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Oil & Gas Industry Leaders Warn of Problems with L.O.S.T. PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Travis Korson   
Thursday, 28 June 2012 07:36
Washington, D.C., June 28, 2012- On the eve of yet another Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the UN Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST) in which only proponents are permitted to appear, a group of oil and gas industry leaders sent a letter to Committee Chairman John Kerry expressing serious concerns about the net effect this accord would have on U.S. national, as well as commercial, interests.
As with an earlier letter sent on June 14th to Sen. Kerry by senior retired U.S. military leaders, the latest correspondence makes clear that LOST proponents’ claims that the treaty enjoys unanimous support among influential communities – notably, the Navy and the private sector’s oil and gas industry – are significantly overstated.
The business leaders’ letter states in part: “Gaining access to the resources in and under the world’s oceans is critically important to our country, but the costs and risks associated with doing so pursuant to LOST are simply too high.”
The signers expressed concern about six different aspects of the treaty and its repercussions.  These include the possibility of being obliged, pursuant to LOST:
  • to give up proprietary data and technology in order to engage in the exploitation of the resources of the deep ocean sea beds
  • to confront a global Environmental Protection Agency that is sure to be far more aggressive in fulfilling its mandate of protecting the marine environment than even our own EPA
  • to contend with mandatory dispute resolution mechanisms that will be stacked against this country and used by its adversaries to hamstring us
  • to participate in discredited socialist wealth redistribution schemes at the dictates of foreign, unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats and jurists
The oil and gas industry leaders who signed this letter are: Raul Brito, President, Brito Oil Company; Steve Dillard, Vice President, Pickrell Drilling Company; Mike Dixon, Owner, Dixon Oil and Gas, Inc.; Hon. Dennis Hedke, Owner, Hedke Saenger Geoscience Ltd.; Bill Johnson, Partner, McCoy Petroleum Corporation; A. Scott Ritchie III, President, Ritchie Exploration, Inc.; and Scott Stewart, Owner, Bird Dog Oil LLC.
Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. of the Coalition to Preserve American Sovereignty, said:
"The message from these leaders of the U.S. energy sector could not be more timely, or more clear:  There are potentially huge down-side risks for the United States should the Senate consent to the ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty."
"Senator Kerry is obliged to afford equal opportunity to the critics of LOST as has been given to its admirers.  Thus far, just two opponents – one of whom was former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld – have been heard from."
“A solid place to start would be by ensuring that the concerns expressed by these industry leaders are thoroughly reviewed and addressed immediately.  Under no circumstances, moreover, should our elected representatives accede to Sen. Kerry’s bid to try to blow this defective and sovereignty-sapping treaty through what was once properly known as ‘the world’s greatest deliberative body’ under circumstances, like those of a lame duck session, that preclude careful deliberation.”
Text of the Letter

