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Trump Touts Progress on Rolling Back Federal Regulations

With the ceremonial flourish of oversized golden scissors slicing a giant piece of red tape, U.S. President Donald Trump symbolically cut through decades of regulations on Thursday. 

“So, this is what we have now,” the former reality television program host said, gesturing toward a 190-centimeter-high pile of what was said to be 185,000 sheets of paper. “This is where we were in 1960,” he added, referencing a smaller stack representing an estimated 20,000 pages of federal regulations.

“When we’re finished, which won’t be in too long a period of time, we will be less than where we were in 1960, and we will have a great regulatory climate,” the president added at the event in the White House Roosevelt Room.

Trump decried that an “ever-growing maze of regulations, rules and restrictions has cost our country trillions and trillions of dollars, millions of jobs, countless American factories, and devastated many industries.”

The event took place just after the Federal Communications Commission, in a 3-2 vote, repealed a rule of the previous Obama administration calling for  “net neutrality,” the principle that all internet providers treat all web traffic equally. 

Lawsuits filed

The deregulatory zeal has generated a backlash. 

The state of California has filed seven lawsuits challenging part of the administration’s deregulatory efforts dealing with the environment, education and public health. 

The administration’s “rule rollbacks risk the health and well-being of Americans and are, in many cases, illegal,” according to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. 

In his remarks Thursday, Trump touted his executive order, signed days after he took office in January, mandating that two federal regulations must be eliminated for every new regulation put on the books. 

His administration, Trump said, has exceeded that mandate by “a lot.” 

The president, who as a real estate developer long railed against government regulation, claimed that for every new rule adopted, his administration has killed 22 — far in excess of the 2-for-1 pledge. 

For the first time in “decades, the government achieved regulatory savings,” Trump said, boasting that “we blew our target out of the water.” 

The administration, over its first 11 months, according to the president, has “canceled or delayed more than 1,500 planned regulatory actions — more than any previous president by far.” 

He called for his Cabinet secretaries, agency heads and federal workers to “cut even more regulations in 2018.”

“And that should just about do it,” he said. “I don’t know if we’ll have any left to cut.”

$570M in savings seen

The cost savings, according to administration officials, will total $570 million per year. But they say there are benefits that go beyond money. 

“When the government is interfering less in people’s lives, they have greater opportunity to pursue their goals,” Neomi Rao, the administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Office of Management and Budget, told reporters following the president’s ribbon-cutting event. 

Asked whether she could verify that this is, as Trump has declared, the largest deregulatory effort in American history, Rao hedged to echo such a sweeping statement, saying, “I don’t think there’s been anything like this since [Ronald] Reagan, at least.” Reagan was president from 1981 to 1989.

The president’s former strategist, Stephen Bannon, has said a primary goal of the Trump administration, through deregulation, is achieving “deconstruction of the administrative state.” 

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Kremlin: Putin, Trump Discuss North Korea in Phone Call

Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the crisis over North Korea’s nuclear program with U.S. counterpart Donald Trump in a phone call Thursday, the Kremlin said.

The two heads of state discussed “the situation in several crisis zones, with a focus on solving the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula,” the Kremlin said in a statement, without elaborating.

Washington this week said it was ready to talk to North Korea — which has launched several intercontinental ballistic missiles in recent months — “without preconditions.”

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that while the Trump administration was still determined to force Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear arsenal, it was willing to “have the first meeting without preconditions.”

Putin, in his annual press conference Thursday with hundreds of journalists in Moscow, welcomed the United States’ “awareness of reality” in the crisis.

However, he called on all sides to “stop aggravating the situation” and said Moscow did not recognize North Korea’s status as a nuclear power.

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Report: US House Speaker Ryan Eyeing Exit From Congress

Paul Ryan may be in his final term as speaker of the US House of Representatives and could leave Congress by the end of 2018, Politico reported Thursday, in a report that could set off a scramble for a successor.

The news outlet cited several people who know Ryan, including fellow lawmakers, congressional aides, conservative intellectuals and party lobbyists, saying they did not expect him to remain in Congress beyond 2018.

Asked directly after a Thursday press conference whether he would be stepping down soon, Ryan said, “I’m not … no.”

A spokeswoman for Ryan’s office, AshLee Strong, called the report “pure speculation.”

“As the speaker himself said today, he’s not going anywhere any time soon,” she added.

But the report appeared to heighten the conjecture about the Wisconsin lawmaker’s future.

Ryan, 47, made no secret about his hesitation in taking the top congressional job in 2015, after his predecessor John Boehner abruptly announced he was retiring when he faced a revolt from right-wing conservatives.

He also spoke out critically against Donald Trump during the presidential race.

But Ryan has developed a better-than-expected relationship with Trump, and has worked with him on several landmark issues including health care and the current big legislative push, tax reform.

The White House made it clear Trump wants Ryan to stay.

“The president did speak to the speaker not too long ago, and made sure that the speaker knew very clearly, in no uncertain terms, that if the news was true he was very unhappy about it,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.

It is not known whether Ryan would run for his congressional seat in next November’s mid-term elections. But should he announce his departure well ahead of time, it would dramatically diminish his deal-making leverage and his ability to raise money for the party.

“Ryan’s preference has become clear: He would like to serve through Election Day 2018 and retire ahead of the next Congress,” Politico reported.

Some Republicans in Congress were already anticipating a leadership battle.

“Brace yourselves for the mother of all barn cleanings,” tweeted House conservative Thomas Massie, who has been a thorn in the Republican leadership’s side.

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What Is Net Neutrality?

“Net neutrality” regulations, designed to prevent internet service providers like Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and Charter from favoring some sites and apps over others, have been repealed. On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission voted to dismantle Obama-era rules that have been in place since 2015, but will forbid states to put anything similar in place.

Here’s a look at what the developments mean for consumers and companies.

What is net neutrality?

Net neutrality is the principle that internet providers treat all web traffic equally, and it’s pretty much how the internet has worked since its creation. But regulators, consumer advocates and internet companies were concerned about what broadband companies could do with their power as the pathway to the internet — blocking or slowing down apps that rival their own services, for example.

What did the governments do about it?

The FCC in 2015 approved rules, on a party-line vote, that made sure cable and phone companies don’t manipulate traffic. With them in place, a provider such as Comcast can’t charge Netflix for a faster path to its customers, or block it or slow it down.

The net neutrality rules gave the FCC power to go after companies for business practices that weren’t explicitly banned as well. For example, the Obama FCC said that “zero rating” practices by AT&T violated net neutrality. The telecom giant exempted its own video app from cellphone data caps, which would save some consumers money, and said video rivals could pay for the same treatment. Pai’s FCC spiked the effort to go after AT&T, even before it began rolling out a plan to undo the net neutrality rules entirely.

A federal appeals court upheld the rules in 2016 after broadband providers sued.

The telcos

Big telecom companies hated net neutrality’s stricter regulation and have fought them fiercely in court. They said the regulations could undermine investment in broadband and introduced uncertainty about what were acceptable business practices. There were concerns about potential price regulation, even though the FCC had said it won’t set prices for consumer internet service.

Silicon Valley

Internet companies such as Google have strongly backed net neutrality, but many tech firms were more muted in their activism this year. Netflix, which had been vocal in support of the rules in 2015, said in January that weaker net neutrality wouldn’t hurt it because it’s now too popular with users for broadband providers to interfere.

What happens next

With the rules repealed, net-neutrality advocates say it will be harder for the government to crack down on internet providers who act against consumer interests and will harm innovation in the long-run. Those who criticize the rules say the repeal is good for investment in broadband networks.

But advocates aren’t sitting still. Some groups plan lawsuits to challenge the FCC’s move, and Democrats — energized by public protests in support of net neutrality — think it might be a winning political issue for them in 2018 congressional elections.

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FCC Scraps Net Neutrality Rules in US

There could soon be a major change in what Americans see on the internet after federal regulators voted Thursday to scrap traditional “net neutrality” rules. 

Thursday’s 3-2 vote by the Federal Communications Commission went along party lines, with Republican members voting to end the regulations and Democrats dissenting.

Individual states will also be barred from enacting their own rules governing the internet.

Net neutrality has been the norm since the internet was created more than 30 years ago. The FCC under former President Barack Obama formalized net neutrality rules in 2015.

The idea of net neutrality is for giant internet providers to treat all content equally. The Obama-era rules prevented them from giving preferential treatment to their own services and blocking and slowing down content from rivals.

Consumer groups and internet companies like net neutrality.

But FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, said the internet needs what he calls a “light touch” instead of what he believes is unnecessary government regulation.

WATCH: What is ‘net neutrality’?

“Prior to 2015, before these regulations were imposed, we had a free and open internet,” Pai told NBC ahead of the vote. “That is the future as well under a light touch, market-based approach. Consumers benefit, entrepreneurs benefit. Everybody in the internet economy is better off with a market-based approach.”

But Democratic FCC member Mignon Clyburn said the FCC was “handing the keys to the internet” to a “handful of multibillion-dollar corporations.”

British engineer Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web, said this week that getting rid of net neutrality rules meant internet service providers “will have the power to decide which websites you can access and at what speed each will load. In other words, they’ll be able to decide which companies succeed online, which voices are heard — and which are silenced.”

Officials in several states, including New York and Washington, said they would challenge the new rules in court.

Ken Bredemeier contributed to this report.

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As ‘Net Neutrality’ Vote Nears, Some Brace for Long Fight

As the federal government prepares to unravel sweeping net-neutrality rules that guaranteed equal access to the internet, advocates of the regulations are bracing for a long fight.

The Thursday vote scheduled at the Federal Communications Commission could usher in big changes in how Americans use the internet, a radical departure from more than a decade of federal oversight. The proposal would not only roll back restrictions that keep broadband providers like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T from blocking or collecting tolls from services they don’t like, it would bar states from imposing their own rules.

The broadband industry promises that the internet experience isn’t going to change, but its companies have lobbied hard to overturn these rules. Protests have erupted online and in the streets as everyday Americans worry that cable and phone companies will be able to control what they see and do online.

That growing public movement suggests that the FCC vote won’t be the end of the issue. Opponents of the move plan legal challenges, and some net-neutrality supporters hope to ride that wave of public opinion into the 2018 elections.

Concern about FCC plan

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai says his plan eliminates unnecessary regulation that stood in the way of connecting more Americans to the internet. Under his proposal, the Comcasts and AT&Ts of the world will be free to block rival apps, slow down competing service or offer faster speeds to companies who pay up. They just have to post their policies online or tell the FCC.

The change also axes consumer protections, bars state laws that contradict the FCC’s approach, and largely transfers oversight of internet service to another agency, the Federal Trade Commission.

After the FCC released its plan in late November, well-known telecom and media analysts Craig Moffett and Michael Nathanson wrote in a note to investors that the FCC plan dismantles “virtually all of the important tenets of net neutrality itself.”

That could result in phone and cable companies forcing people to pay more to do what they want online. The technology community, meanwhile, fears that additional online tolls could hurt startups who can’t afford to pay them — and, over the long term, diminish innovation.

“We’re a small company. We’re about 40 people. We don’t have the deep pockets of Google, Netflix, Amazon to just pay off ISPs to make sure consumers can access our service,” said Andrew McCollum, CEO of streaming-TV service Philo.

ISPs: Trust us

Broadband providers pooh-pooh what they characterize as misinformation and irrational fears. “I genuinely look forward to the weeks, months, years ahead when none of the fire and brimstone predictions comes to pass,” said Jonathan Spalter, head of the trade group USTelecom, on a call with reporters Wednesday.

But some of these companies have suggested they could charge some internet services more to reach customers, saying it could allow for better delivery of new services like telemedicine. Comcast said Wednesday it has no plans for such agreements.

Cable and mobile providers have also been less scrupulous in the past. In 2007, for example, the Associated Press found Comcast was blocking or throttling some file-sharing. AT&T blocked Skype and other internet calling services on the iPhone until 2009. They also aren’t backing away from subtler forms of discrimination that favor their own services.

There’s also a problem with the FCC’s plan to leave most complaints about deceptive behavior and privacy to the FTC. A pending court case could leave the FTC without the legal authority to oversee most big broadband providers. That could leave both agencies hamstrung if broadband companies hurt their customers or competitors.

Critics like Democratic FTC commissioner Terrell McSweeny argue that the FTC won’t be as effective in policing broadband companies as the FCC, which has expertise in the issue and has the ability to lay down hard-and-fast rules against certain practices.

Public outcry

Moffett and Nathanson, the analysts, said that they suspect the latest FCC rules to be short-lived. “These changes will likely be so immensely unpopular that it would be shocking if they are allowed to stand for long,” they wrote.

There have been hundreds of public protests against Pai’s plan and more than 1 million calls to Congress through a pro-net neutrality coalition’s site. Smaller tech websites such as Reddit, Kickstarter and Mozilla put dramatic overlays on their sites Tuesday in support of net neutrality. Twitter on Wednesday was promoting #NetNeutrality as a trending topic. Other big tech companies were more muted in their support.

