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PNN 8/2/15


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0. Open Mike Night

SCPA Call for Open-Minded Mic Nite! August 6
Seven speaking slots still available.
TO SIGN UP please click here
FULL INFO please click here

1st THURSDAY, August 6 is Open-Minded Mic Nite! 
6:30pm Thursday, August 6, 2015
Hosted by Space Coast Progressive Alliance
Location: Front Street Civic Center, 2205 Front St. Melbourne FL 32901
Free and open to the public. Donations graciously accepted.

SPEAKERS get 3 minutes to speak + 2 minutes for Q+A.
Advance registration is required.
Topic and brief summary of what you want to say is required to register.
Submittals are reviewed by a 3-person team.

1. TransCanada Keystone XL Hits New Turbulence As South Dakota Permit Hearing Implodes Over Pipeline Corrosion, Market Demand


By Julie Dermansky • DsmogBlog Thursday, July 30, 2015 - 14:11

Holes too big to fix were poked in TransCanada’s narrative that its Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will be the safest pipeline ever built. And questions were raised about how the pipeline company’s financial dealings are set up during Public Utilities Commission hearings in Pierre, South Dakota this week where state regulators are tasked to decide if the company is capable of following the rules the state set when the original Keystone pipeline permit was granted in 2010.
A team of lawyers representing Native American tribes and the grassroots group Dakota Rural Action took the upper hand during the proceedings as they tried to have a TransCanada executive’s testimony impeached. The proceedings took on a circus-like atmosphere when TransCanada was unable to prevent lines of questioning it didn’t like. 
The commissioners seemed unsure of its own procedures. At one point, Commissioner Gary Hanson expressed frustration that he was having trouble drawing a distinction between TransCanada’s evidence and its advertising statements.

The testimony of TransCanada’s key witness, Corey Goulet, president of Keystone Pipeline Projects, turned out to be an important centerpiece of the hearing.
In pretrial testimony filed by Goulet, he stated the company would have no problem meeting the Commission’s amended conditions.

However, TransCanada’s promises to build safe pipelines have been called into question with several high-profile incidents involving its existing pipelines, particularly the corrosion problems with the Keystone 1 pipeline. 

TransCanada 'root cause analysis' document, made available online by DeSmog on Tuesday, shed troubling light on the external corrosion encountered on the Keystone 1.

‘ROOT CAUSE ANALYSIS’ DOCUMENT CREATES HEADACHES, QUESTIONS FOR TRANSCANADA

When Goulet was questioned about the significant corrosion discovered on the Keystone 1 pipeline in Missouri in 2012 — when the pipeline’s wall had corroded in one spot to the thickness of a dime — he downplayed the incident, claiming that none of the defects were close to rupturing. 

“None of the defects, in my experience in 30 years of pipelines, would be injurious from the perspective of being close to rupturing. Therefore the only problem would have been the depth of corrosion,” Goulet testified. (Audio of Goulet testimony, relevant corrosion section at ~ 32:45 – 33:40)   
Bruce Ellison, one of the lawyers for the interveners, had handed Goulet a copy of the company’s root cause analysis report of the incident, before pointing out the corrosion area was much larger than Goulet had described. One of the defects involved a section of pipe where the wall had eroded 96.8 percent, which Ellison noted was close to a rupture incident.
TransCanada lawyers objected to any reference to the report because Goulet claimed he had never seen it and that it was classified. But since the report had already been entered into evidence, the interveners’ lawyers were allowed by the Commission to continue questioning him. 
In the course of discovery, TransCanada provided the report in question as part of the unclassified documents, and therefore could not exclude the report from evidence, the Commission said.

After that dispute was settled, Goulet admitted he knew the location of sites where the pipeline had been dug up for inspection and repair. 

As indicated in the ‘root cause’ report, Site 5 was only 200 feet from the Mississippi River, the primary drinking water source for 18 million Americans, as well as agricultural water for crop production. 
Evan Vokes, former TransCanada employee turned whistleblower, and an expert witness for the interveners, told DeSmog he has never seen a pipeline coating corroded as badly as the failed coating of the Keystone 1. It looked as if “it had been gnawed at by rats,” he told DeSmog.

Another former TransCanada employee reviewed the report and found it shocking. The fact that damaged sections of the pipe were repaired instead of replaced concerned him greatly. “We cut out better pipe than what I’ve seen in those pictures,” he told DeSmog. 

TRANSCANADA’S TAX REVENUE CALCULATIONS OFF BY A LOT

Goulet testified that the considerably lower amount of taxes TransCanada paid was less than had been estimated before construction — although the tax rate has since increased. 

