Thursday, June 18, 2009

CWRA's Chances of Passage

Senator James Inhofe believes it is doubtful the the Clean Water Restoration Act will pass the full Senate.

I am a bit less sanguine, but readily acknowledge his superior familiarity with the Senate.

Here's hoping he's right.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:40 PM

CWRA Approved by Senate Committee, As Expected

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved the Clean Water Restoration Act by a party-line vote this morning.

This was expected.

Prospects for CWRA on the Senate floor are less predictable. It could go either way, although the left appears to have an advantage given 1) its control of Congress, and 2) the limited public attention (even from conservative media) the onerous provisions of this massive bill are receiving.

On a more positive note, excluding the bigger-the-government-the-better crowd, the more Americans look at this bill, the less they like it. And why would they like it? Who wants to get a federal permit, or the very least have to investigate whether they need a federal permit, just to landscape their own back yards?

It is not as though the original Clean Water Act, which is a powerful law by anyone's definition, has been repealed or expired. We don't need CWRA to have clean water.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:58 PM

Inhofe on CWRA

Senator James Inhofe's opening statement on CWRA from the hearing is a useful addition to the debate.

I hadn't previously realized the National Association of Realtors and had come out against the bill (perhaps I should stop reviewing the environmental groups' propaganda sheets, which often claim only right-wing dirty water lovers oppose CWRA).

An excerpt from Senator Inhofe's statement:
I see this bill as a significant part of a hostile agenda aimed squarely at rural America. Whether it’s new energy taxes from cap-and-trade legislation or more unfunded environmental mandates, it’s clear that this bill is yet one more raw deal for rural America.

Allowing EPA and the Corps to exercise unlimited regulatory authority over all inter- and intrastate water, or virtually anything that is wet, goes too far and is certainly beyond anything intended by the Clean Water Act. But, that is what S. 787 does. It vastly expands Federal control of private property, despite assurances contained in S. 787. In fact, the very premise of the bill is to override a State’s fundamental right to oversee waters within its borders and to usurp the power of land owners to manage their property as they see fit. The Constitution never envisioned federal jurisdiction being boundless; it carves out room for state and local governments and private property owners to manage their resources.

Two of my Republican colleagues have filed amendments to S. 787, which highlight some very legitimate concerns with the bill. I have chosen not to try and amend the bill because, frankly, I don’t think this bill is fixable. Allow me to just briefly list some of the groups that have expressed concerns with this bill that are not covered by any the amendments filed today: The Associated Builders and Contractors, the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association, the American Forest and Paper Association, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Association of Home Builders, the National Association of REALTORS, the American Highway Users Alliance, the American Association of Airport Executives, and the list goes on for about 14 pages...
Senator Inhofe's statement on CWRA should be read in its entirety.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:56 PM

Pop Quiz on the Clean Water Restoration Act

1) Which two states hate the Clean Water Restoration Act so much, their legislatures actually passed resolutions urging the Congress not to enact it?

A. Texas and Oklahoma
B. Georgia and Alabama
C. Washington and Oregon
D. Idaho and Montana
C. Rhode Island and Massachusetts

2) Which of the following groups oppose the Clean Water Restoration Act?

A. National Association of Counties
B. National Cattlemen's Association
C. American Farm Bureau
D. National Association of Home Builders
E. All of the above

3) Which is more accurate:

A. The original Clean Water Act, which remains in effect, was intended to cover all waters in the United States, but the U.S. Supreme Court limited its scope. The Clean Water Restoration Act would simply restore the original scope of the Clean Water Act.

B. The original Clean Water Act, which remains in effect, limited federal authority to "navigable" waters of the United States. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld this definition. The Clean Water Restoration Act would expand federal authority beyond navigable waters to virtually every drop of water in the United States, including water on private property.

Answer to 1: D - Idaho (House and Senate) and Montana (Senate).
Answer to 2: E
Answer to 3: B

If you didn't get 3-out-of-3, visit our Clean Water Restoration Act Information page.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:18 AM

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Quote of Note: Clean Water Restoration Act Means Troubled Waters

"For years, the 1972 Clean Water Act has been misused in the name of protecting America's waters and wetlands. The statute’s original limitation that its key provisions only apply to navigable waters was largely ignored. Instead, the law was broadly applied to a wide variety of circumstances, including remote and inconsequential drainage ditches or temporary puddles and even to completely dry land.

The statute’s complex and costly provisions interfered with the economic use of the lands it encompassed, including farming and ranching operations, construction of housing and other buildings, and domestic oil and gas production.

Fortunately, two Supreme Court decisions, Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. United States in 2001, and Rapanos v. United States in 2006 partially reined in these excesses.

Now, the CWRA seeks to overturn these Supreme Court decisions and make the statute more expansive than ever. In fact, it would turn the Clean Water Act into what some analysts believe to be the most dangerous federal intrusion on private property rights in existence..."

-Ben Lieberman, "The Clean Water Restoration Act Means Troubled Waters For Property Owners," Heritage Foundation The Foundry blog, June 17, 2009

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:32 PM

"The Biggest Bureaucratic Power Grab in a Generation"

If you haven't visited the National Center for Public Policy Research's new Clean Water Restoration Act Information page (or even if you have), you can get a good 2 1/2 minute summary of CWRA from Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) from the video above.

Senator Inhofe starts the video with "Rural America, watch out!" and goes on to call CWRA "the biggest bureaucratic power grab in a generation."

If you have a blog or web page yourself, please consider posting this video. Although few people have heard of this bill, Senator Inhofe is not exaggerating about its scope.

It's important that people become educated about CWRA -- the issue is that big.

P.S. Our Clean Water Restoration Act Information page provides links to addition information about CWRA from a variety of sources.

The legislation is scheduled for a vote in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee June 18.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 9:09 AM

Monday, June 15, 2009

Backyard Puddles to be Regulated by Feds?

The American Farm Bureau is reporting, correctly, that if the Clean Water Restoration Act (Senator Russ Feingold's S.787) becomes law, the federal government will claim the authority to regulate "all water" in the United States.

"S. 787 would remove any bounds from the scope of Clean Water Act jurisdiction, so that the regulatory reach of the act would extend to all water -- anywhere from farm ponds, to storm water retention basins, to roadside ditches, to desert washes, to streets and gutters, even to a puddle of rainwater," says a letter signed by the group.

Nearly two years ago, the groups's president, Bob Stallman, explained in more detail:
Since its enactment in 1972, the Clean Water Act has regulated “navigable waters,” or waters of the U.S. The proposed legislation would delete the term “navigable” and replace it with “all intrastate waters” and add confusing language allowing the federal government to regulate “activities affecting these waters.” Although technical and hard to get your head around, these terms, if interchanged, would pose serious consequences for most landowners.

The legislation would grant -- for the first time ever -- the Environmental Protection Agency and the Corps of Engineers jurisdiction over all wet areas within a state, including groundwater, ditches, pipes, streets, municipal storm drains and gutters. It would grant these same agencies -- for the first time ever -- authority over all activities affecting those waters, regardless of whether the activity is occurring in water or adds a pollutant. With unfunded mandates, this slippery slope takes away power from state and local jurisdictions, shifting the control to the federal government for development and use of local land and water resources.

What does this mean for the typical residential landowner? Likely, a lot of hassle, expense and time spent in court. The legislation clearly states "all waters." Those of you with farm, stock and even goldfish ponds – beware.
The legislation is scheduled to be voted upon in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on June 18.

The National Center for Public Policy Research has a Clean Water Restoration Act Information webpage here.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 6:39 AM

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Clean Water Restoration Act Information Webpage Created

The National Center for Public Policy Research has created a webpage with links to resources about the Clean Water Restoration Act.

The page has links to resources about CWRA published not only by the National Center, but by a variety of other organizations as well. If you are a columnist, blogger, speaker or talk show host planning to address the issue, you will find plenty of useful information on the page.

As National Center Senior Fellow R.J. Smith noted below, the legislation is scheduled for a markup and vote in the U.S. Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee on June 18.

You can visit the page here.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:05 AM

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Clean Water Restoration Act Scheduled for Senate Committee Vote June 18

An important message from National Center for Public Policy Research Senior Fellow R.J. Smith on the Clean Water Restoration Act, which is less about protecting our nation's waters and more about expanding the federal government's power to regulate private property.

From R.J. Smith:
I received an email at 11:05 p.m. last night from Senate Environment and Public Works staff that Senator Barbara Boxer and company are going to bring the Clean Water Restoration Act (CWRA) up for full committee mark-up and vote in their Thursday 18 June business session scheduled for 9:30 a.m. in the EPW Hearing Room, 406 Dirksen.

This is Senator Russ Feingold's S.787, which was introduced on April 2.

With the Democrats having nationalized the financial, banking and automobile industries -- bringing a strong layer of socialism to the key portions of the US economy -- they are now moving to nationalize the American land and water.

Under the Clean Water Act, the Federal government only had the authority to regulate "navigable waters" and control the discharge of pollutants and dredge and fill activities within those navigable waters.

The so-called Clean Water RESTORATION Act restores nothing. That is a hoax. Instead, it removes the restrictive and limiting terms "navigable" waters and unconstitutionally extends the Federal regulatory authority over ALL waters of the United States. This includes the driest desert areas that may only hold water for a few weeks a year during summer monsoon rains. And it includes completely isolated prairie potholes (small ponds and marshes) with no connection whatsoever to any other waters.

Furthermore, the bill will now prohibit ALL activities affecting all waters of the United States. This means that anything a landowner, a business, a county roads department, a waterfowl conservation program undertakes that could conceivably affect anything that is wet -- will be subject to the discretionary jurisdiction of Army Corps or EPA bureaucrats. They will then be able to make the lives of family farmers, ranchers, tree farmers, home builders -- almost anyone and everyone -- literally impossible. They will have the total power to force every farmer or rancher or ordinary business owner to run a gauntlet of permits, red tape, delays -- that will delay projects long enough and cost so much as to essentially shut down or bankrupt even the most necessary and innocuous projects.

There are copious examples of wetlands horror stories over the last 20 years in which people have been imprisoned and fined staggering amounts for simply building their own home, cleaning up dumps, or creating habitat for waterfowl. And that occurred under the CWA restrictions of "navigable waters" and prohibitions only on discharging pollutants and dredge and fill activities.

Once those constraints are removed by the CWRA, life will quickly become a bureaucratic nightmare with no exit -- particularly so throughout all of rural America. This bill would be much more honestly named "The Rural Cleansing Act of 2009."

This will be a tough battle given that the E&PW Committee make up is 12 Ds and 7 Rs (which includes Senators George Voinovich and Lamar Alexander).

It is important that people who are concerned about this enlist the help of the agricultural community, especially county and state farm bureaus. They should notify not only the members of the Senate E&PW but also the Senate Agriculture Committee.

It is also vital to contact Rep. Collin Peterson Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and request that he ask for oversight hearings on the impact of the CWRA on America's farmers and the nation's food production.

They should also request that the farmers and ranchers they know and their county and state farm bureaus and cattlemen's associations contact the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, asking them to strongly oppose the CWRA.
Addendum (6/14/09): For more information on the Clean Water restoration act, please visit our new CWRA information webpage at

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:03 PM

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The California Drought's Congressional "Kangaroo Court"

The kangaroo waits for the hearing to begin.

The kangaroo listens attentively to hearing proceedings. The National Center for Public Policy Research's Jeff Temple and Devon Carlin are seated to the kangaroo's left.
Devon Carlin provides a report on the U.S. House Resources Committee hearing Monday -- the one to which the National Center for Public Policy Research sent a "kangaroo" (actually, an undercover operative in a kangaroo suit).

By Devon Carlin:
Rural Californians are in their third year of a severe drought, but Congressional leaders seem more fixated on finding a "comprehensive" solution that accommodates endangered species and adheres to the belief in catastrophic man-made global warming than in dealing with very real human suffering.

This was our observation during a March 31 U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources hearing, titled "The California Drought: Actions by Federal and State Agencies to Address Impacts on Lands, Fisheries, and Water Users."

According to the hearing's initial announcement, the hearing was to feature only one panel of witnesses - one overwhelmingly comprised of federal bureaucrats.

To some, this was seen as a "kangaroo court" that would promote the global warming and endangered species gospel with little or no opposition. It seemed to lack everything but an actual kangaroo. But the National Center for Public Policy Research was more than happy to provide one!

As the overflow crowd lined up for entry into the hearing room, the National Center's kangaroo stepped out of a nearby elevator. As participating members of Congress arrived, they certainly noticed the large, brown kangaroo. When acting Committee Chairwoman Grace Napolitano (D-CA) gaveled the hearing to order, our kangaroo was prominently seated in the audience.

As National Center Senior Fellow R.J. Smith pointed out in a press release that was handed out at the hearing:
At the height of a California drought and during a serious recession with massive unemployment in California's Central Valley, one would hope that the Committee cared enough about agricultural workers and minorities to invite as witnesses actual unemployed farm workers from the scores of communities closing down. Let's have an open Committee hearing and hear real people discussing the impacts on their lives from government regulations and massive job losses - instead of more government bureaucrats who are only causing the problem.
The furry, National Center-provided visual reminder - and some last-minute intervention from a bipartisan delegation of Congressmen from districts affected by the drought - helped to provide balance.

While it seemed the Committee's leaders had already made up their minds, they and the witnesses they selected nevertheless ended up receiving an earful about the human suffering brought about by poorly-applied government regulations and what could be done to alleviate the distress.

It was originally announced that testimony would be given exclusively by the panel of representatives of government agencies. Invited agency representatives were Mary M. Glackin of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; J. William McDonald of the Bureau of Reclamation; Candy Thompson of the Farm Service Agency and California Secretary of Natural Resources Mike Chrisman. The lone critic was to be Allen Ishida, a Tulare County Supervisor and farmer.

Things changed due to the last-minute inclusion of a bipartisan panel of Congressmen representing the region worst hit by the drought. This panel was comprised of Representatives Mike Thompson (D-CA), Dennis A. Cardoza (D-CA), George Radanovich (R-CA), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Wally Herger (R-CA) and Ken Calvert (R- CA).

This new panel, unanticipated at the time the hearing was announced (and the kangaroo was called) brought much-needed balance.

All participants appeared to agree that California is in bad shape. The lack of an adequate supply of water in affected areas is putting farmers and ranchers out of work. Their crops aren't growing and livestock are going thirsty. Employment rates in affected areas range from 20 to over 40 percent, and job losses could rise to nearly 80,000. Families are flocking to food lines. Depleted food bank pantries reflect the state's shortage of produce. Incredible numbers of acres are left even more vulnerable to the type of brush fires that consumed more than one million acres last year. Agricultural economic losses are projected to exceed $3 billion by year-end.

What people want to know is what the government is going to do to help. The representatives of the government, and their liberal supporters among the Committee majority, seem committed to a "comprehensive" solution that protect the environment first and merely seeks to aid the afflicted human population. Conservatives, however, offered concrete plans to alleviate human suffering and increase agricultural productivity while minimizing environmental impact.

Congressmen from the affected areas - both on the Committee and on the testifying panel - noted that, despite California's historic familiarity with natural drought conditions, the problem this time is man-made. With rainfall and snow-pack totals nearing the average when compared to recent years, neither nature nor global warming can be blamed for the water shortage.

One of the many regulatory culprits is the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The Delta Smelt, for example, is a three-inch long fish that has been declared "threatened" under the ESA. Federal water officials reallocated a substantial amount of the water supply to flow out to sea in order to help protect the Delta Smelt. In the process, it recklessly slashed water deliveries to agricultural areas of California.

The local Congressman pointed out factors in the Smelt's population decline that are not man-made, such as larger predatory fish. Representative Tom McClintock (R-CA), who represents the region and is a member of the Committee, noted from the dais that more water diverted for the good of the Delta Smelt has not helped its recovery.

When queried, the government officials, who gave very dry presentations about "comprehensive" relief strategies, offered no precise ways to bring about an end to the human suffering in the region.

Conversely, the lawmakers whose constituents were affected and have a sense of the needs of the region proposed multiple relief plans and suggested reform of the ESA that would bring water back to residents in need and pose a minimal threat to the Delta Smelt population.

In the short history of the Obama Administration, conservatives have been cast as obstructionist and lacking ideas by their liberal counterparts. At this hearing, exactly the opposite was the case.

One proposed idea, known as the "Two-Gates" project, involves the installation of two temporary gates in the central Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. These gates would reduce the number of smelt removed from the Delta, thus permitting water export restrictions to be minimized.

Another proposal was to reform the ESA to overcome an ESA-based lawsuit that forced the Red Bluff Diversion Dam ("RBDD") to cease operating. Prior to the lawsuit, the RBDD performed as an efficient, gravity-fed water diversion. Shutting the existing diversion down has created the need for a comparable alternative. A popular pitch for its replacement is a power-driven, screened pumping plant that would supply 150,000 acres of agricultural land with irrigation water.

These and other relief proposals were called "shovel-ready" and within the scope of projects that could be funded by the recently-passed "stimulus" bill. The committee liberals' response? Representative George Miller (D-CA) mocked members of the Congressional panel who voted against the "stimulus." As for human suffering at the hands of government regulation, he considered that "cherry-picking history." He passed off any blame to a judge, whose decision set the policy.

This liberal disdain is surprising when the drought was called the "Katrina of California" by both panelists and members of the committee alike.

Near the end of the hearing, freshman Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) came right out and asked the direct and nearly rhetorical question that was surely on the minds of many in attendance: "What's more important - people or fish?"
This post was written by Research Associate Devon Carlin. To send comments to the author, write her at [email protected]. Please state if a letter is not for publication or if you prefer that it be published anonymously.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:28 PM

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Outrage of the Day: Harry Reid Tries Again

Today's Outrage of the Day goes to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for his reported intention to try again to get the monster Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (S. 22) into law without proper deliberation.

Following the bill's defeat last Wednesday (under suspension of rules) in the House, Reid reportedly plans to try again by attaching the huge bill as an amendment to a bill, H.R. 146, "The Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Battlefield Protection Act," that has already received House approval, and is to be voted on early this week in the Senate.

As National Center for Public Policy Research Senior Fellow R.J. Smith pointed out in this extensive commentary last week, it's likely that no one has read the bill-cum-amendment, as it's 1,294 pages long and nine inches thick. There have been no hearings, mark-ups or floor debate about most of it.

What's the hurry, Harry?

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:51 PM

Thursday, March 12, 2009

NY Times Blog's "Fair Analysis" of Public Lands Bill

R.J. Smith is calling this post by Kate Phillips on the New York Times Caucus blog "a pretty fair analysis" of recent Hill action surrounding the Omnibus Public Land Management Act (S. 22).

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:03 AM

More on the Omnibus Public Land Management Act (S. 22)

R.J. Smith has expanded his remarks regarding Wednesday's defeat of the horrible Omnibus Public Land Management Act, yet another huge bill Congress voted on without reading.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:10 AM

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Omnibus Public Land Management Act Defeated - For Now

A followup to our blog post on the Omnibus Public Land Management Act (S. 22) posted during the wee hours this morning, from the New York Times, by Eric Bontrager:
The House rejected an amended omnibus package of more than 160 public lands, water and resources bills despite a last-minute change designed to ease concerns about the bill.

By a vote of 282-144, the House failed to pass S. 22 (pdf) under a suspension of the rules, which barred any amendments from being added to the bill but also required a two-thirds majority for passage...
Read the rest here.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:21 PM

Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 on House Floor Today - 170 Bills in One; Half Have Had No Hearings

By R.J. Smith:
S. 22, the giant Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, will go to the House floor today (Wednesday, March 11) under suspension of rules. This means debate will be limited to a mere 40 minutes and amendments will not be permitted. Congressmen will be asked to vote on the bill without knowing what is in the 1,294-page, 9-inch thick bill! Some 170 separate bills have all been rolled into this one omnibus. Nearly half of them have never had any hearings, review or mark-up in the House.

The major concern with the bill is the vast expansion of every sort of Federal land ownership, including new and expanded National Parks, National Trails, National Heritage Areas, National Monuments, National Conservation Areas, National Preserves, National Historical Parks, National Historic Sites, and more.

It creates 82 new Wild and Scenic Rivers including over a thousand miles of rivers.

It will also create millions of acres of new Wilderness Areas.

In addition, S. 22 will give legislative authority and statutory permanence to the National Landscape Conservation System. The NLCS was created by decree in June 2000 by then Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt. It effectively removed at least 26 million acres from BLM multiple-use management, giving these lands near-Wilderness status. Federal bureaucrats and environmentalists have longed to give this new land-management system official designation, placing it on a par with the National Park System and preventing future secretaries from opening the lands to even necessary and vital energy exploration.

This massive Omnibus bill would lock up millions of acres of land at the height of an economic recession and at a time the U.S. is struggling to improve energy security. Instead of creating jobs and increasing resources, energy supplies and wealth -- it would destroy them. It will shut down cattle grazing, mining, timber harvest, energy exploration and production and recreation.

And it will add another $10-12 billion of Federal spending.

Hundreds of millions of barrels of recoverable oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas will be locked up. It will kill a vital new Liquefied Natural Gas terminal/port in Massachusetts so that Congressman Barney Frank -- who frequently rails against oil companies for pushing energy prices higher -- won't have it spoil his view.

The Omnibus creates a new Coastal and Estuarine Conservation program as well.

It also includes provsions providing Global Warming and Climate Change programs on public lands.

Under the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act it makes it a Federal crime to collect or pick up fossils or fossilized rocks on any Federal lands. It will become a Federal crime for school children to collect fossilized sharks' teeth. And in a scary twist it would extend civil asset forfeiture, permitting the government to seize ownership of all vehicles and equipment used in the gathering of any fossilized material.

The good news is that because the bill is coming up under suspension, it requires a 2/3 vote of the House of Representatives. This means only 146 votes against the bill will be sufficient to derail it.

Please spread the word about this bill and encourage people to contact their Congressman. Because it is coming up tomorrow, time is of the essence.

Thanks for your help.
This post was written by National Center for Public Policy Research Senior Fellow R.J. Smith. To send comments to the author, write him at [email protected]. Please state if a letter is not for publication or if you prefer that it be published anonymously.

Update here.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:01 AM

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