Ratification Of The Paris Agreement Delayed

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It’s now nine months since the COP21 climate treaty was agreed in Paris. At the time,I met the agreement with both celebration and condemnation: it marked an important global moment for collective action on climate change but lacked the ambition and detail on how even a 2ºC target could be met. Many observers recognised that the proof of its success would be in the national policy commitments made by governments and ministers in the months and years that followed.

Other Than That Everything's Perfect

Other Than That Everything’s Perfect

Importantly, the Paris agreement will not enter into force until 55 countries representing 55% of total global emissions have ratified it. As it stands, 26 states have completed this, totalling 39.06 % of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Notably, this includes China and the United States, who last week jointly announced their ratification of the Paris Agreement, marking a very important step in the treaty’s journey.

Sadly, the UK has dawdled on Paris ratification and has not yet made any announcement of when it intends to do so. Since December, the stock response of both the Prime Minister and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (and formerly the Department for Energy and Climate Change) has been that the government will do so ‘as soon as possible’.

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In Parliament today, I asked the Prime Minister if she will commit to ratifying the agreement before the follow up negotiations in November of this year. She sidestepped the question and refused to give a firm date. With 2016 set to be the hottest year on record, this casual approach is at odds with ever more serious warnings about the severity of the climate crisis.

At the national level, it has been a terrible year for climate and energy policy. With the ongoing reckless obsession with fracking, the failure to embrace energy efficiency as a national infrastructure priority, and the delay in new subsidy announcements for offshore wind, it should come as no surprise that the Committee on Climate Change announced in June that the government lacks half the policies it needs to meet its 2030 emissions targets.

Indeed, it is clear that UK energy and infrastructure policy is going in completely the wrong direction – cutting support for renewables and efficiency, locking in high-carbon gas for decades to come, and squandering taxpayers’ money on new nuclear and runways.

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In a further sign of government neglect, yesterday, the new Minster for Climate Change, announced a probable delay in the publication of the vital Carbon Plan. The plan will detail how the UK will meet its targets under the Climate Change Act. This delay comes at a time when the UK’s attractiveness as a destination for investment in renewable energy has reached an all-time low. The responsibility for this lies solely with chaotic and unpredictable government policy. The dismal failure of the Treasury and the Energy Department to halt the potentially catastrophic Business Rate rises to schools, businesses and community organisations with solar panels on their rooftops is a further example of that.

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Without a global step change in ambition, global temperatures will likely rise by 3.7°C and beyond. The consequences of this kind of change are unimaginable – indeed, we do not know the full implications of breaching planetary boundaries in this way. As a nation with an historic responsibility for carbon emissions, as well as the skills, expertise and resources to help create the solutions, the UK must take responsibility.

Delaying the ratification of the Paris Agreement – never mind dodging the ongoing questions about how we meet our own carbon reduction targets – demonstrates a dangerous and reckless approach to the most important issue of our time.

With much of the real detail of the Paris agreement being discussed at the follow-up COP22 negotiations in Marrakech in November, it would send all the wrong signals for the UK to turn up without having ratified it.

(This is an excerpt from Caroline Lucas MP’s blog)

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Haunted by Waters

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You stand in the mist and roar of Snoqualmie Falls, more than 100 feet higher than Niagara, and feel the liquid power of the Cascade Mountains crashing down. It’s been raining, seemingly nonstop, for at least a month in the Pacific Northwest, and this is the payoff. Hope is 4,000 cubic feet of water per second, going off a cliff.

In this century, water will be more precious than oil, an Enron executive told me some years ago. At the time, the suits from Houston had yet to be indicted; they were on a greed high. Having manipulated the West Coast energy market, they were looking for the next commodity to corral — water.

Today, I want to feel the life-force of free water after a summer without rain, the hottest on record. You don’t know what you’ve got, goes the song, till it’s gone. At Snoqualmie Falls, about 27 miles east of Seattle, the mountains squeeze snowmelt and rainfall into three forks that form a river that tumbles to a canyon of green, with aural orchestration.

