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The Mendacity of the Mitigation Manipulators

Powerline Through the Watergap Would Be an “Obamanation”

"The Judas Kiss" (1866) by Gustave Doré.

"The Judas Kiss" (1866) by Gustave Doré.

Here’s four cogent quotes on the proposed $30 million mitigation proposal by power companies to justify destruction of core values of Delaware Watergap National Recreation Area; the Appalachian National Scenic Trail; and the Wild and Scenic Delaware River:

“It is not the role of the National Park Service to negotiate mitigation at this stage of the process, before any decision is made.” ~~~ John Donahue, NPS, Supervisor of DWGNRA; Pam Underhill, Supervisor, ANST – June 27, 2011 letter to PPL Electric Utility

“Creating jobs is my highest priority as President, and investing in our nation’s infrastructure can help create those jobs and grow our economy” said President Obama. “That’s why I’m asking agencies across the federal government to identify infrastructure projects that will put folks back to work and help make our country stronger, and take immediate steps to push these projects across the finish line.” White House Announces Steps to Expedite High Impact Infrastructure Projects to Create Jobs (8/31/11)

Bill Wolfe of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility called the utilities’ recently announced offer to buy and preserve $30 million in nearby lands as “mitigation” for the power lines a test of the National Park Service’s integrity. “It’s an offense to the public process,” Wolfe said. ~~~ Pocono Record 1/25/12

To mitigate the loss, the utilities behind the line – PSE&G and PPL – last week announced an offer of land worth $30 million for public preservation. The” thousands of acres of land” has been identified as priorities by conservation groups, according to Karen Johnson, a PSE&G spokeswoman. ~~~ Morris Daily Record 1/26/12

I generally steer well clear of religious matters, having never really shaken off youthful Catholic indoctrination.

But certain projects force gut checks. And this particular set of circumstances rises to and justifiably moves me to invoke religious metaphor.

I listened closely to the testimony at the public hearings on the S-R line through the Watergap.

I was not surprised or bothered when PSE&G’s corporate flacks supported the S-R power line, downplayed the impacts, and claimed that “mitigation” can offset any unavoidable harms.

That is to be expected: PSEG earns a significant share of their profits on transmission investments (a higher ROI that any other investment).

PSE&G is a corporation whose first duty is to maximize profits and shareholder value. Of course they would love to use $30 million of ratepayers’ money to leverage even higher profits – press statements to the contrary, screw the consequences.

And I was not surprised when labor unions and workers supported a power line, because we’re in a deep recession and the unemployment rate is almost at Depression levels. They have families to support, need jobs, and are being duped by their leadership.

And I am not even surprised when government agencies, like the Highlands Council, compromise their mission and integrity and take mitigation bribes in exchange for approvals.

On any economically significant decision, the political pressure is incredible. On these high profile projects, government agencies become mere pawns of political hacks, corporate interests, and the careerists who manage them who will do what they are told.

And of course, I was not surprised by President Obama’s

Obama never betrayed me – I never trusted him or expected much.

One thing’s for sure: if a Republican President were doing what Obama is, the Beltway ENGO’s would be in a tizzy and activists groups would be in the streets.

But what I am absolutely shocked, disgusted and feel betrayed by is when publicly trusted self described “conservation” advocates – with an economic stake in mitigation projects no less – shamelessly publicly undermine project opponents and support mitigation.

If expert “conservationists” can’t speak truth to power and hold politicians accountable, how is it possible for the public to democratically do so?

Given President Obama’s support for expediting the approval of this project – and political commitments by Secretary of Interior Salazar that preceded Obama’s support – it is obvious that final decisions are being made in Washington DC based on money and politics, not science and the public interest.

With that so obvious right now, the conservation community needs to unify and do the same thing that Bill McKibben did on the Keystone XL Project: take the gloves off , protest, and target and hold the President accountable.

The last thing we need is for so called conservationists to be negotiating insider sweetheart mitigation deals with the power companies and providing cover for this sham deal.

But unity and in your face protest and political opposition won’t happen in this case.

And if it won’t happen on a power line through the Watergap, just when would it happen?

And it won’t happen NOT because of legitimate differences in tactics, style and tone within the conservation community. The conservation community is diverse, which is usually a strength.

(but those mild mannered conservationists somehow can abandon their moderate, reserved stance to exaggerate the impacts of windmills on birds – but ignore or downplay bird mortality caused by power lines. I even heard absurd testimony about opportunities to improve bird habitat in power line ROW. Why is that? Could it have anything to do with financial interests in mitigation and relationships with PSE&G?)

Projects of this magnitude and political profile warrant unity and aggressive political tactics.

But Unity and aggressive oppositional tactics won’t happen because some in the “conservation” community are tacitly supporting the project by corrupt means and for corrupt motives.

The corrupt means are behind the scenes negotiations with PSE&G/PPL on “mitigation” that Karen Johnson confirmed in the above quote (exactly which groups, Karen?).

John Donahue of NPS correctly describes how wrong that is.

And if its wrong for government, it’s absolutely evil for conservationists, who are supposed to be free of the kind of political influence government managers are subject to.

The corrupt motives stem from the fact that those groups will benefit from or even be funded to do some of the mitigation work.

Yet those conflicts of interest go undisclosed, undermining unity, providing political cover, misleading the public, and betraying all norms and expectations regarding integrity.

All that For Thirty Pieces of Silver?


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