According to a press release I received earlier today, "Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) today sent letters to 100 fossil fuel companies, trade groups, and other organizations to determine whether they are funding scientific studies designed to confuse the public and avoid taking action to cut carbon pollution, and whether the funded scientists fail to disclose the sources of their funding in scientific publications or in testimony to legislators." Among those companies were two based in Virginia: Richmond-based Dominion "Global Warming Starts Here!" Resources and Bristol-based coal company/polluter Alpha Natural Resources. My attitude is that it couldn't have happened to two nicer companies. :) In all seriousness, though, their answers to these questions should be fascinating. Great work by Senators Markey, Boxer and Whitehouse on this!
The following press release is from Jennifer Boysko, who hopefully will be the next delegate from the 86th House district!
HERNDON- This morning Del. Tom Rust announced his retirement on the floor of the Virginia House of Delegates. Jennifer Boysko, the Democratic Candidate for the 86th House District, made the following statement regarding Del. Rust's announcement:
"I want to thank Tom Rust for his many years of service to our community as a Delegate and as Mayor of Herndon. When Tom first ran for Delegate, I volunteered for his campaign because I had so much respect for him as Mayor. While we have disagreed on several issues over the years, he has always been committed to serving his constituents and our community to the best of his ability, working in the harsh political environment, which has become more and more divisive over the years. His accomplishments especially on transportation and fiscal responsibility are to be celebrated and will be appreciated for decades to come."
"It is always difficult to run against someone you personally respect. I challenged him because I have been troubled by the Republicans in Richmond who have made it more difficult to govern in a moderate, common-sense manner, as Tom Rust so capably did as our mayor."
"I wish him well in whatever endeavor he pursues next and thank him again for his public service."
(This is highly relevant to Virignia, where the State Corporation Commission has been "captured" by Dominion Power and fossil fuel interests, and is essentially regulated by the corporations, not the other way around. - promoted by lowkell)
Influence pedaling in America is a $9 billion a year industry. It's as big as Major League Baseball or NASA's Mars spacecraft program, changing from direct meetings with lawmakers to a vertically integrated set of businesses that work every stage of government decision making - including the shaping of public opinion.
The point is that as a growth industry, influence peddling needs to find new ways to grow to accommodate the ever-expanding ranks for former staff and public officials who want to make big money after their public "service."
So it was only a matter of time before previously sleepy public offices, such state assembly offices, state public utility commissions, and writers of obscure cost-benefit analyses became part of the influence peddling playbook. That's particularly true now that the big shifts in the energy industry are under way. Rooftop solar on people's homes has been declared a "mortal threat" by the lobbying arm of the utility industry, which has launched a very concerted effort to penalize their customers for buying less of their product.
Regulatory Capture in State Agencies In many states, commissioners have been lured to ally themselves with the industries they are charged with regulating. There is a term for this, created by Nobel Prize winner Economist George J. Stigler over 50 years ago: "Regulatory capture."
It's late, but just a few quick thoughts on this news. First, it's waaaaaaaayyyy too early to start a race for 2017, when we're just two months into 2015, and just over a year after Terry McAuliffe, Ralph Northam and Mark Herring were sworn in as Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General, respectively. I mean, I agree with Northam that "if you're gonna run for governor, you can't do it at the last minute," but February 2015 is far from the "last minute" for a Democratic primary in June 2017.
Second, our focus this year, now that the General Assembly session is winding down, needs to be on taking back the State Senate, with a secondary goal of picking up seats in the House of Delegates, not on starting a contest between Northam and Herring (and whoever else) for 2017.
Third, after 2015 we need to focus on making sure the Democratic nominee for President carries Virginia in 2016, and also on hopefully beating Barbara Comstock, maybe Scott Rigell and others as well. Again, we should NOT be focusing on the 2017 governor's race when we have other, more pressing things to worry about.
Fourth, it seems to me that the AG's office is a much stronger platform to get stuff done than the LG position, unless perhaps the Senate is evenly divided and the LG gets to break a lot of ties (which hasn't been the case this year). Thus, over the past year, we've seen AG Herring in high-profile cases dealing with immigration (e.g., Virginia attorney general declares 'dreamers' eligible for in-state tuition) and marriage equality -- issues with great appeal to the "base." Perhaps that factored into why Northam felt the need to jumpstart this race so soon?
Finally, I'm not sure it bodes well for a unified Democratic Party heading into 2017 that Northam hadn't "discussed my next step" with Herring. I don't get that one at all.
Good riddance this horrible bill (would have made the contents of execution drugs secret - seriously!), which just went down to defeat in the Teapublican-controlled Virginia House of Delegates by a 56-42 vote (I hear all Dems voted to kill it). I also hear that Del. Rick Morris (R) basically argued government of/by/for the people, and that government shouldn't do anything in secret. Del. Charniele Herring (D) correctly argued that killing human beings shouldn't be done under a veil of secrecy. In contrast, our old pal Del. Dave Albo (R), infamous for this embarrassing performance (among many many others) said it wasn't a big deal. Finally, Dick Saslaw deserves condemnation for sponsoring this horrible bill, as does any Democrat - or Republican, but you kinda expect it from them - who voted for this.
Turns out they were right. There is a self-anointed death panel and it meets in this building. Recall they said that healthcare would be rationed? Now that they've managed it, they are quite proud of their accomplishment. What Republicans really relish is the surreptitious method: don't decide, just deny.
Millions and millions and millions of your federal tax dollars have been flushed down the Potomac only to be harvested by wiser state legislatures. What could have been a catalyst for not only broad medical service sector growth but also the survival of rural medical clinics and hospitals was set aside for base political posturing. This should have been a simple financial decision. Instead it was a cynical sacrifice of their voiceless, powerless constituents for the protection of their own political hides.
Let's consider the costs because they are not limited to those dollars passed on to other states. Some number amounting to just under 5% of Virginians are without healthcare coverage because Medicaid expansion has been denied. That doesn't mean they go without healthcare. In many cases it means they go without healthcare until there is a crisis and then an emergency room visit and expensive procedure are required. Who pays for that? You can make up all kinds of voodoo financial and economic formulas but the costs get passed to those who are covered in increased insurance premiums and/or copays and/or deductibles. And maybe more importantly, in scarcer medical service resources. Visit an emergency room for the Republican version of healthcare delivery in the unregulated free market. They simply don't understand that the risk pool is the risk pool. No one in America is denied care in an emergency and those emergencies are exponentially more costly than preventive care. Republican denial of coverage poisons the well that feeds the pool. Welcome to the Teapublican Utopia.
On the other hand, some number amounting to just under 5% of Virginians now have healthcare insurance through the Federal Marketplace established by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. That hasn't solved every problem but it goes a long way in that direction. While some are subsidized, these policies are not some government giveaway. They are a way Americans can take responsibility for their financial exposure. Republicans talk about individual responsibility in a vacuum. They like to preach about it but don't want to facilitate it. The fact is that 60% of bankruptcies in the United States involve medical indebtedness. Healthcare insurance builds a firewall between personal financial survival and insolvency leading to financial disaster.
As President Obama prepares to veto a bill trying to force through approval of the filthy, dangerous, environment-trashing, very-few-jobs-creating Canadian tar sands export pipeline, I agree with what Miles Grant has to say: this is a great example of how activism can beat conventional wisdom.
Del. Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke City), who was elected to fill the vacated seat of former Del. Onzlee Ware, authored a bill, HB 1297, to give localities the option to lower local taxes on machinery and tools for businesses producing or generating renewable energy or making equipment that will produce energy from renewable sources. The bill has passed both the House of Delegates and the State Senate and is being sent to Gov. McAuliffe for his signature.
"Every single Virginian benefits from a better environment and more energy independence," Rasoul told the Roanoke Free Press. "We must look at the big picture and do what's right for the environment and for future generations. Continuing to invest primarily in fossil fuels is both untenable and harmful to the planet, so we've got to start shifting our focus to clean and renewable forms of energy."
The bill was supported by the League of Conservation Voters and the Virginia Sierra Club and gives municipalities the option to lower the machinery and tools tax rate for businesses such as solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources.
Voting against lowering business tax rates to attract companies of the future were: Senate: Black, Chafin, Garrett, Martin, McWaters, Obenshain, Reeves, Smith, Stanley, Stuart. House: Adams, Bell, Richard P., Bell, Robert B., Berg, Cline, Gilbert, Landes, Morris, Peace, Poindexter, Webert. And I thought all GOPers never missed a chance to lower a business tax!
Sam Rasoul is a new breed of representative in Richmond, and I hope he is joined by more like him after November. He stays in touch with his constituents, he is always approachable, and he looks to the future, not the past.
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Tuesday, February 24. Also, check out likely 2017 Republican candidate for statewide office Pete Snyder basically laughing off Rudy Guiliani's despicable remarks about President Obama ("I do not believe that the president loves America ... He wasn't brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country." Giuliani also claimed his remarks weren't racist because Barack Obama "was brought up by a white mother, a white grandfather, went to white schools, and most of this he learned from white people." Oh, and Giuliani added, "From the time he was 9 years old, [Barack Obama] was influenced by Frank Marshall Davis, who was a communist.") So...yeah, that's the vitriol and slime that Pete Snyder's defending.
