Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Pipeline a risk-laden boondoggle

The front page story in the Feb. 1 Sentinel — “Energy costs under scrutiny” — may be confusing to readers concerned with the prospect of the NED fracked gas pipeline coming to the region. I would like to clarify a few things. The article states that the “Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is examining New Hampshire's high fees for transmitting electricity ... to customers' homes or businesses.” If you check your Eversource bill, you will see that it is broken down into energy supply costs, which are related to the cost of fuel used in the creation of electricity and distribution or transmission costs, which are essentially operating costs associated with getting electricity to consumers. It is these distribution costs that FERC is investigating — not supply costs.
The entire justification for the NED pipeline is bogus. We don't need more gas to lower our electric rates, we need transmission costs to be more in line with other electricity generating operations. The NED pipeline is a hoax, being foisted upon us in order to justify tearing up our state, fouling our water and air and endangering our health, without a shred of evidence that this will lead to lower rates for consumers.
The primary purpose of the NED pipeline is for Kinder Morgan to sell capacity on the pipeline and for gas companies to transport fracked gas, export it, and make a profit.
It's about time FERC investigates our transmission rates and clarifies that the rates we pay for electricity are not likely to be ameliorated by more gas in the supply chain. The unreasonably high transmission costs we pay are most likely due to the fact that we are still paying for a lot of bad investments including stranded costs of Seabrook and the scrubber at the Merrimack Station coal plant. Now we are being asked to make a huge investment in yet another boondoggle.
The cost of the pipeline will also be born by ratepayers; this alone will raise electric bills. And if the pipeline is built and has to be abandoned due to the disastrous side effects of fracking, pipelines or lack of demand, we will still have to pay for it. Remember, this is a multi-billion dollar project. Whether it turns out to be a good investment or bad, you are on the hook.
Our region has seen a pattern of reduced energy demand due to more efficient lighting and appliances as well as through the use of more renewable sources of energy. We are being asked to take enormous financial, environmental, and health risks by building more dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure just as we are experiencing a renewable energy revolution.
Support of the NED pipeline might benefit politicians in our lobby-driven campaign finance system, but it offers the rest of us nothing but risks, dangers and higher prices. This project should be soundly rejected by all New Hampshire ratepayers.

Susan Wessels

Rindge

GMO labeling bill worthy of House consideration, approval

Call your representatives and tell them to pass this bill, especially if you have children. We all have a right to choose what to and what not to put in our diets and all food should carry labels to identify all ingredients natural or otherwise.

Sentinel Editorial

One of the truest sayings we know is this: Knowledge is power. We’ve noted often, for example, that would-be voters should take the time to learn what they can about the candidates and issues before heading to the polls, and that citizens deserve to know what government officials — elected and appointed — are doing with public money and resources, the better to make informed decisions about those entrusted with those resources. In the same vein, we’ve railed against attempts by some lawmakers and governors to trample scientific research or ban the mention of certain subjects — such as climate change or evolution — they don’t support.
And we believe consumers deserve access to all relevant information about what they buy, especially anything they put into their bodies.
Wednesday, the N.H. House will take up HB 1674, which would require anyone producing or distributing foods altered through the use of genetically modified organisms to label those products as such. The bill takes great care to define what counts as a genetically modified food and who is or isn’t responsible for making sure those foods are labeled.
The bill is similar to those passed in Vermont, Connecticut and Maine and proposed in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. It does not, as critics charge, add to the cost of labeling food products. It does not apply to restaurants and it exempts farmers whose animals’ feed contains GMO or who are not also a retailer or manufacturer. There are other exemptions intended to protect specific areas — like alcohol or foods for medicinal use — and to keep a minimal amount of GMO-related material from disrupting an entire product line.
As did a similar bill in 2014, HB 1674 comes to the House floor from the Environment and Agriculture Committee, carrying a 12-7 recommendation of “inexpedient to legislate.” That recommendation is based largely on the prospect of a lawsuit from chemical and agricultural firms if it passes, and that enforcing the law would cost the state money.
There would be a cost involved in enforcing HB 1674, but it’s one we feel the state has an interest in bearing. As for the idea of threatened or implied legal action, if lawmakers are concerned about that, they ought never to make new law at all.
Rep. John O’Connor, R-Derry, writing for the majority, also cynically raises the idea that companies are free to label their products as GMO-free if they want to capture sales from concerned consumers. This is true, but the point here is to assure consumers, not further confuse them. Consumers need to know that if something might contain a substance they don’t want, it will be clearly marked; not that it might be marked if the maker feels it has something to gain by doing so.
The rationale for HB 1674 is apparent in the first line from the first section: “New Hampshire consumers have the right to know whether the foods they purchase were produced with genetic engineering so they can make informed purchasing decisions.”
Further, the bill notes: “Manipulating genes via genetic engineering and inserting them into organisms is an imprecise process. The results are not always predictable or controllable.”
We believe HB 1674 is not only completely expedient, but necessary, to legislate. The bottom line is the science is still out on GMOs, despite claims to the contrary by companies and trade organizations that profit from GMO sales. That doesn’t mean they’re a danger, but neither does it mean they’re safe. In the absence of conclusive evidence, consumers ought to have the ability to choose for themselves whether to consume products made with GMOs. And the only way to make that choice is to know for certain which products those are.

