Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Thank you for contacting me urging that I cosponsor H.R. 1310, the Clean Water Protection Act introduced by my colleague, Congressman Frank Pallone. I agree with you that we should prevent coal mining waste from being dumped in mountain streams, waterways, and other areas where it could endanger the environment (a step that will also help curtail the practice of mountaintop removal mining).
I am an original cosponsor of this important bill, and I will urge my colleagues to join me in supporting it.
Thank you for writing me to express your concerns about global warming. I agree with you that Congress must take strong action to reduce our output of carbon emissions, as well as other harmful pollutants, and find reasonable alternatives to them. The prospect of global climate change as a result of these pollutants is one of the most pressing environmental problems we face. Working to address this problem is a top priority for me, and in the previous Congress I cosponsored and voted for several bills that will take positive steps on this issue.
I was an original cosponsor of H.R. 620, the Climate Stewardship Act, which would create national emission caps and institute other measures to reduce harmful greenhouse emissions. I strongly support and cosponsored H.R. 1590, the Safe Climate Act, introduced by my colleague Congressman Henry Waxman, which would set achievable goals for reducing greenhouse gases.
I also cosponsored and voted for H.R. 6, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. This important bill, as you may be aware, passed the House by a vote of 314 to 100 and was subsequently signed into law. I am pleased that the energy bill included higher corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards for cars and light trucks. This is the first such CAFE increase in 22 years. Specifically H.R. 6 requires cars and light trucks sold in the United States to meet a fleet wide fuel economy average of 35 miles a gallon by 2020. This new standard will help reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and will cut production of gases that cause global warming. Additionally, the bill mandates that at least 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels be incorporated into gasoline annually by 2022. It also establishes new efficiency requirements for household appliances and government buildings, and aims to dramatically improve the efficiency of light bulbs within the next decade.
While this legislation did not include tax subsidies for alternative energy sources, the House considered a separate bill focusing on these issues late last year. Specifically, the House passed and I voted for legislation called the Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008. This bill, which was introduced by my colleague Congressman Charles Rangel, Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, would have ended unnecessary subsidies to oil companies, and taken positive steps towards combating global warming by extending federal tax credits for renewable energy, such as wind and solar, as well as many energy efficiency programs. Unfortunately, the Senate did not act on this bill.
I am pleased that President Obama and Speaker Pelosi have made addressing climate change a high priority, and I look forward to working with them to reduce global warming. Additionally, I am pleased that we increased energy efficiency and renewable energy usage in the recently enacted economic recovery legislation. I am glad that the new law contains funding for energy related programs such as upgrading the nation's electrical distribution system, tax credits to promote the development of alternatives to fossil fuels, and funding to make homes more energy efficient. Additionally, I support Speaker Pelosi's timeline to pass comprehensive climate and energy legislation out of Energy and Commerce Committee by Memorial Day. I strongly believe that we must take immediate action to reduce global warming and our dependence on foreign oil. I share this sense of urgency and believe that we cannot afford further delay.
Thank you again for contacting me.
BARNEY FRANK BF/JN
The following 2 quotes seem to confirm residents' suspicions that the Middleboro Board of Selectmen can NEVER being accused of acting wisely --
When they meet in April, Selectwoman Marsha L. Brunelle said she would like the tribe to address rumors that they may be scaling back the size of the proposed casino.
Selectwoman Muriel Duphily said she would like to know the status of the casino after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in February that Congress must approve all applications to take land into federal trust for Indian tribes.
There seems to be some confusion about this matter --
The selectmen initially made a request in January to meet with the tribe but had not received a response until last week.
Monday, March 30, 2009
I would like to ask you how you might react to the following situation.
You and I are on a bus and we find ourselves sitting next to a young man and woman. While we are sitting there on the bus, we are talking about an article on the dangers of heroin addiction -- how harmful it is to the human system, how rapidly addictive it is -- sometimes how lethal it is -- and how expensive it can be to treat, how it can lead to crimes against person and property and a degradation of all the values of self-worth that we hold up as party of being a Democrat and an American citizen.
We agree that we should get more people into addiction treatment, to reduce this scourge.
As you and I are talking, we realize that we can overhear the couple sitting to us. The conversation is going like this:
"Listen, it's going to be great. You will feel great," says the man.
"I don't know," says the woman, "maybe."
"Just this once," he says, "If you don't like it you can stop. Lots of people have, all the time."
"I don't know," she says uncertainly.
"You will feel better than you ever have," says the man confidently.
We look over and we realize to our horror that the man has strapped a tourniquet on the woman's arm is about to plunge a needle into her vein, right there on the bus.
