Saturday, April 04, 2009

'Green' Lobby Outnumbers Congress 4 to 1

More than 770 companies and interest groups hired an estimated 2,340 lobbyists during the past year to influence climate legislation on Capitol Hill, a Center for Public Integrity report shows. The huge hiring increase means climate lobbyists on K Street seeking to influence President Barack Obama’s administration to carve out of a piece of the $787-billion stimulus package for the clients they represent now outnumber lawmakers in the U.S.Congress by a margin of more than 4 to 1. The number of lobbyists in the federal policy on climate change business began its upward climb in 2008, analysis of Senate lobbying disclosure forms shows. The trend took off just prior to Obama taking office...IBD

Wind turbines could more than meet U.S. electricity needs, report says

Wind turbines off U.S. coastlines could potentially supply more than enough electricity to meet the nation's current demand, the Interior Department reported Thursday. Simply harnessing the wind in relatively shallow waters -- the most accessible and technically feasible sites for offshore turbines -- could produce at least 20% of the power demand for most coastal states, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said, unveiling a report by the Minerals Management Service that details the potential for oil, gas and renewable development on the outer continental shelf. The biggest wind potential lies off the nation's Atlantic coast, which the Interior report estimates could produce 1,000 gigawatts of electricity -- enough to meet a quarter of the national demand. The report also notes large potential in the Pacific, including off the California coast, but said the area presented technical challenges. The Interior Department released an executive summary of the report on Thursday...LA Times

Go here (pdf) for the executive summary.

Drastic water cuts expected for the Bay Area

Get ready for singed lawns, dusty cars and pricier produce. California water officials reported Thursday that the end-of-winter snowpack remained at low levels for the third year in a row, and water agencies in the Bay Area and around the state are asking residents to conserve at levels not seen since the last big drought in the early 1990s. The Sierra Nevada snowpack, which provides about one-third of the state's water supply, stood at 81 percent of normal Thursday; runoff, the amount of meltwater that flows into rivers and reservoirs, is projected at just 70 percent. Officials said snowpack would have to be at 120 percent of normal or more to replenish many of the state's reservoirs, some of which hover at just 50 percent of capacity. The measurements are the fourth of the season and the most important benchmark for water managers across California, who now will determine how to stretch their supplies through October, when the first rains usually arrive...San Francisco Chronicle

Canadian exports at risk from U.S. climate change bill

Proposed U.S. legislation could slap import levies on a range of Canadian products - from steel and cement to paper and ceramics - if Washington deems Canada is lax in fighting global warming. The climate change legislation also includes low-carbon standards that could drive up the cost of imports from the Alberta oil sands. Leading Democrats in the U.S. Congress this week introduced a bill to cap greenhouse gas emissions that would require the administration to impose tariff-like fees on importers whose own governments don't have regulations, reporting rules or enforcement mechanisms that are as tough as those laid out in the legislation. U.S. President Barack Obama and congressional leaders are promising to move quickly on measures to combat climate change - from emission caps on industry, to low-carbon standards for transportation fuel, to renewable energy portfolios for utilities. And while Mr. Obama yesterday warned of the dangers of protectionism at the Group of 20 meeting in London, trade experts say the environmental policies that he backs include a minefield of potential protectionist measures that would favour domestic producers over importers...Globe & Mail

Friday, April 03, 2009

Senate votes to kill cap-and-trade?

Well, not overtly, but the Senate voted 89-8 for an amendment to the Fiscal year 2010 budget resolution (S. Con Res. 13), introduced by Sen. John Thune (R-SD), which would prohibit any future greenhouse gas cap-and-trade initiative from increasing gasoline prices and electricity rates for U.S. households and businesses. As University of Colorado professor Roger Pielke, Jr. points out, “The entire purpose of cap and trade is in fact to increase the costs of carbon-emitting sources of energy, which dominate US energy consumption. The Thune Amendment thus undercuts the entire purpose of cap and trade.” In other words, it is impossible to vote for the Thune amendment and support cap-and-trade and be consistent, candid, or straight with the American people. Who voted for the Thune amendment? A whole bunch of cap-and-traders including Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), John McCain (R-AZ), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and John Warner (D-VA). Boxer tried to square the circle, proposing legislation, adopted 54-43, to compensate consumers for higher energy prices via tax rebates. But rebates after-the-fact are not the same as prohibiting measures that increase energy prices in the first place. Does anyone really believe that if carbon permit auctions under President Obama’s cap-and-trade initiative raise $646 billion or even $1.9 trillion for the Treasury, spendaholics in Congress will not use one dime of the boodle to fund pet projects, “green” jobs, or health-care “reform”?...Open Market

Greening the White House

Michelle Obama’s organic vegetable garden is only part of the new administration’s push to green the White House. For the last two months, a White House spokesman told Green Inc., the housekeeping staff has begun using greener cleaning products at the complex, and groundskeepers and engineers have been asked to do the same. Recycling is now in place in both the East and West wings, and includes newspapers, magazines, glass, aluminum and plastics. Staff are working with the General Services Administration to make further improvements around the complex. White House drinking fountains — which presumably create an awkward angle for filling up reuseable bottles — are also being upgraded to make that process easier. And the Obama girls’ swing set was also carefully selected for its green attributes — including recycled, shredded tires (1,400 of them), as well as nontoxic dyes. And the wood, of course, is made in America. There is no word on solar panels yet — something that plenty of people in the industry are rooting for. Solar at the White House has a roller-coaster history: Jimmy Carter put panels on the roof, and Ronald Reagan took them off...NY Times

Nice to see recycling, handier water fountains, and green swings for the girls...but what is the carbon footprint of those 500 staff accompanying Obama to the G-20 meeting?

Gray wolf delisting formalized

The federal government's second attempt at removing endangered species protection for the gray wolf in the Northern Rockies will be published today, with environmental groups already promising a legal challenge. "The science on this is clear," said Ed Bangs of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Helena. "Wolves are recovered." The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced its latest delisting plan late last year, but the official decision will be published in the Federal Register today, which sets in motion removal of federal protections in Montana and Idaho. Wolves will be delisted May 4, Bangs said. For all practical purposes, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks already is managing wolves here, but the transfer of control will allow hunting seasons and more liberal defense-of-property rules. "We're not hostile to the notion of hunting," said Louisa Willcox, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council in Livingston. "We're concerned about the overall, cumulative kill level." Idaho's hunting season is particularly troubling, she said. The organization is one of 12 conservation groups that announced plans Wednesday to file a lawsuit in 60 days to block the delisting plans...Great Falls Tribune

Bill aims to avoid coal-bed methane chaos

A lawsuit by Southwest Colorado ranchers over water rights and coal-bed methane wells has spurred the Legislature into action. William and Elizabeth Vance and James and Mary Fitzgerald sued the state engineer's office in 2005, claiming that coal-bed methane wells were depleting their water wells. They won in a La Plata court in 2007. The case, Vance v. Simpson, is on appeal to the state Supreme Court. A ruling is expected any time. Sen. Jim Isgar and others worry the court could require every one of Colorado's 38,000 gas wells to get a water-well permit, which would overwhelm the state engineer's office. So Isgar, D-Hesperus, and Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, drafted House Bill 1303, which brings coal-bed methane wells into Colorado's water-rights system. Without the bill, the court decision could force the state engineer to roll all coal-bed methane wells into the legal water system in two months. Other observers have said the court decision could apply to every gas or oil well in the state...Durango Herald

Report: More of western Oregon is forested today than a century ago

There is more wood in western Oregon's forests than there was 100 years ago, a new report says. The study from the Oregon Forest Resources Institute also concludes that more acres are covered by forests than were in 1900 and more wood is growing than is being harvested. But that doesn't necessarily mean the forests we have today are more ecologically sound than what was here four decades after Oregon became a state. "The only thing we looked at is timber volume," said Mike Cloughesy, director of forestry for the institute, a state agency funded by timber harvest taxes. The 18-page report compares two snapshots of western Oregon forests: one done by the country's lead science agency at the turn of the last century and another survey using today's satellite and other mapping technologies. "There is less older forest than there was, but the change has not been as drastic as most people think," the report said. Cloughesy said the area covered by forests has increased because of forest growth and the evolution of wildland firefighting policies and techniques...The Oregonian

MIT to Republicans: Lay off the Scaremongering on Climate Costs

Republican opposition to any sort of climate-change bill has sparked another battle—but this time, it isn’t in Congress. House Republican leader John Boehner started the fray by arguing that proposed legislation to curb greenhouse-gas emissions will raise utility bills by $3,100 per household. “Anyone who has the audacity to flip on a light switch will be forced to pay higher energy bills thanks to this new tax increase,” he said in a statement released Tuesday, citing a 2007 study by MIT that tried to calculate the economic impact of a cap-and-trade bill. Not so fast, says John Reilly, an MIT professor and one of the authors of the study. He told Republican leadership they had the numbers wrong even before they published their statement. After it was released, he sent a letter to Rep. Boehner yesterday saying the MIT study had been “misrepresented.” For starters, the figure cited by Republican House leadership is almost ten times higher than the cost estimate provided in the study, Professor Reilly said—and that number wasn’t limited to electricity bills...House Republicans are sticking to their guns. In a release today, Republican leadership explains how they got the $3,100 figure–dividing MIT’s estimate of 2015 cap-and-trade revenues of $366 billion by 117 million households. “Nothing in the Democrats’ budget would provide rebates or any relief to consumers,” the statement added.WSJ

Study: Arctic Sea Ice Melting Faster Than Anticipated

Arctic sea ice is melting so fast most of it could be gone in 30 years. A new analysis of changing conditions in the region, using complex computer models of weather and climate, says conditions that had been forecast by the end of the century could occur much sooner. A change in the amount of ice is important because the white surface reflects sunlight back into space. When ice is replaced by dark ocean water that sunlight can be absorbed, warming the water and increasing the warming of the planet. The finding adds to concern about climate change caused by human activities such as burning fossil fuels, a problem that has begun receiving more attention in the Obama administration and is part of the G20 discussions under way in London...AP

Funny how these studies seem to always be published while international meetings are being conducted.

I'm sure it's just coincidence.

Save the planet: Get rid of your cat

The 77 million cats in the U.S. are killing birds, threatening many bird populations. Cat food is causing significant depletion of the ocean's wild fish, and cats are spreading disease to wild species. Go here to read all about it.

And oh yes, please don't tell my mom I posted this.

Obama's Own Report on GM Says Plan to Build Non-Gas-Burning Car Would Not Save Company

The report on General Motors released by the White House says the company’s restructuring plan will not lead to a stronger company, in part because the beleaguered auto giant’s proposal to rely more heavily on advanced, fuel-efficient cars is not commercially viable. The report’s findings stand in stark contrast with the President’s chief goal for America’s auto industry: leading the world in green car production. Among the assumptions the report finds unrealistic is GM’s plan to place greater emphasis on advanced, ultra-fuel efficient vehicles such as its upcoming Chevrolet Volt, the all-electric car that the report found will not be commercially viable. “While the Chevy Volt holds promise, it will likely be too expensive to be commercially successful,” the report said. “It is currently projected to be much more expensive than its gasoline-fueled counterparts and will likely need substantial reductions in manufacturing costs in order to become commercially viable.”...CNS News

Congress Proposes ‘Cash for Clunkers’ to Kickstart Auto Sales

Car shoppers may have a good reason to trade in their old jalopy for something that gets better gas mileage. Congress is developing "cash for clunkers" legislation that would provide vouchers to consumers who trade in their gas guzzlers and buy more fuel-efficient vehicles. Modeled after successful programs in Europe, the bills are designed to get more gas-sipping cars on the road and boost auto sales, which dropped more than 40 percent among the Big Three carmakers in March. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., have signaled support for some type of car scrappage program and lawmakers are trying to develop a compromise that could win approval in both chambers. With General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC surviving on billions in government aid and few takers at car dealerships, lawmakers have been trying to develop incentives to help the auto industry and respond to environmental groups that want better fuel efficiency in the vehicle fleet...AP

Wonder what kind of mileage Reid & Pelosi's limousines get?

The real "clunkers" are in Congress. Think I'll open a Westerner's Congressional Salvage Yard, and you can send me the "clunkers" from your district.

Come to think of it, Junk Yard would be a more accurate title.

In either case I'd be guilty of establishing a toxic waste dump.

However, this would be a Superfund site that actually cleans up the environment.

I know some landowners in Carlsbad...

Financial Rescue Nears GDP as Pledges Top $12.8 Trillion

The U.S. government and the Federal Reserve have spent, lent or committed $12.8 trillion, an amount that approaches the value of everything produced in the country last year, to stem the longest recession since the 1930s. New pledges from the Fed, the Treasury Department and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. include $1 trillion for the Public-Private Investment Program, designed to help investors buy distressed loans and other assets from U.S. banks. The money works out to $42,105 for every man, woman and child in the U.S. and 14 times the $899.8 billion of currency in circulation. The nation’s gross domestic product was $14.2 trillion in 2008...Bloomberg

Plenty of candidates here for The Westerner's Congressional Superfund Site.

Rogue River dam removal moves forward

The removal of Savage Rapids Dam on the Rogue River will take another step forward next week. The 39-foot high dam east of Grants Pass is one of several scheduled for decommissioning on the southern Oregon river, which before long could run unimpeded for 157 miles from the Pacific Ocean to the Cascade foothills. On Tuesday, construction will begin on a cofferdam around the six northern bays of the dam, the next step in the $40 million project. Once the coffer dam is in place, demolition of the 88-year old dam will begin. The north side of the dam is expected to be removed by October, and salmon, whose path was blocked by the dam, will be able to migrate freely for the first time in decades...The Oregonian

Shale Oil Estimates Grow; Likelihood of Extraction, Not So Much

While the Obama administration seeks to encourage cleaner energy sources, government geologists have significantly raised their estimates of how much oil is trapped in the shale rocks of Colorado’s Piceance Basin. Back in 1989, government geologists had assessed the reserves at about one trillion barrels. But in a technical announcement Tuesday, the United States Geological Survey estimated that oil shale resources were 50 percent greater — or some 1.525 trillion barrels. That may seem like a lot (it’s nearly six times the oil reserves of Saudi Arabia), but the reality is a bit more complicated. As the government notes, the development of the shale rocks “has significant technological and environmental challenges.” Among them: there exists no economical method for extracting oil from these rocks in the United States today...NY Times

Illinois House Rejects Horse Slaughter Bill

Legislation to reinstate the horse slaughter industry in Illinois failed to pass that state's House of Representatives on Wednesday because the measure did not earn the 60 votes necessary for passage. Sponsored by Rep. Jim Sacia, HB 0583 would amend the Illinois Horse Meat Act to repeal a provision that prohibits the slaughter of horses for human consumption. It would also expand the state's Animals Intended for Food Act to include horses. Because the vote was stopped, the option remains to call for another vote during the current legislative session. The bill is the first attempt to re-establish the slaughter industry in Illinois since 2007, when lawmakers banned horse processing, thereby shutting down a plant in DeKalb. The Horse

ND rancher carries 32 calves from flooded barn

In his golden years, Chad Skretteberg plans to tell his grandchildren about the night he carried 32 heavy calves on his shoulders, one by one, through ice-cold, waist-high floodwaters to safety. It's a tale that amazes even him. "I don't know how I had the stamina," says Skretteberg, who at 40 is a wiry 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds. "If I tried to attempt that just any day of the week, I would probably just quit, it's so much work. But in those circumstances, your adrenaline kicks in." On this day, the skies are sunny, the air pleasantly crisp and the Heart River flows peacefully by the south central North Dakota farmstead, where pregnant cows mill about in a pen full of freshly fallen snow with frozen mud peeking through. But the scene was not so peaceful late Sunday night and early Monday morning, when floodwaters from the swollen Heart began rising at his dad's farmstead, where Skretteberg's calving barn sits on a hill. In no time, it seemed, the water was a foot deep right outside the barn. Loren Skretteberg, Chad's father, first tried to back an all-terrain vehicle with a cargo bed up to the barn to carry the calves, but the pooling water killed the engine. "At that point, I started carrying them," Chad Skretteberg said...AP

