Category Archives: Environment

A new way to complain (about the chicken plant stench)

wis

I read this news item in part because the headline cracked me up: “new ways for public to complain.” What — they’re going to start whining at a different pitch? I sort of expected an Onionesque piece that began:

OSLO — A crack team of dedicated public gadflies won the Nobel Prize for Petulance after developing new methods of whining, bitching, moaning and kvetching, techniques guaranteed to drive elected officials to despair…

But instead it began:

WEST COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) – When Tyler Driggers isn’t floating down the Congaree River, he enjoys it from West Columbia’s Riverwalk Park.

“It’s monumental for a city. It really changes, you know, people’s attitudes,” he said. “You know, after a hard day, they can come down here and walk around. They can experience what Columbia is supposed to be like.”

However, as Driggers admitted, there’s one reason he sometimes leaves the natural crown jewel early: when a breeze delivers a gag-inducing odor….

I was momentarily distracted by the fact that that guy got a whole sentence out, right at the end, without saying “you know.” Then, I focused on the story, which of course was about the smelly chicken plant along the river, near the Gervais Street Bridge.

As Councilman Tem Miles notes, the smell of the chicken plant has gotten worse in recent months. I’m not sure why, but it’s truly wretched.

As for the “new ways of complaining” West Columbia has “launched a new odor hotline and a new web page to report stinky smells.”

The number is 803-794-3506, ext. 805.

The website is here. It’s a bit vague what you’re supposed to do once you get there — it’s almost like the town doesn’t really want you to complain —  so you might want to try the phone number.

And whine away…

Joel Sartore photographs his 8,000th species

The Pyrenean desman, which on Friday became the 8,000 species photographed for the Photo Ark.

The Pyrenean desman, which on Friday became the 8,000 species photographed for the Photo Ark.

Y’all remember my old friend and colleague Joel Sartore, the National Geographic photographer who for more than a decade has been trying to photograph every animal species currently in captivity before they can disappear?

Well, in the last few days he added his 8,000th species to his Photo Ark!

And he’s celebrating that putting forth a special offer:

As announced Friday, the Pyrenean desman marked the 8,000 species for the Photo Ark.

To celebrate this momentous milestone, this week I am giving away eight, signed 8×10 prints, one print of each milestone species that brought the Photo Ark to 8,000.

Four winners will be chosen from Instagram and four will be chosen from Facebook.

Each person may only win once per platform. Due to the limited number of prints, selection and winners will be chosen at random.

Winners will be announced on my Instagram story and my Facebook page Wednesday, May 9th.

How To Enter:

Follow me on Instagram @joelsartore or on Facebook at Joel Sartore, Photographer.
Tag three friends on my Monday contest post on Instagram or Facebook.

Good luck!

Take him up on the offer, and help promote the Photo Ark…

This Persian leopard at the Budapest Zoo was the 5,000th animal on the Photo Ark.

This Persian leopard at the Budapest Zoo was the 5,000th animal on the Photo Ark.

In stunning reversal for people of SC, utilities manage to kill solar bill AFTER it passed overwhelmingly

It's like if, after the Death Star was destroyed, Darth Vader used the Force to snuff out the Rebellion anyway...

It’s like if, after the Death Star was destroyed, Darth Vader used the Force to snuff out the Rebellion anyway…

If you had any lingering sympathy for the big utilities in South Carolina, this should wipe it out:

Under pressure from the state’s major utilities, the S.C. House killed a solar bill Tuesday that was intended to protect thousands of jobs and save customers money on their monthly power bills.

The bill’s defeat, a stunning reversal from a House vote last week, brought withering criticism from many lawmakers, who said the House caved in to opposition by Duke Energy and SCE&G, derailing the legislation. Utilities have expressed concern about how competition from solar could affect them.

State Rep. James Smith, the bill’s chief sponsor, also blamed Republican Gov. Henry McMaster. Smith, a Democratic candidate for governor and potential opponent to McMaster in November’s general election, said the Republican urged some lawmakers not to vote for the bill — a point McMaster’s office hotly disputed.

