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28Jan/15Off

The Rise of Dark Money and the Koch Party


It's time for 21st-century campaign finance reform: No limits, instant disclosure.

BY RON FOURNIER

January 27, 2015 This week may be remembered as the birth of the Koch Party. A usurper of the GOP and a rival to Democrats, the network of conservative advocacy groups backed by Charles and David Koch pledged Monday to spend $889 million on the 2016 election.

Financially, the tax-exempt Koch coalition could be as big as either of the two major parties, spending more than the combined 2004 campaign budgets of President George W. Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry. Koch operatives will poll, track, and target voters—mirroring the activities of a traditional political party.

Except for one thing: dark money.

The Democratic and Republican parties are required by law to disclose their donors. Not so for outside groups. While the Koch alliance disclosed some of its contributors last year, most of its money comes from anonymous sources. Secrecy breeds distrust, if not corruption, as voters are left to guess what politicians do to repay their donors.

To read the entire article go to: http://www.nationaljournal.com/politics/the-rise-of-dark-money-and-the-koch-party-20150127

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28Jan/15Off

Koch brothers’ cash will wash over California, experts say

By Carla Marinucci

January 27, 2015 Updated: January 27, 2015 8:55pm

The billionaire Koch brothers’ intention to spend nearly $900 million on conservative candidates and causes in the 2016 election cycle will unleash a tidal wave of cash that will swamp the political landscape even in solidly blue California, experts said Tuesday.

When it comes to spreading money around, the spending plan that industrialists Charles and David Koch unveiled Monday will put the brothers and an estimated 300 conservative mega-donors in their network on a plane now occupied only by the country’s two major political parties.

“It is staggering,” said Jessica Levinson, who teaches political ethics at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “It’s not a pebble in the pond, it’s an asteroid in the ocean.”

The cascade of conservative cash is “an amount we could not have fathomed 10 years ago,” Levinson said. Not even California and other strongly Democratic states will be exempt from its effects, she said.

“It will change the tenor, the narrative of the debate and what we talk about,” Levinson said.

To read the entire article go to: http://www.sfchronicle.com/nation/article/Koch-brothers-cash-will-wash-over-California-6044288.php?t=6e9c914afb#/0

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28Jan/15Off

Legislature should stand up for environmental justice

BY STRELA CERVASSPECIAL TO THE BEE

01/27/2015 4:00 PM 01/28/2015 12:00 AM

pastedGraphic.pdf Traffic travels northbound on Highway 99 with downtown Modesto in a haze in August 2013. The Central Valley suffers from poor air quality and other environmental problems. DEBBIE NODA MODESTO BEE FILE

In his inaugural speech, Gov. Jerry Brown promised to be a national leader on environmental issues. If California wants to pass big environmental policies, legislators need to look to people of color to lead the way.

On Wednesday, the California Environmental Justice Alliance releases its second annual Environmental Justice Scorecard, which analyzes how legislators stood on policy measures that impact working-class communities and communities of color. The 2014 scorecard highlights a new reality for environmental policy that Brown touched on: Legislators can no longer ignore the issues that communities of color care about.

To read the entire article go to: http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/op-ed/soapbox/article8413050.html

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28Jan/15Off

Kern County declares a fiscal emergency amid plunging oil prices

BY TIFFANY HSU

January 27, 2015, 5:04 p.m.

Kern County supervisors declared a state of fiscal emergency at their weekly meeting Tuesday in response to predictions of a massive shortfall in property tax revenues because of tanking oil prices.

Surging oil supplies domestically and weak demand abroad have left Kern, the heart of oil production in California, facing what could be a $61-million hole in its budget once its fiscal year starts July 1, according to preliminary calculations from the county’s assessor-recorder office.

Oil companies account for about 30% of the county’s property tax revenues, a percentage that has been declining in recent decades but still represents a critical cushion for county departments and school districts.

To read the entire article go to: http://touch.latimes.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-82651759/

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28Jan/15Off

Utility bosses see change coming, look to clean and distributed energy


By David Roberts on 27 Jan 2015

Original source: http://grist.org/climate-energy/utility-bosses-see-change-coming-look-to-clean-and-distributed-energy/

If you’ve been reading my stuff for a while, you know that power utilities are super sexy and exciting and fascinating, which is why all the hip kids are so into them.

