Colorado Readies for ‘All Out War’ as Anti-Fracking Measures Advance to Ballot

Citizen-led, progressive efforts to override the government and fossil fuel industry could be devastating for Big Oil in the state of Colorado after the November 2016 election
— by Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Colorado has 73,000 wells with tens of thousands more planned for drilling. (Image: Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission)

The government of Colorado has so far managed to quash efforts to halt the spread of fracking in that state, but come November, residents will finally have the chance to overpower the will of politicians and Big Oil and Gas.

Petitioners on Monday submitted more than 200,000 signatures backing two separate initiatives to amend the Colorado constitution, specifically in regards to the controversial drilling method.

“This is a good day for Colorado, and it’s a good day for democracy,” said Lauren Petrie, Rocky Mountain Region director of Food and Water Watch. “These initiatives will give communities political tools to fend off the oil and gas industry’s effort to convert our neighborhoods to industrial sites. This is a significant moment in the national movement to stem the tide of fracking and natural gas.”

Initiative 78 would establish a 2,500-foot buffer zone protecting homes, hospitals and schools, as well as sensitive areas like playgrounds and drinking water sources, from new oil and gas development. This expands the current mandate of a 500-foot setback from homes and, according to Coloradans Resisting Extreme Energy Development (CREED), is based upon health studies that show increased risks within a half mile of fracked wells and the perimeters of real-life explosion, evacuation, and burn zones.

Colorado regulators say that, if passed, Initiative 78 could effectively halt new oil and gas exploration and production in as much of 90 percent of the state.

Initiative 75 would establish local government control of oil and gas development, authorizing local municipalities “to pass a broad range of more protective regulations, prohibitions, limits or moratoriums on oil and gas development—or not,” according to the grassroots group.

This measure challenges a May ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court which said that state law overrides local fracking bans.

Various moratoriums or anti-fracking measures bans have been passed by the communities of Lafeyette, Boulder, Fort Collins, Broomfield, El Paso County, and Longmont—though many of these efforts were quashed by the Supreme Court ruling. Campaigners are hopeful that the initiatives would lay the foundation for many more.

Colorado’s Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper, an infamous proponent of fracking, has voiced his strong disapproval of the ordinances.

The signature deadline was met Monday despite the fact that the citizen volunteers facedharassment and, as Common Dreams previously reported, a massive, industry-funded opposition campaign which included deceptive television ads telling citizens to “decline to sign” the ballot petitions.

Reporting by the Colorado Independent revealed the campaign to be “part of an orchestrated, multi-year effort by both Colorado-based and national energy giants. One of their front groups is Protect Colorado, which funded the petition-gatherer-of-doom TV ad and is actively seeking to thwart citizens from qualifying the two measures for the ballot.”

“Industry has been gearing up for this fight for five years,” Dan Grossman, Rocky Mountain regional director for the Environmental Defense Fund, told ThinkProgress. “This was kind of the pre-fight, the undercard…If either of these make it onto the ballot, we’re going to see a cage match — an all-out war.”

And the stakes are high. As the New York Times put it, should either measure pass, “it would represent the most serious political effort yet” to stop fracking in the U.S..

The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office now has 30 days to authenticate the signatures before they make the ballot. The announcement is expected to be made by September 7.


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Melting Permafrost Releases Deadly, Long-Dormant Anthrax in Siberia

“This week’s anthrax outbreak signals that global warming is transforming Siberia’s lonely wilderness into a feverish nightmarescape”
— by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer

The cause of the anthrax outbreak could have been infected human remains from a local Nenets burial ground. (Photo: Siberian Times)

A Russian heatwave has activated long-dormant anthrax bacteria in Siberia, sickening at least 13 people and killing one boy and more than 2,300 reindeer.

According to the Siberian Times on Monday:

A total of 72 people are now in hospital, a rise of 32 since Friday, under close observation amid fears of a major outbreak. 41 of those hospitalized are children as Russia copes with a full scale health emergency above the polar circle which has also killed thousands of reindeer.

A state of emergency has been imposed throughout the region in western Siberia, and reindeer herding communities have been quarantined.

While NBC News last week pinned the blame for the outbreak on “[t]he carcass of a reindeer thought to have died from anthrax decades ago,” new reports suggest an old burial ground could be the source.

Nadezhda Noskova, press secretary of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Region government, told the Siberian Times:

We are working out all the versions of what has happened. The first version is that due to the very hot weather permafrost thawed and bared the carcass of an animal which died from anthrax long ago.

