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Morons Come Through in Utah

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Here’s a headline that spell check couldn’t catch—ripped from the screen of a local TV news broadcast this morning…

Utah  

 


#Obamacough?

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(Starting around 0.38s)

“If you’re loving your Obamacough…if you’re loving that respiratory infection, it’s not a mystery – it comes from Obama’s children. If you’re enjoying that, why don’t you call Brian Higgins’ office and thank him for it, and ask if he’ll help pay your medical bills for whatever your doctor may have given you to counteract said cough.”

What is he talking about? What does this mean? What “Obamacough” did “Obama’s children” cause people in WNY to contract? Why should Brian Higgins pay for anyone’s medical bills, given that everyone in New York is mandated to have health insurance coverage nowadays either through their employer, through the exchange, or through Medicaid? 

In what way is this responsible? What sort of radio station is this, exactly, this WBEN? I mean, I get Bauerle saying any old oddity – that’s his job – but when it crosses the line from commentary into crackpot tin-foil hattery, doesn’t someone step in and do something about it?  

I mean, I know Obama is a public figure, and so are his kids, to a degree – I don’t put it past any right winger to leave Obama’s kids alone – but what evidence is there to back this up?  Isn’t this sort of the very definition of “actual malice” set forth in Sullivan v. New York Times

 


The Curse of the Donn Esmonde Column

What better way to explain away systemic failure than to do what they did in the Middle Ages and just blame it on some supernatural curse? 

The Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy first articulated the concept of the Red Sox “Curse of the Bambino” in a book released in 1990.  It soon became lore – during fall Sox games, the “Reverse Curve” sign on an overpass on the outbound Storrow Drive became “Reverse Curse”. 

So Donn Esmonde, a semi-retired Buffalo News columnist/asshole, came up with a “curse” for Buffalo. This is, naturally, not at all original. Some believe that Buffalo is cursed because President McKinley was assassinated here. It’s much easier than, say, absorbing the details and lessons from Diana Dillaway’s “Power Failure and addressing longstanding ways in which Buffalo continues to stand in the way of its own progress. 

Esmonde’s way of cheering the Pegula family’s purchase of the Buffalo Bills reads more like the rantings of an obsessed geek fanboy writing erotic fanfiction featuring Karen Gillan and Kari from “Mythbusters“. 

If the stars and fates were – for reasons unknown – lined up for decades against the city, those fortunes indisputably have changed. The U-turn has been so dramatic – and the reversal so long overdue – that the dark cloud may have lifted for generations to come.

Note to Fate: It’s about time.

It’s not fate. There is not a single thing about Buffalo and WNY that has fundamentally changed in the last 10 years, except perhaps locals’ attitudes about the city. When the governor throws a billion dollars at your city for economic development, good things would happen anywhere. The funding of ECHDC with money from the power authority helped bring about Canalside, and that was thanks to smart politicians exercising their clout. But do we really need NYPA? Shouldn’t WNY have been benefiting from cheap hydropower for the last century? Couldn’t Albany do something about making it easier to start and do business in New York State instead of just making it rain cash? Our recent election results show just how same old same old our area is.  Lucking into finding a sports-fan billionaire is just that – luck. His purchase of the Bills changes none of the fundamental, underlying problems that we face. 

Any “curse” is of our own creation, and we maintain it lovingly every time we “participate” in our electoral system. 

If indeed there was a dark cloud hanging for decades over our sporting teams and civic fortunes, it’s safe to conclude it has been mugged, mauled, pummeled and smothered into submission.

The way things are going, there will be a shiny Stanley Cup in our trophy case and a Super Bowl parade down Main Street sometime in the next decade. Crazy talk, I know. But who could have imagined that a Pegula would suddenly appear, as if brought to life by our collective wishful thinking?

We suffered the misfortunes of Wide Right, four straight Super Bowl losses, No Goal and various other sporting calamities. The supposed prior salvation of the Sabres – and a downtown-reviving Adelphia empire – offered by the Rigas family vaporized in false promises and prison sentences.

