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Archive for the ‘Improper Practices’ Category

Laurel Krause, MendoCoastCurrent, September 10, 2011 ~ 9/10/11

PRESIDENT OBAMA promised on October 27, 2007: “I will promise you this, that if we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am President, it is the FIRST THING I will do. I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this war. You can take that to the bank.”

On Peace

President Obama has been in office for 32 months and there are still 45,000 troops in Iraq and 100,000+ troops in Afghanistan.

When we voted for Obama we expected our future President to keep his word, not involve us in FOUR MORE WARS!

PRESIDENT OBAMA: You’re ON NOTICE ~ Next election Americans will come out in great numbers to vote for a peace-focused presidential candidate that will keep his word.

On Commercial-scale Renewable Energy

We felt validated that we voted for Obama when early in his presidency our President pledged to begin to develop safe, sustainable and renewable energy. We saw it as an excellent way to put the American workforce ‘back to work’ and begin to build a renewable energy future for America. Since then NOT ONE significant renewable or sustainable energy project has been created nor backed by the federal government. If there is one, please name it! The validation we felt back then has expired long ago into distrust and disrespect.

On the BP Gulf Oil Leak

Mostly based on watching our President minimize and shield his eyes (along with Energy Sec Chu) as the BP Oil Leak continues to leak and spew oil into the Gulf of Mexico, to this day. We are beyond disappointed that no significant or innovative remedial (as in clean up) action has been taken in the Gulf or poisoned coastal areas.

On Fukushima & Nuclear Reactors

Then we were shocked when our President in his address to the nation, moments after Fukushima went into melt-through in March 2011, disbelieving our President’s pledge of allegiance to more, new nuclear development in America. Except for President Obama’s corporate backers, the rest of us DO NOT WANT MORE NUCLEAR ENERGY REACTORS in the U.S. We demand our President begin to close down all U.S. nuclear reactors now, also a position very far from our President’s nuclear energy corporate BFF’s.

THE NATIVES ARE BECOMING RESTLESS MR. PRESIDENT!

PUT AMERICA BACK ON THE RIGHT TRACK

STEP 1) Immediately BRING ALL TROOPS HOME to be re-deployed in cleaning up the affected areas, as in making whole again, at the on-going BP Oil Leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

STEP 1-A ~ Fire & replace Energy Secretary Chu with a qualified, earth-friendly, safe renewable energy visionary.

STEP 2) Segment a significant portion of your new Jobs Bill towards sustainable and renewable energy R&D to create a VISION & PLAN FOR AMERICA to become the world leader in these new, safe technologies.

STEP 2-A ~ Consider and fund Mendocino Energy, a fast-tracked commercial-scale renewal/sustainable energy thinktank to get started TODAY. Learn more about Mendocino Energy ~ http://bit.ly/t7ov1

Mr President, let us live in peace on a healthy planet.

JOIN US, JOIN IN at the Peaceful Party: http://on.fb.me/hBvNE3

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Dan Bacher, July 24, 2010

In a historic protest on July 21, members of dozens of California Indian Tribes and their allies marched through the streets of downtown Fort Bragg protesting the violation of indigenous fishing and gathering rights under Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative.

“This is the biggest protest on any issue held on the North Coast since the Redwood Summer of 1990,” said Dan Hamburg, former North Coast Congressman and a current Green Party candidate for Mendocino County Supervisor, as he marched beside me on the way to the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force meeting in Fort Bragg.

Members of the Yurok, Tolowa, Cahto, Kashia Pomo, Karuk, Hoopa Valley, Maidu, Hopi, Navajo and other tribes and the Noyo Indian Community shouted “M.L.P.A. – Taking Tribal Rights Away” and other chants as they marched. Recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, seaweed harvesters, environmentalists, sea urchin divers and seafood industry workers walked side by side with tribal members in a show of solidarity.

Alongside tribal flags, participants hoisted banners with slogans including “Keep Away MLPA,” “Native Conservation, Not Naive Conservation,” “No MLPA,” “ MLPA=Big Oil,” and “RLF – What Are You Funding.”

The group peacefully took control of the task force meeting in a great example of non-violent direct action. After rallying at Oak and Main Street, over 300 people walked a half-mile to the C.V. Star Community Center. Just before heading into the meeting, tribal community members standing twenty deep chanted, “No Way M.L.P.A.!” to the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force (BRTF) members convened inside.

“Our message was clear: the state will no longer impose its will on indigenous people,” said Frankie Joe Myers, organizer for the Coastal Justice Coalition and a Yurok Tribal ceremonial leader. “This is about more than a fouled-up process that attempts to prohibit tribes from doing something they have done sustainably for thousands of years. It is about respect, acknowledgement and recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights!”

Before the group began their march, they spent an hour holding signs and chanting on the corner of Oak and Main Streets as driver after driver honked their horns in support.

“The outpouring of support from the Fort Bragg community was amazing,” said Jim Martin, West Coast Director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance. “It was clear that the majority of people supported our protest. Some people were driving around several times so they could honk in support again.”

After the protesters entered the meeting, tribal elders, including Walt Lara of the Yurok Tribe, said they would continue to do what they have done for centuries – harvest seaweed, mussels and fish.

“We’ve managed the ocean in sustainable way for thousands of years,” Lara stated. “We only take what we need so that nobody should be hungry. You take our water, you take our land and now your are going to take our appetite.”

Thomas O’Rourke, the chair of the Yurok Tribal Council, said, “We as an Indian Nation have the right to manage our resources. The people who have managed for the last 200 years haven’t done so well in managing the land and our coast.”

“It is wise to listen to the people who managed these lands for thousands of years,” he continued. “We believe in protecting species. We will continue to exercise our right to harvest seaweed and fish as we always have. You have to take us to jail until you go broke and you fix this law.”

The Yurok Tribe has a representative, Megan Rocha, on the MLPA’s Regional Stakeholder group. However, O’Rourke said the MLPA process has viewed tribes exactly the same as recreational fishermen, even though tribes are sovereign nations.

“There is nothing more offensive than the lack of recognition we have received from the Initiative,” he stated. “We are a sovereign government within the State of California and should be treated accordingly. We would like the Blue Ribbon Task Force to do what is morally right and remove tribes from this inappropriate process.”

Jimbo Simmons, a Choctaw Tribe member and a leader of the American Indian Movement, emphasized that numerous laws, including the American Indian Religious Freedom Act and the UN Declaration of Human Rights, affirm the right of indigenous people to conduct their traditional religious ceremonies including traditional ocean food gathering. “Food is a human right,” he stated.

“Our tribal rights are not negotiable,” Dania Colegrove, Hoopa Valley Tribe member and a member of the Coastal Justice Coalition, told the task force. “Get used to it!”

Some Tribal members and fishermen at the protest questioned the task force’s real motives in kicking indigenous people and other fishermen off the ocean.

Susan Burdick, Yurok Elder, pointedly told the Blue Ribbon Task Force that “You are like the Ku Klux Klan – without the hoods! We’re not going to stop what we have doing for generations. We have young people here, old people here and we will march everywhere you go.”

“What is your real purpose: to start drilling for oil off our coastline?” she asked. “Be honest with us!”

Burdick’s concerns over the push by the oil industry and others to industrialize the California coast were echoed by environmentalists including Judith Vidaver, Chair of Ocean Protection Coalition (OPC).

“For over 25 years OPC, with our fisher and seaweed harvester allies, has protected our ocean from threats such as aquaculture projects, nuclear waste dumping, offshore oil development and recently, wave power plants,” Vidaver stated. “We are requesting that final Marine Protected Area (MPA) designations include language prohibiting these industrial-scale commercial activities.”

She also shocked the panel by asking that task force member Catherine Reheis-Boyd voluntarily step down from her position on the BRTF.

“Oil and water do not mix—as we are being reminded daily by the disaster spewing in the Gulf,” she stated. “Mrs. Reheis-Boyd’s position as President of the Western States Petroleum Association and her lobbying efforts to expand offshore oil drilling off the coast of California are a patent conflict of interest for which she should recuse herself from the BRTF proceedings which are ostensibly meant to protect the marine ecosystem.”

Meg Caldwell, a BRTF member, responded to Vidaver’s request in defense of Reheis-Boyd.

“I am a died-in-the-wool environmentalist and I have worked for the past year with Reheis-Boyd. Not once has she demonstrated any bias for any industrial sector on the Task Force,” she stated.

The overwhelming majority of people making public comments criticized the MLPA process for any array of reasons.

However, Karen Garrison, policy analyst for NRDC, affirmed her support for the MLPA Initative. She said that her organization “is committed to creating an effective marine protected area network that also supports continued noncommercial traditional Tribal uses.”

“The Kashia Pomo regulation shows it’s possible to do both, at least under some circumstances, and shows the flexibility of the MLPA to accommodate Tribal uses,” Garrison stated. “We also support the Tribe’s proposal to separately identify noncommercial traditional Tribal uses in any regulation that allows both Tribal and recreational uses.”

The MLPA, a landmark law signed by Governor Gray Davis in 1999, calls for the creation of marine reserves with varying levels of protection from one end of the state to the other.

Many fishermen, environmentalists and Tribal members have blasted Schwarzenegger’s MLPA Initiative, privately funded by the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, for taking water pollution, oil drilling and all other human uses of the ocean other than fishing and gathering off the table while denying Tribes their fundamental rights.

“Whether it is their intention or not, what the Marine Life Protection Act does to tribes is systematically decimate our ability to be who we are,” Myers said. “That is the definition of cultural genocide.”

“The MLPA process completely disregards tribal gathering rights and only permits discussion of commercial and recreational harvest,” Myers concluded. “The whole process is inherently flawed by institutionalized racism. It doesn’t recognize Tribes as political entities, or Tribal biologists as legitimate scientists.”

“The protest surpassed my wildest dreams,” said Mike Carpenter, a sea urchin diver and local protest organizer. “I’m glad that tribal members, fishermen, Latino sea urchin industry workers and local environmentalists all banded together to keep our communities from being robbed by outside interests and big corporate money.”

