PORTLAND, Maine — By a 6-2 vote Wednesday night, the Portland City Council joined Los Angeles and New York City councils in a thus far symbolic effort to strip corporations of First Amendment free speech rights controversially cemented by the U.S. Supreme Court.
A local resolution supporting a constitutional amendment abolishing “corporate personhood” initially was proposed by Councilor David Marshall and co-sponsored by John Anton, Kevin Donoghue and Mayor Michael Brennan. The move was hailed by some councilors and several members of the public as an early step in a grass-roots push to overturn a ruling they argued opens the door to unchecked political spending by wealthy corporations.
The council’s vote was received with an eruption of applause and celebration by the packed council chambers after audience members spent nearly two hours testifying almost entirely in favor of the measure.
“We’re seeing a vast outpouring of money that is taking over our democracy,” Malory Shaughnessy, a Portland resident and former Cumberland County commissioner, told the council. “This will be the defining issue of our time, in my opinion.”
The U.S. Supreme Court in 2010 ruled by a 5-4 vote that limiting corporate or union political contributions equates to an infringement of the groups’ First Amendment right to free speech. The divisive decision, in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, helped usher in a new era of super PACS — political action groups that can raise and expend unlimited funds in support of candidates or issues often without disclosing donors until after elections take place.
Because the issue already has been appealed to the highest court in the country, the only way to throw out corporate personhood now would be a constitutional amendment. That prospective step has received votes of support from several municipal council and boards across the country.
During the Portland council’s turn to weigh in Wednesday, several members of the public, many from the nearby OccupyMaine encampment and the Maine League of Young Voters, told councilors the local resolution would be a small but important victory in the movement against the court ruling.
The Portland meeting was a preview of sorts to a Friday demonstration planned by OccupyMaine to take place at the U.S. District Court in the city, where protesters plan to show solidarity with other occupations around the nation marking the second anniversary of the Citizens United decision with a ceremonial “funeral for democracy.”
“Corporations do not have the same interests as you and I, as the average Mainer or the average Portland resident,” said Adam Marletta, chairman of the Portland Green Independent party. “All of this corporate money tends to drown out the voices of the average citizens.”
Not everybody on the council approved of the resolution, however. Councilor John Coynejoined Cheryl Leeman in voting against the measure, the latter of whom argued that U.S. constitutional interpretation is not a job for the City Council.
Leeman suggested discussing the issue during a council meeting detracts from the panel’s ability to deal with more appropriate city business.
“I do on one hand feel that what you’ve said and what you’ve brought forward is an important issue,” Leeman said to the audience Wednesday. “Where I part ways with all of you is I just quite simply don’t believe this is the forum to do this.”
Voting in favor of the resolution were Councilors Nicholas Mavodones and Jill Duson, in addition to sponsors Marshall, Anton, Donoghue and Brennan. Councilor Ed Suslovic left the meeting before the vote because of an ailing back, but before leaving, he called for his fellow councilors to consider placing the issue before the council’s Legislative Committee to develop an amendment establishing a municipal-level Clean Elections program.
Brennan said that as a former state lawmaker and Democratic candidate for the Congress, he has seen firsthand the influence of money on campaigning and that Maine’s Clean Elections law has been a trendsetter for minimizing that influence.
Defending Water for Life in Maine recently had the opportunity to speak to Rodney Butler, Supervisor of the Brewer Maine Water Department. Last fall 2 articles appeared in the Bangor Daily News about Mr. Butler leaving his job as the Code Enforcement Officer in Brewer. The first stated that he was leaving Brewer to take an engineering job with Nestle/Poland Spring. The next article stated that Mr. Butler was returning to Brewer to take the job as water district Supervisor.
Just 20 years ago Nestle came to Maine by buying out Maine’s local company Poland Spring and began expanding their empire by exploiting Maine’s weak laws and using their money and power to build their operations in spite of strong local opposition and legal battles brought against them by Maine citizens. This hostile take over of Maine’s groundwater, a finite resource, by Nestle/Poland Spring is the reason we at Defending Water for Life in Maine are working hard to identify what and where Nestle’s next moves will be.
