Category Archives: Global warming

Benicia’s Jumping Into Solutions: All About Heat Pumps

BenIndy highly recommends ‘Jumping Into Solutions’

Email from Pat Toth-Smith, March 31, 2023

Hi, I‘m so pleased to announce Jumping Into Solutions Episode 2, “Switch is On for Electric Heat Pumps.”  This episode features the new electric water heat pumps and home heating/cooling units for your home. The video clears up confusing things like:

    • How do the new heat pumps work?
    • Will they cost a lot of money to install?
    • Do I have to change my electric systems?
    • Can I remove my gas system after installing them?
    • Will they save money in the long run?
    • What are the new Air District (BAAQMD) rules for getting new electric water/heat systems?
    • Are there rebates?

Much more efficient, non-toxic and economical, electric heat pumps use Thermal Dynamics to run their systems.

Guests for this episode are homeowner Constance Buetel and Energy Engineer Tom Kabat, who speak candidly about all of this and share their knowledge and experiences switching over to heat pump water heaters and home heat/cooling heat pump systems.

Other benefits to the home heat pump is that it is also an air conditioner. They come in all sizes from a central system to mini splits that go in the walls to portable window units to heat and cool any room in your home, which is especially nice for people living in apartments.

Lastly, this episode discusses the dangers of having gas products in our home for our families’ health and for the health of our community. The reduction of gas and its byproduct, methane, a serious greenhouse gas, goes a long way to reducing our carbon footprint and helping our planet.

Check it out at Jumping Into Solutions on YouTube at

An audio version is also available at

Pat Toth-Smith

California’s Strategy for reducing ‘Short-Lived Climate Pollutants’ – SB1383

California Has Been Devastated by the Climate Crisis

Reposting from CalRecycle,

California is now experiencing the effects of a climate crisis: hotter summers with world record-breaking temperatures, even more devastating fire seasons, more extreme droughts, and rising sea levels that erode our coastlines.

Scientists tell us that greenhouse gasses released by human activities, like landfilling food and yard waste, cause climate change.

To respond to this climate crisis, California is implementing statewide organic waste recycling and surplus food recovery.

Fighting Climate Change by Recycling Organic Waste

In September 2016, Governor Edmund Brown Jr. set methane emissions reduction targets for California (SB 1383 Lara, Chapter 395, Statutes of 2016) in a statewide effort to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCP). The targets must:

  • Reduce organic waste disposal 75% by 2025.
  • Rescue for people to eat at least 20% of currently disposed surplus food by 2025.

Landfills Are Third Largest Source of Methane in California

Organic waste in landfills emits:

  • 20% of the state’s methane, a climate super pollutant 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
  • Air pollutants like PM 2.5, which contributes to health conditions like asthma.

Organics like food scraps, yard trimmings, paper, and cardboard make up half of what Californians dump in landfills.

Reducing Short-Lived Climate Super Pollutants like organic waste will have the fastest impact on the climate crisis.

SB 1383 Regulations

The Office of Administrative Law approved SB 1383 regulations.

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Collection and Recycling

Starting in 2022, all jurisdictions will to need to provide organic waste collection services to all residents and businesses and recycle these organic materials using recycling facilities such as:

  • Anaerobic digestion facilities that create biofuel and electricity.
  • Composting facilities that make soil amendments

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Procurement Requirements: Using Recycled Organics Products

As California collects and recycles organic materials, local governments will be required to use the products made from this recycled organic material, such as renewable energy, compost, and mulch.

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Food Recovery

Starting in 2022, some food service businesses must donate edible food to food recovery organizations with others starting in 2024. This will help feed the almost 1 in 4 Californians without enough to eat.

California has a 2025 goal to redirect to people in need 20% of edible food currently thrown away.

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Capacity Planning

SB 1383 requires counties to take the lead collaborating with the jurisdictions located within the county in planning for the necessary organic waste recycling and food recovery capacity needed to divert organic waste from landfills into recycling activities and food recovery organizations.

California has a 2025 goal to redirect to people in need 20% of edible food currently thrown away.

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The enforcement provisions in SB 1383 will assist jurisdictions, non-local entities, local education districts, state, federal facilities, and CalRecycle to achieve the state’s climate goals and the 75 percent organic waste diversion goal by 2025 and into the future.

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Recordkeeping Requirements

Regulated entities are required to maintain records that demonstrate how they are complying with the law. These records will assist regulated entities with preparing for compliance inspections required by local and state agencies.

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Department Issued Waivers and Exemptions

If certain conditions are met, CalRecycle may issue waivers and exemptions to jurisdictions, local education agencies, and non-local entities that exempt them from some or all of these collection requirements.

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Jurisdictions are to report on program implementation. CalRecycle has developed Model Reporting Tools that jurisdictions can use to assist in meeting reporting

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CalRecycle has developed a recycling services and edible food collection complaints portal where the public can file complaints for lack of recycling services, improper labeling of bins, and other solid waste concerns.

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Resources for Implementation

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Requirements for city, county and special districts with solid waste collection.
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Education and Outreach Resources

CalRecycle offers resources to assist with education and outreach to jurisdictions, residents, and businesses.

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Food Donors

Californians throw away 5-6 million tons of food waste every year. SB 1383 requires that businesses donate surplus food instead of throwing it out.

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Food Recovery Organizations

SB 1383 links food service businesses with food recovery organizations to get donated food to Californians in need.

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Waste Haulers

Each jurisdiction plans for and implements its own solid waste management programs, including organics recycling.  Each local program is based on state minimum standards, including collection service options, container color and labeling requirements, and contamination monitoring.  Hauler requirements at the local level vary depending on the type of hauler.

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Transfer and Processing Facilities and Landfills

SB 1383 makes changes to Titles 14 and 27, adding requirements for transfer/processing facilities, operations for landfills and solid waste facility permitting.

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Organics Recycling Facilities

SB 1383 requires organic waste facilities and operations to measure and report organic waste material activity, including composting and anaerobic digestion.

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Local Enforcement Agencies

Local enforcement agencies (EAs) have the primary responsibility to enforce State solid waste facility regulations designed to protect public health and safety and the environment.

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Local Education Agencies

SB 1383 regulations direct entities not subject to oversight by a jurisdiction to implement new organics recycling infrastructure, including, school districts, chapters, and county office of education.

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Non-Local Entities

SB 1383 regulations direct entities not subject to oversight by a jurisdiction to implement new organics recycling infrastructure, including, state agencies, county fairgrounds, public universities including community colleges, facilities operated by state parks system, prisons, federal facilities, and special districts.

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Elected Officials

Every department within a jurisdiction will be affected by the implementation of SB 1383 and will have a role to play. Staff in every department will need to understand how SB 1383 impacts their work, and implementation may require adding staff or contracting with other entities, such as environmental health inspectors or consultants.

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Related Resources

Reducing Short-Lived Climate Pollutants in California

The California Air Resources Board provides information on short-lived climate pollutants and the Proposed Revised Short-Lived Climate Pollutant Reduction Strategy.

General Plan Guidelines Update, Completed August 2, 2017

The California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) completed the first comprehensive update to the General Plan Guidelines (GPG) since 2003. One of the major changes includes an expanded section addressing the need for additional recycling, anaerobic digestion, composting, and remanufacturing facilities in the land use element.

For more information contact: Organic Waste Methane Emissions Reductions,

New Benicia Channel, ‘Jumping Into Solutions’

BenIndy highly recommends ‘Jumping Into Solutions’

Email from Pat Toth-Smith, February 10, 2023

Hi All, I’m so EXCITED to announce the start of a new YouTube and Spotify channel titled, “Jumping into Solutions” it was created by myself and a very skilled team of people (Kathy Kerridge, Bart Sullivan, June Mejias plus more).

We’ve had our first episode which features guest, Marie Knutson from Republic Services. It’s titled: What Can & Can’t be Composted? Exploring California’s New Composting Law SB1383 & More! (See below, or go to .)

This episode clears up confusing things like: which bins do I put milk cartons, waxy take-out containers, paper coffee cups, or dog waste in? And it takes a deep dive into the new expanded compost law SB1383. Please check it out and let us know what you think!

A great video from the State about how this law (SB1383) reduces methane to help combat climate change. The goal is to remove 75% out of the landfills by 2025. Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
You can also check out the audio version on Spotify – listen in your car or at bedtime!

The purpose of this channel is to explore climate solutions in meaningful ways, that can empower people to make changes in their lives to help our ailing planet.

Please help support our channel and watch the video/podcast, and if you like it… promote it, share it to your friends and family, and post & comment on it your social media feeds! Thank you for any help in getting this off the ground.

