Saturday, May 02, 2009

New Mexico Owned Horse Wins Kentucky Derby!

Mine That Bird at 50-1 turned a sloppy Churchill Downs track into his personal playground by winning the 135th Kentucky Derby Saturday in the second-biggest upset in America's most celebrated race. Calvin Borel guided the unheralded Kentucky-bred gelding along the rail in a dramatic stretch run to win the $2 million race by six-and-three-quarter lengths over Pioneerof the Nile. Borel flew past 12 horses by using a move similar to the one he applied aboard Street Sense to win the 2007 Derby...Reuters

Mine That Bird is owned by Mark Allen and Dr. Leonard Blach, and he will also be the first Derby starter for the New Mexico residents. Allen and Blach purchased the Birdstone gelding privately last fall after he won three stakes at Woodbine, including the Grey Stakes (Can-III), but he has not won since. His best showing as a 3-year-old came in Sunland Park’s Borderland Derby when he finished second by a neck...BloodHorse

Friday, May 01, 2009

Bloggers Take Note: Censoring Critical Blogs as “Harassment” Would Violate the First Amendment

Under a recently-introduced bill, H.R. 1966, bloggers would face up to two years in prison if they “harass” public figures by criticizing them in a “severe, repeated, and hostile” manner, and thereby cause them “substantial emotional distress.” U.C.L.A. Law Professor Eugene Volokh, the author of a First Amendment treatise, has concluded that the bill is unconstitutional. I agree, as I explain here. As a federal appeals court noted in DeJohn v. Temple University (2008), “there is no harassment exception to the First Amendment’s free speech clause.” Speech that causes emotional distress can be protected,as the Supreme Court made clear in barring a lawsuit by Jerry Falwell over an offensive parody. Under this bill, a blogger like Emile Zola, the courageous writer who exposed an anti-semitic witchhunt a century ago in the infamous Dreyfus Affair through his repeated and “vehement public” denunciations of public officials, would be subject to prosecution. His “severe, repeated, and hostile” denunciations resulted in many public figures being discredited and removed from office, which no doubt caused them “substantial emotional distress.”...Hans Bader

The Politics of Species Protection in Alaska

The State of Alaska is stepping up efforts to fight a pair of recent listings under the Endangered Species Act — and proceeding cautiously with the reintroduction of a third species to the state — arguing that federal protections are unwarranted and likely to hurt the local economy. The state filed suit last August against the listing of the polar bear as a threatened species, and in January it filed notice of intent to sue over the listing of the Cook Inlet beluga whale as endangered. Earlier this month, state lawmakers agreed to spend $1.25 million on litigation over the two listings. “We’re taking aim at actions that threaten to impede responsible development,” Gov. Sarah Palin told reporters, who added that her administration believes “that we can benefit from safe development while protecting our wildlife species.” A planned reintroduction of the rare wood bison (a small number have protected status in Canada but the animal had virtually disappeared from Alaska by the early 1900s), has also raised concerns over the federal law. Several dozen bison are already in quarantine in Alaska, but state wildlife managers say they won’t release the bison into the wild until the animals are designated a “nonessential experimental” population. That classification would, according to the Alaska Department of Fish & Game, allow them to be treated as “threatened” rather than “endangered,” thereby easing most of the land development restrictions that would attend animals protected under the Endangered Species Act...NYTimes

State Department Plans to Tap Montreal Protocol for Urgent Climate Duty

The U.S. State Department is working feverishly on a proposed amendment to the Montreal Protocol that would tap the highly successful international treaty for urgent climate duty. Facing a May 4 deadline, State Department officials are meeting with their counterparts from across the administration this afternoon at the White House, and there is high expectation that they will secure the approval they need to go forward. The goal is to use the Montreal mechanisms to phase out a class of man-made "super greenhouse gases" that have a global warming potential many thousands of times more powerful than a molecule of CO2. They are now used in small amounts, but their proliferation in coming decades is projected to grow astronomically. Left unchecked, these gases – hydroflurocarbons, or HFCs – would add up to 25 times the current total U.S. emissions to the global burden by 2040, largely because of their use in ever greater numbers of automobile air conditioners and refrigerators in the developing world. They could effectively negate reductions in CO2 currently being contemplated...Solve Climate

EPA Raids Illinois City Accused of Using Tainted Water

Federal agents raided a Chicago suburb's government offices Wednesday to look for evidence of any crimes related to allegations the village knowingly drew drinking water from a tainted well for decades. Around a dozen agents from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies entered Crestwood's village hall and public works department around 9 a.m., remaining there into the afternoon, EPA officials at the scene said. "We're looking for evidence of environmental crimes," said Randall Ashe, the EPA's special agent in charge of criminal investigations. Ashe said that involved looking at documents and possibly conducting interviews, but he declined to elaborate...AP

Does the mafia own the well? I mean, if there is a water quality problem why couldn't a state agency handle it? No sir, it takes 12 federal agents. Were they expecting resistance from the city employees? Could have been handled by several EPA employees assisted by county or state law enforcement. Typical federal overkill.

U.S. Energy and Climate Plans Would Drag Us Back to 1905 – or 1862

Think back to 1905. The Wright brothers had just made history. Coal and wood heated homes. Few had telephones or electricity. AC units were handheld fans. Ice blocks cooled ice boxes. New York City collected 900,000 tons of vehicle emissions – horse manure – annually, and dumped it into local rivers. Lung and intestinal diseases were rampant. Life expectancy was 47. Today, President Obama wants to prevent “runaway global warming,” by slashing U.S. carbon dioxide emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. According to Oak Ridge National Laboratory data, this reduction would return the United States to emission levels last seen in those halcyon days of 1905. But America’s 1905 population was 84 million, versus 308 million today. We didn’t drive or fly, or generate electricity for offices, factories, schools or hospitals. To account for those differences, we’d have to send CO2 emissions back to 1862 levels. The Civil War was raging. Nine of ten Americans were farmers (versus 2% today). The industrial revolution was in its infancy. Malaria halted construction on the Washington, D.C. aqueduct. Typhus and cholera killed thousands more every year. Life expectancy was 40 – half of what affordable hydrocarbon, hydroelectric and nuclear power helped make it today...CNS News

Utilities and transmission managers try to head off congressional grid plans

Major utilities and grid operators are planning an expansion of the Eastern interconnection grid to handle a huge increase in renewable power, seeking to head off congressional proposals for federal grid planning. David Whiteley, a former senior executive with the North American Electric Reliability Corp. and Ameren Corp., has been brought in to head the initiative. The energy companies and organizations -- which have never before met for such a purpose -- want to show Congress that a grassroots planning approach will be more effective than creating a new, top-down planning process under close federal control, Whiteley said in an interview. "There are two philosophies. One is where one entity does it for everybody," he said. "The group agreed [instead] that interconnection-wide analysis was best handled by the regional plans already being developed, rolling them into one, and building an interconnection-wide analysis over that." The participants in the Atlanta meeting came together after two transmission expansion plans were offered in the Senate, one by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and the other by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Both would create new transmission planning processes for the Eastern and Western interconnection grids, which are divided by the Rocky Mountains...NYTimes

BLM to Offer Cash Incentives for Wild Horse Adoptions

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is hoping cash incentives will boost adoptions of wild horses and burros that would otherwise spend their lives in long-term holding facilities. Under a pilot program slated to debut at an adoption event in Kellyville, Okla., next month, the agency will pay $500 to qualified individuals who adopt BLM mustangs or burros that are four years old or older. Payments are intended to offset animal maintenance costs for one year. But adoptive owners will not receive stipends up front--BLM policy requires the agency to retain the title to adopted animals for one year. Agency inspectors currently visit adoptive homes to ensure the animals are receiving proper care, and animals adopted under the incentive program will be subject to mandatory inspections. "We want to make sure adopters don't use the program for profit," said BLM spokesman Paul McGuire. "The BLM will turn over the $500 when it transfers the title at the end of the year."...The Horse

Forty dollars a month to maintain a cayuse and turn a profit? What a laugh. BLM will spend more than $500 per animal to conduct the inspection.

