Transportation & Infrastructure

Inexperienced Former Event Planner to Run Major Federal Housing Program

by E.A. Crunden – At HUD, she will oversee the distribution of billions of funds for a region with urgent needs. Event planner Lynne Patton, a Trump loyalist without any housing experience, will run the office overseeing New York’s housing programs. Trump named Patton to the position Wednesday, where she’ll oversee the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Region II, home to both New York and New Jersey. Vacant since January 20, the job has been in need of new shoes — but Patton may not be what many had in mind. Up until now, Patton’s biggest claim to fame seems to be planning the wedding of Eric Trump, the president’s son. According to her LinkedIn public profile, Patton says she holds a law degree from Quinnipiac University (with an unexplained “N/A” written next to the degree), in addition to an unnamed degree from Yale University. But Quinnipiac school registrar Jim Benson told the New...

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Israel Plans Most Settlement Homes Since 1992 (VIDEO)

Defence minister says first half of 2017 has seen most illegal expansion since before “Oslo peace process” began. Israel has so far this year advanced its highest number of settlement projects since 1992, the defence minister said, despite warnings such plans make a two-state solution impossible. Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman made the comments on Sunday as Israel’s government faced mounting pressure from leaders of the settlement movement, who wield heavy influence in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition. Netanyahu has found himself seeking to balance the competing demands of the settlers and US President Donald Trump, who has asked him to hold back on such projects for now as he seeks a way to restart negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. Lieberman told journalists and ministers at the start of a cabinet meeting that, so far this year, plans had been advanced for 8,345 homes in the occupied West Bank,...

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Involuntary Manslaughter Charges for Top State Health Official for Role in Flint Water Crisis

by Andrea Germanos – Advocacy group says new charges boost call for governor to resign. Michigan’s attorney general announced Wednesday that the head of the state’s health department and four others have been charged with involuntary manslaughter for their role in the years-long Flint water crisis. Nick Lyon, director of Michigan Health and Human Services, “failed in his responsibilities to protect the health and safety of the citizens of Flint,” state AG Bill Schuette said at a press conference Wednesday. A press statement from Schuette’s office alleges that Lyon waited a year before alerting the public about the outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease as a result of the crisis, an act that led to the death of 85-year-old Robert Skidmore. He also thwarted an independent researcher from investigating the cause of the outbreak, the statement says. Lyon was also charged with misconduct in office. The others now slapped with involuntary manslaughter charges are former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell...

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Good Luck Trying to Pass an Infrastructure Bill Without Democratic Votes

by Casey Quinlan – An official hinted that the Senate might try budget reconciliation. But that would create a whole host of new problems. A White House official signaled Monday night that the Trump administration might try to push its infrastructure plan through the Senate without Democratic support using a parliamentary maneuver called budget reconciliation. But such a plan would face potentially insurmountable hurdles — meaning there may be no way for Senate Republicans to overcome a filibuster threat without reaching across the aisle. The official later told a reporter that he had not “intended to say” infrastructure would be passed through reconciliation, and that the White House is still aiming for the bill to get 60 votes to end cloture. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) urged the president to work with Democrats. Reconciliation, which allows certain types of legislation to pass the Senate without any danger of a filibuster, can only be used...

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Offshore Wind is Now Competitive With Nuclear Power, and Gas is ‘in sight’

by Joe Romm – As prices plummet, offshore wind wins German power auction — with no subsidy. The price of offshore wind power has been dropping so quickly that it threatens to upend the electricity industry around the world. Last month, Denmark’s Dong Energy, the world’s largest provider of offshore wind farms, won a German power auction without needing any subsidies. Dong is a rebranding from Danish Oil and Natural Gas, as the company sells off its fossil fuel businesses to become a clean energy leader. Average global prices of off-shore wind dropped a game-changing 28 percent last year. Ray Thompson, chief of business development at Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy said last month that “it’s staggering to think that in not much more than five years, we could have turned a technology seen as prohibitively expensive into the lowest cost, utility-scale technology available.” By 2016, offshore wind prices had nearly dropped to the level...

