October 31, 2014

Innovation Campus will be powered through innovative source (AUDIO)

UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman

UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman

Nebraska Innovation Campus at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will use an innovative energy source.

University and Lincoln city officials have announced the campus under construction on the former state fairgrounds will heat and cool buildings through an exchange of the heat generated by the nearby city waste-water facility.

UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman says the unusual energy source should actually attract businesses to Nebraska Innovation Campus.

“We know that attracting private sector companies to this property will require us to have a culture that’s suitable for innovation and for forward-looking companies,” Perlman says. “We know that the ability to make this campus green and to use renewable energy will be an important element in their consideration about whether they will join us as partners here.”

Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler says he’s pleased energy for the buildings will be generated through one of the few such systems in the nation.

“And it truly represents the spirit of Nebraska Innovation Campus and, in addition, is a direct reflection of UNL and the City of Lincoln’s mutual commitment to low-cost renewable energy and sustainability,” Beutler says.

The campus is under construction next to the Devaney Center.

AUDIO: UNL and City of Lincoln hold news conference on renewable energy source Nebraska Innovation Campus. [15:30]

Young mountain lion shot and killed near Chadron

CATS02 WA0001 04.tifA young female mountain lion has been shot and killed in northwestern Nebraska.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission reports a landowner killed the one-and-a-half year old mountain lion in his yard south of Chadron in Dawes County. The man shot the cat when it came near both his house and a chicken coop. The cougar weighed approximately 63 pounds.

The landowner notified Game and Parks about the kill in accordance with state law, according to Game and Parks. The body of the animal has been handed over to Game and Parks.

Game and Parks approves bighorn sheep hunt

BighornSheep.PatJ.NBR.512x289[1]Two people will be allowed to hunt bighorn sheep in Nebraska.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Board of Commissioners authorized one lottery and one auction bighorn sheep permit for 2015 at their meeting in Scottsbluff.

Only Nebraska residents will be allowed to enter the lottery for a permit. Both residents and nonresidents will be allowed to bid for the auction permit.

The state last approved two bighorn permits in one year in 2011.

Nebraska is home to approximately 390 bighorn sheep, 29 rams in four established herds are at or near the desired age for hunting. The areas approved for the hunt will be decided later.

Former NDEQ Director raises questions about “Waters of US” proposal (AUDIO)

A former director of the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality says the Environmental Protection Agency is trying to fix something that isn’t broken in its controversial proposal to expand the Clean Water Act.

Former NDEQ Director Mike Linder has analyzed the EPA move to update the Clean Water Act, called “Waters of the United States” on behalf of Common Sense Nebraska, a group opposed to the change.

“So, the first part of my summary is they’re trying to fix the 404, the federal program, and I think they’ve broadened the jurisdiction and I don’t think they’ve really fixed it very well,” Linder tells reporters on a conference call.

Section 404 covers the wetlands permit program operated by the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

Linder, an attorney with Koley Jessen of Omaha, says currently the Corps determines on a case-by-case basis which rivers, streams, creeks, and ponds are covered by the Clean Water Act and which are exempt from regulation. He says the EPA effort to define those bodies of water is problematic.

The change also would affect programs traditionally overseen by the states.

Linder says the change could encroach on those state-run programs that have operated under a cooperative federalism since the Clean Water Act became law in the early 1970s. In Nebraska, the state works with farmers and livestock producers on compliance.

“If I were a producer I would be a little bit confused as to how this would impact my operation,” Linder says. “And if I had had an exemption or other decision by the state agency that now could be changed by this definition, I would want to have that clarification made.”

Linder speculates the change could also extend EPA’s regulator power to groundwater, which hasn’t been subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act. The EPA has stated it does not have jurisdiction over groundwater, but Linder says some definitions need to be revised to clearly indicate that.

Deputy Assistant Administrator of the Office of Water with the EPA, Ken Kopocis, denied the proposed changes would extend the EPA’s reach onto the farm.

“We believe that the proposed rule would cover fewer waters than what the current rule covers. So, we do not believe that we’re expanding jurisdiction,” Kopocis told Nebraska Radio Network in a telephone interview from this Washington, D.C. office in August.

Linder, responding to a question about Kopocis’ statement, says he couldn’t see how the proposed expansion would not broaden the reach of the EPA.

Linder says he would prefer EPA withdraw the proposal and work to better enforce current law.

“So, I don’t know, they’re trying to fix something that’s not broken with the other programs.”

EPA is accepting public comment on the proposed rule through November14th.

The Nebraska Farm Bureau is encouraging comments opposed to the rule change be posted on ditchtherule.fb.org.

PDF of Linder analysis of EPA proposal

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [1 min.]

Bridge repairs & unfunded mandates among top issues for county leaders

County leaders from across the state will gather in Kearney this week for the annual legislative conference of the Nebraska Association of County Officials.

Executive director Larry Dix says several issues are on the agenda, including the zoning debate that’s underway in the state.

“There’s a number of reports that are somewhat concerning in the number of head of livestock that we have,” Dix says. “There’s been some recent discussion about some dairies looking at the state of Nebraska. We just want to have a conversation about our zoning regulations. Are they adequate, are they what they should be?”

Dix says there will be a presentation about the effects the EPA’s proposed Waters of the U.S. Rule would have on county road maintenance. He says the association has also compiled its platform and legislative priorities.

“We’ve been working very hard on unfunded mandates and looking for additional funding for bridge repairs,” Dix says. “Unfunded mandates is one of those where both of the candidates that are running for governor have openly talked about it and said we’ve got to do something as it relates to property tax.”

An engineering consultant for several counties estimates the cost to replace or upgrade all substandard bridges in Nebraska could exceed $2 billion.

Dix says they’ll also discuss fiscal notes and the counties’ role in making sure the state understands the impacts of state policy on local government. The conference will be held Thursday in Kearney.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton