Read today’s news from around the state and country. Each day in the Roundup we cover politics, always with a side of bold humor. We think politics should be fun, informative and encourage us all to take action.
Friday, March 29th
Need to Protect Our Water: A new study done by the EPA shows that more than half of the nation’s rivers are in “poor health.” Those findings are reflected in Nebraska, where samples taken from 2009 show that 58% of our state’s rivers and streams are in poor health. This is caused by a multitude of factors, including “high levels of nutrient pollution, caused by phosphorus and nitrogen washing into rivers and streams from farms, cities, and sewers.” A main source of phosphorus is detergents and fertilizers. An administrator in the EPA’s water office says “this new science shows that America’s streams and rivers are under significant pressure,” and that “we must continue to invest in protecting and restoring our nation’s streams and rivers as they are vital sources of our drinking water, provide many recreational opportunities, and play a critical role in the economy.” All of these reasons and more should serve as an impetus for us to work harder to protect our water sources. That includes not dumping into rivers and seriously limiting (or stopping the use of) the fertilizers and pesticides that are so often sprayed onto our crops, and it includes saying no to the KXL. Read here
We Have A Choice: Roberts of Grist writes on the significance of Elisabeth Rosenthal’s editorial in Sunday’s New York Times, in which she asks “to what extent” is our dependence upon fossil fuels a necessary evil—and to what extent it is a choice? Roberts notes that these types of questions, those that question the inevitability of our continued dependence on fossil fuels, are rarely featured in the mainstream media. The debate over whether we can transition to a clean energy economy is often under the guise of whether or not we have the technological capabilities—but a change in political, social, and economic will do more to promote renewables than an advancement in technology. The technology is already there, a recent report showing that New York state could obtain 100% of its electricity from renewables by 2030 can attest to that. Read here
Pledging Support for Marriage Equality: If you have connected to social media outlets in the past week, you have undoubtedly been met by red equality sign facebook statuses, and perhaps seen many people wearing red to show support for marriage equality. Rock the Vote has started a new page on Facebook on which people can “get the latest facts and news, help spread the word, and share stories, videos, and pictures.” You can also visit the page to “Pledge your support for marriage equality, get involve, and create the change.” To reiterate what we have already posted on our Facebook page: “Bold Nebraska supports all families having the right to marry. Whether it’s our support with landowners in their right to private property or the right to safely own guns or the right to vote without going through hoops. We not only have fundamental rights in our country but as Americans we have a deep responsibility to the next generation. Our shared values of opportunity for all, respect for each each other and responsibility for generations that come after us is what makes us Bold Nebraskans.” We encourage you to go to Rock the Vote’s page and pledge your support for marriage equality. Check it out here
Thursday, March 28th
Today’s Roundup is brought to you by Carolyn Nolte and Chelsea Johnson
Sweeping Clean Air Regs: We are looking forward to an announcement from the Obama Administration, expected tomorrow, that will declare the EPA “will move ahead with a rule requiring cleaner gasoline and lower-pollution vehicles nationwide.” According to a senior administration official, “the proposed standards would add less than a penny a gallon to the cost of gasoline while delivering an environmental benefit akin to taking 33 million cars off the road.” Crucial stakeholders are in support of the new regulations, including automakers, public health advocates and state regulators. In fact, the only interest group that has come out against the regulations so far is the oil and gas industry–shocking, we know. Read here
Slow Money, Slow Food, Local Solutions: Slow Money Alliance’s 4th National Gathering announced conference dates of April 29-30 in Boulder, Colorado. The Slow Money Alliance brings people together to discuss fixing the U.S. economy “from the ground up.” Their first tenant is “to bring money back down to the earth.” The gathering doesn’t “just [talk] about the future but bending it! Slow Money is one of the keys to a healthy future,” said Bill McKibben about past gatherings. Speakers will be Carlo Petrini, Joan Gussow, Winona LaDuke, Janie Hoffman, Mary Berry, and Wes Jackson. “The program of Slow Money National Gatherings integrates internationally recognized thought leadership, next generation social entrepreneurship, and an environment that fosters shared learning across the full spectrum of backgrounds—from the most sophisticated financiers to individual investors, from farmers to food entrepreneurs.” Read here
Sparking Clean Energy Investment: Solar panels are a brilliant idea, but expenses for purchasing and installing solar projects sometimes stall efforts. The Youth Empowerment Partnership, a group that works with at-risk teens and young adults in Oakland, California, found a solution. By raising $40,000 from 51 private individuals through the help of Mosaic, a company “that connects solar-power-seeking businesses and nonprofits with hundreds of investors,” Youth Empowerment Partnership installed 196 solar panels, providing 47 kilowatts of clean energy. Mother Jones’ Kate Sheppard compares Mosaic to Kickstarter and Kiva. “But Mosaic’s model goes beyond most other crowdsourcing sites,” as supporters make their investments back with interest. By providing individual investors, Mosaic fuels solar panel projects, projects that would otherwise face barriers because of expense. We have seen other sustainability projects utilize private investors, such as the Oberlin Project’s solar and renewable energy projects funded by Oberlin college, private individuals, and institutional partners. “If we’re able to reach those millions more people who normally wouldn’t care about environmental causes to put their money to work creating clean energy,” said Curtis, Mosaic’s communications director “then we will have succeeded.” Mosaic provides a great model for creating change, and while it currently only operates in New York and California, we hope to see similar efforts pop up around the country. Read here.
