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Humboldt County, California, seen by Planet. Photo: Planet Labs, Inc.

Humboldt County, California — located along the Pacific coast, north of San Francisco — is now using photos and data provided by the private satellite company Planet to find and ticket illegal marijuana cultivators.

Why it matters: The new monitoring method has revolutionized the way the county enforces permitting for growing cannabis, and it shows a surprising way that relatively cheap access to space can affect daily life.

The impact: Before the county began using Planet’s data, officials issued less than 100 citations for these kinds of infractions 2 years ago, Humboldt County Deputy Director Bob Russell tells Axios. But last year, the county issued 690 and collected more than $1 million in fines and penalties.

  • Instead of having to rely on complaints and site visits in the large, rural county, county officials can now use Planet's data to find illegal greenhouses or other structures and track how long they've been there.
  • Planet is in its second year of a 3-year agreement with Humboldt to provide satellite imagery of about 2,700 square miles of the county multiple times per year. Planet charges the county about $200,000 per year.
  • While the county did use satellite data to track compliance before, it was hit or miss, according to Russell.
  • Officials were dependent on Google Earth or other databases updating their imagery on their schedules.
  • TerraServer, Earth-i and GeoNorth Information Systems also competed with Planet for the contract.

What's next: Russell sees a future where this kind of data becomes even more useful. Instead of having to comb through the data, machine learning might be able to do the heavy lifting, flagging suspicious structures imaged from one month to the next.

Go deeper

Journalism enters dangerous new era

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The Capitol attack on Jan. 6 resulted in at least nine physical assaults against journalists and at least five arrests, per the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker's top editor.

Why it matters: President Trump's harsh rhetoric towards the press has empowered leaders abroad and locally in the U.S. to continue to attack press that they don't like.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

The beginning of the beginning for Biden's climate push

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Joe Biden's inauguration and the days right after will bring a rat-tat-tat burst of climate policy moves, but keep this in mind amid the splashy pledges: pushing through most of his agenda will be a long, uncertain slog.

Why it matters: Biden's climate plan is far more expansive than anything contemplated under President Obama. But for all the immediate pledges, it will take years to see how far Biden gets.

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Biden's inflation danger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President-elect Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal has economists and bullish market analysts revising their U.S. growth expectations higher, predicting a reflation of the economy in 2021 and possibly more booming returns for risk assets.

Yes, but: Others are warning that what's expected to be reflation could actually show up as inflation, a much less welcome phenomenon.