Congressman Gerry Connolly
While the BP oil spill continues to spew tens of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, it is important to recognize that this spill could have been minimized or even prevented. As the best minds in the oil industry, academia, and the federal government search for ways to stop the worst environmental catastrophe in our nation’s history, we must look at the factors which allowed it to happen and then make sure it can never happen again.
In 1969, after an oil well spilled more than 200,000 gallons of crude oil onto the California coast near Santa Barbara and the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland caught fire, Congress passed a law, known as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), requiring that environmental impact statements and assessments be conducted on projects that had the potential to create environmental damage.
The law was designed to prevent private companies, as well as government entities, from cutting corners, which could create serious environmental consequences on federal lands, including the Outer Continental Shelf off our coast.
Unfortunately, in 2005 the Bush administration and the Republican Congress passed legislation creating loopholes in the law that allowed “categorical exclusions” for projects with minimal risk to the environment and required the Secretary of the Interior to approve oil and gas exploration plans on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) within 30 days of their submission to the federal government.
It was this “categorical exclusion” provision granted by the U.S. Minerals Management Service that allowed BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf to begin oil exploration without any analysis or assessments of the potential environmental impacts required by NEPA under the premise that the rig could never leak more than 4,600 barrels of oil into the Gulf. That clearly was a false assumption.
To date, somewhere between 20 million and 70 million barrels of oil have spilled into the Gulf, closing America’s largest fishery, jeopardizing tourism, and wreaking havoc with the region’s entire economy. Already the BP spill covers an area of the Gulf equal to the size of the state of Kansas or, to put it another way, it would cover a land area stretching from Northern Virginia to New York City.
Consider that the Rail to Dulles project, a public project right here in Northern Virginia, had to go through an extensive and thorough two-year environmental review before a single shovel of dirt could be turned to begin construction. Yet BP’s privately owned oil rig in the Gulf was exempted from the same process, even though there was a strong potential for catastrophic environmental consequences.
In Canada, deepwater drilling rigs are required to have contingency plans for offshore drilling, including the capability to drill relief wells soon after the primary wells are constructed. If BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig had predrilled such relief wells, it would have enabled the closing off of the leak weeks ago, but, thanks to the loopholes in U.S. regulations, they weren’t required to do so.
That is all going to change if I succeed with legislation I have introduced to repeal the Bush-era loopholes that allowed BP to begin oil exploration on the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf without any analysis of the potential environmental impacts. My bill, H.R. 5506, will mandate a full environmental review of every aspect of all offshore drilling activity off the U.S. coast.
The bill I introduced, known as the Oil Pollution Environmental Review Act, would repeal the legislation passed in 2005 that relaxed environmental impact regulations on Big Oil. It would also end the provision requiring the Secretary of the Interior to approve oil and gas exploration plans within 30 days, and mandate that all exploration plans, development production plans, and lease sales on the OCS be subject to detailed and thorough environmental analysis.
We have seen the consequences of lax regulation. It is a disaster of epic proportions and like the rest of the nation, I pray that the leak, located a mile below the sea, can and will be capped soon. If I am successful with my legislation in Congress, never again will Big Oil have the opportunity or the ability to circumvent strict and necessary environmental reviews.
Pixie Bell, 8th CD First Vice Chair
June 12 was very exciting at the State Central Committee meeting held in Charlottesville. The election of Vice Chair for Finance, Jon Bowerbank, was unanimous. Gaylene Kanoyton won the contested election of Vice Chair for Organization. Susan Mariner moved to make the election unanimous. Del. Jennifer McClellan stepped down as Vice Chair for Organization at the previous meeting, as did former Finance Vice Chair, Jim Turpin. Dan Steen, 8th CD member and Chairman of the Jim Moran Campaign Committee, won the Arlington Mary Marshall Award at the Arlington J.J. dinner on 6/11/10.
The next Steering and State Central Committee meetings will be held at the Fredericksburg Expo Center on September 11 and 12. Don’t forget the Lee Luau on July 24, from 6 – 10 PM, being held at Susie’s, 6229 Edison Dr., off Franconia Rd. You may purchase the tickets at http://tinyurl.com/LeeDemsLuau.
