Tuesday Roundup: What Hearing?


Lisa Song writes: 

After two weeks of e-mail exchanges and phone calls, however, the two agency spokeswomen we dealt with couldn’t explain how or when the comments will be processed, or whether any of the actual decision-makers are obligated to review them. The spokeswomen said only that all agency staff working on the pipeline review will “have access to the comments.” When we asked for the names and job titles of those who might be expected to read the comments, we were told that information was not available.

Keystone will bisect Nebraska on its way from Canada to the Gulf Coast, a fact that worries many in the state (including the governor). The pipeline will cross over the Ogallala Aquifer, the primary source of water for much of the Great Plains. In order to proceed, TransCanada, the company building the pipeline, needs a permit from the State Department. 

The State Department held the hearing in Atkinson to collect information it said it would use to make its decision. There is nothing in the law, however, that requires the State Department to collect, publish or even pay attention to the testimony it collected, Song reports.  

•The Federal Communications Commission says its recently approved plan to expand broadband Internet access is “the most significant policy step ever taken to connect all Americans to high-speed Internet, wherever they live.” 

The FCC last week created a new Connect America Fund with an annual budget of up to $4.5 billion taken largely from the old Universal Service Fund. 

“As a result, today’s action has the potential to be one of the biggest job creators in rural America in decades,” the agency said. “The FCC estimates that approximately 500,000 jobs will be created over the next six years by expanding high-speed Internet access to over 7 million Americans living in rural areas.”

• Iowa ethanol producers have had about enough of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, according to Dan Piller with the Des Moines Register: 

Gov. Rick Perry’s past statements against ethanol made him a marked man when he ventured north for the Iowa caucus campaign, and his recent television ad promoting an energy policy that is heavy on traditional oil and gas while calling for an end to the renewable fuels mandates has caused Iowans’ ethanol blood to boil afresh.

“While Iowans are renowned for our patience and open-mindedness, both are being put to the test by Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s recent campaign actions,” said Walt Wendland, manager of ethanol plants at Mason City and Lawlor.

• DTN’s Chris Clayton writes about “the secret farm bill.” 

A farm bill is being crafted — once that can be sent up to the super committee looking at budget cuts — but it doesn’t look like it will see the light of day until maybe Wednesday.

Environmental groups aren’t pleased with the secrecy. 

• Women who live in rural areas are more likely than women living in cities to be diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer

The difference in diagnosis is due to inequalities in access to health care.

• The large number of natural disasters in the Midwest is taking a toll on insurers. A Cedar Rapids, Iowa, company is reporting third quarter losses due to payments resulting from storms.