Facing South

The dirty energy money behind the Senate move to dismantle the EPA

richard_burr.jpgA group of Senate Republicans led by Richard Burr of North Carolina wants to combine the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy into one agency. They claim the merger would save money -- but a deeper look at the plan and its backers raises questions about other, dirtier motives.

Burr (in photo) introduced legislation last week to join the EPA and DOE into a new agency called the Department of Energy and Environment, arguing that the move would help eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy.

"This common-sense approach will reduce duplicative and wasteful functions across these two agencies and streamline our approach to a comprehensive, coordinated energy and environmental policy," Burr said in a statement.

But some experts are questioning the claim that the move is simply about cost savings. They include Joe Romm, a physicist and climate expert who formerly served as acting assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy. He wrote about Burr's proposal for the Climate Progress blog:

I worked at the DOE for 5 years in the mid-1990s. I lived through the efforts of the Gingrich Congress to try to shut down the Department, and especially its clean energy programs. I also worked closely with EPA at that time. In fact DOE ended up hiring some EPA folks who wanted to work on pollution prevention and clean energy.

So I can state with a great deal of confidence that DOE and EPA are utterly different agencies that have no meaningful duplicative functions. Yes, they both have a General Counsel's office, for instance -- but DOEE would still need the lawyers from both EPA and DOE since they do completely different things and require completely different sets of expertise. What this would allow the GOP to do is to cut the combined operations budget and staffing, thereby crippling both agencies, all in the name of "streamlining."

Romm notes that the merger would eliminate a voice of environmental and clean energy expertise from Cabinet meetings. In addition, he observes that combining a regulatory agency like EPA with an agency like DOE that serves the needs of regulated industries is a "disastrously bad idea." He points out that such a scenario contributed to the BP oil spill disaster and led to the Minerals and Management Service being split up to separate its energy development, enforcement and revenue-collecting roles to reduce conflicts of interest.

Burr's proposal comes amid a push among his fellow conservatives to eliminate the EPA, which they accuse of hurting businesses with excessive regulation. In a speech to the Conservative Political Action Committee earlier this year, for example, former Republican House Speaker and 2012 presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich of Georgia called for scrapping the EPA and replacing the regulatory agency with one that would instead reward corporations for environmental innovation.

Republicans have been especially incensed over EPA's efforts to regulate greenhouse gases in order to curb man-made global warming. Just a few weeks before Burr introduced his EPA elimination bill, his Democratic colleagues in the Senate defeated a GOP measure to repeal a 2009 finding by federal scientists that climate change caused by greenhouse gas pollution endangers human health.

And it turns out that Burr and many of his 15 bill co-sponsors -- all of whom have questioned the scientific consensus on human-driven climate change, as the Wonk Room blog points out -- are deeply indebted to dirty energy interests.

According to the Dirty Energy Money database created by Oil Change International, a group that advocates for cleaner energy policies, Burr has received over $880,000 from coal and oil interests over the course of his career. His top five dirty energy donors are North Carolina-based electric utility giant Duke Energy, electric and gas holding company SCANA Corp. of South Carolina, Virginia power provider Dominion Resources, Ohio-based mining corporation Murray Energy and Kansas-based private energy conglomerate Koch Industries.

Two of the bill's co-sponsors -- Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and David Vitter (R-LA) -- collected even more from dirty energy interests than Burr. In all, the sponsors of the bill to eliminate the EPA have raked in over $6.5 million from the oil and coal industries. The following chart offers more details:

(Official portrait of Sen. Richard Burr from the Senate website.)


People Referenced:


re: The dirty energy money behind the Senate move to dismantle t

I'm hardly surprised.

When a Repub goes after the EPA or some similar agency, I ASSUME it's because they're doing the dirty work of some corporate overlord, who doesn't want to let no stinkin' regulations get in the way of their getting an even bigger bonus than the one they got the year before...

"Who is John Galt?"

re: The dirty energy money behind the Senate move to dismantle t

Nowhere in the Constitution does it mention that the government has the authority to regulate the environment, a classic case of liberal big government over-reach.

The government needs to get out of the way and let self interest take care of the environment.

If there truley is a need for environmental problem solving then it's the innovation of the private sector that will and can solve it, not big government, governments are not problem solvers, they are problem complicators.

Big government is hurting the environment with it's interferance and meddeling.

Get big goverment out of the way and by next week you WILL see the cleanest skies and water and larger forest for future logging.

