Week in review: May 5

After AHCA passes, the Western senators to watch. Plus a baby bison is born and new rules for oil and gas.


AHCA passes the House

Yesterday the House narrowly approved legislation to repeal and replace major parts of the Affordable Care Act. The Congressional Budget Office still hasn’t scored the American Health Care Act, but a previous version introduced by Republicans was estimated to take away health insurance from at least 24 million Americans. The Washington Post reports a further rundown of what’s at stake, and the New York Times has a helpful graphic that shows how every member of the House voted on the bill. Hospitals, doctors and insurers have criticized the bill.

Want the Western take? Assistant Editor Paige Blankenbuehler wrote this analysis that shows how many Westerner are covered under the current system. Under the ACA, nearly nine million people across the West gained coverage. Editor-in-chief Brian Calvert points to this analysis for what comes next as the legislation moves to Senate.

Protesters hold up signs at a health care rally on January 15. Rallies were held in many cities in advance of President Donald Trump's program that threatens to eliminate the Affordable Care Act.

Western senators to watch as the bill progresses: 
The experts: Orrin Hatch, (R-Utah), member of the Finance Committee; Mike Enzi, (R-Wyoming), member of the Budget Committee; John Barrasso, (R-Wyoming), Senate Republican Policy Committee chairman.
Why: Enzi will be especially important since he will ensure that everything that ends up in the final bill jives with budget reconciliation rules. Barrasso, a doctor, has led the caucus’s anti-Affordable Care Act messaging for years.

Medicaid expanders: Cory Gardner, (R-Colorado); Lisa Murkowski, (R-Alaska); Dean Heller, (R-Nevada); Jeff Flake, (R-Arizona).
Why: These members are from states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, and many of them spoke out against proposed cuts in an early version of the House bill. Heller and Flake are up for reelection next year.

States’ right advocate: Mike Lee, (R-Utah).
Why: Lee, one of the most libertarian senators, thinks the bill is still not conservative enough. He is expected to be a major advocate of states’ rights in the coming debates. 

Senate Republicans can’t lose more than two votes, or the bill dies. 

New rules for oil and gas in Colorado ignite a fight

After a five-year blanket ban, Boulder County, Colorado, has new rules for oil and gas development. Oil and gas industry officials intend to legally challenge the stringent rules, which require extensive public comment periods for all drilling permit applications, the Colorado Independent reports, as part of multi-story collaboration with The Story Group. Meanwhile, local activists oppose the ban being lifted at all, citing health and safety risks. They’re fighting back with tactics including emergency meetings, acts of civil disobedience and meditation. For more coverage, see our story on the fractured terrain of oil and gas opposition

Huh? What? I can’t hear you.

According to a study from scientists at Colorado State University and the U.S. National Park Service, noise pollution from humans is pervasive in protected areas in the United States. Impacts of noise, driven by the expansion of human activities and transportation networks, are encroaching into the furthest reaches of remote areas, according to the study. The cacophony of sounds reduces natural sounds, such as birds chirping, brooks babbling and other essential hubbub that ecosystems depend upon for cues by 50 to 90 percent. “Although plants can’t hear, many animals that disperse seeds or pollinate flowers can hear, and are known to be affected by noise, resulting in indirect impacts on plants,” said Rachel Buxton, lead author of the study. Animals can be scared or distracted, resulting in changes in species composition. 

The first buffalo born on the Wind River Reservation in 130 years stands by its mother near Fort Washakie on Wednesday, May 3. The Wind River Range towers behind, potential habitat for a herd that tribal members hope will some day roam wild and restore lost elements of cultural identity, diet and ceremony.
Angus M. Thuermer Jr./WyoFile

A first in 130 years

On Wednesday, on the Wind River Reservation, a baby bison was born for the first time in 130 years. Return of the bison is part of a larger desire to again see species that were once essential to Plains Indians. Wyofile reports that the cultural significance to the tribal members is large. “The circle was completed with the return of buffalo in November,” said Garrit Voggesser, tribal partnerships director for the National Wildlife Federation. “With the birth of this calf, we recognize that the buffalo’s return wasn’t a finale, but the beginning of a new chapter in bison conservation for the tribes.” 

What’s a Dem to do in the West?

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, writes in The New York Times opinion section about what it takes to win as a left-leaning politician in a red state: “As a Democrat in a red state, I often spend days among crowds where there are almost no Democratic voters in sight. I listen to them, work with them and try to persuade them.” Read it all here.

And, in case you missed it, here’s everything you need to read from hcn.org this week:

Fatal Colorado home explosion reignites drilling safety debate

Interior has yet to meet with Bears Ears tribal leaders

How will Interior respond to Yellowstone harassment?

Police, la migra and the trouble with Trump (also available in spanish)

The wine industry’s battle with climate change

A farm town weighs protections for immigrants

Opinion: Last ride for the West’s iconic trains?

Opinion: Oregon’s monuments need protection from logging

Latest: An appeal court allow Mexican wolf releases in New Mexico

Latest: Dam on Yellowstone River moves ahead

You made it! Now go bury your head in the sand:

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