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Clinton Foundation’s Deep Financial Ties to Ukrainian Oligarchs

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Between 2009 and 2013, including when Mrs. Clinton was secretary of state, the Clinton Foundation received at least $8.6 million from the Victor Pinchuk Foundation, according to that foundation, which is based in Kiev, Ukraine. It was created by Mr. Pinchuk, whose fortune stems from a pipe-making company. He served two terms as an elected member of the Ukrainian Parliament and is a proponent of closer ties between Ukraine and the European Union.

In 2008, Mr. Pinchuk made a five-year, $29 million commitment to the Clinton Global Initiative, a wing of the foundation that coordinates charitable projects and funding for them but doesn’t handle the money. The pledge was to fund a program to train future Ukrainian leaders and professionals “to modernize Ukraine,” according to the Clinton Foundation. Several alumni are current members of the Ukrainian Parliament. Actual donations so far amount to only $1.8 million, a Pinchuk foundation spokesman said, citing the impact of the 2008 financial crisis.

The Pinchuk foundation said its donations were intended to help to make Ukraine “a successful, free, modern country based on European values.” It said that if Mr. Pinchuk was lobbying the State Department about Ukraine, “this cannot be seen as anything but a good thing.”

– From the Wall Street Journal article: Clinton Charity Tapped Foreign Friends

When I first came across the title to this article, I didn’t think much of it. In fact, I almost didn’t even click the link thinking it was just a repeat of a prior expose I highlighted in the post: Hillary Clinton Exposed Part 2 – Clinton Foundation Took Millions From Countries That Also Fund ISIS.

Fortunately, I did decide to take a look and pretty soon my jaw absolutely hit the floor. Although the Wall Street Journal didn’t play up the connection, I was stunned to see that of all the oligarchs connected to foreign governments who donated to the Clinton Foundation while she was Secretary of State, Ukraine was at the very top. I thought this to be strange, but as I read on I just couldn’t believe how connected the main donor was to the current regime in power. Considering this is the main geopolitical hotspot on earth right now, many, many questions need to be asked.

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Let’s also recall some of the more shady aspects of the new government in Ukraine by taking a look back at the post, Made in the USA – How the Ukrainian Government is Giving Away Citizenships so Foreigners Can Run the Country. Here are a few excerpts:

Claims that the new government in Ukraine is nothing more than a Western puppet Parliament have been swirling around consistently since February. Nevertheless, I think it’s very significant that the takeover is now overt, undeniable and completely out in the open. Nothing proves this fact more clearly than the recent and sudden granting of citizenship to three foreigners so that they can take top posts in the government.

At the top of the list is American, Natalie Jaresko, who runs private equity fund Horizon Capital. She will now be Ukraine’s Finance Minister, and I highly doubt she will be forced to pay the IRS Expatriation Tax (one set of laws for the rich and powerful, another set of laws for the peasants). For Economy Minister, a Lithuanian investment banker, Aivaras Abromavicius, will take the reins. Health Minister will be Alexander Kvitashvili of Georgia.

Now read the following from the WSJ:

The Clinton Foundation swore off donations from foreign governments when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. That didn’t stop the foundation from raising millions of dollars from foreigners with connections to their home governments, a review of foundation disclosures shows.

Some donors have direct ties to foreign governments. One is a member of the Saudi royal family. Another is a Ukrainian oligarch and former parliamentarian. Others are individuals with close connections to foreign governments that stem from their business activities. Their professed policy interests range from human rights to U.S.-Cuba relations.

All told, more than a dozen foreign individuals and their foundations and companies were large donors to the Clinton Foundation in the years after Mrs. Clinton became secretary of state in 2009, collectively giving between $34 million and $68 million, foundation records show. Some donors also provided funding directly to charitable projects sponsored by the foundation, valued by the organization at $60 million.

The foreign donors reached by The Wall Street Journal said they contributed to the foundation for charitable, not political reasons.

Former President Bill Clinton promised the Obama administration the foundation wouldn’t accept most foreign-government donations while his wife was secretary of state. The agreement didn’t place limits on donations from foreign individuals or corporations. 

Between 2009 and 2013, including when Mrs. Clinton was secretary of state, the Clinton Foundation received at least $8.6 million from the Victor Pinchuk Foundation, according to that foundation, which is based in Kiev, Ukraine. It was created by Mr. Pinchuk, whose fortune stems from a pipe-making company. He served two terms as an elected member of the Ukrainian Parliament and is a proponent of closer ties between Ukraine and the European Union.

In 2008, Mr. Pinchuk made a five-year, $29 million commitment to the Clinton Global Initiative, a wing of the foundation that coordinates charitable projects and funding for them but doesn’t handle the money. The pledge was to fund a program to train future Ukrainian leaders and professionals “to modernize Ukraine,” according to the Clinton Foundation. Several alumni are current members of the Ukrainian Parliament. Actual donations so far amount to only $1.8 million, a Pinchuk foundation spokesman said, citing the impact of the 2008 financial crisis.

During Mrs. Clinton’s time at the State Department, Mr. Schoen, the pollster, registered as a lobbyist for Mr. Pinchuk, federal records show. Mr. Schoen said he and Mr. Pinchuk met several times with Clinton aides including Melanne Verveer, a Ukrainian-American and then a State Department ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues. The purpose, Mr. Schoen said, was to encourage the U.S. to pressure Ukraine’s then-President Viktor Yanukovych to free his jailed predecessor, Yulia Tymoshenko.

Mr. Schoen said his lobbying was unrelated to the donations. “We were not seeking to use any leverage or any connections or anything of the sort relating to the foundation,” he said.

Please Schoen, don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining.

The Pinchuk foundation said its donations were intended to help to make Ukraine “a successful, free, modern country based on European values.” It said that if Mr. Pinchuk was lobbying the State Department about Ukraine, “this cannot be seen as anything but a good thing.”

Oh certainly, all you have to do is take a brief look at Ukraine to see what a wonderful thing it has been.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia wasn’t allowed to give to the foundation while Mrs. Clinton was at the State Department. But several prominent Saudi Arabian businessmen gave millions.

• Victor Dahdaleh, a London businessman whose foundation contributed between $1 million and $5 million, has ties to Bahrain’s state-owned aluminum company. He was the intermediary between the state-owned Aluminum Bahrain B.S.C. and Alcoa World Alumina, which is majority owned by Alcoa Inc. Last year, he was acquitted in London on charges of bribing Bahraini officials to secure contracts for the Alcoa firm. In the U.S., the Alcoa affiliate pleaded guilty last year to corruption charges, and the Justice Department said an investigation into the matter remains open. 

Rilin Enterprises, part of a privately held Chinese construction, infrastructure and port-management company, made a $2 million foundation pledge. The company was founded and is run by Wang Wenliang, a member of the National People’s Congress, China’s formal parliamentary body. Mr. Wang didn’t respond to a request to speak with him during the annual meeting earlier this month.

Mr. Wang is the former municipal official of Dandong, a city of 2.4 million in the Liaoning province on China’s border with North Korea. His company now controls that city’s port, a major trade route into North Korea.

The Clinton Foundation was unaware Mr. Wang was a delegate to the NPC, said a foundation official.

One of Mr. Wang’s firms was a contractor for the new Chinese Embassy in Washington. 

In today’s fraudulent and rigged oligarch economy, this is what we call a nice “return on cronyism.”

For related articles, see:

Made in the USA – How the Ukrainian Government is Giving Away Citizenships so Foreigners Can Run the Country

In His Thirst for War, Senator Jim Inhofe Releases Fake Photos of Russian Troops in the Ukraine

Video of the Day – Nigel Farage Blasts the Idea of a “European Army” in One of His Most Powerful Diatribes Ever

Hillary Clinton Exposed Part 1 – How She Aggressively Lobbied for Mega Corporations as Secretary of State

Hillary Clinton Exposed Part 2 – Clinton Foundation Took Millions From Countries That Also Fund ISIS

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For The Love Of Pork: Antibiotic Use On Farms Skyrockets Worldwide

Regions that produce the most pork and chicken also use the most antibiotics on farms. Hot spots around the world include the Midwest in the U.S., southern Brazil, and China's Sichuan province. Yellow indicates low levels of drug use in livestock; orange and light red are moderate levels; and dark red is high levels.

Regions that produce the most pork and chicken also use the most antibiotics on farms. Hot spots around the world include the Midwest in the U.S., southern Brazil, and China’s Sichuan province. Yellow indicates low levels of drug use in livestock; orange and light red are moderate levels; and dark red is high levels.

Sorry bacon lovers, we’ve got some sad news about your favorite meat.

To get those sizzling strips of pork on your plate each morning takes more antibiotics than it does to make a steak burrito or a chicken sausage sandwich.

The love of meat is exploding in  Asia, and with it, comes antibiotic consumption by chickens (top) and pigs (bottom). Green represents low levels of drug used; yellow and orange are medium levels; and red and magenta are high levels.

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Pig farmers around the world, on average, use nearly four times as much antibiotics as cattle ranchers do, per pound of meat. Poultry farmers fall somewhere between the two.

That’s one of the conclusions of a study published Thursday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It’s the first look at the amount of antibiotics used on farms around the world — and how fast consumption is growing.

The numbers reported are eye-opening.

In 2010, the world used about 63,000 tons of antibiotics each year to raise cows, chickens and pigs, the study estimated. That’s roughly twice as much as the antibiotics prescribed by doctors globally to fight infections in people.

“We have huge amounts of antibiotic use in the animal sector around the world, and it’s set to take off in a major way in the next two decades,” says the study’s senior author, Ramanan Laxminarayan, who directs the Center for Disease Dynamics Economics & Policy in Washington, D.C.

With half of the world’s pigs living in China, the country tops the list as the biggest antibiotic consumer in farming.

The European Union banned the use of antibiotics to boost animals’ growth in 2006. At first, the ban had little effect on the amount of drugs given to pigs.

But the U.S. isn’t far behind in second place, using about 10 percent of the world’s total. Brazil, India and Germany round out the top five for farm animal consumption of antibiotics.

What frightens Laxminarayan is the huge rise in farm drug use, especially in middle-income countries. “We project in the next 20 years, world consumption of antibiotics in animals will double,” he says. “The implications for the effectiveness of our antibiotics could be quite devastating.”

As people around the world get richer, they want to eat more meat. Who can blame them, right? But all those extra chicken wings and pork chops come primarily from factory farms.

“These [farms] are hard to implement without drugs because a lot of animals are kept very close to each other on these farms,” Laxminararyan says. “The antibiotics prevent infections and encourage the animals to grow.” (Scientists still aren’t sure how the drugs boost animals’ growth.)

At the same time, drugs on farms is essentially a free-for-all.

“In most countries around the world, there’s virtual no regulation for antibiotic use on the animal side, including the U.S.,” Laxminararyan says. One exception is the European Union, which banned drugs to boost animal growth. Farmers there can still give animals antibiotics to prevent infections.

Here in the U.S., there are “voluntary guidelines” for farmers but no enforced regulations. “You can actually go to the Eastern Shore in Washington and buy antibiotics in sacks, or in pounds, for your chickens” he says. “They’re literally the same antibiotics you get at a pharmacy with a prescription but at a far lesser cost.”

Most of the drugs in animals are used at very low concentrations, mixed with food and water. “It serves as a substitution for good hygiene and herd health on factory farms,” Laxminararyan says. “But we’ve found that when animals have good nutrition, good genetics and there is good hygiene on the farm, the added value of antibiotics is quite minimal.”

The more antibiotics used in agriculture worldwide, the more drug-resistant bacteria emerge on farms — and sewage systems and water supplies.

Pharmaceutical companies and agricultural groups say there’s no evidence that these drug-resistant bacteria are a threat to people’s health. And Laxminararyan agrees there’s little direct evidence that antibiotics in animals hurts people.

“But the circumstantial evidence, linking use in animals to drug-resistant bacteria in humans, is exceedingly strong,” he says.

Just a few years ago, scientists in Arizona showed that a methicillin-resistant strain ofStaphylococcus aureus in pigs started infecting farmers. The “pig MRSA” accounts for only a small proportion of human infections worldwide. But scientists think it has the potential to spread.

Here We Go Again: Koch Cronies ‘Cook the Books’

In the critically-acclaimed movie, All the President’s Men, a shadowy, raspy-voiced character named Deep Throat advises Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to “follow the money” in the wake of the Watergate break-in and cover-up. That was more than 40 years ago. Yet, in the bare knuckles, take-no-prisoners world of Washington politics, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

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Over the years, critics of clean energy have learned a few things about dirty politics. In their latest attempt to protect fossil fuel special interests—and stop the progress of renewable energy dead in its tracks—they have turned to a tried-and-true tactic: someone in Congress asks for a half-baked study on energy subsidies, designed to leave skewed results and certain to draw the interest of government watchdog groups. Then, a front group for the Koch brothers steps in and starts trashing clean energy, and Americans find themselves confused.