The new Moran for Congress Field Director is Atima Omara-Alwala. She can be reached at (703) 299-0064 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The following are the campaign leaders for each jurisdiction: Falls Church: Mike Gardner and Peg Willingham; Fairfax North: Seldon Kruger and Stuart Patz; Fairfax South: Chair, Del. Mark Sickles, CO – Chair, Todd Smyth. Alexandria: Susan Kellom, Chair and Kenya Turner, co-chair. Arlington: Peter Rousselot, Chair and Terron Sims, Deputy Chair. If you need additional information, contact (703) 299-0064. Mary Moran is the campaign manager.
Did you hear about “Introducing Jim Moran on Demand?” This is a new method of constituent outreach accessed through the On Demand function on your remote control. This is a partnership between iConstituent, and local cable providers, Comcast, Cos and Via Media. You can see a sample on Congressman Moran’s You Tube channel.
As you know, Jim has a long history of fighting for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He recently spearheaded a drive to show Americans the human face of the failed policy by highlighting discharge data showing the specialties and years of service provided by service members kicked out by the military.
Moran also spearheaded a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act that will strengthen oversight of armed security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, and also eliminate a tax loophole that has been used by defense contracting firm Blackwater, now known as “Xe,” by classifying workers there as “independent contractors” rather than employees. It appears to have allowed the company to avoid tens of millions in employment-related taxes, and to underbid other competitors that abide by U.S. labor and tax codes. Jim is the senior member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.
The 8th CD meetings are usually held on the third Monday of the month at the Falls Church Community Center at 8PM, however the July meeting is canceled.
A Commentary by The National Affairs Standing Committee (NAC)
(Co-Chairs Sandra J Klassen and Dan Walsch)
At FCDC’s general membership meeting on May 25, 2010, those present voted overwhelmingly to support a Resolution calling on the U.S. Congress to pass the Democracy Restoration Act (“DRA”). The DRA (S. 1516 and H.R. 3335), sponsored by, among others, Congressmen Jim Moran and Bobby Scott of Virginia, would restore automatically the right to vote in federal elections to all ex-felons who have served their prison terms, regardless of state law to the contrary. The FCDC Resolution (the “DRA Resolution”) was proposed jointly by the National Affairs, Voter Registration and Election Law and Voter Protection Committees of FCDC.
The issue of voting rights for ex-offenders is particularly important to Virginians, over 300,000 of whom are barred from exercising the right to vote because of past felony convictions for which they have served their time. Virginia and Kentucky are the only states that permanently revoke a person’s right to vote at the time of a felony conviction, with restoration of that right available only by personal petition to the Governor. As the DRA Resolution explains, this provision of the Virginia Constitution “is a relic of the Jim Crow era, enforced along with the poll tax and literacy tests explicitly to disenfranchise African-American males, one in five of whom cannot vote today in Virginia due to this injustice.”
The Virginia Constitution leaves the Governor great latitude and discretion in voter restoration cases, and the result has been an ever-changing process that is cumbersome and opaque from the petitioner’s perspective. There are no published criteria for restoration, no record of deliberations and no appeal. The petitioner fills out the considerable paperwork and waits for a one-page letter from the Governor’s office that simply approves or denies without reason.
Governor McDonnell has recently publicized his new voter restoration process, including a suggestion that petitioners write a letter describing their activities in the community since release from prison. The Governor’s office describes this letter as an “opportunity,” but without a clear statement as to the role the letter – or its absence – would play in the decision-making process, petitioners would be unwise not to include it. Thus, Governor McDonnell has introduced a de facto literacy test back into the voter registration process for hundreds of thousands of Virginians.
Every state other than Virginia and Kentucky (and Maine and Vermont, which never deny the right to vote on the basis of criminal conviction) automatically restores the right to vote at some point in the process from conviction to completion of parole and probation. Fourteen states employ what the DRA is proposing: automatic restoration upon release from prison. This approach has the advantage of simplicity. While it can be difficult to keep track of where ex-offenders are in their parole and probation process, there is no doubt about the date upon which a person walks out of jail.
Restoration of voting rights upon release from prison also serves the goal of supporting an ex-offender’s reentry into productive citizenship. As the DRA Resolution points out, “[A]llowing people to vote after release from prison encourages participation in civic life and instills a sense of community that motivates law-abiding behavior.”
Absent a constitutional amendment or a return to Democratic control of the House of Delegates, Virginia’s disenfranchised thousands have little hope that state law will change in their favor. If the DRA becomes law, at least their voices will be heard in federal elections and they can begin to feel like full American citizens again.
The FCDC DRA Resolution concludes: “FCDC urges all members of the Virginia delegation to the U.S. Congress to co-sponsor and vote for the Democracy Restoration Act to restore the right to vote in Federal elections for all felons upon release from prison.”
Bettina Lawton and Robert Haley, Hunter Mill Co-Chairs
The Hunter Mill Democratic Committee holds its meetings on the third Thursday, 7:30PM, every month, alternating between locations in Reston and Vienna. Upcoming events in which the Hunter Mill committee participates include the Vienna July 4th Celebration, the July 10th/11th Reston Festival, and the July 24th Hunter Mill Picnic. Please contact Bettina Lawton (email@example.com) to volunteer for the Vienna July 4th Hunter Mill booth. Please contact Ed Hahn (firstname.lastname@example.org), point of contact and chair, to help with Reston Festival Hunter Mill Democratic booth, and Ed Robichaud (email@example.com), chair of the annual Hunter Mill picnic, to volunteer and help.
On Thursday July 15th, the Hunter Mill meeting will be held at Dogwood Elementary in Reston. Please refer to the Hunter Mill web site calendar at www.huntermilldemocrats.org for other local area political events, and to the FCDC web site calendar at www.fairfaxdemocrats.org for Fairfax County wide events.
Ron Bleeker, Dranesville Chair
The DDDC held a well-attended June meeting and social at the home of Ron and Nancy Bleeker in McLean on June 13. Attendees included Supervisor John Foust; Dan and Karen DuVal, our Volunteers of the Year; and Aggie Wolf, our Member of the Year and winner of FCDC’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Our special guest and speaker was State Senator Janet Howell.
Rachel Rifkind, Mason Chair
The Mason District Committee met on June 23 at the Mason District Government Center. Among the items on the agenda were presentations of Mason Volunteer of the Year Award to Kim Smith and Mason Community Volunteer of the Year Award to Karen Bopp. Kim and Karen could not attend the JJ in May where these presentations were to originally be made. Congratulations to Kim and Karen on their receipt of these awards and thanks for all of their hard work!
James Walkinshaw attended and gave a report on the Connolly campaign. He introduced Brian Ponton as Congressman Connolly’s Campaign Field Director. In his comments Brian asked us to get in touch with him at firstname.lastname@example.org if we have any ideas for the campaign or want to get involved with Gerry’s campaign.
Although not at the meeting, Atima Omara-Alwala is the Field Director for the Jim Moran Campaign. She can be reached at (703) 299-0064 or email@example.com to get involved with Jim’s campaign.
The 43rd Annual MDDC Crab Feast is right around the corner. We decided at the last meeting to not print physical tickets; however we still need each committee member (yes that’s you!) to sell your 10 tickets (please keep track of ticket sales and turn your checks in to FCDC or Rachel as soon as you get them; checks need to be deposited within 10 days of your receipt of them); ticket prices have gone up; please refer to the MDDC website for prices and encourage purchase on line at www.masondems.org. The Crab Feast is our big event leading to the election and we will need all of you and more to make this a big financial success. So please sell your tickets and volunteer with Judy White (703-354-7053 or firstname.lastname@example.org). As we did last year we will have a google doc volunteer list; go there and sign up.
FCDC meets on July 27 at 7:30pm at Oakton High School at 2900 Sutton Road, Vienna. Mason will caucus prior to the meeting at 7:15pm
ABOUT THE DEMOCRAT
The Democrat is a monthly email publication of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee. The purpose of The Democrat is to provide information to Committee members and other interested persons through district and committee reports, campaign reports, articles, and fliers. Views expressed do not necessarily represent those of the FCDC unless specifically approved by an appropriate committee resolution.
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