Massachusetts Courts are NOT YET Ready for Natural Gas Benefits

(First published Sept 2016 – recovered November 2017)

As a women in the energy industry, I welcome ALL measures that can get consumers the energy they need to live their daily lives, while prolonging the destruction of the ozone layer so long as humanly possible – emphasis on “humanly possible.” Some states welcome the change toward a cleaner, natural gas than its fossil fuel counterparts (emitting 50-60% less carbon dioxide) and other states are not yet ready for its benefits, even if they use them daily…BOO!

These past few years, natural gas has made the U.S. THE top leader in shale gas production. So, what’s up with Massachusetts? In 2015, Massachusetts Dept. of Public Utilities approved long-term contracts for utility companies to buy natural gas from the Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Energy Direct Pipeline. Long story short, the 3 utility companies wanted to buy the natural gas and then sell it to power plants, then pass the costs to their customers, which would SAVE the customer money for what they’re currently paying anyway (especially in winter). The idea is that this would be stable financing to expand natural gas in the New England areas, which would drive down the costs of wholesale electricity.


http://naturalgasnow.org/new-england-officials-faces-reality-need-fracked-gas/

But, a few weeks ago, the contract deal was struck down by Massachusetts highest court. The argument: this would “undermine the objectives of the state’s 1997 utility restructuring act and expose ratepayers to financial risks that lawmakers sought to eliminate two decades ago.” HOWEVER, what parts of this EXACTLY undermine this act (where utility companies are already heavy regulated, combined with prices that they charge being controlled)? If anything, it actually BUILDS UPON the Act.

First things first, (intro)

“…to establish forthwith a comprehensive framework for the restructuring of the electric utility industry, to establish consumer electricity rate savings by March 1, 1998, and to make certain other changes in law, necessary or appropriate to effectuate important public purposes, therefore it is hereby declared to be an emergency law…”

Is anyone seeing what I’m seeing? Establish consumer electricity rate savings by March 1, 1998? HALF of Massachusetts‘ power generation depends on natural gas and as Arthur C. Diestel so obviously added, “The lack of gas infrastructure cost electric consumers $2.5 billion dollars during the Polar Vortex winter of 2013 and 2014.” So, check ✔️. This has the potential for saving customers a ton of money on something they already intended on purchasing.

Then you actually go into the Act, Section 1(b),

“affordable electric service should be available to all consumers on reasonable terms and conditions…”

Do we see a pattern here? Again, this effort could make energy costs more affordable. Heck, if it doesn’t, then write into the new law whatever “terms and conditions” would help. For instance, these pipeline developers need to have these types of contracts in place in some way in order for them to even meet Federal approval, so, the pipeline and utility companies need one another in some respect. That the developing of the pipeline itself be complete, follow all other state and federal rules and regulations, or maybe show reports of where money was spent, could be some quick examples of those very terms and conditions this Act describes. ✔️

Section 1(c)(ii) “(c) ratepayers and the commonwealth will be best served by moving from (i) the regulatory framework extant on July 1, 1997…to (ii) a framework under which competitive producers will supply electric power and customers will gain the right to choose their electric power supplier”.

Again, the very core of this Act would not be undermined at all – competition. If utility company “A” contracts with Pipeline Developer “A” and then passes the costs to the customer, it ends up being more expensive than what people are ALREADY BEING CHARGED, then said customer would simply just go with a different utility company until they find what fits – like shopping for shoes. ✔️

Section 1(f)

“the introduction of competition in the electric generation market will encourage innovation…”

and Section 1(g)

“competitive markets in generation should…(ii) open markets for new and improved technologies.”

Innovation and improved technologies alone are at the heart of natural gas exploration and development. Check ✔️ and check ✔️

The entire Act was very lengthy, so if you’d like to read more, click here. I’m going to abstain from doing a legal brief…for now.

So, what do you think? Is anti-fracking Massachusetts shooting themselves in the foot or is it the Marcellus/Utica shale-loving areas of PA/OH/WV that have it wrong? Comment below and let me know your thoughts on this!
NJI_Marcellus_ShaleMapInfo_Utica_20120517_v41
http://www.packriverpotions.com/ohio/ohio-utica-shale-map

A broader interpretation & step back for Pennsylvania Oil and Gas

Freedom of speech, freedom to bear arms, freedom to have certain environmental rights…Uhh, what?  Do you normally think of that last one when you think of the Pennsylvania Constitution?  Probably not.  As of late June 2017, the PA Supreme Court decided on what most proponents of oil and gas would see as a broad interpretation of Article 1, Section 27, or the Environmental Rights Amendment (“The ERA”).  The quite narrow 3-prong test has been in place since the 70’s.  Without going into the *snore* law of the 3-prong test.  Here’s what The ERA stated.

The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.

So, plan on bringing a claim against maybe a permit or a pooling unit, how about a right-of-way or water issues, that you feel has negative effects on the environment, based on The ERA?  I mean, you can always try.  You may not win, however.  Environmental attorneys are hopeful.  Alternatively, when reading the majority of the Court’s opinion, the focus isn’t necessarily on an individual’s claim as suggested in my example, but moreso, the Commonwealth acting as a Trustee to protect the Commonwealth’s environment on behalf of its citizens.  In a practicality sense, before the ruling, the Governor could use the money from the proceeds of leasing places like the State Game Lands, into a general fund, whereas now, the money will revert back to environmental conservation efforts.

Let me know what you think.   Do you feel the Court should have forgone the 30+ years using the 3-prong test vary narrowly or more broadly to incorporate the Commonwealth’s ability as a trustee on behalf of its citizens.  If the latter, do you feel you have a constitutional environmental conservation claim based on this? Let’s discuss!

Philadelphia in a weekend!

ATTENTION avid gardeners, horticulturists, and plant biologists who crave a side of our Nation’s history:  welcome to Philly’s annual flower show with a side of Independence Hall!

Every year, Philly puts on a huge flower show in the Pennsylvania Convention Center. It’s said to be the world’s oldest and largest indoor display of its kind.  This year it was from March 11-19.  It generally lasts for one work week and two weekends.  It varies by theme each year.  This year the last day was for kids and pets!  In addition, there was a garden spa, beer garden, and separate butterfly exhibit as well to make great use of.

Tickets are available online for $28 for adults, $20 for students with valid ID and $15 for children ages two through 16. A service fee of $1.50 per ticket is applied at checkout. Box office tickets are available for $35 for adults, $22 for students with valid ID and $17 for children ages two through 16.  We stayed at a nearby hotel within walking distance that INCLUDED the flower show tickets at a discounted rate.  It was a great way to save money, was able to valet our car at the hotel, and walk over to the show.  Info on the show’s basics as well as nearby hotels are here.  I recommend coat check which if I remember correctly was $3 per item (we had an extra sweatshirt and umbrella).

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Holland was this year’s theme: think windmills and riding your powder blue bicycle through a field of tulips. 17309355_10102540092077142_3413524812341013249_n

It was absolutely gorgeous and like nothing I’ve ever seen. 17353544_10102540092356582_8396886544958749027_nWithin the show are sections of various “mini shows” like centerpieces sitting atop of dining room tables, a small greenhouse, water features sprinkled throughout, headpieces designed using flowers, mini landscaping sets featuring a front stoop and front door like you’d see on the set of a movie or show, and various contests with winning terrariums, centerpieces, or bouquets. 17353137_10102540092256782_9221505993847079577_n

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Something to note, half of the room where the flower show takes place is for vendors.  Here, you’ll see vendors selling homemade crafts and food.  Some flowers and plants were being sold as well but not as many as I’d like.  Of all the vendors, I’d say only 10-20% were selling flowers or plants of some kind. I’ve spoke with others that have attended the show in year’s past, and they have mentioned the entire show used to be only flowers and plants with no vendor booths or crafts.  I was hoping to spend a couple hundred on plants and flowers to find there wasn’t much to choose from and what was there was picked over.  Most flowers to buy were bouquets of roses you’d get at your local flower shop. Other flowers to purchase were bulbs of daffodils and tulips, but I already have these as well from my local Lowe’s.

SATURDAY: Centered around the Convention Center are some typical Philly stops.  One being the John F. Kennedy’s plaza featuring the “Love” sculpture that millions of tourists take pics with.  This year, however, the plaza is undergoing renovation and the “Love” sculpture was removed until renovations are complete in September 2017.  A typical foodie stop is near here as well at the Reading Terminal Market.  We were at the flower show when the Terminal market closed during its regular operating hours, so make sure you plan around it!  This consists of an entire city block and is the nation’s oldest continuously operating farmers’ market, “with food options of all sorts, including a plethora of styles and cuisines that cater to every meal of the day.”  Lastly, a typical Philly stop near the Convention Center, is the City Hall Tower Observation Deck.  Come here for 360-degree views to decide where you’ll go to next.

SUNDAY: After you’ve seen the flower show and soaked in some surrounding sites, you MUST make a stop at the Independence Hall & the Liberty Bell. 17424942_10102540935941032_6974860057088670287_n An Uber or taxi ride is suggested here if you’re staying over by the Convention Center for the flower show.  You can arrive at the Visitor’s Center around 8:30am to get free tickets for that day but only a limited number of free tickets are available or I paid online to secure a time instead, and then I could customize the time and plan around it for only $1.50 per ticket.

In addition to these stops are some great museums to check out, including the oldest art museum in the U.S.  Chinatown is walking distance from the Convention Center and is another great foodie stop.  If you must try a cheese steak, the typical tourist locations are Geno’s Steaks and Pat’s King of Steaks locations.  I took a local’s suggestion, took out some cash, and went to the local’s fave Jim’s Steaks on South Street. 17358897_10102539825621122_3866189055389330624_o

Leave a comment if you’re local to Philly and want people to get the best out of your city in a weekend.  Who else has been to the flower show and has tips to share?

 

 

KitchenAid Stand Mixer: From a Kitchen Work Horse to THE Holy Grail

*The heavens open up with angels singing*  In other words, we’re discussing the KitchenAid stand mixer.  It is my Holy Grail kitchen appliance! Now, I could shout from the rooftops all day about how amazing this one appliance is, but people tend to turn to me for advice because I will give it to them straight, and the lawyer in me needs proof and facts for just about everything, even making the right investment in a small kitchen appliance.  I want YOU to get the most out of this one appliance that is pretty expensive but lasts a lifetime.  This thing can do anything and everything!

First up, price shop around, people!  This can be said for almost every purchase you make in life, certainly more expensive, “big-ticket” item purchases you’ll make.  The KitchenAid website itself seemed to be the most expensive.  Brick and Mortar chains like Kohl’s and Macy’s tend to offer deals that you need to look out for with the possibility of combining with Kohl’s cash or Macy’s reward coupons (see stores for details).  QVC is a great go-to for many items for the ability to use “Easy Pay” which is essentially monthly payments toward the item, like layaway, except you receive the item immediately after purchasing it in your shopping cart and there’s no interest gathering.

My mixer.  Isn’t it a beaut?  It’s “Aqua Sky” and matches our other KitchenAid accessories and my Frenchie apron.   It MAY or MAY not even match my front door.  IMG_20161224_09050946916683814_10102483124251122_8543809888438650035_n

The mixer was a Christmas gift from my amazing boyfriend, and he knows how to shop around as well.   Where did he get it?  Amazon.  In fact, my awesome mother agreed and went on to get me two birthday presents in February.  She shopped around and found Amazon to be the cheapest as well.  Of course, there’s always free shipping if you’re an Amazon prime member.  She was able to get me the ice cream attachment and ravioli attachment for ALMOST the price of getting ONE accessory.  IMG_20170204_104043023_HDR In addition, he purchased a separate warranty if you’re worried about the issue of warranty not purchasing directly from the manufacturer.

Mine came with the stainless bowl, so let me help you right off the bat before you start off on the wrong foot.  There are multiple forums dedicated to the issue of a grey or silver substance coming off of the bowl and into your food the very first time you start making something – especially if what you’re making is white.  KitchenAid tells us that it’s harmless and is part of the “mechanical polishing process…used in stainless steel bowls to make them shiny.”  They offer up a product that may help, but we used the food-safe alternatives of a baking soda paste or a lemon + salt scrub.  We did both using a nylon bristle scrub brush, tried one then would wipe it with a paper towel and was still getting the residue.  Then we moved onto scrubbing it rather VIGOROUSLY with the lemon + salt combo.  We were STILL getting residue on a white paper towel.  We just kept going with more and more batches of the lemon + salt combo until eventually we didn’t see grey or silver anymore.  Lastly, we tested the bowl by using flour + water to see what color the flour would turn – voila – no grey or silver residue!

So, that is my one complaint with the mixer since it appears to have a problem right out of the box and many others with that problem from years ago, which means they haven’t fixed the issue.  Aside from that though, I actually have no other qualms after using it and multiple attachments for 3 months.  You may find yourself wanting the glass bowl and avoid the stainless altogether.

We then felt the need to adjust the flat beater using the “dime” test.  This will help with your clearance between the beater and the bowl.  Not only will this help with the grey residue from the stainless steel bowl but will also help the white coating stay on your flat beater. For the video on the “dime” test, click here.

To keep your KitchenAid mixer looking brand new forever and give it that “Holy Grail” vibe, I wipe it down after every use with a damp kitchen towel.  You’ll find that some parts and accessories are hand wash only while others are top rack dishwasher safe.  To err on the side of caution, I hand wash everything and immediately dry after use so no metal parts can get rusty. In fact, I now have such a huge collection that I honestly can’t remember which is dishwasher safe without pulling out the manuals for each accessory and attachment, so I just handwash regardless.

Because I have a stainless steel bowl instead of a glass bowl, I hand dry with a soft kitchen towel, so it doesn’t dry leaving water spots, as this is out on display 100% of the time.  Don’t be lazy.  It’s part of that “Holy Grail” look.  Brushes come with a lot of the dough attachments so wait for your dough to dry on the attachment and brush it off – it will come off in flakes instead of wet sticky batter.  A special tool comes with the juicer attachment that makes juices, tomato sauce, and jams, in order to clean the little mesh screens where your pulp and seeds will collect and gather.

PhotoGrid_1489363178824Tips & Tricks to go from a work horse to the “Holy Grail”:

  1.  The splashguard (pictured above) is great for flour that kicks up at you, but some people just drape a wet towel over the bowl (a shower cap to keep dust out when not in use).   Don’t use anything if you haven’t applied powder after your foundation that day. Nah, it doesn’t kick up that bad.
  2. The mixer itself is very heavy and hard to slide toward you to use and then slide back when not in use.  Add a kitchen towel to slide under it or a cutting board!
    • What I haven’t seen and would like to try myself, is a plant stand on casters!  If you have enough cabinet clearance, I would suggest obtaining a flat plant stand on casters to roll it where you need it on the counter top.
  3. Finagle the extra cord length you may have with any cord gathering accessory you’d normally buy for your earbuds or other electronics.
  4. NOT JUST FOR BAKING: Use the flat batter to shred chicken or pork instead of using forks by hand or even to “mash” potatoes or hard-boiled eggs into egg salad.
  5. NOT JUST FOR BAKING: Use the dough hook for a softer-textured meatloaf.
  6. To organize, I keep an entire cabinet for just my accessories and attachments in the same cabinet next to the mixer so it’s all within easy reach.  My brushes for cleaning and manuals are all housed there as well.
  7. Use command hooks to free up space and hook up the paddle, whisk, and dough hook.
  8. For ice cream, keep the ice cream bowl in a freezer before using, at least overnight.Screenshot_20170312-160558
  9. For the pasta attachment, start out slow in speed flattening out the dough each time, moving up one speed at a time slowly.  If you have an eggy recipe, constantly flour your dough and attachment each time you run it through so it doesn’t stick.IMG_20161229_185904660
  10. For the juicer, start out with small pieces of fruit to juice then gradually add more.
    •  There’s a pitcher with measurements on the side where your juice goes to collect during the process, pop the lid on it to take to your fridge to serve from, saving less dirty dishes. IMG_20170218_120247449

Stay tuned for individual recipes and tips for that individual attachment.  The most exciting thing coming up for the canning season is simplifying the process of taking the skin off and removing pulp from tomatoes (for canned tomatoes & sauces) in the summer with the juicer attachment.  Leave a comment with your tips, tricks, and hacks below for how to turn this one appliance from a work horse into the Holy Grail.

If you’re looking for something to make her puuuuur, try the Artisan Black Tie Limited Edition mixer.  There’s only 500 to be sold.  You can’t go wrong.  ME-OW.

https://www.kitchenaid.com/shop/-[KSM180LEBK]-5965096/KSM180LEBK/

Decor finds/Spring decor: Pt 3

So, I have to say, I am just ITCHING for Spring.  Most people in Pennsylvania and the New England states normally are around February and March, but I feel like I take it to another level of stir crazy!  I find my true happiness being outside in the warm weather.  I’m in love with almost everything Spring & Summer.

We bought a pool on sale halfway through the summer of 2016, so I’m stoked to be able to enjoy it this time around for the ENTIRE summer.  In the summer, my usual gardening takes me away from all my troubles around this time too, and now I’ll be able to blog about it since this was started in late August last year.  This year will be different with the addition of chickens!  Stay tuned for goodies in my blog posts!

With that being said, do you think this 30-something already started her Spring decorating?  If you don’t know the answer to that already then this blog’s not for you!  I like to use the first of the month to start a new holiday or season to decorate for (or weekend, if the first of the month is a weekday).  That means this weekend was the first weekend in March – so out with Valentine’s Day and into Spring!  I, personally, am not fond of St. Patty’s day decor because it can go in the direction of just a little too weird for me – like nothing to decorate with but 4-leaf clovers and leprechauns. I have nothing against the holiday but can’t see decorating my house for it.

Enter – HomeGoods! IMG_20170225_153045873

Every so often I’m going to do a post on chic, inexpensive home decor finds.  Check my previous posts for decor finds. Most of my focus will be on Homegoods, with some TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and Michael’s mixed in.  Since there is no website to order products online and HomeGoods’ inventory is leftovers or overstock items, so it’s constantly changing, I think posting items on my blog when they’re fresh from the store, may help some of you shoppers!

I received a HomeGoods gift card from my future mother-in-law for my Feb birthday so I decided to spend it getting more imported-from-Italy Extra Virgin Olive Oil and a bread box!  I was told bread boxes are now harder to come by (mainly in stores).  We got a steal on this one that’s extra roomy and matches our appliances!

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Price: $19.99.

Location: Vestal, NY Homegoods location.

Anyway, back to Spring!

Check out what HomeGoods has to offer for your Spring decor.  Wreaths and birdhouses galore!

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Flower and plant decor with some bunnies and baskets.

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This end cap is super cute and mixes my fave – metallics with pastels for Spring!

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What’s your Spring decor look like?  When do you plan on decorating?  Leave a comment and share your thoughts! Let me know if you need any prices checked at HomeGoods.

40% off Valentine’s Decor Haul

Those of you excited for Valentine’s Day, since, let’s be honest, it gives you another holiday to decorate for – I’ve got special deals in store for you.  My last 40% off haul was around the Fall at Michael’s for awesome deals on Halloween decor.  If you’d like a re-cap, click here.    For those of you against Valentine’s Day because some consider it to be a commercialized/greeting card holiday to promote shopping, I’ve still got something in store for you or your kids!

Michael’s is holding a sale for 40% off of Valentine’s Day decor.  INCLUDED in the sale are the crafts for your kids’ classroom Valentine’s Day party.  In addition, this carries over to all pink, red, and purple home decorators!  Even if you are not celebrating Valentine’s Day, per se, there are a ton of advantages of shopping right now for your home color scheme.  Everything from wreaths, to throw pillows, gold lips, and the paper-made mailboxes for your kids Valentine’s cards from classmates!

In my master, I have “XOXO” signs hanging around the bed with pictures of my boyfriend and I, so I thought it was sort of fate to run across these mini, yet perfect, throw pillows.  These work great in your master for 365 days a year regardless of the holiday.:

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Below, I transitioned my holiday decor from Christmas with the use of metallics like gold and silver into Valentine’s Day decor from Michael’s with the tabletop scatter. Tip: I like using neutrals and metallics for all holidays as a base and then build off of that with whatever color scheme for whatever holiday it may be:  less money spent on decor items and less decor to store in the off-season!

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Lastly, here’s a look at the items Michael’s is offering:

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Happy bargain hunting!  Leave a comment with your shopping or decorating tips!

Decor finds/After-holiday sales: Pt 2

Alert interior designers, decorators and bargain hunters! Every so often I’m going to do a post on chic, inexpensive home decor finds. A few months ago was my first post on the topic! Most of my focus will be on Homegoods, with some TJ Maxx and Marshalls mixed in.  Since there is no website to order products online and their inventory is leftovers or overstock items, so it’s constantly changing, I think posting items on my blog when they’re fresh from the store, may help some of you shoppers!

This post will only be slightly different because I want to include some wonderful “after-holiday” sales as well as decor pieces.

First up: Adorable, life-size and potted, faux birch tree & pine arrangements

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Price: $49 down from $99.99.   This price may still seem expensive to some but keep in mind that it’s life-sized (I want to say 6ft tall but did not get the measurements in the store).  If you’d like measurements, let me know and leave a comment!  Two of these would look great flanking a door, outside or inside, or in a mudroom or entryway.  I also think they are worth the price because they don’t need to necessarily be out during the holidays only.  I could see these fitting in a Fall theme or everyday of the year in a rustic decor setting or rustic cabin or primitive setting.  They can go modern if being paired with modern pieces or painting the base a metallic color, etc.

Location: Vestal, NY Homegoods location.

Similar items: See Below.

Next: Other decorative, life-size trees, along with a “Fresh Cut Trees” sign and a “Santa Stop Here” sign

 

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Prices:  Varied. A couple hundred dollars or less.  As far as the height, much like what I wrote above, these were probably around 6ft tall.  They were made of balls of yarn and the tree directly to the right of the sign, with it’s base showing, was a metallic silver.  In the second pic, faux flowers, a wooden tree, probably closer to 3ft, and a white deer are shown – all for under $100.

Location: Vestal, NY Homegoods location.

Next: DOG LOVERS!  Many doggie Christmas sweaters, coats, stockings, and treats were on sale.  NOTE: that there seemed to be more Small and Extra Small sizes than Med-Extra Large.

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Prices:  Varied.  I don’t remember seeing anything over $30.

Lastly: Wrapping paper, gift bags, ribbon, and gift tags

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Prices: Varied.  This was a huge red-ticket clearance with some wrapping paper being between $0.99-$1.99!  I saw some of the cutest gift bags and ribbon!  Generally, these items can be pretty pricey before the holidays so I know a lot of people that stock up after, and the quality of these items were really great compared to the sales at other stores.

Drop a comment or question and stay tuned for more decor finds and other blog posts.