absorbent pads contained the slick three miles upstream from the confluence of Tar and Sespe creeks.

Vandenberg Air Force Base reported that a falconry program has successfully eliminated seagulls from the area to the extent that not a single one has been reported in the last three months. The trained falcons chase away seagulls and other birds that crowd the nearby landfill in search of food. Vandenberg officials began taking measures to eliminate the large numbers of birds in order to prevent the spread of disease and to ensure safe take-offs and landings at its nearby airstrip. A similar program has also proven effective at landfills in Santa Maria.

A NASA scientist and pioneering researcher in the field of global warming, Dr. James Hansen, spoke at UCSB on Monday to a crowd that filled the 800-seat Campbell Hall and spilled into two smaller lecture halls showing the lecture on TV screens. Hansen’s lecture – which focused on the dangers fossil fuel consumption poses to the planet, especially to many animal species – kicked off a series that will continue through Earth Day, April 22.

An ethanol company looking to open a large-scale facility near Santa Maria is expected to file application papers with the county this week. With ambitious plans to break ground sometime this summer, the Santa Maria-based American Ethanol is looking to meet the fast-growing national demand for the corn-derived alternative fuel by building a $200 million plant that would produce an estimated 110 million gallons of the fuel each year. If it comes to fruition, the American Ethanol facility would be the largest in the state.

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