Sunday, February 19, 2012
More shame on former Auditor Joseph DeNucci
SEVEN YEARS ago, state auditors had the number of Michael McLaughlin, the conniving former director of the Chelsea Housing Authority. But it appears they looked the other way in an extraordinary breach of public trust and professional ethics. It is yet another sad reflection on the tenure of former Auditor Joseph DeNucci.
A recent Globe report uncovered evidence that auditors in DeNucci’s office flagged McLaughlin’s bloated salary and his efforts to conceal it from the state in 2005, 2008, and 2010. And each time, they failed to include the findings in their auditing report. By the time the Globe exposed McLaughlin’s scam in October, he was earning an obscene $360,000 to run a small housing authority and reporting only $180,000 to the state.
Auditors can fall down on the job for many reasons. Sometimes, dishonest executives use their deep understanding of an organization’s accounting systems to snooker even experienced auditors. In other cases, inexperienced auditors fail to make sufficient inquiries. But in the case at hand, the state auditors confronted McLaughlin and urged him to report his salary. Yet they didn’t take the next obvious step and document McLaughlin’s failure to comply with state laws and regulations.
McLaughlin’s role as a political power broker - including a friendship with DeNucci aide Robert Powilatis - raises additional questions in this case. Attorney General Martha Coakley has convened a grand jury to investigate whether McLaughlin and others defrauded the state. And current auditor Suzanne Bump, DeNucci’s successor, has forced the resignation of the supervisor of the Chelsea audits.
This latest resignation follows a devastating report from the National State Auditors Association that found in 12 of the 15 audits that were reviewed, DeNucci’s team failed to check sufficiently for risk of fraud, and that DeNucci’s office had no minimum hiring standards and inadequate training. Meanwhile, the State Ethics Commission fined DeNucci for giving his elderly cousin a position for which he was neither trained nor qualified. The job of the state auditor is to provide reasonable assurance that public agencies are effective and honest operations. Now the public is left wondering whether the auditor’s office itself was on the level.
Sunday, February 12, 2012
As unemployment predictably mushroomed and then housing foreclosures along with it, the only evidence of "Trickle Down" was children without homes.
When the cause is housing foreclosures, shouldn't we target the cause to prevent an escalation?
OPINION: State must fund safety net for homeless children
GateHouse News Service
Posted Feb 10, 2012
There are sound reasons for a government policy that calls for homeless students to be allowed to stay in the school they know even when their family is forced to seek shelter in a neighboring community.
Yet if Massachusetts tells local school districts they must adhere to such a policy, state law says it must also be responsible for the cost.
That responsibility, however, has not been met and as a result local communities are being unfairly forced to carve millions of dollars out of already strained school budgets to transport students from one school district to another.
This needs to be rectified.
A recent survey by the state auditor’s office found that Brockton and Weymouth were among the communities hardest hit by such costs, which statewide last year reached $11.3 million.
Brockton expects to spend $285,000 this year, and Weymouth is on track to spend about $217,800. At the other end of the spectrum are towns such as Cohasset and Duxbury, where there are no such costs.
State Auditor Suzanne Bump recently determined that these expenditures constitute an unfunded state mandate and has rightfully called on the governor and Legislature to pass a supplemental budget to reimburse affected communities.
The situation stems from the state’s participation in a federal program that provides funds for homeless services, but also requires states that accept the funds to abide by certain federal requirements, including one that says children who become homeless can stay in the same school even if their family finds shelter in another community.
In such circumstances, both the sending and receiving school district have been splitting the cost of transportation, which is provided in modes ranging from school bus to a taxicab.
For most of us, it’s hard to imagine the stress children feel when they and their family suddenly find themselves homeless. That’s why we support the idea that they should not be separated from friends and teachers who can give them a sense of stability when their lives are anything but. Yet Bump’s investigation has made it clear that the financial burden associated with that policy must be borne by the state. Forcing local school districts to indefinitely pay it is wrong.
