Sunday, October 16, 2011

Rick Perry's Energy Plan is SSDD

By The Ghost of Sam Houston

This Friday, Texas "Governor" Rick Perry unveiled his "energy plan." Aside from begging the question WHY in the world you bury a major policy announcement on Friday afternoon, generally referred to as "Take out the trash day" where you dump bad news after the press has checked out, well. . . actually, it's fairly obvious why they chose to release it then, as it's a warmed-over mishmash of Rick Perry's greatest hits. More drilling, less regulations, blah, blah, blah. . . ."just like we did in Texas", which might be a policy statement if it weren't so damn dangerous.

Perry's emphasis on more drilling is more of the drill, baby, drill crap we've heard for years. The answer isn't in pillaging our resources in our national parks and in offshore deep water, the protections for which it is worth noting were created during the terms of previous (freedom-hating socialist Kenyan Republican) presidents, but in asking oil companies to use their millions of acres of leases they currently have on the books before they ask to go back to the buffet. That should be the "Buffet rule", as opposed to the "Buffett Rule."

But let's look at what an EPA under Rick Perry might look like.

First, it would censor scientific research. Just this week, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, or TCEQ, removed ALL references to climate change and sea level rise from a state report about changes to the Galveston Bay.  Yes, once again, we're in the Orwellian world of climate change denialism, when the deniers claim that their "Science" is "Censored"because it's laughed out of the peer-reviewed academic journals, when in fact it is merely scientists doing their diligence against junk science funded by fossil fuel companies. But when a state agency, whose Commissioners have previously said they don't believe in climate change (as though belief in a phenomenon makes it so or not!), and during a Presidential campaign where Rick Perry has brought climate denialism to a new, higher art form, this is real, actual, honest to goodness government censorship of scientific work. In response, all of the scientists associated with all aspects of the report have asked to have their names taken off of it as a protest against government censorship of scientific research. 

Second, a Perry EPA would put political connections and campaign donations over professional opinion. In several high-profile cases, the TCEQ has sided with the big polluters applying for permits even over the objections of their professional staff and the opinions of administrative law judges. Examples include the questions over permitting a nuclear waste dump in proximity to the Ogalalla Aquifer in West Texas. The owner of the dump, Harold Simmons, is a well-known big donor to Rick Perry. Everyone said this was a bad idea, including TCEQ staff-- they got their permit.

The Las Brisas power plant in Corpus Christi? Another case where judges had ruled that the applications were incomplete, but some of the backers of the plant are big Perry donors. TCEQ said "Ok."

And then there are the Texas state tax breaks going to Valero, the oil refiner. The tax breaks were meant to encourage refining of low-sulfur diesel, which has the unfortunate side-effect of often creating more sulfur emissions at the refinery, while the actual fuel is sold in California and New Jersey.  Valero sued to get these tax breaks, and took the case to TCEQ.  The TCEQ approved the tax credits, which meant that local school districts and fire and police departments actually had to rebate money to Valero to give them their tax breaks.

And then there's the fracking. Yes, hydraulic fracturing used to extract natural gas from shale formations, some of which are under the homes of folks up in suburban Ft Worth. Some of the landowners have reported that their water has been spoiled by the chemicals pumped underground in the fracking process. Of course, all of the drillers claim innocence, and there's no way to tell whose fracking liquid or fugitive natural gas spoiled whose water well, especially since the industry closely guards their proprietary liquids as a "trade secret." So when the EPA steps in to try to remediate people whose water has been spoiled, the Railroad Commission and Rick Perry stand alongside their campaign donors and tell people it's the big-bad EPA who is the problem-- not the drillers who spoiled the water in the first place. Why, according to the RRC and Perry, they can't even tell that the water spoilage wasn't naturally occurring! How convenient!

Which all just begs the question-- if this is what we can expect our environmental agency to do, why not just get rid of it and replace it with a big rubber stamp? It would fit that conservative idea of making government smaller, and would certainly remove any doubt that that's all the TCEQ and Railroad Commission is under Perry anyway. And it's exactly Rick Perry's plan-- to dismantle the EPA.  Which would remove any enforcement ability on the Clean Air Act or Clean Water Act and simply let the states do whatever they want.

Well, I tell you what-- that may be all fine and good if your neighbor is California.  But even if Texas decided to clean up its act, that would still put us breathing air from Louisiana, Oklahoma, etc. Not to mention the other states who have to breathe our second-hand fumes.

From one Texas Governor to another, Perry's energy plan is a turkey. If he is able to get his hands on the White House and the EPA, it will be the end of nearly 40 years of progress on clean air and water, instead turning our skies and waterways into open sewers available to the highest bidder-- and bids are only accepted in campaign donations. It will be energy policy of the oil, gas, and coal industry, for the oil, gas, and coal industry, and by the oil, gas, and coal industry. We can expect more corporate cronyism, more government suppression and censorship of basic science, and more-- MUCH more-- pollution, sickness, and loss of life.

It makes me glad, as a ghost, that I'm dead and wouldn't have to deal with it.

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