Barr letter is misdirection, evasion, will be challenged in House

The Barr letter seems a masterful piece of misdirection which won’t hold up under serious examination once the report is made public. And it must be made public. In an extraordinary statement House chairs Schiff, Nadler, and Cummings said “The shortcomings in [Barr’s] letter are the very reason our nation has a system of separation of powers.” Pelosi and Schumer were even more blunt; Barr “is not a neutral observer and is not in a position to make objective determinations about the report.” These statements are as blunt as DC ever gets. They are saying Barr is biased in favor of Trump and cannot be trusted.

In a truly deranged twisting of justice, the Barr letter says Trump could not commit obstruction of justice if the underlying conspiracy wasn’t shown to be true. This is complete rubbish. Nixon was forced to resign and members of his inner circle went to prison because of obstruction. Barr also takes a deliberately narrow view of what constitutes the Russian government.

This is headed to the House Judiciary Committee. It and other committees will open massive ongoing investigations into Trump and associates. Schiff says he expects Trump family members will be indicted. At the very least, the investigations will badly weaken Trump if he runs in 2020 (I don’t think he will) and could topple him before that if it can demonstrate Trump’s obvious corruption.

As for Barr’s weasley report:

Special counsel Robert Mueller has submitted his report on the Russia investigation, and Republicans are gloating. They claim a four-page letter from Attorney General William Barr, purporting to summarize the report, exonerates President Donald Trump. They’re wrong. The letter says the Justice Department won’t prosecute Trump, but it reaches that conclusion by tailoring legal standards to protect the president. Here’s a list of Barr’s weasel words and what they’re hiding.

Read the article.

Other contacts between Trump associates and Russians, such as Trump’s Moscow tower project and Michael Flynn’s secret talks about easing sanctions, have been set aside.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.” That’s Barr’s opinion, not Mueller’s.

Barr simply defines whatever Trump did as nonobstructive, as long as an underlying conspiracy with Russia isn’t proved. If Trump asked then–FBI Director James Comey to drop his investigation of Flynn, that’s fine.

Colorado River drought contingency plan done, minus one member

Salton Sea

As is only fitting for Colorado River drought planning, a ginormous deal has been agreed upon even as its biggest user water, the Imperial Irrigation District in California was ignored. What’s that you say, how can an agricultural water user in California be entitled so much Colorado River water, and why were they ignored? Well, welcome to the convoluted politics of the “Law of the River” which governs who gets what Colorado River water.

The IID uses about 20% of all Colorado River water because its water rights are so ancient that they outrank all other users. Farms and ranches in the area have been dumping agricultural waste into the Salton Sea for decades because, hey, it’s a fine place for toxic runoff. Except it’s not. The Salton Sea is a large salt water inland lake and it’s in perilous shape. It routinely has huge fish kills and if it keeps degenerating then it could dry up. That would mean toxic dust would then blow all over southern California.

So, the IID decided to stonewall saying they wouldn’t agree to a Colorado River contingency plan that impacts 40 million people in multiple states unless someone came up with $200 million to fix the Salton Sea. In other words, after decades of reckless behavior, they banged their rattle on the high chair and demanded someone else clean up their mess. Their bluff didn’t work. The enormous Metropolitan Water District of southern California intervened, said they’d contribute to voluntary water cuts. The deal was agreed upon, and IID can go suck their agricultural fumes.

Am I being harsh on IID? Yes. However they absolutely have a point. Something needs to be done to save the Salton Sea and they don’t have the cash to do it.

The Imperial Irrigation District was written out of California’s plan when another powerful water agency, the Metropolitan Water District, pledged to contribute most of the state’s voluntary water cuts.

Imperial had said it would not commit to the drought plan unless it secured $200 million in federal funding to help restore a massive, briny lake southeast of Los Angeles known as the Salton Sea. The district also accused others in the Colorado River basin of reneging on a promise to cross the finish line together.

“IID has one agenda, to be part of a DCP that treats the Salton Sea with the dignity and due consideration it deserves, not as its first casualty,” Imperial board President Erik Ortega said.

Rod Rosenstein staying at DoJ to be “heat shield” for Mueller Report

Rod Rosenstein staying

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will be staying at Justice for an indefinite period, instead of leaving in March previously announced. He has discussed this with AG Barr. This is significant for a number of reasons

1) Barr hasn’t made attempts to fire or replace him. In the view of many Never Trumpers, Barr is at least a gray hat, maybe even a white hat. This means the Mueller is continuing unimpeded. Some even speculate Barr is a Trojan Horse that got snuck past Trump’s defenses. Yes, Barr is a hardcore conservative. However, so are plenty of Never Trumpers.

