Archive for June 30th, 2010

Public Citizen energy organizer Allison Fisher recently traveled to Louisiana for a firsthand look at how the oil spill was affecting residents, clean-up workers and the local ecology.  Her trip included attending a program on lessons from Exxon Valdez at Louisiana State University, speaking on the steps of the state house in Baton Rouge, meeting with agents at a BP claims center, touring a clean-up staging area, participating in a bird survey on an island in the Barataria Bay, and interviewing a Grand Isle oysterman and his family over lunch at their home. Her journal entries below reflect her experience during her five day trip down the bayou.

Journal 6.17.2010:  Made right?

Have we learned from the second biggest environmental disaster in US history?

President Obama in his address to the American people on Tuesday night, called the oil leak that continues to gush into the Gulf of Mexico, “the worst environmental disaster in US history.”  In limited detail, Obama, laid out his plan to respond to the spill, restore the livelihoods and environment impacted by the disaster and wean our economy off fossil fuels. But does he draw any lessons from the story that took 20 years to unfold in Prince William Sound, Alaska?  Will the administration’s plan bring justice to the Gulf Coast communities that never came to Prince William Sound Alaska?

On my first night in Baton Rouge, LA, I sat in an auditorium on the campus of LSU and watched a documentary on the legacy of Exxon Valdez, called “Black Wave”.  I saw footage from a 1989 town hall meeting in Cordova, AK, where an Exxon spokesperson told the angry citizens that they were in good hands, “Exxon will make you whole”, he pledged.  The initial civil action lawsuit, involving 32,000 plaintiffs, found Exxon “reckless” and rendered an award of $5 billion.  Over the course of the next 14 years, Exxon’s onslaught of appeals eventually landed the case before the US Supreme Court.  In February 2008, the court ruled that Exxon’s compensation to the people of Prince William Sound would amount to $500 million dollars -one tenth of the original award.

The American people have heard the same promise from BP, a promise to “make it right”.  If “make it right” is a different version of the same “make you whole” play book, the communities that surround the Gulf of Mexico have reason to be nervous.  If the government can

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From Consumer Law & Policy Blog: On the Senate floor, Senator Al Franken condemned the Supreme Court’s decision in Rent-A-Center v. Jackson (in which a 5-4 majority of the Court upheld the power of arbitration agreements to remove even threshold questions of validity from review by a court) and discussed how the case of Jamie Leigh Jones illustrates the effect of cases like Circuit City Stores v. Adams.

“Clearly this is a ruling that Congress needs to fix and I look forward to working with my colleagues to do so,” said Franken. “Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Supreme Court matters to average people, to our neighbors and our kids.”

Holman

It was not long ago that Republican congressional leaders embraced “transparency” as their mantra on how to address the potentially corrupting influence of money in politics. That was then, welcome to now.

Echoing the sentiments of all but two Republicans in the House who voted against the DISCLOSE Act, Cleta Mitchell, legal counsel for some of these members, declared: “…the Disclose Act would impose onerous and complicated ‘disclosure’ restrictions on organizations that dare to engage in constitutionally protected political speech and on corporations that dare to contribute to such organizations.”

The DISCLOSE Act (S. 3295), sponsored by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), is a legislative response to the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United decision that allows unlimited corporate and union spending in federal, state and local elections. The legislation would close a gaping loophole in the campaign finance disclosure system. Under existing law, groups that pay for independent expenditures need not disclose their major donors. Most corporations are not likely to

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