Trump Administration Takes Action on Gas Flares and Leaks

by Luciano DiElsi

The Trump administration is attempting to remove Obama era rules on how gas and oil companies deal with methane leaks, gas flares, and oil leaks. When drilling and fracking occur the pipelines used to extract the gas or oil often times leak; In the case of fracking, additional pockets can open within the earth between the gas suppositories and surface away theses are called gas flares. Before the Obama Administration these flares were allowed to spew out millions of gallons of resources into the atmosphere increasing greenhouse emissions and wasting precious domestic resources. When Obama took office, he set forth a number of provisions which forced the gas and oil industry to recapture and put into circulation the gas and oil ordinarily lost in flare offs and leaks. The Obama administration framed the plan as a win-win, greenhouse emissions were drastically reduced and the oil gas industries profited from the recaptured gas and oil.

However, in recent weeks the Trump administration has sought to lift these provisions clamming that the cost of recapturing the gas flares and oil leaks have turned out to be higher than sales received for the recaptured gas. The Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals gave this quote, “In order to achieve energy dominance through responsible energy production, we need smart regulations not punitive regulations,” said Joe Balash, assistant secretary for land and minerals management. “We believe this proposed rule strikes that balance and will allow job growth in rural America.”

Currently the Secretary of Bureuer of Land Management Ryan Zinke is facing a number of attempts to block the proposal from the Trump Administration. Critics of the proposal are demanding that a serious explanation and detailed reasoning be set down on why the Obama Provisions should be replaced which would result in an increase of greenhouse Emissions.

The natural gas industry in the state of Pennsylvania would be greatly impacted by this legislature both economically and environmentally, what are your guys thoughts? Do you think the lifting of cost incurred by the gas and oil industry under the Obama Administration would result in job growth in rural America? And if the provision is lifted and job growth increase would it offset the millions of gallons of lost resources? And lost royalty fees for the American tax payer?

https://insideclimatenews.org/news/13022018/methane-leaks-monitoring-global-warming-oil-gas-flares-air-pollution-trump-greenhouse-gas

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The Beneficiaries of “SALT”

by J. Wesley Leckrone

One of the more controversial reforms in the Republican plan to overhaul taxes is the demise of the state and local tax deduction (SALT). According the Congressional Budget Office the SALT will account for .5% of GDP from 2014-2023 and cost $1.098 trillion. The Tax Policy Center ranks this as the 9th largest tax expenditure for the federal government in FY2018.

Tax Expenditures

Some commentators argue that the elimination of the SALT is a way for the GOP to stick it to high-tax Democratic states. California and New York account for 32% of all the SALT deductions in 2013 and “blue” counties were at the top of the list of beneficiary according the the Tax Policy Center.

However, the SALT has also been criticized because it disproportionately benefits wealthier people who itemize their taxes. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 80% of the SALT tax expenditure goes to the top quintile of earners and 30% to the top 1%.

distribution of SALT

 

GOP Challenges to PA Gov Wolf’s Reelection Now at Four

Mike Turzai, the Speaker of Pennsylvania’s House, is the fourth candidate to announce a run for the GOP gubernatorial nomination next spring. He joins Scott Wagner, Paul Mango and Laura Ellsworth in the race for the opportunity to unseat Democratic Governor Tom Wolf in November 2018.

Cyber Schools in Pennsylvania

A new report is out concerning the state of cyber schools in Pennsylvania. It finds that

Cyber charter[s] have become an inequitable corner of Pennsylvania’s school-choice system, leaving the state’s neediest students with another bad option that their peers from better-off school districts largely avoid.

Read the full Education Week article here.

Special Education Funding in Pennsylvania

Keystone Crossroads profiled the Chester-Upland School District’s attempts to increase revenue by attracting more special education students. Here’s the logic:

In the tangled world of Pennsylvania public school financing, special education payments to charters are a particularly thorny problem.

