Sierra Summit

Conversations and observations about California's mountains

April 22, 2009
Speaking about energy and climate (Phil Angelides)
As an environmental journalist, I listen to a lot of speeches about energy and climate. But many, sad to say, are not that energetic. Some, in fact, are more dull than insightful - filled with detail but short on vision. It's unfortunate that subjects so important to our future are discussed in ways that don't connect with the public.  
But every so often, someone surprises me. Last month, that person was Phil Angelides, former treasurer of the state of California, former candidate for governor and now chairman of the Apollo Alliance, a group of environmental, labor, business and community leaders working to bring more "green-collar" jobs to California. On March 18, Angelides delivered a speech to the Green California Summit and Exposition in Sacramento in which he talked about the promise of green technology in the Golden State. But unlike other speakers, Angelides delivered his message in crisp, clear sentences, avoided jargon and even worked in a little humor, at one point telling the audience how California's embrace of green energy is like high school sex.  "Everybody's talking about it, but not that many people are doing it." But most importantly, he delivered his talk with an alternate form of energy often missing from energy and climate presentations today - a passion for the subject at hand. 

To hear some excerpts from Angelides' talk, including his humor, click on the play button here:

To listen to the whole speech, click here:
April 7, 2009
A burning issue: Fire and the Freedom of Information Act

The Moonlight fire, which burned some 65,000 acres near Greenville in September 2007, was one of the largest and most destructive wildfires in recent history in the northern Sierra. 


In all, the fire cost more than $30 million to put out. And now, millions more are being spent to replant the region and hopefully bring the forest back to health. 


But the precise cause of the fire remains a mystery. One year ago, government officials told Bee correspondent Jane Braxton Little the fire was started by a logging operation on nearby private land - but released no details. 


Today, the government is still mum. In response to my U.S. Freedom of Information request asking for a copy of the Forest Service investigative report examining the cause of the fire, the agency wrote back and said, in so many words: We're still working on it. (See attachment below)


It's now been 19 months since the Moonlight fire scarred the region - and we have very little information about how it happened or who - if anyone - will pay the bill, besides taxpayers.  What's your view? Is the agency stone-walling? Or is it simply being meticulous?  For an agency that has moved rapidly to identify the causes of other large wildfires, why is the Moonlight investigation taking so long? 

Here is a copy of the Forest Service response to my Freedom of Information Act request --




About Sierra Summit

The Author
Tom Knudson lives in the Sierra Nevada and travels widely throughout the range. His hobbies include fly-fishing, backpacking and cross-country skiing. He is the recipient of numerous journalistic awards, including two Pulitzer Prizes, one for a 1992 Sacramento Bee series "Sierra in Peril," a watershed work about environmental threats to the mountain range. E-mail Tom at

Visit's Sierra Warming section

October 2013

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31