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Posts by Liz Benjamin
Feb 5th - 12:42 pm
State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has withdrawn a shareholder resolution calling for a report on the use toxic substances in Cabot’s shale energy operations after the company agreed to publicly disclose its procedures for eliminating or minimizing then.
“Cabot has taken a positive step to reduce risk to shareholders, the environment and the communities in which it operates,” DiNapoli said.
“This agreement means that Cabot will publicly release what it is doing to use less toxic substances in its hydraulic fracturing fluids and detail how it is ensuring these efforts are being carried out. Shareholder value is better protected when companies disclose the risks associated with the hydraulic fracturing process.”
As of last Friday, the pension fund held 184,350 shares of Cabot worth $6.9 million. UPDATE: The comptroller’s office has provided new numbers: The fund held 681,692 shares valued at $35.8 million as of Feb. 4.
DiNapoli has filed several resolutions over the past three years with oil and natural gas companies in which the $150.1 billion pension fund owns stock concerning disclosure of legal and regulatory risk, chemicals used in fracking and identification and reduction of potential hazards associated with the controversial natural gas drilling process.
So far, none of these resolutions have passed, but they are slowly gaining support.
In 2010, resolutions addressing legal, regulatory and environmental issues went to votes at Cabot and Chesapeake, winning more than 25 percent of the shares voted, according to DiNapoli’s office.
A shareholder vote at Carrizo Oil and Gas in 2011 on environmental impacts and material risks to the company’s finances or operations related to hydraulic fracturing was supported by over 43 percent of shareholders voting.
This comes on the heels of NYC Comptroller John Liu’s announcement earlier today that he and the NYC Pension Funds have filed a shareowner proposal calling on Exxon Mobil Corp. to release quantitative data on its efforts to safeguard the public and the environment from its fracking operations.
Liu filed his resolution in conjunction with the nonprofit environmental advocacy group As You Sow, which is part of a broader investor initiative organized by Ceres challenging companies to address climate and sustainability risks.
Thus far in the 2013 proxy season, investors working with Ceres have filed 85 resolutions with 73 companies.
Feb 5th - 11:09 am
NYC Comptroller John Liu and the NYC Pension Funds have filed a shareowner proposal calling on Exxon Mobil Corp. to release quantitative data on its efforts to safeguard the public and the environment from its fracking operations.
“Fracking carries significant concerns about poisoned drinking water, toxic chemical leaks, and explosions,” Liu said in a press release.
“Exxon Mobil says, ‘Don’t worry, we’ve got it covered’ and asks us to take it at its word. ”
“Until the company shows us hard data on what it has done to protect the public and environment, shareowners cannot be confident that the necessary safeguards exist.”
According to Liu, Exxon has repeatedly resisted calls that it provide investors with detailed information on its safety measures.
The data the comptroller and his allies are seeking includes, but is not limited to:
The air emissions from fracking that Exxon has reduced per region per year; the number and kinds of community complaints or grievances and whether they remain open or resolved; the goals and systems used to reduce potentially harmful chemicals in fracturing fluids.
Liu worked on the shareholder proposal with As You Sow, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group that has been pushing Exxon on its fracking practices and disclosures on behalf of the Park Foundation since 2010.
This isn’t the first time As You Sow has championed fracking-related shareholder resolutions with Exxon.
Last year, the SEC rejected Exxon’s effort to quash a resolution that let investors vote on requesting a report on the financial risks of the regulatory and community responses to fracking.
Fracking resolutions received support from 28 percent of shareholders at Exxon’s annual meeting in 2011, and from two-fifths of the shareholders of rival Chevron Corp.
At the time, an Exxon spokesman noted 72 percent of shareholders rejected the resolution, and that it was the third year such a vote took place.
The 2012 vote failed to pass as well, with 29 percent of shareholders voting in favor and 70 opposed.
The text of the proposal Liu announced today appears in full after the jump.
