Black Lung disease funding clogged


News & Views

Staff & Wire Reports



Retired coal miner John Robinson uses a nebulizer during his daily breathing treatments for black lung disease on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 in Coeburn, Va. Robinson was 47 when he was diagnosed with black lung disease, part of a new generation of black lung sufferers who are contracting the deadly disease at younger ages. (AP Photo/Dylan Lovan)

Retired coal miner John Robinson uses a nebulizer during his daily breathing treatments for black lung disease on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 in Coeburn, Va. Robinson was 47 when he was diagnosed with black lung disease, part of a new generation of black lung sufferers who are contracting the deadly disease at younger ages. (AP Photo/Dylan Lovan)


Dr. Brandon Crum points to the X-ray of a black lung patient at his office in Pikeville, Ky., on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. Crum has seen a wave of younger miners with black lung disease at his clinic since 2015. (AP Photo/Dylan Lovan)


Retired coal miner John Robinson displays his mining helmet at his home in Coeburn, Va., on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. Robinson was 47 when he was diagnosed with black lung disease, part of a new generation of black lung sufferers who are contracting the deadly disease at younger ages. (AP Photo/Dylan Lovan)


APNewsBreak: Congress’ inaction endangers black lung fund

By DYLAN LOVAN

Associated Press

Wednesday, March 20

COEBURN, Va. (AP) — Former coal miner John Robinson’s bills for black lung treatments run $4,000 a month, but the federal fund he depends on to help cover them is being drained of money because of inaction by Congress and the Trump administration.

Amid the turmoil of the government shutdown this winter, a tax on coal that helps pay for the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund was cut sharply Jan. 1 and never restored, potentially saving coal operators hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

With cash trickling into the fund at less than half its usual rate, budget officials estimate that by the middle of 2020 there won’t be enough money to fully cover the fund’s benefit payments.

As a surge of black lung disease scars miners’ lungs at younger ages than ever, Robinson worries not only about cuts to his benefits, but that younger miners won’t get any coverage.

“Coal miners sort of been put on the back burner, thrown to the side,” Robinson said recently, sitting at his kitchen table in the small Virginia town of Coeburn, near the Kentucky border. “They just ain’t being done right.”

President Donald Trump, who vowed to save the coal industry during the 2016 campaign, has repeatedly praised miners. At an August rally in West Virginia filled with miners in hard hats, he called them “great people. Brave people. I don’t know how the hell you do that. You guys have a lot of courage.”

Trump made no mention of restoring the 2018 tax rate in his proposed budget released in mid-March.

The White House said in a statement Tuesday that “President Trump and this administration have always supported the mining industry by prioritizing deregulation and less Washington interference.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose home state of Kentucky is third in the nation in coal production, told a reporter from Ohio Valley ReSource in October the tax rate would “be taken care of before we get into an expiration situation.”

That didn’t happen. McConnell spokesman Robert Steurer didn’t repeat that pledge this week; rather, he wrote in an email, “benefits provided through the Black Lung Disability Fund continue to be provided at regular levels” and that McConnell “continues to prioritize maintaining and protecting the benefits.”

Trump and McConnell have reaped large contributions from the coal industry, according to the political money website Open Secrets.

Trump received more than $276,000 during the 2016 presidential election from political action committees and individuals affiliated with coal companies. His inaugural committee received $1 million from Joe Craft, CEO of Alliance Resource Partners in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and $300,000 from the Murray Energy Corporation, the nation’s largest privately-owned coal-mining company.

McConnell received more than $297,000 in coal industry donations since 2014, when he was last up for election.

Congress established the trust fund in 1978. Until the rate expired, money came from an excise tax of $1.10 per ton on underground coal and 55 cents on surface-mined coal that brought in $450 million last year. Rates fell to about 50 cents and 25 cents when lawmakers failed to act on its Dec. 31 expiration date.

