Congress’s New Profit-Over-People Policy

The U.S. House of Representatives approved Republican-backed energy bills that would speed up the gas and oil permitting process and block federal regulations for hydraulic fracturing, in the face of a veto threat from the White House on Wednesday. The vote was 228-192 approval for the Federal Jobs and Energy Security Act, H.R. 1965, which would direct federal lands to be managed for the primary purpose of energy development rather than for balancing uses. It would curb and penalize the public for raising concerns about oil and gas projects on public lands that may affect them, such as fracking, and includes two provisions that open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration (byebye polar bears) and automatic approval after 60 days for drilling permits despite safety and environmental concerns (byebye icecaps). The White House released a statement shortly after stating President Obama would veto the bill as, “H.R. 1965 would reverse Administration oil and gas leasing reforms that have established orderly, open, efficient, and environmentally sound processes for energy development on public lands.”

The House also passed Protecting States’ Rights to Promote American Energy Security Act, H.R. 2728, by a vote of 235 to 187. This bill overturns decades of precedent to undermine the protection of federal lands in the pursuit of fracking for oil and natural gas. It prevents the Department of Interior from enforcing any kind of federal standards on hydraulic fracturing if a state has any rules or guidelines for fracking. Effectively, this bill gives control of federal land to the level of government least likely to protect the public in the pursuit of economic prosperity. It also bars federal oversight of toxic waste management, clean water protection and other regulations. The Environmental Protection Agency would lose funds necessary for scientific study of the impacts of fracking on drinking water sources (byebye clean water). Again the Obama Administration released a statement with the intention of vetoing the bill, “[The Bureau of Land Management] has been working in close consultation with States and Tribes on strengthening oversight of hydraulic fracturing operations and establishing a uniform baseline level of appropriate environmental protection. The bill, as reported, would undermine these efforts.”

Next up is the Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act, H.R. 1900, passed by the House with a 225-194 vote. This bill would rush approval of natural gas pipelines while removing the transparent environmental review process that allows the public to participate in how important federal decisions regarding energy projects are made (byebye civil liberties, byebye civil rights). Approval would be given with disregard to potential impacts on clean water and air, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission would have only one year to consider a completed pipeline permit application. The other federal agencies involved would only have three months to sign off on associated permits under the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act, and if they did not meet the deadlines the pipeline would automatically be approved. The White House statement on this bill was aligned with the previous statements intending veto: “The bill’s requirements could force agencies to make decisions based on incomplete information or information that may not be available within the stringent deadlines, and to deny applications that otherwise would have been approved, but for lack of sufficient review time.”

What we have here is a bunch of Republicans and a handful of Democrats who have effectively wasted a whole lot of time in Congress passing bills that are going to be vetoed on the basis of common sense. They completely undermine the safety of American people and America’s limited resources – you know, like the water we need to drink and the air we need to breathe – and puts the environment and wildlife at risk in the process. Forget the filibuster, forget the shutdown; even when they make decisions they’ve really accomplished nothing. Welcome to America, where the government puts profit over people.

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California gets SOLAR

Following in the footsteps of the Emerald City of Freiburg Germany, California is on the path to a green economy. Senate Bill 43 has been passed by California’s senate, the assembly and is being sent to Governor Jerry Brown for signature. The bill allows the mass population of California to enjoy the ecological and economical benefits o f renewable energy through the Green Tariff Shared Renewables Program. Solar and wind energy will be available to all with the opportunity for Californians to invest in projects to reduce their power costs and carbon footprints. This means the creation of thousands of jobs, investment in the state economy, and meeting the goals of California’s current Renewables Portfolio Standard. The Green Tariff will allow any renters or customers of investor-owned utilities to purchase up to 100 percent of their electricity from renewable facilities.

As a whole, the state is taking the initiative to make low cost renewable resources available to everyone. Solar energy is going to be available to the masses, not just the privileged few, and both the long term and short term benefits should set a precedent for the remaining 49 states to follow. Not only will the passage of SB 43 allow Californians to gain access to renewable energy, but with the additional passage of Assembly Bill 327 Californians will be able to sell back their excess solar energy at a fixed rate. The solar industry of California is booming, and it’s high time the rest of the nation took notice.

What does this have to do with federalism and states’ rights? To answer that, one must look at several factors: Congress created the Energy and Commerce Committee, composed of 17 government officials – 14 of which are climate deniers. On Wednesday September 18, this committee held a hearing to discuss climate change with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy. This hearing was filled with criticism of climate policies, unwillingness to compromise on policy, and ignorance on the economics and science of climate change and policy. If a federal committee is unable to come to agreement on a national course of action regarding climate, meeting the needs of environmental policy is left to the state and local governments. This relates to the ratification debate in regards to state power versus federal power. The anti-federalists saw corruption as a possibility in a federal government, and one could argue that the composition of the climate committee is corrupt. However, because states have individual governing bodies they are able to do negate this corruption at a concentrated level through state legislation.

If California can use state legislation to pull off what the nation as a whole cannot, then will other states use these bills for precedent? At the current rate of solar growth, it could be just a matter of time of who the light will shine on next in the solar power movement. If the bills are passed and California proves the climate policies improve the economy as well as the environment, and more states follow suit in creating effective policies, perhaps the federal committee will be able to reach a more conclusive agreement on environmental policy.

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