Rep. Upton attacks strawmen

Rep. Upton has been heavily criticized for catering to special interests (especially to those donors who have made substantial contributions to his campaign).   It’s also been shown that he is using bad information, misleading his constituents, and flip flopping on his previous positions.

Instead of addressing this criticism head on and providing leadership on policies that would help his constituents, he’s written an emotional OpEd that accuses environmental groups of being “divisive, shrill, disingenuous and inaccurate.”  Notably, he chooses to use unnamed sources (“Some claim….”) in his criticism instead of citing credible sources.

Sadly, he also continues to say that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would bring  ”100,000 jobs” even though he’s yet to cite his source, and the State Department estimates are dramatically lower.  And he also fails to mention that the existing Keystone pipeline has already had 12 spills or leaks in the past year.

In his OpEd, Upton tries to label environmental groups as “special interests” even though these groups are working to protect the health of children against his unprecedented assaults on the Clean Air Act.  Given that the majority of his constituents oppose his efforts, I guess you could say that we’re all specially interested in him doing the right thing.

Reality Disagrees with Upton’s Policies

On Tuesday, the Washington Times published an Op-Ed by Representative Fred Upton (MI-6-R) that made false claims about the impact of government regulation on job growth and the economic recovery.

In the Op-Ed, Upton cited a recent study by McKinsey & Company‘s business and economics research arm. But Upton badly misrepresented the findings of the study, including cherry-picking one line about bureaucratic efficiency while obscuring the report’s overall conclusions.

In another embarrassing turn for Upton, his Op-Ed was published just days after the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released their yearly analysis of the costs and benefits of regulation which showed that regulations save more money than they cost.

The OMB study highlights the importance of EPA regulations, not just for our health, but for our economy. In fact, between 2000 and 2010, 32 major EPA rules together will yield estimated annual benefits between $82 billion and $551 billion in 2001 dollars, with annual costs in the $23-$29 billion range.[1]
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Upton represents Michigan’s past, not its future

Representative Fred Upton, Chairman of the powerful House Committee on Energy and Commerce, has a choice every day: does he support oil companies and other special interests, or does he promote clean energy that will end our dependence on oil and improve our national security?

Unfortunately, most mornings he has been making the wrong choice.

Upton represents a district in Southwest Michigan, a part of the country that has been hard hit by the economic recession.  But Michigan is making progress by investing in clean energy and related industries: Michigan currently ranks fourth in the country for jobs in the solar industry and has more than 200 companies working in wind or solar power.  More than 10,000 people work in Michigan’s renewable energy sector, and a majority of those jobs have been created in the last five years.

What about Upton?  He’s been  championing an oil pipeline that would deliver tar sands oil from Canada to Texas.  Not only would this pipeline raise gas prices in his district, it would benefit his special interest donors and companies that he holds stock in.

He’s also been working hard to undermine clean air safeguards that help protect public health, even misrepresenting his own proposed legislation .

It’s not surprising that the majority of Upton’s constituents do not support his work for special interests.   As one constituent said: “It’s time for Upton to start representing Michigan, not Big Oil.”

As the chairman of a powerful House committee, Upton’s decisions have a real impact on the lives of millions of people.   I just wished he could make the right ones.

What’s Representative Upton thinking?

Representative Fred Upton, Chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, has been promoting the Keystone XL pipeline for months.   But why is he making it a priority when it will raise gas prices in his district and endanger the environment?

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would run from Canada to the Gulf coast of Texas, carries diluted bitumen, a petroleum product that is more corrosive, acidic, and abrasive than crude oil. In less than one year of operation, the existing Keystone pipeline has already had 12 leaks or spills. Not only would the building of the new pipeline expose more of the country to the risk of oil spills, it would expand the market for polluting tar sands crude and actually increase gas prices by as much as 15 cents a gallon in the Midwest (including Upton’s district in Southwest Michigan).

Upton says he supports the project because of job creation, but his estimate of 20,000 jobs being created by the project is a huge exaggeration. The State Department estimates that number to be between 1,700-2,800 temporary jobs for three years during construction – and hardly any of those jobs would be in Upton’s district. For comparison, the construction of two proposed solar panel facilities in Colorado and Indiana will create more than 2,000 construction jobs and 1,500 permanent jobs. Upton should explain why he told his constituents that the proposed pipeline would be “one of the largest construction projects ever done in this country”.

Upton’s constituents are familiar with the dangers of transporting tar sands crude: last year, the Enbridge Pipeline (an existing pipeline that carries tar sands oil), spilled 840,000 barrels of diluted bitumen into a local river’s watershed. Enbridge has spent more than $550 million so far to clean up the resulting mess. A report filed by the Michigan Department of Community Health found that nearly 60 percent of individuals living in the vicinity of the river spill have experienced respiratory, gastrointestinal, and neurological symptoms consistent with acute exposure to benzene and other petroleum related chemicals.

We simply can’t afford spills from the proposed pipeline since it crosses the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world’s largest freshwater aquifers that provides 30 percent of the groundwater used for irrigation in the United States, and drinking water for millions of Americans. This aquifer covers areas in South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas.

When promoting the pipeline, Upton claims that the pipeline will deliver “1.3 million barrels of oil per day” and “virtually eliminate our oil imports from the Middle East.” But according to one estimate from the State Department, the pipeline would only deliver about 700,000 barrels per day – and we import 2.3 million barrels every single day from the Middle East. There are a number of other solutions that would better address gas prices and our dependence on oil - but Upton has been comparatively silent on those.

So we’ve established that the pipeline would raise gas prices for Upton’s constituents, pollute the environment, and not really address our dependence on foreign oil.  So why is Upton being such a vocal champion?  And who stands to benefit from the pipeline?

The major refineries in Texas would be expected to benefit from the new tar sands crude.  The refining companies with facilities in Port Arthur or the Houston area that might benefit from the pipeline include:

  • Valero (has given Upton $20,000 over last 5 years)
  • Koch Industries (has given Upton $22,500 over last 5 years)
  • BASF/Funa (gave Upton $5,000 last year)
  • Exxon Mobil (has given Upton $15,000 over last 5 years)
  • BP (has given Upton $9,000 over last 5 years)
  • Marathon (has given Upton $8,500 over last 5 years)

When Upton is talking about “20,000 jobs”, is he talking about jobs at Texas refineries?

There are so many ways that we can address the energy challenges facing our country.  But to do so we need real leadership and unfortunately Rep. Upton’s record lately has been more in line with the views of his big donors than with those of his constituents.

Please consider writing a Letter to the Editor to the Kalamazoo Gazette about Upton’s actions.

Michigan children suffer the consequences of air pollution

According to a striking new study from University of Michigan researchers, air pollution near Michigan public schools may jeopardize children’s health and academic success.

It’s surprising that Michigan and 23 other states do not require the environmental quality of areas under consideration for new schools to be evaluated (and they do not prohibit the placement of new industrial facilities and highways near existing schools). This means that school officials often have to site new schools where property values are low, such as near “polluting industrial facilities, major highways, and other potentially hazardous sites.”  The result: More than 63% of Michigan public schools were located in the more polluted parts of their districts.

The study’s authors found that schools located in areas with the highest pollution levels “had the lowest attendance rates (a potential indicator of poor health) and the highest proportions of students failing to meet the state’s educational testing standards.”  It shouldn’t come as any surprise that when you expose children to toxic chemicals, some of which are believed to impair mental development, there will be consequences.
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