March 22nd, 2017
The Great Plains Institute has long been a problem, and it remains a problem, evidenced in today’s missive trying to bootstrap onto tRump’s “infrastructure” agenda, by releasing a “White Paper” “calling on President Trump and Congress to make CO2 pipelines a priority component of a broader national infrastructure agenda and recommending that the federal government support the development of CO2 pipeline networks.” Oh, great… brilliant idea, just brilliant.
Great Plains Institute a problem? Yes. They were paid handsomely to promote coal gasification, projects including but not limited to Excelsior Energy’s Mesaba Project, the boondoggle of boondoggles. For example:
January 18th, 2007
Carbon capture and storage/sequestration was seen by many circa 2005 as a “way forward for coal.” So the Walton’s Bill Grant said. No. It wasn’t.
It wasn’t a “way forward for coal” then, and it isn’t now.
The market has spoken on coal, and it’s clear that coal is on the way out as coal companies go bankrupt, as coal generated electricity languishes on the energy market, and as the inefficient and costly older coal plants have closed, with newer larger plants waiting in queue to be shuttered.
And CO2 capture and storage/sequestration is a farce. Why? Well, we learned a lot about CO2 capture in our fight against Excelsior Energy’s Mesaba Project. That’s where the Public Utilities Commission determined that it was just to expensive and risky to approve a Power Purchase Agreement — go HERE and search for PUC Docket 05-1933. Here’s a rough visual of CO2 capture and storage/use:
So what’s the problem?
- First, capture is costly and difficult, particularly capturing any significant portion of CO2 generated.
- The higher percentage captured, the higher the cost of that capture, and high percentage capture has not been achieved.
- The cost of capture is not only the cost to physically do it, the hardware, technology, and engineering, but there is a high cost in efficiency of the CO2 producer, a parasitic cost, meaning that if you’re capturing that CO2, you’re paying a high price in efficiency of an already inefficient process (burning is always inefficient).
- And another parasitic cost, these pipelines require pumping stations to pressurize andpump it into the pipeline, a pumping station every 75 miles or so to keep that pressure up, and a pumping station at the destination, and those pumping stations require 4-10 MW of power, depending.
- Environmentally, the impacts of digging up land for hundreds of miles is immense.
- These are private projects and for a private project, a private purpose, eminent domain isn’t available for the taking of people’s land.
Yet this CO2 capture and storage/sequestration farce continues, evidenced in the most recent Great Plains Institute missive I found in the inbox, here the missive’s link to CO2 capture and storage for oil extraction, “Enhanced Oil Recovery”.
Here’s their “White Paper” with what they’ll be lobbying for:
Short version: The federal government should make this CO2 pipeline and infrastructure build out happen across the country, a la the Interstate highway system.
In light of tRump’s Executive Order 13766, Expediting Environmental Reviews and Approvals for High Priority Infrastructure Projects, that’s a scary notion.
Check out this site from Global CCS Institute, and note, they talk of benefits, but look for talk of costs. Hmm…
A “way forward for coal?” CO2 capture? Over my dead polar bear.
March 16th, 2017
tRump loses again. Here’s the Order of the Maryland judge:
March 14th, 2017
There he goes again…
We know Steve Bannon wants “deconstruction the administrative state.” The theory:
Where does he think the regulations come from, what regulations are based on? Legislation, no?
Most every day, I send a note to the White House. Today:
Missive of the Day
I’m reading the Presidential Executive Order on a Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch. It is an invitation to gut or eliminate agencies, part of the “Deconstruction of the Administrative State” agenda. I understand the meaning of “deconstruction of the administrative state,” but I do not understand why a “President” would support it. Do you not understand that the “Administrative State” is the arm of the Executive Branch, that the agencies are the President’s power in the three-legged checks and balances of our government? Do you not understand that this castrates the Executive Office? Makes no sense, it’s against interest, to put it mildly. Further the work of the agencies, if not done, if agencies are eliminated, will inflict great harms on America and the American people. And how much money will be wasted in this nonsensical effort, how much agency time, public comment time?
And a technicality, but an important nonsensical statement — this part of the Executive Order is in direct conflict with the purpose of this Executive Order, DOH!
Sec. 3. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or…
The whole purpose of this Executive Order, and the “deconstruction of the administrative state” is to undermine authority granted by law to executive departments and agencies. Why would a President seek to undermine his power by gutting the Executive Branch? This castration is self-destructive — much as I want to see the Trump Administration neutered, this “deconstruction of the administrative state” goal, as a goal for a “President,” makes no sense to me.
Here’s the full Executive Order, just in case it disappears, or is different when it comes out in the Federal Register:
– – – – – – –
COMPREHENSIVE PLAN FOR REORGANIZING THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:
Section 1. Purpose. This order is intended to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of the executive branch by directing the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (Director) to propose a plan to reorganize governmental functions and eliminate unnecessary agencies (as defined in section 551(1) of title 5, United States Code), components of agencies, and agency programs.
Sec. 2. Proposed Plan to Improve the Efficiency, Effectiveness, and Accountability of Federal Agencies, Including, as Appropriate, to Eliminate or Reorganize Unnecessary or Redundant Federal Agencies. (a) Within 180 days of the date of this order, the head of each agency shall submit to the Director a proposed plan to reorganize the agency, if appropriate, in order to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of that agency.
(b) The Director shall publish a notice in the Federal Register inviting the public to suggest improvements in the organization and functioning of the executive branch and shall consider the suggestions when formulating the proposed plan described in subsection (c) of this section.
(c) Within 180 days after the closing date for the submission of suggestions pursuant to subsection (b) of this section, the Director shall submit to the President a proposed plan to reorganize the executive branch in order to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of agencies. The proposed plan shall include, as appropriate, recommendations to eliminate unnecessary agencies, components of agencies, and agency programs, and to merge functions. The proposed plan shall include recommendations for any legislation or administrative measures necessary to achieve the proposed reorganization.
(d) In developing the proposed plan described in subsection (c) of this section, the Director shall consider, in addition to any other relevant factors:
(i) whether some or all of the functions of an agency, a component, or a program are appropriate for the Federal Government or would be better left to State or local governments or to the private sector through free enterprise;
(ii) whether some or all of the functions of an agency, a component, or a program are redundant, including with those of another agency, component, or program;
(iii) whether certain administrative capabilities necessary for operating an agency, a component, or a program are redundant with those of another agency, component, or program;
(iv) whether the costs of continuing to operate an agency, a component, or a program are justified by the public benefits it provides; and
(v) the costs of shutting down or merging agencies, components, or programs, including the costs of addressing the equities of affected agency staff.
(e) In developing the proposed plan described in subsection (c) of this section, the Director shall consult with the head of each agency and, consistent with applicable law, with persons or entities outside the Federal Government with relevant expertise in organizational structure and management.
Sec. 3. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or
(ii) the functions of the Director relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.
(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.
(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
DONALD J. TRUMP
THE WHITE HOUSE,
March 13, 2017.
March 13th, 2017
Lake Pepin on a very warm blustery day last week
There’s a bill out there that will eliminate Minnesota’s Environmental Quality Board and shove that work over to the MPCA, at the same time, gutting DNR and MPCA review by linking to funding or lack thereof. Shifting preparation of environmental documents to the project applicant. This is not crying wolf, this is happening, it is going through committees in both House and Senate, and I’m at a loss to describe how awful this is. Here’s the point, in short:
Mindful that defunding is a primary means to neuter an agency, check this, for the DNR, but repeated as amendment to 116.07 for Pollution Control Agency in lines 10.3-10.15:
Look at line 3.32 “nor shall it expire without the consent of the permittee.” Gutting DNR and MPCA authority. Failure to fund agencies is such a problem that the MPCA has a backlog of expired permits. This means that permits would go on and on and on, because permit violations are not usually an “imminent threat” but instead a long term cumulative impact.
How about this — earth to Mars, environmental review is not decisional, nothing should be deemed approved because an EIS is approved:
The project applicant prepares the Draft Environmental Impact Statement? WHAT?!?!
Still picking out more specifics…
Bottom line, Minnesotans, here’s the “TO DO” of the day. Contact the House and Senate authors, and send a quick round of emails or call the House Ways & Means and Senate Environment and Natural Resources Finance. Focus on the authors and Republican members. Tell them to vote this bill DOWN! Contact info below.
Here are the House authors:
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Here are the Senate authors:
Senate Status: TEXT – was Amended and amendment not posted. TWO Committee meetings scheduled, one TODAY, BUT status is conflicting:
|Committee on State Government Finance and Policy and Elections|
|03/13/2017||Meeting scheduled for 05:30 PM in Room 1200 Minnesota Senate Bldg.|
|03/13/2017||No Committee Action Recorded|
|Committee on Environment and Natural Resources Finance|
|03/15/2017||Meeting scheduled for 10:30 AM in Room 1150 Minnesota Senate Bldg.|
Here’s the conflict, says it’s already been through State Gov’t Finance despite above 5:30 schedule!
So I think the best bet is to contact Environment & Natural Resources Finance:
March 11th, 2017
Contact Sen. Mike Goggin!
I’ve been keeping an eye on him because he’s our latest “Senator from Xcel,” following Sen. Steve Murphy (January 5, 1993 – January 3, 2011). And with reason… he’d been carrying water for Xcel Energy, sponsoring a bill to allow Xcel, his employer, to circumvent the Certificate of Need requirement, that a utility prove up “need” and that it is least cost, before building. Alan Muller wrote a letter which the STrib printed that was published on February 7:
HF113/SF85 would (1) authorize Xcel to build a new power plant without getting a Certificate of Need from the Public Utilities Commission; (2) require the PUC to make Xcel customers pay for it, and (3) establish a scheme for an inflated rate of return for the plant.
The point of a Certificate of Need is to ensure that ratepayers don’t pay for unjustified capital projects. For Xcel to use its political clout in this way suggests the company knows the project cannot be justified except to inflate its “rate base” and thereby its profits.
These bills are discreditable to all the legislators involved, but especially concerning is that one of the Senate authors, Mike Goggin, who represents my district (21), is an Xcel manager.
Sen. Goggin’s authorship of a bill so flagrantly benefiting his employer at the expense of his constituents should be considered an ethics violation.
Alan Muller, Red Wing, Minn.
On January 19th, the House amended the companion bill, HF113, to include language making Xcel Energy’s gas plant subject to some scrutiny, and then turned around and took it OUT on the floor February 9. Goggin withdrew as an author on February 16, 2017 (p. 645). Governor Dayton signed it on February 28, 2017.
So on to SF 899.
Only two Senate authors listed, Senators Goggin and Weber. Goggin moved that it be pulled it from Agriculture, Rural Development and Housing Finance and forwarded to Agriculture, Rural Development and Housing Policy, which passed. On March 2, it was removed from that Committee agenda, and then labeled as “PENDING REFERRAL.” It seems to have stalled out. ???
So on the House side, it’s HF 1032. Only two authors here too, McDonald and Anderson, P. From the minutes, “Representative Pierson renewed his motion that HF1032 be re-referred to the committee on Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance. THE MOTION PREVAILED.” Listen to the House committee hearing starting at 27:06 to 1:14:50 (my comments in parens). This has been re-referred to Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance.
- $12.75 an hour average (and employer pays transportation from country of origin to site, housing, meals or kitchen facilities) – tape at 28:06
- about a year and a half ago, farmers raised question as to whether overtime rule applies and found it does apply – tape at 28:40
- a worker cannot provide enough produce in an hour to justify overtime, produce left in the fields – tape at 28:50
- “This bill was up a couple years ago” hmmmmmmmm, it didn’t pass tape at 37:55
- Adding up the transportation, housing, meals/kitchenette, that comes to average of $17-19/hour, add the overtime and we just can’t afford that – tape at 43:40
- What is the behavior in the broader field? Grievances brought, settlement, year or two ago, maybe longer – tape at 45.38
- We don’t have enough people in Minnesota that will do this kind of work (at these long hours!?!) – tape at 49:18
- For $17-19/hour, I think people would show up, wondering about efforts done, have you tried to offer that kind of wage, attract local Minnesotans? It’s seasonal employment… – tape at 52:24
- “those workers don’t pay taxes, while they’re here” (is that true? Yes, but, or no, but, here’s the scoop) tape at 54:15
- We’ll hire you if you can walk or breathe, that’s how short we are – tape at 56:07
- We’re obligated under federal rules to advertise at $12.75 (not limited to $12.75, but must advertise at least $12.75, and could but don’t advertise for $17-19) – tape at 56:19
- Do any of these workers have other jobs? We’re not allowed to allow them to work at any other place by the statute they’re committed to working under the contract they’ve signed with us as an employer (and they can’t therefore just quit, this is NOT “at will” employment where they have the option to quit, they’re stuck) – tape at 1:10:25
- They’re just trying to be in compliance with the federal law (?!?) – tape at 1:13:21
How is this not a case where the market has spoken and the employers must pay the freight rather than exploit the workers? To get H2A visa workers, they must demonstrate that they cannot find US workers to hire. Do they offer that $17-19/hour to local/US workers? Given the “fight for $15” minimum wage campaign across the nation, methinks that they wages they’re offering generally are not even close.
What to do? Contact House Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance. Ask that they reject HF1032, that this is not in the public interest, workers deserve overtime pay, and pick and chose from reasons above, listen to the tape if you have time, to get a feel for the issues.
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