Judge sides with selectmen in Winchester police chief's suit

By ALYSSA DANDREA and MEGHAN FOLEY Sentinel Staff


A judge has ruled that Winchester selectmen did not violate state law when they voted last fall to suspend the town’s police chief without pay for three days. Cheshire County Superior Court Judge John C. Kissinger Jr. wrote in his Feb. 2 decision that Winchester Police Chief Gary A. Phillips was not entitled to summary judgment in the civil lawsuit he brought against the town in September. The town, Kissinger said, did nothing wrong.
Phillips has 10 days to file a motion with the court asking Kissinger to reconsider his decision. He can also take his case to the N.H. Supreme Court on appeal.
Phillips, who has served as chief since 2005, argued in court documents that state law requires selectmen to provide him with written notification of their intent to vote on his suspension prior to taking action.
Kissinger disagreed.
“Logically, the specific reasons underlying the decision to suspend cannot be fully and specifically known until the decision is discussed and made,” Kissinger wrote. “Otherwise, the reasons are merely speculative and may not underlie the final decision at all.”
Selectmen met in a nonpublic meeting Sept. 9 and voted to suspend Phillips for three days — Sept. 21 through Sept. 23 — without pay. They provided Phillips with the reasons for their decision in a letter dated Sept. 10.
Selectmen allege in court documents that Phillips had made a retaliatory threat against Winchester police Officer Brooke Sharra during a nonpublic meeting of the board in August. Sharra was not at that meeting; rather, selectmen held it with Phillips to discuss his work performance.
Phillips said, “Officer Sharra will be on the Laurie List before I’m done with her,” according to an affidavit prepared by Town Administrator Shelly Walker.
The Laurie List is a statewide record of law enforcement officers whose credibility could be called into question if they testify in criminal trials. Officers are placed on the Laurie List at the discretion of local police chiefs.
Sharra, who no longer works for the town, is the daughter of Margaret Sharra, Winchester’s land use administrator.
Phillips threatened Officer Sharra because he believed selectmen’s recent negative evaluation of his performance was the result of feedback he thought Sharra gave to them during her exit interview, according to an affidavit prepared by Walker. However, selectmen told Phillips that their evaluation of him was completed before they met with Sharra, according to the affidavit.
Phillips unsuccessfully appealed his suspension to the board in a nonpublic session Sept. 16. Five days later, he filed a civil lawsuit against the town.
Kissinger issued his decision last week on the heels of a 15-minute hearing Jan. 29, during which both sides presented their arguments.
Phillips’ attorney, Joseph S. Hoppock of Keene, told Kissinger that if selectmen had followed state law, they would have notified Phillips that its members were going to suspend him — and for what reasons — before they took a vote.
Instead, town officials gave Phillips a letter after the nonpublic vote to say they were taking disciplinary action against him, Hoppock said.
He maintained state statute is clear that a “chief shall be subject to suspension without pay, and only for cause, after he or she has been presented with a written specification of the reasons for the disciplinary action to become subject to that disciplinary action in a vote.”
The town’s attorney, Andrew B. Livernois of Concord, disagreed, saying police chiefs are treated differently than police officers under state law.
Police officers can’t be suspended or terminated until after they’ve received a notice and have had an opportunity to be heard, he said.
Police chiefs aren’t entitled to pre-deprivation notice, instead they’re told why they’re being suspended or terminated, and then are allowed to appeal the decision to superior court, he said.
Kissinger agreed with Livernois in his ruling, saying, “Boards of selectmen must be able to remove chiefs of police from their posts quickly, but still provide adequate due process.”
Livernois and Hoppock could not be immediately reached for comment this morning about Kissinger’s decision.
Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1435, or adandrea@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @ADandreaKS.

