Wednesday, November 30, 2011
An extremely well-made clip, featuring economists who get it — and have signed a statement in solidarity.
Monday, November 28, 2011
Regardless of the location or state, this travesty surrounds us - a developed nation that has rewarded bankers and investment fraud with riches that trashed the global economy.
Senator Brown refuses to eliminate Dirty Energy subsidies and tax the wealthy, while Grover Norquist continues to pontificate.
It's time to restore sensible economic principals and sanity and view the federal budget as a moral statement.
Friday, November 25, 2011
The Reinventing Fire Launch at National Geographic - What's Your Commitment?
Last month, Rocky Mountain Institute launched Reinventing Fire at National Geographic's headquarters in Washington, D.C. At the event, Chief Scientist Amory Lovins outlined a path to a new energy era by 2050, one that relies on efficiency and renewables rather than fossil fuels yet costs $5 trillion less than today and offers a more competitive U.S.economy with greater opportunities for job creation and growth for the nation.
We asked the attendees what they are doing to "Reinvent Fire." Listen, and be inspired as we are by what we heard.
The business advantages of clean energy are within reach. An energy future free of fossil fuels is no longer a dream, it's a modern reality. The time is right to seize this opportunity.
"Humans are inventing a new fire--not dug from below but flowing from above, not scarce but bountiful, not local but everywhere," Lovins told the crowd. "This new fire is not transient but permanent…and grown in ways that sustain and endure. Each of you owns a piece of that $5-trillion prize."
By Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Reader Supported News
Big Carbon's sock puppets declare war on America and the planet.
It's now become de rigueur among the radical right-wing rhetoricians to characterize any government support of America's green energy sector as wasteful, fruitless, and scandalous. They greeted with glee the collapse of the government supported solar company, Solyndra, America's first major casualty in our race with China to dominate the "new energy" economy. With Solyndra dying on the battlefield - its marketplace choking on inexpensive Chinese solar panels - the right-wing's response was to hoist the white flag and declare defeat in the war for global cleantech leadership. That brand of "Can't Do" cowardice is a boon to the carbon and nuclear power incumbents who fund so much of the right-wing's activities - but it's bad for America.
Leveraging the aberrant Solyndra bankruptcy, these groups have launched an orchestrated series of attacks against the renewables sector by trying to discredit other companies, even those that are driving America forward with innovative solutions that actually do compete on a global basis. For example, last month, Fox News ran a story insinuating that SunPower received a loan guarantee for its Central Valley Solar Ranch project because of its political connections Congressman George Miller. The story also suggested that SunPower was struggling financially and posed another risk to taxpayers - a la Solyndra. The truth is that SunPower is one of America's strongest solar manufacturing companies and Mr. Miller had nothing to do with the company receiving a loan guarantee for its Central Valley Solar Ranch Project. To Fox News and other right-wing media sources, the facts meant very little. Their intent is only to suggest wrong-doing in an attempt to undermine the Obama Administration and its clean energy goals.
Last week found the right-wing echo chamber, from Fox News to the New York Post and the conservative blogosphere, in an anti-green frenzy based on faux facts from a new book, "Throw Them All Out." The author of this far-fetched screed is Peter Schweizer, Sarah Palin's foreign policy guru, currently employed by the Hoover Institution, a think tank funded largely by oil interests (e.g., Exxon, ARCO, Transamerica, and Richard Mellon Scaife's oil and banking fortune) to craft the philosophical underpinnings for unregulated pollution, unrestricted corporate profit taking, and massive corporate welfare for the carbon/nuke incumbents.
Thanks to a mention in Schweizer's far-fetched opus, I got a shout out, last week from most of these crackpot gas bags. The Daily Mail summarized my supposed crimes in its headline: "JFK's nephew received $1.4 billion dollar taxpayer bailout for his struggling green energy firm."
All of the reported "facts" in this blogosphonic barrage were Schweizer's inventions. Schweizer claims that BrightSource Energy received a government bailout due to political influence exerted on behalf of VantagePoint Capital Partners, where I am a partner and which is the largest institutional shareholder of BrightSource.
The actual facts do not support Schweizer's claims. BrightSource Energy did not receive a bailout. Rather, the Ivanpah project, a 392 megawatt solar thermal project in the Mojave Desert that will provide clean power to 140,000 homes, received a loan guarantee from the Department of Energy (DOE). Ivanpah, which broke ground in October 2010, is majority owned by Google and energy giant NRG. BrightSource is a minority owner of and the technology supplier to the Ivanpah project. The underlying loan from private investors is fully secured, and pays interest that will earn a healthy return for U.S. taxpayers.
Unlike Solyndra which received corporate financing from DOE, and which had no assurance that it would be able to sell its product, Ivanpah and the Central Valley Solar Ranch projects have contractual commitments from California's largest utilities to buy all of its power at fixed prices. This is comparable to building a new hotel with the guarantee that it will have 100% occupancy rates for 20+ years.
Schweizer's claims that the loan guarantee works out to a cost to taxpayers of $1 million per job is also a canard.
The Ivanpah project is one of the largest infrastructure projects in the nation and the largest solar thermal plant under construction in the world. The project's three year construction phase will create 1,400 highly-skilled trade, engineering and construction jobs at peak. These are high paying union jobs in a region plagued by one of America's highest unemployment rates. The project will generate $250 million in earnings for these construction workers and, over its 30 year life, will produce $650 million in earnings for workers on the site, including the 90 permanent jobs required to operate the plant.
Finally, the $2.2 billion Ivanpah project is an investment in America's future with substantial indirect economic benefits locally and across the nation. The majority of the project's supply chain is being sourced domestically across 17 states, driving investments throughout the country and creating additional jobs in other areas of the United States that have been adversely affected by the economic downturn. The Ivanpah project is also generating $300 million in state and local tax revenues over its life.