The fund provides health benefits and payments to about 25,000 retired miners. Most worked for companies that are now bankrupt. Many, including Robinson, struggle to breathe as their lungs are slowly stifled by tiny dust and particles trapped there.

Robinson was 47 when he was diagnosed, part of a wave of younger miners that doctors and experts say have been swept up in a new black lung epidemic in Appalachia. Robinson, now 53, and others who depend on the fund are disappointed in McConnell and other leaders who typically enjoy miners’ support.

“I just feel that Mitch McConnell has let the citizens of Kentucky down, especially the miners,” said Patty Amburgey, whose husband, Crawford, died of black lung disease at age 62 in 2007. She draws a monthly widow’s payment through his black lung disability benefits. “And now there’s an epidemic of black lung.”

Dr. Brandon Crum has watched that epidemic unfold at his Pikeville, Kentucky, radiology clinic. In less than four years, Crum has seen 200 miners diagnosed with a severe form of black lung disease, called pulmonary massive fibrosis. The nation had 31 such diagnoses in the 1990s, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

“We’re looking at men in their 30s and 40s on oxygen, being evaluated for lung transplants,” Crum said. “Those are usually middle-age individuals with younger families, so it affects their wives, a lot.”

His findings were published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a December 2016 report that showed a shockingly high level of severe black lung cases at his clinic.

Amburgey, of Letcher County, Kentucky, said there will be fewer benefits for the growing number of younger miners with black lung if the fund is depleted. Robinson said he’s now worried the trust fund’s “pot of money will dry up.”

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and other coal-state Democratic senators are pushing a bill to shore up the fund by restoring the larger tax for 10 years. Manchin said in a statement that lawmakers “cannot continue to allow these solutions to be put off again and again.” That bill is in a Senate finance committee.

The mining industry supported the increased tax rate’s expiration, calling the effort to maintain it an unnecessary tax increase. The National Mining Association, which speaks for the industry, says the lower rate “will be sufficient to cover monthly benefit costs for the fund.” The group argued extending the rate would lead to job losses.

The May 2018 GAO report contradicts that claim, saying the fund’s beneficiaries could multiply “due to the increased occurrence of black lung disease and its most severe form, progressive massive fibrosis, particularly among Appalachian coal miners.”

The increase in younger black lung sufferers will put more pressure on the fund, as the industry continues to shrink.

“I think people always thought they would get (black lung) if they worked long enough in the mines, but I think it’s a disease they thought would affect them at the end of their life, in their 70s or 80s,” Crum said.

Amburgey says Trump reneged on his pledge to support miners.

“Mr. Trump promised that he would bring the mines back and take care of the miners, and that is not happening,” she said. “He promised us a snowball in July.”

Follow Lovan on Twitter at twitter.com/dylanlovan

Opinion: For Energy Security Think EVs

By James Clad

InsideSources.com

Notwithstanding newly won status as the world’s largest global oil producer, America’s sway over the global oil market remains incomplete and weak. Worse, it’s reactive, driven above all by politically touchy pump prices. In energy security, the focus continues to be on oil, yet a switch to electric propulsion offers a way out.

An accelerating shift to electric vehicles (EVs) can deliver a decisive break from chronic vulnerability to petroleum production whims. Despite surging domestic oil production, the oil market remains a global one where production cuts or instability in any oil producing country affect prices everywhere, including right here at home.

It’s also true that for decades to come, oil will remain an essential non-replaceable commodity. Just consider the fuels vital to air travel, or the feedstock enabling petrochemical production. But EVs hold out the prospect of a largely oil-free future for ground transport — that piece of energy consumption that affects consumers most.

Rapidly falling prices on lithium ion batteries underlie this trend. Faster than expected, EVs have moved close to cost parity with internal combustion vehicles. EV sales in the United States jumped 81 percent last year. A tipping point looms. EVs will shift from their niche market status to becoming THE market.

