Saturday, November 16, 2019
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Still Not Time to Allow Uranium Mining in Virginia

A recent 'research report' released by the conservative misfits at the Heritage Foundation titled "Time to Allow Uranium Mining in Virginia" represents a fabulous attempt to shrug off the real issue at hand over lifting Virginia's 30 year old moratorium on uranium mining: is it safe enough to allow and do the people of Southern Virginia, where the uranium ore lies buried, even want it? According to the report, "A closer analysis, however, reveals that uranium mining is conducted around the world safely and to great economic benefit."

But in order for Heritage to have concluded "uranium mining is conducted around the world safely," their definition of "safely" must have been quite narrow. Uranium mining has been conducted around the world with mixed records of safety, both with regards to 'active' mines and legacy mines. For instance, "Contamination of local water supplies around uranium mines and processing plants has been documented in Brazil, Colorado, Texas, Australia, Namibia and many other sites."

King McDonnell attempts to subvert the democratic process in Pittsylvania County…again

Uranium mining in Southside Virginia abruptly became headline news again when it was discovered that Virginia Sen. Bill Stanley had been recorded telling Pittsylvania County Supervisor, Jerry A. Hagerman, that Gov. Bob McDonnell had requested the former to lobby the Pittsylvania Board of Supervisors to table a resolution on uranium mining at its September 4th meeting.

Consequently, the proposed resolution on uranium mining was taken off of the board's Sept. 4 meeting agenda. Coincidence?

In effect, what Bob McDonnell and his crony surrogates attempted to do was bypass the democratic process in Pittsylvania County and for now, they appear to have succeeded.

It's the latest move in Gov. McDonnell's bag of get-around-the-voter tricks that began with his move to form the "Uranium Working Group" to "be certain that uranium mining can be conducted safely and responsibly."  But if McDonnell's goal, or that of the Republicans in the General Assembly, was to determine if uranium mining could be conducted "safely and responsibly," one would have assumed that the National Academy of Sciences uranium mining study group would have been allowed to make recommendations on whether or not to lift the ban, given their findings and their expertise.  No such allowance was made, however.

Chesapeake Bay cleanup in Virginia well on track but pitfalls still...

Gov. Bob McDonnell announced on Friday that "significant reductions" of phosphorous and nitrogen stemming from wastewater treatment plants has put Virginia in line to reach pollution reduction goals towards cleaning the Chesapeake Bay.  

According to Virginia's secretary of natural resources, Doug Domenech, progress towards cleaning the Chesapeake Bay "clearly shows that a restored bay is possible."  How Domenech defines a "restored" Chesapeake Bay remained unclear. Restored to what?

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, one the leading nongovernmental groups pressuring Virginia's government to clean the bay, praised McDonnell's "recognition of the importance of a healthy and productive Chesapeake Bay."

Despite the progress that has been made so far, though, the University of Maryland's Center for Environmental Science gave the bay a D+ on a yearly report card issued in 2011. Thus, the Chesapeake Bay is clearly a ways away from the level of clean that I have in mind.

It should also be remembered that the McDonnell administration seemed reluctant to commit to the Chesapeake Bay clean up goals set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), goals which McDonnell is now boasting about having met.  

The Health Insurance Ball Still in McDonnell’s Court, Will He Continue...

Is it shocking anymore to observe Republicans in Virginia doing nothing but obstructing or stalling important policies from being implemented? No, but even the stall tactics being used to weigh against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act seem stunningly mind boggling in their absurdity. Why?

If the Republican gamble doesn't pay off and Romney loses the presidential competition and the U.S. Congress does not fall squarely into the hands of the GOP, Virginia will lose millions of dollars and thousands of Virginians will be denied access to primary medical care. So not only does the GOP stall maneuver make little moral sense, but it also makes little sense on the front most sacred to Republicans, the economic front.

The Affordable Care Act requires every state to set up its own health exchange where small businesses and individuals can compare and contrast different health insurance options. McDonnell had the ball in his court, so to speak, but dropped the ball by failing to "push" the health exchange initiative through the General Assembly after some of the top GOP members in Virginia agreed to go along with it.

It should go without saying that the health of Virginians is not a partisan issue, or at least it shouldn't be. But McDonnell and some Virginia Republicans have made it just that, an issue that can help shape their message of excessive federal government overreach and their own roles as local guardians of their constituents.

Safety in Virginia Never Felt So Unsafe Thanks to VA GOP

"Patient safety", "caring for Virginians", "doing what's right for Virginians", these are a few of the phrases that the Virginia Republican Party has used to encroach upon the rights of women and potentially stall the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. But the party has cried wolf too many times for Virginians to give the GOP the benefit of the doubt, and in the case of women's rights and the legal right to abortion, there is clearly a disconnect between the GOP's caring pronouncements and the facts.

It's difficult to say whether or not Virginian Republicans actually believe what they say about "patient safety" or "doing what's right for Virginians." Most likely, it's a mixed bag of cynical Republican politicians whose only objective is restricting the rights of women and federal health care and true believers in their protective roles as state policymakers. In the end, it doesn't make much of a difference because the final result is the same.

The irony of the VA GOP's efforts to limit the ability of women to undergo abortions and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) falls along two lines. In regards to the latter, the irony is obvious. The ACA will be bringing uninsured Virginians under its umbrella, benefiting many Virginians who have been denied or have not been able to afford health care.  In addition, over 100,000 small businesses could benefit from a new small business tax credit. And the GOP wants to stop all of this from happening!

New TV ad targets Kaine’s fiscal policies with bogus claims and...