The right-wing's campaign against the DOE's support of renewable energy is not in our national interest. The DOE loan guarantee program has been extremely successful in providing debt financing to innovative energy projects in the wake of the 2008 credit market challenges. Access to capital is a crucial component of building innovative energy infrastructure and creating economic benefit. The DOE loan guarantee program has also been very successful at attracting private capital to these projects. Each dollar appropriated for the program leverages $13 dollars in private sector investment. As of August 2011, DOE had made commitments to 37 clean energy projects, leveraging private investment of more than $40 billion. This includes more than 10 utility-scale solar power projects in the Southwest, including SunPower's Central Valley Solar Ranch and BrightSource's Ivanpah. These projects are estimated to create tens of thousands of jobs across the country.
Where Is the Right-Wing Opposition to the Obscene Subsidies to Carbon and Nuke?
The frenzy against government support for green energy is ironic considering the silence from those same quarters regarding the hundreds of billions of dollars in annual subsidies and externalized costs flowing from government and the American public to the carbon and nuke companies that fund the right-wing think tanks and the conservative blogosphere.
The same DOE loan guarantee program that supported the solar projects gave an astonishing $8.3 billion loan guarantee - many times the size of the solar projects - to Southern Company to build two nuclear power plants. Nuclear power is an industry with a product so expensive it cannot compete in any version of free market capitalism. Big nuke is totally dependent on massive, monstrous public and government subsidies at every stage of its life. Oil is a close second. A comprehensive inventory of oil subsidies by former California EPA Chief Terry Tamminen, in his acclaimed book Lives Per Gallon, calculates U.S. subsidies to the oil industry at upward of one trillion dollars annually!
The Rise of Green Energy
This blogosphere wrangling is part of a larger struggle pitting disruptive technologies like LED lights, electric cars, and renewable energy such as wind and solar - the clean, green democratic, abundant, and patriotic fuels from heaven - against the powerful incumbents of coal, oil, and nuke - the destructive, plutocratic, largely foreign owned, addictive, poisonous, destructive, and war breeding fuels from hell.
The green fuels are winning. Solar power is now at or near grid parity in many U.S. states. That means that solar generators can deliver electricity to consumers at or below the cost of coal or oil, without even considering the catastrophic health and environmental costs that these dirty sources create. Energy industry giants like NRG, which owns coal and nuke fleets, are moving aggressively into solar. "Solar is the future," says NRG CEO David Crane. "Over the long term, solar won't need the government to drive adaptation - the pace of innovation is so rapid and the costs are dropping so quickly that the marketplace will ultimately force the transition. Government incentives are important in that they will drive a quicker adaptation and keep American companies in the game."
Crane points out that his vendors are already offering solar panels at slightly less than $1.00 per watt, leading to an all-in cost of installed solar on a distributed basis of $2.50/watt. This, according to Crane, translates into 12¢/kilowatt hour, making home grown solar energy cheaper than the grid in 20 states.
Experience shows that these industries are demonstrated jobs producers. There are already more Americans employed by the solar industry (110,000) than there are coal miners (90,000), and the wind industry (75,000) is rapidly expanding its workforce.
The only questions now are: How fast will the transition occur? Which nations will lead the way and reap the financial rewards of that leadership?
Unfortunately, due to the outsized influence of big coal, oil, and nuke on our Congress, America is lagging.
China's bold strategy is to dominate the new energy economy with giant investments in wind, solar, LED light bulbs, smart grid systems, and electric cars. Despite our strong lead among entrepreneurs, the American government's willingness to compete with the Chinese in these domains has been anemic. The Waxman-Markey bill, which passed the House and then died under pressure from the carbon cronies in the Senate, would have increased solar deployment in America by a mere 37% by 2020. The Chinese have already committed to increase their solar development by 20,000% during that period and wind development by 1200%. While the right-wing whines about a $1.6 billion loan guarantee to a solar project, the Chinese are funneling $758 billion to their solar and wind industry over 5 years.
I commend the Chinese for their commitment to transition to a green energy economy. But I refuse to accept the right-wing narrative that America can no longer compete in the world marketplace. Americans still lead the world in patents filed and the other indicia of entrepreneurship. The promising new technologies and young green tech companies that I see daily are challenged principally by a lack of capital available from our banks and government. This is more than an issue of national wealth and prosperity - our national security is also at stake. The war by America's carbon and nuclear energy industries and their right-wing allies, against our country's burgeoning cleantech industry is damaging our economy and subverting our national security, just as it has in the past led us into oil wars. When I was a boy, America owned half the wealth on Earth. We lost that advantage mainly due to our carbon addiction, which still causes us to hemorrhage nearly $750 billion annually in American wealth - the cost of importing foreign oil. The Chinese would naturally like us to spend what's left of our national wealth purchasing Chinese solar panels, Chinese LED lights, and Chinese wind turbines and electric cars.
Democrats and Republicans in Congress, many in the thrall of Big Carbon, are sitting on their hands as the hemorrhage continues. The incumbents are able to control the political process in Washington with the support of their right-wing media flacks, and with hundreds of millions in annual contributions and lobbying. Such investments allow the incumbents to reap hundreds of billions in annual subsidies from U.S. taxpayers, artificially ballooning their profits. These are self-destructive policies for America. With the same resolve that established America's industrial and technological greatness in the 20th century, leading the transition to a new energy economy is America's best hope for true national security, prosperity, and restoring our global leadership and moral authority.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is President of Waterkeeper Alliance, Senior Attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, and a Partner in VantagePoint Capital Partners.
This Is Why Elizabeth Warren Should Win Any Damn Elected Office She Ever Runs For
Thursday, November 24, 2011
By Joe Wojtas
Publication: The Day
Mystic - A Massachusetts auction house on Saturday plans to auction off a journal written by a Charles W. Morgan crewman who was thought to have been lost at sea after he harpooned a whale and took an infamous Nantucket sleigh ride off the Russian coast in 1890.
The journal was penned by N. A. Martin, who kept it in the 1880s during three partial voyages aboard the whaling vessel now owned by Mystic Seaport.