Take just one forecast. The research group Bloomberg New Energy Finance envisages more than 500 million EVs traveling the world’s roads in the next 20 years. The future thus looks increasingly electric, yet the pace of EV adoption and, thus, the pace of this energy security transition, remains imponderable.

So does the speed with which the global EV market elicits a supply chain — in this case, specifically a battery supply chain.

A recent hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee heard testimony from Simon Moores, managing director of Benchmark Minerals Intelligence (BMI). His firm studies the materials and minerals required by lithium ion batteries.

“We are in the midst of global battery arms race,” Moores said, one “in which so far the U.S. is a bystander.” Whoever controls these supply chains, he continued, “will hold the balance of industrial power for the 21st century auto and energy industries.”

As in so many other industrial trends, it’s the Chinese who have taken the lead — in this case the lead in battery storage technological competition. Seeking to reduce its role as the world’s largest oil importer, and determined to reduce urban air pollution, China sees EVs as a way out. The country’s industrial policy aims both to accelerate domestic adoption of EVs and dominate their production.

That means dominating the technology of the EVs’ batteries. Despite Tesla’s much-touted Gigafactory in Nevada, the United States badly lags in developing battery market share. The BMI claims that 70 battery mega-factories will be built around the world. Just five of these will call the United States home, including Tesla’s Gigafactory.

By contrast, China will build 46. This numerical advantage will enable China to capture at least 65 percent of global lithium ion battery production by 2028. And China’s dominance of battery materials supply chains has grown as well.

Catching up, let alone competing, means getting out of our own way. Despite vast reserves, the United States has become fully import-dependent for 21 minerals. It’s 50 percent or more import-reliant for an additional 29 minerals. Of the four key minerals used for lithium ion battery production — lithium, cobalt, nickel and graphite — the United States is all but out of the game.

Self-imposed barriers obstruct plans to ramp up domestic production of these minerals, crucial for the batteries to power the next energy revolution. Australia and Canada have environmental safeguards comparable to those in the United States but manage to implement mine approvals in two or three years whereas the U.S. process often takes 10 years or more. It’s a matter of competitiveness, not of any deliberate attempt to dumb down environmental safeguards.

EVs hold the promise of a leap forward in energy security that has eluded the United States for decades. They also are the future of the global auto industry. That future is arriving faster than many realize. Reducing the barriers to this strategically important industry and ensuring American companies lead it shouldn’t be left to chance, it should be an imperative.

ABOUT THE WRITER

James Clad is a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.

Opinion: Don’t Squander America’s Energy Prowess

By Paul Steidler

InsideSources.com

The United States has become a worldwide energy powerhouse and is poised to make even greater strides. There are ample reasons to be optimistic about America’s energy future, though a host of political risks threatens our vast economic and environmental gains.

The Green New Deal has commanded attention because of its audacious attempt to end fossil fuel consumption within 10 years. But today, state policymakers including governors and utility commissions, pose a far greater threat.

First, the good news.

In January, the U.S. Energy Information Administration announced that the United States will become a net energy exporter in 2020, for the first time since 1952. The United States is expected to stay an exporter for 30 years due to “large increases in crude oil, natural gas, and natural gas plant liquids production.”

This means America’s energy boom will continue to create skilled jobs on top of the millions already produced. Our balance of trade improves, and energy prices remain affordable and stable, thereby stimulating energy-intensive industries like manufacturing. We are also far less likely to be drawn into wars over oil.

The future of the Green New Deal is uncertain at best. Some Democrats, like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have seemed to brush it off or pivot by saying what is important is the vision of the legislation. Meanwhile, Republicans are salivating over this issue.

What is certain is that there are many developments at the state level that would overhaul how electricity is generated and consumed. Some are positive and others are not. The key ones follow.

—Support for Nuclear Power. Nuclear power accounts for approximately 20 percent of U.S. electricity generation and remains by far the largest source of carbon free electricity. As a 24/7 baseload power source that consistently contributes power to the grid, it is essential for electricity reliability. New York, New Jersey and Illinois have made modest subsidies of $2 a month or so to keep plants operating so that emissions stay low and that the vast economic benefits of these plants continue.

—Grid modernization. America’s electric grid is getting old. A 2015 U.S. Department of Energy report found that 70 percent of power transformers and transmission lines are 25 years or older. Utilities are investing $50 billion annually into electric distribution systems and many experts believe much more will be needed.

How investments are prioritized will be critical for protecting consumers, meeting increased electricity demand and fortifying the grid against severe storms.

—Vast renewable subsidies. In many places, renewable energy continues to be quite costly and renewable energy subsidies can quickly get out of control. In Virginia, the State Corporation Commission reported that a wind energy plan would have cost 78 cents/kilowatt hour, 26 times the market price. Wisely, the plan was halted. New Yorkers are paying $2.1 billion for a wind energy plan, but few in the state will have access to the power.

As states like New Jersey consider ambitious wind energy and other renewable programs, cost transparency is critically important. Offshore wind facilities can be especially high-priced because of the initial construction costs. Also, significant engineering changes and improvements need to be made to the transmission grid so it can receive this power.

—Cost obfuscation. Many consumers have line items in their electricity bills for renewable energy costs. Some are clearly identified, others are not. Going forward, utility commissions in their decisions, and utilities in their bills to consumers, should be clear and explicit about all such subsidies.

—Support for Electric Vehicles. There are many benefits to significantly increasing the number of electric cars in America, powering them from cleaner natural gas, nuclear and renewable power. But a sharp growth in electric vehicles is likely to mean a sharp increase in the amount of electricity needed. As such, public policy should be to keep and expand our clean sources of electricity.

The United States has come a long way from the 1970s era of oil embargoes, high energy prices and gruesome air pollution. By avoiding rash and hysterical actions, we will have a cleaner and more prosperous country.

ABOUT THE WRITER

Paul Steidler is a senior fellow with the Lexington Institute, a public policy think tank in Arlington, Virginia. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.

Puzzling number of men tied to Ferguson protests have died

By JIM SALTER

Associated Press

Monday, March 18

FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — Two young men were found dead inside torched cars. Three others died of apparent suicides. Another collapsed on a bus, his death ruled an overdose.

Six deaths, all involving men with connections to protests in Ferguson, Missouri, drew attention on social media and speculation in the activist community that something sinister was at play.

Police say there is no evidence the deaths have anything to do with the protests stemming from a white police officer’s fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, and that only two were homicides with no known link to the protests.

But some activists say their concerns about a possible connection arise out of a culture of fear that persists in Ferguson 4 ½ years after Brown’s death, citing threats — mostly anonymous — that protest leaders continue to receive.

The Rev. Darryl Gray said he found a box inside his car. When the bomb squad arrived, no explosives were found but a 6-foot (1.8-meter) python was inside.

“Everybody is on pins and needles,” Gray said of his fellow activists.

No arrests have been made in the two homicides. St. Louis County police spokesman Shawn McGuire said witnesses have simply refused to come forward, leaving detectives with no answers for why the men were targeted.

“We don’t believe either one was connected to each other,” McGuire said, but adding, “It’s tough to come up with a motive without a suspect.”

Ferguson erupted in protests in August 2014 after officer Darren Wilson fatally shot Brown during a street confrontation. Brown was unarmed, but Wilson said he fired in self-defense when the black teenager came at him menacingly.

A grand jury declined to charge Wilson in November 2014, prompting one of the most violent nights of demonstrations, and one of the first activist deaths.

Deandre Joshua’s body was found inside a burned car blocks from the protest. The 20-year-old was shot in the head before the car was torched.

Darren Seals, shown on video comforting Brown’s mother that same night, met an almost identical fate two years later. The 29-year-old’s bullet-riddled body was found inside a burning car in September 2016.

Four others also died, three of them ruled suicides.