The Koch brothers financed Americans for Prosperity, a libertarian foundation, released a new Television ad targeting U.S. Senate candidate Tim Kaine of Virginia.  The 32 second ad attempts to paint Tim Kaine as a "deficit spender" and a tax hiking paragon in typical sound-bite fashion.

Aside from the usual rhetorical flourishes, a quick look at Americans for Prosperity's official website demonstrates the group's focus on reducing the size of government and lowering taxes.  

According to AFP's Virginia director, Audrey Jackson, Tim Kaine "can't spend your way to prosperity or tax your way to economic freedom."
As usual, no evidence was given to substantiate these bogus claims.

As is often the case, however, what conservatives and economic libertarians take as gross spending of taxpayer money is the soundest way to stimulate our nation's economy so that more American's can experience economic freedom.  In other words, "short-term stimulus with long-term discipline."  

Goode’s Bigotry & Rationale Indicative of Far Right Beliefs in General

Former 5th District Congressman Virgil Goode's recent bigoted comments calling Mitt Romney "the father of homosexual marriages"  in a statement released to the media before the Republican presidential nominee's visit to Liberty University over the weekend is as telling as it is unconscionable.

It is a rare moment when I feel Romney needs to be defended against his opponents. But in the face of such blatant inflammatory political rhetoric, a change of course is warranted.

First and foremost, there isn't a single shred of evidence that Romney is "the father of homosexual marriages," if such a ridiculous claim could even be objectively tested.

What is most interesting about Goode's public statement to the media is his foremost rationale for restricting the rights of marriage to heterosexual couples. Goode states that "If homosexual marriages become normal across the country...State taxpayers will have to pay for the expanded health insurance costs and State retirement costs." Essentially what Goode is saying is that fundamental human rights can be denied to individuals if the economic costs outweigh the economic benefits. Welcome to the conservative version of capitalism in the 21st Century U.S.

In a similar vein, would Goode have also argued that slaves in the U.S. should not have been freed because of the supposedly huge economic burden this would have on the U.S.? One shivers to think of his answer.  

Dominion’s Response to Citizen Criticism of 15-Year Energy Plan Only Reconfirms...

In an attempt to defend its almost complete disregard of clean energy in its Integrated Resource Plan, Dominion VA Power made a number of arguments in its defense in a statement given to the Associated Press prior to a scheduled SCC hearing regarding its 15-year energy plan on Tuesday. First, Dominion emphasized that its 15-year plan is not "set in stone".  Dominion also cited its PROPOSED addition of 30 megawatts of solar power on leased commercial rooftops (this seems to me to be more of an argument against Dominion. 30 megawatts, really?). Thirdly, Dominion also pointed to its bids for leases to build wind farms off of Virginia's coast. All of these arguments need to be filed under the growing narrative of Dominion as big on words of good intention and woefully short on substantive action towards clean energy.

First, given Dominion's paltry baseline for renewable energy in 2026 (2.8%), any increase in their percentage of renewable energy in the years ahead would undoubtedly remain at unsatisfactory levels, at levels which would hardly put a dent in our state's greenhouse gas contributions.

Secondly, an extra 30 megawatts of solar power is not the large scale solar power that Virginians want and is therefore a moot defense. The primary reason that Virginians want clean energy is to stem the tide of climate change. 30 megawatts is hardly a drop in the pond and only illustrates either Dominions total lack of understanding of what Virginians are demanding or a blatant attempt to slow-walk clean energy in Virginia by continually PROPOSING (and sometimes constructing) small-scale clean energy projects to quell criticism of its policies.  

Virginia Uranium Inc’s Lobbying Power Rivals That of a Dozen Public...

How many registered lobbyists would you guess Virginia Uranium Inc. (VUI) has had over the past year (from May 2011-April 2012)? 5? 7? How about 12? None of the above. VUI now has 19 lobbyists in its employ. Yes, 19.

By contrast, if you search "public school" on the Virginia Public Access Project's (VPAP) website, you'll find "12 Client Companies/Groups," or 11 public school localities and one National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Out of these 12 entities, only 13 registered lobbyists are on record for the past 2 reporting periods. Virginia Uranium Inc. has 19 in the last reporting period alone.

Imagine what public advocacy and environmental groups in Virginia could accomplish if each had 19 lobbyists!

What is equally unique (and threatening to the public health interests of Virginians) is the diversity of lobbying firms that VUI has chosen to pick from: Capital Results LLC, Hunton & Williams, Kemper Consulting Inc, McGuire Woods, Vectre Corp. I'll point out what you've already surmised, this isn't a chump list of lobbyists. Rather, this is a strategic list of heavy-hitting lobbying and consulting firms placed like so many pieces on the chest-board of public policy to take the king.  

Religion’s Role in Virginia Politics

As millions of Virginians celebrate Easter Sunday, it's important to re-recognize the role that religion plays in Virginia's politics. In Virginia, religion has been used as an argumentative backdrop to kill commonsensical rights for homosexuals and women. This year's session of the General Assembly was only the latest round of religion as foundation for denying women fundamental rights to their own bodies and homosexuals their unequivocal right to marry as they see fit.

I'm not a religious person but I've never been one to bash religion or anyone who adheres to this religion or that. Like it or not, religion is here to stay in Virginia for some time to come. Maybe it's exactly how social life in Virginia should be.

But while some Virginians who consider themselves religious understand the importance of allowing all Virginians to share equal rights, there are some who don't. This latter group has co-opted religion to divide Virginians along the lines of first class, second class, and third class citizenship. Didn't the New Testament say we are all God's children?