IMPORTANT TO CONSIDER: IN THE NH PRIMARY


A massive private profit export pipeline is ginning up a dubious case for “eminent domain” claiming an energy crisis in the Northeast, proposing massive land takings all across Southern New Hampshire.  (as well as NY and MA)  These pipelines are metastasizing anywhere there is route to a coast and many states are under siege.  In the Northeast this is one of many pipelines seeking eminent domain takings.

This pipeline proposed for Southern New Hampshire has been opposed by overwhelming numbers of communities and their citizens all along this region, and in town votes through three states.  Trump didn’t win hearts when he crowed about how great “eminent domain” is.  And when Bush jumped in to “champion the people” with the little touching story of little old ladies tossed out of their homes for Trump development plans, on phony eminent domain arguments, he also stepped on his petard.  The backer of Bush’s campaign is none other than the (former Enron) owner of this pipeline company, Richard Kinder: Kinder Morgan, a “huge” funder of Bush, and even Bush’s brother’s presidency back in this man’s ENRON days. 

This latter fact has been all over the internet in this region since the primaries began: so Bush,  in his attempt to “differentiate” himself from Trump, stepped in his own waste.  In fact Bush’s backer is advocating much worse, which I will describe more fully in a moment.   Peas in the rotting pod.

Meanwhile, here are some other observations on the Democratic side of the Primaries hereabouts: Jean Shaheen who is a corporate Democrat supporting TPP has completely ignored this section of the state, and has been consistently and completely unresponsive to Democratic voters, as well as other constituents in Southern New Hampshire, in any aspect of this pipeline concern.  And a lot of these folks are those who pounded the pavement to help her attain office, and now feel completely disgusted with her betrayal, indifference and hypocrisy.   This has been going on for well over a year.  The term “crickets” doesn’t begin to cover it.

She isn’t doing Clinton any favors in this area with her endorsement:  just showing how indifferent and cold the party leadership is to the folks who have been supporters for years!  These are vast land takings in three states (NY, MA, and NH) to connecting points in Southern Main and Eastern Coastal MA en route to the Canadian Maritime.

This massive pipeline is a class I (lowest safety), and the company is making a real point of locating it in the most concentrated population centers in rural areas, right through public drinking water supplies and massive takings of pristine conservation land.  It makes a point of running through population centers in communities and peoples homes: Most are dependent on well water, or town water supplies.

 A further concern is that this unstable, toxic, unconventional gas from fracking is also more radioactive ,along with endocrine disruptors, neurotoxins, VOC’s, etc. . . . and is being located near and under, live electrical, direct transmission cables: yes, a leak has a much greater chance of resulting in massive explosions. 

Many more homes are located in incineration zones broadening out from this route.  This is a massive export pipeline for private gas investor profit.  Compressor stations will exist in neighborhoods.  These communities will be destroyed: property values will plummet and public safety and health are at great risk.  Peoples lives will be ruined, and the anxiety this has caused countless citizens has been ignored by Ms. Shaheen.  The  organization that monitors pipeline safety was already understaffed: it cut its national workforce by 9% this year.  It is cheaper, now, to pay fractions of interest on massive wealth, than to spend money on safety, or human health, or to settle lawsuits when people die, or property is destroyed, or drinking water is no longer potable.

The DOE just granted approval to Pieridae Goldboro in Nova, Scotia for LNG export facilities: paperwork associated with this project states “pipeline and fossil fuel companies”  (in the U.S. and Canada) will make “eighteen quadrillion dollars +” over a twenty year period.  

Quite a pot of private investor gold at the end of this particular pipeline rainbow! and this is one of two okay’d so far.  And it appears that not only have extractors over produced, but that they are severely in debt with banks that have lent billions at a very low% with massive tax deferments, so taxpayers, property owners, and lowly serfs will be on the hook for all of it, to be paid nothing for this destruction to citizen lives, while once again, wealth hoarding is furthered to an obscene, unparalleled level.

