Government by Cronyism

The Carson National Forest in New Mexico is home to alpine meadows, ‘200 species of birds and 60 types of mammals, including one of the state’s largest elk herds’, and is located right next door to the largest Boy Scout wilderness camp in the country. But all of that is less important to the Bush Admin than the fact that a Texas energy corporation that has given $2.3 million to Republican candidates and political action committees.

CARSON NATIONAL FOREST, N.M. — Overriding the opposition of the U.S. Forest Service and New Mexico state officials, a White House energy task force has interceded on behalf of Houston-based El Paso Corp. in its two-year effort to explore for natural gas in a remote part of a national forest next door to America’s largest Boy Scout camp.Forest Service officials discouraged efforts to drill in the Valle Vidal at least three times since the agency acquired the land in 1982, citing concerns about water pollution, wildlife and recreation if a large-scale energy project were approved.

But last week, the agency took the first step toward approving the giant energy company’s proposal to tap into 40,000 acres of alpine meadows in the Carson National Forest. The agency released a report that forecast a high probability of recovering gas from the area and laid out a scenario in which 500 wells could be drilled on the forest’s east side.

The Forest Service’s action has sparked angry opposition from many groups and officials, including New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat who was U.S. secretary of Energy during the Clinton administration. Such disputes are increasingly commonplace in Rocky Mountain states as critics of Bush administration energy policies accuse the White House of repeatedly targeting some of the most cherished wild places for development.

What, the ‘cowboy rancher’? How can that be? Hey, money talks, the environment walks.

[W]hen the Forest Service, in consultation with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, rejected El Paso Corp.’s request in 2002, the company appealed to the administration.”In this environment, we need new natural gas supplies more than ever,” wrote El Paso’s federal government affairs director to Robert W. Middleton, the director of the White House Task Force on Energy Project Streamlining. “We believe that the Valle Vidal Unit could be a vital new source of such supply. Consequently, we would very much appreciate anything you could do to help move this process forward in a timely manner.”

Copies of correspondence made available to The Times show that after El Paso representatives met with Middleton, he instructed the Forest Service to revisit the project.

According to Forest Service staffers at the agency’s Taos office, the [WH Council on Environmental Quality energy] task force began making calls almost every week, beginning in 2003, to inquire about the progress of the Valle Vidal project.”The task force came down through the channels. The change was based on ‘Let’s see what we can do for El Paso Energy,’ ” said Benjamin Romero, public affairs officer for Carson National Forest.

“The overall thought was they are forcing us into expediting it,” said another staffer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Joanna Prokup, New Mexico’s secretary of energy, minerals and natural resources, said the task force’s message to the Forest Service left little room for interpretation. “El Paso called [Washington] D.C., D.C. called the Forest Service. They’ve put it on the fast track.”

Prokup, whose agency oversees oil and gas operations in the state, opposes any drilling in the Valle Vidal, “both personally and professionally,” she said.

Tough luck, Joanna. The fix is in: a Bush Buddy and major contributor wants the US govt to give him 40,000 acres worth of national forest to turn into ‘an industrial landscape of roads, power lines, pipelines, wells, generators, compressors and waste-water ponds’? Well, he’s going to get it and that’s that. $$$2.3Mil$$$ gets you some consideration, you know. I guess that’s the going price for national forests in the Bush Admin. The country’s for sale to the corporations, didn’t you know that? Especially Texas corporations, most especially Texas energy corporations, and mostest especially of all, Texas energy corporations that contribute over $2Mil to Junior and the GOP. What’s 40,000 acres of pristine wilderness and a little ol’ Boy Scout camp compared to that? Get real.

Oil and gas are important, BIG BUCKS, get it? So the elk and the Boy Scouts can damn well go someplace else (until we decide there’s oil or gas there as well, in which case a few more measly $$Millions$$ will change hands and then they’ll have to move out of there, too). You people just can’t get your priorities straight, can you? It’s simple. All you gotta remember is this:

PROFITS FIRST! Everything else comes last…if at all. You better explain that to the Boy Scouts, because all that hooey they’re feeding them over there in Philmont–

Berger, the former Philmont Ranch staffer, described the Valle Vidal as a vivid outdoor classroom. He said that at a certain point on each backpacking trip, group leaders teach campers the Wilderness Pledge.”We tell them, ‘With a right comes a responsibility.’ With the right to use the land comes a responsibility to protect it.

–is giving them the total wrong idea about values in Bush America, completely bass-ackwards. The only responsibility anybody has to America is to make money, and it don’t much matter who pays the price as long as it’s not the corporations. ‘Get rich however you can or get the hell out of the way of the people who are’, that’s what you should be teaching them. That’s the American Way, and it’s about time they learned that.

‘Responsibility.’ Ptui!

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