"Listen, this stuff is the best. And besides, do you how many poor people benefit from this?
From the jobs, from the economy of making it?" the man says, "Unless you use this stuff, they won't get jobs. Do you want poor people to lose their jobs?
"Well, I don't know," says the woman, "do you use it?"
"Well, no," says the man, "I don't, not personally. But you should. You will free fantastic! It's a form of entertainment. It's your right! And I tell you what, I will promise to give some of the money you gave me to the local school so that they can fund some after-school programs for at-risk youth. Would that make it okay? Then you will be having a great time and doing a good thing for other people! And giving people jobs - in South America, in Afghanistan! "
She looks dubious. "But I have just met you - I can't keep looking for some random person on the bus."
"I will make it easy for you -- in the future I will bring the stuff right to your front door. We want this kind of entertainment as convenient as possible."
The woman hesitates, "Nothing bad can happen?" she asks.
"Nothing," he says, "you can trust me. For one thing, I am a member of the Democratic party. We stick up for the underdog. Would I lead you astray?"
"I guess not," she says -- and she sticks out her arm. He advances towards her vein with the needle.
What would we do then?
Would we sit back and say nothing? Or would say "hold on, miss, what he has been telling you isn't true?"
Imagine how much harder it would be to object if the man could say, "hey, it's legal, my father owns the distribution company, our local school has become addicted to the revenue, and there's nothing you can do about it."
Even as we debate our past mistakes, we must not take our eyes of the question of predatory gambling. This is not a question of "getting distracted" by the issue of gambling. It goes to the heart of the question of whether we are willing to let other people get ripped off in order to "create jobs" and "fund programs." This is EXACTLY a question of our core values.
The arm is out. The tourniquet is on. The needle is advancing. And we are sitting there talking about other stuff. We need to pause and express our values against this abuse of our autonomy as citizens.
If you agree with this, PLEASE COME TO THE STATE HOUSE AT 10:30 ON WEDNESDAY AT APRIL 1 FOR A RALLY AGAINST PREDATORY GAMBLING. I will be speaking at this short gathering and I urge your attendance.
The admission of slot machine gambling to a state is, according to the governor's own report by Spectrum Gaming, an irrevocable decision. It is not something we will be able to review years from now. It must be stopped decisively. IT must be stopped NOW. It must be stopped by US.
for more information, please contact me at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you - I respect you all. Please come.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
WHEN: Monday, March 30 at 1 p.m.
WHERE: Barnstable County Assembly
Send written comments and requests
RAN published ---
This week, EPA admin Lisa Jackson announced that they’d be delaying and reviewing two permits for mountaintop removal mining operations and calling into question more that 100 pending permits that threaten mountains, waterways and communities across Appalachia.
That’s a big deal for a region that has been devastated by mountaintop removal coal mining.
But one day after the big announcement, the EPA released a clarification saying that although the permits were under review, they expected that “the bulk of these pending permit applications will not raise environmental concerns.”
“Not raise environmental concerns?” WTF? Why?
Because Big Coal has some deep pockets. In less than 24 hours, the industry quickly mobilized a massive army of lobbyists and reactionary politicians to lobby against a mountaintop removal moratorium.
But we've got something Big Coal doesn't: our voices.
Making Coal Risky Business
The EPA’s decision elevates the risk of doing business with Big Coal, but also illustrates how the coal industry is becoming persona non grata in many political and economic sectors. Appalachian communities and environmentalists have effectively been turning these companies into pariahs so that investors, utilities and politicians stay away from them.
Last December, Bank of America reacted, after being tied too closely to mining companies, with a public policy about mountaintop removal. Their statement included: “Bank of America is particularly concerned about surface mining conducted through mountaintop removal in locations such as central Appalachia. We therefore will phase out financing of companies whose predominant method of extracting coal is through mountaintop removal.” Anti-mining advocates effectively transformed companies like Massey Energy into the “poster children of mountaintop removal.” The bank, already caught in an economic public relations nightmare, distanced their public image far from the practice.
Last week in Knoxville, TN, 14 anti-coal activists were arrested protesting at the headquarters of the Tennessee valley Authority (TVA). TVA is largest utility (and consumer of coal) in the nation. They are also responsible for the coal ash waste spill that occurred in east Tennessee over last Christmas.
DirtyMoney comments --
Within the next decade, more than $200 billion has been projected to be invested in new coal fired power plants, oil refineries, and pipelines. Once built, emissions from these projects will completely negate any emissions reductions made through efficiency and clean energy.
