Schneiderman: Increase Fire Safety At Indian Point

Federal officials have accepted Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s petition to correct fire safety issues at the Indian Point nuclear plant in Westchester County.

Schneiderman’s office said this morning that the move could pave the way for federal authorities to compel plant owners Entergy to fix the issues.

“If Indian Point is vulnerable, so too are the tens of millions of people who live and work in the communities that surround it,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “My office has zero tolerance for violations that put New Yorkers at risk and will continue to take all necessary action to ensure the facility meets the safety requirements. I will continue my efforts to ensure the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission does the same.”

Among the problems Schneiderman said must be fixed:

-The facility has not installed required fire detectors or fire suppression systems in various locations;

-It has not strengthened electrical cables to withstand fire damage for one- to three-hours, a regulation established to provide necessary plant safety in the event of an emergency;

-It has not sufficiently separated electrical cables from one another to ensure that a fire would not damage both the primary and back up cables that control important safety systems; and

-Tather than installing automatic response systems, the facility would rely on employees performing a series of manual actions, which the NRC has not authorized as a means of adequately protecting nuclear facilities in the event of a fire.

Earlier this year, Schneiderman’s office sued the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for allowing NRC the storage of radioactive waste at nuclear power facilities for at least 60 years after they close without first conducting an environmental impact review.

This also isn’t the only foray into environmental law. Schneiderman is also suing the federal government over its review standards for hydraulic fracturing, the controversial natural gas extraction process.

2011 03 28 OAG 2-206 Petition Re Fire Safety

Pataki: No Compromise On Taxes

A deal on raising the country’s debt ceiling should not include broad-based tax increases, former Gov. George Pataki said in an interview with the influential conservative news outlet Newsmax.

Pataki, the honorary chairman of No America Debt, said in an interview that a deal was possible between President Obama, Senate Democrats and Congressional Republicans on raising the debt ceiling. But he warned that the GOP shouldn’t agree to tax increases as part of any agreement.

“Now to allow them to continue their failed policies of increased taxing, greater regulation and more government control at a time we need small businesses and the private sector to start hiring would be just a terrible thing for the country and the wrong thing to do, both from a policy standpoint and politically.”

Obama urged Republican lawmakers to accept a deficit-reduction deal that includes reductions in so-called entitled programs, but also called for shifts in the tax code that would change rates for some higher-income brackets.

Republicans leaders rejected Obama’s $4 trillion deficit plan saying tax increases — which alos include closing loopholes and ending tax breaks — should not be included.

Pataki was also complimentary of successor Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Pataki defeated the elder Gov. Mario Cuomo in 1994. The current governor ran an aborted campaign in 2002 for governor hoping to challenge Pataki, but fell short.

Pataki was the last governor to achieve a budget reduction — which came in 1995 — before Cuomo was able to convince lawmakers to go along with his spending plan that aloso reduced spending. Cuomo was also able to resist calls from within his own party for keeping a tax on those earning $250,000 or more and rejected a surcharge on millionaires.

“He’s off to a very good start,” Pataki said. “So far he has done the right thing and he has taken the appropriate line.”

DiNapoli Audit Questions IDA’s Effectiveness

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has issued another audit looking at state’s Industrial Development Agencies, his fourth in 4 years. The report finds that the agencies designed to create jobs and grow businesses are coming up short.

“For four years, I’ve called on IDAs to improve the accuracy of the jobs data,” DiNapoli said. “Taxpayers should know if the projects they’re paying for are creating the jobs that were promised. Year after year, we’ve had serious questions about the effectiveness of IDAs. We need to make sure that the tax breaks given for these projects are promoting job retention and growth.”

The comptroller goes on to list a series of recommendations to make IDA”s more effective.

  1. Improve transparency of IDA operations. Publish an annual report card, with detailed information on individual projects, such as job performance data and tax exemptions
  2. Improve accuracy of jobs data. IDAs should require that project developers sign a uniform project agreement that contains provisions that compel the accurate disclosure of employment information
  3. Ensure projects are likely to meet economic goals. Utilize uniform applications for projects and adopt objective project evaluation and selection criteria
  4. Require repayment of benefits if economic goals are not met. Include a “clawback” provision in project agreements that allow IDAs to recapture benefits if employment or other project goals are not met.

DiNapoli released the report in Syracuse today.

Hayworth To Report More Than $381K

U.S. Rep. Nan Hayworth is set to report raising $381,024 for the second quarter fundraising tallies, a fairly large amount of money for a freshman lawmaker that will likely outpace her fellow first-term colleagues.

Altogether, Hayworth has about $630,000 in the bank. Both totals could scare away potential challengers in what’s historically been a Republican-dominated district.

The Hudson Valley Republican defeated incumbent Rep. John Hall, a Democrat.

Other Republican freshman who have formally announced their fundraising totals include U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, who raised more than $300,000, according to Roll Call. And Rep. Allen West of Florida, who is a celebrity in the tea party bloc and considered an up-and-comer within the party, has raised a whopping $1.5 million.

