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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 30th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Protecting “America’s Fish Basket.”

Officially known as Bristol Bay, this area in Alaska–the epicenter of half of the U.S. production of seafood–is a target for oil and gas development.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is working to stop the industrial development so that the bay’s wildlife, including 15 species of whale and one of the world’s largest concentrations of seabirds, can thrive. For many Native Americans living in Alaska, the bay’s fish, wildlife and plants are a significant part of their culture and a primary source of sustenance.

It is estimated that the bay’s fishery could generate almost $215 billion over 40 years–far more than the federal government’s estimate of $7.7 billion in oil and gas revenue from the region that could be generated during the same time period.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 22nd, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

World superpowers are about to get a brand new coast

The broad, open ocean of the brand new North Coast has lots of governments and companies already planning for the economic and strategic possibilities.

Read more. ————————–

‘Chasing Ice’ lets you watch the Arctic glaciers disappear before your eyes. Feel better?

A new documentary film follows an intrepid team of photographers as they set out to capture, and communicate, the awesome violence of climate change.

Read more. ———————————–

Hawaii is overflowing with solar power because it’s obnoxiously perfect

This is why everyone hates Hawaii. Things like this.

Read more.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 10th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Justices to Revisit Voting Act in View of a Changing South

By
The New York Times – Published: November 9, 2012

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court announced on Friday that it would take a fresh look at the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the signature legacies of the civil rights movement.

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Related in Opinion  – Editorial: A Supreme Test on the Right to Vote (November 10, 2012)

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Three years ago, the court signaled that part of the law may no longer be needed, and the law’s challengers said the re-election of the nation’s first black president is proof that the nation has moved beyond the racial divisions that gave rise to efforts to protect the integrity of elections in the South.

The law “is stuck in a Jim Crow-era time warp,” said Edward P. Blum, director of the Project on Fair Representation, a small legal foundation that helped organize the suit.

Civil rights leaders, on the other hand, pointed to the role the law played in the recent election, with courts relying on it to block voter identification requirements and cutbacks on early voting.

“In the midst of the recent assault on voter access, the Voting Rights Act is playing a pivotal role beating back discriminatory voting measures,” said Debo P. Adegbile, the acting president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

The Supreme Court’s ruling on the law, expected by June, could reshape how elections are conducted.

The case concerns Section 5 of the law, which requires many state and local governments, mostly in the South, to obtain permission, or “preclearance,” from the Justice Department or a federal court before making changes that affect voting. Critics of the law call the preclearance requirement a unique federal intrusion on state sovereignty and a badge of shame for the affected jurisdictions that is no longer justified.

The preclearance requirement, originally set to expire in five years, was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1966 as a rational response to the often flagrantly lawless conduct of some Southern officials then.

Congress has repeatedly extended the requirement: for 5 years in 1970, 7 years in 1975, and 25 years in 1982. Congress renewed the act in 2006 after holding extensive hearings on the persistence of racial discrimination at the polls, again extending the preclearance requirement for 25 years.

But it made no changes to the list of jurisdictions covered by Section 5, relying instead on a formula based on historical practices and voting data from elections held decades ago. It applies to nine states — Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia — and to scores of counties and municipalities in other states.

Should the court rule that Congress was not entitled to rely on outdated data to decide which jurisdictions should be covered, lawmakers could in theory go back to the drawing board and re-enact the law using fresher information. In practice, given the political realities, a decision striking down the coverage formula would probably amount to the end of Section 5.

In May, a divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected a challenge to the law filed by Shelby County, Ala. Judge David S. Tatel, writing for the majority, acknowledged that “the extraordinary federalism costs imposed by Section 5 raise substantial constitutional concerns,” and he added that the record compiled by Congress to justify the law’s renewal was “by no means unambiguous.”

“But Congress drew reasonable conclusions from the extensive evidence it gathered,” he went on. The constitutional amendments ratified after the Civil War, he said, “entrust Congress with ensuring that the right to vote — surely among the most important guarantees of political liberty in the Constitution — is not abridged on account of race. In this context, we owe much deference to the considered judgment of the people’s elected representatives.”

The dissenting member of the panel, Judge Stephen F. Williams, surveyed recent evidence concerning registration and turnout, the election of black officials, the use of federal election observers and suits under another part of the law.

Some of that evidence, he said, “suggests that the coverage formula completely lacks any rational connection to current levels of voter discrimination,” while other evidence indicates that the formula, “though not completely perverse, is a remarkably bad fit with Congress’s concerns.”

“Given the drastic remedy imposed on covered jurisdictions by Section 5,” he wrote, “I do not believe that such equivocal evidence can sustain the scheme.”

The Supreme Court has already once considered the constitutionality of the 2006 extension of the law in a 2009 decision, Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Holder. But it avoided answering the central question, and it seemed to give Congress an opportunity to make adjustments. Congress did not respond.

At the argument of the 2009 case, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy questioned whether the distinctions drawn in the 2006 law reflect contemporary realities.

“Congress has made a finding that the sovereignty of Georgia is less than the sovereign dignity of Ohio,” Justice Kennedy said. “The sovereignty of Alabama is less than the sovereign dignity of Michigan. And the governments in one are to be trusted less than the governments in the other.”

“No one questions the validity, the urgency, the essentiality of the Voting Rights Act,” he added. “The question is whether or not it should be continued with this differentiation between the states. And that is for Congress to show.”

In the end, the court, in an 8-to-1 decision, ducked the central question and ruled instead on a narrow statutory ground, saying the utility district in Austin, Tex., that had challenged the constitutionality of the law might be eligible to “bail out” from being covered by it. Still, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the majority, was skeptical about the continued need for Section 5.

“The historic accomplishments of the Voting Rights Act are undeniable,” he wrote. But “things have changed in the South.

“Voter turnout and registration rates now approach parity,” he wrote. “Blatantly discriminatory evasions of federal decrees are rare. And minority candidates hold office at unprecedented levels.

“The statute’s coverage formula is based on data that is now more than 35 years old,” he added,“and there is considerable evidence that it fails to account for current political conditions.”

Having said all of that, and acknowledging that the court’s alternative ruling had stretched the text of the statute, Chief Justice Roberts said the court should avoid deciding hard constitutional questions when it could. “Whether conditions continue to justify such legislation is a difficult constitutional question we do not answer today,” he wrote.

On Friday, in agreeing to hear the case, Shelby County v. Holder, No. 12-96, the court indicated that it is prepared to provide an answer to the question it left open three years ago.

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The New York Times Editorial

A Supreme Test on the Right to Vote

Published: November 9, 2012

The Supreme Court decided on Friday to review Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which has been crucial in combating efforts to disenfranchise minority voters. The justices should uphold the validity of the section, which requires nine states and parts of several others with deep histories of racial discrimination to get permission from the Justice Department or a federal court before making any changes to their voting rules.


The case, Shelby County v. Holder, was brought by an Alabama county, which contends that Section 5 intrudes unconstitutionally on the sovereign authority of states and that federal review of proposed voting changes, once needed to end legal segregation, is no longer required.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Just this year, Republican efforts to block the votes of minorities and the poor — which were rejected again and again by federal judges relying on the Voting Rights Act, including Section 5 — have made that utterly clear.

Judge John Bates of Federal District Court in the District of Columbia, rejected Shelby County’s challenge last year, noting that Congress, in renewing the section in 2006, found that “40 years has not been a sufficient amount of time to eliminate the vestiges of discrimination.”

In May, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld his ruling, saying that discrimination in voting is “one of the gravest evils that Congress can seek to redress” and that Congress’s painstaking research in its renewal of Section 5 (22 hearings and 15,000 pages of evidence) “deserves judicial deference.”

In another voting rights case in 2009, the Supreme Court said there were “serious constitutional questions” about whether Section 5 meets a current need. That comment left some legal experts with the impression that the court came close to striking down the provision. But the justices did not do so in that case, and they have even less reason to in this case. Overt discrimination clearly persists and remains pernicious in places like Shelby County.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 20th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Ending Its Summer Melt, Arctic Sea Ice Sets a New Low That Leads to Warnings.

By
Published by The New York Times on September 19, 2012

The drastic melting of Arctic sea ice has finally ended for the year, scientists announced Wednesday, but not before demolishing the previous record — and setting off new warnings about the rapid pace of change in the region.

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Green

A blog about energy and the environment.

NASA, via Reuters

A NASA image shows how the record-low Arctic sea ice extent compares with the average minimum extent over the past 30 years, in yellow.

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The apparent low point for 2012 was reached Sunday, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, which said that sea ice that day covered about 1.32 million square miles, or 24 percent, of the surface of the Arctic Ocean. The previous low, set in 2007, was 29 percent.

When satellite tracking began in the late 1970s, sea ice at its lowest point in the summer typically covered about half the Arctic Ocean, but it has been declining in fits and starts over the decades.

“The Arctic is the earth’s air-conditioner,” said Walt Meier, a research scientist at the snow and ice center, an agency sponsored by the government. “We’re losing that. It’s not just that polar bears might go extinct, or that native communities might have to adapt, which we’re already seeing — there are larger climate effects.”

His agency waited a few days before announcing the low to be sure sea ice had started to refreeze, as it usually does at this time of year, when winter closes in rapidly in the high Arctic. A shell of ice will cover much of the Arctic Ocean in coming months, but it is likely to be thin and prone to melting when summer returns.

Scientists consider the rapid warming of the region to be a consequence of the human release of greenhouse gases, and they see the melting as an early warning of big changes to come in the rest of the world.

Some of them also think the collapse of Arctic sea ice has already started to alter atmospheric patterns in the Northern Hemisphere, contributing to greater extremes of weather in the United States and other countries, but that case is not considered proven.

The sea ice is declining much faster than had been predicted in the last big United Nations report on the state of the climate, published in 2007. The most sophisticated computer analyses for that report suggested that the ice would not disappear before the middle of this century, if then.

Now, some scientists think the Arctic Ocean could be largely free of summer ice as soon as 2020. But governments have not responded to the change with any greater urgency about limiting greenhouse emissions. To the contrary, their main response has been to plan for exploitation of newly accessible minerals in the Arctic, including drilling for more oil.

Scientists said Wednesday that the Arctic has become a prime example of the built-in conservatism of their climate forecasts. As dire as their warnings about the long-term consequences of heat-trapping emissions have been, many of them fear they may still be underestimating the speed and severity of the impending changes.

In a panel discussion on Wednesday in New York sponsored by Greenpeace, the environmental group, James E. Hansen, a prominent NASA climate scientist, said the Arctic melting should serve as a warning to the public of the risks that society is running by failing to limit emissions.

“The scientific community realizes that we have a planetary emergency,” Dr. Hansen said. “It’s hard for the public to recognize this because they stick their head out the window and don’t see that much going on.”

A prime concern is the potential for a large rise in the level of the world’s oceans. The decline of Arctic sea ice does not contribute directly to that problem, since the ice is already floating and therefore displacing its weight in water.

But the disappearance of summer ice cover replaces a white, reflective surface with a much darker ocean surface, allowing the region to trap more of the sun’s heat, which in turn melts more ice. The extra heat in the ocean appears to be contributing to an accelerating melt of the nearby Greenland ice sheet, which does contribute to the rise in sea level.

