Gardner's American Pollution Zones bill is simply too high of a cost
Today, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will be discussing Gardner's draft bill, "Offshore Pollution Permitting Act" (or as he calls it, "the Jobs and Energy Permitting Act of 2011"). This is the bill Gardner is touting as a big jobs bill, creating thousands of jobs in other states, but seemingly none in Colorado. In today's hearing, there will be a representative of the EPA, two state resource officials, and a couple oil industry shills.
This draft bill does a few things:
- Requires all opposition to permitting actions to be conducted in Washington, DC in person, effectively denying groups of impacted locals the ability to oppose oil industry actions without expensive DC representation.
- Air quality impacts of off shore drilling are only measured onshore, meaning that all offshore air pollution is not considered pollution and creating offshore American Pollution Zones.
- Dramatically limits the time period when off shore platforms are considered a "source" of pollution, regardless of if contaminants are being released into the air.
- Precludes emission control standards on any and all support vessels servicing an off shore platform, meaning all those huge diesel boats moving back and forth between the shore can belch out all the nastiness they want.
This bill has to be a dream come true for Cory Gardner's corporate sponsors in the oil industry. They can deny interested parties any fair hearing, pollute for free off shore, pollute for free in all service vessels, and even say, "That big nasty cloud of smoke is not pollution right now. It might have been yesterday, but today we are doing different things, so it's not pollution."
Obviously Cory Gardner doesn't know this (though I do hope my readers know), but Colorado has no shore. The impact of this on Colorado is very small. Other than the piles of money he is handed by oil companies, one has to wonder why this is his top priority. Whatever the reason, I think it might be important to explain this bill's effects in terms Coloradan's can actually relate to. Read on for more geekery.
Cory Gardner's American Pollution Zones are the areas where an oil platform might pollute, yet because that area is not "onshore" it doesn't count. Under his bill, the only pollution that can be regulated is the effect onshore. The bill requires no "compliance with health-based air quality standards at any point off the shore line." In Alaska, where Shell really want to drill, there are oil leases available up to 275 miles off the shore, though many are closer to the shore line.
In the map to the right, you can see the radius of allowed pollution under Gardner's bill from active oil leases in Alaska's Beufort and Chukchi Seas. The three potential oil platform areas I used are 40 (redish), 65 (bright yellow), and 125 (gold) miles off shore. The circle around each potential platform is what Gardner wants to allow as an American Pollution Zone.
But that's way up in Alaska, so I superimposed those Pollution Zones on a map of Colorado, to really give a sense of scale to the huge potential air pollution that Gardner wants unregulated.
You might say, "but no one lives in those areas off shore!" To be honest, not that many people live in some of the counties of the eastern plains either, but we don't want a giant unregulated polluter out there.
Kiowa county, for instance has a population density of about 0.8 per square mile. Considering the substantial use of near-shore waters by local populations, I think it's safe to assume that more people than live in that entire county would regularly be within one of these Pollution Zones.
Another major complaint of the oil industry solved by this bill is the ability of locally affected individuals and communities to contest the proposed drilling activity.
The Gardner bill also would make it more difficult for local groups such as fishermen to appeal air permits issued by the EPA. The legislation would require them to hire a lawyer in Washington, or fly their local attorney to the capital. Now they can express their concerns via video conference, she said.
Imagine if a farmer in Yuma, Colorado wanted to contest a refinery being installed next to his wheat field but could not file suit in local court. Under rules like Gardner's bill, that farmer couldn't even file suit in a federal court in Denver. He would have to hire a lawyer in Washington to file suit there. That may be great for the business of Gardner's lobbyist friends (usually lawyers) in DC, but would be bad for local communities.
Sure, this bill only takes away the rights of communities on the coast, but when will Gardner introduce his on-shore American Pollution Zone bill to strip the rights of anyone to contest oil-related pollution in their communities.
Gardner's myopic obsession with more and more oil is really getting in the way of any sense of decency or fairness. (Not that those are his strong points anyhow.)
The American economy needs to be moving away from oil as quickly as possible, yet Cory Gardner wants to ensure we destroy every other natural resource in the nation to keep Shell's profits high.
Oil makes Big Oil and the nation's of OPEC very, very rich. The more we prolong the nation's addiction to oil, the longer we will see hard earned dollars flowing from every American who wants to work straight into the pockets of Middle Eastern royalty and into the bonuses for Oil executives. I know Cory Gardner also gets his cut, in the form of campaign contributions.
We already pay too much for oil. On top of the hard-earned wages of working American that go to oil, let's not add the costs of destroying communities along the coasts, contaminating enormous swaths of the environment, ruining our nation's natural resources for our children, and trampling the rights of Americans. $4 per gallon, maybe, but the other costs we shouldn't be willing to pay.