Colbert Weighs In On Fracking

In case you’re wondering: It appears he’s against it.

Stephen Colbert dedicated some time on last night’s “The Colbert Report” to hydrofracking, a process he likened to “giving the earth an Alka-Seltzer if the Alka-Seltzer shattered your internal organs so oil companies could harvest your juices.”

Colbert then reported Gov. Andrew Cuomo “announced he wants to lift the ban on fracking in this state.”

Not actually true. The DEC released a report suggesting high-volume hydraulic fracturing could be done safely – with regulations – in New York, but the decision is far from a done deal. Cuomo has been careful not to weigh in, although he did call the DEC report “balanced.”

Colbert made a connection between hydrofracking and Cuomo’s successful push to legalize same-sex marriage in New York, saying the governor just signed a bill that enables gay couples to “legally frack each other” in the Empire State.

“Why can’t energy companies drill in our backyards,” Colbert continued. “Oh yeah, I went there. I live there!”

It gets a lot funnier from there, with Colbert poking fun at a Pennsylvania drilling company’s coloring book that explains the fracking process to kids using a friendly dinosaur as a guide.

Here And Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is scheduled to sign the statewide Distracted Driving Bill into law at noon at the Jacob Javits Center in NYC.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is releasing his latest IDA report in Syracuse.

Former First Lady Michelle Paige Paterson is writing a tell-all book. She says her husband’s first words upon learning he would be governor were: “I think I’ll kill myself.”

The GOP candidate for ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner’s old House seat, Bob Turner, had to pay more than $16,000 in fines for sloppy bookkeeping in his last race.

Former NYC Mayor Ed Koch (a Democrat) urged NY-9 residents to vote for Turner in hopes of getting the president to “change his hostile position on the state of Israel.”

Now that the dust has cleared, Richard Cohen writes of Weiner’s victimization.

Ironically, Assemblyman David Weprin, now running for Weiner’s seat, marched with the ex-congressman in a Memorial Day parade during the weekend the Twitter scandal that made this campaign possible broke.

“I think Mr. Weprin has a track record: tax and spend liberal Democrat,” said Turner. “He’s hooked into the Obama administration and party lines and in philosophy. I don’t think there’s any getting away from it.”

Same-sex couples made to wait a little longer to wed by 1930s-era law intended to prevent “gin weddings.”

The DN picks up our story about LG Bob Duffy’s use of campaign cash to pay for his Albany apartment.

More >

Extras

The USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council’s reaction to the President’s “eat our peas” comment: “Eating more lentils couldn’t hurt, either.”

Rep. Charlie Rangel on the debt ceiling: “Our whole nation’s fiscal system and the international community, which depends on that, would collapse…if they don’t work it out.”

Foreclosures are down in NYC.

First Lady Michelle Obama, who has launched a campaign to combat childhood obesity, ordered a 1,556-calorie lunch at Shake Shack.

Dana Rubinstein on the rent laws extension: “No one is happy, because no one, aside from perhaps Andrew Cuomo, who can now claim he’s marginally more tenant-friendly than his predecessors, got precisely what they wanted.”

Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani will be deciding “very soon” whether to throw his hat into the 2012 ring.

The reception and information Giuliani gets at his New Hampshire visit this week will be a “key factor” in his decision-making process.

Former State Fair Director Peter Cappuccilli Jr. pleaded guilty to official misconduct and agreed to pay $50,000 restitution but avoided jail in a plea deal that dismissed more serious charges.

Ed Koch sees the NY-9 special election as a test of Obama’s support for Israel and won’t endorse his fellow Democrat, Assemblyman David Weprin.

Dominique Straus-Kahn’s court date has been pushed off until August.

Adoption lawyers are getting ready for a baby boom they believe could follow the enactment of NY’s same-sex marriage law.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos raised campaign cash on the golf course today.

Cuomo has ten days to act on a school district borrowing bill that he has pledged to veto.

The 9/11 Memorial saw a rush in on-line reservations.

Goodbye, Glenn Beck.

Edwards A Possible Challenger For Cox

Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards, who ran a failed bid for LG as Carl Paladino’s running mate last year, confirmed his is “considering” a challenge to state GOP Chairman Ed Cox this fall.

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Edwards said he has been asked by “people whose opinions I respect” to consider a bid to take over the party (which, for the record, did not initially back him – or his first running mate, former Rep. Rick Lazio, in 2010). He refused to reveal the identities of these individuals, but stressed that he is “flattered” that they approached him.

“Like anything else, when someone presents a business proposition to me, I analyze where I am, I analyze the proposal, I consider my options. And that’s precisely what I’m doing,” Edwards told me during a brief telephone interview this afternoon.

“…So, I’m making calls, and I’m considering it. All kinds of other issues demand my attention as county executive, and they’re getting that.”

Edwards refused to be pinned down to making a decision, saying only: “Everything has a timeline.”

