By Elliott Negin, EcoWatch
“Clean air is vitally important,” Trump declared during a Nov. 22, 2016 interview with The New York Times. “Clean water,” he added, “crystal clean water is vitally important. Safety is vitally important.” And when he announced Pruitt’s nomination in early December, Trump vowed that the attorney general would “restore the EPA’s essential mission of keeping our air and water clean and safe.”
Putting aside the fact that the EPA has not forsaken that mission, Pruitt’s track record indicates that he would do the exact opposite. Under Pruitt, the acronym EPA would stand for Every Polluter’s Ally.
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Since he took office as Oklahoma’s attorney general in 2010, Pruitt has repeatedly sued the EPA to block key safeguards limiting power plant pollution, most notably the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which limits sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), which curb mercury, arsenic, cyanide and other emissions.
Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are primary ingredients of soot and smog pollution, which cause a number of respiratory problems, including bronchitis and aggravated asthma, as well as cardiovascular disease and premature death. Mercury and other toxic pollutants covered by MATS have been linked to heart disease, neurological damage, birth defects, asthma attacks and premature death. Some 25 million Americans suffer from asthma, alone. That’s one out of every 12 people.
The potential benefits of the Cross-State Rule and MATS are considerable. Taken together, they are projected to prevent 18,000 to 46,000 premature deaths across the country and save $150 billion to $380 billion in health care costs annually. In Pruitt’s home state, the two regulations would avert as many as 720 premature deaths and save as much as $5.9 billion per year.
Pruitt also has sued the EPA to prevent the agency from implementing a rule that would reduce the amount of ground-level ozone or smog, which the American Lung Association says is the most widespread pollutant nationwide and one of the most dangerous. Produced when sunlight heats nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide from power plants, industrial facilities and automobiles, ozone pollution has been linked to respiratory problems, cardiovascular disease and premature death. It is particularly harmful for the most vulnerable, including children, the elderly, and people already suffering from asthma or another respiratory disease.
No matter. In October 2015, Pruitt joined with four other states to challenge the new ozone rule in court, despite the fact that earlier that month, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality said the state could meet the new EPA limits.
Pruitt also has targeted clean water safeguards. In July 2015, he sued the EPA over the Clean Water Rule, which the agency and the Army Corps of Engineers had just issued to clarify the scope of the Clean Water Act. The rule was in response to two Supreme Court decisions—in 2001and in 2006—that called into question whether the federal government had the authority to protect smaller streams, wetlands and other water bodies that flow into drinking water supplies. From a scientific perspective, it’s a no-brainer. As EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy explained in a statement: “For the lakes and rivers we love to be clean, the streams and wetlands that feed them have to be clean, too.”
Pruitt doesn’t see it that way. In a March 2015 column he co-wrote with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul for The Hill, Pruitt called the Clean Water Rule “the greatest blow to private property rights the modern era has seen.” Pruitt and Rand maintain that states should be responsible for protecting the environment within their respective borders, not the federal government. Never mind that air and water pollution do not honor political boundaries and state legislatures are all too often dominated by corporate interests.
Besides Pruitt’s disdain for air and water safeguards, he is no fan of federal efforts to address climate change, which he falsely insists is an open scientific question. Pruitt, who has received generous contributions from fossil fuel interests, is not only party to a pending lawsuit against the EPA over its Clean Power Plan to curb electricity sector carbon emissions, he also attempted unsuccessfully to overturn the agency’s science-based “endangerment finding” that greenhouse gases threaten public health and welfare, a cornerstone of the EPA’s climate work.
Public health advocates are rightly horrified at the prospect of Pruitt running the EPA. The response from Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, was typical.
“The EPA plays an absolutely vital role in enforcing long-standing policies that protect the health and safety of Americans, based on the best available science,” Kimmell said in a press statement. “Pruitt has a clear record of hostility to the EPA’s mission, and he is a completely inappropriate choice to lead it. … It’s this simple: If senators take seriously their job of protecting the public, they must vote no on Pruitt.”
California’s new legislative session begins with a message: We’re ready to fight Trump. California braces by tapping former U.S. Atty. General Eric Holder for legal counsel to fight the Trump Presidency.
California is destined to be the anti-Trump like Texas was the anti-Obama.
California braces for a Trump presidency by tapping former U.S. Atty. General Eric Holder for legal counsel.
By Melanie MasonMelanie Mason, Contact Reporter based in Sacramento, The Los Angeles Times.
“He will be our lead litigator, and he will have a legal team of expert lawyers on the issues of climate change, women and civil rights, the environment, immigration, voting rights — to name just a few,” Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) said in an interview.
Such a task typically falls to the state attorney general. On Tuesday, Gov. Jerry Brown formally nominated Democratic Rep. Xavier Becerra to replace former Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris, who now serves in the U.S. Senate. Becerra, whose nomination hearings in the Legislature begin next week, is expected to be easily confirmed.
But De León and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon began contemplating hiring outside legal counsel for the Legislature almost immediately after Trump’s election, in hopes of protecting existing state policies that are at odds with the president-elect’s stated positions.
“While we don’t yet know the harmful proposals the next administration will put forward, thanks to Donald Trump’s campaign, cabinet appointments and Twitter feed, we do have an idea of what we will be dealing with,” Rendon said in a statement.
“The Covington team will be an important resource as we work with the governor and the attorney general to protect Californians,” he added.
The two legislative leaders have taken an unabashedly combative posture against Trump.
De León said the additional counsel would offer “more legal firepower” that would complement and bring additional heft to the state attorney general’s efforts.
Bringing on outside counsel is not unprecedented for the Legislature. The state Senate hired special counsel for a select committee investigating price manipulation in the wholesale energy market by Enron in the early 2000s. The Senate also sought outside counsel to sort through the federal investigation of former Democratic state Sen. Ron Calderon, who later pleaded guilty to corruption charges.
But it is far more unorthodox for both houses to join together in retaining counsel in a preemptive bid to prepare for as-yet-unknown litigation and policy-making at the federal level. Much of the arrangement remains murky, including how Holder’s efforts will differ from or align with Becerra’s.
Also unclear: the price tag. Aides to legislative leaders declined to specify how much Covington & Burling’s services will cost the state, citing still-unfinished contracts, but said the payment would come out of both chambers’ operating budgets and would not require additional state funds.
“I am honored that the legislature chose Covington to serve as its legal advisor as it considers how to respond to potential changes in federal law that could impact California’s residents and policy priorities,” Holder said in a statement provided by De León’s office.
“I am confident that our expertise across a wide array of federal legal and regulatory issues will be a great resource for the legislature.”
Holder, a close friend of President Obama, left the Justice Department in 2015. As one of the most liberal figures in the Obama administration, his tenure was defined by a focus on civil rights and criminal justice reform and was marked by a tumultuous relationship with Congress and scandal stemming from the failed gun-trafficking operation known as Fast and Furious.
Representing California lawmakers against Trump won’t be Holder’s sole foray into politics in the coming years. He is also overseeing a Democratic campaign focused on redistricting, the process of redrawing political maps that, in recent years, has tilted state legislative and congressional landscapes in the Republicans’ favor.
Follow @melmason on Twitter for the latest on California politics.
California is itching to take on Trump. Here are the prominent figures leading the charge.
California’s new legislative session begins with a message: We’re ready to fight Trump.
Trump and Putin first official meeting to follow on the G.W. Bush and Putin meeting of June 2001 in Slovenia. Trump’s Appointed House Members will already have softened Trump to the point of being the pushover he is prepared to be.
By Dana Milbank Opinion writer December 27 at 12:32 PM
It was June 2001 and I was in an Alpine hamlet in Slovenia, where President George W. Bush had just met Vladimir Putin for the first time. I and others were struck by Bush’s praise for the Russian leader as “trustworthy.” Said Bush: “I was able to get a sense of his soul.”
But back in Washington, my editor had no interest in such talk. He rewrote my lede with other news — a tidbit about missile defense — and he moved the “kissy-face” stuff about Putin’s soul down to Paragraph 18.
In retrospect, that moment in Slovenia defined the Russia relationship for years to come. Putin had seduced Bush, who only slowly came to understand he had misjudged this adversary’s soul. Putin opposed Bush in Iraq and was unhelpful with Iran. He shut down independent television, sent business leaders who criticized him into exile and prison, ousted democratic parties from government, canceled the election of governors and invaded Georgia.
The kissy-face happened all over again when President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tried to “reset” relations. Russia responded by working against the United States in Syria, sheltering Edward Snowden, invading and occupying parts of Ukraine, and hacking and meddling in the U.S. election to defeat Clinton.
Now it’s Donald Trump’s turn for kissy-face, and the president-elect is practically groping the Russian dictator. After Putin gloated Friday that Democrats need to learn “to lose with dignity,”Trump tweeted Putin a sloppy kiss: “So true!” he said of Putin’s comments.
Trump also celebrated a letter he received from Putin calling for more collaboration between the two countries. “His thoughts are so correct,” Trump said.
