Think tank reaches conclusion about land grab by ignoring its own evidence

Wildfire rages near Reno.

A group calling themselves the Western Center for Priorities have come up with the most nonsensical argument yet for why the Western states should not take control of the huge swaths of land now under the control of the federal government.

In a report released today, they say the states can’t afford the cost of fighting wildfires on those lands and point out the cost of fighting wildfires on Forest Service land in New Mexico, Idaho and Montana exceeded those states entire annual budget for law enforcement.

WCP’s conclusion:

“The costs of fighting wildfires are significant and they are on the rise. Land seizure proponents across the West need to carefully explain how they plan to cover the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to protect communities from wildfire – not to mention all of the other land management costs – without the federal government and without burdening state taxpayers. Until this critical question is answered, state land seizure proposals should not be considered by any serious politician.”

They conveniently ignore the evidence in their own report, which is that wildfires have sharply increased across the West precisely because the federal land managers have failed to properly manage the land and reduce the dry fuels that cause the fires in the first place. “Since 1960, the eight largest fire years by acres burned have all occurred since 2000,” the report says.

Graphic by Western Center for Priorities showing wildfire cost increases.

Graphic by Western Center for Priorities showing wildfire cost increases.

Another problem is that WCP only looked at costs for the Forest Service, but in Nevada the Forest Service controls only 8 percent of state land, while the Bureau of Land Management controls 68 percent.

Money spent on firefighting, according to WCP.

Money spent on firefighting, according to WCP.

An article in The New American flatly accused: “Wildfires occur naturally and have always been a part of the seasonal cycle in the West, but the size and intensity of the fires have dramatically increased in recent years due, in large measure, to the gross mismanagement of the national forests by the U.S. Forest Service and the incessant lawsuits of radical environmentalists that have thwarted all reasonable attempts at proper forest management.”

The federal government would not have to spend so much on fire suppression if it properly managed the land in the first place, allowing grazing, logging, cutting fire breaks and letting small fires burn and reduce the fuel that causes the huge blazes. States and private land owners would be more likely to protect the forests and prairies and the wildlife there.



All the news that’s fit to print … or not

On the Las Vegas newspaper’s website there is an AP news story about U.S. journalist James Foley being beheaded in Iraq by ISIS. The story was posted Tuesday at 5:22 p.m. (probably EDT), well before the paper’s press start.

But in print today: Not a word.

James Foley photo on newspaper website. (AP file photo)

Frame grab from video of beheading. (ABC News)

You haven’t seen ‘seething’ until you’ve seen Harry seethe

Harry Reid seethed. (NYT photo)

It was the seethe that launched 37,000 seethes, so far. That’s the number of hits you get when you do an online search for “harry reid seethed.”

The New York Times started the seethe eruption with a little item about Obama meeting with four top members of Congress to discuss the unraveling situation in Iraq.

But with in the Republican minority leader, Mitch McConnell, sitting nearby, Harry Reid, Nevada’s senior senator and majority leader of the Senate, wanted to talk about how Republicans were blocking confirmation of Obama nominees, “spitefully blocking,” as the Times recounted.

This is what the Times said happened next:

Mr. Obama quickly dismissed the matter.

“You and Mitch work it out,” Mr. Obama said coolly, cutting off any discussion.

Mr. Reid seethed quietly for the rest of the meeting, according to four separate accounts provided by people who spoke with him about it. After his return to the Capitol that afternoon, Mr. Reid told other senators and his staff members that he was astonished by how disengaged the president seemed.

Las Vegas newspaper columnist John L. Smith concluded that without Reid acting as Obama’s “Luca Brasi to guard his back, Obama’s presidency sleeps with the fishes.” Yes, I had to look it up, too. Luca Brasi was the Godfather’s enforcer in the Mario Puzo novels.

In the Sun section insert, cartoonist Mike Smith got into the act:

Mike Smith cartoon today.

