Secretary of Interior Archives - Shopfloor

If Jobs are the Priority, What’s Environmental Justice?

By | Economy, General, Global Warming | 9 Comments

President Obama made headlines by meeting with CEOs earlier this week, offering a hint of an Administration becoming friendlier toward business and pursuing a “path that will lead to economic success.” Attendees regarded the discussions as a positive exchange about jobs and the economy.

Yet at the same time, the White House was hosting its “White House Forum on Environmental Justice” with an implicit anti-business bias and calls for economic redistribution. Private-sector jobs were not really an issue.

Five cabinet secretaries participated, and the Administration officials were for the most part recondite, vague or bureaucratically uplifting in their comments. From the multi-agency news release:

“Low-income and minority communities often shoulder an unacceptable amount of pollution in this country, diminishing their economic potential and threatening the health of millions of American families,” said Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. “The White House Forum underlines the commitment across the Administration to integrating environmental justice into the missions of Federal agencies, and ensuring this really is a country of equal opportunity for all.”

The trouble with “environmental justice” is that it means whatever the activists and grievance groups want it to mean. For some, it’s compensation because their ethnic groups or communities were exposed to pollution, for others it’s elevating their particular environmental cause over others, as the claim, “Environmental justice is climate justice.” It might be federal direction of local urban planning, more funding for mass transit and bicycles or promoting “green jobs.”

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he was troubled because he didn’t see enough minorities at Yellowstone National Park, so apparently “environmental justice” also means subsidies for travel budgets to visit Wyoming. (Audio clip)

And if the low-income and minority communities shoulder an unacceptable burden of pollution, of course it’s business that causes that pollution. “Environmental justice” then becomes a bludgeon with which to beat up the private sector.

In the hour or so of the afternoon discussions we listened to Wednesday, we heard class- and race-based pleas for federal money and programs, along with unsubtle accusations of racism. One attendee railed that after Hurricane Katrina, “The recovery process has been so racist in design, in every area,” and, “They’re trying to kill us.”

This isn’t necessarily surprising rhetoric to have come the “environmental justice” crowd, but it’s alarming to hear at the White House. And it’s just weird to hear Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, describe her department’s focus on environmental justice and climate adaptation. (Audio, our transcript): Read More

Mixed Messages: Summer of Recovery, Jobs-Killing Moratorium

By | Economy, Energy | One Comment

The Obama Administration will seek to reinstate a moratorium on deep water drilling blocked Tuesday by a U.S. District Court judge in an opinion that revealed a shocking lack of substance in the Department of Interior’s arguments for the moratorium. As Judge Martin L.C. Feldman wrote (ruling is here):

On the record now before the Court, the defendants have failed to cogently reflect the decision to issue a blanket, generic, indeed punitive, moratorium with the facts developed during the thirty-day review. The plaintiffs have established a likelihood of successfully showing that the Administration acted arbitrarily and capriciously in issuing the moratorium.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar responded in a statement, saying: “The decision to impose a moratorium on deepwater drilling was and is the right decision. The moratorium is needed to protect the communities and the environment of the Gulf Coast, and DOJ is therefore appealing today’s court ruling.”

This time Interior will presumably attempt to supply more factual basis for its far-reaching moratorium. The issue will certainly arise this morning when Secretary Salazar testifies at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on reorganizing the Minerals Management Service.

We’ll be very interested in whether the Administration acknowledges the economic damage the moratorium does to the Gulf Coast economy, which has already — obviously — been terribly harmed by the oil spill. As this Reuters report notes, perhaps 50,000 jobs are threatened by the moratorium. Why exacerbate the damage?

The White House last week kicked off its “Recovery Summer,” a series of public events to showcase the Administration’s leadership in helping to revive the ec0nomy and create jobs. The White House blog declared, “Let the Summer of Recovery begin!

Tough to reconcile the messages here: As we wreck 50,000 jobs, let the Summer of Recovery begin!

Drilling into Energy Security

By | Energy, Global Warming | No Comments

Prominent play on the front of the Metro section in today’s Washington Post, “Virginia leaders express interest in offshore drilling“:

RICHMOND — Never has the political climate in Virginia so favored offshore drilling.

Most Virginia leaders — regardless of their political party — have expressed interest in joining Alaska, Texas, Louisiana and other states in setting up offshore platforms to drill for oil and natural gas.

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and fellow elected Republicans strongly back the proposal, as do most members of the state’s congressional delegation, including both U.S. senators, who are Democrats.

The Tallahassee Democrat reports, “Drilling report’s conclusions disappoint both sides:

With its chief proponent saying he is in no hurry, the push to open Florida waters to oil and gas drilling inched past another milestone Monday when a House panel was briefed on a report by a Florida think tank.

House Speaker-designate Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, said he was pleased with the report, which was prepared by the Collins Center and the Century Commission for a Sustainable Florida.

“It was fascinating how much of it jibed with what we’ve been hearing in testimony from the experts,” Cannon said.

Cannon: “I’m pleased with the report.” Newspaper: “Both sides disappointed.”

The report concludes that Gulf of Mexico oil production would produce $80 million to $190 million annually in revenue to the state, creating 2,000 to 5,000 jobs.

A recent article in NewChevron's Tahiti Platformsweek provides the big picture, or deep picture, as the case may be. From “Journey to the Center of the Earth“:

From the window of a helicopter 1,500 feet above the Gulf of Mexico, oil platforms look like Tinkertoys in a swimming pool. Dozens dot the horizon stretching south from New Orleans and continuing out as the water deepens and turns a darker blue. Then, about 50 miles offshore, the platforms stop, and for the next hundred miles there’s nothing. This is the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, where the ocean floor is 8,000 feet down and covered in a heavy layer of muck. Below that is an ancient salt bed several miles thick, and hidden under that, trapped tens of thousands of feet down, there’s oil—billions and billions of barrels of it. And it’s all in U.S. waters.

The article uses Chevron’s Tahiti platform (pictured above) as the base of reporting. Good story, tremendous prospects.

If only …

From The Washington Examiner,The Obama Moratorium: No offshore drilling while he’s in office

The Obama administration’s six-month delay in approving new offshore drilling leases in federal waters will become a new three-year ban, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar quietly told reporters last Friday. Which means that no new oil and gas leases will be approved during President Obama’s term even though two –thirds of the American public supports such activity, according to a December 2009 Rasmussen poll.

Sixty percent also believe that gas and oil prices will drop if the government allows offshore drilling, opening up an estimate 14 billion barrels of oil and 55 trillion cubic feet of natural gas