Green Romney Contaminated by Presidential Politics
Romney’s assertions about the Salem Harbor plant were supported by a 2000 Harvard environmental and public health study that concluded pollution from Salem Harbor was responsible for 53 deaths, 570 emergency room visits, 14,400 asthma attacks and 99,000 incidents of upper respiratory symptoms annually (http://www.airimpacts.org/documents/local/plant.pdf). At this point in Romney’s governance he was lauded by conservationists and environmentalists like Massachusetts Ocean Management Task Force official, Jack Clarke, as “ahead of his time and very progressive” (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/30/us/politics/romney-energy-agenda-shifted.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0).
In addition to rebuking Salem Harbor Governor Romney vowed to crack down on Massachusetts “filthy five”, a reference to the state’s most notorious polluters. Surrounding himself with environmentalists, Romney’s administration sought to tackle environmental degradation and support conservation efforts on a regional level. Outlined in a 2004 policy paper that Romney referred to as his “no regrets” strategy his administration laid out a “climate protection plan”. This plan included a blueprint for a regional cap-and-trade-program, a strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and a pledge that promoted hybrid cars. As governor of Massachusetts Romney justified his position in light of evidence produced by leading climatologists. Romney recounted in his 2010 book No Apologies, “climate change is occurring” and that “human activity is a contributing factor”.
On the campaign trail presidential politics appears to have contaminated the once Green Romney as he garners support and money from national energy players that make the filthy five look, well, less filthy.
The environmental policy Romney developed as governor of Massachusetts is radically dissimilar to the Big Energy anti-environmental policy he touts during his presidential bid. Having forged an alliance with leading energy moguls like Exxon’s Rex Tillerson and appointed Harold Hamm, the billionaire executive of Continental Resources as his energy adviser, Romney has come to tow the line of extractive industries and has positioned himself as recipient of the funds they’ll donate to influence American energy policy.
According to Open Secrets.org, the campaign finance watchdog, the Romney campaign has already raised over $3.4 million from oil and gas companies. Republican National Committee has pulled in more than $4 million from oil and gas. Together the Romney campaign has exceeded the funds raised by John McCain and George W. Bush who both received staggering contributions from energy companies during their runs for president. However, the Romney campaign and Republican Party are receiving constant streams of funds from the unlimited money super PACs and dark money non-profits, the 501 (c)’s at the center of the money-access-power-nexus that trump direct campaign and party contributions by millions.
As Paul Blumenthal of the Huffington Post reported last month, the two Super PACs backing Romney, American Crossroads and Restore Our Future have already raised $8 million from extractive industries. Still this is chump change when compared to industrial tycoons David and Charles Koch who are committed to spend more than $100 million through their non-profit Americans for Prosperity to elect Romney and secure their say over energy policy.
During Romney’s term as governor defending the interests of Koch Industries would have been an aberration of his pro-conservation and environmentally conscious agenda, at least during his first three years as Massachusetts executive.
A decisive break from the policies that earned him the epithet “ahead of his time and very progressive” could be seen as early as December 12, 2005. During a television interview Governor Romney remarked. Days later Romney shared with the people of Massachusetts that he would not be running for governor again. Many residents interpreted this as a sign that “he had set his sights on the presidency”. To the dismay of environmentalists Romney’s televised statement was the harbinger signaling the end of his nuptial flight with Green interests.
Presidential politics and the gross money that permeates it has beckoned Romney to distance himself as far as possible from the energy and environmental policies that defined his gubernatorial stint. A calculated shift to the far right on energy and environmental issues has won Romney the support of the pro-Big Business/Energy camp and assured a steady stream of money flowing into his campaign from their coffers.
Today Romney’s energy plan focuses on achieving energy independence by 2020, a goal that relies on more intensive extraction and use of gas, coal and oil coupled with reduced regulation of these industries.
Washington Post’s Steven Muffson highlighted the centerpieces of Romney’s energy policy in an article written on September 11th (http://www.washingtonpost.com/postlive/obama-vs-romney-where-their-energy-policies-differ/2012/09/10/2b6c9e56-f9c8-11e1-a945-6cd36411d000_story.html ). Central to Romney’s presidential bid are his promises to industrialists to strip the EPA of its powers to regulate the emission of carbon dioxide. He also plans to empower states at the expense of the Federal Interior Department to issue permits for drilling on federal lands and in federal waters. Romney asserts that permits will be issued quicker and more efficiently if federal oversight is mitigated, streamlining energy production and creating new jobs. Eliminating governmental subsidies to wind and solar projects is another priority in Romney’s energy plan as well as opening all federal lands and waters for extraction actives including the entire Pacific and Atlantic coast and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Romney has also stated that he will continue to provide generous tax breaks for oil and drilling amounting to more than $4 billion a year. And finally Romney has informed voters that if elected one of his first actions as president will be to approve the Keystone XL pipeline to begin the transportation of oil sands from Canada to the Texas Gulf for refinery.
The environmental and public health issues that concerned Romney as governor of Massachusetts have been strategically replaced with advocating the causes of America’s top oil, gas and coal titans. It looks like Romney will need more than one finger to point at plants that kill as the jobs that his energy policy will promote will be largely held in plants and along pipelines that cast a black cloud on the filthy energy production of Salem Harbor.
-your inquirer profoundly