Donald Trump’s Tax Returns Expose ‘Lying, Cheating Felon,’ ‘Art of the Deal’ Co-Author Says

Newsweek – News

Donald Trump’s Tax Returns Expose ‘Lying, Cheating Felon,’ ‘Art of the Deal’ Co-Author Says

By Ana De Liz                 September 28, 2020

Donald Trump accused of lying about 34 US troops injured in Iran airstrike
Kilmeade On Trump Tax Returns: ‘It Shows He Lost A Lot Of Money…If You Consider A BIllion Dollars A Lot Of Money.

 

The co-author of the business advice book The Art of The Deal said President Donald Trump has committed one of the greatest tax frauds in IRS history, after The New York Times revealed that the president paid just $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017.

Tony Schwartz doubled-sown on his criticism on Twitter, saying that the president is “a lying, cheating felon.”

“This is one of the great tax frauds in IRS history. He is running a criminal enterprise. This, no matter what the effect is on any given voters, is big, big news,” the author also told Anderson Cooper on the presenter’s CNN show.

According to The Times, the president paid $750 in taxes in 2016 and 2017.

The piece states that Trump paid no income taxes in 10 of the previous 15 years, “largely because he reported losing much more money than he made.”

Cooper also asked Schwartz about one of the report’s key sentences, which says that Trump has been “more successful in playing a business mogul than being one in real life.”

The author responded: “What you have here is the middle of Trump’s vulnerability, because he equates his personal worth, whatever amount of worth he thinks he has deep down, with his net worth. And what’s so clear here is that he is a horrible businessman, just as he’s been a terrible president.”

Speaking about the loans and debts that the president will have to pay in the upcoming four years, which the article says amount to more than $400 million, the author said that this should not be one of American’s biggest concerns.

“Relative to the harms that the president can inflict on us if he is re-elected and feels he has no more boundaries and no more barriers, whether or not he has big debts is not going to be the issue that American faces”.

Instead, Schwartz says that Americans will face the “potential of martial law” and the enlistment of law enforcement to “round up his enemies.”

The president disregarded The Times‘ news story as “totally fake” at a news conference on Sunday afternoon at the White House. “It’s totally fake news. Made up, fake,” he said, without specifying whether he had grievances with particular details in the report.

Schwartz has been a frequent critic of the president and has admitted regret over writing his book with Trump.

In May of the same year Schwartz said on CNN: “If I had to rename The Art of the Deal, I would call it The Sociopath.

“Because he has no conscience, he has no guilt. All he wants to do is make the case that he would like to be true.

“And while I do think he is probably aware that more walls are closing around him than ever before, he does not experience the world in the way an ordinary human being would.”

The White House has been contacted for comment.

Schwartz Art of The Deal
Tony Schwartz addresses the Cambridge Union on October 12, 2018 in Cambridge, England. Tony Schwartz is known for being Donald Trump’s ghostwriter. He has been a frequent and outspoken critic of the president.CHRIS WILLIAMSON/GETTY IMAGES

Post-COVID heart damage alarms researchers: ‘There was a black hole’ in infected cells

Yahoo News

Post-COVID heart damage alarms researchers: ‘There was a black hole’ in infected cells

Suzanne Smalley, Reporter                      September 10, 2020
Something Went Wrong

 

Shelby Hedgecock contracted the coronavirus in April and thought she had fought through the worst of it — the intense headaches, severe gastrointestinal distress and debilitating fatigue — but early last month she started experiencing chest pain and a pounding heartbeat. Her doctor put her on a cardiac monitor and ordered blood tests, which indicated that the previously healthy 29-year-old had sustained heart damage, likely from her bout with COVID-19.

“I never thought I would have to worry about a heart attack at 29 years old,” Hedgecock told Yahoo News in an interview. “I didn’t have any complications before COVID-19 — no preexisting conditions, no heart issues. I can deal with my taste and smell being dull, I can fight through the debilitating fatigue, but your heart has to last you a really long time.”

Hedgecock’s primary-care physician has referred her to a cardiologist she will see this week; the heart monitor revealed that Hedgecock’s pulse rate is wildly irregular, ranging from 49 to 189 beats per minute, and she has elevated inflammatory markers and platelet counts. She was told to go to the emergency room if her chest pain intensifies before she can see the specialist. A former personal trainer who is now out of breath just from walking around the room, Hedgecock is worried about what the future holds.