Read more: http://www.enterprisenews.com/topstories/x1085185739/OPINION-State-must-fund-safety-net-for-homeless-children#ixzz1mCc7SzYU
Sunday, February 5, 2012
“The least polluting, cheapest energy is the energy we never have to produce in the first place”
Interesting stuff below highlighting where poor air quality comes from.
Who ever thought SEMASS was such a Big Producer, impacting our air quality?
Three reasons Cape Cod air sucks
Power plants to the west of Cape Cod are the largest industrial sources of greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change in the state, according to new data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
MetroWest News offers a list of the state's worse polluters, and three of the worse are downwind from Cape Cod.
SEMASS Resource Recovery Facility, Wareham, a 95-acre facility which burns trash collected by about 60 cities and towns in southeastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod to generate power.
Dominion’s Brayton Point plant in Somerset (just over the Braga Bridge in Fall River) pumps out 5.8 million metric tons of the gas a year.
Cape Cod Canal Power Plant Unit #1 is representative of the most efficient fossil fueled plants of the 1970 era. It's an oil fueled super-critical steam unit optimally designed to best operate between half load and full load.
Report: Power plants pollute
By David Riley/Daily News staff
MetroWest Daily News
Power plants throughout eastern Massachusetts are the largest industrial sources of greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change in the state, according to new data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The information comes from a website the EPA unveiled in January, publicly detailing for the first time emissions reported by the largest producers of carbon dioxide and related greenhouse gases in nine major industries.
All the top 10 sources of carbon dioxide emissions in the Bay State are power plants, including natural gas-fired facilities in Salem, Weymouth, Bellingham and Cambridge. The largest single producer of greenhouse gases in New England is the Brayton Point power station in Somerset, which is largely fueled by coal.
Similarly, the data shows power plants are the largest direct source of greenhouse gases nationwide.
Several owners defended local facilities, saying they take steps to be environmentally responsible, are highly efficient in meeting energy needs or turn waste into energy.
“It’s not a surprise that where you burn fossil fuel to make into electricity that is used every day to make our life a little better, you’re going to see carbon dioxide emissions,” said Jim Norvelle, a spokesman for the power company Dominion.
Dominion owns Brayton Point and the Salem Harbor power station, also one of the top 10 sources of greenhouse gases in the state. The Salem plant is set to close in 2014.
Norvelle noted there are no federal controls on carbon emissions, but Massachusetts is one of nine northeastern states that require power plants in the region to buy emission allowances. States use the proceeds help fund renewable energy initiatives.
Ben Wright, an advocate at Environment Massachusetts, said the new data from the EPA can help further develop the state’s plans to tackle carbon emissions.
“More data means we know better how to curb our greenhouse gas emissions,” he said. “You can’t reduce what you haven’t measured.”
The EPA’s new greenhouse gas inventory covers facilities that produce upward of 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. That does not include emissions from agricultural operations, nor small-scale sources that add up, such as cars and trucks.
But the data from 2010 represents the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., the EPA said. The agency said it was required to collect the data, which is from 2010, under a 2008 federal law.
The data can help businesses track and compare emissions in order to find efficiencies and inform state and federal environmental policy, the EPA said.
The agency is expected to propose limits on greenhouse gas emissions from new or upgraded power plants some time this year.
Overall, Massachusetts fared far better than much of the U.S., ranking 40th out of the 50 states and Washington D.C. in total carbon emissions. The five states with the highest emissions were Texas, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida.
Wright said Massachusetts has made headway in reducing emissions. In addition to participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the state Green Communities Act set a goal of getting at least 25 percent of the state’s power from renewable sources by 2030. It also established energy efficiency initiatives to cut power use.
“The least polluting, cheapest energy is the energy we never have to produce in the first place,” Wright said.
The state Global Warming Solutions Act also calls for cutting greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, Wright said.
