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, July 13th

The time is ticking closer to the day the State Department stops accepting comments regarding what should be included for consideration in its environmental review of TransCanada’s new KXL application. Giving your input to the State Department would be a good way to fill your free time this weekend—the comment period is only open until July 30th. Here’s your Roundup:

We’re Still Fighting: When TransCanada struck a deal with our legislature to move KXL “out of the Sandhills,” many thought the fight was over. In fact, our elected officials even used it as a signal to the nation that Nebraska is now okay with being a doormat for an export pipeline. But as our BOLD leader, Jane Kleeb, stated to the York times, this fight is far from over, and Nebraskans are far from happy with TransCanada’s deal. If built today, the pipeline would still go through the Sandhills. TransCanada is still bullying landowners. And there are still many unresolved issues: who is really responsible for the cleanup of a spill? What will happen 20 years from now if that pipeline is in the ground and a landowner accidentally strikes it? What will actually be flowing through this pipeline? This is the new reality of the situation, and we have a new strategy to stop the pipeline, and a new way to protect landowners. Read here

Water is More Precious than Oil: The Dallas Observer asks whether or not the city of Dallas should join in the fight brought by three small Texas towns against the Army Corps of Engineers for approving the southern portion of the KXL, now renamed the TransCanada southern segment. After all, Dallas has been firming up its water rights for its growing population, and the plaintiff’s biggest fear is a spill threatening their main sources of water. To them, water is a more precious resource than oil, and it’s a resource that has long been scarce in Texas. The plaintiffs claim the Army Corps of Engineers is skirting a rigorous environmental impact analysis on more than 1,000 water crossings, ignoring a previous EPA warning against issuing TransCanada a permit which would allow them to do a virtually unlimited amount of damage to the water bodies it crossed.  Read here

We Don’t Have Alternatives to Water: The U.S. Department of Agriculture has declared natural disaster areas in more than 1,000 counties and 26 states for the drought that has already devastated countless farmers and ranchers. The declaration makes this year’s drought the largest natural disaster in America’s entire history. More than half of the country is now eligible for federal aid, allowing farmers and ranchers in those areas to access emergency funds. All signs point that the type of weather we have experienced this year will be the climate we will experience for years to come, placing even greater importance on our nation’s water supplies. It means we have to place decisions that affect water sources, like the granting of TransCanada’s pipeline permit, in the context of this drier future. Bottom line: we need water to live; there is no way around that—but we do have alternatives to oil. Read here

Thursday, July 12th

It’s that time of year again, that time for family and friends to gather and enjoy Jazz on the Green for the next six Thursdays. Enjoy free admission, wine, and your pets along with the music with this perfect way to wind down summer. Here’s your Roundup:

Wasting Time and Money: Yesterday, House Republicans voted to repeal Obamacare…marking the 33rd time they have done so. Like the previous 32 votes, it passed the Republican dominated House, but stands no chance in the Senate. These repeated, futile attempts need no doctoring up to make a good joke, but unfortunately, they have come at a cost to taxpayers. They have taken up a total of 80 hours of time on the House floor since 2010, amounting to two full workweeks.  According to the Congressional Research Service, each week costs taxpayers $24 million…meaning that Republicans wasted $48 million of taxpayers’ money in “symbolic” (read: pointless) votes. Read here

Air Is For the Common Good: A Texas judge has ruled that the atmosphere and air must be protected for public use—potentially opening the door to a new way to battle climate change. In a lawsuit brought by the Texas Environmental Law Center, the doctrine of public trust was evoked to argue that the government must protect air for the common good, as water and wildlife often is. Similar lawsuits have been filed in 11 other states, where the plaintiffs are all young adults working to get special protections in place for the air that we all depend upon for life. Read here

The Tar Sands Playbook: ThinkProgress highlights “tar sands giants’ sneaky new playbook,” a compilation of tactics we have all too much experience. For example, rather than being honest as to the real goals of the industry—bringing tar sands to the world market (i.e. China)—tar sands giants deny, deny, deny. Rather than being upfront about the destruction the extraction and transportation of tar sands wreaks, tar sands giants make every effort to skirt around regulations and requirements. Check out the rest of the tar sands playbook here


Wednesday, July 11th

What can $3.5 billion buy? If it’s being spent lobbying Congress, it can buy way more than what it’s worth in any store or investment.  For example, for every dollar Big Oil spent lobbying Congress, it got $59 back in subsidies–check out this cool graphic to see who else benefits the most from lobbying Congress. Here’s your Roundup:  

A Scathing Report: Yesterday the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) heard the major findings of its two year investigation into the 2010 Enbridge tar sands spill. The investigation not only raised major concerns as to whether tar sands can be safely transported on the U.S. pipeline system, it also provided a bleak picture of pipeline safety regulations in the U.S. Essentially, the NTSB found that the $807 billion dollar, 1 million gallon tar sands spill was the result of Enbridge’s neglect, the company’s ability to take advantage of weak regulations, and the lack of proper resources and planning to deal with a spill. This is exactly why establishing the Public Service Commission to oversee all oil pipelines was so important during the special session, and why it is necessary that TransCanada must go through this process with KXL—we must have a strong regulatory process to protect our land and water. Read here

Overshooting Our Resources: Today is U.N. World Population Day, a day observed every July 11th since 1989, when the global population hit 5 billion. Now at over 7 billion, today raises recognition that while the world population continues to grow exponentially, the planet we all call home has not grown a bit. The theme of this year’s World Population Day is “universal access to reproductive health services,” recognizing that the number of women in the world’s poorest countries who want to use contraception, but don’t, increased by nine million. Nearly 800 women die every day in the process of giving birth, and 222 million don’t have access to adequate reproductive health care. Fortunately, women in the U.S. will have greater access to reproductive health care under the ACA, regardless of their employer. Read here and here

Another Banking Scandal: As if the public didn’t have enough reason to distrust the banking industry after the 2008 collapse and JP Morgan’s recent loss of billions of dollars chasing profits, another scandal is coming to light that may be the most expensive one yet. More news comes each day shedding light that the London interbank offered rate (LIBOR), the interest rate at which banks borrow from one another, was set artificially low before and during the financial crisis of 2008. Collusion between the 18 banks that set the rate, including Bank of America, Barclays, and JP Morgan, made the banking system appear healthier than it was, and may have brought these banks huge profits that they would not have otherwise incurred. Over $10 trillion worth of loans are attached to this rate, many of which were held by state and local governments in the United States. Baltimore has been leading a battle in Manhattan federal court against the banks that set LIBOR, claiming that the city sustained losses during already tough financial times due to the rate-rigging. Read here and here

Conservatives Pushing Back on Climate Denial: Although today’s Republicans in Congress seem intent to deny the science behind climate change, instead attacking all attempts to address the issue, such as EPA regulations, it wasn’t too long ago that climate change was not an extremely politicized issue. Many Republicans agreed with the Democrats that embraced climate science and searched for solutions. One of those Republicans that used to be a member of the House is fed up with Republican’s climate change denial, and is launching a campaign to “push conservative solutions to America’s energy and climate challenges.” South Carolina’s Bob Inglis is urging today’s GOP to stop denying the human impact on global warming, and sees a carbon taxing policy similar to British Columbia’s as the answer.  He has many other Republican supporters, including Mitt Romney’s economic advisor. Too bad the Presidential contender has already stuck his head in the sand of climate change denial. Read here


Tuesday, July 10th

Is 400,000 gallons of leaked oil (in one month) and 687 pipeline failures (in one year) the kind of track record we want to see from the industry wanting to put a tarsands pipeline through our land and water? We don’t think so, but that’s what Alberta’s tarsands oil industry has to offer. Don’t miss BOLD’s Summer to-do List of ways you can take action to make sure Nebraska doesn’t make its way into these tarsands statistics. Here’s your Roundup:

The Party of Small Business: Senate Democrats have introduced legislation to cut taxes for companies that hire new workers, give raises, or buy major new equipment this year. The cut will be in the form of a credit that can be deducted from a business’s tax bill, with the maximum credit being $500,000—a figure that means this legislation is designed to help smaller businesses. Given that Republicans claim to be the “party of business,” that should mean this measure will be thoroughly discussed and possibly passed in a bipartisan manner, right? Wrong. Debate on this legislation was to begin today, but it’s likely that Senate Republicans will try to block this measure procedurally to prevent Dems from “getting a win” during this election season. What about the win that the tax break would bring to small businesses around the country? Read here

Welcome to the Rest of Our Lives: Farmers have planted the largest corn crop since 1937 this year, but it is looking more and more like the ongoing drought will not allow that entire crop to be harvested. The drought covering most of the United States has brought on greater awareness of climate change and what it means for our future. “Welcome to the rest of our lives,” a film compiling all of the recent weather events, demonstrates how climate change will affect us now and in the future. And a Lincoln local discusses how climate change will continue to affect this breadbasket we call home—as climate change puts more and more of the world’s food sources in danger, food insecurity will affect more and more people (in Nebraska, 11.5% of our population is already affected). This Nebraskan also makes note that a legally binding climate change treaty, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and delivering aid to help people deal with climate change are ways to deal with the circumstances we are now facing. Approving the KXL is certainly not something that will help us face climate change.

What We Can Do: As the drought continues and all signs point that it will be a recurring event in coming years, there are some important steps that can be taken to mitigate the effects. Reducing loads of laundry and filling the washing machine as well as dishwasher to capacity are just some of the ways to reduce water usage around the home. Looking ahead long-term, studies have shown that soils exposed to more organic methods of farming produce the greatest yields when “extreme” weather like droughts and floods strike. Land that is treated with chemicals and other industrial scale farming methods, while producing greater yield under “normal” weather conditions, produce much less under extreme conditions. If what we are currently experiencing is the new norm, food production and policies concerning farmers could also take on a new look. Read here


Monday, July 9th

In case you haven’t seen it yet, the WaPo has been publishing in-depth reporting of two journalist’s journey “down the line” of the KXL. The articles keep coming and we’re still waiting for the one to come highlighting Nebraska. Here’s your Roundup: 

Supporting the Middle Class: President Obama will announce today his proposal for a 1 year extension of the Bush era tax cuts to people making under $250,000 a year. Economists working for the White House point out that keeping tax cuts low for this portion of the population will do the most for the economy because the burden of a tax increase would be heaviest on them. Republicans have already made it clear their support for continuing the tax cuts for everyone, including those making over $1 million, making this issue a hot one in this election year. Read here

Standing Up For Democracy: Six states (California, Hawaii, Vermont, Rhode Island, Maryland and New Mexico) are calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, and Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio has started a petition calling for the same thing. As a reminder, Citizens United was a case decided in 2010 that allows unlimited amounts of money to be donated to “independent groups” that in turn flood the media with ads sponsoring or attacking various candidates. Corporations are also allowed into this new game where big money wins and average people with average sized wallets lose. Those leading the charge of adding an amendment designed to overturn Citizens United admit that doing so will be very difficult, and it will take a lot of support from all citizens to get it done. Read here

Wages To Live On: Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa has introduced a bill to Congress to raise minimum wage to $9.88 an hour. The minimum wage is currently $7.25. Although minimum wage has been nominally rising, it has been worth less and less since the 70’s. In 1968, minimum wage was the equivalent of $10 an hour in today’s money. In Sen. Harkin’s words, “those earning minimum wage in 1968 are the same people as those earning minimum wage today, they just have 30% less buying power”. The Senator does not expect Republicans to support the measure, but for Americans working the hard, long, and underappreciated hours that often come with minimum wage jobs, we hope he is wrong. Read here, and check out this cool graphic