Friday, May 8, 2015

What We Learned This Week - "The rain in Plains stayed mainly off the grains"

There was a fertilizer spill in Indiana with "only a few dead fish," and yet another in a series of oil production brine spills in North Dakota. Lawmakers and industry representatives agree that microbead plastic particles should be kept out of U.S. waters. However, exactly how to define those "U.S. waters" continued to be a point of political disagreement. Minnesota's state senators passed a microbead bill.  That state's Health Department called farmland-related nitrates a "growing chemical threat" to drinking water, while the state's Governor talked about clean water, wastewater infrastructure, and being called a stream buffer bully.  USDA will make over $200 million available this year for farm and ranch land conservation through a regional partnership program. A USDA economists suggested that the Department reframe how it implements voluntary conservation programs related to water quality improvement. Missouri River runoff in April was half of what it usually is due to low Dakotas' rainfall.  The week's Plains' rainfall fell mostly outside of already-drought-stricken areas.  Mississippi River megafloods likely wiped out the largest ancient Native American civilization in what is now Illinois. Kentucky's hemp production is getting higher, and U.S. planting zones "have shifted ever so subtly" because of climate warming. Louisiana Sens. Vitter and Cassidy were critical of the impact flood insurance rates might have on economic growth and they suggested that FEMA drop a new rule's linkage between mitigation grants and state climate change planning. The last time the Earth had this much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was more than a million years ago. North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven wants to "improve on" a new U.S. EPA coal ash disposal rule. A judge ruled that the federal government must pay for Hurricane Katrina damages amplified by the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet system. Missouri state-endangered lake sturgeon are reproducing in the Mississippi River. The Pennsylvania House voted to thin its own ranks along with those of the state Senate. A new round of South Dakota hearings on the Keystone XL pipeline project will once more pit anti-pipeline activists against project supporters. And last but not least, "underutilized seafood" like Asian carp and other "trash fish" will be highlights of an exclusive Chicago dinner later this month.

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