Entergy accident a killer in Arkansas by: Sue Prent Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 12:22:01 PM EDT
Entergy's "reliability" continues to come into question in rather spectacular ways this year.
This time, poor old Arkansas once again was the site of an energy related disaster, when things went horribly wrong during a "planned upgrade" operation at Entergy's Arkansas Nuclear One, killing one man and injuring seven more.
Thanks to GMD contributor ed for providing a link to the story as reported, with pictures, on local media.
From Enformable we get a closer view of the technical situation:
Around 07:50 on Easter Sunday morning, an accident at the Arkansas Nuclear Power Plant not only killed one worker and injured others it also left the Unit 1 reactor without offsite power. Workers were using the Unit 1 turbine temporary lift device to move the Main Turbine Generator Stator, which weighs over 500 tons, out of the turbine building when it fell. The lift crane failed, dropping the load, which resulted in a crash which was heard by local residents miles from the site, and tripped the Unit 2 reactor.
Entergy is naturally eager to put the incident behind them, but we who are audience to their frequent protestations of "reliability" in the legal sense, must note that such spectacular failures as occurred at the Superdome before millions of viewers, and now at AR Nuclear One certainly strain the credibility of that argument.
Both were costly accidents (this latest with loss of life), which lead one to suspect that Entergy's recent financial troubles have impacted the ability of the company to maintain adequate staffing and equipment oversight; perhaps even eroding their commitment to best practices in the long term.
And I keep worrying whether anyone is minding the decommissioning "piggy bank" for VY.
The Bill Doyle feedback loop by: jvwalt Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 11:10:10 AM EDT
Ever since the Senator Bill Doyle Town Meeting Survey made its annual appearance, and attracted the usual amount of media attention, I've been doing some thinking about this uniquely Vermont phenomenon. And I've come to some conclusions I'd like to run by the rest of you.
The Doyle survey can be filled out by anyone anywhere, and yet it's always taken as some kind of bellwether of public opinion. Bill Doyle does his annual turn as the Sage of Vermont, and the political class chews over the meaning of the results with all the fervor of a pack of haruspices examining freshly-liberated goat entrails.
This is the same political class that has a rather poor record of predicting actual outcomes. And there's good reason for that: the politicos and State House media live in a little golden bubble, they spend a lot of time talking to each other, and conventional wisdom is reinforced.
These are the people who lend credence to the Doyle Survey. The Freeploid's Terri Hallenbeck writes that "often the results smell right," and the Mitchell Family's Man in the Bubble Peter Hirschfeld quotes a not-at-all self-serving Bill Doyle contending that "I think it does give us a sense of how people are thinking."
Really? Well, now that we actually have a professionally-conducted polling operation in Vermont, the Castleton Polling Institute, we have a useful point of comparison.
The 2012 Doyle survey reported 48% approval for Governor Shumlin. This year it's 42%. This has been interpreted as a rise in anti-Shumlin feelings, even though (a) the Doyle survey is completely unprofessional, and (b) even if it were, the six-point drop is barely outside the statistical margin of error for a professional survey. The results are precisely meaningless.
Castleton, meanwhile, showed the Governor sailing comfortably along in the 60% range. He won the election with 58% of the vote. Castleton was right, Doyle was wrong.
So why does the chattering class go on and on about the Doyle Survey? Well, we Vermonters love our traditions, the little things that make Vermont different and supposedly better. And everybody in the news business likes Bill Doyle.
All right, if the Doyle Survey is not to be trusted, is it simply because of the poll's random nature? Or does it misrepresent reality in identifiable ways?
I do not believe that anyone is stuffing the ballot boxes. There's nothing to gain from doing so, and it would take a lot of effort. No, I think the innate, ungoverned selection process produces a skewed sample. Here's how.
Who fills out the vast majority of Doyle Surveys? People who attend Town Meeting.
Who attends Town Meeting? Well, to start with, not the residents of our largest communities. They may show up to vote in local elections, but they are much less likely to stop and fill out a Doyle than people who are sitting down for a meeting. I think I'm safe in saying that our smaller communities are over-represented in the Doyle Survey.
Okay, what kinds of people are more likely to attend a Town Meeting? Those with an appreciation for Vermont's political traditions, and those who want to keep a close eye on their local government. Many of these folks are conservative. Some are liberal, progressive or even radical, but they share that belief in the things that make Vermont unique. I suspect that the Town Meeting crowd is substantially skewed toward lifetime, or longtime, Vermonters.
