Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Trump's E.O. on energy independence


Oil has begun flowing through the Dakota Access pipeline — here's what that means for the key players

Oil has begun flowing through the Dakota Access pipeline after months of delays caused by protests and Native American tribes' efforts to stop the project. The 1,200-mile pipeline is capable of moving half of the oil produced in North Dakota to a distribution point in Illinois. It will be fully operational in about three weeks. Here's a look at how the saga has affected the major players: For Texas-based pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners, the start of operations means money. The company had hoped the pipeline would be operational late last year, but resistance from Sioux tribes and a favorable order under the Obama administration blocked final construction until President Donald Trump took office in January and pushed federal officials to approve the final stage of construction. The company says in court documents that it has long-term transportation contracts with nine companies to ship oil through the pipeline. Based on information supplied by ETP in court documents, delays have cost it more than half-a-billion dollars. The fight over the pipeline drew widespread attention and at one point attracted thousands of protesters to an encampment near the small town of Cannon Ball. For opponents, the flow of oil is a setback but not necessarily a defeat. Four Sioux tribes — the Standing Rock, Cheyenne River, Yankton and Oglala — have a lawsuit pending in federal court and hope to persuade a judge to shut down the pipeline to protect Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir and their water source. Opponents say they also have succeeded on a larger scale by raising awareness about clean water issues and sparking protests at other pipeline projects across the nation, as well as at banks that have supported Dakota Access. "The resistance is growing," protest leader Joye Braun said. "Water protectors have spread out around the country."...more

EPA's Pruitt facing challenge from conservatives

Scott Pruitt's first weeks leading the Environmental Protection Agency have been marked by infighting among competing factions, three sources tell CNN, including a group that believes Pruitt may not go far enough to reshape the agency and pare back regulations. Some conservatives both inside and outside the agency are concerned their dream of reigning in Obama-era EPA regulations and gutting the agency in a more wholesale fashion will not come to fruition. Several sources outlined three feuding factions within EPA: firm conservatives who want to see a more aggressive pullback of the agency's regulatory footprint; career employees, many of whom are concerned the new administration is hostile to environmental and climate concerns; and Pruitt's inner circle, who are reluctant to go along with some of the most unpopular rollbacks that are controversial even among moderate Republicans. A source from the more conservative faction described Pruitt as an administrator focused more on optics than reform, causing the source to believe Pruitt is more interested in his post-EPA political career than bringing to fruition the wishes of the most ardent EPA critics. For example, the source said Pruitt has missed a handful of policy briefings, and in some cases decisions have been made by his chief of staff. Policy briefings are normal for an incoming administrator, said a fourth source who is a former career employee and in touch with current EPA employees. Pruitt has not requested further briefings, according to the former employee. The more conservative sources lament Pruitt's current course. "Pruitt shares the ideology that excessive EPA overreach and over regulation does need to be rolled back, but he's resistant to some regulatory action for fear some of the more unpopular actions could harm his future political career," said another source close to the administration who is concerned about Pruitt's first month on the job...more

Trump signs order to roll back Obama’s climate moves

President Trump on Tuesday signed a wide-ranging executive order to start the process of rolling back former President Obama’s aggressive climate change agenda. Trump signed the order in a ceremony at the headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — the agency responsible for many of the major policies being targeted. The most significant piece of the order instructs the EPA to formally consider repealing the Clean Power Plan. It was the central piece of Obama’s second-term climate agenda, setting a 32 percent cut in the power sector’s carbon dioxide emissions by 2030. Federal regulators are also asked under the order to consider repealing the EPA’s carbon limits for newly-built power plants and methane emissions standards for oil and natural gas drilling from the EPA and the Interior Department. It also has some immediate effects. The order stops Interior’s moratorium on new coal-mining leases on federal land, something Obama instituted to study how to charge coal companies for the climate impacts of the fuel they mine on federal property. It also stops policies asking federal agencies to consider climate change in environmental reviews, a government-wide accounting method for climate change regulations called the Social Cost of Carbon and Obama executive orders on climate, like one asking that infrastructure be built to withstand a future climate affected by global warming...more

Also see the White House background briefing.