Feb 5th - 7:04 am
Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be in St. Lawrence County to deliver his State of the State and budget messages at 11 a.m., Clarkson Alumni Gym, 8 Clarkson Ave., Potsdam.
It’s Tuesday, which means Lobby Day at the Capitol. Expect crowds, including several hundred parents heading to Albany from around the state to rally for more school choice and charter school pre-K.
At 10 a.m., the Senate Judiciary Committee will reconvene for a possible vote on Cuomo’s first Court of Appeals nominee, Jenny Rivera, whom they grilled yesterday. Room 124, Capitol.
There are two joint legislative budget committee hearings today. One on housing (9:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m., LOB, Hearing Room B), the other on human services (same location, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.)
Assemblymen Steve Katz, Jim Tedisco, Steve McLaughlin, Tony Jordan and Sen. Greg Ball will propose the NYS Government Transparency Act, which would create a constitutional amendment that would place limits on the governor’s use of a message of necessity. LOB, Room 130 (LCA Room), Albany, 10:15 a.m.
At noon, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman delivers his annual State of the Judiciary speech at the Court of Appeals in Albany. (Speech will be webcast here).
A pretrial hearing takes place today for NYC Comptroller’s John Liu’s former campaign treasurer and fundraiser. Judge Richard J. Sullivan presides; 500 Pearl Street; Courtroom: 21C, Manhattan.
At 1 p.m., NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio joins representatives of the organizations Common Sense Busing and Resources for Children with Special Needs and parents hold a news conference to call for continued negotiations to end the city school bus strike; steps, City Hall, Manhattan.
AG Eric Schneiderman announces legal action resulting from an undercover operation in his Capitol office (second floor) at 1:30 p.m.
At 7 p.m., 350.org President Bill McKibben discusses a new national campaign calling for colleges, government pension funds and religious organizations to stop investing in energy companies that market fossil fuels, Cooper Union’s Great Hall, The Foundation Building, 7 E. Seventh St., Manhattan.
Thousands gathered to pay a final farewell to former NYC Mayor Ed Koch, who was laid to rest yesterday.
Bill Hammond fondly recalls Koch’s final crusade, which he undertook in his 80s: Cleaning up Albany.
There will be no subway renaming or plaques to commemorate Koch, as Rep. Carolyn Maloney had hoped.
Four GOP members of New York’s congressional delegation – Reps. Chris Collins, Richard Hanna, Tom Reed and Chris Gibson – own guns. The other two Republicans and 21 Democrats don’t have firearms. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Nydia Velazquez “would not say either way.”
DEC Commissioner Joe Martens was grilled at a joint legislative budget committee hearing, and revealed the next fracking deadline – Feb. 27 – might be blown, depending on when DOH Commissioner Nirav Shah completes his public health review.
Feb 4th - 5:08 pm
Mayor Bloomberg eulogized former NYC Mayor Ed Koch, calling him “our Moses – just with a little less hair.”
He had a big brain,” former President Clinton told the VIP-studded audience at Koch’s funeral. “He had a bigger heart.”
Hillary Clinton was not present. Bill Clinton said his wife had five hours of tests on Sunday and was told to “take it easy for another month.”
An organist began playing the famed Frank Sinatra song “New York, New York” as Koch’s casket was carried out of Temple Emanu-El.
Clinton and Gov. Andrew Cuomo shared a moment at the funeral.
Politico’s Roger Simon recalls Al Gore’s visit to Koch’s “lucky corner” on the Upper East Side in 1988. (Bonus vintage photo of Cuomo included).
EJ McMahon: “Koch also had two characteristics especially valuable in a government executive during a fiscal crisis: He was a realist, and he could count.”
Both Fred Dicker and Wayne Barrett suggest the “Vote for Cuomo, Not the Homo” signs of the 1977 NYC mayor’s race were an urban legend.
The New York City Districting Commission publicly released a newly revised district plan for the 51 NYC Council district prior to its Feb. 6 public meeting.