The other version is that it could have been a human body. The point is that Nenets and Khanty peoples do not bury their dead in the ground.

They put them into the wooden coffins—they resemble boxes—and place them on a stand or hillock.

The old cemetery could be also the source of the disease.

But regardless of the precise culprit, there’s little doubt that climate change is exacerbating the health crisis.

The Washington Post noted last week, “Temperatures have soared in western Russia’s Yamal tundra this summer,” with several regions seeing record heat. Indeed, temperatures in the Yamal tundra above the Arctic Circle have hit highs of 95°F this summer, compared to an average of 77°F.

The Post quoted two Russian researchers, who warned in 2011: “As a consequence of permafrost melting, the vectors of deadly infections of the 18th and 19th centuries may come back…especially near the cemeteries where the victims of these infections were buried.”

“The extreme heat has triggered a seemingly endless rash of freak weather, natural disasters, and signs of ecological malaise, including enormous wildfires, record flooding, and natural moon bounces [methane bubbles] that might be explosive,” staff writer Maddie Stone reported at Gizmodo. “But above all else, this week’s anthrax outbreak—the first to hit the region since 1941—signals that global warming is transforming Siberia’s lonely wilderness into a feverish nightmarescape.”

Or, as Charles Pierce wrote at Esquire on Monday, “an anthrax strain that has spent 75 years resting, sleeping a lot, going a few times a week to the Bacteria Gym, and generally muscling up, gets another chance at sickening reindeer and people because the Great Climate Change Hoax has thawed the permafrost, so it gets its shot at the reindeer and people that didn’t die in the record wildfires. I would point out that one of our two major political parties doesn’t believe that any of this is happening, and that the party’s candidate for president thinks it all might be a hoax thought up by the Chinese.”


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The Irony of Ironies via Republican Poison Pills

H.R. 2577 is a conglomeration of a number of bills (Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017) that  the Senate needs to take action on failed a super-majority vote (60 votes) for cloture (the ability to be considered and voted for/against on the Senate floor).  One version of that bill was passed by the House and a different version of that/those bills passed the Senate.  Thus, it’s now gone to conference committee to work out the wrinkles between the two versions.

This conference agreement now includes the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017, the Zika Response and Preparedness Appropriations Act, 2016, the Zika Vector Control Act, and an unacceptable ‘division’ on funds to be rescinded from programs the Republicans don’t particularly like.  That’s what came to the floor for a cloture vote, and it failed miserably — 52-48.

Really, Senator McConnell?  It’s too difficult for the general public to understand?  I don’t think so.

It’s one thing for Republicans to short-change President Obama’s funding request.  It’s another thing to start attaching ‘poison pills’ to the proposed legislation that limit or outright prohibit women’s choices.  When you introduce a funding proposal that limits the distribution of contraceptives and that prevents family planning organizations like Planned Parenthood from participating in the effort to help women in Zika-affected areas delay pregnancy, from a disease that not just contracted from a mosquito bite, but from sexual activity with an infected male partner, did you really think that Senate Democrats would just roll over and vote for that?

When you start gutting provisions of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, did you honestly believe that Democrats would just roll over and just vote for that?

SEC. 2. MOSQUITO CONTROL WAIVER.
Notwithstanding section 402 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1342), during the 180 day period following the date of enactment of this Act the Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (or a State, in the case of a permit program approved under subsection (b)) shall not require a permit for a discharge from the application by an entity authorized under State or local law, such as a vector control district, of a pesticide in compliance with all relevant requirements of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (7 U.S.C. 136 et seq.) to control mosquitos or mosquito larvae for the prevention or control of the Zika virus.

When you start stripping funding for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), did you really expect Democrats to just roll over, see the light and vote your way?  Or, when you decide to fund your bill by stripping balances  from the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, did you really expect Democrats to go “oh yeah, that’s a great idea” and vote in favor of your bill?  Or better yet, given that we already know that you stripped a bunch of funding from the State Department for Embassy security that might have made the outcome in Benghazi drastically different, did you really expect the Senate Democrats to let you strip even more funding for the State Department and other Foreign Operations?

