Roundup: Keystone XL Injunction

Keystone XL update • New national monument paying dividends • The reality of small-time farming • Getting rich from small-time farming • The endangered rural churches of England • Gutting water protection in WV • Wifi networks that make your hands softer

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The Keystone XL pipeline is stalled again. No, not from the threat of a veto from President Obama, but from Nebraska landowners’ legal actions.

Nebraska State District Court Judge Mark Kozisek issued a temporary injunction Thursday against Canadian pipeline company TransCanada, which is seeking a route to pipe tar-sands crude oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico for refining. Nebraska ranchers and farmers say the process TransCanada used to take private land for the pipeline violates the state constitution.

The injunction will likely start another legal campaign in the controversial pipeline battle. David Domina, the Nebraska attorney representing the landowners, says the injunction will push the Nebraska Supreme Court to rule on the constitutional issue – a decision it sidestepped last month.

The pipeline is in the news everywhere this week because of Congressional action. But everyone knew Congress was going to send the president a pipeline bill. And we all know President Obama intends to veto the bill.

What most of the nation doesn’t know is that the actions of Nebraska landowners and their attorney have stalled the pipeline repeatedly, giving national politicians and environmentalists the opportunity to debate the issue and – one might argue – grandstand. 

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In the time since President Obama designated the San Gabriel Mountains a national monument, about four months, people have seen a positive change.

“Our forest service community is very excited about this,” said Shane Jeffries, the interim monument manager for the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. “We’re very proud of that — to have an area of the national forest be designated as a national monument.”

The monument is now up for millions in grants from the government, money they hope will pay for maintainence, rehab, and trail reconstruction and improvement.

“It’s a challenge when you’ve got as many people as we have here who are enjoying their national forest,” Jeffries said. “We’ve got to continue to explore ways to allow people to enjoy that, but then also balance what the land can sustain.”

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An editorial in Salon paints a not-so-bright picture of the economic sustainability of small, organic farms. We’d love to hear experiences from any of you who work on or run similar farms.

Surely many farmers enjoy what they do, as I often find pleasure in my daily tasks, but ultimately farming is work, an occupation, a means of making a living that must fulfill the basic function of a job: to provide an income. Does the notion that farming is lovable work excuse the fact that the entire industry relies on underpaid labor? Does it somehow make it OK that in 2014 it’s forecast to be $–1,682? I had to wonder if this notion works only to assuage a collective discomfort provoked by an unsettling fact, a fact that should enrage us, that should disgrace us as a society: the fact that the much celebrated American small farmer can’t even make a living.

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On the flip-side, however, one Canadian urban farmer says that if you aren’t making money, you’re farming wrong.

Stone maintains that a skilled urban farmer can make $50,000 on just a quarter-acre and — if his math is sound — $100,000 on a half-acre of land by growing high-value crops with short growth cycles and by following the money. And the money comes from high-end restaurants and subscription-based buying clubs called CSAs, for community supported agriculture.

Ah yes, cashing in on CSAs. That old get-rich-never scheme.

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The Church of England has issued a “Doomsday warning” to its rural churches: Either fill the seats or face elimination of your small church.

John Spence, chairman of the Church’s finance committee, told the Synod that there was an urgent case for a new approach. He detailed research showing that regular attendees are declining by around one per cent per year and that two thirds of members are now over 55.

“If you look at that arithmetic projection you identify that over a period 2007 to 2057 church attendance and membership would fall from 1.2 million on a regular basis to something like two or three hundred thousand if current trends continue,” he said.

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Here’s something for your “good idea” file: Pass a bill that guts water pollution protections a year after a mining chemical company spilled 10,000 gallons of some weird, toxic mixture into your local river, rendering your water untouchable. That’s exactly what some West Virginia lawmakers are trying to do. Oh, the new bill would also protect coal companies from lawsuits around some water quality standards. Because, of course, it would.

According to Paul Ziemkiewicz, the director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute, West Virginia’s lax regulation of above-ground tanks was the main culprit behind the spill last year.  “If these tanks had been properly maintained and inspected, and if the secondary containment system had been as well, then [the chemical] would never have gotten off this site. That’s where the attention has to be paid,” Ziemkiewicz said around the time of the spill, emphasizing that the state badly needed rigorous tank requirements to prevent another spill disaster.

— Shawn Poynter

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What if you could figure out a way to wire sheep with Internet-enabled collars and make them mobile wifi hotspots? A story in Wales Online poses that question, teasing us with thoughts of the worlds cutest and warmest wifi network. The story doesn’t make it clear this technology is actually possible. But it makes for a great headline.

 

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