And you’ll be thrilled to learn that there is a new survey out revealing the opinions of the men and women behind the curtain, those who run the institutions that keep the U.S. electrical grid, or “America’s Libido” as it’s so often called*, humming.

Specifically, Utility Dive does an annual survey of U.S. utility executives and the 2015 results were released today.

First, a word of caution. There are lots of different kinds of utilities with lots of different kinds of power-generation assets in their portfolios. Here’s the geographic distribution of the executives in the survey:

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Utility Dive

As you can see, Hawaii and Alaska are oddly overrepresented. The survey is also West Coast–heavy and relatively Southeast-light. We don’t know anything about the size of the utilities represented, just their business models (see below). Any of those factors might slightly skew the results.

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28Jan/15Off

NextEra-HECO Deal Likely Linked With Hawaiian Utility’s About-Face On Rooftop Solar

pastedGraphic.pdfWilliam Pentland Contributor

I write about energy and environmental issues.

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

ENERGY 1/27/2015 @ 1:16PM 1

In December, NextEra Energy, a utility holding company based in Juno Beach, FL, agreed to buy all three of Hawaii’s electric utilities for about $6 billion.

The return (or lack thereof) on this $6 billion investment will likely depend on future deployment trends of distributed generation in Hawaii.

NextEra Energy Hawaii, a subsidiary of NextEra’s holding company, wants to build big-ticket, capital-intensive transmission and distribution infrastructure projects in Hawaii. The first project – but probably not the last – in the works is a $600 million undersea cable interconnecting the power grids on the islands of Oahu and Maui.

Currently, Hawaii has three stand-alone power grids: one grid serves the Big Island, another grid serves Maui and a third grid serves Oahu. Three electric utility companies, which are all owned by Hawaiian Electric Industries and are known collectively as HECO, operate these stand-alone grids.

The island of Oahu accounts for most of the state’s electricity consumption. However, most of Hawaii’s renewable energy resources are concentrated on islands other than Oahu. Low-cost electricity generated from renewable energy resources on Maui or the Big Island would need to be delivered to Oahu by undersea cable systems that interconnect the island systems on Oahu and the other islands.

To read the entire article go to: http://www.forbes.com/sites/williampentland/2015/01/27/nextera-heco-deal-likely-linked-with-hawaiian-utilitys-about-face-on-rooftop-solar/?ss=energy

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28Jan/15Off

EnergySavvy Picks Up Efficiency Projects at Salt River Project, New Mexico Utilities

Utilities realizing their outdated efficiency programs need an overhaul

Katherine Tweed
January 27, 2015

EnergySavvy continues to ink energy efficiency deals with large utility clients. Its energy efficiency platform will be used by Salt River Project, Public Service of New Mexico and New Mexico Gas Company, according to news released today.

Salt River Project, in particular, is a utility known for its high customer satisfaction and innovation in what it offers its customers. It has had a successful time-of-use pricing and pre-pay program, long before smart meters were commonplace.

“[Salt River Project] is in a category of utilities where the customer journey doesn’t end,” said Aaron Goldfeder, CEO and co-founder of EnergySavvy. “There’s a constant cycle of improvement.”

The Seattle-based company started with an online audit tool that helped utilities target customers for their energy efficiency programs. It now offers an enterprise platform that brings the entire stakeholder chain -- from customers to contractors to the utility -- into one place.

SRP, along with the two New Mexico utilities, will use EnergySavvy’s platform to drive energy efficiency participation. SRP is also using EnergySavvy to automate and improve the Energy Star program. “We’re working with EnergySavvy to continue to scale our programs and maintain our position among the top-performing utilities nationwide,” Nathan Morey, manager of product development at SRP, said in a statement.

To read the entire article go to: http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/EnergySavvy-Picks-Up-Efficiency-Projects-at-Salt-River-Project-New-Mexico

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28Jan/15Off

The Case for Long-Duration Storage: Net Electricity Load in Calif. Is 5 Years Ahead of Schedule

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As Julie Blunden explains, California’s system operator is already hitting “duck curve” projections for 2020.