The Virginia Sierra Club reports: "Historic Event Today in Dominion Resources Accountability. Several protesters were arrested after blocking access to Dominon's Corp HQ and energy futures trading floor. While Sierra Club did not participate in the civil disobedience, [Richmond Conservation Program Coordinator] Kendyl Crawford spoke at the demonstration." Here's some of what the speakers had to say.
"Today, this is about civil disobedience opposition to the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline...this is not the way to a sustainable future...Dominion basically has a monopoly in Virginia, and it actually recently pushed through legislation to make themselves have even more of a monopoly; they're the largest non-party contributor to the Democratic and the Republican Party. Right now, pipelines are very much the front lines of climate justice. We're out here saying that we don't more entrenched fossil fuel infrastracture, we want renewable energy...this pipeline is the wrong way to go...we're trying to encourage our legislators and our leaders to make the right decision and to not build this pipeline, [but instead] to invest in renewable energy for a sustainable future. The future is not about...all of the many risks associated with natural gas -- pipeline explosions, toxic fracking, which is a huge threat to both air quality and water quality..."
"We have a moral obligation to act...Climate impacts are already being felt here in the Richmond area...The National Climate Assessment released last year announced that children, the elderly, the sick, the poor and some communities of color are the most at risk of the negative health impacts of climate change...the impacts of climate change are here today and they will intensify existing threats to health...We can not afford to let climate change amplify our health risks...African Americans are three times more likely to die from asthma-related causes than Caucasians...Approximately 78% of African Americans live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant. Although coal is often hailed as being one of the most cost-effective energy solutions, this does not take into account all of the burdens that weigh down on the communities closest to the plants. Unfortunately, African Americans...end up suffering from increased rates of asthma, lost school and work days, not to mention lead exposure...Surely these expenses should be calculated as the true cost of our energy production. Which is why I am thrilled that just last year, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed the Clean Power Plan...the first-ever national limit on carbon pollution from our power plants...cutting carbon pollution will not only protect our public health, but our public safety as well."
Duke University is out with a new study, The Solar Economy: Widespread Benefits for North Carolina, that illustrates what our neighbor to the south has been accomplishing with "solar-friendly policies," while Virginia languishes due to fossil-fuel-driven, backward-looking obstacles to clean energy development. Among the benefits to North Carolina (but not to Virginia) cited by the Duke report include: "North Carolina is home to over 450 companies involved in the solar industry, and they support approximately 4,307 jobs and represent at least $2 billion of direct investment in the state;" "providing jobs and economic development opportunities to all parts of the state, including rural areas that have struggled historically to create jobs and businesses;" "tax revenue that goes to local counties in very rural, poor parts of the state." Keep in mind that North Carolina's climate and sunshine are not much different than Virginia's, so there's absolutely no good reason that Virginia can't be reaping these benefits as well.
In case you missed the big story this weekend, the New York Times reported that climate science denier and right-wing favorite "Wei-Hock Soon, known as Willie, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics," "accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers." As a result, as the Washington Post puts it this morning, "Things just got very hot for climate deniers' favorite scientist." Of course, Soon is just the tip of the iceberg, as there's a veritable industry of fossil-fuel-funded climate science deniers running around out there, befouling our public discourse, just as the dirty energy companies they've sold their souls to are befouling our air and water.
Anyway, as it turns out, our old pal Ken Cuccinelli, when he was (appallingly) Attorney General of Virginia and waging a witch-hunt against climate science (and specifically against leading climate scientist Michael Mann), was busy citing some of those fossil-fuel-funded climate science deniers. That includes, as you can see below (from Cooch's "Civil Investigative Demand" against the University of Virginia, none other than...that's right, Willie Soon, who was falsely smearing the meticulous research of Michael Mann and many other scientists on the famous "hockey stick" graph. Not that Cuccinelli acting like this comes as a big surprise, but still, it's yet more evidence of how "in bed" with fossil fuel interests Cuccinelli was when he was Attorney General of Virginia. Now, can someone please explain to me why THAT is legal, even as Bob and Maureen McDonnell face possible jail time for their corrupt (but arguably, FAR less severe and damaging than Cooch's) behavior?
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Monday, February 23. Also check out President Obama speaking to the National Governors Association Dinner at the White House yesterday.
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