— MarShawn McCarrel of Columbus, Ohio, shot himself in February 2016 outside the front door of the Ohio Statehouse, police said. He had been active in Ferguson.

— Edward Crawford Jr., 27, fatally shot himself in May 2017 after telling acquaintances he had been distraught over personal issues, police said. A photo of Crawford firing a tear gas canister back at police during a Ferguson protest was part of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage.

— In October, 24-year-old Danye Jones was found hanging from a tree in the yard of his north St. Louis County home. His mother, Melissa McKinnies, was active in Ferguson and posted on Facebook after her son’s death, “They lynched my baby.” But the death was ruled a suicide.

— Bassem Masri, a 31-year-old Palestinian American who frequently livestreamed video of Ferguson demonstrations, was found unresponsive on a bus in November and couldn’t be revived. Toxicology results released in February showed he died of an overdose of fentanyl.

The Ferguson protests added momentum to the national Black Lives Matter movement, but they also generated resentment from people angered by TV footage of protesters hurling rocks and insults at police. Amid lingering anger, activists and observers say that while they see no clear connection between the deaths and the protests, they can’t help but wonder about the thoroughness of the investigations.

“These protesters and their deaths may not be a high priority for (police) since there is this antagonistic relationship,” Washington University sociologist Odis Johnson said. “I think there is a need for them to have a greater sense of urgency.”

Activists say that in the years since the protests, they have been targeted in dangerous ways.

“Something is happening,” said Cori Bush, a frequent leader of the Ferguson protests. “I’ve been vocal about the things that I’ve experienced and still experience — the harassment, the intimidation, the death threats, the death attempts.”

Bush said her car has been run off the road, her home has been vandalized, and in 2014 someone shot a bullet into her car, narrowly missing her daughter, who was 13 at the time.

She suspects white supremacists or police sympathizers. Living under constant threat is exhausting, she said, but she won’t give in.

“They shut us up and they win,” Bush said.

It’s unclear if residual stress from the protests or harassment contributed to the suicides, but Johnson said many activists feel a sense of hopelessness.

“This has to have a big impact on their mental health,” Johnson said. “For many, law enforcement is not a recourse. Many times law enforcement is not on their side.”

Experts say the deaths also are indicative of a concern at the core of the protests — the underlying difficulty of life for young people of color. Five of the men who died were blacks in their 20s.

Black St. Louis County residents are three times more likely than whites to be poor, often meaning they lack adequate health insurance that could allow them to better address not only physical ailments but mental health issues like depression and anxiety.

They also tend to live in areas with higher crime rates. The 2010 U.S. census showed that while people who live in wealthy and mostly white western St. Louis County can expect to live well into their 80s, life expectancy in parts of mostly black north St. Louis County reaches only into the 60s. Life expectancy in Kinloch, a few miles from Ferguson, is 56.

Forty-five of the county’s 60 homicide victims last year were black in a county where less than a quarter of the population is black, according to police statistics.

“Here in St. Louis, unfortunately, we have allowed the culture of crime and violence to morph into dimensions that anybody’s at risk any day, any time,” said James Clark of the nonprofit Better Family Life.

Opinion: The Marijuana Speed Trap

By Eric Peters

InsideSources.com

Almost no one actually Drove 55, federal law notwithstanding.

But the federal government made sure people got punished for driving faster than the national maximum speed limit, which made driving at reasonable (and previously legal) speeds subject to ticketing — by threatening any state that even hinted it might not enforce the NMSL with loss of federal highway funds.

It took 20 years, but Congress finally repealed the national maximum speed limit in the mid-1990s.

It is hoped it will not take as long to repeal the federal laws that punish banks and other financial institutions for doing business with legal marijuana businesses, including medical marijuana dispensaries and medical practices that prescribe marijuana for pain relief, as an appetite stimulant for cancer patients and as an effective, non-addictive treatment for people with glaucoma.