Bank of America, Citi, and Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) are leading financiers of these dirty deals—securing investments of billions of dollars every year for dirty energy projects.
Billionaires for Coal Convention at Merril Lynch Headquarters
BTW, what ever happened to Merril Lynch? Bad investments?
If we don't speak out, who will? Dirty Coal?
[Dr. Ronald Hoffman, a blood cancer expert and professor at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York] was part of a team of researchers who recently discovered a statistically significant cluster of a relatively rare blood cancer [polycythemia vera] in Pennsylvania -- and the possibility that it could be linked to the burning of waste coal.
[Said Hoffman]....we questioned if there was some outside constituency who ATSDR was responding to that made them act like they just wanted this whole matter to go away."
[ATSDR] Agency officials made repeated requests that he not exhibit his maps suggesting a geographic relationship between the polycythemia vera cases and pollution sources [map shown in original article]
[Hoffman's study] includes the community where multiple cases of the cancer were identified along one road.This cluster happens to be located within a few miles of seven waste-coal-burning power plants. It's also located near several Superfund toxic waste sites. But the suspicion that the waste-coal plants are playing a special role in the cluster is heightened by the fact that an independent analysis of state cancer registry data found that two other populous Pennsylvania counties with dramatically elevated rates of polycythemia vera are also located near waste-coal-burning power plants.
Because these toxic waste dumps are often located on lands long abandoned by the mining companies, cleaning them up often falls to the government -- and it can be an expensive proposition. In Pennsylvania, for example, the average per-acre reclamation cost for coal refuse piles is as high as $40,000.
So when a technology came along in the 1980s that offered a cheap way of dealing with the waste, government officials across the coalfields rushed to embrace it. The technology -- known as "fluidized bed combustion" -- allows the waste coal to be burned for power.
According to the Energy Justice Network, there are now 18 FBC plants nationwide using waste coal as a primary fuel. Pennsylvania has the most with 14, followed by West Virginia with three and Utah with one. There are another 13 plants nationwide burning waste coal as a secondary fuel -- four in Virginia, three each in Alabama and South Carolina, two in Pennsylvania, and one in Mississippi. And there are plans for as many as 17 more plants that burn waste coal in states including Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia. Some of these facilities also burn other wastes including fuel oil and tires.
Plants using FBC technology operate at lower temperatures and oxygen levels than conventional coal-fired power plants. They also use limestone to capture sulfur during combustion in order to reduce sulfur oxide pollution.
But this technology presents serious environmental drawbacks. Lower temperatures and oxygen levels, low-quality fuels and limestone injection have all been found to contribute to increased emissions of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), toxic compounds known to cause genetic mutations and cancer.
[In 2006, Pennsylvania Department of Health]...Conducted at the request of local residents concerned about unusual patterns of cancer, the assessment found that two of the counties had unusually elevated rates of polycythemia vera, a relatively rare malignancy marked by the overproduction of red blood cells.
The recent Kentucky indictments provide some insight ---
Kentucky election indictments reveal dangers of paperless voting
By Christian Smith-Socaris
Progressive States Network
Political corruption and vote buying have been alleged in Clay County, Kentucky for decades. In an effort to counteract that tradition, the Department of Justice has indicted several public officials -- including a judge, the county clerk, the school superintendent and members of the elections board -- for alleged vote buying and election fraud.
According to the indictment, the defendants not only conspired to steal elections the old fashioned way but also exploited a vulnerability in their new ES&S iVotronic paperless voting machines.The defendants are alleged to have duped voters into leaving the voting booth after they had pressed the "vote" button, which doesn't actually cast the vote, but brings up a review screen where a voter confirms their selections. Once the voter had left the booth, corrupt election workers went in and changed their votes.
This case is significant for a couple reasons. The first is that the major defense used by voting machine vendors regarding the flaws in their products has been that none of the problems have ever resulted in a stolen election. If the DOJ is correct, several elections were likely stolen in Kentucky on electronic machines.
Second, the fact that using electronic voting machines is confusing enough that a many voter can be tricked into leaving the booth before they have actually cast their ballot is a critical vulnerability in these systems that has not previously been appreciated.
Christian Smith-Socaris is Election Reform Policy Specialist for the Progressive States Network. A version of this story originally appeared in the Network's Stateside Dispatch.
Is the E-Voting Honeymoon Over?
Electronic vote rigging in Kentucky.
