Archive | April 2013

Councillors grant wind mast permission

The application by SSE Renewables, one of the shareholders in the 457 megawatt wind farm project, had attracted four objections.

During a short hearing in Lerwick Town Hall on Tuesday morning, James Mackenzie of anti-Viking group Sustainable Shetland told the four councillors present that planning conditions had previously been breached when the applicant used the wrong access route.

“In the event contractors were observed accessing the mast site from the A970 close to Petta Water and an occupied red throated diver breeding site on two occasions,” Mackenzie said.

“It is therefore of great concern to me that conditions or recommendations made by the planning authority may be ignored again to the detriment of wildlife.”

Viking Energy’s project officer David Thomson said the data mast was one of many the project had across the site.

As the wind farm is unlikely to be built before 2018/19, collecting further wind data was necessary to make the right decisions on turbine acquisition and financial modeling, he said.

The recommendation to renew the temporary planning permission was then moved by councillor Drew Ratter and seconded by Steven Coutts.

Former Viking director Ratter had earlier declared a non-pecuniary interest as a trustee of Shetland Charitable Trust, a major shareholder in the Viking project, but decided to participate in the planning meeting.

Committee member and former Sustainable Shetland chairman Billy Fox said he could not take part, as it was he who had presented the group’s original objection back in April 2010.

After the meeting Thomson said: “We’re satisfied with the result and are always happy to go through the correct process so everyone can have their say.

It is important to us to have continual wind data to cover the period until the project is up and running.

“At that point the temporary masts will be decommissioned and the permanent masts that already have been approved as part of last year’s wind farm consent will take over.”

Mackenzie said: “I was not surprised by the decision today, be we nevertheless thought it worthwhile to bring to the attention of the committee and the wider public that this temporary planning permission has conditions attached which cannot be complied with.

“One of the conditions is for the re-instatement of the site after the removal of the mast. This is impossible as the mast will be replaced by a large section of the planned wind farm.”

The wind farm project received planning consent from Scottish ministers in April last year, a decision that is currently being challenged by Sustainable Shetland in the Court of Session.


NYPD Takes Down Cocaine-Delivery Ring

Dozens of alleged drug dealers who delivered cocaine to investment bankers, college students and public housing residents have been arrested in an NYPD sting operation, officials said.

In total, 41 members of three drug crews operating out of city public housing in Manhattan were indicted. They offered doorstep delivery, NYPD officials and state prosecutors said Friday.

“As this indictment reveals, residents of Manhattan today can get nearly everything delivered,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance. “From dinner to dry cleaning, and even cocaine.”

The crews used livery drivers to make deliveries of cocaine, which had been marked up to more than twice the normal street value, Vance said.

Customers could buy small packets of cocaine for as little as $120 or pay $5,600 for four ounces, officials said.

“At a minimum, $1.2 million worth of cocaine was sold over the course of the two-year investigation,” NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said.

“Cocaine was delivered by runners who were dropped at customers’ doorsteps by a network of livery cabdrivers who were also in on the action,” he said.

Asked whether drug deliveries were made to investment houses or locations on Wall Street, Kelly did not offer specifics. He said the investigation into the ring’s various customers was continuing. He said there would be more arrests.

Vance said wiretapped conversations indicated that there was discussion about using superstorm Sandy rent-rebate money to buy drugs, but there was no evidence of that actually happening.

Four people were charged under the state drug kingpin law, which carries a maximum life prison term. They include Adrian “Ace” Rivera, 24, of Baruch House in Manhattan, who allegedly sold cocaine to undercover detectives and was popular on social media sites flashing money, Kelly said.

Rivera’s activity led investigators to target the three drug rings: Blocc Boyz, Money Boyz and Cash is King, Kelly said.

A key to making the case was the use of search warrants to get information from Facebook and other social media accounts, said Kelly, who explained that most of those arrested, including a number of young women, knew each other from high school.