A majority of states (47, plus D.C., Puerto Rico and the territory of Guam) have legalized or at least decriminalized marijuana to one degree or another, but the federal government — especially under now former attorney general Jeff Sessions — has been adamant about ignoring the will of the people of those states, as well as the laws passed by them.

The federal Controlled Substance Act has been used by the feds much in the same way that threatening to withhold highway funds was used to enforce Drive 55.

Financial institutions — banks, credit unions and so on — that transact business across state lines and are thus subject to federal financial regulations have been threatened with termination of FDIC deposit insurance and other such sanctions if they dare to do business with a legal marijuana business.

This includes making loans, accepting deposits — even allowing accounts to be opened — by any individual or business involved in the legal marijuana business.

The idea being to make it as difficult as possible for these legal marijuana businesses — and individuals — to transact business.

For example, a medical marijuana dispensary can’t issue checks to its employees — who aren’t able to deposit them — because the dispensary can’t get the local bank to open a business account for them.

Banks are understandably leery of even cashing checks for people who work for legal cannabis-related businesses who don’t have accounts with them, out of fear of being targeted by the Department of Justice.

This hasn’t stopped these businesses, but it has cost banks and lenders business. It has also had the perverse effect of driving legitimate businesses underground by imposing a de facto “cash only” mandate on them. And that, in turn, has cost states and counties business by reducing tax revenue collected from these legitimate businesses.

It’s as if Washington were still trying to get states to issue speeding tickets to people for driving faster than 55 when the posted (legal) speed limit is 65 or 70.

But with Sessions gone, the marijuana “speed trap” may finally get shut down.

Members of the House Committee on Financial Services have drafted a bill that would formally end the federal jihad against legal marijuana businesses by explicitly prohibiting the federal government from “terminating or limiting” federal deposit insurance as punishment for “providing financial services to a cannabis-related legitimate business” and prohibit any action by federal regulators intended to “prohibit, penalize or otherwise discourage” financial institutions for providing financial services to cannabis-related legitimate businesses.

The Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act would also redefine all proceeds from legal cannabis-related business/transactions as not being “proceeds from an unlawful activity” under federal law — and so no longer subject to federal criminal investigations and prosecutions.

Banks could do business with legal businesses — what a concept!

Related legislation — the Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act — would rescind another troublesome federal anvil hanging over millions of people’s heads: The double jeopardy federal employees, including disabled veterans, have been threatened with for years.

Anyone working (or who wants to work) for Uncle Sam is subject to not being hired — or can be fired — for any use of marijuana, even if it it’s entirely legal for them to do so in their state and even if it’s on their own personal time and even when legally prescribed by a doctor as part of a pain management regimen and an alternative to physically and psychologically addictive opioids.

A recent American Legion poll found that one in five veterans use marijuana to alleviate PTSD, or deal with chronic pain.

Under current federal law, these veterans are ineligible for federal jobs and are subject to being fired if their use of marijuana should be discovered.

“This conflict, between medical care and maintaining employment needs to be resolved,” says Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Florida, who is one of the bill’s co-sponsors. The bill’s Republican co-sponsor is Rep. Don Young of Arkansas, who is also co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus.

The main wild card is the new attorney general, Bob Barr — who has a “tough on crime” reputation. But these reforms are all about protecting legal activity.

If the new attorney general wants to be “tough on crime,” the very last thing he should be looking to do is use the resources of the federal government to pursue people who aren’t criminals.

ABOUT THE WRITER

Eric Peters is the author of “Automotive Atrocities and Road Hogs.” He wrote this for InsideSources.com.

Overnight Closures of I-270 at I-670 This Weekend

I-270 will close in both directions Friday and Saturday night from midnight to 6 AM so crews can remove the deck of the closed portion of the I-670 EB bridge over I-270.

