Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, the richest governor in America, has been working to make his family business even richer, and the rest of us poorer, according to The Tennesseean:
After taking office, Gov. Bill Haslam reconstituted an obscure board that enforces environmental rules for the industry that helped make him the richest elected official in America.
Since then, the Underground Storage Tank and Solid Waste Disposal Control Board has taken steps to shift the financial burden of cleaning up toxic spills at gas stations and truck stops from business owners to taxpayers.
The 14-member board, 12 of whom are appointed by the governor, sets rules for the $50 million environmental fund overseen by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, or TDEC. The fund has been paying to clean up spills since 1990. It is financed by a combination of a gas tax paid by consumers at the pump and an annual fee paid by owners of petroleum tanks.
Since the board has been reconfigured, members representing consumers have been eliminated.
The board, which retained its four petroleum industry members, has voted in favor of a resolution to increase the state dollars available to private companies for environmental spills caused by failures or accidents from $1 million to $2 million. That became law in 2015.
This year, a new law gives the board the power to give all gas stations and truck stops a big break — suspending their annual fees to the cleanup fund entirely. Some board members have signaled their support for eliminating those fees this year — despite hearing from the man in charge of the state’s underground storage tank program that a “historically high burden of this funding has shifted onto the public.”
Suspending the industry’s financial contributions would leave taxpayers, who haven’t gotten the same breaks as gas stations and truck stops, bearing full financial responsibility for toxic spills.
And I know my conservative friends are going to say, “But wait, Beale, those costs get handed down to consumers anyway,” after all, isn’t that what they always say? Isn’t that the whole point of “deregulation” and the glorious, unfettered free hand of the market and all that crap? The thing is, the costs don’t get passed down to consumers on a dollar for dollar basis, there is only so much of this “passing on to consumers” that the market can bear.
And this is the difference between Republicans and Democrats. Democrats believe in making industry pay for the damage they cause. If you pollute, you pay. If you make a mess, you clean it up. If your underground storage tanks are leaking, you fix it, and you fix the mess you made. It’s like kindergarten, people. Easy-peasy.
Republicans think that’s so unfair, you guys! Republicans believe that their rich friends should be allowed to do whatever they want, and let the chips fall where they may. Because they think that when they prosper, everyone prospers. It “trickles down,” don’tcha know. They still believe that nonsense!
Meanwhile, the only thing trickling down is polluted ground water and contaminated soil. But what do they care? They live in their gated communities with the private water source and they jet off to Aspen and Europe and all that, where they don’t have to live with the mess they create. They aren’t really affected, are they? It’s not their groundwater, is it? It’s yours! If you want it to be clean, you pay for it! That’s what they believe.
They are truly horrible people.