Friday, September 12, 2014
What We Learned This Week - "Ignorance is Strength"
The U.S. House easily passed a bill designed to prevent the Obama Administration from implementing a proposed rule to redefine the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. Thirty-five Democrats broke party ranks to support the measure. The U.S. EPA released a seven-page series of questions and answers explaining the controversial rule, while golfing organizations weighed in against the proposal. A new USGS study spanning two decades found that pesticides in many U.S. streams continue to be at levels of concern for aquatic life, but there was a significant decline in the human health threat from those pesticides. A House committee held a hearing on six GOP-sponsored bills "aimed at updating and improving the Endangered Species Act." Bird species are among those endangered: the National Audubon Society reported that 314 North American bird species are at risk - many from climate change. And soon thereafter, the U.S. government described a watch list of 233 endangered bird species; many in moderate to steep decline due to habitat loss. Corn, however, is not among the list of endangered species, having been king of Midwest crops for nearly a decade. But that era is set to end, in part because of changes in the latest farm bill. Quite a few high-profile farm bill opponents in Congress have fallen on tough political times this election cycle. Greenhouse gas levels rose in 2013 at fastest rate since 1984; a surge that surprised scientists and raised fears of accelerated planet warming rates to come. The 50 richest members of the U.S. Congress are all white, 92 percent male, and include 20 Democrats and 30 Republicans. Women are also under-represented on U.S. House hearing witness lists. Some lawmakers are privately saying that the post-election, lame-duck work session will live up to its designation. Which is perhaps one reason why a Gallup poll found that just 14 percent of Americans approve of how Congress is handling its job. And last but not least, Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf released a campaign ad that looked suspiciously like a Jeep commercial.