John Pemberton, currently an influence peddler for Southern Company, was once a key player in utility regulation at the EPA. From 2001-2003 he served as chief of staff for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Air and Radiation where he helped manage the office’s efforts on several utility-related policy issues. A week after effectively repealing the Clean Air Act's "new source review" provision, which requires companies to install modern pollution control technologies in new plants and in old plants when they make modifications that significantly increase pollution, he resigned. He then joined Southern Company as a lobbyist, proving that there was a high level of collusion between Southern Company - one of the top five carbon emitters in the world - and influential members of EPA.
This kind of blatant revolving door politics can only be described as corruption.
The Huffington Post reported today that Koch Industries is being called out by the Democratic National Committee for spending millions on Republican political candidates while laying off over 100 employees.
The obvious, major irony here is just how big the oil industry plays the "job killer" card every single time anything threatens their monumental profits, exaggerating potential negative economic impacts while conveniently ignoring the benefits.
By the way, the new Forbes rankings are in--Charles and David Koch are now tied for the fifth richest Americans (each worth $21.5 billion) up from number nine (about 16 billion). Another slap in the face to laid off employees.
As Don Blankenship makes a fuss over federal investigation of an April mine explosion that killed 29 of his employees, six other Massey managers are now filing a lawsuit against the West Virginia Office of Miners Health, Safety and Training (OMHST) after being subpoenaed.
The Massey managers, including vice president of safety Elizabeth Chamberlin, claim the subpoena is an abusive response to their lack of cooperation with the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), which is still investigating the disaster. Massey is accusing MSHA of trying to pin blame on the company while avoiding their own responsibilities.
Blankenship continues to assert that some of the miners who died ignored signs of danger at their own peril. Perhaps Blankenship's orders to employees to prioritize productivity above certain safety measures was taken too far?
Check out the Charleston Gazette for more.
The Associated Press reports that Don Blankenship, the antagonistic CEO of the coal-mining and mountain-leveling company Massey Energy, is accusing the Mine Safety and Health Administration of leading a disingenuous investigation following the deadly explosion in Massey's Upper Big Branch mine in April.
Blankenship's denies that methane monitors in the mine were tampered with, despsite Congressional testimony from employees stating otherwise. The coal baron also asserts that combustible coal dust, which evidence shows was present in unsafe amounts before the explosion, was not the cause of the disaster. Instead, Blankenship insists that safety precautions were overwhelmed when methane leaked into the mine from a floor crack, which MSHA is not buying.
On safety regulation,
"[Blankenship] said more must be done to prevent explosions, but with the realization that not every blast is avoidable."
This is typical souless Blankenship talk--claiming more should be done while fighting tooth and nail to avoid just that, with a dash of shocking honesty that he fully expects to oversee deadly accidents in the future. After he himself has told employees to forgo certain safety precautions in order to maximize coal production, more deaths certainly seem inevitable.
The Upper Big Branch mine explosion, the Deepwater Horizon blowout, the Texas City Refinery explosion, and other similar disasters of varying scale are normal business for the fossil fuel industry. Working with heavy machinery always has a danger component, and adding combustable material to the mix amplifies the likelihood and intensity of disasters.
Fossil fuel use is not an inevitable, indefinite future pathway. We know an Energy [R]evolution is possible, and we can't expect any fossil fool CEO to ever act on it, even if they admit it in the first place. From the Proposition 23 battle, the grief over EPA's ability to regulate coal ash and greenhouse gases, and Blankenship's continued heartlessness, it is clear that polluters are not going to step out of the way--it is up to people to demand that the dated era of fossil fuels transitions into a contemporary clean energy economy. Enough have died at the hands of the fossil-industrial complex.
The American Petroleum Institute is so bent on protecting the pollution industry that it is willing to cast public health aside in favor of saving a buck.
Politico's Morning Energy today reported that API and the Manufacturers Alliance are complaining about EPA moves to strengthen the Clean Air Act's standards, which must be based solely on heath considerations, according to the Supreme Court. For API to speak out against an improved Clean Air Act shows a callous disregard for those who have been sickened or killed from pollution-induced health problems, such as asthma or heart failure.
Politico's Josh Voorhees wrote,
"The Manufacturers Alliance’s Donald Norman and API’s Howard Feldman will warn that the agency’s regulations would be too expensive for industry and put almost the entire country into nonattainment for federal air quality limits, including rural areas where no one lives. EPA’s rules are due in mid- to late October."
In a blog response, the National Resources Defense Council notes that the industry's typical "economic disaster" prophesy is likely blown out of proportion, as such economic scare-claims [pdf] over environmental regulation have historically been.
Writing for The Nation, Jeremy Scahill reports that leaked documents reveal Chevron and several other major multinational corporations have consulted security and intelligence firms with ties to Blackwater, the notorious private military contractor. Blackwater, now known as Xe Services, has close ties to companies Total Intelligence Solutions and the Terrorism Research Center, both of which are owned and chaired by Blackwater founder Erik Prince.
Other solicitors of the Prince companies include the Walt Dinsney Company, Deutsche Bank, and Monsanto, which expressed interest in using Total Intelligence Solutions to infiltrate animal rights organizations.
-Sacramento Bee, September 9, 2010
Despite obtaining over $4 million from Valero, $1.5 million from Tesoro and $1 million from Koch Industries subsidiary Flint Hills Resources, the president of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association sent out a plea, literally, for more money to undermine California's legislative effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions and implement more clean energy.
In an email to members of the NPRA, president Charles Drevna wrote, "I am pleading with each of you—for our nation's best interest and for your company's own self-interest."
More can be found at the Wall Street Journal online.
Valero Energy and Koch Industries subsidiary Flint Hills, neither of which are based in California, have invested millions in the industry attempt to suspend California's Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32). Texas-based Tesoro Corporation, another oil refiner, is also heavily invested in the fight.
As dirty energy influence peddlars are pulling the usual economic apocalypse arguments, a recently-released assessment concluded that not following California's plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions and implement clean energy would be the worse economic option.
Passing Proposition 23 would simply leave California more polluted and less prosperous, while oil executives and lobbyists would continue to rejoice at their personal profit at the expense of a healthy planet and healthy people.
Tom Donohue, CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, has decided that the American people share the responsibility of paying for the massive cleanup in the Gulf of Mexico following the blowout of BP's Deepwater Horizon Macondo well. As Huffington Post's Jason Linkins points out, apparently Donohue does believe in socialism to the extent that corporate liability can be extended to the public after nationally-recognized disasters.
"It is generally not the practice of this country to change the laws after the game," said Tom Donohue, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. ". . . Everybody is going to contribute to this clean up. We are all going to have to do it. We are going to have to get the money from the government and from the companies and we will figure out a way to do that."
John Boehner, who affirmatively responded to a journalist asking if he agreed with Donohue, later backtracked and stated that BP should be responsible for the cleanup bill. Perhaps the $1,000 donation from BP this election cycle wasn't enough to make Boehner hold his ground in defense of the polluter giant; had they spent over $22,000 like American Electric Power, $10,000 like Southern Company, or $7,500 like Koch Industries, perhaps he would have been more adament in his initial position. Check out Dirty Energy Money to see who else is lining Boehner's political pockets.
The full article and supplemental links can be found on the Huffington Post.
Picture source: Sun-sentinel