Roundup: Landrieu’s Pipeline Play

Keystone XL Vote Not Great for Landrieu’s Run-Off Hopes • Mine Company Being Sued for Misreporting Water Readings • Chevy Getting in the Carbon Credits Game • Small Kentucky Town Hangs Up on Comcast Merger • Turkey Haters Unite! • Divide-and-Conquer Strategy in MN • Update on Into the Wild Subject

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The Senate’s vote over the Keystone XL pipeline on Tuesday was mostly sound and fury. But it did signify something: Mary Landrieu’s hopes of winning her run-off election in Louisiana’s U.S. Senate race in early December.

Landrieu, the Louisiana Democrat, introduced the measure to approve the pipeline in the Senate. Observers say she hopes her very visible support for the pipeline will help her in her re-election bid against U.S. Representative Bill Cassidy, a Republican.

That the Senate approval of the pipeline fell just short of the magic number to move forward is a secondary concern, according to this theory. Because pipeline supporters will most likely have an easy time passing a similar measure in the Senate in January, when the new Congress is seated.

But January is too late to affect the December runoff race for Landrieu.

The controversial pipeline would carry tar-sands oil from Canada to points south, including Louisiana, where it could be refined, thus creating jobs for Louisianans.

National Geographic has a good “thumbsucker” on the Keystone XL issue, including how the pipeline has become snagged in foreign relations, climate-change negotiations and national and state politics. There’s even a little information on the critical role Nebraska landowners and advocates have played in this international issue.

Even if Congress voted for the Keystone proposal, which officially depends on a decision from President Obama because the line crosses the border with Canada, there’s still a long row to hoe – or trench to dig – before final approval.

The case is in the Nebraska Supreme Court because of how state government handled the routing process. President Obama could veto congressional approval, which would create a much higher bar for supporters to get over. The pipeline may need another round of approvals from South Dakota because it’s been delayed so long. And meanwhile, the drop in the price of oil changes the economics of the project.

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Three environmental watchdog groups plan to sue a Kentucky mining company, claiming the company has falsified thousands of measurements of stream pollution. The New York Times has the story:

In a letter released on Monday, four environmental groups said many of the monthly measurement reports that Frasure sent the state contained virtually identical data — line-for-line repeats of clean pollution reports submitted the month before.

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Apple pie, Chevy trucks, and….carbon credits? Indeed! Chevrolet is teaming up with the USDA to purchase carbon credits from ranchers in North Dakota. The deal is expected to remove 40,000 tons of CO2 emissions.

“The amount of carbon dioxide removed from our atmosphere by Chevrolet’s purchase of these credits equals the amount that would be reduced by taking more than 5,000 cars off the road,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

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The second time Comcast’s automated customer service hung up on me, I thought of this news item from Somerset, Kentucky:

Last week the city council of the southern Kentucky town of about 11,000 residents voted to deny the merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable.

It’s not clear what impact, if any, municipal votes like these will have on the proposed $45 billion merger deal. But one of the requirements of the merger is approval of localities representing 85% of Time Warner Cable’s 11 million subscribers, reports Shalini Ramachandran of the Wall Street Journal. (Here’s a link to a republished version of the story.)

Ramachandran reports that Campbell County and Danville, Kentucky, also voted against the merger:

Kentucky mayors and city managers say their constituents have been through a number of cable deals over the years as smaller operators have been gobbled up. In Danville, for example, the cable system has changed hands from FrontierVision to Adelphia Communications Corp. to Time Warner Cable. The result, officials in several cities say, has been higher cable rates and worse customer service, as the merging companies close regional offices and consolidate operations.

Municipalities are using the merger-approval process to get better treatment from the cable giants. Ramachandran calls some of the negotiation points “pedestrian.” We wish the requests were ordinary. But, sadly, asking for better customer service, public-access channels and provisions to provide free service for schools seems pretty extraordinary in today’s cable environment.

Given that this may be the last big deal for a long, long time, local governments should be pushing for everything they can get out of the proposed merger.

Press 1 if you agree. But be prepared to call back when you’re cut off.

— Tim Marema

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Thanksgiving is coming. Next week. If you’re anything like me, and surely at least one other person is, the thought of having to politely choke down a quarter plate of bone-dry turkey in front of your in-laws is giving you night sweats. So this year let’s try something different. Let’s make “Marinated Nenison Steaks!” Or a “Standing Rib Roast!” Or, if we MUST do turkey, a “Slow-Cooked Red Chile”one!!! Who’s with me? For more ideas, including the not-sure-if-it’s-gross-or-delicious-sounding “Pecan Pie Bites with Gravy”, the Times has put together a list of recipes, one per state, of Thanksgiving specialties. Bon appétit!

— Shawn Poynter

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Lest you think the ascendency of a Republican majority in the Minnesota House ushers in a new era of good feeling:

The new Republican majority in the Minnesota House is retooling its committee structure to better reflect rural concerns, GOP leaders say. Rural voters are credited with helping return Republicans to control of the House in this month’s election.

“I'm proud to say that more than half of our chairmen represent communities in greater Minnesota and will be an integral part of a renewed effort to represent the entire state in policy-making,” said Rep. Kurt Daudt, the Republican who will be the new House speaker in January.

But Democratic leadership says the changes aren’t about serving rural communities.

Democratic Representative Paul Thissen, who is losing his speaker’s chair to become minority leader, “said the new committees reflect a ‘divide and conquer’ approach to integrating urban and rural concerns,” reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

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NPR has a sad and “hindsight may be 20/20” update to the story of Chris McCandless, who was made famous by Jon Krakauer’s book Into the Wild. Chris’ sister, Carine, has published a memoir that outs the siblings’ parents as severely abusive. Krakauer, who has taken a lot of heat for his sympathetic portrayal of the Chris, has known about the abuse since interviewing Carine for the book but has always kept the secret, as per her request. 

 

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