Gorsuch, Like Mother, Like Son?

The chemical plant responsible for the Love Canal problem is the Hooker Chemical and Plastics Corporation, in this aerial view, which dumped toxic waste in the Love Canal neighborhood from 1940 until 1950 and which was investigated and exposed in 1980.

New Orleans   All heck seemed to be breaking loose in Washington. The FBI says they were investigating collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, and that there is no evidence that the Trump claim that Obama tapped his phones is true. In another hearing room, Neil Gorsuch, was being queried about a job as a Supreme Court Justice, and claiming he was “above politics.”

More disturbing to me in some ways was reading a piece in High Country News reprising his mother’s controversial stint and resignation as director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under President Ronald Reagan. Her mission at the EPA was search-and-destroy, much like that of Scott Pruitt, the former Oklahoma attorney general who has sued the agency more than a dozen times and is now the newly confirmed department secretary. Both of them have beaten the drums on department overreach and the need to cut the budget and the staff and push more regulation – or lack of it – back to the states. Pruitt reportedly has already had to learn to be careful what he asked for and scurried, unsuccessfully, over to the White House to see if he could limit the budget reduction at the EPA to only a billion bucks, down to $7 billion. The White House instead responded by taking the EPA number down to $5.7 billion.

Anne Gorsuch Burford had been a firebrand Republican Colorado state senator before being raised up to a post in Washington to try and dismantle the EPA. Reading the article it all floods back in the memory of the hard times of the 1980s under Reagan. Gorsuch Burford was the administrator of the Superfund program, created by the EPA and Congress in the wake of the Love Canal, which, as many remember, was built to devastating effect on top of toxic wastes. Gorsuch Burford’s administrative under reach was her undoing. As High Country News reported:

“At a defunct chemical waste processing facility in Indiana…Gorsuch’s EPA allowed a company to pay only a third of the cost of cleaning up underground pollution, and then granted it immunity from liability for underground waste. Accusations of mismanagement let to multiple congressional investigations, and the FBI also investigated the agency for shedding documents related to Superfund probes…Gorsuch herself was cited by Congress for contempt after refusing to turn over documents during the investigation. By Gorsuch’s own admission, the resulting political meltdown paralyzed the agency, preventing it from getting any work done. Gorsuch resigned in 1983 after learning the Justice Department wouldn’t defend her on the contempt charge.”

Neil Gorsuch has been reported as upset and confused by his mother’s resignation as a teen, and arguing for her to stand and fight. Judge Gorsuch has also been noted for his decisions pushing against the so-called “administrative state,” where agencies have acted to interpret Congressional actions in accord with their regulatory authority, as well as his closeness to corporations and their interests.

None of these judicial nominees do much besides dancing at hearings of the Judiciary Committee, and certainly the anger of child is not the same as the maturity of an adult, but nonetheless it’s unsettling still because the child is still father to the man, and there are too many payback coincidences in Judge Gorsuch’s current views that seem to flow directly from those seminal experiences in the 1980s. He may have learned how to get along better than his mother, but the views seem a little too close for comfort to me.

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Regulations, Contractors, and the Gulf Oil Spill

BP blame game
BP blame game

New Orleans The wave of news comments was provoked by the release of an almost 400 page report by the National Oil Spill Commission in Washington head by former Florida Senator and Governor Bob Graham and former Environmental Protection Agency chief William Reilly during Republican administrations.  In the inimitable words of Aaron Viles of Gulf Restoration Network, this commission was “not a bunch of bomb throwers.”  Their recommendations included improved regulations, dedication of a significant percentage of the BP settlement money to Gulf Coast restoration, and raising the liability cap on companies making Tr mess.  Reasonable observers might even say that the Commission had not gone nearly far enough, especially when the front page picture on my hometown paper, The Times Picayune, had a fisherman on his knees begging Kenneth Feinberg, the fund administrator, to release promised money since he was without heat and utilities now.   Even Senator Mary Landrieu, who Lord love her, almost never misses an opportunity to apologize for the oil companies, expressed herself satisfied with the report, so how could anyone be against moving forward on what is bound to be weak tea.

Most interesting to me were Reilly’s comments about contractors where a lot of the accountability needs to be increased.  He noted that the big companies “dependency upon contractors who operate in virtually every one of the world’s oceans” is at the core of the problem.  He reasonably doubts that this could be anything but a “systemic problem,” because to do so we would have “to believe also that Halliburton would only have supplied faulty cement to BP.  Or that Transocean, on any other rig but a BP rig, would have detected gas rising in the drill pipe.”  The problem of down-the-chain lack of accountability and reliance on contractors keeps cropping up everywhere whether in the Gulf or Iraq or Afghanistan or anywhere on the service and production chain.  This is huge, unanswered problem in modern social and economic society where responsibility and accountability is totally sacrificed at the altar of cheaper pricing, shady dealing, and “who me, not me, who you, not you” finger pointing and foot shuffling.

So much is at stake in every endeavor that we just have to do better!

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