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Derailed

I always thought that Rick Scott would manage to destroy Florida by the end of his term, but I was wrong. At the rate he’s going he’ll destroy it LONG before then.

In just under two months Scott has taken command of a state with Titanic potential, and actively sought out an iceberg to steer it into. Much like the Titanic, yesterday he hit the big one. Unlike Scott, at least the ship builders Harland and Wolff had a vision to try to build a bold new mode of transportation. But Rick Scott? His only vision at this point appears to be seeking revenge against the nation’s first black President (or as Scott refers to them, one of “those people.”) who dared to tackle another industry in dire need of reform: health care. We all know about Rick Scott’s experience with that, where he left behind the company he owned and ran to make the history books in the subject of Medicare fraud. Perhaps his eyes are on a bigger prize now as a one man death panel who steers patients to private clinics, like his current company, Solantic. But that’s an issue for another day.

Rick Scott managed to get elected somehow, in spite of his past business background. Perhaps people in Florida were so desperate or naive that they actually bought what he was selling. I would imagine that even his die-hard supporters have a touch of voters remorse. The GOP certainly has buyers remorse after groveling at Scott’s feet when he defeated their preferred candidate, Bill McCollum. He not only flipped off voters, maybe a couple corporate donors, and his own party, he even seems confused about his own policies with yesterday’s rejection of high-speed rail. That decision has left many scratching their heads, and may have just convinced even the former doubters that he has become the Master Of Disaster for Florida. The only groups he seems to have catered to is that small minority of ignorant Tea Partiers who probably have trouble balancing their own bank accounts and think that fairies, not taxes, fill the potholes that are big enough for them to drive their pickup trucks through. (They’ll figure it out soon enough when the next hurricane comes along and they’re forced to rely on the former disaster management crew from Wal-Mart. But again, another issue for another day.)

The other group that’s happy about Scott’s decision? Why that would be a libertarian “think tank,” the Reason Foundation, which wrote the so-called report Scott relied on to base his decision on rather than an upcoming study from the Florida Department of Transportation he claimed to be waiting for. Counted among the he Reason Foundation’s Board of Trustees is none other than David H. Koch, of Koch Industries, and yes, one more rather large can of worms.

For someone who claims to be an outsider, well, sort of. He’s an outsider to reality. He wants to run Florida like a business? Sure, a bad one, but then look at his track record. His campaign promises? Well, you’re a sucker if you believed them.

The high-speed rail project was a good business decision that was a sorely needed “gift” to Florida, where traffic and gridlock have been a growing problem for decades. I can vouch for at least the last 30 years, but ask those who have dealt with it even longer. Of course for someone who travels by private jet as Scott does, that’s hardly a problem for him. As for the rest of us, well we can just keep on sucking exhaust fumes while we sit in traffic and spend hours moving through parking lots like I4 where it takes a large chunk out of your day to travel to a place that should only take an hour or two. Mind you, this is Florida, not the New York area or even California. We’re talking say  Tampa to Orlando.

The “gift” Florida got from the high-speed rail project brought us $2.4 billion in federal funds. The project would have created more than 23,000 jobs, some of which have already begun, where we have a 20 percent unemployment rate. Private businesses were lining up for bids on the project, bids that will never materialize if Scott gets his way. However, since the gift came from President Obama, well, Florida will just have to go without all that, even though Scott promised to create 700,000 jobs (never mind the 8700 jobs that he cut last week) and he claimed Florida would become a major attraction to the private sector and therefore prosperity for every resident. Not only has Scott doomed high-speed rail, we’re probably doomed form any other companies and jobs that may have come to Florida. People who actually know how to run a business, unlike Gov. Dictator, would probably view Florida as a really bad risk for investment as long as the Governor is a fickle operator who could pull the plug at any given moment as he did with the rail project. Of course, that’s over and above the problem of trusting a man whose first company became a textbook case on Medicare fraud.

Two days ago Scott went on (what else?) FOX-GOP-TV to proclaim “I know what needs to happen in Florida,” and “I know what our citizens need.” He was talking about one of his other “projects,” Medicaid and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. He also blasted the “evil demon” stimulus bill, which he claims will cause dependency. (Today Scoot meets with BP claims czar Ken Feinberg over the problems of oil spill claims. Perhaps he’ll tell Feinberg  to withhold claims altogether so those whose businesses were hurt by the oil gusher don’t become too dependent on any relief?)

Does Scott “know what Florida needs? No. In fact he has proven he has absolutely no clue. While he turned down that $2.4 billion for high-speed rail, he said that he “believes Florida is better served by investments in ports, highways and other infrastructure to create long-term jobs.” What the clueless Governor fails to grasp is the not so little detail of how that $2.4 billion can be spent. One might ask Scott what part of the words “high-speed rail funds” he doesn’t understand, because the concept seems to have him stumped.

If the money isn’t used for high-speed rail as intended, Florida loses that money. In fact if Scott had bothered to study up on it, he would know that we got some of those funds because another clueless Governor turned them down as well. No, Scott may think he can use those funds any way he wants, perhaps even on himself or maybe use it for his wife’s Governor’s mansion redecorating fund for all we know. That money will now go elsewhere if Scott doesn’t change his mind. There’s a reason why, barely minutes after the news of Scott’s stupidity broke, states like California and New York were already scrambling for the funds as if billions of dollars had just descended from the heavens at their feet. High-speed rail is popular and a good thing. What happened to the Governor who recently said “he would be spending a great deal of time in Washington making sure Florida gets its fair share?” So far he’s taken our fair share and thrown it back in President Obama’s face.

As I write, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and yes, even Republican U.S. Rep. John Mica, who Scott managed to flip off as well yesterday are scrambling to do damage control with an end run around the decision.

There’s even talk of recall. Yesterday Representative Rick Kriseman (D-St. Petersburg) filed legislation to permit the recall of state officials. You can read and track those bills: HJR785 here, and HB787 here. The bills may offer a glimmer of hope, considering the disastrous first couple of months of Scott’s “Dictator-like” rule where he operates away from the press but in front of Tea Baggers, the only choir he preaches to.

Scott is Mr. Fiscal when it comes to the serious needs of the homeless, the elderly, the mentally ill. State workers, the unemployed, teachers, students, veterans, and countless others I’ve not listed here will get no relief from Scott. When it comes to these things, he wants to cut, cut, cut. When it comes to lavish Inaugural festivities made possible with hefty donations from private businesses of course, well that’s another story. I’m sure there’s more than a donor or two who now wish they had that money back. But they’ll just have to get in line with the rest of us.

In just a few short weeks Scott has managed to turn the words “all aboard” into derailed plans for prosperity in the future, and he’s just getting warmed up. He’s moving on to several new icebergs, and if things don’t change pretty soon, we’ll all be going down with the ship.

Because uprooting and moving out-of-state is an unacceptable and pretty drastic alternative as a life-raft, for those who can still afford one.

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From the Exxon Valdez to BP, little has changed in evaluating data on oil spills. A little “political will” as mentioned below would be good right about now.

Just released from The University Of  Florida:

Oil in Gulf of Mexico:  Biologists cite need for critical data to determine ecological consequences

Twenty years after biologists attempted to determine the ecological damages to marine life from the Exxon Valdez oil spill, scientists dealing with the BP disaster find themselves with the same problem: the lack of critical data to determine the ecological consequences of human-induced environmental disasters, a University of Florida researcher said.

Writing in the Feb. 4 issue of the journal Science, Karen A. Bjorndal,  a University of Florida biology professor and director of the Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research, and other biologists said the United States needs “strategic national research plans for key marine species and ecosystems based on evaluation of cause and effect and on integrated monitoring of abundance and demographic traits.”

“It is sad to see that we are in the same place now,” said Bjorndal, adding that not much has changed since the Valdez oil spill when it comes to getting the data needed to assess and restore a marine ecosystem after an environmental disaster. She hopes it will provide an impetus for action.

“We know how to create these research plans — what is needed now is the political will and leadership to do so,” she wrote.

