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Plaintiffs Win $3 Million Jury Verdict in Fracking Nuisance Case | DeSmogBlog

2014 April 23
by chief

Promised-Land-sparks-fracking-protest

Oil Company to Appeal

Posted in DeSmogBlog.

A jury in Dallas, TX today awarded $2.925 million to plaintiffs Bob and Lisa Parr, who sued Barnett shale fracking company Aruba Petroleum Inc. for intentionally causing a nuisance on the Parr’s property which impacted their health and ruined their drinking water.

The jury returned its 5-1 verdict confirming that Aruba Petroleum “intentionally created a private nuisance” though its drilling, fracking and production activities at 21 gas wells near the Parrs’ Wise County home over a three-year period between 2008-2011.

 

Posted by Gypsy Chief


Health District Faces Tough Election Choice

2014 April 22

at LWV election forum

at LWV election forum


No candidate for Northern Larimer County Health District board of directors mentioned Salud in LWV forum

The League of Women Voters helped prepare for the health district board of directors election on May 6 by hosting a candidate forum at City Hall on Monday, April 21. The forum was taped and will be shown multple times on Cable 14. The moderator was Lee Theilen. There were eight questions plus opening and closing statements.

Five Strong Candidates

Tim O’Neill, current board member, is not running for reelection. Celeste Kling and Joe Hendrickson are term limited. Running to replace these three board members are [left to right in photo] Tess Heffernan, Michael Liggett, Clarissa Morrison-Heffern, Tracy Nelson, and Rob Phillips. Phillips and Liggett are attorneys, Heffernan is retired, Morrison-Heffern is a geriatric pharmacist, Nelson is a CSU professor. All of these people would be perfectly acceptable board members; all could make unique contributions based on their life experiences. Clarissa (first names now) mentioned this. She would be a consensus builder.

How to decide? Let’s start with the worst question which was question six — how could the district work equitably between Poudre Valley Health Systems and Banner Health. This was a complete waste of time. All answers were fine in that we were treated to word salad which was the right way to answer. Tess mentioned that the district owns the land under PVH. She has done her homework. Now let’s go to question seven — how to reset priorities in the event that resources go up or down. Rob was strong, Clarissa was weak, Tracy was strong, Tess was strong and came close but didn’t mention Salud. Interface with Salud is one of the major responsibilities of this board. Mike had a strong response and was appropriately humorous. Two of the candidates mentioned shepherding tax resources; another key responsibility. I believe that Tracy had the best opening statement and that Tess was also good there. Question eight — how to educate the community about Northern Larimer County Health District. Clarissa gave the best answer of her presentation; I was happy for her. Rob had a strong answer to this. He mentioned Rocky Mountain Innosphere and his role working with entrepreneurs.

Now question three — who are the key partners. Nobody answered this question very well. Another missed opportunity to say something – anything – about Salud. I expect there will be some on the job training. Question five — board policy on state legislative proposals. Examples included hands free driving, no tobacco purchases until age 21, spraying for West Nile virus. Clarissa was the only one to mention that she is passionate about keeping tobacco products out of the hands of young people. A strong answer. But Clarissa and Rob both seemed unaware that Fort Collins City Council had fumbled badly on communication with citizens about spraying in 2013. Spraying is a health issue. This was handled at the County level. Communication with citizens about spraying is a political issue and all five candidates are running for a position which is both.

Gypsy Chief Predictions

I predict that Tracy will win a seat on this board based on a strong performance and based on the key role that Colorado State plays in the overall life of Fort Collins. I predict that Tess will win a seat based on a good performance and based on a sense I got that she has good priorities. She also has some letters to the editor of the Coloradoan. These letters are so vital in an election such as this. I mentioned this to Tess after the event. Fort Collins is so lucky to have five good candidates and now voters must choose. I will vote. You should too.

 

Posted by Gypsy Chief


Pollution is for Poor People | Wonkblog

2014 April 21
by chief
The Fisk Generating Station in the  Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, courtesy of Flickr user Señor Codo

The Fisk Generating Station in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, courtesy of Flickr user Señor Codo

Published April 15, 2014 in Wonkblog. Written by Emily Badger.

Studies dating back to the 1970s have pointed to a consistent pattern in who lives near the kinds of hazards — toxic waste sites, landfills, congested highways — that few of us would willingly choose as neighbors. The invariable answer: poor people and communities of color.

This pattern of “environmental injustice” suggests that minorities may contend every day with disproportionate health risks from tailpipe exhaust or coal plant emissions. But these health risks are harder to quantify than, say, the number of power plants in a city. And most of the research that has tried to do this has been limited to a single metropolitan area, or to those few places that happen to have good monitoring data on pollution.

More at Washington Post.

 

Posted by Gypsy Chief


World Urban Forum Highlights Opportunities for Sustainable Cities | WRI

2014 April 20
Salt Lake City via CEP

Salt Lake City via CEP

Published April 10, 2014 by World Resources Institute Blog. Written by Manish Bapna and Dario Hildago.

In recent months, popular protests have broken out in cities around the globe. The causes were different: soaring pollution in Beijing; violent, gender-based crime in New Delhi; and access to public services in São Paulo. But, for each, inequality was a significant underlying factor.

Many cities face increasing pressure. The urban population has increased five-fold since 1950. Vehicle ownership is on course to double by 2050, while traffic accidents lead to 1.3 million deaths each year. Cities emit approximately 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. All of this is even more staggering when you consider that 1.5 billion people will move into cities in the next two decades, bringing the total to 5 billion worldwide.

The reality is that well-designed cities can generate jobs, innovation, and economic growth for all. But when designed poorly — with too much sprawl, waste, and inefficiency — they can divide cities and exacerbate pollution, inequality, and political instability. Moreover, poor design has long-term consequences given that urban infrastructure often lasts decades.

Against this backdrop, some 25,000 people have gathered in Medellin, Colombia, for the UN Habitat’s World Urban Forum this week. [Ed note: Conference took place April 5 - 11 2014.] The key question they face is: How can cities drive growth that is inclusive and sustainable at the same time?

The answer is complex, but three common elements stand out.

Design Matters

In order to create well-designed, compact cities, spatial planning needs to be explicitly integrated into municipal and national policies.

Compact cities often carry many advantages. New York City is notable for its highly dense layout that contributes to its using 40 percent less electricity and 25 percent less water, while containing 20 percent more green space compared with other large U.S. cities. In 2007, Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled PlaNYC, a cross-agency effort to drive innovation and growth, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and improve life for the city’s residents. Under the plan, New York’s GDP has increased by 13 percent while emissions have fallen by 16 percent in just six years.

Nearly 300 miles east of the World Urban Forum, Bogota’s Master Plan promotes compact, mixed-use, and accessible development. The city is already one of the densest in the world, and planners have proposed to prevent future sprawl by improving the occupation of central areas, enhancing accessibility for pedestrians and bicyclists, expanding mass transit, and protecting fragile watersheds and green areas.

Unfortunately, these examples remain the exception. More frequently, poor planning and perverse financial incentives lead to greater sprawl, create congestion, and promote excessive consumption and waste. In order to create healthy and compact cities, deliberate early design that avoids lock in to future problems is crucial.

Unlocking Urban Finance

Cities need their own revenue sources in order to avoid selling land that can lead to more sprawl and inefficiency.

Well-designed property taxes and development fees can increase investment for smart infrastructure. Finance can be leveraged through real estate developer fees, value capture taxes, green bonds, and carbon finance. In Hong Kong, for instance, the “Rail Plus Property” model enables the state to capture the increase in property revenues along new transportation routes, rather than have them accrue to private property holders. [Ed note: See Henry George 1879 book 'Progress and Poverty']

Shanghai raised $900 million by implementing a quota system that auctions a license to drive on city streets to the highest bidders — an approach which has been adopted by six other large Chinese cities.

With urbanization on the rise, investment is expected to soar. One potential source of city financing is a 2012 pledge of $175 billion for transport infrastructure by the eight largest multilateral development banks; however, to date, less than 5 percent has been allocated to urban public transport systems. With additional funds, cities can control their growth and resources can be channeled to ensure greater efficiency.

