When most thugs put a pistol in your face and say, “Your money or your life,” they expect you to hand over your money and save your life.
Not David Bernhardt, the long-time energy industry lawyer and lobbyist (meaning dissembler and liar) put in charge of the Department of the Interior by the coal-corrupted, climate-destroying President Donald Trump.
No, Bernardt laid out his perverse environmental priorities quite clearly at a recent conference of energy industry officials and state officials. Any effort to protect the environment, he told the conference, must not hurt economic growth.
Think about that.
The Secretary of the Interior, the man in charge of America’s natural resources says the covenant to protect Earth’s environment and the lives of millions of its citizens comes second to boosting the bottom line for a few fossil-fuel billionaires and their few thousands of shareholders.
Here in New Mexico, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham says she’s aiming at a better balance for this difficult equation. She’s determined to cut down on the energy’s industry’s climate-damaging emissions of methane and spills of oil and toxic production waters. But, she says, she wants to do this in collaboration with the energy industry which is, by far, the biggest source of revenues for her state budget.
Because economic growth does matter, but life, clean air and water, and a survivable planet matter more.
So far, industry sources at the energy conference told our guest today, reporter Jens Erik Gould of the Santa Fe New Mexican, relations between industry and government are better than ever before for a state regime dominated at the state house and the legislature by Democrats.
But polluting processes and toxic waste products are not the only challenge the multi-billion-dollar energy boom has brought to Southeastern New Mexico.
Permian Basin oil and gas mean not just fresh money for the state, but hundreds of workers brought to towns like Carlsbad to service the oil fields.
Some come with families. Finding housing for them is difficult and finding teachers and classrooms for their kids is at least as hard. And then there are the hundreds of single men, who see their jobs and habitations as temporary, and whose connection to the Southeast New Mexico community is more tenuous. They, too, need places to live, and the accoutrements of an acceptable lifestyle to go with them.
Like the industry that employs them, these workers bring juice to the economy and sometimes strains, to the society into which they’ve settled.
Jens Erik Gould covers politics for the Santa Fe New Mexican. He was a correspondent for Bloomberg News in Mexico City, a regular contributor for TIME in California, and produced the video series Bravery Tapes.