At one point this summer, surface melt was occurring across 97 percent of the Greenland ice sheet, a development not seen before in the era of satellite measurements, although geological research suggests that it has happened in the past.

The sea is now rising at a rate of about a foot per century, but scientists like Dr. Hansen expect this rate to increase as the planet warms, putting coastal settlements at risk.

A scientist at the snow and ice center, Julienne C. Stroeve, took a ride on a Greenpeace ship recently to inspect the Arctic Ocean for herself. Interviewed this week after pulling into port at the island of Spitsbergen, she said one of her goals had been to debark on ice floes and measure them, but that it had been difficult to find any large enough to support her weight.

Ice floes were numerous in spots, she said, but “when we got further into the ice pack, there were just large expanses of open water.”

A version of this article appeared in print on September 20, 2012, on page A8 of the New York edition with the headline: Ending Its Summer Melt, Arctic Sea Ice Sets a New Low That Leads to Warnings.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 17th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Dear Pincas,

It’s been an amazing fight. And, thanks to your efforts, oil companies have abandoned drilling for oil in America’s Arctic Ocean – at least until next year.

Shell Oil announced today that it is drastically scaling back its oil drilling operation this year in the Arctic, focusing instead on preparations for next year’s drilling season. This move happened after its oil spill containment dome suffered damage during sea trials which occurred off the comparatively mild coast of Washington and not in the extreme, sea ice conditions of the Arctic.

As predicted, Shell’s untested, unproven cleanup and safety equipment failed – even outside of the Arctic’s extreme conditions.

Our partners in the Arctic are ready to fight another day, and truly appreciate all that your letters, calls, commitment and dedication have accomplished.  So please, take a moment to picture that beautiful, endless, pristine Arctic, and the wildlife and people that depend on it, and let out your own whoop of joy for a job well done.

We will continue to fight corporate giants like Shell Oil who remain intent to despoil the few natural treasures we have left. Soon, I will ask you once again to raise your voice in solidarity with our Inupiat allies on America’s Arctic coast, as we continue our multifaceted, far-reaching effort to keep the Arctic healthy and whole for future generations. And I will ask you to continue to fight until Arctic conservation eclipses any and all Arctic development.

But right now, I’m writing to ask you to join me in celebrating – we could only have accomplished this together. Thank you for making this moment possible and for reminding the corporate goliaths like Shell that the Arctic belongs to all of us.

Together for our Arctic future,

Cindy Shogan

Alaska Wilderness League

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 20th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

First Chinese ship crosses Arctic Ocean amid record melt.

First Chinese ship crosses Arctic Ocean amid record melt Photo: China Daily
A general view shows Chinese ice breaker ship ”Xuelong”, also called ”Snow Dragon”, docking at Tianjin November 3, 2011.
Photo: China Daily

An icebreaker has become the first ship from China to cross the Arctic Ocean, underscoring Beijing’s growing interest in a remote region where a record thaw caused by climate change may open new trade routes.

The voyage highlights how China, the world’s no.2 economy, is extending its reach to the Arctic which is rich in oil and gas and is a potential commercial shipping route between the north Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

The icebreaker Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, arrived in Iceland this week after sailing the Northern Route along the coast of Russia.

Expedition leader Huigen Yang, head of the Polar Research Institute of China, said he had expected a lot more ice along the route at this time of year than the vessel encountered.

“To our astonishment … most part of the Northern Sea Route is open,” he told Reuters TV. The icebreaker would return to China by a route closer to the North Pole.

He said that Beijing was interested in the “monumental change” in the polar environment caused by global warming.

Sea ice floating on the Arctic Ocean is on track to beat a record low set in 2007, making the region more accessible but threatening the hunting lifestyles of indigenous peoples and wildlife such as polar bears and seals.

The thaw is slowly opening up the Arctic as a short-cut route – the German-based Beluga Group, for instance, sent a cargo vessel north from Korea to Rotterdam in 2009.

RECORD THAW

“The (Chinese) journey indicates a growing interest in the melting of the ice in the northern regions and how climate change is affecting the globe and the future of all nations,” the office of Icelandic President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson said.

Arctic sea ice extent on August 13 fell to 5.09 million square km (1.97 million square miles) – an area smaller than Brazil, according to the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Sea ice reaches its smallest in September before expanding again as winter approaches. China has overtaken the United States as the top greenhouse gas emitter, mainly from burning fossil fuels, ahead of the European Union, India and Russia.

“China’s interest is a mix of business, science and geo-politics,” said Jan Gunnar Winther, director of the Norwegian Polar Institute.

For countries outside the region like China, there may be more opportunities to supply equipment to aid drilling, he said. South Korea’s Hyundai, for instance, is building a floating production unit for the Goliat oilfield in Norway’s Barents Sea.

Winther said that research into climate change in the Arctic was also relevant to China’s understanding of weather patterns that could affect its farmers.

China has applied to become an observer at the Arctic Council, made up of the United States, Russia, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland.

“The application will be handled in May next year,” said Nina Buvang Vaaja, head of the Arctic Council Secretariat.

Other applicants seeking to join the Council, which oversees management of the region, are Japan, South Korea, the European Union Commission and Italy. Germany, Britain, France, Poland, Spain and the Netherlands are already observers.

Date: 18-Aug-2012 – Reporting By Alister Doyle – Reuters.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 8th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Circumpolar Leaders Gather For Arctic Imperative Summit

Summit Convenes Decision-Makers on Infrastructure Investment, Natural Resources, Policy and Security During Time of Rapid Arctic Change.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Aug. 8, 2012 /PRNewswire

— Rapid change in the Arctic due to melting sea ice brings new opportunities and challenges.

To address the complex Arctic agenda, an influential mix of international, U.S. and local leaders will convene at the second Arctic Imperative Summit, August 24–27, 2012, in Anchorage and Girdwood, Alaska.

MISSION:

Sharpening the world’s focus on the short-term opportunities and long-term challenges of Arctic development, the Summit features a multidisciplinary group of experts. By engaging with decision-makers from all sectors, Arctic leaders will be in a stronger position to influence responsible development decisions on their shores.

PROGRAM EXCERPT:

– Plenary sessions on infrastructure needs and investment opportunities in the U.S. Arctic, including a proposed Bering Sea port authority to manage traffic growth;

– Panel discussions on shipping and transportation developments, moderated by industry experts;

– Keynote speeches from military leaders on Arctic sovereignty and security;

– Perspectives and observations from indigenous residents, including “The Eskimo and the Oil Man,” a conversation with author Bob Reiss andEdward Itta, former mayor, North Slope Borough, Alaska;

– Panel discussions on sustainable development, governance and the race for resources;

– Instructive case studies, such as the recent Renda fuel delivery to Nome;

– A screening of “Project Chariot,” a documentary on the U.S. government’s ill-fated plan to use a nuclear bomb to create a deep-water Arctic port inAlaska; and much more.

The Summit schedule can be found here: bit.ly/NAhY5u. A detailed agenda will be released prior to the event.

FEATURED SPEAKERS:

The Honorable James A. Baker III, Former U.S. Secretary of State

The Honorable Mark Begich, U.S. Senator, State of Alaska

Charles K. Ebinger, Director, Energy Security Initiative, Brookings

The Honorable Olafur Ragnar Grímsson, President of Iceland

The Honorable David J. Hayes, Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of the Interior

General Charles H. Jacoby Jr., Commander, U.S. Northern Command

Marilyn Heiman, Director, U.S. Arctic Program, Pew Environment Group

The Honorable Edward Itta, Former Mayor, North Slope Borough, Alaska

Chris Matthews, Host, “Hardball with Chris Matthews” and “The Chris Matthews Show”

Scott Minerd, Chief Investment Officer, Guggenheim Partners

The Honorable Lisa Murkowski, U.S. Senator, State of Alaska

General Walter Natynczyk, Chief of the Defense Staff, Canadian Forces

Thomas R. Nides, Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, U.S. Department of State

General Joseph W. Ralston, Vice Chairman, The Cohen Group

David M. Rubenstein, Co-founder, The Carlyle Group

The Honorable Mead Treadwell, Lieutenant Governor, State of Alaska

Felix H. Tschudi, Chairman and Owner, Tschudi Group

The Honorable Fran Ulmer, Chair, U.S. Arctic Research Commission

A comprehensive list of speakers can be found here: bit.ly/LXTc2g.

“The rapid changing of the Arctic environment demands responsible and sustainable development,” says Alice Rogoff, founder of the Arctic Imperative Summit. “Solutions to the complex needs of this region will only be reached if all stakeholders, including its residents, are at the table.”

REGISTRATION:

Summit registration is available online at bit.ly/Lt6ihQ. Please contact Nolan Frame at arcticimperative@shworldwide.comwith questions.

MEDIA:

Media with relevant assignments will be granted access to the Summit at no charge and may register online at bit.ly/Lt6ihQ. Gallery seating will be provided in the back of the meeting facilities to watch the Summit live. A media room will also be provided on-site. Boxed meals will be provided, along with access to receptions and dinners. Please contact Tim Fitzpatrick at fitzpidgeon@gmail.com for assistance in coordinating on-site interviews or with general media queries.

ONLINE ACCESS:

Following the summit, presentations can be accessed on the event’s Vimeo page at bit.ly/LXY0oj.

SOCIAL MEDIA:

Please follow us on Twitter at @ArcticSummit, hashtag #AIS2012, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/arcticimperativesummit for Arctic news and Summit highlights.

SPONSORSHIP:

The Summit offers an excellent opportunity for your organization to enhance its profile among Arctic decision-makers. For further details on remaining promotional packages, contact Jenny Gilman at jenny@alaskadispatch.com.

THE ARCTIC WIRE:

Read in-depth coverage on news and politics across the circumpolar North on The Arctic Wire.

ABOUT THE ARCTIC IMPERATIVE:

The Arctic Imperative is an independent nonpartisan organization founded by Alice Rogoff, publisher of AlaskaDispatch.com. The mission of the Summit is to sharpen the world’s focus on the policy and investment needs of the Arctic and provide a platform for local, state, national and international leaders to make measured Arctic development decisions.

CONTACTS:

Toll-Free Information:
800-718-6528
info@arcticimperative.com

Registration:
Nolan Frame
800-718-6528

arcticimperative@shworldwide.com


PR Newswire (s.tt/1kkvx)

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 2nd, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

U.S. LNG Exports – The Wave of the Future?


The pace of using the hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) technology in the United States has led to surges in natural gas supplies and lower natural gas prices (although prices have climbed slightly during these summer months due to the extreme heat wave washing over the Midwest and Eastern regions of the United States). As a result, a number of current U.S. LNG import terminals are seeking to convert to LNG export terminals. The Federal Energy RegulatoryCommission

(FERC) in its role as the siting agency approved the construction of the first LNG export facility in April, Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass in Louisiana, at an estimated price tag of $5 billion. To date, there are eight additional applications pending before the Department of Energy (DOE) which has authority over exports of natural gas. DOE permits are required for U.S. companies to sell to non-FTA (Free Trade Agreement) countries, which include Japan and Spain.

However, there is a snag in the progress of DOE’s approval process of the eight applications. DOE has suspended its review of them, pending a second-part study assessing the broader economic effects of increased natural gas exports on domestic energy consumption, production and prices.

The assessments were initiated after complaints from several U.S. lawmakers, including U.S. Representative Edward Markey (D-MA), the ranking Minority Member of the House Natural Resources Committee, and U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), the second ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. They are concerned that exporting LNG to foreign markets may result in negative economic and environmental consequences. Markey has introduced two measures to prohibit LNG exports. Conversely, proponents such as House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), argue that this evolution will beneficially result in the United States becoming a global energy supplier. Issa has initiated a series of hearings on the topic.

Because U.S. natural gas is plentiful today and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future, it is estimated that the eight pending U.S. LNG export projects, if approved, could provide a total of 120 million metric tons of gas per year, compared to the world LNG leader Qatar’s production capacity of 77 million metric tons / year.

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New Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline And LNG Project






Of great interest to Mogel & Sweet is the announced joint venture project by ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and BP to commercialize the 35 trillion cubic feet of discovered natural gas in the North Slope of Alaska. The project would differ from the ExxonMobil/TransCanada proposal (pending at FERC) to build a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope southward and then east to

Calgary. In contrast, the joint venture project would employ a pipeline to bring natural gas southwest to central Alaska for instate consumption, with additional volumes to be transported to a tidewater location to be liquefied, and exported as LNG to Asia.

In a press release, the Companies stated:

As a result of the rapidly evolving global market, large-scale … LNG exports… will be assessed as an alternative to gas line exports through Alberta [Canada]. In addition to broadening market access, a south-central Alaska LNG approach could more closely align with in-state energy demands and needs.

As the three sponsors recognized, “commercializing Alaska natural gas resources will not be easy.” This is especially so given today’s low natural gas prices. Finally, it is not clear how the proposal will fit within the AGIA statutory framework (on which Bill Mogel testified before the Alaska Legislature as its counsel) that selected the TransCanada pipeline as the preferred project to transport North Slope volumes.

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David Sweet of MOGEL & SWEET, Washington DC Energy Consultants – Energy Regulation,  Government Relations,  Trade Associations*, Communications, Presents at Global Gas Field Development Summit 2012 at Doha, Qatar.


Doha – Qatar: The recently concluded Global Gas Field Development Summit 2012 in Doha, Qatar was successful with delegates and speakers participating from across the globe. The conference opened with remarks from David Sweet, who discussed various topics including the legal and regulatory perspectives in developing a shale gas field.

==============================

MOGEL & SWEET

1513 16th Street NW,
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: +1 202 667 5600
Fax: +1 202 315 3719
Email: info@mogelsweet.com
www.mogelsweet.com

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 10th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

A Russian tanker is slogging through sea ice behind a Coast Guard icebreaker, trying to bring 1.3 million gallons of emergency gasoline and diesel to remote Alaska.

The New York Times
January 10, 2012
The New York Times

The Renda and the Healy are about 140 miles south of Nome.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Lally/U.S. Coast Guard, via Associated Press

The Healy, left, a Coast Guard icebreaker, carves a path in the frozen Bering Sea for the Renda, a Russian tanker carrying 1.3 million gallons of emergency gasoline and diesel for Alaska. Shipping delays and a major storm prevented Nome’s winter supply of fuel from arriving in early fall.

A New Race of Mercy to Nome, This Time Without Sled Dogs.

By Published via New York Times on-line January 9, 2012.

www.nytimes.com/2012/01/10/us/icebreaker-slowly-carves-path-for-tanker-to-bring-emergency-fuel-to-alaska.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha23

NOME, Alaska — In the winter of 1925, long after this Gold Rush boomtown on the Bering Sea had gone bust, diphtheria swept through its population of 1,400. Medicine ran dangerously low, and there was no easy way to get more. No roads led here, flight was ruled out and Norton Sound was frozen solid.

Parents still read books to their children about what happened next: Balto, Togo, Fritz and dozens more sled dogs sprinted through subzero temperatures across 674 miles of sea ice and tundra in what became known as the Great Race of Mercy. The medicine made it, Nome was saved and the Siberian huskies became American heroes.

Eighty-seven years later, Nome is again locked in a dark and frigid winter — a record cold spell has pushed temperatures to minus 40 degrees, cracked hotel pipes and even reduced turnout at the Mighty Musk Oxen’s pickup hockey games. And now another historic rescue effort is under way across the frozen sea.

Yet while the dogs needed only five and a half days, Renda the Russian tanker has been en route for nearly a month — and it is unclear whether she will ever arrive. The tanker is slogging through sea ice behind a Coast Guard icebreaker, trying to bring not medicine but another commodity increasingly precious in remote parts of Alaska: fuel, 1.3 million gallons of emergency gasoline and diesel to heat snow-cloaked homes and power the growing number of trucks, sport utility vehicles and snow machines that have long since replaced dogsleds.

For the moment, this latest tale appears less likely to produce a warm children’s book than an embarrassing memo, and maybe a few lawsuits, about how it all could have been avoided.

“People need to get fired over this,” said David Tunley, one of the few Musk Oxen at the outdoor rink on an evening when the temperature was minus 23. “The litigation of whose fault it is will probably go on forever.”

How Nome ended up short on fuel this winter is a complicated issue unto itself, but trying to get the Renda here to help has become a sub-Arctic odyssey — and perhaps a clunky practice run for a future in which climate change and commercial interests make shipping through Arctic routes more common.

“There is a lot of good knowledge that is coming out of this,” said Rear Adm. Thomas P. Ostebo, the officer in charge of the Coast Guard in Alaska.

The learning curve has been steep. Since leaving Vladivostok, Russia, on Dec. 17, the 370-foot Renda has encountered a fuel mix-up in South Korea and storms that prevented it from going to Japan; it has received a waiver of the Jones Act in the United States (to allow the foreign vessel to finally pick up gasoline in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, before transporting it to Nome) and broad support for its mission from Alaska’s Congressional delegation; it has been joined by the Coast Guard’s only operative icebreaker built for the Arctic, the Healy. It has had to alter its route to avoid the world’s most substantial population of a federally protected sea duck called the spectacled eider.

As of Monday, the Renda and the Healy were about 140 miles south of Nome, having made little progress from the night before. Wind, current and the brutal cold are causing complications with breaking what is known as first-year ice — the kind that forms each winter and melts in the summer as opposed to lasting year-round. As soon as the Healy breaks open a channel, ice closes in behind it, squeezing the Renda.

The Coast Guard has been among the most vocal government agencies in asking for more money and better equipment to deal with increased commercial activity in the Arctic and sub-Arctic. Admiral Ostebo said the Healy, a medium-duty icebreaker, was fully capable of making the trip to Nome but that using a heavy-duty polar icebreaker — the Coast Guard owns two: one is retired, the other under repair until at least 2014 — might have made a difference.

He said the Coast Guard had thought that having the Healy lead the Renda would have been easier, “but it turns out that the pressure that ice is under quite frankly makes it hard to move through for the Renda.” He said these were “conditions I think we’re going to see a lot in the future.”

If the Renda reaches Nome, it would be making the first maritime fuel delivery through sea ice in Alaska history. The effort comes as many interested parties are anticipating business that could develop as Shell plans to conduct new exploratory offshore oil drilling just north of here as early as this summer.

“These are not cowboys out here trying to do crazy things,” said Mark Smith, the chief executive of Vitus Marine, the Alaska company that proposed using the Renda to representatives for Nome. “All of the stakeholders involved in this mission look at it as a learning experience as they consider further development.”

Nome usually receives its winter supply of fuel in early fall, before ice hardens over the Bering. But last fall, multiple shipping delays and then a major storm prevented the fall shipment from arriving. Many people here blame Bonanza Fuel, one of two local companies that barge in fuel and the one that failed to ensure its fall delivery made it. But the fuel company’s owner blamed the barge company for delaying shipments.

“Certainly we’ll evaluate how this situation came together,” said Jason Evans, the chairman of the Sitnasuak Native Corporation, which owns Bonanza, “so that we’re not put in this situation and the community of Nome’s not put in this situation again.”

Officials say Nome could run out of heating oil by March. A normal fuel barge cannot make the trip until ice melts in June or July.

Dogs still pull sleds to Nome, in the annual Iditarod race each March, but there are still no roads here from outside. There are, however, more modern means of transportation. Mr. Evans said Nome could resort to flying in fuel through hundreds of small shipments but that shipping costs alone would be more than $3 per gallon. Fuel here already approaches $6. Conservation can only go so far.

“You have to heat your home when it’s 36 below,” he said.

The effort has prompted observers far and wide to comment on what it all means as the United States tries to figure out how to navigate the increasingly important Arctic. One question not to ask here: Regardless of how it came to this, is tiny Nome worth all the effort?

“Why should we be treated any differently than the Lower 48?” said Mayor Denise L. Michels, noting that the Coast Guard also escorts commercial shipments through ice and difficult conditions in the Great Lakes and off the East Coast. “We keep saying that we are an Arctic nation.”

A version of this article appeared in print on January 10, 2012, on page A10 of the New York edition with the headline: Race of Mercy To Icy Nome, But This Time No Sled Dogs.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 6th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

From:

Steve Emmett-Mattox

Restore America’s Estuaries
6th National Conference on Coastal and Estuarine Habitat Restoration
October 20-24, 2012, Tampa, Florida,, Tampa, Florida, USA

Call for Proposals – Dedicated Sessions, Presentations, and Posters
Proposal Deadline: February 1, 2012

View the call for proposals at program.estuaries.org/RAE%202012%20Conf%20Call%20for%20Proposals.pdf

In Spanish at estuaries.org/images/Spanish_CFP_12-8-11.pdf

Submit your proposal for the 6th National Conference on Coastal and Estuarine Habitat Restoration at program.estuaries.org.

The Conference will be a dynamic and exciting opportunity for you to share your successes and lessons learned in all realms of coastal habitat restoration, and learn from others. A major focus of the Conference is the intersection between healthy coastal ecosystems and climate change – impacts, adaptation, and mitigation.

The overarching theme of “Restoring Ecosystems, Strengthening Communities” highlights the interwoven nature of coastal ecosystems and the communities that rely on them. Within this theme, we are seeking proposals for sessions, presentations, and posters that relate to one or more of the following topics:
•Climate change and its impacts on coasts and estuaries
•Climate change adaptation strategies and implementation in coasts and estuaries
•Integrating climate change considerations into restoration planning and practice
•Advances in science and policy in coastal and estuarine “Blue Carbon” sequestration
•The intersection of habitat restoration and community; how one strengthens the other
•The “how-to” of restoration–the basic tenets, techniques, and efforts associated with implementing on-the-ground habitat restoration
•Integrating restoration science, technology, and planning
•Large-scale coastal and estuarine habitat restoration
•The roles of policy and funding in coastal and estuarine habitat restoration

Additional topics for consideration include:
•”Green” job growth and career development through habitat restoration
•Recovery and restoration in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
•Effective advocacy for restoration at federal, state, and local levels
•Recent regulatory and legal changes and their impact on coastal restoration
•Use of mitigation and “penalty projects” to support restoration
•Low-impact development: implementation to benefit coastal habitats

STUDENTS:
Students are particularly encouraged to participate. All students taking part in the program will be entered into the student poster or student presentation contests, for which cash prizes will be awarded. Please note that students qualify for special discount rates. Limited numbers of scholarships will also be available for students with financial needs.

