Monday, February 06, 2017

The CRA & The Creeping American Corpratocracy

Jett Rink (James Dean) celebrates striking oil
in the classic 1956 film Giant
With growing uncertainty over the future of relations between the U.S. and Iran (both among the world's largest oil producers) under the chaotic and reactionary foreign policy of the Trump administration, oil prices dropped to just over $50 a barrel on Monday.

The high-flying days of 2012 to 2014 when record oil prices averaging around $100 a barrel collectively netted the members of the 12 members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) a record $920 billion from oil exports are in the past.

But you'd hardly know that from the alarming speed with which the Republican-majority Congress and the executive-order-happy Trump administration are moving to boost American fossil fuel production by gutting environmental protection laws.

It's almost as if oil is like some kind of highly addictive narcotic for Republicans, they literally can't get enough of it, will do anything to make their supplier happy and will drive themselves mad being a slave to it like the character Jett Rink (played by actor James Dean) did in the classic 1956 film Giant directed by George Stevens.

On Sunday when I went to put some gas in the tank of my Honda CRV before heading off to a Super Bowl Sunday party, the price was $2.23 per gallon (credit).

That's down significantly for the central New Jersey area ever since the state Assembly and Senate agreed to increase the gas tax back in October  by 23-cents a gallon for the first time in 29 years in order to shore up funds for badly-needed transportation projects around the state.

The November 30th announcement by OPEC that 10 of it's 12 member nations would cut oil production starting in January (it's first production cut in 8 years) sent oil futures, crude prices and the stock prices of American energy companies soaring in December.

But as Reuters reported earlier today, a worldwide glut of oil from overproduction, high levels of U.S. oil reserves and reports showing that America currently has the highest number of oil rigs since 2015 sent oil prices and gasoline futures sliding.

Despite those facts the U.S. Congress, at the behest of American petroleum countries who've spent hundreds of millions of dollars lobying our elected representitives, have moved to strike down or sharply curb an array of environmental laws intended to protect the air, land and water from the harmful effects of the extraction and overproduction of oil and natural gas that has taken place over the past few years.

2008: 525 million gallons of coal slurry broke
through levees into the Tennessee River
Last week Republicans took aim at a host of laws signed by President Obama intended to protect the environment - including the Stream Protection Rule designed to protect American waterways from toxic runoff from coal mine production.

Did they forget when a retaining wall at a Harriman, Tennessee power plant collapsed, sending 525 millions gallons of toxic coal slurry into the Tennessee River destroying 12 homes 2 days before Christmas in 2008?

What kind of Congress votes to undue rules intended to keep toxic substances from leaking into rivers and streams?

The same Congress that voted on Friday to undue the Bureau of Land Management's methane waste prevention rule that regulates the venting and burning off of excess natural gas which helps limit the amount of methane released into the atmosphere.

As Jenny Rowland reported in a article last week, "As a greenhouse gas, methane traps over 86 times more heat than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period."

As she notes, a January 2017 report by Public Citizen's Rick Claypool reveals that groups including the coal mining industry, energy utility companies and railroads collectively spent over $222 million over a 12 month period lobbying members of Congress to deregulate the rules governing mining companies protecting and restoring rivers and streams.

Rick Claypool of Public Citizen
Congress is using a controversial legislative measure known as the Congressional Review Act to undue scores of environmental regulations.

According to Claypool's Public Citizen report:

"Under the CRA Congress has 60 legislative working days to rescind any regulation finalized after June 13, 2016, a timeline that places at risk more than 50 major public protections as well as hundreds more. Additionally, once a rule is rescinded by a CRA vote, the issuing agency is blocked from creating a "substantially similar" rule without Congressional approval."

If there's a more blatant example of the subversion of the will of the individual American voter (aside from Trump winning the election) I'm not sure what it is.

That kind of deceptive overreaching use of legislative power to bend environmental regulations to the will of the corporate interests that pour hundreds of millions of dollars into lobbying members of Congress to put private profits ahead of the interests of American citizens and the environment is dangerous.

It's an affront to the basic principles of Democracy.

And it stands in total contrast to Trump's lofty windbag inauguration rhetoric about "transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you the people."

With tools like the Congressional Review Act, power is now being pipelined directly to the entrenched corporate interests who work with the institutional Washington insiders that Trump spent months railing against.

All those working class voters who cheered at his rallies may like the cheaper gas prices in the short run.

But the righteous indignation that drove the "Drill baby, drill !" chants has given way to a disturbing complacency in the face of the creeping American corpratocracy now enveloping the very rights and freedoms they believed Herr Trump would restore.

Perhaps the anti-Muslim bigotry and religious hatred will serve as some kind of salve to numb them to the endless string of lies coming from the White House.

For now anyway.

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