Trump signs bills reversing Obama regs, including BLM 2.0

President Trump rolled back more Obama-era regulations Monday, signing four bills that reverse rules on education, land use and federal purchasing. Promising to "remove every job-killing regulation we can find," Trump said even more regulation-cutting bills were on the way. The resolutions of disapproval reached the president's desk through the Congressional Review Act, a rarely used tool that allows Congress to fast-track a bills to reverse regulations. Before Trump, the law had been used successfully only once in its 21-year history. Trump has now signed a total of seven, a pace that has surprised even experts. "There are several that weren't on my radar at all," said Susan Dudley, director of the Regulatory Studies Center at George Washington University. Previous bills have reversed Obama regulations banning Social Security recipients with a mental impairment from buying a firearm, restricting the dumping of mining waste in streams and rivers, and requiring energy companies to disclose how much they're paying foreign governments. In fact, now half of all bills Trump has signed so far have been these regulation-killing resolutions. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday many of the bills "cancel federal power grabs that took decision-making away from the states and local governments."...more

Ranchers fear Forest Service taking their grazing

Ranchers in Okanogan County, Wash., believe the USFS is trying to take away rights to graze cattle on federal land. A county commissioner says more of the same might be happening in the West. AddThis Sharing Buttons Share to Google BookmarkShare to FacebookShare to TwitterShare to PrintShare to More Dan Wheat Capital Press Published on March 24, 2017 10:18AM Calves on winter feedings grounds on a ranch in Okanogan County, Wash., last March. Ranchers are concerned the U.S. Forest Service is trying to curtail their summer grazing this year. Dan Wheat/Capital Press Calves on winter feedings grounds on a ranch in Okanogan County, Wash., last March. Ranchers are concerned the U.S. Forest Service is trying to curtail their summer grazing this year. Buy this photo Cattle on winter feeding at a ranch in northern Okanogan County, Wash., last March. Ranchers are concerned this year about losing summer grazing on federal lands. Dan Wheat/Capital Press Cattle on winter feeding at a ranch in northern Okanogan County, Wash., last March. Ranchers are concerned this year about losing summer grazing on federal lands. Buy this photo OKANOGAN, Wash. — An Okanogan County commissioner says the U.S. Forest Service has taken an aggressive stance to restrict cattle grazing in Okanogan County that may be part of a larger effort to do so throughout the West before former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue is confirmed as U.S. Agriculture Secretary. The USFS issued non-compliance letters to 25 of 41 grazing allotment holders in the Tonasket Ranger District, roughly the northern third, of Okanogan County in January and February, County Commissioner Jim DeTro says. U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., says the USFS violated it’s own policies and he sent a letter to the USFS chief because local officials were unresponsive. The non-compliance letters allege over grazing, use of riparian areas and stream sedimentation aimed at restricting grazing on thousands of acres of USFS grazing allotments that have been grazed by ranchers for decades, DeTro said. “One rancher has run cattle on federal allotments since 1936 and never had so much as a note in his file. Then bang this year he gets a registered letter of noncompliance with no prior communication. It’s like the Gestapo moved in,” DeTro said. Another rancher got a non-compliance letter alleging over grazing last year who said he couldn’t have over grazed because he had sold his cows and had no cows on the allotment, DeTro said. Last season, a USFS range tech threatened to bring in federal marshals and have a rancher arrested if he didn’t have his cattle off an allotment on time, he said.

Ranchers win $100 million from Sacramento County in political influence case

A federal court jury on Tuesday awarded more than $100 million in damages to two gravel mining families that accused Sacramento County government officials of putting them out of business for the benefit of the rival Teichert Construction company. After a day and a half of deliberations, the U.S. District Court panel in Sacramento awarded $75 million in compensatory damages to Joe and Yvette Hardesty and $30 million to the Jay Schneider family. The verdict also hit three county officials with punitive damages, including Roger Dickinson, the former state Assembly member who was chairman of the Board of Supervisors when the county imposed a cease and desist order on the joint Hardesty-Schneider mining operation. The jurors found Dickinson liable for a $25,000 award against the Schneiders only. Retired Sacramento County Planning Director planner Robert Sherry was hit with $750,000 in punitive damages against the two families, while jurors awarded the Schneiders $1 million from county aggregate resource manager Jeff Gamel. In the trial that lasted more than a month, the plaintiffs charged that what was known as the “Historic Schneider Mine” had been running for decades as a “vested” operation with approval from Sacramento County. The Hardestys, who leased the mine located off of Meiss Road in the Sloughhouse area from the Schneider family ranching operation, charged in court papers that the county’s attitude changed after they “caught the attention of influential competitors like Teichert.”...more

