Shifting storm to modernize utilities gets backlash

on Wednesday, July 30, 2014

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Constituents from all sides of the global warming issues gathered in Denver Tuesday and today for the only public hearing in the western United States. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Clean Power Plan, is at the forefront of a house appropriations bill aimed to cut off the EPA’s legs and funding surrounding the issue.
 “Climate change is one of the greatest issues of our time. Power plants are the leading contribution to carbon emissions in the United States accounting for one third of all green house gas emissions,” said Gina McCarthy, EPA administrator at a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee oversight hearing last week. “This is the result of more than 40 years of history in that (EPA) agency of getting the science right, understanding the law and doing the work we need to do. I will guarantee that I have met more times with the utilities than I have the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council),” she said after senators attempts to roast the agency.
In a June 23 letter, about 40 senators cited concerns including high utility costs to citizens, as Sen. David Vitter (R-Louisiana) proclaimed the plan a “Federal takeover of our American electricity system – dramatic extension of EPA’s role and authority.”
Several western costal states seeing the effects of global warming chimed in. Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California) called the plan a “win win,” stating regulating carbon emissions is the EPA’s authority. She joined with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) asking for EPA feedback on how to work within the plan.  
Beginning in 2015, the plan allows states 15 years , from when the rule is final until compliance with the final target to consider and get the right investments and ensure reliability.
According to McCarthy, “All told in 2030 when states meet their goals our proposal will result in 30 percent less carbon pollution from the carbon sector in the U.S. in comparison with 2005 levels. We will cut smog and smut by more than 25 percent, avoid more than 2,100 heart attacks in the first year…because clean energy is smart we predict in 2030 average utility bills for American families will be eight percent cheaper.”
The plan is an investment strategy positioning the U.S. to continue to grow in every state based on their own designs and it will position us nationally, she said.
In a voice of reason, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rode Island) shed light on the debate stating, “In 2010 a supreme court decision regarding Citizens United allowed billionaire money to bombard our politics preventing bipartisan debates.”
According to the proposed house appropriations bill, the EPA would receive 9 percent below 2014’s funding levels. The measure would cut $24 million in the EPA’s administrative programs, including the administrator’s office and congressional affairs, applying funding instead to the Interior Department.
“The legislation also includes provisions to stop various harmful, costly, and potentially job-killing regulations by the EPA,” the House Appropriations Committee said in a July 8 statement.
Clean air advocates and pro-coal advocates are rallying support and money to address the bill and proposed EPA plan.  
In a call for advocate support Bryce Carter, Sierra Club  - Colorado Beyond Coal to Clean Energy Campaign representative said, “We know our opposition has spent over a million dollars against us, and there is a pro-coal rally happening.  It is crucial clean energy supporters have a strong turn out at this hearing to urge the EPA to take bold action to limit harmful carbon pollution.”

EPA public hearings continue in Denver, Atlanta and Washington today. Comment online through Oct. 16, 2014.

FBI raids California capital for criminal activity

on Wednesday, June 05, 2013

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI, agents searched a California state senator and the Legislature's Latino caucus offices during a seven-hour ordeal on the fifth floor of the capital building Tuesday.  
   Although no reason was disclosed, agents acted under sealed warrants emerging from the California State Capital (pictured Tuesday night) at approximately 10 p.m. with six boxes and what may be a computer hard drive.
   The warrants were served at about 3 p.m., according to Laura Eimiller, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Los Angeles, who said the agents’ presence was to investigate "allegations of criminal activity."
Senate Chief Sergeant-at-Arms Tony Beard told The Associated Press, AP, that Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello from Los Angeles County was served with the warrant and not present at the time. 
   Calderon’s spokesman, Rocky Rushing referred inquiries to Los Angeles attorney Mark Geragos.
"I have a sense that they're on a witch hunt," Geragos said in a telephone interview with Huffington Post writers. "My client refused to read their script and so this is what resulted....My client has done absolutely nothing wrong."
   Geragos insisted that the Justice Department is targeting Calderon as "a bait and switch" to silence congressional Republicans' regarding emails and telephone records with national news media personnel.  
   Calderon terminated his legal defense fund in 2009, the same year the Fair Political Practices Commission, closed an investigation into Calderon's three Assembly campaign committees without sanctions. The commission opened an investigation on allegations that Calderon used campaign money for personal purposes while seeking re-election in 2003 and 2004, according to agency records.
    A letter to Calderon said the agency found nothing on its face to show the expenses were made for "anything other than a political, legislative or governmental purpose." 
   The lawmaker is part of a Southern California political powerhouse. His two brothers served in the state Legislature and his nephew, Ian Calderon, was elected to the Assembly in 2012.
He is a member of the Assembly Moderate Caucus, and brokered an agreement that led to new state laws governing foreclosures beyond the national mortgage settlement with the nation's five largest banks. Although he balked at proposals by Attorney General Kamala Harris that he thought would do too much harm to the lending industry. He made a key vote in a conference committee that led to the compromise legislation becoming law.
   He promoted Hollywood tax credits and regulatory reform, among legislative initiatives of his business-oriented interests. Calderon is carrying a bill that would require education officials to create lesson plans regarding violence in American culture and response to mass shootings.
   Calderon also drew mention by AP for upgrading a state vehicle before personal purchase. He ordered two vogue wheel center caps at $80 for his Cadillac, among other maintenance that cost taxpayers more than $500. Rushing, Calderon's spokesman, said that the spending was all for necessary or scheduled maintenance.

