redshirts

“Quite elderly”. “Third Rate”.

And that’s what their friends are saying.

MemoryAlpha:

Redshirt is a term used by fans and staff of Star Trek to refer partially to the characters who wear red Starfleet uniforms, and mainly to refer to those characters who are expendable, and quite often killed, sometimes in great numbers, often security guards, or an engineer.

EENews:

U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt faces a predicament: If he picks certain climate skeptics for an attempt to poke holes in mainstream climate science, he risks alienating others and undermining the entire effort.

Yesterday, lists of candidates that a conservative think tank is promoting for the climate “red team” were made public by an advocacy group. The lists were sent to EPA by the Heartland Institute, according to the environmental group Climate Investigations Center, and include names of dozens of scientists and economists skeptical of mainstream climate science whom conservatives want to be part of the effort. Pruitt has repeatedly said that he wants to put climate science through a red-team, blue-team approach, modeled after a military exercise designed to expose planning flaws.

If he goes ahead with the climate red team, its roster will be critically important to how its findings are ultimately viewed. And some of the candidates on the list suggested they won’t participate if others are on board.

The Heartland roundup includes some scientists who have had research published in mainstream journals, but it also heavily relies on emeritus researchers, lawyers and self-funded hobbyists.

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Others have published books like “Science Left Behind: Feel-Good Fallacies and the Rise of the Anti-Scientific Left” or “Climate Realism: Alarmism Exposed.” Joe Bastardi, who’s on the list, is a meteorologist who often appears on Fox News to discuss his skeptical views and who has also made a name for himself debating climate activist Bill Nye. Others hold advanced degrees in mechanical engineering, nuclear physics or other fields not related to climatology. Some of those on the list said they were not even consulted before their names were forwarded.

Also included on the lists are some scientists with a long history of peer-reviewed research, such as Judith Curry, a former professor at the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and John Christy, a climatologist at the University of Alabama, Huntsville. Both told E&E News yesterday that they had not been contacted by EPA to work on the red team, which they would only do if they viewed it as a serious effort.

curryhapper Read the rest of this entry »

puertodeath

The Trump admin’s Final Solution to Puerto Rico’s Problems..

Buzzfeed:

AGUADILLA, Puerto Rico — Funeral directors and crematoriums are being permitted by the Puerto Rican government to burn the bodies of people who died as a result of Hurricane Maria — without those people being counted in the official death toll.

The result is a massive loophole likely suppressing the official death count, which has become a major indicator of how the federal government’s relief efforts are going because President Trump himself made it one.

During Trump’s photo-op visit to the US territory — whose residents are US citizens — three weeks ago, he boasted that the death toll was just 16. It doubled by the time he returned to Washington that same day. The death toll is now at 51, a figure widely contradicted by what funeral homes, crematoriums, and hospitals on the ground tell BuzzFeed News.

Then, last week, when asked how he would rate the White House’s response to the crisis, Trump said, “I’d say it was a 10.” More than a month after the storm made landfall on Sept. 20, 2.6 million people are without power, at least 875,000 people don’t have access to running water, and 66% of the island still doesn’t have cell service.

Trump added, “I’d say it was probably the most difficult when you talk about relief, when you talk about search, when you talk about all of the different levels, and even when you talk about lives saved.” Meanwhile, two US representatives and 13 senators recently wrote letters to the acting head of homeland security requesting investigations into the death toll.

Last week, BuzzFeed News visited 10 funeral homes and crematoriums in two Puerto Rican municipalities on the territory’s western coast, Aguadilla and Mayagüez, at least two hours away from the bustling San Juan. The findings include:

  • Communication between the central institute certifying official hurricane deaths, called the Institute of Forensic Sciences, and funeral homes or crematoriums appears to be fully broken, with each side waiting for the other to take action.
  • The central institute is also giving crematoriums permission to burn bodies of potential hurricane victims — which is happening more because it is cheaper and logistically easier as families rebuild their lives — without examining them first, which means they are not being counted in the official death toll.
  • Disaster experts say this lack of a transparent and consistent approach to counting deaths means the toll is likely inaccurate.
  • And experts also say an inaccurate official death toll potentially cheats families out of FEMA relief funds and could hurt how future disasters are handled. Read the rest of this entry »

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Nice Work if you Can Get it

October 26, 2017

whitefish-energy

CBS News:

It’s been more than a month since Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, leaving its power grid in shambles.

Now, 75 percent of the island is still without power, and lawmakers in both parties are asking why a small Montana company was granted a $300 million, no-bid contract to help rebuild transmission and distribution lines.

“My biggest concern is we don’t have enough information as to the process that went into that,” said Republican Rep. Rob Bishop, who chairs the House committee that oversees Puerto Rico.

The government power company — known as PREPA — signed the contract with Whitefish Energy, a two-person, two-year-old company whose largest previous federal contract had been for $1.3 million to upgrade lines in Arizona.

PREPA filed for bankruptcy in July amid the island’s ongoing debt crisis. It bypassed a network of utilities and a “mutual aid” system that is usually activated for storm recovery.

The $300 million contract is the biggest yet for Puerto Rico’s recovery effort — and for Whitefish, which relies on subcontractors for their work.

“This appears to be a pretty small company,” said Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski. “Are they capable of doing the job that they’re being asked?”

Murkowski, the chair of the energy committee, expects a hearing on Puerto Rico in the next week. Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell is calling for the Government Accountability Office to investigate.