MORE INFORMATION:
www.estuaries.org/conference

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 7th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

October 7, 2011, Atonement Day Eve – The 99% SILENT Public – Albeit still on the OP-ED or “ROOM for DEBATE” Pages.

New York Times OPINION PAGE – 

ROOM FOR DEBATE

Is It Effective to Occupy Wall Street?

The protesters are getting more attention and expanding outside New York. What are they doing right, and what are they missing?

———————————–

New York Times OP-ED COLUMNIST

Confronting the Malefactors

By PAUL KRUGMAN

Occupy Wall Street is starting to look like an important event that might even eventually be seen as a turning point.

——————————–

Watching Washington the HOME NEWS are:

“To allay the concerns of Senate Democrats, Mr. Obama said that he could support their proposal to pay for the jobs plan by imposing a 5.6 percent surtax on individual taxpayers’ income above $1 million. A number of Senate Democrats had objected to Mr. Obama’s proposals to offset the cost of his plan by limiting tax deductions, including for charitable contributions, that could be taken by individuals making more than $200,000 and couples making more than $250,000. And oil-state Democrats opposed his plans to increase oil companies’ taxes.

Even as Mr. Obama took reporters’ questions, Speaker John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, rebuked him for his more confrontational tack. “Nothing has disappointed me more than what’s happened over the last five weeks, to watch the president of the United States give up on governing, give up on leading and spend full-time campaigning,” Mr. Boehner said during a public forum in Washington.

Mr. Obama, when asked by a reporter whether he should be talking to Congressional Republicans rather than traveling the country like a presidential candidate, responded that he had tried repeatedly to compromise with Republicans. His efforts, he said, were “sometimes to my own political peril and to the frustration of Democrats,” and Republicans rebuffed him even when he offered ideas, like business tax cuts, that Republicans had proposed in the past.”

“What I’ve done over the last several weeks is to take the case to the American people so that they understand what’s at stake,” he said. “It is now up to all the senators, and hopefully all the members of the House, to explain to their constituencies why they would be opposed to common-sense ideas that historically have been supported by Democrats and Republicans in the past,” Mr. Obama said.


THAT IS STILL THE NORM OF HOME PAGES NEWS REPORTING  — AS GOOD AS IT GETS  –

Making Case for Jobs Bill, Obama Cites Europe’s Woes.

 Why look at the woes of Europe when there is plenty to see in the US itself?
PLEASE CHECK OUT THOSE OIL INDUSTRY ELECTED RESIDENTS OF US CONGRESS!

===========================================================================

NOW THIS! From – www.alternet.org  New York spread Liberty to Washington DC:

Protesters began their occupation of Freedom Plaza, WASHINGTON D.C.,  on October 6 — and they plan on staying as long as it takes.

The Occupy Freedom Plaza protest in Washington DC kicked off on Thursday, October 6. The protesters were a diverse crowd; young and old, men and women, the jobless and the employed, all in solidarity with one another and those occupying cities across the country in protest of the corporate greed that has destroyed the lives of so many Americans.

Cancer survivor Carrie Stone said that over the course of nine days, she traveled from Wallace, West Virginia to Washington, DC by foot. The 56-year-old grandmother plans to stay in DC indefinitely, saying, “If I can do it, anyone can.”


###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 29th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Nominations open for the 2011 Martha T. Muse Prize – Last date 1st May 2011.

The “Martha T. Muse Prize for Science and Policy in Antarctica” is a US$ 100,000 unrestricted award presented to an individual in the fields of Antarctic science or policy that has demonstrated potential for sustained and significant contributions that will enhance the understanding and/or preservation of Antarctica. The Tinker Foundation’s goal is to establish a prestigious award that recognizes excellence in Antarctic research by honoring someone in the early to mid-stages of their career. The Prize is inspired by Martha T. Muse’s passion for Antarctica and is intended to be a legacy of the International Polar Year 2007-2008.

The prize-winner can be from any country and work in ANY field of Antarctic science or policy, including Climate change, Life Sciences, Geo Sciences, Physical Sciences, Antarctic Politics. The goal is to provide recognition of the important work being done by the individual and to call attention to the significance of understanding Antarctica in a time of change. The Prize is awarded by the Tinker Foundation  and administered by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR).

Please visit www.museprize.org for further details. Online nominations will close on the May 1st, 2011.

—————————————–
Dr Renuka Badhe
Administrator, Martha Muse Prize
and Executive Officer, SCAR Secretariat
Scott Polar Research Institute
Lensfield Road
Cambridge CB2 1ER
United Kingdom

E-mail: rb302@cam.ac.uk
Skype:  renukabadhe
Web:    www.scar.org
—————————————–

The original posting said:

The Tinker Foundation’s goal is to establish a prestigious award that recognizes excellence in Antarctic research by honoring someone in the early to mid-stages of their career.

The Prize is inspired by Martha T. Muse’s passion for Antarctica and is intended to be a legacy of the activities following the International Polar Year 2007-2008. Martha T. Muse is active with the New York Explorers Club and besides the normal interest of the Club in feats of heroism by exploration of nature, Martha tried to lead the Club also in a direction of review of the human impact on nature, and we wrote about her in our past articles – this including the effects of human induced climate change.
We hope that the Tinker Foundation has also picked up on this angle of Martha´s musing and we strogly recommend to our readers to apply for these grants. (this is a comment from the editor of SustainabiliTank.info)

The prize-winner can be from any country and work in ANY field of Antarctic science or policy, including Climate change, Life Sciences including biodiversity and its management, Geo Sciences, Physical Sciences, Antarctic Politics. The goal is to provide recognition of the important work being done by the individual and to call attention to the significance of understanding Antarctica in a time of change. The Prize is awarded by the Tinker Foundation  and administered by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR).

Please visit www.museprize.org for further details. Online nominations will close on the May 1st, 2011.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 28th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 

WASHINGTON—Saying the nation must face the “grave realities” of its mounting debt, President Barack Obama unveiled a deficit-reduction plan Wednesday that included far-reaching spending cuts, pulling off a daring robbery of the heavily fortified Fort Knox bullion deposi-tory, and repealing Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy.

In a televised address, Obama outlined his proposal to eliminate $4 trillion from the federal deficit over the next 12 years, and expressed his vision for a future in which the government was leaner, more efficient, and had billions and billions of dollars worth of stolen gold stashed in D.C.-area safe-deposit boxes.

“We cannot continue to live beyond our means,” the president said. “Unless we want to cripple our grandchildren with this debt burden, we must act now by eliminating tax loopholes and pulling off what all Americans—Republicans and Democrats alike—can agree is the greatest heist of all time.”

“It’s time to stop kicking the can down the road to future generations,” Obama added. “We must empty that vault and ensure our country’s full economic recovery.”

According to a fact sheet issued by the White House, the proposed measures include slashing farm subsidies, cutting federal pension insurance, tricking Fort Knox security personnel into thinking that the president and five others are ordinary elevator repairmen, capping Medicaid’s outlays on equipment, shaping C4 charges to blast 21-inch-thick vault doors off their hinges, and curbing discretionary spending.

In spite of the admittedly “formidable” challenges that his plan faced, Obama insisted that “the time for action is now,” noting that last week the price of gold rose above $1,500 an ounce for the first time ever.

“Reining in the runaway growth of entitlement programs and the defense budget will not be easy,” Obama said. “And neither will silently ferrying 5,000 tons of bullion through a network of ventilation ducts. But just trust me on this; I’ve got the blueprints and I think I found a way out through a drainage pipe.”

According to Obama’s senior adviser David Plouffe, the president’s plan will assure the nation’s long-term solvency while also producing immediate tangible benefits, including, but not limited to, a gigantic pile of gold.

“The president looked at every conceivable option,” said Plouffe, who is expected to externally coordinate the six-man Fort Knox team from a van outfitted with multiple video screens. “He considered trimming the federal workforce, scaling back welfare payments, taking out a $4 trillion fire insurance policy on the Pentagon and burning it to the ground, even raising the retirement age—everything was on the table.”

“Ultimately, the president selected measures that will have a minimal impact on the middle class,” Plouffe continued. “Indeed, his plan places an added burden only on those who either earn more than $250,000 annually or house 368,000 bars of pure gold. Most Americans won’t be affected at all.”

Republican leaders were quick to unleash a barrage of criticism, blasting the administration’s proposal for its “unacceptable” reliance on tax increases and grand larceny, and accusing Obama of offering few concrete details in his speech.

“The president conveniently avoided any specifics on his Medicare Independent Payment Advisory Board and his getaway plan,” House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) said. “And his speech contained not one mention of those laser-beam motion detectors that you can’t even see unless you have an aerosol spray that makes them visible. What about those, Mr. President?”

In a party-line vote earlier this month, the House of Representatives passed Rep. Ryan’s rival plan, which includes across-the-board tax cuts, tunneling under the Bureau of Printing and Engraving, sending an electrical surge through its security system, and stealing the engraving plates so that “we can print off as much money as we want.”

——————————————–

NEWS IN PHOTO:

The Onion – April 27, 2011

Trump Unable To Produce Certificate Proving He’s Not A Festering Pile Of Shit.  He sent investigators to Hawaii to search if President Obama was born there – and this was not an Onion invention!

———————–

The SustainabiliTank comment:

THE REAL EMBARRASSMENT OF THE UNITED STATES IS IN THE FACT THAT THE TEA PARTY REPUBLICANS PUSH AWAY THE PRESIDENT AND CONGRESS FROM DEALING WITH THE REAL PROBLEMS BY FABRICATING ISSUES LIKE THE BIRTHING OF THE PRESIDENT!
 

April 27, 2011, THE NEW YORK TIMES Opinion Pages

EDITORIAL

A Certificate of Embarrassment

With sardonic resignation, President Obama, an eminently rational man, stared directly into political irrationality on Wednesday and released his birth certificate to history. More than halfway through his term, the president felt obliged to prove that he was a legitimate occupant of the Oval Office. It was a profoundly low and debasing moment in American political life.

The disbelief fairly dripped from Mr. Obama as he stood at the West Wing lectern. People are out of work, American soldiers are dying overseas and here were cameras to record him stating that he was born in a Hawaii hospital. It was particularly galling to us that it was in answer to a baseless attack with heavy racial undertones.

Mr. Obama practically begged the public to set aside these distractions, expressing hope that his gesture would end the “silliness” and allow a national debate about budget priorities. It won’t, of course.

If there was ever any doubt about Mr. Obama’s citizenship, which there was not, the issue was settled years ago when Hawaii released his birth certificate. The fuller document that Mr. Obama had to request contains some extra information, including his parents’ signatures and the name of the hospital where he was born, but it was unnecessary to show his legitimacy.

So it will not quiet the most avid attackers. Several quickly questioned its authenticity. That’s because the birther question was never really about citizenship; it was simply a proxy for those who never accepted the president’s legitimacy, for a toxic mix of reasons involving ideology, deep political anger and, most insidious of all, race. It was originally promulgated by fringe figures of the radical right, but mainstream Republican leaders allowed it to simmer to satisfy those who are inflamed by Mr. Obama’s presence in the White House.

Sarah Palin said the birth certificate issue was “fair game,” and the public was “rightfully” making it an issue. The House speaker, John Boehner, grudgingly said in February that he would take Mr. Obama “at his word” that he was a citizen, a suggestion that the proof was insufficient. He said, however, that it was not his job to end the nonsensical attacks. “The American people have the right to think what they want to think,” he said at the time. That signal was clearly received. Lawmakers in nearly a dozen states introduced bills requiring presidential candidates to release their full birth certificates.

It is inconceivable that this campaign to portray Mr. Obama as the insidious “other” would have been conducted against a white president.

There was a price to the party for keeping the issue alive; inevitably, it was picked up by a cartoon candidate, Donald Trump, who rode birtherism directly to the prime-time promontories of cable TV. The Republican establishment began to wince as it became increasingly tied to Mr. Trump’s flirtations with racial provocation, and Karl Rove told him to knock it off. Naturally, he did not.

Finally, his taunting and the questions of television correspondents obliging Mr. Trump got on the president’s nerves. Mr. Obama was tactically smart to release the certificate and marginalize those who continue to keep the matter alive. It is tragic that American politics is fueled by such poisonous fire. Mr. Trump quickly moved on to a new fixation, questioning Mr. Obama’s academic credentials. Mr. Boehner, and other party leaders, have a new reason to call a halt to the politics of paranoia and intolerance.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 12th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

from   KEN SHILLING   <kenshilling@rocketmail.com>

to pj <pj@sustainabilitank.com>
date Sat, Feb 12, 2011 at 1:21 PM
subject Egypt: What Would “President McCain” Have Done?

 

At moments like the current Egypt crisis, I will sit and wonder what a President McCain might have done. How differently might have America faired under McCain? Well, McCain’s tax cuts would have been a bit steeper, and BP might have gotten a free pass after the Gulf Oil Disaster, rather than being forced into compensation. But what would have been McCain’s forte?

 Clues can be found in those last two Presidential debates in October 2008, when it was fairly clear that Obama was going to win this thing. McCain had to riff, had to improvise. It was obvious in those debates that he loved talking foreign policy. “Watch what happens in Georgia,” he’d warn (the Georgia south of Russia, presumably), “. . . and Ukraine, and Ossetia.” Then he’d look into the camera and remind us that Iran’s President Ahmadinejad was a very dangerous man, and close his statements with his time-tested, “When I look into Putin’s eyes, I see KGB” taunt.

It’s clear that candidate McCain looked forward to foreign policy challenges, and that his response to America’s economic meltdown and continued unemployment would have been to divert our attention. That path would make sense for him, because the Republican magic bullet of lower taxes is no more effective in a recession than the Democrat magic bullet of stimulus spending. But a Republican president need not sit and take his lumps for a poor economy. There’s always war.

 The Republican establishment has long favored some sort of attack on Iran, Republican commentators talk openly of military action against Ahmadinejad, and in McCain’s America, these voices would have been much more prominent than they are now. In McCain’s America, rather than talking about putting America back to work, pundits would be debating how to put Ahmadinejad in his place. Should we bomb? Should we provoke an insurgency? In McCain’s America, as job losses mounted here at home, rhetoric against Ahmadinejad would increase. The War Drumbeat that America endured under Bush Jr. in 2002-2003 would be mirrored under a McCain Presidency.

Of course, the wisdom of opening a third front of war in the Middle East would be questioned. President McCain would not have an easy time selling his ideas. But a President McCain would deeply welcome the current Egypt Uprising, a ready-made crisis ripe for any Republican Administration to exploit and call for war. You’ve heard of The Muslim Brotherhood, right? A gentlemen’s club of Islamic activists that have not at all taken a major role in Egypt’s current uprising. Historically, The Muslim Brotherhood is the granddaddy of Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East. Historically, without the Muslim Brotherhood, there would have been no Bin Laden. But since President Obama has no stake in fanning the flames in Egypt, the media has felt free to report the truth:  The Muslim Brotherhood is not out in front in the current uprising.

Under McCain, the news from Egypt would’ve come to us highly biased.  We’d be browbeaten with reports of fundamentalists taking over in Egypt. Under McCain, every obscure Egyptian Mullah with anti-American sentiments would suddenly find himself in the camera eye. A McCain White House would amplify any connection between fundamentalists in Egypt, however tenuous, and their counterparts in Iran. And there you have it: McCain would have his Weapons of Mass Destruction, his case for Going In. Perversely, President Ahmadinejad in Iran would enjoy McCain’s sabre-rattling. The more he became the target of McCain Administration tirades, the more popular he’d grow at home. And just like regular people in America, the Iranians now demanding something be done about the economy would be called unpatriotic, in the face of such open American aggression. For his part, McCain would explain how the suffering of regular Americans deeply pains him, but at this moment, we must once again, rise and face the aggressor in the Middle East, and blah, blah, blah.

 And the people of Egypt, currently rejoicing over the removal of Mubarak, would instead be chanting “death to America,” in the face of McCain’s aggression in the region. McCain would point to these marchers as justification for taking up arms, and McCain would have his war. And most importantly, nobody would be talking about the economy. We’d be jobless and debating the wisdom of McCain’s battle plans.

So when you watch the news tonight, ask yourself, when was the last time you saw televised throngs of Middle Eastern protesters who aren’t seething with anger at Americans, protesters who are not itching for a chance to get at us? President Obama has wisely distanced the USA from all sides, allowing the people to sort things out on their own. And for that you can thank your lucky stars that it is he, and not John McCain, who is your President.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 9th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 Christina Taylor Green, 9, who was born on September 11, 2001, as a
“face of hope” during the 9/11 day of everlasting infamy, was now
killed by America’s hatred and venom. AMERICA IS KAPUTT – Tucson,
Arizona its tombstone.

I am now in Vienna, Austria – a beautiful city with a complicated
past, member of a European Union with problems. I intended after the
New Year 2011 to start writing for the web a new series of articles –
content and insights. But my high intent came to nothing when I heard
of the Arizona news of Saturday January 8, 2011. Young Christina – A
Face of Many Hopes” – had gone with a neighbor to an event with
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords at a shopping center near Tucson, and
some incensed half-wit pulled a Glock 19, 9 mm., semi-automatic
pistol, he purchased “legally-in-Arizona” where such toys seem to be
university equipment. The State of Arizona is now so friendly to his
kind that even Sarah Palin’s daughter just bought a house there, and
Senator McCain’s Sarah, herself, also contemplates moving there. The
place is hot these days indeed. Federal Judge John Roll was killed also, and
Gabrielle who liked to see all have health care, is now in intensive
care.

I will not belabor the point as I do not have anything of substance to
add – beyond saying that upon hearing what happened – my first
utterances then still seem true now.

I decided to do something positive instead and went today – Sunday –
to see the closing exhibit at the Jewish Museum on Dorotheergasse
titled – “Die Turken in Wien – Geschichte Einer Judischen Gemeinde” –
the history of Jewish Communities in the Habsburg Empire – Jews that
originated in the Ottoman Empire – that is Jews that were Turks – Jews
that were the link between East and West – something of value if one
wants to have a serious look at what the Turks of today could try to
emulate. I saw there indeed a woman covered in Islamic dress fingering
the German texts of the explanations. So, I was not wrong in
ascertaining that there may be value to this show. Nevertheless,
because of the seriousness of the US abyss, I will not continue on
this topic either.

Instead – let me note what I read in front of a hologram, part of a
series of 21 such holograms, placed in the permanent exhibit one floor
above the temporary Turkish exhibit.

That exhibit of Jewish Vienna – three dimensional and yet intangible –
is titled: “From Ghetto to Giant Wheel.” I read there —

“Tu Felix Austria: Now adays … when they demand that we don’t forget
the past by ‘the past’ they mean only the concentration camps – and
under no circumstances should we recall the celebrated scholars,
writers, priests, and Statesmen who created the climate in which the
builders of the gas chambers were able to flourish.”

Tu America – listen and wake up – the half-wit who did it is immaterial.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 18th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

The notion of a politician taking a paycheck from a news organization before mounting a presidential bid isn’t totally new. Pat Buchanan hosted CNN’s “Crossfire” in the 1990s in between GOP primary campaigns and certainly used the national platform to his advantage in the years before Fox News achieved its current status.

Buchanan, the populist Republican, in an interview, said now the rule should be: “As soon as you come close to declaring or declare, you’re gone.”In the 1996 campaign Buchanan made his final appearance as a “Crossfire” host in February 1995 and then announced his candidacy the next month.

Now a paid MSNBC contributor, Buchanan said, “We’re in a dramatically different era now.”

Roger Ailes, Fox News chairman and CEO and Buchanan’s old colleague from the 1968 Richard Nixon campaign, has good financial reasons, besides political reasons, to trash the concept of a media outlet responsibility to present honest news.

The idea of  Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee all making moves indicating they may run for president, and their common employer – Fox News – beg a question that hasn’t been asked before: How does a news organization cover White House hopefuls when so many are on the payroll?

Four prospects — all in the Conservative-Republican corner – and especially the former Alaska governor — facing media questions only on Fox News – a network that both pays them and offers limited scrutiny has already become a matter of frustration in the political and journalistic community — and not just among those the intensely competitive Fox is typically quick to dismiss as jealous rivals.

Read more: www.politico.com/news/stories/0910/42745.html#ixzz18RYZiyjX

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 8th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

U.N. Circus by by Joseph Klein on Nov 8th, 2010

from frontpagemag.com

Once the Obama administration decided last year to join the circus known as the United Nations Human Rights Council, it was only a matter of time before the U.S. faced judgment day on its own human rights record before this dysfunctional UN body.

Our turn came on November 5, 2010. “It is an honor to be in this chamber,” said Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations Esther Brimmer to the council on the occasion of America’s examination. ”Star chamber” would be a more fitting description.

The “honor” that Brimmer was referring to was being present at the council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) hearing. The UPR is a rotating periodic examination of all UN member states’ human rights records by the Human Rights Council. The council includes such countries as China, Cuba, Libya and Saudi Arabia. These serial human rights abusers exploit the UPR process to heap praise on each other and whitewash their own abysmal records, while scoring propaganda points against Western democracies with baseless accusations.

Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a Geneva-based non-governmental organization that monitors the Human Rights Council, captured perfectly the absurdity of America in the dock: “the U.N. system failed today by allowing non-democracies to hijack the session for political propaganda and to drum up anti-American sentiment worldwide.”

Predictably, Cuba, Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, Russia, China, Algeria, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Libya, and other dictatorships and terrorist-sponsoring states accused America of genocide, war crimes, and systematic anti-Muslim and anti-African racism.

For example, Cuban ambassador Rodolfo Reyes Rodriguez called on the U.S. to end its blockade of the island country, calling it a “crime of genocide.” In addition, Cuba condemned the U.S. for “violations against migrants and mentally ill persons” and called on America to “ensure the right to food and health” for all citizens.

Iran’s delegation demanded the U.S. “halt serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law and even told the United States it needed to “combat violence against women.” Meanwhile, Iran is preparing to execute a woman on trumped up adultery charges.

Libya complained about U.S. “racism, racial discrimination and intolerance.”

North Korea, whose people are literally starving while the regime pursues its militaristic ambitions, told the U.S. “to address inequalities in housing, employment and education.”

The Obama administration should have seen this “bash America” circus coming. Just last year, a report highly critical of the United States — prepared by the United Nations’ former special rapporteur on “contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance,” Dr. Doudou Diène — was submitted to the very same UN Human Rights Council that is judging the United States’ human rights record today. Diène comes from Senegal, a predominantly Muslim country and a member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

In his report, which Diène wrote following his three week “fact-finding” tour in this country that included meetings with various Islamic groups, Diène concluded that “racism and racial discrimination have profoundly and lastingly marked and structured American society.” He went on to say that the “historical, cultural and human depth of racism still permeates all dimensions of life of American society” and lashed out at what he characterized as “racial profiling” against “people of Arab, Muslim, South Asian or Middle-Eastern descent.”

The current special rapporteur who replaced Diène, Githu Muigai, is not as anti-American as Diène, but has still managed to take a gratuitous swipe at the Arizona anti-illegal immigration law which, he claimed, compromises basic international human rights that migrants are entitled to.

“This is the sort of statute that opens a floodgate, equips a policeman or such other law enforcement person on the beat with such immense powers as to compromise…the very fundamental human rights that ought to be enjoyed in such an enlightened part of the world as Arizona,” Muigai told reporters at a press conference at UN headquarters last week. He contined:

If I have found any specific group of people to be the subject of the most insidious contemporary forms of racial discrimination, those are migrants. And I think in many parts of the world today, immigrants bear the brunt of xenophobic intolerance and this is true of the United States and it is of Europe, and it is of many parts of the world.

It has been often said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result each time. Yet that is precisely what the Obama administration has done in submitting our country’s human rights record to the judgment of the UN Human Rights Council, knowing full well the biases that prevail there.

As former U.S. ambassador to the UN John Bolton put it, “For the Obama administration, this is an exercise in self flagellation, which they seem to enjoy. But it doesn’t prompt equivalent candor from the real rights abusers.”

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 6th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

From Alaska to Argentina in an Electric Sports Car.

Racing Green Endurance hopes to spin the experience into an electric car startup.

twitter.com/GreenTechnology

Michael Kanellos: August 3, 2010

 www.greentechmedia.com/articles/r…

Austin, Tex.–They get pulled over quite a bit.

That’s the word from Alex Schey, the project manager of Racing Green Endurance, a group that is driving an electric sports car called the SRZero 16,000 miles from Alaska to Argentina.

“So far, we’ve been stopped by cops 15 times,” he said. “They just want to take pictures.”

The group — which grew out of work conducted by Schey and others at Imperial College London — designed the car to help make consumers aware that electric cars can be both functional and stylish. In addition to posting their own blog and conducting interviews, the drivers are being followed by a team filming a documentary that may air on BBC News in the future. When they finish in a few weeks, the group will then sit down, study the results and attempt to incubate a startup, possibly around the battery management system or the battery pack designed for the car. We met up with them in Austin at NI Week, a conference sponsored by test and measurement giant National Instruments. (NI supplied hardware for the battery management system; Racing Green Endurance created the software.)

“In the past, everyone had these perceived ideas that electric cars were boring and slow and had funny names,” he said.

The SRZero contains a 54 kilowatt-hour lithium ion phosphate battery, which is more than double the size of the battery of the Nissan Leaf and a single kilowatt-hour larger than the battery in the Tesla Roadster, and can drive 350 miles on a charge. They body of the car is a modified Radical SR8, one of the fastest gas-burning cars in the world.

While it can go farther than the Tesla Roadster on a single charge, the maiden version of the SRZero going to Argentina doesn’t accelerate like it, or even like a regular high-end sports car. It takes six to seven seconds to go from zero to 60 miles per hour. But that’s because the group deliberately left out the gearbox. The motor right now connects directly to the wheels. When the group completes the drive, a fixed-gear gearbox will be added that will allow the car to go from zero to 60 in three seconds.

“This smashes the Tesla in terms of range and it will smash the Tesla in acceleration,” he joked.

After Texas, the group will head to Mexico, Guatemala, the Central American chain, Colombia and other South American nations.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 2nd, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Jason Leopold is the Deputy Managing Editor at Truthout. He is the author of the Los Angeles Times bestseller, News Junkie, a memoir. Visit newsjunkiebook.com for a preview.

 www.truth-out.org/BP-Executive-Tu…

———————

BP Executive Turned Alyeska Pipeline Into “Deeply Distressed” Company.

Monday 02 August 2010

by: Jason Leopold, t r u t h o u t | Investigative Report

photo
Former BP human resources executive Kevin Hostler will be retiring from his current post as Chief Executive Officer for Alyeska Pipeline Service Company in September. (Photo: Alyeska Pipeline Service Co)

Alyeska Pipeline, the BP-led consortium that operates the 800-mile Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS), has implemented deep budget cuts, deferred work on a number of important maintenance and upgrade projects, failed to study how relocating engineers would impact the safe operations and long-term integrity of the pipeline and is led by a chief executive who was described by the company’s five vice presidents as “intimidating,” “demeaning,” “aggressive,” “confrontational,” “unpredictable,” “polarizing,” “withering,” “edgy,” “vulgar” and “inappropriate.”

Those are just some of the critical findings contained in a closely-held report, obtained exclusively by Truthout, that was prepared by two attorneys hired by Alyeska to investigate widespread safety concerns raised by a senior employee in an anonymous letter to BP’s Office of the Ombudsman alleging TAPS is vulnerable to a catastrophic spill.

Charles Thebaud and Jane Diecker of the law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, conducted the four-month probe and turned over their report in mid-June to TAPS’ owners BP, ConocoPhillips Transportation Alaska, ExxonMobil Pipeline Company, Unocal Pipeline Company and Koch Alaska Pipeline Company.

Truthout documented some of the findings of Thebaud’s investigation and the safety and integrity concerns raised by nearly a dozen Alyeska and BP officials in an investigative report published last month.

Alyeska has not shared a copy of Thebaud’s report with its employees and the company downplayed many of the report’s conclusions in a company-wide email distributed June 30 signed by TAPS’ owners.

Thebaud’s report paints a picture of a company where employees suffer from low morale, have a deep mistrust of senior executives and fear retaliation if they openly discuss or raise concerns about safety and integrity issues with them.

The harshest criticism was reserved for Chief Executive Officer Kevin Hostler, a BP executive “on loan” to Alyeska who admittedly uses “anger” to “obtain results,” in violation of Alyeska’s own code of conduct.

Hostler announced his retirement from the company, effective in September, one day after the publication of Truthout’s report last month.

“Although lawful, [Hostler’s] leadership style and demeanor have affected the work environment,” the report’s executive summary says. “Employees at various levels of the organizations, in [Fairbanks, Anchorage and Valdez], have either witnessed or heard about [the CEO’s] interactions with his executives. Their observations or perceptions have adversely affected some employees’ willingness to raise concerns to [Hostler] and senior management, particularly for non-core issues.”

Hostler’s “conduct has had consequences, even among the executives,” the report added. “The group is admittedly ‘consciously cautious’ and ‘wary’ in how they approach [Hostler] and in the topics they raise. In fact, some are hesitant to raise ‘non-core’ issues with [Hostler], given his unpredictability and demeanor.”

The five Alyeska vice presidents who were critical of Hostler are: Mike Joynor, Greg Jones, Jordan Jacobson, the company’s general counsel, Mike Muckenthaler, Alyeska’s chief financial officer, and Kristi Acuff, who recently retired as senior vice president, employee external relations.

In his own defense, Hostler told Thebaud, “he can become particularly angry if he believes that ‘safety has been ignored.'” That statement, according to a dozen senior BP and Alyeska officials who were interviewed for this story and reviewed the report, said is “laughable” and “a flat out lie.”

“It’s when you discuss safety concerns that he lashes out,” said one top Alyeska executive who has interacted with Hostler over years. “Raising safety concerns means Alyeska will have to spend money and Kevin Hostler and BP do not want to invest money to make sure this pipeline operates safely. That’s a fact.”

Prior to being named chief executive of Alyeska, Hostler spent 27 years with BP, most recently as senior vice president of BP’s global human resources organization. Before that, Hostler was head of BP’s subsidiary in Colombia.

The report said employees have been lodging complaints against Hostler since 2007, which senior officials in Alyeska’s human resources (HR) department failed to address.

In fact, Thebaud’s report also documented widespread problems in the human resources division.

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Interviews with employees “revealed a significant weakness in the quality of the work environment in [human resources]” and determined that the “majority of the [human resources] personnel interviewed do not believe that an open work environment [to express concerns] exists in HR.”

“The HR Director, has a management style that her staff and peers view as aloof and … confrontational,” his report says. “Regardless of the factors giving rise to the current situation, the work environment in HR requires attention. A substantial segment of the workers mistrusts the organization’s leader [Theresa Guim] and is reluctant to raise concerns. The situation … must be addressed.”

The report also said “morale is low” at the Valdez Terminal, where employees who respond to spills work. Thebaud’s report said employees do not trust Kathy Zinn, Alyeska’s Valdez Terminal director, because of her close ties to Hostler and her own brash management style. Numerous employees have left the Valdez Terminal in recent months and the report suggests that the departures may be directly related to Zinn’s leadership.

Scrutiny Following Oil Spill {At THE NORTH SLOPE}

Alyeska has been the subject of intense scrutiny in recent months following a 4,500-barrel oil spill at one of its pump stations on the North Slope in May, which, according to a copy of a separate 17-page internal report into the circumstances behind that incident, was largely the result of the company continuously repeating past mistakes.

The spill at pump station 9, about 100 miles southwest of Fairbanks, resulted when oil started to flow back into the tank, after a backup battery system failed during a planned shutdown. Because the power was out and the facility was not manned with trained operators, no one recognized that the relief valves, which open during an outage, were discharging oil into the tank, which eventually overflowed and spilled. The incident forced Alyeska to shut down the pipeline for three days.

The facility is usually unmanned, another cost-cutting measure implemented by Alyeska as part of its long-delayed “strategic reconfiguration plan,” an “efficiency” measure implemented by TAPS’ owners to address declining oil production on Prudhoe Bay.

But a work crew was nearby because of the planned shutdown. The report said the pump station 9 was being shutdown in order to test the fire detection system, which includes isolation of primary power. During one of the tests, two uninterrupted power supply systems failed. The uninterrupted power supply was supposed to provide backup power, but when it failed, it caused critical station control systems to shut down.

When power is lost, five of the pump station’s relief valves are supposed to kick into an open position to prevent pipeline overpressure and flow into tank 190. But according to the report, also lost along with the uninterrupted power supply failure were audible and visual alarms when relief valves open at 5 percent or more. The operators, according to the report, did not realize that a power failure causes the relief valves to open into tank 190. The tank then overfilled and spilled crude oil into the containment area.

Alyeska’s internal report into the root cause of the spill noted that at least four serious incidents have occurred at pump station 9 since 2007, including one on March 22, 2007, that was nearly identical to the spill in May and almost caused an explosion at the facility, but the company has failed to learn from the operational mistakes that caused those accidents.

“A number of significant incidents on TAPS over the last several years, demonstrate a trend of operational discipline deficiencies similar to those at [tank 190],” the Root Cause Analysis and Post Accident Review report said.

