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Russia has been in the news just about every day this year.

The top news story recently involves Russia’s involvement in the 2016 Presidential elections, which was highlighted in a Jan. 6 report issued by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The declassified version of the report, entitled “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections,” included an analytic assessment drafted and coordinated among the Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the National Security Agency.

“We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election,” the report stated under its Key Judgments section.

Even though the primary focus of the report was on the presidential election and the political process, it also included Russian influence on U.S. energy policy, including running “anti-fracking programming, highlighting environmental issues and the impacts on public health. This is likely reflective of the Russian Government’s concern about the impact on fracking and U.S. natural gas production on the global energy market and the potential challenges to Gazprom’s profitability.”

Gazprom is Russia’s national oil and gas company.

Now, two members of Congress have sent a letter to the Secretary of Treasury requesting an investigation concerning allegations that Russia has attempted to harm the domestic oil and gas industry by funding environmental groups that seek to eliminate hydraulic fracturing in the U.S. and elsewhere.

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(Photo: AP file photo )

House Science, Space and Technology Committee chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, and energy subcommittee chairman Randy Weber, R-Texas, stated in a letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin that Russia has tried to “suppress the widespread adoption of fracking in Europe and the U.S.”

“If you connect the dots, it is clear that Russia is funding U.S. environmental groups in an effort to suppress our domestic oil and gas industry, specifically hydraulic fracking,” Smith said.

“They have established an elaborate scheme that funnels money through shell companies in Bermuda,” he said. “This scheme may violate federal law and certainly distorts the market. The American people deserve to know the truth and I am confident Secretary Mnuchin will investigate the allegations.”

 

Smith said the panel is already conducting oversight into “what appears to be a concerted effort by foreign entities to funnel millions of dollars through various non-profit entities to influence the market.”

Crude oil and natural gas production has increased in the U.S. since 2008 because of new technological developments in drilling, completion, and production techniques from shale. Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have fueled an “energy renaissance” in the United States, creating more competition between Russia and the U.S. for global energy markets. Exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG), crude oil and petroleum products from the U.S. are in direct competition with Russian oil and gas exports, which accounted for 68 percent of that country’s export revenue in 2013.

Citing news reports and IRS documents, the congressmen requested the investigation into major environmental groups, including the Sierra Club Foundation, League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, and Natural Resources Defense Council, alleging those groups received Russian money to fund their anti-fracking protests.

Alex Mills is President of the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers. The opinions expressed are solely of the author.

Editor's Note: This column was authored by Don Lim.

At the G20 summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel rebuked President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement earlier this year. Investment in renewable energy, however, will not reach the outcome proponents of the Paris Agreement hope for, such as reducing CO2 emissions and environmental impact while, at the same time, providing reliable electrical generation. Renewable energy is touted as the way of the future by world leaders and news outlets, but these claims are often misleading. Headlines in California make it seem like most of the state’s energy is generated via renewables—but this excludes Los Angeles, California’s largest city by a long shot. Similarly, France and Germany have also made headlines on their progress. However, such statistics misguide readers. In fact, many articles talk about electric generation but exclude transportation and machine manufacturing needs—which are essentially all powered by gasoline and diesel.


Reports on the smashing success of renewable energy perpetuates the belief that such a transition is easy and available anywhere. Geothermal energy, for example, is heat derived from the earth’s surface. However, this requires locations where magma is close to the surface—and this phenomenon is extremely rare. Only nine states generate electricity from geothermal, nearly all of it from California and Nevada.

Hydroelectric, a seemingly ideal renewable source, has become increasingly controversial. Hydroelectric energy is energy generated through flowing water, most commonly through dams. While thousands of dams worldwide are still currently undergoing construction or planning, backlash has occurred in Laos, China, and Brazil over displacing local inhabitants and disrupting ecosystems. Indeed, the removal of the world’s largest dam, the Glines Canyon Dam, was celebrated as a restoration of nature and wildlife.

Solar and wind energy are viewed as non-polluting and “free,” yet their environmental impact is often glossed over. Solar requires large swathes of open-space, pristine land—which sometimes means clearing thousands of trees. Not every state or country has the land necessary to effectively transition to solar. Wind turbines also need large amounts of land and are dangerous for wildlife, resulting in over 1.5 million bat, bird, and raptor fatalities each year in the United States.

Perhaps the most persistent claim about renewable energy is how it reduces CO2 emissions. However, reduction in CO2 emissions from natural gas dwarf reductions from solar and wind. Natural gas has significantly lowered CO2 emissions since 2005, mainly by replacing coal. Natural gas continues to be the most influential factor in driving both CO2 emissions and electricity costs. In fact, in 2040, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects a sustained growth to almost 40 percent of energy production from natural gas while renewable energy will produce little more than it already did in 2016.

The problem with renewable energy, however, goes further. Although there are days where solar and wind can reach peak output due to favorable conditions, in 2017, renewable energies (like hydroelectric, wind, and solar) contributed to only 14 percent of total electricity generated while natural gas and coal contributed over sixty percent. Proponents of solar energy also celebrate that in the U.S., the solar industry employs more people than oil, coal, and natural gas combined. It’s worth noting, though, that solar energy produces only about 1percent of U.S. electricity. Contrary to assertions made by writers at CNN and Forbes, this is not beneficial to the U.S. economy. If the U.S. employs more people to produce less, that, by definition, is inefficiency, and drives up the cost of the already expensive electric costs in California—and the rest of America.

In February 2017, California Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) proposed a measure, SB 584, requiring all of the state’s electricity to come from renewables by 2045. However, this measure—among other state and federal measures—ignores the increased costs imposed on the public, which disproportionately affects the poor. Cheaper electricity provides the least fortunate with more options and lowers the cost of living. Ensuring electrical systems respond rapidly and for enough individuals is tantamount. Electric availability for vital activities such as hospitals saving lives or meal preparation is not merely a luxury, but a necessity.

Americans, in reality, pay twice for their electricity: first, through their bills and second, through their taxes. A recent study from the Institute for Energy Research (IER) found, on average, the total lifetime costs of a thermal solar plant was almost four times more than that of a conventional natural gas plant. As for federal subsidies, taxpayers spent more than $13.2 billion in FY 2013 to electricity-related renewables. While coal and natural gas also receive subsidies, albeit fewer, Americans should also stop financing these industries and contributing to a costlier energy bill.

Renewable energy, over the past few decades, has become more efficient and cheaper. They are, however, still a far cry away from being as cheap, reliable, and efficient as natural gas. Frequent promises about renewable energy largely exaggerate the benefits while downplaying the evasive financial and environmental tradeoffs. The public should be mindful about the true costs of energy. Climate change is indeed occurring and after four decades and billions spent in funding, renewable energy has not followed through with substantial results. Market-based solutions, despite consistent interventions and hampering, have continued to provide cheaper electricity and reduced CO2 emissions, which consequently, and perhaps ironically, benefits both the consumer and the environment.

Don Lim is a current Young Voice Advocate who resides in New Jersey. He is a graduate from the University of Michigan and will be attending a master’s program in International Politics at the CEVRO Institute in the fall.

The committee on science space and technology is conducting over site of what appears to be a concerted effort of Russia to spread disinformation operations against natural gas and fund anti gas groups .

 

Please see the attachment below.

A federal appeals court, citing a Supreme Court ruling from last year, tossed out the corruption conviction of disgraced ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

The Thursday ruling by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals was quickly followed by acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim’s declaration that Silver would face a retrial.

“We look forward to presenting to another jury the evidence of decades-long corruption by one of the most powerful politicians in New York State history,” said Kim.

“Although it will be delayed, we do not expect justice to be denied.”

Silver, one of the most powerful politicians in New York across a half-century career, was convicted of all seven counts in his November 2015 corruption trial.

Attorneys for Silver hailed the appeals court decision.

“We're absolutely delighted with the result, and look forward in the future to a full Silver vindication,” said Silver’s lawyers, Joel Cohen and Steven Molo.

Silver, 73, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for his participation in a pair of crooked schemes involving $4 million in kickbacks and bribes.

But the appeals court cited a 2016 Supreme Court ruling — made after Silver’s conviction and sentencing — redefining the phrase “official act” as applied to fraud and extortion charges.

The judges agreed with Silver’s contention that jury instructions in his trial were erroneous in light of the decision handed down in the case of McDonnell vs. United States.

The jury charge was “in error,” the appeals court ruled. “We further hold that this error was not harmless because it is not clear beyond a reasonable doubt that a rational jury would have reached the same conclusion if properly instructed.

“Accordingly, we vacate the District Court’s judgment of conviction on all counts.”

Silver remained free on bail while fighting his conviction. He was also fined $1.7 million in the case.

While some in Albany reserved comment until the case is retried, others wondered what the nation’s courts were thinking.