Senate Republicans on the Judiciary Committee grilled Cuomo’s first Court of Appeals nominee, Jenny Rivera, and then put off a vote until tomorrow morning at 10 a.m.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says last night’s Super Bowl blackout wasn’t Beyonce’s fault. Phew.
President Obama appeared in Minneapolis today to make his first push outside Washington for new gun control legislation.
…The city – once known as “Murder-opolis” – played a role in passage of the 1994 assault weapons ban.
Democrats on the Westchester County Board of Legislators slammed County Executive Robert Astorino for referring to Cuomo’s pension-smoothing plan as “crack cocaine.”
Lloyd Green, former opposition research counsel to the George H.W. Bush campaign, warns Republicans to be “afraid, very afraid” of Hillary Clinton 2016.
Clinton polls well in Texas, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the state is in play for any Democrat other than her.
If not Clinton, then perhaps Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in 2016?
The White House is on the defensive for its decision to release a photo of the president skeet shooting at Camp David.
As Cuomo leads the charge for three (or four) new casinos upstate, Resorts World Casino is on the verge of launching an aggressive strategy to lure tourists to its Queens location at the Aqueduct Raceway.
The Brennan Center proposes a fix for long lines at the voting booth.
Actor-turned-activist Mark Ruffalo (AKA: The Hulk) pledged to “cream” Cuomo if he opens New York to fracking.
A vote for SoP in Chris Cillizza’s “best state political blogs” contest would be greatly appreciated.
Feb 4th - 12:35 pm
Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter introduced Brian Schweitzer this morning at the United South and Eastern Tribes Conference in Washington, D.C., lavishing praise on the former Montana governor who has been touted as a “dark horse” candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016.
Halbritter basically held Schweitzer out as a model against which all other governors should be measured when it comes to dealing with native Americans, noting Indian Country Today Media Network once called him the “best governor for Indian Country, ever.”
“In his eight years in office,no governor in the country has been more responsive to tribes thanGovernor Schweitzer,” Halbritter said. “As Governor, he ensured that Indians were acknowledged, respected, and included in all state operations. It is alsoworth noting that he left office as the most popular governor in the history of his state.”
“…It is not an overstatement to say that Governor Schweitzer hasfundamentally changed the attitudes of countless Americans toward Indian people. Governor Schweitzer has created a blueprint for every governor and political leader to learn from and emulate.”
This description stands in stark contrast to how things are going here in New York between the Indian tribes and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who, of course, is also frequently mentioned as a potential 2016 contender.
To say Cuomo has a contentious relationship with the Indians in this state is a vast understatement.
The situation has rapidly deteriorated in recent months between the governor and the Senecas, in whose eye Cuomo poked a proverbial stick over the weekend via a story leaked to The Buffalo News about the administration’s desire to create a non-Indian run casino in downtown Niagara Falls.
That, of course, is a direct hit at the Senecas, who have already made it clear they would consider any casino run by anyone other than themselves within the 14-county Western New York exclusivity zone to be a further violation of their compact with the state.
The exclusivity zone is already in dispute, however. The Senecas haven’t made any revenue sharing payments to either the state or their host cities since 2009, rguing that the state violated the compact by allowing casino-style gambling at Hamburg and Batavia. At this point, the lapsed payments total more than $500 million.
The funds are being held in an escrow account pending a resolution of the dispute. The nation pays 25 percent of its slot revenues from its casinos in Niagara Falls, Buffalo and Salamanca to the state in exchange for the exclusive right to operate gaming machines in its exclusivity zone. The state then pays out around 25 percent of the revenues it receives to the host municipalities.
Cuomo’s threat to try to locate a non-Indian casino in Niagara Falls does not impact the Onedia, who operating the Turning Stone Casino in Central New York. But the tribe’s relationship with Cuomo has been remote – at best.
An Oneida spokesman said tribe officials have reached out several times seeking meetings with high-level members of the Cuomo administration, and also asked to be included on one of the regional economic development councils, but have yet to receive a response.