Welcome to Washington, Mr. Smith. As Mark Twain once mused, “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

This latest dustup started with a new report by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), which offers a snapshot in time of the different incentives for various energy sources, and was requested by several Republican members of Congress. Predictably, Watchdog.org then picked up the report and posted a story with the less-than-flattering headline, “Solar and wind energy pack a wallop—in federal subsidies.” While Watchdog.org did a good job of seeking comment from both the solar and wind industries, the real truth about clean energy incentives was consistently clouded by an organization known as The Institute for Energy Research, which—surprise, surprise—was founded by Charles Koch and former Enron executive Robert Bradley, who wrote speeches for disgraced Enron CEO—and I should add, corporate crook—Ken Lay.

For its part, EIA did what it was asked to do, but the request was narrowly defined to only include subsidies with clear identifiable impacts on the U.S. Treasury and that are provisions specific to energy. This restrictive definition leaves out some of the largest fossil and nuclear subsidies, which results in a skewed, apples-to-oranges comparison. For example, the EIA report omits:

  1. Price-Anderson nuclear insurance liability limitations (because it has no identifiable impact on the Treasury), even though American taxpayers are on the hook for an unlimited amount of money in insurance costs in the event of a catastrophic accident.
  1. It does not account for royalties on foreign crude oil being classified as income taxes, which makes these royalties eligible for the foreign income tax credit. Huh? If they were accurately classified as royalties they would be treated as expenses and would only be eligible for a deduction, instead of a tax credit. This distinction is likely worth billions of dollars a year to Big Oil.
  1. It does not count the externalities of pollution from fossil-fueled power plants as subsidies (which they are).

Additionally, EIA did not include any loan guarantees in the subsidy numbers because guarantees, or outlays, were not made in 2013. This goes for nuclear, renewables and others. But it’s important to point out, nuclear did get a disproportionate share of the loan guarantees in prior years.

To put this in some perspective, DBL Investors looked at the historical incentives given to fossil fuels, nuclear and renewables—and the numbers weren’t even close: $447 billion for fossil fuels; $185.5 billion for nuclear; and less than $6 billion for renewables—less than 1 percent of the total amount given to fossil fuels and nuclear.

In a previous iteration of this report, EIA refused a request to display subsidies per unit of energy, or per unit of capacity, because it is an invalid/misleading metric for judging subsidies. Because most subsidies are frontloaded, traditional generation—such as coal, nuclear and hydro—received their government support years or decades ago, and the plants built with that support continued to exist and generate energy in 2013—even if their support did not include substantial outlays in 2013. This is one of the key points of the widely-respected Baker Center study.

The Baker Center study also shows that solar incentives are in line with those given to other energy industries. What’s more, solar is following a similar curve in development as traditional energy sources (coal, gas, oil), which received substantial subsidies during their growth period and are still getting many of them today.

Even the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service has explained, “For more than a half a century, federal energy tax policy focused almost exclusively on increasing domestic oil and gas reserves and production. There was no major tax incentive promoting renewable energy or energy efficiency.” In other words, the Koch brothers and fossil fuel interests were given a stranglehold on the marketplace—thanks, in large part, to preferential tax treatment and federal subsidies—and now they want to freeze everyone else out.

For example, by its own figures, the oil and gas industry will receive nearly $100 billion over the next 10 years in special tax breaks, including: expensing of intangible drilling costs; the domestic manufacturers tax deduction; use of the “last-in, first-out,” or LIFO, accounting method; exemption from Superfund waste cleanup taxes; and preferential treatment that reduces taxes for master limited partnerships.  And the list goes on.

In truth, the oil and gas industry has been getting substantial tax breaks since 1913, while solar has only been receiving the 30 percent Investment Tax Credit (ITC) since 2006.

Most troubling, the EIA report only looks at the “costs” to the U.S. Treasury of solar subsidies—without considering a single dime of economic benefits—or return on investment—created by one of the fastest-growing industries in America. Today, solar employs nearly 175,000 Americans—with 140,000 of those jobs created since the ITC was implemented—and we pump nearly $20 billion a year into the U.S. economy. We’re also providing enough clean electricity to power 4 million homes.

Similarly, the report does not take into account the huge amount of income taxes paid by solar developers, distributors, installers, manufacturers and employees, as well as the taxes paid by support industries including engineering, financing and legal. Nor does the report include any indirect, or induced, benefits from widespread solar development.

From an environmental prospective, the EIA report does not take into account the staggering costs from harmful carbon pollution to the health and well-being of Americans. Today, the solar industry is helping to displace an estimated 20 million metric tons of damaging carbon emissions, which is the equivalent of removing 4 million cars off U.S. highways and roads. So, through this omission, the report mistakenly dismisses the real health care costs of “dirty air,” which is associated with asthma, lung disease, heart disease and even cancer.

And finally, the report also fails to include the benefits that solar provides when it comes to national security, emergency preparedness, grid reliability, America’s clean energy future and on and on.

We’re very proud of the progress made by the solar industry in a very short period of time—and we appreciate the faith put in us by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress, by both President Obama and President Bush, and by 9 out of 10 Americans who want to see an expanded use of solar nationwide. By any measurement, the solar ITC is paying huge benefits to the U.S. and to American taxpayers, and we believe it should be extended to maintain a level playing field with long-time, entrenched energy sources.

Unfortunately, you would never know any of this by reading the EIA report, or listening to the subsequent scathing attacks on solar and wind by the Koch brothers’ cronies. But before getting all worked up by their nonsense, I’m reminded of something else Mark Twain once said: “Never argue with stupid people. They will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.”

Will Chevron and Exxon Ever Be Held Responsible for Decades of Contamination?

The International Court of Justice at The Hague ruled last week that a prior ruling by an Ecuadorean court that fined Chevron $9.5 billion in 2011 should be upheld, according to teleSUR, a Latin American news agency. Texaco, which is currently a part of Chevron, is responsible for what is considered one of the world’s largest environmental disasters while it drilled for oil in the Ecuadorian rainforest from 1964 to 1990.

Texaco, which is currently a part of Chevron, is responsible for what is considered one of the world's largest environmental disasters while it drilled for oil in the Ecuadorian rainforest from 1964 to 1990. Photo credit: Shutterstock
Texaco, which is currently a part of Chevron, is responsible for what is considered one of the world’s largest environmental disasters while it drilled for oil in the Ecuadorian rainforest from 1964 to 1990.Photo credit: Shutterstock

A group of Ecuadorians, who represent 30,000 Ecuadorians, has been fighting to hold the oil company responsible and pay for the damage it caused for decades. The legal battle has been tied up in the courts for years. Ecuador’s highest court finally upheld the ruling in January 2014, but Chevron refused to pay.

Last spring, the oil giant took the case to a U.S. court, where a federal judge ruled in favor of Chevron because the judge found the Ecuador’s litigation team to be engaging in illicit activity. The ruling from The Hague brought good news for the Amazon community suffering from shockingly high cancer rates and other illnesses, and a contaminated water supply.

But now, Chevron has appealed the decision and deliberations will take place at The Hague on April 20. In a strange desperate attempt, Chevron is arguing that not only should it not have to pay for the decades worth of damage, but that the Ecuadorian people should pay Chevron for the destruction caused, according to Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño, who spoke about the case with  Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez on Democracy Now!

In another story about oil companies refusing to be held accountable for their actions, Gov. Christie has been heavily criticized for his administration’s settlement to clean up what Democracy Now! calls “a century of contamination.” State Senators in New Jersey voted to condemn a $225 million settlement reportedly pushed through by the office of Republican Gov. Christie, which saved Exxon Mobil billions of dollars, says Gonzalez. The state quietly agreed to accept less than three percent of the $8.9 billion it had originally sought for pollution at two refinery sites.

Earlier this week, State Senators “asked the judge to reject the deal, calling it ‘grossly inappropriate, improper and inadequate,’” reports Gonzalez. Adding insult to injury, Gov. Christie reportedly plans to use much of the money from the settlement to “plug holes in New Jersey’s budget instead of for environmental restoration,” says Gonzalez.

Watch the clip to see just how bad the damage caused by Exxon Mobil was and how Gov. Christie has kowtowed to the oil company:

http://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2015/3/20/a_gift_to_exxonmobil_chris_christie

Texas Town Says No to Fossil Fuels, Yes to 100% Renewables

Texas’ image as the king of oil states clings to it through repeated boom and bust cycles. Its politicians tend to be close friends of the fossil fuel industry. So people don’t think of it as the leading U.S. state for renewable energy—even though it is. It’s the top producer of wind energy in the U.S.

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Texas’ wide open spaces have proved ideal for wind power generation, and Texas is the country’s number one wind state. Photo credit: Shutterstock

One city in Texas aims to be the first to power itself entirely on renewables. Georgetown, Texas, 30 miles north of Austin in central Texas, has announced its intention to be all-renewable by 2017. The city of 50,000 has signed a deal with SunEdison to supply it with solar power for the next 25 years. It comes on the heels of a a deal the city made last year to source electricity from a wind farm currently under construction 50 miles west of Amarillo that will start to provide power next year. The two deals—for 150 megawatts of solar and 144 megawatts of wind—will make Georgetown Utility Services one of the largest municipally owned utilities in the U.S. to get all its electricity from renewables.

“Georgetown Utility Services isn’t required to buy solar or other renewables—we did so because it will save on electricity costs and decrease our water usage,” said Georgetown’s interim city manager and general manager of utilities Jim Briggs. “When Georgetown Utility Systems opted to seek new sources of power in 2012, we were charged with a mission to secure the most cost-effective energy that balanced risk and reward. Our team took advantage of a unique time in the market place and did just that. By securing these renewable contracts the utility can consider itself 100 percent ‘green,’ but it does so at extremely competitive costs for energy, and it hedges against future fuel and regulatory risks, fulfilling our initial goal.”

The city says that the combination of solar and wind will provide energy from complementary renewable sources to meet demand patterns. Solar’s afternoon supply peak matches the daily energy demand peak in Georgetown, particularly during hot summer months. Wind power production in the Amarillo area is generally highest in the evening or early-morning hours, providing power when the sun isn’t shining. And wind and solar generation requires no water, an important consideration in the drought-stricken state.

“SunEdison is very excited to be working with Georgetown Utility Systems to provide their customers with 100 percent renewable, clean energy,” said Paul Gaynor, executive vice president of SunEdison’s North America Utility and Global Wind division. “Georgetown is an exceptional city, and by going 100 percent renewable they cut down on pollution, save water and enjoy stable energy prices. They’re able to accomplish all of this without spending a penny upfront with the SunEdison power purchase agreement. Georgetown is a model for other cities that hope to become powered by clean renewable energy.”

Despite Texas’ position on the leading edge of renewable energy generation, the oil mentality dies hard in Texas, especially now that the fracking boom has given the state a new source of fossil fuels. State Sen. Troy Fraser from Horseshoe Bay, Texas, about a hour west of Georgetown, has proposed ending the state’s renewable energy standard, saying that renewables are doing so well it’s no longer necessary.

“We have done what we intended to accomplish,” he said at a hearing this week. “Not only did we roar past the goal we had in place, we have more than doubled that goal.”

But Cyrus Reed of the Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter warned, “Even though the Texas Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) goal has been met, these renewable energy credits are still part of project economics, both complete and under construction, and eliminating the RPS would hurt current investors and risk weakening additional investment in Texas. In other words, if these RPS-based renewable energy credits were eliminated, their value would plummet and revenue would be lost, which would be unfair to developers and their investors who have invested their money with the expectation the RPS would be carried out through 2025.”

He also warned that if the RPS was repealed, it would cost Texas more to comply with the carbon reduction goals of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.

The rollback attempt, part of a nationwide effort to kill renewable energy standards, is bankrolled by fossil fuel-friendly organizations. West Virginia became the second state to do so in February, following Ohio’s rollback last June. A Pew Charitable Trusts report found that Ohio’s rollback has already cost the state jobs and investment money.

New Fracking Rules on Public Lands ‘A Giveaway to Oil and Gas Industry,’ Advocates Say

Earlier this week, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said that the new regulations forfracking on federal lands from the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) would be released “within the next few days,” following a four-year process that included receiving more than 1.5 million public comments. Today she unveiled those new rules, which take effect in 90 days. The BLM claimed they would “support safe and responsible hydraulic fracturing on public and American Indian lands.”

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North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park sits in the heart of the heavily fracked Bakken shale formation. Photo credit: National Park Service

“Current federal well-drilling regulations are more than 30 years old and they simply have not kept pace with the technical complexities of today’s hydraulic fracturing operations,” said Jewell. “This updated and strengthened rule provides a framework of safeguards and disclosure protocols that will allow for the continued responsible development of our federal oil and gas resources. As we continue to offer millions of acres of public lands for conventional and renewable energy production, it is absolutely critical the public have confidence that transparent and effective safety and environmental protections are in place.”

Drilling has been occurring on federal lands for years with more than in existence. However, following the fracking boom of the last two decades, more than 90 percent of new drilling operations involve that process, evading the regulations of 30 years ago.

Rather than the ban on new drilling that many environmental and citizen groups sought, the rules focus on safety issues like well construction, and chemical management and disclosure.

Specifically, they include:

• Ensuring the protection of groundwater supplies by requiring a validation of well integrity and strong cement barriers between the wellbore and water zones through which the wellbore passes;
• Requiring companies to publicly disclose chemicals used in fracking to the Bureau of Land Management through the website FracFocus within 30 days of completing operations;
• Higher standards for interim storage of recovered waste fluids from fracking to mitigate risks to air, water and wildlife; and
• Measures to lower the risk of cross-well contamination with chemicals and fluids used in the fracturing operation, by requiring companies to submit more detailed information on the geology, depth and location of preexisting wells to give the BLM the chance to better evaluate and manage site characteristics.

“This rule will protect public health and the environment during and after hydraulic fracturing operations at a modest cost while both respecting the work previously done by the industry, the states and the tribes and promoting the adoption of more protective standards across the country,” said Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Janice Schneider. “We know how important it is to get this right.”

“This rule was informed and shaped by the technical expertise, interests and concerns of all of our partners, and builds on the work of states and tribes to ensure best practices on a nationwide basis,” added BLM director Neil Kornze. “The new regulations are essential to our mutual efforts to protect the environment and the communities that depend on vital water, land and wildlife resources. This rule is good government.”

That opinion was far from universal. Some environmental groups hailed it as a good start.

“Our public lands and the people who live near them deserve the highest level of protection from the oil and gas industry,” said Earthjustice senior legislative representative Jessica Ennis. “Today’s Interior rules take an important step forward by moving toward the use of tanks to store toxic produced water and removing the flawed ‘type well’ concept and replacing it with a requirement for integrity tests on all wells, but there is more to be done. The U.S. must ramp up its expansion of clean energy and keep oil and gas in the ground.”

“The BLM fracking rule is a significant improvement over business as usual,” said Earthworks policy director Lauren Pagel. “For the first time, the BLM will prohibit fracking waste pits on public lands, and require oil and gas companies to test the integrity of every well to help prevent pollution. But in other important ways this rule falls short of what is needed to protect communities and the environment and continues the Obama administration’s pattern of prioritizing fossil fuel extraction over clean energy development and people’s health.”

Others were more emphatic about how much the new rules fall short.

“Our precious public lands have and are continuing to be sacrificed by the Obama administration, only for the short-term profit of the oil and gas industry,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “Our work will continue to truly protect the millions of acres of federal lands that will remain in harm’s way until fracking is halted entirely. Americans believe that preserving the environmental integrity of these areas for generations to come is a critically important policy goal, especially in light of new evidence about fracking-related harm to natural resources.”

“Our public lands are too precious to spoil with fracking,” said Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Illinois who, along with Congressman Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, introduced a bill in December to ban fracking on public lands. “The BLM regulations are a step in the right direction, but more must be done to ensure that public lands are protected and preserved for future generations. We will continue to work to completely ban fracking on public lands.”

But even these modest, common-sense rules were too much for some industry players. The American Petroleum Institute (API) called them “duplicative” and a hindrance to job growth. “Despite the renaissance on state and private lands, energy production on federal lands has fallen, and this rule is just one more barrier to growth,” said API director of upstream and industry operations Erik Milito. “Under the strong environmental stewardship of state regulators, hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have opened up a new era of energy security, job growth and economic strength.”