Montana Fires a Warning Shot over States' Rights

Montana is trying to trigger a battle over gun control - and perhaps make a larger point about what many folks in this ruggedly independent state regard as a meddlesome federal government. In a bill passed by the Legislature earlier this month, the state is asserting that guns manufactured in Montana and sold in Montana to people who intend to keep their weapons in Montana are exempt from federal gun registration, background check and dealer-licensing rules because no state lines are crossed. That notion is all but certain to be tested in court. Still, much bigger prey lies in Montana's sights: a legal showdown over how far the federal government's regulatory authority extends. "It's a gun bill, but it's another way of demonstrating the sovereignty of the state of Montana," said Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who signed the bill...AP

Song Of The Day #031

Ira Lonnie Loudermilk (1924-1965) and Charlie Elzer Loudermilk (1927- ) were both born in Section, Alabama. Ira played the mandelin and Charlie played the guitar, Ira sang tenor and Charlie sang melody. They followed in the brother duo tradition that had been establish by the Monroe Brothers, the Blue Sky Boys (Bill & Earl Bolick) and the Delmore Brothers. The brothers changed their professional name to Louvin in 1947. They recorded for Apollo, Decca and MGM, but didn't have any big hits until they signed with Capitol in 1952. Primarily marketed as gospel artists, they had to quickly write and play secular songs when they joined The Grand Ol' Opry, because the tobacco company sponsor of the program told them, "You can't sell tobacco with gospel music." Later in their career Ira developed a bad case of alcoholism and the duo broke up in 1963. Both embarked on solo careers, with Charlie by far being the most successful with two top ten hits the first year. Ira was killed in a car wreck in 1965. In 2001, the Louvin brothers were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Three of their albums plus some bonus tracks are available on the 3 CD, 48 track Classic Album Collection which has a list price of only $16.98 or you might try the 30 track The Essential Louvin Brothers 1955-1964: My Baby's Gone.

Today's selection is their 1956 recording of "Cash On The Barrelhead."

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Obama’s green achievements at 100 days

Seventy-nine percent of Americans think President Barack Obama will do a good job protecting the country’s environment, according to the latest Gallup poll on the topic, released on Earth Day. That includes 95 percent of Democrats, 75 percent of independents and – most surprisingly— 65 percent of Republicans. At 100 days, what has he done to meet those expectations? Obama sent good signals on environmental policy early on, with the appointment of a host of advisers that has been called the “green dream team.” Perhaps the most strident appointee was Carol Browner, the Clinton-era Environmental Protection Agency head, tapped to serve as special advisor on climate and energy to the White House. Browner was seen as a tough regulator at the EPA, and by all accounts would have been more aggressive had the Clinton White House given her more latitude. She’s now charged with coordinating efforts across federal agencies and the administration, a second chance to fulfill her green dreams. She’s joined by a host of other top-ranking officials with solid green credentials: EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, Council for Environmental Quality head Nancy Sutley, and Energy Secretary Steven Chu. Two key administration figures are also taking the lead on green jobs: Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and green jobs adviser Van Jones...Grist

Cap-And-Trade: Al Gore's Cash Cow

When Gore left office in January 2001, he was said to have a net worth in the neighborhood of $2 million. A mere eight years later, estimates are that he is now worth about $100 million. It seems it's easy being green, at least for some. Gore has his lectures and speeches, his books, a hit movie and Oscar, and a Nobel Prize. But Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., was curious about how a man dedicated to saving the planet could get so wealthy so quickly. She sought out investment advice we all could use in a shaky economy. Last May, we noted that Big Al had joined the venture capital group Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers the previous September. On May 1, 2008, the firm announced a $500 million investment in maturing green technology firms called the Green Growth Fund. Last May, we also noted that on March 1, Gore, while speaking at a conference in Monterey, Calif., admitted to having "a stake" in a number of green investments that he recommended attendees put money in rather than "subprime carbon assets" such as tar sands and shale oil. He also is co-founder of Generation Investment Management, which sells carbon offsets that allow rich polluters to continue with a clear conscience. It's a scheme that will make traders of this new commodity rich and Bernie Madoff look like a pickpocket. The other founder is former Goldman Sachs partner David Blood. As Stephen Milloy, author of "Green Hell," points out, Goldman Sachs is lobbying for climate change legislation and is part owner of the Chicago Climate Exchange, where carbon credits from cap and trade would be traded...IBD

Is a Green Housing Development Too Close to Home for Robert Redford?

Robert Redford, the actor and environmental superhero, is a vocal supporter of renewable power and sustainable growth — but it seems that doesn’t include a proposal for an ecofriendly housing development in his corner of the Napa Valley. Mr. Redford managed to raise a few eyebrows recently when he joined forces with Save Rural Angwin, a group opposing the construction of an eco-village on a 63-acre swath of privately-owned land in the wine country hamlet of Angwin, Calif. “I believe that the citizens of Napa Valley, from American Canyon to Calistoga, care about preserving our beautiful agricultural and rural heritage,” Mr. Redford said, according to a published statement at the group’s Web site. “That is why I am happy to join the Advisory Council of Save Rural Angwin in its efforts to preserve this naturally carved land-basin from development.”...NYTimes

Oh no, the Sundance Kid says NIMBY.

Humans Halfway to Causing Dangerous Climate Change

When human injection of carbon into the atmosphere reaches 1 trillion tons, dangerous climate change with average global warming of more than 2 Celsius degrees will likely occur, a new analysis finds. And humans are hurrying toward that 1 trillion mark. So far, We’ve added about 520 billion tons of carbon to the atmosphere. With the addition of an estimated 9 billion tons of carbon a year — a number that’s been growing since 1850 — dangerous warming is likely to occur within half a century. That’s the message from a new paper in the journal Nature, which — along with half a dozen other papers in the issue — provides a simpler way of looking at the climate change problem. What matters is the total amount of carbon that we release into the atmosphere, and focusing on that number as a budget can shape the way policymakers look at the problem, argues Myles Allen, lead author of one of the papers and a climatologist at the University of Oxford. “The important thing about the cumulative budget is that a ton of carbon is a ton of carbon. If we release it now, it’s a ton we can’t release in 40 years’ time. Every ton we put out is using up a ton of that atmospheric capacity,” Allen told “Reducing emissions steadily over 50 years is much cheaper and easier and less traumatic than allowing them to rise for 15 years and then reducing them violently for 35 years...Wired

A battle brewing over NREPA

Two distinct sides are preparing to battle over a recurring piece of legislation that would dramatically alter land management in Wyoming and the West. On one end of the ideological spectrum are environmental groups who have introduced the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (NREPA) to Congress. The act, contained in H.R. 980 and co-sponsored by 71 house members primarily from California and states east of the Mississippi River, sets aside 24 million acres of public land in Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington as wilderness, meaning the land would be off limits to motorized vehicles, road building, mining and timber sales. In response to the act, local leaders and Wyoming’s entire congressional delegation are preparing a counter attack. They contend NREPA is nothing more than a land grab by meddling outsiders that would debilitate local economies with strict land use rules by squashing traditional recreation and industry from large tracts of public land...Initially nameless, movement ecology developed from the concept that animal species are being deprived genetic interchange by geographic isolation resulting from human encroachment. In other words, human roads, cities, railroads and subdivisions are fragmenting native animal species populations into isolated “islands” that limit their natural movement thereby shrinking the genetic pool. And that shrunken genetic pool slowly erodes the genetic viability of entire animal species. To combat it, ecologists proposed creating ecological corridors to facilitate the large-scale movement of individual animals across otherwise impassable terrain (e.g. terrain bisected by an interstate or developed into a sprawling suburban zone.) For the past 16 years, movement ecology grew in popularity, as did the concept of global warming. Now the two ideas have merged into a movement that says corridors must be established to accommodate animal movements as those creatures respond to the effects of global warming...Sublette Examiner

Branding Wilderness Lite

Last week, I wrote about options hikers and wilderness groups had to make peace with mountain bikers so the two key constituencies could work together to protect roadless land. One option was urging Congress to pass another organic act creating a true alternative land designation. But what to call it? In past commentaries, I’m used the words “Wilderness Lite” to refer to various land designations that provide almost as much protection as the “Big W” Wilderness Congress designates under the Wilderness Act of 1964. Basically, cutting to the chase, I can more precisely define “Wilderness Lite” as “Wilderness that allows mountain biking.” Creating this option preserves the holiness of the current National Wilderness Preservation System. All 107 million acres of Wilderness would not have mountain biking, nor would any new additions. But with this new organic act, in some cases, roadless land would have a congressionally mandated designation that preserves wilderness qualities but allows mountain biking. In many cases, I suspect legislation might include some of each. Wilderness Lite might also allow other acceptable “mechanized” advancements like various climbing equipment, game carts, scouting cameras, chainsaws, hang gliders, and strollers, but the main issue is bicycles...New West

People For Preserving Our Western Heritage has been working on an alternative to wilderness for the last three years. Mr. Schneider and others interested in this issue should check it out.

Ruling should help protect Western lands, groups say

Environmental groups say a federal appeals court decision in a New Mexico case this week should aid in efforts to protect other Western public lands from energy development, including the Roan Plateau in Colorado. “We think in particular it will have important implications for the Roan Plateau case,” said Michael Freeman, an attorney for Earthjustice. Freeman is helping represent environmental groups in a lawsuit challenging the Bureau of Land Management’s leasing of the Roan Plateau, northwest of Rifle, last year for oil and gas development. On Tuesday, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district court’s decisions on issues surrounding the appropriateness of oil and gas development on Otero Mesa in New Mexico. It said the BLM had to consider leaving Otero Mesa undeveloped under the agency’s multiple-use mandate.Environmental groups including the Wilderness Society had sued over the BLM’s Otero Mesa management plan, as had the state of New Mexico. Said Freeman, “We don’t see how the Roan Plateau case should come out any different from Otero Mesa’s in light of the 10th Circuit’s direction here.”...Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

Green Agenda May Shift Farm Policy

Democratic Party control of the House of Representatives, Senate and White House means that action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is likely--perhaps as early as this year. Agricultural producers and agribusinesses are concerned about the impact of new regulations on their industry, because it appears increasingly unlikely that it will be exempt from new rules. However, instead of resisting climate change reforms, many agricultural lobby groups have shifted their emphasis to a pro-active examination of how to position the sector to benefit from climate change legislation. The farm sector's new approach has been given a boost by Secretary of Agriculture (and former Iowa governor) Tom Vilsack, who has suggested that agriculture would be wise to agree to the tying of "direct payments" (federal cash subsidies) to climate change mitigation efforts. At present, these direct payments lack any rationale other than maintaining income flows to producers of a handful of crops. Although the idea has not yet attracted much visible support from the agricultural community, the underlying message has been absorbed...Forbes

Residents say Gov. Otter has abandoned rural Idaho

Gov. Butch Otter spent six hours Tuesday fending off accusations he's abandoned rural Idaho and surrendered state sovereignty to the U.S. government. Doris Baker told Otter that she saw him on TV vetoing bills last week and found him wanting. "If I had been your mother, I would have come up there and spanked your little butt," said the retiree from Indian Valley. "You say that you're for the people of this state, then you better start showing it and don't let the Forest Service and these environmental groups tell us what to do." Otter escaped Boise on the Legislature's 107th day for the friendly confines of Washington County, where he got 64 percent of the vote in 2006 - 11 points above his statewide mark. But he found no respite from a session of grief at his 26th Capitol for a Day event. Instead, he spent the day defending his reputation as a champion of states' rights. At issue was his veto Saturday of a bill that would have required the state to kill or remove bighorn sheep that wander onto federal lands grazed by domestic sheep. Otter is working on a new bill that passed the Senate Tuesday and promised to do everything he can to protect grazing on public lands. "The gas tax is not the most pressing issue, because if these guys can't put their animals to pasture, they're not buying gas," said Midvale Mayor Ed Meyer. "They'll lose the farm." Ron Shirts of Weiser, a third-generation sheep rancher whose grazing allotments in Hells Canyon are at risk because the Forest Service wants to separate his sheep from disease-prone bighorns, also confronted Otter. After Otter, Shirts was the star of the day, supported by most of the 60 people in the room and pickets outside. "I'm damn mad," Shirts said. "I'm getting my head cut off right now." Shirts said he'll be forced to unload his sheep for what it costs to haul them to slaughter if the issue isn't resolved soon. "We draw a line in the sand and we tell the federal government and these environmental agencies we're not taking it any more," Shirts urged, winning hearty applause...Idaho Statesman

House panel approves bill to ban slaughter of wild horses

A key House panel approved legislation Wednesday that would bar federal officials from slaughtering healthy wild horses and burros. Bureau of Land Management officials have raised the possibility of killing as many as 30,000 wild mustangs they can no longer afford to house in holding facilities after removing them from land that cannot sustain the growing herds. But Democratic leaders of the House Natural Resources Committee said sterilization of herd members and an expanded adoption program are more humane options. The bill by committee Chairman Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., and Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., would step up fertility control measures, encourage more adoptions of the animals and provide the more than 60,000 wild horses and burros under federal control with as much as 19 million additional acres on which to roam freely. The bill would allow the federal government to buy and exchange land and enter into cooperative agreements with private groups that want to establish wild-horse sanctuaries on private land. Grijalva said the bill provides for federal officials to preserve the health of the entire ecosystem, not just the horses...Gannett

Song Of The Day #030

William Orville "Lefty" Frizzell was born in Corsicana, Texas, in 1928, a son of an oiler; he was the first of eight children. He started performing as a teenager, and played on radio shows and in nightclubs. In 1950 he cut some demos which resulted in a record contract with Columbia. His first release, "If You've Got The Money I've Got The Time" was a big hit going to #1 on the charts. Even the B side, "I Love You A Thousand Ways" became a #1 hit. In 1951 Frizzell had 4 songs in the top 10 at the same time, a record that's never been broken. Frizzell developed an alcohol problem, had a scattering of hits in the sixties, and died of a stroke in 1975. He had an enormous influence on artists like George Jones and Merle Haggard, and has been inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame and the Songwriter's Hall Of Fame.

Today's selection is one of his early recordings, "My Baby's Just Like Money." There's plenty Frizzell music still available. A good, reasonably priced collection of his fifties music is the 29 track A Proper Introduction to Lefty Frizzell: Shine Shave Shower

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

BLM, Forest Service sued over air pollution

Environmentalists are taking aim again at the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, accusing the agencies in a lawsuit of failing to curb air pollution in the San Juan Basin - 1 of the largest natural gas fields in the nation. WildEarth Guardians, Dine CARE and Carson Forest Watch sued Wednesday in federal court. The lawsuit is the latest in a string of protests and complaints filed over the past year over the impacts of emissions from energy development in the region. The lawsuit targets the BLM's decision to lease 28,510 acres through three lease auctions in 2008. The groups contend the decision could lead to development of 712 new wells with no safeguards. It also targets the Forest Service's decision to authorize drilling in the Jicarilla Ranger District. AP

Van Hollen: Climate bill could wait

The House may not vote on a climate change bill this year, according to a high-ranking Democratic leader. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) told The Hill on Monday that leaders could opt not to bring a climate measure to the floor if the bill has little chance of passing the Senate. Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), had previously indicated they would pass a climate bill through the House by the August congressional recess. The competing allegiances of Van Hollen — charged with leading Democrats into what is arguably their most challenging election cycle since 1994 and serving as a policy hand to Pelosi — were on display during his interview with The Hill. Van Hollen, 50, became the highest-ranking House Democrat to say that even if an agreement is reached, the House may not vote on a cap-and-trade bill if the bill appears to have little hope of clearing the upper chamber. “The first thing we need to do is see whether we can come together around a consensus position in the committees in the House, and that’s what we’re working on. And then, of course, if we were able to arrive at that, the question is whether you would take it to the floor, or do you wait to see if anything develops on the Senate side,” Van Hollen said...The Hill

Why don't they want their House members to vote on it? I thought it was so popular.

Specter's switch likely to have limited impact on energy, climate bills

Sen. Arlen Specter's party switch sent shockwaves across Washington yesterday, but it appears unlikely to significantly alter the prospects for President Obama's agenda on energy, climate change and other major legislation. As for the calculus on one of the biggest legislative and political battles facing the Senate -- climate change -- it does not appear much of anything has changed. "It does not change that," Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said of the prospects for climate change legislation. "I don't think climate change is a matter of party. It is really more a matter of region. So I don't think it changes that much." As a senator from Pennsylvania, Specter represents a state that has a heavy manufacturing base and still leans on coal for a significant number of jobs -- though less so than in the past...NYTimes

Sins Of Emission

The public has grown skeptical of the global warming threat. Polls show a growing number of Americans think the risks are inflated and consider many other issues to be in greater need of attention. Pew Research found that the public ranks global warming dead last out of 20 concerns facing the country. Congressional Democrats, who want to pass a climate change bill this year that will limit carbon dioxide emissions, are running into resistance in the Senate — where they'll soon have a 60-seat, filibuster-proof majority with the defection of Arlen Specter from the Republican Party to the Democrats. Passing an economy-crippling climate bill, be it based on a cap-and-trade scheme or a carbon tax, will be an easier task in the House. In addition to the 256 Democrats in that chamber, enough of the 178 GOP members want to appease trendy nonthinkers and radical environmental groups to pass the legislation with a large margin. Sweeteners thrown to undecideds by Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Energy Committee that's responsible for writing the bill, almost guarantee passage. The Senate, though, is likely to be less accommodating...IBD

Salazar and Locke Restore Scientific Consultations under the Endangered Species Act to Protect Species and their Habitats

Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced that the two departments are revoking an eleventh-hour Bush administration rule that undermined Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections. Their decision requires federal agencies to once again consult with federal wildlife experts at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – the two agencies that administer the ESA – before taking any action that may affect threatened or endangered species. In March, President Obama directed the Secretaries to review the previous Administration’s Section 7 regulation of the ESA – which governs interagency consultation – and Congress, in the 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act, specifically authorized the Secretaries to revoke the regulation. Locke and Salazar said the two departments will conduct a joint review of the 1986 consultation regulations to determine if any improvements should be proposed...DOI

Top Lawmaker Wants Mileage-Based Tax on Vehicles

A House committee chairman said Tuesday that he wants Congress to enact a mileage-based tax on cars and trucks to pay for highway programs now rather than wait years to test the idea. Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., said he believes the technology exists to implement a mileage tax. He said he sees no point in waiting years for the results of pilot programs since such a tax system is inevitable as federal gasoline tax revenues decline. Oberstar is drafting a six-year transportation bill to fund highway and transit programs that is expected to total around a half trillion dollars. A congressionally mandated commission on transportation financing alternatives recommended switching to a vehicle-miles traveled tax, but estimated it would take a decade to put a national system in place. "I think it can be done in far less than that, maybe two years," Oberstar said at a House hearing. The tax would entail equipping vehicles with GPS technology to determine how many miles a car has been driven and whether on interstate highways or secondary roads. The devices would also calculate the amount of tax owed...AP

This type of tax would dixcriminate against The West and rural folks who drive long distances.

"Eminent Domain Through the Back Door"

What is happening in the cradle of the modern civil rights movement? Jimmy McCall would like to know. "It was more my dream house," he laments, "and the city tore it down... It reminds me of how they used to mistreat black people in the Old South." In 1955, Rosa Parks took on the whole system of Jim Crow by refusing to give up her seat on a segregated Montgomery bus. Today, McCall is waging a lonely battle against the same city government for another civil right: the freedom to build a home on his own land. Though McCall's ambitions are modest, he is exceptionally determined. For years, he has scraped together a living by salvaging rare materials from historic homes and then selling them to private builders. Sometimes months went by before he had a client. Finally, he had put aside enough to purchase two acres in Montgomery and started to build. He did the work himself using materials accumulated in his business including a supply of sturdy and extremely rare longleaf pine. But from the outset, the city showed unremitting hostility. He has almost lost count of the roadblocks it threw up including a citation for keeping the necessary building materials on his own land during the construction process. More seriously, he was charged under the state blight law, which allows a municipality to designate a building as a "public nuisance" and then demolish it. Critics have accurately called this "eminent domain through the back door" and warn that opportunities for abuse are almost limitless. In contrast to the standard eminent domain process, for example, property owners do not have any right to compensation, even in theory. The reaction of Montgomery's city fathers seemed strange to McCall. Wasn't he trying to fight blight by building a new home? McCall suspects that wealthy developers were trying to get their hands on the property: a rare two-acre parcel on a major thoroughfare. Unlike countless others in similar straits, McCall fought back and hired an experienced local lawyer. In the middle of last year, he negotiated a court-enforced agreement, which gave him 18 months to complete the home. Only a month after the agreement took effect, the city demolished the structure. Local bureaucrats, obviously in a hurry to tear it down, did not even give him notice. The bulldozers came in the same day as the court order that authorized them...Reason

Forest mulls changes to N. Idaho grazing allotment

Officials with the Nez Perce National Forest say they will consider modifying or ending domestic sheep grazing on a tract of public land east of Riggins. Forest officials said Monday they will write a new environmental impact statement to determine if domestic sheep grazing poses a threat to native bighorn sheep on the north side of the Salmon River canyon. Sheep grazing on the so-called Allison-Berg grazing allotment has been banned since 2007 when a federal judge ruled domestic sheep put wild bighorns at risk of contracting a deadly respiratory disease. A sheep grazing plan was approved for the 40,000-acre tract in 1996. But at the time, forest officials didn't believe native bighorns roamed the area. But forest officials say conditions have changed and it's time to do a full environmental review...AP

Idaho Senate OKs new bill to help resolve sheep conflict

The Senate passed a new bill to help remedy conflicts between wild bighorn sheep and their domestic brethren after Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter vetoed an earlier bill he said shortchanged domestic sheep and wildlife. Tuesday's vote was 26-8. The measure now goes to the House. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game must develop a plan to keep bighorns away from domestic sheep within 120 days, if the measure becomes law. Sen. Jeff Siddoway, the measure's sponsor and a sheep rancher, says he hopes this will help douse a brewing fight in the Hell's Canyon area of western Idaho, where federal agencies could shutter public grazing allotments on concern domestic sheep pass deadly illnesses to bighorns. Area ranchers are on guard, fearing for their livelihoods. Siddoway, a Terreton Republican, says, "The big horns certainly are valuable, but the domestic sheep industry is worth saving, too."...AP

Protecting frog could cost $1.83 Billion

Protecting the California red-legged frog, enshrined in literature by Mark Twain’s “Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” could mean costs ranging from $44.8 million to $125 million or even as much as $1.83 billion, according to a report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The FWS on Tuesday re-opened the public comment period on a proposal made last September to designate 1.8 million acres as critical habitat for the threatened California red-legged frog (“a frog so modest and straightforward,” as Mr. Twain described.) The new 30-day comment period coincides with the release of the estimate of possible economic impacts from designating critical habitat. The economic analysis looks at the range of incremental costs linked to the critical habitat designation. The direct incremental impacts include up to $44.8 million through 2030 to protect the frogs and their habitat in new developments. Delays due to further consultations with the FWS could cost up to $126 million through 2030, according to the analysis prepared for FWS under contract by Industrial Economics Inc. of Cambridge, Mass. The economic analysis says costs of protecting the frog unrelated to the designation of critical habitat could be up to $1.83 billion...CVBT

A solution to overgrazing

In the 1990s, ranchers and environmentalists in the west were at each others’ throats. For decades, the ranchers had been granted permits by the federal government to graze cattle beyond their property lines so they could raise enough steers to make ends meet. But the Western grasslands are a brittle environment, and after years of overgrazing the land was showing signs of stress: Grasslands were turning into deserts, invasive plants were moving in from Mexico, and crucial topsoil was eroding. On some ranches, fences could be seen floating in the air over gullies ten feet deep. Environmentalists blamed the cattle and went after ranchers with lawsuits, legislation, and sometimes even violent action to stop the grazing on public lands. In one instance, two young ranchers refused to follow new limits on the number of cattle they could graze in the federal areas. Environmentalists pounced, and eventually the men lost both their permit and their land. To archeologist and Sierra Club member Courtney White, the battle was a tragedy, as he writes in his book Revolution on the Range. “Nothing had been gained—lives had been ruined not enriched; land had been abandoned, instead of stewarded properly; bad blood had been created, instead of hope; anger ruled, not joy.” White decided to take action. With rancher Jim Winder, he founded the Quivira Coalition, an organization named after the designation for unexplored territory of the Southwest on Spanish colonial maps. The organization works to make peace between ranchers and environmentalists, while also working to improve Western grasslands. White dubs the harmony between ranchers, environmentalists, and the land as the “New Ranch,” and over the past ten years, the group has made seen signs of hope in efforts to transform the range...MNN

Plum Creek closes Montana mills

Yet another sawmill is closing and two more are on the chopping block as Plum Creek Timber Co. continues to stagger beneath a collapsing real estate market. “It really is getting rougher and rougher,” said company spokeswoman Kathy Budinick. “We're working hard to manage the situation, but there's not much good news.” The bad news Monday: Plum Creek will close its Pablo sawmill in 60 days, and may do the same at mills in Evergreen and Columbia Falls. Combined, the mills employ nearly 300 people. In March, the company permanently closed its Ksanka sawmill, shedding the last 90 jobs there. That Eureka-area mill will be dismantled, Budinick said, and its equipment sold at auction. Now, Plum Creek has announced it will permanently shut down its sawmill in Pablo. Budinick said it's possible another operator will be found to run the mill; otherwise, it will be dismantled and auctioned...Missoulian

Environmental Economics

I consider myself an "anthropocentric environmentalist," which is a fancy way of saying that I care about environmental issues because I care about human flourishing. This doesn't come at the expense of economic reasoning, though, and economics leads us to surprising and often counterintuitive conclusions. Economics shows how appearances can be deceiving, and I find a lot of environmental initiatives are like rotten Granny Smith apples: They're green on the outside, but they're brown on the inside. Here's how and why. Private property is essential to a well-functioning social system because it allows that system to generate prices. Prices provide the crucial information people need to make rational decisions, but prices do not mediate all environmental conflicts because some things are not owned. When resources are not owned and therefore outside the price system, the information we would need to evaluate the costs and benefits of different environmental initiatives literally does not exist. I stress that it is not just that environmental issues are difficult or complex. The problem is that--given the absence of prices, profits and losses--we do not have the information we need to articulate what responsible environmental stewardship would mean, much less exercise it. Endless debates about land use illustrate this principle. Development is opposed by people saying that we owe it to our children to conserve our precious natural resources, but University of Rochester economist Steven Landsburg asks the right question. Who are we to say that our children will prefer an old-growth forest to the income produced by a parking lot or high rise?...Forbes

Easement Protects Salmon River Tributary

A 300-acre conservation easement along Carmen Creek, a tributary of the Salmon River, protects a working ranch and important wildlife habitat, including stream habitat for Chinook salmon and steelhead trout. The Nature Conservancy purchased the conservation easement and will transfer it to the Lemhi Regional Land Trust, a local organization that provides incentives and options for ranch owners to preserve their agricultural lifestyles. The easement property is owned by Tom McFarland, a third-generation rancher in the area. The McFarlands will continue to own and operate the property as a working ranch. “If we truly want to keep what’s good about this valley, we need to keep the small, local landowners on the land,” says McFarland. The conservation easement was made possible by both private and public grants. A grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation provided funding through a program to support protection for ecologically important lands identified in state conservation plans. A grant from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service provided important funding through the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program. Additional private grant funding was provided by the Page Foundation...Nature Conservancy

Getting Real on Wind and Solar

Why are we ignoring things we know? We know that the sun doesn't always shine and that the wind doesn't always blow. That means that solar cells and wind energy systems don't always provide electric power. Nevertheless, solar and wind energy seem to have captured the public's support as potentially being the primary or total answer to our electric power needs. Solar cells and wind turbines are appealing because they are "renewables" with promising implications and because they emit no carbon dioxide during operation, which is certainly a plus. But because both are intermittent electric power generators, they cannot produce electricity "on demand," something that the public requires. We expect the lights to go on when we flip a switch, and we do not expect our computers to shut down as nature dictates. Solar and wind electricity are available only part of the time that consumers demand power. Solar cells produce no electric power at night, and clouds greatly reduce their output. The wind doesn't blow at a constant rate, and sometimes it does not blow at all...WPost

The next great hunt

On a cold, sunny day on the treeless plains of north-central Montana, hunters close in on their prey. Several bison and their calves watch nervously as a pickup truck slowly circles them, a rifle pointed out of the passenger window. A shot rings out, and a few minutes later, a young bison calf plops down on the ground, grunting and squirming. The hunting party—a team of biologists—moves in, warily eyeing the larger bison, eager to get a blood sample and move away from the agitated creatures. Once they fill a giant plastic syringe, they give the calf a shot, and it stands up on wobbly legs and staggers back to the herd. Welcome to the American Prairie Foundation preserve, the front lines of the efforts to save America’s bison and restore a large swath of the North American Great Plains. The bison is often heralded as the nation’s first and greatest conservation victory—in the last century the population grew from fewer than 1,000 to half a million—but the story is not that simple. In the late 1990s, James Derr, a geneticist at Texas A&M, discovered that most of the roughly 500,000 bison in North America have a tiny amount of cattle DNA mixed into their genome—the consequence of ranchers crossbreeding bison and cattle a century ago. The revelation that all but 10,000 bison are hybrids shook the conservation community. In 2004, the American Prairie Foundation learned that their bison, which today number 45, are among the few that are pure. Others haven’t been as lucky. When Derr’s discovery came to light, scientists realized that conservation efforts then underway wouldn’t ensure the survival of genetically pure bison. Extinction is still a threat...MNN

US appeals court sides with NM in Otero Mesa fight

The Bureau of Land Management failed to comply with federal law in developing a plan for managing oil and natural gas development on southern New Mexico's Otero Mesa. That's the ruling today by a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Court of Appeals in Denver. The judges say the BLM skirted the National Environmental Protection Act by not considering an alternative that would have put the mesa off limits to drilling and by not analyzing all of the likely impacts of the agency's chosen alternative. The BLM says it's reviewing the panel's decision. The panel says Otero Mesa is the largest publicly owned expanse of undisturbed Chihuahuan Desert grassland in the United States. It has become a battleground for environmentalists, state officials and the oil and gas industry...AP

Same Cow, No Matter How You Slice It?

ON a stainless steel table in the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association test kitchen, a meat scientist named Bridget Wasser began dissecting a piece of beef shoulder as big as a couch cushion. Her knife danced between long, thick muscles, then she flipped the whole thing open like book. After a tug and one final slice, she set before her visitor the Denver steak. The three-quarter-inch-thick cut is an inexpensive, distant cousin of the New York strip. And it didn’t exist until the nation’s 800,000 cattle ranchers began a radical search for cuts of meat that consumers would buy besides steaks and ground beef. The idea was simple. Dig around in the carcass and find muscles that, when separated and sliced in a certain way, were tender and tasty enough to be sold as a steak or a roast. “People know how to cook steaks,” said Dave Zino, executive director of the cattlemen’s Beef and Veal Culinary Center. The Denver was invented after meat and marketing experts spent more than $1.5 million and five years on the largest study anyone had ever done on the edible anatomy of a steer. The point was to increase the $15.5 billion a year that people spend at the supermarket buying beef. The association thinks consumers may pay $5.99 a pound for a Denver steak. As ground beef, it’s about $2.99...NYTimes

Song Of The Day #029

Running out of time, so here's some early Hank Thompson, "Cryin' In The Deep Blue Sea." His music is widely available, a good start would be his Vintage collection.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Interior sends revised endangered species rule to OMB

The Interior Department is proceeding with a final rule revamping changes that the Bush administration made to Endangered Species Act regulations in its final months. The department sent a final rule on ESA consultations to the White House Office of Management and Budget yesterday, OMB said. The move suggests Interior will use authority given it by Congress in a recent spending bill to fast-track the regulatory rewrite without going through the normal full review process. At issue is the Bush administration's revision of a rule that required federal agencies to consult with Fish and Wildlife Service biologists before undertaking actions that might threaten a protected species. The Bush rule made biological consultations optional, allowing agencies to proceed with projects if they maintained there would be little threat to a species...NYTimes

The Bushies and the R's waited until the last minute for revisions to various environmental regs, and now they're getting their ass kicked.

If these revisions had been implemented early on, we would have 6+ years of data and experience to evaluate their effectiveness. That, however, would have taken brains and balls they apparently didn't possess.

Groups want Snake River dam removal on Obama's table

The Sierra Club and six other big environmental groups are asking the Obama administration to consider major changes to federal dam management on the Columbia and Snake rivers, "up to and including removal of the four lower Snake River dams." The letter, addressed to Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, is signed by the leaders of American Rivers, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, the Endangered Species Coalition, Friends of the Earth, National Wildlife Federation, and the Sierra Club...The Oregonian

Global Warming Overreach

Congressman Henry Waxman played to the crowds this week with high-profile hearings designed to boost his climate legislation. To listen to the Energy and Commerce committee chair, a House global warming bill is all but in the recyclable bag. To listen to Congressman Jim Matheson is something else. During opening statements, the Utah Democrat detailed 14 big problems he had with the bill, and told me later that if he hadn't been limited to five minutes, "I might have had more." Mr. Matheson is one of about 10 moderate committee Democrats who are less than thrilled with the Waxman climate extravaganza, and who may yet stymie one of Barack Obama's signature issues. If so, the president can thank Democratic liberals, who are engaging in one of their first big cases of overreach. Not that you couldn't see this coming even last year, when Speaker Nancy Pelosi engineered her coup against former Energy chairman John Dingell. House greens had been boiling over the Michigan veteran's cautious approach to climate-legislation...WSJ

Votes on wildlife funds illustrate struggle Obama faces over spending

As President Barack Obama last week pushed his new campaign to cut government spending by $100 million, the House of Representatives authorized $50 million to help protect cranes, snow leopards, wild African dogs and other endangered species. Critics called last week's votes symbols of Democratic budget hypocrisy. "With federal spending, bank failures and home foreclosures reaching historic levels," asked Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, "is it really appropriate to spend our constituents' hard-earned money to conserve an African wild dog, an Ethiopian wolf or a Borneo bay cat?" Sure, said Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash. He called the effort "a very, very modest step to try to preserve these endangered species that, in fact, are threatened and are listed on international lists." The House overwhelmingly passed "The Great Cats and Rare Canids Act" and the "Crane Conservation Act." Each would authorize $5 million annually from fiscal 2010 to 2014 to help preserve the species. The debate captured in miniature the struggle that Obama faces as he tries to trim anything in the federal budget. Every line, it seems, has a congressional champion and an army of special interests; for instance, more than 80 conservation, sportsmen and hunting organizations backed the cats act...McClatchy

Learning from Macho B – Jaguars can thrive in Arizona if we act now

The death of the jaguar Macho B has left an enormous void in Arizona's wild lands, but another jaguar may be moving in to fill that void. Large cats cover large areas, and when one departs, another often takes up residence. The loss of this jaguar is a tragedy - one that must not be repeated. The Sky Island Alliance calls on state and federal agencies, other environmental conservation groups, and our fellow scientists and citizens to work together to preserve jaguars and to avoid a repeat of the Macho B tragedy. Specifically, we call for: • Withdrawal of the non-binding Jaguar Conservation Assessment document drafted by the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Recently, the U.S. District Court ruled that jaguars deserve the full protection of the Endangered Species Act. A real Recovery Plan makes the assessment document irrelevant and insufficient. • Prompt creation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of a true and effective recovery plan for jaguars and a jaguar recovery team that includes full and meaningful participation of conservation organizations and scientists. • Dissolution of the Arizona-New Mexico Jaguar Conservation Team, which for the past decade has failed to include all stakeholders (non-agency scientists, conservation groups, landowners), has failed to make progress on many of its goals, and has failed to improve conservation of jaguars. • Accelerated preservation of jaguar habitat. Macho B has shown us what good habitat looks like, and scientists have modeled where good habitat likely exists; the time is now to preserve that habitat...Tucson Citizen

Worker in jaguar capture cited earlier

The biologist at the center of the controversy over the capture of a jaguar in Southern Arizona once was fired from a wildlife research job after being cited for hunting with another person's license. A Montana game warden cited Emil McCain in 2001 after he killed a deer, then used another person's tag on it. McCain, then 23, paid a $200 fine and did not fight the citation. McCain's supervisor on a mountain-lion research project in Yellowstone National Park subsequently fired McCain because of the violation. "We were working in a national park, and my project was on the up-and-up," said Toni Ruth, the wildlife biologist who led the study. "I didn't want any question about how we were operating and who was working on the project."
McCain's citation and firing is significant now because his credibility is key to two investigations being carried out by the Arizona Attorney General's Office and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The investigations center on the Feb. 18 capture of Macho B, the only wild jaguar known to be living in the United States, and his death by euthanization March 2...Arizona Daily Star

Growing the green generation

As environmental conversation becomes part of elementary school curriculum, it seems more and more kids are going green. To inform young readers about wildlife conservation and endangered species preservation, author Jeanne McNaney presents her debut book, “The Legend of Honey Hollow.” The story is intended to teach children about the different endangered bears of the world and importance of community, sharing and trust. McNaney introduces young readers to Grendel, a polar bear, who along with the other bears of Honey Hollow, illustrates how significant it is for children to grow up in a healthy world. “I hope ‘The Legend of Honey Hollow’ will bring environmental awareness to a younger generation,” said McNaney. “We must teach our kids how to keep a clean and safe world as they are the planet’s future.” For more information, visit

Parks eye federal funds for wider pastures

Conservationists who for years have struggled to win federal funding for new or expanded parks suddenly are seeing green, even in these lean budgetary times. President Obama has proposed spending $420 million next year to buy land for national parks, forests and wildlife refuges, and to help states fund parks and recreation projects. That is more than double the amount Congress provided for 2009. What's more, Obama has called for boosting the annual pot of money to $900 million within five years -- a level that has been reached only once, during the President Clinton years, since President Johnson signed the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act in 1964. Environmentalists are drawing up wish lists for enlarging parks and wildlife habitats nationwide, including the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge on the coast of Maine and Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington state...LATimes

Tribes look to Obama for protection of sacred peaks

The Navajo Nation Council has given its approval for the Nation’s attorneys and leaders to meet with the Obama administration in hopes of working out a settlement to protect the sacred San Francisco Peaks from desecration. The Nation is seeking an expedited meeting prior to May 8, when the U.S. Solicitor General’s response brief is due to the U.S. Supreme Court. In “Navajo Nation v. United States Forest Service,” the Nation and three other tribes challenged the Forest Service’s approval of an expansion of the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort on the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The expansion included using reclaimed sewer water to make artificial snow, which in the view of Indian religious practitioners, desecrates the mountain. In 2008, the 9th Circuit, in an en banc decision, held that the Forest Service’s approval did not violate the tribes religious freedom because the proposal does not place a substantial burden on their exercise of religion by forcing them to act contrary to their religion under the threat of a legal penalty or choose between their religion and the receipt of a government benefit...Gallup Independent

U.S. House committee to hear bill on May 5 closing 24 million acres to OHV riding

The U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources will hold a hearing on May 5 to consider a bill that would designate more than 24 million acres of public lands in western states as Wilderness or Wilderness Preservation System land. If approved by the full Congress, the measure would close off more than 24 million acres in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming to off-highway vehicle (OHV) riders, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) reports. This is equivalent to a land grab the size of the state of Indiana. Even though H.R. 980 -- The Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act -- only affects western states, Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York City introduced it. "This is one of the biggest OHV land grabs in our nation's history," said AMA Vice President of Government Relations Ed Moreland. "Even more disconcerting than the fact that the bill is being proposed by a representative from a densely populated urban area, New York City, is that the bill is being considered without the support of a single member of Congress who represents the affected districts. Shouldn't the people who live in these areas have some say in whether or not they should be banned from riding in it?...Off-Road

Cement Makers Decry Emissions Rules

Cement industry representatives say that proposed federal air emissions regulations announced last week will lead to closure of American plants and outsourcing of cement production to countries with lax environmental regulations. Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency announced proposed rule changes that would require significant reductions in emissions from cement plants. The new rules call for an 81 percent reduction in mercury by 2013, as well as steep cuts in sulfur dioxide, particulates and other pollutants. According to the E.P.A., cement kilns are the fourth-largest source of atmospheric mercury. Reducing emissions from the nation’s cement plants will prevent between 620 and 1,600 deaths a year (PDF), and reduce health costs by between $4.4 billion and $11 billion (PDF), according to separate E.P.A. reports. The agency, which will be hearing public comments on the proposed rules for 60 days, estimates that meeting the new standards will cost the cement industry between $222 million and $684 million...NYTimes

Judge halts further water cuts

A federal judge on Monday rejected a request to cancel or renegotiate more than three dozen Sacramento River water contracts that environmentalists claimed were drawn up using flawed information. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger appears to keep in place the Central Valley's intricately woven water system -- and to spare agricultural users north and south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta from potentially losing even more water. Trent Orr, an attorney for environmental group Earthjustice, said it appears that water amounts outlined in the Sacramento River users contracts will be "there in perpetuity. We just don't think that's right." Westlands Water District spokeswoman Sarah Woolf said it was "nice to see [environmentalists] simply didn't win one." Wanger's ruling involves one of the last outstanding issues in a federal lawsuit involving the endangered delta smelt...Fresno Bee

EPA Edict Stirs Debate About Rural Emissions

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued its proposed finding that greenhouse gases may be an endangerment to public health. Since that report was released April 17, the atmosphere has definitely heated up in the debate over which emissions should be regulated and how it should be done. This declaration could set the stage for tighter regulations on vehicles, power plants, factories and — according to Sen. John Thune, (R-S.D.) and some farm organization leaders — cattle. The EPA estimates that U.S. cattle emit about 5.5 million metric tons of methane per year into the atmosphere, accounting for 20 percent of U.S. methane emissions. According to Thune, the EPA’s new declaration could set the government down a “slippery slope” toward a permit process for methane emissions of cattle and other livestock. The permit process, which is actually a cap-and-trade system, according to Thune, would amount to a “cow tax.” A cap-and-trade system sets an emissions limit — or cap- for each emitter or company. The emitter must have an “emissions permit” for every ton of carbon dioxide it releases into the atmosphere. These permits set an enforceable cap on the amount of pollution it is allowed to emit. Over time, the limits become stricter, allowing less and less pollution, until the ultimate reduction goal is met.On Friday, Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) co-sponsored legislation designed to protect the U.S. livestock industry from any future “cow tax” arising from livestock emissions. Johanns wants the Clean Air Act amended to preclude regulation of “naturally occurring” livestock emissions...Press & Dakotan

EPA seeks remand of Navajo power plant permit

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday asked an appeals board to allow the agency to reconsider an air permit issued last year for a planned coal-fired power plant on the Navajo Nation in northwestern New Mexico. Regional EPA officials want to reconsider the parts of the permit for the $3 billion Desert Rock Energy Project that were appealed by the state of New Mexico and environmentalists who were concerned about air quality, carbon dioxide emissions and violations of the Endangered Species Act. EPA spokesman Darrin Swartz-Larson said Monday it was unclear when the Environmental Appeals Board will rule on the EPA's request, but environmentalists were already hailing the agency's motion as a big roadblock for Desert Rock. ''It's still our position that the project should not be built,'' said Nick Persampieri, an attorney with Earthjustice, which represents a coalition of environmental groups. ''There's no demonstrated need for the project and we are hopeful that the final outcome will be that the project will not be built.'' The tribe's Dine Power Authority and Houston-based Sithe Global LLC have partnered to build the 1,500-megawatt power plant on the Navajo reservation south of Farmington...AP

NM cavers set sights on Snowy River trek

Saturday marked the beginning of the season's first expedition into the uncharted depths of a cave in southern New Mexico that is home to Snowy River - believed to be the longest continuous calcite formation in the world. More than four miles long, the Snowy River passage is becoming more of a challenge as the cavers push their limits, crawling on their bellies and trudging through sticky mud in some spots all while keeping sane enough to record scientific history. Fort Stanton and Snowy River are now part of a national conservation area that was designated last month with President Barack Obama's signature of a massive public lands bill that set aside millions of acres as wilderness, conservation areas and monuments. Goodbar says the BLM and the scientists studying Snowy River are hopeful the designation will mean more funding to continue exploring the cave system, which has already produced some intriguing microorganisms and raised plenty of questions about the region's hydrology...Lubbock A-J

Song Of The Day #028

Elton Britt (1913-1972) was born in Zack, Arkansas and bought his first guitar when he was ten. Like many in his era, he started out by imitating Jimmie Rodgers. In 1930 he replaced Hugh Ashley in the Beverly Hill Billies. He made his first solo recording in 1934, and recorded for RCA from 1937-1956. His biggest hit was the 1942 "There's A Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere" which sold an estimated 4 million copies and got him an invite to the White House from FDR.

