Friday, November 15, 2019

Interior disbands advisory board that floated privatization at national parks

The Trump administration abruptly disbanded an advisory committee earlier this month whose recent recommendations to greater privatize national parks were met with heavy criticism.The Interior Department quietly ended meetings of the Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee on Nov. 1, more than four months before its charter was set to expire on March 13, 2020. The committee, which was established under former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in 2017 and commonly known as the "Made in America" committee, was an industry-stacked advisory board. The committee was created with the purpose of advising on “public-private partnerships across all public lands” with an emphasis on improving infrastructure. Zinke described the group as “the private sector’s best and brightest​.” All of the seats were filled by representatives of the recreation industry. At least three of the members had been reportedly flagged by Interior’s own staff as having potential conflicts of interest. The disbanding of the group comes after the board submitted recommendations in late September that suggested privatizing campgrounds within national parks, limiting benefits for senior visitors and allowing food trucks as a way to bring more money into the system. Those recommendations were met with heavy skepticism. Administration officials said no action has been taken on the recommendations... The National Park Service is struggling with a $12 billion maintenance backlog. Agency officials under Trump have suggested that parks could be better modernized with the help of the private sector. Some suggestions have included bringing in new recreational opportunities to attract visitors, such as archery lessons or ropes courses...But privatizing campgrounds in national parks is a polarizing idea. Many who view parks as a way to provide outdoors time to Americans of all stripes don’t want to see visitors priced out of national treasures...MORE 

The NPS has a $12 billion maintenance backlog and the enviro/progressives don't want private money to keep the backlog from growing even larger because some recreationists might be "priced out of national treasures." If private money is not used, then taxpayer money will be, and that means campers visits will be subsidized by others.

This all goes back to the fact the enviro/progressives want nothing "private" or "commercial" to occur on or with federal lands. And that includes not only private-run camping, but also livestock grazing, hunting, mining, oil & gas leasing, etc.  They want all things private to be excluded. That is their ultimate goal, that is nirvana for them, and after many years of effort and many dollars spent, they are slowly achieving their goal. The Trump administration has proven to be a bump in the road for them, but has not provided the the U-turn that is needed.

Ranch Radio Song of the Day

TGIFF! Its Fiddle Friday and we also hear some Country Roots as we go back to May 28, 1930 with the Mississippi Possum Hunters and The Last Shot Got Him. According to the liner notes "Two fiddler shared on honors on the Possum Hunter's sessions: John Holloway, a carpenter by trade, and Lonnie Ellis." On today's tune, "Holloway plays the fiddle, backed by Pete Herring of Poplar Creek on guitar and Ellis on mandolin." THE WESTERNER

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Interior Department Delivers Hundreds of Relocation Notices to Employees

The Interior Department delivered hundreds of relocation notices on Tuesday, starting a 30-day clock for employees to either agree to move to a location in the western United States or face removal. The official “management directed geographic reassignments” were delivered in-person today to each of the employees at the Bureau of Land Management headquarters facing relocation. BLM is moving 27 employees to a new headquarters in Grand Junction, Colorado, and about 220 more Washington, D.C.-based workers to field offices in western states. The employees will have until Dec. 12 to agree to their specific new post or they will be placed into removal proceedings. BLM held an all hands meeting Tuesday morning to go over the details of the plans, according to multiple employees who attended. Staffers pressed management on what extensions might be available as many of those affected are still looking for new jobs in Washington. Top officials at BLM said “special consideration” for more time would be considered on a case-by-case basis and those making such a request must be prepared to provide both a personal and business justification. Each impacted employee was slated to have a one-on-one meeting with a top BLM official on Tuesday to receive their letter and additional details on the process. If an employee agrees to move, they will have an additional 90 days to arrive at their new duty post. Those who decline the relocation will have certain appeal rights to challenge the resulting termination notice. BLM told employees the administration has granted its requests to offer early retirement and buyouts to at least some employees who do not relocate. The agency did not offer details on exactly who would qualify, but promised to hold information sessions next week to go over more details of the incentive offers. Employees currently at BLM have told Government Executive they know of very few colleagues who plan to relocate, and even some of those who do are still looking for jobs in Washington and will come back home as soon as possible. Many employees have already found new jobs and departed the agency. The workers all suggested morale at the Washington office has plummeted, mistrust of leadership has grown and a sinking feeling that the Trump administration is seeking to sideline important work has set in.
Interior previously said it would provide employees who agree to move 25% of their base salaries as an incentive, as well as free temporary housing in their new locations, but has subsequently threatened to withdraw those perks due to a lack of funding...MORE

Photographer spots rare 3-antlered buck in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

A former state representative from the Upper Peninsula, Steve Lindberg, spied a three-antlered deer this weekend and posted photos to his Facebook page. "Five days before rifle season for Whitetail Deer and look who I get to see, along with his girlfriend," the retiree wrote. "A three antlered, nine or twelve point buck (depending if you want to count the two little tines on the right antler, and the small tine on the left antler)." It was a rare sighting. An amateur photographer who lives in Marquette, Lindberg said he decided after a lifetime of hunting, he'd rather shoot deer with a camera than a gun. The 75-year-old posts a photo a day to social media, and it's usually something from nature because it's a lot like hunting. Many commenters gushed over the photo — "Impressive stag," "One of a kind for sure," "Beautiful buck!" — and Lindberg's photography skills: "You are a true hunter, doing it for the intrinsic joy, rather than for the kill thrill." One person, however, wanted to know whether it was real or just photo manipulation. Lindberg said the photos are authentic...MORE

EPA bulldog stares down agency watchdog

An escalating fight between the Environmental Protection Agency's top political aide and its internal watchdog has forced a behind-the-scenes Washington operator into the spotlight. Ryan Jackson, a native Oklahoman who worked for Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) for more than a decade and a half, has maintained a relatively low profile since becoming EPA's chief of staff in the early days of the Trump administration. He weathered the headline-grabbing scandals that brought down former Administrator Scott Pruitt and helped transition Pruitt's replacement, Andrew Wheeler, into the job. Now Jackson finds himself facing off with EPA's acting inspector general, who took the rare step last week of publicly accusing Jackson of stonewalling investigations into allegations made against him. Jackson has not yet agreed to an interview with the inspector general's office, which is investigating numerous allegations against the chief of staff, including that he attempted to pressure an independent scientist to change her testimony to Congress and that he oversaw destruction of documents related to probes of Pruitt's travel and other matters. EPA has defended Jackson and accused the inspector general's office of overstepping its authority. The agency declined to make Jackson available for an interview. The episode represents the latest run-in between the Trump administration's political appointees and the inspectors general who are meant to serve as a check on waste, fraud and abuse. And it shows that the EPA is still dealing with the aftereffects of Pruitt's tenure, nearly 18 months after he stepped down amid a series of investigations into his dealings with lobbyists and his personal use of agency resources. It also illustrates that Jackson doesn’t necessarily care about being seen as playing nice with the IG's office, said one former top EPA official who requested anonymity to speak candidly. "He doesn’t worry about getting himself in the middle of a fight like this,” the former official said. “Other chiefs of staff would be mortified, terrified of this happening around and about them. He’s not as worried about that as other people."...MORE

Nancy Pelosi says a USMCA trade deal breakthrough could be ‘imminent’

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated progress Thursday toward a final agreement on President Donald Trump’s North American trade deal replacement. House Democrats have negotiated with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative as they push for better tools to enforce labor and environmental standards under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Speaking to reporters, the California Democrat said “we are moving positively” toward a deal. “I do believe that if we can get this to the place it needs to be, which is imminent, that this can be a template for future trade agreements. A good template,” Pelosi said. he White House aims to pass USMCA, its replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement, by the end of the year as the 2020 election looms. The House has a lot on its plate before then: it has to pass government funding to avoid a shutdown, and it will push forward with its impeachment probe into Trump. After Democrats and the administration strike a final deal, the White House will send ratifying legislation to Congress. Lawmakers would then have up to 90 days to vote on approval. NAFTA will stay in place until the countries ratify USMCA...MORE

  House Democrats have negotiated with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative as they push for better tools to enforce labor and environmental standards

Bush II signed the original NAFTA. Congress then passed final version of NAFTA which was signed by Clinton. The final version included labor and environmental addenda pushed by the Dem's. 
According to the Congressional Research Service, the USMCA submitted by Trump contains the following environmental provisions:

·not to fail to effectively enforce its environmental laws through a sustained or recurring course of action or inaction to attract trade and investment;
·not to waive or derogate from such laws in a manner that weakens or reduces the protections afforded in those law to encourage trade or investment; and
·ensure that its environmental laws and policies provide for and encourage high levels of protection; and
·strive to improve its levels of environmental protection.
The agreement also would
·require parties to adopt and maintain statutes and regulations consistent with multilateral environmental agreements to which each is a party;
·recognize the sovereign right of each party to establish its own levels of domestic environmental protection, its own regulatory priorities, and to adopt or modify its priorities accordingly;
·acknowledge a partys right to exercise discretion with regard to enforcement resources;
·provide for the resolution of disputes; and
·provide for a mechanism on implementation of the agreement.
The proposed USMCA directly or implicitly addresses obligations under major Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs). It also includes obligations and encouragements to protect the ozone layer, protect the marine environment from ship pollution, encourage conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and encourage sustainable fisheries management.

What are the "better tools" the Dem's seek to "enforce environmental standards"? Given Trump's goal of having this finalized by Christmas, how hard will he negotiate with the Dem's on these particular provisions? Unfortunately, enforcement of environmental laws, especially on "biodiversity" and "sustainability", have the potential to harm ag producers much more so than businesses in general.

Ranch Radio Song of the Day

Here's another Country Classic from our pre-YouTube days that needs to be added to our library: Tommy Collins - Whatcha Gonna Do Now (1954). THE WESTERNER

Janeil Anderson

"Listen to the horse"

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Navajo Generating Station, biggest coal plant in the US West, shuts down this week

The 2,400-MW Navajo Generating Station (NGS) in northeastern Arizona — the largest coal plant west of the Mississippi River — is shutting down this week.

The affiliated Kayenta coal mine will also shut down.
Salt River Project (SRP), NGS’s Tempe-headquartered operator, says the coal plant’s shutdown date will be determined by the remaining coal supply. According to Cronkite News:
Of the 433 workers who were at the plant before the closure was announced, SRP said about 280 accepted offers to relocate to jobs in different facilities, while others either refused or opted to retire.
There will be 50 employees left, most of whom are working on contract. The Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe are mainly affected by the closure. Navajo community groups have called for a transition to green energy and more stringent water protections.
Democratic Representative Tom O’Halleran of Sedona, whose district includes the Navajo Generating Station and the mine, introduced a bill in September to provide economic development and job training to people who lost their jobs as a result of the closures.
Carol Davis, a director with Navajo environmental group Diné C.A.R.E., said:
The closing of NGS represents an opportunity to right the longstanding wrongs on water that our people have suffered as a result of coal operations.
And Nicole Horseherder of the group Tó Nizhóní Ání, said:
As coal markets end and local power plants and mines close, we stand to benefit from the development of clean-energy projects and from an economic transition that prioritizes local community voices.
The Navajo Nation brought the second phase of the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority’s Kayenta Solar facility online in September, reported It connected 233 homes in the spring, and a second phase is planned for 2020...MORE

Well, I'm back. How did the hearings go today?

Board meeting

Will be gone the rest of today.
Quote of the Day - "You can't go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending... So Forget all the reasons why it won't work... and believe the one reason why it will." ~ Artist ~ Chris Owen

Bureau of Land Management staff face relocation or resignation as agency moves west

Employees at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) were given reassignment letters Tuesday as the agency marches toward its relocation across the West, giving staff 30 days to accept the move or face being booted from the federal workforce. The delivery of the letters means BLM employees will begin moving over the next four months, cementing a controversial plan that spreads about 300 Washington-based staffers across various offices out west and leaves just 61 of the bureau’s 10,000 employees in the nation’s capital. A copy of the letter obtained by The Hill makes clear that employees who do not choose to move could lose their jobs. Current BLM employees said the agency has not done enough to help employees who wish to remain in D.C. find another job elsewhere within the Department of the Interior as promised. “If you do not accept this directed geographic reassignment, you may be subject to a removal from federal service,” the letter reads. An official for BLM said it is “working hard to make sure every affected employee has information on all options available.” That includes career counseling, résumé-writing and interviewing workshops, and “identification of vacancies for interested and qualified employees within the BLM nationwide and within the Department of Interior in the DC area.” The agency, however, appears poised to lose a number of the employees Perry said he hopes to retain...MORE

Ranch Radio Song of the Day

Visiting our Country Roots today with the Massey Family and their 1934 recording of Brown Skin Girl Down the Lane . THE WESTERNER