Pat Toth-Smith

What to Know About the Risks of Gas Stoves and Appliances

After learning her gas stove was leaking methane, one reporter consulted public health experts to learn about the scope of the problem and what people can do to reduce these risks at home.
Illustration by Laila Milevski, special to ProPublica

ProPublica, by Lisa Song, January 23, 2023

Lisa Song, ProPublica

As a climate reporter, I was well aware of the growing concern about the gas stoves in people’s homes leaking dangerous pollutants, like methane, a potent greenhouse gas and explosive hazard; nitrogen dioxide, which worsens asthma; and benzene, which causes cancer. But I was a renter who had no control over my appliances. So I mostly ignored it — until one day last fall when I smelled the rotten-egg odor of leaking natural gas while baking focaccia.

I borrowed a $30 gas leak detector from a friend (a fellow climate reporter, of course). When I turned on the oven in my New York City apartment, the lights for a “significant” leak lit up. My kitchen was filling up with methane. According to the user manual, that meant I should “VENTILATE THE AREA IMMEDIATELY and move to a safe location” in case of an explosion. I opened the windows and ignored the evacuation advice (don’t follow my example), too intent on taking a video of the leak as proof for my landlord before turning off the oven. Then I vented my frustration by panic-texting friends and eating too much focaccia — after cutting it into pieces and baking it in my toaster oven. Luckily, my landlord replaced my faulty stove within days. I made sure to check the new stove (still gas, alas) for leaks after it was installed.

“People still don’t recognize that there are health downsides to cooking with gas in your home,” said Regina LaRocque, a Harvard Medical School professor who does research on medicine and public health. “This is the 21st century, and we have better ways of cooking than over a fire.”

The issue has caught national attention in recent weeks, as the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission considers regulating gas stoves. Public health experts and environmentalists have long warned of the risks of gas ranges. One study found that indoor gas stoves were responsible for roughly 13% of childhood asthma cases in the U.S. The American Public Health Association and American Medical Association have urged consumers to transition away from gas.

LaRocque uses a traditional electric coil stove at home. But she and other experts advocated for induction stoves, which use electromagnets to heat up food. These stoves are growing in popularity as consumers choose them for climate, health and safety reasons, though they can cost more than twice as much as a gas range.

The federal Inflation Reduction Act will provide rebates to upgrade to electric or induction home appliances (here’s a Wirecutter guide on that program). Some states, including Massachusetts, offer their own rebates as well.

Induction stoves are much more common in Europe, LaRocque said. That cultural shift has yet to occur in the United States, where more than a third of households use gas stoves. As Mother Jones reported, the gas industry embraced the term “cooking with gas” in the 1930s; an executive even made sure to get it worked into Bob Hope’s comedy routines. More recently, the industry has opposed electrification efforts with lobbying and social media influencers who tout gas as a “super cool way” to cook.

I consulted multiple experts on the hazards of gas stoves and what people can do about them. Their advice boiled down to this: homeowners who can afford it should switch to an induction or electric stove. For renters and others who can’t replace their appliances, the experts provided tips on lowering the health risks.

What Are the Risks of Gas Appliances?

Credit:Illustration by Laila Milevski, special to ProPublica

Methane is a greenhouse gas. The gas that’s piped into your house is virtually all methane. When you burn methane to cook food, it turns into carbon dioxide. But unburned methane trickles out from loose fittings and faulty stovetop igniters. Every pound of methane released into the air is 30 to 86 times more effective at warming the planet than a pound of carbon dioxide.

When researchers analyzed 53 homes in California last year, they found methane leaking from almost every stove. More than three-quarters of that methane came from stoves that were turned off. The act of igniting a burner or oven released additional puffs of methane. If these leaks are consistent across the nation, then annual methane emissions from U.S. gas stoves would equal the greenhouse gas emissions of half a million cars.

These leaks are “pretty much universal,” said Robert Jackson, a Stanford University professor and a study co-author. Jackson, who’s spent more than a decade studying methane leaks from gas wells, pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure, said it can be hard to predict where the leak is coming from. Based on the description of the leak in my kitchen, he told me it likely was caused by ignition problems with the oven. Jackson’s research has inspired him to ditch his gas stove, furnace and hot water heater in favor of induction and electric appliances.

“I did not expect to see the high levels of indoor air pollution we saw consistently,” he said. “It strongly motivated me to replace my own stove.”

Large methane leaks can cause explosions. If you smell gas in your home, leave the building and call your gas company. The distinctive rotten-egg odor comes from chemicals that gas companies add to the methane to make it easier to detect, since the gas is naturally odorless.

Some people are much more sensitive to the smell than others, so it’s not a foolproof warning for explosive risk. Eric Lebel, lead author of the methane study Jackson worked on, recalled smelling gas in some of the homes where he did the testing, even though the homeowners couldn’t smell anything. Lebel is a senior scientist at PSE Healthy Energy, a nonprofit science and policy research institute.

