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Restore the Wetlands. Reinforce the Levees.

Posts Tagged ‘EPA’

BP Oil Flood Brought to You by U.S. Supreme Court?

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

[cross-posted at Daily Kos]

Let’s play what-if: Would the BP Oil Flood have happened if the Rehnquist Supreme Court in its Bush v. Gore ruling had not stopped the state of Florida’s vote-counting? We think maybe not. We think it’s not too far a stretch to say that the BP Oil Flood is a direct consequence of the Supreme Court’s 5–4 ruling in Bush v. Gore, about which dissenting associate justice John Paul Stevens lamented:

“Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear.”

Even though the Clinton administration was not noted for its environmental activism, we can be sure that if Al Gore had gone from vice president to president—which he nearly did, at least by a half million popular votes—he would have been a tougher regulator of the oil and energy industry than George W. Bush. The Bush administration in effect was the oil and energy industry, with either direct or close ties (including substantial investments) held by the president, vice president, defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, national security adviser and later secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, energy secretary Spencer Abraham, EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman, commerce secretary Donald Evans, and on and on. The Bush method of cabinet selection—a sharpened version of the usual Republican way—was to appoint as secretary a person who came from the industry that would be overseen by the department in question, or disagreed with the department’s reason for being. For example, energy secretary Spencer Abraham, when he was a senator from Michigan, in 1999 had cosponsored a bill (S.896) to abolish the Energy Department and transfer the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to the Defense Department.

(more…)



“This Small Planet”

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

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At a loss for words while Louisiana’s at a loss for land, life

Like many bloggers we’re sometimes at a loss for words in the face of the widening catastrophe in the Gulf—the one that began with a bang on April 20, Earth Day. We want to say something, to do something that will stop the hemorrhage (we can’t) or make the federal government push harder on BP to work faster and be more honest in their damage assessments (any progress?). There is much we could say, some of it ambivalent or confused and self-contradictory or unrealistic. How is it possible to be realistic when we cannot see the full scope of the catastrophe? We want to be accurate and comprehensive (on one hand, on the other hand), yet the subject has grown so large that, as with the all-touching subject of Hurricane Katrina, comprehensiveness and accuracy seems beyond anyone’s grasp. So instead we’ll take bits and pieces. It’s okay to take small, focused subjects, too.

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One specific, poignant subject is the absolute heartbreak of seeing a dead pelican—the state bird of Louisiana—being carried in a plastic bag along the oil-stained beach by an emergency clean-up worker. Other photos show pelicans trying to clean the oil slick off their feathers. Only last November the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu announced that after some four decades the brown pelican, once driven nearly to extinction by the pesticide DDT, had repopulated enough that the species no longer required specific federal protection. Where is the pelican now? Dripping with oil, gasping for air, like the state it symbolizes.

(See “The Brown Pelican Is Back.” Click here for a gallery of photographs of the brown pelican by Times-Picayune photographer Scott Threlkeld • Boston Globe slide show • New York Times oil spill slide show • Washington Post photo gallery of the oil spill’s animal victims • ProPublica.org oil spill slide show.)

We treehuggers are often scoffed at for caring about the animals and other life crushed by industrial expansion, and it is true that sometimes environmentalists concerned about a single species in a specific habitat have lost sight of a larger good—sometimes a larger environmental good. Go ahead, we can take the scoffing—we have skin like tree bark—but who that has a soul feels nothing in common with other creatures? The animals are the same as us, only without the protections humans can (sometimes) afford. Let’s all remember that, as President Kennedy said in his famous commencement address at American University in June 1963:

“. . . in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”

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Top photograph from ThinkProgress.org.

Bagged pelican photograph by Gerald Herbert/Associated Press.