The DOE has now granted export to both free trade and non free trade nations for over 50 percent of U.S. produced gas. (Susan Sakmar, 2014)  And you can read Bill Powers 2013 book about how investor hyperbole has given a distorted picture of recoverable versus existing gas “resources”, and how well production declines sharply within a year on all but a few wells.  Subsequent to his writing, a number of shale plays have experienced sharp declines. 

And more information is emerging from places around the country, despite gag orders on families with children, and despite the medical communities concerns about dangers to human health, and to precious drinking water, never mind the suffering of people in their own homes as this has surrounded their neighborhoods.

Senator Ed Markey came out just this week to talk about the devastation exports will cause to this region, and cited concern from U.S. manufacturing firms about what exports (and limited resources siphoned off for export) could do to jobs and manufacturing in the U.S., both in driving up prices, but also depleting a resource for U.S. manufacturers.   It seems that “energy independence”, which we don’t have and now never will,  was never really the goal of massive fossil fuels expansion:  more like expecting the public to subsidize gas development so it can be siphoned off to further enrich that small group of investors we hear so much about whose bloated off shore accounts do nothing to advance this nation: the ultimate welfare. 

Shaheen was booed at a event for Clinton, likely because of this, to which she is reported to have gone all “public schoolmarm” about “respect” in response.  (NOT RESPONDING TO YOUR CONSTITUENTS is, oh, a bit more “disrespectful” than being “booed”.)

Then there is the candidate herself.  Several voters from these towns have approached Clinton at rallies with concerns about drinking water, safety and abuse of eminent domain, and the massive methane and environmental concerns of this:  Clinton was reported to be curt, and dismissed this as “a state concern”, getting away from them as soon as possible. 

Folks in the cross-hairs of this have learned that Clinton has promoted FRACKING all over the world.  And is either uncaring about the health and public safety risks, or willfully ignorant in the face of investor greed. She has lost credibility with many Democrats in this region because of this.  So it is glaringly evident that concern for the voters/residents of this region in either party’s aspiring top leadership is NIL: 

With the exception of Bernie Sanders, who grasps the full implications of this, and is opposed to Fracking, and has stood with citizens. 

In conclusion, approximately twenty thousand+ ( a guesstimate, and likely many more) voters and their neighbors in these Southern New Hampshire communities have had a real education about both parties in this region.  .  There are many pristine, unspoiled conservation areas, peoples homes and entire towns that will be turned into Superfund sites and incineration zones, (except that they are already exempt from Superfund legislation thanks to Bush/Cheney and their sell out Dem cronies.)  Electricity ratepayers are, further, supposed to finance this atrocity.

Basically, its pretty clear that our nation’s wealth is being siphoned off for massive, concentrated private profit.  While whole populations and communities become sacrifice zones where votes don’t matter: its just kabuki theater.

Increasingly we have no representation to protect property, to defend our lives, or to protect ourselves from harms embedded in our food or the water we need to survive. Our lifetime investments are pawns for insider political deals with investments, fossil fuels, and international wealth. Specialized lawyers to adequately represent average folks are beyond nearly all citizens’ means.  Even class action is no longer adjudicated, but forced into corporate friendly arbitration for dwindling settlements, paid from a fraction of interest earned upon interest.

FLINT citizens who are poor, and poor and of color, know very well of this betrayal for decades. 

What FLINT demonstrates (as do other abused communities in our nation and around the world)  is very far along the continuum toward genocide, when laws are erased,  and group think, cronyism, and corruption prevail.  Human sacrifice zones, with every possible freebie for the bloated and connected.   Our federal government closed its human rights office this year. Wealth is becoming reason enough for any atrocity, and who knows, perhaps even private amusement and competition.

Yes, supreme court appointments:  and they will certainly be focused on the shuttlecock of social issues around which scapegoated groups win or lose, while we are all losing so very much more in the face of this deliberate distraction.  Neither side is genuine in its postures: there is a massive hidden agenda of mutual interest with the same hoarding objective and only social issues to differentiate.

