News & Notes April 5, 2011

It’s a big day for news and the week will continue with news rolling out.  President Obama will be in Fairless Hills tomorrow and The Pennsylvania Progressive will live blog the energy town hall at Gamesa Manufacturing.  It appears a government shutdown is looming once again as the Tea baggers insist on yet another round of austerity cuts to important programs though they’d actually increase the bloated defense budget and keep the ag and oil subsidies.

Today is the fifth anniversary of my sister Marjorie’s passing.  We miss her.

Transocean is giving huge “safety’ bonuses to its executives for their brilliant record last year in causing the worst oil spill in U.S. history.  Their CEO is receiving an 18% raise.  What do they get in good years?

Radiation in sea water at the Fukushima nuclear plant is 7.5 million times normal and now will be dumped into the Pacific.  Recommendation:  don’t go for the sushi, it’s orange for a reason.

Rep. Daryl Metcalfe is introducing anti-union legislation this morning in Harrisburg.  We’re about to see the power of unions in Pennsylvania.  Will they accept this attack on their rights or stand up and fight?  I haven’t seen them fight for a long time.

Congressman Paul Ryan is unveiling a multi-trillion dollar cut to Medicare and Medicaid which will involve eliminating the programs and force seniors and the poor into private markets for health care.  This is the onset of a real death panel system as it will doom millions to early graves.  Where’s the outrage?

The Tea Party is driving the GOP over the cliff with their radical agenda.  No one in the Republican Party has the balls to stand up to them and are along for the ill fated ride.  If 2010 was a bloodbath for Democrats 2012 promises to be their best year ever at the polls.  They should drink tea at all the victory parties in honor of the morons who are handing them every independent voter out there and sending every “Reagan Democrat” back to the Party.

Congratulations to the UConn Huskies.  I doubt the Butler Bulldogs are ever going to get laid, ever again.  The poor boys couldn’t get it in the hole for love or money.  Speaking of money did the UConn players get paid before or after last night’s game?

News & Notes March 7, 2011

It’s shaping up to be a big week.  Tomorrow Gov. Corbett will unveil his budget encompassing a reported $2.5 billion in cuts.  Expect sweeping rollbacks in state aid to education.  In one fell swoop Corbett may undo all the progress made in eight years under Ed Rendell.  The state has spent decades cutting education funding while increasing mandates to schools.  This simply passes the buck to school property taxes.  Corbett and the Repubs aren’t likely to change their game plan.

Sen. Bob Casey was in Sinking Spring to stump for Judy Schwank in the special election held next week.  The event was at the IBEW so I didn’t attend.  I don’t support unions who pour thousands of dollars into Republican campaigns.  The electricians should be looking to Wisconsin to see the end result of such misguided spending.

With the Governor’s budget due out tomorrow and the PA-11 election a week away will Larry Medaglia support austerity spending, cuts to local schools and the resulting increases in property taxes?  With his no new taxes pledge the Berks County Register of Wills is on record as not supporting a tax on the extraction of gas or the closing of corporate tax loopholes.  Closing the Delaware Loophole alone would increase revenues substantially and force major corporations doing business in Pennsylvania to pay their fair share.  Most pay little or nothing and this isn’t fair to state businesses competing against them for business.

I hear calls, from both left and right, for military intervention in Libya.  This is reckless.  The establishment of a no fly zone without UN authority is an act of war.  We know Ghaddafi would then attack American forces and we know he has that capability.  Firing rockets at Naval forces and shooting down American jets would draw us into a civil war in which would become another Vietnam or Iraq.  Very bad policy and very bad judgment.

