Two notable stories caught my eye yesterday, neither warranting an entire post, but both of some importance, so I decided to combine them into a single post.
Another bad choice in the EPA
Yet again, the fox has been tasked with watching over the henhouse. The fox, in this case, is Peter Wright, an attorney for Dow Chemical. The henhouse is otherwise known as the EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management (OLEM). Wright would oversee the development of guidelines for the land disposal of hazardous waste and underground storage tanks and respond to accidental chemical releases through the Superfund program. Dow Chemical has dozens of pending Superfund cases. Wow … does anybody see a conflict of interest here?
The appointment must be confirmed by the senate … we will see if they are finally ready to do their jobs, or if they are still being good little bootlickers.
Another major figure at the EPA who makes decisions on Superfund issues is Albert Kelly, who was banned from the banking industry for life for violating federal banking laws. Kelly owns stock in Phillips 66, which has potential Superfund liability at 31 sites around the country.
For those who may not be completely clear on what a Superfund site is, allow me to provide a brief explanation. Superfund is a United States federal government program designed to fund the cleanup of sites contaminated with hazardous substances and pollutants. Sites managed under this program are referred to as “Superfund” sites. It was established as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980. It authorizes federal natural resource agencies, primarily the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), states and Native American tribes to recover natural resource damages caused by hazardous substances. The EPA may identify parties responsible for hazardous substances released to the environment (polluters) and either compel them to clean up the sites, or it may undertake the cleanup on its own using the Superfund (a trust fund) and costs recovered from polluters by referring to the U.S. Department of Justice.
When the polluter is known, they are forced to pay for the cleanup, but when it cannot be determined who caused the damage, or the polluter is unable to pay, then the burden falls on the taxpayer, which occurs about 30% of the time. Until the mid-1990s, the monies came from a tax on the petro-chemical industries, but now it is the burden of the taxpayers.
Dow Chemical is currently responsible to cover the costs of cleanup at no less than 131 Superfund sites, and is currently under obligation to the tune of $152 million. So now, if the Senate confirms Wright for the position, he will be in charge of ensuring that Dow pays for the cleanup of those sites. Dow, a company to whom he has owed his loyalty for the past 19 years!
Despite Trump’s campaign pledges to “drain the swamp” in Washington, Wright’s nomination is the latest example of the President appointing corporate lawyers or lobbyists to supervise federal offices that directly regulate their former employers.
Is Paul Ryan seeing the light … finally?
What was that ‘straw’? The tariffs on steel and aluminum that Trump announced late last week. Ryan’s spokeswoman, AshLee Strong, said yesterday, “We are extremely worried about the consequences of a trade war and are urging the White House to not advance with this plan. The new tax reform law has boosted the economy and we certainly don’t want to jeopardize those gains.”
Well, I would certainly argue with the logic as regards the tax ‘reform’ law, which has not had time to ‘boost’ the economy, and is not likely to at any rate. But whatever gets the sycophants in Congress off their butts and finally doing their job, let us not quibble. After hearing of Ryan’s statements this morning, Trump declared that he is not “backing down”.
House Ways and Means Chairman, republican Kevin Brady and subcommittee chairman Dave Reichert, also a republican, have also tried to convince Trump that this is the wrong thing at the wrong time. In addition to worries of what the tariffs will do to the economy, republicans worry that the move will likely cost them seats in November’s mid-term elections. While I would be happy to see the republicans lose seats in November, I am not happy to see Trump start a trade war where there can be no winners, where we all stand to lose.
It is most unfortunate that Trump is so hellbent on imposing the tariffs, for it is a poor move and one likely to cause economic waves worldwide. But perhaps the positive note in all of this is that the republicans in Congress, or at least many of them, are not happy … perhaps now they will remove their blinders, pack away their shoe shine kits and put some brakes on Trump, as they should have been doing for the past 13 months.
The Constitution actually gives Congress the authority over taxation and tariffs, but in recent years, Congress has been content to delegate that authority to the president. Until now, it had not caused problems, but until now, we had leaders with two things the current one lacks: intellect and a conscience.
Trump responded with his usual aplomb:
“Our country on trade has been ripped off by virtually every country in the world, whether it’s friend or anybody – China, Russia, people we think are wonderful, the European Union. We lost $800 billion a year on trade. Not going to happen.”
“Ripped off by virtually every country in the world”? Really??? Where are the handlers? Have they all jumped ship too?
Note to readers: Yesterday’s eye surgery went well, though I was extremely tired all afternoon. It will take a couple of days before I am able to see out of that eye again, and I am temporarily back to needing the magnifying glass to read/write, so I will, in all likelihood still be a bit slow for the rest of this week. Thanks to all for the well-wishes and hugs … always greatly appreciated!