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How the “People’s Budget” Can Help Redress Inequality

by Robert Borosage – The Congressional Progressive Caucus released “The People’s Budget” this week, which it dubs a “roadmap for the resistance.” Maybe the mere mention of a federal budget plan makes your eyes glaze over, but the “People’s Budget” is a dramatic document. Representative Mark Pocan of Wisconsin at a press conference for the “People’s Budget” on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, May 2, 2017. (Photo via Congressional Progressive Caucus) It presents a compelling alternative to Donald Trump’s “skinny budget.” Unlike Trump’s fanciful promises, it offers a sensible path out of the hole that we are in. Its values and priorities reflect those of the majority of Americans. The Progressive Caucus frames its budget around the central challenge of our time: how to make this economy work for working people, and redress the savage inequality that is undermining our democracy. It offers a strategy to get there, and a budget framed to...

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EPA Considers Gutting Regulations on Lead Contamination

by Mike Ludwig, Truthout | Report – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent out a notice on Wednesday announcing a series of upcoming public meetings in which it will consider gutting rules and regulations meant to protect the public from lead and hazardous chemicals, including training programs designed to prevent children from being exposed to lead paint. The notice went out at 2:30, just as EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was meeting with residents of a neighborhood in East Chicago, Indiana, that has been contaminated with lead for decades. Six weeks after beleaguered residents petitioned his agency to take emergency action to protect them from lead contamination in their drinking water, Scott Pruitt was visiting East Chicago as part of the kick-off tour for his term as administrator of the EPA. “That timing is discouraging, obviously,” said Debbie Chizewer, an attorney at an environmental law clinic at Northwestern University who...

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Polls: People Don’t Know Trump’s Infrastructure Plan Is a Scam

by Dave Johnson – Polls show that the public likes President Trump’s plan to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure. That’s because they think he actually plans to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure. He doesn’t. Not hardly. Not by a long shot. In fact… Infrastructure Spending Is Popular Polls show the public really likes it when Trump says he plans to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure. Gallup: Trump Family Leave, Infrastructure Proposals Widely Popular, Americans are far more likely to agree than disagree with President Donald Trump’s proposals to require companies to provide family leave for parents of a newborn and to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure. CNN: CNN/ORC poll: Most back boost in infrastructure spending, oppose growing military budget, Trump’s most popular budget proposals include reducing taxes for middle-class Americans (84% approve) and increasing spending on infrastructure (79% approve). So the public wants our government to spend money fixing up our infrastructure. But we...

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5 Questions the Trump Administration Needs to Answer About the Border Wall

by Jenny Rowland and Philip E. Wolgin – In the U.S.-Mexico border region, an area that stretches nearly 2,000 miles, decisions about border security affect the daily lives of roughly 12 million people. The United States already has 653 miles of border fencing, and much of the rest of the border is comprised of the Rio Grande or located in some of the country’s most inhospitable locations, where a wall would be impractical and unnecessary. In addition to fencing, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, or DHS, uses an array of surveillance and technology to monitor the border in real time. Yet both as a candidate and as president, Donald Trump has repeatedly called for the construction of a “big, fat, beautiful wall” along the entire U.S.-Mexico border. The administration recently concluded a request for proposals from firms to construct the wall, and it has already started to send out notices...

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Energy Secretary Targets Wind, Solar After Overseeing Renewables Explosion as Texas Governor

by Mark Hand – Rick Perry wants answers to baseload generation retirements. U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry didn’t mention renewable energy by name. But his request for the Department of Energy (DOE) to investigate how federal subsidies boost one form of energy at the expense of baseload generation was clearly meant as a swipe at wind and solar energy resources. In an April 14 memo to his chief of staff, a copy of which DOE provided to ThinkProgress, Perry directed the agency to look at the extent to which “continued regulatory burdens, as well as mandates and tax and subsidy policies, are responsible for forcing the premature retirement of baseload power plants.” Perry previously served as governor of Texas where he led an expansion of renewable energy sources across the state. Texas leads the nation in wind-powered generation capacity with more than 18,500 megawatts, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration....