Here’s a look at some of the largest producers in the state:
Fore River Station, Weymouth
The Fore River power plant generates about 787 megawatts of power, according to its owner, Constellation Energy. It is the third highest direct source of greenhouse gas emissions in the state, producing 1.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2010, according to EPA data.
SEMASS Resource Recovery Facility, Wareham
This 95-acre facility burns trash collected by about 60 cities and towns in southeastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod to generate power.
Owner Covanta Energy, which also runs three other waste-to-energy plants in the state, views its operation as a type of renewable energy. SEMASS manages about 1 million tons of waste per year, said Covanta spokesman James Regan.
The SEMASS facility produced about 890,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2010, according to EPA data. Covanta officials pointed to EPA studies indicating that waste-to-energy operations are a low source of carbon emissions nationwide.
Overall, carbon emissions from waste-to-energy plants are about half that produced by coal-burning plants, said Mike Van Brunt, Covanta’s director of sustainability. The process further cuts emissions by keeping trash out of landfills, where it produces methane, another greenhouse gas, he said.
“For every ton of waste we keep out of a landfill, we prevent all of the methane generation,” Van Brunt said.
The operation also recycles metals that otherwise would have to be mined anew, Regan said.
The Salem Harbor power station generates about 745 megawatts, enough to power about 186,000 homes, according to Dominion. The plant sits on 65 acres on the city waterfront.
The facility produced 1.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2010, according to the EPA data. That is far less than Dominion’s Brayton Point plant in Somerset, which pumped out 5.8 million metric tons of the gas the same year.
The facility uses three coal-fired generating units and one fueled by oil. Dominion is shutting down the plant and already closed two of its coal-burning units in December. The facility will close altogether in June 2014.
Norvelle said the company has made no plans for the future of the site. City officials have pressed Dominion to clean up the site.
Kendall Cogeneration Station, Cambridge
The Kendall Cogeneration Station has a production capacity of 256 megawatts, according to its owner, GenOn Energy.
The First Street facility produced roughly 717,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2010, according to EPA data.
The facility uses natural gas as its primary fuel, with oil as a backup. The plant produces two forms of energy — electricity and steam, which is sold for heating and cooling, according to GenOn.
The company is constructing a new steam line allowing it to sell commercial steam to downtown Boston, said GenOn spokeswoman Paige Kane.
Check out the EPA’s greenhouse gas inventory at ghgdata.epa.gov.
Read more: http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/news/x123147680/Report-Power-plants-pollute#ixzz1lWIQ2S2i
This ill-conceived and hasty legislation, promoted by law enforcement in an emotional response to a grievous Parole Board mistake, failing to question, consider or prove efficacy or document costs.
Is this different from Beacon Hill's handling of Gambling Legislation?
With few exceptions, lawmakers behave like BobbleHeads, ignoring their responsibilities, genuflecting, unquestioning.
That is not to say this might not be a reasonable solution, but let's prove it before endorsing it.
Just as with the Gambling legislation - There is no rush!
WBUR, in a broadcast interview, Reverend Eugene Rivers raised significant issues:
1. Many lawmakers haven't read the legislation
2. Costs are undetermined
3. Efficacy is not proven
Rep. David Linsky (D-Natick) tossed around "5 or 10 people" each year --
where's the proof? How do we know?
4. The numbers of those involved are undetermined
Former Plymouth County Sheriff Jo McDonough commented that inmates in the county correctional facility who were there for short terms for relatively minor offenses -
Most lacked any marketable skills
Most were illiterate - unable to read
If that is true, how do we expect 'rehabilitation' ?
Mass. Grapples With Implications Of ’3 Strikes’ Legislation
The debate about crime and punishment is as old as society itself. Here in Massachusetts it began anew a little over a year ago, when Domenic Cinelli, a man with a long, violent criminal record was out on parole. During an attempted robbery on Christmas weekend, Cinelli shot and killed Woburn police officer John B. Maguire.
The crime galvanized state lawmakers to get tough on violent repeat offenders. Both the House and Senate overwhelmingly passed so-called “three strikes” legislation. The bills differ in significant ways, and a conference committee is now trying to work out a compromise.
