Friday, February 12, 2016

A Slap In the Face - Environmental Racism in Flint

What does environmental racism taste like?
Michigan Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow didn't mince words over the outrageous efforts of Republican senators in Washington to actively obstruct the approval of $600 million in emergency federal funding for the city of Flint, Michigan to address the massive crisis resulting from the city's tainted water system by attaching unrelated partisan spending measures to the passage of the pending energy bill currently being debated on Capitol Hill.

"I personally feel it's an insult, it's being done to embarrass us."

Considering that thousands of children in Flint have potentially been exposed to toxic levels of lead poisoning, it's more than an insult, it's a crime.

As Jordain Carney reported in an article for last week, Jim Inhofe, the climate change- denying Republican Senator from Oklahoma, had the gall to introduce an amendment to the energy bill that would authorize the appropriation of emergency federal relief money for the people of Flint only if that money is taken out of funds that were previously allocated to the Department of Energy's budget for alternative vehicle research.

What do funds to research the development of vehicles that run off of alternative energy sources have to do with safe drinking water for thousands of people in Flint, Michigan? Absolutely nothing.

But some of Inhofe's top campaign contributions in 2013-2014 came from companies, PAC's or individuals with ties to the petroleum industry.

According to campaign finance data tracked by, Inhofe's top contributors include Exxon-Mobil, BP, Koch Industries, Occidental Petroleum, Devon Energy, the American Chemistry Council, WPX Energy and Murray Energy.
Inhofe brings cutting-edge science to the Senate floor
Inhofe, the chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, famously brought a snowball onto the floor of the U.S. Senate chamber (really) as scientific evidence that human-influenced climate change does not exist.

Leave it to a guy like that to use the allocation of federal funds for providing fresh water for citizens in Flint and repairing damaged infrastructure as an opportunity to shamelessly shill for the oil industry. Pathetic.

As of last Monday the leaders of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Democrat Maria Cantwell of Washington, said both sides were still at odds on approving funds for Flint to pass the stalled energy bill.

To me, all this politicking and righteous indignation about approving funds for Flint on the part of Republicans is a glaring example of how the issue of environmental racism happens in this country.

Remember, this whole debacle in Flint wouldn't have happened if Republican Governor Rick Snyder hadn't allowed an unelected "emergency manager" to switch the source of the city's water from Detroit's water system to the polluted Flint River as a "cost-saving measure" in the first place.

Actions that are part of the nationwide effort of extremist conservatives to use Republican-dominated state legislatures to shrink the size of government to finance tax relief for the wealthy and gut environmental regulations that protect our water, land and atmosphere to increase the profit margins for the nations biggest polluters.

The language and tactics these conservative politicians use is little more than a ruse.

Republican Texas Senator John Cornyn
According to Carney's article, Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn also joined his conservative climate-change-denying cohort Jim Ihofe in politicizing the providing of fresh drinking for the mostly poorer African-American and Hispanic residents of Flint, Michigan.

As Cornyn told members of the press:

"Adding additional debt to our tab, especially for something that's a local and state responsibility...strikes me as a bad idea."

Seriously, when did authorizing emergency funds for fresh water become a "bad idea" in this country?

It shouldn't come as a shocker that Ole' Johnny has raised $46,817,109 from campaign contributions between 2001 - 2016, want to take a guess at who his top five contributors are?

According to they include Exxon-Mobil, JP Morgan Chase and Lock Lorde, LLP - an international law firm based in Dallas with more than 1,000 attorneys that specializes in among other areas, environmental law, antitrust law, banking regulation, securities, white-collar criminal defense and energy laws.

It should also be noted that back in November, John Cornyn was one of four sitting U.S. Senators identified by the global hacktivist collective Anonymous whose names were affiliated with KKK organizations around the nation in a list that was released online.

He denied the allegations of course but when you read about his dismissing the request for emergency funds to address the crisis in Flint as "additional debt to our tab" and a "bad idea", it makes you wonder.

A Flint mom comforts a child being blood tested for lead
In the meantime thousands of middle and low income families and individuals in Flint are stuck in a once-thriving manufacturing hub that is now shackled by high unemployment, bleak job opportunities, plummeting home values and a municipal water system that's so toxic that millions of bottles of drinking water are being shipped in from as far as California until city, state and federal officials can hammer out a strategy to fix it.

So far Republicans have managed to sidestep responsibility for this man-made health crisis.

After all, it's the Republican's unhealthy obsession with shrinking government (which at this point borders on a kind of delusional paranoia), and their alliance with corporate contributers that put fiscal savings ahead of the health and well being of thousands of innocent people and the care and maintenance of critical infrastructure.

As numerous media sources reported earlier this week, serious investigations are gearing up which could put pressure on Washington Republicans to quit stalling and authorize emergency funds for Flint.

On Tuesday Michigan attorney general Bill Schuette, special counsel for the AG's office investigating the crisis Todd Flood, chief investigator Andrew Arena and deputy chief investigator Ellis Stafford held a press conference to announce that involuntary manslaughter charges could be filed against government officials found guilty of gross negligence or breach of duty.

After all, the human cost in Flint is already shocking. At least nine deaths have been attributed to Legionnaire's disease contracted as a result of lead poisoning to the municipal drinking water supply.

According to an informative but heart-wrenching article by Abby Goodnough in The New York Times two weeks ago, a staggering 8,000 children under the age of six years-old could be affected by lead poisoning that could stunt their mental development and have grave physical consequences on their future health.

In the meantime the investigation continues, the bottled water continues to be shipped in and anxious residents can only wait while heartless conservative Republicans like Jim Inhofe and John Cornyn hold their allegiance to the petroleum and energy industry over the health of the residents of Flint, Michigan.

As Democratic Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow told, "It's a slap in the face."

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