Are you nuts?  They certainly weren’t and neither am I.  It took me hours to sort through all the links on Congress.gov, but here’s what I found:

DIVISION D–RESCISSIONS OF FUNDS

Sec. 101.
(a) $543,000,000 of the unobligated amounts made available under section 1323(c)(1) of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (42 U.S.C. 18043(c)(1)) is rescinded immediately upon enactment of this Act.

Sec. 1323. Community health insurance option. Requires the Secretary to offer a Community Health Insurance Option as a qualified health plan through Exchanges. Allows States to enact a law to opt out of offering the option. Requires the option to cover only essential health benefits; States may require additional benefits, but must defray their cost. Requires the Secretary to set geographically adjusted premium rates that cover expected costs. Requires the Secretary to negotiate provider reimbursement rates, but they must not be higher than average rates paid by private qualified health plans. Subjects the option to State and Federal solvency standards and to State consumer protection laws. Establishes a Start-Up Fund to provide loans for initial operations, to be repaid with interest within 10 years. Authorizes the Secretary to contract with nonprofits for the administration of the option.

(b) $100,000,000 of the unobligated balances available in the Nonrecurring expenses fund established in section 223 of division G of Public Law 110-161 (42 U.S.C. 3514a) from any fiscal year is rescinded immediately upon enactment of this Act.

DIVISION G–DEPARTMENTS OF LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, AND EDUCATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2008
Title I–Department of Labor
Title II–Department of Health and Human Services
Title III–Department of Education
Title IV–Related Agencies
Title V–General Provisions
Title VI–National Commission on Children and Disasters

(c) $107,000,000 of the unobligated balances of appropriations made available under the heading Bilateral Economic Assistance, Funds Appropriated to the President, Economic Support Fund in title IX of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2015 (division J of Public Law 113-235) is rescinded immediately upon enactment of this Act: Provided, That such amounts are designated by the Congress as an emergency requirement pursuant to section 251(b)(2)(A)(i) of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985.

Personally, I side with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid who declared, “It is unbelievable that somebody would have the audacity to come to the floor and say it’s Democrats’ fault. A significant amount of American women, especially young women, go to Planned Parenthood, and the Republicans want to say, ‘you can’t do that.’” Why indeed would Democrats not just prohibit Planned Parenthood from providing any services, but gut the EPA’s ability to assure clean water and harm HHS’s ability to manage health insurance options for not just Puerto Ricans, but millions of American families across our nation?  Apparently Sen. McConnell completely missed the irony of claiming to improve women’s health by prohibiting and defunding health opportunities for women altogether.


Related Posts:

Make America Gray Again


— by  CAP Action War Room

Donald Trump Unveils His Energy PlatformTrump02

This afternoon after he really, officially clinched the Republican presidential nomination, Donald Trump went to the heart of America’s current oil boom to unveil his energy platform. He gave his speech at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in Bismarck, North Dakota. While he was sure to fit in his usual anti-immigrant rhetoric and pro-Second Amendment rhetoric, Trump did give us a few insights into what his energy policy could look like.

Unsurprisingly, Trump more or less stuck to the trusty GOP energy handbook: denying climate change, calling to abolish crucial public health standards, and promising to undo progress made in the fight against climate change. Here are just a few of his most noteworthy ideas and their consequences:

Cancel the Paris agreement: Unsurprisingly, Trump reiterated his call to withdraw from the Paris Agreement saying, “We’re going to cancel the Paris climate agreement and stop all payments of U.S. tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs.” The Paris agreement is a landmark step in the global fight against climate change that was made possible by U.S. leadership. Global coordination, like the kind orchestrated in the Paris agreement, is necessary for the world’s collective goal of addressing climate change and is good for markets and U.S. companies seeking a clear and consistent path forward. Walking away from the agreement would weaken our position in the global community and threaten American lives and livelihoods.

Abolish the Clean Power Plan: When he referred to the Clean Power Plan in his speech today Trump said, “How stupid is that?” And as part of his big promise to “free up the coal,” he vowed to get rid of all regulations on the coal industry. Not only is the Clean Power Plan key to ensuring the U.S. meets its goal under the Paris agreement, it is also crucial for the public health and economic security of our country. For every $1 invested in the Clean Power Plan, Americans will see $7 in health benefits. And the plan is expected to prevent thousands of premature deaths.

Protect Welfare for Oil Companies: Like the Republican establishment, Trump said “under my plan we’re lowering taxes very substantially, as you know, for businesses…” Oil and gas companies already get nearly $4 billion in tax breaks annually. Meanwhile, a GOP led Congress phased out tax incentives for clean energy. At the same time, Mr. Trump declared that government should not pick winners or losers when it comes to energy. But billions in tax breaks does exactly that.

In addition to these proposals, Trump vowed to stop environmental executive action, approve the Keystone XL pipeline, and lift moratoriums on energy production on public lands, all of which would have serious economic and environmental consequences.

BOTTOM LINE: Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree on the science behind human-caused climate change. The Pentagon called it an “urgent and growing threat to our national security.” Donald Trump called it a Chinese hoax. In today’s speech, Trump repeated the same old, tired GOP energy policies that would endanger public health and undo meaningful progress in the global fight against climate change.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe. ‘Like’ CAP Action on Facebook and ‘follow’ us on Twitter

GOP Lawmakers Capitalize on Zika Threat to Pass Bill Dubbed ‘Making Pesticides Great Again’ Act

denguemosquito-a_1 (1)
An Aedes aegypti mosquito, which can transmit the Zika virus.

House Democrats and Obama administration, meanwhile, criticize bill’s assault on Clean Water Act
— by Andrea Germanos, staff writer

The Republican-controlled U.S. House on Tuesday passed legislation—newly rebranded with the word “Zika” in it—that Democrats say is in fact not at all about the addressing the threat of the virus but making it easier for pesticides to contaminate the nation’s waterways.

Previously called the “Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act,” the “Zika Vector Control Act”passed the House 258-156.

According to House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (Md), H.R. 897 “is nothing but a Trojan horse, with practically nothing to do with Zika.”

It was sponsored by Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), who, as Cleveland.com reported last week, “For years […] has tried to get Congress to change permitting requirements for pesticides sprayed near water.”

The Obama administration issued a statement earlier this week saying (pdf) that it “strongly opposes” the legislation, as it “would weaken environmental protections under the Clean Water Act.” Indeed, the Act’s summary states that it

establishes exemptions for the following discharges containing a pesticide or pesticide residue: (1) a discharge resulting from the application of a pesticide in violation of FIFRA that is relevant to protecting water quality, if the discharge would not have occurred but for the violation or the amount of pesticide or pesticide residue contained in the discharge is greater than would have occurred without the violation; (2) stormwater discharges regulated under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES); and (3) discharges regulated under NPDES of manufacturing or industrial effluent or treatment works effluent and discharges incidental to the normal operation of a vessel, including a discharge resulting from operations concerning ballast water held in ships to increase stability or vessel biofouling prevention.

Gibbs, The Hill notes, “said it would help to eliminate a ‘duplicative and unnecessary permitting regulation’ that has made it more difficult for some local governments to spread for mosquitoes.”

Journalist and documentary filmmaker Leighton Woodhouse, for his part, referred to the bill as “Straight up #disastercapitalism.”

Representative Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.)., meanwhile, said it “is a sham.”

“It is nothing but trying to weaken the environmental regulations. It exempts, a broad exemption, of toxic pesticides from the Clean Water Act,” she said to PBS NewshourMonday, adding that the bill stands to “pollute our rivers and contaminate our water.”

Rep. Grace F. Napolitano (D-Calif.) spoke out against the measure on the House floor Tuesday, calling it “misguided” and “harmful.”

“I am very concerned about the effect of these pesticides on the health of our rivers, on our streams, and especially the drinking water supplies of all our citizens, including pregnant women,” Napolitano added.

Slamming the repeated iterations of the bill that threatens “to undo protections that safeguard our environment and public health,” Hoyer said that to “bring the same bill back to the Floor last week and again today, renamed with ‘Zika’ in the title, is one of the most egregious displays of dishonesty I’ve seen while serving in the House.”

“It is an act that seeks to provide political cover for Republicans who refused to act on President Obama’s urgent request for funding to address the Zika outbreak in a serious way. House Republicans might as well bring this bill to the Floor and rename it the ‘Making Pesticides Great Again’ Act, because in truth it would remove virtually all federal oversight concerning the use of chemical pesticides to ensure they do not end up in our water supply,” he charged.

The bill also met outrage from Natural Resources Defense Council’s government arm, which tweeted:

Capture1

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The Associated Press notes that the Obama administration’s statement “stopped short of threatening a veto” of the bill.


