From the Saints stadium to Ray Pruban’s Energy Challenge homes, St. Paul is getting its solar energy game on in a big way. Continue reading
Tag Archives: energy
NEWS DAY | Hot enough? / English only in Lino Lakes / More WikiLeaks
Hot enough for you? For the first time in three years, Xcel Energy switched on its hot-weather energy-saver program, reports the Pioneer Press. Today’s 90-degree temps meant “cycling on and off the central air conditioners for hundreds of thousands of Minnesota customers in order to ease the peak demand on its electricity load” between 2 and 6 p.m. Continue reading
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NEWS DAY | H1N1 update: cats, vaccine, peak? / Laptop pilots want to fly again / Extending unemployment comp / more
H1N1 update: Cats, vaccine, peak? “Viruses are not transmitted between species,” was the common vet school and medical school wisdom not too long ago, according to our veterinarian, but common wisdom cracked again this week with a Washington Post report that a cat now has been diagnosed with H1N1. The 13-year-old kitty caught H1N1 from her human family, and humans and feline all have recovered. The Post notes that the virus has also been found in birds and ferrets, as well as humans and pigs. Continue reading
NEWS DAY | MN says no to T-Paw for Prez / Xcel rate hike-cut / Paying for dirty water
T-Paw for Prez? MN says no A recent Minnesota Poll showed that Minnesotans wouldn’t vote for Governor Tim Pawlenty for president, reports Politico. Only 25 percent said that T-Paw definitely has their votes, while 43 percent said there’s no way they would vote for T-Paw for president, and another 25 percent allowed as how there might be some chance that they’d vote for him. Continue reading
News Day: Gang Strike Force head leaves /Feeding the beast /Baby ducks, attack hawks, naked biking /MN budget blues / more
Omodt escapes from Gang Strike Force Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek has called a news conference for this morning to explain why Hennepin County Captain Chris Omodt is leaving his post at the head of the Gang Strike Force. Omodt, who was brought in to clean up a bad situation, could just be giving it up as an impossible job. The latest revelations and accusations from the Strib:
News Day: Franken, Klobuchar immigration votes / MN farm debate / Security? What security? / more
Klobuchar votes with conservatives on immigration Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken split over immigration votes, with Klobuchar voting with Republicans and conservative Democrats to build 700 miles of border fence and to make the federal E-verify system mandatory for federal contractors. The votes came on amendments to the Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2010. The original Senate bill would have reauthorized E-Verify for three years without making it mandatory, reports MinnPost.
News Day: Burn more garbage in Mpls? / One more hat in the ring / Keeping teens out of jail / Danger from IE / more
Burn more garbage in Mpls? Hennepin County is going to the Minneapolis City Council for permission to burn more garbage at the downtown HERC incinerator, reports the Star Tribune. On June 22, the Minneapolis Planning Commission denied Hennepin County’s request to raise the allowable daily tonnage from by 21 percent. The Planning Commission said it could not be sure that there would be no adverse public health effects. The burner won City Council approval by a 7-6 vote back in 1987, and today’s council is not expected to be much friendlier.
News Day: Windy and green in Woodbury /Fong Lee verdict / Back to Mexico? / more
Forecast: Windy and green in Woodbury Woodbury’s city council is considering several green ordinances and encountering some opposition to expanding wind power, reports the PiPress. Proposed new ordinances include provisions for geothermal heating and cooling in homes, solar panels covering all roof spaces, and ground-mounted solar panel arrays up to 400 square feet in residential areas and 1000 square feet in rural areas.
The controversy comes over wind turbines. The proposed ordinance would allow 60-foot wind turbines in yards of more than an acre. Opponents focus on aesthetics and noise, while proponents say there’s little noise and focus on the benefits of renewable, green energy. Last fall, the Star Tribune reported plans for a 170-foot wind turbine at the high school to produce 30-50 percent of the school’s energy needs, but developers strongly objected, threatening to scuttle plans for a new housing development. Current plans for East Ridge High School, which is located in an R-4 residential area, are unclear – the high school has not yet submitted an official application to the city.
Large wind energy systems (generating 5 megawatts or more) are regulated by the Public Utilities Commission, but smaller installations are subject to local regulation. A brochure published by the Minnesota Office of Energy Security notes that:
Another Minnesota program, net metering, allows home and building owners to install wind generation under 40 kW and connect to the grid. Utilities track the amount of electricity generated and credit the owner for the electricity produced. Any excess electricity not used by the owner is bought by the utility at the average retail rate. Other incentives available from the state include low interest loans and sales tax exemptions.
The Woodbury planning commission will take comments on the proposed ordinance at a June 15 meeting, and the city council will discuss it on June 17.