She is far from alone in her struggle. Dr. Ossama Samuel is a cardiologist at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital, where he routinely sees coronavirus survivors who are contending with cardiac complications. Samuel said his team has treated three young and otherwise healthy coronavirus patients who have developed myocarditis — an inflammation of the heart muscle — weeks to months after recovering from the virus.

Shelby Hedgecock in a hospital bed. (Shelby Hedgecock)
Shelby Hedgecock in a hospital bed. (Shelby Hedgecock)

 

Myocarditis can affect how the heart pumps blood and trigger rapid or abnormal heart rhythms. It is particularly dangerous for athletes, doctors say, because it can go undetected and can result in a heart attack during strenuous exercise. In recent weeks, some collegiate athletes have reported cardiac complications from the coronavirus, underscoring the seriousness of the condition.

Last month, former Florida State basketball center Michael Ojo died from a heart attack in Serbia; Ojo had recovered from the coronavirus before he collapsed on the basketball court. An Ohio State University cardiologist found that between 10 and 13 percent of university athletes who had recovered from COVID-19 had myocarditis. When the Big Ten athletic conference announced the cancellation of its season last month, Commissioner Kevin Warren cited the risk of heart failure in athletes. Researchers have estimated that up to 20 percent of people who get the coronavirus sustain heart damage.

Samuel said he feels an obligation to warn people, particularly since some of the patients he and Mount Sinai colleagues have seen with myocarditis had only mild cases of the coronavirus months ago.

“We are now seeing people three months after COVID who have pericarditis [inflammation of the sac around the heart] or myocarditis,” Samuel said. He said he believes a small fraction of coronavirus survivors are sustaining heart damage, “but when a disease is so widespread it is concerning that a tiny fraction is still sizable.”

Samuel said he worries particularly about athletes participating in team sports, since many live together and spend time in close quarters. Teammates may all get the coronavirus and recover together, Samuel said, but “the one who really gets that crazy myocarditis could be at risk of dying through exercise or training.”

“It’s a concern about what do you do: Should we do sports in general, should we do it in schools, should we do it in college, should we just do it for professionals who understand the risk and they’re getting paid?” Samuel asked. “I hope we don’t scare the public, but we should make people aware.”

Samuel is recommending that patients recovering from COVID-19 with myocarditis avoid workouts for three to six months.

Todd McDevitt, who runs a stem-cell lab at Gladstone Institutes, which is affiliated with the University of California at San Francisco, recently published images that show how the coronavirus can directly invade the heart muscle. McDevitt said he was so alarmed when he saw a sample of heart muscle cells in a petri dish get “diced” by the coronavirus that he had trouble sleeping for nights afterward.

Todd McDevitt. (Facebook)
Todd McDevitt. (Facebook)

 

McDevitt said his team’s research was spurred by their desire to understand if the coronavirus is entering heart cells and how it is affecting them. He was surprised to see the heart muscle samples he was studying react to a very small amount of the coronavirus, usually within 24 to 48 hours. He said the virus decimated the heart cells in his petri dishes.

“Cell nuclei — the hubs of all the genetic information, all of the nuclear DNA — in many of the cells were gone,” McDevitt said. “There was a black hole literally where we would normally see the nuclear DNA. That’s also pretty bizarre.”

While McDevitt’s study has not yet been peer-reviewed — it is still in pre-print — he said he felt compelled to share the findings as soon as possible. He said his team also sampled tissues from three COVID-19 patient autopsies and found similar damage in the heart muscles of those patients, none of whom had been flagged for myocarditis or heart problems while they were alive.

“This is probably not the whole story yet, but we think we have insights into the beginning of when the virus would get into some of these people and what it might be doing that is concerning enough that we should probably let people know, because clinicians need to be thinking about this,” McDevitt said in an interview. “We don’t have any means of bringing heart muscle back. … This virus is [causing] a very different type of injury, and one we haven’t seen before.”

McDevitt said the chopped-up heart muscles he and his colleagues saw are so concerning because when the microfibers in the muscle are damaged, the heart can’t properly contract.

“If heart muscle cells are damaged and they can’t regenerate themselves, then what you’re looking at is someone who could prematurely have heart failure or heart disease due to the virus,” McDevitt said. “This could be a warning sign for a potential wave of heart disease that we could see in the future, and it’s in the survivors — that’s the concern.”

