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Federal and State Regulation

TRAIN Act Aims to Delay Standards under Clean Air Act

The Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation Act, proudly called the TRAIN Act by those who support it, delays standards under the Clean Air Act and makes it harder for the Environmental Protection Agency to enforce those standards.

Don Shelby notes that the Clean Air Act is considered one of the most cost-effective laws ever passed in the United States.  "While costing relatively little, it has saved billions of dollars in health care costs due to respiratory and heart diseases. The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) most recent report concludes that by 2020, implementation costs of the act will have reached $65 billion while the benefits in health care savings, not to mention lives saved, will reach $2 trillion."  The Economic Policy Institute estimates that the Clean Air Act saved 160,000 lives in 2010 alone and 1.8 million since 1990. 

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Political Pressure Limits Efforts to Police Drilling for Gas


The New York Times reported that for over a quarter-century efforts to increase federal regulation of the oil and gas industry have been undermined by narrowing the scope of
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) studies and leaving out key findings.  In 1987, for example, EPA researchers' conclusion that some of the waste from oil and gas drilling was hazardous and should be tightly controlled was left out of the final report given to Congress.  EPA officials told Carla Greathouse, the author of the study, that her conclusion was changed because of pressure from the Office of Legal Counsel of the Reagan White House.

The EPA studied hydrofracking in 2004, when Congress considered whether the process should be fully regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act.  An early draft report commented on the potentially dangerous levels of contamination in hydrofracking fluids and mentioned possible contamination of an aquifer. The report’s final version left out these points, concluding instead that hydrofracking “poses little or no threat to drinking water.”
In 2005, the Bush/ Cheney Energy Bill exempted natural gas drilling from the Safe Drinking Water Act. Drilling companies are not required to disclose the chemicals used during hydraulic fracturing. The oil and gas industry is the only industry in America that is allowed to inject known hazardous materials underground adjacent to drinking water supplies.

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Shale Gas Subcommittee Recommendations

The Subcommittee for Shale Gas Production recommended that action be taken to reduce the environmental impact accompanying the rapid expansion of shale gas production across the country.  Otherwise  there would be a real risk of serious environmental harm.

Subcommittee Chairman John Deutch, an MIT professor, said: “Industry, working with state and federal regulators and public interest groups, should increase their best field engineering practices and environmental control activities by adopting the objective of continuous improvement, validated by measurement and disclosure of key operating metrics. This is the surest path forward to assure that shale gas is produced in an environmentally sound fashion, and in a way that meets the needs of public trust.”

Deutsch stated that environmental issues need to be addressed now – especially in terms of waste water, air quality, and community impact.  The subcommittee's report noted that joint federal and state efforts to ensure water quality were not working smoothly, and called on the EPA to improve oversight as it studies the potential effects of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water.

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In June 2012, Think Again MN launched a history series that examines politics and policy-making in Minnesota during the last century from the immediate post World War II years up through the 1990s. That era witnessed fierce legislative battles at the State Capitol but it was also a time of shared values that cut across partisan lines. 

Read about it here

MN's Leading Election System

MN's Leading Election System

With Secretary of State Steve Simon

 

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Listen to Secretary of State Steve Simon's excellent presentation on MN's outstanding election system emulated by many other states at the Think Again Brooklyns forum January 19, 2016.  Secretary Simon includes ways in which it can be improved, and he explains why it is important to vote.  He concludes with a quote from a tee shirt:  "Failure to vote is not an act of rebellion.  It is an act of surrender."

Get details on how to vote at http://mnvotes.org

Oregon's Automatic Voter Registration

How Oregon Became the Easiest Place to Vote in the US

By Lornet Turnbull
YES! Magazine
October 8, 2016


In January, Oregon became the first state in the country to begin automatically registering eligible citizens to vote when they obtain or renew their driver's licenses or state IDs, completely shifting the burden of voter registration from the individual to the government. 

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