According to Frank McNamee of Marion Antique Auctions in Marion, Mass., the last voyage Martin chronicled began out of San Francisco. While in the Sea of Okhotsk, Martin and crew of the whaleboat harpooned a whale and were dragged out of sight of the Morgan.
The ship left the area without finding the men, who later reached the Russian coast, where they were initially jailed as spies.
They eventually made their way by ship to Hong Kong and back to New Bedford, Mass., the Morgan's home port.
Martin's entries ended the day he was left behind by the Morgan. The journal ended up in California with descendants of Martin. In the 1960s, McNamee said the Seaport talked with the owner about donating it to the museum.
But the journal ended up instead with a family in Mattapoisett, Mass., who recently discovered it in a shoebox and decided to sell it at auction after learning it could be worth as much as $5,000.
McNamee said research done by the New Bedford Whaling Museum shows that it is the only surviving logbook or journal from that voyage.
"You can tell Martin wasn't a writer. He didn't have an advanced education. But this is still a great historic document for the ship and the time period," he said.
The journal is among the auction items that includes the collections of Wareham, Mass., historian George C. Decas who collected paintings by the Thompson family of Middleboro, Mass., a family of artists from the 19th century. Also in the auction is a document signed by John Hancock.
McNamee said he expects museums such as the Seaport as well as private collectors to have interest in bidding on the journal.
Dan McFadden, the Seaport's director of communications, said Tuesday the museum is aware of the auction.
"Obviously, we have an interest in any artifacts associated with the Charles W. Morgan, and our curators keep track of items when they become available. It is our policy not to comment further on an upcoming auction," he said.
In addition to the Morgan itself, the museum has many Morgan artifacts, including logbooks and crew journals, in its collection.
The catalog can be viewed online at www.marionantiqueauctions.com. The sale begins at noon on Saturday at the Marion VFW.
Viewing is Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 9 to 11:30 a.m.
As more products enter the market and popularity grows, the prices will become more attractive.
LEDO Offers Inventive LED Bulb Designs
Toshiba Unveils Traditional Looking LED
LSG Unveils $30 60-watt Equivalent LED
Also listed, was a helpful Lighting Facts Guide to simplify buying.
State House News Service
LAKEVILLE — Lakeville Republican Keiko Orrall bucked a campaign finance trend by defeating an opponent who outspent her during the run up to a special election in September.
Orrall’s win flipped the 12th Bristol seat from Democratic control for the first time in more than 30 years. In addition to New Bedford and Lakeville, the district includes parts Taunton, Middleboro and Freetown.
Campaign finance statistics released Monday show Middleboro Democrat Roger Brunelle, a commercial and industrial painter and 19-year member of a painters union, outspent Orrall, $39,727 to $26,179 and also benefited from $11,475 in independent expenditures from the Massachusetts Teachers Association and $6,301 from 1199 SEIU. Brunelle also received support from Lt. Gov. Tim Murray.
Orrall’s campaign contributions included $8,636 from the Marlborough Republican City Committee and $3,241 from the Republican State Committee.
Orrall won the seat given up by Stephen Canessa, a New Bedford Democrat who left to take a post at Southcoast Health Systems. Voters in Lakeville turned out in greater numbers than nearby New Bedford precincts, choosing Orrall by a three-to-one margin. Brunelle won New Bedford handily but the small turnout there, less than 11 percent, helped Orrall.
Monday, November 21, 2011
Housing a homeless family in a hotel room at that rate is a monthly cost of $2,400 to the state. Both city officials and Guerra said housing the family in a Brockton apartment would cost less than that.
Brockton homeless family moved to Middleboro motel
By Maria Papadopoulos
Enterprise Staff Writer
MIDDLEBORO — The same day a story ran in The Enterprise about their homeless plight, Ramon Guerra says the state moved him and his four young children from a Brockton motel farther away to another motel in Middleboro.
Guerra, who drives his four children, ages 6 to 13, to two schools in Brockton, said that weekday trip has now increased by 32 miles.
“It’s crazy. It’s frustrating,” said Guerra, 38, whose family has been homeless since 2009, on Sunday.
On Friday, staff at the Quality Inn in Brockton – where Guerra and his four children had been housed in one cramped room since March – told the family to leave, Guerra said.
The motel provides emergency housing for homeless families. It is the same motel where an 18-month-old boy fell from a second-floor window in March. The boy, who survived the fall, had been living there with his mother and 5-year-old sister, but and was taken into custody by the state after the accident.
“They told me, ‘Listen, pack up your stuff, because you’re out of here. You got a transfer,’” said Guerra, 38. “I said, ‘Where am I getting transferred?’”
The Enterprise on Friday published a front-page story about Guerra and his family living in one city motel room on Belmont Street. His children had been dealing with flea bites and living off frozen food heated in a microwave. The family was crammed into a room roughly half the size mandated by state law.
Guerra said he and his children are now sharing one room, similar in size to the Brockton room, at the Days Inn in Middleboro. He said the two beds in the Middleboro room are smaller – full size compared with the queen-size beds his family had slept on in Brockton. There is also one refrigerator, a microwave and a bathroom.
Guerra said he received a transfer letter on Friday from Ellen Lively, homeless coordinator at the Brockton office of the Department of Transitional Assistance.
The letter did not state the reason for the transfer, he said.
Lively and a spokeswoman from the state Department of Transitional Assistance could not be reached for comment on Sunday.
Jennifer Manley, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Health, could not be reached for comment on Sunday.
A Quality Inn manager on Sunday referred all questions to the hotel’s general manager, Sidd Bhowmik, who could not be reached for comment.
The state spent $161.4 million on family shelters in fiscal 2011, up $10 million from the year prior. Already the state is on pace to spend $175.6 million in fiscal 2012, including $56.8 million on HomeBASE, a rental subsidy program for homeless families.
But just three months after rolling out HomeBASE, the program has already required a major cash infusion, and the Department of Housing and Community Development has suspended benefits for new applicants retroactive to Oct. 28, citing “unanticipated demand” for services.
Earlier this month, Gov. Deval Patrick approved an additional $39.2 million in funding for emergency housing assistance in a mid-year spending bill, including $18.2 million for the Home BASE program that increases funding for the new initiative to $56.8 million in fiscal 2012.
Since the program’s launch in August, requests for shelter and housing assistance skyrocketed from 500 to 1,000 in August and 932 in September, according to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
The program was designed to move families out of temporary shelters and state subsidized hotel and motel rooms into more permanent housing and surround them with the support services necessary to help them pay rent and keep their homes.
As of March, there were 166 homeless families living in Brockton hotels, at an average cost to the state of $80 a night.
Housing a homeless family in a hotel room at that rate is a monthly cost of $2,400 to the state. Both city officials and Guerra said housing the family in a Brockton apartment would cost less than that.
“This has become a cash cow for hotels. I’m looking at the safety issue and the health issue,” Board of Health Executive Director Louis Tartaglia said Thursday.
Tartaglia said he is seeking guidance from the state, but is having difficulty getting it. He said he would not issue any citations until state officials return his calls and explain whether the state sanitary code applies to emergency housing.
Meanwhile, Brockton can provide school transportation for Guerra’s children from Middleboro to Brockton, Brockton Superintendent of Schools Matt Malone said Sunday.
Malone said that it is the responsibility of the district where a child was living when they became homeless to provide transportation.
“It’s unfortunate that these situations happen all the time. When they’re brought to us, we address them in a humane manner and with empathy,” said Malone, who urged Guerra to call his office on Monday to set up transportation.
But Guerra said he wants to continue driving his children to school. He also wants his children to continue attending school in Brockton, where he said his children are thriving.
Guerra said he and his children have been homeless since 2009, after he lost his job as a truck driving instructor in Florida the year before. He said he lost the job after he had two elbow replacements and that his left arm has metal rods in it.
Before living in area motels, Guerra said his family lived in a partially subsidized apartment and a family shelter in Brockton. He hopes to live in an apartment with his children soon.
“I just tell them this (motel) is a place for now, until we get a home,” Guerra said. “I just don’t get their hopes up.”
Material from the State House News Service was used in this report.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
A new Mercy For Animals undercover investigation into a McDonald's egg supplier, Sparboe Egg Farms, exposes the fast-food giant's secret ingredient: shocking cruelty to animals.
Hidden-camera footage taken at Sparboe facilities in Iowa, Minnesota and Colorado reveals:
Hens crammed into filthy wire cages with less space for each bird than a standard-sized sheet of paper to live her entire miserable life, unable to fully stretch her wings or engage in most other natural behaviors
Workers burning off the beaks of young chicks without any painkillers and callously throwing them into cages, some missing the cage doors and hitting the floor
Workers grabbing hens by their throats and ramming them into battery cages
Rotted hens, decomposed beyond recognition as birds, left in cages with hens still laying eggs for human consumption
A worker tormenting a bird by swinging her around in the air while her legs were caught in a grabbing device - violence described as "torture" by another worker
A worker shoving a bird into the pocket of another employee without any regard for the animal's fear and suffering
Chicks trapped and mangled in cage wire - others suffering from open wounds and torn beaks
Live chicks thrown into plastic bags to be suffocated
Common sense tells us that animals should be given at a minimum the freedom to walk, stretch their limbs, turn around and engage in natural behaviors. Yet, this McDonald's supplier deprives hens of even these most basic freedoms. After viewing the undercover footage, Dr. Sara Shields, research scientist, poultry specialist and consultant in animal welfare, condemned battery-cage egg production:
Battery cage operations are inherently cruel. The barren, restrictive environment offers no hope for an acceptable quality of life, and such severely overcrowded confinement would be unthinkable for any other farmed species. World-wide, there is increasing recognition that battery cages are simply not appropriate housing.
In fact, barren battery cages are so cruel that the entire European Union and the states of California and Michigan have banned their use. Additionally, leading food retailers, such as Whole Foods, Hellmann's, Wolfgang Puck and Subway, and hundreds of colleges and universities refuse to use or sell eggs from hens subjected to the inherent abuses of battery cages.
MFA is calling on McDonald's Corporation to end its use of eggs from hens confined in battery cages in the United States, as it has already in the European Union. As Dr. Shields states, "Animals are designed to move, are biologically prepared for regular movement, and will suffer physical consequences if they are not given the freedom to exercise."
Sadly, not a single federal law currently provides any protection to birds at the hatchery, on the factory farm, or during slaughter. Further, most states - including those in which this investigation was conducted - have sweeping exemptions for farmed animals, which allow for abuses to run rampant without prosecution.
As the largest egg purchaser in the United States, McDonald's has enormous power in effecting improved standards of care for egg-laying hens. Accordingly, MFA is also asking that McDonald's actively support a recent agreement between the United Egg Producers and The Humane Society of the United States that seeks to establish federal regulations that would provide hens enough space to turn around, as well as environmental enrichments, such as perches and nesting boxes. The agreement is a modest but important first step in establishing minimal standards for care of birds on a federal level. Sadly, Sparboe Egg Farms is aggressively opposing the implementation of even these meager reforms to reduce animal suffering.
While McDonald's has the moral obligation and purchasing power to lessen the cruelty suffered by the millions of hens who are abused and exploited to produce eggs for its restaurants, consumers also hold enormous power of their own in preventing animal abuse by adopting a compassionate vegan diet.
Friday, November 18, 2011
And thanks also to the stores that have reminder signs posted - "Did you forget your reusable bags?" (How many times have those signs prevented me from entering the store without those bags?)
Reusable shopping bags make life so much easier.
After all, you don't have to consider the disposal:curbside disposal (which increases municipal waste disposal costs)
or recycling (having to accumulate the used bags to return to the supermarket, if you remember)?
Some of those 'reusable' bags are now available in chic designer styles that might make a good Christmas gift. Hint! Hint!
