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Items filtered by date: Sunday, 25 September 2016

In several races that could
play a big role in which party
gains control of the Senate in November,
Senate Democrats are
counting on the Hispanic vote to
help them win. But a sizable number
of Hispanic voters don't seem
to know who these Senate Democratic
candidates are.
Consider this from a recent
poll by Univision News on Hispanic
voters: In Florida, nearly 6
in 10 Hispanic voters did not recognize
Rep. Patrick Murphy (D),
who is challenging Sen. Marco
Rubio (R) for the seat. (Rubio has
a seven-point edge over Murphy,
46 to 39, among Latino voters.)
In Arizona, 4 in 10 did not
recognize Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick
(D), who is challenging Sen. John
McCain (R). (Kirkpatrick leads
McCain by 15 points. But as my
colleagues Ed O'Keefe and Scott
Clement point out, that's a much
smaller edge than Hillary Clinton's
50-point lead over Donald Trump
in the state.)
In Nevada, nearly 4 in 10
Hispanic voters (38 percent) did
not recognize Catherine Cortez
Masto, who is Senate Minority
Leader Harry M. Reid's (D) handpicked
successor for the seat. (Although
more than 4 in 10, 41
percent, also did not recognize the
Republican candidate, Rep. Joseph
J. Heck (R).)
So in at least three states where the
Hispanic vote is expected to be
higher than the national average —
and a critical puzzle piece for Senate
Democrats to take back control
of the chamber — Senate Democrats
have yet to lock down their
vote. That's a fairly big hill for
Senate Democrats to climb with a
little more than seven weeks to go.

Published in Politics

A massive sinkhole (40 feet
accross) at a fertilizer plant in
Mulberry, Florida, has caused
about 215 million gallons of radioactive
water to drain down into
Floridians’ aquifer system, according
to a local television station
– WFTS.
The aquifer system supplies
drinking water to millions of
Florida residents, based on facts
available on the St. Johns Water
Management District's website.
Additionally, water that escapes
from the aquifers create springs
used for recreational activities like
snorkeling and swimming.
The fertilizer company
Mosaic wrote on its website that it
discovered a sinkhole 45 feet in diameter
at its New Wales facility
after noticing water levels had
dropped in a stack of radioactive
waste product known as phosphogypsum
in late August.
Phosphogypsum is a waste
product resulting from the processing
of phosphate to make fertilizers,
according to the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency.
The byproduct is often stored by
industrial plants in mountainous
piles known as phosphogysum
stacks.
"Based on the nature of the
water loss and what we've learned
so far," the sinkhole damaged the
liner system at the base of a
phosophogypsum stack, Mosaic
said on Thursday.The pond on top of the cell
drained as a result" and "some
seepage continues."
The fertilizer company
added that it believes the sinkhole
reached the Floridian aquifer, and
WFTS reported that the company
told the station about 215 million
gallons of contaminated water
used to process fertilizer drained
had into the hole.
After learning of the water
loss, "Mosaic immediately implemented
additional and extensive
groundwater monitoring and sampling
regimens and has found no
offsite impacts," the company
said. Additionally, Mosaic "began
pumping water out of the west
cell" of the affected phosphogypsum
stack "into an alternative
holding area on site to reduce the
amount of drainage."
The company has also "begun the
process of recovering the water"
drained through the sinkhole "by
pumping through onsite production
wells," it said.
The Florida Department of Environmental
Protection (FDEP)
"confirmed that Mosaic immediately
took steps to investigate and
initiate corrective action," according
to FDEP Deputy Press Secretary
Dee Ann Miller.
As required by their state
permit and federal requirements,
Mosaic notified both EPA and
DEP of a water loss incident at
their New Wales facility," Miller
told ABC News today. "Mosaic
continues to regularly update the
department and EPA on progress."
Miller added that along
with reviewing daily reports, the
FDEP "is performing frequent site
visits to make sure timely and appropriate
response continues in
order to safeguard public health
and the environment."
Miller elaborated and said
the company is updating state and
federal agencies.
“Along with reviewing
daily reports, DEP is performing
frequent site visits to make sure
timely and appropriate response
continues in order to safeguard
public health and the environment,”
Miller wrote in an email.
“While monitoring to date
indicates that the process water is
being successfully contained,
groundwater monitoring will continue
to ensure there are no offsite
or long-term effects.”
Nevertheless, the Polk County
phosphate plant is still running.

Published in Environment

Monopoly utilities want to
extinguish the independent rooftop
solar market in America to protect
their socialist control of how we get
our electricity. They have engaged
in class warfare and tried to sabotage
net metering, a billing method
that gives individual homeowners
fair credit for power produced on
their own rooftops. They
would like to deny us Americans energy
choice and maintain their monopoly
status.
SOLAR POWER IN FLORIDA
Gov. Rick Scott’s 2014
re¬election campaign took in more
than $1.1 million from the state’s
utility companies. Back when Dr.know how Tallahassee has an
in¬group and an out¬group?” said
Kreegel, (a physician in Punta Gorda
who left the House in 2012.) “I
didn’t know I was on the outside
until I went against the public utilities,
and then — holy hell.” Kreegel
isn’t alone. Other state lawmakers
and lobbyists say that anyone who
has attempted to expand the rooftop
solar industry has been ostracized
and seen their proposals go nowhere.
The reason, some lawmakers
say, is that Florida’s largest utility
companies have invested heavily in
state political campaigns to fend off
competition from rooftop solar
power. An analysis of campaign
records by the Florida Center for Investigative
Reporting shows that the
utility companies have sunk $12 million
into the campaigns of state lawmakers
since 2010. That money
comes from the bills paid by customers
of the state’s four largest utilities
— Duke Energy, Gulf Power,
Florida Power & Light, and Tampa
Electric, or TECO. Those donations
include contributions to every member
of the Senate and House leadership.
The recipient of the most utility
money since 2010 is Gov. Rick
Scott’s 2014 re¬election campaign,
which took in more than $1.1 million
through two political action
committees.
THE QUESTION
“Why don’t we have a bigger
solar industry in Florida?” asked
Mike Antheil, a West Palm Beach
lobbyist who represents solar companies.
“The answer is simple.
Every kilowatt of solar you produce
on your roof is one less kilowatt that
the utilities can sell you.” The state’s
largest utilities declined to comment
on specific questions. In an email,
Duke Energy spokesperson Sterling
Ivey said the company could not
comment “since there is pending/
proposed legislative bills that we are
actively monitoring.” Cherie Jacobs,
a spokesperson for Tampa Electric,
or TECO, said: “We participate in
the political process, we support
both parties, and we support candidates
who focus on building the
economy and on creating jobs.” FPL
spokesperson Alys Daly wrote in an
email that the company supports
“customers who want to install their
own solar panels, and we take special
care to serve the specialized
needs of our solar customers.” With
little support in Tallahassee, a coalition
of conservative and liberal
groups hopes to make Florida friendlier
to rooftop solar energy with a
2016 ballot initiative. Before that
happens, though, Florida’s four
largest power companies may see
their influence grow. There’s proposed
legislation circulating in Tallahassee
now that would stop
homeowners from selling extra energy
created from solar back to utility
companies, perhaps the biggest
blow yet to Florida’s fledgling solar
industry.
Big Energy’s Campaign Cash
Only a small portion of the
$12 million spent since 2010 by
electric companies on political campaigns
went directly to candidates.
Instead, most of the utility money
went to political action committees
and political parties. Half of the
money, $6.68 million, went to the
Republican Party of Florida. The
second¬largest recipient of electric
company money, the Florida Democratic
Party, took in $1.8 million.
Donations of this type allow
the utilities to avoid state campaign
contribution limits, which cap donations
to Florida legislative candidates
at $1,000 per election cycle.
Conservative political action
committees top the list of those receiving
contributions, with the
Florida Conservative Majority, Freedom
First Committee, and House
Republican Campaign Committee all
receiving over six figures each from
the utilities.
Among the politicians who
have received power company
money, Gov. Scott tops the list. The
utilities gave $15,444 directly to
Scott’s campaign fund. They also
gave $600,000 to Scott’s Let Get to
Work PAC. The utilities handed another
$670,000 to the RGA Florida
PAC, which in turn gave $500,000 to
the Let’s Get to Work PAC. That
puts the electric company contributions
to Scott, both directly and indirectly,
at $1.1
Paige Kreegel was a state representative
in 2009, he had an idea that he
thought simply made sense. Florida,
the Sunshine State, should become a
model for solar power.
As chair of the state House’s
Committee on Energy, Kreegel was
in a position to change Florida laws
that have restricted the growth of
energy¬producing rooftop solar panels
on homes in Florida. As a selfdescribed
free¬market Republican,
Kreegel saw the issue as getting
government out of the way of a
growing industry. But Kreegel soon
discovered that his fellow committee
members wouldn’t even discuss
solar energy, and the fact that he
brought it up made him an outcast in
Tallahassee. When he walked the
halls of the Legislature, other lawmakers
would turn around and shut
their doors. “Youmillion. In the Legislature, all 16
state senators and representatives
who make up the legislative leadership
have received utility money. In
total, they have pulled in more than
$200,000 from utilities and their interest
groups. Those donations to the
leadership allow the power companies
to keep pro-solar bills from getting
anywhere, said state Rep.
Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg, a
supporter of the rooftop solar industry.
“We in Florida are stuck in the
stone age. This is probably the most
byzantine energy legislation in the
country,” Dudley said. Dudley has
filed legislation that would have increased
renewable energy in the
state, including solar, but none of his
ideas have made it to the House
floor.
Taking on the utilities has
made him an outcast, Dudley said.
He was talking with an acquaintance
at an event last year in St. Petersburg
when a utility lobbyist walked up
and said, “Oh my gosh, do you know
who this is? The devil’s holy man,”
Dudley recalled. “It was loud and
unpleasant, and it became very uncomfortable.”
As for Kreegel, the former
state representative initially had support
from the state’s utilities. That’s
because Kreegel opposed mandates
that required a percentage of the
state’s energy come from renewable
power, including solar. But he lost
that support when he worked to remove
restrictions on rooftop solar,
which Kreegel says is a big reason
he’s now out of politics. In 2012,
Kreegel ran in the Republican primary
for the U.S. House seat in Fort
Myers vacated by Republican
Trey Radel,
who resigned
after being arrested for
attempting to purchase cocaine from
an undercover police officer in
Washington, D.C. Supporting solar
power back in 2009 caused him to
be labeled a nonconformist, Kreegel
said, and he didn’t get support of the
Republican Party. He finished third.
“The whole point was that government
shouldn’t be impeding in good
business,” Kreegel said of his idea to
support solar. “But I learned you
don’t go against the utilities.”
Failed Reforms
The Florida law that has restricted
the growth of the rooftop
solar industry has been on the books
for nearly a century. It was written to
give utilities a regional monopoly on
power production, avoiding a tangle
of power lines strung up by competing
companies. The law didn’t affect
the solar industry
until the last several
years, when the
price of solar panels
made it cost¬efficient
enough for
rooftop solar to
compete with utility
companies.
With ample sunshine,
only two
other states, California
and Texas,
have more
rooftop solar power potential
than Florida, according to the
U.S. Department of Energy. Yet the
state ranks 13th in installed solar capacity.
The average home solar array
now costs $15,000 to $30,000 and
can pay for itself in 10 to 20 years,
said Ray Johnson, president and
founder of the U.S. Solar Institute,
an Oakland Park, Fla., school that
teaches technicians how to install the
panels. (Daly, the FPL spokesperson,
claimed in an email that solar is not
cost effective and instead pointed to
the utility’s “highly efficient system
and low electric rates.”) The problem
is that few homeowners want to
pay up front for the system, Johnson
said. In about half of the states, solar
companies can install panels for free
and then sell the power to the home
or business owner at a rate lower
than local utilities, paying for the
system over time.
These third¬party sales are
generally illegal under the Florida
law that gives utility companies a
local monopoly on supplying power.
Since Kreegel’s unsuccessful attempt
to expand solar power in
2009, other lawmakers have tried as
well, only to watch their bills languish
in committee. State Sen. Jeff
Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, submitted
a bill last year that would have given
a tax break to businesses and homeowners
who installed solar.
The law would have meant
the property tax value of the home or
business could not increase as a result
of the value of the solar panels.
His bill never received a
hearing in Senate committees. This
year, Brandes has filed a new bill
that would allow businesses that produce
extra energy from solar cells to
sell that energy to neighbors, but it
faces an uphill climb in the Legislature.
“Here’s how the power companies
control the Legislature: They
ask the chairman of committees to
never meet on the issue,” Brandes
said. more next issue.............
Submitted by
Keith Wehunt

Published in Technology

A divided Federal Reserve
left its policy rate unchanged for a
sixth straight meeting, saying it
would wait for more evidence of
progress toward its goals, while
projecting that an increase is still
likely by year-end.
“Near-term risks to the economic
outlook appear roughly balanced,”
the Federal Open Market
Committee said in its statement
Wednesday after a two-day meeting
in Washington. “The Committee
judges that the case for an
increase in the federal funds rate
has strengthened but decided, for
the time being, to wait for further
evidence of continued progress toward
its objectives.”
The decision extends U.S.
central bankers’ run of getting cold
feet amid risks from abroad and inconsistent
signs of economic
strength. Now the focus may shift
to December as the Fed’s likely last
chance to raise interest rates in
2016 -- a move that depends on
how the economy, inflation and
markets fare in the months surrounding
a contentious presidential
election.
“The statement is much more
hawkish than I thought it would
be,” said Stephen Stanley, chief
economist at Amherst Pierpont Securities
LLC in New York, who
said he expects a rate increase in
December. “That just tells you they
are revving up the engines.”
Three officials, the most since December
2014, dissented in favor of
a quarter-point hike.Esther George, president of the
Kansas City Fed, voted against the
decision for a second straight meeting.
She was joined by Cleveland
Fed President Loretta Mester -- in
her first dissent -- and Eric Rosengren,
head of the Boston Fed,
whose previous dissents called for
easier policy.
Policy makers see two rate
hikes next year, down from their
June median projection of three.
The Fed said that the labor market
will “strengthen somewhat further,”
adding the qualifier “somewhat
further” to similar language
from the July statement.
“Although the unemployment rate
is little changed in recent months,
job gains have been solid, on average,”
the Fed said in its statement.
“Household spending has been
growing strongly but business
fixed investment has remained
soft.”
The target range for the benchmark
federal funds rate remains at 0.25
percent to 0.5 percent, where it’s
been since a quarter-point increase
in December 2015 that ended
seven years of near-zero rates.
The Fed repeated that it “continues
to closely monitor inflation indicators
and global economic and financial
developments.”
Gradual Pace
The FOMC reiterated that borrowing
costs will probably rise at an
“only gradual” pace. Policy makers
also reiterated that they expect inflation
to rise to their 2 percent
goal over the medium term.
Because November’s FOMC meeting
comes within a week of the
U.S. presidential election and isn’t
followed by a press conference
with Chair Janet Yellen, economists
have viewed the Fed’s December
meeting as a more likely
candidate for an increase.
The latest decision could embolden
Republican presidential nominee
Donald Trump to unleash additional
attacks on Yellen. The billionaire
businessman said last
week that the Fed “is being totally
controlled politically” and might
stand pat on rates for the rest of
year.
Yellen, a former economics professor
at the University of California
at Berkeley, was appointed Fed
chair by President Barack Obama
and served as President
Bill Clinton’s
top economic adviser.
The decision comes
as Fed officials become
more convinced
that the
economy is experiencing
a new normal.
Long-Term Rate
Policy makers scaled
back their median
projection of the
long-term interest
rate to 2.9 percent
from 3 percent in
June. The estimate
shows how high officials
think rates can
climb, so its downgrade suggests a
shallower hiking cycle.
Fed officials also cut their median
growth projection for 2016 to 1.8
percent from 2 percent, mirroring
the drop in the longer-run forecast,
based on median estimates. Inflation
is projected at 1.3 percent in
the fourth quarter, down from a
forecast of 1.4 percent in June.
Policy makers again projected that
inflation will reach the 2 percent
target in 2018.
Most economists in a Bloomberg
survey had expected the committee
to stay on hold, assigning just a 15
percent chance of a hike this
month. Fed watchers saw a 54 percent
probability that the Fed will
raise rates at its December 13-14
meeting.
Yellen is scheduled to hold a press
conference at 2:30 p.m. in Washington.
It will be her first public remarks
since a speech last month,
when she said that the case for an
interest-rate increase “has strengthened
in recent months.”
Payroll Gains
Nonfarm payrolls have climbed by
182,000 jobs on average so far this
year, although the most recent report
showed a cooling to 151,000
job gains along with moderating
wage increases. Other figures have
shown declines in August retail
sales and industrial production, as
well as drops in sentiment at service
companies and manufacturers.
Inflation is still running below the
Fed’s 2 percent goal. After picking
up earlier in the year, annual gains
in the headline personal consumption
expenditures price index
slowed to 0.8 percent in July. Core
inflation, which excludes food and
fuel costs, is firmer though still undershooting
at 1.6 percent.
Meanwhile, inflation expectations
have stayed relatively low. A gauge
of market-based expectations
watched by the Fed is projecting a
pace of price gains of about 1.5
percent in the period five to 10
years out.
The Fed repeated on Wednesday
that “market-based measures of inflation
compensation remain low.”

Published in Politics

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