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Global Solar Demand Soars 30-fold in Just 9 Years

by Joe Romm – Solar now employs more U.S. workers than Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon combined. The rapid rise of solar power is one of the most astonishing transformations in the history of global energy use. A decade ago, solar photovoltaics (PV) was just a tiny sapling, easily dismissed by fossil fuel advocates. Today, after a remarkable 30-fold increase in PV sales in just nine years, it has become a giant redwood forest. And the giant is still growing, as GTM Research reported in its latest Global Solar Demand Monitor for the first quarter of 2017. CREDIT: GTM Research Last year alone saw a stunning jump in annual global PV demand of more than 50 percent. And GTM projects that demand for solar power will continue to rise. This transformation has been driven by steadily plummeting costs for solar (and other enabling technologies). Indeed, India’s Minister for Power, Coal, New & Renewable...

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Chinese Internet Giant Buys 5 Percent of Tesla for $1.8 Billion

by Joe Romm – Tesla’s market value surge signals a booming future for electric vehicles — globally. On Monday, Tesla accelerated past Ford Motors to become the number two U.S. automaker by market capitalization — the total stock market value of the company. That puts Tesla’s market cap ($48 billion) within sight of General Motors’ ($51 billion). Via MarketWatch The stock surge reflects the market’s view that the future for cars is electric. After all, Ford sold nearly 240,000 cars in March, whereas Tesla reported on Sunday that its total deliveries in the whole first quarter were only 25,000 cars. Still, Tesla’s 2017 Q1 sales were up nearly 70 percent over 2016 Q1 sales. And the market likes to bet on growth. Rapid and ongoing drops in battery cost mean we are just at the start of the EV revolution. As Navigant Research reported in January, “more than 37 million plug-in electric vehicles are expected...

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Majority of Americans Oppose Funding Mexico Border Wall

by Esther Yu Hsi Lee – The wall likely won’t stretch ‘sea to shining sea.’ The construction of a wall along the southern U.S. border is President Donald Trump’s most visible campaign promise. But as the astounding $1 billion-per-every-62 miles price tag of Trump’s vision buts up against the reality that the Mexican government will not defray construction costs, it’s increasingly becoming evident that Americans do not want it. A majority of Americans oppose funding Trump’s wall, according to a poll conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research released Thursday. The poll — which drew from a sample of 1,100 adults representative of the U.S. population between March 23 and 27— found that 58 percent oppose new spending on the wall, with nearly half saying that they “strongly oppose funding for the project.” The results were largely partisan, with 86 percent of self-identified Democrats and 57 percent of independents against new spending...

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Trump Wants to Slash Medical Research Funding to Help Pay for Border Wall

by Deirdre Fulton – Deep and immediate cuts to National Institutes of Health and other agencies would amount to “throwing progress out the window”. Lawmakers, scientists, and advocacy groups are decrying President Donald Trump’s proposed cuts to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), saying they represent another broken campaign promise and a “heartless” attack on critical medical research. In keeping with his war on science, Trump’s “skinny budget” released earlier this month outlined a 20 percent cut to the NIH; a specific proposal put forth this week would cut an additional $1.23 billion from the agency’s 2017 fiscal year budget. The reduction is part of $18 billion in cuts Trump is requesting “from medical research, education, and other programs for the remainder of the current fiscal year to finance construction of a border wall and build up the military,” as Bloomberg reported. According to STAT: he NIH cuts would wipe $50 million...

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Round Two of Republican Incompetence and Humiliation? Welcome to Tax Reform

by Hunter – Fresh off their humiliating display of incompetent healthcare “reform” (by which they meant a tax cut for rich people), Donald Trump and the Republican Party alike are moving on to their next big agenda item: tax reform. This will also consist of a tax cut for rich people. And like the attempt to strip health insurance from millions, this too is shaping up to be a fiasco of their own making. The problem, in short, is that Actual Tax Reform is hard. Very hard. And since nobody in the Republican Party is interested in doing a decent job of it, by which we mean taking suggestions from the opposition party as to reforms that both sides agree are needed, they’ll be seeking to pass “tax reform” legislation through reconciliation, an avenue that lets them dodge a Democratic filibuster in the Senate. That requires, according to reconciliation rules, that the bill...

