The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released its “The State of American Business 2012” plan this week, outlining their own vision of how to create jobs in America. There were no surprises in Chamber President Tom Donohue’s address to business leaders. He simply rehashed the same tired talking points that we’ve seen from them for years.
In addition to enacting what they call a “globally competitive tax code” and “fixing our broken immigration system,” the Chamber threw out some classic gems that persist despite being able to withstand the truth test. From their newly launched FreeEnterprise.com website:
Produce American Energy and Rebuild Infrastructure. Approve the Keystone XL pipeline to put up to 250,000 Americans to work over the life of the project while preventing the EPA from enacting new regulations on fracking that sabotage a natural gas revolution. Complete Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization, which is more than four years delayed, to strengthen our aviation system and deploy the NextGen air traffic control system. Renew surface transportation funding legislation before it expires in March and invest in water infrastructure.
Advance Regulatory and Legal Reform. Pass the Administrative Procedure Act to restore sound science, quality data, and common sense to the regulatory system while curbing regulatory overreach by EPA and the National Labor Relations Board. Stop the expansion of liability at home and abroad that is sucking the vitality out of our nation’s job creators.
Put more bluntly, this is the Chamber's message: Do away with environmental and health protections and let the same companies that brought us the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and countless other “accidents” expand oil drilling, fracking, and other dirty energy extraction methods in every possible place. “Trust us, we're experts,” they say.
The Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) has released a startling report showing that coal ash dumps near coal-burning power plants are leaching arsenic and other toxic chemicals into water supplies. The new report identifies 20 new sites in 10 different states where coal ash is contaminating water supplies. These sites are in addition to the 33 coal ash disposal sites that EIP identified earlier this year that are contaminating water supplies.
EIP has identified a total of 20 additional coal ash dump sites causing groundwater and soil contamination in 10 states – Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. These include 19 sites where coal ash appears to have contaminated groundwater with arsenic or other pollutants at levels above Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCL). All but two have also measured concentrations of other pollutants – such as boron, molybdenum, and manganese – above EPA-recommended Health Advisories for children or adults. In addition, our report includes new information about 7 previously recognized damage cases, including stunning evidence of groundwater more toxic than hazardous waste leachate.
After EPA documented 67 proven or potential ‘damage cases’ in 2007, we found groundwater or surface water contamination at 70 additional sites, and submitted our analysis to EPA in two reports released in February and August of 2010. The current report brings the total number of damage cases identified by EPA and other groups to 157.
On June 1, 2011, Minister Coleman guaranteed the British Columbian public that “an extensive process of public consultation” would be put into place to allow the public to comment and become a part of the approval process that determines the gas industry’s reign in the province’s northeastern shale gas plays. Despite this promise, the gas industry has been granted numerous water withdrawal permits since then without any consultation of the public.
As DeSmogBlog reported at the time, the BC Oil & Gas Commission had already allotted 78 million cubic meters of water to fracking companies each year, free of charge, before adding an additional 3.65 million cubic meters to that total for Talisman Energy in July of this year. The water is pumped from BC’s largest fresh water body, the Williston Reservoir. The company withdrawal permits are valid for 20 years.
On Monday, a bluff surrounding a Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based power plant collapsed, sending a cascade of debris and coal ash waste from the power plant into Lake Michigan. No injuries were reported by We Energies, the company who owns the power plant, but the environmental assessment will likely be less optimistic. We Energies, a subsidiary of Wisconsin Energy Corporation (NYSE: WEC), has confirmed that the debris that made it into the river likely contained coal ash.
As of Monday afternoon, a “fuel sheen” appeared on the surface of Lake Michigan as a result of the bluff collapse. Cleanup crews from Clean Harbor were contracted by We Energies to help contain the spread of the sheen, and will be deploying about 1,500 feet of boom to help contain the waste on the surface. Shortly after the accident, residents living up to a mile away from the site along the lake were already reporting debris washing onshore.
As we have reportedextensively in the past, coal ash contains countless toxic substances, including mercury, hexavalent chromium, arsenic, and cadmium. It has also been reported to be more radioactive as nuclear waste. In spite of these findings, the EPA has yet to issue any firm stance on whether or not coal ash will be regulated as a “toxic waste,” partly due to the fact that the coal industry has unleashed a cadre of lobbyists to Washington to fight to protect their coal ash interests.
The EPA’s delay in issuing a ruling on coal ash has allowed the Republican-controlled Congress to gain the upper hand on the issue. In early fall 2011, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would prohibit the EPA from regulating coal ash, and preventing them from classifying the substance as “hazardous.” Instead of EPA regulations, the bill would allow states to issue their own standards on coal ash and prevent any federal 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 conservativeHeritage 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.
For years, the Republican Party in America has been on a crusade against what they call “job killing regulations.” A quick Google search for the phrase “job killing regulations” returns 368,000 results – many from official Republican Party sources and some others attempting to debunk this talking point.
While this talking point is used to berate a lot of different government protections, from checks and balances applied to Wall Street, to product safety laws, to measures safeguarding consumers from dangerous chemicals in food and pharmaceuticals, and so forth.
But most often, the perjorative “job-killing regulations” talking point is used to describe the actions of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA.) And it has resonated extremely well among an American public that is currently suffering from a severe lack of jobs. As of July 2011, we have an unemployment rate of 9.1%, resulting in almost 14 million Americans looking, but unable to find, a job. For a populace that desperately wants to work but is unable to do so, scapegoating “regulations” has been a very powerful and effective narrative.
Unfortunately for the Republican Party, these “job killing regulations” are a myth. There is no empirical data to back up their claims, but there is a wealth of information available showing that regulations – all regulations – actually promote job growth and put Americans back to work.
An Oklahoma coal fly ash disposal company has found themselves in hot, contaminated water over their practice of using oil and gas wastewater brine in the disposal of fly ash. According to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, the fly ash disposal firm called (no joke) Make Money Having Fun, LLC has been ordered to indefinitely suspend their practice of mixing oil wastewater with fly ash until they can resolve their numerous contamination problems.
And after years of trying to clean up their state, Oklahoma residents have been granted at least a temporary victory by the E.P.A. in their efforts to prevent Make Money Having Fun, LLC from continuing to poison their water supply. From the Tulsa World News:
The EPA issued a cease-and-desist order against Making Money Having Fun in April 2010 for violations of the federal Clean Water Act stemming from the discharge of pollutants into a tributary of Doe Creek.
Representative Mike Rogers (R-AL) told an internet-based radio program earlier this week that if the GOP is able to sweep the 2012 elections, government agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could be on the chopping block. Citing the erroneous fact that the EPA didn’t exist until after the Carter Administration, Rogers said that a new Republican administration would “look closely” at whether or not certain government programs were necessary, and if not, they would be “discontinued.”
ROGERS: You know the fact is, if in fact I think the American people do next November what they started last November, that is, cleaning house, and we do get a Republican-controlled Senate and a Republican president, I think you going to see some dramatic structural changes in this country because we can’t continue to support this infrastructure we have. And I’m not talking about just changes to the trust funds and the entitlement programs. You know, we gotta look at what we really need to be doing, and what we don’t need to be doing. For example, we didn’t have an EPA under Jimmy Carter. Who says the federal government has to have an EPA. Every state has their own environmental protection agency. Why does the federal government need to be doing that? Department of Education: I’m a big believer that education is a state and local matter, why do we need a federal department of education? I think we’ll have to look at a lot of things that we’re doing at the federal level and ask ourselves, ‘is this really what the federal role?’ And if not, discontinue it.
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:
Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the Environmental Protection Agency had the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) under the Clean Air Act, Republicans and other climate-deniers have been given an unprecedented amount of airtime on television to deride the EPA’s new power. The folks over at Media Matters for America released a study showing that between December 2009 and April 2011, 76% of cable news guests were opposed to allowing the EPA to regulate GHGs, while only 18% spoke favorably of the decision.
As their research shows, these views are actually at odds with public opinion, as 71% of the public believes that the EPA should be allowed to regulate global warming pollution, and 76% believe that the government should have a direct role in curbing the emissions from polluters operating inside the United States.
Not only were the elected officials that appeared on most of these shows against regulations, but most also had received money from the energy industry during their careers.
Democracy is utterly dependent upon an electorate that is accurately informed. In promoting climate change denial (and often denying their responsibility for doing so) industry has done more than endanger the environment. It has undermined democracy.
There is a vast difference between putting forth a point of view, honestly held, and intentionally sowing the seeds of confusion. Free speech does not include the right to deceive. Deception is not a point of view. And the right to disagree does not include a right to intentionally subvert the public awareness.