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.

American Petroleum Institute Dreams Of Placing Lobbyists In Every District

Oil industry lobbyist and president of the American Petroleum Institute (API) Jack Gerard made his industry’s goal clear in a recent interview with Fortune Magazine. Mr. Gerard said he hopes that in the near future there will be an oil lobbyist on the ground in every U.S. Congressional district in order to help his industry flourish, “so when a policy proposal hits the industry’s bottom line, lawmakers from Seattle to Savannah will hear complaints about it from voters back home.”

As API president, Mr. Gerard is the leading representative for more than 400 different oil and gas companies. Gerard took the helm of API in November 2008, leaving a lucrative post as the head of the American Chemistry Council. In the short time that Gerard has led the API, he has instituted numerous reforms to help the oil industry focus its messaging to change public attitudes towards the industry’s behavior.

One of the major tools that Gerard brings to the API is the use of astroturf “grassroots” operations, something that the oil industry had not yet capitalized on.

Coal Ash Disposal Sites Contaminating Ground Water In 19 States

The Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) has released a new report showing that coal ash disposal sites are threatening water supplies at 33 sites located in 19 different states across the U.S. The EIP says that the levels of heavy metals like arsenic in these locations are dangerously higher than federally accepted levels, which the group says could mean that legal action could be taken against the companies involved in the coal ash dumping.

From an EIP press release:

Transocean Report Blames BP For Gulf Oil Disaster

Offshore oil drilling giant Transocean released the results of an internal investigation this week on the causes of last year’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion. The investigation concluded that well owner BP was to blame for the explosion and the resulting 3-month oil geyser in the Gulf of Mexico.

Transocean claims that BP’s actions led to the blowout, as they were in charge of most of the decision-making on the Deepwater Horizon rig. Transocean says that BP’s poor decisions caused a succession of problems ranging from the well design itself to the construction process of the Macondo rig. Transocean officials also fault BP for causing a breakdown in communication during construction, which they claim led to many of the failures aboard the oil rig. Here are a few highlights from their report:

Mountaintop Removal Mining Linked To Birth Defects

Researchers at Washington State University and West Virginia University have released a new report that links an increase in birth defects in Appalachia to the practice of mountaintop removal mining (MTR or MTM). The study shows that communities exposed to the wastes created by blowing up mountains to extract coal experience significantly higher instances of birth defects.

A press release on the new report summarized the findings as follows:

The study was based on analysis of over 1.8 million birth records between 1996 and 2003 in central Appalachia. Prevalence rates were higher in mountaintop mining areas compared to non-mining areas for circulatory/respiratory, central nervous system, musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, urogenital, and ‘other’ types of defects. Spatial correlation between mountaintop mining and birth defects was also present, indicating that MTM activity in one county may have increased birth defect prevalence rates in surrounding counties.

Heritage Foundation Wastes No Time Spinning Court Ruling On Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against plaintiffs yesterday in a lawsuit (American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut) brought by six states against several utility companies and the government-owned Tennessee Valley Authority. The states (California, Connecticut, Iowa, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont) were attempting to force the utility companies to cut their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on the grounds that the emissions were a “public nuisance.” The Court unanimously declared that the judiciary should stay out of the matter because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) already has the authority to regulate emissions under the Clean Air Act.

President Obama previously stated that he stood with the utility companies in this suit, as well as in a similar suit being decided in a lower court. The utility companies in the suit included Duke Energy, American Electric Power, Southern Co, Excel Energy, and the aforementioned Tennessee Valley Authority.

The conservative think tank Heritage Foundation wasted no time yesterday in claiming that the Court’s ruling was a major blow to environmentalists, and managed to take a cheap shot at some of the liberal members of the court:

Paul Ryan Lies About Ending Oil Subsidies To Protect His Family’s Cash Bonanza

Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) has been all over the place when it comes to ending the multi-billion dollar subsidies that the oil industry receives every year. While he has publicly admitted that he is in favor of ending this “corporate welfare,” and his staff has claimed that his budget plan actually calls for an end to oil subsidies, the truth is that Rep. Ryan would never end oil subsidies because he makes a lot of money keeping the welfare spigot open.

