Yellowstone oil spills fuel arguments over Keystone line BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Oil pipeline accidents have become increasingly frequent in the U.S. as Congress pushes for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. An Associated Press review of government accident records shows their numbers growing each year since 2009, reversing a decade-long declining trend. Keystone would pass near where 30,000 gallons of crude spilled into Montana's Yellowstone River earlier this month. The recent breach temporarily fouled a city's water supply and became the latest in a string of spills to highlight ongoing problems with maintenance of the nation's crude pipeline network. Yet in the politically charged debate over Keystone, its detractors aren't the only ones seizing on the Yellowstone spill. So are lawmakers who support the project including Montana Senator Steve Daines. He says Keystone would be safer than older pipelines like the one that broke.
Retirees ask Nebraska senators to expand income tax cuts LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska's civilian and military retirees are once again asking lawmakers for tax breaks, saying a package approved last year didn't go far enough. The groups argued their case Wednesday as the Revenue Committee examined three proposed tax exemptions for Social Security benefits and military retirement pay. One measure would provide a tax exemption to Nebraskans who are at least 65 years old. Another would give tax breaks to military retirees who live in Nebraska while working and collecting retirement income. A third would phase out Nebraska's tax on Social Security income. Senators are expected to focus on property taxes this year, but the committee chairman, Sen. Mike Gloor of Grand Island, says senators could also make changes to income tax exemptions. The bills are LB63, LB165 and LB267.
Cigar shop bill advances to debate in Nebraska Legislature LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A bill to allow smoking in designated cigar shops will be debated by the full Nebraska Legislature. The General Affairs committee voted 7-0 Wednesday to advance the measure, with one senator abstaining. The measure by Senator Tyson Larson of O'Neill would exclude cigar shops from the 2008 Nebraska Clean Indoor Air Act, which aimed to protect citizens from secondhand smoke. Until last August, indoor smoking was allowed in cigar bars, hotel guest rooms and tobacco-only retailers. In August, the Nebraska Supreme Court struck down the exceptions for cigar shops and retailers as unconstitutional. Larson's bill would reinstate the exception for cigar shops under the justification that patrons and employees enter the smoky environments by choice.
Nebraska's Sasse to lead US Senate agriculture subcommittee OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska Republican Ben Sasse has been named chairman of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Livestock, Marketing, and Agriculture Security. A news release Wednesday announcing the appointment says the subcommittee has jurisdiction over livestock issues, agricultural marketing programs, pest and disease management, agriculture security and dairy programs. Sasse said Nebraska leads the country in red meat production and he looks forward to "standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Nebraska's producers as we promote responsible policy and keep the future of agriculture strong."
2 men injured after Scottsbluff cell phone tower collapse SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. (AP) — Two men were transported to the hospital after getting trapped under a collapsed cell phone tower near Scottsbluff. The Star-Herald reports the two were trapped under a Viaero Wireless tower that collapsed Wednesday. The Scottsbluff Fire Department responded to the scene. Scottsbluff Fire Chief Dana Miller says responders were told one man fell about 10 feet, and the other fell more than 20 feet in the collapse. The tower is currently under construction. Miller says the collapse occurred while the area was under a wind advisory. In a prepared statement, Viaero Executive Vice President Mike Felicissimo says a wind gust caused a section of the tower to shift. He says one man injured his leg and the other had shoulder pain, but both are doing well and receiving treatment.
Nebraska village clerk accused of altering, cashing checks KEARNEY, Neb. (AP) — A central Nebraska village clerk has been accused of altering checks and cashing them to pay off a credit card. KRVN-AM reports the Buffalo County Sherriff's Office arrested 49-year-old Wendy Stephens Tuesday. Stephens is the village clerk in Elm Creek. According to an affidavit, a Village of Elm Creek audit revealed up to six checks believed to have been altered. The checks totaled more than $10,500 and were written from April to September. Stephens' attorney did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment. Stephens is being held on $2,000 cash bond. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for February 10th.
3 Omaha residents suspected in Iowa, Nebraska cattle thefts OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Authorities say three Omaha residents are suspected of stealing cattle from western Iowa and northeast Nebraska. Fifty-seven-year-old Ervin Jacob is being held on three Iowa theft counts. Forty-nine-year-old James Brunzo is charged in two of the thefts and 42-year-old Amy Springer is charged in a search warrant with one Iowa theft. Jacob and Brunzo are in custody, but Springer is still at large. Online court records don't list attorneys for any of them. Sheriff Darby McLaren in Cass County, Iowa, says they have been linked to May and June thefts from two farms in his county. In Nebraska, Cuming County sheriff's Sergeant Dave Brown says the three are "people of interest" in the thefts of the trailer and nine animals. Court records don't show that they've been charged in Nebraska.
Officials catch man with thousands of pot pills in Nebraska LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska authorities say they caught a 31-year-old Minnesota man with nearly 30,000 marijuana pills in a U-Haul trailer attached to his car. Lancaster County Sheriff Terry Wagner says police noticed on Tuesday that Ryan Scott Cooper, of Plymouth, Minnesota, didn't have a license plate on the front of his car when he was getting gas at a station in Lincoln. He says a police dog then signaled the smell of drugs coming from the attached trailer. Officials say they searched the trailer and found 29,400 capsules filled with cannabis oil and 322 Adderall pills, along with other drugs and equipment to make the oil. The Lincoln Journal Star reports Cooper was arrested on suspicion of breaking four drug laws, including two felonies. An attorney for Cooper couldn't be located.
Creighton snaps 9-game skid, beats St. John's 77-74 OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Toby Hegner had 21 points, James Milliken nailed a pair of late 3-pointers and Creighton snapped a nine-game skid, beating St. John's 77-74 on Wednesday night. Hegner made a pair of free throws with 12 seconds left to put Creighton (10-12, 1-8 Big East) up 75-72. D'Angelo Harrison's missed a 3-point attempt going the other way and Amar Alibegovic grabbed the offensive rebound. Alibegovic elected for two points with a 15-foot jumper, leaving St. John's (13-7, 2-5) down by one with four seconds. Hegner made both free throws for Creighton with 2.3 seconds and Harrison missed a 25-footer off the back of the rim at the buzzer. Millikin scored nine of his 17 points in the final 3:15, starting with a 3-pointer that gave Creighton the lead for good at 65-62. Harrison had 18 points to lead the Red Storm. Jamal Branch added 17 but fouled out with 2:43 left.
South Dakota State routs Omaha 86-64 BROOKINGS, S.D. (AP) — Deondre Parks scored a career-best 26 points as South Dakota State routed Omaha 86-64 Wednesday night. Parks finished with 7-of-8 shooting from the field — including 5-of-5 from 3-point range — for the Jackrabbits (16-7, 7-2 Summit League). Jake Bittle added 21 points and seven rebounds and Cody Larson had 15 points and seven rebounds. The team hit 56.5 percent from the field overall — including 10 of 20 (50 percent) from distance — and 82.8 percent from the line. Parks sank a trio of 3-pointers early in the first period, helping the Jackrabbits to a 23-10 lead. They were up 41-31 at the break. A Larson dunk made it 50-33 early in the second half and a Skyler Flatten 3-pointer with 11:43 left extended the Jackrabbits' lead to 62-41 and they cruised to the win. Mike Rostampour led the Mavericks (8-12, 2-6) with 18 points and 11 boards.
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