Monday Roundup: Costs of Drilling

Farm Bill politics hurting local Republicans in key races • Fast food density not related to obesity • Boomers retiring to cooler climes • Vilsack: Why not cut defense?

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There is an ongoing debate about the effects of increased gas and oil drilling on local economies and environments.

A group of economists has tried to discover the effects of increased drilling activity in Washington County, Pennsylvania, on housing prices. In particular, does the risk of groundwater contamination from drilling affect the price of homes?

The researchers find that it does

Yes, living close to active wells does increase the price of property. But this increase is almost fully offset by risks to groundwater.

The researchers found that in this one county, groundwater risk reduces property values by up to 24 percent.

Wolf Resurgence — On October 1, Wyoming will become the fifth state with a significant wolf population to legalize hunting of the animals. Wolves, once endangered, have now largely been taken out of government protection

Bloom Off The Sun Belt? — The AP is reporting that boomers looking to retire are thinking cool — as in weather. 

“Boomers and retirees these days are considering a much wider range of destinations for retirement, often choosing states that don’t commonly come to mind, such as Maine and Montana,” said Mary Lu Abbott, editor of Where to Retire magazine. “Yes, the Sun Belt remains popular, but many people prefer a four-season climate and enjoy the changing of seasons. They seek towns that are safe and have active, appealing downtowns and good hospitals nearby, and increasingly they’re looking for places with a lower cost of living and lower overall tax rate.”

The AP reports, “Camden (Maine) is frequently cited in lists of best places for retirees. Others that have merited mention include Asheville, N.C.; Ruidoso, N.M.; Durango, Colo.; the San Juan Islands in Washington’s Puget Sound; St. George, Utah; Medford, Ore.; Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; Kalispell, Mont.; and towns along lakes Superior and Michigan in northern Michigan.”

Defense Cuts? — Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack was in Iowa Friday saying that protecting the defense budget from all cuts would endanger agriculture programs.  The Des Moines Register reports:

“Isn’t there a single cut, a single efficiency, that can be had in the defense budget?” Vilsack asked, speaking before a group of state agricultural commissioners and secretaries meeting Friday in Des Moines.

He warned that if the Defense Department budget is taken off the table for budget cuts, a widespread supposition now in Washington, that agricultural would be more vulnerable if Congress doesn’t pass a new Farm Bill by the expiration of the current bill on Sept. 30.

“The bill passed by the U.S. Senate in July has $23 billion in cuts, but some proposals would cut as much as $50 billion from agricultural programs and another $139 billion from nutrition programs,” Vilsack said. “That would be a major blow to the rural economy.”

Farm Bill Politics Hurting Some Rs — Chris Clayton notes that the lack of action on a Farm Bill in the Republican-controlled House is hurting candidates in some key races. 

Incumbent Sen. Jon Tester in Montana is hitting his opponent, Rep. Dennis Rehberg, a Republican, for the failure of the House even to vote on the bill.

In North Dakota, the Grand Forks Herald has written an editorial that linked the Farm Bill vote to a close Senate race there between Republican Rep. Rick Berg and former state Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp. The paper wrote

Rick Berg’s problem is not his campaign.

Rick Berg’s problem is the Farm Bill. No, not the Farm Bill specifically, although that’s playing a role. It’s the Farm Bill as a symbol: a symbol of Republicans in the U.S. House and their refusal to compromise with Democrats, even when obvious bipartisan solutions await.

That’s what’s holding Berg back. That’s what’s helping Heidi Heitkamp — Berg’s challenger in the race for the U.S. Senate — win support at a level that’s making the race competitive.

And that’s what Berg must counter if he’s to put himself on track for a solid win.

Post Office Confusion — Save The Post Office reports problems emerging in the Postal Service’s plans to close or shorten hours at (largely) rural post offices. 

If you are having troubles with your local office, this is the article to read.

Fast Food and ObesityMore evidence that there is little relationship between the number of fast food restaurants in a place and obesity. 

Grand Forks Editorial Here is the ending of the editorial in the Grand Forks Herald Sunday about the failure of the House to vote on the Farm Bill: 

Why won’t Republican leaders even let the House vote?

The answer is that they’re ideologues (or in thrall to an ideological caucus) and scorn even effective programs that seem to be arms of “big government.” The famous budget by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., captures this philosophy best. Besides upending Medicare, the budget hammers the Farm Bill and most other nondefense programs, as it must to cut taxes while shrinking government.

Berg voted for and strongly supported Ryan’s budget. But he also says that budget is wrong in its treatment of the Farm Bill.

Now, here’s the question:

How can that be? In other words, how can the Ryan budget be wrong on the Farm Bill — the issue that, coincidentally, most affects Berg’s political interests — but right on everything else?

Isn’t it more likely that the budget’s extremism is what’s wrong — not only on the Farm Bill, but also on so much else?

 

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