Burning natural gas releases nitrogen dioxide, a respiratory irritant. Nitrogen dioxide exacerbates asthma and impairs lung function. The Environmental Protection Agency regulates these emissions from cars and power plants with national air quality standards, but those regulations don’t apply to indoor air.

The Lebel and Jackson study measured nitrogen dioxide and a related compound. They found steadily rising emissions after turning on burners and ovens.

“Simply having a combustion stove in your home is a health risk,” LaRocque said. In poorly ventilated kitchens, nitrogen dioxide levels could exceed outdoor air standards. “It would be like standing behind an idling car, or standing in a smoke-filled room,” she added. “I think if my child had asthma, I would definitely want to intervene.”

Gas stoves leak benzene, a carcinogen that can cause leukemia. In a separate study published last fall, Lebel and his colleagues analyzed gas samples from residential kitchens. Out of 160 samples, all but one contained benzene.

“If there’s a leak from that appliance, it likely contains benzene,” Lebel said. “It’s a rather unavoidable cost of owning a gas appliance.”

Raw natural gas contains a mix of methane and toxic chemicals like benzene, toluene or formaldehyde. Gas companies strip out the impurities before piping the processed gas to homes, but they don’t eliminate all the toxins.

Lebel’s team modeled the benzene concentrations from the leaking stoves and found a handful that failed to meet California’s benzene safety guidelines. They also found traces of other harmful compounds, including toluene, ethyl benzene and xylene, which can cause dizziness, nausea and liver damage. A separate study of gas appliances in the Greater Boston area found benzene in 95% of samples, though at lower levels than Lebel’s study.

How Can I Protect Myself?

Credit: Illustration by Laila Milevski, special to ProPublica

Turn on the range hood above your stove. Paul Francisco, associate director of building science at the University of Illinois Urbana, Champaign, suggests cooking on the back burners and using the hood whenever you turn on the stove or the oven. The fans improve ventilation and will pull benzene, methane and nitrogen dioxide outdoors.

However, this only works if the hood connects to the outside of your house. Follow the piping on the hood: If the top of the device goes through the ceiling or the wall, then it should help with air quality.

Another type of range hood, called a “ductless” hood, simply recirculates indoor air. If your hood has grilles or vents on the front, then it’s likely, but not guaranteed, to be ductless, Francisco said. These fans won’t cut down on harmful gases, but they might be able to reduce particulate matter — tiny particles created during cooking, which can cause or exacerbate respiratory illness. A 2014 study found that cooking on induction stoves produced far fewer particles than cooking on gas or electric stoves.

Open a window to improve ventilation. At a minimum, an open window will dilute toxic gases.

If your kitchen is in the upper half of a building, opening the window should draw the contaminants outside as long as there’s no wind and it’s warmer inside than outside, Francisco said. If you live in the lower half of a building, opening a window in the winter won’t be as effective, he said, though any ventilation is better than none.

Get an induction hot plate. If you can’t replace your stove, experts said the next best thing is to buy an induction burner. Here are some consumer guides with reviews of portable hot plates.

During last summer’s heat waves, when I couldn’t fathom lighting a fire inside my kitchen, I did almost all my cooking using an induction hot plate, an Instant Pot and an electric toaster oven. Excessive heat is another reason why some chefs advocate for induction burners.

What about air purifiers? These devices have become more popular as a way to improve air quality and reduce the risk of COVID-19 infections. Most air purifiers won’t have any effect on toxic gases, though they do remove particulate matter, Francisco said. Some specialty models filter out volatile organic compounds, a class of chemicals that includes benzene.

Should I buy a gas detector? There are a number of methane monitors that are designed for consumers, priced from roughly $30 to $200. Some will tell you about the presence of a leak. Others are sensitive enough to detect specific concentrations of methane. You can also find indoor monitors that detect particulate matter for $200 to $300.

It’s much harder to monitor for benzene or nitrogen dioxide. The types of instruments used by Lebel and Jackson cost tens of thousands of dollars and require users to undergo extensive training.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District, a regulatory agency in California, maintains a list of “low-cost” air quality sensors (less than $2,000) that can be used by citizen scientists and advocacy groups. These sensors can be used to detect particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and volatile organic compounds.

Lebel said it shouldn’t be up to individuals to solve a systemic issue. It seems problematic, he said, “to be asking citizens to be scientists and try and discover if their stove is leaking.”