Farron Cousins

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Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer magazine, and his writings have appeared in publications such as California's Information Press and Pensacola's Independent Weekly.  He has also worked for the Ring of Fire radio program with hosts Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Mike Papantonio since August 2004, and is currently the producer of the program, in charge of guest booking, research, and scripting the week's show.  Farron also runs Mike Papantonio's publishing company - Seville Publishing. Farron received his bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of West Florida in 2005 and became a member of American MENSA in 2009.  Follow him on Twitter @farronbalanced.

New Jersey Environmental Group Targets Anti-Environment Legislators With New Ad Campaign

Environment New Jersey has announced an aggressive new online advertising campaign to hold so-called “environment-friendly” state representatives accountable for their anti-environmental voting records. At issue are three representatives’ votes regarding a bill that would delay the clean up of toxic waste sites.

From Environment New Jersey’s press release:

The House of Representatives approved the “TRAIN” Act, which would indefinitely delay the clean-up of toxic power plant pollution; another bill (H.R. 2681) that prevents clean air standards that lower mercury and other toxic air pollution from cement plants; and a bill (H.R. 2250) that would prevents standards to reduce toxic pollution from industrial incinerators and boilers at power plants.


The “TRAIN” Act alone, if passed, could result in 139,500 lives lost due to smog, soot, and toxic air pollution. In New Jersey, it could result in over 3,200 lives lost due to air pollution. The health benefits delivered by the incinerator and boiler standards are as high as $54 billion annually, and the health benefits from cement standards will be as high as $18 billion annually.

All of these bills were voted on the heels of an Environment New Jersey report, “Danger in the Air,” that found New Jersey’s air to be some of the smoggiest in the country. The findings included that the North Jersey metropolitan area, including New York and Connecticut, ranked as the 5th smoggiest metropolitan area in the country this past summer.

The three state congressmen specifically targeted by the ads are Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7), Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-2) and Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11). All three men claim to be friends of the environment, or at least boast of a moderate record on environmental issues, but their votes for the TRAIN Act prove otherwise.

Robert Bryce – The Media’s Industry-Funded Go-To Guy

Robert Bryce, a fellow at the dirty industry-funded Manhattan Institute, is under increasing scrutiny as media outlets continue to use him as an “expert” on energy issues without disclosing his ties to the energy industry. DeSmogBlog’s Brendan DeMelle has written several pieces on Bryce’s connections to the industry, as well as how media outlets, including the New York Times, continue to allow Bryce to write op-eds on energy issues that are laden with fallacies without disclosing his conflict of interest.

From Brendan’s previous reports on Bryce’s New York Times piece:

Bryce penned an op-ed attacking renewable energy while promoting nuclear and fracked shale gas, with no disclosure in his byline about the Manhattan Institute’s fossil fuel clients. I offered Bryce's piece as an example in order to formally seek answers about the disclosure policy at the Times and whether it was adequate in light of the failure to disclose Bryce’s dirty energy backing.

Now Media Matters has done a fantastic job of detailing the numerous media outlets that are allowing the industry hack Bryce to pen his agenda-driven drivel, as well as uncovering where his group's funding is coming from:

New Federal Report Says Gulf of Mexico Cleanup Needed “Urgently”

A preliminary report released Wednesday by the federal Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force says that cleanup is needed for the Gulf of Mexico “urgently,” in order to protect the environmental and economical status of the Gulf.

The task force was established by President Obama after the oil disaster in the Gulf last summer, and is set to deliver a final report on the status of the Gulf of Mexico, as well as a restoration strategy for Gulf Coast states to implement in order to save the region. The goals set forward by the task force include conserving habitats along the Gulf Coast, improving water quality, protecting coastal resources, and enhancing the resilience of coastal communities.

Oil Lobbyists Targeting “Super Committee”

As the so-called “Super Committee” works to figure out how to trim $1.2 trillion from the U.S. government’s federal deficit, the dirty energy industry has their lobbyists working overtime to make sure that their billions of dollars in annual subsidies aren’t among the items on the chopping block.

The Super Committee only has until Thanksgiving to submit their proposals to President Obama. And not being ones to miss an opportunity, members on the committee have scheduled dozens of personal fundraisers for their campaigns before that deadline hits. And many of the companies who fear that their subsidies could be cut will be in attendance. After all, the lobbyist blitz contains more than 180 former staffers of members of the Super Committee, so access is not an issue, and no introductions will be necessary.

The New York Times lays out the issue as follows:
  

Hundreds of lobbyists, including many former Congressional officials and frequent campaign contributors, are making their cases to the committee members.

Ethanol fuel producers, oil companies, corporate jet owners and many other businesses want the committee to guard their own special tax breaks.

“Everybody’s at risk,” said Howard Marlowe, president of the American League of Lobbyists, “and so everyone’s going to be out there lobbying.”

With the lobbying, of course, come valuable campaign contributions. Despite calls from watchdog groups to suspend their fund-raising, most committee members are continuing to raise money from many of the same industries affected by their work.
 

BP Oil Dispersant Corexit Contained Cancer-Causing Agents

A new report on the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster of 2010 is providing adequate cause for concern for residents and clean up workers along the Gulf Coast. The report from EarthJustice reveals that Corexit, the oil dispersant used by BP to aid in oil cleanup, is laden with cancer-causing chemicals.

The dispersant Corexit was dumped into the oil-stained waters of the Gulf of Mexico to help the oil coagulate and sink to the sea floor. Once the oil clumps reached the bottom, it was believed that they would disintegrate into the water, no longer posing a threat to marine life. But as EarthJustice’s report shows, the threat lingered.

An estimated 1.8 million gallons of Corexit were dumped into the Gulf of Mexico in an attempt to displace the 206 million gallons of oil that spewed from a broken well-head on the Gulf floor. And while the dispersant itself was ruled to be less toxic than the oil, the study suggests that the combination mixture of crude oil and dispersant poses a significantly greater threat to both the environment and marine life than either substance on its own. The EPA says that studies have been done on some of the 57 chemical agents found in dispersants, but they also acknowledge that no long term studies have been conducted on the exposure to these chemicals in quantities as large as were poured into the Gulf.

Michele Bachmann Envisions a World Without Food Industry Safety Standards

Republican Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann believes that the government needs to stay out of the business of protecting the foods we eat. At a campaign stop this week, she told her supporters that food suppliers are “overburdened” by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations. She informed the crowd that, yes, we need safety, but more importantly, we also need what she calls “common sense.”

Bachmann is joining in the chorus of conservative voices railing against “burdensome” regulations, but she is among the first to make the claim in regards to the food industry. Last December, Bachmann was one of the few members of Congress to vote against legislation that would have protected consumers by increasing the oversight of the food processing industry, a move that she claims would cause producers to spend more on safety and less on creating new jobs.

Bachmann was joined in her crusade against food safety standards last year by the conservative Heritage Foundation. Heritage went on the offensive last year when Congress debated legislation to increase food industry safety standards. Heritage claimed that regulation will never work, and that the free market has built in mechanisms that weed out any bad eggs who produce substandard goods:

Market forces such as competition, brand-name value, monitoring by financial markets and insurers, and common law are also powerful drivers of food safety. There are bad actors in every pursuit, of course, but considering the sheer size of the market, Americans enjoy a remarkably safe food system.

Global Financial Leaders Recommend Cutting Fossil Fuel Subsidies

Global financial institutions including the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have released a new set of recommendations for G20 countries to meet their goal of providing $100 billion a year in aid for developing nations to combat climate change. In addition to calls for charges on carbon emissions and higher prices for carbon-intensive fuels, the financial experts said the first source of funding should come from redirecting fossil fuel subsidies.

In a move that will surely leave the dirty energy industry in a fit of rage, global economists said that fossil fuel subsidies should be cut and redirected towards helping developing nations fight climate change. The total amount spent on industry subsidies for G20 countries is currently $60 billion a year, more than half of what the countries have pledged to spend per year on climate initiatives and renewable energy projects.

From The Huffington Post:
  

The draft paper says the starting point should be a review of fossil fuel subsidies, amounting to $40 billion to $60 billion a year. But many of those subsidies are handed out in poor countries, where people living on the edge of subsistence need help, for example, to buy cooking gas. Still, subsidy reforms in industrialized countries and emerging economies could contribute $10 billion a year to a climate fund, it said.

As The World Warms, Environmental Protections Put On The Back Burner

After a year that has so far produced record-breaking snowstorms, droughts, floods, and violent hurricanes and tornadoes, environmental protections are once again being scaled back. Against the best advice of experts, the U.S. EPA has decided to delay issuing new rules for greenhouse gas emissions, the deadline for which is September 30th. This marks the second time in three months that the EPA has missed a deadline for issuing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards.

In their announcement, the EPA said that they are aware that it is their responsibility to move forward with new GHG standards, but they want to consider all of the available information before issuing a final ruling. According to an EPA spokesperson, one factor that the agency is still trying to figure out is the cost of the new measures.

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is legally required to put restrictions on any air pollutant that is deemed unsafe for the American public. Thanks to a recent decision that GHGs are a threat to the public, this means they are required to put new standards in place. In addition to legally being required to regulate, the EPA is also not allowed to consider costs when making their decisions, meaning that their current “evaluation” period should not be extended to examine costs.

Deepwater Horizon Still A Massive Headache For BP

The problems facing BP along the Gulf Coast continue to pile up. After more than a year of investigations, the U.S. Coast Guard has finally released their long-awaited assessment of last year’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion. Their conclusion was that the ultimate blame for the disaster rests squarely on BP’s shoulders.

The new report, put together by The Coast Guard-Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE), was among the most exhaustive investigations to date, according to Reuters. The report claims that the decisions made by BP in the days before the rig explosion are what led to the catastrophe. Among those were BP’s decision to ignore the safeguarding of the cement plug, and the oil company’s decision to only use one type of cement to seal the well. The report also said that the location that BP chose for the casing was very poor, making it difficult to access in an emergency.

The new report does lay some blame at the feet of other companies involved, including Transocean and Halliburton, but they said that at the end of the day, BP was in charge of the decision-making process, and therefore they are the responsible party. This is a far cry from a recent report by Marshall Islands investigators, who recently pinned the blame for the disaster on the rig workers themselves, rather than the companies involved in the rig’s management. The new report is on par with other reports that also put most of the blame on BP.

Polluters Join Forces To Pressure Obama On Oil And Gas Drilling

In the wake of President Obama’s speech on job creation last week, major players in the energy industry have banded together to put pressure on the president to speed up the permitting process for new oil and gas drilling leases. At least 17 different companies and interest groups sent a joint letter to the president telling him that the best way to create jobs is to allow the dirty energy industry to drill, baby, drill.

From the industry letter:
  

One policy initiative that simultaneously creates high-paying jobs and increases revenues into federal coffers would be to improve efficiency and the rate of permitting activity in the Gulf of Mexico to a rate that is commensurate with industry’s ability to invest. Because safe, reliable domestic energy impacts all sectors of the US economy — manufacturing, agriculture, transportation and small business – such a move makes sense in light of the new regulatory regime and containment protocols developed by the Interior Department and private industry working in partnership.


The dirty energy industry would like us to believe that the administration’s energy protocols for drilling are hindering job growth in the country, even though the current wait time for drilling approval is about three months. Their claims of “safety” also ring hollow for those of us living on the Gulf Coast who are still witnessing oil washing up on our shores more than a year after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and sank into the Gulf of Mexico, spewing oil into the water for more than three months.

The American Petroleum Institute was not a part of the 17 groups that sent the letter to the president, but they have not been silent in the jobs debate. In a recent release, the API claimed that by lifting restrictions on oil and gas drilling, the energy industry would add as many as 1.4 million jobs and generate as much as $800 billion in tax revenue for the federal government. API president Jack Gerard acknowledged that it would take about 7 years for all of these jobs to materialize, far less than the estimated 2 million “green” jobs created in just one year by the President’s 2009 stimulus package.

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