Thanks for all you do to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
MassDEP, Massachusetts Food Association Announce Significant Reduction in Disposable Shopping Bag Use at Supermarkets
Initiative to Encourage Long-term Recycling and Reusable Bag Use Hits Goal 2 Years Early
BOSTON - The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and the Massachusetts Food Association (MFA) today announced that a joint initiative with the grocery and supermarket industry to reduce the number of disposable paper and plastic shopping bags distributed in Massachusetts has achieved excellent results during the first three years - a reduction of 33 percent since 2007.
"A 33 percent reduction in the use of disposable plastic and paper bags is impressive, and I applaud the public-private partnership that helped to make it possible," Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr. said. "I want to thank the grocery stores and supermarkets for working with MassDEP to reduce disposable bag use, and the public for responding to their efforts."
As part of the voluntary initiative, 12 supermarket chains, comprised of 384 stores representing more than two-thirds of the industry in Massachusetts, have been participating in the effort by tracking annual paper and plastic bag usage. Participating chains reported a 33 percent reduction in disposable bag distribution in Massachusetts since 2007. The goal of the initiative is a reduction of at least 33 percent by 2013.
"A key MassDEP priority is to minimize the waste stream, and reducing the use of disposable bags by 33 percent is a great step forward," MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth L. Kimmell said. "Having met the initial goal two years early does not mean an end to the effort. Consumers are obviously adopting new behaviors and we hope to see continued reduction in the future."
"On behalf our supermarket and grocery store members, MFA applauds the results of the joint initiative that the industry and MassDEP officially launched in March of 2009," MFA President Christopher Flynn said. "By achieving a 33 percent reduction in the use of disposable paper and plastic bags by using an incentive-based, voluntary approach, we have shown that a balance between environmental stewardship and consumer choice can achieve significant results. We look forward to continuing our work with the state to build upon this success and further reduce the reliance on disposable bags in our stores."
Each supermarket chain has implemented steps to encourage using less disposable bags, including training staff to reduce wasteful distribution of bags, offering reusable bags for sale, providing cash incentives for reusable bag use, accepting used plastic bags for recycling and posting instructional signs reminding patrons not to forget to bring their reusable bags.
In addition to the industry working to reduce the distribution of disposable shopping bags, MassDEP has created a consumer brochure entitled Sack the Bag that encourages shoppers to use fewer disposable bags. Access the brochure here: http://www.mass.gov/dep/recycle/reduce/sackbag.pdf
Participating grocery chains include: Big Y Supermarkets, Crosby's, DeMoulas Market Basket, Donelan's, Foodmaster, Hannaford Bros., Price Chopper, PriceRite, Roche Bros., Shaw's Supermarkets, The Stop & Shop Supermarket Co., and Trucchi's.
MassDEP is responsible for ensuring clean air and water, safe management and recycling of solid and hazardous wastes, timely cleanup of hazardous waste sites and spills, and the preservation of wetlands and coastal resources.
Monday, November 14, 2011
This is about US - not about Big Corporations, Dirty Energy and subsidizing Big Polluters.
Together we can make this happen.
It's our money, our planet and our future after all.
Monday, November 7, 2011
Here Comes the Sun
By PAUL KRUGMAN
For decades the story of technology has been dominated, in the popular mind and to a large extent in reality, by computing and the things you can do with it. Moore’s Law — in which the price of computing power falls roughly 50 percent every 18 months — has powered an ever-expanding range of applications, from faxes to Facebook.
Our mastery of the material world, on the other hand, has advanced much more slowly. The sources of energy, the way we move stuff around, are much the same as they were a generation ago.
But that may be about to change. We are, or at least we should be, on the cusp of an energy transformation, driven by the rapidly falling cost of solar power. That’s right, solar power.
If that surprises you, if you still think of solar power as some kind of hippie fantasy, blame our fossilized political system, in which fossil fuel producers have both powerful political allies and a powerful propaganda machine that denigrates alternatives.
Speaking of propaganda: Before I get to solar, let’s talk briefly about hydraulic fracturing, a k a fracking.
Fracking — injecting high-pressure fluid into rocks deep underground, inducing the release of fossil fuels — is an impressive technology. But it’s also a technology that imposes large costs on the public. We know that it produces toxic (and radioactive) wastewater that contaminates drinking water; there is reason to suspect, despite industry denials, that it also contaminates groundwater; and the heavy trucking required for fracking inflicts major damage on roads.
Economics 101 tells us that an industry imposing large costs on third parties should be required to “internalize” those costs — that is, to pay for the damage it inflicts, treating that damage as a cost of production. Fracking might still be worth doing given those costs. But no industry should be held harmless from its impacts on the environment and the nation’s infrastructure.
Yet what the industry and its defenders demand is, of course, precisely that it be let off the hook for the damage it causes. Why? Because we need that energy! For example, the industry-backed organization energyfromshale.org declares that “there are only two sides in the debate: those who want our oil and natural resources developed in a safe and responsible way; and those who don’t want our oil and natural gas resources developed at all.”
So it’s worth pointing out that special treatment for fracking makes a mockery of free-market principles. Pro-fracking politicians claim to be against subsidies, yet letting an industry impose costs without paying compensation is in effect a huge subsidy. They say they oppose having the government “pick winners,” yet they demand special treatment for this industry precisely because they claim it will be a winner.
And now for something completely different: the success story you haven’t heard about.
These days, mention solar power and you’ll probably hear cries of “Solyndra!” Republicans have tried to make the failed solar panel company both a symbol of government waste — although claims of a major scandal are nonsense — and a stick with which to beat renewable energy.
But Solyndra’s failure was actually caused by technological success: the price of solar panels is dropping fast, and Solyndra couldn’t keep up with the competition. In fact, progress in solar panels has been so dramatic and sustained that, as a blog post at Scientific American put it, “there’s now frequent talk of a ‘Moore’s law’ in solar energy,” with prices adjusted for inflation falling around 7 percent a year.
