Beach nourishment projects will restore shorelines but require expensive upkeep and affect ecosystems; federal taxpayers will foot the bill.
Posts tagged taxes.
Even though crops may fail again, landowners are shielded by taxpayers from the full burden of their bad bets.
Drought helped drive the cost of crop insurance to a record $17.2 billion, the US Department of Agriculture said April 29. The government covers more than 60 per cent of payouts, spending about seven times more than a $1.4 billion program that helps farmers adapt to climate change.
The subsidies encouraging farmers to ignore addressing extreme weather are harder to justify when automatic budget cuts remove 5 per cent from most US programs and lawmakers prepare to craft a new five-year farm law.
“We have given farmers incentives to take on more risk rather than give them an incentive to create a permanent solution,” said Vincent Smith, a professor of agricultural economics at Montana State University in Bozeman. “You want to move toward programs that allow them to alleviate problems before the fact.”
Disaster declarations by the USDA have become commonplace over the past decade, as farmers face the disruption of traditional growing seasons.
Aggressive beach erosion from rising sea levels will cost tourist towns, like this one in New Jersey, millions of dollars to fix. As beaches erode, engineers scrape sand from the ocean’s floor and poor it back onto shoreline. They then tamp the sand down with special equipment.
The bill for such projects (and there are many) falls on federal, state, and local tax payers to pay for these projects - millions each year. The restored beaches keeps tourists visiting and shopping, supporting local economies. But is it worth it? Should you pay for other city’s poor land use development choices? Who decides?
Beach replenishment (also called “beach nourishment”) is an engineering strategy commonly used on sandy shorelines where erosion threatens coastal property and infrastructure. The process involves extracting sand from a source area and delivering it to where the shoreline is actively eroding. Replenishment is considered a “soft” alternative to the construction of “hard” coastal structures such as groynes, seawalls, and rock revetments. Unlike these structures, which are effectively permanent, beach replenishment is transient, requiring periodic deliveries of fresh sand. Why would coastal managers choose a temporary solution over an apparently more lasting one? Because hard structures built to forestall coastal erosion tend to prevent sand from accumulating in front of them — and on developed shorelines, sand is worth money.
A beach in a tourist town is an example of a landscape with “natural capital.” Essentially, the width of the beach has an economic value. Economists have shown that valuation of beach width is rather like Goldilocks and the Three Bears: beaches that are too narrow or too wide are less desirable (and therefore less valuable) than beaches that are somewhere in between. Beaches that are “just right” attract more beach-goers, who need food to eat and hotel rooms to sleep in; people want to buy houses near the beach, pushing up real-estate values. However, shorelines are dynamic, with natural changes in accretion and erosion that cause beach width to fluctuate. If a natural trend in shoreline position is predominantly erosive, then coastal managers may opt for beach replenishment as a mitigation strategy.
Developed coastal areas can thus exhibit a strong relationship between shoreline change and economic dynamics, comprising a coupled human–landscape system in which beach replenishment is the link between the economics of coastal development and the physical processes of shoreline change.
Surprise of the year so far. It’ll be interesting to see how enviros will react if/when the national GOP moves towards similar legislation.
Inslee climate change bill passes state Senate
OLYMPIA — The Republican-controlled state Senate on Wednesday passed legislation aimed at developing ways to reduce state greenhouse-gas emissions, and meet targets set by the Legislature in 2008.
Senate Bill 5802 passed by a vote of 37 to 12. The legislation, requested by Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, creates a work group that’s supposed to come up with recommendations by the end of the year.
A similar bill was introduced in the House, but Democratic leaders are expected to work with the version that passed the Senate.
Inslee and his staff actively lobbied for the bill and the governor testified at committee hearings in the House and Senate. The measure that passed the Senate removed language talking about problems associated with climate change.
“I really want to take the religion out of carbon and I want to take a good hard look at how we can most effectively meet those goals” set in 2008, said Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, speaking in favor of the bill. Ericksen is chairman of the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee.
Via Seattle Times
Congress to cut $110 million, affecting every park in the Nation.
The automatic budget cuts set to take effect on March 1 will delay the opening of the East and West Rim drives at the Grand Canyon and reduce hours of operation at the main visitor center. At Gettysburg, 20 percent of student education programs would be eliminated this spring.
The Blue Ridge Parkway would lose 21 seasonal interpretive ranger programs, resulting in the closure of half of the park’s visitor stations and leaving 80 miles between each one.
