Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Drill, Baby, Drill... In The Great Lakes?


This weekend Blue America hosted a live chat with Michigan progressive Democrat Fred Johnson at Crooks and Liars. And one of the issues in his race people were most worked up over involves drilling for oil in the Great Lakes. Republicans, always eager to please their buddies at Big Oil, are pushing for it. Fred, of course-- like most residents of the beautiful lakeside counties-- opposes it. In response to a question about drilling in Lake Michigan, Fred was crystal clear:
I talk about the windpower potential of the lakeshore with voters all the time. There is some NIMBYism out there, and I am cognizant of the local concerns relative to tourism. However, we have to get serious about this, or Big Oil will definitely come after the Lakes. I'm continually amazed that as a vast body of water is being destroyed by Big Oil there are still those who behave as though the threat from drilling was an issue that needed further study. We must become energy independent. We must start as soon as possible. We must begin the process of transitioning from fossil fuels to alternative energy sources and support the President's efforts to build a "Green" economy.

Drilling in the Great Lakes IS NOT THE SOLUTION TO ACHIEVING ANY OF THOSE AIMS IN THE SHORT OR LONG TERM. Further, suggesting such a thing only serves to validate the extent of Big Oil's influence in government. Enough!!!

Radical right Club for Growth kook Pat Toomey (R-PA) has been advocating drilling in Lake Erie for some time now, something that could endanger the drinking water for roughly 40 million Americans. Even back in 2001, when Toomey was in Congress, he voted against a tremendously popular-- and bipartisan bill, H.R. 2311 to prohibit drilling in the Great Lakes watershed. More recently, when Toomey was campaigning in Erie he was questioned by John Guerriero from the Erie Times-News, he was still talking about how wonderful drilling in the Great Lakes would be:
While Toomey was in Erie on what he called his small-business tour, his Democratic opponent, U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, of Delaware County, released a video online with a Lake Erie theme.

The video focuses on the lake and highlights Toomey's vote in 2001 to allow drilling in the Great Lakes.

The Sestak campaign said Toomey should be reminded how much Erie relies on a tourism economy and the jobs that come with it.

An oil spill similar to BP's crisis in the Gulf of Mexico would contaminate all of the lake, Sestak's campaign said.

Toomey called it a "ridiculous comparison'' because the blown-out BP wellhead is one mile below the water surface, while the deepest part of Lake Erie is 210 feet.

Toomey said he would not categorically and immediately rule out any Great Lakes drilling.

Rep. Joe Sestak, who beat the Establishment Machine and Arlen Specter to win the Democratic Senate nomination opposes Big Oil's calls for allowing drilling in the Great Lakes. Like Fred Johnson in Michigan, Joe Sestak is clear as a bell about drilling in Lake Erie: "Congressman Toomey's willingness to allow drilling in the Great Lakes shows that he does not understand the immense benefits of Lake Erie for the people of Erie County. He would put at risk the keystone of Erie's economy for the benefit of a few corporations and their shareholders. In the event of a catastrophic accident-- like the BP disaster-- countless small businesses would be forced to close, and tens of thousands of jobs would be lost."

Yesterday evening after reading this Sam Stein report at HuffPo, I tweeted this:

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ron Johnson found himself under the political microscope late last week after it was revealed that he owns up to $315,000 in BP stock while he has defended the oil giant against its critics and called for continued offshore drilling.

The Wisconsin businessman-- who is vying, in a closer-than-expected contest, for Sen. Russ Feingold's (D-Wisc.) seat-- has spent the last few weeks trying to temper criticism of BP in the wake of the Gulf spill. Johnson, whom national Democrats like to refer to as the "forgotten Tea Party candidate," has expressed disappointment with the administration's "assault" on BP. At the same time, he's been a vocal advocate for continued and even accelerated oil and gas exploration, going so far as to express an openness to drilling in the Great Lakes.

"The bottom line is we are an oil-based economy," he told the site WisPolitics in mid-June, when asked about drilling in the Great Lakes. "There's nothing we're gonna do to get off of that for many, many years. I think we have to be realistic and recognize that fact and, you know, I, I think we have to, get the oil where it is, but we have to do it where it is."

Those comments and many others make Johnson among the most pro-drilling pols in a Republican Party filled with drilling proponents. But in offering his support for the practice, Johnson didn't reveal that he has serious financial stakes in the continued success of BP and the greater oil and gas industry.

This is what it means to be a sociopath. It's not illegal... but it makes no sense at all to elect them to public office so they can turn us all into their victims. And, of course, it isn't just Ron Johnson putting this country in danger for his own narrow interests-- and it isn't only Republicans in the Great Lakes states either. Just yesterday, Heather Beaven reminded us that a Florida sociopath, John Mica, brags on his website that "I voted to drill in the Everglades in the 1970’s and I’d do it again today.” Mica is on Big Oil's payroll-- and so are several members of his family. He puts their financial interests ahead of the interests of the country. That's what it means to be a Republican politician in the 21st Century.

UPDATE: Russ Feingold Explains Why He Opposes Drilling In The Great Lakes

This is from a press release Feingold sent out this morning:
Johnson, who gave a speech before the Gulf oil spill in which he said, “Big Oil [is] not evil,” has repeatedly defended the oil industry, including BP, telling the media after the Gulf oil spill, “[T]his is not the time to be beating up on those guys, quite honestly.”

News reports have also detailed Johnson’s support for oil drilling in national wildlife areas and his opposition to more caution before undertaking new oil-drilling projects in light of the worst oil spill disaster in American history. Johnson also opposes the BP compensation fund for victims of the Gulf oil spill.

One month ago, Johnson was asked by the media, "Would you support drilling like in the Great Lakes, for example, if there was oil found there?"

Johnson said, “Yeah. You know, the bottom line is that we are an oil-based economy. There’s nothing we’re going to do to get off of that for many, many years, so I think we have to just be realistic and recognize that fact. And I think we have to get the oil where it is…”

Last week, with ongoing media coverage of the BP oil spill, and after weeks of delaying the financial disclosures required, it was revealed by the media that Johnson has invested as much as $315,000 with BP, $50,001 to $100,000 in Exxon Mobil and $15,001 to $50,000 in Occidental Petroleum Corp.

Wisconsin relies on the Great Lakes for everything from food to jobs and from power to recreation. According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, 1.6 million Wisconsin residents get their fresh water directly from the Great Lakes. 

On July 12, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported the area of the Gulf affected by the oil sheen is 84,101 square miles – an area nearly the same size as all five Great Lakes combined.

Feingold voted for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which has funded maintenance of Wisconsin’s harbors and canals, restored fish and wildlife habitats, and reduced pollution, including clean water and drinking water revolving loan funds, the Ashland NFWCO Fish Passage Program, Fox River dam infrastructure improvements, the Fox River navigation system’s lock keeper houses, improvements to the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal and harbor, and the Kewaunee and Manitowoc harbor dredging projects.

...The League of Conservation Voters recognizes Feingold as having one of the best lifetime voting records of any current U.S. Senator. The Wisconsin Wildlife Federation and National Wildlife Federation have honored him for his efforts to protect water quality and fight for wetlands protections.

The State of Wisconsin honored Feingold for his strong support of State Wildlife Grants and he was awarded the Clean Water Champion Award by the Clean Water Network for his leadership on the Clean Water Restoration Act.

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