New Legislation Hopes to Protect Chaco Canyon from Zinke and Drilling Companies

New Orleans       Interior Secretary and former Congressman Ryan Zinke has become the “Scott Pruitt” of the current lineup of Trump Cabinet acolytes.

He now has more than a dozen investigations going on for various conflicts of interest and self-dealing.  The acting Inspector General for the Interior Department referred one case already to the Justice Department for potential prosecution having to do with unauthorized and unpermitted travel and security for his wife.   Reports indicate that a second matter involving self-dealing on a land and development deal in Whitefish, Montana with the former head of the giant oil services company, Halliburton has also been referred to Justice.  The Halliburton company is ubiquitous in oil country both domestically and internationally, but many people may also recognize the name as the interim employer that allowed Dick Cheney a good paying job between government service and his terms as Vice President under George W. Bush.

The Halliburton connection is hardly surprising since in Zinke’s short time at Interior he has pretty much acted more like he was a “land man” for the oil and gas industry rather than a protector of the national parks, forests, and land holdings of the national government.  The review and redrawing of nationally protected areas under the Obama Administration was unprecedented and had never occurred in the wake of any other presidency with each respecting the others, until the ascendancy of Trumpism that respects nothing but the Trump idolatry.  The redrawing of Bears Ears National Monument and threats to others has been news not only in the West but nationally, where it is also widely condemned.

One of the gravest threats remains the risk of oil and gas drilling in what had been a protected area around the Chaco Canyon National and Historic Park, one of the truly special places in the Americas and an area of sacred and cultural value to native peoples as well.  The Bureau of Land Management is preparing to release a plan that could alter this area forever and endanger Chaco Canyon permanently.   Environmental and other groups in the Four Corners area of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah have all vigorously opposed these changes.  Much of the area is also on the Navajo reservation and, importantly, the All Pueblo Council of Governors and its chairs, representing all the native interests in the area, have gone to war on this as well.

The High Country News included a report and opinion piece by the APCG leadership on their lobbying in Washington, D.C. and their call on Zinke and other federal government officials to protect the Chaco Canyon area.  In some good news they report that legislation called the Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act of 2018 has now been introduced.

This area must be protected.  This legislation needs to be supported.  Make sure it’s on your list now, and is among the many differences that your vote in the midterm elections for Congressional representatives could make, especially if control of the House of Representatives shifts.

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Please enjoy Tangled Up in Blue by Bob Dylan from More Blood on the Tracks (previously unreleased version).

Thanks to KABF.

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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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