Eight Clay County, Kentucky election officials were charged last week with conspiring to alter ballots cast on electronic voting machines in several recent elections. The story was first reported on a local TV station and was featured on the election integrity site BradBlog. According to the indictment [pdf], the conspiracy allegedly included, among other things, altering ballots cast on the county's ES&S iVotronic touchscreen voting machines.
So how could this have happened?
The iVotronic is a popular Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machine. It displays the ballot on a computer screen and records voters' choices in internal memory. Voting officials and machine manufacturers cite the user interface as a major selling point for DRE machines -- it's already familiar to voters used to navigating touchscreen ATMs, computerized gas pumps, and so on, and thus should avoid problems like the infamous "butterfly ballot". Voters interact with the iVotronic primarily by touching the display screen itself. But there's an important exception: above the display is an illuminated red button labeled "VOTE" (see photo at right). Pressing the VOTE button is supposed to be the final step of a voter's session; it adds their selections to their candidates' totals and resets the machine for the next voter.
The Kentucky officials are accused of taking advantage of a somewhat confusing aspect of the way the iVotronic interface was implemented. In particular, the behavior (as described in the indictment) of the version of the iVotronic used in Clay County apparently differs a bit from the behavior described in ES&S's standard instruction sheet for voters [pdf - see page 2].
A flash-based iVotronic demo available from ES&S here shows the same procedure, with the VOTE button as the last step. But evidently there's another version of the iVotronic interface in which pressing the VOTE button is only the second to last step. In those machines, pressing VOTE invokes an extra "confirmation" screen. The vote is only actually finalized after a "confirm vote" box is touched on that screen. (A different flash demo that shows this behavior with the version of the iVotronic equipped with a printer is available from ES&S here). So the iVotronic VOTE button doesn't necessarily work the way a voter who read the standard instructions might expect it to.
The indictment describes a conspiracy to exploit this ambiguity in the iVotronic user interface by having pollworkers systematically (and incorrectly) tell voters that pressing the VOTE button is the last step. When a misled voter would leave the machine with the extra "confirm vote" screen still displayed, a pollworker would quietly "correct" the not-yet-finalized ballot before casting it. It's a pretty elegant attack, exploiting little more than a poorly designed, ambiguous user interface, printed instructions that conflict with actual machine behavior, and public unfamiliarity with equipment that most citizens use at most once or twice each year. And once done, it leaves behind little forensic evidence to expose the deed.
Current electronic voting systems have been widely -- and justifiably -- criticized for being insufficiently secure against vote tampering and other kinds of election fraud. I led the team at U. Penn that examined the ES&S iVotronic -- the same machine used in Kentucky -- as part of the Ohio EVEREST voting systems study in 2007. We found numerous exploitable security weaknesses in these machines, many of which would make it easy for a corrupt voter, pollworker, or election official to tamper with election results (see our report [pdf] for details). Other studies have reached similarly grim conclusions about most of the other e-voting products used in the US and elsewhere. But these results, alarming as they are, also raise a perplexing question: if the technology is so vulnerable, why have there been so few (if any) substantiated cases of these systems being attacked and manipulated in actual elections?
A plausible explanation is simply that the bad guys haven't yet caught up with the rich opportunities for mischief that these systems provide. It takes time for attackers to recognize and learn to exploit security weaknesses in new devices, and touchscreen voting machines have been in wide use for only a few years (most US counties purchased their current systems after 2002, with funding from the Help America Vote Act). For example, the computers connected to the Internet were for a long time largely vulnerable to network-based attack, but it took several years before viruses, worms, and botnets became serious threats in practice. In other words, new technologies sometimes enjoy an initial relatively crime-free "attack honeymoon" in which even very weak defenses seem to be sufficient. But eventually, the criminals arrive, and, once they climb the learning curve, the world becomes a much more hostile place very quickly.
We might ask, then, what the (alleged) Kentucky conspiracy tells us about the e-voting attack honeymoon. Are the bad guys catching up? On the one hand, we might be comforted by the relatively "low tech" nature of the attack -- no software modifications, altered electronic records, or buffer overflow exploits were involved, even though the machines are, in fact, quite vulnerable to such things. But a close examination of the timeline in the indictment suggests that even these "simple" user interface exploits might well portend more technically sophisticated attacks sooner, rather than later.
Count 9 of the Kentucky indictment alleges that the Clay County officials first discovered and conspired to exploit the iVotronic "confirm screen" ambiguity around June 2004. But Kentucky didn't get iVotronics until at the earliest late 2003; according to the state's 2003 HAVA Compliance Plan [pdf], no Kentucky county used the machines as of mid-2003. That means that the officials involved in the conspiracy managed to discover and work out the operational details of the attack soon after first getting the machines, and were able to use it to alter votes in the next election.