June 27, 2012
Hon. John Kerry
Chairman, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
444 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-0802
Dear Chairman Kerry:
We are writing as individuals with long experience in oil and gas exploration and production. We have deep concerns about the United Nations Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST).  We request that you ensure such concerns are given at least equal prominence as, and made a part of the record along with, the views of those who will be testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on June 28th.
Gaining access to the resources in and under the world’s oceans is critically important to our country, but the costs and risks associated with doing so pursuant to LOST are simply too high.  Our concerns include:
  • Under the terms of the Law of the Sea Treaty, at least some of the permits for deep seabed resource exploration and production will entail sharing of proprietary data and technology.  American companies will almost certainly be reluctant to provide such sensitive items to their competitors – either directly or, through international bureaucrats, indirectly.[i] As a result, companies that think LOST may be good for their business interests today may find themselves effectively precluded in the future from tapping the immense natural wealth of the world’s sea beds.
  • From its preamble onwards, LOST obligates its parties to facilitate the redistribution of wealth from the developed, maritime nations to the developing and land-locked ones.  In this sense, it is of a piece with – and a backdoor means of achieving – the sort of socialist “sustainability” accord that was wisely recently rejected at the “Rio+20” conference on sustainable development.[ii]
  • Former Secretary of State Warren Christopher once described LOST as “the strongest, comprehensive environmental treaty now in existence or likely to emerge for quite some time.” [iii] That is the case not only because of its myriad obligations with respect to protecting the marine environment, but also due to the treaty’s mandatory dispute resolution mechanisms that will surely be used to enforce such commitments.  Activist organizations (e.g., the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, etc.) will be very effective at exploiting the new “hooks” to block exploration and production.
One purpose to which LOST’s tribunal and arbitration panels could readily be put is to impose a form of “cap-and-trade” arrangement on carbon emissions.  At a minimum, the treaty can help advance the campaigns environmental activists have been waging for years[iv] against the sources of such emissions: the mining and use of coal and now their next target, fracking and the recovery of immense quantities of natural gas that it makes possible.  As we now know, the “bridge fuel” role for natural gas set out in the 2001 energy manifesto of the NRDC (which was endorsed by the Sierra Club) has now morphed into a “Beyond Natural Gas” campaign.
  • The Law of the Sea Tribunal established the precedent in a December 2001 ruling in the “Mixed Oxide Fuel (MOX) Plant” case of extending its jurisdiction to alleged pollution emanating from a state party’s interior waters and air columns.[v] The pretext is that such pollution ultimately migrates to the world’s oceans and, therefore, must be regulated.
  • Through this device, it is predictable that, if the United States were to ratify this accord, we would be afflicted with business-hostile interference and regulations that would make the record of our domestic Environmental Protection Agency seem tame by comparison.  Unaccountable foreign bureaucrats and jurists will surely prove even more intractable than was the EPA when, to cite but one recent example, Shell Oil sought permission to explore off the coast of Alaska.  Some federal judges in this country can be expected happily to enforce any rulings engineered by such well-funded international activists.  The LOST treaty would become a useful framework for those who have advocated a global EPA under the UN Environmental Program sponsored by Maurice Strong.
  • Finally, LOST will provide potentially vast revenue streams to the International Seabed Authority to fund its operations and to “redistribute” to favored nations.  The United Nations system has proven to be extremely hostile to our interests, even when we are picking up over twenty percent of its costs.  It is frightening to contemplate what a supranational organization dominated by countries that do not like us will do if it becomes self-supporting through LOST-facilitated taxes, fees, and revenue-sharing.
All these concerns are powerfully reinforced by a remarkably candid warning issued sixteen years ago by one of the Law of the Sea Treaty’s U.S. negotiators, Prof. Bernard H. Oxman.  The Senate should regard the following admonition from his 1996 article in the European Journal of International Law[vi] as evidence that – whatever one makes of the provisions and implications of LOST today – they will mutate in the future in ways that contribute to the further “development of international law,” a euphemism for greatly expanding the treaty’s jurisdiction and impact:
Those who wish to realize fully the contributions of the Convention to the rule of law will need to exercise restraint and wisdom in at least the immediate future lest they complicate the ratification process in one or more states.  Politically, this suggests caution regarding the organization, composition and budgets of the new institutions established by the Convention.  Legally, this suggests restraint in speculating on the meaning of the Convention or on possible differences between the Convention and customary law….
I do not dissent from the view that the development of international law benefits from more cases and decisions by the [Law of the Sea Tribunal].  My point is simply that, because of its compromissory clauses, a globally ratified Convention promises many more cases in the future, and that it would be unfortunate if one or two cases during this delicate interim period, when so many governments are considering ratification, had the effect of prejudicing that promise. (Emphasis added.)
We respectfully suggest that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea should be considered on the basis of national interests in resource access.  Extreme caution must be exercised by you and your colleagues in light of the potentially grave repercussions this treaty may have on resource companies and Americans more generally across this country – especially if is intended to make a far greater contribution to the “development of international law” at the expense of our sovereignty only after the United States ratifies the accord.
Sincerely,
Raul Brito, President, Brito Oil Company
Steve Dillard, Vice President, Pickrell Drilling Company
Mike Dixon, Owner, Dixon Oil and Gas, Inc.
Hon. Dennis Hedke, Owner, Hedke Saenger Geoscience Ltd.
Bill Johnson, Partner, McCoy Petroleum Corporation
A. Scott Ritchie III, President, Ritchie Exploration, Inc.
Scott Stewart, Owner, Bird Dog Oil LLC

[i] Such data- and technology-sharing obligations are contained in Part XI of the Treaty and its Annex III and appear to apply at least to deep-sea mining.  Treaty proponents point to language in a separate 1994 agreement to minimize concerns about such transfers.  Given the emphasis placed throughout LOST on redistribution of wealth, there are, however, grounds for concern how expansive demands for access to developed nations’ proprietary data and technology will prove to be in practice – perhaps those associated with for their oil and gas operations.
[v] See, Volker Röben, “The Order of the UNCLOS Annex VII Arbitral Tribunal to Suspend Proceedings in the Case of the MOX Plant at Sellafield: How Much Jurisdictional Subsidiarity?” Nordic Journal of International Law (Volume 73, p. 226, 2004).
[vi] Bernard H. Oxman, “The Rule of Law and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” European Journal of International Law, 1996, pp. 356-358.
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A reminder: fact sheets on gun-walking are available PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Wednesday, 27 June 2012 15:16

As a reminder, last fall, Sen. Chuck Grassley put out fact sheets on gun-walking, including Operation Fast and Furious, in response to testimony from the Justice Department and based on his investigation.  The fact sheets have supporting documentation.  All of the fact sheets are available here or by individual title as follows:


 
Grassley investigates allegations against dental clinics PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Wednesday, 27 June 2012 15:07

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley is scrutinizing Medicaid-funded dental clinics in response to allegations of abusive treatment of children in clinics controlled by corporate investors rather than dentists.

