19 October 2005

Blogging v. Logging

Cyberland is a rarefied environment. Here we can bitch and moan about anything that comes to mind without being called on it. (Imagine trying to get away with that at work or in society.) Sometimes we even kid ourselves that what we type on here matters--that our method of venting serves some greater information dissemination purpose. We pat ourselves on the back and tell ourselves we've at least gotten the word out. Cyberpundits and deskchair activists make the media go 'round.

I like to think I'm a little more self-aware than that; my readership is probably 20 on average. If I were a newspaper columnist, I'd've been bankrupt before my fourth editorial. But this time I'm hoping for the best this medium has to offer, because I'm reporting on one of the worst events for our national and local environment. I'm willing to put in the time to connect the dots. Please think about them and, if they move you at all, act on that impulse.

Energy Policy Act of 2005 was introduced in the House by Joe Barton (R-TX), and co-sponsored by my favorite whipping boy, Richard Pombo (R-CA) in April. It was passed to the Senate in June, where Pete Domenici (R-NM) did the honors of pushing it through until it was signed by Bush on August 8 and became Public Law No. 109-58.

There are a lot of things wrong with Public Law No. 109-58, and not much right. Let me enumerate:
  • Titles 3, 4 & 8 give new and improved incentives for burning coal, oil and gas and dramatically increase air pollution, all of which will increase the rate of global warming. Virginia is a coal state. Mountaintop removal and strip-mining will increase, and what little air and water quality we have, most of which comes from the formerly-protected Nat'l Forest regions in the western portion, will diminish. Do I have to use Hurricane Katrina to remind you that global warming is a Bad Thing? It appears that the Republicrats learned that global warming rate estimates had seen a slight decrease, and decided to spend this as quickly as Bush is spending his alleged "political capital" since November 2004.

  • Title 2, sec. 231-234 does not restrict the definition of "biomass" to wood waste or renewable resources. This means federal, public and Indian lands are up for grabs should the newly empowered Secretary of the Interior wish to grant a company license to them. Equally damning, there are no designations that protect roadless areas, endangered forests, or critical habitats within the definitions given in this law. This means that a logger who wishes to pave a road into the heart of the once-protected George Washington National Forest in order to cut down rare native and old-growth trees for "biomass fuel" can apply to the Dep't of the Interior and receive permission to do so.

  • Title 3, sec. 321 creates unprecedented authority for the Department of Interior to permit new energy projects in the Outer Continental Shelf without adequate oversight or standards. That means that the fragile and embattled Chesapeake Bay can be drilled and pipelined by a Texas-owned company with a permit from the Bush administration. To back this up, Title 3, sec. 387 limits any say that Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and DC might have in that process by weakening states' abilities to monitor and appeal such projects, as was previously given to them in the Coastal Zone Management Act.

The list could go on. For more details, I urge you to read the law in full. A copy of the Senate version passed on to Bush is still available online at Thomas at the LOC. Go to http://thomas.loc.gov, enter S.10 into the search engine, and make sure to check the 'Enter bill number' radio box below the search query before clicking on the button.

If you live in Virginia, I hope you have been convinced to get active on the state level to make up for this horrendous federal rape of our collectively-held land.

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