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Institute for Sustainable Communities Launches $4 million U.S.-China Partnership

first_imgInstitute for Sustainable Communities Launches $4 million U.S.-China Partnership Chinese government delegation will visit Vermont on October 20to tour energy-efficient facilities and sign an agreement with ISC.ISC’s program will reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in Guangdong province, China’s ‘Factory to the World.’Montpelier, Vermont, October 20, 2008- Officials from the Guangdong Economic and Trade Commission are in Vermont today to sign an agreement with the Institute for Sustainable Communities, which has launched a $4 million U.S.-China partnership to reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in the southern province of Guangdong.Leveraging the best resources and expertise from the United States and China, ISC’s Guangdong Environmental Partnership is designed to increase energy efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and improve environmental health in the heavily industrial province. The program works at four levels-business, government, communities, and schools-to spark a wave of change in environmental and energy-efficiency practices. It is supported by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, GE Foundation, Citi Foundation, SABIC Innovative Plastics, Honeywell Corporation, and the U.S. Agency for International Development, through a public-private partnership.”The Guangdong Economic and Trade Commission is pleased to be working with the Institute for Sustainable Communities on this important partnership,” said Bi Zhijian, vice director general of the commission. “Addressing environmental challenges and reducing energy intensity levels are important priorities for the Guangdong government and, while we are making progress in addressing these issues, we welcome international cooperation and assistance.”Often called the factory to the world, Guangdong province is the same geographic size as New England with seven times the population (100 million-about 2.5 times more people than California). The region has more manufacturing jobs than the United States and its factories make a significant contribution to global green house gas emissions, acid rain, and other pollutants. The region, which suffers from frequent energy shortages, has made a significant commitment to improving energy efficiency.”This is precisely the kind of partnership-working across sectors, disciplines and nations to address the critical sustainable development challenges of our time-that I envisioned when I established ISC in 1991,” said Madeleine Kunin, the former governor of Vermont. “We are proud to leverage Vermont’s leadership and energy expertise in the global arena.”The Chinese delegation will spend two days in Vermont meeting with organizations and agencies involved in various energy efficiency programs, including Efficiency Vermont, Burlington Electric, and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. The delegation will also visit Canada, New York City, and Miami, Florida.”If the world is going to make any progress in improving resource efficiency, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and minimizing climate disruptions,” said George Hamilton, president of the Institute for Sustainable Communities, “nonprofits, agencies, universities, and businesses from the U.S. and China must work together more effectively.” He added, “I look forward to achieving some very exciting results with the Guangdong Economic and Trade Commission and all of our U.S. and Chinese partners.”The delegation is led by Bi Zhijian, vice director general of the Guangdong Economic and Trade Commission (GETC), and includes Xie Shichao, director of the Department of Environment & Resource Conservation at GETC; Huang Xiaoqun, director of Guangdong State Tax Bureau; Zhang Na, vice-section chief, Department of Environment and Resource Conservation; Li Bianzhuo, president, Guangdong Association of Resources Comprehensive Utilization; and Wang Cailian, vice-director, Guangdong Energy Saving & Circular Economy Promotion Center.*Founded in 1991 by former Vermont governor Madeleine M. Kunin, the Institute for Sustainable Communities has managed 70 projects in 18 countries. ISC, which is led by George Hamilton, brings 18 years of experience in helping communities address major challenges. ISC’s China program consists of four mutually reinforcing components:BUSINESS: Environmental Health and Safety Academy. Based at Lingnan University College of Sun Yat-Sen University, the new academy will provide affordable, state-of-the-art training designed to save energy, reduce harmful emissions, and improve worker health and a safety conditions in Guangdong’s manufacturing enterprises. It will expand the pool of qualified EHS managers serving factories in Guangdong province and South China.GOVERNMENT: Environmental Governance. ISC is working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to provide technical assistance and training to regional and local environmental authorities on strategies to encourage more effective monitoring and compliance — as they staff up to manage a number of new laws and regulations.COMMUNITIES: Community-Based Energy Efficiency. ISC is working with three demonstration municipal districts and townships to demonstrate how communities can design and implement comprehensive energy efficiency program – with a particular emphasis on public facilities and small factories.SCHOOLS: Education for Sustainable Development. Working in local schools, ISC is developing courses on resource efficiency and environmental health for children ages 9-13-and involving the public, community and business leaders, and education administrators in their hands-on learning. Partners include South China Normal University, Vermont’s Shelburne Farms and LEAF in Japan.###last_img read more

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President Obama signs Leahy-Smith America Invents Act on patent reform

first_imgVermont Senator Patrick Leahy witnessed the signing of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act at an event in Alexandria, Virginia, today.  President Barack Obama signed the bill into law, capping a six-year bipartisan effort led by Leahy to enact the first comprehensive reforms to the nation’s patent system in nearly six decades. Vermont has the highest number of patents per capita in the nation.‘Vermonters have a long legacy of innovation and creativity.  With the improvements included in the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, that legacy is sure to continue. ‘Few efforts in Washington enjoy the broad, bipartisan support that this law has received.   I thank President Obama, former Secretary Locke and Director Kappos, for their leadership and their support of American innovation.  The America Invents Act is a bipartisan jobs initiative at a time when we need it the most.  It is an example of what Democrats and Republicans can do when we work together for the American people.  ‘The reforms included in this law will have a meaningful impact on American entrepreneurs and inventors for generations to come.  The America Invents Act will promote job creation and innovation, in the Green Mountains of Vermont and across the country, and I thank the President for signing it into law today.’ September 16, 2011last_img read more

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$575 million settlement reached with Wells Fargo for Hoosiers

first_imgIndianapolis, In. — Attorney General Curtis Hill has reached a $575 million settlement with Wells Fargo Bank to resolve claims that the bank violated state consumer protection laws. As part of a settlement involving all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Indiana will receive $5.2 million.Specifically, the settlement resolves claims that Wells Fargo:opened millions of unauthorized accounts and enrolled customers into online banking services without their knowledge or consent;improperly referred customers for enrollment in third-party renters and life insurance policies;improperly charged auto loan customers for force-placed and unnecessary collateral protection insurance;failed to ensure that customers received refunds of unearned premiums on certain optional auto finance products; andincorrectly charged customers for mortgage rate lock extension fees.“Such grossly unfair and deceptive trade practices as those demonstrated by Wells Fargo must never be allowed to stand,” Attorney General Hill said. “We must continue working tirelessly to hold companies accountable for engaging in blatant misconduct that harms consumers.”As part of the settlement, Wells Fargo will also create a consumer redress review program through which consumers who have not been made whole through other restitution programs already in place can seek review of their inquiry or complaint by a bank escalation team for possible relief.To date, this settlement represents the most significant engagement involving a national bank by state attorneys general acting without a federal law enforcement partner.Wells Fargo has identified more than 3.5 million accounts in which customer accounts were opened, funds were transferred, credit card applications were filed, and debit cards were issued without the customers’ knowledge or consent. The bank has also identified 528,000 online bill-pay enrollments nationwide that may have resulted from improper sales practices at the bank. In addition, Wells Fargo improperly submitted more than 6,500 renters insurance and/or simplified term life insurance policy applications and payments from customer accounts without the customers’ knowledge or consent.The states alleged that Wells Fargo imposed aggressive and unrealistic sales goals on bank employees and implemented an incentive compensation program in which employees could qualify for credit by selling certain products to customers. The states further alleged that the bank’s sales goals and the incentive compensation program created an impetus for employees to engage in improper sales practices in order to satisfy such sales goals and earn financial rewards. Those sales goals became increasingly harder to achieve over time, the states alleged, and employees who failed to meet them faced potential termination and career-hindering criticism from their supervisors.The states also alleged that Wells Fargo improperly purchased automobile insurance policies for more than 2 million auto financing customers and charged them the premiums, interest and fees for it, despite evidence that the customers’ regular insurance policy was in effect, and despite numerous customer complaints about such unnecessary placements. Wells Fargo has agreed to provide remediation of more than $385 million to approximately 850,000 auto finance customers. The remediation will include payments to over 51,000 customers whose cars were repossessed.Additionally, the states alleged that Wells Fargo failed to ensure that customers received proper refunds of unearned portions of optional Guaranteed Asset/Auto Protection (GAP) products sold as part of motor vehicle financing agreements. As a result, the bank has agreed to provide refunds totaling more than $37 million to certain auto finance customers.Finally, the states alleged that Wells Fargo improperly charged residential mortgage loan consumers for rate lock extension fees even when the delay was caused by Wells Fargo, a practice contrary to the bank’s policy. Wells Fargo has identified and contacted affected consumers and has refunded or agreed to refund more than $100 million of such fees.Wells Fargo has previously entered consent orders with federal authorities – including the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) – related to its alleged conduct. Wells Fargo has committed to or already provided restitution to consumers in excess of $600 million through its agreements with the OCC and CFPB – as well as through settlement of a related consumer class-action lawsuit – and will pay more than $1 billion in civil penalties to the federal government. Additionally, under an order from the Federal Reserve, the bank is required to strengthen its corporate governance and controls, and is currently restricted from exceeding its total asset size.As part of its settlement with the states, Wells Fargo has agreed to implement within 60 days a program through which consumers who believe they were affected by the bank’s conduct, but fell outside the prior restitution programs, can contact Wells Fargo to be reviewed for potential redress. Wells Fargo will create and maintain a website for consumers to use to access the program and will provide periodic reports to the states about ongoing restitution efforts.More information on the redress review program, including Wells Fargo escalation phone numbers and the Wells Fargo dedicated website address for the program, will be available on or before February 26, 2019.The states’ agreement with Wells Fargo is attached.last_img read more

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