Saturday, August 20, 2011

Keystone XL Pipeline

During my daily drive home of an hour or more, I listen numerous radio programs. Most of the time I listen to sports or one of the various talk radio programs that are on during that time. I more or less channel surf, stopping to listen to several channels for only a moment. A few days ago, I stopped on the Mark Levin Show, which is a conservative talk show host. I do listen to this show periodically, so although I do not agree with everything Mr. Levin states, I do know the format of the show, and frankly I do agree with some points made in the show and find entertainment value with it.

Mr. Levin began discussing the tar sands pipeline that is proposed to stretch from the Canada tar sands, all the way to the Gulf Coast, with numerous lines going in different directions along the way. He began telling a story of radical wacko environmentalist that were going to surge on Washington DC, and protest, ready and willing to go to jail for this cause. He further stated that it was these wacko environmentalist, and a few American Indian Tribes that were holding up this entire project. These few radicals were preventing the country from creating 20,000 new jobs.

Unfortunately Mr. Levin's staff may not have performed adequate research on this subject. The radical environmentalists that Mr. Levin was referring to, includes ranchers and farmers from the Plains, who are doing nothing more than attempting to protect their property. Perhaps Mr. Levin should have noted that this project would be given the power of eminent domain, so that these radical farmers and ranchers would not have a choice as to whether the pipeline could cross their property. Perhaps Mr. Levin should have noted that there can be nothing, not even a tree placed upon this pipeline easement, which will be at least 100 ft wide, just in case they want to install another line at some point. Let's also not forget that there have been numerous cases of pipelines leaking recently because there is virtually no oversight of the installation of these lines, and when that leak happens, that radical farmer and rancher will never be able to use that property for farming or ranching again.

Let's not forget that in the past that when lines such as this were installed, that the property owner is offered pennies on the dollar of what property is worth, and this does not include the damage that could and will happen to the property. And when the property owner does not accept those pennies, they are drug into condemnation court, and their property is taken without their consent. How does that not completely destroy private property rights in America?

In Mr. Levin's show he continually quotes the United States Constitution, so I am curious how Mr. Levin can twist it to support his position on this matter. Because is certainly seems to me that the First Amendment protects the right to assembly and demonstrate, and also an American's freedom of speech. And the the Fourth Amendment seems to protect citizens of the United States from unreasonable seizures of their property. Perhaps, like most of those who like to quote this document, Mr. Levin uses it only to help in his points, maybe we shouldn't forget that the Constitution applies to everyone, whether they have your views or not. I served for over eight years protecting and defending the Constitution, and I did that gladly, knowing that I was defending people's rights that likely disagreed with my views. Maybe Mr. Levin should read some of my favorite quotes below.

Private property was the original source of freedom. It still is its main bulwark. ~Walter Lippmann
In Texas you can own and peacefully enjoy property as long as someone with more money doesn't want it. ~Calvin Tillman, Former Mayor of DISH, TX
The Right of property is the guardian of every other Right, and to deprive the people of this, is in fact to deprive them of their Liberty ~Arthur Lee
No power on earth has a right to take our property from us without our consent. ~John Jay
All men have equal rights to liberty, to their property, and to the protection of the laws ~Voltaire
What is strange is that Mr. Levin is a conservative talk show host, which are supposed to support the protection of private property rights. However, his voice and action supports exactly the opposite. He also continually states that he worked in the Reagan administration, although I think that might be a stretch. More than one tenet of communism involves the destruction of private property rights, and I was thinking that Reagan spent his entire tenure as President attempting to prevent the spread of communism. I do not think it matters if it is the government taking your property or the government giving that authority to a "for profit" corporation, your rights and property are still taken, and I am betting the average American would agree with that.

Included in Mr. Levin's rant on the American farmers and ranchers, he accused the American Indian Tribes of attempting to stop this pipeline. Growing up in Oklahoma, we studied the American Indian History and what they went through when this country was being settled. It is also difficult to grow up in Oklahoma and not have some American Indian in your heritage. In my home office, I have American Indian artwork and truly respect what they have been through. The way Mr. Levin described this, it was as though those pesky Indians were stopping progress again, which sounded similar to what being said over a hundred years ago. Perhaps Mr. Levin and his followers would be happy if we handled this the way we did over a hundred years ago. Perhaps in Mr. Levin's mind we should begin to amass troops at the gates of the reservations, letting them know if they don't give us their land, we will take just like we did back then.

We should not even breach this subject without pointing to the fact that the oil and gas industry does have the power of eminent domain; however, the renewable industry does not. This is one of the reasons that the renewable industry can not easily expand, it also doesn't help that they oil and gas industry get billions in corporate welfare. Texas is actually one of the largest wind power producing states, but is having difficulty getting it's infrastructure in place to get the power to where it is needed. This prevents it from expanding, as it could. Again, I oppose the taking of hard working American's property through eminent domain, but am just pointing out that there is not a "free market" on this matter.

Shows like Mr. Levin's do nothing to spread misinformation on subjects like this, and this particle case, he is destroying the very thing he says he is trying to protect. I would gladly debate him on the subject; however, Mr. Levin is one of those hosts, that do not encourage participation. Phone calls that make it through his screening, that does not share his views are typically muted and berated. Even some of the callers who do agree with him are treated in this manner. So instead of being this strong conservative voice who can walk the walk, he is a coward that hides behind the microphone and mute button. This reminds me of those who berate Josh Fox for Gasland, but are too much of a coward to set on a panel and debate this with him. My daddy would have called that "chickenshit", and so would I. From Mr. Levin's words, who exactly is the radical here? Who is the wacko?

Calvin Tillman
Former Mayor, DISH, TX
(940) 453-3640

"Those who say it can not be done, should get out of the way of those that are doing it"

WSJ Article

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904253204576512684070410032.html

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Worth our Tax Dollars?

I recently spoke at an event with a representative from the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC), which regulates and promotes the Oil and Gas Industry in Texas. After dealing with the organization for several years, I have little respect for them as a tax payer funded organization, as do most of the people that have been forced to deal with them. When I was mayor of DISH, I tried for years to get the RRC involved in our situation, and they did nothing. They would not respond to our complaints, and if they did return calls, they certainly would not show up on site. When you call after hours or on weekends, the person who responds will likely not be from your area, because they only have one person on call for the entire state. I bring this up, because the RRC representative stated that they respond to every complaint, and that is simply inaccurate. I am not saying the RRC representative was lying, but he was inaccurate. It is possible that the suits in Austin are quoting some general written procedure that no one follows, or perhaps they really could be lying about the situation.

It is further disappointing that the Texas State Legislator failed to take action to help improve this situation during the 2011 legislative session. Texas has a wonderful idea, and that is the Sunset Advisory Commission, which was created to eliminate waste and inefficiency in government agencies. The Sunset Advisory Commission agreed with me and most of the people who know anything about the RRC. You can read the entire report at: http://www.sunset.state.tx.us/82ndreports/rct/rct_dec.pdf. The RRC is led by three elected commissioners, which are kindly referred to by some as the Moe, Larry, and Curly. The only type of oil and gas experience required for the commissioners is to pay close attention to what the industry lobbyist tell them, and properly accept the envelope of cash slid across the table to them. The Texas Legislature failed to do their job and get rid of this sacred cow.

I suspect the organization has been given a reprieve to the next legislative session to clean up their act. However, it is clear that they are not going to clean up their act, but rather send their PR folks out to tell lies and mislead the public. One thing that shocked is that the RRC employees are paid very well to do very little, and in the case of the employee who was on the speaking panel, he is paid almost $100,000.00 per year. Now remember that the Texas education budget was cut by four billion dollars but the RRC was fully funded.

I am ashamed that our conservative legislature who is sent to Austin to get rid of wasteful spending, are still wasting tax dollars on this organization, but can not invest in our children's future. If the RRC simply went away, the average Texan would not know the difference, and certainly would not miss the organization. For the most part the average Texan does not even realize that the "Railroad Commission" has anything to do with the oil and gas industry, not completely convinced that the "Railroad Commission" is aware that they have anything to do with the oil and gas industry.

Another disturbing fact about this organization is that they have voted on thousands of occasions to take private property that belongs to a taxpayers in Texas and transfer this to a corporation without compensation. In Texas there are spacing rules that prevents an operator from drilling up against an unleased property line; however, the operator can request an exception to that rule and therefore put the drill bore against the property line. When the hydraulic fracturing takes place, the minerals from the unleased property are collected without compensating the mineral owner. This has been accomplished thousands of times in the Barnett Shale. The commissioners will attempt to state that this rule is need to prevent one person from stopping others from benefiting from their minerals. However, that is not how it is being used, but rather the operators no longer negotiate in good faith. They will simply make a low offer and if it is not accepted in a timely manner, they will simply move toward the exception. This was outlined in a recent local article which can be found at: http://www.fwweekly.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4950:free-gas-for-drillers&catid=76:metropolis&Itemid=377

Once this trick had been sniffed out, the people in the Barnett Shale began protesting the exceptions, and therefore holding up the drilling process. Therefore, they have proposed to alter the current rule to notify the property owner only after the exception had been approved, which would prevent those annoying people complaining about their minerals being stolen. We have several instances in Texas where the surface owner have been pushed around by these companies, now they are doing it to the mineral owners also. This action completely destroys the theory of a free market system, and also destroys private property rights. The free market system in Texas, is directly related to the amount of money that is donated to a particular campaign, and you can own and peacefully enjoy your property as long as someone with more money does not want it. Not sure that is exactly how the founding fathers of this great nation planned it.

In today's economic climate it is imperative that we cut ineffective organizations. Every tax dollar counts, and we the taxpayers should influence what that money is spent on. So many of these organizations that are paid to protect our health safety and welfare, simply go through the motions and collect a pay check. That is exactly what the state officials want...the masses to think they are being protected, and that is simply not the case. In many of these organizations, the low level boots on the ground want to do the right thing, but are prevented from doing that by a political appointee. However, that is not the case with the RRC; their way of doing business has been going on for so long, that it is ingrained in their culture. Therefore, some ineffective organizations could change with new leadership, but with the RRC, we need to abolish the entire organization.

Those of you in other states, may not have this exact problem, but I would bet that your "regulatory agency", has the same problems that exist here. The organization is there only to give the perception that the state is trying to protect health, safety and private property rights, but are really in existence only to protect the industry. It is time that these organizations fulfill what the taxpayers are paying them to do, or get funded by a source other than taxpayers.
In Texas, the RRC is the entry level political office, for the above stated qualification requirements, however, many of these officials go on to further political careers. One current commissioner has announced a run for US Senate, while a recent former commissioner is running for a US Representative seat. I am betting that they will be rewarded for the thousands of occassions that they allowed the legal theivery of private property by corporations. We simply can not let this cycle continue. It makes no sense for us to spend millions or billions on organizations that simply make no effort to perform their intended functions.

Calvin Tillman
Former Mayor, DISH, TX
(940) 453-3640

"Those who say it can not be done, should get out of the way of those that are doing it"

Researching Protests

The lady below would like visit with people who participate in protests. Her contact information follows the message.

Hello again,

Thank you so much for posting something on your blog - I hope that not only will it help further my research, but also that it will help others realize that there are many others out there who are going through similar issues with the gas industry. After watching footage from July 14th's TCEQ hearing, I see that there are a number of people who share similar concerns - but my ideas that we all need to come together and fight harder were only solidified.
I'm interested in conducting research on the dynamics, motives, behaviors, and patterns of natural gas protests. I'm looking for information concerning the protesting process and whether or not one feels it has been successful or not, any reasons why one feels a need to protest the drilling, how difficult (or easy) it has been to come together with others, and the names of any groups or group leaders who may be able to give further information. I hope to in the near future administer a brief questionnaire or survey to protesters, but right now am just looking for basic information. Any and all help is appreciated!

Allyssa Sobey

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Allyssa Sobey, McNair Scholar
University of North Texas, Department of Geography
allyssasobey@my.unt.edu