More fallout from news that fracking fluid is radioactive, something I’ve been pointing out for months, is that now public water systems are going to begin testing drinking water for radioactivity.  I have to say, as a kayaker, I’m worried about paddling Pennsylvania rivers at this point.  We know, for example, that trucks filled with waste fracking fluid are coming from New York state to Pennsylvania water treatment systems such as Fogelsville, and that these systems are totally inadequate for treating such fluids.  Radioactivity is just one of the things they cannot treat, heavy metals and toxic substances are others.  Treating sewage sludge is quite different from treating fracking fluids.  How much poison is being dumped into our rivers?  Millions and millions of gallons per river folks.  Millions…

I watched CNN interview Republican consultant Ed Rollins this morning.  I was so disgusted with their failure to challenge his lies I turned it off.  Rollins repeated the oft told myth that the stimulus was a failure.  In fact it saved all these austerity budgets in the states for two years and saved or created over 3 million jobs.  Almost every working American got a tax cut in the bill.  If CNN isn’t capable of challenging false statements made on the air it shouldn’t be on the air.

BP has stopped paying local people damaged from its giant oil spill last year.  They are reneging (surprise, surprise!) on their obligations.

BP Spill Commission Report Hogwash

A government commission came out yesterday with a deeply flawed report on the BP oil spill.  This was yet another useless governmental commission given no authority to actually discover anything.  They had no subpoena power and thus could not force testimony, production of reports and documents and were, in fact, completely stonewalled by the parties at fault.

No wonder they couldn’t discover any evidence of clear wrongdoing, they weren’t allowed to get that information.  This is why the head of the body yesterday called on anyone with such knowledge to please come forward.  The entire effort was a waste of time and tax dollars.  Until there are civil and criminal trials we won’t know anything.  Lawyers for plaintiffs are getting testimony and documents and they have ridiculed this commission because of its lack of authority.

The American people, especially those affected by this negligence, deserve to know what happened and who is to blame and held accountable.

News & Notes September 3, 2010

Former RNC Chair Ken Mehlman finally came out of the closet this week.  Mark Segal of Philadelphia Gay News calls him out for his past:

Ken Mehlman, former chairman of the Republican National Committee and co-chair of President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign, who ran what was arguably the most hate-filled homophobic campaign in American political history, came out last week in a slick public-relations campaign-type interview served up by The Atlantic magazine. His actions as head of the Republican Party created antigay laws, including antigay-marriage constitutional amendments in numerous states, gay baiting, harassment, hate crimes and even LGBT youth suicides. We have not seen his type since Roy Cohn. This man has no shame. But that is not the end of the story.

I couldn’t agree more.  Coming out doesn’t negate his sorry, inexcusable actions against his own community.  Mehlman is a gay Uncle Tom.

The right wing noise machine is already calling the expiration of the Bush tax cuts for the rich “the biggest tax increase in history.”  perhaps they shouldn’t have put an expiration date on them when they were passed if they weren’t meant to be temporary.  These cuts created a huge hole in federal revenues and are one of the principle contributors to the deficit.  You cannot fear monger on the deficit and support the extension of these cuts simultaneously.  Allowing the cuts (which benefited the richest 2% of the country) to expire isn’t raising taxes.  Passing a specific bill raising taxes is raising taxes.  Several turncoat Democratic Senators are now saying they support a continuation of tax cuts for the rich.  These traitors to working people and the middle class need to find new jobs.

Here’s why:  more and more Republican Senatorial candidates are going on record saying they want to repeal Social Security.  This time they aren’t even trying to hide their agenda behind “privatization” but are simply saying the program for our elderly, disabled and orphans must be ended.  Their argument is that we can no longer afford it.  Of course their argument is based on the federal deficit which Republicans created expressly as a basis for getting rid of Social Security, Medicare and welfare programs.  They want to make their cake and eat it too.  I fear this extremist position may stoke class war.

Another oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico yesterday.  Meanwhile BP, which proved beyond a doubt it cannot be trusted, says that without new drilling permits in the Gulf it will not be able to pay the reparations they promised.  Sounds as if they’re headed to bankruptcy then.  BP pledged in countless television ads they would make everyone affected whole.  Of course this was nothing more than a PR campaign but this time let’s hold them to their word.  BP is simply trying to scare the U.S. into, once again, trusting the unworthy.

Pat Toomey said his idea of gun control is a steady aim.  I’m sure that’s real comfort to the surviving relatives of every Pennsylvanian killed by gun violence, especially our police.  Has this cold and uncaring man lacking any empathy for others realize what happened recently in Pittsburgh when a deranged man driven crazy by folks like Toomey killed four police officers?  This man doesn’t deserve any support.

President Obama is considering cutting Social Security, enacting more tax cuts and extending the Bush tax cuts.  He has eliminated a second stimulus plan which doesn’t make economic sense.  remind me again that he is a Democrat, you could have fooled me.  Actually he fooled millions of Democrats into believing he was one of them.

No wonder Pennsylvania Democrats are staying away from the polls like they are carriers for cooties.  I see five or six PA Congressional Districts turning red this year.  Critz, Dahlkemper, Altmire, Kanjorski, Carney, Murphy and the open Sestak seat are all in danger of going Republican.  If Dave Argall manages to raise any money Tim Holden could join them.  I predict another bloodbath for Democrats in November, two in a row.

The only bright spot I see is Joe Sestak who is now defining Pat Toomey for voters in the fashion he did Arlen Specter last spring.  Barack Obama will come campaign for him September 20th.

We failed the people who cleaned up 9/11. Will we fail the people cleaning up the Gulf?

In the aftermath of 9/11, we saw thousands of workers develop devastating respiratory conditions and other illnesses as a result of exposure to toxic dust that filled the air in the days and weeks after the twin towers fell. To this day, these peoples’ plight continues to add misery to the ongoing tragedy of 9/11. What makes it even worse is that these people were assured the air was safe.   As we all know now, it wasn’t.

Today, sadly, history may be repeating itself in the Gulf of Mexico.

(Thank you to Ligia Ercius-Dipaola, who posted this video on the NRDC Action Fund Facebook Page)

Amazingly, despite reports like this one, BP “continues to pretend that – just like an oil spill of this magnitude could never happen – there also could not possibly be a worker health concern.”  While the potential health hazards posed by chemical dispersants and oil itself are debatable, it is clear that significant risks existed.  

Already, we’ve seen evidence of the impact that spilled oil can have on human health. For starters, an increasing number of workers and residents in Gulf Coast areas have reported “suffering from nausea, vomiting, headaches and difficulty breathing.”  Considering that oil contains “petroleum hydrocarbons, which are toxic and irritating to the skin and airways”, as well as volatile chemicals “which can cause acute health effects such as headaches, dizziness and nausea” it’s no surprise that these symptoms are appearing.

(Thank you to Gary Chattem, who posted this on the NRDC Action Fund Facebook Wall)

So now, with the “60 exposure-related complaints filed with the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals”, not to mention the “overwhelming evidence that many of the compounds found in crude oil are dangerous,” shouldn’t BP be protecting the people who are cleaning up this mess? If they aren’t doing so, why aren’t they?

The bottom line is this: people along the Gulf Coast deserve to know the facts regarding the dangers they are facing and how to protect themselves.  It’s bad enough that their economic livelihoods are in danger of destruction in part due to BP’s greed and recklessness.  But if their lungs and other organs are damaged by oil and dispersant particles in the air, more than their economic livelihoods could be damaged.

None of us should ever forget that this disaster was brought on, at least in part, by BP cutting corners to save a few (million) bucks, and by the government’s failure to prevent the company from doing so.  As a result, the unthinkable has happened.  We must learn from those grave mistakes, not repeat them.  That means, in the long term, ridding ourselves of our dangerous, destructive addition to oil.  But what must happen now – right now – is for BP to stop cutting corners with the health of the people cleaning up the Gulf.

At the minimum, BP must switch its philosophy from “hope for the best” to “do whatever it takes, whatever the cost, to make sure people are safe.”  If BP won’t “make it right,” as the company’s ads like to say, then the government should force BP to do so.  In the words of one Venice, LA mother: “I’ve got the two most beautiful children in the world. If something were to happen to them, how could I look in those baby blues and say, Mommy didn’t know?”  It’s a great question.  What’s the answer, BP?

News & Notes June 21, 2010

Today is the first day of summer and the longest day of the year.  Enjoy the sunlight.  Wednesday morning I kick off my trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico.  There won’t be a lot of blogging for four days as I drive across the country this time.