Yes, the technique is low-tech, but it's also very clever, and not at all obvious. The only way for them to have discovered it would have been to think hard and long about how the machines work, how voters would use them, and how they could subvert the process with the access they had. And that's just what they did. They found the leverage they needed quickly, succeeding at using their discovery to steal real votes, and apparently went for several years without getting caught. It seems reasonable to suspect that if a user interface ambiguity couldn't have been exploited, they would have looked for -- and perhaps found -- one of the many other exploitable weaknesses present in the ES&S system.
But that's not the worst news in this story. Even more unsettling is the fact that none of the published security analyses of the iVotronic -- including the one we did at Penn -- had noticed the user interface weakness. The first people to have discovered this flaw, it seems, didn't publish or report it. Instead, they kept it to themselves and used it to steal votes.
Coal is killing America
Coal-fired power stations are death factories. Close them
By Jan Hansen
A year ago, I wrote to (British Prime Minister) Gordon Brown asking him to place a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants in Britain. I have asked the same of Angela Merkel, Barack Obama, Kevin Rudd and other leaders. The reason is this - coal is the single greatest threat to civilisation and all life on our planet.
The climate is nearing tipping points. Changes are beginning to appear and there is a potential for explosive changes, effects that would be irreversible, if we do not rapidly slow fossil-fuel emissions over the next few decades. As Arctic sea ice melts, the darker ocean absorbs more sunlight and speeds melting. As the tundra melts, methane, a strong greenhouse gas, is released, causing more warming. As species are exterminated by shifting climate zones, ecosystems can collapse, destroying more species.
The public, buffeted by weather fluctuations and economic turmoil, has little time to analyse decadal changes. How can people be expected to evaluate and filter out advice emanating from those pushing special interests? How can people distinguish between top-notch science and pseudo-science?
Those who lead us have no excuse - they are elected to guide, to protect the public and its best interests. They have at their disposal the best scientific organisations in the world, such as the Royal Society and the US National Academy of Sciences. Only in the past few years did the science crystallise, revealing the urgency. Our planet is in peril. If we do not change course, we'll hand our children a situation that is out of their control. One ecological collapse will lead to another, in amplifying feedbacks.
The amount of carbon dioxide in the air has already risen to a dangerous level. The pre-industrial carbon dioxide amount was 280 parts per million (ppm). Humans, by burning coal, oil and gas, have increased this to 385 ppm; it continues to grow by about 2 ppm per year.
Earth, with its four-kilometre-deep oceans, responds only slowly to changes of carbon dioxide. So the climate will continue to change, even if we make maximum effort to slow the growth of carbon dioxide. Arctic sea ice will melt away in the summer season within the next few decades. Mountain glaciers, providing fresh water for rivers that supply hundreds of millions of people, will disappear - practically all of the glaciers could be gone within 50 years - if carbon dioxide continues to increase at current rates. Coral reefs, harbouring a quarter of ocean species, are threatened.
The greatest danger hanging over our children and grandchildren is initiation of changes that will be irreversible on any time scale that humans can imagine. If coastal ice shelves buttressing the west Antarctic ice sheet continue to disintegrate, the sheet could disgorge into the ocean, raising sea levels by several metres in a century. Such rates of sea level change have occurred many times in Earth's history in response to global warming rates no higher than those of the past 30 years. Almost half of the world's great cities are located on coastlines.
The most threatening change, from my perspective, is extermination of species. Several times in Earth's history, rapid global warming occurred, apparently spurred by amplifying feedbacks. In each case, more than half of plant and animal species became extinct. New species came into being over tens and hundreds of thousands of years. But these are time scales and generations that we cannot imagine. If we drive our fellow species to extinction, we will leave a far more desolate planet for our descendants than the world we inherited from our elders.
Clearly, if we burn all fossil fuels, we will destroy the planet we know. Carbon dioxide would increase to 500 ppm or more. We would set the planet on a course to the ice-free state, with sea level 75 metres higher. Climatic disasters would occur continually. The tragedy of the situation, if we do not wake up in time, is that the changes that must be made to stabilise the atmosphere and climate make sense for other reasons. They would produce a healthier atmosphere, improved agricultural productivity, clean water and an ocean providing fish that are safe to eat.
Fossil-fuel reservoirs will dictate the actions needed to solve the problem. Oil, of which half the readily accessible reserves have already been burnt, is used in vehicles, so it's impractical to capture the carbon dioxide. This is likely to drive carbon dioxide levels to at least 400 ppm. But if we cut off the largest source of carbon dioxide - coal - it will be practical to bring carbon dioxide back to 350 ppm, lower still if we improve agricultural and forestry practices, increasing carbon storage in trees and soil.