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Normally a busy site, the big Cascade cataract is nearly empty on this shower-ensnarled day, save a chartered busload of people from China. Clean water in a photogenic free-fall is an international tourist draw. Clean air, in any form, may soon be as well. In China, people are buying bottled air from Canada, in 7.7 liter canisters — a joke at first, now a booming business. A restaurant outside Shanghai is charging an extra fee to sit in a room with a breathable atmosphere.

As the nations of the world gathered outside Paris, you saw the pictures from China: masked residents trying to cope with the carbon-thick soup of the world’s latest industrial revolution. Many may be forced to leave, climate refugees, fleeing to stay alive.

In some circles, it’s laughable to suggest that global “weirding” is an international security threat. But in sub-Saharan Africa, where the desert creeps south, or in Bangladesh, where half the population lives on ground less than 16 feet above sea level, or in Syria, where extreme drought was a factor in the collapse of a nation, a warmer earth is already generating refugees. The Pentagon has warned of coming wars over water.

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If self-interest, or fear, is what it takes to motivate a nation like China to join the world community in saving this troubled little orb of ours, then so be it. Elsewhere, the prospect of 200 million people on the move, most of them Muslim, may finally win over that other block of obstructionists, the Republican Party.

You think about all the places that need water, and all the places that have too much water. You wonder if this Paris climate accord can set things right, or whether the new normal is the scary normal.

In Florida, the majestic Keys are swamped. December rains and high tides have left mosquito-thick canals and stagnant pools. Most of the Keys are less than six feet above sea level. Climate scientists predict that a five-foot rise, which could happen by 2100, would wipe out 70 percent of the property value.

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That’s property, as in real estate. So perhaps this concern is enough to get the Republican presidential front-runner to rethink his pronounced idiocies on climate change. It’s a hoax, says Donald J. Trump, with all the practiced hucksterism of the swampland salesman. He may feel different when one of his resorts is below the sea. He’s got Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, rooms with a view of a tomorrow that won’t answer to his bluster.

His colleagues in science denial, gathered at a fake palazzo in Las Vegas, with a fake canal mimicking a real city that may soon be underwater, could have benefited from a field trip to nearby Lake Mead. This is the nation’s largest reservoir, allowing a city of 1.3 million to sprout in a desert that gets about four inches of rain a year. This summer, Lake Mead fell to its lowest level since it was initially filled. It has dropped nearly 150 feet in the last 14 years.

When the rains finally came to the Northwest this year, you saw images of more real estate in peril, landslides and teetering homes. What you didn’t see were all the reservoirs filling, the salmon streams flush once again, snow piling up in the Cascades — water as a positive force.

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In a month or more, the atmospheric river is supposed to shift south, to California, its Godzilla El Niño. They need 11 trillion gallons, an entire year of precipitation, to recover. As a hedge, this week a $1 billion plant opened in San Diego County, the largest ocean desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere. It’s a small piece, an engineered solution that will meet barely 10 percent of the county’s water needs.

The anemic Sacramento River, the parched Central Valley, the snow-starved Sierra — they will require something more. They need waterfalls like Snoqualmie, the spray in the face, renewal during the darkest days of the year.

(The original has been published in The New York Times)

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The Syrian Tragedy Versus Oil & Petroleum

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The Syrian oil industry took off in 1968, when the Karatchok oil field began production after a pipeline connecting it to the Homs refinery was completed, although Syria did not begin exporting oil until the mid-1980s. Although Syria is not a major oil exporter by Middle Eastern standards, according to the International Monetary Fund, oil sales for 2010 were projected to generate $3.2 billion for the Syrian government and account for 25.1% of the state’s revenue. 

Before the civil war the two main pillars of the economy were agriculture and oil, but since the civil war? Syria is heavily dependent upon the revenue it gets from its oil which is a pity. Particularly given the fact that ISIS now controls a third of Syrian territory, and as a consequence most of its oil and gas production. 

The Syrian government used to have business links to Anglo-Dutch Shell, the French oil and gas company Total, and the British oil and petroleum company Gulf Sands Petroleum. It also did oil and petroleum business with the American and Egyptian co-owned company Improved Petroleum Recovery (IPR).

