Tuesday Roundup: The End of Unipolis

Budget cuts close an Ohio town • TransCanada mushes ahead with pipeline • Vilsack talks up livestock marketing rules • The end of regional air service


[imgcontainer left] [img:Cushing.jpg] [source]FreeWine

All pipelines, it seems, lead to Cushing, Oklahoma. TransCanada wants to start immediately on the lower half of its Keystone XL pipeline, the section that would lead from Cushing to the Gulf Coast. But who will regulate this section? Lisa Song reports.

Cuts in the state budget “hit small-town Ohio,” reports the L.A. Times. As a result, one town, Unipolis, is closing down. 

“We’ve decided that with the budget cuts, we just can’t do it anymore,” said Unipolis Mayor William Rolston. “About the only thing that can save it now is an act of God.”

Ohio voted for a Republican governor in 2010, John Kasich, who promised to balance the budget without raising taxes. He eliminated an $8 billion deficit by cutting funds for local government. In some towns, reports Alana Semuels, state funding was reduced by 25% this year and 25% the next.

Police have been laid off. In some places police won’t respond to theft calls unless there are eye witnesses. Some 166 school districts have deficits and are selling space on campuses for cell phone towers and charging students to play sports.

Semuels reports:

As local governments grapple with the aftermath of a brutal recession, communities across Ohio and the nation have cut back on spending. Voters elected politicians who pledged to balance budgets, but now that the effects are being felt, some are changing their minds.

They ultimately will have to answer this question: Is balancing a budget in hard times a necessity, as House SpeakerJohn A. Boehner, whose district is just down the road, has said, or is cutting to the bone right now just too much to ask of a small town?

• Ohio isn’t alone in dealing with smaller budgets. School districts in Pennsylvania may be receiving their state funding in block grants that “will not keep pace with actual transportation costs,” reports The Morning Call. 

This, of course, will impact rural districts the most. 

• Okay, so TransCanada will build now only the lower half of the Keystone XL pipeline, the section that runs from Cushing, Oklahoma, to Port Arthur, Texas.

TransCanada is stymied in its efforts to built the top half of the pipeline, the section that would run from the tar sands area of Canada to Cushing. The Obama administration has denied the company a permit to cross the border, at least until the company finds a way around the Ogallala Aquifer in Nebraska.

Lisa Song at InsideClimate News asks who will regulate the lower half of the pipeline, a $2.3 billion project. 

That job appears to be up to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration of the Department of Transportation. “All pipelines must be designed and constructed to meet federal, state and local safety standards,” Jeannie Layson, PHMSA’s public affairs director, said in a statement. “DOT will help coordinate with federal partners and among state agencies to streamline the process and ensure a safe start to the new pipeline.”

TransCanada also may need permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

• Talking to National Farmers Union members this weekend, U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack talked about his disappointment about the demise of strong livestock marketing rules — the “GIPSA rules.” 

According to DTN’s Chris Clayton, Vilsack channeled Winston Churchill, saying change is incremental, but “never give up, never give up, never give up”

• Regional airline service is “going away,” says an airline forcaster. Michael Boyd tells the New York Times that airlines are “going to be dropping a lot of places they now fly. Air travel is going to get accessed by fewer and fewer people” as they cut service to many markets. 

“Regional airlines are not airlines,” Mr. Boyd said. “They’re leasing companies, and the kind of equipment they lease, especially 50-seat regional jets, is becoming less and less economically feasible.” He added that “the need for what they provide is going away” as major airlines drop service on those the smaller jets.