Trump’s blush-inducing embrace of the strongman has included repeated praise of Putin’s leadership, deflected questions about Putin’s political killings and disparagement of U.S. intelligence for accusing Russia of election meddling.
In three weeks, Trump will assume the presidency, and we’ll learn what his embrace of Putin really means. Perhaps Trump is just a dupe and he’ll realize over time that Putin is no friend. The alternative, supported by Trump’s choice of Putin-friendly advisers Michael T. Flynn and Rex Tillerson, is that Trump really is pro-Putin and will grant the Russian dictator more latitude internationally and will emulate his autocratic tendencies at home.
The former would require us to endure some policy failures as Putin proved himself again to be an adversary. The latter would test the limits of our democratic institutions.
In either case, it would be useful for Americans to have at least a cursory sense of the man our new president proposes to embrace. Here’s a quick glimpse into Putin’s soul to get us started:
Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was killed outside the Kremlin as he walked home one night last year. Putin’s regime blames Chechens, but Nemtsov’s is one of a dozen high-profile murders of opponents widely thought to have been sanctioned by Putin’s government.
Another Putin opponent, Alexander Litvinenko, was killed in London by polonium poisoning in 2006. The British government said Putin “probably” approved the hit. That same year, opposition journalist Anna Politkovskaya was shot and killed outside her apartment.
In 2009, lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died in prison after being denied medical care. Others working on his investigation of corrupt Russian politicians also died suspiciously.
Among the many business leaders imprisoned or ousted under Putin are Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was head of the oil giant Yukos, and associate Platon Lebedev. The Russian human rights group Memorial says there are 102 people held in Russian prisons for their political or religious beliefs.
The Kremlin has provided funding and training for far-right nationalist parties in Europe, and it used its state media and an army of hackers and social-media trolls to spread disinformation in the United States, in continental Europe and in Britain before the Brexit vote. The goals: to weaken European unity and the NATO alliance and to keep Europe dependent on Russian energy.
Russia also used disinformation to destabilize the Ukrainian government as Russia annexed Crimea. In Syria, where Russia propped up the Assad regime with indiscriminate bombing in Aleppo and elsewhere, Britain, France and the United States have blamed Putin’s government for the mass slaughter of civilians.
An Amnesty International summary of Putin’s rule leaves no doubt about his totalitarian state: “Journalist Killed .?.?. Human Rights Lawyer Killed .?.?. Gay Rights Protesters Attacked .?.?. Exhibition Organizers Sentenced .?.?. Activists Beaten and Detained .?.?. Opposition Leader Held in Detention .?.?. Repressive Laws Enacted .?.?. Fines for ‘Promoting Homosexuality’ Imposed .?.?. President Putin Signs Law to Re-criminalize Defamation .?.?. USAID Expelled .?.?. Federal Treason and Espionage Act goes into effect .?.?. Prominent NGOs are Vandalized .?.?. Moscow Authorities Detain Protesters and Opposition Party Members.”
‘Incomprehensible’: UN Committee Elects Assad Regime to Leadership Post
By Patrick Goodenough
CNSNews.com) – A group of United Nations’ member-states on Thursday elected the Assad regime to a leadership post of a special committee dealing with decolonization, sparking protests from a human rights group that had earlier urged U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon to intervene.
At a meeting in New York, the committee’s newly-elected chairman, Venezuelan ambassador Rafael Ramirez, asked the member-states whether there were any objections to putting forward Syrian ambassador Bashar Ja’afari as its “rapporteur” for the coming year.
Hearing no objectives, Ramirez declared Ja’afari – as well as three nominated vice chairmen, the representatives of Cuba, Sierra Leone and Indonesia – “elected by acclamation.”
The Venezuelan then led “a round a applause for our friends,” told them he looked forward to working with them “in taking forward the noble work of the special committee,” and invited Ja’afari to take his seat on the podium.
Before the Syrian sat down, Ramirez – a former foreign minister in President Nicolas Maduro’s cabinet – gave him a hug.
According to U.N. estimates well over 250,000 people have been killed and 12 million displaced in the civil war in Syria.
U.S. taxpayers account for 22 percent of the U.N.’s regular budget.
The committee – full name, the Special Committee on the Situation with Regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples – has 24 members.
Ten of them are free democracies, according to Washington-based Freedom House. They are Antigua & Barbuda, Chile, Dominica, Grenada, India, Indonesia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Tunisia.
None of those 10, nor any other member of the committee, raised objections to Syria’s “election” as rapporteur.
Ahead of the election, the non-governmental organization U.N. Watch urged two of the democracies in particular, Chile and India, to oppose Syria’s election.
U.N. Watch executive director Hillel Neuer said after Thursday’s session the two governments should be “ashamed” for joining the consensus vote.
He also criticized Ban for not intervening ahead of the vote.
“It is incomprehensible for the U.N. on one day to lament the regime’s killing and wounding of hundreds of thousands of Syrians – to declare the regime guilty of ‘extermination’ of its own people – and to then hand this gift of false legitimacy to the mass murderer Bashar al-Assad,” Neuer said.
“Today’s U.N. vote only helps the Assad regime portray itself a U.N. human rights arbiter. That’s indefensible, and an insult to Syria’s victims,” he said. “Morally, Mr. Ban should do the right thing and at least condemn the decision.”
Neuer also called on U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power and European Union ambassadors to condemn what he called the “absurd and morally obscene” election outcome.
He said the elections of the Syrian and Venezuelan ambassadors to their respective posts would be “trumpeted by both the Assad and Maduro regimes” as a propaganda victory.
He recalled that the regime after a previous election of Ja’afari called it “yet another recognition by members of the committee of the Syrian important and key role.”
The decolonization committee, established in 1961, advocates independence for 17 specific territories around the world, including American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam.
Neuer called the 55 year-old body “anachronistic,” noting that it has often been “criticized as a costly irrelevance.”
The Paris Agreement, coal and Ms. Meier
As received from Marion Vieweg — marion.vieweg at current-future.org via lists.iisd.ca
Ms. Meier is a secretary. She lives and works in a small town in Germany. She has – very likely – never heard of the Paris Agreement, nor would it interest her. Let’s discuss why Ms. Meier is nevertheless key to the success of the Paris Agreement.
Curious? Read the full story at: current-future.org/index.php/25-b…
And here it is:
Ms. Meier is a secretary. She lives and works in a small town in Germany. She has – very likely – never heard of the Paris Agreement, nor would it interest her. Let’s discuss why Ms. Meier is nevertheless key to the success of the Paris Agreement.
One of the successes of Paris is the joint commitment to a complete change in our energy systems. The common goal to “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels” provides a strong political signal. It also calls for a “balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century.” This will only be possible with a swift transition towards a fully decarbonized energy system.
To achieve the required reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, all sectors will need to contribute. Here are a number of reasons, why this discussion focuses on the electricity sector and specifically on coal-fired power generation:
Electricity is currently the largest emitting part of the energy sector in most countries;
Up to now, the impressive growth in renewable electricity generation has mostly addressed additional demand from growing economies. Renewable technologies instead of fossil fuel power plants formed part of new capacity built. For most countries event this is already a challenge. In 2014, only 45% of new power production capacity added globally came from renewable sources. In 2012 the World Resources Institute estimated that 1,199 new coal-fired power plants with a total capacity of 1,401,268 MW were being proposed globally. These numbers highlight the magnitude of the challenge. Even in Germany, home to the famous ‘Energiewende,’ new coal-fired power plants are in planning.
If we are taking the Paris Agreement seriously, then we need to not only satisfy additional demand with zero-carbon technologies, but need to start changing existing generation systems. To some extent, this can happen ‘naturally’ by closing down coal fired power plants at the end of their technical lifetime and replacing the capacity with renewable technologies. But in most countries, including Germany, this will not be enough, given the number of plants that went online in the last years and will go online in the next few years, and which have a technical lifetime well beyond the 2050s.
So why should Ms. Meier care?
Ms. Meier lives close to the Polish border in one of the three main lignite mining areas in Germany. Lignite has been mined in the area since the 1850s. The first power plant went online in 1894. Open pit mining has dramatically transformed the landscape and relocated a multitude of villages and towns. The region delivered the bulk of the energy fuelling the economy during the existence of the GDR. The sector has been the foundation of the economy for over a century and is deeply engrained in the regional identity. Today, only around 8,000 people actually work in the sector in the area, compared to more than 10 times as many in 1989. Still, salaries in the sector are significantly above average and make an important contribution to the local economy. Ms. Meier has a part-time job in a small engineering firm. Her husband works in one of the coal mining operations, as did his father and grandfather. They are afraid to lose their jobs if the mining and coal power generation ends, and wonder if their two children will have a future in the area or if they, like so many others have already done, will need to move away.
Economic studies show the benefits of renewables and energy efficiency technology to society. They are important and demonstrate the benefits to society as a whole. However, they rarely take a more detailed look at the regional and local level. This is where it starts to get difficult: The new jobs they create may or may not be in the same regions and may or may not require similar skills to those jobs that are lost. From an economic perspective at the national level this may not matter – from a societal, political and regional perspective it does. It also changes how we need to communicate, support and steer the transition.