McDevitt said he believes the risk of heart disease is serious and one people should consider as they assess their own risk of getting the coronavirus.

“I am more scared today of contracting the virus, by far, than I was four months ago,” he said.

In lab experiments, infection of heart muscle cells with SARS-CoV-2 caused long fibers to break apart into small pieces, shown above. (Gladstone)
In lab experiments, infection of heart muscle cells with SARS-CoV-2 caused long fibers to break apart into small pieces, shown above. (Gladstone)

 

The medical journal the Lancet recently reported that an 11-year-old child had died of myocarditis and heart failure after a bout of COVID-induced multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C). An autopsy showed coronavirus embedded in the child’s cardiac tissue.

A recent study from Germany found that 78 percent of patients who had recovered from the coronavirus and who had only mild to moderate symptoms while ill with the disease had indications of cardiac involvement on MRIs conducted more than two months after their initial infection. Lead investigator Eike Nagel said it is concerning to see such widespread cardiac impact; six in 10 of the patients Nagel’s team studied experienced ongoing myocardial inflammation.

“We found an astonishingly high level of cardiac involvement approximately two months after COVID infection,” Nagel said in an email. “These changes are much milder than observed in patients with severe acute myocarditis.”

The scale of the cardiac impact on relatively healthy, young patients surprised many doctors. Nagel said the findings are significant “on a population basis,” and that the impact of COVID-19 on the heart must be studied more.

Dr. Gregg Fonarow. (UCLA)
Dr. Gregg Fonarow. (UCLA)

 

Dr. Gregg Fonarow, chief of UCLA’s Division of Cardiology and director of the Ahmanson-UCLA Cardiomyopathy Center, said the picture is evolving, but the new studies showing cardiac impact in even young people with mild cases of COVID-19 have raised troubling new questions.

“We really do need to take seriously individuals that have had the infection and are having continued symptoms, [and] not just dismiss those symptoms,” Fonarow said. “There could be, in those who had milder or even asymptomatic cases, the potential for cardiac risk.”

Fonarow said it is important to understand whether a “more proactive screening and treatment approach” is needed to better address the needs of patients who have recovered from the coronavirus and who may still have weakened heart function. Fonarow said he found McDevitt’s research to be potentially significant because it proves “from a mechanistic standpoint that there can be direct cardiac injury from the virus itself.”

“Even if it were going to impact, say, 2 percent of the people that had COVID-19, when you think of the millions that have been infected, that ends up in absolute terms being a very large number of individuals,” Fonarow said in an interview. “You don’t want people to be unduly alarmed, but on the other hand you don’t want individuals to be complacent about, ‘Oh, the mortality rate is so low with COVID-19, I don’t really care if I’m infected because the chances that it will immediately or in the next few weeks kill me is small enough, I don’t need to be concerned.’ There are other consequences.”

An 18-year-old woman drowned near a Minnesota dam after carrying several children to safety, police say

Raina Lynn Neeland

Raina Lynn Neeland

 

(CNN)Minnesota police say 18-year-old Raina Lynn Neeland drowned after carrying several children to safety who were near a dam.

Police responded to a call about a drowning on Monday evening, according to the Clearwater County Sheriff’s Office. Clearwater County is about 250 miles northwest of Minneapolis.
Witnesses told officers several children had been swimming in a river near the Clearwater Dam on Clearwater Lake.
Some got caught up in rushing waters that came from the dam and according to police, “could not free themselves.”
“The water level at the dam was considerably higher due to the large amount of rain received recently,” the sheriff’s office said.
An 8-year-old girl was pulled out of the water and resuscitated. Neeland, who witnesses said had been underwater for about 10 minutes, was also pulled out but remained unresponsive despite several life-saving efforts by witnesses and medics.
Neeland pulled several of the younger children to safety before she went under water, police said.
A GoFundMe campaign shared by the sheriff’s office Facebook page says Neeland drowned while saving her younger cousins.
“Raina loved cooking with her grandma also she loved helping take care of her siblings and cousins,” the campaign says.

Would you pay a toll to enter the Keys? Money needed to fight sea level rise, leaders say

Would you pay a toll to enter the Keys? Money needed to fight sea level rise, leaders say

Gwen Filosa                      August 19, 2020

It’s one of the most spectacular scenic drives in the nation: the Overseas Highway that leads down the Florida Keys to mile marker zero on U.S. 1.

