Editorial: Dark money’s assault on our planet

Photo Courtesy Bureau of Engraving and Printing

Column By John Young

Something is killing the Great Salt Lake. Any guesses what that might be?

Lake Mead and Lake Powell are in the clutches of the worst water-level drop in their life-giving histories. What might the problem be?

With hundreds of wildfires this year, more than 200 Texas counties have earned “crop disaster area” designation. Any suggestions as to why?

No suggestions, no guesses, and certainly no solutions from Republican-controlled legislatures committed to burying their heads in arid sand.

All that concerns them is drilling, pumping, and consuming – gas, oil, water – whatever. In other words, business as usual. The planet be damned.

In Utah, a rancher told the New York Times the existential crisis of the Great Salt Lake is an “environmental nuclear bomb.”

Ho hum, say Republican lawmakers – and voters who send them to the Capitol in Salt Lake City to ignore (Earth’s) reality. This being a political body tightly wrapped around a Big Lie, why not falsehoods, about the very existence of our planet?

One would think Utah, with its stunning and delicate ecosystems, from snow caps to desert flats, would be as intently focused on the environment as any state. Nah.

As such, Utah is one of the states represented in a well-oiled contraption called the State Financial Officers Foundation. It’s made up of Republican state treasurers devoted to undercutting any and all efforts at addressing climate change.

For instance, members vow to redirect state business away from “woke” businesses that express devotion to climate action.

Texas served as a model for this when Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law blocking state agencies from investing in businesses that have cut ties with fossil fuel companies.

In addition to spending taxpayer dollars to conspire thusly, the organization benefits from the largess of the Koch petrochemical dynasty and other players like the American Petroleum Institute, Heartland Institute, and Heritage Foundation.

For those in a civics coma, this is one more example that parties matter, and philosophies matter. Oh, yeah, and voting matters.

When pondering down-ballot races like treasurer and attorney general and secretary of state, consider the damage partisans can do, and many are sworn to do.

Rest assured, if one runs for any of these positions as a Republican, he or she can depend on massive dark money facilitated by the Citizens United ruling of 2010. Read all about the filthy stuff in Jane Mayer’s “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.”

For decades, petro players like the Koch family have spent like mad to elect state officials who pledge to the vow that carbon extraction is next to godliness.

Part of that campaign is and was the effort to populate the courts with friends of polluters.

To that end, the biggest victory in the dark money offensive was the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in West Virginia vs. EPA that ruled the agency couldn’t regulate carbon emissions. That’s up to Congress, sayeth the Koch Court.

In question was what’s called the “Chevron deference,” the principle that it’s unrealistic to rely on lawmakers to sign off on intricacies of environmental policy, hence empowering the experts at the EPA.

The absence of such is frightening considering the technological ignorance that pervades this or any Congress.

Exhibit A was the explanation in 2006 by then Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, describing the internet as a “series of tubes.”

Stevens said he was only speaking metaphorically. Whatever. For something more authoritative, let’s leave it up to one of the Apollo astronauts, unattributed, who said of the level of technological expertise he found on Capitol Hill:

“A lot of these people, they don’t know their butt from third base.”

This fully explains what enlightenment awaits when innocents become industry sock puppets.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email him at jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

The opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the author.