Former Democratic Party Chair summed up his eight years of leadership Saturday when he asked for a vote for Jim Burn by acclamation and said “all those for stand up and applaud and all those opposed go to hell.”  That certainly was his attitude:  submit to our directives or go to hell.  The sheep all stood and clapped.

The Southwest caucus had a bit of drama however.  As I passed by it in the hallway I heard quite a commotion.  It turns out some of those from the 12th Congressional District are still upset at the way TJ Rooney and the Party rigged the selection process for Jack Murtha’s successor.  There should be an established process for such eventualities but Democrats don’t seem to want any, if there were they wouldn’t be able to fix things behind closed doors.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer says it is outrageous that the feds are suing her state over its “show me your papers” law.  No, what is outrageous is your law imposing a racist police state.

Have you seen those commercials for high fructose corn syrup?  They always pose someone appearing “smart” versus some jock or goon complaining about the product which seems to be in every processed food out there.  Then they claim its perfectly safe in moderation.  The problem is its impossible to consume in moderation when its in everything.

Detroit iron is back.  GM has decided not to do its annual summer vacation furloughs because it needs to build cars and trucks to sell.  Meanwhile American cars are now topping the Japanese when it comes to quality.  Detroit is back.

The lawsuits against Tom Corbett for being an incompetent Attorney General continue making their way through federal court and the depositions are interesting for what they show about Mr. Corbett.  His Office is hugely mismanaged and why would he think he can manage the entire state if he cannot even manage his Office?  Huge amounts of taxpayer money have been wasted or squandered, partly to privatization, partly to incompetence as he prosecutes legislators for what amounts to peanuts in comparison.  Corbett needs to clean up his own office and come clean about his failures.  Heck, he can’t even comply with Open Records requests.

Roy Halladay lost again yesterday.  After obsessively pursuing the best pitcher in baseball the Doc isn’t even the best pitcher on the Phillies.  He may only be the third best starter on that staff.  He keeps getting outpitched lately.

BP CEO Tony Hayward went sailing on his 52 foot yacht yesterday.  Shouldn’t he be on the Gulf getting it totally soiled by oil if its anywhere?  I’d like to see him on the bow, getting his lungs filled with that sweet, oily sea air, claiming he’s the king of that world.  Easy since he’s killed everything else in it.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a big blowhard who doesn’t think the BP catastrophe is a big deal even as it soils his state’s beaches, will be in Harrisburg Wednesday for a fund raiser.  he was formerly the head of the RNC and frequently blows his BS on television.  Show up in your best hazmat suit chanting spill, baby spill.

Former Maryland Governor Bob Ehrlich, ousted from the Governor’s mansion like a cockroach, got an earful during his radio show this weekend.  Callers harassed him on his ties to Big Oil and one told him to “kiss my butt.”   An ad from current Gov. Martin O’Malley tied him to those contributions and aired during the show.  How embarrassing is that, to have your opponent airing ads during your own radio show?  Maybe Bob needs to call BP and get them to buy that too.

News & Notes June 19, 2010

BP CEO Tony Hayward has finally gotten his life back.  Today he attended a yacht race in the English Channel.  I say the further away he gets from the Gulf of Mexico the better.  He was relieved of day to day control of the oil spill following his dismal testimony to Congress.

Bucks County Commissioner Diane Marseglia is introducing a resolution preventing County Commissioners from increasing their salaries in any year in which they raise taxes.  When you think about it this makes sense.  It certainly makes it appear to voters that their taxes were raised to line the pockets of the politicians.  The effort is mostly aimed at damaging former Commissioner Mike Fitzpatrick who raised taxes regularly while taking considerable raises as a Commissioner.  He then went to Congress where he received regular pay increases until he lost the seat to Patrick Murphy.

Today is Juneteenth, the anniversary of the day slaves in Texas were finally freed two years after Emancipation.  Of course human slavery continues to exist and we must eradicate it everywhere.

The Senate finally passed a bill increasing Medicare payments to doctors.  These were cut substantially by Republicans to hold down costs but resulted in many doctors having to limit the number of Medicare patients they saw.  Doctors have actually been losing money treating Medicare patients.

The Governor of Utah Tweeted the firing squad execution the other night.  Did he somehow think it would be entertaining for his followers?

Shouldn’t any politician who took BP money be forced to donate it to the cleanup?  Joe Barton should be first in that line.

Did god cause the oil spill to stop Christians from eating shell fish?  I suppose that’s as credible as the other loony conspiracy theories going around.

The Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the advocacy and political arm of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, announced its endorsement of Democratic candidate Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania’s upcoming race for an open seat in the U.S. Senate.

“The Planned Parenthood Action Fund is proud to endorse Joe Sestak for U.S. Senator,” said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. “Joe is a passionate advocate for women and women’s reproductive rights and has a strong record of promoting and protecting women’s health.”

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I’m pleased to make this announcement.  Joe Sestak finally gets our endorsement!  I am a Board Member of Planned Parenthood Association of Pennsylvania, Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates and Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania PAC.

Elton John recently took a cool $1 million from Rush Limburger to play at his wedding.  It reminds me of an old joke where you ask someone to have sex with you for a certain price.  You begin low and keep going until they say yes (usually like a million bucks).  Then you say “now that we know what you are all we have to do is negotiate the price.”  We now know Elton’s price.

I was remembering how a year ago Mary Isenhour questioned how I, a non affiliated voter, could co host a show called Democratic Talk Radio.  I explained that Democratic doesn’t necessarily mean the Democratic Party.  Now I’m wondering if the Democratic Party should be forced to change its name since there’s nothing democratic about it.

Republican Congressman Apologizes to BP

Republican Congressman Joe Barton apologized to BP CEO Tony Hayward today for the “shakedown” by President Obama yesterday in creation of the $20 billion “slush fund.”  This afternoon another Member of Congress asked Hayward directly if he thought he was being “shaken down” yesterday.  The CEO said NO.  Asked if he thought this was a “slush fund” he said NO.  Why are Republicans defending BP, making apologies to them because the President is acting to help and support the people devastated by the reckless conduct of this rogue corporation.  Are Republican Congressmen so owned and operated by corporations they disgrace themselves and their office with such insane accusations?  Barton needs to apologize to those harmed by BP instead of to BP.    

BP Chair: “We Care About the Small People”

 Carl-Henric Svanberg, President of the Board of Trustees of BP, said that after a four hour meeting with President Obama yesterday.  The Swede chose an unfortunate word in English which many took to be condescending.  I didn’t because a perusal of BP’s history shows they do care about small people, so much so they regularly explode them to make them smaller.

BP’s horrendous safety record speaks for itself.  The disaster in the Gulf wasn’t an accident but a predictable result of drastic cost cutting, ignorance of standard safety measures, deaf ears to those internally who would warn them to the dangers of their policies, and a lack of basic understanding that worker’s lives have meaning.  While CEO Tony Hayward wants his life back the BP employees blown up in the last several years want theirs back literally.  

BP will set aside $20 billion to insure those with legitimate claims against the company be paid.  Thus far the company has been extremely slow in so doing and now President Obama has forced their hand.  Though BP had promised to repay everyone harmed they hadn’t said in which century those checks would be issued.  Another $100 million is set aside in an escrow account to compensate oil workers and companies damaged by the current moratorium.  Until it is determined that deep water drilling is safe no lifting of the moratorium is sane.  Should another such disaster strike it would be the President’s fault.

Yesterday’s meeting between BP executives and the White House was scheduled for two hours and ran four.  Afterwards the BP execs said all the right things to the gathered press (minus the “small people” gaffe) and apologized.  If they are so contright and gracious, generously contributing $20 billion to right their wrongs why did the meeting last four hours?  Asked if BP would have set up the escrow account without pressure Carol Browner responded “No.”  In other words Tony Hayward would have had his life back before anyone hurt by BP’s reckless conduct ever saw a check.

The British people think we’re being too hard on their oil company.  That’s easy for them to say since isn’t their environment destroyed, their ecosystem affected, their pelicans gasping for air, their dolphins dying before their eyes.  it isn’t their lives, jobs, livelihood and culture wrecked, their economy ravaged.  BP announced it is suspending stock dividends for the remainder of the year.  Until the entire extent of their culpability and the damages is established no funds should go anywhere else.  too many folks need to get their lives back before Mr. Hayward does.