Bigfoot kin may have made tracks for sunny Arizona

The Mogollon Monster is Arizona's version of Bigfoot. It supposedly lives, as you may have guessed, along the Mogollon Rim, although it has allegedly been spotted around Prescott and in the Grand Canyon. It seems to be a shy thing, but every now and then, it tears up a campsite or takes the campers' food. Don Davis, a cryptozoology investigator who died in 2002, claimed that he encountered the monster at a Boy Scout camp near Payson in the 1940s. He reported: "The creature was huge. Its eyes were deep set and hard to see, but they seemed expressionless. His face seemed pretty much devoid of hair, but there seemed to be hair along the sides of his face. His chest, shoulders and arms were massive, especially the upper arms; easily upwards of 6 inches in diameter, perhaps much, much more. I could see he was pretty hairy, but didn't observe really how thick the body hair was. The face/head was very square; square sides and squared-up chin, like a box." At www.mogollon, you can see pictures of Mogollon Monster poop and caves, watch some videos, find links to other MM sites and read an account from a woman who said she saw the creature last Christmas near Springerville. She described it as hairy, black and about 8 feet tall...Arizona Republic

Song Of The Day #010

The Delmore brothers, Alton & Rabon were the sons of Alabama tenant farmers. They were considered pioneers of country music, and I'll tell you more about them at a later date. I've run out of time.

This is their 1946 recording of Going Back To The Blue Ridge Mountains. It's available on Classic Cuts, Vol. 2: The Later Years 1933-52

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Justice Dept. Moves to Void Stevens Case

The Justice Department moved on Wednesday to drop all charges against former Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, who lost his seat last year just days after being convicted on seven felony counts of ethics violations. The case was one of the most high profile and bitterly fought in a string of corruption investigations into current and former members of Congress. But Justice Department lawyers told a federal court Wednesday that they had discovered a new instance of prosecutorial misconduct, on top of earlier disclosures that had raised questions about the way the case was handled, and asked that the convictions be voided. The attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., said he would not seek a new trial. Mr. Stevens, 85, was the longest-serving Republican in the history of the Senate and Alaska’s dominant political figure for more than four decades. His career mirrored the state’s rough-and-tumble journey from a remote territory to an economic powerhouse as he used his influence to send billions of dollars in federal aid to Alaska. The collapse of the Stevens case was a profound embarrassment for the Justice Department, and it raised troubling issues about the integrity of the actions of prosecutors who wield enormous power over people they investigate. Mr. Stevens’s case was handled by senior officials of the department’s Public Integrity Section, which handles official corruption cases. Mr. Holder, himself a former prosecutor and judge, noted that the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility was conducting a review of the prosecutors’ conduct, raising the possibility that some of those who tried Mr. Stevens on ethics charges could themselves now face ethics charges...NY Times

Stevens case dismissal raises questions of Justice Dept. integrity

The dismissal of the government’s case against former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens is the latest blow to the reputation of the Justice Department’s once-venerated Public Integrity section. The small prosecutors’ office doesn’t pursue cases against terrorists or bank robbers. Instead, its job is to weigh allegations of corruption involving public officials and to decide whether to bring criminal charges. The targets include city councilmen, state legislators, governors, judges, or, in this instance, a senior member of the U.S. Senate. Attorney Gen. Eric Holder on Wednesday abandoned the case against Stevens, despite his conviction by a jury. Holder said he acted “in the interest of justice” after discovering prosecutors had illegally withheld evidence from the defense. The veteran lawmaker wasn’t charged with taking bribes or payoffs in exchange for favors. Rather, he was indicted for failing to disclose as gifts the full value of the repairs and improvements on one of his Alaska homes. And the Public Integrity unit’s top prosecutors were accused of cutting corners and concealing evidence from defense attorneys in their zeal to convict Stevens. Throughout the trial, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan voiced his anger with prosecutors. “How can the court have the confidence that the public integrity section has public integrity?” he said. “This is not a trial any means.” In February, the judge called the prosecution’s conduct “outrageous,” and he took the highly unusual step of holding in contempt William Welch II, the chief of the Public Integrity section, and his principal deputy, Brenda Morris, the lead prosecutor in the Stevens case. Brendan Sullivan, the lawyer for Stevens, said the prosecutors were so “hell-bent” on winning a conviction they were “willing to present false evidence.” He accused them of “corruption.”...Detroit Free Press

They don't seem to be reporting on the "inappropriate personal relationship" between the lead FBI agent in charge of the case, Mary Beth Kepner, and the prosecutions key witness, Bill Allen.

A 2003 Study by the Center For Public Integrity titled Harmful Error states:

Prosecutorial misconduct falls into several categories, including:

* Courtroom misconduct (making inappropriate or inflammatory comments in the presence of the jury; introducing or attempting to introduce inadmissible, inappropriate or inflammatory evidence; mischaracterizing the evidence or the facts of the case to the court or jury; committing violations pertaining to the selection of the jury; or making improper closing arguments);
* Mishandling of physical evidence (hiding, destroying or tampering with evidence, case files or court records);
* Failing to disclose exculpatory evidence;
* Threatening, badgering or tampering with witnesses;
* Using false or misleading evidence;
* Harassing, displaying bias toward, or having a vendetta against the defendant or defendant's counsel (including selective or vindictive prosecution, which includes instances of denial of a speedy trial);
* Improper behavior during grand jury proceedings.

A June 26, 2003 Associated Press article about the Center's study has the following:

State and local prosecutors bent or broke the rules to help put 32 innocent people in prison, some under death sentence, since 1970, according to the first nationwide study of prosecutorial misconduct. Prosecutors misbehaved so badly in more than 2,000 cases during that period that appellate judges dismissed criminal charges, reversed convictions or reduced sentences, the study also found. The study, "Harmful Error," found 223 prosecutors around the nation who had been cited by judges for two or more cases of unfair conduct but only two prosecutors who had been disbarred in the past 33 years for mishandling criminal cases. There are about 30,000 local prosecutors in 2,341 jurisdictions. The report said convictions of an undetermined number of guilty defendants also were undoubtedly overturned because of unfair prosecutor tactics. Some of those defendants could not be retried and were set free, so prosecutor misconduct "has severe consequences for the entire citizenry," the report said. In 2,017 cases, appellate judges found misconduct serious enough to order dismissal of charges, reversal of convictions or reduction of sentences. In an additional 513 cases, at least one judge filing a separate concurring or dissenting opinion thought the misconduct warranted reversal...

Key players in the case of former Sen. Ted Stevens

BRENDA MORRIS: A career prosecutor with the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section, Morris now serves as its principal deputy.

NICHOLAS MARSH: One of two Public Integrity trial attorneys on the Stevens case, Marsh handled much of the courtroom work during the trials of Alaska lawmakers caught up in the scandal.

EDWARD SULLIVAN: The other Public Integrity trial attorney in the case, Sullivan was part of the trial team that won convictions of several Alaska lawmakers caught up in the corruption scandal.

JOSEPH BOTTINI: One of two assistant prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Anchorage assigned to work with Public Integrity on the Stevens case. Bottini went to high school in Anchorage and in 1993 served briefly as acting U.S. Attorney for Alaska.

JAMES GOEKE: The other prosecutor from U.S. Attorney's office.

WILLIAM WELCH: Head of the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section and the person with overall management of the prosecution. The Springfield, Mass., Republican reported last month that he's seeking appointment as the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, his native state.

PAUL O'BRIEN: Chief of the Justice Department's Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Section, he and two other Justice Department attorneys took over the post-trial phase of the Stevens case when Morris and Welch were held in contempt. He signed the motion seeking to dismiss the case.