Coal is not only the largest fossil fuel reservoir of carbon dioxide, it is the dirtiest fuel. Coal is polluting the world's oceans and streams with mercury, arsenic and other dangerous chemicals. The dirtiest trick that governments play on their citizens is the pretence that they are working on "clean coal" or that they will build power plants that are "capture-ready" in case technology is ever developed to capture all pollutants.
The trains carrying coal to power plants are death trains. Coal-fired power plants are factories of death. When I testified against the proposed Kingsnorth power plant, I estimated that in its lifetime it would be responsible for the extermination of about 400 species - its proportionate contribution to the number that would be committed to extinction if carbon dioxide rose another 100 ppm.
The German and Australian governments pretend to be green. When I show German officials the evidence that the coal source must be cut off, they say they will tighten the "carbon cap". But a cap only slows the use of a fuel - it does not leave it in the ground. When I point out that their new coal plants require that they convince Russia to leave its oil in the ground, they are silent. The Australian government was elected on a platform of solving the climate problem, but then, with the help of industry, it set emission targets so high as to guarantee untold disasters for the young, let alone the unborn. These governments are not green. They are black - coal black.
The three countries most responsible, per capita, for filling the air with carbon dioxide from fossil fuels are the UK, the US and Germany, in that order. Politicians here have asked me why am I speaking to them. Surely the US must lead? But coal interests have great power in the US; the essential moratorium and phase-out of coal requires a growing public demand and a political will yet to be demonstrated.
The Prime Minister should not underestimate his potential to transform the situation. And he must not pretend to be ignorant of the consequences of continuing to burn coal or take refuge in a "carbon cap" or some "target" for future emission reductions. My message to Gordon Brown is that young people are beginning to understand the situation. They want to know: will you join their side? Remember that history, and your children, will judge you.
James Hansen is director of Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York. He was the first scientist to warn the US Congress of the dangers of climate change. This opinion piece appeared in many newspapers including the Guardian in the UK.
Friday, March 27, 2009
That’s more than double the capital costs for solar power and three and a half times the cost for wind.
Beyond Nuclear explores the myth of the French Nuclear Industry.
With its human rights track record largely a well-kept secret, Areva has been welcomed into the United States, where the company has quietly established 42 offices with 5,300 employees. Its U.S. tentacles extend to virtually every phase of the nuclear fuel chain, from uranium enrichment to radioactive-waste management. With the smoke and mirrors resurgence of nuclear power gaining political and public traction, Areva -- read the French government -- smells huge profits, and the U.S. is prime prey.
Areva is behind the push to revive nuclear-waste reprocessing in the U.S. The separated plutonium would then be blended into MOX fuel and used in U.S. reactors, none of which is adapted to handle the hotter plutonium fuel.
Until recently, Areva, in partnership with the U.S. Shaw Group, was running MOX fuel test assemblies at Duke Energy's Catawba nuclear plant in South Carolina before the operation was shut down prematurely for safety reasons. The U.S. MOX fuel was made at the French MOX fuel-fabrication plant at Cadarache, a facility that had been closed due to the danger of earthquakes in the area. The plant was reopened solely to accommodate the U.S. fuel, a move that was challenged as illegal by French anti-nuclear advocates.
Areva recently won a contract to build and operate a new uranium-enrichment facility in Idaho. It operates more than 50 percent of this country's dry cask storage operations, where all of the U.S. spent reactor fuel still sits at the 65 reactor sites (there are 104 operating reactors in the U.S.) At least 30 percent of U.S. reactors use Areva-supplied fuel.
The company's U.S. plans also extend to new reactors, where it hopes to grab at least 33 percent of the U.S. market according to its Web site. This includes a proposal for seven of its unproven "generation three" design, the Evolutionary Power Reactor, billed as the world's largest reactor. (It is called the European Pressurized Reactor everywhere but the U.S.)
Seven EPR reactors are slated for six U.S. sites, although so far only two sites -- at Calvert Cliffs on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and Calloway near St. Louis -- have filed initial applications. George Vanderheyden, chief executive for UniStar, the company hoping to build the EPR at Calvert Cliffs, says the EPR "will be one of the most expensive technologies in the United States to build." UniStar has partnered with the French state electricity company, lectricit de France (EDF), on the project. However, cost may not be the only challenge.