Citizens Engage

Finally, citizens, especially vulnerable communities, need the right information and an ability to influence decisions by their city leaders.

Traditionally, many European cities have been at the forefront of citizen participation. For example, in Stockholm, citizens voted to support the nation’s first congestion pricing charges. In Geneva, residents cast ballots to determine how the city should allocate urban space among private vehicles, public transportation, cyclists, and pedestrians.

Meanwhile in Porto Alegre, Brazil, a new open data portal is helping city officials make decisions on mobility, environment, sanitation, and public health. And in Mexico City, citizens are taking matters into their own hands by expanding cycling infrastructure and bike lanes. These examples illustrate how citizen engagement can promote more livable and sustainable cities.

An Opportunity to Put Cities on the International Development Agenda

These issues — and more — are being discussed in Medellin. Among the major topics is how the future international development agenda will speak to the poverty, inequality, and sustainability challenges facing cities. As leaders consider what comes once the Millennium Development Goals expire in 2015, it is clear that cities should be a key element of the agenda.

Near-term decisions by local governments, developers, and planners will determine the resource management and quality of life for billions of people in the coming decades. The World Urban Forum can spur new ideas and drive a deeper commitment to sustainable, equitable urban growth around the world.


Related: City Energy Project

 


Is It Time for a Real War on Cars? | EcoWatch

2014 April 19

Published on April 16, 2014 in Is It Time for a Real War on Cars?.Written by Dr. David Suzuki

In railing against everything from bike lanes to transit spending, pundits and politicians often raise the spectre of a “war on cars.” Of course, there is no war on cars – but there should be.

Cars directly kill and hurt more people every year than most diseases, resulting in 1.5 million deaths and 78 million injuries needing medical care, according to the World Bank. Road injury is the eighth leading cause of death worldwide. Pollution from cars also causes acute and chronic health problems that often result in premature death–from heart disease and stroke to respiratory illness and lung cancer.

Environmental impacts of cars are also well-known and wide-ranging, including climate change, smog and oily run-off from roads, not to mention the green space sacrificed for infrastructure to sell, drive, fuel and park them. Despite fuel-efficiency improvements, emissions from vehicles have more than doubled since 1970, and will increase with rising car demand in countries like China, India and Brazil, according to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.

From Bloomberg Business Week

From Bloomberg Business Week

Because many people, especially North Americans, can’t conceive of a world without cars for everyone, we overlook major problems caused by our private automobile obsession. We’re rightly outraged when a company like General Motors ignores faulty ignition switches in some of its vehicles, thought to have caused 13 deaths over 13 years. The massive recall that followed was justified and necessary. But as a headline on Treehugger’s website argues, "It’s time for a bigger recall of a seriously defective product: The Car."

The article continues:

Since we can’t recall every car all at once and redesign the entire country, there are at least things we can do to make it less bad. Significantly reduce speed limits. Make drivers pay the full cost of infrastructure construction and maintenance through the gas tax. Build the cost of medical care for those millions of injured by cars into the price of gas. Invest in walkable cities and alternative forms of transport.

Seattle newsweekly The Stranger, only somewhat tongue-in-cheek, created a 2011 manifesto for a real war on cars. “We demand that car drivers pay their own way, bearing the full cost of the automobile-petroleum-industrial complex that has depleted our environment, strangled our cities, and drawn our nation into foreign wars,” it says. “Reinstate the progressive motor vehicle excise tax, hike the gas tax, and toll every freeway, bridge, and neighborhood street until the true cost of driving lies as heavy and noxious as our smog-laden air.”

As Treehugger notes, we can’t shift from car-centric societies overnight. And until we find ways to better design our urban areas, many people will continue to rely on cars. After all, in the “developed” world, and increasingly in the developing world, we privilege private automobiles when creating infrastructure, often at the expense of what we need for public transit, walking and cycling.