Consistency, not faux concern when the cameras are rolling, counts a lot more in these times.   We are fed virtual word salad, tweaks and empty gestures.  We are fed “me, me, me” and persona management, emptiness or vague claims, exaggerations and hate speech, name calling, bragging or other manipulative forms of non communication and deceit.  Our corporate media no longer vets records or informs us: they are owned by the hoarders:  right now we have net neutrality, but only for voters who have the time to spend researching facts, and for how long is this likely to be allowed?  By either party?

Bernie Sanders is saying what is true, and standing with folks in Southern New Hampshire.  He has been a long time advocate and is a rare combination of principle, dedication, integrity and tenacity, over decades, that throws other contenders into sharp relief.  He is telling us to stand up for ourselves and offers to lead us in doing it: it will be a hard fight, but its the only chance our children have.


THINK before you cast your vote

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Eminent Domain Law Definition

During last nights debate, the most tweeted question moderators received was the one about eminent domain and how it effects property owners in the direct line of Kinder Morgans, NED pipeline, from people in NH, MA. and NY .. Here is the law and everything you need to know if you are in the pipeline's path

What is Eminent Domain ?

The power to take private property for public use by a state, municipality, or private person or corporation authorized to exercise functions of public character, following the payment of just compensation to the owner of that property.
Federal, state, and local governments may take private property through their power of eminent domain or may regulate it by exercising their Police Power. The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires the government to provide just compensation to the owner of the private property to be taken. A variety of property rights are subject to eminent domain, such as air, water, and land rights. The government takes private property through condemnation proceedings. Throughout these proceedings, the property owner has the right of due process.
Eminent domain is a challenging area for the courts, which have struggled with the question of whether the regulation of property, rather than its acquisition, is a taking requiring just compensation. In addition, private property owners have begun to initiate actions against the government in a kind of proceeding called inverse condemnation.

 Inverse Condemnation

Is the taking of property by a government agency which so greatly damages the use of a parcel of real property that it is the equivalent of condemnation of the entire property. Thus the owner claims he/she is entitled to payment for the loss of the property (in whole or in part) under the constitutional right to compensation for condemnation of property under the government's eminent domain right.

 For example: the city of Los Angeles widens a boulevard and thereby takes the entire parking lot of Bennison's Busy Bee Market. The city offers to pay for the lot, but Bennison claims the market has lost all its business since no one can park and wants the value of the entire parcel, including the market building.

To exercise the power of eminent domain, the government must prove that the four elements set forth in the Fifth Amendment are present: (1) private property (2) must be taken (3) for public use (4) and with just compensation. These elements have been interpreted broadly.


Private Property The first element requires that the property taken be private. Private property includes land as well as fixtures, leases, options, stocks, and other items. The rifle that was used to kill President john f. kennedy was considered private property in an eminent domain proceeding.

Taking The second element refers to the taking of physical property, or a portion thereof, as well as the taking of property by reducing its value. Property value may be reduced because of noise, accessibility problems, or other agents. Dirt, timber, or rock appropriated from an individual's land for the construction of a highway is taken property for which the owner is entitled to compensation. In general, compensation must be paid when a restriction on the use of property is so extensive that it is tantamount to confiscation of the property.
Some property rights routinely receive constitutional protection, such as Water Rights. For example, if land is changed from waterfront to inland property by the construction of a highway on the shoreline, the owners of the affected property are to be compensated for their loss of use of the waterfront.

Public Use:  The third element, public use, requires that the property taken be used to benefit the public rather than specific individuals. Whether a particular use is considered public is ordinarily a question to be determined by the courts. However, if the legislature has made a declaration about a specific public use, the courts will defer to legislative intent (Hawaii Housing Authority v. Midkiff, 467 U.S. 229, 104 S. Ct. 2321, 81 L. Ed. 2d 186 [1984]). Further, "[t]he legislature may determine what private property is needed for public purposebut when the taking has been ordered, then the question of compensation is judicial" (Monongahela Navigation Co. v. United States, 148 U.S. 312, 13 S. Ct. 622, 37 L. Ed. 463 [1893]).
To determine whether property has been taken for public use, the courts first determined whether the property was to be used by a broad segment of the general public. The definition of public use was later broadened to include anything that benefited the public, such as trade centers, municipal civic centers, and airport expansions. The U.S. Supreme Court continued to expand the definition of public use to include aesthetic considerations. In Berman v. Parker, 348 U.S. 26, 75 S. Ct. 98, 99 L. Ed. 27 (1954), the Court ruled that slums could be cleared in order to make a city more visually attractive. The Court in Berman stated further that it is within legislative power to determine whether a property can be condemned solely to beautify a community.
State courts have also expanded the definition of public use. The Michigan Supreme Court even allowed property to be condemned for the private use of the General Motors Company, under the theory that the public would benefit from the economic revitalization a new plant would bring to the community (Poletown Neighborhood Council v. City of Detroit, 410 Mich. 616, 304 N. W. 2d 455 [1981]).

