POLITICS (National, State/New York): Fracking, New York, statewide ban, economic impact, "southern tier": "In New York state, fracking ban fuels secession talk" ....  

* Los Angeles Times:  "In New York state, fracking ban fuels secession talk" - From the LAT:

From this village of dairy farms and friendly diners, Carolyn Price can see across the border into Pennsylvania, and it is a bittersweet view. The rolling hills a few miles away are as green as the ones here, and the Susquehanna River is icy and beautiful on both sides of the state line as it meanders toward the Atlantic. Price sees something else, though: towns brimming with money extracted from the gas-rich Marcellus Shale, where the high-pressure drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has spurred an economic boom.

It is a different story here on the New York side, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo in December declared a statewide ban on fracking — one of only two in the country — saying he was not convinced it is safe.

The national debate over fracking, which critics say can pollute groundwater and endanger public health, heated up last week when the Obama administration announced the first-ever federal regulations on the practice. But nowhere is fracking as heated an issue as in the stretch of New York known as the southern tier, where Cuomo's ban has spurred talk of secession.

Political leaders like Price, Windsor's town supervisor, say secession is not such a farfetched idea, and they are gathering feedback from constituents to see whether there is support for a breakaway movement


Windsor is one of about 15 towns in New York's southern tier where secession is being eyed, if not as an attainable goal than as a radical proposal aimed at grabbing state lawmakers' attention and forcing them to take notice of the region's desperation ...................


POLITICS (State, Local/Bay Area): California Public Utilities Commission, PG&E, San Bruno explosion, use of funds intended for pipeline safety?: "Funds for safety went to utility execs' pay instead, PUC president says" ....:, 

* Los Angeles Times:  "Funds for safety went to utility execs' pay instead, PUC president says" - From the LAT:

Money collected from ratepayers and earmarked for pipeline safety was instead spent on executive pay raises by the state's largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric Co., in the months before a deadly pipeline explosion in 2010, lawmakers were told Wednesday. “In some cases, the utility did divert dollars we approved for safety purposes for executive compensation,” the new president of the Public Utilities Commission complained to members of the state Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee at an oversight hearing.

After the two-hour hearing, Michael Picker told The Times that he's gathering additional documentation that PG&E put off safety and maintenance work to boost its profits and provide top executives with bonuses. “This is one of my outstanding beefs,” he said.

The issue of the bonuses first was raised in a January 2012 independent audit for the PUC and an accompanying commission staff report. But Picker's testimony “was the first time that I ever heard a PUC official admit that or state that as a fact,” said state Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo). Hill represents the Bay Area community of San Bruno, where the PG&E pipeline blast killed eight people, injured 66 others and destroyed 38 homes....................


POLITICS/BUSINESS: Herbalife, public relations/marketing campaign: "Herbalife fights critics with TV ads, downtown L.A. rally" ....

* Los Angeles Times:  "Herbalife fights critics with TV ads, downtown L.A. rally" - From the LAT:

Amid relentless attacks on its business model, Los Angeles nutritional products company Herbalife Ltd. is firing back at its critics with its first Southern California television advertisements in more than a decade. With a big rally in downtown Los Angeles, the company kicked off a massive public relations campaign that portrays its products as effective in helping users lose weight and stay fit. 

Herbalife has traditionally shied away from expensive television advertising, instead relying on its independent salespeople to spread the word about its weight-loss and nutrition products through personal contacts. But the company has decided to change its strategy as activist investor Bill Ackman continued his two-year, highly public attack on the company's business practices.

Ackman has contended that Herbalife operates a pyramid scheme that victimizes its predominantly poor and minority independent salespeople. He said he shorted Herbalife's stock by more than $1 billion, betting that its value would fall when regulators took action. The company has vehemently denied those allegations, and it's now taking the offensive with a marketing campaign that will air on cable and network television, radio and the Internet and in newspapers. 

The ads were scheduled to begin airing in Los Angeles and Miami on Wednesday, the same day that hundreds of Herbalife distributors rallied in downtown Los Angeles in support of the company. "This is all part of a larger effort on our part to make sure people know what we're about and what we mean to the community," said Alan Hoffman, executive vice president of global corporate affairs for Herbalife.


Marketing experts said the campaign sounds effective and overdue ...................


L.A. CITY HALL: Proposed legislation, AB 428, tax breaks to building owners, earthquake retrofitting: "Garcetti says state should give tax breaks for quake retrofits" ....

* Los Angeles Times:  "Garcetti says state should give tax breaks for quake retrofits" - From the LAT:

Flanked by property owner and tenants' rights advocates, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti urged state lawmakers Wednesday to support a bill that would give owners a 30% tax break off the cost of seismically retrofitting vulnerable buildings. “We as a city cannot do this alone,” Garcetti told reporters at a news conference Wednesday on the steps of Van Nuys City Hall. “This is a common-sense bill that will set forward a pathway to help building owners, to help landlords and tenants alike, to create a safer and a greater Golden State.”

The bill, introduced by Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian (D-Sherman Oaks), would help owners and tenants with the cost of retrofits. Garcetti has proposed new laws that would require seismic retrofits of wooden apartment buildings within five years and concrete buildings within 30 years in Los Angeles.


A similar bill to implement tax breaks for seismic retrofits, AB 1510, was unanimously approved by the Assembly’s revenue and taxation committee last May but was never voted on by the appropriations committee. But support has grown for the idea this year, now with the public backing of Garcetti and a number of business and tenant groups ...................


LOCAL GOVERNMENT/AVIATION (Santa Monica): Santa Monica City Council, Santa Monica Airport: "Santa Monica City Council revises lease terms for airport tenants" ....

* Los Angeles Times:  "Santa Monica City Council revises lease terms for airport tenants" - From the LAT:

In the wake of actor Harrison Ford's crash landing near Santa Monica Airport this month, the Santa Monica City Council on Tuesday established new leasing policies for tenants of its embattled airport, but declined to discuss exhaust limits that were recommended for jet aircraft. The council, which has been planning to scale back and eventually close the airport, unanimously approved limits on the length of leases for various parts of the facility.

The Museum of Flying, Atlantic Aviation and two non-aviation tenants, VW-Audi and the Milstein law firm, will be able to negotiate three-year leases at market rates. Those establishments are located on property covered by federal agreements designed to preserve the airport indefinitely unless the U.S. government approves a different land use. City officials say lawsuits to contest those agreements could take years to resolve.

Tenants on the western portion of the airfield, such as Krueger Aviation, will be allowed to rent on a month-to-month basis also at market rates. The city contends it could gain control of that land soon, giving it the opportunity to eliminate aviation uses and shorten the runway so it could not be used by jets.

Council members decided that longer leases could be negotiated for cultural uses on land in the southwest portion of the airport that is not restricted to aviation uses. They also wanted at least some of the non-aviation land to be turned into a park or other recreational facility within three years. Such a move could eliminate hundreds of tie-down spaces for planes.

The council, however, did not address a recent recommendation by the Santa Monica Airport Commission to ban jets that emit high levels of exhaust. City Atty. Marsha Moutrie advised the council against such a restriction, saying the federal government is responsible for setting emission standards for jet aircraft ...........................