Under blue skies, you can drift down the highway, along a collection of bridges, with the ocean on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other.

So should it be a free ride?

No, Monroe County Commissioners said on Wednesday. Once again, they are considering a toll for visitors — not residents. Those who work in the Keys but live on the mainland are also not targeted, County Administrator Roman Gastesi said.

But don’t load up your SunPass account just yet.

Commissioners only told staff to explore ordering a feasibility study on installing a toll at the Monroe County end of the 18-mile stretch of U.S. 1 that connects the mainland to the Keys.

First, commissioners have to determine the state and federal laws and regulations they need to deal with to create a toll.

U.S. 1, which starts at mile marker 0 in Key West and runs to Maine, is part of a federal network of state-owned highways. It is a “federal-aid” highway, which could place it under U.S. rules requiring that any tolls collected be spent on new road construction or needed maintenance.

Commissioners also need to find out exactly what they can spend the toll revenue on, outside of highway maintenance and reconstruction.

One idea they have: using the money to battle the impacts of sea level rise in the Keys.

“The worst-case scenario is that any fees collected by a toll could be used by transportation and on transportation-related items,” said Monroe Mayor Heather Carruthers, of Key West.

Tolls were collected on U.S. 1 in 1927 and 1938 and have been collected on Card Sound Road since 1926.

The Lower Matecumbe toll booth on the Overseas Highway, circa 1940.
The Lower Matecumbe toll booth on the Overseas Highway, circa 1940.

Also on Wednesday, the commission voted to raise the toll at Card Sound Road by one penny. The toll on a two-axle vehicle will be 78 cents. Three or more axles will go up to $1.03.

Keys leaders for years have been talking about making U.S. 1 a toll road.

The Florida Department of Transportation strongly opposed efforts in 2010 to 2012 to consider a Florida Keys toll.

“Our usual response from our partners when we request this is deafening silence for extended periods of time,” said Commissioner David Rice. “I would support giving it another try and hope we can at least get a respectful response.”

On July 21, 2010, the commission unanimously directed staff to investigate and research installing a toll on the stretch to fund a wastewater mandate and address infrastructure needs related to sea level rise.

In 2017, the commission researched how to make it happen and unanimously approved a resolution to support the exploration of a toll into the Keys for nonresidents.

“What are you going to do about the fact we’ll probably be the only county in the United States you can only get to by toll,” said Commissioner Sylvia Murphy of Key Largo. “That question is going to come up. You need to be ready with an answer.”

County Attorney Bob Shillinger said in response that it’s hard to get to Hawaii without “paying something” to get there.

In the past, the toll idea was opposed by former U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, Shillinger said.

“He’s no longer there so that obstacle is gone,” Shillinger said.

Trump takes on 50 years of environmental regulations, one by one

Christian Science Monitor – Politics

Trump takes on 50 years of environmental regulations, one by one

Amanda Paulson, CSM       January 16, 2020

It was 1970. Congress was wrestling with whether to give the right-of-way necessary to build a huge, 800-mile oil pipeline across Alaska, when a district judge blocked the project, using a brand new law requiring federal agencies to consider the environmental impact of projects.

“The Interior Department was stunned,” recalls William Reilly, a staff member in the Nixon administration at the time and later Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator. The law’s environmental impact statements, common today, were completely novel at the time. Even the authors of the statute, he says, “never anticipated it would have that effect.”

Exactly 50 years later, that law – the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) – is under attack. The Trump administration last week announced proposed reforms to the act that would significantly reduce its scope. It’s the latest move in an unprecedented effort to roll back not only recent Obama-era environmental regulations but also some of the bedrock laws that have shaped federal environment policy since the 1970’s.

“It’s not unique in being a pushback against regulation, or even in favoring the energy industry, but it’s unique in just how relentless it has been, and how many regulations they’ve tried to undo,” says Daniel Farber, a law professor at the University of California in Berkeley. There have been at least 50 significant environmental regulations President Trump has targeted, Professor Farber notes. “They’re leaving no stone unturned.”

For Mr. Trump, who as a developer has had his own battles with environmental reviews, it’s a pendulum swing that is long overdue.

“The United States will not be able to compete and prosper in the 21st century if we continue to allow a broken and outdated bureaucratic system hold us back from building what we need: the roads, the airports, the schools, everything,” he said last week in announcing proposed changes to NEPA.

