Wednesday Roundup: Fracturing, Cloning and Cutting

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The North Carolina legislature is  “looking at legislation that would sharply curtail local governments from offering new broadband service,” according to an editorial in the Winston-Salem newspaper. This bill is in support of private telecoms which, largely, have failed to deliver broadband to smaller communities. The editorial says:

The private providers are trying to make a big-government argument here, one that includes clichés about unfairness and Big Brother. But that is not the case. In this situation, residents and businesses are tired of waiting for Internet-service providers to arrive, so they’ve exercised their democratic rights to seek an alternative solution through their local governments. 

The paper says the telecoms “ignored a market, and local governments stepped in to provide a critical service. The legislature should kill this bill.” 

•The two sides of the natural gas drilling controversy are on display today. 

In Texas, the Railroad Commission voted unanimously yesterday to clear a natural gas driller of charges that its work contaminated two water wells in Parker County. Earlier, the federal Environmental Protection Agency claimed its research found that Range Resources had fouled the wells and ordered the company to fix the problem. 

The Railroad Commission denounced the EPA’s action, with one commissioner saying the federal agency had been too “hasty” in its decision. “We’ll see which is the real protection agency, and I’d say it’s the Railroad Commission of Texas,” Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jonessaid after the vote.

Meanwhile, the editorial page of the New York Times questioned whether natural gas drilling using new, hydraulic fracturing techniques “can be done safely.” The EPA has begun a new study of hydraulic fracturing techniques. 

• Here is a continuing theme: Pending federal budget cuts are leading community health clinics to consider closing.

Today’s story comes from Massachusetts, where community health clinics were first opened more than half a century ago, according to the Boston Globe. The idea was to give preventative care to people in the anticipation that this would avoid more drastic medical expenses down the road. 

There are now 52 community health centers in the state and 1,250 nationwide. Republicans in the House want to cut the billion dollar subsidy to these centers. These centers have received bipartisan support in the past — President Bush helped to double their capacities during his terms and President Obama put $2 billion into the centers in his stimulus bill.

Many of these centers are in rural communities. 

• The New York Times reports how Rep. Hal Rogers, who comes from the nation’s most rural district (in Eastern Kentucky) is adjusting to his job of cutting the budget as chair of the House Appropriations Committee.

“I ran to be head chef, but I wound up taking charge of the latrines,” said Mr. Rogers, 73.

• The Department of Interior will auction off 758 million tons in Wyoming coal reserves in the next few months. The tracts cover 7,500 acres in the Powder River Basin, where there is already extensive coal mining. 

• The price for Iowa farmland lept 24.5% since March 2010, the largest annual increase in three decades, reports Dan Piller in the Des Moines Register. 

The average value of tillable cropland in Iowa is $5,708 an acre. 

• USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack makes his pitch for investing in rural America, at a meeting Tuesay of the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association. Agri-pulse quotes Vilsack:

Rural America really matters to this country. And I am concerned about the fact that its population is aging and declining, I’m concerned about the fact that per capita income in rural America is about $11,000 less than what folks make in urban and suburban areas, I’m concerned about the fact that 90% of America’s persistent poverty counties are located in this very important place that we all rely on for our food and our fiber and our fuel and for our protection and I’m concerned that we have to have a revitalized rural economy so that young people who genuinely want to live and work and raise their families in the same type of communities that they had the privilege of growing up in have the economic opportunity to be able to do that.

• Five nations have signed an agreement in support of livestock cloning technology: Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, New Zealand and the United States. 

• Here’s a headline you don’t see very often: “2010 Census Data Shows Michigan Shifting Rural”

Booth News Service reports that 14 of the state’s 20 largest cities lost population in the decade. Suburban and rural areas, especially in western Michigan, showed gains. 

 

 

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