Julie Blunden
January 27, 2015

Julie Blunden is a veteran of transforming energy markets in California and around the world. She is the founder of Julie Blunden Consulting through which she has performed work for both solar and energy storage businesses.  She is also the chair of CalCEF Catalyst, the governing board for CalCharge. The views expressed in this article are her own.

On January 11, 2015, a rather unremarkable Sunday earlier this month, the California Independent System Operator’s daily duck curve was approximately 1,500 megawatts below where it is projected to be in 2020.

That’s the midday statistic. Overnight, the daily duck curve was about 3,000 megawatts below the 2020 forecast.

That means that CAISO is operating the grid, this month, at net load (that is the system demand less solar and wind generation) more than five years ahead of forecast.

California needs more energy storage to match the duck curve

To read the entire article go to: http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/california-is-already-hitting-its-2020-duck-curve

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28Jan/15Off

As Visit Ends, Obama Presses India on Human Rights and Climate Change

By PETER BAKER and ELLEN BARRYJAN. 27, 2015

pastedGraphic.pdfNEW DELHI — President Obama concluded his three-day trip here Tuesday with a tough-love message to his hosts, as he vowed to be “India’s best partner” in taking its place in the ranks of the world’s great powers but urged it to do more to protect human rights and fight climate change.

In a pointed message wrapped in the language of friendship, Mr. Obama said India needed to combat human trafficking and slavery, elevate the status of girls and women in society, promote religious and racial tolerance and empower young people. He also argued that India had an obligation to curb greenhouse gases despite its economic challenges.

To read the entire article go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/28/world/asia/obama-ends-visit-with-challenge-to-india-on-climate-change.html?ref=energy-environment&_r=0

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27Jan/15Off

The Past Is the Present: When the Republicans Liked the Environment, Water, Parks Diversity and others?


Woodrow Clark

Economist for environment and renewable energy

Co-authored with Grant Cooke

Posted: 01/26/2015 11:39 am EST Updated: 01/26/2015 11:59 am EST

In what must seem like the greatest of ironies to the current Republican Party, President Richard Nixon in the 1970s, the most infamous Republican president of all time, was a huge hero for the environment.

Nixon was following in tradition of another Republican president, the iconic Teddy Roosevelt, whose love for our land's natural beauty awakened a national respect for the environment and lead to the creation of the U.S. parks system.

Nixon promised in his 1969 State of the Union Address to protect the environment, and his ambitious and direct efforts lead Congress to establish the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in late 1970, which focused on Clean Air and saving land and water in America from pollution. It was the first time any administration specifically addressed environmental problems through a newly created, independent agency. At the EPA's establishment, Nixon claimed that "a new era of environmental protection began."

To read the entire article go to: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/woodrow-clark/the-past-is-the-present-w_b_6533306.html

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27Jan/15Off

Koch-backed network aims to spend nearly $1 billion on 2016 elections

By Matea Gold January 26 at 4:00 PM

Follow @mateagold

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — A network of conservative advocacy groups backed by Charles and David Koch aims to spend a staggering $889 million in advance of the next White House election, part of an expansive strategy to build on its 2014 victories that may involve jumping into the Republican primaries.

The massive financial goal was revealed to donors here Monday during an annual winter meeting hosted by Freedom Partners, the tax-exempt business lobby that serves as the hub of the Koch-backed political operation, according to an attendee. The amount is more than double the $407 million that 17 allied groups in the network raised during the 2012 campaign.

To read the entire article go to: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/koch-backed-network-aims-to-spend-nearly-1-billion-on-2016-elections/2015/01/26/77a44654-a513-11e4-a06b-9df2002b86a0_story.html?wprss=rss_homepage

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27Jan/15Off

Senate Democrats block bid to wind down Keystone XL debate

Posted on January 26, 2015 at 6:30 pm by Jennifer A. Dlouhy in Keystone XL, Politics/Policy

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Monday blocked Republican efforts to wind down debate of legislation authorizing the Keystone XL pipeline.

The procedural vote means that the Republicans are looking at days — if not weeks — of additional debate on the bill and the dozens of amendments that have been proposed to it, including proposals involving climate change, crude exports, Arctic drilling and whether EPA employees can carry firearms.

The 53-39 Senate vote fell shy of the 60 “aye” votes needed to limit debate on the measure and cut off a potential filibuster. Travel delays prevented some supportive senators from reaching the chamber in time for the vote, contributing to the Republicans’ loss.

To read the entire article go to: http://fuelfix.com/blog/2015/01/26/senate-democrats-block-bid-to-wind-down-keystone-xl-debate/

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27Jan/15Off

White House to Propose Allowing Oil Drilling Off Atlantic Coast

By CORAL DAVENPORTJAN. 26, 2015

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Tuesday will announce a proposal to open up coastal waters from Virginia to Georgia for oil and gas drilling, according to a person briefed on the plan.

At the same time, in Alaska, the administration will ban drilling in some portions of the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, according to the personal familiar with the plans, who could not speak publicly about them until the announcement.

Opening the Eastern Seaboard to oil companies is a prize the industry has sought for decades and is a blow to environmental groups. They argue that the move would put the coasts of Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia at risk for an environmental disaster like the BP spill that struck the Gulf Coast in 2010, when millions of barrels of oil washed ashore after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig.

The move to ban drilling in some Arctic waters is certain to enrage Alaskan lawmakers who are already angry about an administration plan, announced during the weekend, to provide tougher environmental protections in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a 19-million-acre sanctuary that is believed to contain large reserves of oil and gas.

To read the entire article go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/27/us/politics/white-house-to-propose-allowing-oil-drilling-off-atlantic-coast.html?action=click&contentCollection=Energy%20%26%20Environment%20&region=Footer&module=MoreInSection&pgtype=article

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27Jan/15Off

Plan to Protect Refuge Has Alaskans Offended and Fearful Over Money


By KIRK JOHNSONJAN. 26, 2015

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Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska and chairwoman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, called the president’s proposal “a stunning attack on our sovereignty.”

Credit

Jabin Botsford/The New York Times

ANCHORAGE — Bitter reaction here to the Obama administration’s proposal to protect a huge portion of the Arctic goes beyond political divisions over oil and environmental policy, to questions about how Alaskans are perceived and respected in their sometimes awkward long-distance relationship with the rest of the nation, residents and political leaders say.

That President Obama blindsided the governor and angered Alaska’s congressional delegation on Sunday with a proposal to ban energy exploration on 12 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to be designated as wilderness proves that Alaska simply does not matter to Washington, some residents said.

    “He just alienated an entire state,” said Stephanie Kesler, 56, a telecommunications technologist here in Alaska’s largest city, who said she had twice voted for Mr. Obama. It’s not about the oil for her, she said at a downtown coffee bar on Monday. Before Sunday’s announcement, she said, she was “on the fence” about how best to protect the 22 million acre refuge.

    To read the entire article go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/27/us/plan-to-protect-refuge-has-alaskans-offended-and-fearful-over-money.html?ref=energy-environment

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    27Jan/15Off

    Fracking paused on gas wells in Western Colorado


    By Nancy Lofholm

    The Denver Post

    POSTED:   01/23/2015 05:06:41 PM MST

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    GRAND JUNCTION — The largest natural gas developer in Colorado has instituted a fracking freeze in the Piceance Basin of Western Colorado in response to dropping prices for natural gas and oil.

    WPX Energy announced in a blog post this week that it will "pause" the completion process for about 20 wells that have been drilled in the Piceance Basin. That means the wells will sit idle for the time being and won't undergo the hydraulic fracturing needed to release gas from underground formations.

    "We are looking at ways to save on costs," said WPX spokesman Jeff Kirtland.

    WPX employs 380 people in Colorado; the company hasn't announced any layoffs at this time. The stop to fracking is expected to have more of an employment effect on contractors and service companies that are involved in that portion of the well development process.

    Halliburton and other large oilfield service providers, Schlumberger NV and Baker Hughes, provide those fracking-related services. Those companies announced this week that they are laying off thousands of workers, but the companies have not specified where those layoffs will take place.

    To read the entire article go to: http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_27382264/fracking-paused-gas-wells-western-colorado

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