Environmental consideration versus delay

Critics of the act, who often complain about lengthy environmental reviews and the impact statements required for major projects, welcomed his proposal, which would not only impose new deadlines on such studies but would also narrow the range of what could be considered.

“This is not about anti-regulation,” says Marty Durbin, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Energy Institute. “It’s about having a smart process in place and a certain process in place, so that we can get decisions that will unlock the investment necessary to get these projects built as critical infrastructure.” If there’s no certainty about when a project will be approved, it’s harder to attract investors, he adds.

But others note that NEPA has played a critical role simply by ensuring that the environment gets consideration.

“It’s something that says: ‘Consider, reflect. Is this something you want to do? Is this the best way to do it? Are there any other ways you could do it?’” says Mr. Reilly, the former EPA administrator.

In the case of the trans-Alaska pipeline, it took more than four years of wrangling, an Arab oil embargo, and a special act of Congress before the permits were approved.

But Mr. Reilly recalls the chairman of the oil company in charge telling him that the final project was more robust and sound as a result of the environmental-review process. “In the eyes of the person most closely concerned about it, it was a very constructive intervention,” he says.

A 2016 Congressional Research Service report says critics overstate the permitting process’ effect on project delays. Insufficient data, lack of funds, and state and local issues are far more likely to increase project length than environmental reviews.

Some projects languish in permit purgatory for up to a decade, but the vast majority do not. The average length of time for a full environmental impact statement takes 4.5 years, according to the Council on Environmental Quality. Furthermore, only 1% of projects within the NEPA umbrella complete an EIS, according to a 2014 Governmental Accountability Office report.

Many people want a speedier process, acknowledge Mr. Reilly and others. And if that were the administration’s sole objective, the proposed changes would be less controversial. But by narrowing the range of projects that require environmental review and no longer requiring consideration of a project’s “cumulative” effects – which, under President Barack Obama, were expanded to include long-term climate change impacts – the administration is targeting the backbone of U.S. environmental policy for 50 years.

Beyond Obama-era regulations

Early deregulation efforts from the Trump Administration targeted Obama-era rules: the “Clean Water Rule” that defined what waters are subject to federal water protection; the Clean Power Plan, designed to regulate carbon dioxide pollution; and methane rules, regulating the release of a potent greenhouse gas. One of Trump’s most controversial actions, the legality of which is still being tested in the courts, has been an attempted reduction of two National Monument designations in Utah. And there is evidence of a significant shift toward less enforcement of regulations and policies that remain on the books.

Whittling away the government’s regulatory structures has always been part of Mr. Trump’s agenda, but his dismantling of the EPA is unique, says Caitlin McCoy, a fellow in the Environmental and Energy Law Program at Harvard Law School who tracks such changes. Changing NEPA is the latest sign that the administration wants to undermine the statutory foundations of the EPA.

“They’re trying to take away the very things that the agency relies upon to do its job and to really severely damage its legal authority to function,” she says. “With other agencies, it’s similar, like, yes, we’re relaxing some of these tax rates, but it’s not like we’re trying to keep the IRS from doing audits.”

It’s not clear how successful the administration will be.

“For at least some of these regulations, the appeals will not hold up in court,” says Professor Farber. It’s not clear in the case of NEPA, for instance, whether Trump has the power to drastically reinterpret a major law enacted by Congress.

But for Trump, the payoff politically, showing his determination to undo environmental regulations that many view as overly burdensome, may be enough.

“Trump is doing overreach, and getting his comeuppance in the courts,” says Douglas Brinkley, a history professor at Rice University. “But it looks good [to his supporters] in 2020.”

Will the Public End up Paying to Clean up the Fracking Boom?

Will the Public End up Paying to Clean up the Fracking Boom?

By Justin Mikulka         October 18, 2019

Pumpjacks

Increasingly, U.S. shale firms appear unable to pay back investors for the money borrowed to fuel the last decade of the fracking boom. In a similar vein, those companies also seem poised to stiff the public on cleanup costs for abandoned oil and gas wells once the producers have moved on.

It’s starting to become out of control, and we want to rein this in,” Bruce Hicks, Assistant Director of the North Dakota Oil and Gas Division, said in August about companies abandoning oil and gas wells. If North Dakota’s regulators, some of the most industry – friendly in the country, are sounding the alarm, then that doesn’t bode well for the rest of the nation.

