Criminal Defense

Three charged with killing Worcester man whose body was found under RI deck  #CriminalDefense

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A grand jury indicted three people on charges that they beat and murdered a Worcester man, then buried his body in concrete beneath a newly constructed deck in Burrillville, according to Attorney General Peter Kilmartin.
A Providence County grand jury handed up indictments against Steven Pietrowicz, 39, and Michelle Morin, 40, of Burrillville, and Corey Bickhardt, 34, of Sciota, Pennsylvania, with one count each of conspiracy, one count of murder, two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon, and one count of failing to report a death in the murder of Domingo Ortiz, 60, of Worcester.
Denise Walker, 39, of Nazareth, Pennsylvania, was indicted on one count of failing to report a death, according to an Oct. 1 indictment report released Tuesday.
Prosecutors allege that the three suspected murderers conspired to kill Mr. Ortiz at a gathering at the 505 Douglas Pike, Burrillville, residence of Mr. Pietrowicz and Ms. Morin on May 6. Ortiz had been missing since May 5 and was believed to be visiting the residents of 505 Douglas Pike.
The alleged killers assaulted Mr. Ortiz with a bat before he died, according to the indictment.
Police uncovered Mr. Ortiz’s body in a shallow grave under freshly poured concrete on the south side of the Douglas Pike house on May 29. Mr. Pietrowicz and Ms. Morin were arrested shortly after, but the charges against the Pennsylvania pair are new.
It was not immediately clear how the people involved knew each other or Mr. Ortiz. Mr. Pietrowicz and Ms. Morin were dating, but prosecutors are “unaware” of the extent of the relationship between Mr. Bickhardt and Ms. Walker, according to Amy Kempe, a spokeswoman for Mr. Kilmartin’s office.
An inspection of Pennsylvania court dockets shows Mr. Bickhardt has had numerous encounters with law enforcement, starting with a number of traffic violations from 2006 to 2011 – mostly driving with a suspended or revoked license.
He faced drug charges in 2013; in 2014, burglary and theft and criminal trespass charges, and criminal trespass charges and again in 2015, criminal trespass.
Both Ms. Walker and Mr. Bickhardt were charged in May after $2,951 in stolen U.S. savings bonds were found in the Mr. Bickhardt’s vehicle.
Mr. Pietrowicz and Ms. Morin are scheduled to be arraigned in Providence County Superior Court on Wednesday. Mr. Bickhardt is serving time in Pennsylvania on unrelated charges and Rhode Island arraignment has not been scheduled, according to the release.
Police have issued an arrest warrant for Ms. Walker.

 

 

Education Law

Dismal lead poisoning screening skews the scope of the problem: Toxic Neglect  #EducationLaw

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Over the past five years in Cuyahoga County more than 13 percent of young children screened for lead had the toxin in their blood.

That, however, is based on a very low screening rate — 20 to 30 percent of children at best.

Even in areas where children are most vulnerable to lead poisoning due to older homes, deteriorating and flaking lead-based paint, and a high proportion of low-income families or rental properties, screening rates are dismal.

The real number of kids likely to be poisoned is staggering, according to an analysis The Kirwan Institute for Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University recently completed for The Plain Dealer.

Lead poisoning likely undetected in many

In nearly 70 residential pockets in Cuyahoga County as many as one in three children younger than 6 is likely being poisoned by lead, the analysis found.

Kirwan Senior Researcher David Norris used a model created for and used by the Ohio Department of Health to estimate how many children might be lead poisoned.

Norris cautioned the estimates were conservative because only high-risk areas, identified using census tracts, where 12 percent or more of children are likely exposed to lead were considered. The high-risk status is based on a host of factors, including the age of the homes and previous lead testing results.

It’s the same information the state uses to tell parents and doctors which children should be screened for lead poisoning.

There are a number of possible reasons for the stark difference between current testing data and Kirwan’s estimates.

For example, children who are screened may have parents more aware of the dangers posed by lead. Those not screened may be less likely to see a doctor or have the time or resources to follow up with testing. Both possibilities would result in an underestimate of the number of children truly poisoned by lead.