The sports calamities pale in comparison to our social, economic, and political calamities, all of which continue apace. Another article in the News details the process whereby amateur, unqualified “planners” dictate the future of the Outer Harbor by passive-aggressive sticky note.  Don’t tell me that any curse is lifted when we have people whining about people living in gorgeous new housing near the Lake. I mean, just look at what waterfront development did to those unlivable hellholes like Vancouver, Toronto, New York, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Singapore, and Chicago! We’d never want to be like those places! By God, that Outer Harbor has been a contaminated wasteland for the last 80 years, and by God a contaminated wasteland it should stay!

Apart from Silicon Valley, newly minted billionaires don’t generally fall from the sky – particularly around here. Pegula, in essence, emerged from the earth – or, at least, the source of his billions did. Advancements in the technology of natural gas extraction, called fracking, in recent years turned natural gas deposits mile-deep in shale into 21st-century treasure. Though environmentally controversial, fracking transformed Pegula seemingly overnight into a multibillionaire. With decades in the industry, Pegula – a native Pennsylvanian whose Western New York roots are nearly 40 years deep – saw the coming technology early on and acquired massive stretches of shale-rich land. He has, over the last five years, sold pieces of his stake for billions of dollars.

Luckily for us.

This one is fantastic. Esmonde is glossing over the environmental disaster that is natural gas extraction through hydrofracking. The modern fracking they do in Pennsylvania and other places is not yet allowed in New York, and while some think it would be a boon for economically depressed parts of central New York – mostly around Utica and Binghamton – it comes with huge environmental risks. 

You need look no further than this Donn Esmonde column from 2011, wherein he recounts how fracking rigs in Springville made a young family sick, and turned their well water suddenly flammable. Heartbreaking:

“I couldn’t understand why my kids were getting sick,” said Brant. “Are they going to have health problems for the rest of their lives? I have six girls, will they be able to have children?”

One could argue that fracking may have “cursed” that family, because looking at it all scientifically, empirically, and objectively is far too complicated and difficult. But what’s a little poisoned water, poisoned kids, and geological trauma when a billionaire can buy our sports team? 

I understand that we’re willing to hold our collective civic nose and ignore how Pegula made his billions, but to gloss over it and cheer the lifting of a “curse” is going a bit too far, even for Tea Party Donn

With Pegula’s emergence, Buffalo really stepped in it – but this time, instead of stomping into something odoriferous, we walked into a bed of roses. Mesh the reversal of our sporting fortunes with the ongoing repopulation of downtown, the development of the waterfront, the revival of the West Side, the emergence of Canalside and the rise of the Medical Campus, and there is just one rational rhetorical question begging to be asked: Curse? What Curse?

Buffalo’s population continues to decline. Our politics remain hopelessly dysfunctional and corrupt, and all of these things are happening in spite of that. Buffalonians and WNYers may have more optimism and hope, but it’s not because one billionaire bought the Bills – it’s because in the last 20 years, we’ve been forced at last to get past our post-industrial malaise and figure out a path to the future. We may not always agree, and we may fight and argue about the details of how to move forward, but it’s because of the work of visionary businesspeople, tax credits and incentives, activists, volunteers, and organizations that our region seems to be moving forward. For every billionaire sports team owner, the real hard work is being done by people who live paycheck to paycheck, or freelance check to freelance check. It’s being done by entrepreneurs who put their talent and passion into various projects. It’s not the grand shopping sprees that make Buffalo better, it’s all the little things that people do with minimal fanfare and very hard work. 

As for me, I’m convinced that Buffalo’s “curse” won’t be lifted until Donn Esmonde stops writing trite, humorless nonsense in the local paper and retires to his suburban tract home in Florida


Bucky Gleason tl;dr

Kim Pegula, as described by the Buffalo News

Buffalo is so thankful that naïve, pussy-whipped Terry Pegula and ice-bitch-queen Kim Pegula will be buying the Bills. 

I could go on, but this article nicely sums up the culture war that’s being waged by and against women, and how women are winning. 

(For the uninitiated (remember BobbyCat?), tl;dr stands for “too long; didn’t read”) 


Muck Rack echo: How we remember James Foley

ISIS posted video allegedly showing James Foley being beheaded.

ISIS posted video allegedly showing James Foley being beheaded.