In fact, officials in North Dakota are using Pennsylvania as an example of what they want to avoid when it comes to abandoned wells, and with good reason.

The first oil well drilled in America was in Pennsylvania in 1859, and the oil and gas industry has been drilling — and abandoning — wells there ever since. Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) says that while it only has documentation of 8,000 orphaned and abandoned wells, it estimates the state actually has over a half million.

We anticipate as many as 560,000 are in existence that we just don’t know of yet,” DEP spokesperson Laura Fraley told StateImpact Pennsylvania.  “There’s no responsible party and so it’s on state government to pay to have those potential environmental and public health hazards remediated.”

According to StateImpact, “The state considers any well that doesn’t produce oil and gas for a calendar year to be an abandoned well.”

That first oil well drilled in Pennsylvania was 70 feet deep. Modern fracked wells, however, can be well over 10,000 feet in total length (most new fracked wells are drilled vertically to a depth where they turn horizontal to fracture the shale that contains the oil and gas). Because the longer the total length of the well, the more it costs to clean up, the funding required to properly clean up and cap wells has grown as drillers have continued to use new technologies to greatly extend well lengths.  Evidence from the federal government points to the potential for these costs being shifted to the tax-paying public.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report this September about the risks from insufficient bonds to reclaim wells on public lands. It said, “the bonds operators provide as insurance are often not enough to cover the costs of this cleanup.” The report cited a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) official’s estimate of $10 a foot for well cleanup costs.

StateImpact Pennsylvania noted that costs to reclaim a well could add up to $20,000, and DEP spokesperson Fraley said they could be “much, much higher.” The GAO report noted that “low-cost wells typically cost about $20,000 to reclaim, and high-cost wells typically cost about $145,000 to reclaim.”

In North Dakota, where state regulators have raised concerns about this growing problem, one of the top industry regulators, State Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms, estimated that wells there cost $150,000 to plug and reclaim.

And this problem isn’t just in the U.S. Canada is facing a similar cleanup crisis.

Financial Bonding Requirements for well cleanup.

Legally, oil and gas companies are required to set aside money to pay for well cleanup costs, a process known as bonding. These requirements vary by state and for public lands, but in all cases, the amounts required are so small as to be practically irrelevant.

The GAO report reviewed the bonds held by the Bureau of Land Management for wells on public lands and found that the average bond per well in 2018 was worth $2,122.

The Western Organization of Resource Councils summarized bonding requirements by state, and none of them came even close to being adequate to cover estimated costs to deal with old wells. In North Dakota, a $50,000 bond is required for a well. But a $100,000 bond can cover up to 6 wells, which comes out to $16,667 per well — or approximately one tenth of the estimated cost to reclaim a well in that state.

North Dakota has a history of bending to oil and gas industry pressure when it comes to regulations. While North Dakota’s bonding rules fall far short of what’s needed to actually cover full cleanup costs, the reality on the ground is much worse. Regulators allow companies to “temporarily abandon” wells, which requires no action from companies for at least seven years. Wells can hold this “temporary status” for decades. And another practice in the state allows a company to sell old, under-performing wells to another company, passing along the liability but not the bonding funds.

By any measure, the amount of private money currently allocated in the U.S. to plug and reclaim oil and gas wells is a small fraction of the real costs. That means oil and gas wells — and the U.S. had one million active wells in 2017, and even more abandoned — will either be left to fail and potentially contaminate the surrounding water, air, and soil, or the public will have to pick up the tab. This represents just one of the many ways the public subsidizes the oil and gas industry.

A South Dakota Case Study.

 

South Dakota allows companies to post a $30,000 bond for as many wells as the company chooses to drill. Spyglass Cedar Creek is a Texas-based company that was operating in South Dakota and recently abandoned 40 wells, which the state has estimated will have a cleanup cost of $1.2 million.

However, there is a twist to this story. That $30,000 bond doesn’t really exist. The owners of the company had put $20,000 of it into a Certificate of Deposit. But when the state went looking for that money, the owners said they had cashed it in 2015 because, as reported by the Rapid City Journal,  “company officials did not remember what the money was for.”

Spyglass Cedar Creek does not have the money set aside that was required to clean up these wells, the state does not have recourse to get that money, and some of the wells are reportedly leaking. So, what can be done?

According to Doyle Karpen, member of the South Dakota Board of Minerals and Environment, the answer is for the taxpayers of that state to cover the cost.

