Emgold’s David Watkinson Sends Puzzling Letter to Planning Commission

David Watkinson, President and CEO of Emgold Corporation, recently sent a letter to Tom Last, City of Grass Valley Planning Director, in which he said that “we would like to confirm that our permit application is still active and ongoing and request that the City continue to treat it as active unless notified otherwise by IMMC.” That’s a straightforward and — we suppose — routine request.

But some statements Mr. Watkinson made further into the body of the letter, regarding the still uncorrected deficiencies in the original DEIR (Draft Environmental Impact Report) for the Idaho-Maryland Mine are puzzling in the extreme, since they contradict the Grass Valley City Council statements of August 25th, 2009, as well as Mr. Watkinson’s own statements of the same date.

Here’s the puzzling passage in David Watkinson’s recent letter (dated September 15, 2010, obtained by us on October 21st):

The City has indeed not deemed that the Draft EIR is officially inadequate, the City has not decided that a new Draft EIR is required , and the City has not determined that changes to the project description are required from the applicant. The City has in fact not determined that the DEIR needs any revisions, let alone major revisions.

Compare that statement to his own comments to the members of the City Council during their meeting of August 25, 2009 (from my verbatim transcript of the relevant portion of that meeting):

DAVID  WATKINSON: “We are looking at doing a revised EIR. That doesn’t mean necessarily that we are completing a whole new EIR. But there are certain sections that will get updated as we go through the process of doing a revision. It will go through a public process again. There are things that drive recirculation in a CEQA process. So, depending on the changes that we finalize when we submit to the city, we’ll sit down with the city and determine – based on the CEQA law – what will drive recirculation and that decision will be made. It is our thought at this point in time that we probably will have to have a revision and we’re preparing for that …“

Following Mr. Watkinson’s remarks, Mike Pasner, a farmer in Penn Valley who relies on downstream water from Wolf Creek, came to the podium and asked for a clarification of Mr. Watkinson’s remarks concerning the recirculation issue (see video excerpt below).

LISA SWARTHOUT: “It’s not up to Dave. It’s up to us. It’s up to the city to determine if it’s recirculated or not.
MIKE PASNER: “So when you see this new … “
LISA SWARTHOUT: “Yes. It will be recirculated.
MIKE PASNER: “If there’s a revised EIR, it will be recirculated?”
[Mike exits the podium]
LISA SWARTHOUT: “And I think Joe [Heckel] stated pretty clearly that … there’s going to be a revised EIR.”
COUNSEL: “Yes … a new draft EIR with – from what we’ve heard – at least some changes which may be substantial. And that would require new circulation, new comment period, etc.”
JOE HECKEL: “There are changes to the project design, and there are also additional studies that would be driven by the changes. Those will all have to be folded into the EIR document … for a full review.”

Copious public commentary documented the many serious deficiencies in the original DEIR. The city has never accepted it as adequate. And — as the comments above show — the mayor, the city legal counsel and the city administrator all signaled quite clearly that the DEIR would have to be revised and recirculated.

In fact, given the compelling and serious nature of that extensive public commentary on the DEIR, it is inconceivable that the city would accept it without revision and recirculation.

David Watkinson’s assertion, in his most recent letter, would have to be classified as wishful thinking in the extreme.

Emgold —  in its press releases (which we assume are primarily aimed at investors) — has continually claimed that it is “in the advanced stage of permitting the Idaho-Maryland Project.”

Whether by design or by coincidence, Mr. Watkinson’s incorrect assertions in his latest letter are certainly consistent with Emgold’s extravagant assertions in its press releases.

Come to the A.P.P.L.E. 1-Year Anniversary Party!

Women Make Better Politicians: The Jackie (and Jill) Robinson Effect

By Don Pelton

This fascinating article arrived in my email today in the newsletter from bigthink.com. It describes a study done by Sarah Anzia at Stanford University and Christopher Berry at the University of Chicago. They find that “congresswomen secure roughly 9 percent more spending from federal discretionary programs than congressmen. This amounts to a premium of about $49 million per year for districts that send a woman to Capitol Hill.”

The reason for this disparity in male and female political performance, according to Anzia and Berry, is directly related to the discrimination they must overcome in order to get elected at all. Women must perform better in order to overcome persistent bias, just as — they argue — Jackie Robinson had to perform better than his white counterparts in order to overcome racial bias.

Here’s how John Cookson of bigthink describes the phenomenon:

This difference in performance between female and male legislators may be a result, in part, of the plain fact that it is more difficult for women to get elected. Titled the “The Jackie (and Jill) Robinson Effect,” the report finds higher performance amid persistent bias has a systematic effect on who reaches the highest level—and on what they do while they’re there. Jackie Robinson was one of the greatest baseball players of his day not because he was African-American, but rather because the discriminatory bias against African-Americans in baseball meant higher-level talent was needed to break those bias barriers.