The oil industry currently receives $4 billion in subsidies from the federal government, and receives more than $4.4 billion in tax breaks every year, bringing their total government handouts to more than $8 billion every year. Some estimates actually put the total number closer to $35 billion a year.

According to a new report by Joe Romm at Climate Progress, Paul Ryan and his family have a financial stake in some of the companies that receive these oil subsidies.

Pentagon Releases New Clean Energy Strategy

The U.S. Department of Defense has released a new strategy for how the U.S. military will address growing concerns over energy consumption. The military remains the single largest consumer of energy in the world, and accounts for 1% of total consumption in the United States. As concerns continue to mount over oil prices and the instability of oil-rich countries in the Middle East, the Pentagon is looking for new methods to continue to meet the energy demands of the military.

The U.S. military currently relies on fossil fuels for almost all of their energy needs, spending more than $13 billion annually just on fuel. Military operations accounted for 121 million barrels of oil alone, which does not include the amount used for domestic activities such as military housing operations and transports. But the Department of Defense has known for years that their current path is not sustainable, and raised the alarm over peak oil long before the U.S. Department of Energy. Their new report shows that they are actively working to switch to renewable energy sources, and away from dirty oil sourced from unstable parts of the globe.

Bobby Kennedy Jr. Talks "The Last Mountain" With Director Bill Haney

The companies involved in mountaintop removal mining (MTR) are beginning to get much-needed exposure in the national media. For years, this issue has been relegated to a few mentions here and there, with national media outlets virtually ignoring the devastation taking place in rural America. The media’s silence, and the public’s resulting lack of knowledge on the issue, has allowed a large number of the mountains in communities along the Appalachian range to be blown up and mined for every piece of coal the industry can find. As communities continue to fight MTR coal giants like Massey Energy and others, they are continuously faced with the devastation that these energy companies have left in their backyards.

The video below is from Ring of Fire Radio, and features a discussion between Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and documentary film director Bill Haney. The two are discussing their new film “The Last Mountain.

Report: Broad Bipartisan Support For Action On Climate Change

A new report by George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication shows that voters in America are concerned about global climate change, and would support broad action by the federal government to prevent future disaster. The report shows that voters from both major political parties are at odds with most Republicans in Washington, who have made it clear that they are not concerned with climate change and their voting records reflect that lack of concern.

The focus that most Congressional Republicans have had involving climate change revolves around U.S. energy policy. They believe that the only solution to America’s energy crisis and high gas prices is to drill in every available square inch of American soil or American waters. And while the report shows that 66% of Americans are in favor of more domestic oil drilling, it is likely because they are unaware that any new oil produced in the United States would have no impact on energy prices.

Koch Money Fuels AFP Misinformation Campaign On Gas Prices

The Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is taking their misinformation machine on the road in an attempt to convince American consumers that President Obama is causing the spike in gasoline prices. AFP is claiming that the president is intentionally keeping gas prices high because he refuses to allow oil companies to drill for oil in protected areas of the United States.

The tour is necessary for the AFP, as Americans do not believe that President Obama should be blamed for high gasoline prices. A staggering 61% of Americans say that the blame lies on the shoulders of the energy companies, and 59% say that some of the blame lies with the oil speculators. These numbers are not sitting well with the oil industry, and the AFP tour is just one of many oil industry tactics to try to shift public opinion using misinformation.

AFP’s “Running on Empty” campaign has scheduled stops in Virginia, Michigan, and Ohio in the upcoming days, to “teach” Americans about the numerous ways in which President Obama is making them pay higher prices at the pump.

AFP conveniently ignores the fact that gas prices were north of $4 a gallon during the Bush administration, when they peaked at $4.12, as pointed out by protesters who showed up at one of AFP’s early gas tour events in Nebraska.  But in the alternate reality that AFP is creating to enable Koch’s further oil profits, it’s somehow all Obama’s fault.

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