The latest action was preceded on June 29 by a protest during which a group of 40 Tribal members and their supporters interrupted the MLPA Science Advisory Team meeting in Eureka. Members of the Coastal Justice Coalition during both protests emphasized that there is no scientific data that says tribal gathering has any negative impact on the coastal ecosystem and the Act does nothing to stop pollution and off-shore drilling — the real threats to the ocean ecosystem.

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AMBROSIA SARABIA with edits, theLog.com, June 10, 2010

In May 2010, a reporter that was attempting to videotape proceedings was forcibly removed from a Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) North Coast Regional Stakeholder Group work session. MLPA staff then reversed their ban on videotaping and audio recording at future sessions. However, the move has not eased tensions between those tied to the planning process for new Marine Protected Areas off the California coast (where fishing will be off limits) and sport anglers who advocate retaining open fishing areas.

On May 28, United Anglers of Southern California (UASC) and the Partnership for Sustainable Oceans, who have opposed the direction MLPA’s appointed Blue Ribbon Task Force appears to be heading, filed a suit against the task force and the MLPA Science Advisory Team, claiming they have violated the California Records Act.

“It has become more and more evident that the MLPA process is being steered off course by special interests — and political motivations — with dangerous potential for restricting many popular areas enjoyed by fishermen and other outdoor enthusiasts,” said UASC president Steven Fukuto, in a prepared statement.

The law firm of Allen, Matkins, Leck, Gamble, Mallory & Natis LLP, acting on behalf of the UASC and petitioner Robert Fletcher, filed suit at the Sacramento County Courthouse as the first step of a multistage litigation process, according to Fukuto. The filing is the first step in what he expects to be an ongoing, thorough examination of the “flawed process.”

“Our legal team has identified several potential causes for action, and we will aggressively pursue any and all legal avenues to protect recreational access for fishermen, and all Californians,” Fukuto added.

According to the UASC, the suit is tied to the Blue Ribbon Task Force’s and Science Advisory Team’s failure to respond to requests made by Fletcher for documents and records relevant to the MLPA implementation process. The verified petition for writ of mandate and complaint seeks declaratory and injunctive relief.

Under the California Public Records Act, the public has the right of access to information that is in the possession of state and local agencies. By law, public records are open to inspection at all times during office hours of state or local agencies, except for those that are exempt from disclosure by express provisions of the law.

Transparent Process?

California’s Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act of 1967 requires that “meetings of public bodies and the writings of public officials and agencies shall be open to public scrutiny” and requires open meetings for all California state agencies, boards and commissions. Its purpose is to mandate accountability and transparency of government activities and to protect the rights of citizens to participate in state government.

However, MLPA’s staff has long stated that its work sessions do not qualify as “public meetings,” as the MLPA initiative process is privately funded through a unique public-private partnership.

When a Fort Bragg journalist was forcibly removed from a North Coast Regional Stakeholder Group work session after refusing to stop videotaping, claiming California’s open meetings laws gave him the right to cover the event, there was public uproar — and a protest from United Anglers of Southern California.

According to MLPA staff, members of the media and the public were permitted to attend work sessions but were not permitted to make comments, take photos or make recordings of any kind. The rule was put into place to create a “safe space” for individuals to speak openly and toss out ideas, according to staff.

In May, the rule was revisited and redefined to allow videotaping and audio recording by the public and members of the media, after MLPA staff members determine that the ban “was not reflective of the process.”

“We always err on the side of being open and transparent,” said Ken Wiseman, executive director of the MLPA Initiative. He said the sessions do not fall under Bagley-Keene, since there is not a quorum. “It is important that people not be given this idea that we are somehow restricting access, or that it is not open and transparent.”

The change in policy has not changed UASC’s mind about the openness of the process. The organization has cited various instances where decisions were made during Science Advisory Team meetings.

One occurred in 2009 when “persistent kelp” was mentioned — a subject that UASC said no one but perhaps team members understood. The classification of “persistent kelp” reduced the amount of kelp used in scientific guidelines that the Science Advisory Team uses to evaluate habitat replication. At the time, stakeholder groups were not provided enough time to fully understand what it meant or how it applied, according to UASC.

“The Blue Ribbon Task Force said they would operate the process in the spirit of Bagley-Keene, and we feel they have not lived up to that spirit,” Fukuto said. “We feel that decisions have been made in private.”

Others argue that the process is anything but open. Months of planning and revising Option 2, an alternative for the South Coast Region that would implement the fewest fishing closures, were wasted, many participants in the process said, when the Blue Ribbon Task Force threw out the options recommended by stakeholders and instead developed its own preferred plan — the IPA. If approved, the plan will close approximately 400 square miles of ocean off the Southern California coast to fishing.

However, Wiseman argues that anglers’ time was not wasted and their input was not thrown out. The resulting plan created by the Blue Ribbon Task Force was a blend of all three stakeholder proposals, Wiseman said.

“For sportfishing associations to say their ideas were ignored is ludicrous,” he said. “Their ideas are incorporated into the preferred alternative that is in front of the commission.”

He added, “They did not get everything they wanted, but nobody did.”

Greg Schem, who served as a member of the South Coast Region Blue Ribbon Task Force and currently sits on the Blue Ribbon Task Force for the North Coast Region, said the process invites everyone to the table. Every proposal made by varied interested groups, information provided by the Science Advisory Team and the Blue Ribbon Task Force is open to public comment.