This has already led to rapid growth in solar installations, but even more change may be just around the corner. If the downward trend continues — and if anything it seems to be accelerating — we’re just a few years from the point at which electricity from solar panels becomes cheaper than electricity generated by burning coal.
And if we priced coal-fired power right, taking into account the huge health and other costs it imposes, it’s likely that we would already have passed that tipping point.
But will our political system delay the energy transformation now within reach?
Let’s face it: a large part of our political class, including essentially the entire G.O.P., is deeply invested in an energy sector dominated by fossil fuels, and actively hostile to alternatives. This political class will do everything it can to ensure subsidies for the extraction and use of fossil fuels, directly with taxpayers’ money and indirectly by letting the industry off the hook for environmental costs, while ridiculing technologies like solar.
So what you need to know is that nothing you hear from these people is true. Fracking is not a dream come true; solar is now cost-effective. Here comes the sun, if we’re willing to let it in.
Sunday, November 6, 2011
From Just Scrap the Cap --
Let's talk turkey - specifically about those turkeys who want to cut Social Security benefits. Specifically—The members of the Supercommittee, who are once again looking to cut Social Security’s mechanism to keep up with inflation—the COLA—as it looks for a way to reduce the deficit by $1.5 trillion. But why are they looking there?
Social Security sure as heck doesn’t cause the deficit. Social Security's trust fund has a $2.6 trillion surplus right now. The program has enough income to pay everyone's benefits in full for another 25 years. If anyone tells you Social Security is going broke, they're blowing more smoke than a chimney. And cutting Social Security’s COLA would have a real impact on today’s retirees (as well as people with disabilities and other beneficiaries) — an impact that is illustrated in the video below, prepared by the Economic Opportunity Institute:
Please consider signing the petition: HERE
Friday, November 4, 2011
An Illinois company buys 870-unit, over-55 community
By Alice Elwell
The Oak Point over-55 residential complex was sold this week to an Illinois company for $55 million, the largest real-estate sale in Middleboro history, the town assessor said.
Hometown America, a privately held company based in Illinois, purchased the 1,000-acre, 870-unit Oak Point complex. Hometown owns and operates more than 100 manufactured housing communities across the country.
Company Vice President William Glascott said on Wednesday that Oak Point is the fifth community Hometown owns in Massachusetts. The others are Leisurewoods in Taunton; Leisurewoods in Rockland; Oakhill in Attleboro; Miller’s Woods and River Bend, both in Athol.
Asked about the new ownership’s role at Oak Point, Glascott said, “Certainly there are changes with any management transition. Our goal is to limit disruption, maintain level services and possibly improve.”
Glascott said the company will build out to 1,165 units but has no plans for additional expansion. He said he plans to meet with local officials and introduce his company.
Oak Point is an over-55 community of freestanding manufactured homes clustered in small neighborhoods. There is a club house, fitness center and ballroom. Owners buy their units, lease the property and pay a monthly maintenance fee.
“I am hopeful (Hometown America) will be as good as Gary and Don have been. They’re a hard team to beat,” Oak Point resident Regina Moriarty said about the previous owners.
“We’ve been very happy here and we’d like to stay,” she said. “I look forward to it being the same way it always has been.”
Gary Darman, the former principal partner of Oak Point, said he is leaving Middleboro after developing Oak Point for the last 30 years.
At 67, Darman said he’s not ready to slow down and will focus his time on retail development.
He is the developer behind Colony Place in Plymouth – destined to possibly be the largest open air plaza in the state. He said he is planning a cluster of auto dealerships at the plaza and has several new tenants lined up. Darman also has eight to 10 more plazas in the works, but nothing slated for Middleboro.
Darman said he and Oak Point partner Don Smith have mixed emotions leaving Middleboro.
“There will be a period of adjustment for me, for Don, for everybody involved, including the residents,” he said.
Town Assessor-Appraiser Barbara Erickson praised the previous owner.
“I think he did a nice job at Oak Point and I would like to see him come back to Middleboro with a retail project. We still have a lot of undeveloped commercial property,” Erickson said.
Joseph F. Freitas Jr., former member of the Planning Board, was an Oak Point supporter from the outset.
“I hope the new owners are as conscientious as Gary Darman,” he said this week.
Lincoln D. Andrews is a former selectman and planning board member who saw the project through most of its permitting.
“The new owner has a high standard to meet in terms of the integrity and support that Gary Darman has given the town,” said Oak Point, under Darman’s management, had a longstanding history of donating to the community. The new owner indicated that might continue.
“We want to be involved with the community, and we will evaluate everything when the time comes,” Glascott said.
If Oak Point sold for $55 million, doesn't the appraised value utilized by the Assessors represent fair market value?
Valuation: 817,400 [land]
Valuation: 363,400 [land]
Valuation: 63,400 [land]
Valuation: 21,055,100 [codes not included within legend provided]
Thursday, November 3, 2011
Beacon Hill, obsessed with Gambling Lobbyists, backroom deals and unspoken promises, ignoring scandals, indictments cronyism and public cynicism has finally noticed that there just might be things....you know....the People's business that needs to be conducted.
Who woke them up? What forced them to hear a public outcry when they couldn't even pass an expanded BOTTLE BILL because leadership is too invested in special interests?
House passes pension bill, upping the minimum retirement age, but stopping short of Senate’s changes
By Stephanie Ebbert, Globe Staff
The state House of Representatives today unanimously approved a plan to tighten the state’s pension provisions and raise the age that lawmakers and public employees are eligible for retirement. The move follows passage of a similar plan by the Senate earlier this fall. Both plans would only affect future hires, not current employees or retirees.
The House version passed today would boost the retirement age from 55 to 57 and could ultimately save $6.4 billion over 30 years, House lawmakers estimate. The Senate version went farther, raising the minimum age for retirement to 60. [How about eliminating pensions and contributing to Social Security, just like the common folks, the taxpayers?]
The Legislature is looking to change the public employee pension system to shrink an estimated $20 billion unfunded liability and to protect the fund for future years.