Ms. Meier’s employer is member of a local initiative that promotes the continuation of lignite mining and power generation in the area. He is afraid that the closing of the lignite operations will damage overall economic activity, making his business unprofitable, causing his 15 employees to lose their jobs. The initiative runs a website, lobbies politicians and organizes public events. This is one of the many examples how fear creates resistance to change.
Many, who are directly affected, like Ms. Meier, fear for their jobs and well-being. Others fear for their profits while some just feel generally insecure of what this change will mean for their lives. In total, this often leads to a situation where decisions to close down old power plants or mines or not approving new ones will politically be impossible. We need to recognize that these fears are legitimate and that we need to address them seriously, appropriately and with respect – without compromising on the final goal: a full decarbonisation of the electricity sector.
If we don’t take the legitimate fears of people like Ms. Meier, her husband and the millions like them around the world seriously, Paris will fail to deliver.
Clear political signals for a phase-out of coal-fired power generations are only a first step. Politicians will find it difficult to send those signals, with strong local opposition rooted in fear. To overcome this and create a positive dynamic we need to consider five principles:
Build strong stakeholder coalitions at the regional level, involving everybody affected and all interest groups to define realistic phase-out scenarios: Yes, it is hard, but there is no way around talking WITH rather than AGAINST each other. A lot of time, energy and resources are currently used on all sides to generate biased information to inform public and politicians to promote individual vested interests. All sides need to work together and agree on basic facts that allow to start discussing SOLUTIONS rather than PROBLEMS.
Facilitate stakeholders to create an individual vision for a development that works in the given context: The solutions will, by necessity, be individual and different for each affected region. It is essential that all interest groups and stakeholders in a region define the vision as well as the steps required to get there. This allows tapping their detailed knowledge and experience, this way creating realistic pathways and ensuring ownership and commitment in implementation.
Tailor support instruments to the individual vision: The standard solution for policy-related structural change is to create a fund. This is a bit like creating a working group, when you are not sure what else to do, and then hope they come up with something useful. Money for required changes is certainly an important element to support regions. It will, however, not be effective, if not used in a targeted way and with a clear and realistic vision to guide activities. Additional support may be required, depending on the vision, including changes in the legal and regulatory framework or cooperation with other regions.
Learn from experiences: Structural change is not a new phenomenon. Especially the coal-mining sector has seen multiple changes over the last century due to economic shifts, through mines being mined out or becoming economically unviable. While these processes were often slow and thus easier to adjust to, some were rapid, like the changes in economic structure in Eastern Europe in the 1990s. But also other sectors have seen major changes, resulting in whole regions needing to readjust. The textile industry in large parts of Europe is one example for similar large-scale structural change that affects whole regions. We need to look at experiences made with such processes within the sector, but also learn from other sectors and across borders. The fundamental challenge of re-orienting the economy in a region remains the same. We need to look more closely at what worked, what didn’t and – most importantly – why.
Develop new business models together with utilities and customers: Utilities and companies operating coal mines and coal-fired power plants are naturally opposed to phase-out plans, as it promises to cut profits and requires changes to well-established activities. We need to acknowledge that these companies provide work for a lot of people and electricity to important parts of our societies. Their expertise on the functioning of the electricity system is vital for ensuring stable systems. We need to make them part of the solution, with a clear vision on their future role in a new system. This requires to let go of cherished stereotypes on both sides and the will to overcome differences to create something new and better for the benefit of all.
Germany, as all other countries, is only at the starting point of this new road. Globally, we need to start changing existing systems, not only adding on some renewables. A recent proposal to bring all stakeholders together in a coal ‘round table’ for Germany is a good starting point. If this process can also manage to address the regional challenges posed through the required structural change in a bottom-up process that involves all stakeholders, it has the potential to become a role model for other countries and regions that are facing similar problems globally.
If we take all concerns seriously and invite stakeholders to help shape their future rather than only react and block, we might – just – make it in time to prevent the worst effects of climate change and make the Paris Agreement a lasting success.
Carbon dioxide is invisible and odorless. Dawn Stover wonders: What if we could see carbon pollution in the air and water?
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
23 February 2016,
by Dawn Stover — stover.jpeg
of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. IT IS THREE MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT!
The snow has melted along the roads in my rural community, revealing a surprising number of beer cans, plastic bottles, and other trash in the roadside ditches. This is a sparsely populated area, yet I drive past mile after mile of terrestrial flotsam and jetsam. Most of it, I suspect, is jetsam—the stuff that is deliberately thrown overboard.
It probably won’t be long before some disgusted (or enterprising) neighbors start tackling this mess. Most of the cans and bottles can be redeemed for a five-cent deposit or put into bags for free curbside recycling. The worst thing about this roadside pollution is also the best thing about it: We can see it. That makes it easy to clean up.
Imagine if carbon pollution was as recognizable as a Bud Light can. What if, every time you started up your car or boarded an airplane or sliced into a Porterhouse steak, a sour-smelling beer can was ejected from your vehicle or pocket? Pretty soon there would be cans lining every highway and tarmac, and coal-fired power plants would literally be buried under them. But even this foul onslaught of aluminum might be less damaging than the 40 billion metric tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide (plus other greenhouse gases) that humans are dumping into Earth’s atmosphere and oceans every year, raising the temperature of our planet. Unfortunately, carbon dioxide is invisible and odorless, which makes it easier to ignore. If we were dumping 40 billion metric tons of aluminum into the air and sea annually—the equivalent of 2,800 trillion beverage cans—surely we would do something about that.
Air quality alert. One of the reasons China is getting serious about clean energy is that the air pollution in Beijing, Shanghai, and other Chinese cities has become intolerable at times. The visibility gets so poor that flights are sometimes canceled because of smog, and residents are frequently forced to don masks when venturing outdoors—where the air quality can be worse than an airport smoking lounge. The pollution sometimes reaches all the way to California.
“The air in Los Angeles used to be like Beijing,” a California-based colleague recently reminded me. Los Angeles still has some of the most contaminated air in the United States, but the situation has improved significantly since 1970—when President Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Congress passed the first of several major amendments to the Clean Air Act, empowering the federal government to regulate air pollutants.
The EPA’s new Clean Power Plan—announced in 2015 but challenged in court by 27 states and currently on hold pending a judicial review—would do for carbon pollution what the Clean Air Act did for smog in an earlier era. This time around, though, many elected officials can’t see what the problem is. Literally.
Making the invisible visible. Instead of implementing a carbon tax or federal limits on power-plant emissions, maybe we just need to add a smelly dye to all fossil fuels—something like the red colorant that is added to fire retardants so that pilots can see where they have sprayed, or the rotten-egg-like chemical that is injected into natural gas so that homeowners can detect gas leaks before they become life-threatening. Instead of subjecting airlines to proposed new emissions limits, we’d simply see a hideous red contrail every time an airplane flew overhead. Standing on the beach, we’d see a red tide—the carbon dioxide absorbed by the North Atlantic alone has doubled in the past decade. And the smell of the recent enormous methane leak from a ruptured pipeline in southern California would pale in comparison to the collective stench emitted by fracking operations and thousands of fossil-fuel-burning power plants. On the plus side, we’d be able to see trees and other plants sucking up carbon, which might make us think twice about turning forests into pallets.
This is only a thought experiment, of course. We shouldn’t have to go to these lengths to realize that the byproducts of fossil fuel combustion are bad for our health. Most of us know better than to breathe from our car’s tailpipe or leave the garage door shut with the engine running. That’s how you kill yourself, after all. And yet we think nothing of dumping copious amounts of exhaust into the air that everyone breathes. It’s out of sight and out of mind.
Turning a blind eye. Although greenhouse gas emissions aren’t visible, their climate impacts are. It’s not hard to see melting glaciers, wilted crops, and storm surges—or to find photographs, charts, and other images showing how quickly our planet is changing. And yet, as President Barack Obama remarked during a press conference on February 16, “There’s not a single candidate in the Republican primary that thinks we should do anything about climate change, that thinks it’s serious.” That’s a problem, said Obama, because other countries “count on the United States being on the side of science and reason and common sense.”
How can Marco Rubio not see the impacts of rising sea level in Florida? How did Donald Trump miss the meaning of Hurricane Sandy, a bellwether for the type of extreme events that scientists say will become more common and more severe as global warming continues? Where was Ted Cruz when Texas was enduring devastating heat, drought, and wildfires—or the deadly floods that followed? All of the GOP candidates, including self-professed climate change “believer” John Kasich, are turning a blind eye to the decades of scientific research that place the blame squarely on human activities, and it’s possible that even a putrid red haze would not move them.
There will always be some people who are willfully ignorant and inconsiderate and lazy, who toss their trash out the window and leave it for others to pick up. The rest of us can stand around shaking our heads, or we can pull on our gloves and do something about this dreadful mess. Unfortunately, the past two centuries’ worth of carbon dioxide emissions is like a heap of discarded cans and bottles that are already hopelessly bent, broken, and ground into the mud. This carbon buildup will have consequences for Earth’s climate and sea level for tens of thousands of years to come.
