Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Environmental Cost of Corruption

The recent exposure of the energy industry's crooked dealing: hiring former public employees to circumvent public protections, evading public records requirements for communications, wining and dining environmental lobbyists in private jets, increasing top-level salaries, paying off non-governmental organizations for their 'support', (just to name a few) has been very helpful in discrediting the proposed rate-payer extortion.

It's becoming crystal clear that this is how FPL, Progress Energy and other industrial interests work. Perhaps it is possible that some of these situations are the result of decent people who get pulled into the 'if you can't beat them join them' mentality, but what these recent investigative endeavors are revealing is getting at the heart of the systemic problems we face.

The challenge is not whether we can figure out the right engineering for Everglades waterflow or the appropriate Parts Per Billion (PPB) of carbon in the atmosphere.. the challenge is weather we can expose and confront the deeply-rooted greed and corruption that corporations have poisoned our society with.

Clearly there is not only a financial aspect to the rate hike scandal. There are also massive environmental costs of corruption. Recent reports are only beginning to skim the surface of understanding this phenomenon, but they are certainly on to something. Although it's not very far-fetched to imagine these sorts of corruption taking place, their impacts could be devastating beyond imagination: falsified 'need' assessments, fabricated growth projections, unwarranted zoning and land use changes and variances, rigged permits for air and water quality.. Getting the picture?

The last Everglades Coalition conference was sponsored in large part by FPL, while groups like ours, the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition, were rejected from membership in the group. At this point, it's still hard to tell if groups who take large sums of money from FPL, such as Florida Audubon and the Marshall Foundation are just bad apples, or if the whole basket is tainted to the core. The rate hike stories are turning out to show that Florida's career environmentalists are not far off from the ethics records a career politicians.

Isn't there an old saying: "environmental lobbyists are, at best, a necessary evil, at worst an intolerable one".. I think it was Thomas Jefferson or Samuel Clemens, Tom Paine or something. Whichever it was, he is rolling in the grave, next to Arthur Marshall and John James Audubon.

It seems apparent that corruption is a primary factor in how we got to where we are now- the largest wetland ecosystem in North America all but destroyed, the chemical make-up of the entire atmosphere altered-it is very feasible to say that political corruption is the leading factor in this reality.

While it'd be a damn shame to have to give these companies even a penny more in rates. The Public Service Commission decision on the table is about a lot more than utility bills. I don't think its hyperbole to say that we are now talking about the future of life on this planet (according to widely accepted global climate science).. not to mention the erosion of freedom and democracy in the meantime that comes with increasing corporate control in the age of what author Naomi Klein refers to as disaster capitalism .

The Energy Empire's planetary pillage makes the corruption that early immigrants in the U.S. faced under British imperialism look like a sunday pancake breakfast. Is anyone else out there feeling like another revolution yet?!

-panagioti tsolkas

No comments: