Saturday, January 31, 2009

Nevada Humane Lobby Day-Carson City

Nevada State Capitol, Room TBD
401 South Carson Street
Carson City, NV 89701

Date: 2/12/2009 from 10:00 am - 4:00 pm (Pacific Time)

Hosted By: Kelley Dupps
(202) 955-3678

RSVP by: February 5, 2009 at 5:00 pm (Pacific Time)

Think only professional lobbyists can lobby? Think again! The Humane Society of the United States invites you to participate in the Nevada Humane Lobby Day in Carson City to make a tremendous difference for animals.

This is an exciting opportunity to meet directly with your elected officials or their staff about legislation that will significantly impact animals. There will be a briefing on tips for lobbying and an overview of pending animal legislation which will prepare you to meet your elected officials and advocate for animals. R.S.V.P. today to lend your voice for animals and make a difference in Nevada.

Hope to see you there!

Click on title above for registration info;

Salazar to revisit scandals at Int

By JUDITH KOHLER Associated Press Writer

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Thursday that he will revisit a sex-and-drugs scandal that rocked his agency in his bid to clean up ethical lapses at the nation's biggest landowner.

Telling reporters that "there's a new sheriff in town," Salazar visited the Colorado office of the Minerals Management Service to tell employees there he plans a fresh review of unethical behavior at the agency.

More than a half dozen workers at the Colorado office were disciplined or fired last year after they were accused of using drugs, having sex with oil and gas industry representatives and accepting gifts from them.

"We will be directing a re-examination of the criminal disposition of matters that were investigated," Salazar said during a wind-whipped news conference outside the MMS office in the Denver Federal Center.

Salazar, a former Colorado senator, said he'll review those actions to determine if they were handled properly. The review will be led by his chief of staff, Tom Strickland, the former U.S. attorney for Colorado.

"As I read the very extensive reports that had been prepared by the inspector general, I have some lingering questions," Salazar said. "So what I want to do is make sure the findings that he made and the recommendations that were made by the inspector general and by the others are being faithfully implemented and that the dispositions that were made by the Department of Justice were in fact were the correct dispositions."

The department will also review the discipline and firings of employees involved in the scandal publicized after an Interior Inspector General's report issued last September.

The report described a "culture of substance abuse and promiscuity" in the office from 2002 through 2006. During that time, the report found some employees were getting drunk and having sex with oil company personnel. It also highlighted instances where co-workers in the office used cocaine and marijuana.

Flanked by Strickland and Interior Inspector General Earl Devaney, Salazar said he spoke to several hundred MMS employees before the news conference about his plans and a new strict code of ethics that will discourage "even the appearance of impropriety."

The department will also review the various reports and recommendations, including from the General Accounting Office, for reforming the MMS and possibly restructure the federal royalty program to ensure that taxpayers are getting a fair return on public resources.

The reaction from employees to his announcements was mixed, Salazar said. There is concern about the reviews, but Salazar said he told them that he considers most of the employees "fine, upstanding public servants."

The inspector general's report accused 13 former and current Interior Department employees in Denver and Washington of misconduct, including influencing contracts and working part-time as private oil consultants.

David Smith, MMS spokesman, declined Thursday to say how many people were disciplined or fired, citing privacy concerns.

Two former employees based in Washington pleaded guilty — one for violating conflict-of-interest law, the other for violating post-government employment restrictions. Devaney has questioned why the Justice Department decided against pursuing two other former employees for allegedly rigging contracts.

Since his Jan. 20 confirmation as head of Interior, Salazar has promised a thorough review of ethical misconduct. He says the actions of a few, including political appointees, has unfairly tarnished the department, which oversees 500 million acres of federal land, including national parks and employs 67,000.

Salazar has cited the 2007 criminal conviction of Steven Griles, former deputy Interior secretary, who pleaded guilty to lying to a Senate committee about influence peddling and his association with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

High-ranking Interior Department officials in the Bush administration were accused of ignoring science in favor of politics on such issues as protecting endangered species, offshore drilling management of parks and other federal lands.

The Interior Department last year reversed seven rulings by Julie MacDonald, a former deputy assistant overseeing the Fish and Wildlife Service, that denied endangered species increased protection. An investigation found that MacDonald had applied political pressure in those cases.

The Interior Department has a budget of $15.8 billion and oversees programs ranging from protecting endangered species to issuing oil and gas leases.

Last year it collected $23 billion in royalties from oil and gas taken from federal land and waters.


On the Net:

Interior Department:

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Interior Ignored Science When Limiting Water to Grand Canyon

by: Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post

Interior Department officials ignored key scientific findings when they limited water flows in the Grand Canyon to optimize generation of electric power there, risking damage to the ecology of the spectacular national landmark, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

A Jan. 15 memo written by Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Steve Martin suggests that the department produced a flawed environmental assessment to defend its actions against environmentalists in court. »

WildEarth Gardians Speak Out Against Gov't Waste

Environmentalists call on appointee to end waste

By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN Associated Press Writer

Western environmentalists are holding the Obama administration to its pledge to make the federal government more efficient, asking that it investigate several natural resource programs they describe as wasteful and environmentally harmful.

WildEarth Guardians sent a letter Tuesday to Nancy Killefer, President Barack Obama's new chief performance officer. She was hired earlier this month to make federal programs more efficient and to help eliminate those that don't work.

John Horning, WildEarth Guardians executive director, said the administration's interest in stamping out waste can have a positive impact on the environment aside from chipping away at the federal deficit.

"It's a new day and our economy is falling apart," Horning said. "With a new day, we have renewed optimism that some of these totally antiquated federal programs that waste taxpayer money and cause environmental harm will finally be reformed or all together eliminated."

In the letter, Horning targets issues that have long raised the ire of environmentalists, including grazing on public land, mining, federal timber sales and oil and gas operations regulated by the Bureau of Land Management.

WildEarth Guardians claims that despite BLM's best management practices, natural gas producers vent 148 billion cubic feet of methane each year. At $5 per thousand cubic feet, this amounts to more than $740 million of lost income.

"Not only does this represent a loss in royalty revenue for the United States, the escaped methane is a significant source of global warming pollution," the letter states.

BLM and industry officials maintain that they have been working together to limit the venting of gases by installing emissions equipment at well sites and limiting travel across oil and natural gas fields by using remote monitoring technology.

WildEarth Guardians also highlights northeast Wyoming's Powder River Basin in its letter. The group claims that decisions by federal land managers have allowed coal companies to draw their own lease boundaries, resulting in less competition and below market lease rates.

The group also claims revenue is being lost on public lands grazing. Ranchers were charged the federal minimum of $1.35 per cow per month to graze public land last year, while grazing fees on equivalent private land averaged $15.90 in 2007, according to the letter.

Horning said he thinks "no stone should go unturned" in the effort to improve government.

"I think every one of these problematic natural resource policies, if modernized or reformed or eliminated, is going to lead to a leaner, more efficient government so we can better use taxpayer dollars," he said.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The New HR 503

With the 111th Congress comes a new opportunity to end the transport of American horses for slaughter in Mexico and Canada: please call your U.S. Representative and urge him/her to co-sponsor the newly-introduced Conyers-Burton Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act (H.R. 503).

While our Campaign?s main focus is on keeping wild horses in the wild, we must also ensure that the thousands of wild horses unnecessarily rounded up each year do not end up over the border at Mexican or Canadian slaughterhouses. Although the last remaining U.S. slaughterhouses have closed their doors, slaughter remains our wild horses? greatest threat once they have been removed from the range. Nothing the Bureau of Land Management says or does will change that sad reality.

Please visit and enter your zip code to locate your U.S. Representative. Remind him/her that horse slaughter is NOT humane euthanasia and that America?s wild horses are also being slaughtered - we should not allow these living symbols of our Nation to end up as a gourmet meal for diners in Europe and Asia (which is where horse meat is exported to).

On behalf of America?s wild horses, thank you for your support.

The AWHPC Team
American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Salazar cites ethical lapses at Interior Dept.

By H. JOSEF HEBERT Associated Press Writer
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Thursday the department has been "painted unfairly" because of ethical lapses and criminal activity among some past political appointees.

In his first address to department workers, Salazar vowed to lead with "openness in decision-making, high ethical standards and respect to scientific integrity."

"We will ensure Interior Department decisions are based on sound science and the public interest and not special interests," declared Salazar, alluding to complaints that the Bush administration frequently ignored science in favor of a political agenda and fostered cozy relationships between officials and energy industries.

The former Colorado senator told employees gathered in the department's auditorium and in offices across the country: "This department has suffered because of ethical lapses and criminal activity at the highest level."

"There has been a picture of the department that has been painted unfairly on the backs of career employees because of actions by political appointees ... and that era is now changing and it starts today," said Salazar, prompting a long round of applause.

"We will hold people accountable. We expect people to be accountable ... and not tolerate these kind of lapses," he said.

Salazar mentioned no specific misconduct. But various investigations in recent years have revealed conflicts of interest by high-ranking Interior officials, prompting the resignations of a former deputy secretary and an assistant deputy secretary, as well as misconduct in an office overseeing oil leases.

There have been complaints from environmentalists, members of Congress — and privately by career employees of the department — that the views of department scientists often were ignored on such issues as protecting endangered species, offshore drilling management of parks and other federal lands.

Salazar, 53, who comes from a ranching family of fifth-generation Colorado Hispanics, takes the helm of a department that oversees one-fifth of America's land — about a half-billion acres — from national parks and wilderness areas to millions of acres used for grazing and energy development.

Those who work at the department, said Salazar, "have a sacred trust to protect, conserve and enhance these treasures."

But Salazar made clear he is not about to turn his back on energy development, calling the need to move toward greater energy independence "an absolute imperative of our time."

While the country must address global warming, he said, "we cannot move forward by turning off the lights and turning off coal-burning power plants." He said it's important to develop ways to capture carbon dioxide, the leading gas linked to climate change, from coal.

While outlining broad priorities, Salazar stayed away from specifics.

He said he planed to "take a look at" a broad five-year offshore oil drilling plan crafted last week by the Bush administration, indicating he likely will be receptive to scaling it back. Salazar emphasized, as he did during his Senate confirmation hearing, that some additional areas offshore should be open to drilling but that "there are places we ought not to drill." The Bush proposal was issued as a draft with an understanding the new secretary could reject or significantly change it.

Would he consider reversing a decision made in the final weeks of the Bush administration to allow people to carry loaded firearms in the national parks, a U.S. Park Service employee asked, noting that park rangers already face a variety of dangers.

"We'll take a look at that ... I don't have an answer on that right now," replied Salazar, recounting that on his Colorado ranch "I always had a sense of comfort when I had my gun with me."

Asked what 11th-hour regulations from the Bush era that he might want to change, Salazar said he wasn't prepared "to say what we're going to do with any of them at this point."

Obama, as one of his first actions as president, issued an executive order to freeze government-wide those regulations still in the pipeline, including a number involving the Interior Department, until they could be reviewed.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Ambitious Plan Considered to Save Nevada's Wild Horses

Updated: KLAS-TV, Nevada

The new Obama Administration is giving hope to advocates for Nevada's wild horse herds. An ambitious plan to save the horses is quietly being shopped in the capitol.

The plan is being put forward by Madeleine Pickens, wife of billionaire oilman T. Boon Pickens. She wants to create a million-acre wild horse sanctuary in northern Nevada, getting 30,000 wild horses out of government pens.

The BLM has said it can't afford to feed the horses anymore and that it might have euthanize most of the horses.

"In a short four to five years, this would save over $100 million. Using Mrs. Pickens figures that she submitted, that would save $100 million. Given that it helps them out of the short-term crisis, saves them over $100 million, and puts them on a course to save many of these horses that otherwise have an uncertain fate, it's hard to imagine they are going to walk away from this deal," said wild horse advocate Jerry Reynoldson.

The BLM has not given the Pickens plan the ok. Horse advocates are lining up support in Congress, including Nevada's new congresswoman Dina Titus.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Activists buy plot to halt Airport expansion

Jason Alden / Bloomberg News

Protesters complete a message on the plot of land, which is about an acre in the heart of the development area where an extra runway would be situated.
A coalition that includes actress Emma Thompson plans to subdivide its acre in the area proposed for a runway. It hopes the move will bog down British government efforts.
By Henry Chu
January 14, 2009
Reporting from London -- And the award for best stalling tactic goes to . . . a coalition of environmentalists, scientists and actors -- including two-time Oscar winner Emma Thompson -- who are determined to scupper plans by the British government to build a new runway for Heathrow Airport.

The motley crew has bought a small plot, about an acre in size, in the heart of the development area where an extra runway would be situated. The group vows to subdivide the property into hundreds, perhaps thousands, of smaller parcels and sell them off to environmental activists around the world, in an effort to bog down the government if it tries to buy up or seize the land.

On Tuesday, the organization announced that 5,000 supporters had signed up to be named as co-owners of the full plot, in hopes of slowing any initial legal proceedings.

"It started like most good ideas around here, with a conversation down at the pub," the environmental organization Greenpeace said in a blog on its British website. "We're now the proud owners of a small piece of land within the site of the proposed third runway at Heathrow."

The collective purchase is the latest offensive in the long-running battle over enlarging Heathrow. With five terminals serving 68 million passengers a year, the airport is one of the world's busiest, both as a destination for incoming visitors and as a transit hub for travelers hopping between continents.

Airport officials, business organizations and the government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown contend that expanding Heathrow is vital to maintaining its status as a leading international airport. The current two runways, they say, are not enough to compete with European rivals or to meet the demands of the 92 airlines that use Heathrow, which is about 15 miles west of central London.

The government has promised to take community opinion into consideration before making a final decision on the third runway this month. In October, dozens of Parliament members in Brown's Labor Party urged the government to rethink its plan.

Opponents argue that the economic benefits of a third runway are overstated and that the environmental and human costs are too great. In addition to increased pollution and noise from more flights, an entire village would have to be razed, displacing hundreds.

"I don't understand how any government remotely serious about committing to reversing climate change can even consider these ridiculous plans," actress Thompson was quoted as saying. "It's laughably hypocritical. . . . We'll stop this from happening even if we have to move in and plant vegetables."

Supporters of the third runway poured scorn on the land purchase as a publicity stunt.

Brian Wilson, a former Labor member of Parliament who chairs the pro-expansion group Flying Matters, told the Guardian newspaper:

"If anti-aviation groups are really serious about climate change, they would be engaging in constructive dialogue with the industry about how we can protect the economic and social benefits it brings whilst dealing with its environmental impact. Instead, they seem more interested in PR stunts with eco-celebrities."

As in the U.S., the British government has powers of eminent domain that would allow it to force property owners to sell if it decides to go ahead with the airport expansion.

But runway opponents hope that chopping up their parcel into smaller bits would not only give the government a bureaucratic migraine but delay expansion at least until the next election, which is due by spring 2010. The Conservative Party, which is leading in the polls, is against the runway.

Besides Thompson, the coalition includes the comedian Alistair McGowan, opposition politicians, Greenpeace members and scientists.,0,7003333.story

Activist bid to save pristine land

Courtney Sargent / Deseret News

Tim DeChristopher, a college student, has become a sudden celebrity among environmentalists. He’s raised at least $45,000 in donations, enough for a first payment.

To block oilmen, an activist snatches up acres at auction -- with no way to pay. He and the parcels are now in legal limbo.

By Nicholas Riccardi
January 18, 2009

Reporting from Salt Lake City -- Environmental activists were marching glumly outside the Bureau of Land Management offices here one day last month, as inside hundreds of thousands of acres of pristine federal land were auctioned off in an 11th-hour Bush administration effort to leave its mark on the West.

Tim DeChristopher, a 27-year-old college student, had slipped into the auction room and saw a woman he knew, a fellow environmentalist observing the event. She was weeping as Utah's wild lands were sold off parcel by parcel.

DeChristopher decided he had to act. So he began bidding.

By the time BLM officials caught on, DeChristopher had bid $1.79 million he did not have to acquire the rights to 12 parcels totaling 22,000 acres. Federal authorities threatened to prosecute DeChristopher for bidding without cash in hand.

As news of DeChristopher's actions spread, he promptly raised enough for a first payment. On Jan. 9, he announced he had at least $45,000, mostly donated in $5 or $10 increments by thousands of online benefactors.

A federal judge on Monday is due to rule on a lawsuit filed by environmental groups to nullify the lease sales. But DeChristopher and his supporters hope that, should that last-ditch legal effort fail, the money he's raised will delay a final decision on the fate of the parcels he bid on until the inauguration of Barack Obama, whose aides have criticized how the current administration fast-tracked the auction.

"I had really prepared myself for the worst. I was thinking three to five years in prison, that's what I'm looking at," DeChristopher said in an interview last week. "Now things are looking more positive. The fate of that land will either be decided by me or by the Obama administration."

A BLM spokeswoman said DeChristopher's offer of payment was too little, too late. Mary Wilson said he owed $81,000 on the day of the sale and significantly more by Jan. 6. "Since he made up his rules for the auction," she said, "he's making up his rules on how to pay for it."

The agency hasn't decided whether the parcels legally belong to DeChristopher. That will be determined by an investigation by the agency and the U.S. attorney's office here. Until that probe is concluded, DeChristopher's legal status and that of the parcels he bid for are in limbo.

Regardless of the outcome, the soft-spoken DeChristopher has become a sudden celebrity on the environmental circuit. He spent a weekend at the Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival in Nevada County, Calif., courtesy of the event's organizers.

"The guy just showed incredible chutzpah," said Dan Hamburg, a former U.S. congressman from Northern California who is executive director of Voice of the Environment, which donated $5,000 to DeChristopher. "I hope he's inspired a lot of other people to take similar action."

But Kathleen Sgamma, an official with the Independent Petroleum Assn. of Mountain States, said DeChristopher should be prosecuted if BLM determined he acted illegally.

"He is costing the state of Utah a lot of money," Sgamma said.

DeChristopher's gambit caps the recent battle over the energy-rich red rock canyons of southern Utah. The Bush administration has long sought to open the area to more drilling.

On Nov. 4, administration officials announced that they would auction off hundreds of thousands of acres, some abutting popular national parks including Arches and Canyonlands, at a Dec. 19 auction. The BLM did not consult with the National Park Service, as it usually does.

Environmentalists accused the Bush administration of trying to rush through a sale before it left office. The BLM scaled down the sale, dropping a parcel that was under a golf course in the town of Moab and others directly adjacent to national parks. Still, when bidders gathered in Salt Lake City, 131 parcels were for sale.

DeChristopher had an economics exam at the University of Utah that morning. The final question was whether the prices paid at the auction would represent the true cost of energy exploration. The answer, he wrote, was no: They would not take into account the environmental and public health effects of fossil fuels. Then he went to the BLM office to join the picket line.

The scene "was like a funeral march," DeChristopher said.

He decided to enter the building, hoping to disrupt the proceedings. An official inside asked him whether he was there for the auction. Why, yes, DeChristopher responded. Are you a bidder? she asked.

Yes, DeChristopher said.

He was handed a small laminated card with No. 70 on it and ushered into the auction room. After making a few bids to drive up the energy companies' costs, he decided to bid for as many parcels as he could.

"I sat there watching one parcel after another going into the hands of oil developers, and I knew the land would be pretty much ruined," he said. "I got to the point where I couldn't sit there and watch anymore."

He got to 12 parcels before BLM officers ushered him into a rear room for questioning. BLM officials said that when DeChristopher had identified himself as a bidder, he signed a form vowing to pay all necessary fees that day. He said he had no intent to pay. They ejected him from the building, and the bidding resumed.

Afterward, DeChristopher was flooded with encouraging e-mails from as far as Norway. The head of the BLM under President Clinton, Pat Shea, offered to act as his attorney. Environmentalists took up his cause on Facebook.

A Moab-based group is administering the donations. The figure of $45,000 is what BLM officials told him he owed when they detained him.

DeChristopher, who shares a rented house with several roommates, is banking on a summer job with an environmental group to pay his bill.

"I didn't think there was any way they could get $45,000 out of me," he said with a chuckle.,0,7527533.story

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Good Time to Get Ridda Reid

Replace Harry Reid?

Barack Obama will soon be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. He's deep into his transition and moving with dispatch to be ready to work immediately upon taking office. Given all that is on his plate - Israel/Gaza, Iraq, Afghanistan, economic crisis, plunging real estate values; you get the picture - one would think Obama wants to limit distractions as he prepares to enter the White House. But with friends like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Obama now has to deal with what is a tempest in a teapot - the seating of Roland Burris in the U.S. Senate. Reid's leadership on this has been abysmal.

Despite his dirty benefactor, Burris is qualified to serve in the job to which he has been appointed. Denying him a seat in the Senate is petty and unwise, particularly given the much bigger fish the chamber has to fry. Moreover, it is hard to find anyone who believes that Burris will not ultimately be seated. Reid's mishandling of this issue leads me to conclude that now may be the time to revisit Reid's leadership of the Senate Democratic majority. While I'm sure that he is sincere in his belief that anyone appointed by the indicted Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, should not serve in the Senate, I'm also sure that his position is politically stupid and endangering a smooth transition to Democratic control of the government. Every second spent on this issue is one that can't be devoted to convincing the country that the Democrats are prepared to lead.

The Democrats should cut their losses and seat Burris. Perhaps they should cut their losses with Reid, too.

Michael K. Fauntroy is a professor, author, columnist, and commentator. He blogs at:

I Want To Play Poker With Harry Reid

I want to play poker with Harry Reid. Really I do.
by Jane Hamsher, blogging at

Rather than call for a special election in Illinois to fill Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat, Reid sends a letter to Rod Blagojevich signed by everyone in the Democratic caucus asking him to step down. They assert that they will not seat anyone he appoints.


Blago wipes his ass with it and appoints Burris anyway.

Burris holds a press conference and announces he will be in D.C. on Tuesday to be sworn in with the rest of the Senate. Bobby Rush plays the race card. Reid does not see the handwriting on the wall.

He counters by calling Secretary of State Jesse White, who has already said he won't sign Burris's certification, and encourages him. What White is doing is most certainly outside his legal authority -- the Secretary of State doesn't have veto power. But Reid not only gives White a high five, he tells him they'll use this to keep Burris from being seated.

Then he smugly chortles about how he'll manipulate Senate procedure and punt to the Rules Committee, and assures everyone that they will drag things out for months if necessary until Blago is impeached and his successor appoints someone else. And he does it in the press.

Upon reading this, Cornyn announces that Franken won't have a signed certification either, and the GOP will use it to keep him from being seated,

Reuters: "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid yielded to Republican threats and agreed on Monday not to immediately seat fellow Democrat Al Franken."

Blago laughs out loud. This is amateur night in Dixieland. He leaks to the press that he spoke with Reid before the election, and that Reid didn't think any of the African American candidates vying for the seat were "electable," while Tammy Duckworth was. He stirs up the potential jury pool and makes Reid look like an idiot -- the day before Reid is set to appear on Meet the Press.

Reid looks like a cat in a room full of rocking chairs on Meet the Press. Nobody knows how much Fitz has (not even Fitz, who is still trying to transcribe his tapes) or how much he'll need to reveal to prove his case, so Reid says he "doesn't remember" his conversation with Blago, but calls Blago a liar anyway. When asked if he supported Jesse Jackson Jr. for the Senate seat, he says he would support him. And admits that there's "room to negotiate" on Burris.

Burris appears at the Senate on Tuesday. Gets turned away. Could Reid look any worse?


Obama stares down DiFi, appoints Panetta to the CIA, and the NYT breaks the story before she's told (but Ron Wyden already knows). DiFi's fuming.

Despite having been one of the 50 Senators who signed Reid's letter saying Burris would never be seated, she announces that as the outgoing head of the Rules Committee she thinks the Senate has no choice but to seat him.

(Good timing, because Charlie Rangel is already complaining about the Rules Committee dragging its feet.)

Reid can't hold his own caucus in line. Blames Rahm. Gives interview saying "I don't work for Barack Obama."


WaPo: "Burris Backs Reid Into a Corner."

A seventy-one year old dude who hasn't held office for 14 years, appointed by a crook, takes the Senate Majority Leader to the cleaners.

Reid is a red state senator, up for re-election in 2010 and under pressure from the right, who is already making noise about appeasing Republicans who aren't going to be appeased. He's a hazard to Obama's agenda, which is why leading Senate Democrats tried to ease him out as Majority Leader last year.

See: Daschle, Tom.

Burris will be seated. He's not gonna deal.

Why should he?

He's playing poker with Harry Reid.

Jane Hamsher

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Reid Raked Over Coals Re: Blagojevich Call

Spokesman: Senate Leader Reid called Ill gov about Obama's vacant Senate Seat

Jan 3 2009 5:25PM
Spokesman: Senate Leader Reid called Ill gov about Obama's vacant seat

CHICAGO (AP) Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (blah-GOY'-uh-vich) is complaining through his spokesman that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has a conflict of interest regarding the state's U.S.

Senate vacancy.

Lucio Guerrero says that Reid telephoned the governor in early December to discuss the seat being vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

He says he did not know firsthand which candidates the Nevada Democrat supported during the call, but says he knows Reid's candidates didn't include Roland Burris, the man the governor recently picked for Obama's seat.

Guerrero says he thinks the governor believes that Reid showed "he has a horse in the race and Roland Burris wasn't one of them." Reid spokesman Jim Manley says the claim that Reid has a conflict of interest regarding Burris was "absolutely ridiculous."

Monday, January 5, 2009

Reid Called Blagojevich re: Senate Seat

Ya'll remember Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, (D. Nv) a pro-slaughter guy who rated a "0" on AWI's "Compassion Index" for 08';

apparently, he made a call recently,.....


A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says Reid called Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in early December to discuss the seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

Reid spokesman Jim Manley says the Nevada Democrat made one call to Blagojevich on Dec. 3.

That was six days before federal authorities arrested Blagojevich for allegedly trying to sell Obama's seat.

Manley couldn't immediately provide other details.

He says Reid also spoke to the New York and Colorado governors about openings created when senators from those states accepted Obama administration jobs.

Blagojevich spokesman Lucio Guerrero says the call shows Reid has a conflict of interest in saying he won't accept Blagojevich's appointee for the seat, Roland Burris.

Az Museum of the West pushed back a year

What "Museum of the West" would be complete without a wild horse herd?

Scottsdale Museum of the West pushed back a year
By Ari Cohn Tribune

Completion of the Scottsdale Museum of the West, which had been scheduled to coincide with the centennial celebration of Arizona statehood in 2012, will be delayed by up to a year because of the faltering economy, city officials say.

"As you can imagine, in today's world, fundraising is a little more challenging than two to three years ago," said Harold Stewart, Scottsdale economic development director.

Previously, the western-themed museum, slated to host a gallery called "Icons of the West" and rotating exhibitions, had been expected to be done by February 2012, in conjunction with Arizona's celebration of 100 years of statehood. Plans for the 45,000-square-foot museum - to be situated on nearly an acre at the northwest corner of First Street and Marshall Way in Scottsdale's Old Town district - call for a partially solar-powered glass and steel structure, three stories above ground and one below.

Stewart said the expected completion date has been pushed back to early 2013. The city andthe nonprofit Museum of the West, which is spearheading the project, anticipate an ebb in donations because of anemic economic conditions, he said.

The facility's estimated construction cost is $20 million to $25 million, with the nonprofit aiming to raise an additional $5 million for an endowment to fund maintenance and operations, he said.

So far, the city has expended about $1.5 million on feasibility studies and design concepts. Scottsdale has committed to providing another $6 million and leasing the city-owned land to the nonprofit once the group raises $15 million in private donations, Stewart said. The city funding would pay for outdoor projects accessible to the public, like plazas and public art, he said.

Robin Meinhart, Scottsdale's downtown liaison, said officials expect it will take about two years for the nonprofit to reach its funding goals.

"The economic climate has changed everything," she said. "It's a huge sum to obtain."

On Jan. 13, the City Council is scheduled to act on a development agreement with the nonprofit that would establish which aspects of the project each party will be responsible for, she said.

"The intent of the development agreement is to establish a clear and understandable definition of what the roles and responsibilities are between the developers and the city," Meinhart said.

The nonprofit would own and operate the buildings and lease the land from the city for 30 years, with an option for an additional 20 years.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Mining, drilling possible at 2 AZ national parks

January 1, 2009

By ARTHUR H. ROTSTEIN Associated Press Writer

Environmentalists are concerned about possible mining within expanded boundaries of Arizona's Petrified Forest National Park and a planned natural gas well on a New Mexico national monument.

Critics and parks officials say the potential mineral extraction is possible because of privately held lands in the national park system.

A large and now-valuable potash deposit lies under a 195-square-mile addition to the Petrified Forest National Park that Congress authorized in 2004 but failed to fund. That means the park does not own all the land within the expanded area and can't stop mining unless it buys the property.

And at the Aztec Ruins National Monument in northwestern New Mexico, at least one additional natural gas well appears to be on the horizon, with another well also proposed for coalbed methane extraction at the half-square mile monument, said its archaeologist, Gary Brown. The site includes the remains of ancient homes and roundhouses occupied by Pueblo peoples.

Three natural gas wells currently are operating in private landholdings within the monument.

"These are symptomatic of a great problem found in the park system," said Frank Buono, a retired national park superintendent now living in Sierra Vista.

More than 10 percent of the national park system's 131,250 square miles are still privately held lands, and those owners have property rights, said Buono, who also is a board member of the Washington-based Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

The root of the problem, he said, is that funds for the National Park Service to buy those private holdings have virtually dried up.

If new wells and mining occur, said Jeff Ruch, PEER's executive director, it would change the character of both parks.

"In the case of Aztec Ruins, we're talking about multiple oil companies drilling right next to archaeological features. And presumably, people are not going to the monument to watch derricks."