“If voters are biased against female candidates, only the most talented, hardest working female candidates will succeed in the electoral process,” Anzia and Berry write. On top of that, “if women perceive there to be sex discrimination in the electoral process, or if they underestimate their qualifications for office relative to men, then only the most qualified, politically ambitious females will emerge as candidates.” It doesn’t matter whether the sex-based selection is from actual or perceived, active or passive, origins, the report finds that “women who are elected to office will perform better, on average, than their male counterpart.”

Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, attributes this difference to the fact that women are more collaborative. She tells Big Think that “women are actually more inclined towards that more modern leadership, which is collaborative problem-solving, enabling, consultative, not just trying to assert a kind of hierarchical power.” Men may also employ this sort of leadership, but it is distinctly feminine, she says.

Mary Robinson’s point is crucial. It’s not enough merely to vote women into office.

The most talented and effective politicians of either sex, apparently, are those who exemplify qualities that have traditionally been considered “feminine:” collaborative sensibilities in problem solving.

It’s unusual, but not unheard of, for men to exhibit these qualities, qualities which — if not inherited genetically — are usually developed through serious introspection and engagement with the limitations of traditional sex roles, the sort of work often best done within the circle of a men’s group.

I see no evidence for such qualities in our own 4th congressional district representative, Tom McClintock, who actually works against bringing money into our region.

Clearly, it is not enough to vote for a woman if that woman does not exemplify these traditional feminine qualities, but rather is chiefly driven by the less effective masculine quality of non-collaborative aggressiveness.

In my experience, effectiveness — in both men and women — flows from a balance between what have traditionally been considered masculine qualities and what have traditionally been considered feminine qualities. Because our culture does not nurture such balance, it is hard to achieve.

I would argue that the women noted for their political effectiveness have most likely struck this difficult balance.

I leave it to you whether candidates such as Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina, Sarah Palin and Christine O’Donnell exemplify the qualities of effective political leadership that this new study describes.

Are they Jill Robinsons, who have achieved their prominence by overcoming persistent bias and being better — because they have to — at a game traditionally dominated by men?

Ironically, the study seems to show that traditional feminine qualities are more effective in playing what has traditionally been a male-dominated game.

I’d say that means the game itself is changing, as it should.

Lake Wildwood Debate on Prop23: John Kabateck v. Steve Frisch

I purchased a DVD (from Channel 95’s Joe Bundy) of the recent Lake Wildwood Clubhouse debates on several of the upcoming propositions.

I then extracted the Prop 23 portion and divided it up into four sections, in the order of presentation: John Kabateck (Executive Director of NFIB/California: National Federation of Independent Business), Steve Frisch (of the Sierra Business Council), plus the Q and As (in two parts) following the presentations.

Here they are, in the order they occurred:

Take from the Blue and Give to the Red

Click anywhere on the image below to go the dynamic version of this map.

Try out the tabs along the top for a very illuminating experience.

Is Prop 23 a Head Fake, a Diversion by Prop 26 Proponents?

Craig Miller, of KQED’s Climate Watch blog, details the prodigious outpouring of money from the California business community for the battle against Propostion 23:

In what might signal a final push by Silicon Valley, an environmentally-oriented investor group today released a manifesto from 66 “leading investors” opposed to California’s Proposition 23. The group is said to manage more than $400 billion in assets.

In a conference call with reporters, venture capitalist Alan Salzman called clean technology the “next industrial revolution,” and that “California is at the epicenter.” To prove his point, Salzman pointed to $9 billion invested in “clean-tech” since 2006, in California alone, and he called Prop 23 “antithetical” to the transition that global industry is now undergoing, claiming that 20% of total venture capital funding is flowing to clean-tech, of late.

Salzman’s VC group, VantagePoint Venture Partners, is backing California companies such as electric-car maker Tesla Motors and BrightSource Energy, which was recently cleared to break ground on a major solar-thermal generation project in southern California.

The news call was organized by CERES, a Boston-based business group that promotes environmentally enlightened investment. Chris Davis, who directs investor programs for CERES, said that Prop 23 would be tantamount to a repeal of the state’s fundamental climate strategy and “a huge step backwards for California and the United States as a whole.”

“You simply don’t want to project an image of policy uncertainty in a global marketplace,” said Davis, “because capital can move elsewhere too quickly, to places with more stable commitments to clean energy policy.”

At the same time, the money in support of Prop 23 has suddenly dwindled to a trickle.

What gives?

According to Dan Morain, in his recent Sacramento Bee article, “As Prop. 23 dives, money goes elsewhere,” big oil may be shiifting its attention and resources to Proposition 26:

But some corporations are making a separate play, spending $7 million in recent days to promote Proposition 26, a measure that could appeal to voters angry with government by making it harder for legislators to raise fees.

As it is, lawmakers must muster a two-thirds majority to raise income or sales taxes. But they can impose fees by a simple majority vote, as long as the fees are intended to cover the costs of whatever program they fund.

Proposition 26 would change that requirement. If voters approve the measure, legislators and local officials would need to muster a two-thirds vote before imposing fees.

Chevron, which has stayed out of the Proposition 23 fight, has given $2.75 million to help pass Proposition 26, making it the single biggest corporate giver to the measure.

Philip Morris, the world’s largest cigarette maker, kicked in $750,000 to support Proposition 26, and oil giant ConocoPhillips and Anheuser-Busch Cos., the beer manufacturer chipped in $500,000 each.

Environmentalists are beginning to shift attention to Proposition 26, fearing it could gut programs they hold dear, and restrict the state from raising money needed to implement AB 32, the global warming law targeted by Valero and Tesoro with Proposition 23.

“The environment is on the chopping block,” said Warner Chabot, chief executive of California League of Conservation Voters. “Proposition 23 kills our climate law. Proposition 26 strangles it over a longer period of time.”

New Tea Party Ad: A Platform of Willful Ignorance


Here (below) is the perfect generic Tea Party ad.

It could work as-is for Sharon Engle, Christine O’Donnell, Joe Miller, and many other proud Tea Party Patriots:

The candidate says: “When I say ‘taxes are bad,’ I’m honestly saying everything I know about that subject!”

Gas drilling has blighted my life

Published in High Country News (hcn.org). Reprinted with permission.
We need energy — but not at the cost of clean water
ESSAY – October 12, 2010
By Louis Meeks

My wife, Donna, and I have lived for 32 years on our ranch in Pavillion, Wyo., a lush agricultural area surrounded by the Wind River and Owl Creek mountains. In this dry region, we’re lucky to have an irrigation district that delivers clean water from the Wind River to the several hundred farmers and ranchers in the area.

We’ve worked hard to develop this place, raise our two kids and tend to our cattle and horses. I’m a Vietnam vet and Donna works in our local school district. At this stage in life, I thought I’d have time to enjoy our 4-year-old granddaughter as she learns how to ride a horse like her granddad does. Instead, I’m watching everything we’ve worked for poisoned by the oil and gas industry. I’m even reluctant to have my grandchild visit because of the chemical contamination in our water, soil and air.

We’ve lived around natural gas development in Pavillion since 1998. But 10 years ago, the drilling ramped way up to 100 or more wells, one large compressor plant and a smaller one. That same year, our neighbors began having problems with their water wells. Not long after Encana, a natural gas company from Canada, drilled a gas well near my neighbor’s house, his water well began to produce black, nasty water that smelled and tasted like gas. My neighbors talked to Encana and got help to install a reverse osmosis system to treat their water.

In 2004, Encana drilled a well about 500 feet from my house and even closer to my drinking water well. In the past, we always had clean, fresh water, but soon our water began to taste and smell like gas and the well began producing less water. Encana agreed to test the water and chlorinate it, and during testing the company hauled water into a cistern for us.

About seven months later, I decided to drill a new well since I was pretty sure the old one was contaminated. While drilling the new well, we hit gas, our new water well blew out and we were forced to evacuate our home. The state Homeland Security force and local firefighters closed off all roads to our home until we could get the gas contained without igniting it. You could hear and smell the plume, blowing 30 feet high under tremendous pressure. Encana cemented the well shut, and it was three days before we could return home.

We continued to haul in drinking water, only using the well water for household use and showering. It was during this time that we started having strange symptoms — our mouths were dry and Donna’s eyes kept stinging.

We had a hydrogeologist and drilling experts come out. They told us hydraulic fracturing had caused methane to migrate and collect underground. That meant that the fracturing chemicals were also moving around.

At first, Encana worked with us, but the more questions we asked — about what the “non-detect” levels really meant and what the extent really was of the contamination in our community — the more they treated us like backward troublemakers: “Don’t you want the country to be able to produce energy?” “Do you want to live naked in a tree and eat nuts without any modern conveniences?”

At least eight of my neighbors have problems with their water, and now, Encana has admitted to the state that there is water contamination from three pits that were dug on their well sites. But I’m overwhelmed at the imbalance of power between ordinary citizens and the gas companies. We have formed a community group, Pavillion Area Concerned Citizens, because we want to ensure that our decision-makers strengthen and enforce the laws that are supposed to protect us.

The Environmental Protection Agency warns people in Pavillion not to drink from their water wells once tests find fracturing chemicals. That is hardly enough. We need our regulators and elected officials to conduct air monitoring and provide blood and urine testing for people who have already become sick. A community health survey found that 94 percent of the folks surveyed reported health problems that most likely can be attributed to these fracturing chemicals.

Encana needs to get the gas out, but the company has an obligation to do it right. We need to protect the people and the water for future generations. The energy industry has made such a mess that Wyoming may never be able to clean it up. Yes, we need energy to live good lives. But we can’t survive a day without clean water. Can you?

Louis Meeks is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News (hcn.org). He writes in Pavillion, Wyoming.

Rich People Things: Ayn Rand, La Dolce Vita Redubbed and the Plutocrapocalypse!

Who’s suffered most in the Great Recession?

Why, it’s the rich, the affluent, the meritocracy, of course!

So says — satirically — Chris Lehmann in his new book, Rich People Things.

From the publisher’s description:

It’s never easy being rich: endless tax avoidance, the Sisyphean search for reliable domestic staff, the never-ending burden of surly stares from the Great Sea of the Unwashed as one goes about one’s rightful business. Toughest of all is simply keeping track of everything one owns. There’s so much of it. And personal possessions are just the beginning.

You must keep a gimlet eye, too, on the myriad people and institutions that safeguard your gilded status: politicians, newspapers, financial instruments, branches of government. They all belong to you. But staying on top of what they’re up to is a full time job. What’s an overstretched gazillionaire to do?

Here’s an excerpt from the book, in which Lehmann describes Ayn Rand and her Objectivist philosophy (Rand apparently based her heroic Atlas Shrugged character, John Galt, on an infamous serial killer of the 1920s, William Edward Hickman, whom she admired):

The vast, daft appeal of the Ayn Rand’s brutalist market propaganda is at bottom a simple thing. As Rand envisions things, the individual will is simply prior to all the contingent, petty concerns of human community and history. And so it stands to reason that society should be ordered to unleash the gifted minority who grace it with their genius. If an American Tea Party protestor resents the depredations of the taxing state, it must follow that he or she is possessed of the same primal stuff of genius that propels Rand’s heroes into their tragic confrontations with the envious masses — and the expropriating state that gleefully does their demotic bidding. This callow Manichaeism flows from perhaps the most noteworthy appeal of Rand’s writing — her early career apprenticeship as a Hollywood screenwriter. For all the absurdities of plot and characterization that riddle her work, Rand’s potboiler fiction is also insanely readable. It is as agreeably broad, splashy, and romantically tortured as any major Hollywood production. The general effect of her novels on the reader is roughly akin to witnessing a Cecil B. DeMille adaptation of F. A. Hayek’s libertarian manifesto The Road to Serfdom, under the influence of a mild hallucinogen.

Here’s a bit of dialog from the hilarious trailer (below) that the publisher created for the book.

HE: “You know, right, that the New Deal failed to create a single real job?”
SHE: “I love it when you talk dirty!”

THE TRAILER (cleverly re-dubs a scene from La Dolce Vita):

SF Chamber of Commerce Opposes Prop 23

According to a current article in the San Francisco Bay Guardian (“Big Oil’s false choice“), the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce opposes Proposition 23 because they believe if it passes, it will scare off venture capitalists:

Small business owners and conscience-driven activists aren’t the only ones touting this theory of a new energy economy. The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, a fiscally conservative business association that is often at odds with environmentalists and progressives, is actively campaigning against Prop. 23 — and it’s not out of any sense of moral duty.

If Prop. 23 succeeds, explained Chamber spokesperson Rob Black, it will scare off the venture capitalists. “For them, water’s like money,” he explained. “It will flow to the easiest place to invest.” Regulation like AB32 guarantees a return on investment for climate-friendly technology, he added. But if that regulatory structure is thrown into question, investors may flee overseas because investing would be too risky. “If we walk away from clean tech, the next Microsoft will be a Chinese company,” Black said.

With the strong political divisions in our community, I’m guessing that it’s unlikely our local Chamber will publicly take a position on Prop 23.

In the meantime, though, it is sponsoring a debate on the issue at a breakfast meeting on October 28 at the Union building on Mill Street:

Steve Frisch of the Sierra Business Council will speak in opposition to Prop 23, John Kabateck, Executive Director of NFIB/California (National Federation of Independent Business) will speak in support, and Chuck Whitten of KNCO will moderate.

Call the Chamber at 273-4667 for more details.

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