Strong Women

Nicole Courtney Smith is the sixth generation of her family to ranch in Granite Station, California. Her family’s Kern County cow-calf operation, the Glenn Record Ranch, is tucked in the mountains northeast of Bakersfield, California. There, she lives and works with her family, including her parents Sarah and Jack Smith; brother, Jared; grandparents Karl and Glenda Johnson; and aunt and uncle Roselle and Matthew Wrenden. The ranch has been handed down through the women on her mother’s side of the family, and 23-year-old Smith is poised to perpetuate her family’s ranching traditions into the future. In the April 2017 issue of Western Horseman, Smith is featured in Women of the West. Here are five other questions we asked during our interview with her while driving on a rough, narrow road to the ranch. What women have had the most influence on you? I consider all of the women in my life—my grandma, my aunt and my mom—extremely tough. They have raised me to be a respectful, hard-working young lady and I appreciate that. My great-grandma Ginger was the apple of my eye. When I was growing up, no matter where we were or what we were doing she always had a York peppermint patty for me. She died in 2008 and I miss her, but my grandma is taking her place and always has food or candy for us. She makes sure we’re fed extremely well...more

WSU professor backs curbing lethal wolf removal

Wolves shouldn’t be shot on public lands to protect the livestock of ranchers who refuse to sign government contracts to prevent depredations, according to Washington State University wolf scientist Robert Wielgus, who was publicly upbraided by the school in August for accusing a rancher of baiting wolves with cattle. Wielgus, director of the university’s Large Carnivore Conservation Lab, distributed the recommendation in an email Monday to the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Wolf Advisory Group. Wielgus restated his position that a ranch put its cattle in harm’s way in the Colville National Forest, leading WDFW to shoot seven wolves in the Profanity Peak pack. WSU administrators last summer issued a statement calling Wielgus’ description of the events inaccurate. “He’s putting out inflammatory nonsense,” Cattle Producers of Washington President Scott Nielsen said Monday. “It’s the same nonsense that got Rob in trouble last summer.” Efforts to reach Wielgus were unsuccessful. Wielgus described his email as a press release from a private citizen, but based on his state-funded research...more

Mayor Garcetti's emergency proclamation has dusty Owens Valley scrambling to prepare for possible floods

As snow continued to fall on the eastern Sierra Nevada on Monday, platoons of earth movers, cranes and utility trucks fanned out across the Owens Valley, scrambling to empty reservoirs and clean out a lattice-work of ditches and pipelines in a frantic effort to protect the key source of Los Angeles’ water. With snowpack levels at 241% of normal, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti a week ago issued an emergency declaration allowing the Department of Water and Power to take immediate steps to shore up the aqueduct and its $1-billion dust-control project on dry Owens Lake, which L.A. drained to slake its thirst in the last century. DWP activities have always elicited concern in the Owens Valley, given the history of a water war that began when Los Angeles agents posed as ranchers and farmers to buy land and water rights in the area. Their goal was to build the aqueduct system to meet the needs of the growing metropolis 200 miles to the south. The stealth used to obtain the region’s land and water rights became grist for books and movies that portrayed the dark underbelly of Los Angeles’ formative years, and inspired deep-seated suspicions about the city’s motives that linger to this day. Officials insist that the current emergency poses a real threat not just to urban Los Angeles’ residents, but to the ranchers, farmers, outdoor enthusiasts and small-business owners living in the sage-scented high desert gap between the fang-like peaks, some taller than 14,000 feet, of the Sierra Nevada to west and the White and Inyo ranges to the east...more

Green groups promise guerrilla warfare tactics to stop Keystone pipeline

Environmental activists vowed over the weekend to fight the Keystone XL oil pipeline to the bitter end, insisting the Trump administration’s approval of the long-delayed project will not be the final word. Powerful green groups are launching a two-pronged strategy to block the pipeline in the streets and in the courts. First, they intend to use a state review process in Nebraska — where Keystone still does not have a legal route, despite federal approval of the project — to delay any movement forward. Nebraska state officials charged with approving the pipeline’s path say a decision shouldn’t be expected until September at the earliest, and environmentalists could drag that process out even longer. The second piece of their plan centers on the kind of guerrilla warfare tactics seen throughout last year during the fight over the Dakota Access pipeline. Activists say they’ll organize protests and even set up camps along Keystone’s proposed route, potentially blocking construction of the project if and when it’s set to begin..more.

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1815

Here is one my favorite Gene Autry songs - Cowboy Blues. The tune was recorded in Hollywood on July 2, 1946.


Monday, March 27, 2017

On Zinke and Roosevelt

Grist interviews historian and Theodore Roosevelt scholar David Brinkley, author of The Wilderness Warrior. They ask the following questions:

One thing that Zinke and Roosevelt definitely have in common is their political party. But it sounds strange nowadays that a noted conservationist like Roosevelt was in the GOP.

When did the Republican approach to the environment begin to change?

You mention climate change. Zinke has waffled on the subject. Is it fair for Zinke to say he’s committed to Roosevelt’s legacy without acknowledging how climate change will harm the American landscape he loves?

Roosevelt’s treatment of Native Americans was deplorable. Given modern movements like Dakota Access, do you think Zinke’s identification with TR could mean trouble for Native Americans? 

Read Brinkley's answers here

Landscapes, Wonders, and Dustups - Federal Public Lands

by and

Our federal public lands are breathtaking in their ecological scope, in their bountiful natural resources, and in their policy complexity. The history of how we arrived at current policy arrangements is also long and convoluted. According to the Congressional Research Service, today the four major federal land agencies manage about 27% percent the United States’ land mass, much of which is concentrated in the west. The U.S. Forest Service manages about 193 million acres, the National Park Service about 80 million acres, the Fish and Wildlife Service 89 million acres, and the Bureau of Land Management 248 million acres.
Americans have had a long conversation about the purpose of the federal estate. Yet, the seizure of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge buildings in southeastern Oregon by armed and self-appointed “constitutionalists” was outside that conversation to many people. It was viewed as a dangerous escalation in a long, admittedly passionate but rarely violent, discussion of federal or public land management in the western United States. The Malheur event prompted many non-westerners to ask who the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was and why they manage so much land. It also brought to the forefront many questions from those unfamiliar with western land issues, the history of the federal lands, or public land management policies. 
Government management of public land predates the country itself, as both the British and American colonists regulated logging to preserve supplies of timber for building naval vessels. After the Revolutionary War, the new country quickly sought both to acquire more land (the “Acquisition phase”) and to ensure private sector ownership (the “Disposal phase”). Acquisition was accomplished by war or purchase, while Disposal was done to raise cash and promote new settlement. The indigenous inhabitants of these lands were also removed, usually by force.
In the 1860s a new policy of “Retention” developed, primarily in the west, and is best understood through Yellowstone National Park’s designation as not just the first national park in the U.S. but also the world. Other parks would follow, though in an ad hoc and piecemeal fashion. The National Park Service was created in 1916 to manage and conserve these parks and provide “enjoyment for future generations.” Other lands fell under the Retention policy, as well.

Appeals Court Embraces Free Speech, Rules Skim Milk is ‘Skim Milk'

by Baylen Linnekin

"The leftover product is skim milk: milk that has had the fat removed through skimming." If those words—from a unanimous 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling earlier this week—sound like some sort of dicta—words in a court decision which represent a judge's ideas or observations but aren't part of the holding of the case and which, therefore, carry little legal weight—then it may surprise you to learn the question of whether all-natural skim milk is skim milk actually go to the heart of the case in question. The case, Ocheesee Creamery v. Putnam, has its roots in 2012, when Florida's state agriculture department ordered Ocheesee, a small creamery in the state's panhandle, to stop selling its skim milk. The state claimed Ocheesee's skim milk ran afoul of Florida's standard of identity for skim milk, which requires creameries and dairies to add vitamin A to their skim milk. In response, Ocheesee, which prides itself on its all-natural milks, proposed instead of introducing vitamin A additive to its milk to label its skim milk as "Pasteurized Skim Milk, No Vitamin A Added." The state rejected that label, telling Ocheesee they could sell their skim milk only if it were labeled as "Non-Grade 'A' Milk Product, Natural Milk Vitamins Removed" or, later, as "imitation skim milk." For a state that argued it was in the business of protecting consumers, and that Ocheesee's use of the term "skim milk" to describe its skim milk (ingredients: skim milk) was misleading, it's worth noting both of Florida's recommended terms for a skim milk that contains only skim milk are patently and grossly misleading. Ocheesee was forced to sue the state. Last year, the U.S. District Court sided with the Florida regulators. The appeals court win this week is an important victory not just for Ocheesee Creamery but also for free speech, consumers, small businesses, and food freedom. It's also a big win for the Institute for Justice, which represented the plaintiff creamery. "This decision is a total vindication for Ocheesee Creamery and a complete rejection of the Florida Department of Agriculture's suppression of speech," said Justin Pearson, a senior IJ attorney, in a statement this week. "Today, thanks to the 11th Circuit, [Ocheesee owner] Mary Lou [Wesselhoeft] is no longer denied her First Amendment right to tell the truth."...more

Utah governor asks Interior Secretary to visit Bears Ears

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert made a last-minute trip to Washington this week, where he urged Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to visit Utah's Bears Ears National Monument. Herbert told reporters a conference call from Washington that he did not speak one-on-one with President Donald Trump about a push from Utah GOP officials to repeal the southern Utah monument. President Barack Obama named the monument in December, but Herbert and other locals want Trump to rescind it. Herbert says Zinke seems to agree with Utah officials that the sacred tribal lands at Bears Ears need protections. The governor wants to see Congress designation protections, not a president. He says he'll make that case to Zinke when he visits. Herbert says Trump invited him to Washington to watch the president sign legislation Monday repealing some land management and education rules. AP

Insiders rip federal power agency over theft, threats

The receipts just didn’t make sense: Employees at a federal power agency in Phoenix were using U.S. government purchase cards to buy millions of dollars’ worth of items from sporting good stores like Bass Pro Shop or Cabela's, and from specialty auto shops. Ammunition. Scopes for assault rifles. Engine superchargers. Radar detectors. The merchandise had nothing to do with electrical grids or transmission lines. Nate Elam, former assistant regional manager at the Western Area Power Administration office in Phoenix, shakes his head remembering his shock reviewing receipts submitted by his employees in 2014. Then he mentions something even more alarming: Instead of aggressively going after corruption, Elam alleges, WAPA's bosses slow-walked the investigation, retaliated against those who uncovered fraud, and failed to protect them from threats. “You see stuff everywhere,” said Elam, a 14-year federal employee who once worked for the U.S. Attorney’s Office. "But I’d never seen the corruption — or the lack of wanting to do anything about it — like I did in the Department of Energy.” Keith Cloud, WAPA's chief of security who worked with Elam to expose credit-card abuse, said the situation was harrowing due to a gun culture within the agency. As some employees began making threats and using intimidation tactics, Cloud said, administrators delayed protective measures and held almost no one accountable“We asked them to look into all of this," Cloud said. "What’s appalling to me is, I cannot protect my staff because they just won’t do anything.” Finally, after FBI counterterrorism agents began investigating, WAPA's Desert Southwest Office hired armed guards and commissioned a threat assessment. Mark Gabriel, chief executive officer for the federal agency, says the entire controversy has been overblown, the theft outbreak was limited and reforms are in place. He also noted that two former employees have been criminally charged in connection with purchase-card irregularities. "Yes, there were criminal activities, unfortunately," Gabriel noted in a recent interview. "We investigated ourselves, and we were able to educate ourselves. I believe it's a piece of history." Gabriel declined to address why his security chief, assistant regional manager and top procurement officer have jeopardized their careers making contrary allegations. Or why members of Congress are hounding his agency for answers...more

EPA chief: Pres. Trump to undo former Pres. Obama’s plan to curb global warming

President Donald Trump in the coming days will sign a new executive order that unravels his predecessor’s sweeping plan to curb global warming, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency said Sunday, March 26th. EPA chief Scott Pruitt said the executive order to be signed Tuesday, March 28th will undo former President Barack Obama’s administration’s Clean Power Plan, an environmental regulation that restricts greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants. The 2015 rule has been on hold since last year while a federal appeals court considers a challenge by coal-friendly Republican-led states and more than 100 companies. Speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” Pruitt said President Trump’s intention is to bring back coal-mining jobs and reduce the cost of electricity. Supporters of former President Obama’s plan, including some Democratic-led states and environmental groups, argue it would spur thousands of clean-energy jobs and help the U.S. meet ambitious goals to reduce carbon pollution set by an international agreement reached in Paris in late 2015. Pruitt on Sunday called the Paris climate accord a “bad deal” because he said it went too easy on China and India, who like the U.S. are among the world’s leading producers of carbon dioxide. “So we’ve penalized ourselves through lost jobs while China and India didn’t take steps to address the issue internationally. So Paris was just a bad deal, in my estimation,” he said. AP

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1814

Its Swingin' Monday and here's Dale Watson & Ray Benson with Sittin' and Thinkin' About You. The tune is on their new, 2017 CD Dale & Ray.