Here’s the full list of impacts:

FRIDAY, MARCH 22

I-270 Southbound

8 PM: I-270 SB will be reduced to two lanes between Morse Rd. and Easton Way and reduced to three lanes between Easton Way and I-670

8 PM: The ramp from US 62 WB to I-270 SB will close.

Detour: US 62 WB to I-670 WB to 5th Ave. to I-670 EB to I-270 SB

10 PM: I-270 SB will be reduced to two lanes between I-670 and Johnstown Rd.

11 PM: I-270 SB will be reduced to one lane between I-670 and Johnstown Rd.

12 MIDNIGHT: I-270 SB will close between I-670 and Johnstown Rd.

Detour: I-270 SB to I-670 WB to I-71 SB to I-70 EB to I-270

12 MIDNIGHT: The ramp from I-270 SB to US 62 EB will close.

Detour: I-270 SB to I-670 WB to 5th Ave. to I-670 EB to US 62 EB

6 AM: All lanes and ramps open

I-270 Northbound

9 PM: I-270 NB will be reduced to three lanes between Hamilton Rd. and Johnstown Rd. and reduced to two lanes between Hamilton Rd. and I-670.

11 PM: I-270 NB will be reduced to one lane between Johnstown Rd. and I-670

12 MIDNIGHT: I-270 NB will close between Johnstown Rd. and I-670

Detour: I-270 NB to I-670 WB to I-71 NB to I-270

6 AM: All lanes open

SATURDAY, MARCH 23

I-270 Southbound

7 PM: I-270 SB will be reduced to two lanes between Morse Rd. and Easton Way and reduced to three lanes between Easton Way and I-670

8 PM: The ramp from US 62 WB to I-270 SB will close.

Detour: US 62 WB to I-670 WB to 5th Ave. to I-670 EB to I-270 SB

9 PM: I-270 SB will be reduced to two lanes between I-670 and Johnstown Rd.

10 PM: I-270 SB will be reduced to one lane between I-670 and Johnstown Rd.

12 MIDNIGHT: I-270 SB will close between I-670 and Johnstown Rd.

Detour: I-270 SB to I-670 WB to I-71 SB to I-70 EB to I-270

12 MIDNIGHT: The ramp from I-270 SB to US 62 EB will close.

Detour: I-270 SB to I-670 WB to 5th Ave. to I-670 EB to US 62 EB

6 AM: All lanes and ramps open

I-270 Northbound

6 PM: I-270 NB will be reduced to three lanes between Hamilton Rd. and Johnstown Rd.

7 PM: I-270 NB will be reduced to two lanes between Hamilton Rd. and I-670.

10 PM: I-270 NB will be reduced to one lane between Johnstown Rd. and I-670

12 MIDNIGHT: I-270 NB will close between Johnstown Rd. and I-670

Detour: I-270 NB to I-670 WB to I-71 NB to I-270

6 AM: All lanes open

All work is weather dependent; it may be postponed or cancelled without prior notice.

The Conversation

Adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census would cost some states their congressional seats

March 18, 2019

Author: Dudley Poston, Professor of Sociology, Texas A&M University

Disclosure statement: Dudley Poston does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Partners: Texas A&M University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.

A partisan battle is brewing over the 2020 census.

In March 2018, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross instructed the U.S. Census Bureau to add a new question to the 2020 questionnaire, asking respondents whether they were citizens of the U.S.

This decision led to a host of legal challenges. Social scientists and many U.S. Census Bureau officials fear that the citizenship question could cause some immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants, not to fill out the questionnaire, out of they fear that the information could be used to arrest or deport them. A test run in Rhode Island suggests that this is likely.

The case has now reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which will decide by June whether the question may be added.

A study I published on Feb. 25 with my former student, Amanda Baumle, now a professor of sociology at the University of Houston, found that adding the citizenship question will likely cause many million people to not respond to the census. That will reduce the official population of some states, leading to political and economic harm.

The census is conducted every 10 years to count the U.S. population. The U.S. Census Bureau then uses these population numbers to determine how the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are distributed. The number of seats that a state receives also determines the size of its delegation to the Electoral College.

