Tag Archive | economic machine

Creating a New Market

Clare Donohue spent her teenage years growing up in the Catskill Mountains hamlet of Roscoe where water was central to the area’s way of life. Her family often fished at a nearby reservoir and so many fly fishers liked to visit the spot where two pristine rivers converged that Roscoe dubbed itself “Trout Town USA.”

“When you walked into the house,” Donohue recalled, “the first thing you did was go to the sink and fill a glass of water. It was so delicious.”

Donohue, 52, runs a small business and has lived in New York City for the past 30 years. When she learned from friends three years ago that 85 well sites had been leased for future drilling for natural gas in a village close to Roscoe, she was concerned. She watched Gasland, Josh Fox’s Oscar-nominated documentary, and later joined friends at a West Village community board meeting. There, officials from Spectra Energy sought to mollify local concerns about an underground natural gas pipeline that the company was bringing into the neighborhood.

“I just sat there unbelieving, because everybody was just calm and polite and they were all asking questions like whether the cement in the sidewalk would be put back the way it was, things that I thought were totally irrelevant in terms of the disaster that was being described. And I kept thinking, ’What is wrong here? Why aren’t people screaming?’”

Donohue has been raising her voice ever since as a co-founder of the Sane Energy Project, which she helped start with a dozen other activists to fight the Spectra pipeline. The group’s focus has since broadened as they confront a growing web of projects that could drive a surge in New York City’s use of natural gas obtained by fracking. In addition to Spectra, a second pipeline is slated to enter via the Rockaways and go up Brooklyn’s Flatbush Avenue. There is also a deep water liquefied natural gas import terminal proposed for off the coast of Long Island.

New Yorkers currently consume 1.3 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas. And these new infrastructure projects would increase that by between 16 and 30 percent, according to a study commissioned by the mayor’s office.

“It is a strategy to hook the city on fracked gas,” said Occupy the Pipeline activist Patrick Robbins.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, requires injecting millions of gallons of water laced with an array of toxic chemicals deep into the earth to cause fissures that allow drillers to tap previously unreachable deposits of natural gas. The technology has been blamed for poisoning underground drinking water supplies in areas near well sites.

Large parts of central and southern New York State sit atop the Marcellus Shale, a geological formation that is believed to contain large reserves of natural gas. While activists have won a moratorium against fracking in New York and are fighting for a full ban, Pennsylvania landowners have seen a fracking boom in the past decade, especially as smaller operators have been gobbled up by transnational companies. These corporations, owning large acreage and seeking fast profits, drive the push for increased drilling.

While natural gas is heralded as a cleaner-burning “bridge fuel” to a renewable energy future, it is in fact a potent greenhouse gas. When released directly into the atmosphere, it traps 72 times more heat than carbon dioxide and remains 25 times as powerful as carbon dioxide after a century in the air.

Creating a New Market

With natural gas prices at a low and billions of dollars sunk into drill sites, the natural gas industry is looking for a way to increase demand, boost profits and garner more financial backers. Through that lens, New York City, a huge energy consumer, presents a golden opportunity.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s 2011 mandate to convert the boilers in New York City buildings to the “cleanest fuels” has set the stage for skyrocketing demand as many buildings switch to natural gas systems. The new heating oil regulations will ban the two dirtiest heating fuels available: Number 6 and Number 4. These heavy fuels create fine soot, known as particulate matter, which is highly polluting. Soot exacerbates asthma, irritates lungs and increases the risk of heart attacks and premature death.

The regulations will require New Yorkers to instead heat their buildings with either ultra-low sulfur Number 2 oil, biodiesel, natural gas or steam, according to PlaNYC.

The trouble, Donohue said, is that natural gas also produces particulate matter and at a higher rate than Number 2. In comparison, biofuel produces zero emissions and zero particulate matter. And while converting an average New York City building to biodiesel and Number 2 oil costs about $10,000 to $30,000, natural gas conversions can start at $500,000, a cost often transferred from landlord to tenant through rent hikes.

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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.

Wind Energy PTC Implementation Rules

As the initial relief and excitement over the extension of the wind energy production tax credit (PTC) begin to subside, many developers are seeking clarification on what the changes to the legislation’s language mean for their projects and future development plans.

As most in the industry know by now, projects must begin construction – rather than enter operation – by Jan. 1, 2014, in order to qualify for the PTC. The change in language was welcomed by many developers, which are now afforded more time to complete their projects. However, the new verbiage also introduced a number of questions, such as what it technically means to begin construction.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) is seeking to clear up some of this confusion. Although some of the details are still up in the air, AWEA is currently working with congressional leaders and other stakeholders to quickly attain answers for the industry, the association said at a recent webinar.

Tom Vinson, AWEA’s senior director of regulatory affairs, said the association is pushing for the latest rules to be the same as those established under the Treasury’s Section 1603 cash-grant program, as the industry is already familiar with that guidance. New rules would delay the development process and render the PTC extension less useful, he noted.

“AWEA will pitch that [the new PTC guidance] needs to be timely and based on prior precedence that has proven workable,” Vinson said.

Under the old PTC rules, beginning construction meant starting work “of a significant nature,” which could include steps like building access roads and foundations, but not initial work such as environmental reviews and geophysical studies. Moreover, beginning work on one turbine qualified as construction on the entire project.

However, the previous guidance was less clear about whether construction had to be continuous in order for the project to qualify for the PTC. Now that the PTC deadline has been modified from a placed-in-service date to a start-construction date, this specificity will be of utmost importance, as projects could potentially begin construction and then sit idle, and still qualify for the PTC.

In order to address this concern, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Treasury Department could add a continuous-construction requirement, which could be bad news for projects being built in cold climates or for those that face seasonal wildlife restrictions.

Alternatively, the agencies might tack on a placed-in-service deadline to the new PTC rules, Vinson said, noting that this could be an interest of the Joint Committee on Taxation, which is working with the IRS and the Treasury on the guidance.

Despite the extended timeline afforded by the new start-construction language, developers should be aware that the same changes were not made to the requirements for bonus depreciation: The fiscal-cliff legislation extended the 50% bonus-depreciation allowance for property (i.e., equipment) placed in service before Jan. 1, 2014.

Vinson said AWEA is working to clarify all of these requirements in order to provide developers with more certainty. Although the Treasury will be involved in the process, the new guidance will have to come primarily from the IRS, which will complete the initial drafting of the rules. According to Vinson, those rules will most likely come in the form of informal guidance, rather than a full-fledged rulemaking.

Whereas the Treasury and the IRS took about five months to provide the previous PTC guidance, Vinson said he expects that this time, the process will take somewhere between two and four months. However, he added that AWEA will continue to push the agencies for a quicker turnaround.

WMC reports lower charity costs to commission

Diamond said most, but not all, physicians use the service, though some that don’t can find themselves having to use it, because they may be part of a private doctor group that rotates hospital visitation responsibilities.

“Now what happened is that some of the internal medicine doctors, or primary care, wanted to keep seeing their patients, but their call group all signed up so … they felt they were forced [to use the hospitalists], not by us, but by their call group. We had nothing to do with their call group. So that’s the reason.”

The hospitalist programs are apparently becoming more common throughout the county.

“The family practice and internists came to us and said, ‘This is a better program.’ The quality of care goes up and … their length of stay goes down, which is positive. Costs go down, and it’s a system that nationwide is kind of best practices,” Claunch said. “The other thing is these family practice and internists will make more money in their office then they will in the hospital. It’s economics today. So they approached us.”

“Well, it’s coming down from the docs, and not from the patients,” Hendry remarked. “The patients kind of get lost in the shuffle, you know I understand it sitting here, but boy people just don’t get that.”

The commission also inquired about the future direction of WMC, in light of the failure of an anticipated merger with Cheyenne Medical Center when Cheyenne pulled back.

“The board is going to sit down and next month kind of say OK, where do we go from here? And if we want to do some type of a partnership, what does the partnership look like?” Diamond said. “So we’ll be making a decision. We’re actually, now, being actively pursued by organizations to partner with, and we’re willing to listen to what they have to offer. Then we are, the board is, going to make a decision related to what kind of partnership we want.”

“It’s a high priority for us to figure out what are we going to do when we grow up?” commented WMC board member Chris Muirhead. “We need to look at what’s going to happen in the next 25 years, and I would say it’s our number one priority to design a plan and set up a framework to function in, [to] keep this medical machine that we have, this economic machine, in our community, and keep it going, thriving and continuing. I don’t think we want to sell our hospital. I don’t think that’s in our best interests. I don’t think we want to become a railroad station or a support station, where you just treat and then you transport to a tertiary center. We want to be the tertiary center, and so we’re going to strive and look at what we can do.”

Muirhead also said they’ll be changing how they conduct their board meetings by eliminating the quarterly meeting to which the public is invited, and instead have one session per year where WMC will give a larger public presentation.

“The intent of that [quarterly meeting] was to allow members of the community to come forth and discuss issues that they had with the hospital board directly,” Muirhead explained. “The truth is, over the last five years, the participation of that is just abysmal. Our last public meeting last month we had zero participation from the public. We rarely have any … the truth is, we’re not really effectively communicating with the public by using this quarterly meeting.”

The WMC board initiated the once-a-quarter public meetings at 7 a.m. in 2006, following concerns over its relationship with the community and the county. The county commissioners at the time were displeased at the lack of meaningful and timely communication by the WMC board on such things as multi-million dollar additions to the hospital, and private, for-profit, ventures being started by the decidedly not-for-profit WMC.