BEC is founded by representatives from five environmental groups: Wes Dempsey of the Sierra Club, Steve Evans of Northstate Wilderness Committee, David James of Community Gardens Project, Michael McGinnis of Forces to Restore Earth's Environment (FREE), and Jonnel Schmitz of Student Environmental Collective. "The initial members were driven by the intention to save the world or at least a piece of it," said Michael McGinnis, a founder. Chico State’s CAVE program provided office space and facilities for BEC's first eleven years of operation.
BEC moves out of the tiny office space at Chico State to Seventh and Cherry Street.
BEC makes its first significant contribution to Butte County by introducing a multi-use recycling service. Glass, tin, aluminum, cardboard, and newspaper were collected in the curbside program for a $1 monthly fee. "Recycling offers an immediate benefit to our education;" said Michael McGinnis, the first general manager of BEC, "it is a direct way to see a result in the physical quality of life."
BEC’s recycling services are sold to North Valley Disposal (now known as North Valley Waste Management), just one of many large disposal companies to enter the market at the time. The deal allowed BEC to begin focusing on what they really are passionate about: education, advocacy, and referral services.
Barbara Vlamis is hired as BEC's Executive Director.
BEC relocates to its present location in downtown Chico, above the Naked Lounge Café on Second Street.
BEC funds, through a Strong Foundation grant, printing of “The Vernal Pools of Butte County,” a booklet written by Dave Ross and illustrated by Pavia Wald. The booklet was created to give an overview of vernal pools, their inhabitants, and why they are a unique habitat in need of protection.
Lynn Barris, a Butte County almond farmer, joined BEC and became a board member after a neighboring farmer’s groundwater sales out of district impacted her ability to water her crop. With strong advocacy from Lynn and then-Executive Director Barbara Vlamis, BEC took up the cause of imperiled groundwater in the County General Plan process, participating in the committee that created the Water Element. Because of its stance on water sales out of area, BEC frequently squared off against the Irrigation Districts and their lawyers, notably with the November 1996 Measure F (a ballot initiative to protect Butte County water) which, though it lost to the Irrigation Districts’ Measure G, had several of its provisions implemented.
Also in 1995, BEC board member Chuck Lungren led the creation of BEC’s newspaper, the “Environmental News,” predecessor of our online Environmental Sentinel.
BEC sued the US Fish and Wildlife Service for a critical habitat designation for four types of vernal pool-dependant crustaceans. The USFW asked for a one-year extension in 2001; however, in August of 2003 the Bush administration's Department of the Interior took a million acres of critical habitat off of its final rule, leaving no habitat in Butte, Madera, Merced, Riverside, Sacramento and Solano counties.
BEC, the California Native Plant Society, and Defenders of Wildlife filed a complaint over the Rule. In 2005, the Department released their second, final Rule, which added habitat to five of the six previously omitted counties--but removed habitat from other counties. The justification for a less protective Rule was, predictably, a flawed economic analysis that undervalued the economic benefits of protecting critical habitat.
The Humboldt Road Burn Dump was purchased by developers Tom Fogarty and Drake Homes in the early '80s, along with adjacent land, for development as residential housing. Severe lead contamination was discovered at the primary dump site in 1987; because of the intent to build homes on that site, a very costly and stringent cleanup process was implemented. The cleanup was further complicated by proximity to the Marsh Jr. High School a few hundred yards away. Eventually Drake Homes and the City of Chico withdrew from the project over liability issues for hazardous soil disposal.
BEC, together with the Butte County Air Quality Management District, were actively involved in overseeing the cleanup's progress, which was completed in 2005; thanks to BEC, the Fogarty project will not place housing on any remediated land.
BEC receives its first grant from The California Wellness Foundation. This large multi-year grant enabled BEC to create and administer information in Butte County about reducing exposure to toxins in the home, and funded a community survey on the effectiveness of our wellness outreach.
Early in 2009 the Governor issued a proclamation claiming an emergency drought and sought to implement water transfers without following California environmental law, specifically the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). BEC hired the legal team of Lippe, Gaffney and Wagner, LLP, to challenge the exemption because the relatively mild drought is not an emergency situation caused by nature but rather a regulatory drought caused by mismanagement. In April 2009, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance and the California Water Impact Network were named with BEC on the suit against a long list of powerful water districts and agencies that joined the State’s effort to facilitate water transfers without following environmental law.
On March, 16, 2010, a Superior Court ruled that the State has to comply with environmental laws even in dry times. The Superior Court of California, County of Alameda, ruled in favor of BEC and co-petitioners in their lawsuit against the California Department of Water Resources in their plan to transfer additional water because of a three year drought. This was an important win for the North Valley’s water resources and environment. Requiring the State to comply with environmental laws will help ensure that the Tuscan aquifer system remains healthy and well managed into the future.
Also in 2009, the Executive Director position is split into Administrative & Advocacy Director positions. Barbara Vlamis left BEC to form AquAlliance; Nikki Schlaishunt and Robin Huffman were hired as Administrative and Advocacy Directors.
BEC receives another two-year grant from The California Wellness Foundation. This grant includes funds to test backyard chicken eggs in the south Oroville area for dioxins, as the California Department of Public Health did in 1988 and 1994 after a fire at the Koppers wood treatment facility released dioxins into the surrounding area. For more information, see our dioxins page.
Robyn DiFalco was hired as Executive Director in February.
In June of 2012, we received results from waste ash samples taken from the co-generation power plant in south Oroville showing elevated levels of dioxins in the waste ash. Our toxics research in south Oroville takes a new turn...
Natalie Carter was hired as Executive Director in March.
30th Annual Bidwell Park and Chico Creeks Cleanup event. Ongoing monthly Block Parties with a Purpose.
...THE WORK CONTINUES...