I think the only way we can correct this is go to the Legislature and ask for money,” Karpen said earlier this year.

Following the Coal Industry Business Model.

What is starting to unfold with the oil and gas industry is very similar to what has already been playing out with the U.S. coal industry.

According to a Center for Public Integrity investigation,  more than 150 coal mines (and dozens of uranium mines) have been allowed to idle indefinitely, enabling their owners to avoid paying for the costs of cleanup.

In April, the Stanford Law Review published the paper, “Bankruptcy as Bailout: Coal Company Insolvency and the Erosion of Federal Law,” which notes that almost half the coal mined in the U.S. is done so by companies that have recently declared bankruptcy.

The paper notes how the bankruptcy process is used by coal companies to rid themselves of environmental cleanup liabilities and pension costs “in a manner that has eviscerated the regulatory schemes that gave rise to those obligations.”

Yet coal company executives often receive healthy bonuses, even as they are driving companies into bankruptcy.

This summer, Blackjewel famously failed to pay its coal miners, and even pulled funds out of their bank accounts, after the company suddenly declared bankruptcy in July. That prompted workers to sit on train tracks in Kentucky, blocking a $1 million shipment of coal, in a two-month protest.  And Blackjewel is poised to leave behind thousands of acres of mined land in Appalachia without adequate reclamation.

Privatize the Profits, Socialize the Losses. 

The mineral extraction business model in the U.S. is set up to maximize profits for executives, even as they lose investor money and bankrupt their companies. That is true of the coal industry and that is true of the shale oil and gas industry.

At the same time, the regulatory capture by these industries at both state and federal levels allows private companies to pass on environmental cleanup costs to the public, and the inadequate bonding system for oil and gas well reclamation represents just one more example.

The so-called fracking revolution in America has resulted in many new records: record amounts of U.S. oil and gas exported (to the detriment of a livable climate), new levels of human health impacts on surrounding communities, record numbers of industry-induced earthquakes, record amounts of flaring natural gas in oil and gas fields, and record-breaking depths and lengths of wells.

And the cleanup costs for the fracking boom are also poised to be staggering.

Republicans Have No Leg to Stand On and They Know It

Esquire

Republicans Have No Leg to Stand On and They Know It

Trump has no real argument for why Gordon Sondland can’t testify before Congress, and neither do congressional Republicans.

US-POLITICS-IMPEACHMENT-CONGRESS-VOLKERMANDEL NGANGETTY IMAGES

“Well, Johnny Olson, it’s Tuesday. What’s our impeachable offense today?”

“For today’s winner, we have a lovely obstruction of Congress.” From The New York Times: 

The decision to block Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, from speaking with investigators for three House committees is certain to provoke an immediate conflict with potentially profound consequences for the White House and President Trump. House Democrats have repeatedly warned that if the administration tries to interfere with their investigation, it will be construed as obstruction, a charge they see as potentially worthy of impeachment…

…But in making the decision, hours before he was scheduled to sit for a deposition in the basement of the Capitol, the Trump administration appears to be calculating that it is better off risking the House’s ire than letting Mr. Sondland show up and set a precedent for cooperation with an inquiry they have strenuously argued is illegitimate.

Reaction from the obstructed Congress in question was swift and predictable: the Democrats threatened to add another count to the indictment, and the Republicans pretended they were born last Saturday. From Rep. Adam Schiff via CNN:

“The failure to produce this witness, the failure to produce these documents we consider yet additional strong evidence of obstruction of the constitutional functions of Congress.

Here with a contrary view is Rep. Jim Jordan.

“You think about what the Democrats are trying to do: Impeach the President of the United States 13 months prior to an election, based on an anonymous whistleblower with no firsthand knowledge who has a bias against the President.”

The Republicans have no leg to stand on and they know it. There’s no privilege they can invoke. Sondland is obviously a key witness directly involved with the events that the House is tasked with investigating. The way you know that is that the president*’s account on the electric Twitter machine admits that’s the case.

I would love to send Ambassador Sondland, a really good man and great American, to testify, but unfortunately he would be testifying before a totally compromised kangaroo court, where Republican’s rights have been taken away, and true facts are not allowed out for the public to see. Importantly, Ambassador Sondland’s tweet, which few report, stated, “I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions. The President has been crystal clear: no quid pro quo’s of any kind.” That says it ALL!

Can’t argue with him there.