It takes truly horrible news to eclipse all other bad news, and that’s just what we’ve received: ISIS claims to have killed captive American journalist James Foley. ISIS briefly posted a video yesterday allegedly showing the beheading of Foley, who was kidnapped in Syria roughly two years ago. In a moving Facebook post, his mother Diane Foley writes, “We have never been prouder of our son Jim. He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people.”

Some discord erupted over whether to show images from Foley’s execution while reporting his death; many fiercely felt this was inappropriate and, worse, helped spread the ISIS message.

In a surprising but comforting turn, Twitter announced its team was working to suspend accounts of anyone tweeting graphic images of Foley’s death (1,911 shares). This would include ISIS supporters, who appeared to be harassing Foley mourners with screen grabs of his purported death. “We have been and are actively suspending accounts as we discover them related to this graphic imagery. Thank you,” Twitter CEO Dick Costolo reveals. “Bravo! Could also start with @nypost front page tweet,” Heidi Moore suggests at Guardian US. Yeah, about that. The New York Post didn’t think twice about using Foley’s last moments as fodder for their front page today, and has been almost universally condemned for that choice (664 shares).


WBEN, Riding the Nativist Derp Train to Fraudville

It used to be that references to undocumented immigrants as “invaders” were reserved for the outermost fringes of the body politic. 

Stormfront. Short wave. Nazi/Racist/Neo-Confederate bulletin boards. Infowars.

Now, because of an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, the right-wing freakout over “illegal” “invaders” has become commonplace. Neo-Nazi hate-speech is now mainstreamed. 

Add to that the spectacle of underemployed, underinformed, angry white folk, (whose immigrant ancestors came from somewhere), who have nothing better to do all day than to turn parts of the American desert into little clones of Afghanistan – complete with weapons and extralegal checkpoints

Not to put too fine a point on it all, but what’s going on along the US-Mexican border is unprecedented – youngsters are crossing into the US en masse and rather than running from Border Patrol in order to get further into the US, they are surrendering immediately upon arrival, just like the Cubans do under our unusually generous “dry foot” policy

(Hint: Just tell the wingnuts that these kids are from Cuba, and maybe they’ll treat them as human beings.)

Unsophisticated, poor families in places like Guatemala and Honduras – economically awful, socially violent, and politically dysfunctional places – are being tricked by human trafficking cartels to pay to send their kids to the US, where, they’re told, the kids will be able to claim asylum and stay forever.  Of course, there’s no federal “DREAM” Act, but a 2008 law requires the government to grant any kid from a non-border country an asylum hearing

These children and their families are being taken advantage of by con artists. They are the tired, the poor – the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.  Tempest-tost wretched refuse, these children and their families are naive victims. Yet when they come here, our nativist right wing freaks out. Peak temper tantrum, hurling hateful invective not only at these Central American tweens, but at Obama, the liberals, and everyone else who doesn’t slap a Gadsen flag on their bumper and an eagle on their timeline. 

It is a humanitarian crisis because these children come with nothing – have nothing – and because ours is a country of laws, we are not empowered simply to shove them back on a bus across the Mexico border. We have due process.  We have laws. We have to detain them – humanely – while we process them all. That is how a 1st world country works, and that is what the law requires. 

It’s gotten to the point where any school bus filled with brown people is suspect. An Arizona state legislator running for Congress stoked the confrontation, and hatefully declared that food and shelter for a bus-full of brown-skinned children isn’t compassionate, but an “abrogation of the rule of law“. 

As it turns out, it wasn’t a bus-full of undocumented migrants, but a bus-full of Arizonan kids on their way to YMCA camp. Seriously

While the wingnuts with all that extra time on their hands accost kids on their way to the Y, other kids are dying. The border patrol is a law enforcement agency – not a refugee non-profit. The government is unprepared to deal with something like this, because of its massive scale and the unprecedented nature of what’s going on. Washington alternates between grandstanding and dithering

By treating these kids as “invaders” and an “army”, you dehumanize them as well as any World War II-era cartoon of a bespectacled, slanty-eyed Tojo. By focusing on blaming Obama rather than trying to solve a legal and humanitarian crisis, the right wing contributes not only to the further erosion of whatever was left of its Latino support, but exposes itself for the craven practitioner of racialist, nativist politics that it’s become in recent years. 