Public-interest groups Free Press and Public Knowledge are already promising to go after Pai’s rules in the courts. There may also be attempts to legislate net neutrality rules, which the telecom industry supports. Sen. John Thune, a South Dakota Republican, on Tuesday called for “bipartisan legislation” on net neutrality that would “enshrine protections for consumers with the backing of law.”

But that will be tough going. Democrats criticized previous Republican attempts at legislation during the Obama administration for gutting the FCC’s enforcement abilities. Republicans would likely be interested in proposing even weaker legislation now, and Democrats are unlikely to support it if so.

Some Democrats prefer litigation and want to use Republican opposition to net neutrality as a campaign issue in 2018. “Down the road Congress could act to put in place new rules, but with Republicans in charge of the House, Senate, and White House the likelihood of strong enforceable rules are small,” Rep. Mike Doyle, a Pennsylvania Democrat, wrote on Reddit last week. “Maybe after the 2018 elections, we will be in a stronger position to get that done.”

A future FCC could also rewrite net-neutrality regulation to be tougher on the phone and cable industry. That could bring a whole new cycle of litigation by broadband companies.

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China Short of Natural Gas as it Pushes Away Polluting Coal

Severe natural gas shortages are hitting businesses and residents across China’s industrial heartland as an unprecedented government effort to clean up an environment devastated by decades of unbridled growth backfires.

Factories are closing or operating at reduced capacity, business profits are shrinking as supply chains are disrupted, and people are shivering through subzero temperatures without adequate heating at home, according to interviews conducted across the region last week.

The gas shortages, which have sent prices soaring nationwide, have undermined a sweeping campaign to switch millions of households and thousands of businesses from coal to natural gas in north China this winter, part of long-running efforts to clean the region’s toxic air.

Much of the gasification of the region, involving more than 4 million homes, was rapidly launched by local authorities acting on their own initiatives in response to calls by the central government to control air pollution.

But the plan appears to have been overly ambitious.

Despite the installation of gas lines and boilers for factories and homes across the northeast, supply has been hampered by insufficient infrastructure to bring the fuel to the industrial region and store it, according to Liang Jin, an independent analyst previously with the oil and gas consultancy JLC.

And in some areas, many homes have yet to get the gas boilers needed for heating.

The gas plan was also implemented as China tries this winter to reduce production from polluting industries like steel and cut back on the use of diesel trucks. That has raised concerns about whether the anti-pollution campaigns may hit economic growth.

​Hebei not ready

Interviews with business owners, families, utilities and gas producers in Hebei province highlighted the problem and suggested that many cities were unprepared to cope. Hebei is adjacent to Beijing, and its factories are often blamed for much of the pollution that often cloaks the capital in the winter.

Xue Huabing, who owns a small floor-tile factory in rural Hebei, said compliance with the new environmental standards means he has only been able to operate for four months this year.

After moving from coal to natural gas and reopening in September, the factory halted production again in October as gas prices soared.

“The price of gas is 6-7 yuan per cubic meter, up from 2 yuan last year,” Xue told Reuters by phone. “If we open, we are going to run at a loss.” He added that it was also difficult for him to secure gas supplies.

Gas prices up

Domestic liquefied natural gas prices have jumped more than 70 percent since mid-November, hitting record highs above 8,000 yuan per ton this month, according to market.yeslng.com, an online exchange for domestic gas supplies.

High prices are raising production costs in industrial cities like Baoding and Shijiazhuang in Hebei province, with knock-on effects for retailers and wholesalers downstream, business owners said.

The gas shortages are also now being felt in southern China, where local governments are sounding the alarm, and some companies are closing down or slowing production.

Growth is hurting

“I think there already has been an impact from the campaign on growth,” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, an economist at Capital Economics in Singapore, referring to the anti-pollution drive. “We saw quite a sharp slowdown in October data.”

At Zheng Wenmin’s shop selling kitchen fixtures in Shijiazhuang, a city of 10 million and Hebei’s capital, business is down more than 20 percent this year. Disruptions to housing construction, which has slowed amid the crackdown on pollution, mean fewer people are decorating new homes, she said.

“The prices we pay our suppliers are much higher, and the supply is unstable because factories are shut down or have to cut production,” Zheng said.

China could lose nearly half a percentage point of gross domestic product growth this winter if it sticks to its pollution-reduction targets, Capital Economics has estimated.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they start getting worried” about slowing growth soon, said Evans-Pritchard.

Signs of a slowdown are being seen. Shijiazhuang’s economy expanded 7.1 percent in the first nine months of the year, slowing from 7.8 percent over the same period last year, city government data showed.

Heavy industrial output contracted 2.4 percent year-on-year in the first ten months of the year, which compared with 4.5 percent growth in 2016.

The Shijiazhuang city government, Hebei provincial government, and the Ministry of Environmental Protection did not respond to requests for comment. The Hebei Development and Reform Commission declined to comment.

​Pipelines, storage needed

Most of China’s gas is produced offshore and in the far west of the country. Getting enough gas to the industrial northeast to meet surging demand is a major challenge because of a shortage of pipelines, as well as facilities that would allow the storage of fuel in the summer for use in winter.

To address the shortages the government is speeding up the construction of a pipeline bringing gas from Russia, according to state media reports.

“I don’t think the government can fix the problem within the next three to five years,” said Liang, the gas analyst. “For this year, the Hebei government is facing a supply shortage of 2 billion cubic meters.”

​A cold winter

Residents in Hebei are also bracing for a colder winter, with temperatures forecast to plunge deeper below zero.

In a dusty village on the outskirts of Baoding, Zhang Xu, 31, said her two young sons were getting sick more often this winter from sleeping in their cold bedroom.

“My older son is always asking me why it is so cold in the house, and all I can do is put them in sweaters,” Zhang said.

New bright yellow gas pipelines installed by the local government snake conspicuously through Zhang’s village. But in most homes, like Zhang’s, the government has not yet installed gas boilers, and some residents said they had been secretly burning coal left from last winter to keep themselves warm.

Facing the reality that many people in the northeast did not have gas heating, the Ministry of Environmental Protection recently reversed course and said residents could temporarily burn coal.

Despite the upheaval, most residents and businesses interviewed said they believed something had to be done about pollution, but took issue with how measures were being implemented.

“The skies are blue, but it’s the common people that have to pay the price,” said Zheng, the shopowner.

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Documents: Odebrecht Paid Firms Linked to Peru’s President

Brazilian builder Odebrecht transferred $4.8 million to companies linked to Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski between 2004 and 2012, some of which was paid to a company Kuczynski controlled when he held senior government roles, according to a document the company sent to Congress.

In a brief recorded message broadcast on local radio program RPP after lawmakers made the contents of the document public on Wednesday, Kuczynski denied wrongdoing but did not deny the transfers took place.

Kuczynski’s office declined further comment.

Odebrecht declined to comment. A source in the company who spoke on condition of anonymity said the document seen by Reuters was authentic.

​Documents contradict denials

The transfers shown in the document contradicted Kuczynski’s previous denials about his ties to Odebrecht and prompted some lawmakers in the opposition-controlled Congress to call for his resignation.

Odebrecht is at the center of Latin America’s biggest graft scandal and has admitted to paying about $30 million in bribes to officials in Peru over a decade, including during the 2001-2006 term of ex-President Alejandro Toledo, when Kuczynski was finance minister and prime minister.

After Odebrecht’s public acknowledgement a year ago, Kuczynski repeatedly denied ever taking money from Odebrecht or having any professional connections to the company.

But on Saturday Kuczynski announced on a local radio program that he once worked as a financial adviser for an Odebrecht project when he did not hold public office; he did not mention the company that paid him.

‘I have nothing to hide’

According to the document sent to Congress, Odebrecht made seven transfers totaling about $780,000 to Kuczynski’s company Westfield Capital Ltd between 2004 and 2007, including about $60,000 when Kuczynski worked in Toledo’s Cabinet and the government awarded several contracts to Odebrecht. Later, between 2008 and 2012, Odebrecht paid about $4 million to First Capital Inversiones Y Asesorias.

Kuczynski has previously said that First Capital belongs to his friend and Chilean business partner, Gerardo Sepulveda.

Kuczynski was the sole director of Westfield Capital, according to his sworn declaration on the presidency’s website.

Kuczynski has not appeared in public since his radio interview on Saturday. He said on RPP on Wednesday that he had decided to heed Congress’ repeated calls to explain any connections he had with Odebrecht to an investigative committee.

“I’ve never favored any company. I’m willing to clarify everything that needs to be clarified before Congress and prosecutors because I have nothing to hide,” Kuczynski said on RPP, without taking any questions from journalists.

Opposition calls for resignation

A spokesman for Popular Force, the opposition party that holds a majority of seats in Peru’s single-chamber Congress, slammed Kuczynski.

“The country, Mr. Kuczynski, is tired of your lies and doesn’t want any more explanations. The country hasn’t just lost its trust in you, but in your government as well,” Daniel Salaverry, the spokesman, told a news conference.

In a televised plenary session late on Wednesday, hard-line Popular Force lawmaker Hector Becerril called for Kuczynski to resign, calling the transferred funds “camouflaged bribes.” An independent lawmaker also called for Kuczynski to step down.

A source in the attorney general’s office said prosecutors investigating Odebrecht in Peru were probing Kuczynski’s relationship with the company but could not name him as a suspect until his term and presidential immunity end.

Toledo, the former president under whom Kuczynski worked, has been accused of taking a $20 million bribe from Odebrecht in exchange for help in securing lucrative highway contracts.

Toledo has denied the charges. Authorities in Peru are seeking his extradition from the United States.

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Anti-pipeline Group Goes Back to Work Against Keystone XL

Nebraska’s main anti-pipeline group is trying to rally opposition to the TransCanada Corp’s Keystone XL project’s recently approved route through the state, tracking down landowners it says were not given a voice in the regulatory process.

If it succeeds, Bold Nebraska could throw up new roadblocks to the controversial project to move Canadian oil to U.S. refineries, backed by U.S. President Donald Trump, by pressing regulators to revisit TransCanada’s application, or by suing if they refuse.

The Nebraska Public Service Commission issued an approval for Keystone XL to pass through the state in late November, removing the last big regulatory obstacle for the long-delayed project. But the commission’s approval was not for the route TransCanada had singled out in its application, but for an alternative that shifts it closer to an existing pipeline right-of-way that affects scores of new landowners.

Bold Nebraska 

Jane Kleeb, the head of Bold Nebraska, which has been fighting the pipeline for years, held the first of a series of meetings with these new landowners Wednesday.

“We hope to begin the education process with landowners so they understand this is a lifetime easement for a one-time payment,” she told Reuters. “We aim to engage at least 20 percent of the new landowners in the legal landowner group.” 

About 75 landowners and other citizens crammed the meeting in the community center in the small college town of Seward to meet with Kleeb and other pipeline opponents.

Lee Gloystein said he was not happy upon learning that the approved route would go thought his family’s farm. “It’s been in our family since the 1800s,” he said. “And we don’t want it to be disturbed or the water to be disturbed.”

Bold Nebraska already has about 100 landowners who live along the pipeline’s original proposed route signed up against Keystone XL. They include a number of ranchers and farmers worried that spills could pollute their land and the massive Ogallala Aquifer, a source of drinking water and irrigation for a large swath of the central United States.

Jim Carlson, a landowner whose Holt County farm is on the original Keystone XL route, told those at Wednesday’s meeting that he initially was happy the route would cross his land because he could profit from selling TransCanada an easement. But he said he changed his mind after studying the potential environmental harm from a spill. “Be careful what you wish for,” he said.

​Controversial pipeline

The project has been a lightning rod of controversy since it was proposed a decade ago, with environmentalists making it a symbol of their broader fight against fossil fuels and global warming.

TransCanada says the pipeline would be good for the economy and could be run safely. The company said it had about 90 percent support among landowners for the proposed route, but had not yet negotiated support along the approved route.

TransCanada would need to use eminent domain law to gain access to land for which it could not reach an agreement.

Demonstrating opposition along the approved route could add heft to anti-pipeline efforts. Lawyers for opponents of the line argued at a hearing Tuesday that Nebraska regulators had no authority to approve the “alternative” path, and was only allowed to rule on the proposed route.

TransCanada seeks to head off challenges

TransCanada, meanwhile, requested that the public service commission allow it to amend its application retroactively to head off legal challenges. The commission is considering TransCanada’s request.

Trump handed TransCanada a federal permit for the 1,180-mile (1,899-km) pipeline in March, reversing a decision by former President Barack Obama in 2015 to block it on environmental grounds.

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Stopgap Bill Unveiled to Fund US Government Until January 19

The chairman of the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday introduced a bill to fund the government until January 19 while Congress works on longer-term legislation, the panel said in a statement.

The bill unveiled by Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen, a New Jersey Republican, would fully fund defense programs for all of fiscal 2018 and includes money for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the statement said.

Congress must pass a funding bill by December 23 to prevent a partial government shutdown.

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