Thursday, February 18, 2016
An attempt to use the law to shut up a windmill critic fails
As a reward for her efforts to assist New Englanders threatened by industrial wind energy, citizen advocate Annette Smith was sued for practicing law. Fortunately this sham was resolved shortly, in favor of common sense
The Vermont Attorney General’s Office has closed its investigation into a complaint about Annette Smith’s actions in various proceedings before the Public Service Board (PSB). The Office has closed the investigation without further action. "This Office considers the matter closed," The AG's office said in a statement Monday. Annette Smith has vigorously fought the complaint (see letter below). In December 2015 the Office received a complaint regarding Smith alleging that her conduct in various matters before the PSB constituted the unauthorized practice of law. Specifically, Smith was accused of regularly providing legal advice to parties in proceedings before the Public Service Board, as well as helping to draft pleadings for those parties. The complaint also represented that the minutes of an October 26, 2015, Town of Morgan Selectboard meeting characterized a proposed payment to Annette Smith as attorney compensation.
Pursuant to the rules of the Vermont Supreme Court, the unauthorized practice of law is punishable as criminal contempt of court. The prohibition of the unauthorized practice is intended to protect the public and society, not lawyers. The most recent definition articulated by the Vermont Supreme Court defines the practice of law as the furnishing to another advice or service under circumstances which imply the possession and use of legal knowledge and skill. In re Welch, 123 Vt. 180, 182 (1962).
By statute, the PSB is defined as a court of record and has all the powers of a trial court in determining matters within its jurisdiction, including the conduct of parties and interested persons that appear before it. Neither the PSB nor the Vermont Supreme Court have complained to this Office regarding Smith’s conduct. The complainant has not alleged that any of Smith’s conduct has harmed any individual.
The allegations regarding Smith fell in three broad categories – (1) she sought to represent individuals in proceedings before the PSB, (2) she sought or obtained attorney compensation from the Town of Morgan, and (3) she consulted with and prepared and filed pleadings for persons in PSB proceedings.
Regarding the first allegation, the record reveals that Smith sought to intervene in a matter pending at the PSB on behalf of her organization – Vermonters for a Clean Environment. The Vermont Supreme Court has recognized that in certain circumstances non-attorneys may represent organizations in judicial proceedings. Vermont Agency of Natural Resources v. Upper Valley Regional Landfill, 159 Vt. 454, 458 (1992). The record reveals that the PSB offered Smith and her organization the opportunity to file a friend of the court pleading in the matter. Thus, the PSB clearly did not oppose Smith’s participation as a non-party.
The complainant also alleges that Smith had sought or obtained attorney compensation from the Town of Morgan. Information obtained from the Town as part of this investigation establishes that at no time did Smith represent herself to be an attorney or seek compensation of any kind from the Town as an attorney or otherwise. Additionally, it does not appear that the Town has, in fact, paid her for services rendered to the Town. This Office concludes that there is no merit to this allegation.
Finally, with respect to the third category of allegations, the Vermont Supreme Court’s definition of the practice of law is not limited to actual appearances before judicial or quasi-judicial tribunals, but has been interpreted to extend to outside activities. This 54-year old definition does not, however, reflect the modern reality of advocacy before the growing number of judicial and quasi-judicial boards and commissions that have been created since its adoption. By way of example, a rule of the Natural Resources Board Act allows a person to be represented by a non-attorney while the PSB allows an organization, but not an individual, to be so represented. Clarification of the scope of the practice of law is needed. Any definition of the practice of law must recognize the diversity of advocacy before different forums at the state and local levels, should not abridge First Amendment rights, and should insure that Vermonters have access to justice.
Offshore Wind Turbine Maintenance Cost Fiasco: “100 Times More Expensive Than A New Turbine Itself”!
A press release by Germany’s Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft reports how offshore North and Baltic Sea wind turbines need to be in operation for 25 years before they become profitable, but that they are prone to shortened lifespans due to rust from the harsh sea environment.
As a result the wind turbine installations need extra and very costly maintenance to ensure that they survive long enough. It’s turning out to be an insurmountable challenge.
Maintenance to turbines cannot be done at a dry dock, rather, because they are permanently fixed out to sea, repair work and maintenance have to be done offshore in raw and windy conditions. Not only is this expensive, but it also puts the lives and limbs of repair personnel at risk.
