By Daniel J. Weiss and Matthew Kasper
By December 16 the Environmental Protection Agency will promulgate its final rule requiring coal-fired power plants to reduce their emissions of mercury, arsenic, acid gases, and other toxic chemicals. The EPA notes that these safeguards will reduce premature deaths by 17,000 people annually as well as prevent 12,000 hospital visits and 120,000 cases of aggravated asthma. The economic benefits could outweigh the costs by up to $14-to-$1.
Yet a concerted cadre of big dirty utilities and coal companies are doing everything in their power to scuttle or delay these essential safeguards 21 years after the Clean Air Act required them.
The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, or ACCCE, is a coal industry coalition leading the charge to block the mercury and air toxics reduction rules. These efforts include spending $35 million on misleading television ads. Its members include major utilities such as Southern Company and DTE Energy. Huge coal companies are also major ACCCE supporters, including Arch Coal and Peabody. Other members include railroads that haul coal.
ACCCE is a vocal opponent of the air toxics rule for utilities. They even have a ?countdown clock? for the days until the safeguards are issued. Its members are primarily concerned that the air toxics rule ?is the most expensive rule the EPA has ever written for coal-fueled power plants.?
But this claim ignores the fact that the 22 ACCCE companies have nearly $18 billion in cash reserves, which should substantially ease their ability to withstand any economic impact of cleanup.
A Federal Reserve report released this month documented the massive cash reserves held by American corporations. The Wall Street Journal reported:
Corporations have a higher share of cash on their balance sheets than at any time in nearly half a century, as businesses build up buffers rather than invest in new plants or hiring.
The ACCCE companies are part of this cash-rich phenomenon. An analysis of the ACCCE member companies? 10K forms filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission determined that they had $17.8 billion in ?cash and cash equivalents? on hand at the end of the last reporting period on September 30, 2011. (Two companies? last reports were from earlier dates.)
The nine ACCCE utilities that would have to reduce their emission of mercury, arsenic, and other cancer-causing pollutants have combined cash reserves of nearly $7 billion. The cash reserves of these nine companies is not much less than the $11 billion that the EPA estimates that all coal-fired power plants will spend to meet these new pollution-reduction standards. Seven of these companies are just a small portion of the 220 investor-owned utilities that produce nearly three-quarters of America?s electricity. The other two companies are cooperatives.
Companies hold cash for various purposes. But whatever the reason these companies hold large reserves, they strongly suggest that the utilities possess ample financial resources available to invest in pollution-reduction equipment essential to protect public health.
And investing cash in pollution control will create jobs. An analysis by the University of Massachusetts determined that the air toxics utility rule combined with reductions of acid rain and smog pollutants from power plants under the cross-state air pollution rule would create 1.5 million jobs over five years.
Coal producers and railroads, too, are sitting on mountains of cash reserves to cushion any dip in coal consumption as some utilities rely more on cleaner fuels after the mercury rules take effect. Our analysis found that the ACCCE companies in these industries held a total of $5.4 billion and $5 billion in cash reserves, respectively. These resources are from seven coal companies and four railroads.
Coal-fired power plants are one of the largest sources of uncontrolled harmful air pollution in the United States. The EPA determined that:
Power plants are the largest source of several harmful pollutants. They are responsible for 50 percent of mercury emissions, over 50 percent of acid gas emissions, and about 25 percent of toxic metal emissions in the United States.
Yet ACCCE?s member companies want to continue jeopardizing the public?s health with this unfettered pollution. They have ample cash reserves to easily withstand any economic impact of pollution reductions. ACCCE and its companies are furiously pressuring Congress to block or delay the air toxics reduction rules. Congress must ignore their pleadings and allow these long-overdue health protections to take effect next month.
Conservatives have been obsessed with the trumped up scandal surrounding a botched ATF operation known as “Fast and Furious,” which involved selling weapons to Mexican drug cartels, but Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) took the conspiracy mongering to new levels while campaigning in Iowa this week, as only she can. Bachmann suggested that the Obama administration carried out the operation in order to “create more violence,” so they could turn around and demand gun control. ?The scuttlebutt is that the reason why they gave them these guns is to create more violence on the border so that President Obama can call for gun control,? she told a crowd in Storm Lake, the Des Moines Register reports.
