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U.S. Congress Third District Debate Appel v. Young

Staci Appel (D-Des Moines) and David Young (R-Van Meter)
Thursday, September 11, Council Bluffs, Iowa

Rep. Loebsack At Harkin Steak Fry: What Democrats Fight For

Blog for Iowa had a great day yesterday at the Last Harkin Steak Fry.   Congressman Loebsack (D-02) delivered an especially energizing, upbeat message that fired up the crowd.  Check back for more highlights from yesterday’s historic event.

Energy Transfer Partner’s Alarming Pipe Dreams For Iowa

Bakken Pipeline Proposed Routecontributed by Garry Klein

On July 9, the Des Moines Register reported that a Texas-based, Fortune 500 company, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), is planning to build a crude oil pipeline that would deliver a minimum of 320,000 barrels of oil 1,100 miles from the hydraulic fracturing Bakkan oil production fields in North Dakota to a relay facility in Patoka, Illinois and eventually to the Texas’s Gulf Coast refineries where much of it is likely to be exported. To do this, the company will lay a 30-inch diameter pipeline through 17 Iowa counties from Sioux City to Ft. Madison cutting a 150-foot wide right of way and a permanent 50 foot wide easement through public and private properties including miles of Iowa farmland. As a comparison, the ETP pipeline could carry three times the amount of oil than the proposed controversial Keystone XL.  http://oilpatchdispatch.areavoices.com/2014/06/26/energy-transfer-proposes-crude-oil-pipeline

Who is Energy Transfer Partners? ETP is a Dallas, Texas-based company that includes 17 subsidiaries that own or operate 35,000 miles of oil, gas, and liquid propane pipelines, as well as partnerships for distribution and retail operations. According to Zack’s Equity Research, ETP is “a master limited partnership (MLP) engaged primarily in the gathering, processing, storage and transportation of natural gas. Additionally, the partnership holds a 70% stake in Lone Star NGL LLC, a joint venture that owns and operates natural gas liquids (NGL) storage, fractionation and transportation assets in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.” Subsidiaries and partners are: CDM, ETC Endure Energy, ET Rover Pipeline, ETT, Fayetteville Express Pipeline, Florida Gas Transmission Company, Lone Star NGL, Panhandle Eastern Pipe Line, PEI Power, Regency Energy Partners, Sea Robin Pipeline Company, SEC, Southern Union Gas Services, Sunoco, Inc., Sunoco Logistics, Transwestern Pipeline Company, Trunkline Gas Company, and Trunkline LNG.  http://zcom.zacks.com/ZER/free_report

ETP was started by CEO Kelcey Warren and according to Forbes, “co-founded natural-gas pipeline firm Energy Transfer Partners with Ray C. Davis in 1995; he bought struggling gas assets and linked them into an efficient system.” Warren has been in the oil and natural gas business since 1978, as well as owning a record company in Austin, TX. Warren whose net worth by Forbes as of July 13, 2014 was estimated to be $5.8 billion (#116 on the list of wealthiest Americans). ETP itself had assets of over $43 billion as of December 2013.    http://www.forbes.com/profile/kelcy-warren/    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelcy Warren

Energy Transfer Partners have been growing steadily and in the last several years, thanks to a favorable domestic exploration environment and a need to transport more and more natural gas. Energy production is experiencing a huge boom. For example, in 2013, the United States overtook Saudi Arabia to become the world’s biggest oil producer as output from shale, much of it from the Bakkan and the Eagle Rock fields in Texas, has led according to leading U.S. energy consultancy PIRA. “U.S. output, which includes natural gas liquids and biofuels, has swelled 3.2 million barrels per day (bpd) since 2009, the fastest expansion in production over a four-year period since a surge in Saudi Arabia’s output from 1970-1974, PIRA said in a release on Tuesday. “While still the largest consumer of fuel, the rise of cheap crude available to domestic refiners has turned the United States into a significant exporter of gasoline and distillate fuels and China has surpassed the United States as the largest importer of crude.” http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/15/us-oil-pira-idUSL1N0I51IX20131015

A publicly- traded company, shares of ETP stock have increased from $20 a share in 1996 to over $58 at the close of the market on Friday, Sept. 12. http://finance.yahoo.com/

What should likely concern Iowans and the Iowa’s Public Utility Commission are ETP’s growing pains which have been documented in various publications and include a number of accidents that have led to environmental damage, widespread property damage, and even injury and loss of human life. Keeping in mind that pipeline companies do difficult and dangerous work, in fact, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics, the number of fatal work injury cases in the oil and gas extraction industries rose to all-time high of 138 in 2012 from 112 in 2011, the question should be how does ETP stack up both in terms of safety and environmental impact. From 2009 to 2012 the industry added 23 percent more workers but in 2012, 138 workers were killed on the job — an increase of more than 100 percent since 2009,” wrote Andrew Schneider and Marilyn Geewax for NPR . “In fact, the fatality rate among oil and gas workers is now nearly eight times higher than the all-industry rate of 3.2 deaths for every 100,000 workers.”  http://www.npr.org/2013/12/27/250807226/on-the-job-deaths-spiking-as-oil-drilling-quickly-expands

To give a sense of proportion about property damage and workplace injury, according to ProPublica, Iowa had $10.7 million in damages between 2009 and 2012 and 4 injuries due to oil and hazardous material pipeline accidents. The Des Moines Register recent article more damningly stated “damages resulted in nearly $20 million in property damage, spilling a total of 10,712 gross barrels of hazardous liquids onto Iowa property, according to the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.”  http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/investigations/2014/09/07/iowa

One of ETP’s subsidiaries Sea Robin Pipeline alone has had over $84 million in damages and 2 injuries in its past. Beyond that, are a series of incidents involving ETP projects that are summarized below:

https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb

http://www.icis.com/resources/news/2008/08/28/9152431/central-texas-pipeline-explosion-contained/

Many of the incidents involving ETP cited here are at pressurized natural gas or liquid gas facilities, the question is what about crude oil facilities? The best example of what could be of concern does not involve ETP, who are relatively new at moving crude oil. However in Michigan one of ETP’s competitors, a Canadian firm, Enbridge is still dealing with the cleanup of the Kalamazoo River that was caused when it’s crude oil pipeline leaked there in 2010 causing over $809 million in clean up efforts. As Inside Climate News reported, “under orders from the EPA, Enbridge used an even more intrusive method in 2011 to clean up Talmadge Creek, a Kalamazoo tributary that received the brunt of the damage from the ruptured pipeline. The creek was so badly contaminated that Enbridge had to essentially rebuild two miles of it”   http://insideclimatenews.org/news/dilbit-6B-pipeline-kalamazoo-river-enbridge-oil-spill-michigan-keystone-xl-epa.

The parallels to the project that is planned for Iowa include the acquisition of farmland through eminent domain which as awarded by FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which must approve the projects by granting a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. While the landowner must be compensated for the loss of access to their property, they have no say over where the pipeline is constructed. In an interesting twist, ETP is now in the same area in Michigan and is the process of putting new pipeline through the area where Enbridge is still cleaning up and is seeking FERC’s approval to access the existing right-of-ways.

Whether ETP will prove to be a good partner in Iowa is an unknown. As previously noted, their industry track record is far from stellar. One thing that is a certainty, the risks to the state’s natural resources and well-being of Iowans hang in the balance. Any decision that is made will have repercussions for many years to come. Concerned Iowans should visit the Iowa Public Utility Board who posted on their website:

“Energy Transfer Partners, L.P., has publicly announced a proposal to build a crude oil pipeline across Iowa (Bakken Pipeline), but the regulatory process of requesting a permit from the Iowa Utilities Board, pursuant to Iowa Code chapter 479B, for construction and operation of the proposed line has not begun. The Board will begin receiving statements in support or objections to the project when a case is initiated and an official record is opened with the Board. “ However, informational meetings are required in all counties that will be affected by the pipeline prior to application for a permit. owevwHMore on that process can be found at: http://www.state.ia.us/government/com/util/docs/permit_process.pdf .

Sunday Funday – Oops About That Harkin Steak Fry

harkin_braleyIf I am not wrong I wrote last week’s quiz as if the last Harkin Steak Fry was last week. I am a total Bozo, but I am not telling you anything you already didn’t know. If you did go to the event last week you no doubt secured an excellent seat. Hopefully you get squatter’s rights for this week.

Thirty-seven years is a long time. I think phones were still connected to the wall 37 years ago. Thank you Senator and a long life to you. By the way, I certainly hope we don’t see you as a lobbyist for any corporation.

And now: the quiz!

1) In recent years Harkin has invited 3 folks who have made noises about running for the Democratic nomination in 2016 besides Hillary. Can you name them (hint: 2008,2011, 2012)

2) Which state has had its bond rating downgraded for the seventh time and second this year under their governor who wants to be president?

3) The eyes of the world will be on what want-to-be nation next week as it votes for its independence?

4) At a Board of Supervisor’s meeting in Maquoketa, a gunman died while apparently trying to kill what county official?

5) Experimental vaccines have kept a group of macaque monkeys free from what disease for 10 months?

6) Two Minnesota senators have addressed the crowd at the Harkin steak fries over the years. Can you name them?

7) Multitudes of female Ravens fans attended Thursday night’s game wearing the jersey of what Ravens player?

8) The National Organization for Women (NOW) called for the resignation of what business leader this week?

9) On Wednesday, President Obama announced what strategy for the Middle East?

10) The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that for the first time ever fewer than half of American adults were what?

11) DNA tests revealed Aaron Kosminski as one of history’s most sought after mystery men. Who was Aaron Kominsky revealed to be?

12) Yet another major retailer announced that its credit customers may have been compromised. What retailer announced it was hacked this time?

13) What major world economy contracted at an annual rate of 7.1% in the second (April – June) quarter?

14) The Apple watch was introduced this week. The screen of the Apple watch will be made of what ultra-hard substance?

15) The sheriff of Rock Island County, Illinois resigned this week when he pled guilty to official misconduct for what actions?

It was a busy week. Bet Senator Harkin won’t miss the foofahrah all that much.

Answers:

1) 2008 – Brian Schweitzer, 2011 – Bernie Sanders and 2012 – Martin O’Malley

2) New Jersey

3) Scotland

4) the county assessor – he had a tax complaint.

5) Ebola

6) Paul Wellstone and Al Franken

7) the suspended for domestic violence Ray Rice

8) NFL commissioner Roger Goodell over his handling of the Rice affair.

9) air strikes on ISIL

10) married – maybe we need more marriage equality.

11) Jack the Ripper

12) Home Depot

13) Japan

14) sapphire glass

15) cyber stalking a woman.

Ernst Proud To Have Her Support

sarah-palin-rant
Palin Family Involved In Brawl

America averted a disaster by rejecting John McCain and his craven pick of Sarah Palin for vice president in 2008. The very thought of what a Vice-President Palin would have unleashed on this country is only less scary that the thought of what could have happened if Palin had somehow succeeded to the presidency.

Unlike other VP candidates, Palin has not just faded into the background. With all sorts of strange appearances and even stranger utterances, Palin has managed to keep herself in the news and keep the money rolling in. Much like the folks who would pay good money to flock to PT Barnum’s freak show, people still have a morbid fascination with Sarah Palin.

Once more last weekend Sarah and her family thrust themselves into the spotlight by mixing it up with their neighbors at a birthday party. Fueled by alcohol, things got out of hand when son Track ran into someone he didn’t like.

For the report of the incident we turn to the blog of Amanda Coyne:

“Hell hath no fury like a Palin family visit: Just when I was about to give up on them, the Gods of gossip came visiting this week, and as they’ve done in the past, they beckoned me to look towards Wasilla, towards the fortress of Our Lady of the North, the woman who was almost a heartbeat away from the presidency, whose family had a dramatic weekend, Wasilla style! As many of us have read, Bristol Palin was visited by a Floridian stalker on Sunday who somehow ended up on the family’s balcony. The stalker currently sits in jail. That’s pretty dramatic. But that’s the least of it. The night before, Saturday, was a doozy. The details are a little sketchy, but there’s enough of them, from enough different sources, that a story emerges, a story that according to the gossip Gods, looks kind of like this: There’s some sort of unofficial birthday/Iron Dog-type/snowmachine party in Anchorage. A nice, mellow party, until the Palin’s show up. There’s beer, of course, and maybe other things. Which is all fine, but just about the time when some people might have had one too many, a Track Palin stumbles out of a stretch Hummer, and immediately spots an ex-boyfriend of Willow’s. Track isn’t happy with this guy, the story goes. There’s words, and more. The owner of the house gets involved, and he probably wished he hadn’t. At this point, he’s up against nearly the whole Palin tribe: Palin women screaming. Palin men thumping their chests. Word is that Bristol has a particularly strong right hook, which she employed repeatedly, and it’s something to hear when Sarah screams, “Don’t you know who I am!” And it was particularly wonderful when someone in the crowd screamed back, “This isn’t some damned Hillbilly reality show!” No, it’s what happens when the former First Family of Alaska comes knocking. As people were leaving in a cab, Track was seen on the street, shirtless, flipping people off, with Sarah right behind him, and Todd somewhere in the foreground, tending to his bloody nose.”

Iowa’s connection to this is that Joni Ernst proudly accepted the Palin endorsement back in March. I would assume that endorsement and acceptance are still in place. Sarah Palin is a national embarrassment. Joni Ernst is cut from the same cloth. My feeling is that if Ernst is elected she will be an embarrassment to Iowa, not in the exact same ways as Palin, but in her own way.

Back in March Ernst accepted the Palin support:
“I’m proud to stand with the Mama Grizzly against big spenders in Washington like Bruce Braley and Nancy Pelosi. Sarah Palin is an inspiration to those of us who want to protect life, defend the Second Amendment, and get Washington out of our wallets. As our campaign builds energy toward a primary win in June, Sarah Palin’s roaring support will help me to victory, and as a result, make ‘em squeal in Washington,” said Ernst.

One thing is for sure. Just like Palin, Ernst wants to end Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the ACA. Ernst has let it be known that she will not work for Iowans – all the programs listed have major approval in Iowa polls. Instead she will be a tool of the Kochs and their ilk.

We need a senator that will work for Iowans.

Krugman: Medicare Spending Is Down!

save medicare
Major news that barely registered a tinkle in what passes for news media last week. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised since it was a holiday weekend and when the administration has good news it seldom makes the front section, let alone the front page. Considering the shambles that Republicans left our fiscal house in and the flat out total opposition they have shown to any attempt to fix the mess makes this news remarkable. Here is the beginning of Krugman’s column from August 31st:

So, what do you think about those Medicare numbers? What, you haven’t heard about them? Well, they haven’t been front-page news. But something remarkable has been happening on the health-spending front, and it should (but probably won’t) transform a lot of our political debate.

The story so far: We’ve all seen projections of giant federal deficits over the next few decades, and there’s a whole industry devoted to issuing dire warnings about the budget and demanding cuts in Socialsecuritymedicareandmedicaid. Policy wonks have long known, however, that there’s no such program, and that health care, rather than retirement, was driving those scary projections. Why? Because, historically, health spending has grown much faster than G.D.P., and it was assumed that this trend would continue.

But a funny thing has happened: Health spending has slowed sharply, and it’s already well below projections made just a few years ago. The falloff has been especially pronounced in Medicare, which is spending $1,000 less per beneficiary than the Congressional Budget Office projected just four years ago.

This is a really big deal, in at least three ways.

Krugman then goes on to explain why the Medicare miracle is such a big deal here.

Don’t forget that about six months ago the main stream media all but ignored the major story that the budget deficit has been shrinking at an incredible rate, the fastest ever since WWII. When the Bush cronies were done destroying things they left an annual shortfall of nearly $1.5 trillion with an annual trillion dollar deficit expected every year. The Obama Administration has cut this down to under half a trillion deficit and cut the deficit to GDP ratio from nearly 10% coming in to office to under 3% for this year.

By the way, don’t forget that as President Clinton was leaving office, his administration had cut the then massive debt left by Republican administrations to the point where projections had the United States out of debt within a decade.

You may also recall that President Clinton presided over a roaring economy that was struggling badly under Bush the Elder – remember the phrase “it’s the economy, stupid.” We have seen the stock market come back from a major setback at the end of the Bush II administration to soar to new heights.

In short, given the outright entrenched opposition of Republicans who have tried to stop Obama at every turn, the Obama administration has produced some remarkable economic numbers.

Can you just imagine what could happen if Republicans were working for the good of all Americans instead of only working for the corporations and the rich 1%? If Republicans do not wish to work for the good of the majority of Americans, why don’t we just leave them behind to wallow in their stew while Democrats take the country to new heights. It can be done. It should be done.

If I had an employee who worked against my company as hard as the Republicans work against their employers (you and I), I would fire them in a second. You have the power to do that.

Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman

Rep. Dave Loebsack Wants To Permanently Ban Members Of Congress From Becoming Lobbyists

Working for solutions, not part of the problem, congress needs more representatives like Dave Loebsack.

Iowa Press U.S. Congress Third District Debate

Staci Appel (D-Des Moines) and David Young (R-Van Meter)

Low Wages And Maria Fernandes’ Fatal Nap

Photo Credit: Dunkin' Donuts

Photo Credit: Dunkin’ Donuts

What working person hasn’t taken a nap in their vehicle? Part time and temporary workers with multiple jobs are unlikely to get enough rest, so why not set the alarm clock and snooze after arriving early for a shift, or during a 30-minute lunch break? At the meat packing plant where I worked during summer breaks from college, there was competition for the prime snoozing spots before clocking in the regulation six minutes before starting a shift. One’s vehicle provides a level of security and privacy— it’s also convenient.

The story of Maria Fernandes, who died in her automobile while sleeping between part time jobs at three New Jersey and New York Dunkin’ Donut shops, hit the corporate media in full force last week, and they were atwitter. The best coverage I found was in RT, the Russian 24/7 news channel:

A New Jersey woman who worked four jobs, who sometimes “wouldn’t sleep for five days,” according to a co-worker, died Monday while napping between shifts in her car on the side of the road.

Maria Fernandes died in her 2001 Kia Sportage after inhaling carbon monoxide and fumes from an overturned gas container she kept in the car, according to the New York Daily News.

The 32-year-old Newark woman pulled into a WAWA convenience store lot in Elizabeth, New Jersey for a nap early Monday. She left the car running. The carbon monoxide and gasoline fumes were the likely cause of death, authorities said.

Fernandes was found dead in the car around eight hours later when EMTs responded to a 911 call of a woman found in a vehicle with closed windows and doors. Emergency workers sensed a strong chemical odor upon entering the vehicle, authorities said.

What will the story of Fernandes mean to broader society? Regretfully, not much once the news cycle is finished. Hers is one more sad story in the life of working people.

There is media discussion of Fernandes becoming emblematic for low wage workers, and some connect her death to the current political discussion about the need for an increase in the minimum wage. Advocates will likely use her story to make a case for unionization and other favored topics. But something is missing. Let’s follow the RT story down the rabbit hole:

About 7.5 million Americans are working more than one job, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those jobs often leave people short on income compared to full-time work, said Carl Van Horn, director of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.

“These are folks who would like to work full-time but they can’t find the jobs,” Van Horn said. “They wind up in these circumstances in which they are exhausted. More commonly it creates just an enormous amount of stress.”

Workers in the United States are earning an average of 23 percent less than earnings from jobs that were lost during the economic recession that began in 2008, according to a recent report, as wealth inequality in the U.S. has shot to record highs, according to various indicators. Many long-term unemployed are considering abandoning their job search following years of stagnant economic growth.

Maria Fernandes is not a victim of her own choices, except maybe the one to leave her car running while she slept in it. Closer to the truth is that many companies want part time or temporary workers to avoid paying benefits, and this runs contrary to the expectations built for those of us in the baby boom generation. The movement to part time and temporary work is an inexorable march toward stripping costs from business operations— something few in the corporate media have covered as it relates to Fernandes.

That she could work in three locations with the same corporate brand and wear the same uniform in each, yet not work for the same company, gets to a core issue. By its structure, Dunkin’ Donuts and companies like it, are designed to distance themselves from workers, and create gross margin and related profits that flow to the richest one percent of the population. In this case to the parent company, Dunkin’ Brands Group, Inc. (NASDAQ: DNKN), led by Nigel Travis. There are layers of distancing from the company, presumably related to the goal of avoiding the costs and troubles of lowly paid workers.

The circumstances around Maria Fernandes’ death captivated attention for a news cycle. One must ask the question what will we do about it, and hope there will be an answer.