This is the reason engineers and researchers are trying to find ways to better protect offshore wind power systems from the brutal elements. Protection of vulnerable metal surfaces is planned to be achieved by developing and applying new surface films, but this is still very much in development.
100 times the cost of a new turbine
The figure that is especially astonishing about offshore wind power turbines is that the “maintenance and repair costs of offshore wind turbines over the years add up to be a hundred times the cost of the new turbine itself,” says Peter Plagemann of the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology and Applied Material Science (IFAM) in Bremen. Plagemann adds:
"While a metal coating during the construction of a turbine on land can cost up to 20 to 30 euros per square meter, it can be several thousand euros for offshore turbines.”
This is yet just another huge and costly technical obstacle faced by offshore windparks. It’s going to be an expensive mess come clean-up time.
Global Warming Fund a Slush Fund for World’s Dictators
Wherever you stand on the subject of global warming, pay close attention to one under-reported aspect of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference or Paris Agreement. I am referring to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which is a financial mechanism intended "to assist developing countries in adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change." According to the current estimates, developed countries will be obliged to contribute up to $450 billion a year by 2020 to the GCF, which will then "redistribute" the money to developing countries allegedly suffering from the effects of global warming.
Lo and behold, Zimbabwe's government-run daily "newspaper" The Herald repored that "Southern Africa is already counting the costs of climate change-linked catastrophes… In Zimbabwe, which has seen a succession of droughts since 2012, a fifth of the population is facing hunger… feeding them will cost $1.5 billion or 11 percent of... the Gross Domestic Product."
No doubt Robert Mugabe, the 91-year-old dictator who has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980, is salivating at the prospect of some global warming cash. Beginning in 2000, Mugabe started to expropriate privately-held agricultural land. The result of what what is euphemistically called "land reform," was a monumental fall in productivity and the second highest bout of hyperinflation in recorded history.
Some three million of Zimbabwe's smartest people, including tens of thousands of doctors and lawyers, have left the country. Most of those who have remained behind are subsistence farmers with very little wealth. There is, in other words, very little loot left for the government to steal.
Thankfully for the Zimbabwean dictator, there are plenty of gullible Westerners willing to believe that the frighteningly vile and comically incompetent government isn't at the root of Zimbabwe's food shortages, but that global warming is to blame. Of course, this is pure nonsense. Botswana and Zimbabwe share a border and their climate and natural resources are exceptionally similar. Yet, since 2004, food production has increased by 29 percent in Botswana, while declining by 9 percent in Zimbabwe. It is not drought but government policies that make nations starve!
As befits an African dictatorship, Zimbabwe is one of the most corrupt places on earth. The notion that GCF funds will be will used for environmental "adaptation and mitigation" is a dangerous fantasy. Like much foreign aid before it, most of the "green aid" money will likely end up in the pockets of some of the cruelest and most corrupt people on earth. The U.S. Congress must stand firm and refuse to appropriate any money for the fund.
Rockefeller Heir’s Global Warming Activism Is More Self-Serving Than Noble
Rockefeller money behind attacks on Rockefeller company
An heir of oil baron John D. Rockefeller donated all her shares in Exxon Mobil and will use the proceeds to fight global warming, and the non-profit she’s donating her shares to finances her academic work and attacks against Exxon.
“I thought the company was being foolish,” Neva Rockefeller Goodwin wrote in The Los Angeles Times Monday about Exxon’s insistence on selling oil and gas.
“But we now know it was worse: it was being deceitful, in a way that is almost unimaginably heartless to future generations,” Goodwin wrote about reports Exxon was funding global warming skeptics while internally conducting research on climate science.
Goodwin bases her claims on reporting “by two publications, working independently of each other —InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times” which shows “starting in the late 1970s, Exxon’s scientists were leaders both in understanding the role of carbon emissions in global warming and in projecting its effects.”
Goodwin added: “By the mid-1980s, however, the company… began to finance think tanks and researchers who cast doubt on the reliability of climate science.”
Neither Goodwin nor The LA Times note these “independent” reports of Exxon’s alleged climate deceit are funded by the same non-profit Goodwin donated her Exxon shares too and which funds her academic work.
Last year, InsideClimate News and Columbia University’s Energy and Environmental Reporting Project (which published its work in The LA Times) both got funding from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF) — a non-profit founded by Rockefeller’s heirs which backs anti-fossil fuel activists and campaigns.
Inside Philanthropy, a foundation watchdog, noted RBF was instrumental in funding anti-Keystone XL oil pipeline campaigns and other environmental campaigns.
“RBF is not afraid of a fight, and it has been a supporter lately of efforts to block the Keystone XL pipeline,” according to Inside Philanthropy. “[I]t gave $50,000 to the League of Conservation Voters in 2013 to educate voters on the issues around Keystone and has addressed the broader threat posed by tar sands oil through a half-million-dollar grant to the Sierra Club Foundation.”
“In the past few years, RBF also has been a major funder of 350.org — a group at the forefront of the Keystone fight and other activist efforts to raise awareness about climate change,” Inside Philanthropy reports.
Not only does RBF fund the two news groups bashing Exxon’s handling of global warming science and environmental activists, the non-profit also funds the academic think tank which employs Goodwin.
Goodwin is an academic economist and co-director of the Global Development And Environment Institute at Tufts University. The Institute lists RBF as one of its supporters, and Goodwin’s own curriculum vitae shows she was a trustee and vice-chair of RBF’s board until 2009 — none of these details are disclosed in her LA Times op-ed.
Despite her close ties to RBF, The Times allows Goodwin to claim “Exxon Mobil is positioned to supplant Big Tobacco as global Public Enemy No. 1.”
“Even before Exxon Mobil feels the loss in spending power among its expected developing country clients, public anger is likely to find other ways to take the company down,” Goodwin wrote. “Just when Exxon’s stock price will begin to reflect these realities is hard to predict. But I’m glad that the recipients of my Exxon stock sold it immediately.”
This is the latest chapter in environmentalists’ fight against Exxon Mobil. Last year, InsideClimate News and Columbia University came out with reports claiming Exxon, a successor company to Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, was employing scientists sounding the alarm on global warming while publically funding groups skeptical of man-made warming.
“At the same time, Exxon scientists warned the company of more dire climate change implications — for the planet and corporate revenue,” Goodwin wrote. “These findings were given to the company’s management, but not released to shareholders or to securities regulators.”
The news reports fired up environmentalist attacks on Exxon, and even got liberal politicians to call on the Justice Department to investigate the company. The attorneys general of New York and California have launched investigations into whether or not Exxon misled investors by not disclosing global warming risks in its shareholder reports.
Exxon, however, fought back against the RBF-backed newsgroups last year, claiming they “distorted” documents and interviews in an effort to smear the company.
“Columbia’s team ignored statements, included in the same documents they cited, demonstrating that our researchers recognized the developing nature of climate science at the time, which mirrored global scientific understanding,” Exxon lead spokesman Kenneth Cohen wrote in a letter to Colombia’s president in obtained by Politico.
Columbia fired back, claiming they did nothing wrong, but media attention also turned to The LA Times’ publishing of Columbia’s reporting — without disclosing they were backed by RBF. In fact, Columbia didn’t disclose its funding from RBF until after it had published its Exxon attack pieces.
The LA Times also did not initially disclose Columbia’s connection to RBF in articles they published on the journalism school’s behalf — though they eventually added such a disclosure.
‘Profound Lifestyle Changes:’ Leaked Gov’t Docs Show What’s Really Behind The Global Warming Agenda
Fighting global warming will require “profound lifestyle changes” for millions of people, according to leaked European Union documents obtained by The Guardian.
“It will require exploring possibilities for realising ‘negative’ emissions as well as profound lifestyle changes of current generations,” read the document laying out the European Commission’s agenda. It was presented to foreign ministers in Belgium Monday.
“The potential scale of such a deep transformation will require a wide societal debate in Europe,” according to the document which calls for a European-wide debate on how people need to change their day-to-day lives to fight warming.
For years, European regulators have been trying to fight global warming through a variety of schemes targeting people’s energy consumption. From cap-and-trade, to high energy taxes, to green energy mandates, little has actually worked to drastically decrease carbon dioxide emissions.
In recent years, environmentalists have even been frustrated by Europe’s cap-and-trade system. In 2013, carbon prices in the EU’s cap-and-trade system hit rock bottom and it became economical to once again start burning coal — environmentalists then deemed the system “worthless.”
Europe’s CO2 emissions have come down, but it’s not clear climate policies have had any appreciable effect on this trend — since CO2 intensity of the economy is always decreasing as industries use energy more efficiently.
“CO2 intensity in the economy has come down,” environmental economist Richard Tol told a crowd gathered at the libertarian Cato Institute last fall, “but you can’t really see a trend break in 1990. It just seems that the last 20 years were a continuation of the trends of the 20 years before.”
“And this is true for the United states, where there has been some climate policy, but it’s also true for some of the countries — Germany, Japan, United Kingdom — who have consistently claimed to be in climate policy and claim to have done a whole lot to reduce their emissions,” Tol said. “It’s just not visible in the data.”
EU leaders are now looking to capitalize on the United Nations Paris deal that was hashed out in December as a way to kickstart policy debates over how to change the way people live after years of failed energy schemes.
As part of the U.N. treaty, the EU has pledged to cut CO2 emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. But the leaked document added even deeper cuts that could be on the way after the U.N. publishes its next climate report in 2018.
It’s not exactly clear what sorts of “profound lifestyle changes” the EU wants its population to make, but the U.N. has put forward suggestions in several reports on how they want people to lower their environmental footprint.
One major activity the U.N. is targeting is what people eat. The U.N. basically wants people to eat less red meat and even supplement their diets with insects.
For years, U.N. officials have been pushing rich countries to cut red meat out of their diets because of methane emissions from cows and the amount of water it takes to sustain livestock.
“Keeping meat consumption to levels recommended by health authorities would lower emissions and reduce heart disease, cancer, and other diseases,” former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told The Guardian last year.
“And of course there are alternative sources of protein. For example, raising insects as an animal protein source,” Annan said. “Insects have a very good conversion rate from feed to meat. They make up part of the diet of two billion people and are commonly eaten in many parts of the world.”
‘Keep it in the ground’ at work in the real world
Going forward, we know what the new year of environmental activism looks like. They have told us. They have made it perfectly clear. They call it: Keep it in the ground.
The campaign is about all fossil fuels: oil, gas, and coal. Instead of an all of the above energy policy, when it comes to fossil fuels, they want none of the above. A big part of the effort is focused on preventing the extraction of fossil fuels on public lands — which is supported by presidential candidates Senator Bernie Sanders and Secretary Hillary Clinton. The recent moratorium of leasing federal lands for coal mining, announced by Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell, is considered a great victory for keep it in the ground.
I wrote about the movement in December. Last month, the Los Angeles Times published an opinion editorial for one of its leaders, Bill McKibben: How to drive a stake through the heart of zombie fossil fuel. In it, McKibben states: In May, a coalition across six continents is being organized to engage in mass civil disobedience to ‘keep it in the ground.’
While big news items fuel the fight, smaller, symbolic wins are part of the strategy. Introducing the plan late last year, The Hill states: It stretches into local fights, over small drilling wells, coal mines and infrastructure.
Here’s what keep it in the ground looks like in the real world — in local fights and over small drilling wells.
In a suburb of Albuquerque known more for computer chip-making than crude oil extraction, the anti-fossil fuel crowd is doing everything they can to prevent a small drilling well from being developed.
In Rio Rancho, New Mexico, the major employer is Intel. It is also home to several call centers — though the Sprint call center just announced it is closing and cutting 394 jobs. New Mexico has the nation’s highest jobless rate: 6.8 percent.
Rio Rancho is in Sandoval County — which currently, in the northern part of the county, has 600 oil-and-gas wells on tribal or federal lands. According to the NM Tax Research Institute, in 2013, when oil prices were higher, Sandoval County producers shipped 1.08 million barrels of oil worth $86 million and 394.1 million MCF (one MCF = one thousand cubic feet) of natural gas worth $1.6 billion.
After leasing the mineral rights last year, an Oklahoma company, SandRidge Energy Inc., is hoping to drill an exploratory well. The well, which has already received approval from the state Oil and Conversation Division (OCD), is about four miles outside of the Rio Rancho city limits, reports the Albuquerque Journal. It will be a vertical well, drilled to a depth of 10,500 feet—which is expected to take about 25 days. Until the well is drilled and logged, engineers will not know whether the resource will warrant development or, if it does, if it will require hydraulic fracturing. The OCD permit is to drill, complete, and produce the well. Jami Grindatto, president and CEO of the Sandoval Economic Alliance says the environmental footprint would be small.
Several previous exploratory wells have been drilled in the Albuquerque Basin that were determined not to be economically viable — though oil was found.
To begin drilling, SandRidge needs a zoning variance from the county. On December 10, the Planning and Zoning Committee held a contentious meeting to hear public comment on the SandRidge application. So many wanted to speak, there wasn’t time, nor space, to accommodate them. Another meeting, in a larger venue, was scheduled for January 28. There, dozens of people spewed generic talking points against fracking; speaking vaguely about pollution, earthquakes, and/or water contamination. The Committee, to no avail, asked presenters to stay on topic and address just this one well — this application.
A few folks braved the hostile crowd and spoke in support of the project — only to be booed.
It was in this atmosphere that the Committee recommended that the County Commissioners deny the request. Essentially, they threw up their hands and acknowledged that they weren’t equipped to deal with the intricacies of the application — which is why such decisions are better made at the state levels, where there are engineers and geologists who understand the process.
The Sandoval County Commissioners may still approve the special use permit at the February 18 meeting — as they are the final decision makers.
In December, Sandoval County Commissioner James Dominguez, District 1, said he has some major concerns that the drilling could compromise the water supply and air quality in Rio Rancho. KOAT News cites Dominguez as saying: I know that eventually, in time, it will pollute our water sources — this despite the definitive August 2015 EPA study released that confirmed hydraulic fracturing does not pollute the water supply.
In the past few years, when oil prices were higher, Encana and WPX drilled some 200 wells in the same geology, 70 of them in Sandoval County. Not one single instance of any interference, damage, or invasion of fresh water aquifers has occurred. For that matter, over the past 50 years of production in Sandoval County, even with technology and safety standards that were not as advanced or rigorous as todays, there has not been one instance of aquifer harm. Perhaps the upcoming meeting will be an opportunity to provide more factual information to the political decision makers. (Readers are encouraged to send supportive comments to the commissioners and/or attend the February 18 meeting.)
One small drilling well outside of a community on the edge of Albuquerque that could create jobs and help the local and state economy could be blocked because of a few dozen agitators who could cause the county to keep it in the ground.
One day later, another small band from the anti-fossil-fuel movement also celebrated an almost insignificant victory that adds to the momentum. This one in California.
On January 29, a settlement was reached in a lawsuit environmental groups filed two years against two federal agencies that they claim permitted offshore fracking and other forms of high-pressure well stimulation techniques: the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE). The settlement requires public notice for any future offshore applications for fracking and acidification. Additionally, the agencies have agreed to provide what’s termed a programmatic environmental assessment of the potential impacts of such techniques on the coastal environment.
To read the press releases from the environmental groups, one would think that these government agencies were in cahoots with ExxonMobil and that they were sneaking around, letting the oil companies run amok. In fact, the companies who’ve applied for drilling permits, have followed a very stringent application process — under which they were approved. However, once exploratory wells were drilled, they were found not to be good candidates for hydraulic fracturing.
A consulting petroleum geologist, with more than 30 years’ experience—almost exclusively in California — explained it to me this way: There’s not a lot of hydraulic fracturing going on offshore, because, similar to most of California, it simply isn’t effective. Most of the rocks are adequately fractured by Mother Nature. Generally speaking fracking is effective in a few places where it has been used without incident since the 1940s. It is not an issue.
The settlement requires a programmatic environmental assessment be completed by May 28 — during which time the agencies will withhold approval of drilling permits. Sources I spoke with, told me that this, too, was not a big deal — which would explain why ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute agreed not to oppose the settlement. In the current low-priced oil environment companies are not clamoring for new drilling targets. It is believed that once the assessment is complete, the existing requirements will be found to be appropriate and permitting can move forward.
Additionally, offshore rigs are currently shutdown in the region — an overreaction to a pipeline break last spring.
So, if this settlement is much ado about nothing, why even bring it up? Because, it is an example of those local fights; the little wins that motive the keep it in the ground movement and encourage them for the bigger fights — like hydraulic fracturing in the deep water Gulf of Mexico.
These two stories are likely just a sampling of the battles being played out in county commissions and government agencies throughout America. As in these cases, a small handful of activists are shaping policy that affects all of us and impacts the economics of our communities by, potentially, cutting funding for education and public services.
Keep it in the ground is the new face of environmental activism. If those who understand the role energy plays in America and our freedoms don’t engage, don’t attend meetings and send statements, and don’t vote, the policy makers have almost no choice but to think these vocal few represent the many.
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Posted by JR at 1:22 AM