Alas, President Assad’s brutal mistreatment of his people has put paid to these links for the time being.

Though not  to his business ties with Russia’s Stroytransgas and Soyuzneftegaz. 

In fact in July 2014 Tass, the Russian news agency reported that Stroytransgas had signed a $264 million deal with a Syrian state company for the first stage of a $2 billion project to irrigate farmland in the country’s north-east. The first stage of the project to comprise the construction of a pumping station near the country’s border with Turkey and Iraq. All this whilst President Assad battles ISIS and sundry other opposition groups for control of the country. impressive. 

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Now you may have noticed that although the focus of this post appears to be oil and petroleum production, the only images so far are of the same dead body. But I digress, so let the blog post continue! The Syrian Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Wealth and Russian energy company Soyuzneftegaz signed an deal on oil and gas offshore exploration in the Syrian capital of Damascus on December 25, 2013. So, Soyuzneftegaz became the first foreign and Russian company which was granted the right for oil exploration, development and production at Block-2 in Syrian territorial waters.

The company believes that oil exploration in Block-2 will take no less than five years, Shafranik said in an interview with British news agency Reuters. Upon results of oil exploration the company will make a conclusion whether commercial oil production is expedient there.

“If there is no possibility of normalising the situation throughout the country at once, the situation should be stabilised gradually in regions where it is possible to conclude an agreement,” Reuters quoted Shafranik as saying.And once the situation in ‘patches’ of Syria has been achieved?

“Then humanitarian aid should be provided, and then we should move on to energy projects, removing obstacles to them including any sanctions slowing down the country’s economic recovery,” he added. Shafranik also dwelt on plans to build an oil pipeline between Iraq and Syria. Shafranik sounds all heart to me (for a businessman) for once he’s accessed the oil he & his company are prepared to contemplate salving the wounds of Syria’s remaining populace. 

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Don’t you get the impression that although France, the United Kingdom, Egypt & America have lost out on oil and petroleum profits, as a consequence of the Syrian conflict, the Russians as ever, are sitting pretty? That state of affairs must really grate with the Americans, the French and the British. Particularly when one considers the situation in the Ukraine, with Russia’s Gazprom supplying over half of the Ukraine’s gas and 30% of Europe’s gas each year.There’s Chevron, Shell and Exxon Mobil all set to go shale gas exploring (that’s fracking to me and you) in Western Ukraine, when Russia invades the Crimea thereby throwing a spanner in the works. And now it would seem that Russia intends to further consolidate its presence in Syria.

Last week the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth cited Western diplomatic sources saying that Russia was on the verge of deploying “thousands” of troops to Syria to establish an airbase from which the Russian air force would fly combat sorties against Isil.

Those details appear to be backed by satellite images of a Russian base under construction near Latakia, according to anonymous intelligence officials quoted by several American newspapers. Moscow increasingly justifies its support for the Assad regime by pointing to the rise of violent jihadists in Syria. That’s right, just like the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister David Cameron, Vladimir Putin is mightily concerned about the rise of ISIL in Iraq and Syria. So much so that he has ‘put boots on the ground’ to protect the well-being of President Basher Al-Assad and the Syrian people, naturally.

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And whilst I’m at it, for the sake of decency I should include the Syrian casualty stats; 191,369,000 Syrians are estimated by the UN to have died up to and including August 2014, at least 5,000 of those deaths will have been children. Those who have so far drowned in the Mediterranean? They number 2,600 but the talk amongst nations is not truly about these casualties and it should be.

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Instead, the conversation is all about the oil and petroleum centred, geopolitical manoeuvrings of the self-same nations (America, the United Kingdom, France) who are supposed to be enthusiastically embracing sustainable energy and the impending Paris World Climate Summit. Cold war politics are firmly back on the menu, and next to that nothing, not the Syrian people, not even the eventual fate of the world counts.

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Food Irrigated With Fracking Water May Require Labels In California

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A new bill proposed in California would require all produce irrigated with fracking wastewater to come with warning labels. 

