Friday, November 26, 2010

Record number of meth labs in Ky. boosts bid for pseudoephedrine prescription law like Oregon's

Kentucky law-enforcement officers found a record 111 methamphetamine labs last month, and the total of 939 found this year exceeds the annual record of 741 set last year, adding ammunition to an effort to "require a prescription for the cold and allergy drug that addicts and traffickers use to make meth," Bill Estep reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader.

But it's easy to overstate those records. "The number of labs is up because people have found ways to evade restrictions on purchases of an ingredient needed to make meth, and because they have found simpler ways to convert that ingredient to meth in small, homemade labs," Estep notes. The portable equipment includes 2-liter beverage bottles. "Each small lab doesn't produce much meth, so cookers create more labs, said Tommy Loving, director of the Bowling Green-Warren County Drug Task Force."

Kentucky officials who favor requiring prescriptions for the desongestant pseudoephedrine point to Oregon, the first state with such a law. "Oregon had far more meth labs than Kentucky at one point — 587 to 175 in 2001, for instance. But the rule requiring a prescription for products containing pseudoephedrine has wiped out meth labs in Oregon, said Rob Bovett, a prosecutor there who wrote the state's law," Estep reports. "Only five small meth labs have been found in Oregon this year, Bovett said. There has been a corresponding, significant drop in abuse of meth and in crime, he said." (Read more)

UPDATE, Nov. 28: Mexico has become the U.S.'s main source for meth, William Booth and Anne-Marie O'Connor of The Washington Post report.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sweet spuds not just for Thanksgiving anymore

"After generations of being smothered by a blanket of marshmallows on Thanksgiving and then forgotten for another 11 months, the irrepressible sweet potato is having its moment," Kim Severson reports from North Carolina for The New York Times. "American farmers expect to harvest a record two billion pounds this year, almost half of that here in the nation’s most prolific sweet potato state. Sweet potatoes have achieved a status that just a few years ago would have seemed laughable. They may even be hip."

The shift is much about nutrition, and a different sort of French fries. "Sweet potatoes have become the darling of the diabetic and weight-loss set, a lifeline for parents whose children demand fries for nearly every meal and a boon for Southern farmers who are looking to replace tobacco," Severson writes. "The sweet potato fry is getting so popular that research has shown almost half the children in America under 12 have tried one. To meet demand, American farmers are planting more, chain restaurants are rewriting menus and ConAgra this month opened a $155 million plant dedicated to processing frozen sweet potato products — the first of its kind in the world." (Times photo by Jeremy Lange)

Clare Hasler, a nutrition expert at the University of California, Davis, summed up the sweet potato's nutritional wonders for the Times: “It’s a vegetable that has protein, which is fairly unusual, but it also has complex carbohydrates that don’t spike insulin.” (Read more)

Hospital mistakes not declining, study finds

Hospitals have not become safer for patients, the first major study in a decade suggests. A Harvard Medical School study of 10 unnamed rural and urban North Carolina hospitals from 2002 to 2007 found that, in spite of preventive efforts, the number of incidents that harmed patients did not decline over the time studied. The study looked at the Tar Heel State because its hospitals have been more involved than most in prevention.

Complications from procedures or drugs and hospital-acquired infections were the most common adverse events. The study, which is being published today by The New England Journal of Medicine, found that about 18 percent of patients were harmed by errors that were preventable 63 percent of the time. While most were treatable injuries, an estimated 2.4 percent contributed to or caused death."

Lead author Dr. Christopher P. Landrigan, a Harvard professor, said it is unlikely that hospitals in other regions are performing any better. He said the present limited voluntary reporting system is insufficient and a federal-level, mandatory reporting system that requires all hospitals to report errors is needed.

Dr. Robert Watcher, chief of hospital medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, told Denise Grady ofThe New York Times that the findings are a warning for the patient-safety movement that little progress is being made far too slowly. "Process changes, like a new computer system or the use of a checklist, may help a bit,” he said, “but if they are not embedded in a system in which the providers are engaged in safety efforts, educated about how to identify safety hazards and fix them, and have a culture of strong communication and teamwork, progress may be painfully slow.” (Read more)

A recent report from the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services reached similar conclusions. The study of a sample of Medicare patient discharge records found that 13.5 percent or 134,000 patients had experienced injury during hospital stays in October 2008. Such injuries could cost Medicare billions of dollars a year for added treatment. In the case of 15,000 patients in the month studied, medical errors contributed to patient deaths.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

New rural division for school sports in Florida begins in 2011-12 season

The Florida High School Athletic Association voted Monday to accept a new classification system with a class for rural schools, reports D.C. Reeves for the Pensacola News Journal. The schools must have from 44 to 600 students to be a member of the new category, according to information from the FHSAA.  FHSAA has a membership of more than 770 middle and senior high schools. (Read more)

In December, the FHSAA will announce the specific district assignments. In January, schools will be allowed to appeal their assignments before they are set permanently. To win an appeal, a school has to show some need for the move. Most times, successful appeals are based on travel concerns, according to Reeves. (Read more)

Homegrown turkeys being served this year

Not all Thanksgiving turkeys are Butterballs. Homegrown turkeys are gracing the tables of small farm owners who raised the turkey along with the yams, green beans and cranberries, reports the Chicago Tribune. The National Turkey Federation says the amount of turkey consumed since 1970 has gone up by 109 percent and raising turkeys locally is a growing market. (Photo Chicago Tribune)

The cost of a homegrown turkey is considerably more than a store-bought turkey. A 16-pound, homegrown, Caveny Farm bourbon red turkey is $110, about $6.88 a pound, according to Nationwide, a 16-pound store-bought turkey averages $17.66, about $1.10 a pound, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. Several sellers in the Chicago area have sold out the turkeys they had available. "We haven't even begun to tap into the market," said Mike Sands, executive director of Liberty Prairie Foundation which raised about 30 turkeys this year. Rich Samuels, of Evanston, purchased a bourbon red turkey for the holidays, reports the Tribune. His order was placed in September, and he'll pay roughly $50 for a small turkey weighing in at less than 10 pounds. "They are really worth it," said Samuels. "The bottom line is the flavor." (Read more)

Small-market news outlets win awards for statehouse reporting from CapitolBeat group

The Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, also known as CapitolBeat, announced its 2010 Cappie winners. The awards are given annually to journalists who cover state houses across the U.S. The winners in the small newspaper group (under 75,000), by category, with links (provided by CapitolBeat) to winning stories, if available:
1. Dan Weist, The Standard-Examiner (Ogden, Utah)
2. Sean Cockerham, Anchorage Daily News (Alaska)
3. Scott Rothschild, Lawrence Journal-World (Kansas)
1. Ben Jones, Post-Crescent (Appleton, Wis.)
1. Bernard Schoenburg, State Journal-Register (Springfield, Ill.)
2. Marc Kovac, Youngstown Vindicator (Ohio)

Debt-reduction panels target rural programs

Several rural programs are the target in the budget plans issued by two high-level government sponsored groups in recent weeks. The plan garnering the most attention comes from the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, created by President Obama and headed by former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson and Democrat Erskine Bowles. The NCFRR proposal includes nearly $4 trillion in total deficit reduction including several rural programs, Bill Bishop of the Daily Yonder reports.

The NCFRR report includes farm subsidy cuts of $3 billion a year by reducing direct payments, Conservation Security Program funds and funding for the Market Access Program. The report also proposes raising the retirement age to 69 by 2075. Bishop writes the authors have missed the "geographic component of mortality rates," noting the gap between rural and urban mortality rates has been widening. "People in urban areas are simply living longer than those who reside in many rural counties," Bishop writes. "The decline in longevity is particularly evident among women in the South and in Appalachia." (New York Times map)

The NCFRR plan also includes cutting payments to states and tribes for abandoned mines, reducing spending in the universal service fund and eliminating $500 million of spending by the Rural Utilities Service. The proposal would raise the gas tax by 15 cents per gallon to boost transportation funding. We recently reported on a study that suggested rural states were most vulnerable to spikes in gas prices. The NCFRR also proposed cutting $1 billion in Army Corps of Engineers projects and requiring the Tennessee Valley Authority to impose a transmission surcharge on electricity rates. (Read more)

New health-care reform dollars to train more medical professionals

The new federal health reform law will soon begin providing $290 million in financial assistance to medical, dental, and mental health care professionals, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Monday in Baltimore.