James M. Nabrit III, civil rights lawyer who fought school segregation, died March 22 from lung cancer. According to his friend Ted Shaw, former director-counsel of NAACP Legal and Education Defense Fund, “Jim was involved in many of the most important matters of the civil rights movement […] The public didn’t know who he was, but civil rights lawyers knew him.” Nabrit was instrumental in the success of the 50 mile march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. One of Nabrit’s first jobs was working with Thurgood Marshall as a lawyer in the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Read here
Wednesday, March 27th
Today’s Roundup is brought to you by our new Intern, Jesus Lopez. Look forward to his bio and headshot to appear on our website this week!
Coalition including Bold, NWF, Nebraska Farmers Union, and Nebraska Landowners Petitions EPA & PHMSA: Yesterday leaders across the US (including Nebraska, Maine, Michigan, North Dakota, South Dakota, New England States, the Appalacia region, the Great Lakes) signed on to a legal petition requesting that the EPA and PHMSA (Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration) take tar sands oil (dilbit) more seriously. The coalition is requesting that the two rulemaking bodies install new regulations to address the unique safety concerns and spill response efforts that come with tar sands oil. Evidence clearly shows that with the KXL, and other tar sands pipelines, we are dealing with a different beast, and pipelines carrying that oil must held to a different standard. A news item in the Lincoln Journal Star today highlights comments made Jenelda Dittrich of Elgin, who lives about six miles from the proposed pipeline route, and Susan Connolly, who is about two miles from the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, which continues to be the scene of an on-going oil cleanup courtesy of tar sands big-leaguer Enbridge and their own 2010 tar sands spill. These folks are just a few of the concerned citizens that have joined others in asking the obvious question, “What happens to our water supply when this pipeline breaks?” Lasting damage would be guaranteed as one can gather from spill the Enbridge has spent about three years and $800 million dollars cleaning up in Michigan. Read here, more on the Enbridge cleanup here
LJS Editorial Wrongly Concludes Game Over For Pipeline Debate: An editorial in the Lincoln Journal Star noted that, “… as many have concluded, the effort to fight climate change by stopping the pipeline is misguided,” citing the State Department’s support of the pipeline and supposed waning opposition to the project. In response to the article, Nebraska author Mary Pipher noted that the LJS wrongly deemed opponents a “minority,” citing a UNL study that finds almost 80 percent of rural Nebraskans want to keep the pipeline away from the Ogallala Aquifer. Current plans have it crossing that territory. Pipher continues, writing TransCanada has not yet revealed what would be in the “proprietary goop” the pipeline would carry. She calls on her fellow statesmen (and stateswomen) to unite in opposition to the project and not give into false pronouncements like the one presented by the editorial. Read here
Supreme Court Discussions On Gay Marriage Get Mired In Nonsense: Though SCOTUS’ first whack at the legality of same sex unions took nearly a whopping two hours to argue, The Atlantic writes that much of it was pretty well legal dribble that’s not likely to evolve into the landmark ruling gay rights activists are hoping for. For example, the first 50 minutes were devoted to the question of whether or not this case even belonged before the Supreme Court (let’s for a moment ignore the fact that the case is already there). Other remarkably futile discussions included how justices were acting on the whim of the gay lobby or the question of whether the federal government can create a rule automatically marrying all same sex couples. Yeah. They spent time on that. On the bright side, these nine folks’ uneffable interest in the useless probably still won’t save DOMA, The Atlantic notes. Read here
Tuesday, March 26th
Today’s Roundup is brought to you by our new Intern, Jesus Lopez. Look forward to his bio and headshot to appear on our website this week!
