Saturday, March 28, 2009

Anchorage Daily News - Redoubt Volcano Photos

Go here for a neat set of photos of the Redoubt eruptions.

If you're drivin', you're being watched

The village of Schaumburg, Ill., installed a camera at Woodfield Mall last November to film cars that were running red lights, then used the footage to issue citations. Results were astonishing. The town issued $1 million in fines in just three months. But drivers caught by the unforgiving enforcement -- which mainly snared those who didn't come to a full stop before turning right on red -- exploded in anger. Many vowed to stop shopping at the mall unless the camera was turned off. The village stopped monitoring right turns at the intersection in January. Drivers -- many accusing law enforcement of using spy tactics to trap unsuspecting citizens -- are fighting back with everything from pick axes to camera-blocking Santa Clauses. They're moving beyond radar detectors and CB radios to wage their own tech war against detection, using sprays that promise to blur license numbers and Web sites that plot the cameras' locations and offer tips to beat them...WSJ

And you thought it was just red light cameras? Check this out from the same article:

Municipalities are establishing ever-more-clever snares. Last month, in a push to collect overdue taxes, the City Council in New Britain, Conn., approved the purchase of a $17,000 infrared-camera called "Plate Hunter." Mounted on a police car, the device automatically reads the license plates of every passing car and alerts the officer if the owner has failed to pay traffic tickets or is delinquent on car taxes. Police can then pull the cars over and impound them. New Britain was inspired by nearby New Haven, where four of the cameras brought in $2.8 million in just three months last year. New Haven has also put license-plate readers on tow trucks. They now roam the streets searching for cars owned by people who haven't paid their parking tickets or car-property taxes...

South Park on the Treasury Dept.

Like a chicken with it's head cut off.

Email recipients go here to play the video.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Obama's Deputy EPA chief nominee withdraws

Another Obama administration nominee withdrew his name Wednesday as questions emerged about a nonprofit group with which he had been affiliated. Jonathan Z. Cannon, nominated as deputy director of the Environmental Protection Agency, cited questions about the now-defunct America's Clean Water Foundation, for which he had been a board member. He said he didn't want to be a distraction. In 2007, EPA auditors accused the foundation of mismanaging $25 million in taxpayer funds. The foundation had won that much in federal contracts to identify environmental risks at beef, poultry and pork plants, and to help states and Native American tribes comply with the Clean Water Act. EPA auditors questioned the foundation's accounting of almost all that money and alluded to allegations of embezzlement. The report did not mention Cannon, who is a professor of environmental law at the University of Virginia and the former top EPA lawyer...LA Times

Environmental policy a specialty of Obama's solicitor general

President Obama's newly confirmed solicitor, Elena Kagan, is receiving a warm welcome from environmental lawyers and scholars who are hailing the former Harvard Law School dean for her background in administrative law and for revitalizing the school's environmental law program. After the Senate confirmed her, 61-31, last week, Kagan became the 45th solicitor general -- and the first woman ever to hold the position. She will argue for the government in Supreme Court cases. "Dean Kagan has a lot of experience in administrative law, so she will be especially well-attuned to these regulatory issues that typically come before the high court in environmental cases," said John Nagle, an environmental law professor at the University of Notre Dame's law school. Kagan, 48, served in the Clinton administration from 1995 to 1999, first as associate counsel in the White House Counsel's Office and then as deputy assistant to the president for domestic policy and deputy director of the Domestic Policy Council. A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law, she clerked for U.S. Appeals Court Judge Abner Mikva and later for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, himself a former solicitor general. She returned to Harvard Law as a visiting professor in 1999 and joined the school full-time in 2001. She has served as dean since 2003. "She left a nationally visible mark on environmental law at Harvard," said Jim Rossi, a visiting environmental law professor at Harvard on loan from Florida State University. "For many years, Harvard was not known for a primary expertise in the environmental jurisprudence, and that changed under Dean Kagan's watch." Nominated by Obama, her former colleague at the University of Chicago Law School, Kagan is widely regarded as a serious candidate for an opening on the Supreme Court...NY Times

Unlikely partners savor victory, but work's not done to protect Owyhee Canyonlands

Environmental groups and Owyhee County ranchers went from bitter enemies to friends and partners in their ambitious effort to preserve the awesome scenery of the Owyhee Canyonlands; miles of habitat for wild sheep, imperiled sage grouse and rare redband trout; and the cultural treasures of both cowboys and Indians. But they're also looking ahead to the work to complete a hard-fought compromise that was included as one small measure in a sweeping public lands bill sent to President Obama on Wednesday. The bill could become law as soon as Monday. The ranchers overcame their traditional opposition to wilderness and wild rivers restrictions to help conservative Republican Sen. Mike Crapo pass Idaho's first wilderness bill since 1980. Now the burden shifts to environmentalists, who have to follow through on promises to find the money needed to keep ranchers whole as the region transforms. They agreed to help raise at least $10 million in private money and convince a Democratic administration to back $15 million more in tax dollars to help pay for the land transfers, grazing buyouts and other accommodations for ranchers who now live and work in the area. About $8 million is authorized for buying private lands in and around wilderness areas. But the $10 million from private sources, including foundations, would buy easements and water rights and pay ranchers to retire grazing permits...Idaho Statesman

Government Should Compel Consumers to Use Alternative Energy, Congressman Says

Government policy should be crafted to raise the price of carbon-emitting energy sources so consumers are compelled to choose alternative energy, House Democratic Conference Chairman John Larson (D-Conn.) told on Thursday. Larson agreed that such a policy would likely result in higher electricity prices for consumers but said this is needed to protect the environment from the possible “catastrophic results” of not implementing a pro-green energy policy. With cap and trade, the amount of carbon an energy company can emit is capped. If it exceeds that limit, the company can purchase credits (“trade”) that would go towards investment in green or alternative energy firms. “I think the government should serve as an impetus to do so, because as I said at the outset, not doing anything -- the catastrophic results that can come from that – are what drives this issue,” Larson told when asked if boosting electricity prices through government policy to drive consumers to green energy was a good idea...CNS News

Property Rights: Do It for the World's Poor

One of the favorite mantras of the left is the need to protect people rather than property. But very often the best way to protect people is protect their property. Those with power and influence can steal what they want. Only when property rights are protected do average people have a shot at both liberty and prosperity. The question of property ownership goes far back into human history. Individual sovereignty over land was alien to hunter-gatherer societies, but they died out because they were "unsustainable," in current parlance. Larger populations required greater productivity, which required some form of property rights, even if by a tribe or some other group. The latter could sustain a certain level of life, but as peoples ancient through modern have discovered, collectivizing production inevitably limited available food and other goods. Rulers in a strong empire might succeed by plundering everyone else, but civilizations were unlikely to develop without a system of ownership which rewarded those who invested in developing and improving property. The right to private property evolved out of a basic moral notion. While one could argue endlessly about how to initially distribute unowned property -- Locke's picture of mixing one's labor with land was particularly influential in Britain and the American colonies -- land acquired through purchase and improved through work or expenditure embodied value based upon one's own efforts. Property owners also use knowledge, insight, and vision to enhance the worth of their assets. Although land and chattel long were the most important forms of property, today intellectual property has assumed much greater significance. The productive value of human creativity has expanded from hands to minds. The software programs on a computer, not the physical components of a computer, are that instrument's most productive property...American Spectator

Groups sue to protect endangered Calif. condor

An environmental group this week sued two federal agencies over a land management plan it says fails to protect the endangered California condor from lead ammunition. The Center for Biological Diversity is pushing for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to ban lead hunting ammunition that can poison or kill condors that feed on gut piles and carcasses. The BLM adopted a management plan for an area north of the Grand Canyon known as the Arizona Strip last year. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is also listed as a defendant in the lawsuit, issued an opinion on the plan a year earlier that environmentalists say is flawed. Scott Sticha, a spokesman for the BLM's Arizona Strip office, said the management plan does not address hunting ammunition and declined to comment specifically on the lawsuit. Brenda Smith, assistant field supervisor for Fish and Wildlife in Flagstaff, said the agency is taking another look at its opinion but did not say what the review might entail or when it would be completed...Arizona Republic

Subprime Carbon: Environmentalists Warn About the Next Big Bubble

President Obama and Congress are nowhere near drafting a climate bill, but the angst over the future carbon market is in full bloom. There are two good reasons for that: The recent financial meltdown in the U.S., and the recent carbon-market meltdown in Europe. Today, even as Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is urging Congress to adopt greater financial-market regulation, another Capitol Hill hearing room is full of concern about another market subject to price gyrations: the carbon market. The biggest worry is how businesses are meant to adapt to a world where the price for a new must-have asset—the right to emit carbon dioxide—can swing so violently. In Europe, for instance, prices for carbon permits have whipsawed from a high of 30 euros a ton to a low of 2 euros a ton. Just as sketchy home mortgages set the stage for the subprime mess in U.S. banking markets, sketchy environmental initiatives threaten to create a “subprime carbon” mess, environmental group Friends of the Earth warned today. If correctly valuing McMansions was tough, how hard will it be to properly price the environmental benefits of a Mongolian wind farm, or other measures meant to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases? Carbon permits are still derivatives, after all...WSJ

Study: Pharmaceuticals found in fish across US

Fish caught near wastewater treatment plants serving five major U.S. cities had residues of pharmaceuticals in them, including medicines used to treat high cholesterol, allergies, high blood pressure, bipolar disorder and depression, researchers reported Wednesday. Findings from this first nationwide study of human drugs in fish tissue have prompted the Environmental Protection Agency to significantly expand similar ongoing research to more than 150 different locations. A person would have to eat hundreds of thousands of fish dinners to get even a single therapeutic dose, Brooks said. But researchers including Brooks have found that even extremely diluted concentrations of pharmaceutical residues can harm fish, frogs and other aquatic species because of their constant exposure to contaminated water...Newsweek

House passes bill to pay for fighting wildfires

With fire season approaching, the House Thursday passed legislation to protect funding for fighting fires so government officials won't have to siphon money from other programs to handle the emergencies. The Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement or FLAME Act moved easily through the House on a vote of 412-3. Wildland fire activities now account for approximately 48 percent of the Forest Service budget, up from just 13 percent in 1991. Last year, the Forest Service and Interior Department spent a combined $2.4 billion to fight fires. Meanwhile, the annual funding for fires has not kept pace, forcing officials to raid other important accounts to deal with a crisis that must be immediately met. The legislation, which now goes to the Senate, attacks the chronic shortage of money by establishing a dedicated reserve fund for catastrophic, emergency wildland fire suppression activities, separate from money Congress approves each year for other fire activities...Oregonian

Rabid bobcat attacks 3 inside Arizona bar

A bobcat was on the loose inside an Arizona bar. The bobcat in the bar caused a panic Tuesday night in Cottonwood near Sedona. Three people were hurt and the bobcat was killed. Cottonwood Police were called out to three different scenes Tuesday night all within an hour and a mile of each other. Everyone was complaining of an aggressive bobcat that attacked three people. 3TV has learned the bobcat was rabid. One patron tells 3TV, “I was sitting in the back and watched the bobcat run in.” That bobcat caught patrons off guard, causing some to jump on pool tables and grab pool sticks before pulling their cell phone cameras out for pictures. Another patron explains, “My friend got down with his camera phone and the cat jumped up and hit him in the face.” Kyle Hicks is now undergoing treatment for

How Green Are Your Grocery Bags?

You feel pretty good about yourself toting those green woven bags back and forth to the supermarket. But how much — and what — do they really save? And what's wrong with the old plastic and paper kinds? Reusable fabric bags are most commonly made from cotton, but the cotton-farming process is extremely fossil-fuel-intensive because of the machinery involved. Cotton is also responsible for 25 percent of all chemical pesticides — insecticides, fungicides and herbicides — used on American crops. Chemical fertilizers are used to enrich the soil. Most of the cotton grocery bags are woven outside the U.S. where labor is less costly, but that increases the use of fossil fuels in getting them from the factory to these shores. The process for making paper bags is also far from ideal. Huge machines log, haul and pulp trees. The entire paper-making process is heavily dependent on chemicals, electricity and fossil fuels. Surprisingly, plastic may be greener than paper. The EPA reports that making paper bags generates 70 percent more air pollution and 50 times more water pollution than making plastic bags. The former also uses more energy and generates more solid waste. With any sort of bag, the best solution is to not throw it away at all. Paper should have an advantage here, right?...Fox News

Polluters, Beware: These Eco-Police Officers Are for Real

The woman at the desk of A & L Collision, an auto repair shop in Brooklyn, eyed Officer Neil R. Stevens suspiciously. “You’re not from here,’” she said. “Yes I am,” Officer Stevens replied. “You dress differently,” she insisted. She had a point. Officer Stevens’s unifor is olive green, not blue, and he wears a Stetson hat that gives him a friendly Smokey Bear look. But drivers of smoke-bellowing trucks, owners of oil-oozing body shops, vendors of undersize fish and other city dwellers underestimate him at their peril. As a member of a small force of police officers whose sole focus is enforcing environmental laws, Officer Stevens carries a gun and handcuffs and can haul a suspect off to jail. These environmental conservation officers number barely 20 in New York City, out of about 300 around the state, but issue about 2,000 summonses for violations and criminal charges annually...NY Times

New “Green” Pesticides Are First to Exploit Plant Defenses in Battle of the Fungi

Exploiting a little-known punch/counterpunch strategy in the ongoing battle between disease-causing fungi and crop plants, scientists in Canada are reporting development of a new class of “green” fungicides that could provide a safer, more environmentally-friendly alternative to conventional fungicides. They will report on the first pesticides to capitalize on this unique defensive strategy here today at the 237th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society. Developed with sustainable agriculture in mind, the new fungicides — called “paldoxins” — could still do the work of conventional pesticides, helping to protect corn, wheat and other crops. These crops increasingly are used not just for food, but to make biofuels. The new fungicides also could help fight the growing problem of resistance, in which plant pests shrug off fungicides, the researchers suggest...Newswise

Doctors Reattach NM Man's Arm After 900-Pound Pig Attack

A 26-year-old Curry County man had his arm nearly severed by a 900-pound boar that attacked him when he reached into the animal's pen to grab a water hose. Curry County sheriff's deputies say Juan Cruz, a dairy worker, was attacked March 16 when he was feeding the boar and about 18 other pigs at his home in rural eastern New Mexico. Cruz, speaking through an interpreter, says doctors in Lubbock, Texas, reattached his arm, but he is waiting to see if the operation was successful. Cruz says the pig wasn't mean and the attack was unexpected. A sheriff's report shows the family asked that the animal be shot and killed. After a test for rabies came up negative, the family was given the meat at its request. Fox News

Mutilated Cows Still A Big Mystery

In the past month, three different ranchers in Southern Colorado have all reported that their cows were mutilated. Three Separate cows, three separate ranchers...all with the same bizarre story. Each of them found one of their cows' dead...and we're not talking death by natural causes...the cows were reportedly mutilated. NEWSCHANNEL 13 received pictured to prove it, some of them are too disturbing to show. The cows ears were cut off by what ranchers say had to have been a laser, their organs all pulled from their body. The ranchers say no animal tracks or human tracks were found anywhere near the bodies, and the attacks have nothing in common with an animal attack. Each rancher says there are no bite marks on the cows, and no blood trails around the body that you would typically see in an animal attack. One of the ranchers, Tom Miller, told NEWSCHANNEL 13 that he's not sure what to believe. "It's still a mystery," said Miller. "Both their ears were cut off, they were very smooth cuts, no animal or knife could have done it."...NEWSCHANNEL 13

Montana, North Dakota Horse Slaughter Bills Advance

Legislation to establish privately owned horse processing plants in the United States advanced this week in two Western states. On March 24, the North Dakota State Senate approved HB 1496, authorizing a $50,000 study to evaluate potential legal challenges to slaughter plant development in that state. The bill will return to the North Dakota House for final consensus before moving on to Gov. John Hoeven's desk. "The bill is pretty veto proof, so I don't see the Governor not signing it," said State Sen. Joe Miller, a co-sponsor. Meanwhile, a Montana bill arrived on Gov. Brian Schweitzer's desk March 24 after its passage by the state's Senate. HB 418 prohibits Montana courts from granting injunctions to stop or delay horse processing plant construction based on permit or licensing challenges, or on environmental grounds. It also requires that anyone challenging permits submit a surety bond representing 20% of the facility's estimated building cost, and awards attorney and court fees to plaintiffs in cases District Courts deem harassing or without merit...The Horse

Death tax could mean end for fifth-generation rancher

I am the owner of a ranch that has been in my family for five generations. If current trends continue, I'll be the last in that line. My family's way of life is threatened by the death tax. My great-great-grandfather was a rags-to-riches pioneer. In the late 1860s, James Clayton Stribling Sr., son of an immigrant from England, moved from his birthplace in Tennessee to Texas. Arriving with little more than the shirt on his back, he began leasing land to graze cattle. Stribling gradually increased his ranch land by buying small tracts from neighbors. Over the course of his lifetime, he bought several thousand acres. When he died, the land then went to his children. His children continued the ranching tradition and passed it on to their five children, including my grandmother. It is with my grandmother that my family first discovered the death tax. When she died in 1997, the Internal Revenue Service handed my father an invoice of 38.5 percent minus a small deduction, on the appraised value of the land — the land that her grandfather had worked so hard to purchase, protect and work. As is the case with so many ranchers, her estate didn't have many liquid assets or a large amount of cash with which he could pay the debt. His only choice was to sell or take a loan. He took the largest loan available and, even then, was forced to sell several thousand acres. Fast forward to the summer of 2006. My father began to get ill and so we began planning his estate. We put together an army of attorneys, CPAs and tax planners in hopes of avoiding the tax burden my grandmother's estate left. Alas, our hope in tax-shelter magic was not to be realized...Austin American-Statesman

Song Of The Day #004

Dorsey Murdock Dixon (Oct 14, 1897-Apr 1968)was born in the mill town of Darlington, SC, quit school in the fourth grade, went to work in the mill at age 12, and started playing the guitar when he was 14. His younger brother, Howard (Jun 19, 1903-Mar 24, 1951), followed him to the mill and to music. In 1932 they formed a fiddle-guitar duo and played in local venues. They joined the WBT Jamboree in 1934, which led to a 1936 recording contract with Victor where they cut 60 sides. Their musical career was over by the start of WWII. During all this time they continued to work at the mill. Dorsey retired in 1951 and Howard died at the work-site in 1960. It should be noted that Dorsey was also a songwriter, having penned Weave Room Blues and Wreck On The Highway among others.

Today's selection is their 1936 recording of Sales Tax On The Women. It is available on the cd Dixon Brothers, Vol. 1: 1936.

Email recipients go here to play the song.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

House Votes to Protect 2 Million Acres of Wilderness

The U.S. House passed a conservation plan that will protect 2 million acres of natural wilderness and preserve monuments, trails and rivers across the country. The Omnibus Public Lands Management Act, approved today 285-140, goes to President Barack Obama for his signature. The measure combines more than 160 environmental bills in 1,294 pages to conserve water and protect 1,000 miles of scenic rivers. It would block mining and drilling on millions of acres of land. The measure authorizes up to $10 billion in spending for wildlife and land protection. It would add 2 million acres, or about 800,000 hectares, in nine states to the National Wilderness Preservation System. That system currently consists of 10 million acres, or about 4 million hectares, in 44 states. Opponents of the plan said it had not been properly vetted for wasteful spending and that it would block access to tens of millions of acres of natural gas and oil reserves. Representative Tom McClintock, a California Republican, called the bill a “massive land grab.” On the House floor, he said the public good is not served by “mindless and endless acquisition of property” that blocks access to natural gas and other resources. The House rejected an amendment from Representative Doc Hastings, a Washington Republican, to allow people to carry concealed weapons into national parks. The provision would have reversed an Interior Department firearms policy...Bloomberg

For local cattle grazers, bill may bring painful transition

Wednesday was bittersweet for rancher Bob Miller, whose family has been running cattle for more than a century on what is now the 53,837-acre Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument southeast of Ashland. He is one of five major lessees whose cattle grazing will end on the monument after the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 becomes law. Passed by the U.S. Senate last week, it was overwhelmingly approved by the House on Wednesday and is expected to be signed soon by President Obama. He and other ranchers have been working with conservationists to come up with an agreement that would allow conservationists to pay the ranchers to retire their grazing leases. The act includes language that makes the grazing retirement possible. The buyout will include no funding from Uncle Sam. "This is not what we wanted, but it's better than nothing," said Miller, who added he would have preferred to continue the lifestyle his family has long followed. The amount being paid to the lessees has not been disclosed. "Nobody is getting enough to start over again," he said. "It's like selling your house for 20 cents on the dollar. You can't replace it." But health reasons, coupled with poor market conditions and growing opposition to grazing on public lands, persuaded him to make the difficult decision, he said. "It's hard," he said. "I'm the fourth generation — for over 100 years my family has been running cattle up there." The language in the act provides for permanent and voluntary retirement of public lands cattle grazing leases by private buyout on up to 106,672 acres of federal land in and around the monument...Mail Tribune

Obama nominates Gov. Richardson's former chief counsel for solicitor at interior dept.

The White House says it plans to nominate Gov. Bill Richardson's former chief counsel to the post of solicitor in the U.S. Department of Interior. Hilary Tompkins served as chief counsel and deputy counsel in the governor's office from 2003 to 2008. She advised the governor on legislation, political appointments, executive orders and litigation as well as provided expertise in American Indian affairs. Tompkins managed the legal staff in the governor's office as well as the general counsels in over 20 state agencies. Before working for the state, she was an associate at a national law firm where her practice focused on water and environmental law. Tompkins, a Navajo, also has served as general counsel to several Indian tribes nationwide...AP

This is from a March 5th article at

President Barack Obama plans to name a Native woman to serve as the top legal official for the Interior Department, Secretary Ken Salazar said on Wednesday. Speaking to tribal leaders in Washington, D.C., Salazar said the expected nominee is a member of the Navajo Nation. He didn't mention her name but sources identified her as Hilary Tompkins, a prominent attorney from New Mexico. "We are just now in the process of getting her vetted," Salazar said at a summit held by the Council of Energy Resource Tribes. Salazar described Tompkins, who was adopted at birth, as someone Indian Country "can be very proud of." If nominated and confirmed as Solicitor General of the Interior, Tompkins would be making history as the first woman and the first Native American to serve in the post. Tompkins currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of New Mexico School of Law, where she is sharing her experience in tribal-state relations. It's an area she knows well, having served as chief counsel to Gov. Bill Richardson (D) from 2005 to 2008 and as his deputy counsel from 2003 to 2005. As the first Native American chief counsel, Tompkins helped Richardson hire and appoint a record number of Native Americans, both in his cabinet and in agencies, boards and commissions. She oversaw the elevation of the state's Indian agency to a secretarial position, the first in the nation, as the governor supported a record number of Indian bills in the New Mexico Legislature. Tompkins and the legal team also sought to extend their influence to other states by taking a pro-Indian stance in a controversial U.S. Supreme Court case. Shortly after taking office, Richardson filed a brief in Inyo County v. Bishop Paiute Tribe in defense of tribal rights. "It's something we're really proud of," Tompkins, whose name appeared on the brief, told High Country News in an April 2003 article. The move prompted other states to sign onto tribal-friendly briefs, a big shift since states have historically sided against tribal interests in Supreme Court cases...

