Would The Death Penalty Be Effective In Cases of Corporate Pollution?
The first in my family to go to college, I got through a state university on scholarships, student loans, and selling pot. The very first scholarship I ever won was a NYC essay contest sponsored by the UN. I came in second. The question was whether or not the death penalty should be abolished. The winner wrote it should be; I wrote it shouldn't. I was only 15 at the time but, unlike every friend I have, I still believe in the death penalty. The difference now is that I recognize it isn't fairly applied and innocent ppeople are killed... so it can't be used. I just voted to abolish it in the state of California earlier this month-- although, in principle, I'm still very pro-death penalty. I think of excellent ways to make the world a better place by applying it properly nearly every day.
This week I was driving along listening to a radio program, the one above, about hexavalent chromium water pollution in Hinkley, California and I came up with a GREAT idea that would make America an even more super-duper country. A public execution for a dozen people... on TV. These folks: (You're going to be disappointed if you look for Karl Rove and George Bush and Dick Cheney on the list.)
• David R. Andrews, Pepsico former chief lobbyistNever heard of any of these people? You don't think they're the evilest scumbags that come immediately to mind? First, the hint is in the bolded name, Anthony F. Earley, Jr., Chairman and CEO, PG&E. The dozen people are PG&E's Board of Directors. That's where the buck stops for the giant $50 billion San Francisco-based energy (electricity and natural gas) company with 19,424 employees.
• C. Lee Fox, former Vice Chairman of AirTouch Communications
• Fred J. Fowler, Chairman, Spectra Energy
• Roger H. Kimmel, Vice Chairman, Rothschild, Inc
• Forrest. E. Miller, former Vice President, AT&T
• Barbara L. Rambo, CEO, Taconic Management Services
• Lewis Chew, Executive VP. Dolby Labs
• Anthony F. Earley, Jr., Chairman and CEO, PG&E
• Maryellen C. Herringer, former Executive VP, APL, Limited
• Richard A. Meserve, President, Carnegie Institution
• Rosendo G. Parra, former Senior VP, Dell
• Barry Lawson Williams, Williams Pacific Ventures
If you saw the classic 2000 film Erin Brockovich you know all the background already. Hinkley, California is in San Bernardino County and its 2,000 people-- that was when the movie came out; there are considerably fewer now-- are represented by one of the most corrupt congressmen in all of American history, Republican predator Jerry Lewis, who is passing the seat along to Paul Cook-- no, not the drummer from the Sex Pistols, his reactionary protégée who just beat out crackpot teabagger Gregg Imus earlier this month. Hinkley's groundwater was polluted with hexavalent chromium between 1952 and 1966, making the area nearly uninhabitable-- although people have their homes and businesses there. PG&E bought a lot of homes up after the contamination was first discovered but they told even more people that their homes were "safe." They weren't safe and those people are sick now-- and PG&E is offering to buy their homes now.
Julie Heggenberger, a 36-year-old mother of two, was just a teenager when PG&E agreed to pay $333 million to residents who claimed they had been made ill by toxic well water. For decades, workers at PG&E's nearby compressor station dumped the chemical hexavalent chromium into waste ponds that seeped into the town's groundwater.
"I sat and I listened, and I was just like — these are the words they were telling us in '97," Heggenberger says. "Even at the time, some people were like, 'Why are you staying?' But we really did feel safe. PG&E said this plume ... it'll never spread, the contamination was back in the '60s, it's over."
Heggenberger, who suffers from Crohn's disease, says she never considered leaving before. She has deep family roots here.
"But when I was in the hospital the second time and all of this has been brought up again ... I said I just want out. That's where I am now. I just want to leave."
Pacific Gas & Electric acknowledges the toxic plume is larger than once thought, but disputes that it is actually growing.
"The reason that it's larger is because we are testing in areas that haven't been previously tested," says Jeff Smith, a spokesperson for PG&E.
"A couple of options for local residents who live within a mile of the contaminated area from PG&E's past actions here-- what we offered was either a whole household water-treatment system or, for those that were interested, a property-purchase program," he says.
More than 200 property owners, over a quarter of the town, have elected to sell their homes to the utility. Along long stretches of asphalt, country mailboxes sprout like desert flowers amid scatterings of boarded-up houses.
Theresa Schoffstall says her home just outside the boundary of the contaminated area does not qualify for the buyout, but her next-door neighbor's home does.
"I'm not an expert in all of this, but to me it's just common sense in a way, the water flows and if it's 200 feet from me, how can mine be different?" she says. "That's what I don't understand."
Schoffstall fears the home she and her husband built 12 years ago is now worthless, but most of all she worries about her children. The family has stopped drinking the water.
"But I'm still cooking and we still shower and we have a swimming pool, and a lot of times people are telling you that's harmless, but I don't want 10 years from now, all of a sudden, [to hear,] 'Remember we told you it was harmless? Now, no its not,' " she says.
|Anthony F. Earley, Jr.|