"From the start, we knew in addition to making sure Americans could get affordable health insurance, we also needed to look at the provider pipeline, making sure there were enough doctors, nurses, physician assistants, dentists and other health care professionals to provide the care that was needed," Sebelius said.

The infusion of funds is intended to help address what many predict will be a severe shortage of health care professionals to meet the needs of a flood of new patients. Stimulus dollars added a boost in funding for the nation's publicly supported community health centers which serve the uninsured and the poor. The infusion of dollars from the new health reform law is expected to add an estimated 3,500 clinicians nationwide to these centers.

Starting Nov. 30, health care professionals and paraprofessionals can receive up to $60,000 in loan repayment in exchange for a two-year commitment to working in a community health center. Longer commitments can earn more training dollars, and new scholarships are also being made available, Liz F. Kay reported for The Baltimore Sun.

Rural areas, which have historically had high underserved populations, could gain an influx of new medical professionals as these new training dollars, loans, and scholarships finance professional training and help reinforce the corps of public health professionals. Many, experience has shown, will find a home for life. (Read more)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

'Coal in Kentucky' documentary debuts tonight

Kentucky Educational Television has a two-car coal train tonight. We've already reported on the 10 p.m. EST broadcast premiere of "Deep Down," on KET2, about community conflicts over a proposed mountaintop-removal mine, but we learned this afternoon that it will be preceded by the TV debut of "Coal in Kentucky," another hour-long documentary, which airs at 9 p.m. EST. (For other times click here.)

"Coal in Kentucky" was produced by the Center for Visualization and Virtual Environments in the College of Engineering at the University of Kentucky, with severance-tax money that the state legislature earmarked for the state Energy and Environment Cabinet to educate the public about the coal industry. The cabinet assembled an advisory committee that helped broaden and balance the project, and the producers used some members (including the writer of this item, the director of the UK-based Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues) as talking heads to frame some of the issues. As I told the committee at its first meeting, telling the story of Kentucky coal in 57 minutes was one of the more challenging journalistic enterprises in which I have ever been involved, but the VisCenter folks did very good work. Here's a trailer:

Ethanol subsidies could be next target in race to cut federal spending

After scoring a victory by getting their party to commit to cutting earmarks, some anti-spending Republicans are pointing to federal ethanol subsidies as their next target. Republican Sens. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma say "they are calling on fellow Republicans to urge Congress to allow ethanol subsidies to expire -- something that could put other leading GOP Senators in an awkward spot and subject them (in theory) to the wrath of the anti-government-spending Tea Party if they don't go along," Greg Sargent of The Washington Post reports on The Plum Line blog.

The ethanol subsidies may be the perfect test for the seriousness of Republican calls for spending cuts as some senators like Orrin Hatch of Utah and Chuck Grassley of Iowa have previously supported them. "Government mandates and tax subsidies for ethanol have led to decreased gas mileage, adversely effected the environment and increased food prices," DeMint told Sargent. "Washington must stop picking winners and losers in the market, and instead allow Americans to make choices for themselves." Colburn added, "We need to let the ethanol subsidies expire and we need energy developed based on market forces."

"What we need to quit doing is digging the hole deeper," Coburn said. "I thought a lot of Americans said that on November 2nd. There shouldn't be anything that's sacrosanct." The ethanol subsidy debate also represents a unique coalition between Republicans and environmental groups, who also favor ending the subsidies, Sargent writes, adding it could also be an opportunity for Democrats to exacerbate GOP divisions. (Read more)

Comment period open until Friday on application for coal mine on historic Blair Mountain

Friday is the deadline for public comment with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection on Massey Energy's application for a mountaintop-removal coal mine on historic Blair Mountain. The permit would allow Massey to mine at the site of the 1921 Battle of Blair Mountain, where approximately 15,000 coal miners confronted coal operators in an effort to unionize the West Virginia coal fields. The insurrection was suppressed after the U.S. Army was called in by presidential order.

In 2009, the battlefield was listed by the National Park Service on its National Register of Historic Places. Beth Wellington, a Virginia author and journalist, writes for The Guardian that the victory was short lived as "Lawyers for the coal industry convinced West Virginia state officials to ask the Park Service to de-list the site, claiming, after the deadline, to have found additional opponents to the listing." A petition from the the National Trust, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and the Sierra Club filed to re-list Blair Mountain on the register was denied by the park service in July.

