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Well, it has been quite a week here at the HARN. There is so much to cover I don’t hardly know where to start.

I’ll start with the overthrow of the Democratic Governor in Minnesota.

It seems the Republicans have decided that they are gonna fire a Commissioner every 30 days as they bring them up for “confirmation”. Yes, in normal proceedings, where politicians are mature and not working corrupt control mechanisms, confirmations are a standard part of everyday government. But in Minnesota, where there is no time frame for these “confirmations” to be completed (our Governor assumed office Jan.7th, 2019) and NOW the Republicans are basically hostage-taking in order to push Governor Walz to their will – REOPEN it ALL with No Masks and Let’s Build Line 3!

Now, I’m all for them taking out players who are not performing for Minnesota but when they try to take out a guy like Steve Kelley? FFS.

So this is what went down. Republicans already executed their removal of the Commissioner of Labor and Industry.

Like nearly everyone involved in the third special session of the Minnesota Legislature — other than the 35 members of the Senate GOP caucus — Walz learned that Nancy Leppink would be removed as commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry by text message just minutes before it happened Wednesday. 

The sender was Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka. The time was 3:29 p.m. And the recipients of the message were Walz and Senate DFL leadership. Gazelka told the group he had the votes to oust Leppink. 

House GOP Leader Kurt Daudt put it more bluntly: “Looks like the Senate is executing a prisoner today,” he tweeted during the debate on Leppink. 

MinnPost 8/14/20
Kurt Daudt Twitter Feed 8/12/20

You can also watch PUC Commissioner Sullivan’s confirmation hearing with Senator Ingebrigtsen. Perhaps since Joe‘s ALL ON BOARD for Line 3 he’ll be a quick confirmation?

Now, I’m not so involved with Labor & Industry to know what is what with this plan, but it seems that labor groups, from SEIU to the building trades, opposed her removal. But Republicans don’t GAF about what the PEOPLE want, they only want to push through their agenda for power? Here’s what Walz had to say:

In a media briefing Wednesday night, Walz rejected Senate criticism that Leppink had been too inflexible when enforcing regulations for business owners and operators in the state.

“To have Nancy Leppink get caught in the middle of a petty, political move puts Minnesotans at danger and highlights the fact that I’m so disappointed that Senate Republicans are not taking COVID seriously and they’re not taking the safety of Minnesotans seriously.”

Walz on the Senate rejection of his acting Commissioner of Labor and Industry

That said, I am heavily involved with the Line 3 fight and what I saw with the Department of Commerce Commissioner Kelley confirmation hearing was pretty disturbing. It began with the Commerce and Consumer Protection Finance and Policy Committee where Commissioner Kelley gave his background and defended his department’s work, noting specific people who have been instrumental in his opening statement. Chair Dahms and Chair Osmek presided.

Kelley’s background is unquestionable in its preparation for his current role. His work in the MN Legislature showed a bipartisan history of collaboration for good. Representative Rhodes wrote a letter on his behalf. Kelley had, over the years, invited many Legislators to speak in his classes, including Senator Pratt (who questioned Kelley in this session). Kelley’s history of working for Minnesotans clearly showed him to be competent and effective.

Kelley also walks us through the work done during the pandemic which worked closely with the industry. He mentions the things he’s done ALONGSIDE Republicans to help Minnesotans and Minnesota businesses, including a “model example” from March, developed with Chair Dahms, for flexibility to help Minnesotans in the crisis. His list of good works was inclusive of both parties and citizens as stakeholders and developers. He mentions the regular session bipartisan Renewable Development Account Bill, passed with help from Senators Osmek and Wagenius. He worked with resolving the high level of utility shutoffs on Tribal Lands along with Chair Dahms. And the work with consumer protections wrapped up his presentation, including a new Fraud Ombudsman who helps assure investigations are effective for our Seniors. He leads with collaboration and consultation. [He finishes at 16 minutes into the recording.]

The case against him? The “recent” concerns brought by this hearing? Chair Dahms mentions rule making in pharmacy benefit managers legislation, insurance legislation in the data call system, and workers compensation for the first hour will be followed by Energy at 10 until 10:15 and then other questions to wrap around 10:30.

Rulemaking for PBM concerns are limited for public postings to the rulemaking documents precluding participation, including “unanswered questions from your staff”. Kelley explains the advisory panel to create transparency and assure an open process. This is the first he’s heard of phamacists inability to access the system. However, they have dealt with complaints from them which are outside the jurisdiction of the state and perhaps those are the complaints you reference? Also, have worked on paying claims… [Now he’s interrupted… insurance claims for riots are not related to PBM.] Bobby Jo Champion interrupts to ask about ground rules – if the Commissioner is offering information to explain his department’s work, it is not fair to cut him off. In addition, seems this is pre-scripted with some who have things to put forward and with little room left for those who have questions to ask as well. [And Kelley is given some leeway to expound? NOPE, back to the Senator questioning him!]