Cox’s two-year term ends after the September primary. Technically speaking, there’s no provision in the party rules for ousting a sitting chairman. Generally speaking, challengers interested in bumping a chair before his tenure is up build support among the county chairs, who, in turn, pressure their leader to step down.

That, as you’ll recall, is how Cox managed to get into the state chairmanship in the first place. Unlike his rival for the spot, then-Niagara County GOP Chairman Henry Wojtaszek, Cox didn’t wait for its occupant at the time, Nassau County GOP Chairman Joe Mondello, to announce he wouldn’t seek re-election.

Wojtaszek’s careful approach cost him the job, even though he was backed by almost the entire NYS GOP establishment.

Edwards arguably risks the same fate with his “I’m considering it” line. Then again, former state GOP Executive Director Ed Lurie, who was actively campaigning for Cox’s job, just pulled back on that effort, citing a lack of interest on behalf of the county chairs.

So, maybe Edwards is smart to play it safe here.

He is a Western NY guy, and the displeasure with Cox is strong on that end of the state. But it’s unclear if he would be any better than Cox at fundraising for the party – particularly since he doesn’t have deep ties to the deep pocketed NYC donors – other than those he forged during his statewide stint last fall.

Duffy Using Political Funds For ‘Housing’ (Updated X2)

The early-bird posting of Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy’s campaign-finance report shows the Cuomo administration’s number two has used his fund to pay for what is described in the filing as “housing,” with payments going to a company owned by a major Republican contributor.

The report shows that Bob Duffy 2010 has spent $1,902.93 a month since January on housing, with payments going to AG Spanos, a real-estate company owned by San Diego Chargers owner and prolific GOP donor Alex G. Spanos. The payments total $13,320.51.

The purposes for the expenses are listed under “housing.”

Update: Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto responds, saying the use of the funds doesn’t violate state law because it’s related to the holding of a public office.

“The Lieutenant Governor does not take taxpayer funded per diems to cover the cost of his housing when he is working in Albany, saving New York taxpayers thousands of dollars. The law clearly states than an official can use campaign funds for activities related to the holding of their office. That is clearly the case here. And, upon taking office, the Lieutenant Governor in fact checked with the Board of Elections and they confirmed the above.”

The website for AG Spanos shows the company owns residential and commercial properties around the country and the only property in New York the company takes credit for building is a 300-unit luxury apartment complex called Patroon Creek near Washington Avenue in Albany, where Duffy stays when he’s in town for legislative business.

The company’s owner and namesake, Alex Spanos, is also the owner of the San Diego Chargers and a major Republican contributor in California and in the 2000 and 2004 presidential cycles.

In fact, the Center for Responsive Politics’ Open Secrets website calls Spanos “professional football’s most prolific political bankroller.” Spanos has not made any major contributions in New York races.

Duffy, the former Rochester mayor, has been a visible presence in Albany since Gov. Andrew Cuomo took office Jan. 1 and frequently presides over the state Senate, one of the few official duties for the lieutenant governor. Cuomo has also deployed Duffy to travel the state and drum up support for the legislative agenda.

Good-government groups have railed against the use of the campaign funds for personal use.

“While we don’t have any detailed information on these expenditures, the issue of using campaign funds for purposes other than running for office is something that should get addressed in the campaign finance reform bill which we hope to see next year,” said Bill Mahoney of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

The report does not show any major fundraising for Duffy in the last six months.

The New York campaign finance law is notoriously gray on this area. Lawmakers and public officials on both sides of the aisle have used political funds to cover a variety of items, including car leases. The law itself states that,

“Campaign funds for personal use
Contributions received by a candidate or a political commit- tee may be expended for any lawful purpose. Such funds shall not be converted by any person to a personal use which is unrelated to a political campaign or the holding of a public office or party position.”

Update X2:
I checked over Cuomo’s campaign book that discussed the need for campaign-finance reform. At the time, Cuomo wrote,

“New York’s vague prohibition on the use of campaign funds for personal expenditures has resulted in their use for such non-campaign related expenses as country club memberships, purchases of television sets and personal wardrobe items. Permissible and non-permissible uses of campaign funds must be clarified, and non-campaign related, personal uses of any kind prohibited and enforced.”

Weprin Picks Up WFP Endorsement

Congressional candidate David Weprin will have three lines on the ballot in September’s special election. After being selected by the Democrats last week, Assemblyman Weprin picked up the Independence Party’s support over the weekend. And today, the Working Families Party announced that Weprin has the unanimous support of its executive committee.
In a statement, WFP Executive Director Dan Cantor said “As the Washington Republicans threaten to default on our national debt and end Medicare as we know it for millions of seniors, the people of Brooklyn and Queens can count on David Weprin to stand up for working families. Throughout his time in the city council and the state assembly David Weprin has earned our respect and admiration as a public leader. He’s a real mensch. That’s why the Working Families Party supports David Weprin for Congress.”