Mitch McConnell

Mother Nature Braces For Republican Environmental Onslaught

With evidence of climate change all around us — floods, droughts, super-storms — it would make sense that now would be the time for our elected leaders to start taking the threat of climate change seriously. Sadly, the opposite is taking place in the United States, and Republicans are leading the charge to completely dismantle the few environmental protections that are in place.

This multi-faceted attack is coming from both state governors and members of Congress, and includes attacks on federal agencies and rules.

Has "King Coal" Been De-Throned?

The coal industry is dying, and they are desperately trying to place the blame for their impending doom on someone other than themselves. The world around them is changing, and the industry is absolutely terrified of change.

New Senate Majority Puts Keystone XL At The Top Of To-Do List

The Republican Party now controls the legislative branch of the U.S. government, but even before they were sworn in, they had made their priorities for the country clear. They want the Keystone XL Pipeline to become a reality.

Republican Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming appeared on Meet The Press to push the pipeline by quoting misleading and dishonest industry talking points: “[Obama’s] own State Department said it’s 42,000 new jobs…He’s going to have to decide between jobs and the extreme supporters of not having the pipeline.”

Barrasso is playing fast and loose with the facts here. As we pointed out years ago, the job numbers used to sell the pipeline are completely fabricated. For example, his claim that the State Department estimates 42,000 jobs from the pipeline has no basis in reality. The State Department has said that the pipeline will only create about 35 permanent U.S. jobs.

The 42,000 number that Barrasso is throwing around is based on the total number of direct and indirect permanent and temporary jobs that are estimated to be created by the pipeline. Almost all of these jobs would disappear within the span of 2 years.

But even if the 42,000 figure were accurate, it isn’t a substantial gain for the United States. According to The Washington Post, the U.S. economy adds an average of 50,000 new jobs every single week, so an $8 billion pipeline that traverses some of the most delicate environmental areas of the country is hardly worth the economic and environmental costs.

Gulf-Bound Tar Sands for Export? Follow the Oiltanking Trail

The U.S. Senate failed to get the necessary 60 votes to approve the northern leg of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline, but incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) already promised it will get another vote when the GOP-dominated Senate begins its new session in 2015.

Though the bill failed, one of the key narratives that arose during the congressional debate was the topic of whether or not the tar sands product that may flow through it will ultimately be exported to the global market. President Barack Obama, when queried by the press about the latest Keystone congressional action, suggested tar sands exports are the KXL line's raison d'etre.

Obama's comments struck a nerve. Bill sponsor U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and supporter U.S. Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) both stood on the Senate floor and said Keystone XL is not an export pipeline in the minutes leading up to the bill's failure.

“Contrary to the ranting of some people that this is for export…Keystone is not for export,” said Landrieu, with Hoeven making similar remarks.

But a DeSmog probe into a recent merger of two major oil and gas industry logistics and marketing companies, Oiltanking Partners and Enterprise Products Partners, has demonstrated key pieces of the puzzle are already being put together by Big Oil to make tar sands exports a reality. 

And both Keystone XL and Enbridge's “Keystone XL Clone” serve as key thoroughfares for making it happen.

Prosecution of Don Blankenship a Historic Moment for Coal Industry

This week's indictment of former Massey Energy CEO, Don Blankenship, was as much a political turning point for West Virginia as it was a moment of reckoning economically for the coal industry writ large. It marked the wane of one of America's last great robber barons and yet another ominous warning for the country's dirtiest and deadliest of fossil fuels.

The decision represented a political shot across the bow by a smart, dogged and politically ambitious US attorney, R. Booth Goodwin II. For several years now, Goodwin has systematically worked his way up Massey’s hierarchy, convicting not only low-level supervisors, but also executives higher and higher within the corporate hierarchy. Goodwin has based his prosecutions on conspiracy charges rather than on violations of specific health and safety regulations, which means he can reach further up into the corporate structure.

Goodwin's pursuit of Blankenship was politically daring — and, if the indictment is to be trusted — based on solid evidence. But it was also a welcome development for the state's democrats since for over a decade Blankenship had single-handedly dismantled the mine workers union and bank-rolled a resurgent GOP movement in the state, altering the make-up of the state Supreme Court and funneling funds to astro-turf 501c drives for pet issues like “tort reform”.

More than anything, though, the indictment was a small vindication for the families of the 29 men who died at the Upper Big Branch mine on April 5, 2010 in the worst explosion of the past 40 years. But the incident, a range of investigators concluded, was less an accident and more the outcome of deliberate wrongdoing by Massey.

Republicans in Congress Seek to Crush the Environmental Protection Agency

A week after their electoral victories in the 2014 midterms, Senate Republicans have already set their sights on one of their all-time favorite targets: the Environmental Protection Agency.

Republican Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who will become the Senate majority leader when the 2015 Congress convenes, announced last week that one of his main goals was to “rein in” the EPA. One of the main items that McConnell has problems with is the agency’s power plant emissions standards that would cut down on the amount of allowable air pollution from coal-fired power plants.

