Read today’s news from around the state and country. Each day in the Roundup we cover politics, always with a side of bold humor. We think politics should be fun, informative and encourage us all to take action.
Thursday, April 10th
Tar Sand Pipeline No More: When did Exxon know about its ruptured pipeline in Arkansas? Well, Inside Climate News wants to know, and so do we. Katherine Bagley of Inside Climate News, reports that Exxon may have known about the leak two hours earlier than its official report to the national spill response database shows. Exxon workers noticed a “drop in pressure” in the Pegasus pipeline, but no follow up was done until the company got a call from locals. In addition to lack of clarity as to when Exxon knew about the spill, it is unclear how long dilbit gushed out of the pipeline before it was shut down. Conflicting reports reiterate that Exxon cares little about the safety of people or environment. If Exxon did indeed know there was an issue before it was noticed on the ground (which we strongly suspect is the case), it indelibly illustrates again that the leak detention systems on pipelines in this country do not work. According data from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, only 5% of pipeline spills were detected by remote sensors. The public is not ignorant or apathetic; in fact, we are insulted. Read Here.
Passing a Hurdle: Today “an overwhelming majority of Senators” voted to have debate on gun legislation. Just one week ago, it didn’t seem clear at all that the legislation would be able to avoid a filibuster. In fact, many Senators had signed on to a letter promising that they would not let the bill go to the floor. But a group of family and friends of the Newtown shooting victims spent the last three days telling Senators their stories, and asking them to move the bill forward. The legislation focuses on expansion of background checks and was the product of a bipartisan deal struck yesterday. Senators of both parties on the Hill say that this group of affected citizens made a real difference by coming to the capitol this week, an attestment to citizen power that will hopefully be continued when a final vote comes up on the legislation. Read here
Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist and animator Mark Fiore has created a short cartoon depicting Tar Sands Timmy, the “crudest” around, who needs a pipeline. It’s great. Watch it here
Wednesday, April 9th
Former Ark. Senator Says Forward on KXL Pipeline: Ex-lawmaker and democrat Blanche Lincoln published an editorial today promoting the passage of the Keystone XL pipeline. Before you check your browser to make sure you’re on the right website or politely ignore this particular news item, this article is an important read to pipeline fighters because we all need to know what to say when someone like Lincoln approaches us with numbers like two-thirds of all energy consumed in the U.S. comes to us through pipelines. First, this statement generalizes energy consumption in order to make this pipeline look like a no-brainer. But energy sources like ethanol and natural gas are brought to us by pipeline, and these sources are very different from crude oil and especially tar sands oil. About 36% of our energy consumption is accounted for by petroleum, only some of that petroleum comes in the form of tar sands. As we know, tar sands oil is very different from normal crude, even the IRS agrees. Second, pipelines spill all the time, and many of those spills are extremely devastating, and tar sands pipelines like that in Kalamazoo and that in Arkansas have demonstrated themselves to be especially destructive.To the former Senator’s argument about pipeline being safer than rail, our concerns with Keystone XL and the risks to our water remain. In the decades of transporting oil via rail thru Nebraska, we have never seen a disaster like we are witnessing now in the Kalamazoo and Yellowstone rivers that had a tarsands pipeline burst into those bodies of water. Almost one million barrels of tarsands and benzene will never go right through families wells, major rivers and the Ogallala Aquifer on a daily basis via rail, but they would with Keystone XL. The safest path is transitioning to clean energy. Read the former senator’s editorial here.
Rep. Joe Barton Cites Bible in Climate Change Debates: Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) says climate change may be happening, but it’s due to other things that are outside our control like that God said so. Barton delivered his impassioned defense of his thermo-theocracy theory during the house energy subcommittee deliberation on H.R. 3, a bill that would allow Congress to circumvent the president and grant TransCanada a pipeline permit if passed, which isn’t really likely according to the Washington Post. Barton is a leading voice in Republican energy policy as well as a bonafide crazy person. Read more here.
NPR Puts Our Crazy Energy Habits Into Focus: A series of graphs on show energy consumption since the 1800s. Check it out here. Self-consciousness to follow.
Tuesday, April 9th
Arkansas Giving Exxon the Boot After Spill: Central Arkansas Water has said it once and they’ll say it again — get that pipeline out of here. The water company is renewing calls to get ExxonMobile’s Pegasus pipeline away from their management area. It’s not the first time the utility has asked for the oil giant to get off their land, but maybe they’ll be more receptive to the idea now that their product has made it to local waterbeds as well as into folks’ backyards. Read more coverage from Inside Climate News here.
Make Your Voice Heard: Has all this bad press on the Mayflower spill got you crossing your fingers that Nebraska doesn’t get a pipeline? You can do more than just that. Sign our petition to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline here.
Senate has Votes for Introduction, Cloture on Gun Control: It’s been a sorrowfully long time since the children of Sandy Hook Elementary were massacred by a madman with a gun, but the Huffington Post reports that the Senate will finally introduce gun control legislation on Thursday. The bill includes a package of reforms such as expanded background checks and restrictions barring the trafficking of guns. Of course, a number of their Republican colleagues aren’t happy about it and are threatening to filibuster — in case you forgot what that means, that’s the opposition’s way of getting legislatures to back down by effectively having a monologue and talking until people cave rather than hearing the opposition, say, read from a phone book (Democracy!). Preemptive moves to stop a move like this — cloture — are in the works and they look good. Read more here.
Paisley, LL Cool J Anti-Racism Duet Hilariously Bombs: And now for something on the lighter side. Most of you have probably heard of the wonderfully awful collaboration between LL Cool J and country music somebody Brad Paisley courageously named “Accidental Racist.” (Haven’t heard it? Stop reading immediately and listen.) The core message of the song: racism is dead and I’ll wear the Confederate flag if I damn well please. How many things are wrong with this statement? Let me count the ways, and I’ll start with the disproportionate amount of black men incarcerated in modern America. Or should we perhaps revisit Trayvon Martin’s wrongful slaying? It’s a wrong headed approach to the sensitive, serious conversations about race that still needs to happen. But, until then, let’s jam to this terrible, terrible song. By the way LL, did you really say, “If you don’t judge my gold chains / I’ll forget the iron chains”? Seriously? Read Slate’s post-mortem here.
Monday, April 8th
Improving Foster Care Advances: On Friday Senator Amanda McGill’s legislation that would make it possible for state wards to stay in the foster care system until age 21 was advanced to the floor. As Nebraska law currently stands, kids who have been in the foster care system their entire lives are dropped from all state assistance on their 19th birthday, and many go on to be homeless teenagers. McGill made the point that the State doesn’t do an adequate job of preparing foster children for the real world, while co-sponsor Annette Dubas said “it doesn’t take a lot to let them know they can meet their goals and objectives, and there is hope.” The current results of the foster care system also costs the state money in lost tax revenue and increased public assistance. Read here
Something Worth Hiding: Despite Exxon’s best efforts to hide their Mayflower tar sands spill from the public (including a no-fly zone over the spill area and threatening journalists with arrest), activists were able to get ahold of some footage “showing oil from the Arkansas pipeline rupture purportedly diverted from a residential neighborhood into a wetland area to keep it out sight and, most importantly, out of the media.” An area resident also reported that oil was flowing into Lake Conway, a freshwater lake well known for its fishing. Efforts to reach Exxon for comment were futile, as the media relations number given was incorrect and no spokesperson was available…but I guess if I was responsible for a tar sands spill into an area “dotted with wildlife reserves” and water sources, I wouldn’t want to talk about it either. Read here
All Risk, No Reward: Rep. Rush Holt has published an op-ed in The Hill’s Congress Blog outlining the “All Risk, No Reward” nature of the Keystone XL. Setting up the article by talking about the tar sands spill in Mayflower Arkansas, Holt asks “Why would we want to expose thousands of towns up and down the United States to the same risks faced so catastrophically in Mayflower?” The Keystone I spilled 12 times in its first year of operation, and every year about 3.2 million gallons of oil are spilled out of our nation’s pipelines. The oil isn’t going to be produced or consumed here, and building the KXL would help bring on “catastrophic climate change” and put precious water supplies at risk. The writing on the wall is clear, the KXL is All Risk, No Reward. Read here