There is plenty of Elton Britt's music available, such as The RCA Years , Ridin' With Elton, and Country Music's Yodelling Cowboy Crooner

Today's selection is his 1948 recording of "Chime Bells." He had recorded two earlier versions, but I believe this one best showcases his outstanding yodelling.

Monday, April 27, 2009

RFK Jr. Blasts Obama as 'Indentured Servant' to Coal Industry

"Clean coal is a dirty lie," says environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who calls President Barack Obama and other politicians who commit taxpayer money to develop it "indentured servants" of the coal industry. Despite a series of expensive false starts and failures, President Obama proposed $3.4 billion in stimulus legislation to fund continued research on "clean coal" projects. "Clean coal is like healthy cigarettes, it does not exist," says former Vice President Al Gore. The coal industry has been running a multi-million dollar advertising blitz to promote the theory that coal can be made clean, using one of Obama's campaign speeches in its television commercials...ABC News

Public lands coalition plans to 'Take Back Utah'

The dust may have settled from the Obama-inspired tea party last week, but get ready for the next storm of rallying cries to sweep Utah's capital city. Call it Sagebrush Rebellion Two. Representatives from a variety of groups met Monday to plan the "Take Back Utah" Rally, a protest over federal rules, regulations, policies, laws and practices that critics say unfairly strip Utahns of their rights of access to public lands. While dormant for several years, the Utah Public Lands Multiple Use Coalition has been reinvigorated by necessity driven by dismay over several key decisions made by newly-named Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. "I really believe the federal government has lost its way," said Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, who had a seat at Monday's planning meeting. "It's critical we have our voices heard with so much of our land locked up in a management system full of roadblocks, additional bureaucracy and impediments to prudent development policies." Coalition member groups include the Utah Farm Bureau Federation, the Utah Wool Growers Association, the Utah Shared Access Alliance and the Utah Rural Electric Association. Randy Parker, the farm bureau's chief executive officer, said the ultimate goal of the coalition is to ensure greater self determination for Utah. "Utah is at a disadvantage because so much of our land is controlled by the federal government. We are subject to the political whims of the (presidential) administration and Congress." Organizers say they expect 10,000-plus attendees at the Aug. 8 event, planned to begin at 500 South and end at the Capitol...Deseret News

Fires make climate change worse - report

In a vicious cycle made worse by humans, scientists now believe fires spur climate change, which in turn makes blazes bigger, more frequent and more damaging to the environment. Climate experts have known that a warmer world would spawn more fires, but in research published on Thursday in the journal Science, scientists reported that fires -- especially those set by humans to clear forests -- influence climate change. Smoke particles sent into the atmosphere by fires inhibit rainfall, which makes the land drier and encourages more fires to start, said study co-author Jennifer Balch of the University of Santa Barbara in California. On a global scale, burning releases vast amounts of heat-trapping greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, making fires more likely in a warming world, Balch said in a video news briefing. The report's authors estimate that greenhouse emissions from the world's fires equal about 50 percent of emissions that come from the burning of fossil fuels...Reuters

Why are fires "especially those set by humans to clear forests" worse than naturally occurring fire? What makes them "special"? Do they emit more or different smoke particles? Seems to me those set fires, by preventing future larger and hotter burning fires, will over time result in fewer greenhouse gases being released.

What we have hear is a clear bias against humans and human activity.

To get votes, Waxman offers cap-and-trade breaks

In exchange for votes to pass a controversial global warming package, Democratic leaders are offering some lawmakers generous emission “allowances” to protect their districts from the economic pain of pollution restrictions. Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, represents a district with several oil refineries, a huge source of greenhouse gas emissions. He also serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which must approve the global warming plan backed by President Barack Obama. Green says Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who heads the panel, is trying to entice him into voting for the bill by giving some refineries favorable treatment in the administration’s “cap and trade” system, which is expected to generate hundreds of billions of dollars over the coming years. Under the plan, companies would pay for the right to emit carbon dioxide, but Green and other lawmakers are angling to get a free pass for refineries in their districts. “We’ve been talking,” Green said, referring to a meeting he had with Waxman on Tuesday night. “To put together a bill that passes, they have to get our votes, and I’m not going to vote for a bill without refinery allowances.” Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, the top Republican on the energy panel, said Waxman and others are also dangling allowances for steel and coal-fired power plants to give political cover to Democrats whose districts rely on these companies...Washington Examiner

Democrats May Ease Bill's Emissions Rules

Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are negotiating among themselves on whether to scale back legislation that would impose a mandatory limit on greenhouse gases, with some conservatives and moderates calling for electric utilities to be given free pollution allowances and for more modest cuts in the targets for reducing emissions. Many environmentalists argue that all emissions allowances should be auctioned off under a cap-and-trade system, using the proceeds to finance development of clean energy sources or to offset the resulting higher energy costs for consumers. The talks suggest that utilities that distribute electricity from coal-fired plants are making progress in their efforts to get free access to 40 percent of the emissions permits, underscoring the challenge lawmakers face in seeking strict limits on carbon dioxide and other contributors to warming. Some of the proposals to ease the impact on utilities, which lawmakers are discussing behind closed doors, were summarized in a four-page document authored by Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), whose district is dependent on coal and who sponsored his own climate legislation in the last Congress along with the panel's chairman at the time, John D. Dingell (D-Mich.). The draft list of suggestions, which Boucher spokeswoman Courtney Lamie described as "a very early version" of what Boucher is seeking, includes lowering the proposed targets for greenhouse gas emissions cuts proposed by committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), who chairs the panel's energy and environment subcommittee...WPost

Dust Storms Escalate, Prompting Environmental Fears

The scene Landry witnessed that day was the most severe example of a phenomenon that has overtaken parts of the West this year, one that could exacerbate a slew of environmental problems there in the years to come. The Colorado Rockies, including the headwaters of the Colorado River and the Rio Grande, have experienced 11 serious dust storms this year, a record for the six years researchers have been tracking them. More important, an increasing amount of airborne dust is blanketing the region, affecting how fast the snowpack melts, when local plants bloom and what quality of air residents are breathing. The dust storms are a harbinger of a broader phenomenon, researchers say, as global warming translates into less precipitation and a population boom intensifies the activities that are disturbing the dust in the first place. Dust storms are not new in the West, but the fact that so much dust is on the move reflects that across vast areas, soil is being loosened by off-road vehicles, livestock grazing, and road development for oil and gas production, much of it on public land. A Washington Post analysis of federal data from areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management found that between 2004 and 2008, off-road vehicle use rose 19 percent, the number of oil and gas wells increased 24 percent and grazing acreage climbed 7 percent...WPost

Industry Ignored Its Scientists on Climate

For more than a decade the Global Climate Coalition, a group representing industries with profits tied to fossil fuels, led an aggressive lobbying and public relations campaign against the idea that emissions of heat-trapping gases could lead to global warming. “The role of greenhouse gases in climate change is not well understood,” the coalition said in a scientific “backgrounder” provided to lawmakers and journalists through the early 1990s, adding that “scientists differ” on the issue. But a document filed in a federal lawsuit demonstrates that even as the coalition worked to sway opinion, its own scientific and technical experts were advising that the science backing the role of greenhouse gases in global warming could not be refuted. “The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied,” the experts wrote in an internal report compiled for the coalition in 1995. The coalition was financed by fees from large corporations and trade groups representing the oil, coal and auto industries, among others...NYTimes

Environmental group runs ads targeting Republicans who oppose clean energy bill

An environmental group is increasing the pressure to pass a sweeping environmental measure by taking out ads in the home districts of Republicans who oppose the bill. The League of Conservation Voters will advertise in the Michigan district of Republican Rep. Mike Rogers starting Friday, officials at the group said. It will be the second in a series of ads accusing members who oppose the legislation of lacking faith in America. The previous ad attacked Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). “Reps. Blunt and Rogers have made it clear they are siding with Big Oil and saying no to millions of new jobs and no to making America a global leader on clean energy,” said League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinksi. “Why do they seem to have such little faith in American ingenuity and know-how?” Though the White House has signaled that environmental legislation may take a backseat to health care reform, congressional leaders have been moving ahead with legislation that would establish a cap-and-trade system to regulate emissions tied to global warming...Politico

Judge rules prairie dog trapping can continue

A judge said this week the trapping of the threatened Utah prairie dogs in Cedar City can continue. U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups has denied an effort brought by environmental groups fighting the trapping, which allows Cedar City officials to relocate the threatened prairie dog from its golf course. Waddoups ruled Wednesday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service followed proper procedure when it issued permits to the city and the Paiute Tribe to trap and relocate the animals, which have occupied the golf course and adjacent tribal land for nearly two decades. In 2007, WildEarth Guardians, formerly Forest Guardians -- along with the Utah Environmental Congress, Center for Native Ecosystems and naturalist-author Terry Tempest Williams -- sued the agency claiming its actions would harm prairie dog populations...Salt Lake Tribune

California Fuel Move Angers Ethanol Makers

Ethanol producers reacted with dismay to California’s approval of the nation’s first low-carbon fuel standard, which will require the state’s mix of fuels to be 10 percent lower in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. In a 9-1 vote late Thursday, the state’s Air Resources Board approved the measure. “The drive to force the market toward greater use of alternative fuels will be a boon to the state’s economy and public health — it reduces air pollution, creates new jobs and continues California’s leadership in the fight against global warming,” said the California board’s chairwoman, Mary D. Nichols, in a statement. But the ethanol industry is concerned that the regulations give a poor emissions score to their corn-based product, in some cases ranking it as a bigger emitter than petroleum. “This was a poor decision, based on shaky science, not only for California, but for the nation,” General Wesley Clark, who is a co-chairman of the pro-ethanol group Growth Energy, said in a statement...NYTimes

FAA releases data on 89,000 wildlife strikes

Airplane collisions with birds or other animals have resulted in five fatalities and 93 injuries and destroyed 28 aircraft since 2000, with New York's Kennedy airport and Sacramento International reporting the most cases with serious damage, according to Federal Aviation Administration data released for the first time yesterday. The FAA list of wildlife strikes, published on the Internet, details more than 89,000 incidents since 1990. Most cases were bird strikes, but deer and other animals have been hit on runways, too. The situation seems to be getting worse: Airplane collisions with birds have more than doubled at 13 major US airports since 2000, including New Orleans, Houston's Hobby, Kansas City, Orlando, and Salt Lake City. Wildlife specialists say that birds, particularly large ones like Canada geese, are increasingly finding food near near cities and airports and living there year round rather than migrating. The figures are known to be far from complete. Even the FAA estimates its voluntary reporting system captures only 20 percent of wildlife strikes. But the agency has refused for a decade to adopt a National Transportation Safety Board recommendation to make the reports mandatory...AP

Obama admin hands offshore aquaculture oversight to NOAA

The Obama administration will develop federal aquaculture regulations, including a system that could permit offshore fish farming in the ocean waters for the first time, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said today. Locke addressed a Senate hearing as another Cabinet agency, the Interior Department, turned away from a controversial Bush administration proposal that would have expedited a permitting system for offshore aquaculture under the Minerals Management Service. He said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will oversee the preparation of the Obama administration's fish-farming guidelines. In its final rule (pdf) for offshore renewable energy projects, released yesterday, Interior said it would not authorize aquaculture projects. The move is a reversal from the Bush administration's proposal, which would have opened the door for the government to fast-track offshore fish farms. The new rule passes oversight of any deepwater fish farms to Commerce's NOAA and the National Marine Fisheries Service...NYTimes

Scary Green Monsters

If you have somehow missed the fact that April 22 is Earth Day, it's probably because you are grown up. Were you a child, there's not a chance you'd be allowed to miss the urgent chthonic nature of the day -- nor the need to recycle, to use water sparingly, to protect endangered creatures and generally to be agitated about a planet in peril. Contemporary children are so drenched with eco-propaganda that it's almost a waste of resources. Like acid rain, but more persistent and corrosive, it dribbles down on them all day long. They get it at school, where recycling now competes with tolerance as man's highest virtue. They get it in peppy "go green" messages online, on television and in magazines. And increasingly, the eco-message is seeping into the pages of novels that don't, on their face, necessarily seem to be about environmentalism at all. Thus children who might like to escape into a good book are now likely to find themselves pursued into that imaginative realm by didactic adults fixated on passing along endless tellurian warnings. Susceptible children are left in no doubt that we're all headed for a despoiled, immiserated future unless they start planting pansies in their old shoes, using dryer lint as mulch, and practicing periodic vegetarianism...WSJ

School teacher attacked by irate mother squirrel

A visiting school teacher learned a lesson about letting nature take its course Thursday when police say she was attacked by a mother squirrel on the University of Michigan campus. The 52-year-old Detroit Public School teacher was with a group of students touring the campus at about 11:30 a.m. when she spotted some baby squirrels that were outside of their nest at the Student Activities Building in the 500 block of Jefferson Street, according to the U-M's Department of Public Safety. The teacher noticed the mother squirrel appeared to have left behind one of her babies and also noticed a crow was starting to take interest. The Detroit teacher tried to scare away the crow. When that didn't work, the woman tried to alert the mother squirrel about the left behind baby. Instead, the mother squirrel turned on the teacher, DPS spokeswoman Diane Brown said. Brown said the woman tried to escape back to the school bus, but fell to the ground and injured her ankle. Seeing an opportunity, the mother squirrel attacked and either scratched or bit the teacher on her leg...Mlive

Hat Tip: Outdoor Pressroom

Teacher Jill,
Went up the hill,
To save a little varmint.

Teacher Jill,
Tumbled down the hill,
And the varmint bit the hell out of her.

I can just see what happened in my mind's eye, and I'm sorry folks, but I think it is funnier than all getout.

Who said education can't be fun!

'Green initiative' by Charles will cost £80,000 and leave 53-ton carbon footprint as he flies in 12-seat private jet

Prince Charles is being accused of hypocrisy after it was revealed that he is chartering a luxury private jet for a five-day tour of Europe to promote environmental issues. The Prince and the Duchess of Cornwall, plus ten Clarence House staff, will fly from London to Rome this evening. Then they will fly on to Venice and Berlin, before returning to Britain. Clarence House aides stress that the trip is at the request of the Government to promote its climate change policies. But instead of using scheduled flights, the Royal party has hired a private plane, thought to be an Airbus A319. According to experts from the Carbon Managers company, which carries out environmental audits, the aircraft's four European flights over 2,200 miles will leave a carbon footprint of 52.95 tons - nearly five times the average person's 11-ton footprint for an entire year. Each member of Charles's party will leave a carbon footprint of 4.41 tons - 13 times more than if they had used a scheduled flight on the same type of plane, which can carry up to 156 passengers...Daily Mail

He better watch out for them European squirrels.

The carbon footprint may be on agriculture's face

A ruling by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has put into play all kinds of possibilities for land use in the new century. This is not just conjecture, as a court ruling required the EPA to declare greenhouse gasses to be detrimental to public health and to open a comment period on how to regulate them. This will either result in regulation or legislation to address how to manage land and livestock in the global warming era. I can hear some of you seething right now, and I sympathize; however, the political reality of global warming is real, regardless of the scientific basis for the conclusion that man is heating up the planet and must change practices to reverse the trend. To moderate your emotions, go back to the conservation provisions that were put into farm legislation in the 1980s. Remember "sodbuster" and "swampbuster" as radical concepts to prevent land from being converted from native vegetation to cropland? Then, the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) came along and enticed farmers to set aside millions of acres of marginal land. Each of these was resisted until the economics were examined. It is quite possible that programs to counter global warming will make another offer and this time it will be to "re-forest" America. The key is carbon. It is released into the atmosphere naturally by our environment but also by acts of man. Plowing the soil releases it, while growing a crop collects it. The most efficient way to bring the carbon in our air back into balance is to put it back into the ground. This can be done on a very large scale by planting trees on land that was once farmed. The initial talk is to "re-forest" 300 million acres of land. (breathe, breathe, OK) What is it worth to you (government) for me (landowner) to do this? The projection is that farmland converted to growing trees can capture seven tons of carbon per acre/per year. The value of the carbon, per ton, goes as high as $70! Now, you are talking! At $490 per acre, per year, global warming ain't that bad!...High Plains Journal

Hawaii conducts feral cattle hunt by helicopter

At least one member of the Big Island's county council is angry that the state Division of Forestry and Wildlife conducted helicopter-borne hunts of feral cattle in mid-April. North Kona Councilman Kelly Greenwell said the forestry division and its parent state agency, the Department of Land and Natural Resources, ignored a consensus against the hunts in a portion of the Honuaula Forest Preserve among council members worried about harm to the public. But Paul Conry, administrator of the forestry division, said the helicopter hunts on April 15 and 16 were authorized by the board of the Department of Land and Natural Resources and were conducted only after safety measures were taken. Generations of feral cattle have roamed the preserve, mostly the progeny of animals that escaped nearby ranches. "They are a large animal that really is destroying the forest," Conry said. "They trample, they consume. They basically can destroy the koa forest by just constantly eating any of the regeneration that comes up, new koa seedlings trying to get established." Koa is a native hardwood tree that grows in the preserve. There had been about 550 to 600 feral cattle within a 2,650-acre portion of the preserve, Conry said. Over the last two years, the division worked with a nearby rancher to remove about 400 of them with the use of traps. But more than 150 remained in fairly inaccessible areas, he added...High Plains Journal