“Achieving mandated recovery goals depends on understanding both population trends and the demographic processes that drive those trends,” Bjorndal’s article states.

Her team argues it “is not too late to invest funds from BP to support teams of experts to develop effective strategic plans that identify, prioritize and provide methodologies for collecting essential data.”

The team identified seven elements that need to be included in most of the plans.

“In the wake of the BP oil spill, the need for this policy shift is as clear as it is compelling. The largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history should provide the impetus and opportunity to effect this policy shift.” Bjorndal wrote in her article.

Co-authors of the article, called “Better Science Needed for Restoration in the Gulf of Mexico,” are Brian Bowen,  Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, University of Hawaii; Milani Chaloupka,  Ecological Modeling  Services, University of Queensland, Australia; Larry B. Crowder,  Center for Marine Conservation, Duke University; Selina S. Heppell, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State University;  Cynthia M. Jones, Center for Quantitative Fisheries Ecology, Old Dominion University; Molly E. Lutcavage,  Large Pelagics Research Center, University of Massachusetts; David Policansky, National Research Council, Washington, D.C.;  Andrew R. Solow, Marine Policy Center, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Blair E. Witherington,  Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

 

 

 


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Gov. Rick Scott (shudder) “hit the ground running” as soon as he was sworn in on Tuesday by putting a stop to new regulations in Florida.

One of the first casualties was a proposal for rules on water pollution for mercury contamination in Florida. A public hearing had been scheduled for those rules, but then our new Governor isn’t big on things like “public hearings” so it looks like we’ll just have to eat this one.

From the St. Petersburg Times:

Mercury contamination in fish in Florida waters is a growing problem and the state Department of Environmental Regulation, following federal Clean Water Act rules, was in the process of trying to identify the most contaminated water bodies and come up with a plan to clean up and prevent further pollution.

That process will now be put on hold, said Eric Draper of the Audubon of Florida, after Scott’s order freeze all regulations for 90 days and allow only those approved by his office to move forward.

“Gov. Scott is shutting down our environmental rules,” Draper said. “We know that most of Florida’s water bodies have contamination problems and we need rules to help clean them up. This stops the clean up in its tracks.”

You can browse over what might have been here:

Draft Plan For Development Of A Statewide  Total Maximum Daily Load For Mercury

Between the oil and the Corexit from the BP oil spill, the stalled oil spill payments, and now the mercury problem, I would say the people of Florida came up on the wrong end of the “fish or cut bait” campaign promises from Gov. Scott.

 

 

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Yesterday the U.S. Justice Department filed suit against BP and several other companies involved in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf, accusing them of disregarding safety regulations leading to the explosion, which led to the spill and caused the death of 11 workers.

The other companies are: Anadarko Exploration & Production LP; Anadarko Petroleum Corp.; MOEX Offshore 2007 LLC; Triton Asset Leasing GMBH; Transocean Holdings LLC; Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling Inc.; Transocean Deepwater Inc.; and Transocean’s insurer, QBE Underwriting Ltd./Lloyd’s Syndicate 1036. Haliburton was not named but could be added later. Haliburton was the cement contractor for the project and the maker of the valve that failed.

The lawsuit makes it possible for the federal government to seek billions of dollars in penalties for polluting the Gulf of Mexico, beaches and wetlands, and reimbursement for its cleanup costs.

More than 300 lawsuits filed previously by individuals and businesses, and now consolidated in the New Orleans federal court, include claims for financial losses and compensation for the families of 11 workers

The suit asks that the companies be held liable without limitation under the Oil Pollution Act for all removal costs and damages caused by the spill, including damages to natural resources. The lawsuit also seeks civil penalties under the Clean Water Act.

Under the Clean Water Act alone, BP faces fines of up to $1,100 for each barrel of oil spilled. If BP were found to have committed gross negligence or willful misconduct, the fine could be up to $4,300 per barrel.

Based on the government’s estimate of 206 million gallons released by the well, BP could face civil fines of between $5.4 billion and $21.1 billion. BP disputes the estimate.

Just as the lawsuit is being filed comes the news that more of the newly released WikiLeaks cables show, among other things, that BP had a similar blowout following a gas leak in Azerbaijan just 18 months before the blowout in the Gulf Of Mexico.

The Guardian, one of five media outlets with early access to the trove of diplomatic communications being gradually released by WikiLeaks, released its report on the latest group of cables, one of which reveals that in 2008 BP suffered a blowout similar to the one that would later cause the Deepwater Horizon disaster:

On the Azerbaijan gas leak, a cable reports for the first time that BP suffered a blowout in September 2008, as it did in the Gulf with devastating consequences in April, as well as the gas leak that the firm acknowledged at the time.

“Due to the blowout of a gas-injection well there was ‘a lot of mud’ on the platform, which BP would analyze to help find the cause of the blowout and gas leak,” the cable said.

Written a few weeks after the incident, the cable said Bill Schrader, BP’s then head of Azerbaijan, admitted it was possible the company “would never know” the cause although it “is continuing to methodically investigate possible theories”.

According to another cable, in January 2009 BP thought that a “bad cement job” was to blame for the gas leak in Azerbaijan. More recently, BP’s former chief executive Tony Hayward also partly blamed a “bad cement job” by contractor Halliburton for the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Guardian also reported that other leaked cables revealed:

  • Azerbaijan’s president accused BP of stealing $10 billion worth of oil from his country and using “mild blackmail” to secure rights to develop gas reserves in the Caspian Sea region.
  • American energy firm Chevron was talking to Iran about developing an Iraq-Iran cross-border oilfield, despite U.S. sanctions.

Coming on the heels of the release of the cables and the lawsuit is yet more bad news for BP:

BP Plc fell the most in almost four months in London trading after the Obama administration filed a suit saying the company and four others violated environmental laws in the largest U.S. oil spill.

The shares dropped as much as 3.2 percent, the most since Aug. 24, and were down 7.2 pence, or 1.5 percent to 469.35 pence as of 3:33 p.m. local time. BP has fallen 28 percent since the April 20 blowout on the Deepwater Horizon rig that killed 11 workers and caused the Macondo well to leak crude into the Gulf of Mexico until July.

I suppose that BP hopes there is some truth to the old expression “bad news comes in threes,” but something tells me three is only the beginning.

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Rick Scott is not happy about the offshore oil drilling ban reimposed today by the Obama Administration.

His statement on the ban, and President Obama:

“The Obama Administration’s offshore drilling ban is yet another example of government regulation impeding economic growth.  Florida is committed to pursuing energy independence, which is essential to national security. With sound policies in place, we could expand domestic drilling and eliminate our reliance on foreign oil.   Furthermore, I am disappointed that the White House has chosen to unilaterally impose a policy that threatens job creation and economic growth in Florida without consulting our office.”

Think about that statement for a minute. Just imagine how it would “impede economic growth” in Florida, or any of the other Gulf states if there were any LESS regulations on offshore oil drilling than there are now? Perhaps Scott should ask some of those fishermen who depend on the Gulf for their livelihood. Maybe ask those who own and run businesses like hotels and restaurants along the Gulf coast how they would feel about giving big oil more freedom than they had back in April when that blowout preventer failed to prevent a blowout? Because I did ask some of them back then. They weren’t pleased, to put it mildly. But then Rick Scott isn’t one to talk to the people who live here. He’s more concerned with dealing with big business. Behind closed doors.

He says he’s “disappointed that the White House has chosen to unilaterally impose a policy that threatens job creation and economic growth in Florida without consulting our office.” OK, first of all, Mr. Scott fails to realize, much like he did on the campaign trail, that he was not running for, nor was he elected to the office of Commander-in-Chief. Barack Obama, however, was. Scott may also be surprised to discover that President Obama doesn’t answer to the yet to be sworn in Governor elect Scott.

Second, when Rick Scott professes profound “disappointment” over “job creation [being] threatened,” I suppose he could have a small point there. After the BP oil spill, there was at least one company who discovered newly created jobs, but that was as a result of that oil spill, not the “drilling for” part. That would be this company:

This month the state of Florida awarded WRS a $250,000 contract for “reviewing county responses, designing beach protection devices and identifying areas of ecological concern.”