Schem said he is an angler who joined the process two years ago, so he understands where other anglers are coming from — but he said he also understands that fishing closures are necessary as marine resources continue to degrade.

“I don’t like closures either, but I recognize this is a necessity,” said Schem, president and chief executive officer of Harbor Real Estate Group, a firm specializing in marina and waterfront real estate investments — including a marina, fuel dock and boat- yard in Marina del Rey.

“It is not a question of how do we not close anything, but a question of how do we close areas while still preserving adequate areas for consumptive users, and provide protected areas that will allow this network of MLPAs to operate as scientists anticipated,” Schem said.

Closing specific fishing areas was especially difficult since everyone has a favorite spot, Schem said. These emotional ties made it difficult for many to compromise on closures, he added.

“Not everybody is going to be happy,” Schem said. “Everybody is going to give a little bit, and that’s how you come up with a compromise.”

The Fish and Game Commission will vote on the plan for Southern California’s MLPA closure areas this summer and plans to finalize and implement new Marine Protected Areas by the end of the year. The study region includes the area extending from Point Conception to the California/Mexico border.

The North Coast Regional Stakeholder Group is in the early stages of drafting alternatives for establishing Marine Protected Areas in Northern California. The group will work with the Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Science Advisory Team and staff to evaluate existing Marine Protected Areas within the North Coast study region. The study region extends from the California/Oregon border to Alder Creek in Mendocino County.

The planning process is expected to be completed in December 2010.

For more information on MLPAs, visit dfg.ca.gov.

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Fire Earth, December 28, 2009

Photo by Sally & Doug Morrison

Image by Sally & Doug Morrison

About 30 pilot whales died after they became stranded on Coromandel peninsula yesterday and will be buried by the local Maori.

Meanwhile, up to 120 long-finned pilot whales, both calves and adults, were found dead  at the Farewell Spit on Boxing Day.

“More offshore wells have been drilled in the last two years than the rest of the decade combined: 35 on and offshore wells were drilled between January 2008 and July 2009 alone,” said a report.

Each year about 2.5 million tourists visit New Zealand, straining its fragile ecosystems to the breaking point, creating a massive litany of different types of pollution, including noise.

Mendo Coast Current wrote: “Studies show that these cetaceans, which once communicated over thousands of miles to forage and mate, are losing touch with each other, the experts said at a U.N. wildlife conference in Rome.”

“The sound of a seismic test, used to locate hydrocarbons beneath the seabed, can spread 1,800 miles under water, said Veronica Frank, an official with the International Fund for Animal Welfare. A study by her group found that the blue whale, which used to communicate across entire oceans, has lost 90% of its range over the past 40 years.”

Environmental experts are studying numerous cases of beached whales and dolphins that are believed to have been caused by sound pollution, according to Simmonds.

Just two weeks ago at least five whales died after nine were beached in Mediterranean off the southern coast off Italy, an unusual place for whales to beach themselves.

‘A massive beaching is extremely rare in the Mediterranean,’ biologist Maurizio Wurtz at the University of Genoa said.

Noise pollution from seismic surveys for oil and gas as well as naval activities are believed to have confused whales by interfering  with their communication, thus leaving them stranded and ultimately dead,  many  Conservationists and biologists say.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) says man-made ocean noise inhibits cetaceans’ communication and disrupts their feeding.

The level of ocean noise in some regions is doubling each decade, according to IFAW.  “Humanity is literally drowning out marine mammals.”

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FRANK HARTZELL, Fort Bragg Advocate News, December 24, 2009

Image by Larry R. Wagner

The California State Lands Commission last week found its own regulations designed to protect marine mammals so inconsistent and confusing as to be unenforceable.

That was good news for Fugro Pelagos, owner of the 176-foot survey vessel Pacific Star that reported it fatally struck a female blue whale on Oct. 19.

“On behalf of all of us at Fugro Pelagos, we thank … the California State Lands Commission (SLC) for assessing the facts of the matter and deciding not to revoke our offshore geophysical survey permit. In making such a decision, they recognized that language of the current permit is unclear and could be subject to interpretation,” said Fugro Company President David Millar, in a statement issued after the meeting.

State Lands Commission staff had recommended that the company’s permit be yanked and that Fugro pay $13,000 for staff investigatory expenses.

Instead, the commission hashed out an agreement by which the company now agrees to follow the conditions of the permit — as the commission wrongly believed had been happening all along.

“It is now clear that the California State Lands Commission considers hydrographic surveying using only an echo sounder to be an activity covered by the offshore geophysical survey permit. Fugro Pelagos has agreed to comply with this interpretation on the basis that all other permit holders will receive written notification of the State’s position and that the State will work with Fugro Pelagos and other stakeholders in reviewing and modifying the current permit language so that there can be no future misunderstandings about what activities are and are not covered by the offshore geophysical survey permit,” Millar stated.

The whale bled to death in about half an hour, washing up just south of Fort Bragg.

The entire matter is a gigantic “I told you so” for Steve Sullivan, who has been criticizing these very regulations for being confusing and widely ignored.

Sullivan owns a Fugro rival surveying company. He has harped at state authorities for about five years, saying others should be made to do what his company does, including always having a marine mammal observer on deck and employing a spotter boat.

Sullivan had predicted catastrophe for marine mammals unless regulations became consistent. Prior to the Oct. 19 whale strike, Sullivan not only criticized Fugro, but also state and university agencies for ignoring the regulations designed to protect marine mammals.

At last Thursday’s meeting, the State Lands Commission set out to demand those agencies and Fugro all now follow consistent rules.

Sullivan’s pleas seemingly fell on deaf ears at the State Lands Commission and the Ocean Protection Council. In fact when Sullivan contended following the whale strike that Fugro was operating without a permit, state and federal officials had vociferously refuted Sullivan’s contention.

But technically, Sullivan was right. Fugro never finalized a marine mammal plan required by the permit because they felt it did not apply to any of the work they were doing. Yet, the company kept renewing the incomplete (and thus theoretically invalid) permit, all a demonstration of how meaningless and unintelligible the permit process was.

The marine mammal plan, had it been prepared, would be expected to contain measures that might or might not prevent whale strikes.

Fugro has consistently maintained that the whale killing would likely have happened even if there had been a NOAA-certified marine mammal observer on deck.

“During the hearing, it was noted that State scientists considered this tragic accident unavoidable, and not the result of Fugro Pelagos not following survey permit conditions,” Millar said.

“Nevertheless, we were deeply saddened by it. In the decades that the company has been in existence, no incident of this type has ever occurred and we acknowledge the loss that comes with the death of such a large and precious marine animal,” Millar said.

Fugro will carry a marine wildlife monitor in the future. Perhaps more importantly, State Lands has launched a process designed to standardize all permits and require more measures to protect marine mammals, as the permitting process originally intended.

At one point, state officials were working on a plan for better protections of marine mammals, but that effort collapsed due to the state budget crisis.

“I am very pleased that the State Lands Commission has finally required the multi-billion dollar international firm, Fugro, to abide by the same regulations to protect marine mammals that us small California survey companies have complied with for years,” Sullivan said in a statement after the meeting.

“At their meeting on Dec. 17, the State Lands Commission disclosed that Fugro and a new permit applicant, the California State University at Monterey Bay, have for years been conducting marine surveys without compliance with regulations to protect marine mammals,” Sullivan said.

A community effort stripped the whale of its flesh and buried the skeleton so it can be dug up later and displayed.

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DANIEL B. WOOD, The Christian Science Monitor, February 11, 2009

Less than a month into his administration, President Obama is making good on campaign promises to move toward a comprehensive approach to US energy and to broaden environmental protections. The administration has moved over the past few weeks to undo many of Bush’s last-minute drilling and environmental decisions, including putting the brakes Tuesday on a plan to open up vast new areas off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to offshore drilling.

In swift succession, the Obama administration has:

  • Ordered the Environmental Protection Authority to reconsider its decision to deny California permission to set standards controlling greenhouse-gas emissions from motor vehicles – if permitted, this would allow 13 more states to follow suit.
  • Abandoned a Bush administration legal appeal in a major air pollution case – signaling it will allow tougher rules to cut mercury emissions from power plants.
  • Canceled 77 Bush-era oil and gas leases over 100,000 acres of public land near national parks in Utah.
  • Announced an intent to develop an offshore energy plan that includes renewable resources, giving states and the federal government more time to study and assess the future of offshore energy planning.

“There’s clearly a new kid in town. The Obama administration is moving quicker on the environment than anything else,” says Robert Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies. “They are concerned that untoward things are going to happen before they can get new policies in place, so they are trying to reverse old ones.”

In the most recent move to stall Bush policy, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Tuesday that the time period for public comment on a draft five-year plan for offshore oil and gas leasing would be extended for another 180 days. He also ordered the US Geological Survey and the Minerals Management Service to develop an extensive profile of the nation’s resources offshore.

The plan, which was proposed by the Bush administration on its last day in office and published the day after President Obama took office, originally allowed 45 days for scoping and comment.

Describing the plan as “a headlong rush of the worst kind,” Mr. Salazar said that “Bush’s “midnight action” accelerated by two years the regular process for creating a new plan for the outer continental shelf.

“It opened up the possibility for oil and gas leasing along the entire Eastern Seaboard, portions of offshore California, and the far eastern Gulf of Mexico, with almost no consideration of state, industry, and community input and … with very limited information about the nature of offshore resources,” he said.

The new administration will look at offshore drilling as part of a comprehensive energy plan, he said. The changes are to “fulfill President Obama’s commitment to a government that is open and inclusive and makes decisions based on sound science and the public interest.”

“I intend to do what the Bush administration refused to do; build a framework for offshore renewable-energy development so that we incorporate the great potential for wind, wave, and ocean current energy into our offshore energy strategy.”

In a similar move last week, the Interior secretary announced that the Bureau of Land Management would withdraw drilling leases that were offered on 77 parcels of US public land near national parks in Utah. The leases, on land totaling 103, 225 acres, are under litigation in district court.

Development of oil and gas supplies was needed to help reduce dependence on foreign oil, but it must be done in a “thoughtful and balanced way that allows us to protect our signature landscapes and culture resources,” said Salazar, adding that the BLM would return $6 million in bids from an auction last December.

Also last week, the Justice Department said it is withdrawing a US Supreme Court appeal filed by the Bush administration against a court ruling governing mercury emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants.

The Obama administration has also told the EPA to reconsider denying California the power to regulate vehicular pollution. The Bush administration’s EPA in 2007 had denied California the waiver needed to authorize its special status under the Clean Air Act. That law gives California the authority to regulate vehicular pollution because the state began doing so before the federal government did.

Leading environmental groups, which were often at odds with Bush, are breathing a palpable sigh of relief. “We are encouraged by Obama’s announcement that he is going to restore order to a broken system and that is what this is,” says Kristina Johnson, deputy press secretary for the Sierra Club.

“This five-year offshore drilling program that Bush tried to push through wasn’t based on sound science, and there was no public input,” she said. “It’s part of a new way of doing business. [The Obama administration understands] that the answer to America’s energy problems isn’t more drilling and that we need to be investing in clean energy.”

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SUSAN CHAMBERS, The World, February 3, 2009

Coos Bay — The announcement came as a surprise to everyone.

beachpThe Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Thursday order issuing a preliminary permit for a 200- to 400-buoy wave energy project off of Newport shocked Ocean Power Technologies leaders as well as the public.

“It’s a project, a site that is not on our priority list right now,” OPT spokesman Len Bergstein said. “It was a little bit of a surprise to us in terms of timing.”

What’s different about this project is that FERC’s approval stirs up a hornet’s nest at the time OPT is trying to work with residents on the South Coast for community approval of two sites: a 10-buoy project off of Gardiner and a 200-buoy project off of the North Spit.

It also calls into question FERC’s intentions of adhering to a memorandum of understanding previously negotiated with Oregon to give the state greater siting power over wave energy projects in the territorial sea.

The approval also seems to be designed for FERC to flex authority over territory traditionally overseen by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service. Both agencies have claimed the area outside of Oregon’s territorial sea, beyond three nautical miles.

Mixed Messages

As the FERC notice of approval hit residents’ e-mail inboxes late Thursday, outrage began to build.

“My concern is this sends the wrong message,” said Lincoln County District Attorney Rob Bovett. “This is high-value crab grounds, about as valuable as you get.”

OPT applied for the permit in November 2006, but let the application slide. The jurisdictional battle meant the application was going nowhere fast. OPT decided to concentrate its work on the Gardiner and Coos Bay sites, both of which are inside the territorial sea.

Bergstein said as soon as he found out about the approval, he immediately called Lincoln County Commissioner Terry Thompson and other Lincoln County folks, particularly those involved with the Fishermen Involved in Natural Energy group.

“Clearly, we have not been prompting FERC,” Bergstein said.

Bovett, who was involved in the commenting on the original OPT application, said Fishermen Involved has been working with wave energy companies to determine the best sites for development that would have the least impact on the fishing industry and local communities. This, though, was different.

“FINE wasn’t involved in the selection of this box,” Bovett said.

State vs. FERC?

Bovett’s first question was: Does the memorandum of understanding not mean anything?

In March 2008, FERC and Oregon signed a memorandum designed to “coordinate the procedures and schedules for review of wave energy projects.”

Bovett just chuckled.  According to the deal, he said, FERC wasn’t going to issue permits willy nilly. 

Some of the discrepancy over the decision to issue a preliminary permit — which allows OPT to only study the area for feasibility — may be because Oregon hasn’t finished updating its territorial sea plan. The Ocean Policy Advisory Council and the state have been working on it, but the marine reserves issue has dominated the council’s time over the past year.

“This will obviously get everybody’s attention,” Southern Oregon Ocean Resource Coalition Chairman Nick Furman said of FERC’s decision.

That’s putting it lightly.

Whereas the Reedsport and Coos Bay sites are considered by some to be ground zero as far as local communities negotiating with wave energy developers, the Newport site could be ground zero for state vs. federal and agency vs. agency jurisdiction and siting battles.

However, Bovett said, OPT holds the key right now.

The New Jersey-based wave energy developer should withdraw from  the site, he said. Otherwise, years of litigation seem likely — and courts ultimately would have the final say over which agency should be in charge of alternative energy.

“OPT can fix this,” Bovett said. “It’s exactly what they should do.”

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STEPHEN POWER, The Wall Street Journal, January 28, 2009
images1Interior Secretary Ken Salazar indicated Tuesday that the Obama Administration could be open to expanded offshore drilling and is considering doing away with a controversial program that allows oil companies to pay in kind for oil and natural gas taken from public lands.

Salazar inherited a Bush Administration plan that would open tracts off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts where drilling had previously been prohibited. Environmental groups want the Obama administration to re-impose a ban on expanded offshore drilling that President George W. Bush lifted last year.

Asked in an interview with The Wall Street Journal whether President Barack Obama might try to reinstate the ban, Salazar paused 18 seconds before saying: “I don’t know.”

“We have significant drilling already in many places of the Gulf coast. We have drilling in many places off the Alaska shorelines. There are other places that hold potential for exploration. We’ll develop our guidelines as to how we’re going to look at it. But we’re still at the beginning of an information-gathering process,” he said.

Asked about the Bush administration’s proposal to open certain areas of the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to drilling and whether he saw any opportunities for expanded development of the nation’s offshore areas, Salazar said: “When you look at the whole [outer continental shelf], it’s a huge potential. And it has to be done carefully. We don’t want to ruin the beaches of Florida and the coastlines of other places that are sensitive.”

“On the other hand, there are places where it may be appropriate for us to have reconnaissance and exploration and even development. Those are questions that we are exploring and hopefully over the months ahead we’ll have answers to these questions,” he said.

Salazar left the door open to curtailing the “royalty-in-kind” program, under which the government receives oil or natural gas instead of cash for payments of royalties from companies that lease federal property for oil and gas development, and then sells the product into the marketplace and returns the proceeds to the Treasury. “We’re going to put everything on the table — I think everything needs to be looked at,” Salazar said.

Meanwhile, Salazar said new legislation may be needed to overhaul the scandal-plagued Minerals Management Service, a bureau of Interior that manages the nation’s offshore oil and natural gas reserves.

Salazar said his top priority is to restore confidence in the agency, and in particular the MMS, which was rocked last fall by a report from the department’s inspector general that accused some MMS employees of accepting gifts from and having sex with oil and gas industry representatives whose activities they were supposed to regulate.

Although the Bush administration late last year announced disciplinary action ranging from warnings to termination of more than a half-dozen workers implicated in the report, Salazar said he is mulling “whether additional actions are required.”

Many environmental groups are looking to Salazar to reverse certain policy changes made in the final months of the Bush administration, including new regulations on commercial oil-shale development that the groups say lock in inappropriately low royalty rates for energy firms. Salazar said he and his aides intend to review “all those issues” and that “I expect that there will be changes.”

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ROHDEC12, Wind Power Law Blog, August 29, 2008

Noble Environmental Power, Inc. has filed a revised preliminary prospectus in which it indicates that it intends to sell in its initial public offering (IPO) up to 23,437,500 shares, and that it also has granted its underwriters (Lehman Brothers, JPMorgan, Credit Suisse and Citibank) a 30-day option to purchase up to an additional 3,515,625 shares, which option kicks in if the underwriters sell more than 23,437,500 shares to the public in the IPO.

In it prior filing Noble Environmental indicated it was targeting raising $375 million in the IPO. Math would suggest a $16 targeted share price.

Noble is currently under investigation by the New York Attorney General for allegations of misconduct during the siting process of New York wind farms.

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NICOLAS CONFESSORE, The New York Times, August 18, 2008

BURKE, N.Y. — Everywhere that Janet and Ken Tacy looked, the wind companies had been there first.

Dozens of people in their small town had already signed lease options that would allow wind towers on their properties. Two Burke Town Board members had signed private leases even as they negotiated with the companies to establish a zoning law to permit the towers. A third board member, the Tacys said, bragged about the commissions he would earn by selling concrete to build tower bases. And, the Tacys said, when they showed up at a Town Board meeting to complain, they were told to get lost.

“There were a couple of times when they told us to just shut up,” recalled Mr. Tacy, sitting in his kitchen on a recent evening.

Lured by state subsidies and buoyed by high oil prices, the wind industry has arrived in force in upstate New York, promising to bring jobs, tax revenue and cutting-edge energy to the long-struggling region. But in town after town, some residents say, the companies have delivered something else: an epidemic of corruption and intimidation, as they rush to acquire enough land to make the wind farms a reality.

“It really is renewable energy gone wrong,” said the Franklin County district attorney, Derek P. Champagne, who began a criminal inquiry into the Burke Town Board last spring and was quickly inundated with complaints from all over the state about the wind companies. Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo agreed this year to take over the investigation.

“It’s a modern-day gold rush,” Mr. Champagne said.

Mr. Cuomo is investigating whether wind companies improperly influenced local officials to get permission to build wind towers, as well as whether different companies colluded to divide up territory and avoid bidding against one another for the same land.

The industry appears to be shying away from trying to erect the wind farms in more affluent areas downstate, even where the wind is plentiful, like Long Island.

But in the small towns near the Canadian border, families and friendships have been riven by feuds over the lease options, which can be worth tens of thousands of dollars a year in towns where the median household income may hover around $30,000. Rumors circulate about neighbors who can suddenly afford new tractors or trucks. Opponents of the wind towers even say they have received threats; one local activist said that on two occasions, she had found her windshield bashed in.

“My sisters and brothers won’t even talk to me anymore,” said Mr. Tacy, who with his wife has become active in recent years in a network of people who oppose the wind companies. “They tear communities apart.” Opponents of the farms say their scenic views are being marred by the hundreds of wind towers already in place, some of which stand nearly 400 feet tall. They also complain of the irritating hum of spinning turbines and what they say are wasteful public subsidies to wind companies.

But corruption is a major concern. In at least 12 counties, Mr. Champagne said, evidence has surfaced about possible conflicts of interest or improper influence.

In Prattsburgh, N.Y., a Finger Lakes community, the town supervisor cast the deciding vote allowing private land to be condemned to make way for a wind farm there, even after acknowledging that he had accepted real estate commissions on at least one land deal involving the farm’s developer.