Some even claim automobile and oil companies bought and dismantled streetcar and urban rail lines from the mid-1930s to the 1950s to sell more cars and oil. Fuel efficiency wasn’t a concern because, before pollution and climate change impacts were known, gas sale profits were a priority. Many factors were involved in the development of car culture, but we now find ourselves in an era when much of our oil is burned to propel mostly single users in inefficient vehicles.

Even with today’s improved fuel standards, only about 15 percent of the energy from each litre of fuel burned is used to move the vehicle, which typically weighs 10 to 20 times more than the passenger(s) it carries. That translates to about a one percent efficiency to move those passengers.

Although we can’t stop using cars altogether, we can curtail their damage to people and the environment. We can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by cutting back on car use, choosing fuel-efficient vehicles, joining a car pool or sharing program and reducing speed. At the policy level, we need increased investment in public transit and cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, stronger fuel-efficiency standards, reduced speed limits, higher gas taxes and human-centric urban design.

Besides combating pollution and climate change, reduced dependency on private automobiles will lead to healthier people, fewer deaths and injuries and livable cities with happier citizens. And that’s worth fighting for!

Related: Atlantic Cities Future of Transportation

 

Posted by Gypsy Chief


It’s Official: America is an Oligarchy and NOT a Democracy or a Republic | Washington’s Blog

2014 April 19
by chief

Photo by Ryan Heffernan

Photo by Ryan Heffernan

Posted on April 16, 2014 in Washington’s Blog. Written by Staff.

Scientific Study Shows that the U.S. Is an Oligarchy

We noted last year:

American democracy – once a glorious thing – has devolved into an oligarchy, according to two leading IMF officials, the former Vice President of the Dallas Federal Reserve, the head of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Moody’s chief economist and many others.

But don’t take their word for it …

A new quantitative study by Princeton’s Martin Gilens and Northwestern’s Benjamin Page finds that America is not a democracy … but is an oligarchy.

Here’s a quick visual overview from the study:

f1
figure2_Gilens_and_Page
figure3_Gilens_and_Page

In other words, when the fatcats want something, it will probably happen. But when the little guys want something … not so much.

Highlights from the study:

A great deal of empirical research speaks to the policy influence of one or another set of actors, but until recently it has not been possible to test these contrasting theoretical predictions against each other within a single statistical model. This paper reports on an effort to do so, using a unique data set that includes measures of the key variables for 1,779 policy issues.

***

Economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence. Our results provide substantial support for theories of Economic Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism.

***

Very few studies have offered quantitative evidence concerning the impact of interest groups based on a number of different public policies.

***

Prior to the availability of the data set that we analyze here, no one we are aware of has succeeded at assessing interest group influence over a comprehensive set of issues, while taking into account the impact of either the public at large or economic elites – let alone analyzing all three types of potential influences simultaneously.

***

The chief predictions of pure theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy can be decisively rejected. Not only do ordinary citizens not have uniquely substantial power over policy decisions; they have little or no independent influence on policy at all.

By contrast, economic elites are estimated to have a quite substantial, highly significant, independent impact on policy.

***

These results suggest that reality is best captured by mixed theories in which both individual economic elites and organized interest groups (including corporations, largely owned and controlled by wealthy elites) play a substantial part in affecting public policy, but the general public has little or no independent influence.

***

When a majority – even a very large majority – of the public favors change, it is not likely to get what it wants. In our 1,779 policy cases, narrow pro-change majorities of the public got the policy changes they wanted only about 30% of the time. More strikingly, even overwhelmingly large pro-change majorities, with 80% of the public favoring a policy change, got that change only about 43% of the time.

***

Our findings probably understate the political influence of elites.

***

What do our findings say about democracy in America? They certainly constitute troubling news for advocates of “populistic” democracy, who want governments to respond primarily or exclusively to the policy preferences of their citizens. In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule — at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.

***

If policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.

No wonder the chairman of the Department of Economics at George Mason University said that politicians are not prostitutes, they are pimpspimping out their services to the highest bidder.

The Supreme Court is not much better: their allowance of unlimited campaign spending allows the oligarchs to purchase politicians more directly than ever.