Mount Rainer would permanently close a key visitor center, and Glacier would delay the opening of a well-visited mountain pass.
Five campgrounds and picnics area would close at the Great Smoky Mountains, affecting 54,000 visitors, and the Grand Tetons would close a visitor center, information station and preserve.
Two financial deals that kept the National Football League playing in the Superdome, allowing New Orleans to host a 10th Super Bowl, were expensive for taxpayers and enriched Saints owner Tom Benson, said former Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco.
Subsidies for Saints Owner Open New Orleans to Super Bowl - Bloomberg investigative report.
Taxpayers have spent at least $471 million on the Superdome since Hurricane Katrina, allowing a state reeling from the nation’s most-expensive natural disaster to keep its pro sports teams and rebuild a part of downtown destroyed by the 2005 storm. Benson, meanwhile, is worth $1.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, after acquiring the National Basketball Association’s New Orleans Hornets, a 26-story office tower that houses state agencies and a mall next to the stadium.
In Austerity Crisis, Greeks Turn to Wood-Burning, Illegal Logging
“A steep increase in heating costs has led many Greeks to switch from heating oil to wood-burning. But the price of using cheaper fuel is growing.
Illegal loggers are slashing through forests already devastated by years of summer wildfires. Air pollution from wood smoke is choking the country’s main cities. And there has been an increase in blazes caused by carelessly attended woodstoves.
Three children died in a northern village last month when a fire gutted the home of their grandparents, who had recently changed from oil-fueled central heating to a wooden stove to save money.
In Athens, the capital, officials have warned of severe health risks from the low-lying smog that smothers the city at night, when fireplaces and woodstoves burn at full blast in poorly insulated homes. Greece’s leading medical association is demanding urgent action to clean the air. But those warnings have largely been ignored for a simple reason: Burning wood provides the same warmth as heating oil, for roughly half the cost.
For the past three years, the country has been wracked by its worst financial crisis since the end of World War II. Living standards have plummeted, pensions have been slashed and a quarter of the workforce is unemployed, following deeply resented cutbacks demanded in return for international bailouts shielding Greece from total ruin.
The heating crisis was triggered by taxation changes, and made desperate by financial woes. For years, fuel for vehicles was taxed more heavily than heating oil. That encouraged crooked traders to sell heating fuel for use in vehicles and pocket the difference.
Hoping to boost faltering revenues and foil tax fraud, the government this year harmonized taxes on vehicle fuel and heating oil, which now costs about 40 percent more than last winter, although lower-income residents of colder areas get a rebate. Critics say the move backfired due to a drastic decline in sales.”
Part of this complicated issue is that Greeks aren’t used to paying market rates for basic services. Nor is the government itself used to the process of collecting taxes (sounds weird, but true). After recent austerity cuts, taxes and public services adjusted to (or attempt to) reflect a more market-oriented structure to help create a less corrupt, tax-dodging culture. The measures, as the above shows, may have been too strong and too fast, causing more damage to the country than taking a slower approach.
Photo credit: iStockphoto
In April 2012, Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent Gray made a statement that caught many people’s attention: he wants the District to be “fossil-free” by 2030.
Does it sound a little crazy? Maybe. But when it comes to U.S. cities that take sustainability seriously and are putting the infrastructure in place to make such a vision a reality, you really can’t beat Washington.
Clipped from Desmogblog (share http://www.curate.us/q/UtzN)
I’m skeptical of this article by the San Fransisco Gate. It pegs the possible closures of 100+ farms fully on the drought of 2012 (and the journo throws in a few suicides for window dressing, which is frankly dishonorable imo). The piece concludes by showing that farmers want more government handouts.
Drought has impacted farmers. Feed prices are up, and farmers are indeed forced to sell their cattle at discounted prices. There’s no doubt about that.
But farm closures are just not that simple (nor as bleeding-heart, as SFG would have you believe). Bad management, broken or malfunctioning equipment, deferred maintenance, poorly negotiated contracts, over-reliance on government assistance, environmental requirements, failing to meet CAFO restrictions, milk pricing caps, bad loans, miss-timed market economics, poor year-on-year planning, and on and on and on. Dozens of issues kill a business. And it’s more likely that a mix of these issues would cause a dairy farm to go belly-up.
The article does not explore any of these issues. And they are incredibly complicated. It doesn’t even bother to show how farmers depend upon (and are rightly confused by) the insane interactions and contradictions between government hand-outs and strict regulations.
California farmers receive tens of millions of tax-payer funded insurance subsidies - every year. They also receive millions more from disaster relief programs (scroll to ‘livestock’ to see several programs) as well as price protection programs. These pots of cash are run by the USDA, again paid for by the American taxpayer. This is in addition to California subsidies and regulations.
There’s no doubt that droughts are terrible. But to bundle 100+ businesses in one sweeping article is not only misleading, it’s sloppy. Let me know think.
The nation’s drought and high corn prices are devastating California’s $8 billion dairy industry to the point where farmers can’t afford to feed their cows - and their professional trade organization has been regularly referring despondent dairymen to suicide hotlines.
Experts in the industry estimate that by year’s end California, the largest dairy state in the nation, will have lost more than 100 dairies to bankruptcies, foreclosures and sales. Milk cows are being slaughtered at the fastest rate in more than 25 years because farmers need to save on corn costs. According to the Western United Dairymen, a California trade group, three dairy farmers have committed suicide since 2009, despairing over losing their family’s dairies.
“I’ve never seen it as dire as it is now,” said Frank Mendonsa, a Tulare dairyman who serves on the Western United Dairymen board. “Pride is just eating these guys up. People are calling me and asking me what to do. It becomes like a counseling session to stop people from hurting themselves. But it’s not just losing our jobs that is driving the desperation. We’re losing our houses, in some cases the same houses that our grandparents lived in, and we’re losing our entire identities.”
The problems started in 2009, when milk prices bottomed out and grain prices soared, partly due to the government’s ethanol mandate. Congress is requiring that gasoline producers blend 15 billion gallons of ethanol, made from corn, into the nation’s gas supply by 2015. Dairy farmers were forced to borrow against their land and cows to make their bills.
USA TODAY’s study of residential water rates over the past 12 years for large and small water agencies nationwide found that monthly costs doubled for more in 29 localities. The unique look at costs for a diverse mix of water suppliers representing every state and Washington, D.C. found that a resource long taken for granted will continue to become more costly for millions of Americans. Indeed, rates haven’t crested yet because huge costs to upgrade or repair pipes, reservoirs and treatment plants loom nationwide.
Via USA TODAY analysis: Nation’s water costs rushing higher
In three municipalities — Atlanta, San Francisco and Wilmington, Del. — water costs tripled or more. Monthly costs topped $50 for consumers in Atlanta, Seattle and San Diego who used 1,000 cubic feet of water, a typical residential consumption level in many areas. Officials in the three municipalities and elsewhere, however, say actual consumption is often lower. But conservation efforts counter-intuitively may raise water rates in some localities.
The trend toward higher bills is being driven by:
— The cost of paying off the debt on bonds municipalities issue to fund expensive repairs or upgrades on aging water systems.
— Increases in the cost of electricity, chemicals and fuel used to supply and treat water.
— Compliance with federal government clean-water mandates.
— Rising pension and health care costs for water agency workers.
— Increased security safeguards for water systems since the 9/11 terror attacks.
Absolutely brilliant report by USAToday. This is but a teeny glimpse into the future troubles facing cities across America. The public will soon be side-swiped by how terrible cities have been managed. It’s our next financial tsunami, and budget cuts to things like school systems and closing parks are not going to fix much.
Unfunded pensions (click!), deferred maintenance, inefficient management, poorly designed union contracts, lowered tax rates, aging infrastructure, deficient electric grid, water shortages (and leaks), will all be exacerbated by increasingly intense storms. The perfect storm is brewing. Sorry to be so bleak, but your politicians really are lying to you about a looming crisis. When cities advertise that you should shop or move there, or when they advertize new downtown revitalization, they’re really trying to get more money (taxes) to help pay for all the above issues. Climate change is going to put a lot of pressure on cities to perform basic functions unless leaders start being more forthright with these issues.
USA Today’s brilliant interactive map might wake-up the public enough to start at least asking questions about how their city is dealing with budget shortfalls. This map shows various rate increases (aka, poor city planning and management) in dozens of cities across the US. Solid piece on a complex set of issues facing America.
While most Americans worry about gas and heating oil prices, water rates have surged in the past dozen years, according to our analysis of 100 municipalities. Prices at least doubled in more than a quarter of the locations and even tripled in a few.
The top graphic here shows the highest increases in water rates across the country, while the bottom graphic compares water cost increases against other utilities.
Find our how your city stacks up: http://usat.ly/V5XWUN