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Sunday, 26 January 2014

More EA Disaster

I can't let this story go unremarked 

Christopher Booker in the Sunday Telegraph:

The comments are well worth a read if sorted by "best" - and paint a truly lamentable portrait of  the antics of the management and appallingly negligent stewardship of the Somerset Levels by the EA - as related it would seem by people with relevant knowledge and experience in land drainage.

And Paul Homewood dissects the lies and misdirection gushing from EA-PR about flooding in the Somerset Levels - with actual evidence.... 

"Farmers in Somerset" held a demonstration on Sunday - something that the BBC chose not to give much coverage to = see if you can find it quickly in this online piece.. - contrast the treatment of people who have their houses flooded and livelihoods severely damaged with the coverage given to anti-fracking in Manchester - where there's not even any fracking going on.....

The BBC can't ignore it now and have had to cover it:

 See Here although they still give the EA an easy ride (less so Owen Paterson though...).

Some complaining farmers in Somerset
There are those (and they include a former EA chairmanperson and pointless quango queen Baroness Barbara Young - present EA "CEO" Paul Leinster's boss... apparently ) who argue that the only truly ‘sustainable’ solution would be to close the pumping stations, breach the flood banks and allow the waters to spill out over the flood plain whenever rainfall and tides dictate. This, they claim, would allow the flood plain to do the job it is supposed to do, spreading the floodwaters over a wider area and creating in the process a paradise for wetland birds and plants.

Read more: http://www.westernmorningnews.co.uk/Commons-debate-cost-flooding-Somerset-Levels/story-20453023-detail/story.html#ixzz2rcdeAxrO

So - Bab's boys n girls at the EA flooded the Somerset Levels by neglect. Doesn't stop them pocketing millions every year for "maintenance" though eh?

Trivia: To carry out its field duties, the EA operates a fleet of 4,747 company cars funded on contract hire with full maintenance. In addition the EA run 1,920 badged 4x4s -  according to Inside the Environment Agency there's abuse of fleet vehicles and sub-optimal utilisation is well, not unknown....  it ticks off farmers seeing them trundling around in new 4*4 s as well... - cue what poor farmers?  jibes:-)

That's nearly 7000 vehicles (plus trucks) - that's more than one official vehicle for every two employees... which does seem quite high - no?

They did have an electric car though... wonder how that's going?

Been over at The Guardian and had some oddness in the comments on this article - not that bothered - but surprised at the apparent arbitrariness of the chopping - some stuff I thought close to the knuckle (eventually) sailed through, some other stuff simply conversational = pfffttt....  I really wonder if some other commenters are sacred cows ... whatever...

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Credulous Fools or Willful Delusion?

I thought to attempt a bit of humor and irony here - but on reflection this actually is beyond parody - and goes to the core of why we have lost any trust in the Environment Agency. 
Some EA officials, as you will know if you've been here before - have a history of  being a tad inventive and economical with the facts. We're now into fantasy and shameless concoction territory.

There are purportedly two hydro schemes competing for the water at Avoncliff - each is obliged to provide considerable evidence in support of their application. Indeed, the EA have gone much further than their statutory remit in soliciting information from North Mill - some of this information being commercially sensitive -  EA officials have shared some of that to third parties without authorisation.

That said - there is an overarching issue that simply remains unresolved. North Mill have provided engineering details of their proposed turbine and can point to an installed base of operating units available for inspection and evaluation.   

The latest proposal for a "home made" Kaplan turbine at Weavers Mill(1) however is not supported by any of this and the EA have accepted the proposal  without receipt of independently verified test data or quite unbelievably without having even seen an operating unit - of which there are 3 supposedly "in operation" - since the constructor of said turbines apparently refused to tell them where these units are! (Great marketing strategy!)

This stretches the bounds of credulity to snapping point. A turbine of the size claimed must be subjected to the EA's own licence process QED

So,  Environment Agency officials have accepted assertions about a significant and critical piece of heavy engineering to be installed in a public space - utterly unsupported by any verifiable evidence about its safety, efficiency or reliability  - and the question just sits there....

Credulous Fools or Willfully Deluded?

 There is of course another explanation - but I'll leave you to think about that...

FYI - the turbines we're talking about have to handle up to 6 tons of water every second  24 hours a day for years....

(1) We're not sure if it's sunk in with people familiar with Avoncliff so I'll repeat... The Weaver's Mill turbine proposal has also actually been moved from near the bank to a large concrete structure almost at the middle of the river... - "not a significant change to the scheme" which  requires any public consultation  according to EA officials.... so they do irony too - who knew?

Thursday, 16 January 2014

That's Not Good

I have visited the goings on at the American "equivalent" (OK it's different but in broad terms the analogy stands up) of The Environment Agency before here.

It does the environmental movement no favors (at all) to be seen to be conniving with public servants to subvert proper process and skew the essential objectivity required in the operation of a public body.

I'm not directly accusing the Environment Agency of similar antics here because I don't have detail evidence -  the circumstantial evidence of the EA's action / and particularly inaction frankly speaks for itself particularly in relation to enhanced gas recovery. 

As far as the USA is concerned this article is certainly alarming in detailing the unholy conniving and intrigue going on behind the scenes. Predictably Watts Up With That has a post on the matter

From the tiny interactions <sarc> we've had with the sprawling dysfunctional EA it wouldn't surprise us at all if activist pressure groups are promoted up the hierarchy of stakeholders simply because of their targeted lobbying and the presence of activists actually operating within the organisation.  Some comments have been left on the previous post about the management of the River Thames which indicate that narrow interest environmental pressure has been given undue influence in the management of that waterway - with a predictable and bad outcome. The same applies for the (lack of) management of the River Parrett in Somerset.

It's a free country - but there are rules about how public bodies operate - and when those rules are not applied and there is no sanction for misbehaviour (or non performance!) - at all - I suppose one can hardly be surprised at the outcome.....

EA subversion of the regulatory process is something we have direct experience of here at Avoncliff - allowing "stakeholders" to negotiate in private, commit money and attempt policy changes, all with no real statutory / legal review (unless you JR them)  or even for that matter any effective political control - the EA is out of control and many of its senior managers have an agenda and the public interest is close to the bottom of it....

The frequency of corruption at an organisation has to be related to the likelihood of detection and the consequences of being caught -  the EA has as far as we're aware zeros at present in the detection and consequences boxes.

The evidence presently indicates EA policies hinder the economy, increase the cost of energy, eliminate jobs, and do little or nothing to improve the environment. Although some would argue on the definition of "improving the environment".

If only we could divert the River Avon in flood through Horizon House - it might have some effect....

I note that as ever there's two sides to any story and Damian Carrington at the U.K. 's Gurdian newspaper has announced that the U.K. government ministry DECC ( Department of Energy and Climate Change ) is "an arm of the gas industry" - which is quite a leap if one looks at their antics on the behalf (and string-less funding ) of Greenpeace, Friends of The Earth, WWF and other environmental NGO outfits.

Oh... and Damian and Guardian newspapers  AFAIK forgot to mention the US EPA stuff where millions of dollars have been funneled fraudulently into green activist NGOs by their mates inside the EPA - funny that eh?

Sunday, 5 January 2014

How Much? has this debacle cost?

There's an assortment of numbers being bandied about. Primarily here at North Mill we have concentrated on the direct cost to the public purse (Last independent estimate August 2013 was £1.3 million). We are also obviously down a considerable amount due to the stalling of the development due to critical construction issues preventing progress on the site.

A Mr. Weston (about 1½ years ago) asked the EA about their costs (which we'd guessed / knew some)  in an as yet unanswered  FoI - which I chose to repeat in November 2013.

This time around  the EA responded within the FoI time window to my questions.

Can you please provide answers to the following questions:

1) Have tasks related in any way to hydro licencing at Avoncliff
been allocated a task / job code(s) for internal accounting
In answer to your first question, we have not allocated a specific
task/job code to the tasks related in any way to the Avoncliff hydropower
licensing issues.

2) What is the accumulated total EA funding allocated to tasks
associated with Avoncliff licence determinations - including
consultancy billing and legal expenses?
In answer to your second question, we have interpreted your request to
mean the accumulated funding allocated to tasks associated with the
Avoncliff licence determination since their return by the Court on 11
April 2012. Please inform me if we have misinterpreted your request. We
estimate our funding for the items you list to be £611,000

3) Can you give any reason for the delay in answering Mr. Weston's
In respect of point 3 of your request we are not able to confirm or deny
the existence of the information requested as to do so would breach the
First Data Protection Principle of the Data Protection Act 1998. 

The information requested is therefore exempt due to Regulation 13(5)(a)
of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004, which explains that:

So, taking the Environment Agency responses in order:

Internal Job/Task Control
I think it's not particularly reassuring that they volunteer that The Environment Agency does not appear to account internally for work performed to cost centres - this is mundane stuff - time sheets with job codes are familiar to just about all wage slaves / consultants / businesses.   One has to wonder how any figure generated in answer to question 2 can be arrived at if you've no record of who's done what related to Avoncliff ?

Environment Agency Costs related to Avoncliff
£611,000  (£962 a day for the period offered) Given that I deliberately specified no time frame one has to wonder about the reasons for applying an arbitrary accounting period (11th April 2012 to date 635 days ) which excludes the 940 days (from Sept 15th 2009) between our initial application for a licence and that date. It's sooo tempting to mischievously arbitrarily apply proportionality to this  for  those 940 days = £904280......  making a totally arbitrary grand total of £1.5 million+..  one can understand that EA officials might not be happy with this interpretation - but hey, we didn't choose the time frame to report.

Why Didn't You Answer Mr. Weston's FoI?
Well,  could have simply said it got overlooked, lost etc - I leave people to come to their own conclusions about this...... We know who was fielding the FoI and have come to our own conclusion.

The public cost volunteered by The Environment Agency
has to be added to costs incurred by:

The Information Commissioner
The Parliamentary Ombudsman
Members of Parliament
The Administrative Division of The High Court
H.M  Planning Inspectorate
3 years+ loss of Tax Revenues to both local and central government
(VAT, Income Tax, Business Rates, Council Tax)
Loss of Green Power related funds

Even by the EA's own wonky accounting
this debacle is flushing the best part of £1000 a day...

And they are still trying to impose an arbitrary outcome to "get their way" and
moving heaven and earth not to be seen to "lose"
- to a couple of builders from Bradford on Avon.......

My own estimate - fwiw - is that with the EA's own cost estimate - the direct cost to the public purse alone in this matter exceeds the £1.3 million (August 2013) number which must be at the lower end of any overall public cost estimate for the project - I can't help thinking that's insane for a £150-ish licence...

It's only 635 days since
the EA were instructed by the High Court to sort this out "without delay"

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Environment Agency in the news

Doom Lite™ is a premier brand that the 350 odd "communicators"/ PR & Marketing folk at the Environment Agency feed and water assiduously - they noticed it was a bit sad and droopy after being left over the winter break and are now attempting to resuscitate it - via thousands of Tweets, Facebook, Press Association, Ministerial briefings and "media contacts" - back to the grindstone and time to work off some of that holiday sloth. I fully expect to see some RSI claims after all that clicking. Water levels rising,  rain, wind - some snow and I'd believe it was winter and no doubt the EA PR boys n girls will fill our media with adverts for even more Doom Lite™ and seek all sorts of product placement opportunities and be offering helpful advice on how to stop your snowman melting.

That said their efforts have paid off with a certain amount of hand waving and stuff from the mainstream media - but, as we know here - they probably don't want people looking too closely and they want full control of the media agenda... 

All the coverage has got some people sniffing around that we're sure would be regarded as unwelcome at Horizon House and Millbank Tower  - namely the politically active Guido Fawkes and the widely respected Bishop Hill blogs - attracted by all the hoo-ha...

Probably not the EA's intended result :-) - but a brilliant result for honorary member of the West Wiltshire EA fan club Henry at Inside The Environment Agency

Whilst we appreciate people are looking at the EA - it's the feeling here that even though they might be overstaffed - that shouldn't mean that they perpetrate serious naughtiness with impunity - destroying livelihoods and damaging businesses that employ people for no better reason that undiluted self indulgence and we'd like (obviously I suppose) that some light be put on the delinquency that accompanies the remarkable bloat and lack of any effective control or oversight (or even remedy!).

Anyway - in a world full of unintended consequences there's a doozy doing the rounds if you haven't been following the saga (it's a memorable one) down in Antarctica - yet another Hitler bunker spoof  has emerged and although the language is a bit fruity - the message is clear. 

More on the saga in the ice at Watts up With That (WUWT)

The overview (zillions of comments - so slow loading)
A list of related posts (up to date story)

Oh... I almost forgot .... 

The Environment Agency responded to my Freedom of Information request
from December - on Christmas Eve!!!
(shocked I was - thought they'd ignore me like Mr Weston)

 (and a few other details.... - a separate post on this later)

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Happy New Year

Well, perhaps not at the Environment Agency....  

We notice that Owen Paterson is chairing a meeting of COBRA about the response to the floods....  we can only assume that's not because he's there to spout EA-PR and congratulate everybody about how wonderfully the organisation has been dealing with the squelchy last few weeks.

We earnestly hope that somebody  (Chris , Paul , David?) wheels out "The Wrong Type of Rain" excuse - we really do...The EA it seems, knows little beyond being self serving and we hope that the dog will notice it's tail is out of control- if only for a moment....

We see that the EA Area Manager from St Albans has been "reassuring" Bradford folk via the wonderfully inept self regarding PR department  - duly copied and pasted by The Wiltshire Times. (Note unimpressed comments) - we wonder if these press releases are even touched by human hand....

We'd also offer our commiserations to our neighbours who're enduring the floods.

I don't want to be unduly alarmist - but America sneezes .... 

Meanwhile, EA sockpuppet outfit ClimateSouthWest concern themselves with

The sheer volume of EA PR, Twittering and Facebooking  flooding the media tells you - it's their first day back - and they're clicking all the screen buttons in their nice warm, dry, expensive offices - it's like the bad weather and floods over Christmas break didn't happen....