Tag Archives: Idaho

Congress must continue to block Trump plan to sell BPA

Source: Union-Bulletin Editorial Board, August 8, 2017

Late last month the U.S. House Budget Committee approved a budget resolution that rejects privatizing the transmission assets of the Bonneville Power Administration proposed by the Trump administration. A great move. The sooner this lousy proposal is dead the better it will be for Pacific Northwest residents who pay power bills — pretty much all of us. … President Donald Trump is calling for turning over the transmission network of power lines and substations owned by the Bonneville Power Administration, a federal agency that distributes most of hydropower from the Columbia and Snake rivers’ dams, to private companies. As Trump sees it, this would lower costs to taxpayers and improve efficiency. But in reality it would result in far higher rates for consumers. And putting the high-voltage grid in the hands of private investors — perhaps foreign investors — would create national security concerns. …

Related:

Down the Mighty Columbia River, Where a Power Struggle Looms
Source: Kirk Johnson, New York Times, July 28, 2017

To ride down the Columbia River as the John Day Dam’s wall of concrete slowly fills the view from a tugboat is to see what the country’s largest network of energy-producing dams created through five decades of 20th-century ambition, investment and hubris. … Now, the Trump administration has proposed rethinking the entire system, with a plan to sell the transmission network of wires and substations owned by the Bonneville Power Administration, a federal agency that distributes most of the Columbia basin’s output, to private buyers. The idea is part of a package of proposals that would transform much of the infrastructure in the United States to a mixture of public and private partnerships, lowering costs to taxpayers and improving efficiency, administration officials said. Assets of two other big public power operators, based in Colorado and Oklahoma, would be sold, too, if Congress approves the measure.

Debates about government and its role in land and environmental policy are always highly charged. But perhaps nowhere could the proposed changes have a more significant impact than along the great river of the West — fourth largest by volume in North America, more than 10 times that of the Hudson. Privatization would transform a government service that requires equal standards across a vast territory — from large cities to tiny hamlets — into a private operation seeking maximum returns to investors. …

Nuclear Negligence

Source: Center for Public Integrity, August 1, 2017

Nuclear Negligence examines safety weaknesses at U.S. nuclear weapon sites operated by corporate contractors. The Center’s probe, based on contractor and government reports and officials involved in bomb-related work, revealed unpublicized accidents at nuclear weapons facilities, including some that caused avoidable radiation exposures. It also discovered that the penalties imposed by the government for these errors were typically small, relative to the tens of millions of dollars the NNSA gives to each of the contractors annually in pure profit.

  1. A near-disaster at a federal nuclear weapons laboratory takes a hidden toll on America’s arsenal: Repeated safety lapses hobble Los Alamos National Laboratory’s work on the cores of U.S. nuclear warheads
  2. Safety problems at a Los Alamos laboratory delay U.S. nuclear warhead testing and production: A facility that handles the cores of U.S. nuclear weapons has been mostly closed since 2013 over its inability to control worker safety risks
  3. Light penalties and lax oversight encourage weak safety culture at nuclear weapons labs: Explosions, fires, and radioactive exposures are among the workplace hazards that fail to make a serious dent in private contractor profits
  4. More than 30 nuclear experts inhale uranium after radiation alarms at a weapons site are switched off: Most were not told about it until months later, and other mishaps at the Nevada nuclear test site followed
  5. Repeated radiation warnings go unheeded at sensitive Idaho nuclear plant: The inhalation of plutonium by 16 workers is preceded and followed by other contamination incidents but the private contractor in charge suffers only a light penalty
  6. Nuclear weapons contractors repeatedly violate shipping rules for dangerous materials: Los Alamos laboratory’s recent mistakes in shipping plutonium were among dozens of incidents involving mislabeled or wrongly shipped materials associated with the nuclear weapons program

Prison violations led to amputations and death, Idaho inmates say

Source: Associated Press, March 27, 2017

Idaho inmates are asking a federal judge to penalize the state after saying prison officials repeatedly violated a settlement plan in a long-running lawsuit over health care, leading to amputations and other serious injuries and even some prisoners’ deaths. In a series of documents filed in federal court, the inmates’ attorney Christopher Pooser painted a bleak and often gruesome picture of the alleged problems at the Idaho State Correctional Institution south of Boise. The prison is the state’s oldest, with more than 1,400 beds, including special units for chronically ill, elderly and disabled inmates. Pooser and the inmates allege some prisoners were forced to undergo amputations after their blisters and bedsores went untreated and began to rot, and others with serious disabilities were left unbathed or without water for extended periods and given food only sporadically. The prison’s death rates outpaced the national average as well as rates at other Idaho facilities, according to the documents. And despite hearing evidence to the contrary, prison officials failed to double-check the numbers when its health care contractor, Corizon, reported being 100 percent compliant with state health care requirements. Meanwhile, prison officials were falsifying documents to make it look like all employees were trained in suicide prevention when many were not, the filings said. The inmates are asking the judge to hold the state in contempt of court and levy more than $24 million in fines against the Idaho Department of Correction. They say the state could cover some of the fines by recovering money paid under its contract with Corizon, but they also want the state to feel the budget hit so prison leaders will be motivated to make a fix. …

