Democratic Governors Are Still Doing Favors for the Oil Industry

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Many centrist Democratic governors are aiding the oil and gas industry in speeding their production

New Republic - November 22, 2019

"The particulars of individual corruption investigations aside, it’s not hard to understand the dynamic at work. Domestic oil is a sexy option for middle-aged politicians who have attained a certain power status, both because it’s incredibly enriching and because they won’t be around to face the results of their policy decisions. Backing the domestic extraction industry is a bipartisan activity, one encouraged by President Barack Obama and doubled down on by President Donald Trump. The goal is money and power, both for the individual politicians pocketing fossil fuel donations and for this imperialist nation as a whole. “If we are a large worldwide supplier of natural gas, what does it mean?” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said in a Reuters interview published Thursday. “That’s good for the world.”

As the world warms and weather grows more extreme, it’s hard to find anyone in American politics—Democrat or Republican—taking the crisis as seriously as scientists suggest they should. A report released this week by the United Nations Environment Programme found that by 2030, the world’s states will have produced twice the amount of fossil fuels allowable if limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit); the current rate of production is 120 percent over what would be necessary to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The United States and six other major national powers, the report said, “appear to be banking on export markets to justify major increases in production.”

The Trump administration has done everything in its power to perpetuate climate denial and further fossil fuel extraction: For the past three years, the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Bureau of Land Management have all been under the rule of a revolving door of climate-change-denialist industry lackeys, and federal proposals for offshore drilling and natural gas pipelines, as well as environmental protections rollbacks, have all sped through these agencies that, in theory, exist to solve this global crisis rather than expedite it.

But what’s gotten less attention, in recent years, is that many Democratic governors, who could be slowing these national trends, are also speeding oil and gas production.

The latest example comes from North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat elected in 2016 and preparing for a reelection run in 2020. Cooper is a centrist whose championing of the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a prime example of the Democratic Party’s shuffling on climate change where environmental realities collide with the itch to ramp up domestic oil production.

The ACP is a project helmed by private energy corporations Dominion and Duke Energy, which dominate energy production in the Southeast. In 2017, facing opposition from tribal communities and environmentalists particularly affected by the pipeline’s route, Cooper allowed the CEOs of the two companies open access to his office to come up with a solution. That solution turned out to be what is known as a mitigation fund: Duke Energy agreed to place $57.8 million in an account that would be controlled by the governor, with the idea being that the money would be used to offset environmental damage caused by the construction of the pipeline or its statistically inevitable leaks. Shortly after the deal was reached, Cooper hired Lee Lilley, a lobbyist for Dominion, as his legislative liaison.

The state legislature, then controlled by a Republican supermajority none too happy about the governor having a multimillion-dollar fund at his discretion, cried foul, quickly passed a bill, and overrode Cooper’s veto to take control of the fund and direct it to school systems along the pipeline’s path. Still dissatisfied with how the process played out behind closed doors, North Carolina’s GOP leaders contracted a firm to conduct an external investigation into whether the fund was established legally. This past Wednesday, the resulting report was released, finding that “criminal violations may have occurred.” (Emphasis should obviously be on “may.”) ...
Read full report at New Republic

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