“Today's Second Circuit decision shows that the golden age of Albany corruption is still very much alive,” said Assemblyman Minority Leader Brian Kolb (R-Canandaigua).

“Sheldon Silver was tried and convicted of fraud, extortion and money laundering. If his actions weren't illegal, it's hard to imagine what is.”

Assembly member Brian Kavanagh (D-Manhattan), while acknowledging Silver was now entitled to a second trial, said the ruling changed little else.

“What he did was wrong and a betrayal of the people of our state,” said Kavanagh.

silver72117

Silver, seen leaving federal court last year, was found guilty of several corruption charges in November 2015.

 (ALEC TABAK/FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

 

Gov. Cuomo, speaking in Buffalo, said the ruling was another step in the legal process.

“Before we do the dissection and the analysis of the legal theories, let it be fully litigated,” he said. “And then we’ll know where we wind up.”

In the earlier case, the Supreme Court vacated the conviction of former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell by clarifying the legal definition of an “official act.”

He was convicted in 2014 on 11 corruption counts.

Ex-U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who headed the prosecution against Silver, predicted the politician’s retrial would end with the same verdict.

“The evidence was strong,” he tweeted. “The Supreme Court changed the law. I expect Sheldon Silver to be re-tried and reconvicted.”

The ruling raised hopes in the camp of former state Senate Leader Dean Skelos, who is appealing a 2015 extortion and bribery conviction by citing the same Supreme Court decision.

Silver was once one of the most influential people in New York state, ruling as one of Albany’s “three men in a room” with the governor and the majority leader of the state Senate.

The Manhattan jury convicted Silver of leveraging his position to make millions in surreptitious deals involving two law firms, two developers and a medical researcher.

He was handcuffed and arrested on Jan. 22, 2015, sending shockwaves through the halls of power in Albany.

Silver, the son of a Lower East Side hardware store owner, was convicted of all seven counts brought by prosecutors. The guilty verdict forced his immediate ouster as Speaker, a job that he held for 20 years.

Prosecutors accused Silver of a quid pro quo deal where he arranged $500,000 in state grants to a doctor who in turn steered patients suffering from a deadly form of asbestos-related cancer to the speaker’s law firm.

In the second scheme, Silver directed a pair of major developers to hire the law firm Goldberg & Iryami for litigation challenging city tax assessments.

Silver then collected a secret payoff of $700,000 in referral fees from the firm.

The federal appeals court ruled that closing arguments by prosecutors at the trial served to reinforce the bad jury instruction.

“The Government's own summation confirms that the jury instructions conveyed an erroneous understanding of the law as clarified by McDonnell,” the appeals court found.

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Some area towns are doing all they can to prevent large wind farms from blowing into their borders.

Clarence and Tonawanda are crafting laws to prohibit all large-scale industrial-sized wind farms that generate power to sell back to the grid.

The Tonawanda Planning Board is expected to talk about proposed laws to ban large wind farms at its meeting Wednesday night, July 5.

The town "doesn't want to end up like Somerset or Lackawanna," Planning Board Chairman Kenneth Swanekamp said.

In the Town of Somerset in Niagara County, officials have included funding in the town's 2018 budget for attorney fees to fight Apex Clean Energy, which has proposed building 70 wind turbines along Lake Ontario in Somerset and the Town of Yates. After it became embroiled in the issue, Somerset adopted a 54-page wind energy law which serves to severely restrict the wind power industry from moving forward there.

Somerset Supervisor Daniel Engert said he knows of no other towns that have prohibited wind farms. He called it risky, especially in light of Article X, which appoints a state siting board for any large-scale energy project that generates over 25 megawatts.

"When a developer files an application their local laws are reviewed and the state has the authority to overrule a local law if it can be determined to be unreasonably burdensome," said Engert.

Zack Dufresne, a spokesperson for the Alliance for Clean Energy of New York, was unsure if any other towns had moved to ban wind farms, but he called town moratoriums on wind turbines a trend they are "very much aware of." He said the goal of the Alliance, which supports wind energy projects, is to try to fight the backlash and the opposition groups.

In the City of Lackawanna, zoning laws limit wind energy facilities to a selected area west of the canal. Lackawanna's zoning law was amended in 2008, after Steel Winds was permitted to begin operating. Currently Steel Winds, located in a brownfield area of the Bethlehem Steel site, has 14 wind turbines, eight which began operating in 2007 and an additional six in 2012, which stretch from Lackawanna to Hamburg, along the Lake Erie shoreline.

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