Rep. David Dreier (R-CA), chair of the powerful House Rules Committee, announced today that he would vote against the proposed Balanced Budget Amendment. Although Dreier supported a very similar amendment in 1995, he now believes that decision was an error. “I was wrong,” Dreier said. “Two short years later, we balanced the federal budget. . . . [W]e were able to balance the federal budget without touching that inspired document, the U.S. Constitution.” Dreier is likely to retire after this term due to a redistricting map that makes his reelection bid much more difficult. Regardless of why he decided to break with his party on this vote, however, he made the correct decision. Balancing the budget immediately through spending cuts, as congressional Republicans suggest, “would throw about 15 million more people out of work, double the unemployment rate from 9 percent to approximately 18 percent, and cause the economy to shrink by about 17 percent instead of growing by an expected 2 percent.”
Bank of America and company ... funding "small businesses" that make $20 million per year.The numbers are just staggering.
Bank of America and Citibank, who collectively control about 20% of all deposits in the country, only made .6% of all SBA 7A loans in 2010.
What the hell? Those numbers are insane! Why do we bank with institutions that have completely abdicated any semblance of supporting small businesses? And it's not just BoA and Citi.
If you take the top 25 banks in the country as a whole, they control about 60% of all deposits and make only 20% of all SBA loans.
So then you wonder ... who provides the other 80 percent of small business loans? Credit unions and local community banks, that's who.
If you want economic revitalization in your community, then support those institutions that support your local small businesses.
Move your money (and debt), and encourage other individuals, organizations, churches, businesses and cities to do the same.
Update: When the Big Banks talk about lending to "small businesses," this is what they're talking about:
"The general rule is that when larger banks release their small-business lending statistics, [they are referring to] companies with revenues of $20 million or less," says Kassar. "And that, in my opinion, is not a small business." Kassar says data shows probably the vast majority of small-business loans made by big banks is to companies with revenues of $10 million to $20 million, shutting out the smaller companies.
So in reality, not so small.
The austerity thugs prepare to rumble.
Ok, so there's maybe one reason it would be bad if the Super Congress fails. I'm just going to let Charlie Pierce speak for me on the news that the Gang of Six is waiting in the wings for a Super Congress failure.
Oh, good: Just when I thought that the SuperCommittee would fail, thereby justifying the opinion held by both Newt Gingrich and me that it was a dumb idea, and we'd all be saved from the kind of deficit fetishism and austerity crapola that's currently romping and stomping all over Europe, along comes another uprising from the gang-culture afflicting the Congress. This time, The Gang of Six (Do they make up jackets and stuff for this kind of thing? Adopt gang colors?) has come up with its own bailout plan to make sure that actual economic relief doesn't make the mistake of occurring on their watch. This one includes a 2:1 ratio of spending cuts to tax increases, which makes Kent Conrad, Michael Bennet, and Mark Warner very, very proud of themselves. When your house catches on fire, depend on them to bring the marshmallows. It also means, of course, that the plan doesn't stand the truth's chance in Eric Cantor's mouth of ever passing muster with the vandals on the House side.
What else is there to say?
Retired Philadelphia police captain Ray Lewis was arrested at the Occupy Wall Street protests this morning outside of the New York Stock exchange.(laurenthorpe/Twitgoo)Lewis has been a part of the protests for several days. Here is a video of Lewis being interviewed by a fellow protester the day after Occupy Wall Street was forcibly evicted from Zuccotti Park. In the video, Lewis promises that "as soon as I'm let out of jail, I'll be right back here, and you'll have to arrest me again."
If I've been a bit AWOL from the front page lately, it's because everyone at the FDL Membership Program has been workingnon-stop to secure OccupySupply goods and training members to be liaisons to distribute them. Glenn Greenwald has a great piece up on[...]
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WASHINGTON, Nov 17, 2011 (GlobeNewswire via COMTEX) -- ONE, the global anti-poverty organization co-founded by Bono, and POLITICO, the nation's leading source for political news, announced today that the two organizations will co-host evening events at the Republican National Convention during the week of Aug. 27, 2012 in Tampa, Fla., and at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., the week of Sept. 3, 2012.
The events will be held the Wednesday night of each convention week and feature performances by well-known musicians, bringing together some of the conventions' most high-profile attendees.
"The conventions are great opportunities for people to connect -- or reconnect -- around some of the most important issues confronting our nation and the world," said Sheila Nix, U.S. executive director of ONE. "Our national convention activities are an extension of our nonpartisan ONE VOTE 2012 activities that engage all of the presidential candidates on issues of importance to ONE. Many of the people attending make the decisions that make the news -- and we are delighted to partner with such a dynamic news organization as POLITICO."
Boasting one of the largest teams of political reporters, POLITICO will have a prominent presence at both conventions, offering several events and complete coverage online, in print and via mobile devices.
"We're thrilled to partner with ONE on what will undoubtedly be the most exciting set of events at the conventions," said Roy Schwartz, Vice President of POLITICO. "With the combined power of ONE and POLITICO, these events will be the ideal setting for politicos, artists and convention-goers to come together."
The events are by invitation only.
ONE is an advocacy organization dedicated to the fight against extreme poverty and preventable disease around the world, particularly in Africa. Backed by more than 2.5 million members, we work with government leaders to support proven, cost-effective solutions to save lives and build sustainable futures.
POLITICO is a nonpartisan, Washington-based political journalism organization that serves as the one-stop shop for the fastest, deepest coverage of the president, Congress and the 2012 presidential race. POLITICO's journalists break news and drive conversation about the White House, Capitol Hill and Washington lobbying, plus the intersection of politics with Wall Street, the media and personalities.
Disclaimer: ONE and POLITICO are delighted to partner on great events at the DNC and RNC 2012 conventions. This partnership does not constitute an endorsement of the other or its activities. No proceeds from these events will be used to support any lobbying.
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This clip from Meet the Press' webshow "PRESS Pass" leaves me somewhat conflicted. On one hand, Jack Abramoff accusing others of corruption is akin to Karl Rove calling out someone else for rigging elections. On the other hand though I can't disagree with a word Abramoff says about Newt Gingrich. From anyone else still in the Republican Party such comments would likely kill Gingrich's chances at the nomination. As it is, even with Abramoff's checkered past, they're still devastating.
It's also telling that Villager David Gregory has such a hard time grasping that which seems obvious to the rest of us.
GREGORY: Transparency of government is still an issue. It's an issue on the campaign trail and Newt Gingrich, a former Speaker is now caught up in this with Freddie Mac, a large housing giant controlled by the government. He claimed he got $300,000 to be a consultant to them. Bloomberg's reporting was well over a million dollars, providing strategic counseling. What do you make of all that?
ABRAMOFF: Well, this is exactly what I'm talking about. People who come to Washington who have public service and they cash in on it. And they use their public service and their access to make money, and unfortunately Newt Gingrich is one of them who's done it. But far too many of them do it and one of the reforms I propose in my book is to close permanently the door, the revolving door, between public service and cashing in as a lobbyist.
GREGORY: Now I'll ask you more specifically about that in a moment, but let me stick with Gringrich, because of course you're operating at a time there when he's in power.
GREGORY: Is there more to even the Gingrich era that he was part of, that will become a bigger part of this campaign debate, and should it?
ABRAMOFF: Well, I don't know if he'll survive this, to be honest with you, this is a very big thing.
ABRAMOFF: Because he is doing, he's engaged in the exact kind of corruption that America disdains. The very things that anger the Tea Party movement and the Occupy Wall Street movement and everybody who is not in a movement and watches Washington and says why are these guys getting all this money, why do they all become so rich, why do they have these advantages? Unfortunately Newt seems to play right into it.
GREGORY: You call that corruption though?
GREGORY: That's a heavy charge.
ABRAMOFF: Well that... what is it? It's corruption. At the end of the day, I say in the book, I believe now, although I didn't believe then unfortunately, that any provision of favor or any provision of anything to members of Congress and their staff is bribery. And any cashing in on it by them coming out later is corruption.
GREGORY: And he, you, would make the case that he's catching it as a former Speaker, being able to get that kind of contracts.
ABRAMOFF: I know he says that they paid him as a historian to give him a historic lesson, but I'm unaware of any history professor being paid that much money to give someone a history lesson.
From early this morning to now, Occupy Wall Street has been out demonstrating as close to the New York Stock Exchange as they could get and then in Liberty Square later in the morning. The action has been a part of November 17, a massive day of[...]
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