Senator Koran Asking about access to the rulemaking – by login only? Make it more transparent? Kelley explains the process of communicating concerns without use of the online forms, though they are used for efficiency purposes – a good data mgmt tool. [Slight scuffle as Senator Champion is reminded to raise his hand. (Note: this is nothing compared to the patronizing tone Dahms gives him later).]

Senator Pratt comes on board with the workers comp concerns. This is a thorough discussion where Kelley stands for citizens to assure payments are received and the decisions, made in scurry to the COVID Pandemic, were made with consultation. [It seems that this is a nitpicking about not deciding this in the way the Senators wanted.] Referencing the CARES Act, Pratt says it was a source. Kelley mentions the ongoing disagreement from the MMB decision that says this was not the case. Not something that can be resolved today… but being guided by MMB, DOC made the decisions they did.

Pratt relinquishes his time to Senator Utke on the data calls. [OMFG! You have to go look at this guy’s backdrop! Bet he’s having wet dreams about Trump’s face on Mt. Rushmore.] Senator Pratt hosted the meeting, Rosen, Champion, Haden also there, along with Dahms! Attempt to ID solutions for losses due to civil unrest. Important to know what was covered by insurance and Kelley noted this was one of the things that DOC could do! The department looked at the data call referenced and it seems the Republicans are asking about how LONG this will take – are we creating a paperwork mandate? do they need to report out EVERY 2 week? – but in truth, they are ONLY CONCERNED about the ask on RACE (it’s coming). WHY does this matter??? [Well, for those of you unfamiliar yet with the systemic racism, it’s likely the only way to find out if there are discriminatory practices!] Utke was also concerned about the small insurers – ARE WE HASSLING THEM FOR THESE DATA CALLS? Kelley assures that the DOC made clear that those without filings were not required to respond with bi-weekly updates.

Utke’s last follow-up was on complaints from insurers to the department. Kelley counters with stories of complaints about payment from Minnesota businesses. [WHO is standing for the People?] And here’s where Dahms comes in with the Race questions… [48:10] which Kelley, along with support from Senator Champion, fully shows why this is required and how it is done with regard to assuring citizen protection. [Dahms gives a flip response at 52:22 requiring Bobby Joe to take a stand. This is where he gives Bobby Joe a BIG BUNCH OF PATRONIZING!]

Senator Dibble jumps in [56:10] to make clear that this dismissing Commissioner Kelley’s explanations is not based in reason. He asks Kelley to expand on what the agency has done for proactive outreach on businesses in his district affected by civil unrest. Kelley mentions his Director of Outreach and Public Engagement Leah Wilkes and her fine work. He also mentions the full collaboration of the work, including aspects being implemented based on industry recommendations.

Now, the transition to Energy with Senator Osmek… Here’s the Line 3 issue.

DOC Appeal to PUC was “disappointing”… with Osmek first asking about why Line 3 is running at half capacity. FFS. Kelley acknowledges the policy disagreements between Senators and Commissioners noting its impossible for all to be in agreement on all issues. Kelley notes that the USACE has advised Enbridge to operate at less than full capacity. [This is based on their HORRIBLE TRACK RECORD FOR SPILLS – no one mentioned that.]

From Brainard coverage in June, the case is clear. Note the use of the word SUPPLY, NOT DEMAND, from Enbridge’s spokeswoman:

In May, the (DOC) said the PUC did not consider a long-range demand forecast because Enbridge instead submitted a pipeline utilization forecast that assumed demand would continue at 2016 refinery capacity.

“To the contrary, and as the (PUC) has always recognized, supply forecasts are critical to the evaluation of need for a crude oil pipeline. By definition, crude oil pipelines transport crude oil from a given starting point to one or several endpoints. If insufficient supply exists at the starting point, all of the downstream analysis in the world is pointless,” Enbridge attorney Christina Brusven wrote. “Therefore, the (PUC) properly considered supply forecasts in its order.”

Brainard Dispatch 6/2/2020

[So, basically, as long as there is oil to sell, Enbridge will ship it! And Minnesotans will pay for their infrastructure, even though the crude will NOT supply Minnesota refineries. I think it’s pretty clear from the financial collapse in Big Oil at present that their assumptions about oil use were QUITE optimistic. More on that below…]

Now Osmek moves to tech of current FF industry… safer option can certainly put in, compared to 60 years ago… Kelley notes the STATUTE directs attention to a different issue, the question of whether the proponent of a pipeline has produced a long range demand forecast and whether the PUC has evaluated that forecast. Since taxpayers are FOOTING THE BILL for the infrastructure development, the DOC must assure that this project is NECESSARY before asking the taxpayers for their hard-earned dollars.

While Osmek goes on and on about how the DOC never mentioned this – referencing historical decisions of the service of the DOC – ALL PRIOR TO STEVE KELLEY’S TENURE! Kelley puts him away soundly with facts, noting that when he joined in January 2019, after Dayton Administration had already appealed on basis of no long-range demand forecast. “In the end the record will reflect which one of us is correct.” Indeed.

While Osmek goes on to attach the “expert” the DOC referenced… noting this person has never testified on oil markets… [uh, there’s a first time for everything? FFS, these guys are so silly in their pickings!] He then notes the 4-1 vote recently by the PUC ruling AGAIN to move forward – moving ahead without the demand forecast and they are the “objective, non-biased, regulatory authority that has jurisdiction”. Kelley explains [1:09:30] how things work. [Govt 101 for the Senators who are so confused…] He notes the expertise provided by both PUC and DOC and that DOC is working for the public interest. The statutory law requires that the commission shall evaluate a long-range demand forecast.

Osmek then notes AGAIN INCORRECTLY – that the PUC can CHOOSE TO IGNORE THEIR OWN RULES! Aren’t you getting it, Commissioner Kelley??? THEY CAN DO WHAT THEY WANT!!! The DOC is a wing of the Walz Administration – political!! [FFS. Wow. Again, this is just another instance of the accuser showing his hand…] “Boggles my mind… PUC in their august opinion… determined it is completely and wholely unnecessary. Same old worn-out answer that it’s in the statutes when the PUC says it is unnecessary.” [You decide who is being “political”…] Kelley shows clearly which of them is in this discussion is acting maturely and with responsibility to the law [Kelley is legally trained!].

Senator Rarick then jumps on – his constituents are ready for this to go and he’s a member of the building trades. [He too appears to have missed the recent Jen McEwen landslide in Duluth, unseating the Good ol’ Boy candidate Simonson.] Kelley assures him the Department is looking for jobs that can easily be implemented, including providing the PUC with information on job potentials to potentially create jobs in Minnesota. [Uh, “I threw in jobs just because…” uh, Kelley derailed you?] Rarick switches to WHY DID DOC PICK ONE SIDE? Kelley disagrees with this characterization. What DOC has chosen to do is carry out their responsibility to the law as directed by this body!! The false argument is that this is a fight between environment and jobs but the statute we are evaluating is whether there is a need for an energy facility of this kind. [1:21:20]

“I think you’d understand with me why this is not just a technical issue, it’s important because the costs of these facilities are ultimately paid by consumers. Another kind of facility that’s included in the statute is transmission lines. And if there’s not a long-range demand forecast that supports the need for a transmission line, then we wouldn’t want consumers or rate payers to pay for the costs of that transmission line in the same way that if there’s not a need for um this um for the pipeline, uh if the company has not met the standards in the statute for demonstrating that need, we wouldn’t want consumers to have to pay for it.”

Steve Kelley, Department of Commerce Commissioner, testifying on the DOC Appeal for Need on Enbridge’s Line 3 tar sands pipeline project proposal 8/21/20.

Rarick believes this role lies with the PUC but he is mistaken. “I don’t understand this decision.” Yes, that is clear. Then Senator Rosen pushes on WHO’S DECISION THIS WAS. [Again, showing that this is really an attack on Walz, not Kelley. He is collateral damage that may result from the Senate’s short-sighted political games.] She notes the rules of engagement change all the time… has questions about this expert – would like to know more about that decision, how much that expert cost and how much litigation will cost the taxpayers. Kelley notes that she asked this question last year, and that Deputy Commissioner Sulivan answered that the costs lie with the AG’s office, not the DOC. He disagreed that rules of engagement have changed noting the Department has been consistent on this. Rosen says the rules of engagement has changed with the demand forecast requirement suddenly just “popping up”. [Rather than comment, he let’s her own idiocy speak for her. I mean, for FUCK’S SAKE, it’s the LEGISLATURE’s OWN MOTHERFUCKING REQUIREMENT!!]