2) Rod Rosenstein clearly expects to Mueller Report to be the Hammer of Thor and wants to be there for support, backup, and protection when the MAGAs go crazy with rage in response to the report. If, as I expect, Trump’s Traitor Tots and Jared get indicted then Trump will also be more deranged than ever before. Trump will probably be indicted too. There’s nothing in the Constitution that says a sitting president cannot be indicted. At the very worst, Trump gets arrested when he leaves office.

3) Rosenstein needs to sign off on other investigations too.

Prosecutors are believed to still be considering false-statement charges against former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who was accused in an inspector general’s report of providing inaccurate information about his role in disclosures of information to the media. McCabe denied the allegations, but he was fired with Rosenstein’s concurrence one year ago.

And Greg Craig, the White House counsel under President Barack Obama, has come under scrutiny from prosecutors over his involvement in the illegal Ukrainian lobbying scheme organized by Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman.

FYI: Prett Bahara said he considered recording a phone call with Trump to protect himself. He also says it is credible that Rosenstein was wearing a wire when he met with Trump.

“I tend to believe he was not joking, because there has been a certain kind of conduct that happens,” Bharara said, citing Trump’s falsehoods and explaining that prosecutors routinely take notes, or make recordings, as corroborating evidence.

No Lake Mead shortage, thanks to plentiful precipitation

Colorado River basin map. Shannon1 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

Seven states rely on water from the Colorado River. The rules and laws governing it are known as “The Law of the River.” The rules include those from the federal government which was prepared to declare a Lake Mead shortage due to drought. This would have triggered mandatory cutbacks for Nevada, Arizona, and Mexico.

Thankfully, Colorado, portions of which were in extreme drought, no longer is due to large amounts of snow this winter. The state is still abnormally dry. However lots more water than predicted or even hoped for is coming to the lower states. That means Lake Mead gets hugely needed water and the shortage will not happen in 2020 and probably not in 2021 either. This is a welcome reprieve.

The current forecast calls for Mead ending 2019 at elevation 1,080, five feet above the threshold at which a set of rules previously developed by state and federal governments would have reduced allocations to Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico. That is more than eight feet higher than the projected elevation just a month ago.

More importantly, the new projections suggest now that there will be another 9 million acre foot release from Lake Powell in 2020, rather than the 7.48maf 2020 release projected just a month ago. The result is a preliminary end-of-2021 Mead forecast 20 feet higher than was expected just a month ago:

Grid-scale batteries and renewable energy

Grid-scale batteries. GE
GE grid-scale batteries

Utilities increasingly are considering investing in grid-scale batteries as a way to produce enough power during peak periods. They mostly have built natural gas plants to supply needed extra electricity. However, costs for lithium-ion batteries have dropped so much that it’s becoming cheaper to install batteries and renewable energy.

The grid requires power supplied right when it is needed, and usage varies considerably throughout the day. When grid-connected batteries help supply enough electricity to meet demand, utilities don’t have to build as many power plants and transmission lines.

About half of the new generation capacity built in the U.S. annually since 2014 has come from solar, wind or other renewable sources. Natural gas plants make up the much of the rest but in the future, that industry may need to compete with energy storage for market share.

Los Angeles

The City of Los Angeles will not rebuild three natural gas plants and instead will move towards 100% renewables using battery storage.

Last March, the group released a study by Synapse Energy Economics which it says demonstrated that LADWP could transition to all renewable energy in about a decade.

Oregon

Portland General Electric plans a first ever for the US, a wind / solar / battery co-location. There will be 300 MW of wind, 50 MW solar, and 30 MW battery storage.

The project was an “exciting opportunity” to combine solar, wind and storage NextEra CEO and president Armando Pimentel, who also said that Wheatridge “will allow PGE’s customers to benefit from more renewable energy over more hours of the day and create substantial economic value for the communities that host this project, many of whom stand to benefit for years to come”.

Texas

Intersect Power is considering building 495 MW or battery storage next to 495 MW of solar. If it happens, it will be the world’s largest battery system.

The project would increase the state’s installed solar capacity to over 6.8 GW and the energy storage capacity to 584 MW.

The solar-plus-storage pairing in the middle of the Permian Basin could help meet energy needs for oil-field operations.