National briefs: Feds defend regs for coal

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WASHINGTON — Proposed federal carbon rules won’t kill the coal industry, a top Environmental Protection Agency official insisted Thursday during a congressional hearing on carbon pollution.

But Republican lawmakers from mining regions told Janet McCabe, EPA acting assistant administrator for the office of air and radiation, that they aren’t so sure.

It was the first congressional hearing on a proposed rule to require a 30-percent reduction in carbon emissions from power plants by 2030 but allows states flexibility to create their own plans to meet the goal.

Air security fees to rise

WASHINGTON — Airline passengers are about to pay more for security screening.

Following orders from Congress, the Transportation Security Administration is poised to raise the fee to $5.60 each way. That’s up from $2.50 each way for a nonstop flight and $5 for a trip including connections. Trips with long stopovers — more than four hours on most domestic travel — will have bigger increases because each leg will trigger a new fee.

The proposed changes will be published Friday in the Federal Register and take effect 30 days later.

VA wait list grows

WASHINGTON — Tens of thousands more veterans than previously reported are forced to wait at least a month for medical appointments at Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics, according to an updated audit of 731 Veterans Affairs medical facilities released Thursday.

The updated audit includes new figures showing that the wait times actually experienced at most VA facilities were shorter than those on waiting lists for pending appointments. For instance, new patients at the Atlanta VA hospital waited about an average of 44 days for an appointment in April, the new report said. But the average wait for pending appointments at Atlanta was 66 days.

Obamacare surveyed

WASHINGTON — Most people who signed up under President Barack Obama’s health care law rate their new insurance highly, but a substantial number are struggling with the cost, according to a poll released Thursday.

The survey from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation provides findings that both sides in the health care debate can seize on. It’s an ambitious look at people who buy their coverage individually; they’re the ones most affected by the Affordable Care Act.

Free speech protected

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court shielded public employees from being punished or fired if they testify in court against their superiors, ruling unanimously Thursday that the First Amendment protects those who tell the truth and reveal corruption.

Such testimony is “speech as a citizen for First Amendment purposes” and deserves to be protected, the court said.

The ruling revives a lawsuit by Edward Lane, a former Alabama community college official. He testified against an influential state legislator who was drawing a paycheck from the college but doing no work. After his testimony, he was fired.

Also in the nation ...

A ride nicknamed “Goliath” and billed as the world's fastest wooden roller coaster went into operation on Thursday at Six Flags Great America amusement park in Gurnee, Ill. ... Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers announced a deal Thursday that would allow limited access to medical marijuana and make New York the 23rd U.S. state to offer some kind of availability of the drug for therapeutic purposes.

— Compiled from news services


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