By Denise Tessier
I was wondering how the pro-drilling group CARE and its executive director, Marita K. Noon, would react to the Deepwater Horizon blow-out in the Gulf of Mexico. Thanks to the Albuquerque Journal, that question has now been answered.
Noon has had a month to watch the beyond-control oil geyser as it pollutes the waters of the gulf, killing spawning fish, shrimp and other wildlife and threatening the coastal economies of several states. This, after the initial explosion killed 11 men.
In a column on the Journal’s Monday Op-Ed page, entitled “Stopping Exploration Costly,” Noon reacts by blasting President Obama for suspending work on 33 other exploratory wells in the Gulf, revoking a proposed lease sale off the coast of Virginia and halting exploration off the coast of Alaska, among other cautionary measures, and then she weighs in with these thoughts:
. . .to halt all exploration and potential new resources is like a frost killing an entire crop in one region. We still have lettuce, for example, but what we can get from other sources — both American and foreign — is suddenly more expensive because there is less to go around and it will be months before the damage to the supply chain can be bolstered. We can keep using it, but it will not be replaced.
The frost is an act of God. The announcement Thursday is from someone who thinks he’s God.
While most people are worried about damage to the environment and the billions of dollars in damage to the fishing industry and tourist economy of the Gulf states – and the potential damages looming as we enter hurricane season – Noon is worried about “damage to the (gas) supply chain.” I won’t comment on her claim to knowing the president’s thoughts.
While acknowledging that the Deepwater explosion and oil leak is a “disaster of epic proportions,” Noon’s always-helpful suggestions are to offer “prayers” to those affected and rally for “all hands” to “get on deck to help clean up this catastrophic mess and get the population and ecosystems back on their feet.”
She makes it sound so simple.
But she draws the line at proceeding cautiously on further exploration and – heaven forbid – doesn’t even mention that better regulatory oversight and safety requirements might have prevented this disaster and, just as importantly, is needed to prevent future ones.
As executive director of CARE (Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy), Noon’s columns in fact have advocated elimination of New Mexico’s oil and gas regulatory body, the Oil Conservation Division, and elimination of one of New Mexico’s regulatory protection measures, known as the pit rule. Her group continues to claim that regulations are crippling the oil industry.
Yet, in March, the State Land Office reported that oil and gas lease sales during the third quarter generated $20 million in revenue, bringing earnings for the year to $51 million. The Journal Business page story reporting this added:
With three months remaining, the agency says it’s only $6.4 million short of beating the all-time record for lease sale earnings during any fiscal year.
And on May 14, the Journal Business page ran a story headlined, “Controversial Pit Rule Wins Plaudits,” which reported that pit rule regulating disposal of drilling waste, enacted in 2008, “has resulted in zero reports of groundwater contamination from operations permitted under the regulation.” Quoting Oil Conservation Division Director Mark Fesmire, the story said his agency is developing guidelines that will make it easier for producers to understand the regulations and make them less time-consuming and less expensive to follow, but that the rule would not be changed, basically because it’s working to protect the environment, and in turn, public health.
Meanwhile, Noon, who twice in Monday’s article calls the president’s actions to hold off on more drilling “political posturing,” says:
Obama’s political posturing hurts more than it helps.
It hurts, she says, because the actions will result in that ever-present threat – job loss — and for those of you not in the oil industry, something else that “will come as a shock to the pocketbook of every American.”
She is, of course, talking about gas prices:
Just as we head into the summer driving season, gas prices — which before the cessation proclamation had been pleasantly low — are predicted to top those of the summer of 2008.
She adds that:
The disaster itself did not adversely impact prices, as that well was exploratory. It was not yet a part of the fuel supply.
But says halting exploration is like a “frost” . . . well, you’ve read that part already.
Nowhere does she acknowledge the cost BP has incurred in what it will have to pay in reparations and in lost product, as oil continues to gush into the sea.
And what of the loss of lives? Well, Noon seems to think that’s part of the equation and we should honor those “many great Americans (who) have died in their efforts to provide us with all-important energy.” She stops short of calling them “fallen heroes,” but says this:
While the best brains in America are working to increase safety, improve efficiency and discover additional resources, those workers did not die in vain. They are as important to everything that is America as are our troops fighting overseas.
It appears that the Journal runs Noon’s articles as they receive them, without editing, as we’ve noted about the Journal’s handling of columns in general. Monday’s column appears to have received the same lack of treatment, as editors left a “par-for-the-course” phrase in the first paragraph unnecessarily hyphenated, which would have been corrected in a staff-written column.
At this point, even though Noon’s columns have received much negative attention, the Journal almost is obligated to run them. I’m perhaps not the only one who wondered whether CARE would continue to advocate for at-any-cost drilling in light of this disastrous blowout/spill.
To its credit, the Journal did post at the column’s end a description of CARE, calling it an organization “operating from the platform of ‘Energy Makes America Great’ and supporting all domestic energy development.”
I would add, “at any cost.”