Fong Lee verdict A jury found that the police officer who shot 19-year-old Fong Lee in 2006 did not use excessive force. The PiPress described an almost-empty courtroom for the reading of the jury verdict, which came when Fong Lee’s family was at lunch and lawyers for both sides were also absent from the courtroom. When the family was informed of the verdict, Fong Lee’s mother burst into tears. According to MPR:
Community activist Tou Ger Xiong says the verdict shows that Minneapolis police officers discriminate against people of color.
“This does nothing more than to reaffirm the fact that we should fear police and members of law enforcement. Because it is saying to us, ‘Watch out, if a cop thinks you pose a threat, you will be killed, you will shot, you will be killed.'”
Fong Lee’s sister, Shoua Lee, said her parents came to the U.S. from Laos in 1988 to find freedom and safety. “And on July 22, 2006, over 20 years later, that feeling of safety was shattered.”
Lee’s family believe he was unarmed and that police planted a gun found three feet from his body. They relied on evidence showing no fingerprints, blood or DNA evidence on the gun, and confused police reports about the ownership of the gun.
Minneapolis police chief Tim Dolan said the officer acted with “courage and integrity.”
Heading back to Mexico? Is the economic recession driving immigrants back to Mexico? Evidence is anecdotal, but the Strib reports that many people are talking about it:
“Workers are thinking, ‘If I don’t have a job here or if I don’t have a job in Mexico, what’s the difference? Plus no one will harass me’ ” in Mexico, said Ramon Leon, executive director of the Latino Economic Development Center in Minneapolis. “And businesses look around and ask: ‘Am I relying on a customer base that may not be here?”’
Nationally, immigrant unemployment rates have risen from 4.6 percent in 2007 to more than 11 percent today, pushing many to consider returning to Mexico. But, as a student at Neighborhood House points out, people who return may find an even worse economic situation in Mexico.
Hard times on the farm A recent U of M survey shows that recession is hitting Minnesota farmers hard, reports the Strib:
Median profits for 2,417 farms included in the survey fell 15 percent in 2008 to $90,039, but that broad measure masks steeper losses for some sectors of the farm economy, particularly livestock operations that paid record prices for feed. The median beef farm profit was a loss of $6,810; the median hog farm profit was $4,876, down from $65,720 a year earlier.
Ford Dam flagged Although there’s no evidence to show any danger at the Ford Dam, the evidence to show that it’s safe is incomplete, reports MPR, so inspectors are coming. They will look at whether water is seeping underneath the concrete dam. The problem is more likely in the paperwork than in the dam, say officials, but they’re checking just the same.
MN Job Watch According to AP, electrical generator maker Kato Engineering will cut 20 percent of its workforce, or 94 jobs. Kato’s plant is in Mankato.
Thief River Falls-based Arctic Cat will eliminate 60 positions, or approximately 5 percent of its 1,200 employees, reports MPR, after losing $9.5 million in the fiscal year that ended March 31.
Shrinking economy The U.S. economy shrank at an annualized rate of 5.7 percent during the first quarter, reports NPR. But economists are more optimistic about the rest of the year:
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and NABE forecasters say the recession will end later this year, barring any fresh shocks to the economy. NABE forecasters predict the economy could start growing again in the third or fourth quarter.
Pakistan BBC The half-million residents of the steeply mountainous northwestern district of Kohistan don’t want either the Taliban or the army.
“If the army comes in, the Taliban will follow, and vice versa,” says an influential tribal elder and former member of parliament, Malik Saeed Ahmad.
“In either case, it threatens our way of life.”
They also don’t care much about Sharia law — “‘in fact, people are not interested in any government law,” says Mumtaz Khan Jalkoti, a local lawyer.”
In other war news, ten people were killed in two separate bombings in the city of Peshawar.
Iran An Iranian provincial official blamed U.S. “agents of arrogance” for a mosque bombing that killed 19 people last Thursday. The bombing took place in the poor, mostly Sunni province of Sistan-Baluchestan province.
Sudan BBC: “Sudan says more than 60 people were killed during the fighting with the rebel Justice and Equality Movement around the town of Kornoi, in Darfur.” The International Criminal Court has issued a warrant for the arrest of Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir on charges of war crimes in Darfur.
News Day: Veto forecast / Charter school in trouble / New car rules / more
Even without the legislature in session, the forecast for Minnesota is high winds and lots of heat today.
T-Paw QOTD “The legislators are gone away and they are not coming back.”
Health care, bullying, transportation More end-of-session news: Pawlenty plan is recipe for massive job losses from Workday Minnesota, and Pawlenty talks unallotment, veto plans from Session Daily. Getting down to specifics:
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News Day: Waiting for the veto / “Independent” contractors / Playing to lose / more
Passed, passed, passed and waiting The legislature passed a number of bills yesterday, and the stack on T-Paw’s desk continues to grow. Will he sign or will he veto? Only the governor knows for sure. Among the bills awaiting decision:
• Flat funding for P-12 schools and cuts for higher ed. Minnesota Miracle and expanded Q-Comp both lose out.
• House and Senate leaders offered to plug about $2 billion of the budget gap with a school funding shift and use of budget reserves. That still leaves a billion dollar gap, which T-Paw wants to fill by borrowing and the House and Senate leadership want to fill with taxes.
• The House and Senate passed a “lights-on” bill, which would keep the state running to July 2010, even if no budget agreement is reached by Monday.
• The House and Senate passed the state bonding bill by wide and seemingly veto-proof margins, providing $300 million that would quickly create up to 3,000 construction jobs, provide flood relief to the Red River Valley and fund a new museum and rail projects in the St. Paul area.
• Minnesota’s nuclear moratorium stands, as the Senate agreed to a compromise energy policy bill.
Freeze? What freeze? Though the governor declared a freeze on state hiring in February 2008, MPR reports that “The number of people on the state’s payroll has grown even though thousands of government employees have retired since Gov. Tim Pawlenty issued an executive order last year to implement hiring restrictions at state agencies.”
MN Job Watch One day after Park Nicollet announced that it will cut 240 jobs, the Hennepin County Medical Center said it will cut 100 jobs, and will require supervisors and administrators to take a two-day unpaid leave.
The U.S. Department of Labor reported an increase in initial unemployment claims last week: “In the week ending May 9, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 637,000, an increase of 32,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 605,000.” The total number of people receiving unemployment compensation remained at a record high.
A new twist on “independent contractors” comes in response to a state law that targeted abuses in the construction industry, reports the Strib.
The laws, which took effect Jan. 1, take aim at an old problem — contractors who illegally classify their employees as independent contractors to cut labor costs in the roofing, drywalling, remodeling and other building trades.
Such workers are shortchanged on Social Security, unemployment benefits and coverage for job injuries, and many don’t report all their income to state and federal tax collectors, a 2007 legislative audit said.
Now, often with employer encouragement, such workers are registering in record numbers as LLCs — Limited Liability Companies — with filings of new LLC registrations more than double the pace of a year ago. The situation is complicated by what workers and employers agree are onerous registration procedures for independent contractors that resulted from the new law, as well as by employers’ continuing reluctance tohire workers as employees, withhold their taxes and pay workers compensation premiums.
Playing to lose The Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder reports that black athletes at the U of M are lagging significantly behind their white counterparts in graduation rates, and have not kept up with national improvements in black athletes’ graduation rates.
Unfortunately, at the University of Minnesota, the school’s top three revenue sports — football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball — are not doing as well in graduating their Black players. Their rates are 40 percent (football), 57 percent (women’s basketball), and 38 percent (men’s basketball), compared to Whites in football (73 percent), men’s basketball (50 percent) and women’s basketball (67 percent).
New power plant in Chisago county The Strib reports that a new, gas-fired power plant in Chisago County came one step closer to reality with tax breaks passed by the legislature. The plant still faces the PUC approval process.
The $300 million Sunrise River Energy station, an 855-megawatt natural gas-fired plant, would open by 2013 pending regulatory approvals, according to the company that would build it, LS Power, a private utility with offices in New Jersey and Missouri.
Sri Lanka BBCA local doctor said that government forces shelled a hospital for a second day, killing 50 people, and government forces denied the report. Satellite images and UN sources seemed to confirm reports of shelling. Journalists cannot confirm or deny the reports, because the government does not allow journalists in the area.
DR Congo BBC Rwandan Hutu rebels killed more than a hundred people in the eastern DR Congo over the weekend. BBC notes: “Many of the rebels fled to DR Congo after the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which some its leaders were accused of taking part.”
Pakistan BBC A school girl’s account of fleeing Swat:
… My sympathies are neither with the Taleban nor the army. Both have been cruel to us.
The Taleban have destroyed us and the army is murdering our people. …
Burma BBC The Burmese government has taken ailing Nobel Laureate and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from her home, where she has been under house arrest for 19 years, to prison. She is being charged with violating conditions of her house arrest after an American man, John Yettaw, was arrested after swimming across a lake to her house and staying there secretly for two days. Her lawyers say the man was not invited and BBC correspondent Jonathan Head says that, “it looks as though this is a pretext to keep her detained until elections due in 2010 which the generals think will give them some legitimacy.”
Haitians drown in attempt to reach U.S. NYT At least 10 of 27 would-be immigrants died when their boat capsized off the Florida coast.