(Confession: I've lived in Vermont for seven years, in a community with a real Town Meeting. I've never attended one. And, Frank Bryan hagiography notwithstanding, I don't feel like I've really missed anything, to be honest.)
Take all those inferences together, and what do you have? A survey that overrepresents those who are somewhat more conservative, and very much more invested in Vermont tradition, than the general electorate. (That'd be a very good dictionary definition of "Bill Doyle," as it happens.) The survey results would tend to overamplify the uniqueness and quirkiness that Vermont is widely believed to possess.
Especially among the political media. I've found that many members of the media, even if they tend to be well-educated and personally outsiderish, have a deeply-held fondness for stereotypical Vermont.
Looking at the whole picture, Doyle Survey participants tend to be more Vermonty than the real-life Vermont. The results reflect this. The predispositions of the political class and media tend to accept, or even welcome, the survey results as more "proof" that Vermont is a special and different place.
It's the Bill Doyle Feedback Loop.
And I believe it has a negative effect on our political discourse. Those who live in the hothouse of state politics think that Vermont is more conservative and eccentric than it really is, and that makes them more cautious than they should be. They tend to over-validate conventional wisdom on issues like taxes and gun control, as well as the lesser controversies that seem to tie politicians in knots, such as vaccination, smart meters, and wind energy.
I mean, as an essentially meaningless bit of springtime fun, the Doyle is an innocuous thing. But to the extent it's taken seriously as a measure of public opinion, we'd be better off without it.
Doctors, supporters protest rate-setting provision; legal challenge possible by Andrew Stein A bipartisan group of doctors, patients and legislators gathered at the Statehouse on Wednesday to speak out against a law that gives the Green Mountain Care Board the power to regulate physician rates.
Their overarching message?
Change the law or the Shumlin administration and the board can expect a lawsuit.
“If the provision is not repealed, it’s infringement on the economic freedoms of these doctors, and they may proceed to a legal challenge to protect their constitutional rights and the constitutional rights of patients,” said Darcie Johnston, director of the anti-single payer group Vermonters for Health Care Freedom, who organized the press conference.
The provision in question was written into Act 48, the landmark health care bill enacted in 2011 that set Vermont on a path towards a universal health care system and created the Green Mountain Care Board to control growing costs.
The particular sections of the bill that Johnston and company take issue with give the board the power to “set reasonable rates for health care professionals” and establish that, “except for cost-sharing, Vermonters shall not be billed any additional amount for health services covered by Green Mountain Care.”
Green Mountain Care is the universal health care program that the Shumlin administration says it plans to implement in 2017. That is when the state could first receive a federal waiver to deviate from the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.
Rep. Cynthia Browning, D-Arlington, proposed a bill this session that would have limited the board’s authority to regulate rates. Specifically it would have prohibited the board from interfering “with the ability of any Vermont resident to enter into a voluntary financial arrangement with the Vermont-licensed health care professional of his or her choice.”
The bill was turned into an amendment, and the House voted it down.
“I think it’s very important that Vermonters have choice,” Browning said. “We have choice in many of our school systems, and I think we should have choice in health care. I had not earlier realized that the Green Mountain Care Board was given the power to regulate the rates not just of providers who are asking for reimbursement within their system, but even of providers who are not participating.”
A group of physicians support Browning’s bill, including Bob Emmons, a Burlington psychiatrist with 24 years of experience. He warned that the board’s ability to regulate rates could affect the way physicians practice medicine.
“The scientific evidence available does not demonstrate that the move from big insurance to big government will help physicians to take better care of their patients,” he said. “When the state controls how doctors are paid, it opens the door for the state to use an elaborate system of financial rewards and punishments to manipulate the clinical decision-making of doctors.”
While Emmons said he would like to work out this issue by talking to state officials, he is not averse to settling the matter in court.
“It seems to be difficult to get people in state government to change course based on feedback from physicians,” he said. “It would seem to me it’s unconstitutional for the state to interfere with the right of two individuals to enter into a private financial arrangement.”
The Green Mountain Care Board has not exercised the authority to regulate provider rates. Board Chair Anya Rader Wallack said the board is cautiously moving forward with this power and is first researching variations in the marketplace.
Wallack did say, however, that it is a crucial tool for controlling health care costs.
