API Parades Workers Through Capitol to Tamp Down Outrage Over Radioactive Waste


In D.C. they call it a “fly-in.” You recruit a handful of like-minded allies and give them a trip to Washington – and all they have to do is say the right things to some very important people. But somehow, when the oil and gas industry’s strong-arm lobbying crew, the American Petroleum Institute (API), parades 18 workers through the Capitol, it seems not only desperate but disgusting to boot.

Look, we all know about the nation’s thirst for jobs right now. We can’t help but know, because “energy extraction” companies (oil, gas, coal, uranium) hide behind them all the time – not completely unlike the third-world despots we’ve all seen of late who use civilian populations as human shields. But when oil and gas workers talk with groups like the White House Council on Environmental Quality, those workers become industry spokespeople.

The API has parachuted in to do what it can to defuse outrage on Capitol Hill before our elected officials do something rash, like hold the oil and gas industry accountable for poisoning our water, our land and our bodies with radiation. If you’ve read a newspaper or watched the evening news recently, you know that the oil and gas industry is taking a huge hit right now for reckless practices surrounding the radioactive wastewater companies generate in their production processes.

Radioactive material from the energy-extraction industry is – and has been for many years – a serious national problem that will continue to take a heavy toll on the environment and human health. It’s fortunate for the American public that the issue is finally getting the attention it deserves. It’s worth noting that the natural-gas drilling companies are relative newcomers to the energy-extraction landscape, and as an attorney who’s been litigating against oil companies like Exxon Mobil and Chevron for decades, I can say that the old-school majors would never have stooped to the level of parading workers through the halls of the Capitol.

Of course, industry officials claim the API fly-in was planned before Ian Urbina’s devastating New York Times series broke on the radioactive waste the industry is dumping pretty much anywhere it can, including our rivers and oceans. Yes, the fly-in date must have been set right about the time one natural gas exec called the other and said: “Holy crap! that New York Times guy has exposed us all! The gig is up. Let’s get organized before people have too much time to think about how bad this is…” Or something along those lines of corporate “damage control.”

So it gets me a little hot under the collar when an API flack is quoted by Greenwire, on the New York Times website, as saying: “…it’s critical for our elected officials to hear from their own constituents about the importance of natural gas to local communities, to jobs, and our energy security.” It sure is, but saying the fly-in participants truly “represent” the workers is insulting to everyone involved.

The fact is that, given the torrent of information about coverups and the systematic breaking of federal law – starting with the Clean Water Act but making it through a half-dozen others – the API comes close to defining a criminal conspiracy. In fact, the RICO statutes (that is, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Practices Act) take aim at exactly the sort of profiteering fraud that we’re starting to see not only in the context of the BP oil spill, but also in the New York Times series about natural gas.

In fact, a group of spill victims filed a RICO complaint against BP (see complaint here: 33076481-BP-RICO-Lawsuit-Complaint) in U.S. District Court (Northern District of Florida) alleging: “Plaintiffs’ damages were caused by Defendants’ scheme to secure billions of dollars in profits by committing a pattern of criminal predicate acts including mail and wire fraud through the submissions in the permitting process for offshore drilling.”

Granted, RICO was created to go after the Mafia, but it evolved to offer a tool against all sorts of other corrupt practices. Mobsters may have dumped bodies in the river, but even they might have balked at dumping radioactive wastewater into our country’s most prized sources of water.

Around the country, we’re seeing unprecedented rage at what’s happening (and has been happening for some time) deep inside the oil and gas industry. The BP spill was and is bad enough – now the environmental atrocities are starting to mount.

A RICO investigation is making more and more sense in light of recent revelations – and the API is looking more and more like the Godfather of it all.

Here’s the Greenwire piece: http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2011/03/08/08greenwire-natural-gas-companies-send-workers-to-hill-to-83229.html?pagewanted=print

For more information on “fracking” and related radiation issues, see our new Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Hydraulic-Fracturing-Support-Group/192748310749814?sk=info

© Smith Stag, LLC 2011 – All Rights Reserved

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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