 Just Compensation: The last element set forth in the Fifth Amendment mandates that the amount of compensation awarded when property is seized or damaged through condemnation must be fair to the public as well as to the property owner (Searl v. School District No. 2 of Lake County, 133 U.S. 553, 10 S. Ct. 374, 33 L. Ed. 740 [1890]). Because no precise formula for determining it exists, just compensation is the subject of frequent litigation.
The courts tend to emphasize the rights of the property owner in eminent domain proceedings. The owner usually has not initiated the action but has been brought into the litigation because his or her property is needed for public use. The owner must participate in the proceedings, which can impose an emotional and financial burden.
The measure of damages is often the fair market value of the property that is harmed or taken for public use. The market value is commonly defined as the price that reasonably could have resulted from negotiations between an owner who was willing to sell it and a purchaser who wanted to buy it. The value of real property is assessed based on the uses to which it reasonably can be put. Elements for consideration include the history and general character of the area, the adaptability of the land for future buildings, and the use intended for the property after its taking. Generally, the best use of the land is considered to be its use at the time it was condemned, even though the condemnor might not intend to use the land in the same manner as the owner. Crops, grass, trees, minerals, rental income, and all other items that fairly enter into the question of value are taken into consideration when determining just compensation. The amount of compensation should be measured by the owner's loss rather than by the condemnor's gain, and the owner should be placed in as good a financial position as he or she would have been in had the property not been taken (Monongahela). The compensation should be paid in cash, and the amount is determined as of the date title vests in the condemnor. Interest is paid on the award until the date of payment.
Condemnation Proceedings
Condemnation:  proceedings vary according to individual state and federal laws. In general, the proceedings should be conducted as quickly as possible. A proceeding does not require court involvement if the condemnor and landowner enter into a contract for the taking of the property for a public use. A seizure pursuant to such a contract is as effective as if it were done through formal condemnation proceedings.
Condemnation usually consists of two phases: proceedings that relate to the right of the condemnor to take the property, and proceedings to set the amount of compensation to be paid for the property taken. The commencement of the proceedings does not curtail ordinary use of the condemned property by the owner as long as the use does not substantially change the condition of the property or its value.
States require special procedures for certain cases, categorized by either the purpose for which the property is sought or the character of the party seeking to take it. For example, a special procedure is required when property is to be taken for a street, highway, park, drain, levee, sewer, canal, or waterway. In a procedure called a quick taking, the condemnor is permitted to take immediate possession and use of the property, and the owner must receive cash compensation in advance of the proceeding.
The owner has the right to due process during condemnation proceedings. He or she must be notified in a timely manner and must be given a reasonable opportunity to be heard on the issues of whether the use for which the property is expropriated is public and whether the compensation is just. Due process considerations mandate that the landowner receive an opportunity to present evidence and to confront or cross-examine witnesses. The owner has an automatic right to appeal.
Due process does not require a jury trial in condemnation proceedings, although various state constitutions and statutes provide for assessment by a jury. Absent contrary state provisions, a court has the discretionary power to grant or refuse a motion for view of the premises by a jury. A condemnation judgment or order must be recorded.

Inverse Condemnation : An increase in environmental problems has resulted in a new type of eminent domain proceeding called inverse condemnation. In this proceeding, the property owner, rather than the condemnor, initiates the action. The owner alleges that the government has acquired an interest in his or her property without giving compensation, such as when the government floods a farmer's field or pollutes a stream crossing private land. An inverse condemnation proceeding is often brought by a property owner when it appears that the taker of the property does not intend to bring eminent domain proceedings

The state constitution demands openness in our government

Something our current office holders are guilty of time and time again. Lets hope that people have wised up to these tactics and elect some new candidates that will follow the law and allow us citizens to know what decisions they are making and are open to our public scrutiny. Seems the situation is so wide spread that new bills are being introduced and considered to rectify a situation that should never have been an issue in the first place. "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

