If at first you don't succeed
You know, if shamelessness were a virtue, Smokey Joe Barton would have been assumed directly into Heaven by now. First, he is one of only eleven Congressmen to vote against the emergency relief package for Katrina victims. Next, he signs a letter urging support for the Gulf Coast Wage Cut. And now, he's going for the trifecta by pushing to repeal environmental protections as his answer for dealing with hurricanes.
Riding a wave of concern over high energy prices triggered by Hurricane Katrina, congressional Republicans began a rush Wednesday to ease environmental rules on refineries and looked for ways to open new coastal waters to oil and gas development.
"More refineries will result in more domestic production of gasoline," said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, as his committee began work on the energy legislation. "We cannot stop hurricanes but we can mitigate some of the adverse impacts."
The Barton measure included easing air pollution control rules on refineries, setting shorter deadlines for issuing refinery permits and a government-funded "risk insurance" program to shield companies against lengthy regulatory delays in refinery construction. And it would give the federal government greater say in siting refineries and pipelines.
A companion measure, being put together by the House Resources Committee, called for opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil development and would clear the way for states to allow oil or gas drilling in their coastal waters, including areas under a federal drilling ban. States would get half of the revenue from new lease sales.
Environmentalists and state and local officials on Tuesday accused sponsors of the legislation of exploiting the hurricane devastation and public fears about rising energy costs to push through pro-industry measures that, in the end, will be environmentally harmful.
"They're using this disaster to roll back public health protection," said Paul Billings of the American Lung Association. He argued that some of Barton's proposals would jeopardize government efforts to require cleaner burning diesel and allow more air pollution from refineries and other industrial plants.
Organizations representing city and county governments and state officials in charge of implementing clean air requirements were mobilizing to try to block the GOP energy proposals.
"Though hailed as a post-Katrina package," the proposals would "dismantle environmental laws that are not barriers to rebuilding the affected Gulf states," said Donald Borut, executive director of the National League of Cities.
William Becker, executive director of two organizations that represent state and county air pollution control officials, said Barton's legislation would allow refineries to expand operations without installing new pollution controls. Similar changes have been proposed by the Bush administration, but are hung up in court because of lawsuits from several states.
Because every bad thing that happens is just another opportunity to push your already-existing agenda as the panacea. It's the Smokey Joe Way. Via PinkDome
Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 29, 2005 to Hurricane Katrina
NOT ONLY THAT BUT...
Posted on Tue, Sep. 27, 2005
Clean-air deadline extension proposed
By Scott Streater
Star-Telegram Staff Writer
U.S. Rep. Joe Barton wants to expand legislation intended to increase oil-refining capacity nationwide to include a proposal that could significantly affect air quality in Dallas-Fort Worth and other regions.
The proposal would allow the Environmental Protection Agency to extend federal ozone compliance deadlines in areas like the Dallas-Fort Worth region that are affected by pollution blown in from other cities and states.
Barton, the chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, included the proposal in his Gasoline for America's Security Act of 2005. That bill is intended to make building refineries easier in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which damaged facilities along the Louisiana and Texas coasts, creating fuel shortages and spikes in gasoline prices.
The Energy and Commerce Committee is expected to begin debating the bill this week.
Although most agree that more refining capacity is needed, critics say the ozone extension would accomplish nothing toward that goal. They accused Barton, R-Ennis, of exploiting the energy crisis to try to gut clean-air laws.
And public health advocates blasted Barton's proposal, saying it would expose residents to dirty air longer.
"He's jeopardizing the health of millions of people in this region," said Tessie Holloway, regional executive director of the American Lung Association of Texas.
Barton's office said that nothing has been finalized and that the proposed legislation is designed to spark debate.
The bill's focus is to ensure that motorists nationwide have a steady supply of fuel during a national crisis, said Lisa Miller, spokeswoman for the Energy and Commerce Committee.
"The chairman's top priority is to find ways we can expand refinery capacity," Miller said.
"He believes that our country needs more oil refineries because the people who work for a living need gasoline to get to work. They need it to be available, and they need it at a price they can afford to pay."
The proposal comes after two devastating hurricanes that battered the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas.
Katrina severely damaged numerous oil refineries and storage facilities along the Louisiana coast, some of which remain out of commission.
And although Rita spared most of Texas, two major refineries in Port Arthur were seriously damaged and may remain off-line for weeks, officials said.
Industry representatives say the storms cast a spotlight on the nation's dwindling fuel reserves. There are about 145 refineries nationwide -- including 50 in Texas -- but most are operating at or near capacity.
No refineries have been built in the United States since 1976 for a number of reasons, including difficulty in obtaining permits.
The refinery legislation is designed to eliminate the roadblocks, said Bob Slaughter, president of the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association, an industry trade group.
"It incorporates as its goal and purpose increasing U.S. refining capacity," he said. "That's something we've been arguing that should be a federal priority for some time."
But critics argue that there's plenty in the proposed legislation that has nothing to do with increasing the nation's refining capacity, including the ozone deadline extension.
Dallas-Fort Worth must meet a 2010 deadline to comply with federal ozone standards or face potentially severe federal sanctions.
Barton, who accepted more campaign contributions from the oil industry than any other lawmaker in the most recent election cycle, has tried unsuccessfully to push the extension through for several years.
"This provision is an example of blatant opportunism," said David McIntosh, a staff attorney at Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, D.C.
"It has nothing to do with recovering from the hurricanes, and it has nothing to do with reforming our energy system. It's essentially exploiting a national tragedy to put more profits into the pockets of a few of Mr. Barton's very powerful friends."
Scott Streater, (817) 390-7657 email@example.com