BP being dishonest about post-spill spending habits

The Hill’s Aug. 23 article “BP argues it’s being bilked in spill claims” which describes BP’s recent efforts to avoid payments legally owed to people harmed by the Deepwater Horizon spill, recalls another devious example of the company shirking full responsibility for its actions. Three years ago, when oil was still spurting into the Gulf and BP was touting the billions of dollars it set aside for claims, the oil giant was also preparing to deduct the price of the disaster as an “ordinary and necessary” cost of doing business, and thereby collect $10 billion dollars in federal tax breaks for the spill.

For every dollar in tax windfalls that BP skims from the oil spill, the public must pick up the tab in the form of cuts to public programs, higher taxes or higher government debt. It’s time to stop BP’s practice of loudly trumpeting how much it spends to help Americans while quietly ripping us off. 

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From Francisco Enriquez, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Boston

Attacking Syria would be a major mistake

No one condones the use of chemical weapons, but what President Obama proposes — and Republican Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) seems to support — will not help those who have been gassed in Syria. It will, however, result in more dangerous acts by a wounded dictator.

The reasons not to attack are extensive:  

(1) There is no vital strategic national interest at stake. In fact, our economic health and ability to produce jobs will likely be hurt by resulting oil, gas and transportation price spikes.

(2) Russian soldiers are operating Syria’s air defense system. They, as well as Chinese, Iranian or North Korean technicians, could be killed.  Much smaller events have triggered wars: witness the death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand before WWI.

(3) Our military is depleted and stressed. Syria is not Grenada; military action there will not stay “short term” or “limited.” Descriptive adjectives like “proportional” telegraph that if Syria or neighboring countries react, we will up the ante.

(4) The window of opportunity has passed; when we had tens of thousands of troops in Iraq and moderate Syrian rebels were viable, there might have been a chance for success, but not now. With all the “red line” blustering, delays and bungling, Syrian President Bashar Assad has had time to deploy civilians as human shields to assure dramatic casualties.  

(5) There are more than a million peaceful Christians in Syria. Assad has consolidated his forces, leaving none to protect them. They are being slaughtered by the rebels our government proposes to support. Assad is no champion of religious freedom, but he has protected Christians far better than other Islamic nations have. If Sunni rebels seize power, hundreds of thousands Christians will die or be driven out.

(6) Israel will suffer a counterattack. Iran says it will attack U.S. interests, perhaps our embassy in Bagdad. Have we forgotten Benghazi in less than a year? Libya was no success even with international support.

(7) The American people overwhelmingly oppose attacking Syria,  and there is no meaningful international coalition.  

(8) There are reports that chemical weapons were used by Syrian rebels — the people we are proposing to prop up.  

(9) American credibility is eroded by bucking most of the rest of the world. Our credibility needs to be preserved for vital crises where American national security is at stake.

What are the reasons for attacking? None are achievable ... unless the objective is to distract Americans from the IRS, NSA and Benghazi scandals. Is political face-saving more important than our national security?

Grassroots opposition to attacking Syria is a bipartisan issue. Let’s stop this risky act of war before it starts. 

From Glen Urquhart, Rehoboth Beach, Del.

Ban the toxic fracking process on public lands

The Hill’s Aug. 29 “House Dems to Interior: Fracking rule is too weak” article downplayed the strength and momentum of the movement to ban fracking on federal lands. Last month, a coalition of organizations and concerned citizens, including Americans Against Fracking and Food & Water Watch, delivered to the Bureau of Land Management 650,000 public comments urging the Obama administration to ban fracking on federal lands. 

The voices behind these comments represent not just environmentalists, but people concerned for their communities, their essential resources and the well-being of current and future generations. Fracking, an extremely toxic and invasive process, undermines all of these. 

From water contamination to the industrialization of rural communities, fracking has revealed itself as little more than oil-and-gas industry hype. The process threatens public health and the vitality of our nation’s iconic public lands. Moreover, studies show that methane leaks from drilling and fracking will actually worsen climate change. The process has no place in any policies designed to curb this vexing problem. 

The public is not fooled by the false promise of fracking regulations, and has sent a strong message to the Obama administration to ban fracking on federal lands. Policymakers should heed their advice and be particularly apprehensive of the process and attempts to regulate it. 

From Emily Wurth, water program director at Food & Water Watch, Washington, D.C.