The President’s Speech on BP & the Oil Spill

The entire catastrophe in the Gulf is a wake up call that we must end our reliance on fossil fuels.  Not simply oil but coal and natural gas.  More and more ecological disasters await us unless we do.

John

Good evening.  As we speak, our nation faces a multitude of challenges.  At home, our top priority is to recover and rebuild from a recession that has touched the lives of nearly every American.  Abroad, our brave men and women in uniform are taking the fight to al Qaeda wherever it exists.  And tonight, I’ve returned from a trip to the Gulf Coast to speak with you about the battle we’re waging against an oil spill that is assaulting our shores and our citizens.

On April 20th, an explosion ripped through BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, about forty miles off the coast of Louisiana.  Eleven workers lost their lives.  Seventeen others were injured.  And soon, nearly a mile beneath the surface of the ocean, oil began spewing into the water.

Because there has never been a leak of this size at this depth, stopping it has tested the limits of human technology.  That is why just after the rig sank, I assembled a team of our nation’s best scientists and engineers to tackle this challenge – a team led by Dr. Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and our nation’s Secretary of Energy.  Scientists at our national labs and experts from academia and other oil companies have also provided ideas and advice.

As a result of these efforts, we have directed BP to mobilize additional equipment and technology.  In the coming days and weeks, these efforts should capture up to 90% of the oil leaking out of the well.  This is until the company finishes drilling a relief well later in the summer that is expected to stop the leak completely.

Already, this oil spill is the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced.  And unlike an earthquake or a hurricane, it is not a single event that does its damage in a matter of minutes or days.  The millions of gallons of oil that have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico are more like an epidemic, one that we will be fighting for months and even years.

But make no mistake:  we will fight this spill with everything we’ve got for as long it takes.  We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused.  And we will do whatever’s necessary to help the Gulf Coast and its people recover from this tragedy.

Tonight I’d like to lay out for you what our battle plan is going forward:  what we’re doing to clean up the oil, what we’re doing to help our neighbors in the Gulf, and what we’re doing to make sure that a catastrophe like this never happens again.  

First, the cleanup.  From the very beginning of this crisis, the federal government has been in charge of the largest environmental cleanup effort in our nation’s history – an effort led by Admiral Thad Allen, who has almost forty years of experience responding to disasters.  We now have nearly 30,000 personnel who are working across four states to contain and cleanup the oil.  Thousands of ships and other vessels are responding in the Gulf.  And I have authorized the deployment of over 17,000 National Guard members along the coast.  These servicemen and women are ready to help stop the oil from coming ashore, clean beaches, train response workers, or even help with processing claims – and I urge the governors in the affected states to activate these troops as soon as possible.

Because of our efforts, millions of gallons of oil have already been removed from the water through burning, skimming, and other collection methods.  Over five and a half million feet of boom has been laid across the water to block and absorb the approaching oil.  We have approved the construction of new barrier islands in Louisiana to try and stop the oil before it reaches the shore, and we are working with Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida to implement creative approaches to their unique coastlines.

As the clean up continues, we will offer whatever additional resources and assistance our coastal states may need.  Now, a mobilization of this speed and magnitude will never be perfect, and new challenges will always arise.  I saw and heard evidence of that during this trip.  So if something isn’t working, we want to hear about it.  If there are problems in the operation, we will fix them.

But we have to recognize that despite our best efforts, oil has already caused damage to our coastline and its wildlife.  And sadly, no matter how effective our response becomes, there will be more oil and more damage before this siege is done.  That’s why the second thing we’re focused on is the recovery and restoration of the Gulf Coast.

You know, for generations, men and women who call this region home have made their living from the water.  That living is now in jeopardy.  I’ve talked to shrimpers and fishermen who don’t know how they’re going to support their families this year.  I’ve seen empty docks and restaurants with fewer customers – even in areas where the beaches are not yet affected.  I’ve talked to owners of shops and hotels who wonder when the tourists will start to come back.  The sadness and anger they feel is not just about the money they’ve lost.  It’s about a wrenching anxiety that their way of life may be lost.

I refuse to let that happen.  Tomorrow, I will meet with the chairman of BP and inform him that he is to set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company’s recklessness.  And this fund will not be controlled by BP.  In order to ensure that all legitimate claims are paid out in a fair and timely manner, the account must and will be administered by an independent, third party.

Beyond compensating the people of the Gulf in the short-term, it’s also clear we need a long-term plan to restore the unique beauty and bounty of this region.  The oil spill represents just the latest blow to a place that has already suffered multiple economic disasters and decades of environmental degradation that has led to disappearing wetlands and habitats.  And the region still hasn’t recovered from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  That’s why we must make a commitment to the Gulf Coast that goes beyond responding to the crisis of the moment.

I make that commitment tonight.  Earlier, I asked Ray Mabus, the Secretary of the Navy, a former governor of Mississippi, and a son of the Gulf, to develop a long-term Gulf Coast Restoration Plan as soon as possible.  The plan will be designed by states, local communities, tribes, fishermen, businesses, conservationists, and other Gulf residents.  And BP will pay for the impact this spill has had on the region.  

The third part of our response plan is the steps we’re taking to ensure that a disaster like this does not happen again.  A few months ago, I approved a proposal to consider new, limited offshore drilling under the assurance that it would be absolutely safe – that the proper technology would be in place and the necessary precautions would be taken.

That was obviously not the case on the Deepwater Horizon rig, and I want to know why.  The American people deserve to know why.  The families I met with last week who lost their loved ones in the explosion – these families deserve to know why.  And so I have established a National Commission to understand the causes of this disaster and offer recommendations on what additional safety and environmental standards we need to put in place.  Already, I have issued a six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling.  I know this creates difficulty for the people who work on these rigs, but for the sake of their safety, and for the sake of the entire region, we need to know the facts before we allow deepwater drilling to continue.  And while I urge the Commission to complete its work as quickly as possible, I expect them to do that work thoroughly and impartially.      

One place we have already begun to take action is at the agency in charge of regulating drilling and issuing permits, known as the Minerals Management Service.  Over the last decade, this agency has become emblematic of a failed philosophy that views all regulation with hostility – a philosophy that says corporations should be allowed to play by their own rules and police themselves.  At this agency, industry insiders were put in charge of industry oversight.  Oil companies showered regulators with gifts and favors, and were essentially allowed to conduct their own safety inspections and write their own regulations.  

When Ken Salazar became my Secretary of the Interior, one of his very first acts was to clean up the worst of the corruption at this agency.  But it’s now clear that the problems there ran much deeper, and the pace of reform was just too slow.  And so Secretary Salazar and I are bringing in new leadership at the agency – Michael Bromwich, who was a tough federal prosecutor and Inspector General.  His charge over the next few months is to build an organization that acts as the oil industry’s watchdog – not its partner.

One of the lessons we’ve learned from this spill is that we need better regulations better safety standards, and better enforcement when it comes to offshore drilling.  But a larger lesson is that no matter how much we improve our regulation of the industry, drilling for oil these days entails greater risk.  After all, oil is a finite resource.  We consume more than 20% of the world’s oil, but have less than 2% of the world’s oil reserves.  And that’s part of the reason oil companies are drilling a mile beneath the surface of the ocean – because we’re running out of places to drill on land and in shallow water.

For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered.  For decades, we have talked and talked about the need to end America’s century-long addiction to fossil fuels.  And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires.  Time and again, the path forward has been blocked – not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor.  

The consequences of our inaction are now in plain sight.  Countries like China are investing in clean energy jobs and industries that should be here in America.  Each day, we send nearly $1 billion of our wealth to foreign countries for their oil.  And today, as we look to the Gulf, we see an entire way of life being threatened by a menacing cloud of black crude.

We cannot consign our children to this future.  The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now.  Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash American innovation and seize control of our own destiny.