At the local forefront of this racial animus is hate radio WBEN, led by right-wing kook and operations director Tim Wenger. 

Sometime on Tuesday, this appeared at WBEN’s scat-strewn Facebook page: 

First of all, it links to “Gateway Pundit”, who is widely regarded by anyone with a brain to be one of the stupidest people in the right-wing blogosphere. Not just wrong – stupid.  Here, he links to something called “Mad World News”, which I’ve never heard of, and which certainly doesn’t seem like a completely credible source. 

Because it’s not.

I won’t link to either one, but if you go to “Mad World News”, it seems that some nosy hausfrau encountered a busload of brown-skinned people getting off a school bus at a Wal-Mart in rural North Carolina. She tried to communicate with them, but these durn Messikinz didn’t speak any English. So, she simply leaped to the conclusion that, because one of them had managed to communicate with her that they were recent arrivals to America, they must be “illegals”. Not only that, but our brave Mexican-whisperers concluded that this busload of “invaders” was paying for its Wal-Mart goodies with “EBT cards”; welfare handouts. 

Except not a word of it was true, and the tea party says so

OK, OK – yes, a busload of foreign migrant farm laborers did show up at a Wal-Mart in North Carolina, but they weren’t “illegals”, but legal guest-worker migrant farmworkers; people who had valid visas to enter the US and perform all the horrible manual farm labor that you consider to be beneath you

They weren’t paying with welfare cards. Their wages are paid to rechargeable debit cards, which they used to buy items for themselves at Wal-Mart in rural North Carolina. 

They weren’t on a government bus, but were instead being transported by their employer to the Wal-Mart for a shopping trip. 

But, you know, brown people on a bus using plastic at a Wal-Mart. Because right wingers instinctively think the worst of everyone and everything, these had to be (what else?) “illegal” “invaders” spending welfare EBT cards thanks to Obama inviting them to the US. 

So long as the tea party remains “diligent” when they really mean “vigilant”, we’ll all be a little safer and don’t forget your gun. 

Now, despite that this is completely untrue, having been factually debunked by WBEN’s own partisan allies, this radio station continues to perpetrate this fraud on Buffalo and its listenership by refusing to delete or update the post to point out that it’s a lie. Rather than be “accurate” as a putative “news” entity, WBEN sides instead with the people who would “go to war” against these kids

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, that story about n0bummer giving some of these kids a resort experience in Weslaco Texas is also completely false

In the meantime, the administration and Democrats will try to find a humane and legal solution to this problem while the Republicans continue to antagonize Latino voters and Millenials.  In the meantime, sane and rational people will call out wildly horrible local hate radio for the embarrassment it is. 

Not every problem is one that needs to be solved with hatred and guns. 

(Crossposted to Little Green Footballs)


#FTFY, WBEN

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Local talk radio station WBEN held an online poll about its listeners the tea party on Wednesday. Here are the results as of mid-morning: 

Big surprise, right? So, I fixed that for them: 

Or this: 

 

 


GreenWatch

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Guest Commentary by GreenWatch contributor Arthur J. Giacalone

(Note: Mr. Giacalone is a semi-retired attorney who lives with his wife and teenage children in the Village of East Aurora, New York and often contributes to Artvoice. This piece and other commentary and critique of New York State zoning, land use, and environmental laws can be found on his blog:  “With All Due Respect-Commentary on land use and development issues -and the judiciary”)

What exactly is a “State Energy Plan”?

We have all been invited by the New York State Energy Planning Board to review and comment on the “2014 Draft New York State Energy Plan.”

That’s great, I guess.  Our comments are due by May 30, 2014, and, if we want to submit our thoughts online, there is only one place to do that: http://energyplan.ny.gov/Process/Comments.aspx.

I had hoped to start the review process by now to ensure that Memorial Day festivities wouldn’t get in the way of meeting the May 30th deadline.  But I got sidetracked by the realization that I didn’t know what the purpose of a State Energy Plan is, or whether it actually had any real-world impact.

Perhaps more importantly, I had no familiarity with the NYS Energy Planning Board, who the members are, who appoints them, etc., etc.  I may be a bit naive, but I’m not willing to immediately trust these folks simply because their home page quotes Rachel Carson.

So, as a public service to anyone who might have similar questions or qualms, here’s what I’ve been able to cobble together:

 

Permanence has not been the State Energy Plan’s Hallmark 

The earliest “State Energy Plan” [“SEP”] I was able to identify was adopted in 2002 during the administration of Gov. George E. Pataki.  It was designed “to keep New York at the forefront among states in providing its citizens with abundant, competitively priced, clean, and efficient energy resources.”  Reflecting just how much the world has changed in a dozen years, the 2002 plan contained no reference of any kind to Marcellus Shale or high-volume hydraulic fracturing (“hydrofracking”).

An annual report and activities update was issued in 2005, but it was prepared on a voluntary basis by the former staff of the State Energy Board.  The state legislation establishing the State Energy Planning Board and the SEP process expired on January 1, 2003.

Gov. David A. Paterson, apparently unwilling to wait for legislative action, created a State Energy Planning Board by executive order in 2008.  The new board was instructed to publish a final Energy Plan by June 30, 2009, and to issue a new energy plan at least every three years thereafter.

The opening paragraphs of Gov. Paterson’s Executive Order No. 2 appear to reflect the issues most on the mind of New York’s chief executive, that is, threats to the environment and public health, and global climate change:

            “WHEREAS, decisions about how to meet the state’s future energy needs can have significant impacts on the environment, public health, public welfare, safety, mobility, quality and reliability of services, energy costs, and the ability to maintain and grow the State’s economy; and

            WHEREAS, the burning of fossil fuels is a major contributor to global climate change, which poses a serious threat to the environment and the public health in New York State and elsewhere; …”

Governor Paterson’s unilateral move to create a State Energy Planning Board awakened the lethargic legislators in Albany.  By September 2009, the expired statutory provisions establishing an energy planning board were reinstituted, calling for an SEP every four years.  Not surprisingly, the 2009 legislation expressly gives “the speaker of the assembly and the temporary president of the senate” (as well as the governor) the power to appoint a representative to serve on the board.  It also asks the board to include in the State Energy Plan information and analyses both on a “statewide” basis and, to the extent practicable, for the “downstate region” [New York City and eight nearby counties] and “upstate region” [the rest of the state].

In contrast to the primacy given to the environment, public health, and climate change in the Paterson executive order, the 2009 legislation lists the goal of “minimizing public health and environmental impacts, in particular, environmental impacts related to climate change” after the expression of the following objectives for the State’s energy plan: “improving the reliability of the state’s energy systems; insulating consumers from volatility in market prices; [and] reducing the overall cost of energy in the state.”

The basic features of the 2009 legislation remain in place today.  However, Gov. Andrew Cuomo presided over a number of changes to the SEP process less than seven months after his January 1, 2011 inauguration, enacting what has been characterized as “minor amendments to Article 6 [of the Energy Law] in order to change the composition of the board and streamline its operations.”  In “streamlining” the SEP process, the current statute reduces somewhat the role of regional planning council members, lessens the obligation to identify and assess certain “regional” needs, and limits “forecasts” of enumerated topics to “a minimum period of ten years” rather than the previous call for “forecasts for periods of five, ten and fifteen years.”

Energy Planning Board Members – The Governor’s in Control

One feature of the State Energy Plan process has been constant throughout the 2002, 2009 and 2014 plans:  The Governor has preeminent control over the makeup of the State Energy Planning Board.  That power has been either absolute (the executive fiat-approach taken Gov. Paterson in 2002), or de facto as a result of a governor’s ability to nominate the Commissioner or Chairperson who, by virtue of the position he or she holds, is automatically a member of the energy planning board.

Given the predominance of gubernatorial “appointees” on the State Energy Planning Board, it is highly unlikely that the ability of each legislative chamber to appoint a single member to the board has a meaningful impact.  Pursuant to the current statute, a simple majority vote is all that is needed for board actions or decisions.

The number of board members has increased with each reincarnation.  The 2002 version included the heads of five agencies:  the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA); New York State Department of Transportation (DOT); New York State Public Service Commission (PSC); New York State Department of Economic Development [an agency that was eliminated with the 2009-2010 State budget with its responsibilities transferred to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESD)]; and, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

The Paterson-created State Energy Planning Board retained each of the five 2002 agencies (or its successor agency), and added the New York Department of State (DOS), New York State Department of Health (DOH), and the States’ Division of Budget.  Executive Order No. 2 also named as board Chair the Deputy Secretary of Energy in the Governor’s office, and placed the Assistant Secretary for Renewable Energy in the Governor’s office as head of the “Energy Coordinating Working Group.”

