BLM issues amendment for Ruby Pipeline Project

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BLM NEWS RELEASE

The U. S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) signed a decision amending the right-of-way grant (ROW) and plan of development for the Ruby Pipeline Project on Dec. 7.  The changes are in consideration of agency comments and with the concurrence of the U.S. Fremont Winema National Forests.  The changes include construction of four above ground cathode sites to control pipeline corrosion and 15 small roads to main line valves.  The four above ground cathode sites and 15 small roads are in Utah, Nevada, and Oregon.

 

The pipeline project includes an approximately 678 mile, 42-inch interstate natural gas pipeline that crosses 368 miles of Federal land beginning near Opal, Wyoming, extends through northern Utah and northern Nevada, and terminates near Malin, Oregon.

 

The Ruby Project was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission April 5, 2010 and the ROW grant and plan of development were approved by a Record of Decision issued by the BLM on July 12, 2010.  Potential effects of the pipeline were analyzed in an Environmental Impact Statement, released in January 2010.  The BLM issued multiple Notices to Proceed for each segment after Ruby demonstrated that all conditions and stipulations had been met for a given segment.

The pipeline went into service on July 28, 2011. Construction restoration, stabilization, and final clean-up are not expected to be completed until later in 2012.  The FERC and the BLM will continue to closely monitor and evaluate restoration progress along the entire pipeline ROW for several years.

Copies of the decision, as well as the original Record of Decision, are available on the on the Internet at: http://www.blm.gov/nv/st/en/info/nepa/ruby_pipeline_project.html.

 

Questions about the Cathodes and Roads Decision may be directed to: Mark Mackiewicz, BLM National Project Manager, c/o125 South 600 West, Price, UT 84501.

Reid meets with Nevada Alliance for Arts Education president

Sen. Harry Reid meets with Jill Berryman, president of the Nevada Alliance for Arts Education, in his Washington, DC office.

HARRY REID NEWS RELEASE

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sen. Harry Reid last week met with Jill Berryman, president of the Nevada Alliance for Arts Education, to discuss support for the arts in the Silver State. Berryman was one of several representatives of the Western State Arts Federation to meet with Reid.

“I was pleased to meet with the Western State Arts Federation to discuss the importance of arts in Nevada,” Reid said. “I will continue to support the good work that organizations like the Nevada Alliance for the Arts Education do to promote the arts in Nevada.”

Western States Art Federation

The Western States Art Federation is a regional nonprofit dedicated to the advancement and preservation of the arts. It is located in Denver and conducts research on the benefits of the arts in our schools and communities. WESTAF serves the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

Campaign to Cut Waste: Biden announces halt in production of excess dollar coins, Department of Justice recovers record $5.6 billion in fraud in 2011

WHITE HOUSE NEWS RELEASE

As part of the Obama administration’s Campaign to Cut Waste, Vice President Joe Biden today announced the U.S. Mint would suspend the production of presidential dollar coins for circulation. Today, nearly 1.4 billion surplus dollar coins are sitting in Federal Reserve vaults due to lack of demand for the coins. By halting this unnecessary production, the administration will save taxpayers at least $50 million per year in production and storage costs.

The vice president made today’s announcement at a Cabinet meeting focused on the president’s commitment to cut waste and eliminate misspent dollars across the federal government.

The vice president also announced significant progress in cracking down on fraud, including that the Department of Justice recovered more than $5.6 billion in fraud government-wide in 2011, a 167 percent increase in recovery from 2008 and a new record, and that the Department of Health and Human Services will prevent Medicare fraud by telling prescription drug plans to withhold payment when they see signs of suspicious activity related to OxyContin, Percocet and other narcotics and painkillers.

Biden said, “Today’s announcements, from putting an end to the wasteful production of presidential dollar coins to recovering over $5 billion in fraud, demonstrate the administration’s continued commitment to cutting waste and protecting taxpayers.”

Halting production of excess dollar coins
The vice president and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner announced the administration’s plan to stop the wasteful production of $1 coins for circulation. In 2005, Congress enacted the Presidential $1 Coin Act, which mandated that the United States Mint issue new presidential $1 coins with the likeness of every deceased president. But more than 40 percent of the $1 coins that the United States Mint has issued have been returned to the Federal Reserve because nobody wants to use them.

As a result, nearly 1.4 billion excess dollar coins are already sitting unused in Federal Reserve Bank vaults – enough to meet demand for more than a decade. But until today, the mint was on pace to produce an additional 1.6 billion dollar coins through 2016.

To put a stop to this waste the administration will halt the production of presidential $1 coins for circulation. The administration will still be required, by law, to continue to produce a relatively small number of the coins to be sold to collectors, at no cost to taxpayers. Instead of producing 70-80 million coins per president, the United States Mint will now only produce as many as collectors want. Regular circulating demand for $1 coins will be met through the Federal Reserve Banks’ existing inventory, which will be drawn down over time. Overall, this step will save at least $50 million annually over the next several years.

“At the Treasury Department, we’re continuing to work hard in support of President Obama and Vice President Biden’s efforts to cut waste and streamline government,” said Geithner. “Putting a stop to the minting of surplus $1 coins represents a significant opportunity to reduce costs and improve efficiency. In these tough times, Americans are making every dollar count, and they deserve the same from their government. We simply shouldn’t be wasting taxpayer money on money that taxpayers aren’t using.”

Cracking down on fraud
At the meeting, the vice president and the deputy attorney general announced the Department of Justice recovered over $5.6 billion in total fraud in 2011, an increase of over 167 percent since 2008. This includes almost $3.4 billion in civil fraud and over $2.2 billion in criminal fraud.

For example, a company called American Grocers was buying expired (and, therefore, deeply discounted) food, altering the dates on the food, and selling the food at a steep markup to the government to serve to American troops serving in Iraq. The owner of the company was sentenced to 24 months in prison, and the Department of Justice reached a $15 million settlement with the company.

Of the $5.6 billion recovered by DOJ in 2011, over $2.9 billion was in health care fraud alone. This was driven in part by unprecedented cooperation between the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services to detect and halt fraud earlier.

Specifically, the Obama administration has greatly expanded the use of Medicare fraud strike Forces, specialized teams of agents and prosecutors who focus on catching health care fraud. The teams monitor Medicare data in real time and work together to prosecute fraud much more quickly than before. It now often takes months, not years, to bring a case to resolution.

At the start of the administration, there were two Strike Force teams. Now, there are strike force teams in nine different cities. And they have been effective: In 2008, they brought cases involving $384 million in fraudulent claims. This year, they brought cases involving over $1 billion in fraudulent claims. For every dollar spent on this effort, the administration has recovered seven dollars.

The Department of Justice has also recovered $15 billion in total fraud since 2009. Some of this money has gone back to states or whistleblowers, or into strengthening important programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Other funds have been returned to the Treasury for deficit reduction. Of the $15 billion recovered since 2009, $8.4 billion was in health care fraud alone.

The Department of Justice also announced it doubled fraud recoveries between 2008 and 2011 in 21 states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands. This includes Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin, as well as the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands. In fact, 15 of these states quadrupled recoveries and 19 of these tripled recoveries.

This increase in recovering fraud comes as the administration is decreasing the amount of fraud that occurs in the first place. Government-wide improper payment rates – which include fraudulent payments and other types of errors – were cut by 11 percent this year, keeping $18 billion in taxpayer funds from going to the wrong people or for the wrong purposes.

“All across the country, the Department of Justice continues to move aggressively to protect the American people from fraud. In this past fiscal year, we recovered more money from fraudsters than ever before, over $5.6 billion,” said Deputy Attorney General James Cole. “These efforts not only send the message that those who commit fraud will be held to account, they also result in more dollars in the national treasury and demonstrate a high rate of return on the American taxpayers’ investment in the Justice Department.”

New steps to prevent fraud with OxyContin, Percocet and other prescription drugs
As a next step in an aggressive campaign to crack down on Medicare fraud, the Department of Health and Human Services will direct all Medicare prescription drug plans to use every tool at their disposal to prevent fraud. Patients sometimes “doctor shop,” visiting numerous doctors to get multiple prescriptions for OxyContin, Percocet and other painkillers and narcotics. In some cases, these medicines are abused by the patients. In others, patients sell the extra drugs.

OxyContin and Percocet abuse, prescription drug fraud and so-called “doctor shopping” are major problems. The Government Accountability Office recently reported that “170,000 Medicare beneficiaries received prescriptions from five or more” doctors for drugs that are frequently abused, like OxyContin and Percocet.

While not all of these cases are fraudulent, some are. In 2008, for example, one Medicare beneficiary “received prescriptions for a total of 3,655 oxycodone pills [such as OxyContin]…from 58 different prescribers.”

Today, HHS announced they have urged insurance companies to take every step possible to prevent such fraud. Specifically, HHS’ guidance tells prescription drug plans to withhold payment on suspicious claims, including when enrollees use multiple doctors to obtain painkillers and narcotics. Companies that offer prescription drug plans already process each of a patient’s prescriptions. While HHS generally requires prompt payment, today’s guidance clarifies that if a plan sees signs of suspicious activity, it should withhold payment to pharmacies until it verifies the claim is valid.

This guidance to prescription drug plans also explains how plans can use tools like prior authorization, retrospective medical review and prescribing for less than 30 days (with the cooperation of prescribing practitioners) to root out fraud and ensure appropriate coverage in Medicare.

“Prescription drug misuse has a serious human and financial cost,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “The Obama administration is making unprecedented strides in cracking down on fraud that contributes to this problem while costing taxpayers dollars. With these actions, we are going to continue to stop fraud before it happens and make sure that those who do defraud taxpayers are held accountable.”

Funding Available for USDA Sage-Grouse Conservation Initiative

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Dec. 12 — The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service is offering financial incentives to farmers and ranchers willing to protect sage-grouse habitat.  Bruce Petersen, Nevada State Conservationist, said applications must be submitted by Jan. 13 for the first ranking period.

“The Sage-Grouse Initiative helps ranchers and farmers be proactive in keeping the bird from being listed under the Endangered Species Act and reducing the potential for future regulations to protect the species,” said Petersen.The Sage grouse Initiative helps producers install conservation practices that enhance sage grouse habitat such as brush management, range seeding, water developments, prescribed grazing and fencing. Payments are based on 75 percent of the estimated cost of establishing the practices. Beginning, limited resource and socially disadvantaged producers may be eligible for up to 90 percent of the estimated costs.  Funding is being offered through the 2008 Farm Bill’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP).

Private and public lands can be enrolled under EQIP, with a $300,000 payment limit for the program through the period of the 2008 Farm Bill.  WHIP allows for installation of practices on private and tribal lands and has a $50,000 annual payment limit.  Applicants must meet all USDA program eligibility criteria to participate in Farm Bill conservation programs.

 Producers may apply at any time for SGI funding but applications must be received by Jan. 13 to be considered in the first ranking period for fiscal year 2012 funding.  Depending on the availability of funds, additional applications will be ranked on March 30 and June 1.

For complete details or to apply for funding, contact your local NRCS office or go online tohttp://www.nv.nrcs.usda.gov.

Sign Up Announced for Energy Conservation, High Tunnels and Organic Practices

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RENO, Dec. 13 — The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service is announcing three special initiatives for conservation funding.  Bruce Petersen, Nevada state conservationist, announced that the Organic, On-Farm Energy and Seasonal High Tunnel Initiatives are being offered through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program of the 2008 Farm Bill.  Interested producers must sign up by Feb. 3 to be considered in the first batching and ranking period.

 

Organic Initiative

Certified organic producers and those producers who are considering a transition to organic production methods are encouraged to participate in the Organic Initiative.  Participants are eligible for up to $20,000 in annual payments not to exceed $80,000 payment limit over a 6-year period.

Certified organic producers must provide a copy of their Organic System Plan (OSP) and organic certification must be maintained for the life of the contract.  Producers transitioning to organic production must self certify that they agree to develop and implement an OSP and provide contact information of the applicant’s USDA accredited organic certifying agent before an EQIP contract can be approved.  Organic producers selling less than $5,000 per year in organic agricultural products are exempt from the organic certification but are still eligible for the EQIP Organic Initiative.  Funding is also available for applicants to develop Conservation Activity Plans provided by a registered third party technical service provider.