The bill comes two years after state leaders eliminated loop holes in the state’s pension system, a first step in controlling costs.
Among the perks that were ended in 2009 were a “one day, one year” provision that allowed elected officials to boost their pension by an entire year of service, even if they only worked one day in a calendar year. It also eliminated lawmakers’ practice of collecting a “termination allowance” if they failed to win reelection.
Earlier this week, a House committee passed a version of the bill that included language exempting anyone who was vested in the system before the 2009 law took effect.
But the final bill that passed by the House last night contained no such language.
Rep. John W. Scibak, a South Hadley Democrat who chairs the Joint Committee on Public Service and championed the pension bill, said the stricken language was not an attempt to undo the 2009 reforms.
“This bill is much stronger than what we did a couple years ago,” said Scibak. “I don’t think we should be distracted by the procedural process.”
Neither Scibak nor Seth Gitell, a spokesman for the House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, would say why that language was inserted in the committee’s version but not the final version.
Even after the language was removed from the bill, Scibak filed an amendment that would have allowed elected officials with six years’ service by 2009 to be considered fully vested – even though they do not satisfy the new, 10-year minimum, required by the 2009 law. That amendment was not taken up today.
A separate amendment that did pass calls for employees who shift positions late in their careers to work for at least a year before becoming eligible for a larger pension. The provision appeared to take aim at an attempt by a former Weymouth mayor to boost his pension after he briefly filled in as fire chief just before retiring.
House and Senate lawmakers must now rectify the differences in the two bills.
Did you forget that it was after this? ---
Bill would allow nonprofits into state retirement savings plan.
By Michael Norton
State House News Service
BOSTON — The House on Wednesday voted 143-7 to approve a bill allowing non-profit entities, which represent about 14 percent of the state’s workforce, to access retirement savings plans managed by the state Treasury.
Treasurer Steven Grossman said the legislation, if passed into law, would open up retirement savings options for many smaller non-profit employers currently unable to afford the cost of setting up savings plans. Grossman said the Treasury was not aware of any other state that offers a similar option. [That means Massachusetts taxpayers should absorb the costs why?]
The Treasury currently oversees a deferred compensation plan for about 300,000 people and that plan has close to $5 billion in assets. Grossman said the added costs of administering the plan in a segregated fund for non-profits would be “tiny” given the infrastructure already in place to manage $5 billion in assets.
Which means the costs are what? Tiny? Means what?
“I’m very much hoping that this will move quickly through the Senate,” said Grossman, identifying Sen. Jack Hart (D-South Boston) as the bill’s chief proponent in that branch. [Senator Hart testified in 2010 about how wonderful slot barns were as long as they were some where, any where, far away, in places like...well....maybe Middleboro....or maybe that other town in western Massachusetts whose name he couldn't remember...ah! The best and the brightest!]
The bill (H 3754) was approved with no debate and after Reps. Garrett Bradley (D-Hingham) and James Cantwell (D-Marshfield) spoke in favor of the proposal.
Bradley said the bill (H 3754) would make available new pre-tax retirement savings opportunities for employers that lack the cash overhead to set up retirement plans. "No state money is involved," he said.
The bill requires the treasurer to obtain approval from the Internal Revenue Service for the plan and to ensure that the plan complies with the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.
“We have a strong sense that this will be viewed positively by the I.R.S.,” he said.
The bill contains language ensuring public bidding on plan management, Grossman said.
Asked his advice for employees who don’t work for non-profits and whose employers do not offer retirement savings plans, Grossman said that’s a public policy matter worth further consideration.
“There are huge gaps out there,” Grossman said. “That’s a conversation for another day. I certainly am cognizant of the financial insecurity that many people feel while approaching retirement.”
Grossman’s predecessor, Tim Cahill, pressed for a similar bill in 2009. At the time, Massachusetts Nonprofit Network officials said less than one in five non-profit employees had a retirement plan and the a lack of retirement and other benefits at non-profits hindered their ability to recruit top workers.
Just keep watching because the seething anger of Republicans (and ATR) about the safety net - the Depression Era programs designed to lend a helping hand that are self-supporting, are on the chopping block.
When we can abandon the most effective programs in our history and relegate the 'least among us' to further impoverishment, what does that say about the Republican Party?
The Republicans didn't seem to have a problem with utilizing the surpluses in those programs to fight wars on the 'credit card.'
When the U.S. spends more for 'defense' than all other industrialized nations combined, maybe we should re-consider our priorities.
Boehner open to revenue increases but calls for significant entitlement reforms as part of debt plan
By Bobby Caina Calvan, Globe Staff
WASHINGTON -- House Speaker John Boehner said today he is willing to entertain additional revenues as part of a plan to cut the nation’s deficit, but he declined to provide specifics.
“I do think there’s room for revenues” to be considered, the Ohio Republican said, “but there is clearly a limit to the revenues that may be available.”
Republicans have been steadfast in demanding that only spending cuts be used to narrow the nation’s projected budget deficit. A bipartisan supercommittee is required to identify $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade but is bogged down over whether to include revenue increases as part of the equation.
Boehner, in behind-the-scenes negotiations with President Obama this summer, reportedly agreed to consider $800 billion in revenue increases as part of a $4 trillion comprehensive plan that included changes to Medicare and Social Security. Those talks faltered.
Last week, Democrats on the debt panel offered to reduce Medicare spending, in exchange for new tax revenues of up to $1.3 trillion. Republicans promptly rejected the idea. Republicans had countered with their own plan – without raising taxes – but was in turn rejected by Democratic leaders.
Boehner, in a roundtable with reporters today, said he would “respect the work” of the debt-slashing supercommittee, adding that “it would be unfair” not do so.
The panel, which includes Senator John Kerry, has until Nov. 23 to present a deficit-cutting plan to Congress amid growing anxiety that the rifts within the committee might be too wide.