"On 9 September, the Sierra Club, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Friends of Blair Mountain and the West Virginia Labor History Association filed a legal challenge to contest the site's removal from the National Register," Wellington writes. Opponents of the mining can sign an online petition to the park service. (Read more)

Rural weekly newspaper keeps up the pressure on officials to deliver fast Internet service

Sometimes we wonder if rural weekly newspapers are all that interested in bringing broadband to their communities, because newspapers are in competition for readers' time and the coming of broadband brings compelling competition such as video, the fastest growing form of Internet content. But we also believe that rural communities cannot afford to lag behind in the availability and adoption of broadband, and that newspapers should push for broadband access as a fundamental factor in a community's economic development and its quality of life.

One newspaper that has done a bang-up job on broadband is the Todd County Standard of Elkton, Ky., which published a major package of stories and commentary on the need for faster Internet service in 2007. In an editorial this month, the paper said that "despite the best efforts" of the top county official and the county's two state legislators, the county still lacks broadband and is "losing the race toward the future" even though Kentucky leads the nation in funding from the Broadband Inititatives Program of the Department of Agriculture.

The editorial points fingers at the main local phone company, AT&T, and federal policy. "Some experts have complained that one large flaw in President Obama's rural broadband plan is that large companies like AT&T have not sought out the broadband funding since it wouldn't be enough of a profit center." The editorial suggests a stronger federal role, much like the one that brought electricity to rural areas during the Great Depression: "Why don't we have a government that provides the service at a low cost and gives some honest competition to the telephone and cable providers?" It calls on readers to "discuss this with every elected official you know, and let's take our being left off a very large money list as a call to action." (Read more)

Here's the Standard's 2007 package. Click on the images for larger versions.

Some rural publishers moonlight to keep papers going; some papers have a staff of one

We don't know of anyone who compiles data on the demise of rural weekly newspapers, but the anecdotal evidence suggests that many of them are in the rural Midwest, particularly the Great Plains, where most counties have been losing population in recent decades. That includes much of Oklahoma, where Clinton Daily News Publisher Rod Serfoss wrote on the topic after becoming president of the Oklahoma Press Association.

"Call it lack of jobs, lack of trees, lack of rain, better birth control or the lack of sex, but the fact is that many rural communities in Oklahoma are dwindling," Serfoss wrote in a column distributed by the National Newspaper Association. "Some day, the number of rural community newspapers will shrink, not because of the decline of the newspaper industry but rather the decline of many rural Oklahoma towns."

To keep going, some small papers have been reduced to a staff of one, and some publishers have taken up additional lines of work, Serfoss reports: "The reality is that many rural papers are a one-person operation and the . . . more and more small-town publishers are doing other jobs to help subsidize the newspaper. It is not uncommon to see the weekly newspaper being produced after the day care is closed, with a person selling an insurance policy and a classified ad at the same time or operating an antique mall in the same office as the newspaper."

Serfoss wrote that he has "seen a closed sign on a paper's office so the publisher can make an ambulance call and at one point a publisher in southwest Oklahoma cooked breakfast at his restaurant every morning, operated his flower shop during the day and then found the time and energy to put out a newspaper. . . . The small weekly publisher has been forced to become creative in finding ways to keep the news coming to his or her community. I appreciate their commitment to do so and hope their readers understand how lucky they are to have someone who is committed to report the news and preserve the history of their town." (Read more)

Health-reform rules to cap insurance-firm profits; could indirectly help many rural policyholders

New federal rules will require U.S. health insurance companies to spend more on health care and its promotion and less on advertising, overhead, executive compensation and other non-care-related expenses. The change in what is known as the medical-loss ratio will take effect Jan. 1.

Part of the new federal health reform law, the rules are designed to maximize benefits to consumers. At the same time, they dramatically increase federal oversight of how health insurance companies spend the revenue they collect from policyholders. While some states already require similar medical-loss ratios, the new rules mark the first time the federal government has issued such regulations, notes Robert Pear of The New York Times.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said in a news release that the rules will protect nearly 75 million Americans and help ensure "better value for their health-insurance premium dollar." Insurers selling policies in the large-group market will have to spend at least 85 percent of premium dollars on health care or its promotion; those in the individual and small-group market will have an 80 percent minimum. An estimated 45 percent of people who buy individual health care plans buy them from companies that do not meet the new federal requirement. Insurance companies who don't comply will have to pay rebates to policyholders, beginning in 2012.