Mark Ruffalo, an advisory board member for Americans Against Fracking, couldn’t disagree more. “Our U.S. national parks and public lands are some of our most treasured places and should be protected from fracking. Yet instead of following the lead of New York in banning fracking, the Obama Administration has devised fracking regulations that are nothing more then a giveaway to the oil and gas industry. These regulations take from us our heritage and hands it to an industry that doesn’t need a hand out. Industrialization and parks don’t belong together.”

Charlie Cray, research specialist at Greenpeace, agrees, “The President should direct BLM to stop issuing any new leases immediately until there is evidence that we won’t cross theclimate tipping point, or the very least until their new methane pollution regulations are finalized and binding. All of the above should mean no more from below.”

52 U.S. Congress Members Sign Letter Warning of GMOs Killing Monarch Butterflies

Dozens of House Democrats have signed onto a letter sent to President Obama claiming that the spread of GM crops is leading to the death of monarch butterflies.

The letter,[PDF] authored by Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine, says that the butterflies are “in peril of being lost to the history books” in large part because of the “virtual eradication” of milkweed plants from their primary breeding grounds in the Midwest.

The milkweed eradication, the letter states, has come primarily from the “widespread spraying of herbicides in agricultural areas” where the plants were once bountiful.

“With the advent of herbicide-resistant genetically engineered crops, the use of herbicides like glyphosate has increased…” dramatically, from 20 million pounds per year in 1992 to more than 250 million pounds by 2011, said the letter.

“As a result, researchers now estimate that more than half of milkweed has been wiped out in the Midwestern Farm Belt since 1999, and more than 98% of milkweed has been wiped out from corn and soybean areas in Iowa due to the widespread overuse of glyphosate,” the letter said.

“The continued gradual loss of milkweed habitats in migration and breeding areas as well as the increased use of pesticides that kill them directly has led to a dramatic reduction in the number of monarch butterflies,” the Congress members state.

“Dire situation

The lawmakers said the deadly combination has led to a 90 percent reduction in butterfly numbers since 1990.

“Recovering the monarch butterfly to ensure that our children and grandchildren will be able to marvel at this natural spectacle requires an immediate and serious investment in conservation efforts across the federal government,” say the lawmakers.

They acknowledged that efforts by local farmers to plant milkweed are “laudable” and are helping to keep butterfly numbers from falling even more dramatically. But, they argued, a much larger effort is needed to save the species.

For that, the lawmakers have requested that Obama use the regulatory authority under the Endangered Species Act as “…the last best chance to save this amazing species and its incredible migration.”

The law “…has the necessary legal mechanisms to ensure that the ecosystems that the monarchs depend on are adequately protected,” they said. In addition, using the ESA “…would unify and coordinate conservation efforts, and would bring much-needed resources and funding for monarch conservation efforts.”

The lawmakers noted they were “encouraged” by a recent announcement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the butterfly may warrant protection as an endangered species.

As such, “…we urge FWS to conduct a timely review to determine if protections under the Endangered Species Act are warranted,” they said.

“We are encouraged by the early voluntary measures that have begun restoring milkweed,” they continued, “but these efforts will likely be insufficient if the root causes of the monarch’s decline remain unaddressed.” They further urged Obama to “be bold” in his actions.

Monsanto will have the final say

Some have said the effort, while noble, is probably a lost cause.

“It’s hard to imagine that anything short of a phase-out of herbicide-tolerant crops will save the monarch,” said GMWatch, in citing the letter.

Conservation supporters, however, say the effort is worth it.

“The situation is so dire, scientists and environmental groups warn that we could see the great monarch migration virtually disappear in a generation, if not sooner,” wrote Jason Best, over at TakePart.com.

Still, he notes that few of the signatories to the letter are from farm belt states, where constituents have far less influence with their elected representatives than, say, Monsanto and Syngenta.

“It’s no coincidence, however, that only a scant handful of representatives who signed the letter hail from Farm Belt states–a mere three by my count–just as it’s no coincidence that the monarch’s precipitous plunge can be traced to the mid-1990s,” wrote Best. “That’s when agri-tech giant Monsanto released the first in its patented line of ‘Roundup Ready’ crops.”

You can read the full letter here.[PDF]

Sources:

http://www.gmwatch.org

http://agri-pulse.com[PDF]

http://www.takepart.com

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