[imgcontainer right] [img:maplooker.jpeg] [source]Rebecca Gratz/Omaha World-Herald[/source] John Schultz, whose Holt County land is north of the proposed pipeline, looks over a map of the proposed route for the Keystone XL pipeline last year, when the company building the pipeline changed the route. [/imgcontainer]

A spill from the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline would have “local,” not “regional” impacts on the large Ogallala Aquifer, according to a new report prepared by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality. 

InsideClimate News’ Lisa Song reports that the new report will be used by the U.S. State Department to help decide whether a permit should be granted for the pipeline, which would carry tar sands oil from Canada across Nebraska and on to the Gulf Coast.

The State Department was prepared to issue a permit a year ago, but protests from Nebraska landowners stalled the project. The company building the pipeline rerouted Keystone away from the Ogallala.

Song reports, “Scientists interviewed by InsideClimate News agreed with the report’s conclusions that an underground spill probably wouldn’t travel far and that a single accident wouldn’t damage the entire aquifer.” But she said scientists say the report had flaws. For example, the report looks at spills smaller than ones that have actually taken place.

“The DEQ report provides a general and generic assessment of the potential impacts from a hypothetical spill,” said John Stansbury, a civil engineering professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who has pushed for detailed studies about the pipeline’s environmental impacts.

“The bottom line is that a thorough and adequate study of the impacts has not been done [to date], and that includes the DEQ report.”

More than 85 percent of Nebraskans rely on the Ogallala for drinking water.

Military Suicides — More members of the U.S. military died of suicide in 2012 than in combat. 

Some lawmakers say that suicides are an “epidemic” after 349 service members took their own lives last year, a record for the U.S. military.

Rural residents are disproportionately represented in the services.

Walmart and Veterans — Walmart says it will hire every veteran who wants a job.

The Bentonville, Arkansas, company said it expects to hire more than 100,000 vets in the next five years, beginning on Memorial Day. The pledge covers honorably discharged veterans within 12 months of leaving active duty. 

“Stark” Divide — NBC political director Chuck Todd said on the radio Monday that the “Rural-Urban political divide is as stark as it has ever been.”  The nation is no longer “red state verses blue state, it’s rural verses urban.”  

That’s not really right, of course. The states are more divided, red and blue, than they have been in a century. But that’s what Todd said.

Heads and Heat — Turns out that you don’t lose 70 percent of your body heat through your head. 

Rich and Rural In Massachusetts — Massachusetts has only one rural hospital, on Nantucket Island, home of the rich and idle. That one rural hospital means the rest of the state’s hospitals get up to $367 million in annual bonuses for the last two years under Medicare. 

As the Boston Globe describes the situation, Medicare dictates that urban doctors and staff must be paid at least as much as those workers in rural hospitals. So all other hospitals in Massachusetts are paid according to the scales used on Nantucket.  

And since Nantucket pays well — it is, after all, one of the richest communities in the nation — then the entire state benefits.

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