The bill, which Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D) introduced on Monday, would require any crops grown with water that had previously been injected into rock formations to free oil and gas reserves and sold to consumers in the state to be labeled. The warning would read, “Produced using recycled or treated oil-field wastewater.”

“Consumers have a basic right to make informed decisions when it comes to the type of food that ends up on the family dinner table,” Gatto said in a press release from his office. “Labeling food that has been irrigated with potentially harmful or carcinogenic chemicals, such as those in recycled fracking water, is the right thing to do.”

Federal officials, environmentalists and the petroleum industry remain intensely divided on how safe fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is. Debates over fracking largely revolve around whether the practice contaminates nearby groundwater, but an increase in farmers hydrating their crops with treated, previously injected water purchased from oil companies has aroused new concern. 

A report released last month by the California Council on Science and Technology did not discover strong evidence of dangerous chemicals in the recycled water — but it also found that state regulators did not have an adequate testing process and that there was “not any control in place to prevent [contamination] from happening.” 

It’s a risk Gatto believes people should be informed of. 

“No one expects their lettuce to contain heavy chemicals from fracking wastewater,” he said. “Studies show a high possibility that recycled oil-field wastewater may still contain dangerous chemicals, even after treatment.”

Ghana’s Catholic Bishops hit the streets to protest….against condoms…..

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The Catholic Bishops’ Conference hit the streets of Accra, after a two-day international Pro-life conference to protest against artificial means of birth control such as the use of condoms, abortion, sterilization and vasectomies.

Over 1000 participants including professional men and women in the fields of medicine, nursing, science, law, politics, academia and the media joined the float to fight against the Culture of Death through the teaching and promotion of the Gospel of life.

Excerpts of the placards read, “Every life is created in the image of God, protect it!,” “Abortion is a sin, stop it!” “Life starts from the womb, protect it!,” sex is for married couples only,” “protect the unborn child,” “eternal values-life and faith,” abortion is evil, stop it!,” don’t kill our future generation,” “not ready to be a mother? No sex,” international organizations stop promoting abortion in Ghana, “African governments stop promoting the culture of death.”

The Catholic Priesthood strongly held that such mechanisms promote the culture of death that has come to Africa in the form of population control measures imposed on us by multi-national organizations.

According to them, it is against the moral teachings of the scriptures and therefore, anything that hinders procreation must be disregarded.

The Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference, the priests, religious bodies and laity of the Catholic Church in Accra ended a two-day International Pro-life Conference in Accra from 7th to 8th August under the theme, “Protecting Life and Family Values in the Continuing Culture of Death.”

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Speakers, leaders, advocates, activists, researchers from Europe, America and Arica where brought together to discuss a wide range of topics pertaining to the issues of the dignity and sanctity of human life and the defence of marriage and family.

A communiqué issued at the end of the tow-day conference declared that the family is a cradle where life is welcomed, nurtured and protected.

Thus, every family, with marriage at its core, must create a conducive environment where the inestimable value of life is emphasized and upheld.

It noted that sacramental marriage is instituted by God as a permanent and indissoluble union between one man and one woman; open to live and love.

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Thus, other forms of unions such as homosexual unions and adulterous unions are inimical to the mind of the Creator-they undermine the integrity of the human being and the family and as such should never be promoted or supported in our society.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference, in a resolution, will continue to resist the persistent and pernicious attempts to impose population control on Africa by wealthy philanthropists, donor nations and international organizations who are pursuing this agenda subtly under the platform of sexual and reproductive and health rights.

The Ghana Catholic Bishops have resolve to work with government, other faith-based organizations and the civil society groups as well as the media to promote and sustain the importance of faith and family in human development, public education and in the social order.

By Abubakari Seidu Ajarfor, jarfemma@gmail.com

California’s Drought: Thousands Are Living Without Running Water

tulare-2.0_0 Most of us are feeling the effects of the California drought from a distance, if at all: Our produce is a little more expensive, our news feeds are filled with images of cracked earth. But thousands of people in California’s Central Valley are feeling the drought much more acutely, because water has literally ceased running from their taps. The drought in these communities resembles a never-ending natural disaster, says Andrew Lockman, manager of the county’s Office of Emergency Services. Most disasters are “sudden onset, they run their course over hours or days, and then you clean up the mess. This thing has been growing for 18 months and it’s not slowing down.” Here’s what you need to know about California’s most parched places:

What do you mean by “no running water”? No water is coming through the pipes, so when residents turn on the tap or the shower, or try to flush the toilet or run the washing machine, water doesn’t come out.

Who doesn’t have running water? While a handful of communities across the state are dealing with municipal water contamination and shortages, the area that’s hardest hit—and routinely referred to as the “ground zero of the drought”—is Tulare County, a rural, agriculture-heavy region in the Central Valley that’s roughly the size of Connecticut. As of this week, 5,433 people in the county don’t have running water, according to Lockman. Most of those individuals live in East Porterville, a small farming community in the Sierra Foothills. East Porterville is one of the poorest communities in California: over a third of the population lives below the federal poverty line, and 56 percent of adults didn’t make it through high school. About three quarters of residents are Latino, and about a third say they don’t speak English “very well.”

Why don’t they have running water? Many Tulare homes aren’t connected to a public water system—either because they are too rural or, in the case of East Porterville, because when the community was incorporated in the late 1970s, there wasn’t enough surface water available to serve the community. Until recently, this wasn’t a problem: the homes have private wells, and residents had a seemingly unlimited supply of groundwater. Most domestic wells in East Porterville are relatively shallow—between 25 and 50 feet deep—because water wasn’t far below ground level. With California in its fourth year of drought, there’s been little groundwater resupply and a lot more demand—particularly as farmers resort to pumping for water—leading the water table to drop dramatically and wells to go dry. Those with money can dig deeper wells, but this generally costs between $10,000 and $30,000—a cost that’s prohibitive for many Tulare residents. images (1) If they don’t have running water, how do they function? Of the roughly 1,200 Tulare homes reporting dry wells, about 1,000 of them have signed up for a free bottled water delivery service coordinated by the county. Homes receive deliveries every two weeks; each resident is allotted half a gallon of drinking water per day. The county has also set up three large tanks of nonpotable water, where residents can fill up storage containers for things like showering, flushing toilets, or doing dishes. Portable showers, toilets, and sinks have been set up in front of a church in East Porterville.

Wait, people are showering outside a church? Yup. Some residents have been living without water for over a year, says Susana De Anda, the director of the Community Water Center, a non-profit serving the area. “It’s a huge hygiene issue where we don’t have running water. It kind of reminds me of Katrina,” she says. “The relief came but it came kind of late.”

The state’s offering temporary help, right? To provide interim relief, the county is also working to install water storage tanks outside of homes with dry wells. The 2,500-gallon tanks, usually set up in yards, are filled with potable water and connected to the home, giving a rough semblance of running water. Only about 170 such tanks have been installed so far, in part because the process for installing the tanks is so laborious. Applicants need to prove ownership of the house, open their home to a site assessment, and more—with each step of the process involving a days or weeks long queue. Some 1,300 homes still don’t have tanks installed. water Hundreds of rental properties don’t have running water, and because domestic water storage tanks aren’t set up at rental units, migrant workers aren’t likely to reap the benefits of this interim solution. Another challenge is misinformation: The free water programs are open to residents regardless of citizenship, but myths still prevents some from taking advantage of the services. When the portable showers were first installed in front of the church, says Lockman, many people suspected they were an immigration enforcement trap. Some parents haven’t been sending their children to school, having heard that child welfare services would take away kids from families that don’t have running water.

Who’s working on this? This year, the state has set aside $19 million to be spent on emergency drinking water. In Tulare, the Office of Emergency Services, which coordinates a network of contractors covering the needs of half a million people, currently has a staff of four people. (Three more positions were approved this week.) In the long term, community leaders are working to build an infrastructure so that homes can be linked to a municipal water supply. But that work is “slow and expensive,” says Melissa Withnell, a county spokesperson. 31203778 Are farmers taking the water? Yes, but it’s hard to blame them. Tulare County is among the biggest agricultural producers in the country, growing everything from pistachios and almonds to grapes and livestock. “If you were to just look at the landscape, it’s very green,” says De Anda. “You wouldn’t think we were in a drought.” The industry brings in nearly 8 billion dollars per year, employing many of those individuals who currently lack running water. Permits to drill new wells have skyrocketed—just this year, nearly 700 irrigation wells have been permitted, compared to about 200 domestic wells. (Wells permits are issued on a first come, first served basis.) “It’s like one big punch bowl that’s not getting refilled but everybody’s been slowly drinking out of it and now we have a thirsty football team at the same punch bowl as everybody else,” says Lockman. “Do we have sustainability problems? Oh yeah, absolutely.”

Iowa Governor: Des Moines Water Utility Should ‘Tone Down’ Criticism of Agricultural Pollution

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Iowa Governor Terry Branstad told reporters Tuesday that Des Moines Water Works — a private utility that provides water to some 500,000 residents in the Des Moines area — should “just tone it down” when it comes to monitoring water pollution from agriculture.

“The Des Moines Water Works ought to just tone it down and start cooperating and working with others, like Cedar Rapids is doing, and other communities in the state of Iowa,” Branstad reportedly said when asked if the state government would work to help Des Moines Water Works customers impacted by the utility’s expected 10 percent rate increase.

Water Works claims that the rate hikes are necessary to cover the increased costs of water treatment due to nitrate pollution, which comes from largely unregulated fertilizer runoff from surrounding farmland. According to the Des Moines Register, Water Works has spent $1.5 million for nitrate removal since December of 2014, and plans to spend up to $183 million more for new nitrate removal equipment built to keep up with high levels of pollution.

The EPA allows up to 10 milligrams of nitrates per liter in public drinking water — anything higher than that is considered a threat to public health. The Des Moines and Raccoon rivers, from which the Des Moines Water Works pulls its water, both have exhibited levels in excess of federal standards, a trend that’s mirrored in major rivers across the state. According to an April report by the Des Moines Register, nitrate levels across Iowa’s major rivers have more than tripled, increasing from about 2 milligrams per liter on average in 1954 to more than 7 milligrams per liter between 1954 and 2010.

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“It’s unmistakable. The long-term trend is decidedly upward,” Keith Schilling, a research scientist at the Iowa Geological Survey at the University of Iowa, told the Des Moines Register. Researchers say that the rise of row-cropping, farm drainage tiles, and the loss of perennial crops have helped make nutrient runoff an issue in Iowa.

In response to high nitrate levels, the Des Moines Water Works announced in January of this year that they would sue three neighboring counties that have failed to properly manage the nutrients applied to their farmland.

“When they build these artificial drainage districts that take water, polluted water, quickly into the Raccoon River, they have a responsibility to us and others as downstream users,” Bill Stowe, general manager of the Des Moines Water Works, told Iowa Public Radio in a January interview.

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But taking aggressive action like this, Branstad said Tuesday, has alienated Des Moines Water Works from state officials and legislatures, many of whom represent districts where agriculture is the primary economic driver. In each of the three counties that the Des Moines Water Works is suing (Buena Vista, Calhoun and Sac counties), farms account for 98 percent of the surface land.

“If they want to cooperate and work with us, they are much more likely to get assistance and support,” Branstad said. “If they are continuing to sue and attack other people, that is not doing to get them the kind of assistance and support they would like to have.”

Branstad contended that the state has taken steps to reduce nitrate pollution through a set of voluntary measures known as the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. The Des Moines Register survey of nitrate pollution did show a slight decline in nitrate levels in recent decades, perhaps due to farmers employing more conservation practices.

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“I think we in the state of Iowa want clean water and we want to do everything we can,” Branstad told reporters. “We have a nutrient reduction strategy. We are working on a cooperative and collaborative basis.”

But Graham Gillette, chairman of the Des Moines Water Works Board of Trustees, told the Des Moines Register that Branstad’s comments were “hurtful and derogatory.”

“There is no one in a better situation to help with the water situation in the state than the governor, and I am just baffled why he is not interested in even participating in the conversation,” Gillette said.