Roundup: Rural Ireland Complains of Neglect

Irish plan to run power pylons through rural areas fits pattern of neglect, says advocate • Oil boom creates postal pressures in North Dakota • OSHA doesn’t have staff to do its job, newspaper reports • Democrats cede rural hearing on Obamacare to Republicans • A new name for Catholic rural group.

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Rural Group Opposes Irish Power Line Plan. Members of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association are joining other residents opposing a power company’s plan to erect high-tension power lines across the Emerald Isle. 

Farm families see the move as part of the government’s larger abandonment of rural Ireland, the president of the association said at a national conference last week, the Irish Times reports.

“The State seems to be gradually withdrawing from rural life vis-a-vis rural post offices, DVOs (district veterinary offices), Garda stations, hospitals, schools and so on,” said John Comer, head of the milk suppliers’ association. The government wants to erect “a massive visual blight across the landscape of Ireland that’s going to be there for the next generation and the generation after that.”

He said rural residents don’t want “an Incredible Hulk flexed-muscle type structure looking down at them for the rest of their lives.”

The power line expansion program is part of improving electrical service to the nation, others say. Burying the lines instead of mounting them on pylons would be too expensive, said Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture.

Oil Boom, Postal Doom. Residents of boomtowns in the oil and gas fields of North Dakota are having trouble getting their mail because of a lack of postal employees, they say.

A postal union representative  says letter carriers are “worked to the bone” and some are quitting as a result.

The Postal Service is recruiting more workers for the region, reports Forum News Service.  That bucks the trend of Postal Service downsizing and post-office closures in other rural areas.

U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-North Dakota, held a roundtable to discuss post office issues in the state’s Bakken communities, a region experiencing a variety of pressures from oil-and-gas development.

Worker Deaths and OSHA. Big industrial accidents like the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, get the headlines, but most workers who are killed on the job get little notice because they die one at a time. But work accidents large and small have one thing in common, reports the Dallas Morning News: The places where these workers have died rarely receive inspections before the fact from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Reporters Randy Lee Loftis and Eric Holmberg look at several occupational deaths in Texas in recent years, especially ones involving dangerous work cleaning chemical tanks and other equipment that’s part of the oil and gas industry. They draw one conclusion: What little attention these workers in dangerous occupations attract comes only if they die. Because OSHA, the agency that’s supposed to enforce worker safety laws, doesn’t have the resources to conduct enough inspections and spot dangerous conditions before they result in an accident or death.

The story looks at the death of four men who worked for companies founded by Houston businessman Matthew L. Bowman. Bowman pled guilty to violating OSHA rules in connection with one of the workers’ deaths. He’ll serve up to a year in prison and pay a $5,000 fine. His lawyer said the sentence is “a bit excessive.”

“Navegadores.” Another story on the “navigators” who are helping folks sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act insurance marketplaces. This one is from Minnesota Public Radio and looks at efforts to enroll rural Latinos.

Ceding the Field. We hear  commentary from time to time that Democrats cede the field to Republicans instead of engaging with rural voters and communities. Here’s another case in point to bolster that argument. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a field hearing on Obamacare’s impact on rural communities earlier this week in northern Georgia. The testimony from witnesses was resoundingly negative – complaints about cost and access and word from one representative about a pharmacy that closed because of changes in healthcare law.

Why so negative?

Well, no Democrats participated in the hearing, so they didn’t get to call any witnesses.

Catholic Rural Life. The National Catholic Rural Life Conference has changed its name to Catholic Rural Life. The mission of the organization, founded in 1923, remains the same: to serve rural communities.

SNAP Cuts. Iowa Public Radio and Heartland Public Media looks at the possible impact of cuts in the nation’s nutrition program on rural families. Cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are part of current negotiations over a farm bill.

 

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