The Oneida had a very good relationship with Cuomo’s father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, who signed an agreement in 1993 that allowed the tribe to open the state’s first high-stakes gambling casino in more than a century.
The 2016 Democratic primary will not likely turn on Indian affairs, which is an issue to which not many people pay much attention, other than those who are directly impacted by it.
But it is interesting to note the very warm feelings being expressed today for Schweitzer – a red state Democrat who is viewed by insiders as an intriguing White House contender because he polls well with independents and moderates, even though he’s not as well known as Cuomo or Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley or any other of the numerous candidates likely to rise to the top tier of if former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton decides not to run.
He’s also out of office, which makes it more difficult for him to keep his name in the news.
Feb 4th - 6:44 am
The late Ed Koch, former mayor of New York City, will be laid to rest today in Trinity Church Cemetery.
His 11 a.m. funeral at Temple Emanu-El (1 E. 65th St., Manhattan) is expected to be very crowded. Mayor Bloomberg will deliver the eulogy and former President Bill Clinton will speak.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be attending the funeral, and then traveling to Albany.
The NYPD’s helicopter unit will fly an honor guard over Temple Emanu-El twice today — once when Koch’s casket is being brought in, and again when it is brought out for interment in Trinity Cemetery in Washington Heights.
At 1:45 p.m., Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney and NYC officials will discuss a legislative proposal to rename a subway station in memory of Koch; northwest corner, Lexington Avenue and 77th Street, Manhattan. (This may be more easily said than done).
Up in Albany, expect a long (and potentially boisterous) day in the LOB’s Hearing Room B, where today’s joint legislative budget hearing focuses on environmental conservation.
At noon, anti-fracking advocates – including actor Mark Ruffalo; Arun Gandhi, grandson of nonviolence leader Mahatma Gandhi; and “Gasland” director Josh Fox – will hold a press conference at the Capitol’s Million Dollar Staircase.
They’ll also deliver a pledge of resistance to fracking and water from around the state to Cuomo’s office.
The New York State Association of Counties annual legislative conference kicks off today at the Desmond Hotel in Colonie.
At noon, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a confirmation hearing on Cuomo’s first Court of Appeals nominee: Jenny Rivera. Capitol, Room 124.
From 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., live birds of prey from the Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary and Audubon Center will be on display on the third floor of the LOB as the Coalition of Living Museums educates lawmakers on the importance of the Environmental Protection Fund and the Zoos, Botanical Gardens and Aquaria program to the state’s economic recovery.
At 2:30 p.m., members of the Senate’s bipartisan task force on Sandy recovery releases a preliminary report on recommendations for storm relief, contingency planning and storm mitigation. The Capitol, Room 124, 2:30 p.m., Albany.
At 7 p.m., actress Debra Messing, TV producer Max Mutchnick and NYC Council Speaker Chris Quinn discuss legal and political aspects of gay marriage at Fordham University, Time Warner’s Screening Room, One Time Warner Center, 10 Columbus Circle, Manhattan.
The power failure that caused a 34-minute delay in the Super Bowl was “an unfortunate moment,” said New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who has called for “a full action report from all parties involved.”
The Beyoncebowl gets a thumbs-up from the NYT.
Cuomo is proposing to spend as much as $400 million to purchase homes wrecked by Hurricane Sandy, have them demolished and then preserve the flood-prone land permanently, as undeveloped coastline. The program requires federal approval and would be among the most ambitious ever undertaken.
As Cuomo plans amendments to the budget he introduced Jan. 22, the state Department of Health is being pressed by federal regulators to figure out how to sustain a cut of $1.1 billion in Medicaid funding per year starting April 1 while also repaying for some of the years of excessive payments.
Feb 4th - 6:00 am
Today’s Siena poll finds New Yorkers continue to be hotly divided – 40-40 – on the question of whether the state should allow the controversial natural gas drilling process known as fracking in the Marcellus Shale.