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Redeeming Guantanamo: Two Scientists Propose New Mission For The Infamous Detention Center

—by Natasha Geiling Think Progress

Credit: AP Photo / Brennan Linsleyl, File

ince he was a presidential candidate, President Obama has called for the closing of the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba. Now, two academics have a unique idea for what the land could be used for if the center were to close: a marine research facility and international peace park.

In a piece published in the most recent issue of Science Magazine, the two scientists — Joe Roman, a conservation biologist at the University of Vermont, and James Kraska, a law professor at the U.S. Naval War College — argue that turning the detention center into a research facility would benefit the U.S., Cuba, and the local environment around Guantanamo. Because the land has been cut off from the rest of Cuba for so long, Roman told ClimateWire that it would be an ideal location to study various natural and ecological features of the area, including Cuba’s coral reefs and mangrove wetlands.

“It has a diversity of habitats that have been protected in part because the area is cut off from the rest of Cuba,” Roman said. “A majority of the land and waters are unoccupied, so therefore it has been great for a lot of the wildlife in the area.”

The land that the Guantanmo Bay detention center currently occupies is actually land that has been rented to the United States by the Cuban government for more than a century, though since the 1960s the Cuban government has treated the U.S. presence on the land as illegal. If the detention center is closed, some parties, like the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, have called for the land to be returned to Cuba.

But Roman and Kraska argue that since the United States has already said that it will not return the land to Cuba, the two countries should pursue a third option. The two argue that a marine research facility, jointly operated by both the United States and Cuba, would be a compromise that would give Cuban scientists financial support and access to facilities, while allowing the United States a chance to retain its presence in the area. The research station would “unite Cuba and the United States in joint management, rather than serve as a wedge between them, while helping meet the challenges of climate change, mass extinction, and declining coral reefs,” they write inScience Magazine.

The two note that the area provides habitat for a handful of creatures that are rare throughout the island, like the Cuban iguana or the West Indian manatee. The area also provides critical nesting grounds for the endangered green turtle and the critically endangered hawksbill turtle. There are also tropical dry forests on the base that are relatively rare throughout the rest of the island.

Roman and Kraska also argue that turning the area into a marine research station, and working to preserve its ecological systems, could be an important counterbalance to the influx of activity that is expected to come to the island as the United States begins to normalize its economic ties with the region. Thanks in part to previous sanctions, Cuba has seen lower rates of development in some areas, reducing the amount of industrial and agricultural damage to its ecosystems. The country itself has also taken an aggressive stance on conservation and climate change, something that Roman and Kraska say has “put it at the center of Caribbean conservation efforts.”

“For the next generation, the name Guantánamo could become associated with redemption and efforts to preserve and repair international relations and the planet,” the two write.

Even if President Obama were to get his wish and see the detention center closed — an unlikely outcome — the plan to convert the center into a research facility would likely face a skeptical Congress.

“That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard,” Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) told ClimateWire when asked his thoughts about turning the detention center into a research facility. “Why would we talk about a marine lab when we’re trying to save American lives?”

There are currently 91 detainees at Guantanamo Bay, 35 of whom have been cleared for transfer. The State Department expects to repatriate those detainees cleared for transfer by the summer, according to the Guardian.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe. ‘Like’ CAP Action on Facebook and ‘follow’ us on Twitter

Bernie Finally Announced His Overly Ambitious Socialized Energy Plan

On Monday, Vermont Senator and Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders announced his highly aggressive energy plan to forcefully deal with climate change. You can read his published plan here.

“The debate is over. The vast majority of the scientific community has spoken. Climate change is real,” said Sanders. “We will act boldly to move our energy system away from fossil fuels, toward energy efficiency and sustainable energy sources like wind, solar, and geothermal because we have a moral responsibility to leave our kids a planet that is healthy and habitable.”

 To do all that, Sanders’ plan would outright ban offshore drilling, ban Arctic drilling, block natural gas exports, stop attempts to lift a decades-old ban on crude oil exports, support states trying to ban natural gas fracking, and ban mountaintop removal coal mining. That’s a whole lot of current private sector jobs he’d be killing to bring his plan to fruition.  But it does appear that he intends to create 10 million public-sector(?) clean energy jobs that would replace them.  Many however, may not possess the requisite skills to fill those clean energy jobs, so I hope he’s planning to provide re-skilling education programs as part of his overall plan he’s going to impact the overall economy with a gigantic thud.

