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By a vote of 241-171, the House of Representatives today blocked the repeal of just one of the many taxpayer-funded subsidies that benefit big oil companies.
House Republicans voted in lockstep, joined by seven Democrats, to protect the Section 199 domestic manufacturing tax credit, a multibillion-dollar giveaway for the five biggest oil companies, while considering a bill to expand domestic oil drilling.
Friends of the Earth's Climate and Energy Tax Analyst, Ben Schreiber, responded with the following statement:
"Today House Republicans made it very clear that they are not serious about sensible budget or energy solutions.
"The House GOP had the opportunity to save Americans $13 billion by eliminating a wasteful fossil fuel industry giveaway. Instead, House Republicans have chosen to pad the surging profits of some of the world's largest corporations.
"Money that could have been used to create jobs or nourish hungry children will now inflate the bonuses of corporate oil executives."
For more information on the $49 billion in tax breaks for the fossil fuels industry that are targeted for repeal in President Obama's budget see Friends of the Earth's policy brief: https://www.foe.org/sites/default/files/Fact-sheet-Obama-budget-fossil-fuel-giveaways.pdf
Friends of the Earth fights for a more healthy and just world. Together we speak truth to power and expose those who endanger the health of people and the planet for corporate profit. We organize to build long-term political power and campaign to change the rules of our economic and political systems that create injustice and destroy nature.(202) 783-7400
One campaigner implored governors and the Biden administration to "muster the political will to stop the expansion of water-intensive crops like tree nuts and alfalfa, factory farms, fracking, and fossil fuel extraction."
Since the seven Colorado River Basin states failed again this week to reach a consensus on a plan to conserve the region's dwindling water resources, environmental justice campaigners have implored officials to prioritize combating the "overuse and abuse" of water by agribusiness and fossil fuel corporations.
Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming agreed Monday on a proposed framework to collectively slash water use by roughly 15%. But California refused to approve the plan and submitted its own on Tuesday, causing the states to miss a federal deadline to finalize an interstate water conservation pact for the second time in six months. This sets the stage for what CNNdescribes as a "high-stakes legal battle" and increases the likelihood that the U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Reclamation will impose its own solution later this year.
Since the Colorado River Compact was first signed in 1922, the sprawling 1,450-mile river—a key water source for 40 million people in the western U.S. and northern Mexico—has been overallocated. Meanwhile, historic drought conditions intensified by the fossil fuel-driven climate emergency have exacerbated the situation, leading to worsening scarcity that threatens drinking water provision and power generation throughout the region, including in the metropolitan areas of Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego, Denver, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, and Salt Lake City.
The volume of water being withdrawn from the Colorado River has decreased since 2000 even as more people have moved to the region. But with less water flowing into the river amid the West's ongoing 23-year megadrought—more severe than anything seen in the preceding 1,200 years—recent reductions in per capita water consumption are inadequate. A 15% cut represents the bare minimum scientists say is needed to prevent water levels in dangerously depleted reservoirs from dropping even further.
"In this moment of crisis on the Colorado River, we must start from scratch and fundamentally rethink the allocation and use of these water resources," Mitch Jones, managing director for policy and litigation at Food & Water Watch, said Thursday in a statement. "This effort would be pointless without confronting head-on the key drivers of the crisis: the overuse and abuse of water by big agribusiness and fossil fuel corporations—the very same industries driving climate chaos in the first place."
As Wall Street investment firms look to capitalize on the pending catastrophe by buying and selling rights to the Colorado River's waning water supplies, Jones urged all levels of government to protect the vital waterway "as a public trust resource and prioritize the well-being of the public before corporate profits."
"The Biden administration and governors of the seven compact states must muster the political will to stop the expansion of water-intensive crops like tree nuts and alfalfa, factory farms, fracking, and fossil fuel extraction," said Jones. "They must halt these practices and chart a course to a more sustainable and resilient future, one that aligns with the reality of climate change and our precarious water future."
A whopping 80% of the Colorado River's water is currently "put towards agriculture, and 80% of that supply is used for crops like alfalfa, which is largely used as feedstock for cattle," according to Food & Water Watch. "The current framework to cut water uses, however, focuses on overall allocations and makes only a passing reference to the actual purpose that water is used."
"Each industrial, municipal, and agricultural user should be held to the highest industry standards in handling, using, and disposing of water," the progressive advocacy group added. "There is precious little water left to waste."
"Large agribusinesses and oil and gas operators use massive and unsustainable amounts of water, permitted by ineffective regulations that put profits over people."
In a Wednesday report titled Big Ag, Big Oil, and the California Water Crisis, Food & Water Watch researchers detailed "the toll that corporate agriculture and fossil fuel drilling is taking on the state's beleaguered water supplies." While more than one million Californians are denied access to clean water, powerful companies "have taken advantage of the state's water allocation system to benefit their own interests over public needs."