Boehner said that it was important for the bipartisan 12-member panel to succeed in trimming at least $1.2 trillion from the nation’s deficit. But he stopped short of saying whether any plan coming from the supercommittee would receive an automatic stamp of approval.
Democrats must be willing to put Medicare and other expensive entitlement programs on the table, he said. “Without real reform on the entitlement side, how do you put revenues on the table?”
Boehner declined to get into specifics about what revenues he would be willing to allow, nor did he cite specific cuts.
If the debt committee does not reach a deal palatable to the rest of Congress, automatic cuts will be triggered in 2013 in spending for defense and domestic programs.
Earlier this week, the panel was urged by members of a now-disbanded bipartisan presidential debt commission to make deeper cuts than the $1.2 trillion threshold, or the country would again find itself in the same predicament. That could cause the public and the international community, amid global economic upheaval, to lose faith in Washington’s ability to lead and solve the country’s problems, the panel was told.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
As our Democracy has been bought and sold by Dirty Energy and others, the risk to our drinking water and our environment escalates.
Don't breathe a sigh of relief that you're protected from Coal Ash Spills. There is no protection in Massachusetts!
Check out the photo collage, reminiscent of the TVA spill in Harriman, Tennesee. Pretty disgraceful - and totally avoidable if the right policies were in place to protect water supplies.
Coal Ash Spills in Lake Michigan
—By Kate Sheppard
Check out this photo that Mark Hoffman of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal snapped on Monday of a dam collapse at a coal ash pond:
Check out these images: LINK
The Journal Sentinel reports that a large section of a bluff used to contain coal ash at the We Energies Oak Creek Power Plant broke on Monday, dumping ash and dirt into Lake Michigan. As you can see in the photo, a truck and some heavy machinery were also pushed into the lake. One of the first responders in the area noted that the debris "stretched 120 yards long and 50 to 80 yards wide at the bottom." A spokesman for the company told the paper that the dam probably did contain coal ash, but said that they'd stopped dumping it there "several decades ago."
The spill calls to mind the catastrophic dam break at the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston Fossil Plant in Harriman, Tennessee, back in December 2008. That spill dumped 1.1 billion gallons of coal slurry, and prompted the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider how coal waste is handled. Although the EPA was on course to reclassify coal leavings as "hazardous waste" that needed special handling, that rule has been stuck in bureaucratic wrangling for more than two years. So for now, it's still perfectly legal to store coal ash waste in retention ponds that are likely not lined or particularly well maintained.
Another coal ash spill—this time in Lake Michigan
How many more coal ash spills need to happen before Americans are protected by coal ash safeguards? The latest happened Monday in Oak Creek, Wis., at the We Energies Oak Creek Power Plant.
And since the TVA disaster, the industry has been lobbying hard to block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from establishing new protections, arguing that states are doing a fine job regulating coal ash. As a result, communities across the nation remain at risk and unprotected.
Just two weeks ago the industry successfully lobbied the U.S. House of Representatives to pass a bill stripping the EPA of the authority to protect Americans from coal ash.
Monday's collapse on Lake Michigan is particularly troublesome because We Energies has known for years that its management of coal ash at this facility was a threat to human health. Indeed, they have been providing bottled water to neighbors whose wells have been contaminated.
New Lake Michigan Coal Ash Spill Raises Old Concerns
On Monday, a bluff surrounding a Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based power plant collapsed, sending a cascade of debris and coal ash waste from the power plant into Lake Michigan. No injuries were reported by We Energies, the company who owns the power plant, but the environmental assessment will likely be less optimistic. We Energies, a subsidiary of Wisconsin Energy Corporation (NYSE: WEC), has confirmed that the debris that made it into the river likely contained coal ash.
As of Monday afternoon, a “fuel sheen” appeared on the surface of Lake Michigan as a result of the bluff collapse. Cleanup crews from Clean Harbor were contracted by We Energies to help contain the spread of the sheen, and will be deploying about 1,500 feet of boom to help contain the waste on the surface. Shortly after the accident, residents living up to a mile away from the site along the lake were already reporting debris washing onshore.
As we have reported extensively in the past, coal ash contains countless toxic substances, including mercury, hexavalent chromium, arsenic, and cadmium. It has also been reported to be more radioactive as nuclear waste. In spite of these findings, the EPA has yet to issue any firm stance on whether or not coal ash will be regulated as a “toxic waste,” partly due to the fact that the coal industry has unleashed a cadre of lobbyists to Washington to fight to protect their coal ash interests.
The EPA’s delay in issuing a ruling on coal ash has allowed the Republican-controlled Congress to gain the upper hand on the issue. In early fall 2011, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would prohibit the EPA from regulating coal ash, and preventing them from classifying the substance as “hazardous.” Instead of EPA regulations, the bill would allow states to issue their own standards on coal ash and prevent any federal standards.
The House legislation was put forward by Republican West Virginia Congressman David McKinley, who has received more than $275,000 from the mining industry during his four years in Congress, making them his highest single donor industry, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
McKinley said that the regulation from the EPA would result in a loss of jobs in the coal industry, yet estimates show that the EPA’s standards would actually create as many as 28,000 new jobs in America.
Less than a week after the House bill passed, the U.S. Senate took up similar legislation sponsored by Republican North Dakota Senators John Hoeven ($147,000 in campaign contributions from the mining industry) and Kent Conrad ($827,000 in campaign contributions from the energy sector.)
Two Democratic Senators, Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller from West Virginia also signed on as co-sponsors of the bill. Manchin has received $367,000 from mining interests throughout his career, and Rockefeller has received $288,000 from mining companies.
The Senate bill would enact the same measures as the House bill, although the Democratic majority in the Senate is unlikely to pass the bill, or even bring it to a vote, and President Obama has vowed to veto the bill.
The new spill in Milwaukee could change the tone in Washington regarding the regulation of coal ash, but that will remain to be seen. After all, a disastrous incident in Tennessee nearly three years ago – where 1.7 million cubic yards of coal ash spilled into the environment – hasn’t changed the direction of coal ash legislation.