Although Alyeska implemented recommendations from previous reports into past incidents, “there is recognition of a need for significant improvement in the organization’s ability to effectively learn from these experiences and prevent recurrence. The previous incident actions have been completed, however, they did not result in the cultural and behavioral changes … Reports and recommendations from previous incidents have not been communicated well throughout the organization.”

A BP master root cause specialist with behavioral safety as well as business management experience reviewed the internal report into the spill and said the findings “indicate a deep and widespread problem that is likely to be reflective not just of the operating environment but also maintenance and integrity management discipline … and highlights a clear and significant risk to the safe operation of TAPS.”

The BP official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the uninterrupted power supply failure and the fact that the pump station is usually unmanned caused the operations control center located in Anchorage to lose all visibility with the facility and was unable to obtain crucial operational data about what unfolded.

“This is the inherent weakness of strategic reconfiguration: unmanned pump station,” the BP official said. “This event could have been much worse if it had occurred when people were not there. Everything is dependent on no power failures, redundant power supplies to work and all equipment to set up in the right safe condition upon loss of power.”

The BP official added that he believes the investigation into the spill “is fundamentally flawed because it does not identify the real root causes that resulted from a failed [uninterrupted power supply] breaker and the response of [Alyeska] personnel to the power outage.

“The recommendations resulting from this investigation as well as other investigations identified in the report lack specificity as to what [Alyeska] needs to do in order to prevent future failures of equipment and people,” the BP official said. “Investigators were not able to replicate the breaker failure and therefore were not able to identify a root cause for the failure. This means that the device remains in service with the likelihood of a similar failure in the future.”

The BP officials said the report’s recommendations, that corrective action should focus heavily on communication and training do not “strongly influence or motivate behavioral changes.

“The condition described by the investigation report and its scale indicates a deep and widespread problem that is likely to be reflective not just of the operating environment but also maintenance and integrity management discipline,” the BP official said. “What was described as an operating discipline issue is likely not to be an isolated condition but reflective of the entirety of [Alyeska’s] operation including management of the TAPS mechanical integrity.” The report underscores “a complete lack of management leadership to motivate personnel without fear of retaliation to perform their job duties with the highest degree of integrity and with rigorous discipline.”

TAPS owners have “abdicated their responsibility for proper management of [the pipeline] to a BP executive [Hostler] who exhibits the same flawed management qualities that characterize the BP leadership culture which have led to numerous integrity incidents in the last five years,” the BP official added. “You could describe TAPS as Alaska’s ticking time bomb because of flawed leadership, flawed management, lack of rigorous operational discipline and loss of skilled and experienced staff. The numerous incidents preceding the [spill at pump station 9] are harbingers of a worse event that will happen unless an intervention by an owner with a stronger management culture occurs.” (A detailed story on the circumstances that led up to the spill will be published later this week.)

The BP official said both the Thebaud and pump station 9 reports are cause for serious concern.

“The public, State of Alaska, Department of Transportation and Congress should be alarmed by the findings of the two reports,” the BP official said. Alyeska “is a deeply distressed organization and has a serious systemic issue with operational discipline that is likely indicative of a bigger problem with serious integrity management implications.”

Patricia Klinger, a spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), said in an interview last month that the circumstances behind the spill are still under investigation by federal regulators.

Additionally, Klinger said a corrective action order was issued to Alyeska May 27, requiring the company to keep personnel on site 24-hours a day, seven days a week and perform inspections every 30 minutes for “leaks and any abnormal operations or activities.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, last week called on Alyeska to conduct its own internal review of the pipeline, in areas such as maintenance and leak detection, to ensure its operating safely.

Alyeska said the company would hire a third party to conduct an independent review of TAPS after Alaska State Rep. David Guttenberg (D-Fairbanks), who has been critical of the company’s cost-cutting measures, said Alyeska could not be trusted to investigate itself.

Anonymous Email Sparks Probe

The investigation conducted by Thebaud and Diecker into the safety issues at Alyeska was sparked by an anonymous three-page email sent to BP’s Office of the Ombudsman last December by an Alyeska employee identified as “Afraidaspill.”

In that letter, Afraidaspill wrote that Alyeska’s Employee Concerns Program (ECP) “is non functional” and that was one of the reasons BP’s Office of the Ombudsman was initially contacted about the safety and budgetary issues. The email noted that BP’s Deputy Ombudsman, Billie Garde, an attorney, had previously represented Alyeska whistleblowers. Garde also formerly worked for Alyeska.

Thebaud’s report said BP’s ombudsman’s office then sent Afraidaspill’s email to Alyeska’s general counsel and, in February, attorneys for TAPS’ owners directed Morgan, Lewis & Bockius “to conduct this privileged, independent investigation on behalf of Alyeska … without guidance, direction, or oversight from Alyeska management.”

Thebaud and Diecker conducted 66 interviews with Alyeska executives, directors, managers, supervisors and “individual contributors” during the course of their investigation and obtained 200 internal company documents from a senior research analyst in Alyeska’s legal department. The questions asked were based on a review of the documents, says the report, which is marked “attorney-client privilege.”

Afraidaspill’s email raised concerns “in seven general topic areas affecting Alyeska personnel and operations,” Thebaud’s report says. “The allegations relate to all three major Alyeska locations – Anchorage, Fairbanks and Valdez.”

The BP official said what’s interesting about Thebaud’s report is that it “narrowly examines [Afraidaspill’s] concerns with exactness for substantiation of the concern exactly to the words used to define the concern.”

For example, the email described Alyeska vice presidents as “neutered,” “spineless” and “worn down.” Thebaud’s report said his probe determined that company officials are neither “neutered,” “spineless” nor “worn down” and, therefore, the accusation was unsubstantiated.

“That is very unusual and a narrow viewpoint,” the BP officials said. “To me this was deliberate so that [TAPS owners] could say that they could not substantiate the concerns rather than examine the meaning of the concerns.”

Stanley Sporkin, BP’s ombudsman, and Garde, were both said to be distressed by Thebaud’s final report, which substantiated some of the initial concerns, but ultimately concluded that the issues in the Afraidaspill email and correspondence their office received from other employees had no immediate impact on the integrity of the pipeline.

Sporkin and Garde were in Anchorage last week meeting with BP officials to discuss the report and register their disapproval with the results of the investigation, Alyeska and BP officials said. Ironically, in 2006 and 2007, Garde was working with Alyeska on revitalizing their employee concerns’ program and helped the company establish an open work environment, which Thebaud’s report identified as areas of major concern for employees that contributed to the issues at the center of the Afraidaspill email.

Some senior Alyeska employees, who reviewed Thebaud’s report, said they believed it ultimately amounts to a “whitewash” because it failed to absorb how low morale, poor leadership and a culture of fear has already affected the safe operations of a pipeline that moves anywhere from 600,000 to 700,000 barrels of oil per day and accounts for 15 percent of the country’s oil supply. The employees pointed to the spill at pump station 9 as evidence of how these issues have affected pipeline safety and integrity.

Fears that the investigation would be whitewashed was a prediction Afraidaspill made in an email sent June 21 to Pasha Eatedali, an attorney who works in BP’s Ombudsman’s office, inquiring about the status of Thebaud’s report.

“Concerned that the report will be whitewashed,” the email said. “Since Alyeska is paying for [Thebaud’s investigation], there’s a belief that the concern report will not truly relate to the owners state of affairs at Alyeska and the irresponsible decisions that have been made by the President that will/have resulted in concern for safety and integrity,” says the email, which was obtained by Truthout.

This wouldn’t be the first time Thebaud has been accused of whitewashing a report concerning Alyeska. In 2006, Robert Glen Plumlee, an Alyeska financial executive, had accused Thebaud of covering up his claims of widespread financial malfeasance and retaliation by Hostler after he disclosed to Thebaud and federal investigators that he was pressured to boost estimates of how much Alyeska was spending to fight corrosion on TAPS. Neither Thebaud nor Diecker returned a call for comment.

“Bow Wave”

Although Thebaud’s report downplayed the significance the issues raised in the Afraidaspill email would have on the integrity of the pipeline, he did find cause for concern in many of the allegations raised in the email.

One of the main issues alleged that Alyeska, at the direction of BP, implemented budget cuts “over the last couple of years” that has resulted in a “large ‘bow wave’ of deferred projects and program work,” which can result “in an unsafe work place and potential for an environmental spill.”

“The oversight of the integrity of the system is at risk,” Afraidaspill’s email said.

Thebaud’s report said Alyeska slashed its 2010 budget by about $80 million last year due to the “global economic recession and other [unknown] circumstances” resulting in “significant reductions in almost all of the major programs.”

However, “the reductions did not … compromise Alyeska’s safety, its environmental stewardship, or the integrity of TAPS,” Thebaud’s report said.

But a top BP official told Truthout last month “there is a cogent argument for closer TAPS attention because of its age and lower flow rate that create new and unique integrity concerns.”

Still, “the Alyeska CEO and executives readily acknowledge that funding constraints and other circumstances have caused the deferral of some work,” according to the report. “Thus far, however, the deferred work has been work that could be safely and lawfully deferred. But in time, deferral will cease to be an option as conditions or regulatory commitments compel completion of the work.”

The report added that Alyeska officials are now “working with the Owners to develop a realistic, long-term budget that accounts for the timely performance of the previously deferred work” to address the potential safety issues from delaying work on the pipeline, which suggests the company never put together a long-term budget plan.

The report said, “In the past, the budget process focused primarily on whether work had to be done in the following year. Now, Alyeska is creating a five-year project plan to address the ‘bow wave’ with the intent of leveling the work over a three-year period and providing the needed funds. They are particularly concerned about the compression of work over the 2012-2015 period.

“Part of the new long-range planning process will be to identify the risk of not completing a project in any given future year so that the Company and the Owners can plan for when a project can (and must) be completed. Thus, the [Afraidaspill email] correctly notes the existence of a ‘bow wave’ and the potential consequences if the future work is not performed. Alyeska management and the Owners recognize both the condition and the consequences and are taking steps to address the situation.”

The BP official who reviewed the report said the “bow wave” of “capital projects are also indicative of the flawed BP leadership culture because it arises out of the need to generate short-term performance goals.”

“This is how it is linked to the CEO’s performance – to deliver short-term financial results and deferring the long-term to his future replacement,” the BP official said. “That is how the game is played within BP. It is the same type of practice of maintenance deferrals that ultimately led to the North Slope spills in 2006.”

Little Regard for Emergencies

Thebaud’s report said a controversial cost-cutting measure implemented by Hoslter last November, also identified in the Afraidaspill email, to relocate more than 30 Alyeska employees from Fairbanks to Anchorage – more than 300 miles away from the pipeline – was done with “surprisingly little consideration to the potential effect of the relocation on the company’s emergency preparedness and response.”

The relocation, which has been the subject of inquiries by Guttenberg, the Alaska state Representative and most recently, Congress, affects about 30 engineers, scientists and technicians, who are directly responsible for the monitoring and maintenance of the integrity, safety and environmental compliance of TAPS. If integrity management employees need to immediately respond to an incident on the pipeline, they will now have to travel by airplane to Fairbanks, then drive to the area of the pipeline that requires attention. The pipeline does not run through Anchorage.

