Nation roundup for March 1


GAO report: Too few pilots or too little pay?

WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation’s regional airlines are having trouble hiring enough pilots, the government says, suggesting one reason may be that they simply don’t pay enough.

A pool of qualified pilots is available, but it’s unclear whether they are willing to work for low entry-level wages, the Government Accountability Office said in a report released Friday.

One key economic indicator supports the emergence of a shortage, something regional airlines have complained of and point to as a reason for limiting service to some small communities. But two other indicators suggest the opposite is true, GAO said. Also, two studies reviewed by the GAO “point to the large number of qualified pilots that exist, but may be working abroad, in the military or in another occupation, as evidence that there is adequate supply,” the report said.

The U.S. airline industry will need to hire 1,900 to 4,500 new pilots annually over the next 10 years due to an expected surge in retirements of pilots reaching age 65 and increased demand for air travel, the report said.

Eleven out of 12 regional airlines failed to meet their hiring targets for entry-level pilots last year, the report said. However, no major airlines were experiencing problems finding pilots.

Regional carriers account for about half of all domestic airline flights. One big concern is that communities served only by regional airlines will see their service reduce or eliminated. Five regional airlines told GAO they are already limiting service because of a pilot shortage.

Major airlines generally pay significantly higher salaries than regional carriers and frequently hire pilots from regionals. The average starting salary for first officers, also called co-pilots, at regional airlines is $22,400 a year, according to the Air Line Pilots Association.

State-run websites receive health law fix

WASHINGTON (AP) — States that have experienced technical problems running their own health care enrollment websites are getting some help from the Obama administration.

The administration quietly issued a health law fix Thursday to help those states. Several Democratic-led states, including Oregon, Maryland, Massachusetts and Hawaii, are still trying to solve website problems that have eclipsed those experienced earlier by the federal HealthCare.gov site, now largely repaired.

Although the new policy fix is available to any state, Republican governors basically defaulted to federal control of online sign-ups in their states.

Those who stand to benefit the most are Democratic governors who plunged ahead and ran into problems. Some are facing sharp criticism at home, from both sides of the political aisle.

“Today’s news means that many more Oregonians will be able to access better coverage at a more affordable cost,” said Oregon Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber, whose state is near the bottom on enrollments.

Kitzhaber announced the change after the federal Health and Human Services Department posted it on one of its websites without further elaboration.

HHS said state residents who were unable to sign up because of technical problems may still get federal tax credits if they bought private insurance outside of the new online insurance exchanges.

The federal policy change is significant because until now the administration has stressed that the only place to get taxpayer-subsidized insurance under President Barack Obama’s health law is through the new online markets, called exchanges.

Wyoming top in CO2 amid new regulations

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Turns out the worst state for carbon dioxide emissions per person isn’t smoggy California or bustling New York, but a place famous for its big, clear skies: Wyoming.

But regulating greenhouse gases is a touchy subject in the least-populated state, which just recently received U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approval to do so. Wyoming also is the top coal-mining state by far, producing almost 40 percent of the nation’s coal. Burning coal to generate electricity produces large amounts of CO2 — in Wyoming, across the U.S., and in the Far Eastern countries where state officials have sought to open up new coal markets.

Gov. Matt Mead made such a trip to Taiwan and South Korea last year. Meanwhile, he’s called EPA efforts to curtail greenhouse emissions a “war on coal” and said at a recent forum he’s skeptical about man-made climate change.

“What he also says is we do have a responsibility to always do things better,” Mead spokesman Renny MacKay said Thursday.

Other states with high per-capita CO2 emissions included North Dakota, at about 78 metric tons per person, followed by Alaska (53) and West Virginia (52).

Vermont, California and Connecticut had the fewest emissions per person, all with just above 9 metric tons per capita.

 

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