The two Areva EPR reactors under way -- in Finland and France -- have already run into trouble. The Finnish reactor at the Olkiluoto nuclear site started first, in August 2005, but has already fallen three years behind schedule after safety and quality-assurance problems with the piping, containment liner and concrete base slab were discovered. This has put the Finnish EPR 50 percent over budget at a current estimated cost of at least $6.7 billion. Areva partner Siemens has pulled out of the project, leaving Areva to buy out Siemens' share at an estimated cost to the company of $2.6 billion.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
At no time was the process democratic. Much has been commented on about the conduct of the Middleboro Board of Selectmen's Chairwoman Marsha Brunelle as Gavel Queen who gravelled to silence anyone who attempted to ask questions.
Carcieri v Salazar has destroyed the threat posed to Middleboro and surrounding communities, but State Treasurer, Tim Cahill and others would resurrect the concept statewide.
Modern-day slot machines are computerized sound-and-light shows so skillfully designed to keep players glued to their seats that some have been known to wear adult diapers to avoid bathroom breaks.
One trick: Though the machines generate their winning or losing combinations randomly, they also tend to be programmed to make it look as if players have a great number of near-wins, said Roger Horbay, president of Game Planit Interactive, a Canadian company that develops educational tools to prevent problem gambling. "You get the impression your odds are good, you're about to win," he said.
An MGH psychiatry researcher has found that gambling activates the brain in a way very similar to drug abuse, a discovery that has implications for how compulsive gamblers are treated.
Opponents of the measure [casinos] question whether the promises of increased revenue and jobs are worth the social costs associated with a potential rise in pathological gambling.
Of the failure to consider the factors involved in pathological gambling by policy makers,
Breiter [MGH psychiatry researcher, said], "they’re playing with fire, because there’s a slippery slope between normal and addictive behavior.”
In 2007, when a presentation was made on Beacon Hill about the effects of Gambling Addiction that most of our elected legislators couldn't be bothered to attend ---
Breen warned that research has also shown the percentage of gambling addicts doubles in the 50-mile radius around casinos.
Breen's program has treated 1,000 patients since its inception in 2001. In that time, Breen said, a significant number of patients told him their gambling addiction began only after casinos came into the state.
....Breen said the close proximity to a casino multiplied their gambling habits.
The state official who should protect Massachusetts residents from Predatory Gambling was quoted with this caution, instead of cautioning about supporting Gambling's Dirty Little Secret betrays his duties --
....Michael Botticelli, assistant commissioner for Substance Abuse Services at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, warned that legislators should view research studies with a “healthy dose of skepticism.”
The auditors indicated that the electronic version was considered proprietary by them, but since the Board of Selectmen had commissioned the audit, they were the authority that would have to request the auditors to release the electronic version. [Yes, I called and confirmed this with the auditing firm.]
When I submitted my written request for the electronic copy to the Keeper of Public Records (Town Clerk), the request wound its way to the Board of Selectmen, specifically the Chairwoman at the time, Marsha Brunelle. Included in that request was that the Auditors' Report should be posted on the PTWS (Pathetic Town Web Site).
Doesn't it make you wonder what being hidden when you can't get information?
Saturday, April 4th is Middleboro's Town Election.
Maybe it's time for change.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
In a statement, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said her agency "will use the best science and follow the letter of the law in ensuring we are protecting our environment."
EPA plans to assess the Central Appalachia Mining's Big Branch project in Pike County, Ky., and the Highland Mining Company's Reylas mine in Logan County, W.Va.
Mountaintop mining involves the removal of summit ridges to expose coal seams and the dumping of debris into valleys, a practice EPA says is likely to pollute water and severely damage or destroy streams.
EPA said it found the companies' plans for mitigating environmental damage in the two projects inadequate. The agency said it would meet with representatives of the Army Corps and the mining companies to discuss additional protective measures.
"EPA has delayed any further permitting for coal mining operations out of the Huntington and Louisville corps of engineers offices," she said. "This is very troubling, as there are as many as 65,000 mining jobs that are put at risk by this action because almost all mining operations in that area require a 404 permit in order to operate."
Raulston said delaying the permits would affect existing mining operations and said she hoped EPA's review would be expedited. The association is weighing what steps to take next, she added.
The Environmental Protection Agency put hundreds of mountaintop mining operations on notice that they would be the focus of closer scrutiny yesterday, saying it needs to review their impact on local streams and wetlands before they can move forward.
The announcement, which outraged mining interests and cheered environmentalists, challenged a Bush administration policy and blocked the effect of a federal court decision that had made it easier for mine operators to dispose of the rubble and sludge created when companies blow off the tops of mountains to get to the coal buried underneath.
"It's absolutely puzzling to me why you would want to dismantle a state's economy," Raney [president of the West Virginia Coal Association] said. "Does this mean in the steep terrain of eastern America, we're not going to have roads, we're not going to have economic development, we're not going to have Wal-Marts?"
So Mountaintop Removal is equivalent to building a Wal-Mart?
I like mountains. And you?
HEALEY FOR HIRE
Maybe retired Middleboro Town Manager John F. Healey should be teaching a class about job networking. Earlier this week, Healey, who still lives in Middleboro, was mentioned here after being hired in Kingston to fill in as town administrator three days a week. It’s the second temp job (the first was in Southbridge) for Healey, who stepped down from his Middleboro post in 2007 with a $104,000-a-year pension in 2007.
Now, we’ve learned that in a letter to the selectmen in Freetown, he made an offer they can’t refuse: For the low, low price of $800 per week (and no health insurance charges), he’ll work two days a week plus Monday nights. But wait, there’s more: for the entire fiscal 2010, he’d do the job for $38,400 with no benefits — a savings of nearly 50 percent from the $75,000 plus benefits that Freetown’s former manager was making.
HINT TO FREETOWN: Don't let Jack auction any land. And watch out for certain lobbyists.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
A retired Middleboro town manager has offered to serve as Freetown’s interim part-time town administrator for a price of $800 per week after Town Administrator E. Winn Davis resigned last month.
John F. Healey, who lives in Middleboro, offered to work full days on Tuesday and Wednesday for Freetown and be available for the Monday night selectmen meetings. He also said he would help the town facilitate its next town administrator search.
Healey said although he would charge $800 per week, that cost would be free of health insurance charges, and he would make himself available by telephone for consultation. “I would not receive any benefits but would take four weeks unpaid vacation in the summer/fall of the year,” Healey wrote. “Because of my experience, and that of your long-term administrative assistant, I believe that we could continue to provide the town with the professional services that the town needs.”
He further added that if the town needed him for the entire fiscal 2010, it would cost the town $38,400 with no benefits — a big savings from the $75,000 plus benefits that Davis was making.
Consider it done --
APRIL 9, 2007
Selectman Spataro asked about appointing Judy MacDonald as Acting Town Accountant.
Chairwoman Brunelle said this couldn’t be done as the positions are “checks and balances” for each other.
Selectman Spataro asked about appointing a Finance Officer.
Chairwoman Brunelle said you would still have to have a Town Accountant, Treasurer/Collector, and Assessor.
Selectman Spataro asked if it would cut out a layer of management.
APRIL 25, 2007
Selectman Spataro noted that it was announced in open session that an Interim Fire Chief had been appointed.
Selectman Spataro clarified that it was legitimate to take the vote in executive session, but it just has to be announced in open session rather than taking another vote.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Energy efficient home open house
Saturday April 4th 2009 9am-5pm
101 Tispaquin st. Middleboro MA
Friday, March 20, 2009
Massachusetts also is in a better position than many states to take advantage of money intended to boost renewable energy production, Kirwan said. The state has made a push to encourage solar, wind and biofuels industries Kirwan said.
The same is true, she said, for stimulus-funded grants distributed through the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, since Massachusetts has launched a $1 billion, 10-year life science initiative.
While much of the federal money will help pay for everything from clean energy projects to highway construction, cities and towns hoping to use some of the money to build new schools are out of luck.
There's no provision in the federal law that allows stimulus money to be spent on new school construction, although some money could be spent on making energy efficient improvements to government buildings including schools, said Undersecretary of Administration and Finance Jay Gonzalez.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Monday, March 16, 2009
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Flynn said his Bridgewater office received a $300 electric bill last month, which he said was more than double what he was charged the previous month.
Mass, Energy Facility Siting Board votes unanimous approval
Cape Wind's application for a composite certificate is granted
In what was obviously the state's eagerness to start the Nantucket Sound wind farm project sooner, the major state agency, the Energy Facility Siting Board, cast a unanimous vote this afternoon to give Cape Wind Associates all the outstanding permits needed for the renewable energy project.
The "Super Permit", as it is called, overturns a Cape Cod Commission procedural denial of the project.
Several days earlier, AP reported --
A $1 billion project to erect 130 giant wind turbines off Cape Cod has long been opposed by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., who has argued it would kill birds, endanger sea life and imperil the area's tourism and fishing industries. The state's Democratic governor, Deval Patrick supports it.
new nuclear power plants will cost