“I think it’s going to be a very important mechanism for us and the state in the long run to make health care pricing more transparent and more understandable and reasonable across providers, and to me that’s a really central goal of the law,” she said. “I think it would be a mistake to do away with it. Our approach to this has been cautious and to remain that way, but the underlying authority to address what is now a totally irrational system is important.”
Wallack, who had a large hand in crafting Act 48, also supports the provision that limits providers from billing Vermonters for additional amounts under Green Mountain Care. The idea, she said, is to ensure that providers don’t rip off Vermonters.
Subject: Reporting back: Preventing gun violence Day of Action
Date: April 3, 2013 12:50:17 PM EDT
Organizing for Action
If Thursday was any indication, the NRA and the rest of the gun lobby better watch out: Last week's Day to Demand Action to prevent gun violence showed just how much support there is for common-sense legislation like universal background checks.
Here's a quick report back:
-- Grassroots volunteers held more than 130 events across the country with thousands in attendance, from Tucson to West Palm Beach to Portsmouth.
-- Supporters who couldn't make it spoke out online: The hashtag #DemandAction was the #1 trending topic nationally on Twitter, and our top Facebook post received more than 116,000 likes and 23,000 shares on Thursday alone.
-- Our volunteer-led events received local and national media coverage on news outlets across the country, including CNN, Fox News, and hundreds of local ABC, NBC, and CBS affiliates.
Members of Congress were back in their home districts last week, and I guarantee they heard our voices.
Whether they do the right thing and pass legislation 92 percent of Americans support -- or cave to the powerful gun lobby -- depends on what we do next.
Add your name to the hundreds of thousands of Americans and OFA supporters demanding action to prevent gun violence:
Contributions or gifts to Organizing for Action are not tax deductible.
This email was sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org. If that is not your preferred email address, you can update your information here. We believe that emails are a vital way to stay in direct contact with supporters. Click here if you'd like to unsubscribe from these messages. Organizing for Action, P.O. Box 66732 Washington, D.C. 20035
Begin forwarded message:
From: "Allen, Susan" <Susan.Allen@state.vt.us>
Subject: MEDIA CLIPS FOR WEDNESDAY, APRIL 3:
Date: April 3, 2013 6:29:46 AM EDT
To: "Allen, Susan" <Susan.Allen@state.vt.us>
BRATTLEBORO REFORMER (CON’T):
Law enforcement, courts cope with lack of beds for state’s mentally ill By BOB AUDETTE Reformer Staff
BRATTLEBORO — The condition of mental health care in Vermont, especially since Tropical Storm Irene forced the closure of the Vermont State Hospital in Waterbury in August 2011, has many law enforcement officials concerned, especially considering police officers, sheriff’s deputies and state troopers are often the first responders on scene during a mental health crisis.
“We have seen an increase in dealing with people with mental health issues,” said Capt. Ray Keefe, commander of Troop D of the Vermont State Police, with barracks in Brattleboro, Rockingham and Royalton.
Part of that is due to the fact that over the past 20 years, law enforcement has come to recognize that many of the crimes they investigate have a root cause in mental health, he said. Two decades ago it was strictly considered a legal matter, but with more accurate diagnoses, officers understand lawbreakers sometimes need mental health assistance more than they need to be sent to jail.
“We are better trained today,” said Keefe. “And the minute we realize we are dealing with someone who has a mental health issue, our first call is to Health Care and Rehabilitation Services.”
HCRS is one of the state’s “designated agencies” that serves the “catchment” of Windsor and Windham counties. It serves almost 5,000 people a year through its five major service programs: Adult Outpatient; Children’s Division; Community Rehabilitation and Treatment, Developmental Services; and Windham/ Windsor Recovery Assistance Program. HCRS also supplies what are called qualified mental health professionals who are part of a screening team poised to react when a need presents itself, such as in a hospital emergency room or other community service provider.
In Brattleboro, the police department often escorts people experiencing a mental health crisis to the emergency department of Brattleboro Memorial Hospital.
“These are the same things we have been dealing with for the last 25 years,” said Gene Wrinn, Brattleboro’s chief of police. “It’s different people with the same issues.”
Through HCRS, the Brattleboro Police Department has a social worker on staff to assist officers in difficult situations such as these. But, said Wrinn, the police have an immediate responsibility when responding to someone in a mental health crisis.
“We need to stop the behavior and protect the person and the public.”
When a person in need of inpatient care ends up in an emergency room because there is no bed at a psychiatric facility, the wait time can be anywhere from 24 hours to several days. In those cases, the sheriff’s department is called in for security.
“From time to time, facilities ask the sheriffs to provide a secure environment so a patient doesn’t hurt him or herself or others,” said Windham County Sheriff Keith Clark, who is the president of the Vermont Sheriff’s Association.
He said the lack of secure hospital beds for those with acute mental illness is “absolutely challenging” for law enforcement officials in Vermont.
“When we are watching people at an ER, it is not therapeutic and not for the benefit of the patient,” said Clark. “It puts our deputies in a difficult position of balancing who they are there to protect — the staff, the patient or the public.”
“We initially start on the premise that we have the need for two,” he said. “If the person starts taking medications or if we don’t see any activity that makes us worry about safety, we will go down to one deputy.”
Vermont’s sheriff’s departments are reimbursed by the state for the security they provide while a patient is waiting for a bed in a secure facility.
The sheriff’s association has been in discussions with the Legislature and the Department of Mental Health on how the problem can be resolved.
“These people are patients. They are not prisoners,” said Clark. “They need treatment and we should be a therapeutic part of that process and not just armed guards watching over them.”
The state of Vermont’s mental health care system has also raised concerns in the judicial system. During an open records request hearing in Windham Superior Court on Feb. 22, Judge John P. Wesley said the lack of hospital beds has also affected the state’s courts.
“This has created issues for this court and other judges all over the state,” he said. “With respect to instances where requests for involuntary treatment come in ... significant periods of time lapse when we learn about those requests for involuntary treatment.”
The Reformer had requested the hearing after a records request was denied. Those records had to do with an involuntary commitment hearing, in which the subject of the hearing was accused of making threats that resulted in precautionary security measures at area schools.
That patient was held at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital for six days under 24-hour guard by sheriff’s deputies until a bed was found for him at the Brattleboro Retreat. The man was held at the Retreat from Jan. 8 to Jan. 25, when Wesley released him following the hearing.
During the Feb. 22 records request hearing, Wesley said he felt releasing the records was crucial in the discussion about how to resolve the lack of beds issue in Vermont.
“It legitimately deserves some scrutiny on our decisionmaking in the state on how we are proceeding with the difficult dilemma of mental illness in our community and discriminating against those who need involuntary treatment,” he said.
Though Wesley released the documents to the media, the transcript of the Jan. 25 hearing remains confidential pending a decision by the Vermont Supreme Court after Wesley’s ruling was appealed by the Mental Health Law Project.
Vermont legislation targets distracted driving By DAVE GRAM Associated Press
MONTPELIER — Motorists who text while driving could pay a stiffer penalty, while the use of a cellphone could be banned in highway construction zones, under bills presented to Vermont House committees Tuesday.
Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn, the top law enforcement officer in Gov. Peter Shumlin’s administration, said he was especially eager to see passage of a ban on electronic distractions in construction zones, at the least cellphones.
“In work zones, I think it’s a really good idea,” Flynn said, adding that sections of road lined with orange barrels, construction machinery, lane changes and helmeted workers present challenges for drivers that should prompt them to put down the cellphone.
Bills under consideration before the House Judiciary and Transportation committees would ban the devices in work zones and would increase the penalties for texting while driving from a $100 fine to $250. Fines on the second and later offenses would rise from $250 to $500. Texting is defined as composing or sending text messages, instant messages and emails.
Motor Vehicles Commissioner Robert Ide said the governor takes a libertarian view in opposing most restrictions on the use of electronic devices in cars. But because of increased hazards in construction zones, Ide said, “the governor’s position moves from opposed to neutral.”
“He thinks that it is difficult to legislate intelligence or stupidity,” Ide said in explaining Shumlin’s views. “He thinks it is frequently a bad idea to use those devices, but he thinks it is the operator of that vehicle who should be in control of that decision.”
Ide argued that the texting ban, which was passed in 2010, should be given more time to work before making any changes to the penalties.
“We just don’t think there’s adequate proof to make a change at this point,” he said.
Rep. William Lippert, D-Hinesburg and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said two straw polls of committee members Tuesday showed support for a ban on hand-held electronic devices while driving, as well as a bill allowing “primary enforcement” of Vermont’s seat belt requirement.
For drivers over 18, Vermont currently uses secondary enforcement on seat belts, meaning that a person can be ticketed for not wearing a seat belt if the officer pulls them over first for something else.