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GAO highlights climate change risks

 

Ever-warmer ...

Ever-warmer …

Government ‘not well-positioned’ to handle climate change risks

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY  — Slowly but inexorably, the very guts of the U.S. government are acknowledging the risks of climate change, most recently demonstrated when the Government Accountability Office said the federal government must do a better job managing climate risk to limit the government’s fiscal exposure.

The changes to GAO’s High Risk List were part of the agency’s biennial update to its list of federal programs and operations at “high risk” for waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement or needing broad-based transformation. Continue reading

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Energy: Congress may investigate mining royalties

Powder River Basin map

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Wyoming ranchers feeling short-changed on coal mining operations in Powder River Basin

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Along with polluting the water and air, fossil fuel companies may also be short-changing U.S. taxpayers on the royalties they’re supposed to pay for the resources extracted from public lands.

According to a report from an energy think tank, the federal treasury may have missed out on as much as $29 billion over the past 30 years because of the way enerfy companies and federal land managers account for those royalties, and another recent report from the Government Accountability Office found that the federal government’s accounting system does not “provide reasonable assurance that oil and gas are accurately measured.” Continue reading

Rep. Polis tries to trim wasteful defense spending

Congressman Jared Polis.

Congressman says cuts would have been in line with GAO recommendations on dysfunctional missile defense system

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Instead of cutting social programs or budgets for public land management agencies, Congressman Jared Polis (D-Colo.) sought to take a $403 million bite out of the budget deficit by slicing funding for a non-functioning missile defense program — as recommended by the Government Accountability Office.

“As we make tough choices to balance the budget, a missile defense program that can’t seem to hit its targets is a good target to achieve savings for taxpayers,” Polis said. “In a time of large deficits and increasing debt, Congress should have to justify every penny it spends to the taxpayers, and there just isn’t any justification for spending an additional $400 million on a weapons program that doesn’t work.” Continue reading

Industry lawsuits against the EPA spiked in 2010

About half of all  lawsuits against the EPA are filed by corporate interests

A new report from the Government Accountability Office shows that trade groups and private companies file more lawsuits than do environmental group.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Environmental lawsuits against the EPA spiked to the highest level since 1997, but a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office shows that businesses and trade groups —and not environmentalists — file the most lawsuits against the federal agency.

On average, the U.S. Justice Department spends about $3.3 million per year defending the EPA in court, and pays another $1.8 million per year to plaintiffs.

The issue of environmental lawsuits has taken on a high political profile recently as Republicans have blasted conservation groups for their legal tactics, but the report shows that those attacks are just part of the right-wing blast of rhetoric aimed at trying to marginalize mainstream environmental groups. Continue reading

Op-ed: Bipartisan agreement on government waste?

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

Report shows lack of fiscal accountability, overlap in many government agencies

By Orrin Hatch and Mark Udall

During the last election, Americans spoke loud and clear. Regardless of the political party they belong to, they want Congress focused on the economy, and they want us to work together to get our nation’s fiscal house in order.

Specifically, they want Congress and the President to focus on reining in federal spending. We face a $14 trillion debt, and every day we wait to take responsible steps to control spending, we leave our fiscal situation less sustainable for the future. The markets are demanding immediate action. Just last week, Standard & Poor’s placed the United States’ AAA bond rating on a negative outlook, citing a greater than one in three chance of a downgrade within the next two years.

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colorado)

While there are plenty of areas where we disagree when it comes to the federal budget, we agree that it’s time for immediate reductions in government spending. We need to take action now, and a recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) offers a constructive suggestion for where to start. This eye-opening study identifies multiple overlapping federal government programs that, if consolidated or cut, could dramatically reduce administrative and overhead costs, among other savings. The duplicative programs span a range of federal government agencies from domestic food assistance and education to homeland security and defense.  For example:

∙         Over 20 federal programs address homelessness, spanning seven federal agencies, including the departments of education, health and human services, labor and veterans affairs.
∙         At least 44 programs run by the departments of education, health and human services, and labor provide employment and training services.
∙         There are 80 economic development programs at four agencies, 52 of which have authority to fund “entrepreneurial efforts.”
∙         More than two dozen individuals appointed by the president are responsible for biodefense.
∙         And 15 agencies are involved in food safety – a costly overlap that GAO says has caused inconsistent oversight, ineffective coordination and an inefficient use of resources. Continue reading

More oversight needed for wildlife refuge drilling

Sandhill cranes at the Bitter Lak wildlife refuge in New Mexico.

Numerous spills prompt call for more stringent guidelines, including better training for staff

By Summit Voice

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service needs rules to protect National Wildlife Refuges from spills and contamination from oil and gas drilling, according to a rulemaking petition filed this week by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a Washington, D.C. group that watchdogs federal agencies.

According to PEER, thousands of wells now operate on refuges, particularly in the south and east where the subsurface rights are privately held, with little regulation. That number is likely to skyrocket as natural gas from underground shale formations is tapped.

PEER is pressing the Fish & Wildlife Service, which operates the refuge system, to adopt rules modeled on ones the National Park Service has had in effect for more than 30 years. The rules address spill prevention and response, bonds for reclamation, proper waste disposal and reducing surface impacts. Continue reading

Feds to take another hard look at oil shale plans

Commercial development still years away; water a huge issue

An experimental Shell Oil in situ oil shale processing facility in northwest Colorado’s Piceance Basin. PHOTO COURTESY THE U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Facing a couple of lawsuits and a slew of questions from communities in oil-shale country, the Department of Interior this week announced that it will take a new, hard look at commercial oil shale plans and regulations issued under the Bush administration.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said commercial oil shale technologies are still years away, and said the government will develop plans that ensure a fair return to American taxpayers.

If needed, the rules will be updated based on new research and technology — and to account for the massive amounts of water required to develop oil shale on a commercial scale. The Government Accountability Office recently issued a report calling for more detailed studies of water issues related to oil shale development. Continue reading

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