These changes could be significant for rural policyholders, whose choices of health insurance companies are often limited. Uniformity in provisions, how much of premiums must be spent on actual care, combined with prohibitions against using pre-existing conditions to exclude people from coverage, could make new policies more widely available. Disproportionately sicker rural residents would also likely realize improved care as health care policies become more uniform.

Some state officials have argued that the new rules could disrupt insurance markets in their states if some carriers opt out of the market and reduce competition. Federal officials can lower the standards for a time if consumers are likely to be harmed. Georgia, Iowa, Maine and South Carolina have asked for such adjustments. The new federal rules are based on recommendations from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, an organization of the states' health insurance regulators. (Read more)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette publishes three-part series on coal mining, safety and politics

Daniel Malloy and Dennis B. Roddy, of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, have written a three-part series on coal mining and its issues, beginning with a profile of a miner from Baileysville, W.Va. Adam Vance, 28, married his high school sweetheart, they bought a house and had a child. After a lay-off, Vance decided to look for work in mining, "The only thing really going at the time was underground. That's where I went."  Today he draws between $60,000 and $70,000 a year. Life is good, if not always safe. The work can be dirty, grueling, dark and dangerous, yet like so many others who go underground, Adam Vance finds dignity in bringing coal to the surface, write Malloy and Roddy. (Read more)

Part two is a look at how environmentalists and the coal mining industry differ, and the complexities of finding common ground. They share at least one thing, though: unease at the Obama administration's approach to mining. Friends of Coal proclaims on billboards, "Don't let Environmental Protection Agency bureaucrats take away our coal jobs." Environmentalists felt that candidates in the recent W.Va. election competed "to see who could bow most majestically before the throne of King Coal." Among the differences between the two groups: cap-and-trade; environmental pollution; employment issues; activists from outside the region; reality of "clean coal." (Read more)

In the concluding third part, the Mine Safety and Health Administration is described as having a "newfound aggressiveness" in the wake of the Upper Big Branch mine explosion that killed 29 miners. The agency has targeted 111 mines with high rates of safety violations. "This has sent shock waves through the mining industry. Companies are worried they'll be the next one," beginning with Massey Energy's Freedom Mine No. 1, in Pike County, Ky. Tony Oppegard, a former MSHA official and onetime mine safety prosecutor in Kentucky, told the reporters. MSHA Inspectors "swarmed over some locations, sometimes seizing mine telephones to prevent guards from warning foremen underground about their arrival. But it was the move to shut down the Freedom Mine that was the most striking display of MSHA's newly aggressive law enforcement," according to Malloy and Roddy.  (Read more)

Pennsylvania hopes tourists flock to view elk herd

Marcellus Shale drilling isn't the only strategy rural north-central Pennsylvania is turning to for new revenue. The area hopes to become the go-to destination for elk viewing. "Years in the works, the Elk Country Visitors Center was unveiled this fall in hopes of turning the commonwealth into a prime destination to view the majestic animal," Genaro C. Armas of The Associated Press reports. Gov. Ed Rendell, borrowing a phrase from the movie "Field of Dreams," said, "We built it, and they will come." Rendell and business leaders are optimistic the attraction will help dollars flow into a rural area that has long struggled financially, Armas writes. Pennsylvania's elk herd is estimated at about 725.

Some in the area worry Marcellus Shale drilling and the elk herd might conflict with each other. "While Marcellus drilling isn't pervasive in Elk County, state conservation and natural resources secretary John Quigley promised that Pennsylvania would keep close watch on how the explosive growth of the natural gas industry might affect the tourism investment," Armas writes. The national elk population is at 1.03 million, up 44 percent from the mid 1980s.

