Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Another hole, another shovel

House Republicans on Wednesday will launch a rapid-fire assault against environmental protections on the pretext of helping the U.S. oil and gas industry recover from hurricane damage, environmental groups charge.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Resources Committee are holding separate meetings to finalize legislation on Wednesday, with the aim of combining them into a single energy bill for the full House to debate next week.

The resources panel, led by Richard Pombo of California, wants to lift a ban on Florida offshore drilling, promote oil shale and sell a dozen national parks for energy development.

"This really has very little to do with the hurricanes or relief efforts or even refiners. This is deregulation pure and simple," said John Walke of Natural Resources Defense Council.

Texan Joe Barton's energy committee wants to expand U.S. gasoline production by loosening federal rules that limit pollution when refineries or coal-fired power plants are expanded. U.S. gasoline supplies have tightened since hurricanes Katrina and Rita roared across the U.S. Gulf Coast, closing up to one-fourth of the nation's refining capacity.

House Republicans received a thumbs up from President George W. Bush on Monday when he said environmental rules and paperwork are obstacles holding up U.S. refinery expansions.

Bush specifically criticized the relatively obscure "new source review" rule administered by the Environmental Protection Agency as part of the Clean Air Act. It aims to protect public health by ensuring that refinery expansions do not increase acid rain and smog.

Environmentalists perked up their ears at Bush's remarks, noting that he rarely mentions the program.

"You know darn well that the president doesn't have a clue what new source review is," said Frank O'Donnell of Clean Air Watch. "It's clear that there's a coordinated effort between the White House and Congress to put key environmental protections on the chopping block."

A mere ten days ago, I said this in another context: "Applying this magnificent logic, followed resolutely and in utter defiance of cause and effect, the Secretary of State shows us again that there is no hole anywhere in the world that these chowderheads will not try to dig their way out of."

And here is another hole. Do they face the evidence of global warming presented by the destruction these hurricanes have wrought? Does our conclave of environmental sinners repent?

Bah. Silly rabbit.

An unprecedented environmental disaster is the perfect excuse to roll back environmental protections. Just as record deficits were the justification for tax cuts, and the FEMA Snafu is the perfect excuse to cede more power to the military. Just as more death and destruction in Iraq prove the absurd "flypaper" theory is correct.

A common beef against the Hollywood enviro-disaster pic "The Day After Tomorrow," in which it took a dramatic, overnight climate shift to wake up our government, was that it was unrealistic. I now see that the complaint was justified. If the movie had been accurate, the Cheney figure who ended up as President would have responded by eliminating all environmental regulations and offering subsidies to multinationals that agreed to burn old tires and used motor oil just for the hell of it.


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