Voters in the Southern Tier, which would be ground zero for fracking if it’s approved, are just as torn on the topic – 47-48 – even though they ostensibly would benefit the most form it (and be hurt the most by it as well).
After reviewing arguments both in support of and against fracking and limitations that DEC could impose, 45 percent of voters statewide were in support of the idea and 42 percent continued to oppose it (50-46 percent among voters in the Southern Tier).
“The governor is in a position that chief executives hate: Making a decision on a controversial issue where voters are split down the middle,” said Siena pollster Steve Greenberg.
“Unlike his position on guns, which angered a vocal minority, Cuomo’s decision on fracking is likely to anger far more voters – no matter what he decides.”
“However, fracking opponents will be much more upset if it moves forward than fracking supporters will be if it does not.”
If fracking moves forward, 88 percent of opponents will be upset, including 54 percent who will be very upset, Greenberg said.
If fracking does not move ahead, 59 percent of supporters will be upset, including 20 percent who will be very upset.
At the moment, 67 percent of voters have a favorable view of Cuomo and 29 percent view him unfavorably – down from 71-24 percent last month.
His 58-41 percent job performance rating is down slightly from 60-38 percent.
And 56 percent of voters are prepared to re-elect him, while 36 percent would prefer someone else (down from 60-32 percent).
That’s a less significant drop than what was reported in last week’s Q poll, which found Cuomo’s December job approval rating of 74-13 had dropped to 59-28 percent thanks to the governor’s success in getting the Legislature to approve the SAFE Act.
According to the Siena poll, more Republicans – 54 percent – now have an unfavorable view of Cuomo than have a favorable view for the first time in his tenure as governor.
And although a majority of upstaters continue to view Cuomo favorably, his favorability rating among upstaters fell to 54-41 percent, down from 61-31 percent last month, Greenberg said.
The SAFE Act has strong support across the board, with nearly two-thirds of voters – including strong majorities of Democrats, independents and downstaters – in favor.
It is opposed by a majority of Republicans, conservatives and voters from the Southern Tier, and it has only tepid support from the rest of upstate voters.
Feb 3rd - 12:21 pm
Some pre-game headlines for your perusal (a little early today, so as not to compete with the main event).
The Cuomo administration, frustrated with its long-standing financial dispute with the Seneca Nation and seeking more lucrative gambling revenues, will propose a new, non-Indian casino for downtown Niagara Falls.
The group pushing for Las Vegas-style casinos to be built at existing horse racing tracks collected $871,981 in dues and payments specifically for lobbying purposes last year, according to public records disclosed for the first time Friday.
The state agencies in charge of regulating New York’s horse racing industry and running its lotteries are now officially one department.
Former President Bill Clinton is cutting a trip to Japan short to speak at former NYC Mayor Ed Koch’s funeral in Manhattan tomorrow.
Mayor Bloomberg will deliver the eulogy.
A look at the softer side of the usually pugnacious Koch.
Koch was always a renter – right up to the end.
The weekly Saturday luncheon of Koch confidants convened in Chinatown yesterday, as usual, but with one glaring absence: The man who brought them all together in the first place.
Koch’s final days were filled with friends and family, but he was tired and ready to go, they said.
Another exit interview with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown will not run for the seat vacated by Clinton’s replacement, Secretary of State John Kerry.
The White House released a photo of the president skeet shooting at Camp David.
A bipartisan group of House members hopes to follow the US Senate’s lead and release its own immigration reform plan.
Assemblyman William F. Boyland Jr., a Brooklyn Democrat under federal indictment for bribery, falsified state travel forms to collect more than $67,000 in lodging, food and mileage reimbursements he was not entitled to get, according to a state comptroller’s report that has not been made public.
Rep. Charlie Rangel’s campaign committee ended the year with just $5,033 in the bank, according to its latest federal filing.
The Greene County administrator is “not impressed” with Cuomo’s 2013-14 budget.
The Kingston Freeman sides with state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli over Cuomo in the tussle over pension smoothing.
