July 4, 2015

Lawsuit looms over possible cuts to ethanol production mandate

Ethanol PlantCongressional delegations from the nation’s top two ethanol producing states — Nebraska and Iowa — are asking the federal Environmental Protection Agency to hold hearings on proposed changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard in each of their states.

Nebraska Ethanol Board Administrator Todd Sneller says while he would like to have a hearing in Nebraska, he doubts it’ll happen.

“It might be beneficial but it may be difficult to get an accommodation by EPA,” Sneller says. “I think EPA’s view is likely to be that they were in Kansas City, they spent two days there and that should have provided everybody in the Midwest the opportunity to present testimony in person if they were inclined to do that.”

Sneller says the EPA needs to bring its RFS volume levels up to statutory levels, and if officials choose not to do that, he says the issue will likely end up in court.

“There’s a legitimate argument to be made by the biofuels sector that EPA has gone too far in their interpretation, and in fact, there’s no legal basis for their interpretations, therefore, the numbers they derived really shouldn’t stand a test in the courts,” he says, “but the American Petroleum Institute has a completely different view on that.”

Last week, the EPA hearing in Kansas City drew testimony from nearly 300 people. Most supported an increase in the volume levels under the Renewable Fuel Standard, not the cutback the feds propose.

There are 24 ethanol plants in Nebraska that produce a total of more than two-billion gallons each year. Nebraska is the nation’s #2 producer of corn-based ethanol, behind only Iowa.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton


Gas prices are way down so 4th of July travel numbers are way up

Car passing carMany Nebraskans will be celebrating their freedom this coming holiday weekend by hitting the open highway for a road trip. Mark Peterson, with AAA-Nebraska, says they’re predicting a big boost in Fourth of July travel.

“AAA is projecting 41.9-million Americans will be traveling 50 miles or more from home this Independence Day,” Peterson says. “That’s the most since 2007. Independence Day is typically the busiest summer travel weekend for us. We think the rising income driven by a strong employment market is prompting more Americans to take a holiday trip this year.”

He says there’s another reason so many Nebraskans will be on the road…

“We think travel numbers will be increasing because we’re looking at some of the lowest gas prices we’ve seen in five years on any previous 4th of Julys,” Peterson says. “We’re looking at a difference in price of about 90 cents across the board and with that, we’re going to be seeing a lot more people out there traveling.”

The statewide average price for gas is $2.69, down from $3.58 a year ago.

With so many people on the roads, Independence Day weekend is also one of the most dangerous times to be on the highway.

“With the 4th of July, one of the deadliest holidays of the year, we’ll be asking our travelers to do their due diligence and make a few plans,” Peterson says. “If you can leave a little bit earlier, by all means, do so, or at the tail end of the trip, if you can take a little more time coming in or travel even possibly the next day and break up that time and get away from some of the masses that are traveling.”

Also, don’t try to make an exceptionally long drive home in one day, if possible. He suggests trying to break that up into two days to avoid fatigue.

Of all people who will be vacationing this weekend, he says nearly 85% of travelers will be in motor vehicles.

Nebraska’s stretch of Lincoln Highway is the venue for a long road trip

Lincoln HighwayCar lovers who enjoy hitting the open road will be cruising across Nebraska on the Lincoln Highway in another week as part of a 12-day, 28-hundred mile journey from Michigan to California.

Rosemary Rubin, spokeswoman for the Lincoln Highway Association, says they’ll be covering about 250 miles a day.

“The Lincoln Highway Association is not a car club but we love the road and we want to preserve its history and there’s no better way than to travel it,” Rubin says.

The motoring enthusiasts are retracing a road trip taken a century ago by Henry B. Joy, the group’s founder, just two years after the Lincoln Highway was founded.

“It is honoring a trip that the president of the Lincoln Highway Association took back in 1915 from his offices in Detroit to San Francisco to attend the Panama-Pacific Exhibition, which was a world’s fair,” Rubin says.

The line of cars will leave Michigan next Saturday. The halfway point of the trip is Kearney, Nebraska, so the group plans a stop at the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument on July 1st at midday.

For more information, visit www.lincolnhighway.org.

By Brent Wiethorn, KKPR, Kearney


TSA failures has Senator Sasse concerned

There are more disturbing reports regarding the Transportation Security Administration and their ability to keep travelers safe. Two reports shows workers failed to detect mock explosives and weapons 67 out of 70 tests and that 73 airport workers were on terrorism watch lists. Nebraska U-S Senator Ben Sasse says this is just the tip of the iceberg. 

Senator Sasse says, “I’m calling on this administration to declassify a lot more. We don’t want to give the terrorists a roadmap to our particular vulnerabilities but there is a lot more that some of us more in a classified setting. TSA is more broken than the public understands and I think the president needs to come clean about the fact they are not doing their job.” 

Senator Sasse says right now there are lists of people who are allowed through pre-check at airports. He says, “There are lots of problems in who is being expedited through pre-check if they are known and trusted folks. When they go through there are technological failures. There are strategic goal setting failures.” 

Senator Sasse says all of the metrics for line TSA workers now revolves around customer service – are they nice and are they moving people through quickly. He says there are no metrics for line workers if they are actually getting and confiscating contraband items.

Be careful out there this Memorial Day weekend (AUDIO)

Gov. Pete Ricketts urges highway safety this Memorial Day weekend. NSP Supt. Bradley Rice and Acting NDOR Dir. Moe Jamshidi are to the governor's left.

Gov. Pete Ricketts urges highway safety this Memorial Day weekend. NSP Supt. Bradley Rice and Acting NDOR Dir. Moe Jamshidi are to the governor’s left.

Memorial Day kicks off the unofficial start of the summer travel season.

State officials want you to be careful out there.

The Memorial Day holiday weekend isn’t just the unofficial start of summer driving, it’s the real beginning of highway construction.

Gov. Pete Ricketts asks Nebraska motorists to be careful when approaching a highway construction zone.

“The construction workers out there are very vulnerable. They’re not moving nearly as fast. They are unprotected,” Ricketts reminds motorists. “You’re in a vehicle. You’re driving fast. Please, slow down and take care when you’re driving through those construction zones.”

Traffic fatalities are up this year. The state has recorded nearly 90 deaths of Nebraska roadways, a 15% increase. Fifty-five of the persons killed were not wearing seat belts.

The theme for the weekend is stay alert and buckle up.

State Patrol Superintendent Bradley Rice says the simple effort of buckling up can save your life.

“It’s frustrating to the troops when they come upon these crashes and find fatalities; they weren’t wearing seat belts,” Rice says. “It’s worse than that. It’s just tragic to have a preventable death.”

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]