When we read the stories about Mr. Butler in the Bangor Daily News we were concerned about his involvement with Poland Spring and wondered if Brewer would be the next town that Nestle would be looking to for further expansion. During our conversation Mr. Butler let us know that, he had briefly worked for Nestle/Poland Spring but he had decided to leave the Nestle engineeing job because it required him to be away from his family during the week. He firmly states that at this time he does not work for Nestle/Poland Spring. Also, that his goal as water Supervisor is to provide good, safe water for the people in Brewer. We appreciate his candid explanation of his job and of the turn of events in his work/life.
Defending Water calls on Maine towns and state government to strongly support transparent public water management and publicly-owned infrastructure to provide water for local use. We work to support local control in protecting water for the benefit of people and local ecosystems. Such local self-governance is the essence of democracy. We will continue to be vigilant in our work to locate, expose and fight against any threats to Maine groundwater by Nestle/Poland Spring or by any other entity which attempts to profit from exploiting Maine’s water which is our commonly held heritage or by our own state government promoting such exploitation.
We sincerely wish Mr. Rodney Butler much success as he works to provide good management and good water for the residents in Brewer.
Defending Water for Life asks, “Where is this water coming from?” Also, it seems a little dangerous to us that a likely side effect is earthquakes. Whether it’s a rural area or not…
by weather.com and The Associated Press
Geothermal energy developers plan to pump 24 million gallons of water into the side of the dormant Central Oregon volcano this summer to demonstrate new technology they hope will give a boost to a green energy sector that has yet to live up to its promise. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)
Geothermal energy developers plan to pump 24 million gallons of water into the side of a dormant volcano in Central Oregon this summer to demonstrate new technology they hope will give a boost to a green energy sector that has yet to live up to its promise.
They hope the water comes back to the surface fast enough and hot enough to create cheap, clean electricity that isn’t dependent on sunny skies or stiff breezes – without shaking the earth and rattling the nerves of nearby residents.
Renewable energy has been held back by cheap natural gas, weak demand for power and waning political concern over global warming. Efforts to use the earth’s heat to generate power, known as geothermal energy, have been further hampered by technical problems and worries that tapping it can cause earthquakes.
Even so, the federal government, Google and other investors are interested enough to bet $43 million on the Oregon project. They are helping AltaRock Energy, Inc. of Seattle and Davenport Newberry Holdings LLC of Stamford, Conn., demonstrate whether the next level in geothermal power development can work on the flanks of Newberrry Volcano, located about 20 miles south of Bend, Ore.
“We know the heat is there,” said Susan Petty, president of AltaRock. “The big issue is can we circulate enough water through the system to make it economic.”
The heat in the earth’s crust has been used to generate power for more than a century. Engineers gather hot water or steam that bubbles near the surface and use it to spin a turbine that creates electricity. Most of those areas have been exploited. The new frontier is places with hot rocks, but no cracks in the rocks or water to deliver the steam.
To tap that heat – and grow geothermal energy from a tiny niche into an important source of green energy – engineers are working on a new technology called Enhanced Geothermal Systems.
“To build geothermal in a big way beyond where it is now requires new technology, and that is where EGS comes in,” said Steve Hickman, a research geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif.
Wells are drilled deep into the rock and water is pumped in, creating tiny fractures in the rock, a process known as hydroshearing.
Cold water is pumped down production wells into the reservoir, and the steam is drawn out.
Hydroshearing is similar to the process known as hydraulic fracturing, used to free natural gas from shale formations. But fracking uses chemical-laden fluids, and creates huge fractures. Pumping fracking wastewater deep underground for disposal likely led to recent earthquakes in Arkansas and Ohio.
Fears persist that cracking rock deep underground through hydroshearing can also lead to damaging quakes. EGS has other problems. It is hard to create a reservoir big enough to run a commercial power plant.
Progress has been slow. Two small plants are online in France and Germany. A third in downtown Basel, Switzerland, was shut down over earthquake complaints. A project in Australia has had drilling problems.
A new international protocol is coming out at the end of this month that urges EGS developers to keep projects out of urban areas, the so-called “sanity test,” said Ernie Majer, a seismologist with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. It also urges developers to be upfront with local residents so they know exactly what is going on.
AltaRock hopes to demonstrate a new technology for creating bigger reservoirs that is based on the plastic polymers used to make biodegradable cups.
It worked in existing geothermal fields. Newberry will show if it works in a brand new EGS field, and in a different kind of geology, volcanic rock, said Colin Williams, a USGS geophysicist also in Menlo Park.
The U.S. Department of Energy has given the project $21.5 million in stimulus funds. That has been matched by private investors, among them Google with $6.3 million.
Majer said the danger of a major quake at Newbery is very low. The area is a kind of seismic dead zone, with no significant faults. It is far enough from population centers to make property damage unlikely. And the layers of volcanic ash built up over millennia dampen any shaking.
But the Department of Energy will be keeping a close eye on the project, and any significant quakes would shut it down at least temporarily, he said. The agency is also monitoring EGS projects at existing geothermal fields in California, Nevada and Idaho.
“That’s the $64,000 question,” Majer said. “What’s the biggest earthquake we can have from induced seismicity that the public can worry about.”
Geologists believe Newberry Volcano was once one of the tallest peaks in the Cascades, reaching an elevation of 10,000 feet and a diameter of 20 miles. It blew its top before the last Ice Age, leaving a caldera studded with towering lava flows, two lakes, and 400 cinder cones, some 400 feet tall.
Although the volcano has not erupted in 1,300 years, hot rocks close to the surface drew exploratory wells in the 1980s.
Over 21 days, AltaRock will pour 800 gallons of water per minute into the 10,600-foot test well, already drilled, for a total of 24 million gallons. According to plan, the cold water cracks the rock. The tiny plastic particles pumped down the well seal off the cracks. Then more cold water goes in, bypassing the first tier, and cracking the rock deeper in the well. That tier is sealed off, and cold water cracks a third section. Later, the plastic melts away.
Seismic sensors produce detailed maps of the fracturing, expected to produce a reservoir of cracks starting about 6,000 feet below the surface, and extending to 11,000 feet. It would be about 3,300 feet in diameter.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management released an environmental assessment of the Newberry project last month that does not foresee any problems that would stop it. The agency is taking public comments before making a final decision in coming months.
No power plant is proposed, but one could be operating in about 10 years, said Doug Perry, president and CEO of Davenport Newberry.
EGS is attractive because it vastly expands the potential for geothermal power, which, unlike wind and solar, produces power around the clock in any weather.
Natural geothermal resources account for about 0.3 percent of U.S. electricity production, but a 2007 Massachusetts Institute of Technology report projected EGS could bump that to 10 percent within 50 years, at prices competitive with fossil-fuels.
Few people expect that kind of timetable now. Electricity prices have fallen sharply because of low natural gas prices and weak demand brought about by the Great Recession and state efficiency programs.
But the resource is vast. A 2008 USGS assessment found EGS throughout the West, where hot rocks are closer to the surface than in the East, has the potential to produce half the country’s electricity.
“The important question we need to answer now,” said Williams, the USGS geophysicist who compiled the assessment, “is how geothermal fits into the renewable energy picture, and how EGS fits. How much it is going to cost, and how much is available.”
On Jan. 10, more than 250 Ohioans assembled on the west lawn of the Ohio Statehouse to voice their opposition to hydraulic fracturing—better known as fracking—and deep injection wastewater disposal wells.
Leading the charge was State Rep. Robert Hagan (D-Youngstown), who last week called on Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) in a letter to implement an indefinite moratorium on D&L Energy’s deep injection wells in Youngstown, Ohio, which has been rocked 11 times in the past nine months by earthquakes. Seismic surveys have corroborated that the two most recent earthquakes—on Christmas Eve and a 4.0 magnitude quake on New Year’s Eve—had epicenters near D&L’s deep injection wells.