Frankly, if you’ve never seen Reid seethe, you’ve not see championship-level seething.

It has been said often that, while former Sen. Richard Bryan woke up in the morning wondering if he’d shaken everybody’s hand, Reid wakes up in the morning wondering if he’s gotten back at all his enemies.

Reid truly has been Obama’s enforcer. He passed ObamaCare with the Cornhusker Kickback and the Louisiana Purchase. He nuked the filibuster so Obama could stack the courts that will hear cases about ObamaCare. He has mocked the House suit over Obama’s unconstitutional waivers of law. He has attacked the Koch brothers at every turn. He has 350 House-passed bills sitting on his desk untouched. He “fills the amendment tree” to block GOP amendments to bills.

And, of course, Mitt Romney didn’t pay taxes for 10 years and Reid doesn’t know how any Hispanic could be a Republican.

After being snubbed will Reid be as willing act as Obama’s enforcer?

After November it may not matter, if he is no longer the majority leader?



EPA intends to overlay ozone pea with very expensive regulatory mattresses

Just think of the Environmental Protection Agency as the princess and ozone as the pea, and you will get some idea of the scope of the problem.

In 2008, the EPA set the ozone standard for air quality at 75 parts per billion (ppb). That’s parts per billion. Think of 1 ppb as the equivalent of one drop of ink in the tanker of the largest gasoline tanker truck.

But now the EPA signaling that it intends to cut the standard to 70 or 60 ppb — five or 15 drops fewer — even though the states have not yet fully implemented the 2008 standard.

The agency claims researchers estimate that this would reduce annual ozone-related premature deaths by 8,000 — a highly debatable conclusion.

One of the most frequently cited benefits of reducing ozone is to children with asthma.

But a Heartland report several years noted that the incidence of asthma had doubled over the previous 25 years while ozone levels were being sharply reduced. “A government-funded study of thousands of children in California reported that children who grew up in the highest-ozone areas had a 30 percent lower risk of developing asthma, when compared with children in low-ozone areas,” the report noted, adding, “While ozone can trigger asthma attacks, the effect is small. According to estimates by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), eliminating virtually all human-caused ozone in California — where millions of people live in areas with by far the highest ozone levels in the country — would reduce asthma-related emergency room (ER) visits by only 1.8 percent.”

Perhaps the most jaw-dropping aspect of this proposed regulation is what those nine mattresses for the princess will cost.

A study by NERA Economic Consulting, commissioned by the National Association of Manufacturers, estimates the lower ozone standard would cost the economy $270 billion a year — the most expensive regulation ever imposed on American businesses — and eliminate the equivalent of 2.9 million jobs a year through 2040.

The price of residential electricity would increase 15 percent on average across the nation, while the price of natural gas would jump 32 percent.

The study said that manufacturers in nonattainment areas will not be able to expand operations unless another businesses in the area reduces emissions or closes its doors. Economic growth in these regions would nearly come to a standstill.

Nevada, which has been largely unaffected by the ozone standard, would be impacted even in rural counties.

The study says the Silver State’s gross state product would be reduced by $19 billion 2017 to 2040, costing 11,224 jobs a year.

And that is assuming the standard is even achievable. NERA Economic Consulting notes the EPA has identified only 39 percent of the controls needed to meet the standard. The remaining 61 percent has yet to be identified, which leaves the firm to suggest this would likely result in early scrapping of plants, equipment and vehicles, huge capital cost.

Compliance will mean shutting down or modifying power plants, factories, heavy-duty vehicles, farm equipment, off-road vehicles and passenger cars. For Nevadans it will cost $23 million more to own and operate vehicles.


That was then.


This could be the future.


“Now is not the time to sacrifice millions of jobs and trillions of dollars in pursuit of dubious benefits and unreachable targets. The EPA should put on the brakes and allow the existing ozone standards to be implemented,” argues Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, in an op-ed column in The Wall Street Journal recently.

Your tax dollars in action: Killing birds and bats by the thousands

Some self-styled environmentalists love to boast about their efforts to save rare animals from the ravages of grazing cattle, oil and gas exploration, mining and off-road recreation, not to mention the planet itself from global warming. They are willing to spend any amount of your money to make it happen.

So, please pay no attention to the stories out today about wind turbines near Ely killing bats or the thermal solar plants just across the border in Invanpah scorching birds in flight.

The 66 turbines at the Spring Valley wind farm killed 566 bats in 2013, according to today’s Las Vegas newspaper. To mitigate this slaughter, the wind farm operators have agreed to raise the turbines’ “cut-in” wind speed from 7 mph to 11 mph. The bats apparently don’t fly as often in higher speed winds.

That will mean the turbines will operate even less often, even though in 2013 they operated only 18.8 percent of the time, one of the lowest ratios in the country, according to Wind Action. But fear not for the owners. They are paid 9.8 cents per kWh by NV Energy, about three times the cost of natural gas-fired electricity. The state has a renewable power portfolio standard that requires NV Energy to obtain 25 percent of its power from renewables by 2025. And the wind company gets a 2.2-cent per kWh production tax credit from federal taxes. Ratepayers and taxpayers make it profitable to kill bats.

Meanwhile, The Associated Press has picked up on a story reported by The Wall Street Journal in February.

Bright Source solar mirrors at Ivanpah power plant.

It is reported that federal wildlife officials went to the BrightSource Energy thermal solar plant in Ivanpah this past year and observed birds being scorched by focused rays of the sun — at temperatures approaching 1,000 degrees — an average of one every two minutes. Some of the birds streamed to the ground, leaving a contrail of smoke.

Bright Source estimated it kills 1,000 birds a year, but the Center for Biological Diversity estimates the number is closer to 28,000.

Ivanpah received a $1.6 billion loan, guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Energy. Your tax dollars cooking birds.

Bright Source wants to build more solar thermal plants but some have suggested they use photovoltaic panels instead.

Well, it turns out water fowl sometimes think those are water and try to land. Some are killed on impact. Others can’t take flight unless they are in water.

Never mind the number of species killed on the ground when thousands of acres are leveled for panels, mirrors and wind turbines.

As for saving the planet, there has been no warming of the globe in 17 years.

Sen. Harry Reid opposed Yucca Mountain, though nuclear hasn’t killed many animals. He opposed coal, also fairly safe, but he is all for solar and wind projects paving over the desert.

Sometimes an environmentalist can’t win.

When your own government is campaigning to raise costs

Raise your hand if you think the role of federal agencies is to carry out the policies enacted by Congress and the president.

Not so fast, Buddy.

Take a gander at the top item on a Department of Labor newsletter sent out this week:

From cities, counties and states to local businesses, momentum is building to raise the national minimum wage. U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, along with Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, Director of the National Economic Council Jeff Zients, and Bob Hartzell, CEO of the pet store chain Chuck & Don’s, discussed the issue and highlighted a new White House report during a news media conference call on Aug. 12. As the report outlines, since early 2013 — when President Obama first called for a minimum wage increase — 13 states and the District of Columbia have passed increases to their minimum wages, which will benefit about 7 million workers. During the call, Perez shared his personal, on-the-ground insight into the broad-based support for higher wages, including a visit to Hartzell’s Minnesota store. “Businesses that are paying at or above the minimum wage are doing it not just because it’s the right thing to do by their workers, but also because it’s the smart thing to do for their business,” said Perez. “They know that higher pay improves morale and productivity, while reducing training and turnover expenses. And that improves the bottom line.”

Hardly subtle. Obama has proposed raising the minimum wage to $10.10 and the DOL is in full campaign mode.

This is illustrated by the couple of dozen YouTube videos the agency has posted online pointedly calling for raising the minimum wage, such as this one:

They pay no heed no stinking Hatch Act, the one that prohibits employees in the executive branch of the federal government from engaging in partisan political activity.

Speaking of Minnesota, which raised its minimum wage to $8 per hour, with further increases until it hits $9.50 in 2017, Watchdog Wire reports the reaction to one restaurant owner who highlighted the increased cost on the checks for his customers.

The owner is adding a 35-cent “min wage fee” to his checks.

The owner told a local newspaper the wage hike will cost $10,000 this year. That’s $10,000 passed along to his customers, some of whom are surely on fixed incomes.

Some reactions online have nasty. The Watchdog report says:

Last week, a patron posted a photo of a receipt on Facebook and complained about the 35-cent “minimum wage fee” on the bill. The photo quickly went viral, shooting the Oasis Café straight into the center center of the national debate over the minimum wage.

Talking heads like MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough talked about it. The Today Show did a segment about the cafe’s new fee, and thousands have weighed in with comments on social media. …

That lesson, in the form of an extra fraction of a dollar, has created a firestorm of controversy on the Internet, particularly among the very people who supported the higher wage, but apparently do not want to be forced to see the consequences of such policy.

Bluestem Prairie, a liberal political blog in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, was one of the first to pick up the story last week. It labeled the restaurant’s new fee “tacky.

On his national show, Scarborough said he understood how difficult running a small business like a restaurant can be, but then pivoted to criticize the Oasis Café’s new fee.

With the minimum wage as low, historically, as it is right now, you might not want to advertise your contempt for raising it, on the bill,” he said.

His co-host, Thomas Roberts, said he would rather see restaurants raise the price of food instead of putting the extra fee on the bill.

It seems like it’s a revenge tactic,” he said.

I thought these people were for transparency. Apparently not.



Newspaper column: Bills to turn over federal land to local governments advance

Both of Nevada’s congressmen who represent the rural areas — Mark Amodei in the north and Steven Horsford in the south — put out verbatim press releases heralding the passage out of the House Natural Resources Committee by unanimous consent a package of seven bills that could have major economic impact on several communities if ever signed into law, as reported in this week’s newspaper column, available online at The Ely Times, the Elko Daily Free Press and the Mesquite Local News.

The same set of bills passed the same committee in January by a vote of 29-14, though there reportedly has been some tweaking of the bills since then.

The press releases said the bipartisan support clears the way for the legislation to be brought to the House floor in September as a non-controversial suspension bill.

For his part Amodei was quoted as saying, “These are community-driven lands measures that will create jobs without cost to the federal taxpayer. For the second time in two years, the eyes of Northern Nevada turn to the Senate.”

Pumpkin Hollw

While the congressman from northern Nevada was not so gauche as to spell out what he meant by that remark, allow us to explain.

The Senate is under the leadership of Nevada’s senior senator, Harry Reid, who has not deigned it a priority to push various versions of these bills, including ones he and Sen. Dean Heller have sponsored over on the Senate side.

In fact, when last one of the bills in question progressed to the point of actually being voted on, Reid threw a monkey wrench into the works. What is now called H.R. 696, the Lyon County Economic Development and Conservation Act, would allow the town of Yerington to buy, at market value, 12,500 acres of federal land adjacent to the Pumpkin Hollow copper mine for an industrial park. It is estimated the project could create 800 to 1,000 permanent jobs and about 500 jobs during the construction phase.

But Reid demanded that the bill include designation of 48,000 acres of wilderness, to be called the Wovoka Wilderness Area, a proposal the local residents had previously rejected. it now does.

The Yerington bill now has languished in Congress for six years.

Other bills in the package involve land in Humboldt County, Storey County, Carlin, Fernley, Elko and the Fallon Naval Air Station. That last land deal has been pending since 1991.

Harry Reid should take a little time between rants about the Koch brothers to put these bills to a Senate vote.

Read the entire column at Ely, Elko or Mesquite.

Reid discusses Yerington land bill … in December 2012: