[imgcontainer left] [img:slimerally.jpeg] [source]Chris Clayton/DTN[/source] There was a rally both for and against “finely textured beef” yesterday at Iowa State University. Farmer Tom Giessel spoke out against the use of this treated meat in the food supply. [/imgcontainer]

The Nebraska legislature is expected to pass a bill today that will speed the review of the Keystone XL pipeline, writes Lisa Song of InsideClimate News. 

The pipeline is to carry tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast. It stalled in Nebraska after the state objected to the pipeline’s route, which would carry the oil across the sensitive Sand Hills region and the large Ogallala Aquifer. 

The bill before the legislature today would speed the state’s review process and give the pipeline’s owner, TransCanada, greater power of eminent domain. The bill would allow TransCanada to bypass the state Public Service Commission, which had the authority to review oil pipeline applications, and go straight to the Department of Environmental Quality.

Opponents of the pipeline say the DEQ is not set up to do this work. “The DEQ hasn’t published what criteria they’ll use to say whether a route is good or bad, whereas the PSC is going through a very public process, asking citizens to give input on what they should be using as criteria,” said Jane Kleeb, founder of Bold Nebraska, a group opposing Keystone. 

Typical of state legislatures, the bill was subjected to rapid fire amendments this week. One ten-page amendment was adopted within 30 minutes of being introduced. It would make the bill being voted on today applicable to all future pipeline projects. Song reports:

(The Sierra Club’s Ken) Winston said that amendment was introduced at about noon on Thursday. Citizens and senators alike had only 10 minutes to read the 10-page document before the legislature began discussing the amendment. It was adopted within 30 minutes.

“Usually with a major change there will be a public hearing. But this was a last minute deal, and the lack of transparency in the process is an issue,” Winston said.

Amy Schaffer, a fifth-generation Nebraskan whose family owns a cattle ranch in the Sandhills, said the constant barrage of amendments has created confusion among landowners. On Thursday alone, the legislature withdrew four amendments and adopted two others that were filed the same day.

“It’s just pretty disappointing. The citizens called for the special session, and senators and the governor listened to us,” Schaffer said. Now “they turn around four months later … it’s pointless.”

The bill is expected to pass with only token opposition.

• Leverett, Massachusetts, may build its own broadband system

Town officials will present a $3.6 million plan to the Town Meeting April 28. It would bring high-speed access to Leverett, which is still primarily served by dial up. The town would borrow the money and contract with a company to build the system. Another company would maintain the system. The town figures people’s net spending will decline since it will cost less to build and maintain the new system than the monthly cost of dial up.

Phone and Internet service in much of Western Mass has been shoddy, and Leverett officials say they are tired of waiting for the large telecoms (such as Verizon) to come to these small towns to make repairs and to add new features.

“People are realizing that private companies are not making enough money moving into rural areas,” said Leverett Selectman Peter d’Errico of the capital investment needed to bring broadband to smaller communities. “The only other alternative available is a municipal network.”

Great story here in the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

• There are several Eastern Kentucky towns and counties holding wet/dry votes, and dry is winning.

Yesterday, Knott County joined Rockcastle County and the cities of Barbourville and London voting against allowing liquor sales this year. 

• Hospitals across the country are facing shortages of key drugs, the Washington Post reports.

The number of drugs with nationwide shortages has been rising for the past six years. They nearly tripled from ’05 to 2010. The Post reports

In some cases, lifesaving treatments have been delayed, sending patients on desperate searches for needed medicines, doctors say. Shortages have also caused injuries from mistakes and at least 15 deaths around the country since mid-2011, according to the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, a nonprofit that tracks medication errors. The mistakes included confusion about dosing and preparation of substitutes.

Shortfalls are so common that pharmacy staffers at hospitals are spending many extra hours to ensure an uninterrupted flow of medicine to cancer patients, victims of heart attacks and accidents, and a host of other ill people.

•Deputy Ag Secretary Kathleen Merrigan is speaking out about the ever-rising age of farmers. 

“If we do not repopulate our working lands, I don’t know where to begin to talk about the woes,” she said in a recent interview. “There is a challenge here, a challenge that has a corresponding opportunity.”

Merrigan is making a tour of universities, encouraging students to go into farming.

New Mexico has the oldest group of farmers, averaging 60 years of age. The fastest-growing group of farmers and ranchers is that over 65.

The opportunity Merrigan sees is high prices and an increasing demand for food.

• There were dueling demonstrations at Iowa State University over finely textured beef or, on the other side, “pink slime.”  The Des Moines Register said about 450 people showed up.

DTN’s Chris Clayton was there (that’s his photo above)  and gives a full run-down of what everybody said. 

• Salon writes from Kermit, West Virginia, which the online publication describes as “America’s pill-popping capital.” 

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