“He called House Republican leadership and raked them over the coals,” Smith said he was told by fellow legislators. “It was giving me a victory. But it ain’t about me. It ain’t about Henry.”…

The solar bill died Tuesday in the House after utility boosters raised a technical point, saying passing the bill would require a two-thirds majority vote. The House voted for the legislation, 61-44, but that was short of the two-thirds required for approval….

Wow. This is bad on so many levels — particularly if our governor got involved in order to screw over his likely Democratic challenger. But even if he didn’t, this is a stunning example of bad faith, and the kind of oligarchic, anti-democratic maneuver that almost makes the anti-elite paranoia of a Bernie Sanders sound sane.

Matt Moore, the former GOP chair who has been heading up Palmetto Conservative Solar Coalition, reacted this way:

Ten-plus years? I think that’s an understatement. In my more than 30 years of covering SC politics, I haven’t seen the likes of this. You have to go back to before my time. There probably hasn’t been a case of the powers-that-be frustrating the public will to this extent since the Old Guard found a way to disqualify charismatic gubernatorial candidate Pug Ravenel on a technicality in 1974.

The will of the people, acting through their elected representatives (which is how you do it in a republic), had been clearly expressed. The best people in the General Assembly were all for it — Democrats, and both flavors of Republican (Regular and Tom Davis).

And now, the people who gave us the shaft on the nuclear fiasco have shown us what they think of that. And of us.

So… what are we going to do about it?

Belated congrats on a bipartisan solar victory

A shot of the voting board posted by Boyd Brown...

A shot of the voting board posted by Boyd Brown…

I was deliberately avoiding actual news the end of last week while at the beach, but now I want to congratulate James Smith and his allies of both parties on their big victory in the House last week.

Their bill to lift the cap on solar power passed the House 64-33 Thursday, after representatives rejected a competing bill pushed by the big utilities — which obviously don’t have the clout they had when they passed the Base Load Review Act.

Out of those 64, Matt Moore of the Palmetto Conservative Solar Coalition particularly thanked   and my own rep, .

See how everybody voted on the board above.

Now, on to the Senate!

SC Sierra Club endorses James Smith for governor

Sierra Club - Rep. James Smith

Aside from more of Trump’s stupid protectionism, there’s not a lot of news out there today. But this item did come in a little while ago:

South Carolina Sierra Club Formally Endorses James Smith for SC Governor

COLUMBIA, SC – Today, on the beautiful banks of the Congaree River in downtown Columbia, the South Carolina (SC) Chapter of the Sierra Club formally endorsed Representative James E. Smith, Jr. for Governor of the state. This endorsement was unanimously voted upon by the Steering Committee of the state Club following the Midlands’ area John Bachman Group of the Club also unanimously voting to endorse Representative Smith in his gubernatorial bid.

 This is the first time in its history that the SC Sierra Club has endorsed a gubernatorial candidate prior to a primary election.

Current Chapter Vice Chair and former longtime Chairwoman during the majority of Rep. Smith’s House tenure Susan Corbett said, “James Smith has done more for environmental protection and citizens’ rights to protect South Carolina’s natural wonders than any other lawmaker in the history of this Chapter’s work in this state. It’s not just his work to advance renewable energy, protect ratepayers, promote enforceable water standards and oppose offshore drilling; it’s his work on the ground which he has done day-in and day-out to stop tremendously bad legislation from being enacted throughout the years that also matters.”

Chapter Chair Ben Mack added, “Ever since I was present to hear James call for a citizens’ Environmental Bill of Rights as an amendment to our state’s Constitution while introducing the state Club before the House of Representatives, I knew we had a real leader and champion for natural resources before us.”

James Smith has been a longtime advocate of the work of the SC Sierra Club. He has been a regular supporter and speaker before the Midlands’ John Bachman Group of the state Chapter.

Conservation Chair Bob Guild noted, “Most recently, James drafted well over 200 amendments to do everything he could to stop a ham-fisted bill seeking to significantly roll back citizens’ rights to challenge bad government environmental permitting decisions. The bill, known as the rollback of the automatic stay, gives waste giants, toxic incinerators and tree-cutters, among others, the tools they need to remove the public from the process of moving forward on doing environmental harm. The current Governor signed the bill into law last week, showing his disregard for the people who James had so courageously fought to protect.”

“This is a no-brainer; no other candidate even compares,” concluded Ms. Corbett. “We’re talking about the Representative that pretty much single-handedly stopped polluters from passing a bill to take away citizens’ rights to stop illegal pollution in our state.”

The South Carolina Sierra Club has over 20,000 members and supporters across South Carolina and is dedicated to its mission to explore, enjoy and protect our state. The Sierra Club is the nation’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization with over 3 million members and supporters.

 

The legislative showdown between SC utilities and reformers

solar panels

As long as I’m throwing tweets at you, let’s contrast Henry McMaster’s fatuous nonsense with what’s going on among people at the State House who actually care about issues that matter to South Carolina.

We’ll start with this:

Oh, there goes that Brad Warthen promoting James Smith again! Well, not just him. We’re talking about a bipartisan coalition of actual leaders who are standing up to the pro-utility interests that brought you the Base Load Review Act.

This is what’s going on in the State House in this universe, as opposed to the one Henry lives in. In this universe, there’s a battle going on between people who continue to push the narrow interests of the utility industry and those who’d like us to be able to declare independence from them.

As a blog post over at the CVSC site says:

Let me set the scene for a big showdown that’s about to take place at the Statehouse…

There are two bills…

One bill was practically written by the utility monopolies. Not surprisingly, this bill would reward them for their role in the disastrous V.C. Summer debacle. Also, not surprisingly, this bill was introduced and rushed through subcommittee almost overnight by House members who’ve received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from utility monopolies.

The other bill would promote the growth of solar energy in South Carolina. This bill rewards consumers by treating them fairly and ensuring that our state’s solar energy market will continue to produce good-paying jobs and affordable energy for our families. Not surprisingly, this bill has been challenged at every step….

Here’s a comparison of the two bills:

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Promising first step on lifting SC’s solar cap

State House

This was good to see yesterday:

The Chairman of the Palmetto Conservative Solar Coalition (PCSC) today applauded a South Carolina House Judiciary subcommittee for its unanimous passage of H. 4421, a bill that would bring more free market solar energy choices to South Carolina consumers.

“In just a few years, South Carolina has become a leader in solar energy growth. I’m thrilled that House members recognize how H. 4421 will continue this positive trend by giving consumers even more free market energy choices,” said Matt Moore, Chairman of the PCSC. “Now the bill moves to the full the Judiciary Committee, where we are confident that despite big power’s objections to energy freedom, House members will support sending H. 4421 to the full South Carolina House for passage.”

That’s James Smith’s bill, called the “SC Electric Consumer Bill of Rights,” that lifts the ridiculous cap on solar energy in South Carolina. The one I wrote about Wednesday.

Moore, the former GOP chair, made a point of thanking Smith along with Republican backers Peter McCoy and Judiciary Chairman Greg Delleney.

It’s a smart piece of bipartisan legislation — I’ve yet to hear a good reason why it shouldn’t pass — and while subcommittee passage is just a start, I’m encouraged by the unanimous vote.

The conservative case for clean energy

The solar panel (get it?): Rep. Nathan Ballentine, Charles Hernick of CRES, Bret Sowers of the SC Solar Business Alliance, Tyson Grinstead of Sunrun, Inc., and moderator Matt Moore.

The solar panel (get it?): Rep. Nathan Ballentine, Charles Hernick of CRES, Bret Sowers of the SC Solar Business Alliance, Tyson Grinstead of Sunrun, Inc., and moderator Matt Moore.

There’s something odd about that headline, isn’t there? One shouldn’t have to make such a case, seeing as how “conservative” and “conservation” derive from the same root.

But our modern politics are sufficiently strange that the case must be made — and increasingly, more conservatives are prepared to make it.

They did so this morning over at the convention center Hilton, at a breakfast co-sponsored by the Palmetto Conservative Solar Coalition and Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions out of Washington.

Erick Erickson

Erick Erickson

The program started with a brief keynote by Erick Erickson of The Resurgent (and formerly of RedState), who came to say, “We conservatives don’t have to be afraid of clean energy.” Mind you, “We don’t need to subsidize it” the way he says folks on the left want to do — it’s more about getting out of the way and letting markets do the job.

The main thing standing in the way of that is the owners of the current infrastructure. Erickson, who lives in Macon, says he keeps hearing from Georgia Power, telling him that solar might burn his house down, and anyway, it’s not efficient — it doesn’t work on a cloudy day.

“Why are you so scared of it, then?,” he asks.

After Erickson sat down, Matt Moore — new head of the Palmetto Conservative Solar Coalition and former chairman of the S.C. GOP — gave out awards to some conservative friend of clean energy, including my own Rep. Micah Caskey. Others recognized were Rep. Nathan Ballentine, and Sen. Greg Gregory.

Gregory got credit for passage of Act 236 in 2014 — the legislation that allowed net metering in South Carolina. Which was a start toward putting solar on a firm footing in the state.

But the main order of 2018 for these organizations is repealing a problematic provision of that legislation — a 2 percent cap on the amount of energy allowed to be generated by solar, something the utilities insisted on in 2014.

So we heard a lot, during a panel discussion featuring Ballentine and three others and chaired by Moore, about H. 4421, which would remove that cap and let solar compete freely — an idea suddenly quite popular, with SCANA and Santee Cooper in the political doghouse.

We’re getting close to that 2 percent cap, which Ballentine said would cause the disappearance of 3,000 jobs in South Carolina in the installation business (also represented on the panel). That’s one of the reasons he’s for lifting the cap.

He praised H. 4421, saying how good it is to see a “bipartisan effort” behind it.

And it does have bipartisan support. What Nathan did not say, with so many Republicans in the room, is that the bill’s prime sponsor is Rep. James Smith. He was concerned, apparently, that some in his party might oppose it just to keep James from having a big win when he’s running for governor.

Which would be really petty of them, but that’s the state of party politics in the Year of Our Lord two thousand and eighteen. For some people, anyway.

Frankly, I’m having trouble imagining any good reason why anyone would oppose such commonsense legislation. Maybe you can think of one, but I can’t.

The bill is supposed to come up in subcommittee again Thursday…

the room

Bullying local governments: An issue bigger than plastic bags

What do these have in common with bump stocks?/photo by Dan4th Nicholas

What do these have in common with bump stocks?/photo by Dan4th Nicholas

This Tweet reminded me of something I meant to post about:

First, kudos to James for standing up on this: Forbidding local governments to clean up their communities is unconscionable.

But there’s a much bigger issue here than plastic bags littering the landscape: More than 40 years after passage of the Home Rule Act, the South Carolina General Assembly continues to bully local governments, preventing South Carolinians from running their own affairs in their own communities as they see fit.

It was always thus. From the beginning, long before the Recent Unpleasantness, the small class of plantation owners who ran things from the Legislature kept local governments weak, just as they did the governor. Home Rule was supposed to fix that, at least on the county level. But lawmakers kept vestiges of the Legislative State — such as unaccountable Special Purpose Districts (think Richland County Recreation Commission, and the Elections Commission in the same county). In some counties, state lawmakers even continued to run local schools.

And when local officials dare to try to improve their communities without the permission of the state, they can expect to have the state jump on them, hard.

We all saw what happened, nationally and locally, after the mass shooting in Las Vegas: Pretty much everyone, across the political spectrum, agreed that nobody needed a “bump stock,” and that the deadly devices were bad news all around.

And then, on the national level, nothing happened. And here in Columbia, elected officials decided they would act, within their limited ability to act: They banned the use, although not the possession, of bump stocks within the city limits.

It wasn’t much, but it made national news, and was much applauded as a case of some elected officials, somewhere, being willing do something.

So of course, a group of SC lawmakers decided they weren’t going to allow that. So Reps. Jonathon D. Hill, Craig A. Gagnon, Anne J. Thayer, Joshua A. Putnam — none of whom live anywhere near Columbia — sponsored H. 4707, “so as to provide that a political subdivision may not regulate firearm accessories.”

It’s the same old story in South Carolina: These lawmakers don’t propose to DO anything; they just want to make sure nobody else does anything….

Check out program about Joel Sartore’s Photo Ark! Now!

tiger

Dang! I had meant to tell y’all about this in advance:

But it’s on right now! It’s the first of three episodes.

I’ve told y’all about Joel and his amazing project before. He and I worked together at the Wichita paper back in the ’80s, and he’s been a photographer for National Geographic for the past 25 years.

For the last 11 of those years, he’s been working on his magnum opus, the Photo Ark: He has undertaken to photograph every endangered species on the planet. He figures it will take the rest of his life. May he live far more than long enough to accomplish it…

U.S. goes where only Syria and Nicaragua have gone before

Whole Earth

So what if the United States, guided by the wisdom of our cheerless leader, has pulled out of the Paris Accord signed by more than 190 other nations?

It’s not like we’re going to be alone! We’ll be joining, um, Syria. And Nicaragua! So, yay us, huh? Now we’ll be pace-setters, too!

President Trump declared that the United States would leave the Paris climate agreement, following months of infighting among Trump’s staff that left the world in suspense. He said he hopes to negotiate a similar deal that is more favorable to the U.S.

This move is one of several Obama-era environmental milestones that Trump has dismantled. And all the while, a new study shows global temperatures might be rising faster than expected.

Leaving the agreement displaces the U.S. from a stance of global leadership and places it alongside just two non-participating countries: Syria, which is in the midst of a civil war, and Nicaragua, who refused to join because the Paris Agreement didn’t go far enough. Even countries such as Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which are among the poorest in the world and were struggling with an Ebola epidemic at the time, have signed on….

And yes, in answer to the question that a Trump supporter asked on the blog earlier today, China and India are taking part in the accord. Not only that, they’re stepping up into the leadership role the United States is forfeiting:

Earlier this week, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on a visit to Berlin, stood alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel and said that failing to act on climate change was a “morally criminal act.”

And earlier this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping called the 2015 climate accord in Paris “a hard-won achievement” and urged other signers to stick to their pledges instead of walking away — “as this is a responsibility we must assume for future generations.”

In the past, there was skepticism in both countries about Western calls for emissions reductions, which were seen as hypocritical. The strong public comments now underline how far opinion both countries has moved in recent years, and the rhetorical leadership is extremely welcome, experts say….

Oh, and by the way — it’s not just words. China is not only living up to what it’s promised, it’s ahead of schedule in reducing its carbon footprint.

China is, of course, in this and other areas (such as TPP), only too happy to assume the mantle of global leadership that the United States is so eagerly, and so stupidly, laying aside.

Hear Joel Sartore and Photo Ark tonight at Harbison Theater

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I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of talented people over the course of my career, and no one fits that description better than Joel Sartore.

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Joel Sartore

Joel was a photographer at The Wichita Eagle-Beacon back when I was news editor there, and I knew he was something special then. Part of my job involved deciding what went on the front page, and I had the privilege of using his work a lot. The times I spent with him at the light table peering at negatives through magnifying glasses and discussing them persuaded me that here was an all-around fine journalist, far more than just another shooter.

And he had an incredible eye for exactly the right shot. I’ll post a couple of prints he gave me back in the day when I’m at home. Amazing stuff.

Well, he’s not in Kansas anymore. Not long after my stint in Wichita, Joel started working for National Geographic, and he’s been with them ever since.

Lately, he’s been working on a monumental project called the Photo Ark, which The State described thusly in their story about his appearance in our community tonight:

National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore is trying to save the planet with his camera….

The project is called Photo Ark, and his goal is to take studio photographs of the roughly 12,000 species in captivity.

“My job, my passion, or what I’m trying to explore and share is the fact that we are throwing away the ark,” Sartore said, adding that he wants “to document as many of the world’s captive species as I can before I die.”

In the past 11 years, he has photographed about 6,500 of these animals. He estimates it will take another 15 years or so to photograph the rest….

So, you know, a herculean task. But Joel’s up to it, I assure you.

He’ll be talking about his work tonight at 7:30 at Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College.

I hope to see you there…

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New planet? Whaddya mean, INFERRED? Ain’t it amazing how little scientists KNOW…

planet nine

An artist’s impression of Planet Nine, which could sit at the edge of our solar system. (R. Hurt/California Institute of Technology)

OK, so now the guy who got Pluto demoted, the author of How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming, says he’s found a new planet. One much farther out (20 times as far as Neptune) and much, much bigger — like, 5 or 10 times as massive as Earth.

Not that anyone has seen this planet, mind you, although the boffins are all looking for it like fun:

Their paper, published in the Astronomical Journal, describes the planet as about five to 10 times as massive as the Earth. But the authors, astronomers Michael Brown and Konstantin Batygin, have not observed the planet directly.

Instead, they have inferred its existence from the motion of recently discovered dwarf planets and other small objects in the outer solar system. Those smaller bodies have orbits that appear to be influenced by the gravity of a hidden planet – a “massive perturber.” The astronomers suggest it might have been flung into deep space long ago by the gravitational force of Jupiter or Saturn.

Telescopes on at least two continents are searching for the object, which on average is 20 times farther away than the eighth planet, Neptune. If “Planet Nine” exists, it’s big. Its estimated mass would make it about two to four times the diameter of the Earth, distinguishing it as the fifth-largest planet after Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. But at such extreme distances, it would reflect so little sunlight that it could evade even the most powerful telescopes…

So, astronomers — the class of people who are always telling us about (much smaller) Earth-like planets in other solar systems, gazillions of times farther away than this — have to infer the existence of a gigantic planet still in the grip of Sol’s gravity? I mean, they’re inferring all that stuff about “Goldilocks” planets, too, but if they have to do it in our own system, how reliable is all that stuff about other star systems?

This kind of uncertainty on the part of experts does not inspire confidence on the part of us ignorant laypeople.

Take another news item from this morning: “It’s official: 2015 ‘smashed’ 2014’s global temperature record. It wasn’t even close.

Yo! Get it together, scientists!

Yo! Get it together, scientists!

Now, I realize that one year — or for that matter, two years — does not constitute proof of a trend. But I am reminded that, in the long run, most scientists tell us that we are experiencing climate change, and it’s our fault.

I believe them. But hey, when scientists can’t even tell for sure whether there’s another giant planet in our own solar system, is it surprising that some people don’t? Believe them, I mean.

And yes, I’m doing a classic thing that ignorant people do — I’m combining all scientists, from all disciplines, into one entity. He’s a guy who looks like… well, like the Professor on “Gilligan’s Island.” That guy knew everything about everything

As for me… I’m just a simple caveman blogger. What do I know?

Time to think more broadly about infrastructure?

That’s what the Conservation Voters of SC think:

Dear Conservation Voter,

The extraordinary weather we’ve just experienced tested our resilience and our strength as South Carolinians. The pictures of waves crashing over Charleston’s battery and the flooding in Columbia make me think that it’s time to enlarge our conversations about infrastructure. When state elected leaders talk about how to fund the repair of roads and bridges, we should also talk about how to invest in resilient infrastructure.
Not only do we need to invest in mitigation and adaptation plans to reduce the impacts of rising sea levels along our coast, but we also have challenges with stormwater and dam safety, and concerns about the integrity of Pinewood and other waste sites when exposed to extreme weather.
Before we begin those conversations, we are sending a special thank you to our first responders, elected officials, and to all who in one way or another extended a helping hand over the weekend. Help the recovery efforts, with a donation through the Central Carolina Community Foundation, of if you are close to Columbia, sign up to volunteer through the United Way.

Ann Timberlake, Executive Director

We might start with Gill’s Creek.

Or maybe the 800-million-ton gorilla hovering over us all, Lake Murray. We beefed up the dam a few years back, but still had to open the floodgates and cause tremendous flooding downstream. I saw a story Since I live a block from the Saluda, I’d like as many reassurances as you can give me…

Gorgeous movie star picked to head DHEC! What? I thought you said Katherine Heigl…

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So of course, when I read this, I immediately pictured the woman from “Knocked Up” — you know, the one who was way too hot, smart and together for Seth Rogen, or for anyone else you can name for that matter:

Catherine Heigel of Greenville, a corporate lawyer who has worked for utilities and state agencies, was chosen Friday as the new director of the state agency that oversees health and environmental protection.

The selection by the board for the state Department of Health and Environmental Control came after closed-door interviews with some of the 99 applicants for the post.

Their selection goes to the State Senate for confirmation….

But apparently, it’s not the same person. So I’m less excited now…

Harry Reid’s leaving. So can we open Yucca Mountain now?

That was my first thought when I heard that at long last, Harry Reid will be leaving the Senate.

By Image by Daniel Mayer taken on 2002-03-25 © 2002 and released under terms of the GNU FDL. [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

Image by Daniel Mayer taken on 2002-03-25 © 2002 and released under terms of the GNU FDL. [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

Finally, the place the nation decided long ago would be our permanent repository for nuclear waste MAY open, with its chief obstacle retiring. It’s long past time that Yucca Mountain provide South Carolina (and other states) some relief on this. That was the plan, and it was always a good one.

So now it can happen.

Hey, I can hope, can’t I?

But beyond that, can you think of anything about Reid’s tenure as majority/minority leader that was good? Neither can I. His name just conjures up a lot of unpleasantness for me. He’s not alone in that; I have similar impressions of names such as Boehner, Pelosi and McConnell. Together they’ve presided over a particularly ugly and unproductive period in congressional history.

Dare I hope he’ll be replaced by someone who will turn that around?

Ummmm… Maybe I should just stick to hoping for the Yucca Mountain thing. That’ll be tough enough…

Eleanor Kitzman out; the Senate played its proper role

We seldom find startling state political news in the paper on a Monday, because things don’t work that way in South Carolina. (Actually, not all that much happens on Sundays in Washington, either, although the Sunday talking-head shows sometimes create an illusion of activity.)

So it was a pleasant surprise to see this on the front page of The State today:

Eleanor Kitzman withdraws her name as DHEC agency head candidate

sfretwell@thestate.comFebruary 22, 2015 Updated 14 hours ago

The search for a new S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control director will be reopened now that Eleanor Kitzman has chosen not to seek the position.

Kitzman withdrew her name Sunday from consideration as DHEC director, just three days after being grilled by Democratic state senators about her lack of experience and conflicting statements they said she had made….

Actually, in a sense, the search won’t be “reopened.” It will begin for the first time, since the DHEC board conducted no search — it simply went with the governor’s pal without seeking other resumes.

It will be interesting to see whether the board does its job this time. And of course, I’m defining “do its job” as something other than saying “how high?” when the governor says “Jump!”

Oh, and I’m also anxious to find out the answer to this lingering question:

It was not clear Sunday night whether Kitzman would keep a temporary $74-per-hour job given to her by the agency’s acting director until the confirmation process was completed…

There were a number of weird things about this situation, and that was one of the weirdest. Or “is” one of the weirdest, if she doesn’t quit that job…

How many more ways can this Kitzman thing get weird?

OK, we already knew that Eleanor Kitzman’s main qualification for the job of DHEC director was that she’s a passionately loyal Nikki Haley supporter.

And we’ve seen her be handed another job at the agency so she doesn’t have to wait around on Senate confirmation to start collecting a paycheck. (Admittedly, it’s as a mere hourly employee — one who makes $74 an hour, that is.)

And now there’s this:

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control board did not seek applications from anyone to fill the agency director’s job before voting to hire former state insurance chief Eleanor Kitzman, a campaign contributor to Republican Gov. Nikki Haley.

In response to an open records request from The State newspaper, DHEC said Thursday that while the board talked about several potential candidates, “no applications were requested or submitted.” The department thought Kitzman was the best person for the position, an agency statement said.

The State newspaper’s request, filed under the Freedom of Information Act, sought copies of job applications for the post vacated Jan. 8 by Catherine Templeton.

But agency spokeswoman Cassandra Harris and Freedom of Information Office director Karla York said they did not have any to provide. Only Kitzman’s resume was provided to the newspaper….

How many more ways can this nomination get weird?

Courson, McElveen to host conservation confab

This came in today from the CVSC. I pass it on in case any of you would like to attend:

Conservation Voters:

Let’s get to work! The legislative session starts today and we are ready.

We hope you will join us for the Senate Briefing: Conversations with Conservationists on January 21st at 10:00 am in Room 105 of the Gressette Building. Hosted by Senators Courson and McElveen, this is an opportunity for members and supporters of SC Conservation Coalition to share their legislative priorities with decision makers.

Your presence makes our voice stronger so please join us for the Briefing and for an informal lunch afterwards at 701 Whaley.  You can let us know if you plan to attend: info@cvsc.org or on Facebook.

Something like this also helps explain, for those confused, why all those Democrats in Shandon keep voting for John Courson…

Krauthammer bravely pushes the Energy Party line

Enjoyed this Charles Krauthammer piece over the weekend:

For 32 years I’ve been advocating a major tax on petroleum. I’ve got as much chance this time around as did Don Quixote with windmills. But I shall tilt my lance once more.

The only time you can even think of proposing a gas tax increase is when oil prices are at rock bottom. When I last suggested the idea six years ago, oil was selling at $40 a barrel. It eventually rose back to $110. It’s nowaround $48. Correspondingly, the price at the pump has fallen in the last three months by more than a dollar to about $2.20 per gallon.

As a result, some in Congress are talking about a 10- or 20-cent hike in the federal tax to use for infrastructure spending. Right idea, wrong policy. The hike should not be 10 cents but $1. And the proceeds should not be spent by, or even entrusted to, the government. They should be immediately and entirely returned to the consumer by means of a cut in the Social Security tax….

A $1 gas tax increase would constrain oil consumption in two ways. In the short run, by curbing driving. In the long run, by altering car-buying habits. A return to gas-guzzling land yachts occurs every time gasoline prices plunge. A high gas tax encourages demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles. Constrained U.S. consumption — combined with already huge increases in U.S. production — would continue to apply enormous downward pressure on oil prices….

Quixotic, yes. But I stand up and cheer whenever anyone has the courage to speak sense on the gas tax.

I don’t know whether his FICA rollback is the best thing to do with the money. I’d like to see some serious investment in infrastructure. But it doesn’t matter. Raising the gas tax and using the money unwisely is actually better than not raising it at all, for the reasons Krauthammer cites.

By the way, in praising Krauthammer for being so Energy Party, I don’t mean to claim he got the idea from me. As he says, he’s been pushing this uncommon sense idea for 32 years. The Energy Party has only been around for a fourth as long.

But of course, the odds against us are as great as ever. Too many on both the left and the right hate the idea of gas tax increases. But at least there’s something afoot in Congress…