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Bill Introduced in U.S. Senate to Roll Back Federal Hemp Restrictions

Press release from U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.; January 8, 2015:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., today introduced legislation that would allow American farmers to grow and profit from industrial hemp.

The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015 would remove federal restrictions on the domestic cultivation of industrial hemp. The bill would remove hemp from the Schedule I controlled substance list under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, and would define it as a non-drug so long as it contained less than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Oregon and Kentucky are among twenty states that have already defined industrial hemp as distinct from marijuana and removed barriers to production. However, under current federal law, farmers in states that allow industrial hemp research and pilot programs must still seek a waiver from the Drug Enforcement Administration or risk raids and seizures by federal agents.

The U.S. is the world’s largest consumer of hemp, but it remains the only major industrialized country that bans farming the product.

“The U.S. ban on hemp farming is an outrageous restriction on free enterprise and does nothing but hurt economic growth and job creation,” Wyden said. “Our bipartisan, commonsense bill is pro-environment, pro-business, and pro-farmer. Congress must act to empower farmers and boost economic activity across the country. As I’ve always said, if you can buy it in Oregon, you should be able to grow it in Oregon.”

“My vision for the farmers and manufacturers of Kentucky is to see us start growing hemp, creating jobs and leading the nation in this industry again,” Paul said. “Allowing farmers throughout our nation to cultivate industrial hemp and benefit from its many uses will boost our economy and bring much-needed jobs to the agriculture industry.”

“Industrial hemp has the potential to fuel jobs and research here in Oregon, and the federal government shouldn’t be standing in the way,” Merkley said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., also cosponsored the bill.

The bill text is available here.

Campaign Kicked Off to Fight EPA’s Coal-Burn Regs

Critics of new Environmental Protection Agency limits on coal-plant emissions say they fear the Obama administration is attempting to incrementally phase out coal as an energy source in America.

The Consumer Energy Alliance launched a nationwide public relations campaign last week geared toward convincing the public of coal’s utility as an “affordable and reliable” source of U.S. electricity.

At a regional conference in Nashville Sept. 25, Michael Whatley, the alliance’s executive vice president, said a “full-fledged conversation” is necessary to discuss what detrimental impacts the new rules are going to have on coal-fired power plants.

Whatley said the initial emphasis of CEA’s campaign will be to fan opposition among broad sectors of energy consumers – industry, agriculture and household users.

The regulatory effort that prompted the CEA campaign would require new large natural gas-fired turbines to be limited to 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour, and small natural gas-fired turbines to 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour.

Additionally, new coal-fired plants would be limited to 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour, according to an EPA press release on the new standards. New coal plants could also opt for a tighter limit if they choose to average emissions over multiple years, offering more operational flexibility.

Lacking more advanced emissions control technology, newer power plants produce 1,800 pounds of carbon emissions per megawatt-hour, The Tennessean recently reported.

Whatley told TNReport the EPA’s new regulations “are going to basically require that you cannot build a new coal-fired power plant unless you can capture all of the carbon emissions that come off it, and then sequester them in the ground somewhere.”

He said the the technology doesn’t yet exist to do that.

“What we’re going to see next year is another set of regulations that are going to talk about how they’re going to reduce the emissions from pre-existing plants,” Whatley said. “And unfortunately, right now, we don’t know what the impacts of that are going to look like.”

The EPA release says that the agency will reach out to state and local governments, as well as those in the industry to work to establish the new standards for carbon pollution from existing plants.

This second round of regulations would come about under a separate section of the Clean Air Act as the first set, and although the agency would establish the requirements, the states would be the ones to choose how to enforce the new rules, according to a report by The New York Times.

Dr. David Penn, the director of Middle Tennessee State University’s Business and Economic Research Center, teaches a course on environmental economics and told TNReport that he believes the benefits of restricting pollution from coal will ultimately outweigh the costs.

“It certainly is going to reduce the demand for coal, but the demand for coal … at power plants has been falling anyway as plants switch to natural gas, which is cheaper,” Penn said. “Coal is finding other markets in Europe and in the Far East. Better air quality has a cost, but the benefits typically far exceed the cost of increasing air quality. Benefits in terms of more longevity — (and) you’re sick fewer days.”

This is a view that the Tennessee Environmental Council shares.

“Anything that we do to sequester coal and all the carbon discharges, and all the other toxic pollutants that come out of those smoke stacks is good for human health, and it’s really good for our economy (because it cuts health care costs),” said Executive Director John McFadden.

The intent of the new regulations is to reduce carbon emissions for the purposes of fighting global warming and improving health by restricting the allowable amount of carbon produced by new natural gas and coal-fired power plants, according to the agency press release.

However, the EPA’s proposal, which outlines the regulations, suggests that the expected reduction in carbon emissions will be “negligible” through the year 2022.

Robert Penn Warren Birthplace Signs Unveiled Along I-24

Press Release from the State of Tennessee, Nov 18, 2010

Signs Lead to Birthplace Museum of Pulitzer Prize Winning Poet and Vanderbilt Graduate

NASHVILLE – Governor Phil Bredesen joined Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear in Clarksville today to recognize one of the nation’s most notable poets and authors and unveil new brown highway signs for the Robert Penn Warren Birthplace Museum in Guthrie, Kentucky. Warren, a Pulitzer Prize winning poet and author and the first Poet Laureate of the United States, was born just over the Tennessee border in Guthrie but grew up with a foot firmly in each state. His early education came at the Guthrie School in Kentucky, but he attended Clarksville High School and Vanderbilt University in Tennessee.

“Robert Penn Warren was at heart a teacher who recognized the importance of sharing his knowledge with future generations,” said Governor Bredesen. “Mr. Warren spent much of his life teaching poetry, writing influential literature textbooks and working to revolutionize the way literature was taught through the New Criticism method. I am pleased to join Governor Beshear to honor this literary giant and hope this effort will encourage more people to learn about Robert Penn Warren’s contributions to American literature.”

The new signs, reading “Robert Penn Warren Birthplace Museum,” are located on Interstate 24 at Exit 4 at the U.S. 79 interchange about eight miles southwest of Guthrie, where Warren was born in 1905. “Brown signs tell a traveler, ‘Here is something to be experienced,’” Gov. Beshear said. “In this case, we are encouraging new generations of Americans to experience and learn about one of the great literary figures of our time. These new signs are greatly appreciated by the city of Guthrie, and the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and I am grateful to Governor Bredesen for his leadership on this issue.”The brown signs complement green highway signs already placed in both states on routes leading to Guthrie.

“We are pleased to have worked with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet on this effort to install directional signs in both states for the Robert Penn Warren Birthplace Museum in Kentucky,” said TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely. “Warren left a lasting impression on American culture and literature and I certainly hope more people visit the museum to learn about his life and work.”

Warren entered Vanderbilt University in 1921 at age 16 and was involved with two influential poetry groups – the Fugitives and the Agrarians. He graduated from Vanderbilt in 1925 and later returned to teach literature at the University. Today, Vanderbilt is home to the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities.

“Vanderbilt University is pleased to note this further commemoration of the life and legacy of one of its most accomplished graduates,” said Mona Frederick, executive director of Vanderbilt’s Robert Penn Warren Center. “Robert Penn Warren is a key representative of the rich literary legacy of Vanderbilt University’s English department, a scholarly and creative legacy that lives on throughout the humanities at Vanderbilt today.”

Warren is the only person to have been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for both poetry and fiction. The

first of his three Pulitzers was for his novel All the King’s Men in 1947. Pulitzer Prizes for poetry

followed in 1958 and 1979. During a career that spanned six decades, Warren produced 16 volumes ofpoetry, 10 novels, and a collection of short stories and published or co-authored a number of literary textbooks on poetry and fiction. He received numerous other awards, honorary degrees and commendations, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian award. He was appointed America’s first official Poet Laureate in 1986.

The Robert Penn Warren Birthplace Museum is open to the public Tuesday-Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and on Sunday from 2-4 p.m. For more information about the home, contact Jeane Moore at 270-483-2683.

Georgia, Tennessee Seeking Federal High Speed Rail Funding

Press Release from the State of Tennessee, Aug 09, 2010

From the Georgia DOT:

ATLANTA – Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Vance C. Smith, Jr. announced today that the Georgia DOT, along with the Tennessee Department of Transportation, applied for $34 million in federal funding to accelerate development of high-speed rail service from Atlanta to Chattanooga, Tennessee, continuing to Nashville and eventually to Louisville, Kentucky. GDOT is the lead state in the initiative and applied on behalf of the two states.

Earlier this summer, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) said states could apply for federal funds under the U.S. High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) program created by Congress last year. Funds would be used to plan and implement high-speed service along approved corridors.

“Even before the federal High Speed Rail program was announced last year, Georgia DOT was already planning several related projects such as the Atlanta-Chattanooga High-Speed Ground Transportation Project and the downtown Atlanta Multi-Modal Passenger Terminal,” Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Vance C. Smith, Jr. said. “We expect to fit right in.”

With FRA approval, Georgia DOT, and the Tennessee DOT, would continue environmental planning and engineering on a high speed rail link between Atlanta and Chattanooga, design approved stations along the corridor, and create a comprehensive plan for high-speed service to the public that could one day stretch from Florida to Chicago. TDOT would then manage planning along the extension from Chattanooga to Nashville.

Commissioner Smith thanked co-applicant TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely for his strong support, and gave specific credit to Rep. Zach Wamp R-TN, and the Georgia Congressional Delegation. They were instrumental in securing nearly $14 million in federal funds last year for the Atlanta-Chattanooga HSGT Project.

Smith noted that when Wamp leaves Congress at the end of this year, “The South will lose one of its strongest high-speed advocates who has given years of service to the northwest Georgia-southeast Tennessee region.”

Smith also congratulated the State Transportation Board whose members have long advocated for this development.

“We look forward to the day when Georgians have a vibrant range of travel alternatives and can choose to travel in safety and comfort along a beautiful high-speed corridor where no options exist today” Smith said.

The application received written support from key transportation partners, including the Atlanta Regional Commission which will cooperate on livable communities planning, AMTRAK and numerous cities and organizations in Georgia and Tennessee. The Chattanooga Enterprise Center has been a special partner in this endeavor for many years.

The Georgia Department of Transportation is committed to providing a safe, seamless and sustainable transportation system that supports Georgia’s economy and is sensitive to both its citizens and its environment. Additional transportation revenues are imperative to grow and sustain Georgia’s economic vitality and quality of life through the 21st Century. Georgia is the 3rd fastest-growing state in the nation, yet 49th in per capita spending on transportation. For general information on the Georgia DOT, please visit our website (www.dot.ga.gov).