But they both embrace the idea of denying parole to anyone convicted three times of violent felonies, and now it’s up to the legislature to work out a crime bill that balances the possibility of rehabilitation with public safety and cost.
Rep. David Linsky (D-Natick), member of the conference committee considering the habitual offender legislation.
Reverend Eugene Rivers, cofounder, The Boston TenPoint Coalition
Three-strikes rhetoric heats up
With election on horizon, measure gets serious look
By Meghan E. Irons Globe Staff
Public outcry over the killing of Woburn police officer John Maguire on Christmas weekend in 2010 by a hardened criminal out on parole gave state Representative Bradford Hill a chance he had been waiting a decade for - winning approval in the House for his tough-on-crime three-strikes bill.
Now he has another ally in his push to get it passed: an election year.
With November looming, analysts say lawmakers may already have in mind a nugget of political wisdom - that voting against crime bills like the three-strikes proposal could become potent ammunition for opponents to accuse of them of being soft on crime.
“ ‘Three strikes and you’re out’ is so seductive in how the public perceives it,’’ said James Jennings, a professor of urban policy at Tufts University. “There is a rhetoric and there’s a frenzy out there. And some lawmakers may not be strong enough to stand up to that.’’
Since lawmakers approved three-strikes legislation by overwhelming margins last fall, critics have mounted an aggressive campaign, saying it is overly broad and would condemn to long prison sentences many nonviolent criminals and a disproportionate number of minorities. But even as some of that criticism has gained traction with statewide religious groups, few lawmakers appear willing to reconsider.
“I think it’s pretty clear that most people want us to be tough on crime and get tougher on crime,’’ said Representative Harriett L. Stanley a West Newbury Democrat who is not planning to change her support for the measure. “You never say never, but I am not particularly persuaded by what I’ve heard in the last few days from opponents.’’
The legislation seeks maximum sentences and restricts eligibility for parole for felons who offend a third time.
Black clergy, prison advocates, and groups such as the NAACP have recently lobbied hard against the bill, arguing that it would have a disproportionate impact on black and Hispanic communities.
They have also asserted it would cost the state millions, strain an already overcrowded prison system, and adopt a three-strikes law just as other states, including California, are abandoning them.
Legislative leaders have just as vehemently retorted that the proposal in committee is nothing like failed three-strikes laws in other states, and is not the draconian proposal that critics make it out to be. They also say the number of offenders affected by the law would be small.
Much of the controversy stems from the Senate crime bill, which includes a three-strikes provision. It would impose strict restrictions on eligibility for parole for a wide variety of crimes and includes stiff penalties not only for violent offenses but others such as larceny by check and wiretapping.
A conference committee is now hashing out differences between House and Senate versions before it goes to both chambers for a final vote. If approved, it would go to Governor Deval Patrick, who has said he would support a balanced bill that also eliminates mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.
With the bill having been stalled in committee for weeks, Eugene L. O’Flaherty, House chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said on Friday that the House and Senate are seeing room to negotiate.
He said the House could accept Senate provisions such as one reducing mandatory minimum sentencing for nonviolent drug offenders. “I think there’s an opportunity to reach some common ground,’’ said O’Flaherty, a Democrat from Chelsea.
When a final bill comes to a vote, Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, who represents a patchwork district that includes the affluent and largely white neighborhoods of Back Bay and Beacon Hill and poorer, predominantly black neighborhoods of Mattapan and Dorchester, said she faces a difficult choice.
She said she “agonized’’ over her initial vote but ended up supporting it. She declined to say how she will vote on the final version until she sees it.
“When I talk to people in the district on why I voted yes, I’ve gotten a range of response,’’ she said. “Some people say ‘I wish you’d use the symbolic power of the Senate to cast a no vote.’ That’s very compelling to me.’’