While he stated he didn’t know the technical details of how the taxes are applied, he went on to testify that “TransCanada Pipeline LP is the owner of the Keystone XL pipeline,” explaining that it is a wholly owned subsidiary of TransCanada Corporation. While TransCanada Corporation has assets in excess of $50 billion, not all of that value would be assessed for tax purposes. Only the subsidiary’s assets would, Goulet explained. While TransCanada estimated that Keystone 1 would deliver at least $45 million in tax revenue to communities, Goulet admitted that the company has only paid $18.4 million over the first 5 years of the pipeline’s operation. That’s roughly a third of what TransCanada had estimated as the benefit it would deliver in tax revenue to affected communities.

 Goulet cited higher capital and operating costs for the discrepancy, blaming regulatory delays, technical changes, and inflation were responsible for the costs ballooning to nearly $2 billion for the Keystone 1 project. (Audio of hearing, relevant section on taxes at ~ 1:22:15 – 1:32:00)

The tax revenue discrepancies could have real impacts on communities that bank on the future of the Keystone pipeline.

“In Harding County a bond was passed and a new school was built on the premise that TransCanada’s pipeline taxes would help pay for it,” Bret Clanton, a member of Dakota Rural Action said.

TRANSCANADA BULLISH ON BUILDING KEYSTONE XL DESPITE OIL PRICE SLUMP 

In afternoon testimony (audio from ~1:48:00 on), David Diakow, TransCanada’s Vice President, Commercial, Liquids Pipelines, opened the door to information that related to TransCanada’s business dealings related to the project.  

Diakow revealed that the company intends to build the pipeline no matter how low the price of oil goes. (audio ~ 1:54:40 – 1:57:15)
Robin Martinez, a lawyer for the interveners, described what came next as unusual in an email to DeSmog,

“Paul Blackburn, one of the attorneys for the intervenors in the proceedings, started to question Mr. Diakow about market demand for the KXL pipeline. He began inquiring as to whether TransCanada’s customers were demanding changes to their contracts, which TransCanada objected to, claiming their contracts and communications with customers were highly confidential. TransCanada then argued that Mr. Blackburn’s questions relating to market demand for the pipeline were not relevant to the question of whether or not TransCanada could meet the conditions imposed by the Commission when it granted the original permit in 2010. However, by placing Mr. Diakow’s written testimony into the record they opened the door to full cross-examination of him under the applicable administrative procedure rules. Apparently not wanting to have him questioned, TransCanada withdrew him as a witness and asked the Commission to strike his testimony from the record.”

The Commission limited the scope of all further testimony for both parties to be pertinent to the amended conditions of the original 2010 permit, strictly limiting evidence presented for the remainder of the trial.

Peter Caposella, the lawyer representing the Rock Sioux Tribe said in all his years as an attorney, he had never seen a plaintiff remove their own witness in such a manner.  

As the near failure of the Keystone 1 line proved, the consequences of siting TransCanada’s bitumen-carrying export lines so close to drinking water supplies is a risk we can ill afford to accept in an age of water scarcity and climate disruption. 

Even if President Obama denies the permit for the pipeline to cross international borders, the next administration could reverse that decision. 

However, if the South Dakota Public Utility Commission decides TransCanada isn’t up to the job, TransCanada will have to start the entire re-permitting process again. 




3. In the U.S., the censors are far more numerous
DeSmog Blog
Western societies are the censorship capitals of the world, where public figures who run amok the extremely narrow confines of publicly permitted speech are required to conduct elaborate rituals of verbal self-flagellation
We hear a lot of kvetching in the Western press about censorship in Russia. The ever-amusing Josh Keating over at Slate tells us that Russian bookstores have been pulling Maus from their shelves because the graphic novel features a swastika – that dastardly Putin at it again, banning Nazi propaganda: “Before we scoff too much, it’s worth remembering that Maus has been challenged by skittish school libraries in the United States as well, but the case does illustrate something about how censorship works in contemporary Russia.”
(Before we scoff too much, American retailer JC Penny came under fire in 2013 due to aMichael Graves teapot because said teapot bore an uncanny resemblance to Adolf Hitler.)
In light of this, a recent round of ginned up “outrage” has me so puzzled and wondering if maybe we should be wondering ourselves if we are living in a censorship-free society. Pop singer Ariana Grande was filmed – without her knowledge – in a doughnut shop, licking a doughnut and then daring to disparage a tray of what I can only assume were bacon grease-filled deep-fried butter bombs with bacon-butter icing. The singer, viewing the tray, said the following: “What the f*** is that? That’s disgusting. I hate America. That’s disgusting.”
So, naturally, Americans got offended and Grande was shamed into issuing an extensive public apology and canceling scheduled appearances. Actor Rob Lowe weighed in, calling her apology “lame.” TMZ called her comments “fat-shaming.”
Here I was thinking that part of being American means you get to say “I hate America.” I thought we were Je Suis Charlie. I guess not so much.
Sergei Dorenko calls this horizontal censorship. In “The Geometry of Censorship,” Mark Ames analyzes Dorenko’s “vertical” censorship, of which he accuses the Kremlin of employing, and compares it to the “horizontal” censorship of the West:
This was contrasted to our “horizontal” censorship in the West: rather than coming from a tyrannical top-down force, our censorship is carried out horizontally, between colleagues and peers and “society”; through public pressure and peer pressure; through morality-policing; and from within oneself, one’s fears for one’s career, and fears one can’t necessarily articulate, fears that feel natural rather than imposed upon.
Under vertical censorship, you know exactly who you fear, and therefore, who and what to avoid or sneak around and oppose. But horizontal censorship feels like it comes from everyone and anyone, depriving the censored of martyrdom status.
Which makes our “horizontal” censorship in many ways more effective and powerful than the cruder Kremlin “vertical” approach to censorship—according to Dorenko’s theory.
I do not intend to take a pro-doughnut licking stance, but I do think that this incident is indicative of a distinct problem in American society. Celebrities and other public figures must issue heartfelt and repeated apologies after their remarks are made public, and are still socially and professionally shamed into retracting their comments. Unless they are Donald Trump and say things Americans secretly agree with and/or find hilarious, many times they are unable to recover their professional standing.
It may be easy to dismiss the pastry-related peccadilloes of a 22-year-old pop singer, but horizontal censorship gets carried over from the entertainment sector into political and foreign policy debates.
In Western society, horizontal censorship is tied to the offender’s self-worth. One misplaced comment or one poorly-worded Tweet, and suddenly that person’s value as a human being goes off the cliff.
Examples of social and cultural censorship in the United States are legion – from the Dixie Chicks criticizing George Bush and radio stations voluntarily pulling their music, toSeth Rogen having to apologize because he didn’t like the movie American Sniper. The example that is particularly heinous is the personal and professional attacks endured by Dr. Stephen F. Cohen over his stance on Russia and Ukraine.
Cohen, a professor emeritus at Princeton University and New York University, a former adviser to CBS News on U.S./USSR relations, and my spirit animal, has consistently dissented from the party line on Russia and Ukraine and has been rewarded for his pains with character assassination in the American media. Even the virtuous Slate got in on the action – running an article about Cohen, entitled, ‘Putin’s Pal':
As Cohen made Russia’s case and lamented the American media’s meanness to Vladimir Putin  in print  and airwaves, he was mocked as a “patsy” and a “dupe” everywhere from the conservative to the liberal.
Now, as the hostilities in eastern Ukraine have turned to the tragedy of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, Cohen is at it again—this time, with a  long article  in the current issue of The Nation indicting Kiev’s atrocities in eastern Ukraine and America’s collusion therein.

The timing is rather unfortunate for Cohen and The Nation, since the piece is also unabashedly sympathetic to the Russian-backed militants who appear responsible for the murder of 298 innocent civilians.
Never mind that Cohen has been consistently proven right. Never mind that there still is no conclusive evidence that the Eastern Ukrainian rebels are responsible for MH-17.

The shameful treatment of Dr. Cohen is particularly pernicious because, like during the lead-up to the Iraq War, it ignores a voice of peace among those clamoring for war. Only recently has the “liberal” Huffington Post seen fit to include Cohen’s viewpoint on the Ukraine crisis. Considering that U.S.-Russia relations deteriorated to their lowest point since the end of the Cold War while HuffPo jumped enthusiastically on the anti-Russian bandwagon from Sochi onward, their recent about-face appears as a weak attempt to appear unbiased.
In fact, this type of opinion-shaming isn’t limited to Western media sources. Earlier this year, I received a private message on a social network from a Ukrainian in response to post I had written in a news article’s comment section. I kept it so I can quote it here: “i hope you get ill and die in pain, you dirty russian c**t troll” (Asterisks mine.)

Censorship in the United States comes from all corners, in deleted Tweets, extensive groveling apologies, and condescending lectures on what not to say to vegetarians. In authoritarian, vertically censored societies, the devil you know has told the citizenry what speech is and is not acceptable. In horizontally censored societies, the devil you don’t know can appear at any time, to police your words, actions, and where applicable, deem you, your apology, and your value as a human being worthy of acceptance and you of forgiveness.
It sounds a lot like what Keating refers to in Slate:
We may associate censorship in authoritarian countries with jackbooted police marching into libraries to confiscate banned literature, but more often, in Russia at least, it’s self-censoring for fear of violating intentionally vague laws.
As the Times wrote recently, ascribing the reaction of Moscow theaters to a new law banning obscenity in public performances, cultural figures in Russia today describe a climate of confusion and anxiety. One publisher was quoted as saying that in Soviet times, at least we knew the rules.

If Keating’s fear-mongering has any basis in reality, then it must be a brave new world to those who remember living in the Soviet Union to finally experience Western-style horizontal censorship first-hand.

Which is worse – overzealous compliance with laws that, while admittedly vague, give citizens a guideline about what might fall under their purview – or a society that claims to be free and open but has consistently shown that it hasn’t evolved much beyond its infamous witch trials?

I think we can all agree that censorship in all forms is wrong, but I do think that we would all have one less problem without America’s puritanical exceptionalism.




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