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Rick Perry manages to unite oil, gas, wind and solar — against him

The Washington Post | Posted on October 4, 2017

On Monday, a coalition of 11 energy lobbying groups asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to delay issuing and enforcing a new rule issued by the Energy Department. Energy Secretary Perry had asked for FERC to streamline the rulemaking process but the groups want time to weigh in during the traditional comment period. The coalition attracted some strange bedfellows, including renewable-energy lobbyists such as the American Wind Energy Association and the Solar Energy Industries Association and oil and gas heavyweights such as the Natural Gas Supply Association and the American Petroleum Institute.  “This is the first time we've filed a motion in conjunction with API,” said Gil Jenkins, a spokesman for the American Council on Renewable Energy, one of the groups in the coalition.“So, it's unprecedented,” Jenkins added. “Just as this very action taken by DOE.”Here's the backrgound. On Friday, Perry, issued a sweeping proposal to redefine how coal and nuclear power plants are compensated for the electricity they provide to the power grid.In a letter and proposed regulation, Perry asked FERC to consider issuing new rules to ensure that nuclear and coal-fired plants are compensated not only for the electricity they provide to homes and businesses, but for the reliability they add to the grid.

Our View: Will Anything Ever Satisfy Farm Critics? No

Farm Policy Facts | Posted on October 4, 2017

For decades, agriculture’s adversaries have said “no” to almost any policy that helped farmers. When farm policy was reformed to be more free-market oriented, critics said it wasn’t enough. When the agricultural sector stood alone and volunteered funding cuts to help close America’s budget deficit, critics said it wasn’t enough. When farmers began contributing to their own safety net through crop insurance to offset risk to taxpayers, critics said it wasn’t enough.And now that the 2014 Farm Bill has come in tens of billions under budget, critics still say it isn’t enough.“No” appears to be the only message the Environmental Working Group (EWG), Heritage Foundation, U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), Club for Growth, and other perennial farm policy opponents are capable of delivering.

BLM backs out of Sage Grouse pact

Daily Yonder | Posted on October 4, 2017

When federal land-management agencies pulled out of an inter-agency agreement to protect sage-grouse habitat in Utah in September, the federal Treasury picked up an additional $15,000 from energy companies for public-land leases. The federal government may have to spend many times that amount on legal actions related to the dissolution of the land management agreement, say conservationists. And outdoor-business industry leaders say the decision to abandon the agreement will also take money out of the pockets of local businesses that cater to hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts.The public land that the Department of Interior opened to private fossil fuel development is in Juab County, Utah, in prime sage-grouse habitat. The bird’s population is dwindling, but federal agencies worked with conservation groups to keep the bird off the endangered species list through a widely-celebrated collaborative conservation initiativeThe agreement was hailed as a common-sense approach that protects the bird without having to list it as endangered, which triggers stricter rules, including a hunting ban.Interior’s Bureau Land of Management (BLM) pulled out of the agreement in September and announced a nine-parcel auction for oil and gas exploration on BLM land in Utah’s West Desert. Only three of the public land offers attracted bids, and those bids just met the minimum price of $2 an acre. Total BLM proceeds from the lease were $14,837. The BLM rationale for the sale was stated as “keeping with the administration’s goals of promoting America’s energy independence.”Conservationists and businesses leaders say there is much more at stake with potential damage to the outdoor recreation industry in Utah. Similar public land leases are likely to continue in sage grouse habitat across the West, according to Interior Department officials who briefed the New York Times. Internal staff reported that under Trump Administration appointee Ryan Zinke, the department intends “to publish a formal notice of intent to amend 98 sage grouse habitat management plans across 10 states.”

EPA Pressed on RFS Changes

DTN | Posted on October 2, 2017

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is considering a major change to the Renewable Fuel Standard that could include offering biofuel credits attached to gallons of ethanol exported from the United States. Already this week, the U.S. biofuels industry took a punch to the gut when the EPA announced it was considering more cuts in some biofuel volumes in addition to cuts already proposed in the Renewable Fuel Standard.Now, another media outlet, citing anonymous sources, reported the agency is considering a proposal from Valero Energy to leave renewable identification numbers, or RINs, attached to U.S. ethanol gallons produced in the United States and exported. Currently, RINs are removed from exported gallons.Valero said in Aug. 31 public comments to EPA on the RFS that keeping RINs attached to exports would help ease pressure on the RINs market.When contacted by DTN an EPA spokesman said, "EPA is currently seeking input from all stakeholders involved. Nothing has been finalized at this time."

FDA Not Doing Enough To Fix Serious Food Safety Violations, Report Finds

NPR | Posted on October 2, 2017

For instance, FDA often relies on facilities to voluntarily correct violations, which can be ineffective.the report concludes that the FDA "consistently failed to conduct timely followup inspections to ensure that facilities corrected significant inspection violations." And in 17 percent of cases, the FDA did not conduct a follow-up inspection at all. Also, in some instances where inspectors found significant violations, the FDA took no enforcement action.The Food Safety Modernization Act, which was signed into law in 2011, aims to ensure a prevention-oriented approach to food safety. The law gave FDA new enforcement authority so the agency could better respond to problems. But the new report concludes that the FDA has rarely taken advantage of these new tools."We think FDA really needs to do more to take swift and effective action" to ensure that safety problems at food facilities are fixed promptly, Seife says.

Feds move forward on asking states to track car emissions

Chicago Tribune | Posted on October 2, 2017

Federal officials moved forward with requirements that states track vehicle emissions on federal highways after months of delays that prompted California and seven other states to sue. But they might repeal the new rules next year anyway, rendering this week's decision moot. The rules require state transportation departments to track on-road emissions of greenhouse gas emissions by looking at gas purchased and miles traveled on federal highways. States must then set emissions targets, with the goal of reducing them over time. Emissions from cars, trucks and other vehicles make up roughly 27 percent of the nation's total greenhouse emissions.In the short term, the rules will move forward. But federal officials will also undertake a fresh review of whether they're necessary or could be made better.

A Day in US Immigration Court: Lots of Cases, Not Much Resolution

Voice of America News | Posted on October 2, 2017

Suzan stood before Immigration Judge John M. Bryant, asking for more time in her deportation case, which was already more than a few years old.Deportation proceedings never caught up with her — for a while, she was homeless and living on the streets — until about six years ago, when she was at a nightclub where a fight broke out. She was not charged, but police told her story to immigration officials."They were about to deport her. When [Suzan's] boyfriend called me and said, 'Look, we've got this situation,' " we filed a motion to reopen her case, Suzan's lawyer, Xavier Racine, told VOA.This was one of 233 cases scheduled Tuesday at the court in Arlington, Virginia, outside Washington.In the hallway outside the courtrooms hang eight lists where respondents must search for their names to learn where their cases will be heard.The courtrooms are plain — white painted walls, no windows, 10 wooden benches that can sit about 40 people total. No one is allowed to stand up; if there are no seats available, a respondent must wait outside.The motions are fast-paced, each one settled in five to 10 minutes.Because immigration cases are civil proceedings, undocumented immigrants who are facing deportation do not have a right to a rapid trial or a court-appointed lawyer. If immigrants cannot find pro bono representation, they are advised by the judges to hire a lawyer. Some pay for legal aid on retainer programs — paying a small amount monthly for cases that can last years. The immigration data tracker TRAC reports the backlog in immigration cases has swelled to 632,000 nationally. In Arlington, the backlog is 36,099 cases.

Want to Know What Divides This Country? Come to Alabama

The New York Times | Posted on October 2, 2017

“Just wow,” Peggy and Mark Kennedy said to each other last week in Montgomery, Ala. On the TV, Roy Moore had just pulled a little pistol from a pocket of his cowboy costume to show his love for the Second Amendment. The next night he won the Republican nomination in the race to be their next senator. Peggy, née Wallace, braced for a new round of interviews, having often been asked during the presidential campaign to compare Donald Trump with her father, the segregationist governor George C. Wallace. “But my daddy was qualified” for office, she would say, long since a supporter of Barack Obama.She and Mr. Kennedy, a predecessor of Mr. Moore on the state Supreme Court, represent one current of Alabama history — a slice of the population yearning against the “fear and anger and hate” that Ms. Kennedy says her father exploited, and ultimately repented of. Not long ago, the path of progress seemed inevitable. At the time of the church bombing, after which the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told Wallace that “the blood of our little children is on your hands,” the governor seemed to be the toxic tribune of a fading order. That arc of the universe seemed on track 23 years later when Alabama’s Democratic senator Howell Heflin, Mr. Jones’s old boss, cast the decisive vote against a federal judgeship for Jeff Sessions. In 1986, Mr. Sessions was considered beyond the moral pale.Now Mr. Sessions is the attorney general, having vacated Mr. Heflin’s old Senate seat (the same one Mr. Moore and Mr. Jones hope to fill), and his zealous nativism set the scene for a winning presidential campaign. Donald Trump has upended the reconciliation script, recasting white nationalists as the victims — of an elite that includes an Ayn Rand-reading Republican House speaker as well as an arugula-eating black Democrat.

Why China is building its own version of an Iowa farm

USA Today | Posted on September 28, 2017

China is eager to modernize the operations of its 260 million mostly small-scale farmers, with Iowa held up not only as a model but an ideal: In the words of one Chinese official, Iowa is “the place where the dream for modern farming began.” Iowa, meanwhile, craves ever more access to the Chinese market and its growing middle class.Kimberley stood there Saturday morning thanks to a famous visitor to his own Iowa farm in February 2012: Chinese President Xi Jinping surveyed the vast fields, towering grain bins and enormous tractors and saw inspiration for the future of rural China. Branstad stood there that day, too.Zhou Zhongming, the party secretary from Chengde who presided over Saturday’s groundbreaking, spoke of Xi’s explicit instructions two years ago that this province of Hebei should strengthen its agricultural cooperation with Iowa, its sister state.Kimberley, meanwhile, told the Chinese how his grandfather purchased his first modest tractor in 1930, a 30-horsepower John Deere. And since he began farming in 1972, his yields have doubled.

How Heritage Foundation’s U.S. Farm Policy Proposals Would Put America Last

Farm Policy Facts | Posted on September 28, 2017

The Heritage Report recommends that the safety net provided by the Farm Bill’s Commodity Title be eliminated for crop and dairy farmers although analysis of a more modest proposal offered during the 2008 Farm Bill debate concluded that most farms and ranches would not be able to survive the resulting erosion in farm income. The Heritage Report’s recommendation comes at a time when national net farm income has fallen 50 percent over the past four years and, regionally, farmers have endured difficult conditions for an even longer period. The previous proposal was put forward at a time when the farm economy was relatively strong affording farmers an opportunity to build up reserves and equity. The Heritage Report also recommends that crop insurance be cut but maintained in the short-term, along with livestock disaster assistance, until a complete transition away from any government involvement in agriculture is achieved. The cuts to Federal Crop Insurance recommended in the Heritage Report would erase the significant gains made under crop insurance over the past 23 years and, in effect, restore the previous federal policy of maintaining a weak crop insurance system buttressed by costly, un-budgeted ad hoc disaster assistance. The reversal in policy would come at a time when Congress has not enacted an ad hoc crop loss disaster program for 10 years and 90 percent of all U.S. planted acres are insured. The Heritage Report further recommends that the U.S. make total and unilateral concessions on agriculture in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and eliminate all domestic trade laws with the objective of causing foreign trading partners to do the same on the strength of America’s leadership. However, analysis of the Heritage proposal indicates that the high and rising subsidies, tariffs, and non-tariff trade barriers of foreign competitors would continue, leaving U.S. farmers and ranchers to fend alone against the predatory trade practices of other nations which is inconsonant with current U.S. objectives on trade.