McConnell said that he feels a “deep responsibility” to stop these power plant rules.

McConnell ran his campaign on an anti-environment, pro-coal platform, playing up Kentucky’s fears that the EPA’s policies would kill jobs in the coal-dependent state. McConnell’s challenger, Democratic candidate Alison Grimes, could have easily challenged those talking points, but failed to do so.

Nevertheless, the facts are there, and the coal industry has had a devastating effect on Kentucky, as I previously reported:

Senate Republicans Go All In On Keystone XL

Six years have passed since TransCanada originally sought a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, and Republicans in Washington have not given up fighting for the project. In spite of the fact that the pipeline will create fewer than 40 permanent jobs; would pose serious risks to potable water supplies; and would potentially raise energy prices for American consumers, some of our elected officials still believe that the pipeline would be a boon for the United States.

In the last week, the Republican-led efforts to force President Obama to approve the disaster of a plan have reached a fevered pitch. To begin with, to mark the 6th anniversary of the original permit application, every single Republican in the U.S. Senate signed a letter to President Obama demanding that he take action and approve the pipeline.

In the letter, Republican Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) played on the fears of American citizens while trying to force an approval. Hoeven wrote“After more than six years of study, five favorable environmental reviews, numerous polls showing the support of the American people, ISIS and the turmoil in the Middle East, it is way past time we take off the blinders and do what is in the best interest of the United States: approve the Keystone XL pipeline.”   

Not to be outdone, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made an appeal to the American public (and the dirty energy industry) by making the bold claim that, if Republicans gain control of the Senate in this year’s midterm elections, the Keystone XL pipeline will be one of their top priorities. McConnell claimed, “If we have a new majority next year, and a new majority leader, the Keystone pipeline will be voted on on the floor of the Senate, something the current majority has been avoiding for literally years.”

Even before the anniversary of the application, Senate Republicans were hard at work trying to force the project’s approval. A few days before they sent a letter to the President, Senate Republicans (and a West Virginia Democrat) introduced a bill that would strip the President of his authority to approve pipeline projects, and would limit the review period by the State Department down to 120 days. According to The Hill, the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed a similar bill back in June.

NRDC Action Fund Working To Hold Climate Change Deniers Accountable

Before members of Congress departed Washington, D.C. for their month-long August recess, senators attempted one final vote on a resolution that did nothing more than state that the Senate accepts the science on climate change.  Noted science-denying Republican James Inhofe blocked the resolution, which required a unanimous vote by Senators in order to pass.

Thus, the resolution failed, but not before Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse issued a stirring rebuttal to Inhofe’s claims of climate change being a hoax:

While a few people like Senator Whitehouse are fighting the good fight from inside the system itself, they still need help from the outside in order to hold climate change deniers and environmental polluters accountable.  The NRDC Action Fund has stepped in to back them up this summer.

While members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate are out campaigning during their recess, the NRDC Action Fund has launched a “Dirty Denier$” campaign that will feature a different member of Congress every day. 

U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Backing Mitch McConnell, Other Coal Candidates In 2014

Republican Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell is facing an uphill battle for reelection in next year’s midterms.  But luckily for McConnell, his powerful allies in the dirty energy industry have deep pockets and are willing to shower his campaign with cash to help increase his chances of victory.

Over the last year, McConnell has been described as “the most unpopular Senator,” and in the last few months his approval rating has fallen to the mid-30’s.  He is currently trailing Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes by 2 percentage points in polls. 

McConnell’s allies in the business community, specifically the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, released an ad earlier this week touting McConnell’s commitment to the coal industry, and attacking the so-called “war on coal” coming from the Obama Administration.  Here is the ad:

According to 350.org, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is funded, at least in part, by a number of dirty energy companies.  This helps explain their willingness to use the “war on coal” as a tool to aid in McConnell’s reelection.

Beginning of The End for Big Oil’s Billion Dollar Subsidies?

Democratic Senator Bob Menendez (N.J.) has introduced legislation in the U.S. Senate to kill, once and for all, the billions of dollars worth of subsidies that are flowing from the federal government to the oil industry.

Under Menendez’s proposal, the $4 billion annual corporate welfare handed out to oil companies would instead be used to pay down the federal deficit and be re-invested into renewable energy technology.

Given the Republicans’ history of fighting for the oil industry and their subsidies, you would expect this bill to be dead on arrival. However, in an odd combination of arrogance and ignorance, Senate Republicans actually sided with Democrats in a vote to move the bill onto the floor for debate.

Republicans currently believe that any issue involving gas and oil is a home run for their party, so they’re banking on the issue actually helping them out, politically. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following statement about the issue:
  

“We’re going to use this opportunity to explain how out of touch Democrats are on high gas prices, and put a spotlight on the common-sense ideas Republicans have been urging for years – ideas that reflect our genuine commitment to the kind of all-of-the-above approach the President claims to support but doesn’t.”
 

McConnell’s comment demonstrates both the arrogance and ignorance of the Republican Party on the issue of gas prices.

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