Showing posts with label Miami. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Miami. Show all posts

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Environmental groups raise concerns over Florida's new hunt for oil

Renewed hunts for oil in sensitive Florida ecosystems have environmental groups raising questions about the state's regulation of the oil and gas industry.
A Miami company, Kanter Real Estate LLC, has submitted a permit application to drill an exploratory oil well on the eastern edge of the Everglades.
Meanwhile, federal approval is pending for a seismic survey meant to locate new areas for drilling in the Big Cypress National Preserve, a freshwater swamp whose health is vital to the neighboring Everglades and to native wildlife, including the endangered Florida panther.
The state recently issued a wetlands activity permit to Fort Worth, Texas-based Burnett Oil Co. Inc. for the survey that would cover 110 square miles within the preserve. Florida and the National Park Service are requiring a number of steps to ensure minimal harm to wildlife and the environment, but the proposal worries critics who have complained that lax oversight of previous drilling operations left ecologically sensitive areas vulnerable to contamination.
From 2012 to 2014, Florida issued three environmental violations for oil and gas operations in the state, according to violations data analyzed by The Associated Press.
The three violations occurred in 2014 after Collier County officials raised concerns about another Texas oil company's use of a fracking-like oil recovery practice at a well near panther habitat.
The Department of Environmental Protection — the state's oil and gas regulator — say the number doesn't show lax law enforcement, but rather that Florida's strict inspections keep well operators in compliance.
"During the 2014 calendar year, DEP's inspectors conducted 2,472 inspections on the 160 active wells in the state. Due to the frequency of these inspections, potential problems are identified and remedied before a violation occurs or a compliance action is required," said DEP spokeswoman Lauren Engel said in a statement.
Environmental groups argue that Florida's regulations currently only cover conventional drilling methods, not the "acid stimulation" that prompted last year's violations or other advanced extraction techniques.
"We've learned that Florida's oil and gas laws are extremely antiquated and rudimentary and don't address new techniques such as fracking," said Jennifer Hecker, director of natural resource policy for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
Drilling has been a part of the Big Cypress since before it became a national preserve in 1974. The first wells were dug in the 1940s, and drilling continues to this day, as new technologies may improve the efficiency of extracting oil from deposits running underground from Fort Myers to Miami.
The Burnett survey would be scheduled for Florida's winter dry season and produce vibrations created by plates attached to thumper trucks driving across a grid.
The state has gone on record opposing some methods of seismic testing, but it has not objected to the Burnett project.
DEP sent a letter to the Obama administration opposing new rules allowing seismic surveys for oil and gas off the state's Atlantic coast because not enough was known about the surveys' effects on marine life. The seismic survey in the Big Cypress, however, has to comply with Florida laws, said Engel.
"With onshore seismic, we have regulatory authority through this permitting program," she said.
Burnett says it's prepared to address concerns about the survey's environmental impact. The wetlands activity permit issued by DEP requires the company to restore "using hand tools" any habitat damaged by the survey vehicles, and it encourages crews to remove any invasive plant species they encounter.
The survey trucks' wide, balloon tires will be less damaging than off-road vehicle tires, said Burnett spokesman Ryan Duffy.
The survey would cover an area between active well fields in the eastern and northwestern parts of the preserve, far from recreational areas. In addition to the state permit, the park service could impose additional stipulations on Burnett to mitigate any environmental damage, said Ron Clark, the preserve's chief resource manager.
Drilling has been a rarity east of the Big Cypress. In 1985, a Texas company drilled in western Broward County, but that well was plugged and abandoned the same year, according to DEP.
The Kanter permit application calls for a 5-acre operation to drill down 11,800 feet.
In a statement, John Kanter said the application is "one of the first steps in a long-term plan that includes proposed mining, as well as water storage and water quality improvement components that have the potential for assisting with Everglades Restoration."
His family has owned the Broward County property slated for exploratory drilling for over 50 years. "As stewards of this land, we are fully invested in ensuring this project provides maximum public benefit while also providing Florida with solutions for water storage and treatment in South Florida," he said.
Environmental groups and some local elected officials say any drilling expansion threatens the region's water supply and Everglades restoration plans.
"Florida law asks the driller to do the best job possible, but it doesn't say you can't drill for oil in wetlands, in the Everglades, in panther habitat," said Matt Schwartz, executive director of the South Florida Wildlands Association.
In Miramar, the city 5 miles from the where Kanter wants to drill, the mayor and city commission recently voted to oppose the plan because of the threat to their drinking water.
Bonita Springs is over 30 miles from the Big Cypress and hasn't been a target for drilling, but the city council last week unanimously approved an ordinance banning fracking within city limits.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Feds Charge More Than 200 People With Medicare Fraud

The West Miami drug store was called E-Z Pharmacy. A more apt name would have been “E-Z Money.”
The former owners — Eklis Almanza and husband Juan E. Diaz Gonzalez — pocketed $4.8 million from the taxpayer-funded Medicare program by submitting bogus claims for prescription drugs that none of their customers ever needed or received, according to a federal indictment.
In Little Havana, Enemisis Torres is accused of selling forged and altered prescriptions of Medicare patients at her rehabilitation clinic, Palmetto Comprehensive Healthcare, to a ring of Miami-Dade pharmacy owners. They in turn fraudulently billed the federal program $21.2 million, prosecutors say. Her clinic was raided early Thursday.
The defendants are among 73 South Florida suspects charged this week in Miami federal court with bilking Medicare, including dozens accused of defrauding the Part D prescription drug program that was implemented a decade ago during the Bush administration. The total amount of fraudulent claims in the regional sweep: $262 million.
“By stealing from Medicare ... they have robbed all of us,” U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer told reporters Thursday.
The South Florida arrests — carried out by armies of FBI and Health and Human Services agents — are part of this week’s nationwide take-down of 243 Medicare fraud offenders in states across the country, extending to Alaska. The tally of false claims in the nationwide crackdown: $712 million.
The Justice Department in Washington and U.S. attorney's office in Miami held back-to-back news conferences Thursday to spotlight the latest schemes to fleece the Medicare program, which continues to be plagued by billions of dollars in losses to fraud every year.
Ferrer called the latest healthcare fraud take-down the “largest ever” over the past decade, with Miami, the capital of Medicare fraud, accounting for one-third of all defendants charged this week. “It’s unacceptable, staggering and pretty shocking,” he said.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Miami VA Whistleblower Exposes Drug Dealing, Theft, Abuse

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – When asked why he would risk his job and speak publicly, Detective Thomas Fiore considered the question carefully before answering.
“People are dying,” he finally said, “and there are so many things that are going on there that people need to know about.”
Fiore, a criminal investigator for the VA police department in South Florida, contacted CBS4 News hoping to shed light on what he considers a culture of cover-ups and bureaucratic neglect. Among his charges: Drug dealing on the hospital grounds is a daily occurrence.
“Anything from your standard prescription drugs like OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet, and of course marijuana, cocaine, heroin, I’ve come across them all,” he explained.
Even inside the hospital, he says he was stopped from doing his job – investigating reports of missing drugs from the VA pharmacy. When the amount of a particular drug inside the pharmacy doesn’t match the amount that the pharmacy is supposed to have, a report, known as a “discrepancy report” is generated. Normally it was his job to investigate the reports to determine if they were the result of harmless mistakes or criminal activity. But all that changed, he said, about two years ago.
“I was instructed that I was to stop conducting investigations pertaining to controlled substance discrepancies,” he recalled.
He said he was personally told to stop investigating them by the hospital’s chief of staff, Dr. Vincent DeGennaro.
“I have no idea why,” he said. “He’s the chief of staff he doesn’t have to tell me why.”
DeGennaro declined our request for an interview. A spokesman for the VA wrote CBS4 News: “The Miami VA is required to monitor all controlled substances and resolve inventory discrepancies within 72 hours. Any unresolved discrepancies are reported to the Miami VA Healthcare System Director and Controlled Substance Coordinator, VA OIG, DEA and VA Police for independent investigation.”
Fiore said he decided to contact CBS4 News following our report last month on the death of Nicholas Cutter, a 27-year-old Iraq War veteran with PTSD who died from a cocaine overdose inside the Miami VA’s drug rehab center.

Monday, December 23, 2013


MIAMI – Defending workers’ rights is a noble mission.  But sometimes labor unions take it too far.  Here are some of our favorite examples of labor union contracts “gone wild.”
1) Three strikes and you’re still not out.
Believe it or not, an overly generous clause slipped into the teacher Master Agreement in 1997, basically states that Bay City School Teachers (Michigan) can be caught drunk at work up to five times before they get sacked.
In Florida, a teacher who showed up to class plastered and then started “dirty dancing” with her students may end up teaching again, thanks to her union’s excellent negotiating skills.
Bay City School teachers (again in Michigan) managed to negotiate a union contract where they could be caught in possession of, or under the influence of, drugs  three times before they lost their job.
2). No shows at work
Dozens of Miami-Dade County employees often don’t bother to show up for work, and instead, opt to spend their time working as union reps, on the taxpayers’ dime. County Commissioner Esteban Bovo told Florida Watchdog this is costing taxpayers anywhere from $12 million to $24 million annually.
3). A gamble where everyone wins
Martin Mulhall, a groundkeeper for Mardi Gras Gaming in Hallandale Beach, Fla., alleged the Florida casino traded the personal information of nonunion employees to UNITE-HERE, a hospitality union, in exchange for the union’s endorsement of a bill that would expand gambling in the state.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Obamacare enrollees become urban legend

Will the Floridians who have enrolled for Obamacare please stand up?
Nearly two weeks after the federal government launched the online Health Insurance Marketplace at, individuals who have successfully used the choked-up website to enroll for a subsidized health insurance plan have reached a status akin to urban legend: Everyone has heard of them, but very few people have actually met one.
The Miami Herald searched high and low for individuals who completed enrollment for a subsidized health plan through the marketplace, also called an exchange, launched by the federal government on Oct. 1 in 36 states, including Florida.
The Herald solicited readers for stories of enrollees online and in the newspaper, and received a fair number of responses reflecting various degrees of success with, which has been plagued by technical problems that federal officials attribute to an overwhelming number of people trying to access the website at once.
A keystone of the federal healthcare reform law known the Affordable Care Act, the exchange is intended to provide affordable, comprehensive health insurance for the millions of Americans who do not have coverage.
As of Friday, however, only a smattering of success stories had emerged in news reports., an online news outlet, reported that a 21-year-old Georgia resident who enrolled successfully has become a cause célèbre, with national media and even the White House touting his story.
For now, there’s no reason for consumers to panic, federal officials say.
Enrollment in the exchange lasts until March 31, though people must pick a plan by Dec. 15 to have coverage begin on Jan. 1.
On Friday the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the federally-run exchange, reported that had received 14.6 million unique visitors in the first 10 days.



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Thursday, September 19, 2013

CBS Affiliate Airs Car Chase That Ends in Deadly Horrific Crash

When news is slow, TV outlets love an intense car chase. As we’ve documented here many times, that ratings prize also comes with high risk:Sometimes the chases end in horrific fashion, occasionally with lives lost on-air.
While following a high-speed chase this week, CBS Miami broadcast a horrific crash that claimed the life of an innocent driver caught up in the ordeal.
While the footage of those final, horrific moments of the chase resulted in a life lost, the CBS affiliate repeatedly aired the footage throughout their noon broadcast (with the requisite warning to viewers). While it’s a fact that the broadsided driver was killed, the footage is not gory or zoomed-in enough to show any gruesome details, thus perhaps coloring CBS Miami’s decision to run with the footage over and over again.
Take a below at how WFOR covered it below (WARNING: As mentioned, the video may be disturbing to some. Discretion is advised.):

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Romney, Obama camps war over 'state of the race'

(CNN) - Who has the momentum in the race for the White House, President Barack Obama or GOP challenger Mitt Romney?
Each campaign says they do, and are seeking to impress upon reporters that point.

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"A week from today, we will know hopefully the outcome of the election and we believe that Mitt Romney will be the next president of the United States," Russ Schriefer, a senior adviser to Romney's campaign, said Wednesday afternoon in a conference call with reporters.
Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod cited poll and early voting numbers in a separate call a few hours earlier, saying, "We feel very, very good about the numbers that we're mounting up in those states."
Their efforts come with only six days remaining in the presidential contest and after several days of campaigning were scrapped as Superstorm Sandy battered several eastern states. On Monday,Obama's campaign held a call with the same theme, and earlier on Friday, Romney senior adviser Kevin Madden told reporters traveling with the candidate that Democrats were feeling under pressure.
"I think in many of these states where the Democrats considered those to be locked down, safe states that they weren't going to have to defend, they've now gone up with - they're now pouring resources into those states," he said. "They have to put up ads on the air, and I think that shows that they're playing defense, whereas when we've gone in with resources to many states, it's because we're playing offense, that we have an expanded map now to get to the, our electoral of 270."
Madden's briefing took place on a flight from Miami to Tampa, Florida, and was the first time in several days the campaign has held an on-the-record briefing for reporters.
The Romney campaign described their newly-developing effort in Pennsylvania - where they have announced an ad buy on Monday and Tuesday of next week - which Democrats have said is a bluff to show confidence.
"As you looked at the numbers in Pennsylvania starting to close it became a very interesting place for us to go in," Romney's political director, Rich Beeson, said. "And when you look at the issues in Pennsylvania, when you look at the absentee ballot numbers that are playing out there - and we are significantly over performing in those - Pennsylvania is a place that we decided to wade into as a path to 300 electoral votes."
Only 270 electoral votes are required to win the presidency, and the CNN Electoral Map predicts Romney holds 206 and Obama 237 with 95 among eight toss up states.

Monday, October 15, 2012

CBO: Bailout Will Lose $24 Billion

Obama: ‘We Got Back Every Dime’ of Bailout; CBO: Bailout Will Lose $24 Billion. Who to Believe!!!!

(  President Barack Obama said on Thursday that “we got back every dime we used to rescue the financial system."
According to the Congressional Budget Office, however, the government will lose about $24 billion on the bailout.
“We got back every dime we used to rescue the financial system, but we also passed a historic law to end taxpayer-funded Wall Street bailouts for good,” Obama said in Miami Thursday.
The Congressional Budget Office--based on figures from Obama’s own Office of Management and Budget---gives a different assessment.
“The cost to the federal government of the TARP’s transactions (also referred to as the subsidy cost), including grants for mortgage programs that have not yet been made, will amount to $24 billion,” said the CBO report, which was released on the same day Obama spoke.
Via: CNS News
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