The current configuration of the State Energy Planning Board requires a considerably larger conference table than either of its predecessors, despite the fact that the panel no longer includes a representative from the State’s Division of Budget or the Governor’s office.  The 2011 legislation adds the Commissioner of Labor, Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets, and Commissioner of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, as well as the appointees of the State Senate, State Assembly and (of course) the Governor.  Pursuant to the statute, the President of NYSERDA now serves as the Chair of the State Energy Board.

While they each perform valuable services on behalf of the citizens of New York State, none of the newly added agencies has a “mission statement” that focuses on the public health, the environment, or concerns over climate change:

        Labor:  “The mission of the New York Department of Labor is to protect workers, assist the unemployed and connect job seekers to jobs.”

        Ag & Markets:  “Our mission is to foster a competitive food and agriculture industry that benefits producers and consumers alike.”

        Homeland Security:  “Created in 2010, DHSES and its four offices … provide leadership, coordination and support for efforts to prevent, protect against, prepare for, respond to, and recover from terrorism and other man-made and natural disasters, threats, fires and other emergencies.”

Who actually gathers the data and drafts the State Energy Plan?

Not surprisingly, members of the State Energy Planning Board are authorized by the current statute to designate “an executive staff representative” to attend board meetings and participate on the board on their behalf.  And the tedious-but-critical process of gathering and analyzing data and information and drafting the SEP falls to the staff of the various participating agencies:

Staff services shall be performed by personnel of the department of public service, the department of environmental conservation, the department of transportation, the department of economic development, the division of homeland security and emergency services and the New York state energy research and development authority, as directed by the board. Assistance shall also be made available, as requested by the board, from other agencies, departments and public authorities of the state.

The difficulties of obtaining input from the actual board members – given their many responsibilities and, perhaps, lukewarm interest in the State Energy Plan process – are reflected in a statement attributed to the board Chair, NYSERDA President Francis J. Murray, Jr., in the July 9, 2012 meeting minutes:

       ” …  Mr. Murray encouraged Board members, particularly designees, to ensure that their principals (agency commissioners, etc.) are given ample time to weigh in on the various technical reports and documents.”

Does the State Energy Plan have any clout?

What happens to the State Energy Plan once a simple majority of the State Energy Planning Board members approves the final version of a plan prepared by personnel of the various agencies?  Must its goals and objectives be strictly followed?  Does it tangibly influence the actions and decisions of public entities and private companies?  Will it merely sit on a virtual shelf collecting virtual dust?

Here’s what Gov. Paterson’s 2002 executive order envisioned:

      “Upon issuance of the Energy Plan, every agency, department, office, division and public authority of the State shall, unless otherwise restricted by applicable law, give due consideration to and be guided by the Energy Plan in their decision-making.”

As meek as Mr. Paterson’s words appear to this skeptical environmental/land use lawyer, they read like a mighty roar when compared with the “reasonably consistent” standard found in the current version of the State Energy Plan law:

        “Section 6-104(5) (a).  The state energy plan shall provide guidance for energy-related decisions to be made by the public and private sectors within the state. (b) Any energy-related action or decision of a state agency, board, commission or authority shall be reasonably consistent with the forecasts and the policies and long-range energy planning objectives and strategies contained in the plan, including its most recent update; provided, however, that any such action or decision which is not reasonably consistent with the plan shall be deemed in compliance with this section, provided that such action or decision includes a finding that the relevant provisions of the plan are no longer reasonable or probable based on a material and substantial change in fact or circumstance, and a statement explaining the basis for this finding.”         

As with the comprehensive plans prepared by local municipalities, our elected and appointed officials will most likely point to a paragraph here and there in the State Energy Plan when it supports whatever actions or decisions they’re about to make.  And the SEP will be conveniently forgotten when decisions being made fall short of the anemic “reasonably consistent” standard found in the enabling legislation.

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