Al Gore and the liberals and the tree huggers are scaremongers and a bunch of freeloading dirty f*cking hippie losers.
Get a real job

re: The dirty energy money behind the Senate move to dismantle t


That is a truly brilliant piece of satire, Ed. Bravo!

re: The dirty energy money behind the Senate move to dismantle t

Oh, Ed, how quickly you obvioulsy forget the repercussions of deregulation. We have government regulation because the private sector cannot be trusted to behave ethically and responsibly. Yet, even after the housing crisis, the ponzi scheme fiasco, and the most recent oil spill in the Gulf, you call for government to get out of the way. I guess you do not believe in learning from past mistakes.

Oh, and with regard to your insult towards people who believe that we can still be progressive and prosporous without destroying the ecosystem, I am a "tree hugger", and very proud of it, AND I have a really good job -- probably get paid more than you, too. I would tell you to take your neanderthal, antiquated attitude and shove it up your butt, but your head is obviously in the way.

re: The dirty energy money behind the Senate move to dismantle t

Yikes! Ed shows what we're up against.... Apparently, Ed has blind faith in the good will of corporations. Anonymous people pursuing profit would never cut corners to save a buck; never dump toxins in the water because it's cheaper than disposing of them properly; never spray carcinogens to make fruit slower to rot; never use lead-based paint on toys because it costs less.

Somehow Ed has confused caring about money with caring about people. Liberals and tree-huggers would never be so naive.

re: The dirty energy money behind the Senate move to dismantle t

LOL... I think words like neanderthal and antiquated confused Ed.

re: The dirty energy money behind the Senate move to dismantle t

WAKE UP. Unbridled GREED rules this country and it has become obvious since the the big Reagan deregulation that the leaders of corporate American will **** in it's their own nests for a dollar more and never think twice about the people they are killing with the poison wastes they dump in our environment. Now, that being said, I think the EPA is not doing the job the it was created to do anyway. Everyone in Washington seem to be on the take. If you think our elected "leaders" have your interests at heart; then name the last law you can think of that benefited the people rather than the corporate masters of this country.

Are we ready to dump the 40 hour work week and child labor laws too? They will be next. These guys do not care about their employees' welfare, only their bottom line so long as it includes billions of dollars of bonuses and shareholders dividends.

re: The dirty energy money behind the Senate move to dismantle t

Ed, since you appear to live in the perverbial cave of ignorance maybe you should remain there. As far as you would likely know the world is flat and there is no such thing as air . . . "lungs, what is that?" You can't see them in your cave, it must be something else those stupid Liberals made-up!!

re: The dirty energy money behind the Senate move to dismantle t

Personaly, I like breathing clean air and drinking untainted water. Let corporations run amok, like they want, and we will do neither.

re: The dirty energy money behind the Senate move to dismantle t

Ed's right! The EPA was formed by that tree-hugging, liberal, hippie pinko Richard Nixon as part of a communist agenda.

You don't get much more left wing than Nixon!

(sarcasm mode off)

re: The dirty energy money behind the Senate move to dismantle t

What a sad, little ignorant troll Ed is... Sure, just let the corporate-ocracy run wild and they will ALWAYS do the right thing for the world.

re: The dirty energy money behind the Senate move to dismantle t

Are you the Ed we all know and love that floods everyone's mailbox with right wing drivel? You obviously don't believe what you are saying. You are just opening your big yap to push buttons. No one can be as stupid as the "comment" you made. So I am giving you the benefit of the doubt and placing some credence in the notion that you possess some human traits.

re: The dirty energy money behind the Senate move to dismantle t

Really? So that phrase in the constitution about life liberty and the pursuit of ......... you just don't think that perhaps people kinda enjoy breathing? Maybe living next to the lead factory or in a city with blast furnaces having no pollution controls, or in the arsenic dump might cramp your style?

I am sick to shit with idiots like you, we should have a law, if some dumb ass right wing blowhard feels everyone should pay for corporate profit with their life, they should be forced to live in the worst pollution area to be found in the US.

Wake up you sorry piece of ____. Do some research. There used to be RIVERS in the USA that BURNED due to the pollutants - show us all how industry cleaned those up due to their civic concern. Without exception corporations can be evil and get away with it - now they are "individuals" and they are still not accountable. If any real person did what these corporations get away with it would be a major news event. As it is it's just BUSINESS.

You want the gold standard? Have you done the math? How much gold exists? Do you seriously think there is enough physical gold to exchange for dollars? I have to admit it would be hilarious to watch someone pay for that candy bar with gold...

re: The dirty energy money behind the Senate move to dismantle t

Thank you for outing the scoundrels elected by the people who choose dirty corporate energy money over health & welfare of the American people. EPA has a very different agenda from DOE. The former has made great strides in cleaning up our air & water, often at expense to the latter.