MN Statute 216C.09 on requirements for Energy Planning and Conservation

Utke returns to pile on about discussions in 2019 on the “ill advised appeals” when you were “new on the job”. Driven by Governor’s office… but your office not standing up for what’s right or what’s wrong… [Uh, yeah, here’s your chance to NOT fall on the sword as we try to execute Walz via “executing” his Commissioners.] Utke notes the whole state is suffering from the Exec Orders that have shut down our businesses – “lot of small places will not survive… this would be a tremendous economic boost”. Seriously? Workers, temporarily coming through and “buying food, lodging,… supplies”. REALLY??? A month of extra shoppers for food and lodging does NOT AN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PLAN make. Kelley again reiterates his service in the Legislature with many members in these committees, denoting that even when at odds, he was always trying to do what was right and he will stand on his history. He remembers visiting with Utke on this topic as he introduced himself and doesn’t disregard how he and the people in his district [NOT ALL OF US] feel about this pipeline though he does have a requirement to carry out the statute.

Senator Dibble comes on to express the views of Senator Latz [1:30:00](currently without ability to testify due to signal as he’s on vacation with family) – noting his support for Commissioner Kelley. “Normal tensions… but no complaints or concerns, views Kelley as affirmatively reaching out… to regulated industries, and to his credit he has not lobbied GOP or Gazelka on his behalf and in the past many in the (Republican) party have credited the Commissioner with being responsive and working collaboratively as well.” Dibble then goes on to note [1:30:57 and I do love his chuckle at 1:31:10]:

“I just want to say, with respect to these comments on the PUC and Line 3, these issues around demand forecast have been around for a number of years and the nature of the comments and the speech we just heard from Senator Utke and others are actually asking the Commissioner to PICK A SIDE and to make a decision based on politics and not the law. He is entrusted with upholding the law and the public’s interest, as we authorized in the law, and the PUC and its view is not sacrosanct and I’ve heard on many occasions members of the majority party complaining about PUC decisions, … and all the dynamics around the decision that the PUC has made. The process is set forth so that the PUC is NOT a court of law and in fact the decisions that the PUC make are appealable to the Courts. That’s the PROCESS. And I’ll just say that, with respect to myself, I have strenuously disagreed with decisions that Commerce has made, as well as other state agencies, and in fact challenging laws that we have passed and have been on the losing side of those. It never causes me to question the integrity of and the competency and the capacity of the Agency nor the Commissioner. It motivates me to do MY JOB, which is to move and shape public opinion and such that laws can be changed.”

Note how he talks about HIS wheelhouse NOT being to DICTATE over other parts of the government but to do his job to HEAR THE VOICE OF THE PEOPLE in order to shape law to what will serve THEM. THIS is a politician for the People, not for Enbridge. He goes on to say [1:33:01]:

Line 3 raises a LOT of questions that concern the environment and the public’s interest and those need to be vetted and tested out against the laws that we set forth around decisions on these matters. We all have our views and whether or not they’re supported by the law is really up to us to figure out those dictates and those parameters. So I think with these closing minutes I just want to say that I thought Commissioner Kelley’s opening comments and his responses to how he has been proactively reaching out, particularly to disaffected and marginalized communities in the aftermath of this civil unrest as well as those who maybe get the short end of the stick vis-a-vis the very very powerful insurance lobby speaks very very well to principles and the values and the competence and capacity he brings to this job. I thank you for having this hearing because it really shows what an amazing incredibly qualified Commissioner he is. That being said, I have to say I believe this has been a kangaroo hearing. You had a list of people you wanted to ask specific curated questions and you jumped right to them, didn’t give really any of us the opportunity and you’re cutting this hearing short. So clearly sounds like decisions have already been made and you know no matter what Commissioner Kelley has said, a decision has been made somewhere else about what’s ultimately going to become of this confirmation. So I just want the public to know that Commissioner Kelley has clearly shown himself to be highly qualified. Governor Walz is to be commended for putting him in this place and if his confirmation doesn’t stand, we’ll know that this decision was made somewhere else for other reasons.”

Senator Pratt then takes over to reiterate the questions from Senator Rosen. Looking at May 1st, page 13, the commission says it carefully reviewed the record… later in the record on page 16… Commission continues to conclude consequences” for denial are bigger than the consequences of approval. SO! They think they are PHMSA?? The PUC has NO AUTHORITY regarding the safety of the pipelines in Minnesota!! Again asking about the decision source for the Appeal. Kelley again says the Department is responsible and it is his decision but that he works to assure support of the Governor and Lt. Governor. Pratt reiterates, and is confirmed by Kelley, that the Governor “concurs” with the decision.

Kelley’s concludes with a closing statement at 1:37:33, finding himself near tears as he speaks of his people. Surely it is clear that the Republicans are playing political games that adversely affect the citizens of Minnesota.

Related to the government takeover is the continued evidence of failing Big Oil, which continues to be propped up by subsidies while it is promoted by the Right. But things aren’t making sense financially for us to ever see a “return to normal”.

Between 2010 and 2014 the average price of a barrel of oil was between $85 a barrel and $110 a barrel. This fell to $65 in 2016, and to $56 in 2017. Since 10 March, prices are below $30 a barrel. This is catastrophic for producers of oil. For example, in the U.S. the break-even point for oil production is between $48 and $54 a barrel. Many producers in other parts of the world have a higher break-even point. Oil production has been structured on prices in the range of $85 to $110 a barrel. …

The US oil industry is reeling, with the slashing of production resulting in massive lay-offs. Experts say that any price below $40 a barrel is devastating to US oil producers. But the oil crisis will also send new shock waves through the rest of the economy. …

Bankruptcies in the oil industry will spread to financial markets, which issued junk bonds on the expectation of huge payoffs from the oil industry. The oil industry in the US directly and indirectly employs close to 10 million people. This will be a further shock and drag on the financial system and the whole economy which is already collapsing into a depression. …

Monetary policy, i.e. shoveling money into the banks and financial system, will not overcome a crisis rooted in deflation and lack of demand. It will only just prop up the banks. Only creating real demand will work. Even policies like Roosevelt’s New Deal policies in the mid-1930s only gave a temporary boost to the economy, which collapsed again in 1937. It was only the ramping up of military production in preparation for the US’s entry into World War II that ended the Great Depression.

China Worker blog

We’re not going backwards… Not with the current price of oil at about $40/barrel, which takes most ventures out of business. And the Fed’s response to save oil and gas will also not help us.

By propping up an industry that is intensifying climate change, which poses serious risks to financial institutions and markets, the Fed is refusing to align its emergency lending actions with its statutory mandate to promote the stability of the financial system.2 Moreover, the programs’ downside risk to public funds and financial stability is not mitigated in any way by strong benefits to workers, as these programs have either weak or nonexistent payroll maintenance requirements.

The Fed’s Oil and Gas Bailout Is a Mistake 7/31/2020

The LTEs of support were already coming and I especially liked the one from Ken Pearson in the Strib.

ENBRIDGE LINE 3 Northerners’ attitudes are changing

Gov. Tim Walz is right that a project with major environmental impacts like Enbridge Line 3 requires a “social permit” as well as a building permit (“Walz’s Enbridge appeal irritates unions,” Aug. 20). His decision to allow the Commerce Department’s appeal on Line 3 also honors two new developments. First, it takes a step toward restoring balance to a Public Utilities Commission process that the legislative auditor’s office recently found was unfairly tilted to Enbridge’s advantage. Second, it acknowledges the winds of change blowing through northern Minnesota.

Just this month, clean-energy advocate Jen McEwen defeated pro-pipeline incumbent Erik Simonson in Duluth’s state Senate DFL primary. McEwen earned 73% of the vote even though Simonson was endorsed by organized labor and Walz. That result would have been unthinkable five years ago, but projects like Line 3 aren’t nearly as popular as they used to be. It’s no secret that many people north of the metro have become increasingly resentful of foreign corporations telling them environmentally destructive projects in their communities are a “good idea,” and then seeing those projects relentlessly promoted by a small group intent on breaking ground for short-term profit, no matter what the long-term cost. The DOC appeal is a nod to those changing sentiments as well.


A+ for Ken Pearson! 8/20/2020

So, why this Blog title today? Well, you can thank Hank Green! His hope comes from the light shining on the “dangers of all out individualism”, though I don’t know that I’m so hopeful as Hank. I will agree that, living the way we are… is long-term affecting our ability to “live in the world”. Again, the costs of doing nothing are clear. And, yes, we’ve seen that “people do make sacrifices when we see what’s really on the line”. I just don’t know that people are really “seeing”… until the flood waters are on their own toes… which is way too late to take action.

If there is one true thing about humans, it’s that we’re hyper-adaptable, problem-solving machines. I think, long term, we’ve got this. But there’s going to be a lot of bad along the way, and it hurts a lot to see the bad getting worse in real time.

Sometimes sacrifices are forced, and sometimes they are given. Let’s try to make a world where the former alleviates the latter.

Hank’s take on Climate Change – the costs and the solution?

It’s been 686 days since the IPCC report came out giving us about a decade… and still… Greta waits.