This is not some distant vision for America.  The transition away from fossil fuels will take some time, but over the last year and a half, we have already taken unprecedented action to jumpstart the clean energy industry.  As we speak, old factories are reopening to produce wind turbines, people are going back to work installing energy-efficient windows, and small businesses are making solar panels.  Consumers are buying more efficient cars and trucks, and families are making their homes more energy-efficient.  Scientists and researchers are discovering clean energy technologies that will someday lead to entire new industries.    

Each of us has a part to play in a new future that will benefit all of us.  As we recover from this recession, the transition to clean energy has the potential to grow our economy and create millions of good, middle-class jobs – but only if we accelerate that transition.  Only if we seize the moment.  And only if we rally together and act as one nation – workers and entrepreneurs; scientists and citizens; the public and private sectors.  

When I was a candidate for this office, I laid out a set of principles that would move our country towards energy independence.  Last year, the House of Representatives acted on these principles by passing a strong and comprehensive energy and climate bill – a bill that finally makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy for America’s businesses.

Now, there are costs associated with this transition.  And some believe we can’t afford those costs right now.  I say we can’t afford not to change how we produce and use energy – because the long-term costs to our economy, our national security, and our environment are far greater.

So I am happy to look at other ideas and approaches from either party – as long they seriously tackle our addiction to fossil fuels.  Some have suggested raising efficiency standards in our buildings like we did in our cars and trucks.  Some believe we should set standards to ensure that more of our electricity comes from wind and solar power.  Others wonder why the energy industry only spends a fraction of what the high-tech industry does on research and development – and want to rapidly boost our investments in such research and development.  

All of these approaches have merit, and deserve a fear hearing in the months ahead.  But the one approach I will not accept is inaction.  The one answer I will not settle for is the idea that this challenge is too big and too difficult to meet.  You see, the same thing was said about our ability to produce enough planes and tanks in World War II.  The same thing was said about our ability to harness the science and technology to land a man safely on the surface of the moon.  And yet, time and again, we have refused to settle for the paltry limits of conventional wisdom.  Instead, what has defined us as a nation since our founding is our capacity to shape our destiny – our determination to fight for the America we want for our children.  Even if we’re unsure exactly what that looks like.  Even if we don’t yet know precisely how to get there.  We know we’ll get there.  

It is a faith in the future that sustains us as a people.  It is that same faith that sustains our neighbors in the Gulf right now.        

Each year, at the beginning of shrimping season, the region’s fishermen take part in a tradition that was brought to America long ago by fishing immigrants from Europe.  It’s called “The Blessing of the Fleet,” and today it’s a celebration where clergy from different religions gather to say a prayer for the safety and success of the men and women who will soon head out to sea – some for weeks at a time.

The ceremony goes on in good times and in bad.  It took place after Katrina, and it took place a few weeks ago – at the beginning of the most difficult season these fishermen have ever faced.

And still, they came and they prayed.  For as a priest and former fisherman once said of the tradition, “The blessing is not that God has promised to remove all obstacles and dangers.  The blessing is that He is with us always,” a blessing that’s granted “…even in the midst of the storm.”

The oil spill is not the last crisis America will face.  This nation has known hard times before and we will surely know them again.  What sees us through – what has always seen us through – is our strength, our resilience, and our unyielding faith that something better awaits us if we summon the courage to reach for it.  Tonight, we pray for that courage.  We pray for the people of the Gulf.  And we pray that a hand may guide us through the storm towards a brighter day.  Thank you, God Bless You, and may God Bless the United States of America.

Congressman Sestak’s remarks:

“I support President Obama’s call to hold corporations accountable and put our nation on a path to energy independence. I believe we should take appropriate measures to ensure that resources are available to repair the environment, bring back jobs and restore the way of life to the victims of the Gulf Coast disaster. Accountability is central to a thriving Democracy and the Gulf oil spill is a reminder that reckless corporate decision-making jeopardizes not only our environment but also our economy.

“Further, it is time to come together as a nation to agree on a comprehensive, pragmatic plan that moves us towards energy independence. For too long we have put the oil companies ahead of our nation’s long-term economic and national security interests while turning a blind eye to the costs of unsupervised risk-taking. It is time to take the reasonable steps that hold corporations accountable and put our nation back on a path to prosperity.”