Tar Sands Extractors to Fund Tar Sands Regulators in Alberta
|December 29, 2013||Posted by Staff under Environmental|
The petroleum industry wins one in Alberta and loses one in Pennsylvania.
These two 2013 excerpts about government oversight of oil extraction are from (1) Common Dreams, Dec 24, on Alberta by Jacob Chamberlain, and (2) PennFuture, Dec 20, on Pennsylvania.
In Alberta, Environmental Regulators Now Funded by Fossil Fuel Industry
Alberta, home to massive tar sands reserves, has a new environmental regulator in town. Roughly 150 publicly funded environment department staff including fish and wildlife officers, forestry officers, biologists, rangers, and others who watch over the oil industry’s activities in the province are expected to move over to the new Alberta Energy Regulator. The new organization will get all of its funding from levying fees on oil and gas companies; employees’ salaries are to be paid by the industry they are monitoring.
Gerry Protti, who helped found the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, an oil industry lobby group, has been chosen as chairman of the board of the new tar sands regulators.
Chief executive Jim Ellis, a former deputy minister of environment, has criticized environmental groups for publishing “negative media on the oil sands” and also attempted to bar environmental groups from taking part at a recent tar sands hearing.
Pennsylvania Supreme Court Strikes Down Key Portions of State’s Oil & Gas
In a 4-2 decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed a 2012 Commonwealth Court decision striking down controversial portions of Act 13, under the Pennsylvania Constitution. Most notably, the Court struck down parts of Act 13 that would have created a statewide zoning scheme for oil and gas activities, and required municipalities to allow those activities in all zoning districts, including residential districts.
PennFuture opposed Act 13 because of the issues relating to local preemption raised by Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille, insufficient regulatory safeguards to protect natural resources and communities, and an inadequate impact fee.
The decision is a substantial rebuff of attempts by the legislature and governor to treat the new shale gas industry differently in Pennsylvania than other heavy, industrial land uses.
Act 13′s evisceration of local land use powers was unprecedented — a “blanket accommodation of industry and development,” the Supreme Court wrote.
Chief Justice Castille articulates a new framework for evaluating government actions under Article I, Section 27, which guarantees each citizen the right to “clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment.” Those environmental rights are “presumptively on par” with other civil liberties found in Article I’s Declaration of Rights, writes Castille.
Ed. Notes: While Big Money got what it wanted in Alberta, its grab in Pennsylvania was way to audacious for at least one judge, a judge who nicely spelled out our rights to a healthy natural world. Hopefully, his point of view will prevail but in the real world, money rules, and most of that ruling money is unearned “rent” from nature, the money society spends for oil, land, and other aspects of the natural world. The favors that insiders buy with such money are items like limited liability and a stacked deck.
If we don’t want oil corporations to use that money to rule us, then we have to capture that money for ourselves. And why not? It already belongs to us. The money is spent for things like oil, which none of us created, and the value of oil is set by demand, which is something we all create. So let us use taxes, fees, leases, dues, etc, to redirect our spending for resources into the public treasury, so the funds can benefit us all.
Until we do, we must expect the petroleum industry to spend our common wealth any way they want. But once we do share what is already ours, then we can get government on our side. It’d quit limiting the liability of the culpable and start defending the health of both people and planet.