Walking on the wire

It scares you when you don’t know
Whichever way the wind might blow
I’m walking on a wire
And I’m falling.

Richard and Linda Thompson:

Fast Eddie

He’s the sleazy hired gun for Fix The Debt, and now the frackers:

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell says gas driller Range Resources never authorized him to speak on their behalf to the EPA about a Texas contamination case. On Tuesday, EnergyWire published a piece quoting email exchanges between EPA officials that would suggest Rendell went to bat for Range over a high-profile methane migration case in Parker County, Texas.

Rendell tells StateImpact that he did speak to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson about the case, but downplayed his role.

“I visited EPA in 2011 to discuss a number of issues with Administrator Lisa Jackson and her staff,” wrote Rendell in an email. “I was made aware of the EPA’s enforcement action against Range Resources prior to my meeting and suggested to EPA staff that a settlement could lead to increased cooperation between EPA regulators and the industry.  I was not authorized by Range Resources to make a settlement proposal, nor did I offer one.”

The EPA had just begun a study into the impacts of fracking on drinking water supplies, and needed cooperation of industry. Rendell intervened on behalf of Range at a time when he publicly chastised industry representatives for ignoring environmentalists’ concerns.

Code Pink crashes Brennan nomination hearing

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God bless the brave and brilliant ladies of Code Pink, who were apparently the only people attending the Senate confirmation hearing for CIA nominee John Brennan willing to stand up against the horrors of drones and torture. They interrupted the hearing five different times, got their message out, and most important of all, made the talking heads repeat that message again and again:

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) called Thursday’s hearing to recess barely a few minutes after it had started, as protesters one-by-one interrupted CIA Director-nominee John Brennan during his opening statement.

“The next time, we’re going to clear the chamber and bring people back in one by one,” Feinstein said after a third protester interrupted Brennan. “This witness is entitled to be heard, ladies and gentlemen, so please give him that opportunity.”

After a fourth protester stood up, Feinstein made good on her promise.
The demonstrators appeared to be members of the activist group Code Pink. One held a sign reading, “Brennan = Drone Killing.” Another yelled out that she was protesting on behalf of mothers in countries including Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia.

Not so fast, boys

I knew Elizabeth Warren wasn’t going to sit in the corner and behave!

Three influential lawmakers on Thursday called for bank regulators to disclose more details of the $8.5 billion foreclosure abuse settlement reached earlier this month and to reveal what happened during the case-by-case review program it abruptly replaced.

In a letter to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) wrote that “additional transparency” was necessary to ensure the confidence necessary “to speed recovery in the housing markets.” They asked regulators to turn over the results of the performance reviews of the independent contractors hired to examine the loan files, as well as detailed information about the reviews’ preliminary results, to determine the extent of the harm to the 500,000 people who applied to the program.

In a separate letter, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) called the sudden end of the foreclosure reviews “troubling” and asked that an independent monitor be named to oversee the new deal.

Under the foreclosure settlement, announced Jan. 7, 11 large mortgage companies, including the biggest banks — JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Bank of America — agreed to distribute $3.3 billion in cash payments to homeowners who received a foreclosure notice between 2009 and 2010. The lenders pledged an additional $5.2 billion to loan modifications and other programs meant to prevent future foreclosures.

The agreement comes on top of a settlement reached between five banks, 49 states and the federal government in 2012 to resolve alleged document forging and mortgage management, or “servicing,” abuses. It replaces a key piece of an earlier 2011 agreement known as the Independent Foreclosure Review.

Bank regulators initially described that review as giving homeowners who believed their mortgage company made a mistake or error during the course of their foreclosure, such as an overcharge or a botched loan modification, a chance to have an independent consultant review their case and award financial compensation of up to $125,000.

Thanks to Seth Price.

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