Pennsylvania isn't the only state hoping to market itself as elk country. A six-county coalition in Eastern Kentucky has branded itself the Elk Country Corridor in hopes of attracting tourists to the region. (Read more)

W.Va. meeting highlights health effects of mining

The negative health effects of coal were the topic of a day-long seminar held Saturday at Marshall University. The seminar, sponsored by the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, the Marshall University Student Environmental Action Coalition and the West Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club, was attended by "dozens of environmentalists," David E. Malloy of The Herald-Dispatch in Huntington reports.

"From a public health perspective, our dependence on coal is the biggest public health problem we face," said  Michael Hendryx, an associate professor at West Virginia University and research director for the West Virginia University Institute for Health Policy Research. Rita Harris, a Memphis, Tenn., area resident who has worked with the Sierra Club Environmental Justice Program, called West Virginia "ground zero" for problems people face dealing with coal. (Read more)

Environmentalists at the meeting hoped the public health concerns would bring more people to their side fight against mountaintop removal, Andrew Colegrove of WSAZ-TV reports. "People are more concerned or more receptive about the possible health problems related to mining," Hendryx said. "Maybe they wouldn't be as concerned if it was just the environment, but it's a health issue too, so that makes it more important." (Read more)

Artisan cheese maker at center of food safety battle

A Pacific Northwest cheese maker has become the center of the controversy surrounding the effect of proposed food safety rules on small farmers.  Kelli Estrella, owner of the Estrella Family Creamery who makes cheese from the milk of her 36 cows and 40 goats and sells it at farmers’ markets, recently drew the attention of the Food and Drug Administration after tests found listeria in some of her cheese. Estrella refused to agree to a broad recall of her products, William Neuman of The New York Times reports.

"Issues of food safety and small food producers were at the fore in Washington, D.C., this week as senators struck a deal that would exempt small producers from some of the rules that would be imposed by a sweeping food safety bill," Neuman writes. "A vote is expected after Thanksgiving on the long-awaited legislation." In Estrella's case, no illnesses have been linked to her cheese, though listeria is a sometimes deadly bacteria that is particularly harmful to the very young and very old.

"There is fuel for all sides in Ms. Estrella’s predicament: it shows that even food from a revered artisan producer can pose risks, while demonstrating the pitfalls for regulators who may be viewed as heavy-handed," Neuman writes. FDA began testing soft cheeses like brie and mozzarella for listeria in April and found bacteria in 24 of the 102 facilities it visited. More than half of the 24 facilities where bacteria was found were artisanal producers, Neuman reports.

"When you’ve got people that make good cheese, you want them to be successful," said Claudia Coles, the food safety program manager for the Washington State Department of Agriculture. "But our first premise is, we don’t want people marketing an unsafe product." Seattle food safety lawyer William Marler told Neuman he was puzzled by the reaction of Estrella's supporters. "I just don’t know how they make the leap from the government trying to do the right thing for public health to 'they’re food Nazis in the pocket of big agribusiness,'" he said. (Read more)

Environmental justice moving up EPA agenda

We've reported on the Environmental Protection Agency's move to regulate disposal of coal ash. That initiative isn't the only one the agency is taking to protect communities across the country, many of them rural. As environmental justice becomes an increasingly important issue for the agency, "Administration officials are looking at hazardous waste storage, toxic air emissions and an array of other contaminants to try to determine whether low-income and minority communities are disproportionately exposed to them," Juliet Eilperin of The Washington Post reports.

"I really think of this [environmental justice] as the biggest chunk of unfinished business when you think about the environmental landscape," EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson told the Post. "In addition to looking at coal-ash storage, EPA officials are reevaluating how the government defines solid waste and measures short-term exposure to smog-forming pollutants," Eilperin writes. "They have forced a variety of emitters, including container-glass plants, cement plants and oil refineries, to install pollution controls in poor areas struggling with bad air quality."

EPA has revived an interagency environmental justice task force that had been dormant for a dozen years, issued a formal guidance to regional offices instructing them to seek the input of disadvantaged groups when making decisions and drafted a plan to integrate the concept of environmental justice into the agency's everyday decision-making, Eilperin writes. The agency has faced complaints from industry groups who feel the new focus comes at the expense of business operations. Jackson called those complaints "nonsense," telling Eilperin, "Find me the person who says, 'I'll take the pollution if you give me the job.'" (Read more) "I think she could find some folks in Central Appalachia who have that attitude toward mountaintop-removal coal mining," said Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues.