[imgcontainer] [img:DSC_0166.jpg] [source]Bill Bishop/Daily Yonder[/source] Fires are still burning in Bastrop County, Texas, where nearly 35,000 acres and nearly 1,500 homes have fallen to wildfires. Parts of the county look like the surface of the moon — nothing but gray ash. Sunday, families attended the First Baptist Church in downtown Bastrop. [/imgcontainer]
Richard Oswald reports from Washington, D.C., that USDA Undersecretary Ed Avalos is saying that the department is continuing with new regulations governing the relationship between meat producers and buyers. But he offered no timetable for when the new Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration regs might be made final.
Avalos was speaking to leaders of the National Farmers Union. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has also spoken favorably of the GIPSA rules, which are opposed by meat packers and some large livestock groups. But Vilsack said Congressional opposition was a problem in making the regulations final.
David Montgomery at the Rapid City (SD) Journal has a good summary of the proposed GIPSA rules. Montgomery also explains earlier efforts in the House of Representatives to derail the regs. The House has voted to deny the USDA any funding that could be used to issue a set of final rules.
•More than one in five individuals seeking health insurance coverage are turned down by private insurers, according to a report in Kaiser Health News.
That’s just an average. Humana rejects between 26 and 39 percent of those applying from Kentucky, where the company has its corporate headquarters. United Healthcare denies up to 43 percent of those applying from Kentucky.
An insurance industry trade group says that 87 percent of those individuals applying for coverage are offered a policy, but that figure includes people who were turned down for one kind of coverage but offered a plan that covers less and costs more.
The Kaiser story finds little consistency in denial rates. In Georgia, for example, Aetna denied 15 percent of the individual applications while Kaiser Permanente denied 47 percent.
The health care reform act will prevent companies from denying individuals coverage based on their health. But that provision doesn’t kick in until 2014.
• New York is moving too fast to allow drilling in deep shale formations for gas, according to a New York Times editorial today.
Drilling in the Marcellus Shale formation is a contentious issues in the Northeast. Landowners are convinced that drilling (and the use of hydraulic fracturing techniques) is damaging water supplies. But development of the shale could bring up to 37,000 jobs to upstate New York.
The Times writes:
The Cuomo administration plans to issue proposed regulations for drilling in October, which would be a premature move. The public will have until just Dec. 12 to comment on the draft environmental study. Only after the final study is completed should the administration begin to draw up the regulations.
Natural gas is an important energy source. But Governor Cuomo must move cautiously to make certain that tapping into this resource does not damage the lands and communities involved.
• The Washington Post today looks at the impact of the relatively low tax on capital gains. Over the last 20 years, 80 percent of capital gains income realized in the U.S. has gone to only 5 percent of Americans.
Capital gains (on sales of stocks, bonds and real estate) are taxed at 15 percent.
• Ethanol subsidies are just about dead. Now critics of federal policy are going after mandates that require refiners to increase their use of corn ethanol to 15 billion gallons by 2015.
• The Boston Globe tells us that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s energy adviser is a coal company lobbyist, Jim Talent.
Talent’s comments were included in Romney’s economic plan. Talent is a former senator from Missouri. His Washington, D.C., lobbying firm, Mercury Public Affairs, is hired by Peabody Energy, the large St. Louis coal producer.
• Congress has come up with some quick fixes that will extend funding for transportation programs and the Federal Aviation Administration through to the beginning of next year.
Both sides made concessions, but the details of the deal are still secret.