15 Lawmakers Plotting to Privatize America’s Public Lands

Source: EcoWatch, March 17, 2017

…Despite the irreplaceable value these places hold, in recent years, a concerted effort has been driven forward by certain senators and U.S. representatives to seize, dismantle, destroy and privatize our public lands. These lawmakers are backed by fossil fuel corporations and other extractive industries that already squeeze massive profits out of America’s public lands and only want more. In order to realize this goal, every year these corporations push millions of dollars toward federal lawmakers to motivate them to introduce and pass legislation that would have the effect of either fully privatizing public lands or opening them up to unfettered extraction and development. The Center for Biological Diversity issued a report that analyzed 132 bills that were introduced in the past three congressional sessions, between 2011 and 2016, and identified the lawmakers who authored and cosponsored the greatest number of these bills. The list of “Public Lands Enemies” that emerged includes nine members of the U.S. House of Representatives and six U.S. senators from eight western states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

These 15 Public Lands Enemies are:
1. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah)
2. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah, 1st District)
3. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)
4. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz., 4th District)
5. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)
6. Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah, 2nd District)
7. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska, At Large)
8. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)
9. Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho, 1st District)
10. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah, 3rd District)
11. Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev., 2nd District)
12. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)
13. Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M., 2nd District)
14. Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif., 4th District)
15. Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.)

Read full report.

Related:

How Politicians Are Using Taxpayer Money To Fund Their Campaign To Sell Off America’s Public Lands
Source: Matt Lee-Ashley, ThinkProgress, June 18, 2014

…According to a ThinkProgress analysis, the American Lands Council (ALC) — an organization created to help states to claim ownership of federal lands — has collected contributions of taxpayer money from government officials in 18 counties in Utah, 10 counties in Nevada, four counties in Washington, three counties in Arizona, two counties in Oregon, two counties in New Mexico, and one county in Colorado, Idaho, and Wyoming. In total, county-level elected officials have already paid the ALC more than $200,000 in taxpayer money. A list of these counties and their “membership levels” can be seen on the ALC website. Since its inception in 2012, the ALC has been working with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative front group backed by the oil and gas industry and billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, to pass state-level legislation demanding that the federal government turn over federally owned national forests and public lands to Western states. So far, Utah is the only state to have signed a law calling for the seizure of federal lands, but Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana have passed bills to study the idea and further action is expected in statehouses during 2015 legislative sessions….

Private prison official says bonuses were paid for cutting costs

Source: Rebecca Boone, Associated Press, February 17, 2017

A former regional manager for private prison company Corrections Corporation of America says top employees at a private prison in Idaho were given yearly bonuses if they cut costs on salary, wages and other operational expenses and met other company goals. CCA, which has since changed its name to CoreCivic, operated the Idaho Correctional Center under a $29 million annual contract with the state of Idaho until chronic understaffing, violence and other problems prompted Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter to order the state to take over the facility in 2013. Kevin Myers was CCA’s managing director who oversaw the Idaho prison and several others. He testified Thursday in a federal lawsuit against the company brought by a group of inmates at the Idaho prison. The inmates contend CCA understaffed the prison to boost profits, causing dangerous conditions in which they were attacked.

Related:

Trial starts Monday in ‘ghost worker’ private prison lawsuit
Source: Rebecca Boone, Associated Press, February 12, 2017

A private prison company accused by inmates of dangerously understaffing an Idaho prison as part of a scheme to boost profits will have a chance to present its defense to jurors on Monday when a civil trial begins in Boise’s U.S. District Court. Eight inmates at the Idaho Correctional Center sued the Nashville, Tennessee-based private prison company Corrections Corporation of America in 2012, contending that poor management and chronic understaffing led to an attack in which they were jumped, stabbed and beaten by a prison gang. The inmates contend the company, now called CoreCivic, purposely understaffed the prison in a so-called “ghost worker scheme.” CoreCivic didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment but the company has vigorously disputed the claims in court filings. CoreCivic CEO Damon Hininger has been ordered to testify in the trial about comments made during quarterly conference calls with investors.