Anchorage Daily News

Obama won't defend Bush spotted owl plan

The Obama administration is backing away from its predecessor's plan for the northern spotted owl. Government attorneys filed notice late Tuesday in federal district court in Washington D.C. asking to review its owl recovery plan finalized last year as well as the accompanying changes to critical owl habitat areas. That could end up reversing a decision from last year that trimmed by about a quarter the amount of federal forest in the Northwest designated as critical habitat for the owl, which is in long term decline. And it has other implications for how much federal land will be readily available for logging in the future...The Oregonian

Supremes: Environmental Rules Should Weigh Costs, Benefits

The Supreme Court ruled today in favor of a power company. That’s not necessarily a bad thing for the environment. In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of power companies in Entergy v. EPA and related cases and against environmental groups, especially Riverkeeper. The issue was a rules change in the EPA which sought to make power companies upgrade their plants to protect the environment regardless of cost. The appeal aimed at reinstating Bush-era rules that allowed power companies to do cost-benefit analysis before certain upgrades. As the WSJ explains: “We conclude that the EPA permissibly relied on cost-benefit analysis in setting the national performance standards,” Justice Antonin Scalia said in the majority opinion. The majority concluded the costs and benefits could be weighed under a broad set of circumstances. Specifically, the court said, using the “best available technology” to tackle any given environmental problem means using the most efficient approach—not necessarily the best technology if it is prohibitively expensive. The ruling addresses a huge question in the energy and environment battle raging right now—namely, how to strike the balance between environmental protections and safeguarding the economy. It also brings the field of cost-benefit analysis squarely back into the environmental debate...WSJ

Alaska senator calls for national volcano monitoring

As Alaska's Mount Redoubt sends a steady stream of ash skyward, the state's Republican senator is calling for a national volcano monitoring system to ensure early warnings of volcanic activity. Sen. Lisa Murkowski's proposal would set up a dedicated funding source for all five volcano observatories, including the David A. Johnston Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Wash., and better coordinate volcano monitoring nationally. Murkowski said the Mount Redoubt eruptions, which have forced flight cancellations at Anchorage International Airport 100 miles away, underscore the need for more and better volcano observation. She also took a shot at fellow Republicans, including Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Arizona Sen. John McCain, who have criticized President Barack Obama's economic stimulus bill for spending $140 million on volcano monitoring...AP

It's nice to see another Republican who wants to "nationalize" something and spend more money. Surely that's their path back to regaining a majority.

Climate Bill Could Override Regional Efforts

Tucked deep into Tuesday’s hefty climate bill draft is an innocuous-sounding sentence: ‘‘Notwithstanding section 116, no State or political subdivision thereof shall implement or enforce a cap that covers any capped emissions emitted during the years 2012 through 2017.” That sentence could potentially spell the end of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the cap-and-trade scheme engineered by 10 Northeastern states to cut global warming emissions. Essentially, what it means is that a federal scheme to cap carbon dioxide emissions, and allow companies to trade the allowances to pollute, would pre-empt similar schemes by the states. The regional initiative in the Northeast, which governs power plants, is the only mandatory scheme up and running, but California and other Western states are contemplating a cap-and-trade program of their own...NY Times

Court orders new review for jaguar habitat

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision not to designate critical habitat and develop a recovery plan for the endangered jaguar was based on incorrect criteria, a federal judge ruled on Tuesday. In a decision favoring environmentalists, U.S. District Judge John Roll said the agency did not use the best scientific evidence available in deciding that critical habitat for the jaguar was "not prudent." He also cited inconsistency with the Endangered Species Act's statutory mandate, Fish and Wildlife's own regulations and relevant case law in striking down the agency's decision. Roll ordered Fish and Wildlife to review his ruling and make a decision by Jan. 8 on designating critical habitat and preparing a recovery plan. The ruling is a victory for Defenders of Wildlife and the Center for Biological Diversity...AP

Water pipeline plan takes shape

An ambitious plan to build a 560-mile-long pipeline to pump water from southwest Wyoming's Flaming Gorge Reservoir to southeast Wyoming and the Front Range in Colorado is moving forward. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials said this week the agency is beginning work on an environmental impact statement that will analyze the impacts of the proposed regional water supply project. Army Corps project manager Rena Brand said the agency has scheduled public "scoping" meetings in Green River on April 14 and Laramie on April 16 to discuss the project. Colorado businessman Aaron Million has been quietly shopping the idea around for almost four years. The private water development group, Million Conservation Resource Group, has filed for permits to start the approval process. Million envisions building the pipeline -- which would draw water from intake points located on Flaming Gorge Reservoir and upstream on the Green River in Sweetwater County -- at an estimated cost of $4 billion...Caspar Star-Tribune

Top 10 Internet April Fool's Pranks & When Did April Fool's Day Begin?

Check out the top 10 here.

Get your history lesson here.

Song Of The Day #009

Dock "Curley" Williams was born in 1914 and raised on the family farm in Grady County Florida. He was the seventh son of a country fiddler who also was the son of a country fiddler. His band was first called The Santa Fe Trail Riders and they had shows on several different Georgia radio stations. His big break came in 1942 when he and his band were invited to join the cast of the Grand Ol' Opry, and the band's name was changed to The Georgia Peach Pickers. He cut his first record in 1945. While no relation to Hank Williams, Curley wrote the song, "Half As Much", which was a big hit for Hank.

The selection today is his Lou'siana Serenade, available on the Bear Family CD Half As Much.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Democrats Unveil Climate Bill

The debate on global warming and energy policy accelerated on Tuesday as two senior House Democrats unveiled a far-reaching bill to cap heat-trapping gases and quicken the country’s move away from dependence on coal and oil. But the bill leaves critical questions unanswered and has no Republican support. It is thus the beginning, not the end, of the debate in Congress on how to deal with two of President Obama’s priorities, climate change and energy. The draft measure, written by Representatives Henry A. Waxman of California and Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, sets a slightly more ambitious goal for capping heat-trapping gases than Mr. Obama’s proposal. The bill requires that emissions be reduced 20 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, while Mr. Obama’s plancalls for a 14 percent reduction by 2020. Both would reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases by roughly 80 percent by 2050. The Waxman-Markey bill, the American Clean Energy and Security Act, emerges at a time when many Americans, and their representatives in Congress, are wary of wide-ranging environmental legislation that could raise energy costs and potentially cripple industry. The bill, a version of a so-called cap-and-trade plan, also comes as the Environmental Protection Agency is about to exert regulatory authority over heat-trapping gases under the Clean Air Act...NY Times

I'm thinkin' no legislation will pass before the next congressional elections.

They'll sit back, let EPA take administrative action, and see how it plays out politically.

Then Big Industry will go to Congress, hat in hand and checkbook in tow, and ASK for legislation to get them out from under the onerous EPA reg's.

Congress will oblige and then pass legislation that screws the rest of us.

Earth population 'exceeds limits' - State Dept. Advisor

There are already too many people living on Planet Earth, according to one of most influential science advisors in the US government. Nina Fedoroff told the BBC One Planet programme that humans had exceeded the Earth's "limits of sustainability". Dr Fedoroff has been the science and technology advisor to the US secretary of state since 2007, initially working with Condoleezza Rice. Under the new Obama administration, she now advises Hillary Clinton. "We need to continue to decrease the growth rate of the global population; the planet can't support many more people," Dr Fedoroff said, stressing the need for humans to become much better at managing "wild lands", and in particular water supplies. Pressed on whether she thought the world population was simply too high, Dr Fedoroff replied: "There are probably already too many people on the planet."...BBC

States rebel against Washington

With revolutionary die-hards behind him, Mr. Pitts has fired a warning shot across the bow of the Washington establishment. As the writer of one of 28 state "sovereignty bills" – one even calls for outright dissolution of the Union if Washington doesn't rein itself in – Pitts is at the forefront of a states' rights revival, reasserting their say on everything from stem cell research to the Second Amendment. Just as California under President Bush asserted itself on issues ranging from gun control to medical marijuana, a motley cohort of states – from South Carolina to New Hampshire, from Washington State to Oklahoma – are presenting a foil for President Obama's national ambitions. And they're laying the groundwork for a political standoff over the 10th Amendment, which cedes all power not granted to Washington to the people...USA Today

Federal judge throws out cougar management lawsuit

A federal district court judge has thrown out a lawsuit filed by several environmental groups that aimed to stop the USDA from assisting in Oregon's cougar management efforts. U.S. District Court Judge Ancer Haggerty dismissed the lawsuit Monday, March 30, because the six plaintiffs lacked legal standing to make the complaint. The groups initially filed suit in January 2008, claiming that USDA's Wildlife Services unit violated federal environmental law by helping the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife kill cougars. Oregon's final cougar management plan was developed in 2006 to reduce conflicts between people and the animals. The plan called for the state's cougar population to be maintained at above 3,000 cats. Because the current population tops 5,000, the plaintiffs opposed the plan, alleging that it would arbitrarily kill 40 percent of the state's cougars. In December 2008, a U.S. magistrate judge recommended that the case be dismissed, since the Oregon Department of of Fish and Wildlife would reduce cougar populations with or without the federal government's help. "The underlying injury in this action, the killing of cougars, has not been caused by defendants' actions," according to the recommendation. "Instead, plaintiffs' harm has been caused by the acts of a third party not before this court, ODFW." The plaintiffs objected to the recommendation, but Haggerty decided that it was based on correct legal reasoning and so dismissed the case...Capital Press

Mountain lion tranquilized after killing dog in Boulder

A mountain lion was tranquilized and relocated by the state Division of Wildlife after killing a small dog in Boulder's Highland Park neighborhood on Monday, according to Boulder police. The lion killed a "white, fluffy dog" outside 2318 Dennison St. at about 4 p.m., police said. Division of Wildlife spokeswoman Jennifer Churchill said the lion, a 10-month-old male, was moved to a remote location. She said the lion had previously been tagged and is part of the division's Front Range mountain study. The lion will be "hazed" to give it a negative association with humans and its movements tracked, she said...Boulder Camera

We need to recruit these folks to "haze" some of our Congress Critters so as to give them a "negative association" with spending money, and then track their movement and their votes.

Vilsack hedges on single-agency food regulation, NAIS

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack appeared to step back Tuesday from earlier comments endorsing the creation of a single food safety agency. Vilsack told a House agricultural appropriations subcommittee that it was premature to say how food regulation should be organized. Recent outbreaks and food recalls have forced the Obama administration to focus on food safety. Fifteen federal agencies have some responsibility for ensuring the safety of food. But the bulk of the responsibility is with the Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service, which inspects meat, and the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates most other foods, and those agencies have competing philosophies, Vilsack said. He said the food safety system should focus on the riskiest products and eliminate "hazards before they have the opportunity to make anyone sick," rather than just try to contain outbreaks. The Bush administration wanted to focus meat inspections on the highest-risk products, but the plan was delayed amid criticism that the Agriculture Department had insufficient data to know which processors to target. Before it moves ahead with creating a mandatory animal identification system, the Obama administration also wants to allay the concerns of producers who oppose making any such system compulsory. Unless those objections are addressed, officials will get tied down chasing producers who are evading the program, Vilsack told the House subcommittee. An animal identification system is intended to allow investigators to quickly trace the sources of food-borne disease outbreaks. Vilsack stopped short of explicitly endorsing a mandatory identification program, though he said he is "supportive of the effort to make sure that we have an identification system that will allow us to prevent and/or mitigate problems." But many cattle producers and small-scale farmers strongly oppose a mandatory system. They cite such concerns as the cost, the potential for lawsuits arising from disease outbreaks, and the confidentiality of records. Some key lawmakers — including the chairwoman of the appropriations subcommittee, Connecticut Democrat Rosa DeLauro — are pressing the administration to set up a mandatory system anyway...Des Moines Register

HSUS offers reward in Colorado cow mutilations

The Humane Society of the United States is offering a reward of up to $2,500 for information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­mutilating cows in Southern Colorado. According to news reports, a ranch manager found one of his cows dead on March 24 at a ranch near Walsenburg. The cow's udder had been surgically removed. The animal had no other obvious injuries and there was no blood or ground disturbance around the cow’s body. On March 17, at a ranch 14 miles east of Trinidad on U.S. 350, a rancher found one of his cows dead near their feed tub with only his spinal column, head and legs left behind. On March 8--- near the Purgatoire River just west of Weston--a cow was found dead with her udder and reproductive organs surgically removed. "Those who abuse animals can be dangerous to people," said Holly Tarry, The HSUS' Colorado state director. "Americans have no tolerance for violence against the creatures who share our world."...Feedstuffs

Speaking of creatures, Holly better hope the guilty ones are of "our world", and not some Meat Eating Martian Marlboro Man who'd have her for lunch.

"Here's To You Mr. Jefferson" - Music Video

An interesting musical commentary, done to the tune of Mrs. Robinson.

"Shuttin' Detroit Down" - Music Video

I normally don't listen to Top 40 Country radio, so hadn't heard this song. Ran across it at NM Politico.

Looks like John Rich has a hit commenting on today's political shenanigans. Here's the video:

"Shuttin' Detroit Down" Lyric Video

Song Of The Day #008

After all these videos and fancy stuff, I'm gonna dip into my collection of old 78s.

The Sweet Violet Boys were actually The Prairie Ramblers. Like many artists of the time, they recorded under a different name when the material was considered risque. Bob Miller, the pianist in the group wrote There's A Man That Comes To Our House. He went so far as to publish the song under the pseudoname Trebor Rellim, or Robert Miller backwards. I also understand Patsy Montana left the studio when this or similar songs were recorded. Things were a wee bit different back then (mid-thirties).

Enjoy The Sweet Violet Boys recording of There's A Man That Comes To Our House, Columbia 37768.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Obama Signs Major Land Conservation Law

President Obama signed a massive lands package into law today, protecting more than two million acres as wilderness and creating a new national system to conserve land held by the Bureau of Land Management. At the signing ceremony Obama said, "This legislation guarantees that we will not take our forests, rivers, oceans, national parks, monuments, and wilderness areas for granted, but rather we will set them aside and guard their sanctity for everyone to share. That's something all Americans can support." The law also establishes the 26-million acre National Landscape Conservation System, which aims to protect the most environmentally and historically-significant lands controlled by the BLM. The new system, which encompasses 850 sites including the Canyons of Ancients National Monument in southwest Colorado, Agua Fria National Monument in Arizona and Nevada's Black Rock Desert National Conservation Area, requires the agency to make conservation a priority when managing these areas...Washington Post

Here's a video of the signing ceremony:

Obama to sign lands bill before 5 days of comment

President Obama on Monday will sign the omnibus land conservation bill - yet again breaking his vow to allow five days for public comment before he affixes his signature to legislation. The bill passed the House on Wednesday, but the White House didn't post the measure for comments until Friday, leaving just two weekend days and parts of Friday and Monday for the public to register comments - short of the president's five-day pledge. The bill was posted for only several hours before the White House announced that Mr. Obama would sign it, indicating the president had made up his mind well before many comments could have been submitted...Washington Times

Lands bill includes federal wolf-kill compensation

A public lands bill signed Monday by President Barack Obama includes a program under which ranchers could get money from the federal government to compensate them for livestock killed by wolves. Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana and Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming sponsored the so-called "Wolf Kill Bill," which authorizes the federal government to spend up to $1 million annually on the 5-year demonstration program. The money also would cover grants to states and Indian tribes to reduce the risk of livestock attacks, by erecting fences and improving grazing practices. Tester said money for the program would likely be split evenly between compensating ranchers and paying for ways to prevent wolf attacks...KPAX

National Landscape Conservation System Signed Into Law by President Obama

At a ceremony earlier today, President Obama signed into law legislation permanently establishing the National Landscape Conservation System, which will protect and restore the most scenic, ecologically and historically significant lands under the jurisdiction of the Bur of Land Management. The System, the first of its kind in 50 years, consists of National Monuments, National Conservation Areas, Wilderness Areas, Wild and Scenic Rivers, National Scenic and Historic Trails and other protective designations totaling over 850 sites and 26 million acres. "This is an historic moment for our public lands. Future generations will look back at this day as one of the most important dates in American land conservation history," said William Meadows, President of The Wilderness Society. The National Landscape Conservation System contains areas of rich archaeological and cultural significance including Canyons of Ancients National Monument in southwest Colorado, and Agua Fria National Monument in Arizona as well as vast wild areas such as Nevada's Black Rock Desert National Conservation Area and California's King Range National Conservation Area. The Conservation System protects critical habitat for fish and wildlife, provides access to world-class hunting and fishing, and offers challenging recreation for the self-guided adventurer. "These places tell the story of America -- they truly are the 'crown jewels' of the Bureau of Land Management's land. Now, thanks to a concerted effort by many people, their future is more secure. That's good news for everybody," said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation...Press Release

Winds of Change Evident in U.S. Environmental Policy

Daniel Reifsnyder, a 25-year State Department veteran, knew even before President Obama was elected that U.S. environmental policy was going to change. So in early November, he called a couple of his Environmental Protection Agency counterparts about drafting documents to lay the groundwork for endorsing a treaty to curb global emissions of toxic mercury. By Feb. 20, the efforts of Reifsnyder and dozens of other rank-and-file federal employees had borne fruit: After the United States voiced support for the idea of a new, binding mercury treaty, the world community embraced it in Nairobi. The rapid policy reversal is just one of more than a dozen environmental initiatives the new administration has undertaken in its first two months. In nearly every case, the decisions were based on extensive analysis and documentation that rank-and-file employees had prepared over the past couple of years, often in the face of contrary-minded Bush administration officials. After years of chafing under political appointees who viewed stricter environmental regulation with skepticism, long-serving federal officials are seeing work that had been gathering dust for years translate quickly into action. After years of behind-the-scenes disputes with their superiors who favored regulatory restraint, many longtime federal workers are now what Cox calls "more in sync" with the new political hires running their agencies. This shift has helped produce broad policy reversals that encompass such issues as writing new regulations and prosecuting violators of old ones, with still more in the pipeline...Washington Post

Meet The New Boss

A president of the United States orders the chief executive officer of General Motors to resign. The same president is further ordering Chrysler to merge with Fiat, the Italian firm specializing in flimsy cardboard boxes on wheels. This new reality should send a chill down the spines of all Americans. The federal government has begun to run U.S. companies. President Obama said Monday, "my team will be working closely with GM to produce a better business plan." To that confident assertion he added these stern sentiments: "They must ask themselves: Have they consolidated enough unprofitable brands? Have they cleaned up their balance sheets, or are they still saddled with so much debt that they can't make future investments? Above all, have they created a credible model for how not only to survive, but to succeed in this competitive global market?"Imagine if it were not GM, but your own small business employing a handful of people. How would you like the country's highest-ranking elected officeholder telling you that he and "my team" know better than you about cleaning up your balance sheets and competing against your rivals? How would you like being ordered by the government to fire the person you hired as manager of your company?...IBD

Big business has been in cahoots with big government for years, and now they are seeing the result of their efforts. They sold their soul long ago and are now losing their autonomy to their "friend."

They should accept no federal dollars, declare bankruptcy, reorganize and work their way back.

Scope of new oil & gas rules on federal land unclear

When the state Legislature approved new oil and gas rules last week, a plan to implement them on private lands Wednesday became a sure thing. That’s anything but the case when it comes to the state’s plans to put the rules in place on federal land a month later. Industry officials doubt the state and federal governments will reach agreement in the next month regarding how the state rules would work on federal land — if they reach an agreement at all. “I’ll put money down that there’s going to be a need to delay” the May 1 implementation date, Stan Dempsey, president of the Colorado Petroleum Association, said in an interview. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission have yet to meet on the matter. “The federal government does not work fast when it’s working on agreements like this,” said Wayne Bankert, who now handles regulatory and environmental matters for Laramie Energy II but formerly helped regulate the industry as a BLM petroleum engineer. Dempsey said during a recent legislative hearing that the industry needs clarity about the matter. Dave Neslin, acting director of the oil and gas commission, has said the state is prepared to delay the federal lands implementation date if need be. But timing isn’t the only issue; so is legality. The BLM last year warned that the state does not appear to have the authority to put some rules in place on federal land, such as geographic area plans that could conflict with federal land management plans, and surface-occupancy restrictions that exceed similar federal limits and that the BLM fears would impede energy development. Neslin and other state officials say court rulings have made clear the state’s authority to impose its rules on federal land...Grand Junction Sentinel

Federal court's injunction against National Park gun ban repeal fails giggle test

Don't get me wrong. US District Court for DC Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly might have gotten the law exactly right when she temporarily reversed the administrative repeal of the National Park gun ban on the grounds that the Department of the Interior "abdicated their Congressionally-mandated obligation to evaluate all reasonably foreseeable environmental impacts, whether authorized by the Final Rule or not" [under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) at 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.]. But does this opinion pass the giggle test? The new regulation merely permits the carriage of loaded handguns - not discharge of any ammunition from them. Millions of Americans now routinely carry handguns in public in virtually every city and park in America, as well as in National Forests and on lands managed by Bureau of Land Management. Negligent discharges are extremely rare, as are discharges in defense of self or others. Could a few dozen or so possible bullets per year fired onto the 84.4 millions of acres of National Park lands possibly justify mandating environmental studies? OK, let's think about this. What if Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Ken Salazar decided that Park Rangers, currently unarmed, should start carrying side arms on DOI lands near or adjacent to the Mexican border due to rising violence from Mexican drug gangs. Would Salazar first have to conduct an environmental study before Rangers could be armed?...DC Examiner

EPA to monitor 66 schools' air

In its most sweeping effort to determine whether toxic chemicals permeate the air schoolchildren breathe, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to announce plans today to monitor the air outside 62 schools in 22 states. Texas and Ohio have the most schools on the list, with seven each; Pennsylvania has six. The plan will cost about $2.25 million and includes taking samples outside schools in small towns such as Story City, Iowa, and Toledo, Ore., and in large cities such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Houston. It comes in response to a USA TODAY investigation that used the government's own data to identify schools that appear to be in toxic hot spots. USA TODAY's investigation, published in December, used a government computer simulation that showed at least 435 schools where the air outside appeared to be more toxic than the air outside Meredith Hitchens Elementary, an Ohio school closed in 2005. At Hitchens, the Ohio EPA found levels of carcinogens 50 times above what the state considered acceptable...USA Today

Plan to help schools "go green"

Lawmakers Sunday unveiled a plan to offer school districts low-interest loans to install solar panels on rooftops, build wind turbines or convert diesel-guzzling buses to battery power. The cash for the loans would come from the vast swaths of land set aside to benefit schoolchildren in the 1800s. The state already invests proceeds from land sales, spends part of the interest and boasts a $581 million balance in the account. Rather than investing that money as the state typically would, it would lend some to schools at rates that are lower than a bank's but high enough to match or outstrip the fund's traditional return. The fund's rate of return is 5.1 percent at the moment, said state Treasurer Cary Kennedy...Denver Post

Delay sought for hearings on pumping water to Las Vegas

The Southern Nevada Water Authority sent a letter Monday afternoon to the State Engineer asking that hearings on the Water Authority's right to pump water from Snake Valley be postponed a year. The hearings were supposed to begin Sept. 29 and last through much of the month of October. They were expected to be contentious, with fierce opposition from farmers, ranchers and conservationists from affected Nevada and Utah counties. The Water Authority has asked to pump more than 50,000 acre feet -- about 16 billion gallons -- of water a year from the valley that lies about 250 miles north of Las Vegas in Nevada and across the Utah border. The agency already has received permission from the state engineer's office to pump 40,000 acre feet from Spring Valley and 18,755 acre feet from Cave, Dry Lake and Delamar valleys to provide Las Vegas water that the Authority says may be needed in the event of a prolonged drought. An acre foot of water is equivalent to 325,851 gallons. The Water Authority would like to postpone the Snake Valley hearings because it will not be able to complete in time a computer model that shows the impact of the water removal, Deputy General Manager Kay Brothers said in the letter sent Monday...Las Vegas Sun

Collecting Rain Water Is Now Legal In Colorado

Colorado lawmakers have passed a bill that loosens a 19th century ban on people who want to collect rainwater. Many people were surprised to learn they're not entitled to snow and rain that falls on their homes. A state senator recently found that out when he tried to conserve rainwater for his flower garden. In New Mexico it is common practice to harvest rainwater and store it in cisterns. That's what Sen. Chris Romer had hoped to do in Colorado. "I truly wanted to collect the rainwater off my roof to use in my garden, because I love gardening, but unfortunately, I got in big trouble," Romer said. That's because Colorado law dating back to the 19th century said every drop of rain must flow unimpeded into surrounding creeks and streams, that it was the property of farmers and ranchers and anyone else who had purchased the rights to those waterways. Residents still can't harvest rain without a permit from the state engineer's office, and the permits are targeted for those who live in rural areas, not people living the suburbs...CBS 4 Denver

PETA Killed 95 Percent of Adoptable Pets in its Care During 2008

Today the nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) published documents online showing that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) killed 95 percent of the adoptable pets in its care during 2008. Despite years of public outrage over its euthanasia program, the animal rights group kills an average of 5.8 pets every day at its Norfolk, VA headquarters. According to public records from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, PETA killed 2,124 pets last year and placed only seven in adoptive homes. Since 1998, a total of 21,339 dogs and cats have died at the hands of PETA workers. Despite having a $32 million budget, PETA does not operate an adoption shelter. PETA employees make no discernible effort to find homes for the thousands of pets they kill every year...CCF

'Mad Cow' Regulation Affects Equine, Rendering Industries

The equine and rendering industries are anticipating a pinch from a new Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation intended to prevent the proliferation of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or "mad cow disease"). The regulation on the 1997 legislation prohibits the use of most mammalian proteins in feed for ruminant (cud-chewing) animals. The final rule, which is slated to take effect April 27, specifies that the cattle body parts most at-risk for containing BSE prions, plus entire carcasses of BSE-positive cattle, be excluded from all animal feeds and pet foods. However, there's concern within the horse industry that the stringent collection and processing guidelines could cause rendering companies and haulers to eliminate livestock carcass pickups, including horses. Tom Cook, president of the National Renderers Association, said it will be an economically driven decision. "Cattle have been the largest portion of pickups. If renderers can't pick up enough volume or it's no longer financially viable, some might discontinue handling livestock altogether," Cook said. Laura Alvey, FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine deputy director of communications, suggested that those affected by the rule find alternative means of disposal during the 12-month implementation process...The Horse

Song Of The Day #007

Eddy Arnold was responsible for the Lonzo & Oscar duo. In the mid-Forties Arnold wanted a comedy act for his performances. He asked two band members, Lloyd George (Lonzo) and Rollin Sullivan (Oscar) to put something together. They become so popular that in 1948 they went out on their own. Over the years there were 6 Lonzo's, but Sullivan was always the Oscar.

The selection today is their 1948 recording of There's A Hole In The Bottom Of The Sea. This version is from a 26 track cd by the same name, BACM 198.

Emailers go here to play song.

Monday, March 30, 2009

US Hopes to Avoid Repeat of Kyoto Protocol

President Barack Obama's administration will be guided by a mix of "science and pragmatism" as it helps craft a global deal on climate change, the top U.S. climate official said Friday. Todd Stern said that would help the administration avoid a repeat of what happened with the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, when U.S. officials negotiated a deal in Japan that failed to win domestic support. The U.S. refusal to join the program to reduce emissions drew sharp international rebuke, and fueled views that George W. Bush's administration was opposed to global cooperation and environmental preservation. On the eve of talks marking the Obama team's debut in the U.N. climate change negotiations, Stern said the U.S. is committed to getting a deal that will help prevent the devastating effects of global warming and also be politically viable. "We do not have any interest in the United States in having a repeat of the Kyoto experience, where we signed an agreement that is dead on arrival when we brought it back home," Stern told reporters at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin...CNS News

U.S. to raise vehicle fuel standards for 2011

The Obama administration plans to raise fuel efficiency standards by 2 miles per gallon to an average 27.3 mpg for new cars and trucks in the 2011 model year, marking the first increase in passenger car standards in more than two decades. Under the changes, which are slightly less stringent than those proposed by the Bush administration, new passenger cars will need to meet 30.2 mpg for the 2011 model year and pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles and minivans will need to reach 24.1 mpg, an administration official said Thursday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak in advance of an announcement expected today. The fuel efficiency rules are the first step in meeting a 2007 energy law that will require carmakers to meet at least 35 mpg by 2020, a 40 percent increase over the current standard of about 25 mpg...AP

California to ban black and dark colored cars

If California regulators get their way, auto makers may soon be forced to rewrite a cliché from the Ford Model T era and start telling customers they can have any color they want as long as it isn’t black. Some darker hues will be available in place of black, but right now they are indentified internally at paint suppliers with names such as “mud-puddle brown” and are truly ugly substitutes for today’s rich ebony hues. The problem stems from a new “cool paints” initiative from the California Air Resources Board. CARB wants to mandate the phase-in of heat-reflecting paints on vehicle exteriors beginning with the ’12 model year, with all colors meeting a 20% reflectivity requirement by the ’16 model year. Because about 17 other states tend to follow California’s regulatory lead, as many as 40% of the vehicles sold in the U.S. could be impacted by the proposed directive, suppliers say. Heat-reflecting paints for black and other dark colors on vehicles have not been invented yet...Ward's Auto

Spokane residents smuggle suds over green brands

The quest for squeaky-clean dishes has turned some law-abiding people in Spokane into dishwater-detergent smugglers. They are bringing Cascade or Electrasol in from out of state because the eco-friendly varieties required under Washington state law don't work as well. Spokane County became the launch pad last July for the nation's strictest ban on dishwasher detergent made with phosphates, a measure aimed at reducing water pollution. The ban will be expanded statewide in July 2010, the same time similar laws take effect in several other states. But it's not easy to get sparkling dishes when you go green. Many people were shocked to find that products like Seventh Generation, Ecover and Trader Joe's left their dishes encrusted with food, smeared with grease and too gross to use without rewashing them by hand...AP

Dust, Not Humans, Chief Cause of Atlantic Warming

The warming of Atlantic Ocean waters in recent decades is largely due to declines in airborne dust from African deserts and lower volcanic emissions, a new study suggests. Since 1980, the tropical North Atlantic has been warming by an average of a half-degree Fahrenheit (a quarter-degree Celsius) per decade. While that number may sound small, it can translate to big impacts on hurricanes, which are fueled by warm surface waters, said study team member Amato Evan of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Evan and his colleagues had previously shown that African dust and other airborne particles can suppress hurricane activity by reducing how much sunlight reaches the ocean and keeping the sea surface cool. In the new study, the researchers investigated the exact effect of dust and volcanic emissions on ocean temperatures. They combined satellite data of dust and other particles with existing climate models and calculated how much of the Atlantic warming observed during the last 26 years could be accounted for by simultaneous changes in African dust storms and tropical volcanic activity, primarily the eruptions of El Chichón in Mexico in 1982 and Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991. The results: More than two-thirds of this upward trend in recent decades can be attributed to changes in African dust storm and tropical volcano activity during that time...Fox News

Meat vs. Climate: The Debate Continues

At least since a 2006 United Nations report asserted that livestock is responsible for a full 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions — a higher percentage than that caused by transportation — a debate over meat consumption and climate change has been cooking. The latest round involves a recent editorial in the Archives of Internal Medicine by Barry M. Popkin, a professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina. In it, Mr. Popkin revisits several studies linking meat not just with heart disease and other health issues, but also with worldwide consumption of energy and water resources — and global warming. Water use, Mr. Popkin writes, is two to five times greater worldwide for animal-source food than for basic crops such as legumes and grains. He further argues that livestock production accounts for 55 percent of the erosion process in the United States and is also responsible for one-third of the total discharge of nitrogen and phosphorous to surface water. Not surprisingly, the Center for Consumer Freedom, which describes itself as a nonprofit coalition supported by restaurants, food companies and consumers, issued a press release this week disputing Mr. Popkin’s editorial. “It is beyond dispute that any connection between meat production and global warming is a false one,” said David Martosko, the group’s director of research, in a phone interview. The C.C.F. said the United Nations’ conclusion that 18 percent of global greenhouse gases are caused by animal agriculture was also exaggerated. The group instead points to an Environmental Protection Agency report that puts the figure for all agriculture production — including meat — at just 6 percent. Mr. Marosko says that Mr. Popkin is “stretching the truth beyond recognition.”...NY Times

