WASHINTON, D.C. – Big Oil spent millions of dollars to sweep—and keep—George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in the White House. And it got its money’s worth.
The new administration and its staunchly pro-oil congressional allies returned the favor by enacting one of the most pro-oil, anti-environment pieces of legislation in history: the Energy Policy Act of 2005—itself based on the recommendations of Cheney’s secret energy policy task force. The Bush-Cheney administration’s cozy relationship with Big Oil, however, goes much deeper than one law.
A closer look at the culture of deregulation, self-regulation, and corruption ushered in on Cheney’s watch further underscores why the BP oil catastrophe should forever be remembered as Cheney’s Katrina.
The poster child for Bush-Cheney crony capitalism
The mention of Halliburton likely summons for most Americans memories of the Bush administration’s infamous no-bid Iraq war contracts—and Halliburton’s subsequent efforts to defraud taxpayers and its fatal negligence in facilities it constructed for our troops. Halliburton’s main business, however, is providing services to major oil companies such as its potentially faulty cementing job on BP’s blown out well.
The company had an unprecedented opportunity to engage in self-dealing and create a regulatory climate favorable to its business interests when Cheney, Halliburton’s former CEO, was ensconced in the White House and still effectively on its payroll.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 has come to be known as the “Dick Cheney energy bill,” but there’s one provision that is so closely identified with the former vice president that it has become known as the “Cheney loophole.” The provision in question, Section 322, exempted hydraulic fracturing, a drilling process invented by Halliburton commonly known as “fracking,” from the Safe Drinking Water Act.
The use of hydraulic fracturing has opened up vast new reserves of domestic natural gas from Texas to Wyoming to Pennsylvania, but serious environmental concerns about the process have been raised following numerous cases of groundwater contamination after nearby drilling. The exemption has placed the burden to rein in drillers largely on state regulators that are often unable or simply unwilling to police the thousands of wells that have been drilled in recent years.
Read the rest of "Cheney’s Culture of Deregulation and Corruption"
Also see Lesley Russell and Ellen-Marie Whelan’s column on Taking Control of the Public Health Response in the Gulf
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