Moreover, there are two systems of justice in America … one for the big banks and other fatcats, and one for everyone else.

And not only do we not have democracy, but we also no longer have a free market economy. Instead, we have fascism, communist style socialism, kleptocracy, banana republic style corruption, or – yes – “oligarchy“.


Related: Princeton Study:U.S. No Longer An Actual Democracy

Related: Is America an Oligarchy?

 

Posted by Gypsy Chief


Facts and Fallacies About Paycheck Fairness | Phyllis Schlafly

2014 April 16
tags:
by chief
Phyllis Schlafly is a lawyer, conservative political analyst and author of 20 books. She is the co-author, with George Neumayr, of the New York Times Best-Seller titled "No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom."

Phyllis Schlafly is a lawyer, conservative political analyst and author of 20 books. She is the co-author, with George Neumayr, of the New York Times Best-Seller titled “No Higher Power: Obama’s War on Religious Freedom.”

Published by The Christian Post. Written by Phyllis Schlafly.

President Barack Obama and his feminist friends have been trotting out their tiresome slogan that women are paid only 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. Every reputable scholar who has commented has proved that this is a notorious falsehood that anyone should be embarrassed to use.

U.S. law calls for equal pay for equal work, but the feminist slogan is not based on equal work. Women work fewer hours per day, per week, per year. They spend fewer years as full-time workers outside the home, avoid jobs that require overtime, and choose jobs with flexibility to take time off for personal reasons. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, men are twice as likely as women to work more than 40 hours a week.

Women place a much higher value on pleasant working conditions: a clean, comfortable, air-conditioned office with congenial co-workers. Men, on the other hand, are more willing to endure unpleasant working conditions to earn higher pay, doing dirty, dangerous outside work. In 2012, men suffered 92 percent of work-related deaths.

If a man is supporting his family, at the peak of his career, he often works longer hours to maximize his earnings. By contrast, a successful woman who reaches a high rank in her career is more likely to reduce her working hours.

All these reasons for women voluntarily choosing lower pay are now beyond dispute among those who have looked at the facts. But even those explanations for the alleged pay “gap” are still only part of the story.

Perhaps an even more important reason for women’s lower pay is the choices women make in their personal lives, such as having children. Women with children earn less, but childless women earn about the same as men.

Another fact is the influence of hypergamy, which means that women typically choose a mate (husband or boyfriend) who earns more than she does. Men don’t have the same preference for a higher-earning mate.

While women prefer to HAVE a higher-earning partner, men generally prefer to BE the higher-earning partner in a relationship. This simple but profound difference between the sexes has powerful consequences for the so-called pay gap.

Suppose the pay gap between men and women were magically eliminated. If that happened, simple arithmetic suggests that half of women would be unable to find what they regard as a suitable mate.

Obviously, I’m not saying women won’t date or marry a lower-earning men [sic], only that they probably prefer not to. If a higher-earning man is not available, many women are more likely not to marry at all.

In colleges, there are no gender separations in courses of study, and students can freely choose their majors. There are no male and female math classes. But women generally choose college courses that pay less in the labor market.

Those are the choices that women themselves make. Those choices contribute to the pay gap, just as much as the choice of a job with flexible hours and pleasant working conditions.

The pay gap between men and women is not all bad because it helps to promote and sustain marriages. Since husband and wife generally pool their incomes into a single economic unit, what really matters is the combined family income, not the pay gap between them.

In two segments of our population, the pay gap has virtually ceased to exist. In the African-American community and in the millennial generation (ages 18 to 32), women earn about the same as men, if not more.

It just so happens that those are the two segments of our population in which the rate of marriage has fallen the most. Fifty years ago, about 80 percent of Americans were married by age 30; today, less than 50 percent are.

Just a coincidence? I think not. The best way to improve economic prospects for women is to improve job prospects for the men in their lives, even if that means increasing the so-called pay gap.

The real economic story of the past 30 years is that women’s pay has effectively risen to virtual parity, but men’s pay has stagnated and thousands of well-paid blue-collar jobs have been shipped to low-wage countries. Nobody should be surprised that the marriage rate has fallen, the age of first marriage has risen, and marriage, in general, has become unstable.

