Posts Tagged ‘Washington Post’

Public disclosure forms released Wednesday show that Texas lawmakers have widely varying financial situations.  In an OpenSecrets blog post, Tarini Parti breaks down how many members of Congress invest in media organizations.  Parti explains that this could be a conflict of interest because many members have a “vested interest…in the performance of the same organizations that are supposed to be their watchdogs”.

Of the 60 lawmakers that have media organizations investments, 6 of them come from Texas.  They are Congressmen Michael McCaul (R-TX26), Kenny Marchant (R-TX24), Michael Burgess (R-TX10), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX25), William Flores (R-TX17) and Blake Farenthold (R-TX27).

          From left to right: Congressmen Bill Flores, Blake Farenthold, Kenny Merchant, Michael Burgess, Lloyd Doggett, and Michael McCaul.

The largest investor in media organizations from the Lone Star State is Rep. Michael McCaul with anywhere from $179,018 to $505,000 invested in companies like Comcast Corp., Walt Disney Co. and CBS Corp. The disclosure reports only require members of Congress to list their assets and debts in broad ranges.

Disclosure reports also show that not all members of Congress from Texas are wealthy enough to invest in media organizations however. A Washington Post article points out that many Republican freshman lawmakers who campaigned on reducing the federal debt are in substantial debt themselves.  One such freshman lawmaker is Congressman Farenthold.  The disclosure reports show that the Congressman could have anywhere between $45,000 and $150,000 in credit card debt.  However, Flarenthold does list that he has anywhere from $2,002 to $30,000 in personal media investments in the Walt Disney Co.

The public disclosure reports that came out this week provide the public with a better understanding of how lawmakers chose to spend their money. The reports show that some lawmakers have chosen to invest in companies that are supposed to report in a fair and unbiased manner on campaign issues and congressional ethics. The documents show yet another example of why disclosure laws are important. The public has a right to know how lawmakers spend their own money so they can trust them with their tax dollars.

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Being an environmentalist in Texas, sometimes it feels like the whole world is against you.  There’s a common assumption that folks around here just don’t care as much about the environment as elsewhere, and that people don’t see climate change as all that much of a threat.  When I tell people that I work to protect the environment and combat climate change, the reaction is often “whew, in Texas? Good luck.”

But surprisingly, polls show that people in Texas are just as concerned about climate change as in the rest of the U.S. Two recently conducted 2009 polls — Lyceum Poll and the Houston Area Survey — show that Texans not only share similar views on climate change with the rest of the nation, but that there is just as strong a desire for regulation here as anywhere else.  Who’da thunk?

Results from the Lyceum Poll show that a slightly higher percentage of Texans actually supported a cap and trade mechanism than opposed it.  When asked the following question,

There’s a proposed system called “cap and trade.” The government would issue permits limiting the amount of greenhouse gases companies can put out. Companies that did not use all their permits could sell them to other companies. Supporters argue that many companies would find ways to put out less greenhouse gases, because that would be cheaper than buying permits. Opponents argue that this amounts to a huge tax on large companies. Would you support or oppose this system?

… 47% said they would still support cap and trade, while 44% were opposed.  The other 11% either didn’t know or didn’t want to say.  These results are pretty close to that of a national poll for the Washington Post and ABC News, which had a slightly higher margin of support for cap and trade.

When asked, “What about requiring utilities to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases, even if this means that electricity rates will rise?”, respondents to the Houston Area Survey were 49% for and 45% against — pretty close to the results of the Lyceum Poll.  The Houston numbers dropped significantly from the last time that the survey was completed in 2007, when 66% were for and just 25% against.  Considering the current economic climate however, this isn’t particularly shocking.

Both Texas and national polls are showing, however, that the split between the “fors” and the “againsts” is increasingly falling along party lines.

So take heart, my fellow enviros.  You may think that you’re alone out there — but chances are, at least half of the state is probably on your side.  Our representatives might not be acting like it, but that’s probably because 9 times out of 10, they aren’t hearing from everyday citizens.  They’re hearing from business, industry, and the special interests that have a vested interest in keeping the status quo.  Might be worth your while to drop them a line, tell them how you feel.  What’ve you got to lose?

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Let the news storm begin.  For those thirsting for more information on the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee, a few recommendations:

Watch Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program, weigh in on Democracy Now! — Environmental Groups See Divide over Landmark Climate, Energy Bill Weakened by Industry Lobbying

Greg Harman at the San Antonio Current takes Charlie Gonzalez to task for his efforts to weaken ACES (look for a cameo quote from our very own Andy Wilson, Global Warming Program Director here at the Texas office — Gonzalez bombs climate change bill

The Washington Post’s business column op-ed: Climate-Change Bill Hits Some of the Right Notes but Botches the Refrain

The Economist breaks down the Handouts and loopholes

And to close out, words from the President:

I commend Chairman Waxman and the Members of the Energy and Commerce Committee for a successful effort to pass a comprehensive energy and climate bill out of their committee today. We are now one step closer to delivering on the promise of a new clean energy economy that will make America less dependent on foreign oil, crack down on polluters, and create millions of new jobs all across America. The bill is historic for what it achieves, providing clean energy incentives that encourage innovation while recognizing the concerns of sensitive industries and regions in this country. And this achievement is all the more historic for bringing together many who have in the past opposed a common effort, from labor unions to corporate CEOs, and environmentalists to energy companies. I applaud the committee for its action and look forward to signing comprehensive legislation.

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ReadingTime for a Friday wrap-up, all the news that’s fit to link:

The Cost of Climate Inaction, Op-Ed in the Washington Post

An Affordable Salvation, New York Times Op-Ed about the benefits of cap and trade

Carbon Offsets in Waxman-Markey Bill, An Overview, Carbonfund.org Blog

Maryland Passes Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act, SustainableBusiness.com News

Cap and trade won’t push heavy industries overseas — study, The New York Times

Net metering: The civil rights movement for solar energy, Photovoltaics World

Who gets tough against companies polluting Texas? Hint: It’s not the state, Houston Chronicle

Utah takes nuclear waste from states with own dump, Houston Chronicle (A glimpse of what could happen in Texas if the Andrews Waste Dump goes through)

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It’s a Christmas miracle!  There’s some good news out there to brighten my day! A huge loophole in air pollution regulation has been closed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia!

Reports the Washington Post:

In a 2 to 1 decision yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down an exemption that for nearly 15 years has allowed refineries, chemical plants and other industrial facilities to exceed federal air pollution limits during certain periods of operation…

The ruling affects sources of air pollution across the country: Texas alone has 250 industrial sites, including oil refineries, chemical plants and petrochemical plants, that are affected.

Before the ruling, plants were allowed to exceed emissions standards if they were starting up, shutting down, or “malfunctioning”.  So basically, at almost any point in an industrial operation’s existence, they could find an excuse to violate federal air quality standards.

But NOT ANYMORE.  At least, not if the court’s ruling is enforced.

Crud. Foiled again!  Santa, I’d like to update my Christmas list please! Save that pony for next year.

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