Obama’s hidden bailout of General Electric

GE — a member of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, which advocates cap and trade — leads the push for greenhouse gas restrictions. In the fourth quarter of 2008 as the company’s stock fell 30 percent, GE spent $4.26 million on lobbying — that’s $46,304 each day, including weekends, Thanksgiving and Christmas. In 2008, the company spent a grand total of $18.66 million on lobbying. Reviewing their lobbying filings, you might think you were looking at Al Gore’s agenda. GE’s specific lobbying issues included the “Climate Stewardship Act,” “Electric Utility Cap and Trade Act,” “Global Warming Reduction Act,” “Federal Government Greenhouse Gas Registry Act,” “Low Carbon Economy Act,” and “Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act.” This isn’t altruism or public relations. GE has started a joint venture called Greenhouse Gas Services, which invests in — and hopes to manage the trade in — greenhouse gas credits. But these investments and this trading floor are of basically no use and nearly no value without government restrictions on greenhouse gases. Hence the lobbying, buttressed by generous campaign contributions: Employees and executives gave $1.35 million to politicians in the past election while GE’s political action committee shelled out $1.55 million. About 64 percent of this $2.9 million went to Democrats, with Obama easily the top recipient of GE money. Obama’s budget includes the payoff, promising to start a multibillion-dollar greenhouse gas industry by 2012. In a letter this week, GE’S Immelt told shareholders that current events present an “opportunity of a lifetime,” because “capitalism will be ‘reset.’ ” Immelt wrote: “The interaction between government and business will change forever. In a reset economy, the government will be a regulator; and also an industry policy champion, a financier, and a key partner.”...Washington Examiner

Grouse decision, take-two

A question that has loomed over the Gunnison Valley for more than a decade has come to another tipping point. The federal government has announced its intention to consider the Gunnison Sage-grouse for listing under the controversial Endangered Species Act (ESA), once again. On Monday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) alerted the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., that it would like to take back its decision not to list the Gunnison Sage-grouse -- made in April of 2006. The decision comes on the heels of a second report released by the Inspector General for the Department of the Interior. It found that former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior Julie MacDonald and other Bush Administration officials interfered with biologists' decision-making for multiple endangered species, including the Gunnison Sage-grouse. The agency will conduct another biological status review of the bird, referred to as a 12-month fact-finding process, she said. Such a review usually takes 12 months to complete, but she said the FWS will negotiate with the plaintiffs of the lawsuit to determine a deadline for the new listing decision. Tomichi Creek rancher Greg Peterson said he was disappointed in the recent news. He opined that plaintiffs in the lawsuit are using the ESA as "a tool to get cattle off federal lands." If the bird is listed, the impacts to ranchers could be detrimental, he said. Such a decision could lead the federal government to reduce allowances for grazing on public lands. This, in turn, would increase pressure on private lands -- degrading those landscapes and, ultimately, pressuring ranchers to consider selling their land for development, due to financial difficulties, he said. He also believes that a loss of local control could break-down the collaborative relationships that have been built locally in the last 15 years -- as area stakeholders have tried to preclude the need for an ESA listing of the bird by taking measures to protect it.
"I'm not as likely to be as cooperative under a federal listing," he said...Gunnison Country Times

Two more cows found mutilated

Two more Southern Colorado ranchers say they have discovered cows mutilated under strange circumstances. A cow on a ranch near Walsenburg was found with its udders cut off and a calf on a ranch near Trinidad was found missing the entire center of its body as well as its ears. A similar mutilation was discovered March 8 on a pasture near the Purgatoire River, just west of the small town of Weston. That cow was found dead by rancher Mike Duran with its udders and reproductive organs surgically removed from its body. The most recent case happened on Jim Garren's ranch. Garren said Tuesday that he last saw his cow alive on Friday afternoon at his spread 12 miles southeast of Walsenburg in Las Animas County. Garren said the next day at around 2:30 p.m. his ranch manager was feeding the herd and noticed his cattle count was off by one. After looking around in areas where cows had grazed previously, Garren said his ranch hand spotted the animal dead under a cedar tree. "The only thing that we could tell about her was that her udder had been surgically removed. There were no other injuries to that cow," Garren said. He said the ground around the cow was never disturbed and there was no trauma to the cow's head or body. "We searched and searched and we could not find blood on the ground or on the cow. I just can't understand how anyone could surgically remove a part from an animal and not spill some blood," he said...Pueblo Chieftain

Beef Industry Fights for Room at the Table

The U.S. beef industry is trying to fight recession-related woes by promoting new, cheaper cuts from less popular parts of the steer and pushing beef harder overseas. The industry's moves mirror those of restaurants, supermarkets and packaged-food companies seeking ways to entice budget-conscious consumers who are dining out less and looking for ways to economize at home. Making the situation even tougher, a new study this week by the National Cancer Institute concluded that eating too much red meat can shorten life spans. So far, though, beef sales in the U.S. are suffering largely because consumers aren't eating as much at restaurants. Beef sales to food-service establishments were down nearly 5% last year, according to figures from food-consulting firm Technomic Inc. Sales to supermarkets and other retail outlets rose 2% as consumers started cooking more at home. Historically, half of all beef sales in the U.S. go to the food-service industry, Mr. Doud says. But dining at casual chains is down, thanks in part to the recession, according to Knapp-Track, which follows sales at about 10,000 dining outlets. Generally, sales at fast-food chains like McDonald's Corp. haven't suffered as much. Shrinking demand is having ripple effects on the farm, too, where ranchers are confronting lower cattle prices. Feedlot operators have lost $4 billion since January 2008, mostly because of feed prices, which soared last year amid burgeoning global demand for grain, says Mr. Doud of the Cattleman's Beef Association...WSJ

Mississippi House Protects Property Owners, Overrides Veto

Earlier this week, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour vetoed a bill, overwhelmingly passed by the legislature, that would have enacted sweeping property rights reform that would limit the state and local government's abuse of eminent domain. Gov. Barbour opposed the legislation because the bill would prohibit taking private property for private development as a means to increase tax revenue. The Governor believes it would cripple Mississippi's ability to attract companies and manufacturers to the state. The justification of “economic development” for the public force of eminent domain is misguiding. Economic development can and has occurred regularly without the forced taking of a private citizens home or business. Legislation like HB 803 promotes further investment as investors are assured that their property will not be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Yesterday, the state house overrode Barbour's veto by a wide margin, 101-19, and tomorrow the senate is expected to attempt an override...ATR

Click here to read Property Rights Alliance's letter to MS state senate.

Republicans don't like IRS sharing info with USDA

Nine Republican members of the House Ag Committee do not like the Administration’s plan to require farmers allow the IRS to verify their income eligibility for farm program payments. The plan is in response to a GAO report which found more than 2,700 farmers who received program payments in the past had exceeded off-farm income limits. The error occurred because the IRS is not allowed to share tax information with USDA. Recently, the two agencies announced a cooperative effort under which the IRS would simply tell the ag department if a producer was not eligible. No actual income numbers would be given. The plan would require producers to sign a waiver allowing the IRS to verify eligibility, if they do not sign, they cannot participate in the program. Ranking member John Lucas and his colleagues sent a letter to Ag Secretary Vilsack objecting to the move saying it is an invasion of privacy and clearly against Congressional intent. Their letter states if the members of the Ag Committee wanted the IRS to disclose farmer tax information they would have put that in the Farm Bill. The Republicans say Congress allowed for a verification of income statement, prepared by a certified public accountant or another third party to be submitted every three years that confirms the producer’s adjusted gross income which makes he or she eligible to receive payment...Brownfield Network

Antibiotic ban on livestock may hurt U.S. food safety

A bill that would ban the nontherapeutic use of antibiotics in animals would hurt the health of livestock and poultry while compromising efforts to protect the safety of the country's food supply, the leader of the largest U.S. farm group said on Tuesday. Bob Stallman, president of the 6 million-member American Farm Bureau Federation, said in a letter to Congress that its members "carefully, judiciously and according to label instructions" use antibiotics to treat, prevent and control disease in animals. "Antibiotic use in animals does not pose a serious public health threat," said Stallman, who urged lawmakers to oppose the bill. "Restricting access to these important tools will jeopardize animal health and compromise our ability to contribute to public health through food safety" he added. Industry groups that oppose the ban contend animal deaths would go up, producer costs would rise, meat output would drop and consumers would see prices climb. They contend there is no evidence that a public health threat has occurred because of the use of antibiotics in animals...Reuters

Farmin' & Fiddlin' in Yoncalla

I met Rudi Booher at the Oregon Old Time Fiddlers Association competition today in Salem, Oregon. He is the 1990 Weiser Idaho National Grand Champion Fiddler Contest Winner. His eight year old son Miles competed this week in the PeeWee division and played four songs for his stage performance. Rural farm folk often it seems have more than their fair share of home schooled children. Rural property owners save time time and resources from having to bus or commute their children to school. Rudi mentioned that one of the cool added values to home schooling is "there is more time for extra curricular activities, including music lessons."...Blogriculture

Reopened Gilman Ranch gives a glimpse of Inland life in the 1800s

Visitors can once again tour the Gilman Historic Ranch, including a reproduction of the original 1879 ranch house on the grounds. The original ranch house, rebuilt in 2005, was lost in a fire in 1977, three days after the property became part of the Riverside County Regional Park and Open Space District, said Steve Lech, assistant Riverside County park planner. The Wagon Museum at the ranch, which displays a collection of vintage stage coaches and wagons, remains closed for an upgrade. The replica of the ranch house was built with county funds and money raised by some former ranch hands, Lech said. Some furniture and other artifacts in it belonged to the Gilman family, which lived in the house until the 1950s. Virginia Sisk, of Hemet, a great-granddaughter of the Gilmans, often comes to the ranch on Saturdays to greet visitors, Bowden said. The Gilman Ranch site originally was occupied by Cahuilla Indians, and then became part of the San Gorgonio Rancho, the farthest outlying cattle ranch of Mission San Gabriel. An adobe house was built on the site in 1854 by foreman Jose Pope, a sheep rancher. In 1863, entrepreneur Newton Noble bought the adobe, converted it to a stage stop and opened the first post office in the San Gorgonio Pass in 1868. The adobe was next bought by James Marshall Gilman, who had come to California from New Hampshire. Gilman married Martha Benoist Smith in 1871 and they lived in the adobe until 1879, when they built a two-story ranch house...The Press-Enterprise

Song Of The Day #003

James Clarence Wakely was born in Howard County, Arkansas in 1914, and went on to become one of the "crooning cowpokes." In 1937, he formed The Bell Boys (named after their clothing company sponsor) in OKC. They made radio appearances, did local shows and made some recordings. They later performed under different names, primarily The Jimmy Wakely Trio and Jimmy Wakely & His Saddle Pals. Johnny Bond was a member of all the groups. In 1940, at the invitation of Gene Autry, they moved to California and became part of Autry's Melody Ranch Show. Wakely left after two years, as he signed a recording contract with Decca and started appearing in movies. He passed in 1982.

The selection today is his 1947 recording of Song Of The Sierras. It is available on his Vintage Collections.


Email recipients go here to play the song.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Obama: Climate-Change Bill Must Deal With Regional Differences

President Barack Obama called for a greenhouse-gas emissions reduction scheme that protects against outsized effects on some regions of the country, his most detailed remarks yet as Congress prepares to issue a major climate-change bill. “We’ve got to move to a new energy era and that means moving away from polluting energy sources towards cleaner energy sources that is a potential engine for economic growth,” Mr. Obama said on Tuesday in a televised public appearance. “I think cap-and-trade is the best way from my perspective to achieve some of those gains because what it does is it starts pricing the pollution that’s being sent into the atmosphere.” “The way it’s structured has to take into account regional differences, it has to protect consumers from huge spikes in electricity prices, so there are a lot of technical issues that are going to have to be sorted through,” Mr. Obama said. The remarks come as House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, (D., Calif.), finalizes a climate-change bill that he wants to vote out of his committee by the end of May...WSJ

Salazar Talks Guns, Parks and Solar Power

In an interview last Friday with The New York Times, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar promised “aggressive” pursuit of renewable energy projects on public lands, but provided no firm date for his department’s highly anticipated decision on the Cape Wind project in Massachusetts. Mr. Salazar said that the department had received “about 200 applications” for solar power plants on lands belonging to the Bureau of Land Management, and about 20 applications for on-shore wind energy projects on B.L.M. lands. But as Mr. Salazar moves forward with his priorities of promoting renewable energy and transmission on public lands, he is already encountering some obstacles. Asked whether there might be challenges to laying transmission lines across sovereign Indian lands, Mr. Salazar said it was “definitely a reality that has to be dealt with, and it can either be seen as a conflict or it can be seen as an opportunity.” Mr. Salazar said that his agency was also looking into the possibility of carbon capture and storage on public lands, and noted that the United States Geological Survey had just published a methodology that would help assess what lands — including public lands — were most appropriate for the technology. On allowing concealed weapons into national parks — a controversial policy that the Bush administration adopted but that a federal judge suspended last week — Mr. Salazar said that he was still reviewing the judge’s decision. From a personal standpoint, “I am a defender of the Second Amendment,” he said. “I grew up with a gun next to my bed because I lived so far away from where there were any cities or any lights.” He added that in making a decision he would balance “protecting the public safety and at the same time honoring the Second Amendment.”...NY Times

Salazar is drilling home renewables' new power

...Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's first appearance before the same Senate committee last week. He laid out maps that showed wind-energy potential across the West; talked about tapping geothermal energy underlying states including Idaho and Colorado; and evoked the vision of a high-tech "super- electron highway" that will connect "renewable-energy zones" on public lands to homes in California or New Jersey. After less than two months in office, Salazar's big-vision effort to refocus the country's massive energy development bureaucracy is taking shape. Having inherited a Bush-era Interior Department that focused laserlike on the extraction of carbon-based fuels, Salazar is forging one that will help turn millions of acres of public lands in the West into the foundation for a green-energy economy. Republican lawmakers and traditional extraction industry officials say they fear that in the rush to embrace a difficult technological feat — "an energy moonshot," as Salazar calls it — tried-and-true sources of energy will get lost in the backwash. "I can't fault (Salazar) for creating excitement around renewable energy, but I don't want him to do it at the expense of the energy resources that have always powered this country," said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. "You can't power the country exclusively on renewables."...Denver Post

Colorado, feds to hash out oil, gas regulations

State and federal officials plan to sort out questions about how Colorado's proposed new oil and gas regulations will apply to federal land. Last year, the Colorado office of the Bureau of Land Management said it believed some of the state regulations would be pre-empted by federal laws. Industry officials say they wouldn't know which regulations to follow on federal land. The Legislature is considering the rules, which will take effect April 1 in most places if they're approved. They would take effect May 1 on federal land. State officials will talk to the BLM about the regulations, said Dave Neslin, acting director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which regulates the drilling industry. He said the staff will recommend delaying the start date of rules on federal if the two sides don't settle issues by May. "We expect to be sitting down with the (commission) in the very near future," BLM spokesman Jim Sample said last week. The roughly 100 rules moving through the Legislature would enact two laws requiring more consideration of the environment, wildlife and public health and safety when approving oil and gas development...AP

The outcome of these negotiations will set a precedent across the western states, including New Mexico.

Gallup Poll: Economy Takes Precedence Over Environment

For the first time in Gallup's 25-year history of asking Americans about the trade-off between environmental protection and economic growth, a majority of Americans say economic growth should be given the priority, even if the environment suffers to some extent. Gallup first asked Americans about this trade-off in 1984, at which time over 60% chose the environmental option. Support for the environment was particularly high in 1990-1991, and in the late 1990s and 2000, when the dot-com boom perhaps made economic growth more of a foregone conclusion. The percentage of Americans choosing the environment slipped below 50% in 2003 and 2004, but was still higher than the percentage choosing the economy. Sentiments have moved up and down over the last several years, but this year, the percentage of Americans choosing the environment fell all the way to 42%, while the percentage choosing the economy jumped to 51%. The findings reflect many recent Gallup results showing how primary the economy is in Americans' minds, and help document the fact of life that in times of economic stress, the public can be persuaded to put off or ignore environmental concerns if need be in order to rejuvenate the economy...Gallup

Gore vs. the Greens in the Golden State?

In a move that could only come straight out of Hollywood, environmental groups are trying to block the construction of solar farms in California’s Mojave Desert. Almost straight from Mel Brooks’ classic comedy “Blazing Saddles,” the projects are supported by Repower America, the clean energy advocate connected to — wait for it!!! — Nobel Laureate Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection. Despite Gore’s best intentions, at least three environmental groups are trying to nix these projects. Further complicating matters for green power enthusiasts is the opposition by a powerful California Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein. She has announced her intention to block solar power from desert lands in the Mojave and have the acreage in question declared a national monument. Yet, the really delicious irony is that, according to the Desert Protection Council’s Larry Hogue, such projects actually run counter to Gore’s mission. Hogue said scraping deserts for solar farms could actually contribute to global warming...Fox News

EPA review of mining permits signals policy shift

Breaking with the policies of the Bush administration, the Environmental Protection Agency is sharpening its oversight of mountaintop coal mining to ensure projects do not harm streams and wetlands. EPA administrator Lisa Jackson on Tuesday directed the agency staff to review 150 to 200 applications for new or expanded surface coal mines, many mountaintop removal operations, pending before the federal government. The agency also recommended that two permits slated for approval by the Army Corps of Engineers be denied because the companies had not done enough to avoid and minimize damage to water quality and stream channels. The permits authorize mining companies that blast away mountaintops to access coal to dump the waste into streams and wetlands...AP

Shell official confirms thirsty nature of oil shale, denies push to ‘corner water market’

A Shell Oil official confirmed Friday that the “in-situ” oil shale production the company is researching at its Mahogany facility near Rangely currently consumes about three barrels of water for every barrel of oil produced. But, he said, contrary to recent media reports on an environmental study of energy company water rights on Colorado’s Western Slope, Shell is not trying to “corner the market on water” in the Colorado and White River basins. “We’ve been working for quite a number of years to acquire a pretty broad diversity of water rights in different areas that will allow us to have the flexibility so that we can source water from different locations so that the impacts to the agriculture and the other historical and traditional users will be minimized,” said James Thurman, a government affairs manager for Shell. A report released Wednesday by Boulder-based Western Resource Advocates (WRA) cataloged more than 200 water rights held by six different energy companies with the potential to divert 7.2 million acre-feet and store up to 2 million acre-feet of Western Slope water. By contrast, the entire Denver metro area annually consumes less than 300,000 acre-feet of water...Colorado Independent

Tracking the ‘Water Footprint’

Last week, delegates from over 100 countries converged in Istanbul for the Fifth World Water Forum. Among the many topics of discussion at the weeklong conference, which ended Sunday (World Water Day), was one that has been gaining steam for the last couple of years: “water neutrality.” The idea — conceptually analagous to minding one’s carbon footprint — is that companies ought to be tracking their water footprints as well. “Water neutrality is a relatively new idea put forward by a small number of corporations to try to address their use of water,” said Peter H. Gleick, a co-founder and president of the Pacific Institute, which is working with the United Nations to develop more robust corporate reporting of water use. There is little agreement over how water footprints should be measured...NY Times

Udall aims to shift money for land damage

Sen. Mark Udall is taking a second shot at a bill that would redirect fines for illegally damaging public lands to the federal agencies responsible for restoring that damage. Under the legislation, when violators pay fines for illegally harming public lands -- such as starting a wildfire -- the money collected could be used to help fix the damage. Now, fines are collected by the U.S. Treasury. Udall's bill, similar to legislation that failed in 2007, would allow the funds to instead go to the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of the Interior...Colorado Daily

PETA founder makes bizarre online will for animal rights

The founder of the world's largest animal rights organization wants to give Canada's parliamentarians an earful, in a bizarre online will. Ingrid Newkirk, founder and president of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said that upon her death, she wants one of her ears "removed, mounted" and sent to Ottawa to help the government "in hearing, for the first time perhaps, the screams of the seals, bears, raccoons, foxes, and minks bludgeoned, trapped, and sometimes skinned alive for their pelts." Newkirk said that she wants her body parts to be used to draw "attention to needless animal suffering and exploitation" after her death. She asked that her other ear be displayed outside an India slaughterhouse "to remind all who do business there that the screams of the cattle who are slaughtered within its walls are heard around the world."...Calgary Herald

Estate taxes would increase under proposal before Congress

The window of opportunity may be closing on the use of family limited partnerships and similar entities in succession planning. House Resolution No. 436 was introduced on Jan. 9 by U.S. Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D. The legislation, known as The Certain Estate Tax Relief Act of 2009, would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, but its name may be a misnomer. As currently worded, H.R. 436 would hardly provide relief for U.S. taxpayers. Instead, its provisions would likely result in substantially increased estate and gift tax payments. The legislation does have some good news for taxpayers. H.R. 436 proposes to freeze the unified credit exclusion amount at $3.5 million beginning next Jan. 1, which shelters the first $3.5 million of a decedent's estate ($7 million for couples) from taxation. It would also freeze the maximum estate tax rate at 45 percent. However, it would eliminate valuation discounts on transfers and estates that hold interests in entities that are not actively traded, or are controlled by other family members. These consequences are devastating for owners of closely held family businesses, partnerships and farming entities...California Farm Bureau

Cattle Rustling Plagues Ranchers

Crashing through a gate in the dead of night, thieves using trucks and trailers recently robbed a farmer here of 53 Brahman crossbreed cows valued at some $50,000. “Those were full-grown cows,” Sheriff Joey Kyle of Christian County said. “Around 1,100 pounds apiece. That’s 53,000 pounds of beef on the hoof. Your normal stock trailer will handle a dozen to 15 cows, so do the math.” It was the first cattle theft in the county in more than two years and the largest state officials could recall. It came amid a surge of such thefts here in southwestern Missouri. In January, rustlers hauled away 41 cows in nearby Lawrence County. Investigators in Barry County report 30 head stolen in the last six months. In Greene County, Sheriff Jim Arnott said rustlers had struck 10 times since October, stealing a total of 93 cows. “It’s a big spike,” Sheriff Arnott said. “Usually we’ll go a year or two with no thefts, but it’s really picked up. In these economic times people are taking desperate measures, whether it’s stealing, or whether they’re trying to come up with money through insurance fraud.” Earlier this month, rustlers in Watertown, S.D., used tractor-trailers to steal nearly 200 cows from an auction market. State officials in Wyoming report that thieves stole 225 head of cattle in 2008, up from 90 in 2006. In Montana, where 60 cattle were recently reported missing in a series of thefts, officials described an increase in rustling since the summer, and the International Livestock Identification Association reported swelling numbers of missing-animal claims this year among its 20 member states. Equally alarming, investigators say, is a spike in cattle-related fraud. Out-of-state buyers build a relationship with an auction market, only to disappear with livestock they used in-house credit to buy but never paid for. Investigators also say that people are now falsely claiming ownership of cattle as collateral for loans. “It’s across the board,” Lee Romsa, state brand commissioner for the Wyoming Livestock Board, said. “We’re not just seeing more thefts, we’re seeing more large thefts.”...NY Times