On-Farm Energy Initiative

The On-Farm Energy Initiative helps producers install energy conserving practices such as residue/tillage management, irrigation water management, pumping plants, windbreaks or shelterbelts, and farmstead energy improvements.  Producers must provide proof of operational energy savings for conservation measures to be installed.  Receipts, invoices or records of historical energy consumption will be used to determine the potential benefits of the new, proposed practices during the ranking process.  For energy measures installed on headquarters and agricultural buildings, producers work with technical service providers to develop an Ag Energy Management Plan. Funding to implement theAgEMP is also available through this initiative.

Seasonal High Tunnels

Under the Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative, participants may install high tunnels that total up to 2,178 square feet in size.  Payments are based on the size of the high tunnel being planned and installed.

For these initiatives, if funds are still available after the first ranking period, subsequent ranking and batching deadlines will be March 30 and June 1, 2012.  Producers must meet all USDA program eligibility criteria to participate.

For complete details and to apply for funding, contact your local NRCS office.

Division of Forestry will reseed Ray May and Holbrook fires’ private lands next month

By Gail Durham, Nevada Division of Forestry

The Nevada Division of Forestry, Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources, will be using federal grant funds to aerially reseed next month approximately 1,020 acres of private land that burned in the Ray May and Holbrook fires in southern Douglas County.

The aerial seeding is planned for January 3-5, 2012 if the weather is favorable.   About 30,000 pounds of seed will be applied to burned lands.  The funds are provided to do fuel reduction on private forestlands in southern Douglas County, and although the fire burned all vegetation on those lands, the concern now is widespread establishment of cheatgrass.   Cheatgrass is found in many of Nevada’s native vegetative communities now and reproduces large amounts of seed each year to re-establish itself.  Normally the native perennial plants keep it in check by utilizing the available moisture through their extensive established root system, but after a fire it establishes rapidly to quickly utilize the available nitrogen and moisture in the soil.  This competitive advantage makes it difficult for other grasses, shrubs and flowers to establish.

The project will focus on seeding competitive grasses, shrubs and flowers that will hopefully outcompete cheatgrass and provide long term plant establishment to prevent cheatgrass dominance.   Winter and spring moisture is critical for seeding success.   An added benefit of this seeding will be to provide erosion control to the burned hillsides.

The Nevada Department of Wildlife is providing funding to include sagebrush seed in the mix on all public and private lands in the Ray May fire.  This will help to re-establish the native sagebrush habitat for the bi-state population of sagegrouse.

Sandoval appoints Kacin and Porter to court vacancies

GOVERNOR’S OFFICE NEWS RELEASE

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval announced today he has appointed Nancy Porter and Alvin Kacin to fill the judicial vacancies in the 4th Judicial District Court.

“Nancy’s breadth of experience, her commitment and desire to serve in a public capacity and her individual strengths – confidence, respectfulness and unflappability – will provide the foundation for a successful judgeship,” Sandoval said. “Al’s experience, upbringing and the mechanisms he has imposed as a judge to make his court more efficient in the service of the people, including new forms to dispense with the need for certain hearings, will serve him well in the District Court,” Sandoval added.

Porter, an Elko native, is currently a solo practitioner. A member of a family with a long history in Elko County, she has worked mainly in the areas of criminal law, family law, civil litigation, wills and probate. A graduate of Willamette University College of Law, Porter also holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Nevada, Reno.

Admitted to the Nevada bar in 1989, Porter has practiced in the Second, Fourth, Sixth and Seventh Judicial District Courts, as well as the Nevada Supreme Court and several justice courts in the past five years. In addition to her practice of law, Porter has served as a mediator on a number of occasions, usually mediating disputes at the request of local attorneys, and she has handled a number of pro bono cases.

During the last five years, Kacin has served as Elko Township Justice of the Peace. He was appointed to be Elko Municipal Judge in 2007. A graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, Kacin attended Gonzaga University School of Law and was awarded his juris doctor degree in 1994.

Admitted to the Nevada bar in 1995, Kacin has previously served as an Elko County Deputy District Attorney, where he prosecuted felony, gross misdemeanor and misdemeanor criminal cases. During his last five years with the Elko County District Attorney, Kacin tried close to twenty jury trials to conclusion and more than 100 non-jury trials to decision.

Following law school, Kacin clerked for the Judge Dan Papez of the Seventh Judicial District Court. From 1995 to 1997, he worked with the firm of Puccinelli & Puccinelli, handling civil and criminal litigation matters.

Prescribed fire operations begin on West Shore

U.S. Forest Service fuels management crews are scheduled to begin prescribed fire operations in the Tahoe City area tomorrow December 13, 2011.  Operations may continue through the week.

Residents and visitors can expect to see smoke from the prescribed fire project area.  The Forest Service strives to minimize the impacts of smoke on local communities.  Smoke-sensitive residents should consider staying indoors and keeping doors, windows and outside vents closed.   To directly receive prescribed fire updates, send an email to pa_ltbmu@fs.fed.us.  Forest Service staff will post road signs around areas affected by prescribed fire, and update the local fire information line at (530) 543-2600, #6.   Other federal, state and local fire management agencies may also be conducting prescribed fire work during this period.

For more information, visit our website at http://www.fs.usda.gov/ltbmu.  To learn more about the efforts to reduce catastrophic wildfire risks in the Tahoe Basin read the Lake Tahoe Basin Multi-jurisdictional Fuel Reduction Plan found at http://fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fsm9_045864.pdf.

Take a few moments to visit an excellent web site and learn about Prescribed Fire vs. Wildfire at:http://www.smokeybear.com/prescribed-fires.asp.

 

Fire season contracting opportunities announced

USFS NEWS RELEASE

The Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest reminds interested fire season contractors of the present Department of Agriculture/Forest Service solicitations for fuel tenders, potable water trucks, gray water trucks, and trailer-mounted hand washing stations.

 

These solicitations were issued on November 14, 2011, and offers are due on February 15, 2012.  Learn more about the process by visiting the following website:

 

https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&tab=list&mode=list&clear_search=1.

 

Key word searches on the internet include: VIPR, potable, gray water, fuel tender, and trailer-mounted hand washing stations.

 

All solicitation questions may be directed to Kimberly Luft, Forest Service Contracting Officer, at 303-275-5405.  Luft’s email is kluft@fs.fed.us

 

Additional assistance is available at little or no costs through the Procurement Technical Assistance Program (PTAP) at the following website:  http://www.aptac-us.org/new/.

 

The above program was created by Congress to specifically help businesses successfully compete in federal, state, and local contracting.  Maria Boshch is the Las Vegas contact, Kathy Agree-Dow is the contact for the rest of Nevada, and the above website lists several contacts for California.

Another resource is the Small Business Administration (SBA); the SBA offers a variety of information on small business loans, grants, bonds, and other financial assistance.  Their website is: http://www.sba.gov/about-offices-content/2/3133.

 

Nevada (except Las Vegas) Judith Hepburn

David Leonard

775-827-4923

775-827-4923

Estrad.hepburn@sba.gov

david.leonard@sba.gov

Nevada (Las Vegas area) Marsha Daigle 702-388-6611 marsha.daigle@sba.gov
California (Fresno Area Office) Lori Lesher

Pete Estrada

559-487-5791, ext. 2704

559-487-5791, ext. 2703

lori.lesher@sba.gov

peter.estrada@sba.gov

BLM defers parcels due to sage grouse concerns for oil, gas lease sale

BLM NEWS RELEASE

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Nevada is holding a competitive oil and gas lease sale on Tuesday, Dec. 13.  The sale room opens at 8 a.m. for registration and bidding numbers and the sale begins at 9 a.m. The sale will be held at BLM State Office, 1340 Financial Blvd., in Reno.

 

At the request of the Nevada Department of Wildlife, 14 parcels are deferred and nine parcels are partially deferred because those areas are within sage-grouse population management units where there is insufficient data available to determine potential impacts to sage-grouse habitat.  Accordingly, an amendment to the sales notice reduces the number of parcels from 151 to 137 and reduces the number of acres from 333,816 to 293,057 acres.  The parcels offered are located around the state: five in the Carson City District; 13 in the Winnemucca District; and 119 in the Battle Mountain District.

 

The notice, a parcel list, associated stipulations, and amendment are available in the Information Access Center at the BLM Nevada State Office at 1340 Financial Blvd., and online at the BLM Nevada website at: www.blm.gov/nv.  The website also provides a Geographic Information System shapefile of the parcels.

 

Annual rental for an oil and gas lease is $1.50 per acre for the first five years, and $2 per acre for any subsequent year.  Additional environmental analysis would need to be conducted to receive an application for permit to drill.