Steller sea lions gobbling up sturgeon below Bonneville Dam

Last month, government agencies gathered the media at Bonneville Dam to discuss the problem of sea lions eating endangered salmon. As if on cue, a sea lion surfaced below the dam, feasting on a fish as birds circled overheard. Cameras clicked, videotape rolled. But most missed that the sea lion wasn't eating a salmon. It was eating a sturgeon. Amid debate over the government's response to salmon-eating sea lions, which includes killing the mammals with gunshots or injections, a parallel but very different predator-prey phenomenon has evolved. Sea lions have gone from practically ignoring sturgeon at the dam to eating them by the hundreds, which could eventually threaten the fish and force wildlife experts to make some difficult choices. And though California sea lions eat most of the salmon at Bonneville, it's their larger cousins, Stellers, that eat nearly 98 percent of the sturgeon below the dam, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. Compounding the problem is that Stellers, unlike California sea lions, are protected under the Endangered Species Act, limiting what wildlife agencies can do to keep them from sturgeon that spawn below the dam...The Oregonian

Innovative Retirement Planning for Cows and Sheep

Hank Fischer manages a special program called Wildlife Conflict Resolution for the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). In English, that means he negotiates with ranchers to sell or “retire” public land grazing allotments to minimize conflicts between wildlife and domestic livestock. Since the early 1900s, western stockgrowers have leased public land for livestock grazing. These grazing permits or “allotments” have grown in value through time and have essentially become false equity for ranchers. They’re used for collateral in bank loans, and you’ve seen the real estate ads selling ranches touting figures like: “5000 deeded and 10,000 leased acres.” The private landowner isn’t actually selling those “leased acres,” usually federal land managed by the Forest Service (FS) or Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Instead, he/she is selling or transferring the right to exclusively run cows or sheep on certain sections of public land. Such transactions have, in essence, created an after-market for these grazing allotments, and the NWF has become a player in buying, selling and trading them as a way to solve chronic conflicts between livestock and controversial wild animals like bears, wolves and bison. “At first, it was all about the conflict with bears and wolves,” Fischer told NewWest.Net. “Now we’re seeing we can also address the conflict between bison and cattle as it relates to the brucellosis problem.” And the success has been sweet. To date, Fischer and his NWF comrades have raised more than $2,000,000 of mostly private money and retired 31 grazing allotments totaling 530,000 acres of conflict-ridden public pasture...New West

Cost Works Against Alternative and Renewable Energy Sources in Time of Recession

Windmills and solar panel arrays have become symbols of America’s growing interest in alternative energy. Yet as Congress begins debating new rules to restrict carbon dioxide emissions and promote electricity produced from renewable sources, an underlying question is how much more Americans will be willing to pay to harness the wind and the sun. Curbing carbon dioxide emissions — a central part of tackling climate change — will almost certainly raise electricity prices, experts say. And increasing the nation’s reliance on renewable energy will in itself raise costs. Federal efforts to rein in carbon dioxide emissions are starting to seem inevitable. The Environmental Protection Agency last week moved to regulate heat-trapping gases as harmful pollutants. And the Obama administration and Democratic leaders in Congress are hoping to push through a cap-and-trade bill that would force polluters to curb their emissions or buy permits from cleaner producers. Congress is also discussing whether to require that a certain percentage of the nation’s electricity come from renewable sources. The effect of any these measures will be to increase the cost of electricity. Regulation of carbon dioxide emissions will increase the cost of burning coal, a carbon-heavy energy source and currently the cheapest form of fossil fuel. Higher production costs will result in higher electricity rates. A quota for renewable energy sources will also raise rates because utilities will pass on increased costs to consumers. And wind and solar power are generally more expensive than the fossil fuels they are meant to supplant...NY Times

EPA Awards $800,000 in ‘Environmental Justice’ Grants

Communities in 28 states will receive $800,000 to address “environmental justice challenges,” the Environmental Protection Agency announced this week. Forty grants of up to $20,000 each are going to community-based organizations and to local and tribal governments for community projects addressing environmental and public health issues. One of the grant recipients is the Women's Environmental Institute at Amador Hill in North Branch, Minn., which describes itself as a “retreat center” where people can “renew, learn and organize for environmental justice.” The institute deals with environmental issues and policies relevant to women and children as well as communities “especially affected by environmental injustices.” The institute says it promotes “agricultural justice, organic and sustainable agriculture and ecological awareness.” It also supports “activism that influences public policy and promotes social change.”...CNS News

Taking Logging Into 21st Century

Booming timber towns with three-shift lumber mills are a distant memory in the densely forested Northwest. Now, with the housing market and the economy in crisis, some rural areas have never been more raw. Mills keep closing. People keep leaving. Unemployment in some counties is near 20 percent. Yet in parts of the region, the decline is being met by an unlikely optimism. Some people who have long fought to clear-cut the region’s verdant slopes are trying to reposition themselves for a more environmentally friendly economy, motivated by changing political interests, the federal stimulus package and sheer desperation. Some mills that once sought the oldest, tallest evergreens are now producing alternative energy from wood byproducts like bark or brush. Unemployed loggers are looking for work thinning federal forests, a task for which the stimulus package devotes $500 million; the goal is to make forests more resistant to wildfires and disease. Some local officials are betting there is revenue in a forest resource that few appreciated before: the ability of trees to absorb carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping gas that can contribute to global warming...NY Times

A win-win Idaho water deal

Idaho Power has agreed to let the state send Snake River water underground to recharge the aquifer that many Eastern Idaho irrigators rely on to sustain their crops. In exchange, the company could see increased and more stable flows of water through its power-generating dams - and a way to help resolve issues holding up the federal relicensing of its primary hydroelectric facility in Hells Canyon. For Treasure Valley residents and other power customers, the deal could slow the rise in electric power rates, since Idaho Power's cheapest generation comes from the Snake River dams. State and company officials announced Thursday that they had resolved the issues that had clouded their historic 1984 Swan Falls water agreement, which established minimum flows in the Snake River at the company's Swan Falls dam southwest of Boise. In addition to recharging the aquifer, the plan includes programs to reduce groundwater pumping and take other measures that could increase flows from the springs that feed the Snake River below the Milner Dam near Burley - when that happens, more stable and predictable flows could drive the turbines. Recharging the aquifer also can help Idaho Power's efforts to meet federal and state water temperature requirements below its Hells Canyon Dam. Endangered fall chinook salmon have historically spawned there, but now, the temperatures are too high early in the fall. The company plans to work with farmers, irrigation companies and others to find ways to cool the Snake River water that flows into Brownlee Reservoir...Idaho Statesman

A Tale of Two States: Texas vs. California

...You couldn't have two states moving in more opposite directions. One is unabashedly pro-growth and aggressive in courting industry, while the other seems content to spin an ever denser spider web of laws, regulations and red tape that is driving business out of the state. One state accounts for a whopping 70 percent of all jobs created in the United States last year, while the other seems bent on increasing taxes on business and individuals to pay for an unsustainable, out of control government that wants to be everything to everyone despite the fact that it simply cannot. This doesn't mean that Texas doesn't face very real problems in the current recession: they do, as Brendan Case at the Dallas Morning News blogs here. But even so, the silver lining for Texas is that the recession will nick the Lone Star State while it gouges the Golden State. California's addiction to funding ongoing programs through debt financing, its permanent structural deficits on the horizon, its fondness for taxation, and other governance weak suits will really hamper the economic recovery in the state, ensuring it will occur long after Texas is off to the races. Hence, it's good to see a direct Texas vs. California comparison drawn out in the American Legislative Exchange Council's updated Rich States, Poor States report. The full report is worth a read, but I found the comparative analysis of tax and regulatory climate between the two states to be particularly illuminating. Here's the takeaway: Matched up in a head-to-head competition, Texas’s economic environment beats California’s – in fact, it is a knockout. [...] California continues to increase regulations, raise taxes and spend profligately. These anti-growth policies will continue to sap the economic vitality of California. Texas, on the other hand, has a pro-growth economic environment with a competitive tax system, sound regulations and spending discipline that will help Texas maintain its superior economic performance well into the future....Reason Foundation