CEM Investigation Includes More Than 700 Horses

The ongoing investigation into contagious equine metritis (CEM) now includes more than 700 exposed or positive horses, according to the USDA. The investigation began in mid-December 2008, when a Quarter Horse stallion on a Kentucky farm tested positive during routine testing for international semen shipment. According to the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), as of March 24 the positive horses included 13 stallions and three mares. In addition to these horses, they had confirmed the locations of 695 horses exposed to Taylorella equigenitalis. The 711 horses were located in 46 states. There were 112 exposed or positive stallions in 19 states and 599 exposed or positive mares in 44 states. Authorities were still actively tracking six exposed mares and four exposed stallions. An exposed horse is one that was bred to a positive horse, either naturally or via artificial insemination, or one that is otherwise epidemiologically linked to a positive horse, as determined by animal health officials...The Horse

Song Of The Day #002

Born in Oklahoma but raised in the Bakersfield, Ca. area, Jean Shepard has one of purest voices of any female country singer. While playing with the Melody Ranch Girls, an all-female country band which formed in 1948, she was discovered by Hank Thompson, who helped her get a record deal with Capitol. Her first recording session was in 1953.

The selection today is her 1955 recording of Beautiful Lies, available on the 5cd collection The Melody Ranch Girl. It's also available on the 24 track Honky Tonk Heroine.

Email recipients go here to play the song.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

New FOIA Memo

On March 19, the Obama administration issued a new set of guidelines to federal agencies on implementation of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), replacing Bush-era rules that many thought promoted a culture of secrecy in government. Written by Attorney General Eric Holder, the Department of Justice (DOJ) memorandum outlines a spirit of transparency that reflects President Obama’s Jan. 21 assertion, "In the face of doubt, openness prevails." Among other things, Holder's memo promises to defend agency decisions to withhold information only if the agency demonstrates a reasonably foreseeable risk of harm to an interest protected by FOIA exemptions or statutory law. Further, the memo focuses on timeliness, declaring that "long delays should not be viewed as an inevitable and insurmountable consequence of high demand." The Holder memo also expands on the earlier discretionary disclosure language. Holder encourages agencies to not just make discretionary disclosures, but to do in so in anticipation of the public interest. This language aims to prevent agencies from being able to allege compliance with the guidance but to do so by releasing irrelevant material. He also encourages the use of technology and publication on the Internet in making this type of disclosure...OMB Watch

Go here to view the Holder memo.

U.S. Seeks Expanded Power to Seize Firms

The Obama administration is considering asking Congress to give the Treasury secretary unprecedented powers to initiate the seizure of non-bank financial companies, such as large insurers, investment firms and hedge funds, whose collapse would damage the broader economy, according to an administration document. The government at present has the authority to seize only banks. Giving the Treasury secretary authority over a broader range of companies would mark a significant shift from the existing model of financial regulation, which relies on independent agencies that are shielded from the political process. The Treasury secretary, a member of the president's Cabinet, would exercise the new powers in consultation with the White House, the Federal Reserve and other regulators, according to the document. The administration plans to send legislation to Capitol Hill this week. Sources cautioned that the details, including the Treasury's role, are still in flux...Washington Post

EPA Presses Obama To Regulate Warming Under Clean Air Act

The Environmental Protection Agency's new leadership, in a step toward confronting global warming, submitted a finding that will force the White House to decide whether to limit greenhouse gas emissions under the nearly 40-year-old Clean Air Act. Under that law, EPA's conclusion -- that such emissions are pollutants that endanger the public's health and welfare -- could trigger a broad regulatory process affecting much of the U.S. economy as well as the nation's future environmental trajectory. The agency's finding, which was sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget without fanfare on Friday, also reversed one of the Bush administration's landmark decisions on climate change, and it indicated anew that President Obama's appointees will push to address the issue of warming despite the potential political costs. "This is historic news," said Frank O'Donnell, who heads the environmental watchdog group Clean Air Watch. "It will set the stage for the first-ever national limits on global-warming pollution. And it is likely to help light a fire under Congress to get moving." But even those who support cutting greenhouse gases warn that doing so under the Clean Air Act could be complicated. "This would be a regulatory maze far exceeding anything we've seen before," said David Schoenbrod, a professor of environmental law at the New York Law School. While the EPA's finding is not final, experts steeped in the Clean Air Act began debating yesterday what it would mean for utilities, vehicles, manufacturing plants and consumers. Kovacs predicted it could halt many of the projects funded under the just-passed economic recovery package. "This will mean that all infrastructure projects, including those under the president's stimulus initiative, will be subject to environmental review for greenhouse gases," he said...Washington Post

We all knew this was coming. The CAA & the ESA will become powerful tools for the Obama Administration, the courts and the environmental groups.

The Fight Plan for Clean Air

The Environmental Protection Agency, about to declare heat-trapping gases to be dangerous pollutants, has embarked on one of the most ambitious regulatory challenges in history. The move is likely to have a profound effect across the economic spectrum, affecting transportation, power plants, oil refineries, cement plants and other manufacturers. It sets the agency on a collision course with carmakers, coal plants and other businesses that rely on fossil fuels, which fear that the finding will impose complex and costly rules. But it may also help the Obama administration’s efforts to push through a federal law to curb carbon dioxide emissions by drawing industry support for legislation, which many companies see as less restrictive and more flexible than being monitored by a regulatory agency. And it will lay a basis for the United States in the negotiations leading up to a global climate treaty to be signed in Copenhagen in December. Once made final, the agency’s finding will pave the way for federal regulation of carbon dioxide, methane and other heat-trapping gases linked to global warming. Earlier this month, the agency proposed creating a greenhouse-gas emissions registry, which would require industries — including oil refineries and cement makers, as well as utilities and pulp and paper manufacturers — to report how much pollution they were emitting. The endangerment proposal is another step...NY Times

UK Green Advisor: Population Must Be Cut 50%

JONATHON PORRITT, one of Gordon Brown’s leading green advisers, is to warn that Britain must drastically reduce its population if it is to build a sustainable society. Porritt’s call will come at this week’s annual conference of the Optimum Population Trust (OPT), of which he is patron. The trust will release research suggesting UK population must be cut to 30m if the country wants to feed itself sustainably. Porritt is winning scientific backing. Professor Chris Rapley, director of the Science Museum, will use the OPT conference, to be held at the Royal Statistical Society, to warn that population growth could help derail attempts to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Rapley, who formerly ran the British Antarctic Survey, said humanity was emitting the equivalent of 50 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year. “We have to cut this by 80%, and population growth is going to make that much harder,” he said. This is part of the thinking behind the OPT’s call for Britain to cut population to 30m — roughly what it was in late Victorian times. Britain’s population is expected to grow from 61m now to 71m by 2031. Some politicians support a reduction. Phil Woolas, the immigration minister, said: “You can’t have sustainability with an increase in population.”...London Times

Global Warming = Population Control.

Who is going to exercise this control? You can bet it will be the Politically Superior Ones.

