he regulatory problems facing a controversial Oregon dairy have raised questions among lawmakers about avoiding “too big to fail” livestock operations in the future. Negative publicity has continued to mount for Lost Valley Farm of Boardman, Ore., which in 2018 has faced a $10,600 fine, a lawsuit filed by state farm regulators and financial troubles resulting in bankruptcy proceedings.The 7,300-acre farm is home to nearly 14,000 head of cattle.The Senate Interim Committee on Environment and Natural Resources summoned the state’s top agriculture and water regulators for a legislative hearing on May 21 to begin analyzing what went wrong.
As expected, Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed legislation that would have allowed Enbridge to build a controversial new oil pipeline without getting regulatory approval. The legislation would have terminated a three-year process before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) that is nearly complete.The PUC is slated next month to decide if Enbridge's new Line 3 across northern Minnesota is needed, and if so, what route it should take."This bill pre-empts the long-standing PUC process, which has been established in law, and which has been used for years to make those complex and controversial decisions," Dayton said in a letter Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, speaker of the house.The legislation would also disregard the input of "thousands of Minnesotans who have participated in the [regulatory] process," including by attending public meetings and hearings, Dayton wrote.
Gov. John Kasich said he plans to issue an executive order if state lawmakers won't limit fertilizer use in certain parts of the state that contribute to problematic phosphorus and nitrate runoff in Lake Erie. The Ohio General Assembly in 2015 restricted manure and fertilizer application on snow-covered or wet ground in the western basin of Lake Erie with exceptions such as injecting it into the ground or applying it on a cover crop. Another law required large farm owners to obtain a certification in properly applying fertilizer. "We know it's a phosphorous problem and we know what watersheds are the heaviest contributors of phosphorus, so we're looking at what we can do from an executive perspective," Lynch said.Ohio Farm Bureau spokesman Joe Cornely said there's no argument fertilizer nutrients contribute to algal blooms, but additional regulations are premature until research shows what types of nutrients are leaving farm soil and their effect on the problem.
New Hampshire’s renewable industry will get a boost – though at a possible cost to ratepayers – if three bills passed last week by lawmakers are signed into law by Gov. Chris Sununu. Senate Bill 446 is perhaps the most far-reaching, increasing fivefold the size of projects that would qualify for net metering. That’s the current law that allows homeowners, small business and groups to get credit, and sometimes even cash, for generating their own electricity.SB 446 would extend the upper limit from 1 megawatt to 5 megawatts, allowing large businesses, municipalities and even small hydro generators to take advantage of it, paving the way for much larger renewable energy projects.Critics, including utilities and some business groups, claim that generators are paid too much for the power, and this amounts to a subsidy paid for by other ratepayers. Advocates say that renewable energy saves money on distribution and generation costs.
Several Connecticut environment groups and companies are taking the state to federal court over the legislature’s decision to remove money from state energy funds in the two-year budget passed in October. The Connecticut Fund for the Environment and 11 other plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court Tuesday in order to stop the $165 million sweep.Using the funding for other than its intended purpose is a breach of the contracts clause of the United States Constitution, the plaintiffs argue. Much of the money is raised through a small surcharge on electric bills; because the money is now allocated for different purposes, the plaintiffs say this qualifies as an illegal tax on tax-exempt organizations — such as nonprofits that are ratepayers.
The Maryland Legislature approved the Fiscal Year 2019 State Operating Budget that includes funds to support the Rural Maryland Prosperity Investment Fund (RMPIF), a key step forward in addressing disparities in the State’s rural areas. The Rural Maryland Prosperity Investment Fund will receive $6,000,000 in funding for targeted investment to promote economic prosperity in Maryland’s traditionally disadvantaged and undeserved rural communities. These funds will sustain efforts to promote rural regional cooperation, facilitate entrepreneurial activities, and support key community colleges and nonprofit providers. For Fiscal Year 2018, 27 grants were distributed to 27 organizations throughout the State.
Ross County, with its rolling forested green hills and quaint two-century-old county seat, is an image of idyllic rural America. But as night fell here on a warm Tuesday in May, chaos descended on the Ross County Sheriff’s Office. A neighbor called to report a disturbance, likely a violent domestic dispute, and another called to report a man slumped over the steering wheel of his pickup, likely an overdose. Calls of other suspicious vehicles came flooding in. The violent-crime rate in rural areas rose above the national average for the first time in a decade, according to the most recently available data from the federal government. Though cities, on average, still have a higher violent-crime rate than rural areas, large metropolitan areas are safer than they have been in decades, while small communities in some states are getting more dangerous. “It is nothing but you and the cows and the sirens,” said Sgt. Brenton Davidson, a patrol sergeant at the sheriff’s office. “You are seeing more violence, and you never know where your backup is coming from.” Small departments, where budgets and the number of deputies have remained stagnant, are overwhelmed. The number of sheriff’s deputies patrolling 691 square miles in Ross County, which sits some 50 miles south of Columbus, has remained at four over the past two decades. The population over the same period has increased to 77,000 from about 72,000. Starting pay for deputies is $35,000 a year, compared with the Ohio average of about $60,000.
When the man in the teal hoodie mentioned that he had trained as a pharmacy technician, Lachelle Hill’s voice rose in excitement. “Why don’t I see that on here?” the state job counselor asked, pointing at the paperwork on the table between them. Unemployment insurance beneficiaries are required to look for work, but Hill wasn’t just checking Corey’s paperwork for compliance. She was helping him focus his job search, and trying to steer him toward positions he was qualified for.Such conversations are central to a reemployment grant program that the U.S. Department of Labor has touted for years. In February, Congress passed a budget bill that would make the program permanent and increase its funding from about $100 million last year to more than $3 billion over the next six years.To push states to improve their programs further, the law requires that starting in 2023 states must spend a quarter of their money on “evidence-based interventions” that have been proven to get people jobs faster. ut creating evidence-based employment programs can be tricky. While research generally shows that employment assistance helps people get jobs, it’s not always clear why certain programs work well and whether they can be expanded.The nationwide employment program that Corey’s benefiting from is based on a Nevada model that significantly reduced the amount of time people received unemployment benefits. Studies have yet to determine whether the Nevada approach can get the same results elsewhere.
The tiny particles of silica sand found in Winona County are very round and hard — perfect for "fracking," the process of extracting oil and gas from below ground.But Minnesota Sands LLC, which leases about 3,000 acres in the area, can't mine the sand because Winona County banned sand mining for industrial purposes in 2016, citing environmental and health concerns.It's still allowed for construction and agriculture, among other local uses. Minnesota Sands will argue in an appeals court hearing Thursday that the ban violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution and that the ban devalued its land leases."We are appealing because the ban is a significant threat to anyone who benefits from the use of their land," said Minnesota Sands spokesperson Mike Zipko. "Allowing it to remain in place also creates a very real risk that Winona or other counties will build on this by passing or imposing other future unconstitutional restrictions on landowners."
In March, former Minnesota state Rep. Tony Cornish made a surprise visit to the state Capitol, where he attended committee hearings and talked to former colleagues.His presence was enough to put at least a few women on edge. Sarah Walker, a lobbyist, said she heeded texted warnings to avoid certain areas of the building. State Rep. Erin Maye Quade said she made a point of staying in her committee room. When Cornish ended up walking in the room, she said, for a split second she thought he was there to kill her. Cornish, a Republican, resigned in November after Walker and Maye Quade, a Democrat, accused him of sexual harassment. Walker said he repeatedly propositioned her for sex and Maye Quade said he often made inappropriate comments — allegations that Cornish has denied. He did not return a phone call for comment. But that day in March, some of his former colleagues greeted him with smiles and laughter, Maye Quade recalled. The visit sent a potentially corrosive message to women in the Statehouse, Walker said — a message that nothing had changed.Seven months after the #MeToo movement began, state lawmakers across the country are still grappling with how to root out what many say is a longstanding misogynist culture in statehouses. After dozens of sexual harassment accusations against sitting male state lawmakers, at least 16 legislators in a dozen states have resigned or been expelled, according to a Statelinetally.In many states, accused lawmakers were knocked from leadership posts, or voluntarily relinquished them, while remaining in office. Others apologized and kept their positions, or maintain their innocence.