TOPIC: Departmentalized – Federal Agencies

Innovative bureaucrats? FDA workaround on livestock antibiotics shows it’s possible

The addition of antibiotics such as penicillin and tetracycline into animal feed has proven to be a clear threat to human health.  But getting rid of them isn’t easy in today’s regulatory arena.  Gardiner Harris’s article in the New York Times on the FDA’s new attempt to limit the use of antibiotics in livestock feed shows the limits  federal agencies face in making even the most clearly-needed changes. (more…)

Speaking the truth on Solyndra at the Department of Energy

Why can’t people at the Department of Energy admit that delays in funding new alternative energy projects after the Solyndra debacle are because of . . . the Solyndra debacle?

Bill Vlasic and Matthew Wald of the New York Times look at other alternative energy projects that have applied for DOE funds, including an electric delivery van that uses one-fifth the gas a standard van does.  It sure looks like companies seeking DOE funds are getting the runaround until they simply drop out of the running. (more…)

The price of future energy savings may be $50 (or even $10 million)

Hey, a new anti-government meme to throw around — Limbaugh must be happy for the first time in days!  The Energy Department’s $10 million innovation award to an LED lightbulb that may cost $50 in stores, reported by Peter Whoriskey in the Washington Post, is going to be fodder for critics of government for years to come.  However, the price of change isn’t cheap.  To actually reduce energy use, light bulb wattage has to go down, and light bulbs have to last longer.  It looks like DOE found the most economical and best-performing new bulb and gave it the award.  Was it practical or politically smart to pick a $50 bulb?  No.  But there must be a reason why Lighting Science Group is being courted to move its facilities to China and Mexico. (more…)

They’re showing us the money

Doug Palmer and Rachelle Younglai of Reuters report that the Treasury Department will be pulling in $6 billion in a sale of AIG stock the government owns as the result of saving AIG from collapse in 2008.  The American electorate’s ownership of this major global insurance company will still be a hefty 70% after the sale.   But we are getting paid.  In other words, the government is keeping its word, though some people swore the government “never really believed” it would get anything back for the taxpayers.

Natural foods co-op gets a raw deal

Acting in concert with federal officials, authorities in Los Angeles raided a local natural foods buyers co-op and arrested three people for distributing raw milk and dairy products, reports Ian Lovett of The New York Times and Stuart Pfeifer and P.J. Huffstutter in the Los Angeles Times. Authorities also seized $70,000 worth of inventory from the Venice co-op, Rawsome, on the grounds that the shop was selling unsafe and unlicensed products to consumers and doing so without a business license. Operators of the co-op maintain that the products in question weren’t being sold to unknowing consumers, but distributed to members of a buyers’ club who specifically sought out unadulterated foods and were well aware of the risks. Because the operation wasn’t open to non-members and was run by volunteers, its trustees claim they aren’t required to have a business license. (more…)

High-speed regional trains zoom into California

Several new trains capable of considerably higher speed should begin plying the rails in California in about four years time, thanks to an infusion of federal cash, reports Tim Sheehan of The Fresno Bee.

California received 68 million dollars from the federal government to buy 15 new American passenger cars and four new U.S.-made locomotives for the state’s three regional rail routes. The funding is a portion of the $336 million worth of Recovery Act funding — economic stimulus money — awarded as federal matching funds to California and outright grants to Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, and Missouri. (more…)

FAA Cleared for Takeoff

The U.S. Senate is expected to approve a bill this morning written by the House that will resume operations at the Federal Aviation Administration — at least until Sep. 16, reports the New York Times’ Edward Wyatt. At issue in the FAA’s shutdown is a Congressional dispute over whether the agency should give subsidies so rural airports get commercial airline service. The broader issue is Congress’s astonishing indifference about a functioning federal agency. (more…)

Illinois and racial profiling

The ACLU is calling for the federal Department of Justice to investigate whether or not Illinois cops use racial bias in traffic stop searches, reports Patrick Yeagle of the Illinois Times. A new study produced by the Illinois Department of Transportation found a slight disparity between the number of minorities stopped and the number of minorities who live in Illinois. It looks like real claims of bias lie in specific communities like Springfield, where 41 percent of all drivers stopped in 2010 were minorities and just 15 percent of the Springfield population is minority.

Safety first, second, and third in Chicago

I wrote a piece a month ago that looked at how the city of Chicago’s focus on violent crime comes at the expense of other worthy issues. Here’s an example: Rebecca Vevea of the Chicago News Cooperative reports that Chicago Public Schools will continue to spend millions on “Safe Passage,” a program that helps students arrive and depart from school safely.

Obviously, there are worse uses of taxpayer money. But Safe Passage was a program launched by federal stimulus funds and those funds have run out. Does CPS really need to keep this additional safety program — for which $10 million has been set aside — when it faces a $612 million deficit?

Crisis at the FAA

Overlooked in the agreement reached by Barack Obama and Congress on the debt ceiling is that an entire federal agency — the Federal Aviation Administration — has shut down with Congress on vacation until September. That means, among other issues,  that the agency has no authorization to keep funding projects like the expansion of O’Hare airport in Chicago or, as Nathan Hurst of the Detroit News reports on today, the reconstruction of a taxi way at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

The agency has shut down because of a dispute over how airline workers can unionize and how much subsidies should be provided to rural airports. These are fairly significant issues — but ones that a Congress that cares in the slightest about a functional aviation agency should have been able to solve.