In addition, a state’s total population dictates the amount of federal dollars that it receives. In 2015 alone, the federal government used census data to distribute more than US$675 billion to the states. So, it’s to a state’s economic advantage to have all its residents counted in the decennial census.

In our research, we projected the population of each state in 2020, assuming that the states’ annual population growth rates from 2010 to 2017 would continue through to 2020. We then used these data to predict how the U.S. House would be apportioned.

Our work suggests that, in 2020, there should be a net change of nine seats in the U.S. House. Texas should gain three seats; Florida, two; and Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina and Oregon, one. Nine states should lose one seat: Alabama, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia.

However, if a question about citizenship is added in the 2020 census, that changes things. Researchers don’t know how many immigrants might not answer the questionnaire, so we looked at a number of scenarios, from only 10 percent avoiding the census, to all undocumented population doing so.

If all of the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants residing in the U.S. do not respond and are not counted, then four states would lose a seat: Texas, Arizona, Florida and California. Meanwhile, Alabama, Minnesota, Montana and Ohio would gain one.

If 50 percent of the undocumented immigrants do not fill out the census questionnaire, then Texas, Arizona and California would lose a House seat, and Alabama, Minnesota and Montana would gain one.

A citizenship question would also carry an economic cost for some states. Let’s look at Texas, my home state. In 2015, the federal government gave Texas $40 billion. This was based on the size of the Texas population, which numbered over 27 million residents.

Texas stands to lose a great deal, if not the most of any state, if a citizenship question is added. About 1.6 million people in Texas are undocumented. If half a million or more undocumented Texans do not respond to the 2020 census, Texas will lose several billion dollars in federal funds every year starting in 2021.

Republicans generally favor the inclusion of the citizenship question on the 2020 census, while Democrats are arguing against it. But ultimately, if a citizenship question is added, Texas, Arizona and maybe Florida – all states that voted for Trump in 2016 – stand to lose the most. In my opinion, this battle is best left unfought.

Retired coal miner John Robinson uses a nebulizer during his daily breathing treatments for black lung disease on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 in Coeburn, Va. Robinson was 47 when he was diagnosed with black lung disease, part of a new generation of black lung sufferers who are contracting the deadly disease at younger ages. (AP Photo/Dylan Lovan)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2019/03/web1_122533331-cacc38d5eb414be48466ea86d28c4f7c.jpgRetired coal miner John Robinson uses a nebulizer during his daily breathing treatments for black lung disease on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 in Coeburn, Va. Robinson was 47 when he was diagnosed with black lung disease, part of a new generation of black lung sufferers who are contracting the deadly disease at younger ages. (AP Photo/Dylan Lovan)

Dr. Brandon Crum points to the X-ray of a black lung patient at his office in Pikeville, Ky., on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. Crum has seen a wave of younger miners with black lung disease at his clinic since 2015. (AP Photo/Dylan Lovan)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2019/03/web1_122533331-de87604db7c44753ac8d152f08e887df.jpgDr. Brandon Crum points to the X-ray of a black lung patient at his office in Pikeville, Ky., on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. Crum has seen a wave of younger miners with black lung disease at his clinic since 2015. (AP Photo/Dylan Lovan)

Retired coal miner John Robinson displays his mining helmet at his home in Coeburn, Va., on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. Robinson was 47 when he was diagnosed with black lung disease, part of a new generation of black lung sufferers who are contracting the deadly disease at younger ages. (AP Photo/Dylan Lovan)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2019/03/web1_122533331-7b3c0e7072dc4126a5af42181dd6626b.jpgRetired coal miner John Robinson displays his mining helmet at his home in Coeburn, Va., on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. Robinson was 47 when he was diagnosed with black lung disease, part of a new generation of black lung sufferers who are contracting the deadly disease at younger ages. (AP Photo/Dylan Lovan)
News & Views

Staff & Wire Reports