Using only the current testing data makes the lead poisoning problem seem much smaller than it actually is, Norris said. When public health officials say that 50 percent fewer children countywide are being lead poisoned now than in 2004, for example, it’s because they are only considering the kids currently tested.

Not the kids who should be tested, Norris said.

The gap in reported lead poisoning rates and the predicted levels affected suburban areas too. Suburbs with older housing such as Fairview Park, Rocky River and Shaker Heights likely have significant numbers of lead poisoned children not being screened, according to the analysis.

In a few suburban neighborhoods, up to 10 to 20 percent of children under 6 could be poisoned.

In some urban pockets the gulf between predicted exposure and actual testing is much wider. In an area around the historic Shrine Church of St. Stanislaus in Slavic Village, as many as 40 percent of children under age 6 could be lead poisoned, the estimates showed. But it appears few of those are being caught through screening. In 2012, less than 8 percent of screened children tested positive for the toxin.

Norris said areas with the worst lead poisoning problems — Cleveland and East Cleveland in our region — are often those in the urban core with high poverty levels subject to historic redlining practices and long-term disinvestment.

“It’s a racial justice issue and it’s social justice issue,” said Norris.

Does anyone do it better?

There are two main approaches when it comes to lead screening: targeted testing and universal testing.

New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island require all children to be screened before they enter school or daycare. The same is true for the District of Columbia, where doctors must give parents certificates proving their children were tested between the ages of 1 and 2.

Parents then provide the certificates to their child’s licensed day care centers or schools when enrolling their kids in pre-kindergarten, kindergarten or first grade, the same as they do with vaccination records.

Schools in the District have an agreement to alert officials about children who haven’t been screened, said Pierre Erville, who runs the District’s Lead and Healthy Housing Division.

According to the District, the law has helped between 50 and 60 percent of children get screened by about age 2.

Ohio follows the targeted screening model, recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. In theory, it calls for testing of all children under 6 considered high risk for lead poisoning due to where they live or the age of their homes.

Printable flyers on the Ohio Department of Health web site say “TEST — IT’S OHIO LAW!” in capital letters, along with a list of more than 500 high-risk zip codes in the state, but “there is not any type of enforcement,” department spokeswoman Melanie Amato said in an email.

“We can target areas where there is low testing and follow up with the physicians to see why. We then will go and hold classes for the practice and teach them the value of lead testing. [The department] has never used enforcement on physicians,” she wrote.

Ohio children served by Medicaid are also required to be screened twice before the age of 2. But in the past seven years, only 21 percent of those children were screened through their Medicaid providers, according to health screening data reported by Ohio to the federal government.

Ohio Medicaid spokesman Sam Rossi said Medicaid is required to pay for the screenings but isn’t responsible for ensuring providers follow screening law. He said some children may have been screened at health clinics or places other than their doctor’s offices.

In Cuyahoga County there are some free screening clinics outside doctor’s offices, such as those provided by county health departments and schools, but the majority are performed in doctor’s offices and hospital clinics.

 

 

Business Law

Owners: Don’t allow Thanksgiving Day liquor sales  #BusinessLaw

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A group of package-store owners on Tuesday came out against a bill that would allow them to open their shops and make liquor sales on Thanksgiving, arguing that the business wouldn’t be worth the loss of family time.

“We have lives just like the other residents of the community, and there are so few days left in the year for any of us to have time with our families,” Massachusetts Package Stores Association Executive Director Frank Anzalotti told the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure. “We’ve always looked at Thanksgiving Day as probably the single, only family day of celebration when people have a chance to get together, and we view Thanksgiving Day as one that should remain closed so store owners have this opportunity.”

Anzalotti testified against a bill (H 190) filed by state Rep. Colleen Garry, a Dracut Democrat, that would remove Thanksgiving from the list of days when liquor stores cannot open. Thanksgiving, Memorial Day and Christmas are the three holidays when liquor stores are banned from opening under state law.

Committee co-chair Sen. Barbara L’Italien, whose district overlaps with Garry’s, said during the hearing that the representative was driven to file the bill because she represents a community along the New Hampshire border, where retailers compete with liquor stores across state lines that operate under different regulations.

In response, Anzalotti said there’s often disagreement within his organization, and that individual store owners near the New Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode Island borders might feel differently about Thanksgiving openings.

“I think if we took a poll of our entire membership, it would weigh heavily against opening,” Anzalotti said.

The owners of Kappy’s Fine Wines and Spirits in Everett, Sav-Mor Liquors in Somerville and Huntington Wine and Spirits in Boston, all members of the package-store association’s board, each told the committee they are against allowing Thanksgiving openings.

“If Kappy’s was to open on Thanksgiving, then I would have to open as well,” Sav-Mor owner Ben Weiner said. “That’s how things work in our business.”

Huntington owner Steve Rubin said Thanksgiving openings wouldn’t make financial sense. He said the week around the holiday, when the city’s college students go home to visit their families, is the slowest of the year at his store, located near Northeastern University.

 

Land Use

The U.S. dips a toe in the offshore windfarm water #LandUse

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Offshore wind farms have been creating electricity off the coast of Denmark since 1991 and England, Germany and other countries on mainland Europe have followed suit, as have China, South Korea and Japan. It’s a different story in the US, where until recently there were no offshore wind farms in operation or even under construction. That changed recently with the start of construction of a small wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island.

The 30 megawatt, 5 turbine Block Island Wind Farm project in Rhode Island is scheduled to go online next year, producing enough electricity to power 17,000 homes. It joins a list of similar US projects currently in various stages of proposal, review, and approval, mostly off the East Coast, and one recently proposed for Morro Bay off the Central Coast of California.

The largest offshore wind farm in the world is off the coast of Cumbria in the UK and can produce a claimed 367.2 MW of electricity or enough to power 322,000 homes.

The reasons for the lag by the US vary, but can roughly be attributed to the high cost of construction, changing regulations, and personal lobbying. Perhaps the best known example of the latter is billionaire Bill Koch’s fight to stop the Cape Wind project near Cape Cod, which has now been stalled.

What makes offshore wind farms attractive is that there’s always an ocean breeze. Unlike onshore wind farms where wind can be inconsistent, especially in the summer months when weather can be fairly static depending on the region. That means offshore wind farms have the potential to create more energy per turbine than their onshore counterparts. According to the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), a turbine at a site with an average wind speed of 16 mph would produce 50 percent more electricity than at a site with average wind speeds of 14 mph.

Off shore wind power has enormous potential. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates a gross wind potential of 4,223 gigawatts (GW) off the coast of the United States alone – roughly four times the generating capacity of the entire US electric grid. One GW of wind power can supply between 225,000 to 300,000 average homes in one year.

While onshore wind farms have proved viable with Iowa, for example, getting 28 percent of its energy from onshore wind farms alone, they’ve not been without their detractors. Noise pollution, the death of predatory birds like hawks and eagles, and the negative impact on the land during construction are among the issues raised by their opponents. Most of these concerns go away when it comes to offshore wind farms. The further away from shore they’re constructed, the less noise pollution is created, the fewer birds affected, and the less the environment is impacted.

But there’s a catch … at least as far as the US is concerned. The Atlantic shelf off the east coast of the U.S. is shallower than that of the Pacific. So it’s easier to anchor windmills into the Atlantic shelf floor. The Pacific Ocean shelf, on the other hand, drops off fairly quickly away from shore, so wind turbines off the West Coast of the US have to float. This is why there’s more activity on the East Coast right now, and why the recent announcement of a possible wind farm off the coast of California was considered significant.

Whether an offshore turbine is anchored or floats, it technically works the same way as it does onshore. What’s different is that offshore turbines need to be constructed to more efficiently take advantage of the steadier winds and the harsher marine environment. That means the towers are taller, the rotor diameters are longer, and an assortment of modifications to the tower and base structure need to be made to handle the forces of waves and ice flows – all of which add to the cost of construction.

Many industry experts and government officials say that the potential for increased energy production inherent in offshore wind farms would offset those costs. This argument, which appears to have held up in other parts of the world, is about to be tested in the US.

 

 

Business Law

Rhode Island senator wants to strengthen toxic chemicals law #BusinessLaw

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The current law that seeks to protect consumers from toxic chemicals in everyday products is disastrously ineffectual, U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said Wednesday.

The Rhode Island Democrat said that in its 40 years, the Toxic Substances Control Act has restricted just five chemicals of the more than 80,000 that are in commerce, and even failed to ban asbestos.

“That’s not a record of success for the American public,” said Whitehouse, who is pushing for a new bill to update and strengthen the act.

That bill would require safety reviews for all chemicals in commerce, require the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure any new chemicals are safe before they can enter into commerce and set federal standards to provide regulatory certainty for the industry, among other changes.

It has garnered strong support in the Senate. Whitehouse expects it to pass soon.

Several states have tried to regulate these chemicals on their own. The chemical industry wants a national standard rather than state-by-state regulations, which has helped convince Republicans to support changing the law, Whitehouse said.

Rhode Island toy maker Hasbro, Inc., which has called for improvements to the law, hosted an event Wednesday with Whitehouse to celebrate the progress made so far.

Hasbro President and CEO Brian Goldner said the different sets of regulations make it challenging for businesses to sell products nationwide. He said there needs to be a uniform national approach to ensure that products are safe for families in every state.

When the bill passes, Goldner said, “we’ll have made significant strides in protecting families and creating one national standard for safety.”

Richard Denison, the lead senior scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund, said Americans are exposed to thousands of chemicals daily and only a small fraction have been tested for safety. The EPA has been powerless to restrict even chemicals that clearly pose health risks, he added.

The bill gives the EPA the authority to restrict chemicals and a mandate to review them, fixing the problems with the current law and bringing it into the 21st century, Denison said.

“We’re on the verge of a historic accomplishment,” he said.

Whitehouse said there will be money for chemicals testing, which there’s little funding for today.

The House has passed a bill to strengthen the act, but it would regulate chemicals after they’re on the market and not before, Whitehouse said.

The differences between the House and Senate versions would have to be worked out in conference.

 

Policy and Legal Implications of Implementing Renewable Energy at Scale: Finance Gap for Innovation Deployment

Policy and Legal Implications of Implementing Renewable Energy at Scale: Finance Gap for Innovation Deployment  #RealEstateLaw

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The Problem: Finance Gap for Innovation Deployment

The last decade has seen tremendous innovations in cleantech that have not only brought new products, but also a fall in prices to consumers. For example, the average cost of solar panels has dropped from around $3.50/watt in 2005 to $0.36/watt today, an entire order of magnitude. From 2006 to 2014, worldwide average PV module prices have dropped about 78% from $3.25 per watt to about $0.72 per watt. The last five years alone have seen battery prices drop 72%.

Despite encouraging advances, the industry has seen a shortfall in matching capital to projects. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, clean energy investment is essentially right where it was in 2008. Further, according to the Steyer-Taylor Center, investments dropped 67% between 2011 and 2013.The sector needs capital increases to support and scale the many groundbreaking renewable energy ideas out there.

Solution: Consistent Financial Policy

For renewable energy to scale, government must offer consistent and reliable financial incentives for technologies to flourish. Below are just a few examples of government policies that can help scale up cleantech.

Although the Production Tax Credit (PTC) and the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) have heavily impacted cleantech investment for years, Congress often extends them on a short term basis, leaving little certainty for investors. On July 21st, the U.S. Senate approved a two year extension of the PTC through July 2016 – a companion bill must now advance in the House. Because the ITC does not expire until the end of 2016, Congress will likely address it in a 2017 tax reform negotiation. To avoid uneven investment drop-offs, the federal government should focus on permanent or long term solutions rather than stopgap measures.

Green Banks, public financing institutions that provide low-cost and long-term financing support to clean projects by leveraging public funds to attract private investment, are another example. Banks utilize tools such as long-term and low interest rate loans, revolving loan funds, insurance products, and low-cost public investments or they may even design new financial products. Connecticut and New York have led the way in this effort, but states such as New Jersey, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Maryland, and California have all proposed Green Banks or are employing a related idea (such as green bonds).

Connecticut: The Connecticut Green Bank was the first of its kind in the U.S. In 2014, the bank attracted a total investment of $225 million, leading to the creation of over 700 direct jobs and supporting about 40 MW of distributed energy resources. Its flagship program is The Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) program, providing owners of commercial, industrial, and nonprofit properties with 100%, low-interest financing to make energy efficiency and clean-energy improvements.

New York: Late in 2014, Governor Cuomo announced the first NY Green Bank transactions. Cuomo’s initial announcement included $800 million in investments expected to reduce CO2 by 575,000 tons annually. As of June 2015, the bank had received $734 million in funding requests – half from energy efficiency and the rest divided among wind, solar, and bioenergy projects.

PACE: Several states, including California, Florida, Michigan, and Rhode Island have started or are starting Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs. This system lets homeowners borrow money for energy efficient upgrades and pay it back incrementally on their property tax bills. The idea first picked up steam from the mid to late 2000s, but faced a setback in 2010 when the FHA’s operating agencies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, refused to insure mortgages on houses possessing PACE liens. However, recently the federal government has moved to encourage PACE. In late August, President Obama directed the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to allow homeowners to purchase and refinance properties with Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) loans that are subordinated to an FHA-insured mortgage.

All levels of government must also act as large scale early adopters. Leading by example is a surefire way for clean technology to flourish.

President Obama has led the way at the federal level. As part of his Climate Action Plan, he directed the Department of Interior to permit enough renewable projects to power 6 million homes by 2020, install 100 MW of renewables on federally assisted housing by 2020, and deploy renewables on military installations. The President followed this up with a March 2015 executive order calling for a 40% reduction in federal government greenhouse gasses by 2025.

Last September, New York City announced a plan for reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 80% before 2050. Mayor Bill de Blasio has followed up with city government action. In July 2015, de Blasio announced he wants 100% of the city government’s energy provided by renewables. Planning to use the city’s $600 million electric bill to push innovation, the mayor put out an RFI. Proposals were due last month.

 

 

 

 

Family Law

Attitudes may be changing on paid family leave  #FamilyLaw

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After years of pretending people who give birth, adopt children or care for ailing family don’t need and deserve paid time off, something is finally changing in America.

Can you feel it?

First it was Netflix declaring that it’s giving a year of paid family leave to some of its employees. Then the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced the same deal.

And now, Washington — the city, not the federal behemoth the rest of the country curses about — is proposing the boldest move yet.

Sixteen weeks off. Paid. Whether you’re part time or full time, a minimum-wage worker or a lawyer, whether you’re the mom, the other mom, or one of the dads, you get the time off. If you’ve adopted a child — no matter how old — you get it. If you’re caring for a sick relative, you get it. If you need time to recover from a military deployment, you get it. As long as you live or work in D.C. (other than for the federal government), you get it.

Legislated humanity.

Paid family leave is not a luxury or socialism; it’s the norm across the globe — except in the United States.

The last time it was really addressed was 22 years ago, when the Family and Medical Leave Act was passed to allow people to take time off and keep their jobs. But, unlike the way the rest of the world does it, you don’t get paid during that time.

Maybe this issue is like same-sex marriage was five years ago. It’s about to have its moment — at last.

“Sixteen weeks is wonderful, that would be terrific,” said Sonya Shaw, 51, with a look of wistfulness.

“It’s too late for me. I had to abandon my babies after 2 1/2 weeks at home because that’s all the time I could take,” she said, still pained by the memory of leaving her newborns at day care 20 years ago. “I couldn’t afford to stay home any longer.”

That’s the sad thing about our country. We love to say we love families, but we put little muscle behind that ethos when it comes to actually helping families.

The changes — just as they have with same-sex marriage and raising the minimum wage — are coming at the state and city levels.

California, New Jersey and Rhode Island each have some kind of paid leave laws. But none of them offers more than six weeks off, and none offers full salaries.

In that sense, Washington’s proposal is magnanimous.

But hold on, don’t get wigged out that we’re going all Karl Marx on you.

If Washington passes this law and gives people 16 weeks of paid leave, it’s still not as generous as the policy in Serbia. Or Vietnam. Or the United Kingdom.

It will put the nation’s capital on par with Bangladesh.

The United States is the only country in the industrialized world — besides Papua New Guinea — that doesn’t require some kind of plan to keep its people afloat while they tend to major life events in their families.

If you live in Swaziland, Lesotho, Oman, Argentina and almost 200 other countries and you’re part of a family? You’re covered.

In our country, only the affluent can afford to take extended time off for birth, death or illness.

But the innovative bill introduced by seven council members may be the first step toward equality.

Employees would get paid from a government fund fed by employers. Every business that operates in the city would contribute between 0.6 and 1 percent of every worker’s salary.

As long as you live or work in Washington and make less than $52,000, you will get 100 percent of your pay while you tend to your family. If you make more than $1,000 a week, you will receive that and half of your additional pay.

Washington can’t force the feds or employers outside Washington to buy into the program. But there is a loophole that allows employees themselves to contribute to the fund with a small fee, then get the leave when they need it.

The legislation is a way to keep people afloat during some of the most vulnerable times of their adult lives.

State by state, city by city, company by company, change is finally coming. So we can finally leave Papua New Guinea in the dust on this one.

 

Customers to Pay for More Miles of Mass. Pipeline

Customers to Pay for More Miles of Mass. Pipeline #CommercialLaw

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While pipeline companies and politicians insist that bringing more natural gas to New England will lower energy prices, Massachusetts recently approved a plan backed by Gov. Charlie Baker that puts the cost for that gas on electricity customers.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) endorsed the concept that allows electric companies to enter into natural-gas contracts. Pipeline companies, of course, were pleased. In an Oct. 2 press release, Kinder Morgan Inc., owner of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.’s proposed Northeast Energy Direct pipeline, called the ruling “an important step in ensuring that electric generators have reliable access to the fuel needed to generate electricity within the (New England) transmission grid.”

Gas contracts help companies like Kinder Morgan fund pipelines and other infrastructure projects. The pipeline giant promises that the $3.3 billion project will save customers hundreds of dollars annually on their energy bills.

But environmental groups are crying foul. The Boston-based Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) called the decision “outrageous, unprecedented and illegal.”

“It’s clearly intended to enable new pipelines to be built on the backs of electric customers,” said Caitlin Peale Sloan, CLF staff attorney.

Peale Sloan is dismayed that the DPU didn’t allow public hearings on the proposal. What makes the concept risky, she said, is that the ruling allows electric companies to manage price swings by passing the costs on to electric customers, even those who don’t heat with natural gas.

“The (utilities) are speculating in the gas market without the risk,” she said.

Attorney General Maura Healey opposed the idea and has been cautious of Baker’s natural gas-expansion ambitions. Healey has requested that more state and regional solutions, such as renewable energy and energy efficiency, be given further scrutiny to help reduce natural-gas price spikes. Pipeline supply shortages typically last a few weeks each winter, Healey said, therefore new pipelines and infrastructure is inefficient if it’s not used for most of the year.

“Reducing winter demand for pipeline gas through a variety of methods may turn out to be far more economic than obligating Massachusetts ratepayers to pay for long-term contracts for firm transportation on a new pipeline and/or additional expanded pipelines,” Healey said in submitted testimony.

Houston-based Spectra Energy has three natural pipeline projects in the works in southern New England. The company favored the DPU decision, saying consumers stand to lose $1 billion in natural gas each winter without the added capacity.

“The region would continue to roll the dice on electric reliability if the natural gas-fired generation fleet upon which (New England) relies continues to itself spin the wheel hoping that natural-gas pipeline capacity will be available at the plants needed on any given day,” according to the Texas company.

Regional power
The regional energy approach that all New England governors are endorsing received a procedural approval in Rhode Island. A recent ruling by the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission (PUC) allows power companies in Rhode Island, such as National Grid, to partner with utilities in Massachusetts and Connecticut to contract for hydropower and other renewable-generated electricity from across the region and Canada.

Environmental groups were skeptical of the 2014 legislation that enabled the multi-state partnerships because of fears that it might slow local renewable-energy development. Hydropower from state-owned Hydro Quebec was singled out for possibly requiring new and potentially environmentally damaging power lines and infrastructure and for bringing in cheap electricity that may undercut wind and solar power.

The CLF was one of the most vocal opponents of the 2014 Affordable Clean Energy Security Act (ACES) but didn’t oppose the PUC decision. CLF senior attorney Jerry Elmer said the PUC was only complying with a mandate from the General Assembly.

However, the legal advocacy group plans to scrutinize the regional renewable-energy proposals that may go before the PUC. “We didn’t like the law but that wasn’t the question before the PUC in this docket,” Elmer said.

The Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources supported ACES and the PUC decision, saying regional renewable-energy proposals will offset winter natural-gas fuel shortages. The state used 5.4 million gallons of fuel oil during the last two winters to make up for the lack of natural gas, according to the agency.

 

Education Law

Critics Blast Loss of Federal Funds by John Hope Settlement House, Rep. Williams  #EducationLaw

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The John Hope Settlement House, along with Board Chair Representative Anastasia Williams, have been disqualified from further federal funding for their child nutrition program, following months of investigation by the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE).
The decision comes a year after “Concerned Citizens for John Hope” raised issues pertaining to the community organization’s finances, leadership, and safety.

“This is another disappointing chapter in the John Hope saga,” said community organizer Chace Baptista on Wednesday. “Through organizing with the Concerned Citizens our goal was to bring to light to the mismanagement within John Hope and hopefully, inspire the leadership to rise to the occasion of maintaining an organization that means so much to so many or to step aside and hire the necessary staff to help lead this organization properly.”

Board Chair Williams said that she plans to appeal the decision, despite RIDE’s determination that previous appeals from John Hope Settlement House (JHSH) to stop the termination of participation in the federal food program be “dismissed.”

Read the RIDE Ruling HERE

“We are disappointed by the denial of the initial appeal,” Williams said. “We believe that all the information was not examined and therefore we are continuing the appeal process.”

JHSH — and Williams — were explicitly disqualified from further participation in the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) for program mismanagement, according to a recent ruling from RIDE.

Rep. Williams

RIDE issued the dcision on September 29 after finding the “absence of any documentation to establish that the CACFP funds were expended in support of the Program but rather evidence that the monies were spent improperly for non-food program items.”

CACFP, which run by the USDA and administered by RIDE, provides child and adult care institutions and family or group day care homes for the “provision of nutritious foods that contribute to the wellness, healthy growth, and development of young children,” according to the USDA.

“I hope charges are filed,” said community member Lisa Scorpio. “John Hope was a well respected community center that many people have fond memories of. I hope that something can be done to reinvent it.  We cannot allow it to close.”

Oversight Called into Light

The issue of lack of documentation of CACFP funds by JHSH came into focus in the fall of 2014, which RIDE references in their recent ruling:

“A site visit and records review was conducted by a RIDE child nutrition program administrator. This visit and review yielded a serious deficiency determination and issuance of a formal notice dated February 4, 2014 finding that:

JHSH received $35,343.67 in USDA reimbursements for meals served between January 1 through June 30, 2013, for which no documentation was available for purposes of verifying that these monies were expended exclusively for program operations; [and] the absence of any documentation to establish that the CACFP funds were expended in support of the Program but rather evidence that the monies were spent improperly for non-food program items.”

Furthermore, RIDE cited a second deficiency, it which it found that:
“$4,605.80 was received from RIDE and deposited in the CACFP account on July 24, 2014. This sum was the exact amount paid by RIDE to JHSH on June 1. Although $7,091.86 had been paid by RIDE to JHSH during the months of July, August and September 2014, none of that sum had been deposited into the CACFP account.”

Appeals Denied

RIDE stated that they had given JHSH the opportunity to remedy the findings, but in March 2015 RIDE ultimately issued a notice of “termination and disqualification.”

RIDE cited “JHSH’s failure to produce receipts and records for verification of proper expenditure of CACFP funds and to develop and adequately implement internal control policies. Moreover, RIDE found that although a separate CACFP account had been opened, the account records did not show any expenses related to the CACFP for the period July to November 2014.”

In addition, RIDE noted “JHSH has not at any time tendered an objection to RIDE’s notice of serious deficiency, nor at any time has JHSH disputed the content of RIDE’s findings of serious deficiencies either informally or by a timely request for administrative review.”

More Issues for John Hope

In 2014, allegations of financial mismanagement were made against Williams by a previous Executive Director, which Williams denied.

DCYF found a number of safety violations at the House in September 2014; critics of the handling of the House were turned away from a board meeting last December.

A former employee said on Wednesday spoke to what she said was Williams’ role at JHSH.

“She compromised the meals being strewn together on a wing and a prayer on many occasions, which I knew first hand seeing as we didn’t have a cook for last summer and may staff persons were pulling it together to ensure the children were indeed being fed,” said Ericka Gomes, who had worked at JHSH for 8 years. “The turnaround rate of the childcare and OST staff has been so inconsistent due to frequent firings and hirings it does not give the children an opportunity to bond with their teacher (who they spend just as much time if not more so than their parent) which shows a lack of stability and is not developmentally appropriate practice for an Early Learning Center that just 2 short years ago boasted a 3 star Brightstar rating.”

Community leader Kobi Dennis, who was active in the JHSH protests in 2014, said he asked Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza for two things when he took office.

“I asked for the Midnight Basketball League, and I asked him to look into John Hope,” said Dennis. “I don’t care what color you are, if you’re doing wrong, you’re doing wrong.  It’s just a matter of time before you get caught. I believe in the law.”

 

By Kate Nagle, GoLocal News Editor

Intellectual Law

Myriad Genetics and Tufts Health Plan Sign Agreement to Cover Prolaris(R) for Members With Localized Prostate Cancer #IntellectualLaw

 

Office front building

 

Myriad Genetics, Inc. (NASDAQ:MYGN) today announced that it has signed a three-year contract with Tufts Health Plan through which the plan will provide coverage of Prolaris® for members diagnosed with localized prostate cancer. Prolaris is the first and only biopsy test validated against prostate cancer specific mortality.

Tufts Health Plan is a leading health plan in the Northeast with more than one million members. Tufts Health Plan’s members will benefit from this agreement, which is designed to drive optimal treatment because men can confidently pursue active surveillance for tumors identified as being less aggressive with Myriad’s extensively validated Prolaris combined score. Recent data show that many men realize no benefit from interventional treatment, and many suffer needlessly from the side effects associated with radical prostatectomy and radiation.

“Myriad is excited to offer Prolaris testing to Tufts Health Plan’s members. We believe it will help to improve patient care and lower healthcare costs,” said Nicole Lambert, general manager, Urology Business Unit, Myriad Genetic Laboratories. “The Prolaris test has been validated in multiple clinical studies and provides substantially stronger prognostic power than standard pathology. The Prolaris test enables physicians to confidently tailor treatment plans for their patients.”

About Prolaris

Prolaris® is a prognostic test that measures the expression level of genes involved with tumor proliferation to predict disease outcome. Prolaris is the only test that provides insight into meaningful oncologic endpoints by predicting 10-year prostate cancer-specific mortality, thereby guiding medical management. For more information visit: www.prolaris.com.

About Tufts Health Plan

Founded in 1979, Tufts Health Plan is nationally recognized for its commitment to providing innovative, high-quality health care coverage. Touching the lives of more than one million members, Tufts Health Plan serves members in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire through employer-sponsored plans; Medicare; and Medicaid/subsidized plans, offering health insurance coverage across the life span regardless of age or circumstance. Tufts Health Plan consistently ranks among the nation’s top rated plans by the National Committee on Quality Assurance and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

About Myriad Genetics

Myriad Genetics Inc., is a leading personalized medicine company dedicated to being a trusted advisor transforming patient lives worldwide with pioneering molecular diagnostics. Myriad discovers and commercializes molecular diagnostic tests that: determine the risk of developing disease, accurately diagnose disease, assess the risk of disease progression, and guide treatment decisions across six major medical specialties where molecular diagnostics can significantly improve patient care and lower healthcare costs. Myriad is focused on three strategic imperatives: transitioning and expanding its hereditary cancer testing markets, diversifying its product portfolio through the introduction of new products and increasing the revenue contribution from international markets. For more information on how Myriad is making a difference, please visit the Company’s website: www.myriad.com.

Myriad, the Myriad logo, BART, BRACAnalysis, Colaris, Colaris AP, myPath, myRisk, myRisk Hereditary Cancer, myChoice, myPlan, BRACAnalysis CDx, Tumor BRACAnalysis CDx, myChoice HRD, Vectra and Prolaris are trademarks or registered trademarks of Myriad Genetics, Inc. or its wholly owned subsidiaries in the United States and foreign countries. MYGN-F, MYGN-G