Roundup: Oil Fields and Accidents

Making oil less flammable • Fighting for a community after coal • A food conference sans farmers • Caring for the elderly in rural areas • Traffic accidents increase along with fracking boom • How to use 'dark money' to buy a law

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After several train accidents that resulted in fires, pressure is being put on oil companies working in North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields to make their oil less flammable before loading it onto the rails. The oil companies, unsurprisingly, are pushing back on the idea of more regulation.

"Statoil believes the current conditioning of crude oil is sufficient for safely transporting Bakken crude oil by truck, rail and pipeline," said Keith Lilie, an operations and maintenance manager for Statoil, one of the largest oil companies operating in the Bakken oil fields.

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Al Jazeera takes a trip to eastern Kentucky to look at what one small town is doing right economically. Spoiler alert: They’re investing in local, diverse businesses instead of pinning their hopes on a big company to swoop in and make it all better. The town is one familiar to us — it's Whitesburg, home of the Center for Rural Strategies, which publishes the Daily Yonder.  

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Forrest Pritchard at the Huffington Post has pointed out that a New York Times event about food production includes everyone except farmers. You know, the folks who actually produce food.

Out of 19 speakers [at the “Food for Tomorrow” gathering], not a single attendee grows food for a living. Wal-Mart vice president? Check. Investigative reporters? Double check. Politicians? You betcha. But how about a solitary, full-time professional farmer, someone who actually works the land for a living?

(Insert sound of crickets chirping).

Seems like an oversight, doesn't it? Like holding a conference on education and forgetting the teachers, or hosting a book festival without any authors.

… Discussion about food is certainly important. But so is the actual farming, by people who know how to do it. The New York Times missed an opportunity to broaden the food conversation, overlooking the best experts of all.

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We hear a lot about how aging populations create challenges for rural communities. A report on rural healthcare in Alaska goes one step further by expressing concern about the aging of the healthcare workforce. Rural areas need mentors to “help counter the aging workforce” that provide health services, reports Alaska Public Media.

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The fracking boom has created a ton of jobs in Texas, but it has also created a ton of heartbreak. The new fracking business means more heavy drilling machinery and supplies are being trucked to sites on public roads, and the boom means a rush to fill big rigs with drivers, many of whom have only a two-week training under their belt. Combine that with new congestion in fracking zones and the roads get a lot more dangerous.

"There is a level of congestion that is rising all over the state, particularly in these areas of smaller counties that involve the oil field and energy exploration, and it's causing folks that are not accustomed to that type of congestion to make unnecessary risks, and it's costing lives," says John Esparza, president of the Texas Trucking Association.”

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A mining operation in Wisconsin used “dark money,” money routed through nonprofit organizations not required to disclose their funders, to fight opposition to the way the state issued mining permits.

ProPublica takes use through the process of buying your way to regulatory freedom

 

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