Tuesday Roundup: Same Old, Same Old

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Here we go again with the story that rural America is getting an unfairly large share of the federal budget, this time from the always proper pages of Scientific American magazine.

There is nothing scientific about the editorial titled “In Fairness to Cities: The U.S. needs to level the playing field between city, suburb and countryside.” The SA editorial contends that federal policies are “stacked against” cities and give “preferential treatment to suburbs and rural areas.” 

Proof? The SA says that President Obama “skewed the stimulus bill toward more dollars for rural America. The five least populated states got twice as much money per capita as the rest.”

Huh? How do we know that the money went to the rural parts of those low population states? And is this all the proof SA has that the entire federal government is “stacked against” the cities in favor of rural America? What happened in the stimulus package?

We repeat: When you break down actual spending, urban areas get far more federal spending per capita than rural places. In discretionary spending, it’s not even close. Urban areas get more per capita than rural. Go here for the details

In the last paragraph, SA called for “rational, science-based public policy.” We await rational fact-based editorial writing. 

• The New York Times reports that there may not be enough money to carry out the food inspection scheme devised by Congress. 

Congress passed the food safety bill last December and the Food and Drug Administration is now in the process of writing the rules called for by the law. 

One set of those rules will set standards for farmers growing fruits and vegetables. How hard is this going to be? Well, there is some thought that wild animals are getting into fields and bringing in E. coli. Potentially, the rules would require farmers to fence out critters from huge fields. 

The Congressional Budget Office says the FDA will need hundreds of millions of dollars to carry out the law, but there appears to be little chance the money will be there.

• We’ve been keeping up at a distance with the struggle in Lynch, Kentucky, to stop two coal strip mines on the ridge above the town. Lynch is a wonderful place. It was originally built by U.S. Steel to house workers at the company’s coal operation in southeast Kentucky and it is a perfect example of an early 20th century coal company town.

Officials with the Environmental Protection Agency came to Lynch last Friday to listen, according to a good report by Anders Eld in the Harlan Daily Enterprise. “Environmental justice is something that is very important to the EPA and the president. We believe that no particular community should experience an undue burden of pollution,” said Gwen Keyes Fleming, regional administrator with the EPA.

The people in Lynch said they weren’t against coal, but…. “We have a beautiful area. Right now, it is virgin territory as far as surface mining goes, and we like to keep it that way,” said Stanley Sturgill, member of Lynch City Council and Kentuckians for the Commonwealth. “A lot of people have branded us that we are strictly against coal mining and that we aren’t friends of coal. We’re not against coal mining. I worked in the mines for 41 years. In no way am I against coal mining. I’m against surface mining.” The residents say the mines would harm the city’s water supply. 

The EPA visit to Lynch led the Lexington, Kentucky, paper to editorialize:

We all know that if Eastern Kentucky were inhabited by rich people, rather than poor people, the massive destruction of forests, streams and ancient mountains; the explosions; the clouds of coal dust; the release of toxins into the air and water; the burning wells would never be tolerated. 

• Companies in 16 states will split $103 million in federal funding for projects aimed at expanding rural internet access

Here’s a story about how one of the grants will help 1,000 Internet users in central and southern Wyoming. 

• We mentioned yesterday that some South Dakota schools will only be in session four days a week. Writers in the Washington Post report that “in rural communities from New Mexico to Idaho, some students will be in school only four days a week.”

They argue that what we need is more school, not less.

• West Virginia regulators filed an emergency rule Monday that would require drillers in the Marcellus shale natural gas formation to say how they will protect the land and water. The rule will last for 15 months while a special legislative committee writes a permanent law. 

The Charleston Gazette’s Paul Nyden reports that citizen groups around the state are pushing for the regulation. They say drillers using hydraulic fracturing techniques (where a combination of water and chemicals is injected underground to force out the gas) cause widespread damage. “Drilling being conducted in this and other states is causing harm to people’s health and to their livestock and property and to their well water and streams and contaminating the air they breathe,” said Leslee McCarty of the West Virginia Environmental Council.

On the other side, proponents of drilling say the industry is necessary for a flagging state economy. 

 

 

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