Industry Writes the Laws

It's little wonder that the White House can propose slashing funding at the EPA by 7.2% -- in this Administration, industry lobbyists are in charge of environmental regulations. The WP compared the EPA's new mercury emission rules with two memos sent to federal officials by Latham & Watkins, the lobbyists for Cinergy Inc. and other major energy companies, and found "at least a dozen paragraphs were lifted, sometimes verbatim, from the industry suggestions" -- not shocking, considering the two EPA air quality officials overseeing the mercury rule changes previously worked at Latham & Watkins. It is also not surprising, considering that since 2000, employees of Latham & Watkins have contributed over $68,000 to President Bush, while Cinergy has contributed $19,750 to the President. The new EPA mercury rules -- which particularly affect children -- abandon plans to require coal and oil-fired plants to reduce mercury pollutants, instead adopting a more flexible "cap-and-trade" program favored by industry that could precipitate higher levels of mercury in some localities. Claudia M. O'Brien, who wrote the memos for Latham & Watkins, said it was 'gratifying' that the EPA found the firms' analysis persuasive.


This isn't the first time the Administration has been caught plagiarizing from industry wish lists. In March 2002, a court ordered the Department of Energy to release documents related to the secret White House energy task force. An analysis of the documents by lawyers for the Natural Resources Defense Counsel reveals that industry lobbyists essentially wrote significant sections of the Administration's energy policy. Specifically, Executive Order 13211 was "nearly identical in structure and impact to [an American Petroleum Institute] draft, and nearly verbatim in a key section." Also, an Administration proposal to weaken the Clean Air Act was lifted from an e-mail to the Department of Energy written by a lobbyist for the Southern Company. Southern Company has contributed $44,800 to President Bush over the last four years.


Late last month, the Secretary of the Interior announced she would allow industry to profit off federal property without reimbursing taxpayers. Specifically, the proposal eliminates royalties that oil/gas companies pay when drilling on government property in the Gulf of Mexico. The plan is expected to cost the Treasury nearly $1.1 billion over the next ten years. A primary beneficiary? Halliburton.


According to a 02/11/03 press release by Magic Earth, a wholly owned subsidiary of Halliburton, technology they are developing will "be able to generate better exploration prospects in challenging reservoir environments such as deep shelf Gulf of Mexico gas and global deepwater environments." In 2002, another Halliburton subsidiary, Subsea, developed a state-of-the-art deep water support vessel, the Viking. Edgar Ortiz, President of Halliburton's Energy Services group, touted the Viking as a demonstration of "our further commitment to expansion within the Gulf of Mexico market place." Halliburton has also partnered with Shell to develop "cutting edge" tubing for deep water drilling and a Real Time Operation Center to monitor Shell's deep water operations in the Gulf.


With little fanfare, Gale Norton announced on January 22 that she had signed off on a plan to open up over 7 million acres of Alaska's North Slope to oil and gas development. The area is just west of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and some of the drilling would "occur in areas important for migratory birds, whales and wildlife." The same week, Norton announced she planned to "triple the number of drilling permits approved in Wyoming's natural gas fields." Critics contend that Norton is dramatically increasing the number of permits without determining "the cumulative impacts of drilling on a broad scale" or setting aside enough money for cleanup.

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