Attorney general vs. Creeks now in federal court

An attempt by Alabama’s attorney general to shut down three casinos operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians has shifted to federal court, where a judge will have to decide if the state’s top prosecutor can challenge the tribe’s gambling.

Attorney General Luther Strange initially filed suit in Elmore County, where the tribe operates one of its three casinos. The suit was filed on Feb. 19, the same day the attorney general raided and shut down the privately operated VictoryLand casino in Macon County.

Strange contended the tribe’s casinos in Wetumpka, Montgomery and Atmore were a public nuisance operating illegal gambling machines. The tribe argued that it is under federal regulation rather than state regulation, and it got the suit moved to federal court in Montgomery.

In federal court, the attorney general is arguing that the tribe is operating games that exceed any authority it may have under federal or state law. The tribe contends that bingo is legal in some Alabama counties, and the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory act allows it to operate any gambling that is legal in the state. It maintains that its games are simply electronic versions of bingo and are allowed under federal law. It is asking U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins to dismiss the suit on grounds that Strange lacks standing to sue.

“To nobody’s surprise, Attorney General Strange raises claims that are without merit and have been rejected numerous times in various forums,” Robert McGhee, government relations adviser for the tribe, said in a statement.

Strange’s deputy solicitor general, Andrew Brasher, said the attorney general is pleased the tribe got the suit moved to federal court.

“This procedural move required the tribal defendants to acknowledge that federal law gives the state a claim against them and to waive several defenses that they could have raised,” he said.

In papers filed Thursday, the attorney general argues that the games are slot machines, which are illegal in Alabama and, unlike a game of bingo, they can be played by touching a button once.

McGhee is confident the case will end with the federal court ruling the state has no jurisdiction under federal law. “The real question is when is the attorney general going to cease ignoring federal law and attempting to undermine the inherent right of the Poarch Band to govern itself,” he said.

With the attorney general’s crackdown on VictoryLand and other privately operated casinos, the Poarch Creek’s three casinos are now the largest gambling operations in the state. The attorney general and other law enforcement agencies have raided privately operated gambling halls, but Strange has taken the courtroom approach with Alabama’s only federally recognized Indian tribe because of the status it has under federal law.

Delta College training machinists to meet manufacturing demand

A recent survey of manufacturers in the Great Lakes Bay Region shows they are having trouble finding qualified machinists.

That news came as a surprise to Kathy Conklin, executive director of the Great Lakes Bay Manufacturers’ Association, who compiled the survey in 2012. The 27 companies that responded said all were seeking qualified skilled workers and that they’d need 639 operators and 443 machinists within five years.

“We know there is a great demand,” Conklin said.

Delta College hopes to meet that demand with its accelerated computer numerical control, or CNC, machinist program. The next session begins in May, and spaces for students are filling up, said Harvey Schneider, Delta’s Skilled Trades liaison specialist.

Schneider said manufacturers often are looking for entry level workers with a few years experience, yet those people typically have jobs. The Delta program helps others learn a skill set to find employment as well, he said.

Delta’s 11-week program immerses students in the world of a CNC machinist, with four 8-hour days in the classroom and one day spent job shadowing at an area manufacturer each week.

The accelerated program, Schneider said, is different than Delta’s Fast Start programs, which are designed with a specific employer in mind.

Students receive college credit and a certificate of completion for the accelerated CNC program, and can go on to earn an advanced CNC certificate or skilled trades associate degree.

Operators and machinists work locally for companies like Emcor, Bay Cast and Fullerton Tool, that produce pieces for larger machines or devices in industries ranging from aerospace to medical.

Interested students can attend an informational session from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 16, in room N012 at Delta College, 1961 Delta Road in Bay County’s Frankenlust Township. Delta is set to run four sections of the program, including one that will run from 4 p.m. to midnight, Schneider said. The cost for the program and books starts at $2,500. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer-controlled machine tool operators earn a median wage of $35,580 annually, and as much as $52,850 a year.

Of the 22 students who completed the first session last year, 10 got jobs and seven returned to Delta the next fall for classes, said program coordinator Terry Morse.

Morse said manufacturers where students are shadowing are even offering students jobs before they complete the program. “Companies from Oscoda to Genesee County are starting to call us,” Morse said.

Morse and Schneider explained students are learning the skills employers are demanding, and are being taught by instructors working in the field.

“It’s pretty exciting,” said Conklin from the Manufacturers’ Association. “We are starting to build a pipeline that really works.”

Bullington Cross wind farm

Plans to build a gigantic wind farm on Hampshire farmland have been submitted – much to the anger of local residents.

EDF Energy Renewables has put forward an application to Winchester City, Basingstoke and Deane and Test Valley councils for 14 turbines near Bullington Cross, north of Winchester.

The original proposal for 17 turbines – towering 126m over the countryside – has been reduced by three, but residents remain angry.

Douglas Paterson, chairman of Keep Hampshire Green campaign group, said: “It’s an appalling prospect for the beautiful Hampshire countryside.” We think this is an appalling thing to do to your landscape and to your neighbours.

This is all about money and people are becoming increasingly aware that this is a subsidy scam. This isn’t about energy or serving the land, it’s about harvesting subsidies and getting the snout in the trough.

These turbines will be the height of Salisbury cathedral. So 14 of them with moving parts means the visual impact will be for a radius of about 20 miles.

Everyone needs to hold fire until the application is officially registered, then we need as many objections as possible. “I think we have a fair chance of winning this thing. We hope we can get it thrown out at the first planning committee.”

The plans have been submitted after the completion of onsite surveys and consultation with residents and stakeholders. The scheme has been strongly opposed by people in the Sutton Scotney and Micheldever areas.

Under the proposals, seven of the turbines are within the Winchester City Council area, four in Basingstoke and Deane and three in Test Valley.

The proposed wind farm would be capable of producing up to 28MW of low carbon energy.

Darren Cuming, onshore wind development manager at EDF Energy Renewables, said: “Following consultation with local residents and the completion of detailed environmental studies, we submitted our planning application to the councils concerned.

EDF Energy Renewables is committed to developing new low carbon electricity generating capacity to maintain energy supply, tackle climate change, and maintain affordable energy prices.

“We believe that the site identified at Bullington Cross is an excellent opportunity to establish a wind farm that can contribute towards these requirements.”

EDF Energy Renewables already has over 500MW of onshore and offshore wind farm projects in operation or currently in construction across the country.

Financial Health Is The Focus For The Month Of April

How are you doing financially? Are you able to live comfortably; able to take vacations to faraway places? Or are you just getting by — barely able to meet your basic needs: housing, food, clothing, transportation and medical?

Because economic security is an important aspect of health and well-being, Financial Health is the focus for April in your Passport to Happiness Calendar — and the topic for the next Passport to Happiness event at the center April 17 from 3 to 4:30 p.m.

Carol Mauser, from the Aging and People with Disabilities office, and Marvin Pohl from the Area Agency on Aging will explain and clarify different services available to support older adults including Qualified Medicare Benefits, SHIBA, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Oregon Project Independence.

A few examples include evaluating your health insurance annually, which means for us “mature” folks to always review our current medical plans during Medicare Open Enrollment in October; borrow instead of buy (The Dalles Wasco County Library has a large selection of popular videos to lend) and to start hand washing instead of dry cleaning one shirt a month (I’ve never heard of anyone dry-cleaning their shirts! But then, I never knew you didn’t ask for Thousand Island dressing in an Italian restaurant.)

The center‘s first spring day-trip is to WAAAM (Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum) in Hood River April 13. That is the second Saturday of the month when WAAAM fires up their aeroplanes and autos so you can experience what it was like in the “good-old-days.” The cost is $10 for admission, (but I have four two-for-the-price-of-one coupons, so for the first eight folks to sign up admission is only $5) plus $7.50 for round-trip transportation. Trip capacity is 12. We will leave the Center at 9 a.m. and return by 4 p.m.

OSU Extension, in cooperation with CGCC, is offering Mastery of Aging Well in a five session series on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon at The Dalles CGCC campus starting April 18. Each session will include a 45-minute video presentation, plus an expert speaker. The first session is on Memory Difficulties, followed by Depression in Later Life, Medication Jeopardy, Food as Medicine, and Physical Exercise in Later Life.

And before the shallow water passes away to let the deep sea roll, playing tonight at the center is “Martin and Friends.” Next week, Truman will be serenading you with Country Gold. Music begins at 7 p.m.

The answer to last week’s “Remember When” question was General Douglas MacArthur who at his farewell speech before Congress spoke the famous lines “old soldiers never die; they just fade away.” (And this week’s winner is Sandy Goforth.)

This week’s question is about a common antiseptic from the 1950’s which is seldom used anymore. Before my mother would paint my cuts or scrapes with this orange liquid, I can still remember grimacing, because I knew it was going to sting like the devil.

Council backs wind farm plans

A WIND farm spanning an area larger than Inverness is a step closer to being given the go ahead after Highland Council gave its backing to the scheme.

It is now for the Scottish Government to decide whether to grant planning permission to Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) for the 67-turbine farm at Stronelairg on the Garrogie Estate, near Fort Augustus. It would be the biggest wind farms in the Highlands if approved.

Councillors in Inverness decided to back the plans today, despite more than 130 representations against the scheme. Earlier they visited the site, which involved a bus and landrover trip.

Aird and Loch Ness councillor Margaret Davidson supported the plans, saying few local residents were hostile to the scheme because the turbines will not be visible from their homes. However, she said she had serious concern about the impact on traffic.

“The only objections [from locals] were about the roads — for every one of these turbines there will be six abnormal [lorry] loads,” she said. “There is no getting away from it, the impact of traffic going through Fort Augustus is going to be enormous.”

However, Badenoch and Streathspey councillors Dave Fallows and Bill Lobban both opposed the development because of the detrimental impact on the rugged landscape and the absence of a national wild land policy.

Councillors voted 11 to three in favour of the plans. A small protest was held outside Highland Council headquarters in Inverness ahead of the meeting.

Among the objectors was 71-year-old Michael Waldron, whose family have run the Killin Estate since 1946.

Mr Waldron visits Killin Lodge every year and says the turbines will be a “great eyesore” and is concerned construction could threaten a rare species of fish in the River Killin and Loch Killin.

“The lodge is about a quarter-of-a-mile away from Stronelairg and is situated in a flood valley,” he said. “If the wind farm is built then it would push the peat down into the water and threaten the Killin char which has been there since the Ice Age.”

David Baldwin, the council’s planning officer, said a “buffer zone” had been included in the plans to alleviate any potential problems from peat slide.

Mr Waldron, who lives in Devon but travelled up to protest, waved a placard outside Highland Council headquarters with his son Stephen (45) and 14-year-old grandson Callum after being barred from protesting during the site visit.

There is widespread concern about the loss of wild land in the Loch Ness area and the impact this could have on tourism and the environment.

Stronelairg is just one of six built or planned wind farms on the west side of Loch Ness and community leaders in Fort Augustus and Glenmoriston have already said they fear being surrounded and want a study to be carried out to assess the cumulative impact.

Helen McDade, head of policy for the John Muir Trust, Scotland’s wild land charity, described Loch Ness as a tourist hot spot and said the potential loss of wild land in the area was very concerning from a tourism but also environmental point of view.

“Although Stronelairg won’t be visible from the main road, once people stop and go to their bed and breakfasts and then out into the hills for a walk, or drive on the minor roads, it is going to have a massive impact,” she said. “There is no doubt it would impact on a significant amount of the population and should be refused. It is a huge development — the footprint is about the size of Inverness.”