Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Paging Scott Rigell

About H.R. 1728....

             I recently received a “special report” from Scott Rigell, my Representative in Washington from the 2nd congressional district of Virginia. I’m on his email list, as I like to keep up with what politicians are deciding in my name. Or not.
U.S. Representative Scott Rigell

            Rigell is a Republican who has been congratulated in the Washington Post, among other newspapers, for his moderate, bipartisan profile. I’m not so sure I see that in the votes he’s cast—lining up behind obstructionist Republicans on every major policy bill, including sequestration, during his first term, 2010-12.
            But newspaper editorials still count for something, and for Rigell it’s meant a rising profile.
            Not so long ago I saw an online ranking of the wealthiest members of Congress—House and Senate. Rigell was 24th. So I guess he’s pretty rich. I also have seen reports that he receives campaign support from oil and gas interests, though, to his credit—or his political advisor’s—he returns something like 15 percent of his Congressional salary back to the government to help pay for the deficit. He is very worried, he says, about the deficit, and I suppose I would be, too, if I could understand it. I do understand that I don’t want my country to go down the drain in a great wash of debt.
            I have communicated with Rep. Rigell on many occasions, usually questioning or objecting to his position on most issues, from guns to butter. I have not heard back from him for almost two years. His staff probably figures he doesn’t need my vote, which to date has been true.
            But this recent “Special Rigell Report” concerns me very much. With clear excitement, he writes that he and his colleagues have found the answer to several of Virginia’s critical issues with one sweep of the legislative arm.
            That answer is in The Virginia Jobs and Energy Act (H.R. 1782), which Rigell has introduced in Congress. It has bipartisan support here in Virginia. Democratic Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine are onboard, as is Republican Governor Bob McDonnell, the Richmond Times Dispatch, and even Will Sessoms, the Mayor of Virginia Beach.
            For his part, Rigell calls the Act his “number one legislative priority.” In bold-face type, he writes: “We can create more than 18,000 jobs by leveraging traditional energy sources, and in the process, generate the revenue to improve our schools and fix our roads.”
            Traditional energy sources, of course, means oil and gas which means exploration and drilling off the coast of Virginia Beach and the Virginia Eastern Shore. Ordinary citizens needn’t worry. It will be far enough out to sea that we won’t ever notice. And of course the technology will be safe.
            (To be fair, in a separate paragraph Rigell includes wind as part of the job-creation plan. But that paragraph is not set in bold-face type.)
            What the Rigell bill really means to me is more business for the huge energy corporations which have served us fossil fuels since the industrial revolution. Yet the verdict is pretty much in. Burning those fossil fuels is seriously polluting Planet Earth, and if we don’t stop we’re going to be dealing with something worse than a world war.
            Politicians may be able to fool their constituents and even fool themselves, but, as the old saying goes, “You can’t fool Mother Nature.” She’s choking with evidence that will prove us guilty, and—face it—many of us won’t live through the experience.
            Meanwhile, politicians make their deals in the capitals, pretending to be oblivious to the obvious: jobs won’t mean a hill of beans if the environment isn’t preserved and protected. Is the disastrous Gulf oil spill so soon forgotten? BP has commercials on TV trying to lure people back to safe beaches, but fish and wildlife with strange mutations and defects have been reported over a wide radius surrounding the spill site. Like Fukishima (another disaster the politicians and tycoons try to ignore), the Gulf oil spill was further proof, if any was needed, that our complex technology is not really under our control, and there is a high price to be paid if it fails.
            I’ve written to Rep. Rigell several times on this issue. He has never responded to explain to me why drilling for oil and fracking for gas off the East Coast from Virginia Beach to Chincoteague Island is more important than preserving, protecting, and hopefully restoring a natural environment that supports all life forms, including humans. Wouldn’t such projects create jobs? Increase state revenues? Save the planet?
            Am I an extremist to wish that investing in the health of the planet would be Scott Rigell’s “number one legislative priority?”
            Throw the bums out!
June 8, 2013—Update: Yesterday, June 7, I received a rare email response from Rep Rigell on the off-shore drilling issue. I doubt it was a response to the above blog post, as I’d emailed him a few weeks ago stating my feelings on the issue, but you never know who reads a blog. Perhaps it was discovered by the government’s universal internet mining and collection machine.
            In any case, here is what Rigell had to say in defense of his position:
“On January 31, 2011, the price of oil eclipsed $100 a barrel for the first time since 2008. Many leaders from the nations represented in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) expressed support for this price point and do not plan on taking any action to mitigate the rising costs. On top of these economic consequences, the increasing price of oil is also a risk to our national security. Americans are forced to continue to send billions of dollars to foreign governments that funnel money to extremist groups that pose a threat to our nation. For all of these reasons, I believe that it is in the best interest of America to explore all options for increasing our domestic energy production. Part of this effort will involve renewable energy solutions that are vital to our long-term economic prosperity. In the time being, however, as these technologies are further developed we must explore domestic energy solutions that are readily available.

 “Energy exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) or off of our coasts should be considered. Prudent regulations and restrictions can ensure that drilling in these locations is both economically feasible and environmentally sound; these goals are not mutually exclusive. While we must learn from the mistakes of the BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast, we cannot use this one situation to deter all offshore energy exploration in the future. I strongly disagree with the President's decision to put a moratorium on drilling off of Virginia's coast.
             Note that Rigell minimizes the Gulf spill in favor of money interests and “prudent regulations and restrictions” of the industries which will get the contracts, not only in Virginia but in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. (“Prudent regulation,” in Republican-speak, means less regulation, and doesn’t he understand the meaning of the world “refuge”?) He also minimizes the damage done by the BP spill, excusing the accident with the promise of doing better in the future. On top of that he cites “national security,” the catch-all phrase for most questionable government decisions, as further justification for his position. These excuses have been used by politicians and corporations over and over to justify business as usual while paying the requisite lip service to the larger concern—our common Earthly environment. And while Rigell says he favors renewable energy sources in the long run, the promise is disingenuous. Industry spokespeople and politicians alike admit it will take several years to bring to fruition whatever resources lie offshore. Wouldn’t that time, with its fat subsidies, be better spent on developing renewable technologies?
            Rep. Rigell’s plan is an ill-disguised excuse to give more business to the existing structures that no longer serve the common welfare. I’m sorry, Rep. Rigell, your defense of the old ways of doing things just won’t cut the mustard with this Thinking Dog. I still say, “Throw the bums out.” 


At 10:53 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right on--you are an inspiration, Delaney! Congressman Rigell and his cronies are ludicrously transparent in their short-sighted, palm-greasing motives even as the Bay is irreversibly threatened. Good that you have been so persistent in contacting his office numerous times...It's vital that regular citizens recognize the long-term effectiveness of keeping the pressure on...and yes, our power is in numbers! Citizen groups like Virginia Organizing help keep pols accountable.

At 11:31 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said D!!! Seems counterintuitive to talk of job creation when such jobs could mean the final death knell for the planet. Even David Glick could tell you that!!

At 3:09 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even the Washington Post editors, who take a very pro-drilling stance, concede that there may likely be no recoverable oil at all off of Virginia's coast,
and there is, at best, a six day supply. It's also a myth that offshore drilling off of our coast will lower the price of oil, and I really wish that Rigell et al would give up on that one. Repeating the same illogical myth over and over is the last refuge of the very desperate.

At 12:37 PM , Blogger Tom Ellis said...

Right on, Delaney!

Keep puncturing these banal, self-serving Republikan platitudes about "energy independence" (as if!), even if these guys and their corporate patrons and spinmeisters pay no attention to us. Our votes and letters might not amount to much when stacked against the huge corporate donations these guys wallow in, but we need to expose their fraud and hypocrisy relentlessly, just as you have!

At 2:47 PM , Blogger Delaney said...

Thanks to all who responded to this, here and on Facebook. I much appreciate your support.


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