The major points of his plans are as follows:

  1. Ban fossil fuels lobbyists from working in the White House. (That’s nice, what about all the lobbyists who take precedence over actual constituents over in the House and the Senate?)
  2. End the huge subsidies that benefit fossil fuel companies.  (First, he’s going to need someone in the House and the Senate to propose that, then he’s going to need to get that out of committee and on the floor of each house for a vote, AND, he’s going to need 60 votes in the Senate or it’s going absolutely nowhere, because he cannot do that via executive order or fiat.)
  3. Create a national environmental and climate justice plan that recognizes the heightened public health risks faced by low-income and minority communities. (A plan that recognizes that?  How about some constructive action to correct not just the risks, but the actual health conditions resulting from continual exposure?)
  4. Bring climate deniers to justice so we can aggressively tackle climate change. (Would that be his fellow Senators and Representatives from the House … or the corporations that are their financial backers?)
  5. Fight to overturn Citizens United. (Ok? Not sure why that one is in his “Energy/Climate Change” proposal.  Seems like that should be in an “Election Reform” proposal.  At best it’s just going to show us which energy companies are buying whom.)
  6. Embrace a science-based standard for carbon pollution emissions reductions. (and decrease our carbon pollution emissions by at least 8o% from 1990s levels by 2050?  Does he fully comprehend how much pass-down costs are going to cripple our economy?  He’s already indicated he has plans to increase even middle class taxes.  Now he wants to dramatically increase the cost of absolutely anything and everything we buy as those costs to comply are passed down and marked up on every single commodity.)
  7. Put a price on carbon. (Well, that’s the only good thing in the plan so far given that we own 9kw worth of solar on the roof.  If he sets up a credit system, maybe there’s something in it for the investment we made.)
  8. Work toward a 100 percent clean energy system and create millions of jobs. (Would those be private or public sector jobs?  It’s already being intimated that Sanders is proposing the creation of 10 million “federal” jobs.  I can already hear right-wing heads exploding over the idea of a socialized energy workforce and the demise of the for profit energy industry.)
  9. Invest in clean, sustainable energy sources powered by the sun, wind and Earth’s heat. (I really do believe that truly is something our federal tax dollars should be used for instead of bankrolling BigOil profit margins, but it won’t go over well.  Didn’t Obama try that and get crucified by the GOP?  I can already hear and see in my mind’s eye, one commercial after another ad nauseum, raving about the failed Solyndra Solar development and how the Bernie wants to waste even more of our precious tax dollars on such frivilous endeavors.)
  10. Invest in advanced renewable fuels and keep our energy dollars at home. (I do believe we’re already doing that.  Net imports accounted for 27% of the petroleum consumed in the United States, the lowest annual average since 1985.)
  11. Invest in solar energy and put money back in the pockets of consumers. (Well I’m all for his support for net metering, but clearly he hasn’t been watching with the good Republicans of Nevada and other states around the nation have been doing to charge net-metered accounts higher “minimum cost to serve” bills and introducing schemes to credit net-metered accounts with only one-half a KW for every full KW taken by the utility.  Will he be putting an end to those predatory schemes?)
  12. Invest in making all American homes more energy efficient. (I’m sorry, but isn’t it the responsibility of home owners to invest in the maintenance and update of their homes?  I can see maybe making that process more affordable via reduced rate energy improvement loans and assistance programs.  But, we can’t do everything for everybody.)
  13. Build electric vehicle charging stations. (Wait a minute?  The Federal Government is going to do that? We’re going to take that out of the hands of the private sector? Is he also going to require all vehicles that burn fossil fuels to be off the road by some magic date?  That might work fine in urban centers, but it’s 2.5 hours at 75mph for us to be able to get to the nearest significant “urban center” and a single charge just isn’t gonna get us there without a significant stop for a serious re-charge … and then there’s the cost of that new electric car to add into the mix of things to come.)
  14. Build high-speed passenger and cargo rail. (Amtrack serves a limited number of cities across our nation, and the small rural town in which I reside does happen to be one of them, but many other small rural towns along its path are not so lucky. It seems to me that while this proposal may help those along the eastern and western seaboards and maybe some of the bigger urban centers across the nation, it will be at the expense of rural Americans for the benefit of big urban centers.)
  15. Convene a climate summit with the world’s best engineers, climate scientists, policy experts, activists and indigenous communities in his first 100 days. (Really?  Didn’t we just have one of those and didn’t leaders from around the globe just agree on some serious curtailment goals …. is didn’t the Republican Congress just tell President Obama to go take a flying leap? )
  16. Lead countries in cutting climate change.  (I think before we start telling everybody else what they should be doing, we better get our act together here at home!  When we have leaders in both houses of Congress not just denying climate change, but science altogether and claiming that Noah carried two of each type of Dinosaur and woolly mammoths on the ark along with two of every animal known to mankind today … maybe we need to concentrate on building a consensus at home.)
  17. Plan for peace to avoid international climate-fueled conflict. (What exactly does that mean? Do we all need to start watching “prepper” videos on YouTube and stalking our pantries?)

That definitely sets him apart from Hillary Clinton and assuredly proposes to take on BIG oil, but at what cost?

His staff did go all out to detail how his plan would work, complete with an interactive US map that pops out a target clean energy breakdown for each state. Here’s an animation of the pop-out for Nevada, as an example:

bloggif_56e0ce1b6673e

The 2050 Energy Costs slide claiming folks will save on average $98/person is a bit odd. Really?  Folks are going to have to buy solar, trash their current car and buy a new car (or give up your car altogether to use a bicycle or walk), all to achieve $98/person … in 2050(?).  Maybe I’m missing something here, but that’s a seriously steep selling curve even to the most avid climate change fanatics amongst us. And the “Money in your Pocket” for “Annual energy, health and climate cost savings/person” (again in 2050) section also makes no sense to me whatsoever.  I don’t come close to spending that much per year on energy, health or climate now and I’m reaching those elder years where one expects to start having to pay a bunch on health care issues.

Take some time and see if you can make some sense of where he wants to take our nation, how drastically quick he wants to get there and whether you think his approach is even do-able given our currently ideologically split nation.  If Bernie’s our party’s nominee, we’re all signing on “revolutionary” ideas to remake our nation.

Hillary on Flint Water Crisis

For months, government officials in Michigan have been scrambling to address the fallout of the man-made water catastrophe in Flint that poisoned thousands of mostly low-income people of color. While many Americans believe that racism can be boiled down to a sin marked by slurs and men burning crosses under the cover of night, Flint serves as a stark reminder that racism is in the air we breathe, flowing freely into our homes.


 

— a request from Hillary Clinton

For two years, the people of Flint, Michigan, complained that their water was murky, that it smelled bad, that bathing in it gave them rashes — and for two years, they were told they were wrong, and that their water was safe. But it wasn’t. It was poisoned, and the children of Flint were drinking it.

I traveled to Flint last weekend at the invitation of Mayor Karen Weaver to talk with residents and community leaders. The people I met were passionate, thoughtful, and tireless — one 6-year-old came to our meeting, and his mom spoke about how she’d tried so hard to shield her son from the ills of the world, only to learn she’d been giving him baths in poisoned water.

What happened in Flint is the cruelest kind of indifference, and an affront to what we stand for as a nation. Clean water is not optional, and it’s not a luxury — it’s a basic human right. The children of Flint are just as deserving of bright futures as the children of any other community. And today, those children need our help.

If you can, please chip in to support the Flint Child Health & Development Fund, which is working to provide health care and educational support to families in Flint affected by this crisis. We know that lead poisoning can affect kids for their whole lives, so 100 percent of your donation will help provide ongoing services for the next 20 years to the most vulnerable families in Flint:

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We need to keep talking about Flint, and we need to make sure that every child in this country can grow up to reach his or her God-given potential — no matter where they come from, the color of their skin, or how much money their parents make. Thank you for standing with me in this fight and so many others. Thank you for doing your part to help the children of Flint.

 

Betting the Farm on Free Trade?

The White House is gambling with our health, jobs, and environment by embracing the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

— by

Janet RedmanFrom her home in Berks County, Pennsylvania, Karen Feridun is helping stage a growing citizen pushback against the expansion of natural gas extraction. But a far-reaching global deal recently signed halfway around the world may make her job much harder.

Feridun got involved in this fight over concerns that fracking waste, laden with toxic chemicals, could end up in the sewage sludge that some Pennsylvania towns spread on local farm fields.

Figuring her best bet for keeping the state’s water, food, and communities safe was putting a stop to fracking, Feridun founded Berks Gas Truth. The group is now part of a statewide coalition calling for a halt to fracking in Pennsylvania.

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AFGE / Flickr

The campaign got a boost when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, after hearing a case brought by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, ruled that local governments have the right to protect the public trust. The court also found that oil and gas companies must abide by municipal zoning and planning laws.

