Omaha World-Herald. August 5, 2015

Report gives Offutt good grade

Cities and towns sometimes make the mistake of allowing land near military bases to develop without consideration of a base's needs.

Omaha, Bellevue, Papillion and Council Bluffs officials have shown that they know better, as have those in Douglas, Sarpy and Pottawattamie Counties. Offutt Air Force Base contributes $1.3 billion to the region's economy, employs more than 10,000 people and supports thousands more.

So it was good to see the metro area — and Bellevue, in particular — get high marks for cooperation in a report the Pentagon uses to help evaluate Offutt and its future. The seven-month, Defense Department-funded joint land use study credits several layers of local and state government for protecting land around Offutt.

Strong relationships are key amid resurgent talk of Defense Department budget cuts and the ever-present possibility of base closures.

The report identified 21 "minor" areas where some work is required, things like installing new safety barriers along Fort Crook Road. One of the biggest issues identified is fixing the levees that protect Offutt land from Missouri River flooding. Some work is underway, but the levee system needs an estimated $25 million in upgrades to remain federally certified to resist flooding.

In this environment, bases without the necessary cooperation, even for a time, can see their operations and chances for growth threatened.

Naval Air Station Oceana near Virginia Beach, Virginia, is one example. New housing built too close to the station led to neighbor complaints. Navy fears about encroachment nearly moved the station to Florida. Salvaging it required costly local land use changes, acquisition of property, noise mitigation, even special street lights.

That's a mess Offutt's backers want to avoid, and have. While no military base's future is guaranteed — and Offutt's main runway needs repaved — the base is in better shape than many others. Work continues on a new, $1.2 billion headquarters for U.S. Strategic Command. The base also hosts the 55th Wing and Air Force Weather Agency.

Offutt's needs are valued by every level of state and local government, from the governor's office to the local natural resources district.

Military bases perform vital national security missions. They also boost the economies of their home communities, driving new spending by military members, contractors and businesses.

But they need room to breathe. And the freedom to operate without meddling and second-guessing from their neighbors who benefit.

In the Omaha area, they get that space. Because of that, the military can do its important work, now and well into the future.

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Lincoln Journal Star. August 4 , 2015

Time for a fresh look

It's smart for the city to study the financial impact of allowing beer to be sold at University of Nebraska-Lincoln basketball games at the Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Mayor Chris Beutler announced that the topic would be included in a study that will compare the finances of Lincoln's arena with similar operations around the country.

The Pinnacle Bank Arena is generating more than enough money to pay off its loan, but because of tight local rules on what revenue can be used to cover operational expenses the arena's books showed red ink until the Joint Public Agency shifted funds.

Arena manager Tom Lorenz estimated that beer sales might bring in an additional $200,000 to $300,000 a year.

Around the country it's becoming increasingly common for alcohol to be sold at college athletic events. Alcohol sales boost revenue and also help put more fans in the seats.

In fact the NU regents already allow booze to be sold at UNO basketball and hockey games. Beer has been sold at Creighton University basketball games for more than a decade without problems. About half the universities that rank in the top 20 for attendance allow alcohol sales.

In a first, this year beer, wine and spirits were sold at the inaugural College Football Playoff title game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

The NU athletic department, however, historically has been opposed to alcohol sales. The Bob Devaney Sport Center was not even equipped to serve alcohol at its concession stands, and vendors had no training for alcohol sales.

Sensible rules are key to preventing overconsumption from ruining the game experience for Husker fans.

Fans can be limited to purchase of two drinks at a time, for example. Alcohol sales can be cut off before the end of the game to curtail consumption.

The Journal Star editorial board two years ago suggested that the NU regents should consider the possibility of allowing beer sales at the arena.

Reporting by Journal Star staffers showed that the sale of beer at college basketball games could be handled in a responsible way that did not detract from their appeal as family-friendly entertainment.

The study by the Venue Solutions Group based in Tennessee will enable discussion of pros and cons of alcohol sales to proceed on a factual basis.

Once the information has been gathered, we hope that NU officials take advantage of the opportunity to take a fresh look at the topic.

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McCook Gazette. August 5, 2015

Environmental sacrifices must be shared equally

A completely public power state, Nebraska's electric rates are amount the lowest in the nation, but that public power status, coupled with a limited distribution system has hindered development of alternative energy such as wind and solar.

President Obama, ready to leave office in 18 months, taking action that might have been politically risky earlier in his term(s), unveiled regulations to cut nationwide carbon dioxide emissions 32 percent by 2030.

It varies by state, but Nebraska's new goal is to reduce carbon emissions by 40 percent between 2012 and 2030, a higher goal because of our reliance on coal for power.

Nebraska will join a lawsuit to fight the federal rules, challenging the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to adopt the stricter emissions standards.

States have until 2018 to submit their final emission reduction plans to the EPA, with gradual step-down phases beginning in 2022 through 2029, with the final targets to be met in 2030.

We don't have space here to explore the whole climate change/global warming debate, but without the cooperation of developing economies such as India and China, meager U.S. efforts will have little effect on a global scale.

We also have to wonder how big a role the carbon credit trading industry has played in Obama's actions.

Check out Al Gore's investments in that industry, which "conveniently" benefits from his 2006 film on climate change, "An Inconvenient Truth."

That film was produced by Gore associates who, with the former vice president, reaped millions of dollars from investors betting on tighter carbon emission regulations.

We can all agree that it's important to protect the environment, but sacrifices must be shared equally and must not be imposed to benefit the wealthy.

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Scottsbluff Star Herald. August 5,2015

Power

On Monday, President Barack Obama released the final version of the Clean Power Plan, designed to decrease greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. power plants. The plan would increase regulations to limit the amount of carbon power plants can emit. Specifically, the Environmental Protection Agency's plan calls for the United States to cut its C02 emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, stricter than the 30 percent in last year's version.

Democrats laud the plan as a boon for the environment, while Republicans decry it as expensive, anti-industry and harmful to jobs and the economy. In Nebraska, Gov. Pete Ricketts has come out against it, saying he's concerned it would be a burden and costly to residents.

Other Republican opponents have tried or are trying to sue the government to block the regulations, including former Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, whose lawsuit was dismissed.

Bold Nebraska, however, is praising the move as a "flexible, common-sense rule" to reduce carbon pollution. "Creating a state plan with citizen input is the critical next step in doing our part to reduce the amount of carbon pollution in Nebraska's air," said Jane Kleeb, the group's executive director, according to the Associated Press.

The political leaders of our neighbor to the west, Wyoming, are understandably opposed to this move. The governor and congressional delegation have come out against it, calling it a "regulatory attack" and expecting possible job loss in the coal industry. Wyoming supplies about 40 percent of the nation's coal. Coal-fired power plants are a primary CO2 polluter.

States can comply in three ways: 1. improve heat rates for coal-fired generators 2. switch out higher-emitting steam units for existing but lower-emitting combined-cycle combustion turbines fired by natural gas and 3. increase the use of renewable energy.

While the coal industry has much to lose with this new plan, the green energy sector is rejoicing.

To reduce the carbon emissions, we'll need to replace our coal-generated energy with wind, solar and gas, which complement each other. An oft-cited argument against the use of renewable energy is that it's unreliable, but that reliability can be offset with the use of natural gas.

Wind will play the largest role in this new plan, an energy sector that Nebraska has woefully neglected to develop.

Mark Becker, spokesman for Nebraska Public Power District, said NPPD is going to do a review of the EPA plan, which is a 1,560 page regulation document. Each state will receive an individual plan. After NPPD gets a final state plan in September of 2016, they will have a more definitive picture, Becker said. Nebraska will be required to increase its non-carbon emissions from 26 percent to 40 percent. Becker said NPPD has done much to reduce emissions already, including using low-sulfur coal.

In order to meet the requirements, NPPD may have to shut some of their coal-fired plants down or run them less. Some may be converted over to natural gas, would require more pipelines in Nebraska. We all know how much Nebraskans favor pipelines.

Becker said it would take about 1,300 wind turbines to replace the Gerald Gentleman Station, the state's largest electricity generating plant. It runs at 100 percent, Becker said. Last Friday in Nebraska wind probably generated about 2,200 megawatts of energy.

According to the White House, the plan will save the average American family nearly $85 annually on energy bills in 2030 and create tens of thousands of jobs.

That seems like a long time from now, but when we're talking about the future of the earth, our coming generations' environment and natural resources, it's not long at all. Protecting our earth is an utmost priority, and even though all these regulations might hurt in the near future, they're necessary to ensure the long-term quality of life for people on the planet.