Rep. Hagan called on Gov. Kasich to institute a moratorium on all deep injection wells within a five mile radius of the Youngstown site until Ohioans can be guaranteed that no correlation exists between the disposal wells and danger to the natural environment or human health.
“The people of Ohio and the people of the Mahoning Valley need answers from our government officials,” said Rep. Hagan. “We need to know why over half of the toxic frack water we are blasting into Ohio lands is coming from Pennsylvania. We need to know why there is such a rush to dump this waste in Ohio. And we need to know why it took ten earthquakes in ten months for anyone in the Kasich administration to wake up and respond to calls for a moratorium on these wells. We never had an earthquake in Youngstown until John Kasich was elected governor.”
“What has occurred in the Mahoning Valley is deeply troubling,” said State Rep. Tracy Heard (D-26). “It’s evidently clear we must take a step back and examine fracking, not only the process but its potential impacts to our environment both long-term and short-term. I stand ready to work with my colleagues to find a solution that will protect the citizens of Ohio and our environment.”
“Creating jobs at the expense of human health and the environment is not sustainable,” said Stefanie Penn Spear, executive director of EcoWatch. “Ohio needs to bring back the incentives for renewable energy projects that support Ohio’s energy bill SB 221. Investment in renewable energy will create green jobs, revitalize our strong manufacturing base and provide long-term solutions to our energy needs without contaminating our drinking water, polluting our air, displacing communities and making people sick.”
Other speakers at today’s event included:
State Rep. Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood)
State Rep. Denise Driehaus (D-Cincinnati)
State Rep. Mike Foley (D-Cleveland)
State Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-47)
Ohio State Senator Mike Skindell (D-Lakewood)
Ohio State Senator Charleta Tavares (D-Columbus)
Today’s speakers called on Gov. Kasich to protect the environment and public health by passing SB 213/HB 345, which would impose a moratorium on fracking permits and wastewater disposal injection wells. Currently, Ohio is home to 177 deep injection well sites.
The protest was organized by NO FRACK OHIO, a collaboration of more than 50 grassroots and conservation groups calling for further safeguards on horizontal hydraulic fracturing.
To view more photos of today’s rally on Facebook, click here.
Visit our fracking page to keep up-to-date on fracking issues worldwide.
Update 1-11-12: Yesterday, LD 1671, the bill to fund the study was supposed to go into work session with the Finance and Appropriations Committee. However, it was moved to the Transportation Committee and we are now watching to see when the work session will be scheduled. Representative James S. Gillray (R-Searsport) is on the Transportation Committee. Note below that it was the Searsport selectmen asking for support of the highway.
January 18 ~ Cianbro information meetings in Eastport at 2:45 and Calais at 5:30. FMI. Registration is required. We do not believe a representative from Cianbro will actually be available to answer questions.
January 23rd or 24th ~ 5:30pm, STEWC Coalition Meeting. Final date and location TBA soon!
The detention of two executives of Malom Group AG – and the difficulties of the Swiss company in proving two Brazilian bonds it holds are legitimate – has held up closing on a $60 million loan that would enable bankrupt USA Springs to complete its controversial water bottling plant in Nottingham.
According to a Malom emergency filing, filed Jan. 3 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manchester, Swiss authorities took Malom president Hans-Jurg Lips into “investigative custody” on Sept. September 28, 2011, weeks before the loan was supposed to be closed in October.
According to a memorandum from Lips included in the Jan. 3 filing, Lips said he was accused of issuing guarantees from NAS Ltd. – a U.S. surety company — without sufficient cover. Lips was held for 12 weeks and questioned five times regarding NAS. His partner, Martin Schlapfer, a director at both NAS Ltd and Malom, was still in custody on Dec. 29, when Lips’ memorandum was signed, Lips said in the memo. Both Schlapfer and Lips own NAS Operations AG, a Swiss subsidiary of NAS Ltd.
A detention in Switzerland related to financial issues is not the same as an arrest in the United States, explained USA Springs attorney Alan L. Braunstein. Swiss authorities are more likely to detain executives and freeze their assets at an earlier stage of a securities investigation, he said.
However it is categorized, because of the detentions the company’s “entire business came to a complete standstill,” Lips said, although the partners were able to keep it “going in some areas,” through James Warras, Malom’s U.S. executive vice president who is based in Las Vegas, Nev.
In addition, some of Malom’s assets were being blocked by Swiss and Lichtenstein banks as of September.
The detention was a “significant event,” said Malom’s Manchester attorney Bill Gannon, but it is not necessarily the one mentioned in his emergency motion, in which he said an event “outside of Malom’s control” prevented “Malom’s president from finalizing the financing” and “stymied” the closing of the deal.
Gannon said he could not further elaborate on that event because of attorney-client privilege.
In any case, according to the filing, the process can now begin again and close before Feb. 29 at the latest, according to Malom.
But there are difficulties ahead.
While there are no other restrictions on Lips and Malom, the USA Spring financing is now based on two Brazilian treasury bills worth more than $1.2 billion, at least when they mature in 2036.
The problem with these notes is that they are part of a series of paper notes released by Brazil’s military dictatorship starting in the 1970s.
But “there are also fraudulent documents floating in the market,” according to a Brazilian law firm’s lengthy explanation of the matter, and Brazil, which now issues notes electronically, “generically” denies them.
“Brazil, of course, would like and actually need to eliminate this older debts but wants to do so on its on terms and at prices that are at extreme terms discounts to face value,” according to the law firm.
“The Brazilian government website gives a vague statement that these older LTN (treasury notes) are fraudulent and worthless. Nothing more, nothing less.” But unofficially, investors working “behind the scenes” have been able to get notes verified, the law firm said.
These notes are genuine, asserts the law firm, and it claims to have extensive documentation to prove it, but it is still a lengthy process. Malom is also exploring swapping the notes with someone who already has electronic notes, or simply selling them.
The problem is that because of the reputation for fraud, every person involved in the deal has to be reassured.
“It tends to be a repetitive process that goes on and on,” said Gannon.
USA Springs and its creditors are concerned about Malom’s difficulties, and is in negotiations about alternatives, if “in the event that Malom does not close.”
In the meantime, it will share information with the creditors “so they can assess Malom, its intentions and its credibilities.” — BOB SANDERS/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW
Joe Stone, Mail Staff Writer | Posted: Friday, January 6, 2012 9:33 am
A substitute water supply plan filed Thursday by Nestlé Waters North America requests approval to augment out-of-priority depletions to the Arkansas River resulting from operations at Ruby Mountain Springs near Nathrop.
The request applies to the period from March 22, 2012, to March 21, 2013, and states that Nestlé will pump 196.08 acre-feet of water from the springs at a maximum rate of 200 gallons per minute and 16.6 acre-feet per month.
If the plan is approved by the state engineer, Nestlé will replace depletions with water originating from the Colorado River basin and leased from Aurora Water through a 10-year lease agreement for 200 acre-feet per year.
This augmentation water would be released from Twin Lakes Reservoir to the confluence of Lake Creek and the Arkansas River in Lake County.
Concerned parties have 30 days to file comments on the proposed substitute water supply plan.
Comments must include any claim of injury or any terms and conditions that should be imposed upon the plan to prevent injury to water rights. The state engineer will not consider comments received after Feb. 3.
Any appeal of the state engineer’s decision must be made to the applicable division water judge within 30 days of the decision.
Comments should be sent to the attention of Heidi Frey at the Division of Water Resources, 1313 Sherman Street, Room 818, Denver, Colorado 80203. Comments may also be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or faxed to 303-866-3589.
1) In a letter to Susan Collins, thanking her for passing a bill that increases the truck weight limits on the interstate, Searsport selectmen also asked her to consider supporting an East-West Highway through Maine.
If you live in Searsport, or know people who do, please talk to the selectmen about this decision.