Representative David P. Linsky, a natick Democrat and a member of the conference committee, said lawmakers are taking every opportunity to ensure that only the most violent offenders stay longer in state prison. He said he will support whatever emerges from committee.
“Anyone who has been in the Legislature for any period of time knows that we get comments on every issue, and we factor in all of those comments in reaching a decision,’’ said Linksy, a former Middlesex County prosecutor. “I went through gay marriage. This is nothing compared to that.’’
Saturday, February 4, 2012
It has long been time to move beyond parochial views and support a clean future.
Canal power plant tax deal with town ends soon
TODAY's quotes: “The number of days that the canal plant was operational in 2011 was significantly lower than in years prior to the short-term upgrades." - Paige M. Kane, GenOn.
“Offshore wind holds incredible potential for our country. We’re moving full-steam ahead to accelerate the siting, leasing and construction of new projects.” - Ken Salazar, DOI.
How much is the canal power plant worth?
What is the cost to Cape Cod health
Read about the recent Cape Cod meeting about the $360 million cost of keeping this plant open.
You can see it for miles as you head off Cape, and it is a significant polluter of our air which is among the nation's worse according to the American Lung Association, but it pays 5 percent of all the taxes in Sandwich, the most conservative town on this sandspit.
The GenOn canal power plant's 5-year agreement with Sandwich expires at the end of next year, and town official are already preparing for negotiations on a new deal.
Whether that GenOn $2.5 million fee will go up or down probably depends mostly on the cost of oil which the plant uses rather than the less expensive natural gas.
The Sandwich Enterprise reports that because the cost of oil is significantly higher than natural gas it has placed a strain on the power plant’s ability to compete with other suppliers.
Unit #1 at the canal plant is representative of the most efficient fossil fueled plants of the 1970 era. It's an oil fueled super-critical steam unit optimally designed to best operate between half load and full load. Boiler steam is produced at 3,600 psi at 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit to drive the nominally rated 560 megawatt (MW) capacity Westinghouse turbine/generator.
Meanwhile, back at the wind farm
At the same time the Obama administration made fresh moves this week to boost the prospects for offshore wind energy after a tough year in the U.S. for the renewable energy source.
MarketWatch reports that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said at a press conference on Thursday, “Offshore wind holds incredible potential for our country. We’re moving full-steam ahead to accelerate the siting, leasing and construction of new projects.”
No big offshore wind turbines reside in the U.S, even while plenty of them now crank out oodles of renewable, emission-free power in Europe. The short list of probable offshore wind farms in the U.S. recently fell from two to one.
The current front runner in America remains Cape Wind off the coast of Cape Cod, with Cape Wind President Jim Gordon vowing in a recent interview to start construction in 2013 after a more than 10-year legal battle.
GateHouse News Service
BOSTON — Absentee ballots are available for the March 6 presidential primary election, the secretary of state’s office has announced.
City and town clerk’s offices will also offer extended hours to register to vote or change party affiliation for the primary.
Absentee ballots are for voters who will not be in the city or town on primary day, or have a physical disability or religious belief that prevents them from going to the polls that day.
Voters can apply in person for an absentee ballot and vote at the city or town clerk’s office or or have a ballot mailed to them. An application form is available on the secretary of state’s website www.sec.state.ma.us or by calling 617-727-2888 or 1-800-462-VOTE (8683).
The deadline for absentee ballot applications is noon March 5. Ballots must be received by the city or town clerk’s office by 8 p.m. March 6 to be counted.
The deadline to register to vote for the primary is Feb. 15. City and town clerk’s offices will be open for voter registration until 8 p.m. that day.
To register to vote, a person must be a U.S. citizen and resident of Massachusetts who will be 18 years old on or before the day of the primary.
Mail-in voter registration forms are also available through the secretary of state’s office website.
For more information, call the secretary of state’s office or your local city or town clerk’s office.
Read more: http://www.patriotledger.com/topstories/x2124806897/Absentee-ballots-available-for-Massachusetts-for-presidential-primary#ixzz1lQ6toayO