A town official in Bellmont, near Burke, took a job with a wind company after helping shepherd through a zoning law to permit and regulate the towers, according to local residents. And in Brandon, N.Y., nearby, the town supervisor told Mr. Champagne that after a meeting during which he proposed a moratorium on wind towers, he had been invited to pick up a gift from the back seat of a wind company representative’s car.

When the supervisor, Michael R. Lawrence, looked inside, according to his complaint to Mr. Champagne, he saw two company polo shirts and a leather pouch that he suspected contained cash.

When Mr. Lawrence asked whether the pouch was part of the gift, the representative replied, “That’s up to you,” according to the complaint.

Last month, Mr. Cuomo subpoenaed two wind companies, Noble Environmental Power, based in Connecticut, and First Wind, based in Massachusetts, seeking a broad range of documents. Both companies say they are cooperating with the attorney general.

“We have no comment on specifics, but we want to be clear: Noble supports open and transparent development of wind projects in accordance with the highest ethical standards,” said Walt Howard, Noble’s chief executive.

The industry’s interest in New York’s North Country is driven by several factors. The area is mostly rural, with thousands of acres of farmland near existing energy transmission lines. Moreover, under a program begun in 2004, the state is entering into contracts to buy renewable energy credits, effectively subsidizing wind power until it can compete against power produced more cheaply from coal or natural gas.

Nine large-scale wind farms housing 451 towers, each with a turbine, are in operation in New York, with at least 840 more towers slated for construction, according to state officials. And in June, Iberdrola S.A., which is based in Spain and is one of the world’s largest energy producers, announced its proposal to invest $2 billion to build hundreds more towers here.

Every day in the North Country during the warm months, trucks pulling giant flatbed trailers rumble down the highways, carrying tower sections and turbine blades. Some residents see the trucks not as a disturbance, but as an omen of jobs, money and cleaner air.

“I feel as a mother, as a grandmother, that the country needs it — not just here,” said Susan Gerow, a Burke resident who has signed easements with Noble worth about $3,000 a year. Like others who have signed deals with the companies, Ms. Gerow and her family will also earn a portion of the revenue from the windmills if they are ever built.

The North Country is a chronically distressed region, and farming is increasingly a profitless enterprise here. The General Motors plant in Massena, for years a reliable source of good jobs, is closing in mid-2009. One of the few bright spots in the local economy in recent decades has been the construction of state prisons, of which there are now five in Franklin County alone.

“You’re talking about a poor farming community out here,” said Brent A. Trombly, a former town supervisor of Ellenburg, which approved a law to allow and establish regulations for the wind towers in 2003. “Our only natural resources are stone and wind.”

For some farmers, he said, the wind leases were their last chance to hold onto land that had been in the family for generations. Supporters also say that the wind towers bring in badly needed tax revenue.

“We see this industry coming, we see the payments coming in,” said William K. Wood, a former Burke Town Board member who also signed a lease option. The school board of Chateaugay, he pointed out, received $332,800 this year from Noble for payments in lieu of taxes, money that the district used to lower school taxes, upgrade its computers and provide a prekindergarten class for the first time.

The local debates over wind power are driven in a part by a vacuum at the state level. There is no state law governing where wind turbines can be built or how big they can be. That leaves it up to town officials, working part time and on advice from outside lawyers, some of whom may have conflicts of their own.

Two Franklin County towns, Brandon and Malone, have passed laws banning the wind turbines. But the issue remains unresolved in Burke, population 1,451, where two Town Board members recused themselves from the issue this year because they had leases with wind companies, leaving the board deadlocked.

At a meeting last month at Burke’s Town Hall, opponents and supporters sat on opposite sides of the aisle, arms crossed. The mood, as it has often been at such meetings, was quietly bitter.

“I’d like to hear what people think,” said Darrel Bushey, the town supervisor and a wind-tower opponent.

“We’ve listened to the people for two years,” responded Timothy Crippen, who sits on the town’s zoning board, which favors permitting the turbines. “It’s time to make a move.”

Some hands shot into the air from the audience, but were ignored.

“There is no decision you are going to make that is going to make everyone happy,” said Craig Dumas, another zoning board member, almost pleading for action.

But the meeting soon broke up, still with no decision made.

“This is a problem for these communities,” Mr. Dumas said as the room emptied. “There’s a lot of emotion on both sides.”

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MendoCoastCurrent, July 21, 2008

On July 15, 2008 Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced launching an investigation into two companies developing and operating wind farms across New York state amid allegations of improper dealings with public officials and anti-competitive practices.

Subpoenas were served on First Wind (formerly known as UPC Wind) and Noble Environmental Power, LLC. They are part of an investigation into whether companies developing wind farms improperly sought or obtained land-use agreements with citizens and public officials; whether improper benefits were given to public officials to influence their actions; and whether they entered into anti-competitive agreements or practices.

In recent months, the Office of the Attorney General has received numerous complaints regarding the two companies from citizens, groups and public officials in eight counties alleging improper relations between the companies and local officials and other improper practices.

“The use of wind power, like all renewable energy sources, should be encouraged to help clean our air and end our reliance on fossil fuels,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “However, public integrity remains a top priority of my office and if dirty tricks are used to facilitate even clean-energy projects, my office will put a stop to it.”

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