This is a guest post by Gus Van Harten, professor at the Osgoode Hall Law School and author of Sold Down the Yangtze: Canada's Lopsided Investment Deal with China. This post originally...
After decades of operating with complete disregard for the environment, the dirty energy industry finally has to face the music for destroying the wetlands that form a natural barrier against storm damage in the state of Louisiana.
The suit, filed by the board of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East, claims that the oil and gas industry's irresponsible pipeline placement, drilling, and excavation methods have eroded and polluted vital wetlands in Louisiana.
The New York Times has more:
The board argues that the energy companies, including BP and Exxon Mobil, should be held responsible for fixing damage done by cutting thousands of miles of oil and gas access and pipeline canals through the wetlands. It alleges that the network functioned “as a mercilessly efficient, continuously expanding system of ecological destruction,” killing vegetation, eroding soil and allowing salt water into freshwater areas…
The suit argues that the environmental buffer serves as an essential protection against storms by softening the blow of any incoming hurricane before it gets to the line of levees, flood walls, and gates and pumps maintained and operated by the board. Losing the “natural first line of defense against flooding” means that the levee system is “left bare and ill-suited to safeguard south Louisiana,” the lawsuit says. The “unnatural threat” caused by exploration, it states, “imperils the region’s ecology and its people’s way of life — in short, its very existence.”
The suit alleges that the wetlands, which took more than 6,000 years to form, provide vital protection for the state from the impacts of severe storms, floods, and hurricanes. The degradation caused by the dirty energy industry’s activities leaves the state more vulnerable to the effects of severe weather.
The Republican Governors Association (RGA) along with the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) sent a letter to President Obama today [PDF], telling him that the federal government should abandon a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) proposal to create more transparency for natural gas fracking operations.
The proposal that the RGA and RAGA are referring to was first pitched earlier this year, and would require fracking companies who operate on federal or Native American lands to disclose the chemicals used in the fracking process. A loophole in the proposal allows companies to disclose after the fracking process has already begun, meaning that there are no requirements for disclosure prior to drilling.
But even such lax standards are too much for the dirty energy industry’s friends, and they believe that the federal government is overstepping its bounds on the matter. From their letter:
As Democrats crawl out from their election night hangovers, still riding the high of President Barack Obama’s re-election victory, it appears that a reality check is due. Obama might have won the election, but the battle was won by the dirty energy industry.
Sure, the industry went all-in on Republican nominee Mitt Romney, showering him with almost $5 million, compared to a paltry $705,000 to Obama in 2012. But the industry knew better than to put all of their eggs in one basket, and they received a massive return on their investment in the down ballot races, particularly those for the U.S. House of Representatives.
According to OpenSecrets.org, the top 20 House candidates who received money from the dirty energy industry were all members of the Republican Party. Together, these 20 Republican candidates received more than $3.6 million from the industry.
With only a few weeks left for American voters to decide between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, more and more attention is being paid to the candidates’ respective energy policies.
We’ve reported in recent months that Mitt Romney has stacked his energy team of advisors with dirty energy industry insiders and lobbyists, which gives us an idea of how he would run the country. With Obama, we have the benefit of using the past as an example of what to expect in the future.
But both candidates are now in a position where their current proposals and policy ideas are being shown to the public, so let’s break down what each presidential candidate says they will do with regards to energy and the environment, if elected.
Think Progress has put together a great side-by-side comparison of the two candidates, which gives us a very clear picture of where each candidate would take the country:
The U.S. National Park System currently encompasses more than 84 million acres of land in the United States, and if oil-funded politicians in Washington, D.C. get their way, those millions of protected acres could soon become the playground for the dirty energy industry.
According to a new report by the Center for American Progress (CAP), oil and gas drilling is already taking place in at least 12 areas designated as “national parks” by the U.S. Department of Interior, with as many as 30 more being considered for drilling.
CAP’s chart below shows us where drilling is occurring, or could likely occur in the near future:
Since President Obama took office, industry-funded think tanks and faux grassroots organizations, along with oil-friendly politicians have been collectively demanding to know “where are the jobs?” And with last month’s jobs report showing an increase in the U.S. unemployment rate (even though there was a net job gain for the month, making 28 consecutive months of private sector job growth) it would be unwise for any politician seeking national office to attack programs to put Americans back to work. But Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is doing exactly that.
On the campaign trail recently, Romney took a few jabs at Obama, claiming that the president has an “unhealthy obsession with green jobs,” a claim that numerous media outlets are warning will not resonate well with the American public.
The Associated Press points out, as we mentioned last week, that Romney’s energy plan (which is being guided by industry insiders) would cut tax breaks for renewable energy sources like wind energy, while expanding tax breaks for oil companies. AP also noted that the American public, by a two-to-one margin, favor renewable energy over fossil fuels, showing that Romney’s positions go against the majority of Americans.
While most media outlets have only given cursory attention to Romney’s comments about Obama’s alleged “obsession” with green jobs, it's not a remark that should be taken lightly. In fact, it tells us a lot about what we can expect from Romney should he win the presidency.
About the only positive thing you can say about industry-funded astroturf groups is that they at least base their misinformation campaigns on phony “studies” and “reports.” Their lies are based on SOMETHING.
The same cannot be said of Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich, who has come up with a whopper based on absolutely nothing. Kasich recently told the press that his state of Ohio is sitting on top of $1 trillion worth of natural gas that’s just ripe for fracking.
Obviously, this would be quite an economic boom for not just Ohio, but the entire United States. The only problem is that, again, Kasich isn’t basing his estimate on any studies, reports, documents, surveys, or anything even remotely credible. It appears that Kasich is telling reporters that this trillion dollar bonanza number is what he overheard from members of the natural gas industry.
With a straight face, Republican Senator Scott Brown told a crowd in Massachusetts this week that “oil companies don’t get subsidies” from the federal government. Brown tells us that, just like other companies, they are able to “take deductions,” but nothing more.
The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) was quick to jump on the story, compiling an astounding array of information that proves that Scott Brown is either the most misinformed member of Congress when it comes to subsidies, or that he’s a plain old liar. From an LCV press release:
Experts say oil company tax credits are essentially the same as direct spending subsidies. In a May 5, 2011 article, the Center for American Progress noted: “[T]he tax code is stuffed with a host of subsidies for oil and gas. These subsidies are delivered through the tax code but they are essentially no different from government spending programs that provide money directly.” Additionally, citing nonpartisan organizations including the Tax Policy Center and Pew Charitable Trusts, Media Matters for America documented in an April 10 article that “experts say that [oil industry tax] incentives – legally categorized as tax expenditures – have effects similar to more direct cash transfers from the government.” The Tax Policy Center stated that “Tax expenditures operate essentially like direct expenditures, even though they appear as tax breaks.” Pew’s SubsidyScope.org website stated: “Tax expenditures have a similar effect on the federal deficit as government spending. They can also have effects on recipients that are similar to grants or other types of subsidies.” [Center for American Progress, 5/5/11; Media Matters for America, 4/10/12].
Prominent members of Scott Brown’s own party recognize that tax expenditures are subsidies. In a March 28 article, Think Progress documented that “Numerous Republican leaders have noted that a tax break is the same as a direct government [payment] or subsidy, in a different form. This includes President Ronald Reagan’s chief economic advisor, Martin Feldstein, former Senate Budget Committee Chair Pete Domenici (R-NM), House Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Camp (R-MI), and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH).” Think Progress included quotes for each of these Republicans in the article. [Think Progress, 3/28/12].
Not only does the oil industry receive subsidies from the federal government, but as the LCV points out, earlier this year, Scott Brown actually voted against repealing the subsidies for the oil industry, that are currently costing U.S. taxpayers as much as $7 billion a year.
FreedomWorks, the sister organization to the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity (AFP), has launched a new website and advertising campaign to convince American voters that the Obama administration and the EPA are out to destroy American jobs.
FreedomWorks has been instrumental in creating the Tea Party in America, bankrolling the so-called “grassroots” group and fueling their hatred against the Obama administration by spreading false information. In addition to early funding from the Kochs, FreedomWorks (formerly called Citizens for a Sound Economy) has also received funding from the tobacco industry.
The advertising campaign is prevalent on Facebook, with the ad seen above appearing on numerous user pages. But there’s a problem with the current ad – FreedomWorks didn’t take the time to check their work, resulting in the ad directing interested users to an invalid web address. Clicking on the Facebook link takes you to “EPAKillJobs.com,” instead of “EPAKillsJobs.com.” There’s no telling how many confused conservatives attempted to visit the site, only to receive an error message.