Sunday, December 21, 2014

PNN - Frackin + Electronic Silent Spring + Emine's Turkey trot

Steve Horn Environmental Reporter, Katie Singer Electro-Magnetic Pollution Researcher, Emine Dilek New Turkish Party 

The title sort of speaks for itself, but my latest piece* covers the recent appointment of Amos Hochstein to become the United States' top energy diplomat for the U.S. State Department. He will likely now be a key point man for the State Department's team in its work hammering out a U.S. position for climate change negotiations that are ongoing at the UN summit in Lima, Peru.

Earlier on in his career, Hochstein lobbied for Marathon Oil, which in fact meant lobbying on behalf of the Qaddafi dictatorship in Libya, a tie he shares with the former person who had his gig at the State Department under Hillary Clinton, David Goldwyn. He will also head up the State 

Department's Global Shale Gas Initiative/Unconventional Gas Technical Engagement Program, what I've called a "fracking missionary force" run by the State Department.

That and more can be found within the piece. Any help passing it along on Facebook or Twitter would be greatly appreciated, as well. 

Cross-posting of the article also welcome, but please direct URL link to the original on DeSmogBlog if you do.

Hi All:

My latest piece is now up on DeSmogBlog.*

Lost in the comments President Obama offered this week on The Colbert Report about the future of the northern leg of Keystone XL, which excited some, is another pipeline system he's permitted into existence. 

That is, the one we've been calling Enbridge's "Keystone XL Clone" on DeSmogBlog. It is now open for business and has hundreds of thousands of barrels of tar sands flowing through it straight to the Gulf of Mexico to the same areas of southern leg of Keystone XL also brings tar sands to. 

Put another way, lots more tar sands is now "Texas Bound and Flyin'," to quote from the country song by Jerry Reed. It was akin to the elephant in the room as Obama talked about climate change concerns for future generations as it pertains to Keystone XL on Colbert. 

Any help passing along this piece on Facebook or Twitter would be greatly appreciated. Cross-posting also welcome, but please direct URL link to the original on DeSmogBlog if you do.

Thanks much! Excerpt below.

Florida PSC gives approval for FPL to invest in natural gas fracking

The Public Service Commission gave approval Thursday to a request by Florida Power & Light to charge customers for its exploration of natural gas using fracking technologies.
The panel concluded that the project, which allows the company to invest $191 million in a joint venture with PetroQuest Energy, Inc., would help to stabilize volatile energy costs and save customers more than $100 million over 30 years – about two cents a month -- and stabilize a fraction of the company's energy costs. 
The measure was opposed by the lawyers who represent the public in rate cases, as well as the state’s largest industrial energy users, the Florida Retail Federation and several environmental groups. The PSC postponed a decision until March on the question of whether FPL will be allowed to charge customers up to $750 million a year in similar projects without PSC approval.
The opponents argued that there was no guarantee that the risk of shouldering the costs of oil and gas drilling in an uncertain regulatory environment would produce benefits for ratepayers and could backfire in higher costs. They argued the decision to allow the company to use customer dollars for speculation was something that should be left to the Legislature.
“FPL will shift all risks of investing in gas reserves to the customers in exchange for promises of potential customer fuel savings and guaranteed trued-up profits (or returns) for shareholders,’’ the public counsel said in its brief. It noted that it is not opposed to guaranteeing fuel savings to customers however, "FPL simply cannot guarantee those savings to customers over the next 50 years.”
The ruling could be the beginning of a trend as Duke Energy, the largest utility in the Tampa Bay market, said it is also considering asking for permission to charge its customers for fracking exploration.
Currently, utility companies are allowed to pass along all of their fuel costs to customers but are obligated to try to hedge the impact of fluctuating prices. FPL argued that because it purchases more natural gas than any utility in the nation, it had an economic interest in finding ways to reduce the impact of the volatile natural gas costs.

Commissioner Eduardo Balbis, who led the debate to endorse the proposal, called it “an effective form of hedging in that it reduces volatility.’’
He said that because of federal regulations which are reducing the use of coal-burning power plants, most of the company's fuel comes from natural gas and 70 percent of that comes from fracked wells.
Hydraulic fracking is a technology that involves injecting large volumes of water, sand and chemicals at high pressures to release oil and natural gas from rock caverns deep underground. On Wednesday, New York became the second state to ban hydraulic fracturing in because of concerns over health risks, including water contamination and air pollution. Vermont has also banned the practice. 
“If customers are going to pay for gas that comes from unconventional sources, they will get it cheaper’’ this way, Balbis said.
Commissioner Julie I. Brown said she supported the proposal for similar reasons.
“Let’s face the reality here,’’ she said. “We are becoming more and more dependent on natural gas and we will only continue to become more natural gas dependent.”
Commissioner Lisa Edgar defended the proposal and said it had been misunderstood by many in the public. “It’s not about fracking in Florida,’’ she said. “Fracking in Florida will be a policy decision by the Legislature.”
The proposal was also not about drilling in the Everglades, decreasing conservation or renewable energy and “it’s not about drilling exploration in a greenfield site,” she said.
Instead, the reality is that the need for natural gas is growing and that “most of the natural gas used to provide to Florida businesses is currently coming from fracking areas across the country,” Edgar said.
Commissioner Ronald A. Brisé said he opposed the idea but voted for it anyway to follow the majority.
"The question really boils down to a policy hurdle: do we want utilities to get into the production business,'' he said. "What risks and challenges are assocated with that? Do we as a commission have the tools to look at that and ensure that our customers would be getting the best deal all of the time?”
The panel modified FPL’s request by suggesting that the company be required to hire an independent auditor to monitor the books of PetroQuest, since the PSC will not be allowed to see how much ratepayers are being charged for the exploration process. 
The PSC decision was unusual in that it was made without the aid of a formal recommendation from the PSC's staff. PSC Chairman Art Graham concluded that FPL needed the ruling decided soon, although nothing in the record indicated the need for urgency. A staff recommendation, however, might have included elements that were not suitable to FPL, forcing the regulators to contradict their staff.
Regulators will return in March to address the broader policy question about whether to expand this proposal to include agreements with other companies. That will include a staff recommendation, which will be released in February.
A proposal to ban fracking in Florida, similar to New York's, has been filed in the Florida Legislature.
The fast-track approval may have set a new speed record on the PSC – going from hearing to final report in two weeks. There was nothing in the record that indicated that FPL’s partner in the deal would back out if the ruling wasn’t completed quickly.
As with all PSC proceedings, the record is lengthy – involving interrogatories, discovery documents, pre-hearing and hearing transcripts, briefs and motions. In it all, the PSC’s professional staff was involved at great taxpayer expense.
In the October earnings call report, FPL’s parent company, NextEra Energy, told Wall Street investors the PSC would come “either late this year or early next year.”
CFO  Moray Dewhurst also reported that the company has ample latitude with regulators. He cited FPL’s court victory in prevailing to get an automatic rate hike for customers without input from the public counsel and predicted the company would continue to get unfettered favorable treatment from the regulatory board:
“The Court's order comprehensively rejected all the arguments raised by the Office of Public Counsel and made it very clear that, as long as the PSC follows appropriate procedures, as it did in 2012, it has wide latitude to determine whether a settlement agreement is in the public interest, taking account of all the prevailing facts and circumstances,’’ he said. “We believe this is a very positive development that will encourage and support efforts to negotiate future settlement agreements that, like the 2012 agreement, have new and innovative elements in them.”
The fracking proposal is not a settlement agreement but it has been called by PSC chairman Graham “unchartered territory” and, like the settlement, allows the PSC to continue to expand one initiative without asking regulators for permission.
Balbis, one of the most independent-minded members of the commission, also used the meeting to give his farewell after serving for four years on the PSC. His term expires at the end of the year and he surprised many when he chose not to seek another term.

[Last modified: Saturday, December 20, 2014 11:18am]

Katie Singer Book site

Sunday, December 14, 2014

PNN - Professor Jazz (UN) Squared

Thousands of people have taken to the streets in Warsaw to protest recent election results. Law and Justice party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski says the ballots were falsified with almost 20 percent of the votes being declared invalid.
Kaczynski’s supporters are marching under the slogan “in support of democracy.” 
The organizers of the rally claim that over 100,000 people have turned out to protest, which would be the largest demonstration in the history of post-war Poland. However, reports from the Polish newspaper, Wyborcza, say this figure has been significantly inflated. Other estimates have put the figure at around 60,000, the paper adds.
from RT News

2. CIA Funding: Never Constrained by its Congressional Budget
How is it that the CIA has always found ways to spend past the means of its “black budget?” 
In this fourth exclusive excerpt from author Peter Dale Scott’s new book “The American Deep State: Wall Street, Big Oil and the Attack on U.S. Democracy,” the professor emeritus of English at Berkeley and former Canadian diplomat lays out how the CIA has run slush funds since its inception. 
In it, Scott marshals evidence that the proceeds of several U.S.-Saudi arms deals are the common denominator tying together every major “deep state” event involving the U.S. since 1976. 
Scott is considered the father of “deep politics”—the study of hidden permanent institutions and interests whose influence on the political realm transcends the elected. In “American Deep State,” he painstakingly details the facts lurking behind the official histories to uncover the real dynamics in play. 
from Who, What, Why

3.Hundreds of Ex-Obama Staffers Call on Warren to Run
On Friday morning, the group "Ready for Warren" released a letter calling on Sen. Elizabeth Warren to run for president — with the signatures of over 330 former Obama campaign staffers.
"We believed in an unlikely candidate who no one thought had a chance," the letter begins. "We organized like no campaign had organized before — and won the Democratic primary. We built a movement." 
The letter calls "rising income inequality" the "challenge of our times", and concludes: "We want someone who will stand up for working families and take on the Wall Street banks and special interests that took down our economy … We urge Elizabeth Warren to run for president in 2016."
Warren's increased prominence
Warren has said repeatedly that she has no intention of running. But the new effort to coax her into the race comes as she's taken an increasingly prominent role in key political battles. 
She has harshly criticized this week's government funding bill because it repeals part of Dodd-Frank, and is going to war with Obama over his nomination of investment banker Antonio Weiss for a position in the Treasury Department. She was also given a role in the Senate Democratic leadership in November.
from RSN

4. Kerry’s Speech In Lima Rings Hollow
Reuters/ Enrique Castro-Mendivil In response to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks today at the UN climate change conference in Lima, Peru, Karen Orenstein, senior analyst at Friends of the Earth U.S., issued the following statement: We only wish that the U.S. government acted in accordance with the sense of urgency that Secretary Kerry expressed in his speech today at the climate summit in Lima, Peru. The world is tired of hearing rhetorical, empty boasting about U.S. leadership while the glaciers melt, fires rage and people lose their lives to climate change. Yes, the political climate in Washington, DC is indisputably difficult, but that doesn’t excuse President Obama’s advocacy for a non-science-based, voluntary climate agreement internationally, or his decision at home to give fossil fuel polluters access to publicly owned lands. POPULAR Resistence

Jamie Dimon himself called to urge support for the derivatives rule in the spending bill 11 Dec 2014 The acrimony that erupted Thursday between President Obama and members of 'his own party' largely pivoted on a single item in a 1,600-page piece of legislation to keep the government funded: Should banks be allowed to make risky investments using taxpayer-backed money? The very idea was abhorrent to many Democrats on Capitol Hill. And some were stunned that the White House would support the bill with that provision intact, given that it would erase a key provision of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation, one of Obama's signature achievements. But perhaps even more outrageous to Democrats was that the language in the bill appeared to come directly from the pens of lobbyists at the nation's biggest banks, aides said. The provision was so important to the profits at those companies that J.P.Morgan's chief executive Jamie Dimon himself telephoned individual lawmakers to urge them to vote for it, according to a person familiar with the effort.
$1.1T spending bill, a gift to GOP and corporations, slashes EPA, bank, pension, and campaign finance regulations --Republicans won a new concession exempting many agricultural projects from clean water rules 10 Dec 2014 Democratic support for a huge, $1.1 trillion spending bill funding every corner of government faded Wednesday as liberal lawmakers erupted over a provision that weakens the regulation of risky financial instruments and another that allows more money to flood into political parties...Top Democrats were lining up to vote against the measure. "I'm not going to support it. I've already found lots of provisions that are against the public interest," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. "I find it surprising that some people are threatening to shut down the government in order to extract big benefits for big banks at the expense of consumers and taxpayers."

Democrats fail to curb corporate overseas tax-shifting inversions in spending bill 10 Dec 2014 Democratic lawmakers wanted to use a year-end spending bill to punish U.S. companies that moved their tax addresses overseas by barring them from getting government contracts. It didn't work. In the end, all the Democrats got was new language that may not affect any companies and a renewed provision that has proved ineffective in the past. The policy is a victory for companies including Medtronic Inc. and Tyco International Plc, which have millions of dollars in U.S. contracts and will be able to keep their business with the government. Medtronic is moving its tax address to Ireland next year and Tyco completed an inversion in 1997.
Citizens for Legitimate Govt.

6. Senator Elizabeth Warren's recent speech (excerpt)
Democrats don't like Wall Street bailouts. Republicans don't like Wall Street bailouts. The American people are disgusted by Wall Street bailouts
And yet here we are, five years after Dodd-Frank with Congress on the verge of ramming through a provision that would do nothing for the middle class, do nothing for community banks, do nothing but raise the risk that taxpayers will have to bail out the biggest banks once again...

So let me say this to anyone who is listening at Citi[group]. I agree with you Dodd-Frank isn't perfect. It should have broken you into pieces!
If this Congress is going to open up Dodd-Frank in the months ahead, then let's open it up to get tougher, not to create more bailout opportunities. If we're going to open up Dodd-Frank, let's open it up so that once and for all we end too big to fail and I mean really end it, not just say that we did.
Instead of passing laws that create new bailout opportunities for too big to fail banks, let's pass...something...that would help break up these giant banks.

A century ago Teddy Roosevelt was America's Trust-Buster. He went after the giant trusts and monopolies in this country, and a lot of people talk about how those trust deserved to be broken up because they had too much economic power. But Teddy Roosevelt said we should break them up because they had too much political power. Teddy Roosevelt said break them up because all that concentrated power threatens the very foundations up our democratic system.
And now we're watching as Congress passes yet another provision that was written by lobbyists for the biggest recipient of bailout money in the history of this country. And its attached to a bill that needs to pass or else we entire federal government will grind to a halt.

Think about that kind of power. If a financial institution has become so big and so powerful that it can hold the entire country hostage. That alone is reason enough to break them up.
Enough is enough.
Enough is enough with Wall Street insiders getting key position after key position and the kind of cronyism that we have seen in the executive branch. Enough is enough with Citigroup passing 11th hour deregulatory provisions that nobody takes ownership over but everybody will come to regret. Enough is enough
Washington already works really well for the billionaires and the big corporations and the lawyers and the lobbyists.

But what about the families who lost their homes or their jobs or their retirement savings the last time Citigroup bet big on derivatives and lost? What about the families who are living paycheck to paycheck and saw their tax dollars go to bail out Citi just 6 years ago?

We were sent here to fight for those families. It is time, it is past time, for Washington to start working for them!

PNN is very happy to present two outstanding Jazz Musicians
James Ousley Master Jazz Bass Player and Music Professor at FIU
Melton Mustafa Trumpet Master and Jazz Promoter and Producer