But Ed Hartman, owner of Manana Gas Inc., said its plans to drill sometime next year are mindful of the site's historic significance.

"We're very much aware of the need to protect the Aztec Ruins," said Hartman, whose small energy company is headquartered in Albuquerque, N.M.

Hartman said the new well would be situated on a hill about 100 feet higher than and a half mile from the ruins, and that a derrick used for drilling would be dismantled once the well is completed, leaving only surface equipment.

But drilling wells does have an affect, although its not an intolerable one, said Brown, the monument's archaeologist.

"There is a certain amount of noise as well as the activity of having trucks and personnel," he said. "And all three of the (current) wells require access along the roads, and archaeological sites have been impacted by two of the access roads."

Petrified Forest Acting Superintendent Pat Thompson said the national park doesn't own the land within the expanded boundaries.

Instead, it's a combination of privately owned and state-owned property, "so the park has no control over what goes on in that proposed expansion," she said.

Whether owners of the potash leases in Arizona will mine will depend on what the price of potash is, and also whether it will be strip-type mining or underground mining, Thompson said.

"I have not heard from anybody, and I do not know what they would choose," she said.

Mining cannot occur within the park itself; Congress has put federal lands within a national park off-limits to hardrock mining and leases of oil, gas and other minerals, including potash, with limited leasing exceptions on three national recreation areas.

Where a valuable mineral deposit underlies nonfederal lands inside a park boundary, the owners of the subsurface rights can exercise those rights at some point, Buono said.

He noted that a current fight is brewing in Pennsylvania over land authorized for a national memorial marking where Flight 93 crashed on 9-11. That land remains in private hands and its owners have refused to sell so far, he said.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Another Public Lands Giveaway / Montana

Sarah Gilman | Dec 31, 2008 11:15 AM

Energy companies will be able to drill 18,000 new natural gas wells on 1.5 million federal acres in southeastern Montana's remote Powder River Basin over the next 20 years, thanks an amendment to the area's Resource Management Plan
released by the Bureau of Land Management in the waning days of the Bush administration. The basin, which spans the Wyoming-Montana border, is rich in coalbed methane, and the Wyoming side has boomed with natural gas development in recent years.

The plan may not be as brow-raising a giveaway as six similar plans released in Utah a few months ago. Those documents opened up much of that state's delicate redrock country to oil and gas development and ATVs, and relied on faulty assessments of the potential air quality impacts
to justify the decision to do so. Still, the number of new Powder River Basin wells is particularly eye-catching given that energy companies have drilled only 500 wells in the Montana side of the basin over the past several years.

Rest-assured, though: the BLM has added a caveat. According to the Associated Press,
BLM officials say their latest plan would phase in drilling, meaning it could be halted if environmental problems arose. Agency spokesman Greg Albright said an industry shutdown could come long before all 18,000 predicted wells were drilled.

"If our monitoring shows we're getting into impacts that aren't acceptable, we're going to start making changes right now," he said. "We're not going to wait until we reach some number of wells."

Okay. But if Wyoming's Pinedale Anticline gasfield -- where the agency has allowed drilling to ramp up in the face of steep wildlife declines and unprecedented air pollution -- is any indication, the BLM is not always so good at changing course. And who decides whether an impact is acceptable or not?

Fortunately, the state of Montana and conservation groups scored some important legal victories this December that may help them to better safeguard the Montana half of the basin.

In order to extract coalbed methane, operators must pump massive quantities of water from the coal seams where the gas is trapped. The water is often salty -- making it potentially harmful to crops when it's dumped in rivers used by local irrigators. Irrigators also worry that the pumping could deplete the area's groundwater. Those concerns have spurred some intense legal scuffles between Montana, the feds, Wyoming and energy companies, as Montana has sought to regulate produced water quantity and quality where the Environmental Protection Agency failed to do so.

The two new court rulings have 1) vindicated the state's efforts to regulate the salt in the water as a pollutant, and 2) classified produced methane water as groundwater, meaning that area farmers and ranchers who hold senior water rights now have legal standing protest energy companies' potential overuse of the resource, the Helena Independant Record reports.

In bad economy, states consider selling roads, parks

By MARTIGA LOHN Associated Press

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Minnesota is deep in the hole financially, but the state still owns a premier golf resort, a sprawling amateur sports complex, a big airport, a major zoo and land holdings the size of the Central American country of Belize. Valuables like these are in for a closer look as 44 states cope with deficits.

Like families pawning the silver to get through a tight spot, states such as Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts and Illinois are thinking of selling or leasing toll roads, parks, lotteries and other assets to raise desperately needed cash.

Such projects could be attractive to private investors and public pension funds looking for safe places to put their money in this scary economy, said Leonard Gilroy, a privatization expert with the market-oriented Reason Foundation in Los Angeles.

"Infrastructure is more attractive today than ever," Gilroy said. "It's tangible. It's a road. It's water. It's an airport. It's something that is - you know, you hear the term recession-proof."

New BLM Resource Management Rules Leaves Little Protection for National Monument

By MATTHEW BROWN Associated Press Writer

Federal officials have approved a new management regime for the vast Missouri River Breaks National Monument, closing some roads and backcountry airstrips but still not satisfying conservation groups that sought more sweeping restrictions.

The 590-square mile monument, created in 2001 by President Bill Clinton, cuts through the remote and rugged middle of Montana, along a route explored by Lewis and Clark in the early 1800s.

The new rules govern river and vehicle access, grazing, oil and gas drilling and other uses within the monument. They are laid out in a Resource Management plan that took more than six years to complete and prompted more than 65,000 public comments.

The rules will go into effect after a 30-day appeal period, said Monument Manager Gary Slagel with the Bureau of Land Management.

"This provides opportunities for the public to enjoy the monument, while protecting the resources within the monument," Slagel said.

Of approximately 600 miles of roads that crisscross the monument, 201 miles will be closed and another 111 miles will open only seasonally. Four backcountry airstrips will close, leaving six. And motorized watercraft will be restricted to just three days a week on a 57-mile stretch of the Missouri.

Slagel said it could take two years for the changes to go into effect.

But conservation groups said the BLM had missed a chance to preserve the unique natural beauty of a sprawling, virtually uninhabited corridor along the Missouri River. They wanted more roads closed and air strips eliminated and fewer motorized watercraft on the Missouri.

"This plan treats the monument no differently than any other piece of ground that the BLM manages," Dennis Tighe, a Great Falls attorney and president of Friends of the Upper Missouri River National Monument, wrote in a statement.

Tighe said his group will appeal Tuesday's decision to the BLM's parent agency, the Department of Interior. He said a lawsuit was also possible, although that would not come until after the group further evaluates the new plan.

Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer had also weighed in against the plan.

In a March letter to BLM State Director Gene Terland, Schweitzer highlighted additional roads and one airstrip that the state wanted closed and other roads that should be kept open. He wrote that the BLM was not meeting the goal of balancing public access with preserving "some of the wildest country on all the Great Plains.

Schweitzer called on the agency to set a "higher standard" for the monument and asked for a five-year interim plan to address travel issues. The BLM said in response that the state's concerns had been considered in the development of the new rules.

A spokeswoman said the governor's office "had hoped (the BLM) would take our suggestions seriously."

"We'll continue to look for ways that we can work together to create those opportunities as we move forward," said spokeswoman Sarah Elliot.

During the crafting of those rules over the last several years, livestock interests successfully pushed to maintain grazing leases for ranchers. Approximately 125 square miles of private land are interspersed within the monument, including ranches whose owners run their livestock on both public and private parcels.

Slagel pointed out that Clinton's 2001 proclamation establishing the monument said "grazing permits and all other land laws ... shall continue to apply" after its creation.

Under the rules announced Tuesday, the BLM has authority to modify grazing permits by closing areas or altering the dates when they can be used if livestock are causing environmental damage.

The new rules also preserve oil and gas leases that predated the monument's creation. Slagel estimated that companies hold leases on 43,000 acres for energy development, but said there has been little push to date to develop those tracts.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Dept. of the Inferior Pats Itself on Back; Gives Good Report of Itself which we All Know is a BIG FAT lie

Jan 01, 2009

Bush’s Dept. of Interior Congratulates Itself — Most Disagree
As George W. Bush desperately tries to rewrite history in an effort to secure a positive legacy for himself, we see more and more pronouncements from government insiders and political appointees declaring the great “successes” of the last eight years.

On January 1, The Washington Post reported on a recent effort by the Department of the Interior to spin the facts to the Bush administration’s favor:

As President Bush’s tenure comes to a close, independent experts and administration insiders are delivering their assessments of his government’s performance over the past eight years. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne has posted his own verdict on his department’s Web site, and the upshot is that he did great.

It would take a lot more than this one blog post to sum up the damage that the Bush administration has done to conservation efforts in the last eight years, so I won’t even try. But Evan Hirsche, president of the National Wildlife Refuge Association, responded for the Refuge System in the Post article:

One of the accomplishments the list cites — the creation of 15 national wildlife refuges — did not sit well with Evan Hirsche, president of the National Wildlife Refuge Association. Hirsche noted that the refuge system has had to cut 300 jobs because of budget constraints, since the $434 million that refuges receive each year from the federal government falls at least $330 million short of what they need to operate.

“This has been eight years of lost opportunity in terms of acquiring sensitive habitat and creating new national wildlife refuges. The need has never been greater, yet land acquisition coffers have been starved and willing sellers turned away because of bureaucratic red tape,” Hirsche said. “New refuges conserve wildlife, bolster property values and result in economic gains for communities. It’s hard to understand why this administration has neglected such a winning proposition.”

No one can quantify the damage that the Bush administration has done by ignoring global warming and undercutting endangered species protection at every turn during the last eight years. Nor can we know with certainty if Western lands will ever recover from the massive energy raid that was stoked by the Bush administration — even when government scientists told them that not enough was being done to protect public lands.

And we’ll never truly know how much valuable wildlife habitat was lost forever nor will we ever be able to quantify the damage inflicted by the massive job cuts and subsequent loss of experienced, dedicated personnel within the Refuge System.

We can only say thank goodness this period in America is almost over.