Maryland lawmakers are weighing a study of whether huge chicken farms are polluting the air around them — a new front in an ongoing debate over how the state’s expansive poultry industry affects the environment. The proposal is stirring conflicts pitting economic development against public health, and scientific research versus political activism. The poultry industry dominates state agriculture, and its representatives say farms have had to grow in response to the rising costs of complying with environmental regulation and animal welfare concerns. Modern chicken houses hold thousands of birds to supply poultry giants such as Perdue, Tyson and Mountaire Farms. In recent years the poultry industry has responded with “good neighbor” policies intended to buffer the sights, sounds and smells of modern chicken farming and to prevent water pollution. But critics say that isn’t enough, and are calling for state environmental regulators to more closely monitor what, if any, pollutants livestock farms are blowing into communities’ air — and whether they pose a threat to human health.The proposal in Annapolis would put Maryland ahead of other states and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which has spent more than a decade considering livestock farms’ emissions without establishing a reliable way to estimate such potential air pollution.
More than $3.75 million is being awarded to help Rhode Island communities and local organizations protect green space throughout the state.The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management announced Friday that 17 projects will receive matching grants to protect 889 acres of open space and farmland. The funding stems from the Green Economy Bond program, which was voters passed in 2016.The initiative aims to invest $35 million to preserve open space, improve recreational facilities and clean up land and waterways.The grants include $151,500 to acquire 15.6 acres at the headwaters of Little Creek in Portsmouth; $150,000 to acquire 75 acres on Saugatucket Road in South Kingston to help create a 120-acre stretch of protected land; and $400,000 to acquire 211.5 acres abutting Water Supply Board land in Cumberland.
President Trump is proposing to slash crop insurance and other farm programs by $47 billion over 10 years and to dramatically overhaul the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, eventually shrinking its cost to taxpayers by one-third. The proposals will be dead on arrival in the House and Senate Agriculture committees but they would provide ammunition to farm bill critics on the right and left who would like to reduce nutrition assistance and farm subsidies.
While the governor sticks to cautious, measured responses to President Donald Trump's proposal to expand oil drilling into waters off Georgia and its coastal neighbors, a bipartisan group of lawmakers wants the Georgia legislature to formally denounce the energy plan as a threat to tourism and fishing.Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, serving his last year in office, stands alone among governors of 22 coastal U.S. states in that he's refrained from taking a firm stand for or against Trump's plan to let private companies drill in federal waters currently off-limits to oil exploration.Hoping to fill the political vacuum, a small group of Democratic and Republican legislators are pushing resolutions in the state House and Senate that would flat out declare opposition to drilling. They argue it would risk fouling Georgia's pristine salt marshes, threaten endangered right whales that give birth off Georgia and potentially devastate local economies.Anti-drilling Democrats have been joined in sponsoring the proposals by at least six GOP lawmakers. One of them is Republican Rep. Jesse Petrea of Savannah, who said he's a big supporter of "fracking and drilling" in the U.S. But he also noted Georgia's 100-mile (160 kilometer) coast is home to nearly one-third of the remaining salt marshes on the East Coast. The state's chain of barrier islands remains largely undeveloped, with vast acreage under federal and state protection.
woman was removed from the West Virginia House of Delegates on Friday after she used her testimony about a fossil fuel-sponsored piece of legislation to list industry donations to state lawmakers.Lissa Lucas ventured to Charleston to voice her objections to the proposed bill, HB 4268, which would give oil and gas companies the right to drill on private land with the consent of just 75 percent of the landowners. Current law mandates energy companies obtain 100 percent approval before they can develop land, allowing a single person to hold up drilling.Lucas, also a Democratic candidate for West Virginia’s seventh district, used her testimony to read a list of donations that lawmakers had received from oil and gas companies, information that was publicly available. But shortly into her allotted time, Lucas was ordered to refrain from making “personal comments” about members of the House Judiciary Committee.
Colorado’s Republican-led Senate gave initial approval Wednesday to a bill that would expedite the construction of high-speed broadband service in rural areas by taking money from a state fund that has long subsidized rural telephone service. Rural broadband is a top session priority for lawmakers and for Gov. John Hickenlooper, who acknowledge that Colorado’s eastern plains, western slope and many mountain towns have missed out on the economic boom that is centered in metropolitan Denver.Republican Sens. Don Coram of Montrose and Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling argue their bill will boost economic development and curb depopulation of rural Colorado by providing jobs in an economy that runs on broadband. Also co-sponsoring the bill are Democratic House Speaker Crisanta Duran and House Majority Leader KC Becker.
A new bill in the Legislature aims to seal Alaskans' convictions for low-level marijuana possession — nearly four years after voters approved a citizens initiative to legalize the drug's commercial sale.Anchorage Democratic Rep. Harriet Drummond, who introduced House Bill 316 last week, said authorities in other places are doing the same thing. San Francisco's district attorney recently announced he would move to dismiss and seal more than 3,000 marijuana-related misdemeanors after Californians' 2016 vote to legalize the drug, which took effect last month.Drummond, in a phone interview Tuesday from Juneau, said her proposal would make it easier for Alaskans with marijuana possession convictions to get jobs and find places to live."To continue to punish people who did something before February of 2015 that is now legal and that people are making money off of just isn't right," said Drummond, referring to the date that Alaska's legalization initiative went into effect.
Safety net hospitals could see their state Medicaid payments decrease by $170 million under a proposal in the budget that the Florida Senate is poised to approve Thursday. The proposal, which targets about $318 million in payments that currently go to 28 hospitals with a higher percentage of Medicaid patients, would funnel those funds into the base rates paid to all hospitals instead. The reshuffling would largely affect safety net hospitals, which include public and teaching hospitals, while for-profit hospitals could gain more than $63 million, according to the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida.
A newly redesigned water website from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln offers quick access to information from the university’s water experts. The site was redesigned to better meet the needs of the public and their use of mobile devices. Water experts plan to add information to the website regularly on agricultural water, manure management, residential water and water resources. At the conclusion of each month, a water newsletter will be published, delivering the latest articles directly into the email inboxes of its subscribers.
In 2016, a Washington Supreme Court ruling put the brakes on rural homebuilding in several areas across the state. The so-called Hirst decision required counties to prove that new household wells wouldn’t drain needed water from nearby streams before they issued building permits. But last month, state legislators, under pressure from landowners and building and realtors’ associations, passed a bill that, with some caveats, allows new wells. The challenge of balancing rural growth with the needs of other water users and the environment extends far beyond Washington state. How it plays out here and across the region will determine how many more people can join the ranks of the millions of rural Westerners who rely on domestic water wells.