Sierra Club exalts members, and fights accountability, sustainability warfronts

on Monday, May 06, 2013

Sacramento Calif. - In keeping with Sierra Club California’s environmental justice principles efforts to renew the state parks and recreation department along with other actionable fights were highlighted as members were awarded during the Mother Lode Chapter Annual Award Banquet at the Lions Gate Hotel Saturday.
    Seven club groups were awarded individual efforts and seven awards were given by chapters. The Luis and LaVerne Ireland Conservationists of the Year distinction was awarded to Ron Grassi  and Laurel Ames of the Tahoe Area Sierra Club Group. Ames lead efforts to reduce the impact of development on more than 1 million acres of land in Tahoe, Calif. Ames has advocated for Lake Tahoe preservation since 1958. Her activism has led to two lawsuits filed by the Sierra Club and Friends of the West Shore against the bi-state Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. The agency transferred its legal duty of protection in decision making authority to local authorities.
    “We testified for 15 months. We did a detailed effort. They did not want to hear anything. They adopted this terrible plan and we decided to sue,” Ames said. “Tahoe is a national treasure. The people that live there think it is theirs and want to make money.”     
   The lawsuit was filed in federal district court in February against the update to environmental protection standards in Lake Tahoe since 1987.                                                         
   Another possible prosecution lies with the state parks and recreation department. In the wake of investigations that found $54 million in funds not reported that officials estimate cost taxpayers more than $271,000, outraged state lawmakers, and threatened closure of 70 parks - a leadership rotation brings Aaron Robertson, chief deputy director and Maj. Gen. Anthony Jackson, director (pictured above). Robertson, a new staff member at the time, identified the error as investigations began, and within 48 hours the error was disclosed.
    “It was Aaron Robertson who broke the story, not the Sacramento Bee,” said Jackson.
    According to Robertson he was notified of the situation by staff members, in which he communicated the funding issue through chain of command. Jackson and Robertson are serving in their capacities for several months.
     “I will do what is right every time. I want to earn the trust of the people in the department, the state and senate. Senators will not sustain parks until we reach out to the poorest areas,” he said as assemblymember Roger Dickenson, chairmen of California Banking and Finance, seventh District, held an ear to the ground. “The discretionary money is zero – I can’t even buy toilet paper for the parks.”

  Jackson has several goals in the State Parks Strategic Action Plan including restoring public trust and accountability and building the foundation for a sustainable future. The plan also aims to fully implement Assembly Bill 1478 by securing donor and operating agreements, and explore long term partnerships.
   The Milton Marks “Little Hoover” Commission on California State Government Organization and Economy outlined six recommendations in a March evaluation report titled Beyond Crisis: Recapturing Excellence in California’s State Park System. Recommendations include codifying a vision into state law and transitioning from a centralized state control to a more enterprise-based operating model.
   According to the report, “In 2014, California will either celebrate the 150th anniversary of its state park tradition by revitalizing its department of parks and recreation or bemoan its failure to set a new course. ” 

   On the national warfront, Jackson warned that an entire generation has grown-up with a war over the natural resource of oil, and wars over other natural resources such as water will follow.    –