Kathleen Shanahan, the CEO of the consulting firm WRS Compass, has ties to both Former Vice President Dick Cheney and Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Shanahan was chief of staff for Cheney during the 2000 Presidential campaign and transition. She later became chief of staff for Jeb Bush. In March Shanahan was also re-appointed to Florida’s State Board Of Education by Gov. Charlie Crist.

Talk abut coming full circle. Nice work, if you can get it.

But then if Scott gets his way, there will be a lot more jobs and profits where those came from for his new found friends like Jeb Bush and businesses like WRS Compass.

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As investigations continue into Halliburton’s role in the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf Of Mexico last April, the company is now facing subpoenas from the Environmental Protection Agency over natural gas extraction methods and their potentially adverse effects on drinking water and public health.

The extraction method, called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” would be used to develop shale gas fields in several states, and has already been used in the west. The EPA is seeking information on the chemical ingredients in the fluids used in the extraction process. During the fracking process crews inject vast quantities of water, sand and chemicals underground to force open channels in sand and rock formations so oil and natural gas will flow.

News reports recently claimed the fluids seep into drinking water, and demonstrated how tap water can be literally set on fire from a household faucet. The fracking process is also the subject of the documentary “Gasland.”

From The Los Angeles Times:

The Environmental Protection Agency issued a subpoena to compel Halliburton Co., the nation’s largest oil field services company, to provide complete information on hydraulic fracturing, a controversial method the company pioneered to extract natural gas by injecting fluids into tight rock formations deep underground.

Halliburton remained the only company of nine that did not fully comply with a September request to provide the information voluntarily, according to EPA. The others either complied or “made unconditional commitments” to provide the information expeditiously, the EPA said.

“As a result, and as part of the agency’s effort to move forward as quickly as possible, today EPA issued a subpoena to the company requiring submission of the requested information that has yet to be provided,” a statement from the agency said…..

….A Halliburton spokeswoman said the company had already turned over 5,000 pages to the EPA and was “disappointed” with the EPA’s decision, but was working with the agency to narrow the scope of its request….

….Halliburton has attracted ample scrutiny over the years over hydraulic fracturing and contracts in Iraq, particularly during the tenure of Vice President Dick Cheney, who led the company from 1995 to 2000, and had a leading role in formulating the Bush administration’s energy policy.

A Times investigation revealed that as vice president, Cheney’s office helped back hydraulic fracturingas part of the Bush Administration’s energy policy. An EPA report that concluded there was no danger to drinking water from hydraulic fracturing in coal-bed methane deposits in Wyoming was criticized as flawed by agency staffers, prompting an ongoing investigation by the EPA inspector general’s office. The Bush administration worked to keep the practice from being regulated under the federal Clean Water Act.

Read the rest of the story here.

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Due to problems with claims from the BP oil disaster, Alex Sink has set up a new claims website for Floridians.

Sink has been critical of new claims czar Ken Feinberg, saying he’s paying “too little, too late:”

“I’m kind of the mind-set that enough is enough,” Sink, the Democrat candidate for governor, said at this morning’s Cabinet meeting. “I don’t know about you all but I’m sick and tired of this. These desperate people through no fault of their own having to shut their business down? That’s horrendous!”

Sink said the owners of Harmony Beach Vacations in Destin sent her an e-mail yesterday telling her they were going out of business because their claim for lost revenues has languished under both BP and Feinberg, who took over the oil giant’s maligned claims process for individuals and businesses on Aug. 23.

Feinberg hasn’t yet responded to a letter Sink and Gov. Charlie Crist sent to Feinberg last week demanding that he revamp his claims process and appear before them at their next Cabinet meeting in two weeks, Sink said.

Claims no doubt will be an ongoing problem for years to come, as Gulf Coast residents continue to feel setbacks from the disaster.

National Geographic published an article a few days ago showing that the oil is far from gone, and it illustrates how the disaster may have only just begun.

The new website, along with other oil spill resources can be found here.

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