Private Prison Company CCA to Face Trial in Violence Lawsuit
Source: Associated Press, July 8, 2016

A federal judge says the Corrections Corporation of America will stand trial in December in a civil rights lawsuit over understaffing and violence at an Idaho prison. U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge made the ruling Thursday. Eight inmates at the Idaho Correctional Center sued the private prison company in 2012, contending that poor management and chronic understaffing led to an attack in which they were stabbed and beaten by a prison gang. CCA spokesman Steven Owen said the Idaho prison was appropriately staffed at the time of the attack and that he’s confident CCA will prevail at the trial. …

Continue reading

Idaho’s Last Private Prison

Source: Harrison Barry, Boise Weekly, September 7, 2016

Opened in 2010, CAPP is a minimum security facility owned and operated by Management and Training Corporation that houses about 430 low- to medium-risk male inmates undergoing treatment for substance abuse or cognitive issues. It’s one of four minimum security prisons in Idaho and boasts a 93 percent “graduation” rate, meaning it releases its inmates after they have completed a rigorous regimen. … In mid August, the Department of Justice issued a directive to the federal Bureau of Prisons to begin phasing out contracts with private prison companies, following a report that showed their facilities were more violent than their public counterparts. Following the announcement of the DOJ’s directive, the fallout was swift and severe. Corrections Corporation of America, the largest private prison company in America, saw its stock fall 40 percent within hours of the opening bell on Wall Street. For its part, MTC—the third largest prison contractor in the country behind CCA and Geo Group—pushed back at the directive: “bas[ing] this decision on cost, safety, security, and programming is wrong,” the company stated in a release. “The majority of inmates in contract prisons are from one country which brings inherent increased risk of violence.” … Because CAPP is a minimum security lockup for those undergoing substance abuse and behavioral programs, however, it’s in a different class of prison with a different set of problems. When asked about a relatively high number of complaints regarding food service at CAPP, Finn explained that a good number of them were related to offenders’ displeasure with the water-to-juice mixture served with meals. The matter was resolved only after extensive tweaking of the ratio. … Of a more serious nature, in the past 24 months there have been 175 incidents of violence requiring disciplinary action at CAPP, compared to 155 at the North Idaho Correctional Institution (pop. 414), 140 at the South Idaho Correctional Institution (pop. 565) and 36 at the Saint Anthony Work Camp (pop. 242)—all of which are all-male, minimum security facilities. …

SOCIAL IMPACT BONDS

Source: Jessica Hathaway, NCSL, July 12, 2016
Overview

Social Impact Bonds (SIBs), a type of pay-for-success funding agreement, are a private financing mechanism used to fund social programs. SIBs are gaining interest from policymakers at all levels of government as a way to mitigate the simultaneous demands of tight budgets and rising social service costs. To date, state level SIB activity has centered on legislative efforts to authorize the process, create study committees, begin pilot projects, engage in feasibility studies and learn which types of programs this financing tool can be effectively used for. …

Use of Social Impact Bonds at the State Level

At least 24 states and the District of Columbia have considered, are considering or are implementing SIB related projects. Of these, 11 states—Alaska, California, Colorado, Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah —and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation. Legislative introductions and enactments range from establishing study committees to creating funds and supporting pilot projects. Enacted legislative actions are listed below. …

See list of enacted Social Impact Bond bills.

What Happens If You Pay Contractors Only When Their Programs Work?

Source: Charles S. Clark, Government Executive, April 20, 2016

The Obama administration is “doubling down” on its study of the “pay for success” approach to funding social services programs after they demonstrate results, rather than in advance. … The Obama administration is “doubling down” on its study of the “pay for success” approach to funding social services programs after they demonstrate results, rather than in advance. … The feasibility studies will be funded in locations such as Boise, Idaho, Baltimore and parts of Virginia and Arizona, OMB said. In total almost 70 projects in 29 states and the District of Columbia are in the works. A grantee called the Nonprofit Finance Fund has been helping nine PFS projects structure the agreements that are the “backbone of PFS projects,” they wrote. Other grantees include the Corporation for Supportive Housing, the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative, the Harvard Kennedy School Government Performance Lab, the Institute for Child Success, the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, Third Sector Capital Partners and the University of Utah Sorenson Impact Center. …

Canyon County settles lawsuit, OKs private ambulance company

Source: KIVI, April 2, 2016

A private, Boise-based ambulance company will be allowed to transport patients in Canyon County in non-emergency situations under terms settling a federal lawsuit. The Idaho Press-Tribune reports that the county had previously denied permission for Injury Care Emergency Medical Services to operate over legal concerns. The company sued in 2015. Canyon County commissioners said the deal was reached among the county, the company, and the publicly funded Canyon County Ambulance District. It allows the ambulance company to transport patients between medical facilities, such as when patients need to be referred for additional tests.

Idaho Senate backs contentious charter school contract bill

Source: Kimberlee Kruesi, Idaho Statesman, February 22, 2016

Charter schools would no longer be required to use the same teacher contracts as other public schools under a bill that has cleared the Idaho Senate. Senate lawmakers voted 22-13 Monday to allow charter schools to create their own contracts without approval from the state’s superintendent of public instruction. The legislation wouldn’t require charter schools to opt out of using the superintendent-approved language nor would it affect current charter teacher contracts. … Nonini said a charter school in his legislative district asked for the exemption. For example, if approved, charters could provide one-year contracts rather than the current mandated three-year contract. They could also mix in half-days or add duties outside the classroom inside their contracts. … Officials warned during the bill’s legislative hearing that teachers in charter schools will be at risk of getting roped into contracts that do not guarantee their rights as protected in the standard language overseen by the superintendent’s office.