The decision was celebrated as a huge victory for local control. But, Feridun told me, “the Trans-Pacific Partnership could turn over the apple cart entirely.”

The day after we spoke, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Frohman joined top officials from eleven other Pacific Rim nations in a New Zealand casino to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — a sweeping “free trade” agreement aimed at opening national borders to the flow of goods, services, and finance.

The location couldn’t have been more symbolic. By entering into this deal, the Obama administration is playing roulette with America’s future.

The White House hopes to win greater access to raw materials, cheap labor, and burgeoning consumer markets in Asia for U.S. companies. What do we stand to lose? Nothing less than the ability to set rules and regulations that protect our families’ health, our jobs, and our environment.

The provision at the heart of this wager is something called an “investor-state” clause. It would let companies based in TPP partner countries sue governments over laws or regulations that curtail their profit-making potential.

It’s a risky bet. Here’s the White House’s simplistic calculus: The U.S. government has never lost an investor-state case.

The more we win, it seems, the bigger our next gamble. The TPP would be the largest free trade agreement in history, covering about 40 percent of the global economy and giving additional countries the option to “dock” to the treaty later. It also adds thousands of companies that could potentially sue the United States in trade court.

Back in Berks County, the demand from newly opened overseas markets for U.S. gas may increase local pressure to frack. The TPP’s investor-state provisions would let foreign-owned gas companies challenge any statewide limits on the practice standing in their way.

If this sounds unlikely, look no further than our neighbors to the north. U.S. oil and gas company Lone Pine Resources sued Canada using a similar clause in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) when Quebec passed a moratorium to halt fracking under the St. Lawrence River. And Lone Pine won.

Now, TransCanada — the Canadian company behind the hugely unpopular Keystone XL pipeline — is bringing a $15 billion claim against the United States for denying permits to build it. That’s exactly the kind of legal action that makes people like Karen Feridun fighting oil and gas projects nervous.

Even if Washington wins the TransCanada suit under NAFTA, the fear of spending millions of dollars fending off litigation under the much larger TPP could have a chilling effect on future efforts to keep oil, gas, and coal in the ground.

Luckily, as Feridun and her neighbors know, Congress hasn’t approved the Trans-Pacific Partnership yet. If lawmakers care about protecting good jobs, clean skies, safe water, and a stable climate in this hotly contested election year, they’d be wise not to gamble against the public interest.


Janet Redman directs the Climate Policy Program at the Institute for Policy Studies. IPS-dc.org
Distributed by OtherWords.org. 

Help Put Rooftop Solar on the Ballot in Nevada

The PUC eliminated rooftop solar to protect NV Energy’s monopoly. We’ve launched a campaign to put rooftop solar on the ballot in November and get it back. Join us! http://www.bringbacksolar.org

Last December, the Nevada Public Utilities Commission (PUC) passed anti-solar rules that destroyed the rooftop solar industry in America’s sunniest state. The rules eliminated Nevadans’ choice to go solar, imposed massive new fees on existing customers, and has already cost the state hundreds of jobs, with thousands more Nevadans facing layoffs in the coming months. And they did all that WITHOUT any evidence that NV Energy incurred any increased generation, transmission or distribution expenses that can be tracked back to the installation of residential solar arrays. Moreover, they undermined state policies and incentives that encouraged customers to go solar, created thousands of jobs, and made Nevada a national leader in clean energy. The PUC’s rules are unfair, they have damaged Nevada’s business-friendly reputation, and they only benefit the State’s monopoly utility, NV Energy. 

The PUC’s new rules allow NV Energy to take clean electricity from residential solar customers and sell it to their neighbors at a 300% markup, or even better, sell it on the open market for more than they can legally charge their customers, while crediting net-metered customers with a fraction of energy usurped. They also force solar customers to pay monthly fees 200% higher than other residential customers without solar arrays. In other words, the PUC granted NV Energy the right to usurp the investments made by residential customers who invested in solar arrays (but did nothing to penalize big box stores littered with solar panels on their roofs). That’s just wrong. NV Energy should not be allowed to take our electricity without fair compensation.

Meanwhile, all we’re seeing/hearing from Governor Sandoval?  Crickets!  Sign up now for Bring Solar Back‘s email list to join the fight and support the petition. Then, share and tweet your support to get your friends and neighbors on board.