SENTINEL EDITORIAL

 
There was a time when New Hampshire’s government was as open to public scrutiny as most any in the nation. Open government is such an ingrained concept in the Granite State that it’s embedded in the state constitution. In recent years, though, there has been an insidious creep toward secrecy, particularly at the local levels of government. State law calls for public entities to meet and make decisions in public, and offers a few, very specific, exemptions to this rule. But those entrusted with doing the public’s business, for a variety of reasons, seem to be seeking every excuse to broaden those exemptions in order to meet behind closed doors. They call in their lawyers, then cite privilege. They raise the possibility of negotiations being harmed if specifics get out, or note the possibility that a public employee might be discussed negatively, whether anyone’s reputation is at risk or not.
All these circumstances are embedded as exceptions to the Right-to-Know Law, because there are times when it does make sense not to immediately release information to everyone. But too often, officials use them to relieve the pressure of facing their neighbors or critics as they make unpopular decisions. In some cases, they don’t give any real reason, simply noting on their agenda that a closed-door session will be held. And too often, actions taken in these secret meetings remain secret, unrecorded or unrevealed.
At what serves as an entry level to public service, many local public officials have little experience with either the concept or the specifics of the state’s Right to Know Law. We can envision how they might feel doing their jobs would be much easier without having to cater to the public by, say, having to give notice of upcoming meetings, do most business in front of those affected by board decisions and provide an open record of who met, what was said and how members voted.
There are multiple aspects to keeping the public properly informed as to what its public officials and agencies are doing.
One is to make documents detailing the public’s business — they are laid out by state statute — readily available. This means responding promptly to requests for documents, and not imposing obstacles to obtaining them. Granted, it takes time to find and reproduce such records. But a bill before the N.H. Legislature would enact an unreasonable fee on those seeking to obtain public records. HB 1611 would allow municipalities to recoup the cost of filling right-to-know requests. A similar bill rightly died last session, and this one ought to as well. Transparency is a necessary part of governing, and the government ought to bear the cost of it, rather than using that cost as an excuse to deter open-records requests.
Three other bills now before lawmakers deserve approval. House Bills 2580, 2581 and 2582 would, collectively, promote transparency by making clear the intent of state law regarding public meeting minutes. HB 2580 requires a record be kept any time a quorum of a public body meets to discuss negotiations or confer with counsel. HB 2581 requires that when officials vote behind closed doors, a record of how each member voted be kept and made public. HB 2582 requires the content for nonpublic meeting minutes meet the same standard as the minutes for meetings conducted in public.
The cumulative effect of these bills would be to make clear that elected officials must adhere to the law even when the doors are closed.
This is what the constitution demands, with good reason, and it is the standard to which those doing the public’s business ought to be held.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Regional Meeting in Winchester Feb 13th

You’re invited to attend an important pipeline informational meeting on Saturday, February 13th from 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM at Winchester Town Hall.

We will have home baked goodies available, so BYOC (bring your own coffee) and enjoy! (If you would like to contribute goodies, please contact Sue Durling by email, phone or Facebook.)

Some topics we’ll discuss:
·         - Positions of candidates for Winchester Select Board.
·         - Winchester has 3 alternative sites for the Northfield compressor station, all very close to Pulpit Falls.
·         - Supporting our friends in Northfield, MA in their fight to stop NED and a compressor station.
·         - This station, whether built in Northfield or Winchester, will impact public health and air quality for the entire region.
·         - The plan to try and locate an industrial gas plant on the former Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant site.
·         - Hinsdale becoming an alternate site for this gas plant. This gas plant is will negatively impact air quality across our region.

Our organizers have been working closely in Monadnock Region communities for more than a year as we unite towns along the proposed Kinder Morgan Northeast Direct (NED) pipeline route. Pipeline opposition groups are in every town along the route in Southern NH, with additional concerned towns like Peterborough and Temple choosing to become participants in the process of opposing the project to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

NH electricity utility ratepayers would be forced to pay for a pipeline our state does not want, is in high excess of our needs that are only during extreme winter weather events, is largely for export, and goes against New Hampshire’s own Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and President Obama’s Climate Power Plan.

We encourage you to attend this important meeting. Come learn about the NH Municipal Pipeline Coalition, comprised of town officials from many of the impacted towns. The pipeline company is moving quickly to push this project forward as prices for fossil fuel energy have been plummeting and renewable energy and green jobs are soaring. Our goal is for informed decisions to be made and with the collaboration of all affected towns.

Our concerns extend to the use of pristine wild lands, conservation land, surface and ground water, wetlands, farms, a state park, our aquifers and the taking of our land by eminent domain. To start learning more now, visit ECHOaction.org. Please share this flyer and invite your friends and neighbors to join us on February 13th.

With best wishes for a rural and healthy New Hampshire lifestyle,

Sue Durling
496-1783

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

ECHO ACTION PIPELINE NEWS & EVENTS

ECHO ACTION NEWS
DROP-IN SESSION TONIGHT: FITZWILLIAM LIBRARY, 6:00 PM!
  - Bring your questions, share information about letters/surveyors
- Volunteer to help with meetings & actions
- Get help with letters to the editor about the pipeline or energy issues or regarding our primary candidates!
- Drop by, say hi!  :)
 

WE THE PEOPLE – A Presidential Primary Tent Convention
Friday, February 5 – Sunday, February 7, 2016
Veterans Park in Manchester, NH
On Primary Weekend February 5-7, 2016, patriots from across New Hampshire and the United States will gather at “political ground zero” in Manchester, NH in the first-ever We the People Convention to fight big money in politics. The Revolutionary-themed Convention will feature multiple presidential candidates, national reform leaders and entertainers, educational and artistic programming in a 500-capacity heated tent across the street from the Center of NH Convention Center, where national media are based during the primary. The Convention will include public demonstrations and targeted marches to presidential candidates to secure “first 100 days” commitments and generate a final burst of national media attention for the Fight Big Money agenda at the start of the 2016 election.
COST
The Convention is free and open to the public – all are welcome to attend! Housing will be on your dime. Donations are gladly accepted.
RESERVATIONS
If you plan on coming, it's critical that you reserve specific ticket block(s) through Eventbrite. Although the event is free of charge, we need your help in managing our costs. Many of you have pre-registered by RSVPing on this page, but we need to you register through Eventbrite as so we know who will be in the tent at different points throughout the weekend and can keep track for food.
PARKING
A detailed map of all Manchester parking is here. We recommend the Victory Garage or the City Hall Lot - they are free on the weekends. On-street parking close to the park is $0.75/hour until the early evening Friday. Free parking, not identified on the map, is available a few blocks West and folks will need to identify parking for themselves (ie, near Bronstein Park) when they arrive.

SATURDAY
ECHO ACTION & NH SPIRIT WILL BE TABLING AT THE EVENT!
9:00 AM - Dave Moloney of NH PLAN is speaking on a panel about Big Money and the Environment
1:45 PM - Governor Hassan has been invited to speak as a Senate candidate. We encourage pipeline opposition to attend!
REGISTER NOW!
See the full schedule for Friday, Feb. 5
See the full schedule for Saturday, Feb. 6
See the full schedule for Sunday, Feb. 7

DOES NH NEED THE KINDER MORGAN PIPELINE?
Conservation Law Foundation speakers at Antioch University New England
New Hampshire communities face a critical decision: Are we going to let the Kinder Morgan natural gas pipeline pollute our climate and threaten our future health? Or will we stand up to Big Gas and stop this unnecessary project before it can begin? Come learn what Conservation Law Foundation is doing to prevent this damaging pipeline proposal - and how you can help.
SPEAKERS
Bradley Campbell, CLF President
Tom Irwin, VP & Director, CLF Vermont
Greg Cunningham, VP, Clean Energy & Climate Change
Melissa Birchard, CLF Staff Attorney
Caitlin Peale Sloan, CLF Staff Attorney
Presentation and Q&A will take place 6:00-7:00pm
Refreshments will be served before and after the presentation.
Special Thanks to Antioch University New England for providing the venue for this event.
CONTACT
CLF Donor Relations Coordinator, Mary Light
WHEN
Friday, February 12, 2016
5:30 PM to 7:30 PM
WHERE
Antioch University New England
40 Avon Street, Community Room
Keene, NH 03431
REGISTER
RSVP for free tickets through Eventbrite


   REGIONAL PIPELINE MEETING NEXT SATURDAY IN WINCHESTER!