DEC Hired Fracking Lobby for $50 Million to Assess ... Fracking?

Categories: 'damn.', fracking

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Wikimedia
Update: See statement from the DEC, and a letter from E&E explaining its relationship to IOGANY, at the bottom.

New York state might just have to scrap the latest draft of its environmental impact study on hydraulic fracturing. The New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) and state lawmakers are asking for a re-do after the discovery of a pretty large conflict of interest: Namely, that an environmental consulting group that helped prepare the draft study turned out to be a member of the Independent Oil & Gas Association (IOGA), a natural gas industry lobbying group.

In 2011, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation signed a $50 million contract with Ecology and Environment, Inc. (E&E), an environmental consulting firm. The company was also selected to provide an analysis of the economic impacts of fracking in the state. In August of 2011, E&E provided the DEC with that study, which some anti-fracking groups claimed was biased. The New York Times highlighted that skepticism when it pointed out that E&E "expedited permit applications for more than 200 pipeline and gas storage projects worldwide" in 2011, but couldn't establish a clear connection to any lobbying interest. That changed this week, when NYPIRG discovered that Ecology and Environment, Inc. appeared as a member of IOGA on a letter to Governor Cuomo, urging him to open New York to hydraulic fracturing.

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New York State Has Some Crazy Facial Recognition Database to Catch Crooks

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At the pace surveillance technology is moving, we guess this should be expected.

On Tuesday, Gov. Cuomo and Co. informed the public that Albany has been using advanced facial recognition methods for the past three years (the idea was originally brought up by then-Gov. Spitzer in 2008).

And, in that time, the State has dispatched more than 100 investigators to check out over 13,000 cases. As a result, 2,500 people on the terrorist watch lists or who were suspected of having criminal records have been arrested through the technology. Somehow, from those figures, state officials have bragged that the technology has a 94 percent success rate.

Also, don't forget those conning welfare benefits or driving illegally without a license: "We are successfully taking dangerous drivers off our roads, helping to track down criminals, and protecting taxpayer dollars... sending a clear message that New York State does not tolerate identity fraud and those who try will be caught," Cuomo told reporters.

Here's how it works.

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Paul Ryan Uses His Own Mama to Defuse Medicare Drama

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In Rep. Paul Ryan's 'The Path to Prosperity' budget, Medicare, the health insurance program that is loved by older Americans and hated by deficit hawks, will cease to exist some time around 2022. The program - a lasting stipulation of Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society - will be transformed into a voucher system, where anyone born after 1956 will be forced to seek private insurance instead of having the government pick up the bill. The HMO machine spurs on and, by 2033, you will have to be 67 to receive all of this good stuff.

Well, one main problem with this insurance realignment is that Americans in their 30s and 40s do not want to hear that shit - according to a poll conducted by the Washing Post a year ago, 78% of Americans are opposed to Medicare cuts as a way to solve the deficit problem. And that makes absolute sense: who would want to give up their entitlements to fix a problem Washington created? National sacrifice is one thing but this is hard-earned health insurance we're talking about here, right?

Wrong. As the campaign season heats up during the later days of August, the most recent pseudo-controversy is the to-and-fro arguments over Medicare cuts by the two tents. The sides are pretty simple: the Obama/Biden camp believes government needs to continue to pick up the tab for elders while the Romney/Ryan camp seeks to shift responsibility over to the private insurance companies. 

And today, down in Florida, Rep. Paul Ryan brought out his own mama to tell the world's largest retirement community at the Villages that the change in Medicare will not hurt them... just everyone else.

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Mitt Loves N.Y.: Sean Fieler

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With Mitt Romney as its de facto candidate, the roster of Restore Our Future, Romney's designated Super PAC slush fund, reads like a laundry list of New York City's wealthiest denizens. And, according to the Center for Responsive Politics and contrary to popular belief, Super PAC's are receiving a huge majority of their donations from these single individuals rather then enormous corporations.

So, here at the Voice, we're going to tell you a little bit about our neighbors, one donor at a time:

As Mitt returns from what many pundits from across the ideological spectrum have dubbed an epic fail of an abroad trip to London and Israel, we settle back in our profiling seats and dig further into the SEC filings of Restore Our Future. 

While we've been gone, the SuperPAC released this ad touting the Presidential candidate's 'superb' handling of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002. And, while they're busy with all that jazz, we've been looking into our next subject, Mr. Sean Fieler.

Like a handful of 'Mitt Loves N.Y.' targets, Fieler's career demonstrates an interesting mash-up of wealth and traditional values. However, he stands apart from the rest with a thought pattern that shows flairs of Ron Paul and Chick-fil-A. As the Chairman of the hedge-fund titan Equinox Partners LP, Fieler has found himself on the fringe of the 'investor-intellect' label. 
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Hey Idahoans, That Obama/Holmes Billboard is Extremely Offensive

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On Franklin Road and North 21st Avenue in Caldwell, Idaho, this little sign above exists. Even though it really bears no repeating, here's what it says.

On the left is a picture Aurora shooting suspect, James Holmes - the man behind the largest mass shooting in American history - and a count of the number of his victims. We all freaked out, yes. On the right is a picture of our President, Barack Obama, with a statement that reads, "Kills thousands with his foreign policy... Wins Nobel Peace Prize."

We'll give you a second to take that all in. Phew... okay. Let's talk.

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The New York Times's Bill Keller Deals With Twitter Identity Crisis

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If there is one place on the Internet where reality and faux personalities reign free, it is Twitter - the rapid pace of the constantly updating network allows mistakes to proliferate tenfold, sending shock-waves across the web much faster than ever before. And, this morning, Bill Keller, the former Editor of the New York Times, unfortunately learned this lesson the hard way.

It all started when Nick Bilton, the newspaper's top tech writer, tweeted last night at around 10:30pm,

"Important piece by @nytkeIler defending @WikiLeaks and a plea to protect the First Amendment: opinion-nytimes.com/2012/07/29/opi..."

(We would paste the entire tweet but it has been deleted by Bilton since then).

The link posted advertises a column by Bilton's ex-boss, entitled 'WikiLeaks, A Post-Post Script,' that apparently defended the notorious hacker-leaks organization led by Julian Assange as the group falls into financial troubles. Except the piece attached (take a look at it here) was completely false... Bill Keller said so himself.


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A Contraceptive Calamity in Colorado

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Next Wednesday, against the Obama administration's will, a political firestorm will be unleashed: the provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that forces businesses to pay for employees' contraceptives without a co-pay goes into effect. You may remember this little ticking time bomb at the beginning of the fiscal year; it had the Catholic Church up in arms, forcing the Obama administration to enforce an exclusionary rule that allowed religious establishments to opt out of the provision.

Well, yesterday, one of those angry businesses with a Catholic flair to it took the provision to court... and won (kinda). Hercules Industries, the plaintiff in the case known as Hercules v. Sebelius, argued that the provision infringed upon the business's right to freely exercise their religious beliefs. The exclusionary rule mentioned above only allows establishments that primarily serve members of their faith a one-year break but Hercules, an air conditioning company owned by siblings who are against birth control, doesn't fall under that category. We wonder why.

The U.S. District Court for Colorado ordered a three-month injunction to the business, halting the provision from taking effect next week. Instead, the court will revisit the law in its legal format; in other words, an enormous headache for the folks behind Obamacare.
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Mitt Loves N.Y.: Henry Kravis

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Forbes
With Mitt Romney as its de facto candidate, the roster of Restore Our Future, Romney's designated Super PAC slush fund, reads like a laundry list of New York City's wealthiest denizens. And, according to the Center for Responsive Politics and contrary to popular belief, Super PAC's are receiving a huge majority of their donations from these single individuals rather then enormous corporations.

So, here at the Voice, we're going to tell you a little bit about our neighbors, one donor at a time:

The Delivering Alpha conference in New York last month invited the wealthiest hedge-funders, stock profiteers and private equity extraordinaires to speak about the state of finance. It's the sort of event that gives Occupy Wall Street protestors nightmares. Henry Kravis, Co-CEO & Co-Chairman of Kohlberg, Kravis & Roberts, was a keynote speaker and told the crowd his thoughts on the public perception of his (and Romney's) call to arms:

"In the '70s and '80s, what private equity did is it changed corporate America. It started holding companies accountable and for the first time owners started thinking like managers. I'm not sure [Romney] needs to be defending private equity per se because he comes from Bain and, in the private equity world, he will get a lot of arrows shot at him."

Luckily, this disparity of trust in the shadowy sector didn't stop the man whose net worth of $4 billion clocked him in at #88 of Forbes's list of U.S. billionaires from donating to the cause.  In July, Kravis poured $200,000 into the Restore Our Future SuperPAC. And, knowing Kravis's past, there's probably plenty more where that came from.
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Obama, Romney and the Political Silence of Gun Control

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On Friday, America witnessed true terror on the television - in Aurora, Colorado, over 70 people were shot by a madman at a midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises. James Eagan Holmes, the suspect now in custody, had been planning the attack for months and, inside of his apartment yesterday, police authorities discovered a mini-arsenal of other deadly weapons. 

At the attack, he carried with him an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, shotgun and .40-caliber handgun along with thousands of clips to reload. As we mentioned yesterday, all of these murder weapons were bought legally.

Now, with a mass shooting like this, we are struck with an opportunity. Like the horrific events at Columbine and Virginia Tech, the country has this mirror moment, when we see our dark side in the reflection of the screen. Holmes's grin and the tears of victims' relatives are reminders of where we went wrong; the thought that our society could produce such a maniacal member bent on killing his own in cold blood. And the incredibly easy and legal gateway he was able to use to perform this atrocity.

As President Obama and Mitt Romney travel across the country, pausing their campaigns to reflect on exactly what happened that late night in the Midwestern state, they are both offered the same mirror moment we are. Except they have the power to make a difference; unfortunately, it doesn't look that chance will be taken any time soon.

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Mitt Loves N.Y.: Robert Rosenkranz

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delphifin.com
With Mitt Romney as its de facto candidate, the roster of Restore Our Future, Romney's designated Super PAC slush fund, reads like a laundry list of New York City's wealthiest denizens. And, according to the Center for Responsive Politics and contrary to popular belief, Super PAC's are receiving a huge majority of their donations from these single individuals rather then enormous corporations.

So, here at the Voice, we're going to tell you a little bit about our neighbors, one donor at a time:

In the second edition of 'Mitt Loves N.Y.,' we profiled Bruce Kovner - the millionaire financier behind Caxton Associates was an eclectic blend of One Percent rugged individualism and outstanding philanthropy. The facets of an obscene personal fortune mixed with charity tends to always produce a love-hate relationship. 

(And we haven't checked on Kovner in a while: turns out he's been making news lately with a donation of $300,00, along with his wife Suzanne, to YG Action Fund, a smaller pro-Romney SuperPAC that is fronted by House Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Looks like he's doing just fine.)

But back to what we were saying: when a profiteer flashes his or her generous side, we are desensitized to the facts - we became dogs who follow the shiny ball placed in front of our eyes. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; money works in mysterious ways, especially when there is a shit ton of it to go around.

But why mention Kovner? The Caxton man is old news in relation to how far we've come with this series. However, his personal and professional life bear a striking similarity to our next target: Mr. Robert Rosenkranz.

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