Now the company has gotten in a fight with the feisty Mayor of San Juan, who questioned the contract.

whitefishinsult

The Hill:

Whitefish Energy is apologizing after the company feuded with the mayor of San Juan over Twitter and threatened to pull out of recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. Read the rest of this entry »

gao0917

Click for larger

Government Accountability Office (GAO):

Methods used to estimate the potential economic effects of climate change in the United States—using linked climate science and economics models—are based on developing research. The methods and the studies that use them produce imprecise results because of modeling and other limitations but can convey insight into potential climate damages across sectors in the United States.

The two available national-scale studies that examine the economic effects of climate change across U.S. sectors suggested that potential economic effects could be significant and unevenly distributed across sectors and regions. For example, for 2020 through 2039, one study estimated between $4 billion and $6 billion in annual coastal property damages from sea level rise and more frequent and intense storms.

Associated Press:

A non-partisan federal watchdog says climate change is already costing U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars each year, with those costs expected to rise as devastating storms, floods, wildfires and droughts become more frequent in the coming decades.

A Government Accountability Office report released Monday said the federal government has spent more than $350 billion over the last decade on disaster assistance programs and losses from flood and crop insurance. That tally does not include the massive toll from this year’s three major hurricanes and wildfires, expected to be among the most costly in the nation’s history.

The report predicts these costs will only grow in the future, potentially reaching a budget busting $35 billion a year by 2050. The report says the federal government doesn’t effectively plan for these recurring costs, classifying the financial exposure from climate-related costs as “high risk.”

“The federal government has not undertaken strategic government-wide planning to manage climate risks by using information on the potential economic effects of climate change to identify significant risks and craft appropriate federal responses,” the study said. “By using such information, the federal government could take the initial step in establishing government-wide priorities to manage such risks.”

GAO undertook the study following a request from Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

“This nonpartisan GAO report Senator Cantwell and I requested contains astonishing numbers about the consequences of climate change for our economy and for the federal budget in particular,” said Collins. “In Maine, our economy is inextricably linked to the environment. We are experiencing a real change in the sea life, which has serious implications for the livelihoods of many people across our state, including those who work in our iconic lobster industry.”

The report’s authors reviewed 30 government and academic studies examining the national and regional impacts of climate change. They also interviewed 28 experts familiar with the strengths and limitations of the studies, which rely on future projections of climate impacts to estimate likely costs.

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Musk-o-nomics

October 25, 2017

Sobering doesn’t cut it.

Gut Wrenching. Horrifying maybe.
But certainly gives a sense of what the obstacles are going to be getting this territory back up and running again.

Meanwhile

USAToday:

A $300 million contract to help rebuild Puerto Rico’s electrical infrastructure, which was awarded to a small, two-year-old Montana company that had only two employees when Hurricane Maria struck the U.S. territory, has sparked calls for an investigation from both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill.

In addition to its size and relative inexperience, the fact that Whitefish Energy Holdings is based in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s hometown of Whitefish, Mont., is fueling questions about how Whitefish Energy Holdings secured the lucrative contract. The former Montana congressman’s son also had a summer job at a Whitefish construction site.

See more here.

 

puertodark

Washington Post:

For the sprawling effort to restore Puerto Rico’s crippled electrical grid, the territory’s state-owned utility has turned to a two-year-old company from Montana that had just two full-time employees on the day Hurricane Maria made landfall.

The company, Whitefish Energy, said last week that it had signed a $300 million contract with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to repair and reconstruct large portions of the island’s electrical infrastructure. The contract is the biggest yet issued in the troubled relief effort.

The unusual decision to instead hire a tiny for-profit company is drawing scrutiny from Congress and comes amid concerns about bankrupt Puerto Rico’s spending as it seeks to provide relief to its 3.4 million residents, the great majority of whom remain without power a month after the storm.

“The fact that there are so many utilities with experience in this and a huge track record of helping each other out, it is at least odd why [the utility] would go to Whitefish,” said Susan F. Tierney, a former senior official at the Energy Department and state regulatory agencies. “I’m scratching my head wondering how it all adds up.”

Whitefish Energy is based in Whitefish, Mont., the home town of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Its chief executive, Andy Techmanski, and Zinke acknowledge knowing one another — but only, Zinke’s office said in an email, because Whitefish is a small town where “everybody knows everybody.” One of Zinke’s sons “joined a friend who worked a summer job” at one of Techmanski’s construction sites, the email said. Whitefish said he worked as a “flagger.”

Zinke’s office said he had no role in Whitefish securing the contract for work in Puerto Rico. Techmanski also said Zinke was not involved.

The scale of the disaster in Puerto Rico is far larger than anything Whitefish has handled. The company has won two contracts from the Energy Department, including $172,000 to replace a metal pole structure and splice in three miles of new conductor and overhead ground wire in Arizona.

Shortly before Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, Whitefish landed its largest federal contract, a $1.3 million deal to replace and upgrade parts of a 4.8-mile transmission line in Arizona. The company — which was listed in procurement documents as having annual revenue of $1 million — was given 11 months to complete the work, records show.

Puerto Rico has 2,400 miles of transmission lines across the island, and 30,000 miles of distribution lines with 300 substations. Jeff Hawk, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ power restoration task force, estimated that 80 percent of the grid has been damaged. A month after the storm, about 80 percent of customers remain without power.

Read the rest of this entry »