Hostler’s decision to relocate employees to Anchorage reverses a decision made in 1997 by then-Alyeska President Bob Malone, to move employees from Anchorage to Fairbanks to be closer to the pipeline so they could easily access it in the event of a spill or to perform monitoring and maintenance functions.

“You put your employees on the pipeline … it will improve safety because you’re right there,” Malone said at the time. “It’s clear communication; it’s clear lines of authority; it’s clear accountability, which is most important to me.”

Since the relocation was announced last November, six integrity management engineers have resigned and Alyeska is finding it difficult to fill those vacancies with experienced personnel, according to employees, a warning that was raised in an internal relocation analysis describing the impact of the move.

Thebaud and Diecker were provided with the 39-page relocation analysis prepared by Alyeska integrity employees that documented the inherent risks and increased travel costs that would be realized from moving employees to Anchorage.

The analysis warned that the relocation “will likely result in the inability of the [integrity management] teams to focus attention on core business functions that are necessary to maintain regulatory compliance and leak/spill prevention …”

At a hearing last month before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, Alyeska Senior Vice President Greg Jones testified that the integrity management officials who prepared the relocation analysis no longer stand by its conclusions.

That prompted Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minnesota), a member of the subcommittee, to demand Jones provide the committee with statements from the individuals who changed their position.

But that’s not what the committee was told in a July 26 letter signed by Tom Webb, Alyeska’s engineering integrity manager, who worked on the relocation analysis.

Webb said, “At the current time, I do not know of any Integrity or Safety risks resulting from the relocation,” adding that the measure has resulted in “the loss of over 30% of Integrity Management’s staff.”

According to several Alyeska officials, the committee has not yet spoken with the other integrity management personnel who worked on the report, but they accused Jones of misrepresenting the facts.

Thebaud noted that his “investigation found no written analysis of the effect of the proposed relocation” on the [incident management team], the individuals who respond to spills or emergencies, such as an earthquake, or “staffing levels, experience, response capabilities, logistics, training, or overall effectiveness.”

“Moreover, [Alyeska’s] Emergency Preparedness and Compliance Manager reported that management did not discuss with him, or request that he conduct an analysis of, the impact of the proposed relocation on the [incident management team],” the report said. “In light of these circumstances and the evolving personal decision-making by those selected for relocation, the investigation cannot conclude that the relocation will have no impact on the effectiveness of the [incident management team]” when it comes to responding to a spill or other emergencies.

Thebaud said the concerns raised by Afraidaspill surrounding the relocation are “substantiated in part” because it correctly predicted that it would “result in key engineers leaving the company,” placing the “the integrity program at risk” and “reversing the significant progress made by the Company in integrity management in recent years.”

“These losses will, in the near term, place added stress on the organization,” Thebaud’s report said.

But Thebaud’s report then appears to be somewhat contradictory stating he has not found “compelling evidence to support a conclusion that either the loss of personnel or the new work location will have a significant adverse effect on the Company’s performance of its integrity management program.”

That last statement by Thebaud led a top Alyeska official to state: “Well of course not yet. This is an example of a statement being made by someone who has no concept of what Integrity Management for a pipeline is or looks like.”

“This is a case in point that Thebaud was not qualified to perform this part of the investigation. You would not expect any ‘evidence’ to immediately crop up right after these events have occurred – it doesn’t work that way,” the Alyssa official said.

Michelle Egan, an Alyeska spokeswoman, told Truthout last month that the relocation was carefully planned by Hostler and Alyeska managers and that “staff [were being] transferred because of the efficiency and synergy that is gained when [employees] are co-located with the rest of the departments” in the “same building.”

Thebaud’s report said the relocation was actually supposed to be phased in over an 18-month period and finalized in spring 2011. The report further states that Hostler unilaterally made the decision to move up the relocation by a year. The change, coincidentally, came after a news report was published in the Fairbanks News-Miner that questioned the logic behind the relocation and reprinted a separate email written by Afraidaspill critical of the decision.

Disastrous Decision

Several Alyeska officials said the relocation has already proven to be a disastrous move and has neither resulted in “efficiency” nor “synergy.”

Indeed, an email obtained by Truthout sent to senior Alyeska officials July 26 by David Hackney, one of Alyeska’s integrity management engineers, said, “Even in the short time I have been relocated in the Anchorage office, it is already clear to me that moving our operations from Fairbanks puts the safety of operations at risk. As to business efficiency, I have already seen that there are none to be realized.”

“No aspect of my job has become more efficient by being in Anchorage, my cubicle is simply in a geographic location far removed from the ground where most of my work is done,” Hackney wrote, requesting to be transferred back to Fairbanks. “There have been no enhancements in communications, supervision, coordination, or scheduling as to my work. The required move to Anchorage has caused loss of skilled and experienced personnel that cannot readily be replaced … This has a direct impact on the safety of our operations.”

A day after the email was sent, Hackney, who had sued the company for unknown reasons after he raised safety concerns, entered into a settlement with Alyeska and was transferred back to Fairbanks.

Additionally, Truthout has learned that one of the company’s integrity management supervisors is being transferred to Anchorage while the key engineers he’s going to supervise will remain in Fairbanks, an exception the company recently made for those individuals. The decision further contradicts statements by Egan and other Alyeska officials that the transfer of integrity management employees to Anchorage was about “efficiency” and “synergy” and being located in the same building.

Flawed Survey

During the course of Thebaud’s probe, Alyeska also commissioned Dittman Research & Communications to conduct an “open work environment survey” to try and get a sense of how employees felt about raising safety concerns, according to a copy of the 62-page report of the results of the survey Dittman provided to Alyeska in May.

But the survey was fundamentally flawed and designed specifically to shield Hostler from criticism, one of the most damning findings of Thebaud’s investigation. Thebaud’s report said “the 2010 Dittman survey missed a substantial opportunity to measure directly the workers’ perception of [Hostler].”

According to Thebaud’s report, the reason was due to the fact that a previous survey conducted in 2007 by a different research firm resulted in numerous employees complaining about Hostler’s management style.

“In the 2007 survey, the Executive Summary provided eleven ‘Areas of Needed Improvement,'” Thebaud’s report said. “One specifically addressed the need [for Hostler] to improve the workers’ perception of him: ‘Some respondents indicated that certain behaviors and actions of the Alyeska President and CEO have been perceived as having a negative organizational effect.’

“The 2007 survey results contain numerous examples explaining the data. For example, in response to a question about the Code of Conduct, the 2007 survey indicates, ‘Of the 110 comments provided, 31 discuss the President’s behaviors as a concern.'”

Guim, the human resources director, who Alyeska employees leveled numerous complaints about, was largely responsible for skewing the questions in the 2010 survey in such a way that it would not reflect poorly on Hostler or other Alyeska executives.

Guim told Thebaud that she did that because the “2007 survey results were filled with employees ‘venting’ against [Hostler] in highly personal and inappropriate ways, which provided no real insight or value to the survey.”

Hostler appears to have had a say in the 2010 survey as well. He told Thebaud the” 2007 survey was filled with ‘personal attacks’ on individuals and executives. Consequently, [Guim] indicated that the Company did not provide the opportunity for similar unhelpful venting in 2010.”

Thebaud said his investigation did not attempt to “validate or refute” any of the data in the 2007 or 2010 surveys. But the fact that Hostler’s conduct was a major issue in the 2007 survey, caused Thebaud’s investigation to seek information as to why the same questions weren’t included in the most recent survey conducted by Dittman.

“Workforce surveys – particularly anonymous workforce surveys – almost always include some amount of emotional venting and personal challenges to the character and conduct of some managers,” his report said. “Sophisticated survey analysts and reviewers recognize this reality and can properly dismiss or account for outlying information, personal attacks and other suspect information …

“Alyeska’s decision to design a survey that precluded the receipt of such data, creates a potential perception that it designed the 2010 survey to avoid the receipt of harmful information. By not addressing the issue specifically raised in 2007 about the effect of [Hostler’s] conduct, the Company does not have survey data to describe or characterize the current perception in the workforce or to determine the effectiveness of any corrective actions taken during the past three years.”

Alyeska has not decided who will replace Hostler when he leaves the company in September.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 26th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

We know that most paper nominated the American Robert Dudley to replace Tony Hayward at the helm of the sinking BP.
After all one third of the company’s oil and gas wells, refineries and other business interests are in the US, and no less then 40% of its shareholders are in the US – and you bet – the major known disaster they are part of is in the US. So, will an American at top help quiet down the anti-foreigner sentiment projected at Hayward?

But then the following article tells us that this is a case fit to push a woman to the top – if you wish – over the cliff – thus scoring points somehow in a lost situation. You see – women can advance and take over the job from failed men? Will this then hold up? Will it be a fitting American Woman of  Texas – or Alaska – may be?

Day 96 to the Macondo Blow-out: Tony Hayward Out at BP; Don’t Be Surprised If They Pick a Woman to Replace Him.

BY Anya Kamenetz July 26, 2010.

Tony Hayward

Tony Hayward is reported to be out as the CEO of BP, with a sweet 600,000-pound pension waiting for him (that’s $928K) as a “reward” for not only presiding over the Deepwater Horizon disaster, but performing like a whiny schoolboy in the weeks and months since. “I want my life back”? Congratulations, you’ve got it.

If history is any guide, BP may well choose a woman to replace him. During the recent financial crisis and recession, women emerged as the go-to turnaround leadership candidates for institutions and nations in trouble. Carol Bartz as CEO of the embattled Yahoo. Mary Schapiro as head of the beleaguered SEC. Elin Sigfusdottir and Birna Einarsdottir, appointed to run two (out of three) of Iceland’s nationalized banks (New Landsbanki and New Glitni), after the collapse of the country’s financial system and Johanna Sigurdardottir as the nation’s interim prime minister–both the first-ever female head of state in Iceland and the first openly gay head of state anywhere. Elizabeth Warren, currently the leading candidate to head the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and try to make sense of the hash of consumer financial protections. Even at BP itself, before Cynthia Warner left to head biofuels startup Sapphire Energy, she was made the head of a new health, safety, and security group in BP’s refining sector in response to the 2005 Texas City disaster (unfortunately, she apparently failed to have a lasting impact on the oil company with the worst safety and environmental record in the Big Six).

Michelle Ryan and Alex Haslam, two British social psychologists, say these kind of barbed opportunities are all too commonly offered to women. They call this phenomenon “the glass cliff.”

In 2008, the S&P 500 fell 38.5%, its worst year since 1937. But the average large company run by a woman was down four points more–42.7%. Women’s average tenure as CEOs tends to be lower and stock performance worse.

Ryan and Haslam’s studies have found the reason behind this: It’s not that women are categorically worse leaders, but that they are disproportionately hired as CEOs only at firms that have been struggling for years. High-flying companies almost never appointed women to top positions. Their controlled experiments confirm that professionals in the business, legal, and academic worlds are far more likely to choose a woman for a leadership role when the enterprise’s chances are dicey.

The glass cliff is a dangerous corollary to the glass ceiling. For many complex reasons, women–along with other outsiders like minorities–tend to be handed the chance to lead only when an enterprise is already on a downward spiral. If BP decides to go this way, you heard it here first.

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