The Roundup

May 3, 2012

Oily maneuver

The governor's firing of two regulatory officials has allowed dozens of stalled permits to go through involving a risky oil-drilling process. Not surprisingly, Gov. Brown's action was lauded by the petroleum industry, which during the first quarter of the year spent lavishly on lobbying. The Bee's David Siders tells the tale.


"In the months since the shake-up, Brown has openly boasted about the firings, saying the action underscores his commitment to streamlining regulation. There is no dispute that Miller and Chernow were ousted because the Brown administration was unhappy with what it characterized as an inflexible approach to regulatory oversight – and that the oil industry is grateful."


"You did what you said," Gaurdie Banister, president and chief executive officer of oil company Aera Energy LLC, told Brown at an energy conference in Goleta in March, "and I just wanted to say 'thank you' publicly for that."


"Administration officials say they have kept protections in place while allowing projects that were held up unnecessarily to move forward. They acknowledge injection drilling is risky and that the science behind it is still developing, but they say Chernow and Miller were overly rigid in their oversight."
From the Bee's Jim Sanders: "Western States Petroleum Association topped the list of big spenders for lobbying in the first three months of this year, forking out $948,840, according to newly released state records."

"The petroleum association had its hand in numerous issues, ranging from a low-carbon fuel standard to waste discharge requirements and implementation of a landmark state law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions substantially. It also lobbied for or against more than a dozen bills, records show."


The faculty at the 23-campus California State University, the nation's largest state university system, has authorized a strike for the fall if contract talks fail, and the students are talking hunger strike. It's the latest in a series of problems at CSU, where the students are unhappy with fee increases, instructors are unhappy with pay and conditions, and the public is increasingly irritated at the pay for CSU's top administrators.


From the LA Daily News' Kelly Puente: "The California Faculty Association, which represents professors, librarians, counselors and other staff, announced the strike vote Wednesday at a noon press conference at Cal State Long Beach. The authorization was overwhelmingly approved by 95 percent of those who participated in a two-week voting process that ended on April 27."


"About 70 percent of the 12,501 union members voted, according to CFA officials. The CFA represents more than 24,000 employees, but not all are union members. The decision followed 22 months of unsuccessful contract negotiations..."


"The rolling strike would affect all 23 California State University campuses this fall. Under the plan, campuses would go on strike for two days each, one immediately following another."


As far as administrators' pay goes, CSU finally may be getting the message that a change is in order.


From the Chronicle's Nanette Asmiov: "On Tuesday, the trustees will consider axing a policy adopted in January that let them pay new presidents 10 percent more than outgoing presidents. Instead, new salaries would be the same as the old ones - at least until 2014."


"We've listened to the criticism, and we're tweaking the policy," CSU spokesman Mike Uhlenkamp said."


"The trustees thought they were responding to criticism of high presidential salaries in January by offering raises to new presidents of no more than 10 percent. The policy also required CSU to consider fiscal realities before making an offer to a new president - realities that aren't very good right now: CSU lost $750 million in state funding this fiscal year and could lose another $200 million next year."


A federal judge is not pleased with the pace of invfestigations into police conduct at last year's Occupy protests in Oakland, and has given the police department until Monday to submit a plan on wrapping up the probes.


From the Chronicle's Demian Bulwa and Matthai Kuruvila: "U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson said the investigations - which Oakland has decided to farm out to a private contractor - won't be finished within the 180-day deadline he imposed for such disciplinary cases."


"In fact, the outsourced investigations - which primarily arose from street protests Oct. 25 and Nov. 2 - have not yet begun. The owner of a private firm seeking to do the work told The Chronicle on Wednesday that the city had not yet put the job out to bid."


"Given the scope of the Occupy cases, Henderson said, the department may render any potential discipline moot by failing to complete the probes within a year, the statute of limitations under California law."


"Such failures," Henderson wrote in an order filed Tuesday, "would be further indication that, despite the changed leadership at the city of Oakland and its Police Department, defendants might still lack the will, capacity, or both to complete the reforms to which they so long ago agreed."


Legislation is moving ahead that would keep employers from forcing job applicants and employees from revealing their usernames and passwords on such social media sites as Facebook and Twitter. If the bill utlimately passes, California would be the first state to take such an action.
From  Steve Harmon in the Mercury News: "In the wake of national reports of employers doing just that, the Assembly Labor Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill that would make the intimate details behind password-protected "walls" off-limits to employers. The measure is expected to sail through the Legislature with little opposition."

"The effects of gaining access to personal media accounts is no different than an employer reading a personal diary, personal emails or viewing personal home videos," said Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose, author of AB 1844."


"Gov. Jerry Brown has not taken a position on the bill, which wouldn't prevent employers from surfing social media websites for information that's publicly available."


From the LAT's Abby Sewell: "International officials estimate that the company's cost for inspections and repairs at the closed San Onofre nuclear plant will be between $55 million and $65 million, but said that the costs may be recovered under a manufacturer's warranty."

"The company, which revealed the figures during a conference call about its first-quarter earnings, also incurred costs of $30 million for replacement power through March 31, Edison reported. Officials did not give an estimate of what total replacement power costs will be."


"The plant has been closed since Jan. 31, when a steam generator tube in the plant's reactor Unit 3 sprung a leak, releasing a small amount of radioactive steam. Since then, 192 tubes in Unit 2 and 317 tubes in Unit 3 have been taken out of service due to excessive wear."


And for all of you short guys out there, look into our "Randy Newman" file and take heart: short men live longer than tall men. 

"Being taller may be useful for changing a lightbulb or seeing over a crowd, but when it comes to living longer shorter men measure up best."


"A study on the island of Sardinia has found that on average shorter men live for two years longer than their taller counterparts."


"The research which involved tracking 500 males born between 1866 and 1915 on the small Italian island backs up the findings of 12 previous studies."


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