Gypsy Chief’s Comment:
This is hilarious. Republished word for word as a service to our readers


Related: Schlafly: Increase The Pay Gap So Women Will Have Better Opportunities To Find A Husbband.

Related: The stabilizing influence of masculine dominance on women’s lives. Sunshine Mary

 

Posted by Gypsy Chief


Breakthrough: JP Morgan Chase Dropping Mountain Destruction | Rainforest Action Network

2014 April 14

MTRsiteVivian-StockmanOVEC

Published in Rainforest Action Network Blog on April 13, 2014. Written by Amanda Starbuck.

This could be the tipping point for the horrific practice of Mountaintop Removal coal mining.

Just this week, JPMorgan Chase updated its environmental policy, revealing that it will be ending financial relationships with Mountaintop Removal coal mining companies.

Wells Fargo and BNP Paribas/Bank of the West have recently taken similar steps. If the other major banks commit to stop financing mountaintop removal, fossil fuel companies will have no choice but to end the obliteration of mountains and poisoning of communities for coal.

That’s why thousands of people are joining Rainforest Action Network to tell Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to stop financing Mountaintop Removal coal mining!

Mountaintop Removal (MTR) is a mining practice that uses explosives to literally blow the tops off mountains for the coal inside. The rubble is then pushed into streams and poisons the water supply for thousands of people. This is morally unacceptable and why many, many local communities in Appalachia, along with activists around the world, are taking a stand against MTR.

For more than five years, Rainforest Action Network members like you have demanded JPMorgan Chase and other banks drop MTR financing. And while we’ll have to remain vigilant to ensure JPMorgan Chase stays on the path away from MTR, the bank’s new policy demonstrates that your activism is working.

JPMorgan Chase will no longer be doing business with companies like Alpha Natural Resources — the worst of the worst when it comes to MTR. Last month, the EPA issued Alpha the largest water pollution discharge penalty in the history of the Clean Water Act. The company also faces ten lawsuits over water pollution at its MTR mines.;

JPMorgan Chase, the largest bank in the United States, shows that the smart money is leaving companies like Alpha Natural Resources. Other major banks do not want to be singled out for continuing to support environmental destruction and poisoning communities.

Take Action: Tell the banks to drop Alpha Natural Resources and adopt a policy to phase out MTR financing.

Our movement is truly turning the tide against MTR. Companies like Alpha Natural Resources need financing from big banks to continue the destruction. If we make sure the banks can’t hide their responsibility for keeping MTR alive, we can force them to act to protect their image.

JPMorgan Chase is acting to protect its image right now by moving out of MTR financing. Let’s use that momentum. Send the banks a message today and help end Mountaintop Removal coal mining once and for all.

About the Author

Amanda Starbuck directs RAN’s Energy & Finance Programs, challenging large banks to stop funding the world’s most destructive industries and start funding renewable energy. Amanda can be found on Twitter: @Starbuck

Photo Credit: Vivian Stockman, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition

 

Posted by Gypsy Chief


If This Terrifying Report Doesn’t Wake You Up to the Realities of What We’re Doing to This Planet, What Will? | Mother Jones

2014 April 4

AtmosphericCarbonDioxide

The impacts of climate change are likely to be “severe, pervasive, and irreversible,” the chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said Sunday night in Yokohama, Japan, as the world’s leading climate experts released a new survey of how our planet is likely to change in the near future, and what we can do about it.

Here is more about this from Mother Jones Magazine. Published March 30, 2014 and written by Tim McDonnell, Jeremy Schulman, and James West.

 

Posted by Gypsy Chief


How The Supreme Court Just Legalized Money Laundering By Rich Campaign Donors | ThinkProgress

2014 April 3

McCutcheonSCOTUS_599x300

Published April 2, 2014 in How The Supreme Court Just Legalized Money Laundering By Rich Campaign Donors. Written by Ian Millhiser.

 

Posted by Gypsy Chief