Despite ongoing drought conditions, California's "large agribusinesses and oil and gas operators use massive and unsustainable amounts of water, permitted by ineffective regulations that put profits over people," the group explained.
For instance, a massive expansion since 2010 in the number of acres devoted to growing almonds and pistachios required 523 billion additional gallons of water for irrigation in 2021 compared with 2017—an increase equivalent to the recommended indoor water use of 34.1 million people, or 87% of California's population. In addition, irrigation for the lucrative alfalfa industry guzzles nearly 1 trillion gallons of water per year, and corporate megadaries consume more than 142 million gallons of water every day.
Because vast quantities of California's nut crops, alfalfa, and dairy products are exported around the globe, it means that billions of gallons of the region's sorely needed freshwater resources are being shipped overseas.
Furthermore, planet-heating oil and gas producers in California "devoured 3 billion gallons of freshwater between 2018 and 2021," the report points out.
California-based corporations are not alone in abusing the Colorado River's water resources. Food & Water Watch has also estimated that New Mexico's megadairies consume a combined 10 million gallons of water each day while producing significant amounts of pollution.
This is not the first time that Food & Water Watch has made the case for implementing just and sustainable water policies that don't allow the industries most responsible for the West's water crisis to call the shots.
Last August, when the seven states that depend on the Colorado River failed for the first time to produce an accord for achieving a 15% to 30% reduction in water use, the group's research director Amanda Starbuck called on policymakers to "eliminate rampant corporate water abuse before it's too late," decrying the "massive water use of Big Ag and Big Oil."
"By switching to renewable energy sources like solar and wind, California could save 98% of the water currently needed for its fossil fuel production," Starbuck said at the time. "And by transitioning away from industrial megadairies, thirsty crops like almonds and pistachios, and engaging in regenerative farming, California will gain enormous water savings that could serve small farmers and domestic households."
Food & Water Watch's new report urges Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom to "use executive and emergency powers to immediately stop egregious misuses of California water."
"This includes preventing the planting of new almond and alfalfa acres on the salty, dry west side of the San Joaquin Valley, banning new megadairies, and ending new oil and gas drilling," the report says. In addition, state lawmakers should "expressly define all water, including groundwater, as a public trust resource, and the government should protect and preserve this common resource for the public."
Lula's comments came as a former ally of Bolsonaro alleged that the former president attended a private meeting where a plan to keep him in office was discussed.
New police raids across Brazil on Friday followed comments by Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva about the alleged involvement of his right-wing predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, in planning an attack on government buildings in Brasília last month.
The president, who is known as Lula, toldRedeTV! Thursday that he believes Bolsonaro "prepared the coup."
"Today I am well aware and will say it loud and clear," Lula said. "I am certain that Bolsonaro actively participated in that and is still trying to participate."
The progressive president's remarks came the same day that Sen. Marcos do Val, a former ally of Bolsonaro's, publicly said that a month before the January 8 attack, Lula's predecessor took part in a meeting where a plan to prevent the transfer of power and "save Brazil" was discussed.
"I am certain that Bolsonaro actively participated in that and is still trying to participate."
Do Val said at a press conference that both he and Bolsonaro were present at a private discussion on December 9 with then-Congressman Daniel Silveira.
According to do Val, Silveira suggested do Val secretly record a meeting with Brazilian Supreme Court Judge Alexandre de Moraes, who is also president of the Superior Electoral Court. The judge dismissed allegations of election fraud before Bolsonaro's runoff election loss in late October, and has been a frequent target of the former president's supporters.
Do Val presented WhatsApp messages he exchanged with Silveira regarding the plan and the meeting, where he said Silveira told him to prompt de Moraes to make comments that would raise doubts about his neutrality and the legitimacy of the election.
The senator said Thursday that Bolsonaro did not speak at the meeting, and did not discourage Silveira's proposal.
"It was very clear that he was in a position to manipulate and have [Bolsonaro] buy into his idea, if a senator accepted the mission,” do Val said.
Do Val added that he did meet with de Moraes days after his discussion with Silveira and Bolsonaro, but that instead of carrying out the plan he told the judge about it.
The senator initially told Veja magazine that it was Bolsonaro who presented the plan to him, saying, "I annul the election, Lula isn't sworn in, I stay in the presidency and arrest Alexandre de Moraes because of his comments."
De Moraes is leading the ongoing probe into the January 8 attack on the government complex in Brasília, in which Bolsonaro's supporters broke into the buildings a week after Lula was sworn in, set fires, ransacked offices, and said they aimed to "overthrow the thieves."