The payments are not calculated based on the actual cost of services, which can vary widely depending on a given student’s needs. Nor are they based on the actual number of students served.

Instead, payments are calculated by a bafflingly complex formula that treats all districts and disabilities equally. The results can seem absurd, but bust budgets nonetheless.

Read the full article here.

Can Better Angels Depolarize America?

by Autumn Herring

He dramatically changed his views on gay marriage. Here’s how he says the nation can come together. David Blankenhorn, the co-director of The Marriage Opportunity Council, spoke out in 2010 saying that he was against gay marriage. He was against gay marriage because he believed that people were not taking it seriously politically. However, one of his friends showed him a book that changed his outlook on same-sex marriage.

He completely flipped his views on the matter and is not the founder of an organization called Better Angels. Better Angels works with people from all sides to try and encourage them to be more open minded on the subject.

Blankenhorn invited both Trump and Hillary voters after the presidential election as part of the Better Angels mission to try and dispel stereotypes and get the people to agree. The discussion was around thirteen hours long, but the two groups managed to come together and find some common ground amongst one another. David now has been devoting the majority of his time to try and engage people in the act of depolarizing the nation. He most recently wrote about seven ways that you can be an effective depolarizer. I agree with what he wrote where he stated “reframing your thinking to see issues differently, or at least, not as black and white.”

Blankenhorn is a perfect person to advocate depolarizing the nation, because he himself changed his opinion about gay marriage. He was so against it and looked at it so negatively until he stopped being close minded. I think it is a good example that he can show to to people to show them that even he himself can change his political opinion on issues. To me, it is important to be open-minded, especially in regards to politics and topics such as same-sex marriage. If people were more open-minded and willing to see the other side of things our nation would not be so polarized. Diversity is important in regards to politics, and I strongly agree with David as he stated “Diverse groups make better decisions than the smartest individual. If that’s a fact and I really believe it, then no one person knows everything.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2017/02/28/he-dramatically-changed-his-viewson-gay-marriage-heres-how-he-says-the-nation-can-come-together/?utm_term=.5e4dcefd1eb9

 

The End of Mandatory Jail Time?

by Mohamed Mohamedali

My action plan is to advocate for the institution of mandatory treatment, rather than jail time, prescribed by mandatory sentencing policy, for minor and nonviolent drug offenders. One political activity that has been in the news headlines in recent times in relation to this topic is the changing attitudes toward drug offenses. In 2014, Attorney General Eric Holder wanted to reduce sentences in most drug cases arguing that it was not fair and justified to sentence someone for 25 years for selling a small amount of drugs. The AG sought to reset the sentencing policies for federal judges and reduce sentencing for such crimes by an average of nearly a year (Zuckerman, 2014).

This indicated the changing wind of times and in a recent article by Alan Greenblatt on the wave of new district attorneys who are redefining justice, the author notes that new attorneys, a case in example being Kim Ogg, Harris County new attorney who wants her office along with law enforcement as a whole to pay less attention to minor drug offenses and in fact, she announced in February 2017 that she would no longer seek jail time in most cases for the crime of possessing up to four ounces of marijuana, but instead, the offenders would be diverted toward treatment instead (Greenblatt, 2017). Her sentiments are supported by Dwight Boykins, a member of the Houston City Council who notes that is that two-thirds of the people in jail are minorities and nonviolent based on minor drug offenses and this is not proof of an effective criminal justice system.

 

References

Greenblatt, A. (2017, April). Law and the New Order: A Fresh Wave of District Attorneys Is Redefining Justice. Retrieved from Governing:http://www.governing.com/topics/public-justice-safety/gov-district-attorneys-houston-criminal-justice-reform.html

 

Zuckerman, M. B. (2014, May 9). Get a little less tough on crime. Retrieved from U.S. News: https://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2014/05/09/its-time-for-prison-reform-and-an-end-to-mandatory-minimum-sentences