A round-up of the top climate and energy news. Please post other links below.
The Canadian firm behind the controversial Keystone XL pipeline will reapply Friday for a federal permit to ship crude oil from the oil sands fields of Alberta to the United States, according to people familiar with the company?s plans. [Washington Post]
The Obama administration wants to clamp down on shale gas drilling on public lands and set standards that proponents of tougher regulation hope will provide a blueprint for drilling oversight nationwide. [Reuters]
As New York State environmental regulators fine-tune proposed rules governing horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a controversial natural-gas extraction process, wastewater has emerged as a challenging issue for the industry and regulators. [New York Times]
Environmentalists have filed a lawsuit seeking to derail efforts by the federal government to lease an estimated 2 billion tons of coal near two major Wyoming mines. [Washington Post]
In this era of pricey gasoline, fuel-efficient cars are getting attention. A subcompact Chevy Sonic that gets 40 miles per gallon? Intriguing! But many drivers have found that a car?s advertised mileage is often quite different from how it actually performs on the road. So how big a problem is this? [Wonk Blog]
Greenland?s glaciers are hemorrhaging ice at an increasingly faster rate but not at the breakneck pace that scientists once feared, a new study says. [Washington Post]
Pakistan?s laws on climate change adaptation (CCA) and disaster risk reduction (DRR) are the ?best in the world,? UN special envoy Margareta Wahlström said Thursday. [Global Inquirer]
According to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the economy added 115,000 jobs in April, well below expectations, while the unemployment rate fell slightly to 8.1 percent. The private sector added 130,000 jobs while the public sector shrunk. February’s total was revised up 19,000 jobs; March’s total was revised up 34,000. The broader U-6 measure of unemployment remained steady at 14.5 percent.
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Mitt Romney’s proposal to transform Medicaid into a block grant program could reduce access to health care for lower income Americans and jeopardize the health care reform he signed into law as governor of Massachusetts, the Boston Globe reports. “As governor, Romney worked closely with the late Democratic Senator Edward M. Kennedy to secure hundreds of millions per year in federal aid to realize their shared goal of access to health care for all. Expanding Medicaid coverage – and the flow of federal money that came with it – was a key underpinning of the state?s 2006 law”:
?It would have been impossible for Massachusetts to do what it did without increased federal Medicaid support,?? said John McDonough, a major architect of the state?s health care overhaul law and now director of Harvard University?s Center for Public Health Leadership.
?What he?s proposing is in direct opposition to what he did as governor,?? said Amy Whitcomb Slemmer, executive director of Health Care for All in Massachusetts, citing the Bay State?s 98 percent coverage rate, the highest in the nation. ?That kind of expansion would not have been possible under a block grant program,?? as Romney has proposed.
Indeed, Romney funded his 2006 health care expansion by re-appropriating state funds and relying on additional federal Medicaid funding he secured from the Bush administration. As Romney himself explained to Bill O’Reilly in April of 2010, ?[F]rom the beginning the plan was a 50/50 deal between the federal government and the state government. The Feds fund half of it, they have from the very beginning.” The Boston Globe notes that “approximately 56 percent of the gain in coverage was related to increased federal Medicaid support” in Massachusetts, and of the newly insured, “18 percent gained coverage through Medicaid, and another 38 percent gained coverage through Commonwealth Care, a program that federal Medicaid dollars pay half of.”
As a presidential candidate, however, the former governor has argued that he could lower federal spending on Medicaid by transferring control of the program to the states and transforming the current matching-rate funding structure into block grants that would pay states pre-determined funding amounts. The ?blocks? would not increase with health costs or automatically rise during economic downturns.
According to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis of Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) Medicaid block grant proposal — which is very similar to Romney’s — federal expenditures on the program would be “49 percent lower in 2030 than current projected federal spending.” “[T]he magnitude of the reduction in spending relative to such spending in the other scenarios means that states would need to increase their spending on these programs, make considerable cutbacks in them, or both,” the Office concluded. “Cutbacks might involve reduced eligibility for Medicaid and CHIP, coverage of fewer services, lower payments to providers, or increased costsharing by beneficiaries?all of which would reduce access to care.”
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The famous painting, The Scream, painted by Edvard Munch, was sold at auction for ... ready...wait for it -$119 million!
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Feingold rips Pelosi for willingness to consider entitlement cuts: “A liberal stalwart is making a surprise attack on Nancy Pelosi, accusing the House minority leader of signaling ?a disturbing potential willingness? to slash entitlement programs that Democrats consider sacred.” [The Hill]
Susan Komen communications VP resigns: “Another key executive at Susan G. Komen for the Cure?s national headquarters is leaving the organization after a public relations debacle regarding funding to Planned Parenthood of America.” [Huffington Post]
L.A. program offers healthcare for undocumented restaurant workers: “A restaurant workers’ group and a Los Angeles community clinic have launched a unique cooperative to provide health coverage to a group of people excluded from federal healthcare reform ? illegal immigrants.” [LA Times]
Obama?s below-the-radar push builds support for healthcare reform law: “The Obama administration is employing an aggressive ground game to build support for its controversial healthcare law that often reaches beyond the Beltway.” [The Hill]
Medicare Advantage serves minorities, low-income residents: “Minority and low-income seniors were more concentrated among Medicare Advantage plans than they were in the overall Medicare program, according to an industry analysis of CMS data.” [Modern Healthcare]
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