That’s no excuse to put off spring cleaning, though. Climate change is largely irreversible on human time scales, but rapid and aggressive action would keep the worst impacts of global warming to a minimum. It’s more important than ever to make drastic reductions in carbon dumping, and get serious about reforestation and other cleanup measures. These are the Bud Light cans we can still get our hands on.
Last night I participated at the Austro-American Society & the American Chamber of Commerce in Austria, Vienna meeting that was held under the title: “The Internet of Everything – Cloud & Digitalization and Their Impact.” The speaker was Mr. Franz Grohs from T-Systems Austria GesmbH (part of the Multinational 50,000 people network headed by the German Telecom) whose Austrian managing director – Ing. Martin Katzer was announced, but could was out sick and could not attend. The meeting was nevertheless a great success – a very active crowd and an eye opener to the uninitiated.
Mr. Franz Grohs, Vienna born, is Senior Vice-President T-Systems International with special interest in East-Central Europe and the Asia Pacific – but interestingly when you google him you find that he does not divulge the name of his company affiliation – only that his company helps you safeguard your data. Seemingly he has 750 people working directly with him.
In his fascinating presentation he said among other things – that it was about “Cloud Transformation” – from the Age of the customer to the Age of the User. The target is “The Product Talks – the Crowd Acts.” He gave us examples of this new world and how the new ICT can help answer actual needs. I will give here just two examples – (a) 26 million suitcases were not brought in air-transport to their correct destinations last year – tracking them can be made easy with ICT (he called this the “connected bag”) and (b) “the connected car” that integrates garage & social media with a use of “big data” and gives to the world at large information if you are in town or even if at home – and might just have the unpleasant side effect of putting you or your property in danger. Aha! these are issues that T-Systems can help you with.
I did not get involved in the discussion as I clearly did not feel qualified – but spoke with Mr. Grohs afterwards.
I agreed but then reminded him that when people in Norway found themselves with two much free time they committed suicide and with a lot of offers for things to buy this might be a problem as well. His answer was that the real problem is that young people are unemployed and are already spending their time with their cell-phones.
Oh well – I still would not have done this posting – but then the following item came in and I felt pulled in by these topics.
Posted on September 18, 2014 by Dominic Keogh at CNN Money’s “What no One Tells You About The Cloud” – Ricoh Services.
Cloud infrastructure and applications have a number of potential business benefits, but one of the areas of greatest potential is their ability to revolutionize business collaboration. In a global survey of 532 business executives from a wide range of industries, 55 percent felt that “cloud-based solutions are no mere evolution, but rather represent a true revolution in collaborative effectiveness.”1
Better collaboration can increase productivity, get you closer to customers, make your products more innovative and your business more competitive, and help you attract and retain top talent. Clearly a fundamental component of growing your business, improved collaboration and cloud-based tools — from simple file-sharing to virtual meeting applications — have tremendous potential to extend your reach and foster productive connection.
But with so many opportunities to use cloud-based applications to improve collaboration in your business, where do you get started?
Reassessing and redesigning information processes is fundamental to creating a more successfully collaborative workspace, whether you’re employing a cloud-based application or not. Technology alone is not a solution, and focusing your efforts here alone is a surefire recipe for your collaboration goals to end up lost in the cloud. Instead, the key to improved workforce collaboration are in the underlying processes that enable your iWorkers to access more comprehensive, accurate and timely information.
The critical first step is assessing your information processes. Identify specific tasks, and how each step contributes to the business goal you are trying to accomplish, whether that is to service customers better, generate more leads for sales, deliver more competitive products, meet regulatory requirements, etc. In today’s enterprise, it is imperative to look for how the information flow does (or does not) cross Line of Business (LoB) boundaries, and potential points of integration with other processes and systems.
Bear in mind that the information needs of iWorkers are changing constantly, and the multiple generations of iWorkers now in the workforce have distinctly different preferences for the way they consume and use information. This has significant implications for the usability, training, and adoption of new collaboration applications — and the success of your collaboration initiatives.
One best practice is to actually follow an iWorker through a specific process, such as on-boarding a new customer or responding to a service request, step by step. Note where they get their information, if they get all they need in a timely fashion and in the format they require.
Research has found significant gaps in how iWorkers and managers perceive the effectiveness of their information processes. This is a prime opportunity to solicit feedback on what could help iWorkers do their job better.
In a Forrester study commissioned by Ricoh, by a factor of more than 2 to 1 over their managers, customer-facing workers felt constrained by “older systems” that sometimes forced customers to communicate with the company in ways they didn’t want to. On the other hand, by a factor of nearly 3 to 1, managers thought their customer-facing workers communicated well with customers through both old and new channels. That’s a huge disconnect, and it’s hurting your business relationship with your customers.
We have found that many information processes have simply not kept pace with what employees need — or customers want. And it might be time for you to take a look internally to see what you find. You may discover:
Steps that are no longer required or aren’t a high priority;
To combat these issues, there are benefits to making use of the broad industry — and cross-departmental experience — of a document process consultant. They have seen and dealt with many of the real-world information management challenges inherent in optimizing information processes, which can include everything from dealing with complex privacy regulations across industries and countries, or handling the internal aspects of change management, including education, training and morale.
An outside party can also look more broadly across departments and functions, bringing to bear lessons from multiple engagements across industries and geographies. They can often bring a new perspective to the way you’ve been approaching a problem.
Cloud-based collaboration tools can certainly help you grow your company, but clearly defining your business goals and mapping your process needs must come first. Remember that with every technological element, it’s still the people behind it who matter most. With help, you can stay grounded and make sure you don’t get lost in the cloud.
The Down-to-Earth Benefits of Cloud-Based Big Data Analytics
Another coincidence: The New York Times’ Editor Choice of the article of the day relates to the death of its “media columnist” David Carr – a Monday columnist at the paper.
Mr. Carr managed to see the complexities of digital-age journalism from every angle, and to write about them with unparalleled clarity and wit.
One of the New York Times’ most engaging and colorful personalities, Carr was a stalwart of the media beat, helping readers — and other journalists — make sense of the rapidly changing industry.
Carr wrote the “Media Equation” column for The Times, which was published on Mondays. His writing style was conversational, analytic and peppered with humor. A reporter’s reporter, Carr didn’t just write about journalism — he practiced it, taking on media heavyweights with in-depth pieces that exposed wrongdoing.
Bill Carter, another longtime colleague of Carr’s, wrote on Twitter, “Can’t possibly find words. David Carr was brilliant, funny, generous. My heart breaks for his family+his legion of friends. Proud to be one.”
Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., publisher of The Times, said in a statement that Carr was “one of the most gifted journalists” to ever work at the newspaper. Dean Baquet, the executive editor of paper, was equally effusive in his praise, describing Carr as “the finest media reporter of his generation,” and a “remarkable and funny man.”
“He was our biggest champion, and his unending passion for journalism and for truth will be missed by his family at The Times, by his readers around the world, and by people who love journalism,” Baquet said.
T.P.P., T.T.I.P., AND ALL SO CALLED FREE TRADE AGREEMENTS THAT ALLOW BIG BUSINESS IN ONE COUNTRY TO OVERRULE LAWS OF ANOTHER COUNTRY – DON’T ENTER SUCH AGREEMENTS BECAUSE EXPERIENCE HAS IT THAT YOU WILL REGRET IT. Professor Joseph Stiglitz tells us how these lead to demise of generic drugs and eventual deaths among the poor.
The following is an article about how bad for the people – all people – it will be if the US Pharmaceutical Industry gets its way and manages to write the rules of the so called Trans-Pacific Partnership (T.P.P.) so they outlaw trade in generic drugs – even outlaw their production! TPP has thus the potential of harming poorer counties citizens by putting rains of law into Washington’s hands – not just on drugs, but on most environmental and labor laws as well.
We re-post the article with Europe in mind and the debate in EU countries if to let in the American Trojan Horse which is painted as a US-EU potential Free Trade Partnership – the the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T.T.I.P.). Our opinion is clear – DON’T TOUCH IT.
By JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ – The New York Tines Op-Ed, January 30, 2015
Representatives from the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries convened to decide the future of their trade relations in the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership (T.P.P.). Powerful companies appear to have been given influence over the proceedings, even as full access is withheld from many government officials from the partnership countries.
Trade agreements are negotiated by the office of the United States Trade Representative, supposedly on behalf of the American people. Historically, though, the trade representative’s office has aligned itself with corporate interests. If big pharmaceutical companies hold sway — as the leaked documents indicate they do — the T.P.P. could block cheaper generic drugs from the market. Big Pharma’s profits would rise, at the expense of the health of patients and the budgets of consumers and governments.
There are two ways the office of the trade representative can use the T.P.P. to maintain or raise drug prices and profits.
The first is to restrict competition from generics. It’s axiomatic that more competition means lower prices. When companies have to fight for customers, they end up cutting their prices. When a patent expires, any company can enter the market with a generic version of a drug. The differences in prices between brand-name and generic drugs are mind- and budget-blowing. Just the availability of generics drives prices down: In generics-friendly India, for example, Gilead Sciences, which makes an effective hepatitis-C drug, recently announced that it would sell the drug for a little more than 1 percent of the $84,000 it charges here.
Americans might shrug at the prospect of soaring drug prices around the world. After all, the United States already allows drug companies to charge what they want. But that doesn’t mean we might not want to change things someday. Here again, the T.P.P. has us cornered: Trade agreements, and in particular individual provisions within them, are typically far more difficult to alter or repeal than domestic laws.
Of course, pharmaceutical companies claim they need to charge high prices to fund their research and development. This just isn’t so. For one thing, drug companies spend more on marketing and advertising than on new ideas. Overly restrictive intellectual property rights actually slow new discoveries, by making it more difficult for scientists to build on the research of others and by choking off the exchange of ideas that is critical to innovation. As it is, most of the important innovations come out of our universities and research centers, like the National Institutes of Health, funded by government and foundations.
The efforts to raise drug prices in the T.P.P. take us in the wrong direction. The whole world may come to pay a price in the form of worse health and unnecessary deaths.
A version of this op-ed appears in print on January 31, 2015, on page A19 of the New York edition with the headline: Don’t Trade Away Our Health.
Some of the FIRST COMMENTS:
Kodali 11 minutes ago
NKB 11 minutes ago
Gerald 13 minutes ago
THE NEW YORK TIMES ANSWERS:
We can’t be sure which of these features have made it through this week’s negotiations. What’s clear is that the overall thrust of the intellectual property section of the T.P.P. is for less competition and higher drug prices. The effects will go beyond the 12 T.P.P. countries. Barriers to generics in the Pacific will put pressure on producers of such drugs in other countries, like India, as well.
In New York City – a Window of the US at the Start of 2015 – The Mayor and the Police. A “New Yorker” reminds us of the great American that moved to Paris – James Baldwin. The America we see will not sustain itself.
In New York City – a Window of the US at the Start of 2015
04 January 2014
In 1960, James Baldwin, the American Orwell, wrote “Fifth Avenue, Uptown: A Letter from Harlem,” an essay that portrayed the ugly dynamic between white police officers and young black men in the neighborhood where he grew up:
Rare, indeed, is the Harlem citizen, from the most circumspect church member to the most shiftless adolescent, who does not have a long tale to tell of police incompetence, injustice, or brutality. I myself have witnessed and endured it more than once. . . . It is hard, on the other hand, to blame the policeman, blank, good-natured, thoughtless, and insuperably innocent, for being such a perfect representative of the people he serves. He, too, believes in good intentions and is astounded and offended when they are not taken for the deed. He has never, himself, done anything for which to be hated––which of us has?––and yet he is facing, daily and nightly, people who would gladly see him dead, and he knows it. There is no way for him not to know it: there are few things under heaven more unnerving than the silent, accumulating contempt and hatred of a people.
To contemporary readers, such a passage may seem a relic of a harsh past. Baldwin’s essay predates so many advances, including the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. The New York Police Department’s rank and file is no longer majority white. Crime rates are lower than they have been in decades. An African-American was elected President in 2008 and appointed an African-American to be the chief law-enforcement official in the land. American audiences go to see “Selma,” get teary-eyed, and think how far we’ve come. The temptation is to suppose that Baldwin has long since lost all relevance. Why, then, does the President gently remind us that if he had a son he’d look like Trayvon Martin? And why does the Attorney General say we are a “nation of cowards” when it comes to the discussion of race?
On January 3rd, a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Daniel Pantaleo, an N.Y.P.D. officer, on any charge related to the homicide-by-asphyxiation, in July, of an African-American man named Eric Garner. New York’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, commented on the grand jury’s decision. He spoke with unapologetic honesty about the failure of the judicial system. He anticipated, and tacitly endorsed, peaceful protest, “the only thing that has ever worked” to advance social justice in America. And he spoke personally, saying that he and his wife, Chirlane, have had “the talk” with their son, Dante, about “the dangers he may face” on the street as a young man of color:
De Blasio then echoed one of the most resonant lines heard since the protests began last summer in Ferguson, Missouri. “It’s a phrase that should never have to be said,” he insisted. “It should be self-evident. But our history, sadly, requires us to say that black lives matter.”
The demonstrations that followed were almost entirely peaceful. There were instances of protesters shouting despicable slogans, but those instances were isolated and rare. Most police officers showed no more disrespect to de Blasio and the protesters than de Blasio and the protesters had shown to them. The truth is that both protest and argument, conducted peacefully and with decency, can have the effect of easing the long-running tension between the police and the policed and bringing about the kind of change that is needed. The “techniques” that killed Eric Garner demand reform, and so does a system in which it is nearly impossible to bring a police officer to trial.
And yet some police groups, including the leadership of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, charged that the Mayor was fanning anti-police sentiment. Then came the assassination, in Bedford-Stuyvesant, of two N.Y.P.D. officers, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, by a young man who had just shot his ex-girlfriend. That horrendous event devastated New Yorkers, particularly police officers, who daily put their lives at risk in the name of public safety. It also brought the simmering resentment among some police leaders to a boil of accusatory rhetoric. Patrick Lynch, the head of the P.B.A., who has waged battles over contracts and other issues with previous mayors, used the killings as a political cudgel. The Mayor, he said, had blood on his hands. Michael Goodwin, a columnist for the Post, was among those who had amplified the case for blaming de Blasio; the Mayor, he wrote, had thrown “gasoline on the fire by painting the entire force as a bunch of white racist brutes.”
As a way to cool tensions, de Blasio asked that there be a halt to protests, at least until after the officers’ funerals. The most flagrant refusal to do so came at the funeral of Rafael Ramos, when hundreds of police officers in attendance, following Lynch’s lead, turned their backs as the Mayor delivered a eulogy. An occasion of mourning had been hijacked. The police commissioner, William Bratton, was diplomatic, calling the gesture “inappropriate.” It was worse than that. It was an act of profound disrespect not only to de Blasio but also to the Ramos family members, who were there to grieve, not to witness a petulant display of resentment.
At his press conference, de Blasio had referred to a history that preceded the death of Eric Garner and charged it with meaning. The story of civil rights is not an event that ends with a triumphal arrival at a Southern statehouse. Two generations after Selma, the Supreme Court has started to roll back voting rights. Two generations after Selma, one out of three black males born in America today will, if present trends continue, see the inside of a prison cell.
“One day, to everyone’s astonishment, someone drops a match in the powder keg and everything blows up,” Baldwin wrote. “Before the dust has settled or the blood congealed, editorials, speeches, and civil-rights commissions are loud in the land, demanding to know what happened. What happened is that Negroes want to be treated like men.” Some of the language is of its time, but the demand is just and everlasting.
Comments posted by RSN:
+54 # DaveM 2015-01-04 12:51
+18 # Walter J Smith 2015-01-04 14:20
Remember that question being asked in the movie, Apocalypse Now?
The answer hasn’t changed.
As one CEO long ago said about the Pentagon, on their resume’s every general and admiral at the Pentagon runs the whole bureaucratic empire. Until you ask them a simple question. Then you immediately discover no one there knows anything about anything.
The same is true in the US Deartment of Veterans Affairs. I am now, as I have been since August, attempting to get the VA to give me the eye surgery their own doctors agree I need. Yet, the VA just keeps sending me for more appointments to have my eyes examined to determine if I need cataract surgery. And no one knows why. No one knows who makes the appointments. No one knows what can be done about it. No one knows who can schedule my cataract surgery. No one is responsible for anything. Except on their resumes. Where everyone of them is responsible for everything.
+19 # Art947 2015-01-04 15:31
Tell me which banker, hedge fund manager, corporate raider, etc. deserves the big bucks that they are paid when each has a hand in destroying the lives of average Americans? Are you listening, Mr. Romney? Mr. Dimon?
+9 # brux 2015-01-04 12:58
That’s a good quote, and true, but the meaning and point is very fuzzy.
Both sides here have valid arguments, and the conversations that arise around race simple cannot go anywhere.
If I simple express my opinions on it, not in a mean or racists way, I get branded a racists for not agreeing with the mobs of folks for example that tore up Ferguson, MO.’
If I do not exactly agree with sentiments such as put the cops on trial or shoot them I just get vitriolic hatred for it, despite the fact that I feel very bad for the negative experiences black people I have known have experienced and do empathize with them.
Having been sort of hippie-like in my youth I am familiar with being targeted or confronted with an attitude from the way I look. Driving through the South one time with my California license plate and needing a haircut I was almost involved in a fight was the redneck barbers kicked me out of their shop hair half cut.
I know the bad side of human nature, and the problem with discussing it is that people cannot get past their own experiences and need to vent about them instead of trying to come to a reasonable compromise about what is fair and just and how to enforce it.
0 # economagic 2015-01-04 21:23
What have you done, beyond “feel very bad for them,” to change the institutional racism that Mr. Remnick, Mr. Baldwin, Frederick Douglass, and myriad others have written about for more than a century and a half? Are you even aware that institutional racism exists in this country?
How long? How many times? Yet the Supreme Court scales back the protections of the Voting Rights Act even as the Republican Party rams laws through state legislatures to restrict voting that in ways affect blacks disproportionately, on the basis of fraudulent “research” claiming voter fraud.
I was more than “sort of hippie-like” in my youth, and was also an activist who witnessed that racism up close. It was a lot different from what I experienced as a white hippie.
I have a friend who is smart and well intentioned, a really decent and generous guy. Yet he sends me emails with the most blatant, ugly racism this side of the Ku Klux Klan. It has not been that long since the Klan owned a little town near here that hosted some of the CIA “torture taxis.” As best I can tell my friend supports that too, but only for “terrorists.” He refuses to define that term, but clearly he means “them,” “the others,” “people not like us.”
He would be most indignant if I confronted him with his racism. He is a closet racist, in the closet only to himself and others who cannot take an honest look at their own hearts, or honestly say, “There but for the Grace of God (for being born white) go I.”
+17 # Art947 2015-01-04 15:36
+23 # wrknight 2015-01-04 13:56
And speaking of a nation of cowards, what about those attorney generals who are afraid of Wall Street bankers?
+20 # progressiveguy 2015-01-04 14:10
+27 # angelfish 2015-01-04 14:36
+4 # lfeuille 2015-01-04 19:40
It is only because the national media, for whatever reason, has finally decided to pay attention to the problem that many people are even aware of it. You can’t fix what you don’t know about. It was happening even when the press wasn’t looking.
+12 # fredboy 2015-01-04 16:52
If I were the mayor I would clean house, starting at the top.
Their actions and attitudes are prompting citizens across the land to police the police–that’s how bad things are out there.
0 # leftcoast 2015-01-04 17:23
0 # corals33 2015-01-04 18:20
+3 # greenbacker 2015-01-04 22:02
So let me get this straight. President Obama’s father was African, his mother was American. But he is not “African-American?” Am I missing something? “WHITE” is not (or should not be) synonymous with “American,” but for too many people it is, even if subconsciously. This is a huge part of the problem when it comes to discussing race in America. The fact of the matter is that a large portion, if not a majority, of Blacks born in America have some European as well as African ancestry. Henry Louis Gates (remember the “beer summit” after Gates’ encounter with police in his own house?) has a whole series on PBS dealing with this subject. In fact, in one episode it was revealed through DNA testing that the rapper Nas has Scandinavian/Viking ancestry. So, yes, an African-American was elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2012. No correction necessary. And if Obama was not President of the US, and his story so well known, and you saw him walking down the street, you would not identify him as a half-white guy, you would see him as a Black man.
0 # Rockster 2015-01-04 18:34
-3 # perkinsej 2015-01-04 19:00
+1 # jstick 2015-01-04 20:27
+1 # PABLO DIABLO 2015-01-04 21:10
In North Dakota, a Tale of Oil, Corruption and Death
FORT BERTHOLD INDIAN RESERVATION, N.D. — Tex G. Hall, the three-term tribal chairman on this remote, once impoverished reservation, was the very picture of confidence as he strode to the lectern at his third Annual Bakken Oil and Gas Expo and gazed out over a stuffed, backlit mountain lion.
Tall and imposing beneath his black cowboy hat, he faced an audience of political and industry leaders lured from far and wide to the “Texpo,” as some here called it. It was late April at the 4 Bears Casino, and the outsiders endorsed his strong advocacy for oil development and the way he framed it as mutually beneficial for the industry and the reservation: “sovereignty by the barrel.”
An oil pad on North Dakota’s Fort Berthold Indian Reservation flares natural gas produced in the hydrofracturing process. Over a quarter of all natural gas produced in North Dakota is burned off this way.
But, in a hall decorated with rigs and tepees, a dice throw from the slot machines, Mr. Hall’s self-assurance belied the fact that his grip on power was slipping. After six years of dizzyingly rapid oil development, anxiety about the environmental and social costs of the boom, as well as about tribal mismanagement and oil-related corruption, had burst to the surface.
Tex G. Hall at the Annual Bakken Oil and Gas Expo in April. He proudly advocated oil development on tribal land. Credit Brent McDonald/The New York Times
By that point, there were two murder cases — one person dead in Spokane, Wash., the other missing but presumed dead in North Dakota — tied to oil business on the reservation. And Mr. Hall, a once-seemingly untouchable leader, was under investigation by his tribal council because of his connections to an Oregon man who would later be charged with murder for hire in the two deaths.
In 2012, the man, James Henrikson, 35, who had five felony convictions in his past, operated a trucking company called Blackstone out of the tribal chairman’s garage. Blackstone worked primarily for the chairman’s own private oil field company, enjoying privileged access to business on the reservation as his subcontractor.
Blackstone also worked directly for the tribal government, earning $570,000 for a job watering road dust that was never put out to bid. Mr. Hall voted to approve the payment, but because he did not think he had any conflict of interest, he said, he never disclosed his business relationship to the company.
The relationship was personal, too: Mr. Henrikson and his wife vacationed in Hawaii with the tribal chairman and his family. Mr. Henrikson had an extramarital affair with, and impregnated, the now 21-year-old daughter of the chairman’s longtime girlfriend; Mr. Hall considers the baby his grandson.
In an interview last week, Mr. Hall said Mr. Henrikson was a “professional con” who had cemented their business deal when Mr. Hall was ill and distracted, bringing flowers and a contract to his hospital room to be signed. “I got ripped off and taken advantage of,” he said. “The people didn’t really know that when the news first broke.’’
In January, Mr. Hall’s link to Mr. Henrikson, Mr. Henrikson’s link to the murder case in Spokane, and the murder’s link to the reservation were revealed after the alleged hit man was arrested. The revelations jolted Fort Berthold into a tumultuous year of questioning and change.
“That murder was the last straw,” said Marilyn Hudson, 78, a tribal elder and historian. “Now you have a murder, a hit man, and a five-time convicted felon operating as an oil contractor working directly with the chairman. It’s like our reservation got hijacked by the plot of a bad movie.”
On the reservation, where identity is deeply connected to the land, conservationists have been more vocal than elsewhere in North Dakota, and they have denounced their leadership’s oversight of the oil industry for mirroring the state’s pro-business posture.
“The mentality comes from the state: less regulation, more profit,” said Joletta Birdbear, a former postmaster. “They’re only concerned about the immediate dollars and not about the long-term costs to our land and the future generations of our people.”
But if critics of North Dakota’s elected officials viewed them as too close to the oil industry, critics here had more pointed concerns. Their leader was part of the industry, seeking and getting contracts from oil companies that operated under his watch.
“I have no problem with the government making profit for the people, but when they make a profit for themselves and not the people, that’s another story, you know?” Ms. Hudson said.
Most of the 14,169 enrolled tribal members, about half of whom live on the reservation, do not receive significant oil royalties. The tribal government does, along with hundreds of millions in oil tax revenue, and many here appreciate the potential benefits for the reservation itself.
But so far, apart from a significant rise in jobs, which often go to transient workers, many see deterioration rather than improvement in their standard of living. They endure intense truck traffic, degraded roads, increased crime, strained services and the pollution from spills, flares and illegal dumping.
Deep-seated problems can be hard to fix — a life expectancy of 57, for instance, compared with 79 for North Dakotans as a whole. But its critics say the tribal government has invested little in social welfare, like desperately needed housing, and has distributed little of the $200 million set aside in the People’s Fund.
The government’s purchase of a 96-foot yacht named “Island Girl,” which mostly sits on blocks, became a symbol to many of their leaders’ misplaced priorities. All told, it cost about $2.5 million, a senior tribal official said.
“Our tribal council is so focused on money, money, money,” Edmund Baker, the reservation’s environmental director, said earlier this year. “And our tribal chairman is: ‘Edmund, don’t tell me about spills. I’m busy trying to do things for my people.’”
The three affiliated tribes on Fort Berthold have seen their territorial lands shrivel over time to under a million acres. For decades, they struggled to recover from their forced relocation in the mid-20th century when their prime farmland was flooded to create the Lake Sakakawea reservoir for a new dam.
By the first decade of the 21st century, however, the tribal government, deep in debt, experienced a sudden change of fortune. Fort Berthold found itself atop a particularly sweet spot of the Bakken shale formation. At least 1,370 wells have been drilled and hydraulically fractured, or fracked, here so far. They are pumping over 386,000 barrels of oil a day, a third of North Dakota’s output.
In an interview at the expo last spring, Mr. Hall said that he saw fracking as the ticket to self-determination. “When oil was discovered, we were poor,” he said. “It’s hard to be sovereign on an empty stomach.”
Fifty-eight with a long, graying ponytail, Mr. Hall wore a beaded medallion with a red-tipped arrow, the Indian name he inherited from his father. Red-tipped, he said, “means you’re the first to draw blood.”
Steven A. Kelly, a former tribal lawyer under Mr. Hall and then his business competitor, said: “He’s an alpha male. If you had five male dogs on a line and you threw out six bones, Tex Hall’s going to try to get all six.”
Mr. Hall grew up on the reservation, on a cattle and buffalo ranch in Mandaree where he still lives. He said his parents told him when he was little that he would grow up to lead his tribe and that he bore “the weight of the people” on his shoulders. He left Fort Berthold for college, where he was a basketball star, and then graduate school, returning home to teach and eventually to lead the school district in Mandaree. Starting in 1998, he served two consecutive four-year terms as tribal chairman and rose to prominence as a national leader, too, twice elected president of the National Congress of American Indians.
He was “a very good advocate,” Mr. Kelly said. “I could never take that away from him.”
The boom arrived in Fort Berthold between Mr. Hall’s second and third terms. He started his company, Maheshu Energy, to broker leasing deals. Maheshu then morphed into a business offering services like well site construction, rig transport and trucking. Mr. Hall’s girlfriend, who has a retail clothing business called Sparkling Spur, became chief financial officer.
When Mr. Hall was re-elected tribal chairman in 2010, an ethics ordinance prohibited leaders from using their offices for private gain, but it did not explicitly bar them from owning oil-related companies. “It was entirely legal to have a business,” he said. “So I had a business.”
After the election, Maheshu began getting a greater share of contracts, said Damon Williams, the tribes’ supervising attorney. “It was good old boy stuff,” he said. “Obviously if you want to do business on a reservation, it’s best to deal with the chief.”
Mr. Kelly, in turn, found himself losing rig service contracts to the chairman. “My prices were better, we had the same mud engineers, so why do you think they used Tex instead of me?” he asked. “I wanted to make an issue of it, and I did.”
In spring 2011, Mr. Kelly addressed the seven-member tribal council. “I am here regretfully, on a matter that brings me against the chairman,” he said, explaining that he thought Mr. Hall was violating conflict-of-interest rules.
Mr. Hall responded, “We’re not the ethics board here, Steve.”
Mr. Kelly asked him if he felt bound by the ethics code.
“There is none,” the chairman said.
Mr. Kelly waved a copy of the code.
“There is no ethics board,” the chairman said.
Indeed, the council had never created a board to enforce its code, and so members who sought to pursue complaints regularly confronted this Catch-22. Mr. Kelly urged the council to take up the issue itself.
“They wouldn’t,” he said, “and that’s one of the things that bothered me. Our council doesn’t hold one another accountable. And when you have that situation, basically you have a broken government.”
By early 2011, James Henrikson had a string of marriages, failed businesses and arrests in several states behind him. In Oregon, he had been convicted on felony charges of theft, burglary, attempted assault and unlawful manufacture of marijuana. In Washington, he had filed for and been denied bankruptcy protection largely because he had tried to hide assets.
Newly released from jail, Mr. Henrikson set his sights on the booming Bakken, and specifically on the reservation. Still on probation, he registered Blackstone Building Group under the name of his girlfriend, Sarah Creveling, and persuaded investors to set them up with some trucks.
To gain priority access to oil contracts on Fort Berthold, Mr. Henrikson and Ms. Creveling, who are white, needed a native partner. Mr. Henrikson contacted Mr. Kelly, who agreed to a subcontracting deal.
Like others, Mr. Kelly was struck by the couple’s hustle, confidence and good looks. Rick Arey of Wyoming, who met them when they moved into his trailer park, described them as “Ken and Barbie, the prettiest people in North Dakota.”
“He was ripped and she was the object of every man’s desire,” said Mr. Arey, who was also impressed by Mr. Henrikson’s high-end pickup truck with its “six-inch lift and 37-inch tires.”
In late 2011, Mr. Arey was recruited to work as a truck dispatcher for Mr. Henrickson and Ms. Creveling, who had married. Beyond the $1,500-a-week salary promised, he saw it as a chance to get in on something big.
“I was like, ‘You want to win, you got to hang out with winners,’?” he said. “No offense to any native contractors out there, because they do a good job, too, but when you take a hungry white boy, and you throw him on a reservation,” he is going to “go the extra mile.”
Before long, Mr. Kelly discovered that Mr. Henrikson and Ms. Creveling had found a Navajo woman to front for them so that Blackstone appeared to be Indian-owned. They were going behind his back, bidding for the same jobs. So he cut ties with them, and notes in retrospect that Mr. Henrikson was always asking: “Who’s the chief? Who’s the main guy? Who’s running the show here?”
Mr. Hall said he believed that Mr. Henrikson staged their first meeting by claiming he had run out of gas at a highway juncture abutting the chairman’s property. Mr. Hall said he gave him a couple of cans of gasoline and that when Mr. Henrikson returned the cans, he started insinuating himself into the chairman’s life.
“I guess I should have checked up on him with Steve Kelly, but I was sick,’’ he said.
In January 2012, Mr. Hall signed a contracting agreement with Mr. Henrikson, and Blackstone moved into his garage. Mr. Henrikson was quick to tout the connection.
“James was unstoppable,” Mr. Arey said. “He would throw Tex’s name around: ‘I’m working with Tex Hall and Maheshu.’ Other people were, ‘Oh, wow, how did you do that?’ It was like partnering up with the president.”
After several months, Mr. Arey and his colleague Kristopher Clarke, unhappy at Blackstone, quietly hatched a plan to join another company, taking some truckers with them. Mr. Clarke had known Mr. Henrikson through motorcycle racing in Washington and had followed him to North Dakota.
On Feb. 22, 2012, Mr. Clarke told Mr. Arey he was driving to drop off his company credit card at Blackstone.
And then Mr. Clarke, who was 29, vanished.
It was not unusual for young men to come and go from the oil fields or to keep in sporadic contact with their families. But Mr. Clarke’s relatives grew increasingly alarmed that they could not reach him, and his mother started a Facebook page devoted to her missing son and casting suspicion on Mr. Henrikson and Ms. Creveling. (They would later sue her for defamation, saying she had harmed their company, which nonetheless netted $2 million in profits in 2012, they estimated in depositions.)
In June 2012, Mr. Clarke’s abandoned truck was found on a street in Williston, the hub of the oil patch. Neighbors said it had been parked there for months.
Lissa Yellowbird-Chase, a tribal member who used to work in the reservation’s criminal justice system, reached out to Mr. Clarke’s mother. She thought that the “non-Indian mom of a non-Indian male” could use some help, she said, and undertook an investigation of her own.
“We started approaching Tex and other tribal leaders saying there’s a boy missing here, and he was last seen on Tex’s property,” Ms. Yellowbird-Chase said. “Doors were shut. Phones were hung up on us. People were saying maybe we shouldn’t be involved. I was like, ‘Whoa.’ We’re a very spiritual people. Part of our culture is we look out for all the Creator’s people.”
She enlisted “warriors,” she said, to help plaster the reservation with thousands of “Missing” and “Find K.C.” fliers.
Mr. Hall said he repeatedly questioned Mr. Henrikson about expenses he considered improper but that it took him until late 2012 to “kick him out,” saying “I don’t want nobody stealing from me around this place.” The 15-month business relationship with Blackstone did not end until March 2013, however.
By that point, Blackstone’s reputation with its drivers, its clients and its investors was souring. (Ms. Creveling would later tell investigators that she and her husband had siphoned money to ancillary businesses and generated false profit-loss statements for Blackstone.)
In a cordial email, Mr. Hall informed Ms. Creveling that “all expenses, reimbursements and split of proceeds” would occur by the end of the month.
“It has been good working with you,” he wrote.
In the summer of 2013, The Williston Herald announced that on July 20 a volunteers’ search party would comb Williston and Mandaree, where Mr. Clarke had last been seen on Mr. Hall’s property.
The day before the search, Mr. Hall texted Mr. Baker, the environmental director, and directed him to remove “a few frack socks” from his yard. Mr. Baker said he thought that Mr. Hall did not want the searchers, who did not find Mr. Clarke, to stumble on a dumpsite.
The frack, or oil filter, socks often contain radioactivity that exceeds the legal limit for disposal in North Dakota. They sometimes are illegally discarded because of the expense of trucking them out of state. And, indeed, Mr. Baker and his crew found some 200 socks strewn through Mr. Hall’s field.
The socks were “kind of sun-baked,” like they had been there for a while, Mr. Baker said, which greatly concerned him because “frack socks are a highly sensitive environmental hazard.”
Mr. Hall said he had done nothing wrong in calling the tribes’ environmental director. But Mr. Baker believed that the chairman had crossed an ethical line summoning public employees to take care of an environmental violation on his private property. Mr. Baker described it as: “Call your regulator, and think he’ll do a favor for you and be quiet about it.”
And indeed Mr. Baker, while he filled out an incident report for his own files, kept his mouth shut, fearful of retribution. “There have been other instances where individuals have spoken up and they have been kicked out of their homes,” he said. “They have been denied continued employment. Basically their legs are taken out from underneath them.”
Even though he did not make this episode public, Mr. Baker saw it not only as an abuse of power but also as a confirmation of what he considered the chairman’s cavalier approach to oil-related environmental problems.
Mr. Hall portrays himself as a staunch defender of the reservation’s “land, air and waters.” Though he advocated autonomy from the Environmental Protection Agency’s “regulatory scheme,” he wrote an environmental code for the tribes, he said, so that they could protect the environment “our way,” without depending on “the Great White Father in Washington, D.C.”
Spills are routine on the reservation, though, and generally go unpunished. By The New York Times’s calculation, there were 850 oil-related environmental incidents on Fort Berthold reported by companies from 2007 through mid-October 2014.
When Mr. Baker started his job in early 2013, straight out of law school in Montana, he quickly got the message that, “Environmental is kind of like the redheaded stepchild,” he said.
The community of White Shield was in an uproar over an oil waste landfill under preliminary construction. Examining the file, he found no permit application had ever been filed. He halted construction, and convened what turned into a packed community hearing featured in the Bismarck newspaper.
Tribal leaders communicated their displeasure and then effectively excommunicated him.
“I’m guessing they view me as E.P.A., the guy who’s going to stop their money bags,” he said.
On Dec. 15, 2013, after returning from church with his wife of 42 years, Douglas Carlile was accosted in his Spokane kitchen by a masked man dressed in black. Elberta Carlile fled upstairs, heard gunshots ring out and hid in a closet to call 911. Her husband died almost immediately, the day after he had painstakingly tied gold stars on their Christmas tree.
Fleeing the scene, the gunman dropped a leather glove and left a footprint in the mud. His getaway van, tracked down by the police, contained a black balaclava and a to-do list including “practice with pistol” and “wheel man.”
A month later, the police arrested Timothy Suckow, 51, whose phone contacts included a listing for “James ND” with Mr. Henrikson’s number. In the arrest report, the police said the murder victim had been involved in a $2 million oil development deal with Mr. Henrikson, that he had lined up an investor to buy out Mr. Henrikson and that Mr. Henrikson — “not happy” with this — had issued threats.
On Fort Berthold, Calvin Grinnell, curator of the Three Tribes Museum, was horrified to learn of the murder. It was his elderly mother’s land, in part, that the two men had fought over. He had last spoken with Mr. Carlile on Dec. 6, 2013. During that call, Mr. Carlile referred to a financing problem he hoped would be resolved by Dec. 15, allowing drilling to begin.
“Then on Dec. 15, he was shot,” Mr. Grinnell said. “Six hundred and forty acres — that’s what he got killed for.”
On the same day Mr. Suckow was arrested, federal authorities, who had been investigating Blackstone for financial fraud, searched the house in Watford City, N.D., where Mr. Henrikson and Ms. Creveling lived. She had recently bought the place for $450,000; she had also purchased a Bentley Continental.
In addition to financial records, the authorities were looking for and found firearms — seven, as well as 1,188 rounds of ammunition and “his and hers ear protection.”
On Jan. 18, Mr. Henrikson, charged as a felon prohibited from possessing firearms, was taken into federal custody.
Reading the charging documents for the two arrests, Mr. Williams, the tribal attorney, began researching Blackstone’s ties to Fort Berthold.
“I’ll be deadly honest,” Mr. Williams said. “If that gentleman hadn’t gotten murdered in his kitchen in Washington, we might never have discovered what was going on here.”
In a statement at the time, Mr. Hall maintained that he was cooperating with the authorities “to expose Henrikson’s dealings and the extreme danger he posed to tribal members.”
But the tide began to turn against him. At the end of January, the tribal council approved an emergency amendment to its ethics ordinance explicitly forbidding its members to do business with oil companies on the reservation.
A resolution to suspend Mr. Hall failed. But the council did hire Stephen L. Hill Jr., a former United States attorney in Missouri with experience in public corruption cases, to investigate him.
A few months later, in the interview at the expo, Mr. Hall reluctantly answered a question about his relationship to Mr. Henrikson by first saying, “No relationship.” When a reporter suggested that photographs of them together in Waikiki suggested a close relationship, Mr. Hall said: “In 2012. He had a subcontract in 2012. We’re talking, what, two years ago?”
In terms of his business dealings, Mr. Hall said that he had done everything by the book. He said he had transferred ownership of Maheshu to his girlfriend after the ethics rules tightened in January. Before that, he said, Maheshu competed for business like any other tribal-member-owned company. A conflict of interest would have occurred only if he had used his position to get a tribal contract, which he never did, he said.
Mr. Hill’s investigation, however, found that the chairman had participated in a virtual joint venture with Blackstone, with proceeds shared and Ms. Creveling serving as manager of his company, too, for a while. And Mr. Hall’s government did hire Blackstone, albeit without issuing a contract.
The deal involved watering the dust kicked up by oil traffic. Mr. Henrikson had offered to do it at a discounted rate when a tribal official stopped by Mr. Hall’s garage to see if he could buy a truck for the job. The transaction had nothing to do with him, Mr. Hall said, so he was under no obligation to disclose his relationship with Blackstone when he voted for and urged his fellow council members to approve what came to $570,000 in payment.
That was supposedly for five months of road watering, but Mr. Hill’s investigation found that three months of work was never authorized by any tribal official or confirmed.
Asked if he had shared in the proceeds, Mr. Hall said: “Absolutely not. Don’t you think I’d be in jail or indicted if I had?’’
Mr. Hill’s investigation also found what is portrayed as an effort by Mr. Hall to extort $1.5 million from a Virginia-based group of investors who sought to drill for oil on tens of thousands of acres of reservation land. As part of that, Mr. Hall also misled the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the investigators found. But protracted negotiations with the investors broke down, and Mr. Hall never got paid.
Mr. Williams, the tribal attorney, said, “Tex’s defense was, ‘Because I didn’t get money, it was not a crime.’?”
In mid-August, Mr. Hill presented his findings to the tribal council in a closed session, and the chairman denounced them as a “smear campaign” by his opponents, particularly Mr. Williams.
Mr. Hall, by that point, had filed the paperwork to run for an unprecedented fourth term as tribal chairman. So, too, had Mr. Williams, two of Mr. Hall’s relatives and six others.
The day before the September primary, tribal members massed outside tribal headquarters to demand the release of the investigation report. They cheered when the doors were opened and marched past a phalanx of security into the council chambers. Judy Brugh, a council member, held up the report and told them, to much applause, “It is your right to receive this.”
“You guys, when this all started, nobody really knew it was going to get this big,” she said. “Ever since we read this, we’ve had to carry it around on our shoulders because we knew what we had to do with it” — turn it over to the F.B.I.
Jared Baker, a tribal member, urged her and other council members to do more than that: “Be honest, guys, the feds ain’t going to do” anything unless “you guys push it, push it, push it. So we ask that you do that, so we have some kind of transparency in our government.”
Asked whether he had opened an investigation into Mr. Hall, the United States attorney in North Dakota said he could not confirm or deny the existence of any investigation. Mr. Hall said there was none, to his knowledge.
On Primary Day, he was resoundingly defeated as tribal chairman.
Also on Primary Day, coincidentally, Mr. Henrikson, with five co-defendants, was charged with the murders of Mr. Carlile and, though his body was never found, Mr. Clarke. He was federally indicted on two counts of murder for hire, four counts each of conspiracy and of solicitation to commit murder for hire, and one count of conspiracy to distribute heroin.
Three other potential victims, including the original investor in Blackstone, were targeted but not killed, the indictment said.
Mr. Henrikson pleaded not guilty. His trial is scheduled for July 2015. The murder charges carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment or death.
In Washington, Mrs. Carlile, still mourning the loss of the “honorable man” with whom she had six children and 20 grandchildren, said they had been destined to become “one of those old couples that still held hands.”
But she was thankful for one thing, she said:
“His killing did open up the whole can of worms in that area and begin to expose the corruption.”
Underscoring the change afoot, the candidates for tribal chairman in the general election — Mr. Williams and Mark N. Fox, the tribal tax director — ran on platforms emphasizing good governance and greater oversight of the oil industry.
Mr. Fox, 52, a lawyer and Marine veteran, won. At his recent inauguration, Mr. Fox, whose Indian name is Sage Man, announced that tribal members would receive a $1,000 check from the People’s Fund for Christmas. In an interview afterward, he said that he would seek to create a three-branch system of government, to install an ethics board and to “resolve the conflicts amongst our own people.”
“Until now, the boom has brought more negative than positive,” he said. “But if we change our mentality, we can turn things around. We can remind the oil companies our land is sacred and they need to respect it. We can deal with revenue responsibly and keep it out of our councilmen’s back pockets. We can put the people first.”
Robert Gebeloff contributed reporting from New York.
A version of this article appears in print on December 29, 2014, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Where Oil, Corruption and Bodies Surface