NPPD Braces For Stricter Environmental Regulation: President Barack Obama’s calls for increased focus on climate change may turn up the heat on the nation’s coal fired plants, including Nebraska Public Power District’s Gerald Gentleman Station and Cooper Nuclear Station. The utility’s executives heard analysis from its government counsel weighing the potential outcomes of a newly-created Safe Climate Caucus, a group of 25 members of the House of Representatives united in the fight against climate change. They have drafted a proposal aimed the nation’s largest CO2 sources: oil companies, large industrial operations and power plants. If the law is enacted, NPPD could face fines that would start at $35 per metric ton of greenhouse gases produced starting in 2014 increasing in subsequent years. Because 58% of NPPD’s electricity generation comes from coal, the utility was responsible for 11 million metric tons of emissions in 2011—9 million of which came from a single coal plant, the Gerald Gentleman Station near Sutherland. While NPPD has proposed “clean coal” as a solution to its emission problems, but the existence of “clean coal” is still in question. Read here
After Violent Arrest, Three New Bills To Restrain Cops Introduced: Omaha may still be reeling from footage released Saturday of Octavius Johnson’s detention and physical abuse, but Sen. Ernie Chambers has responded by crafting new legislation to limit the power and increase the accountability of Nebraska’s law enforcement. The group of new measures includes provisions to make all documents related to disciplinary actions publically accessible; suspend an officer physically, mentally or emotionally incapacitated as well forbid the use of paroled individuals as undercover agents. All three were advanced Tuesday by the judiciary committee for debate by the full unicameral. Read here and watch here
Kansas House Lawmakers Advance Resolution Pushing Keystone XL Pipeline: The Kansas House of Representatives today adopted a non-binding resolution urging the White House to approve the KXL. Lawmakers voted 108-11 to advance a message to President Barack Obama and the State Department that they approve all the necessary permits and allow construction to begin on the pipeline. The nonbinding resolution proceeds to the Kansas Senate. While it is disappointing that our neighbors to the south passed this legislation, we know that there are pipeline fighters there who do not want this pipeline any more than we do. People power is clearly crucial in this campaign against the KXL. While our public officials continue to be bought by the oil lobby, we continue to publicize the truths we know about this pipeline: the risks far outweigh the rewards. Read here
Monday, March 25th
Big Week for Equal Rights: This week, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear two cases related to marriage in the US. The first will be heard tomorrow, and it will be over the constitutionality of Proposition 8 – the ballot measure in California that added a constitutional amendment to that state’s constitution prohibiting gay marriage. On Wednesday the Court will hear arguments on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which currently prevents federal benefits from being given to same sex married couples. There is of course much speculation on the cases and the outcomes, but the NY Times has laid out several options that the court could go with in the Prop 8 case. The first is that the court will rule Prop 8 unconstitutional and “say the Constitution requires all states to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.” They could also say that “the Constitution is silent on the issue,” which would mean nothing would really change, and states would still have authority over whether or not to allow marriage equality. The Court could also rule that the outcome is limited only to California. Or, says the NYT, the court could simply “dismiss the case for want of standing, which would probably effectively allow same-sex marriages in California.” When it comes to DOMA, a Supreme Court ruling of unconstitutionality would give all married couples the same treatment under federal law. Read here and here
TC’s Lies Wouldn’t Have Worked Against the Supreme Court: The Supreme Court of Nebraska ruled this month that Read Township has the right to regulate manure pipelines in its right of way. In 2007, Read initiated a ban on liquid manure pipelines, and in the face of a lawsuit brought by a main dairy affected, the Butler County District Court upheld that ban, saying the “Township did in fact have the authority to enact the regulations and that the regulations were not preempted by state law.” The Supreme Court upheld that decision, saying “the county consistently had given authority to local townships on road matters.” For the past five years, TransCanada has been telling county boards across Nebraska that they do not have authority over zoning pipelines—the authority that our Supreme Court just ruled the counties do have. While groups like Bold and the Sierra Club have been working to get counties to put in place these types of regulations on tar sands pipelines, TransCanada’s scare tactics have unfortunately worked, and have prevented our counties from doing so. Perhaps now that our counties have a Supreme Court case to back them up, TransCanada’s deceit will no longer trick our counties into not providing the needed regulations. Read here
“Save Me the Birds and the Bees”: Friends of the Earth posted a blog today that quite frankly, is pretty scary. We are currently experiencing the worst bee die-off in 40 years. U.S. beekeepers reported that this last winter, over 50% of the bee population died. The identified culprit, Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), has been somewhat of a mystery ever since it became clear that “adult bees seemingly abandon their hives,” causing the colony to collapse. However, new studies are showing that the most widespread insecticide in the world is a key factor in the bee’s disappearance. It’s a “class of neurotoxic pesticides called neonicotinoids, or neonics.” In light of the evidence demonstrating neonics ties to the bee die-off, European nations like France and Germany have “already taken action to limit neonics, and beekeepers there are reporting recovery.” But the U.S. EPA has delayed any action on neonics until 2018, even as the “beekeeping industry in the U.S. is on the verge of collapse.” So, why is this a big deal? Because at least 75% of our food is dependent upon the pollination done by bees, as are countless other species. Read more about CCD and neonics here