Lands bill lassoes longtime foes

Like a long, slow-moving wagon train, an omnibus lands bill is poised to finally clear Congress this week, with Republican senators and Western outfitters riding alongside the environmental lobby they have so often fought in the past. The giant package is nearly 170 bills in one, a uniquely American mosaic covering millions of acres of wilderness, water settlements and land exchanges that have been years in the making. In this time of self-doubt and economic stress, it’s also a primer on the nation’s rich heritage: Revolutionary War battlefields, historic inventors and explorers, and the natural wonders of Mount Hood and the Copper Salmon Wilderness in Oregon. Each wagon carries its own story, but the most consistent theme is a greater emphasis on home-grown, bottoms-up settlements in the West, where lands policy has so long been dominated by swings to the right and left at the top in Washington. “This bill was never the brainchild of any national organization,” Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) told POLITICO. “It’s more a grass-roots aggregation of bills that represent a lot of years of work in individual states. Many of the most pro-environment provisions are sponsored by Republicans.” “Balance” is the new watchword. And more than in the past, sportsman groups such as Trout Unlimited have stepped forward and brought their brand of “hook and bullet” organizing that can bring in more Republican, often small-business support. “It’s more a sportsman bill than a Sierra Club bill,” one Democratic aide said, looking back...POLITICO

Environmentalists in a Clash of Goals

As David Myers scans the rocky slopes of this desert canyon, looking vainly past clumps of brittlebush for bighorn sheep, he imagines an enemy advancing across the crags. That specter is of an army of mirrors, generators and transmission towers transforming Mojave Desert vistas like this one. While Whitewater Canyon is privately owned and protected, others that Mr. Myers, as head of the Wildlands Conservancy, has fought to preserve are not. To his chagrin, some of Mr. Myers’s fellow environmentalists are helping power companies pinpoint the best sites for solar-power technology. The goal of his former allies is to combat climate change by harnessing the desert’s solar-rich terrain, reducing the region’s reliance on carbon-emitting fuels. Mr. Myers is indignant. “How can you say you’re going to blade off hundreds of thousands of acres of earth to preserve the Earth?” he said. As the Obama administration puts development of geothermal, wind and solar power on a fast track, the environmental movement finds itself torn between fighting climate change and a passion for saving special places...NY Times

Nestle plan sets off water war

A plan to suck, truck and bottle Arkansas Valley spring water has residents here crusading against the world's largest food and beverage company. "Nestle is seeking to drain the blood of Chaffee County," said Salida local Daniel Zettler during a fiery public hearing last week. Nestle — with 12 U.S. brands of bottled water and almost $4.3 billion in North American sales in 2007 — came calling for Arkansas Valley spring water about two years ago. The company wants to draw 65 million gallons a year from an aquifer feeding two freshwater springs near Nathrop, pipe it 5 miles to a truck stop and ship it 100 miles to a Denver bottling facility. It would be sold under the company's Arrowhead brand...Denver Post

Portland timber firm at center of contested Idaho land swap

Seven former administrators of the Palouse Ranger District in Idaho are blasting a U.S. Forest Service plan to trade 28,000 acres of managed forest for about 39,000 acres of logged-over land controlled by Western Pacific Timber of Portland. John Krebs, a retired Forest Service employee, said the plan is fundamentally flawed because much of the public land has been carefully managed for the public's use. "The whole Palouse is prime," he said. "It's got old growth in it, riparian protection. It is the prime example of management. And the Forest Service has never told the public this story." Western Pacific Timber is offering to trade land it owns in northern Idaho that includes portions of the Lewis and Clark and Nez Perce National Historic Trails. Reilly has said the trade will eliminate some of the checkerboard pattern of public land in the region that makes it hard to manage. The Nez Perce Tribe and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation have supported the trade because of the historic significance and good habitat that is contained in the Upper Lochsa River Basin...AP

Alaska's Mount Redoubt Erupts Six Times

Alaska's Mount Redoubt volcano erupted six times, sending an ash plume more than 9 miles into the air in the volcano's first emissions in nearly 20 years. Ash from Alaska's volcanos is like a rock fragment with jagged edges and has been used as an industrial abrasive. It can injure skin, eyes and breathing passages. The young, the elderly and people with respiratory problems are especially susceptible to ash-related health problems. Ash can also cause damage engines in planes, cars and other vehicles. Alaska Airlines on Monday canceled 19 flights because of the ash. In-state carrier Era Aviation canceled four, and Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage kept 60 planes, including fighter jets, cargo aircraft and a 747 commercial plane, in shelters...Fox News

Redoubt ash goes north

Mount Redoubt roared to life Sunday and Monday, blasting a column of ash and steam almost 12 miles above Cook Inlet. The eruptions -- which started Sunday night, persisted through the early hours Monday, then struck again Monday evening -- canceled commercial airline flights and spurred Alaskans north of Anchorage to protect their cars and homes. "That's a very high plume," Alaska Volcano Observatory geophysicist John Power said of the largest ash cloud, which rose 60,000 feet high. "That's about as high as they go." The latest explosion, which occurred at 7:41 p.m., prompted the National Weather Service to declare a new ash fall advisory for Susitna Valley -- including the communities of Willow, Talkeetna and Cantwell -- which was scheduled to remain in effect until 5 a.m. today. An advisory was also issued for Bristol Bay, west of the volcano. Earlier Monday, lower-level winds carried Redoubt's abrasive volcanic particles roughly due north over the Susitna Valley, and significant ash fall was reported in Skwentna, Willow, Trapper Creek and Talkeetna, according to the National Weather Service...Anchorage Daily News

U.S. Chamber unveils NIMBY Watch Web site

Last week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce unveiled a NIMBY-Watch Web site called Project No Project. With case studies from more than 30 states, Project No Project chronicles how NIMBY (”not in my backyard”) activists “block energy projects by organizing local opposition, changing zoning laws, opposing permits, filing lawsuits, and bleeding projects dry of their financing.” Many of the projects blocked are not coal plants but alternative energy projects or infrastructure often touted as “green.” The site invites readers to provide examples from their own locales of NIMBY efforts to block or stall energy-related projects. Proponents of “green jobs” should be concerned as much as free-market and property-rights advocates, because ”stimulus” projects are vulnerable to the same NIMBY tactics that, for example, have immobilized the Cape Wind Project in Nantucket, Mass...Open Market

Here's Your Sign

His first mistake was trying to steal four guns. His second one was trying to steal them at a gun show. The alleged crook scooped up four Smith & Wesson guns from a vendor's table at the RK Gun Inc. show Sunday at Cessna Activity Center, 2744 George Washington Blvd. But he didn't make it far. The vendor and at least two others who were at the show grabbed the man before he could make it out the door, held him down, then cuffed him with zip ties -- hard plastic fasteners -- until law enforcement officers arrived. Austin Sechler, the vendor who said the man tried to steal from him, said it was "the very wrong place to do this." "He finally gave up when there was four guys laying on him," Sechler said...Wichita Eagle

Reign of toads

Nevada's U.S. Senator Harry Reid and others seeking to curry favor with the green extreme have virtually guaranteed no new nuclear or coal-fired generating plants will be built to provide Southern Nevadans with reliable, relatively inexpensive power in the near future. Not to worry, though. Lawmakers and bureaucrats in Washington who have never so much as worked a summer as a replacement meter reader -- let alone run a power company -- assure us the gap will easily be filled with all the new wind and solar plants due to come on line any day now. True, that energy may cost a little more -- if your heart started to race last summer when you opened your electric bill and found it exceeded $300, start contemplating the number "nine hundred" -- but it's all to "save the planet," you understand. There's plenty of money in Washington's new "stimulus package" to fund any hustler with some fast patter who promises to set up a "public-private partnership" to get new green energy on line. Hopefully all those federal dollars can do just as well this time as when they funded the big "Colorado oil shale" miracle of the 1970s. On the bright side, at least the green extremists can be counted on not to file any lawsuits that might block or delay the development of ...Oh, wait...Las Vegas Review-Journal

Elko panel seeks to block forest service road plan

The Elko County Commission is trying to find a way to block or at least postpone the U.S. Forest Service's pending plan to regulate use of national forest roads and close some it determines are redundant or damaging to the environment. The commissioners directed the district attorney's office this week to research legal options to prevent the agency from moving forward with its Travel Management Plan for most of the northern and eastern parts of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. They also said they intend to request the Forest Service to complete a more thorough environmental impact statement in reviewing the proposed plan instead of a less detailed environmental assessment. Commissioner Demar Dahl said on Wednesday that the comment period was about to close and they only have maps that "hardly anyone can read." County planner Randy Brown said Forest Service officials "have not conducted themselves in a manner in which we can offer any good comments."...Las Vegas Review-Journal