The new police raids announced Friday took place in five states and were aimed at identifying people who participated in and funded the attempted insurrection.
De Moraes on Thursday ordered do Val to give a deposition to the Federal Police on Thursday.
Bolsonaro has been in Florida since December and earlier this week requested a six-month tourist visa as he faces investigations in his home country. Last month, several Democratic U.S. lawmakers called on the Biden administration to rescind Bolsonaro's visa, saying the U.S. should not be providing him with refuge.
The former president did not respond on Thursday to do Val's claims. His son, Sen. Flavio Bolsonaro, dismissed the allegations that Bolsonaro took part in making plans to prevent the transfer of power, tellingCNN, "The fact is that on December 31, President Bolsonaro left the presidency."
Bolsonaro did not publicly acknowledge the election results until December 30, two months after he lost the election, and he has not conceded defeat.
Nevada Democratic Party Chair Judith Whitmer, the lead sponsor of the resolution, said that dark money is "being used to silence the voices our party most needs to hear."
For the second time in less than five months, the Democratic National Committee's resolutions panel refused Thursday to allow a vote on a proposed ban on dark money in the party's primaries, despite substantial support for the change among DNC members and prominent progressive lawmakers.
"They're being used to silence the voices our party most needs to hear," Whitmer added. "The DNC did not pass my dark money resolution, but my voice was heard. Our elections are not for sale."
According to DNC member R.L. Miller, the founder of Climate Hawks Vote, "not a single person" on the Resolutions Committee "dares move to even put it for a vote, just like summer 2022."
During that meeting, which took place in September, the panel also declined to let the proposed dark money ban advance to a vote, as
Common Dreamsreported at the time.
Recounting the September meeting in an
op-ed for The Nation, longtime DNC member James Zogby—who helped craft the dark money proposal—wrote that after Whitmer delivered a "powerful" statement to the resolutions panel in support of the ban, the panel's chair "asked if any member of the committee wanted to put our resolution up for a vote."
"There was dead silence in the room," Zogby wrote, suggesting that members were likely pressured by DNC leadership to stonewall the dark money proposal. "With not one of the two dozen committee members in attendance willing to call for a vote, the resolution died."
The DNC's proceedings are notoriously anti-democratic and untransparent—and they are likely to become even more so under bylaw changes that the body quietly enacted during its September gathering.
As The Intercept's Akela Lacy reported following last year's meeting, "The national committee approved language requiring that it must ratify any bylaw amendments that the convention, a broader body, wants to adopt."
"The amendment removes the authority over DNC decisions from the national convention, which includes thousands of members, and places it instead with the smaller national committee of just under 500," Lacy noted. "According to three people present, several DNC members were frustrated with the change."
"If we don't get the dark money—what I call 'the dirty money'—out of Democratic primaries, it becomes increasingly impossible to elect the challengers, the insurgents, the progressives in those primaries."
The DNC doesn't publicize the membership lists of its standing committees, though 2020 reporting from Sludge identified at least three corporate lobbyists who were serving on the resolutions panel at that time.
As of the September 2022 meeting, Patrice Taylor and Rich Fitzgerald were the
co-chairs of the DNC Resolutions Committee.
The committee's obstruction of the proposed dark money ban comes in the wake of the most expensive U.S. midterm cycle on record. According to OpenSecrets, super PACs spent an astounding $1.35 billion during the 2022 midterm election cycle.
An outgrowth of the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision, super PACs are legally required to disclose their donors—but many of them are effectively dark money groups because of how difficult it is to trace the sources of their funding.
The torrent of super PAC cash provided the impetus for progressives' push to ban dark money in Democratic primaries, an effort that garnered the support of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—who caucuses with Senate Democrats—and other members of Congress.
Ahead of the winter DNC gathering in Philadelphia, which is set to formally kick off this weekend, Sanders wrote in a letter that "the Democratic Party must not allow oligarchs and their super PACs, often aligned with Republicans, to buy Democratic Party primaries."
"Virtually all Democrats talk about the need for campaign finance reform," Sanders added. "Talk is easy. Now it's time to walk the walk. Let's stand up for democracy."
\u201cVirtually all Democrats talk about the need for campaign finance reform. Talk is easy. Now it\u2019s time to walk the walk. I wrote a letter to the @DNC today on why we must stand up for democracy and end super PAC spending in primaries.\u201d— Bernie Sanders (@Bernie Sanders) 1675194781
Larry Cohen, a DNC member and board chair of the progressive group Our Revolution, lamented in an organizing call earlier this week that the DNC is "a shitshow."
"There's no other way to describe it," Cohen said. "If we don't get the dark money—what I call 'the dirty money'—out of Democratic primaries, it becomes increasingly impossible to elect the challengers, the insurgents, the progressives in those primaries."