NYC Comptroller John Liu’s reputation and popularity may be at stake when his former campaign treasurer and a fundraiser go on trial this coming week on charges of conspiring to break campaign finance laws to raise ever more money for him.
The power-sharing Senate coalition will be tested on a host of thorny issues including whether to increase the minimum wage, expand abortion rights and decriminalize small amounts of marijuana.
Fred LeBrun blames the latest wave of Thruway layoffs on the Tappan Zee Bridge and Cuomo’s “edifice complex.”
Sen. John DeFrancisco will not run for mayor of Syracuse.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, is reserving judgment on the Obama administration’s contraception mandate compromise plan until the proposal has been thoroughly vetted.
Carl Paladino is back, and he’s a study in contrasts, Bob McCarthy finds.
Assemblywoman Addie Russell is reintroducing legislation to smooth out inequalities in the state’s school aid formula and break what she calls political manipulation that has unfairly favored wealthy downstate school districts over poorer upstate districts.
Yet another anti-fracking organization has launched – this time in the Southern Tier, which would be ground zero for drilling in the Marcellus if it’s approved.
Mayor Bloomberg ducked his old nemesis – Staten Island Chuck – on his final Groundhog Day in office.
This TV ad paid for by Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns group will air during the Superbowl tonight…
Feb 1st - 12:30 pm
Sean Eldridge, an investor and political activist, is poised to file paperwork establishing a campaign committee for a potential 2014 challenge to Republican Rep. Chris Gibson in NY-19, according to a source familiar with his plans.
The source said Eldridge will also file a statement of candidacy and is “seriously looking at a run” in two years.
Not long ago, Eldridge was perhaps best known for being the partner – and now husband – of co-founder Chris Hughes, with whom he lives in Shokan, Ulster County.
But in recent years, he has struck out on his own, founding a small business investment fund called Hudson River Ventures that focuses on the region’s burgeoning artisanal food and beverage industry, and also getting involved in the push for statewide campaign finance reform.
Hudson River Ventures, located in Kingston, has so far invested in the following businesses: Bread Alone (Boiceville), the Peekskill Brewery (Peekskill), RiverMarket (Tarrytown) and Hudson Chocolates (Poughkeepsie).
Last year, Eldridge created a political action committee called Protect Our Democracy, which he and Hughes seeded with $250,000 of their own money.
The PAC’s goal was to get the “big money” out of politics by pushing for a publicly funded campaign finance system.
Since Tkaczyk’s come-from-behind win, advocates have argued there is momentum and a mandate for establishing a publicly funded system. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has repeatedly said he supports the idea as part of a broader campaign finance package, but he hasn’t yet put forth any legislation.
Gibson, who casts himself as a pragmatist and moderate in his right-of-center House GOP conference, is going to be difficult to beat – particularly in a non-presidential election year that won’t see the surge of Democratic turnout seen this past fall.
Although he was running in a dramatically altered – and Democrat dominated – new district last year, Gibson managed to handily defeat his Democrat opponent, attorney and former Ulster County Democratic Party Chairman Julian Schreibman.
Eldridge certainly is getting a jump on things by launching his campaign this early.
He presumably won’t have much trouble with funding. This effort is in a very nascent stage, according to my source, but Eldridge has signed up a well-connected consulting firm – SKDKnickerbocker – to assist with his campaign.
Feb 1st - 6:26 am
After a flurry of misinformation this morning, a spokesman for Ed Koch confirms that the outspoken former New York City mayor has indeed passed away at the age of 88.
The cause of death was congestive heart failure, according to George Arzt.
The funeral will be Monday in Manhattan at Temple Emanu-El, and it will no doubt be attended by political dignities of all stripes.
Koch was a larger-than-life character who could swing from completely irascible to totally lovable in a matter of moments.
In other words, he was a true New Yorker.
He remained active in city and state politics until the end, and he was a frequent Capital Tonight guest.
I will miss him.