Corporate Chicanery

Open Letter to Senator Elizabeth Warren of MA

Recently, you said, “I will fight my heart out to stop Trump.”

We know you have a big heart.   A very big heart.   Why else would you have been fighting against the Big Banks and Wall Street for so many years?  Why else would you have been such a stalwart fighter regarding bankruptcy laws and consumer protection issues?  Why else have you stood fiercely – over and over – for corporate accountability and transparency?

Right now something is happening in DC that urgently needs your attention.   And it’s not about Trump.

A slick maneuver is under-way.  A totally non-germane rider has been attached to the 1000-page-plus National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017. It just passed the House and now moves to the Senate.  Here’s why we are asking for your help.

What’s in this rider?

Amidst appropriations for aircraft carriers, Aegis missile systems, Apache and Black Hawk helicopters, adrift in the authorization for billions for special operations to combat terrorism in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and tucked in between military aid to Ukraine, Georgia, Latvia, Estonia, Poland and other hot-button areas, there it is:  Section 1090.  LNG PERMITTING CERTAINTY AND TRANSPARENCY

Now what does LNG (the acronym refers to Liquified Natural Gas the form in which natural gas is loaded onto ships for export) “permitting” have to do with the military budget?

Nada.  Zip.   So this is a ruse – a ruse to avoid the public outcry that a stand-alone bill would engender.

According to the proposed rider, a Liquified Natural Gas export license must receive its permit within 30 days after the conclusion of the National Environmental Policy Act review or within 30 days of the “date of enactment of this act.”  Holy Moly, 30 days for an incredibly complex facility that will assure a huge build-out of fracked-gas pipelines, plus generate tons of climate-destroying methane each and every year – and for decades to come?

There’s also the worrisome matter of corporate accountability.

Take a moment to check out the LNG export licenses that are currently pending or have recently been approved by the US Department of Energy.

Pieridae Energy, Downeast LNG, Texas LNG, Third Point LNG, Magnolia LNG are some of the names.  Almost all of them are privately-held companies.  This means zero transparency. This means it is impossible for the community where the facility is being built to check out the track record of the company.  It also means citizens don’t know if the applicant is a company capable of running an incredibly complex industrial plant.

In fact, maybe these private entities have an entirely different plan?  Like a few years from now selling out to the Exxons and Shells of the world?  Given the way Exxon has systematically lied about global-warming or Shell has trashed Nigeria it seems likely that an application from one of the giant oil companies would receive far more scrutiny than one of these companies with weird names like Cheniere LNG.

Either way, private company or Exxon, shouldn’t the impacted-community get the chance to assess exactly who is moving into their backyard? And shouldn’t the residents whose farms, communities and towns will be wrecked by giant compressors plunked down in their midst have a chance to comment on the proposed project(s)?

Besides, what’s to stop these private entities from going bankrupt and leaving a mess behind – for the local taxpayer to clean-up, say 5 or 10 years from now?

There are eleven LNG plants either already permitted or in the pipeline.  That’s billions and billions of dollars and a lot of impact on local communities.  Add in the potential damage to the atmosphere through years of gas flaring and other methane emissions and you have a game changer.

Senator Warren, please submit an amendment to strike Section 1090 from the National Defense Authorization Act.  Of course, there’s a lot else in the bill that worries us, but, that’s for another letter.

Oh yes…do keep up your refreshing commentary on Donald Trump.

Mina Hamilton served on the Board of Directors of Greenpeace, USA. She was a co-founder and co-director of the Sierra Club Radioactive Waste Campaign and President of the Delaware Valley Conservation Association. Her writing has appeared in Mother Jones magazine, the Progressive, the Nation and is a frequent contributor to She lives in Western Massachusetts. Read other articles by Mina.