5 things to know today: Domestic oil, Avian flu, ADA complaint, Air pollution, Housing bill
A select rundown of stories found on InForum.
1. As Biden bans Russian oil, industry sees potential windfall in North Dakota
Global oil prices and the costs of gasoline at the pump reached heights not seen in more than a decade this week as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to spike global energy markets — a volatile situation that industry watchers say could finally bump a stagnant oil sector in North Dakota.
U.S. oil prices climbed to their highest point since 2014 in recent days, briefly cresting at $130 a barrel before settling around $124 per barrel by late afternoon on Tuesday, March 8. National average gasoline prices have also hit an all-time high of $4.17 a gallon, according to AAA figures , with North Dakota prices about 36 cents lower.
In the immediate wake of the offensive in Ukraine, western nations hit the Russian economy with a suit of sanctions but steered clear of the country’s powerful energy sector. That changed Tuesday morning, when President Joe Biden announced a ban on imports of Russian oil, coal and natural gas into the U.S., a move he cautioned would come with higher gasoline prices.
2. New cases of avian flu detected in western Iowa, Maryland and South Dakota in the past week
From Reuters via Forum News Service
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported outbreaks of a highly lethal type of bird flu in private and commercial flocks in Iowa in the past week and commercial flocks in Maryland and South Dakota over the weekend, adding to concerns that wild birds are spreading the disease across the country.
A highly pathogenic form of bird flu was reported in a commercial turkey flock in Iowa, making it the second reported outbreak in the top egg-producing state of the United States in less than a week.
The latest Iowa outbreak was confirmed in Buena Vista County on Monday by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and the United States Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
3. US Attorney's Office in North Dakota reaches settlement agreement with bus service over ADA complaint
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of North Dakota has announced that it entered into a settlement agreement with a bus transit service to resolve a complaint that the company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The agreement, announced by Interim U.S. Attorney Nicholas W. Chase on Tuesday, March 8, was reached with Jefferson Partners L.P., doing business as Jefferson Lines, according to a news release.
The ADA complaint alleged a Jefferson Lines bus driver refused to allow a passenger using a walker to access a lift at the rear of the bus to exit the vehicle.
The complaint said the driver instead required the passenger to walk from the back to the front of the bus and use the stairs to exit, all without the assistance of the walker.
During its investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office learned that between January 2017 and August 2020, Jefferson Lines received 24 customer complaints regarding disability access issues.
4. Study links air pollution to 2,000 Minnesota deaths
Air pollution was a contributing factor to 2,000-4,000 deaths across Minnesota in 2015, according to the new "Life and Breath" report from the Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
According to the report released Tuesday morning, fine particles in the air and ground-level ozone contributed to heart and lung problems that led to approximately 500 hospital stays, 800 emergency room visits and 2,000-4,000 deaths across the state, according to department of health records and 2013 air quality data. The fine particles, known as PM2.5, can enter the respiratory tract and cause irritation, and even can penetrate into the bloodstream.
Despite Minnesota's air quality meeting federal standards, David Bael, an environmental economic analyst for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency who co-authored the report, said there are still concerns about air pollution and its effects on residents, especially people in vulnerable populations. Groups who are most impacted by pollution include people living in poverty or with preexisting heart or lung conditions, people without health insurance, children with uncontrolled asthma and elderly people.
5. $200M housing bill squeaks by in South Dakota House
The third — or fifth or sixth — time's the charm.
A hotly debated housing bill sending $200 million to a fund for loans and grants for housing infrastructure won over 48 members of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, March 8. That is just one more vote than the constitutionally required two-thirds majority necessary for a special fund spend.
And the vote was just two more than a failed attempt last week on a similar message. But after a weekend of horse-trading and cajoling, the measure reemerged from a measure hog-housed and passed out of the Senate on Monday.
Last week, critics of Senate Bill 65 noted the measure failed to adequately provide grant assistance for small towns who might be unable to afford loans through the South Dakota Housing Opportunity Fund.