“We’re finding that these dental practices, under pressure from owners who are not licensed dentists, have been providing services with the highest Medicaid reimbursement levels more often than less expensive, arguably more appropriate services,” Grassley said.  “There are legitimate concerns that children are receiving unnecessary care, sometimes in a traumatic way, and taxpayers are paying for it.”

Grassley has asked questions about ownership structures, incentives, parental notification policies, and participation in Medicaid from Small Smiles, Kool Smiles, and ReachOut Healthcare America.  The companies have been responsive to his inquiries, he said.  All three treat Medicaid children almost exclusively.

“We’re finding that the business model has led to abuses because dentists are under pressure to perform as many high reimbursement services on the maximum number of children on Medicaid as possible,” Grassley said.  “You have dentists under pressure to perform more services than may be necessary – giving a child a crown instead of a filling, for example – because of a bonus payment structure that creates the wrong incentives.”

The issue involves an investment structure that technically meets some state-level requirements that dental practices be dentist-owned but do not, in practice, have dentists in control.  These “owner dentists” are effectively ghost owners who maintain none of the traditional aspects of ownership of their operations, allowing the corporate investors to have control over clinical operations.

A majority of states and the District of Columbia have laws that require owners of a dental practice to be licensed in the state where the practice is located.

Last year, Church Street Health Management owned 70 Small Smiles dental clinics in 22 states and the District of Columbia.  At least five of these clinics have been closed by state regulators.  NCDR, LLC owned more than 130 Kool Smiles clinics in 16 states and the District of Columbia.  ReachOut Health Care America operates mobile clinics that treat children at schools around the country.

Grassley’s review of allegations about dental clinics also has led to Aspen Dental Management, Inc., which doesn’t accept Medicaid patients.  Questions there have been about complaints that the company promotes unnecessary treatment plans with exorbitantly expensive credit arrangements.  Aspen Dental Management, Inc. operates more than 300 clinics in 22 states.

Grassley said he expects to issue a staff report on his findings involving the companies that serve children in the Medicaid program.  His investigation into credit arrangements offered by Aspen Dental Management, Inc. is ongoing.

Click here to see the June 26, 2012, PBS Frontline piece on these issues.

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Braley Discusses House Passage of "Kadyn's Amendment" PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Jeff Giertz   
Wednesday, 27 June 2012 15:00

Last night, the US House adopted an amendment authored by Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) that requires the federal government to devote at least $10 million to helping states enforce traffic laws that punish reckless drivers for illegally passing stopped school buses.  The amendment, “Kadyn’s Amendment”, was named in honor of Northwood, IA, resident Kadyn Halverson, who was killed in May 2011 after a pickup truck struck her while she was boarding her school bus.  More information can be found in the release below.

For YouTube video of Rep. Braley discussing the measure during House debate last night, visit this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?

For audio of Rep. Braley discussing the measure during his weekly press conference call today, visit this link: http://www.mydigitalmanager.

(NOTE: Original participants in today’s press conference call might have noticed an echo during the call interfering with audio quality.  The audio recording linked to above does not have an echo in it – or has a markedly less pronounced echo – and should help correct any issues you might have had with the call’s audio quality.)

 
Help America’s Forests: Join the Arbor Day Foundation in July and 10 Much-Needed Trees Will Be Planted in National Forests PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Arbor Day Foundation   
Wednesday, 27 June 2012 10:51

Nebraska City, Neb. – America’s forestland is a prized natural resource, and anyone can help plant much-needed trees in these vital areas by joining the Arbor Day Foundation.

Through the Replanting Our National Forests campaign, the Arbor Day Foundation will honor each new member who joins the Foundation in July by planting 10 trees in forests that have been devastated by wildfi res, insects and disease.

The cost for joining the Arbor Day Foundation is a $10 donation.

America’s national forests face enormous challenges, including unprecedented wildfires that have left a backlog of nearly one million acres in need of replanting. The Arbor Day Foundation has worked with the United States Forest Service for more than 20 years to plant trees in forests in need.

Our national forests need protection because they provide habitat for wildlife, keep the air clean and help ensure safe drinking water for more than 180 million Americans.

“Keeping our forests healthy is vital to the health of people and the entire planet,” said John Rosenow, founder and chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation. “By planting trees in our national forests, we will preserve precious natural resources and the benefits they provide for generations to come.”

To join the Arbor Day Foundation and help plant trees in our national forests, send a $10 membership contribution to Replanting Our National Forests, Arbor Day Foundation, 100 Arbor Ave., Nebraska City, NE 68410, or visit arborday.org/july.

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