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Mexican Archdiocese: Companies That Help Build Trump’s Wall Are “Traitors”

by Deirdre Fulton – ‘The wall is a monument of intimidation and silence, of xenophobic hatred’. Denouncing President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall between Mexico and the United States as “an open threat that violates relations and peace,” the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico City said Sunday that companies who profit from its construction are “traitors to the homeland.” The country’s largest archdiocese made the charge in an editorial (Spanish) published in its weekly newsletter, Desde la fe. A spokesman said the editorial represented the views of the diocese. “Joining a project that is a serious affront to dignity, is to shoot yourself in the foot,” the editorial declared. “The wall is a monument of intimidation and silence, of xenophobic hatred.” It continued: “Any company with the intention to invest in the wall of the fanatic Trump would be immoral, but above all, its shareholders and owners should be considered traitors...

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Complications of the Border Wall Project Increasingly Apparent

by Abstract668 – As the deadline for initial concept papers for Trump’s wall approaches (Wednesday, March 29, 4 pm without specifying the time zone),  we are finally starting to read about some of the problems that will be encountered if an actual contractor tries to build an actual wall. The Washington Post today listed three obstacles to the wall project: money, geography, and legal challenges. You can read the full story by Alicia Caldwell here. To those of us familiar with federal contracting procedures and federally-funded construction projects, the Post story just scratches the surface of the barriers facing this pipe-dream. Money. As Caldwell points out, Trump promised that Mexico will pay for the wall. We all know that was a five-Pinocchio lie. Let’s assume that Trump himself is not going to pay for it (he doesn’t even pay the carpet companies who outfit his hotels!) In order for federal funds...

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East Chicago’s Pleas for Clean Drinking Water Go Unanswered as Trump Moves to Weaken EPA

by Mike Ludwig, Truthout | Report – Environmental justice is on the chopping block at the Environmental Protection Agency, and that doesn’t bode well for communities like East Chicago, Indiana, where the agency recently discovered that drinking water is contaminated with lead. Nearly three weeks ago, a number of East Chicago churches and community groups petitioned the EPA to take emergency action and protect the majority-Black community from lead poisoning, which can cause a long list of health problems, especially in children. As of Tuesday, the local leaders and their environmentalist allies had yet to hear back from the agency. The EPA’s inaction in East Chicago comes as Trump’s administration considers massive budget cuts that could crush the agency’s environmental justice program, which is supposed to ensure the fair treatment of low-income communities, Native communities and people of color under environmental law. The agency’s environmental justice office is slated...

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“Morally Obscene” Trump Budget Proposal Stands to Make America Cruel Again

by Deirdre Fulton – Environment, public education, worker protections, and cultural institutions all stand to lose under Trump’s “cruel” budget blueprint.   Meals on Wheels. Amtrak. Teacher training, after-school, and summer educational programs. The National Endowment for the Arts. The Appalachian Regional Commission. The National Institutes of Health (NIH). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). All these initiatives and agencies—plus many more—face cuts or wholesale elimination under President Donald Trump’s proposed “skinny budget,” officially unveiled Thursday. Meanwhile, the blueprint calls for increases in military spending, border and immigration enforcement, and money for charter and private schools. The Washington Post has a comprehensive breakdown, with graphics, here. The document was variously denounced as “an all-out assault on our planet;” “dirty and dangerous;” “cruel;” and “unacceptable.” “President Trump’s budget is morally obscene and bad economic policy,” declared Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). “It will cause devastating pain to the very people Trump promised to help...

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China is Building a National Park 60% Larger than Yellowstone to Protect Siberian Tigers

by Amanda Froelich – China is preparing to build a 5,600-square mile national park to protect the Siberian tiger, Amur leopard, and a few other endangered species. Not everything is bigger in the United States… In only a handful of years, a national park 60% larger than Yellowstone will be constructed in northeast China, in the Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces. The project has been approved so that Siberian tigers, which are endangered due to poaching and habitat loss – primarily from logging, will be protected. Amur leopards will also find sanctuary in the new national park. Conservation efforts, including a logging ban, have helped increased the population of wild Siberian tigers in the area from six to nine in 1998 to 27 in 2015, reports the Shanghaiist. However, the current reserve for the tigers is not large enough for the species to thrive, which is why a park which will...

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