Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Republicans want to open up Puget Sound to supertankers

P-I columnist Joel Connelly writes this morning:
Without first informing this state's lawmakers, and with no hearing or impact study, a bill that opens Puget Sound to become an oil superport is set to get rammed through the U.S. House of Representatives.

Hurricane Katrina is being deployed as a political tidal surge by Republican leaders. They aim to flatten the bulwark of environmental legislation that protects our inland waters and other sensitive coastal regions.

A few words, hidden in paragraph 32, section 110 of an oil refinery bill sponsored by Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas -- the industry satrap who is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee -- would roll back a 28-year-old ban that has kept supertankers off the Sound.

The ban is the famous Magnuson Amendment, which effectively limited to 125,000 dead weight tons the tankers headed for refineries at Anacortes and Cherry Point near Ferndale.
House Republicans will stop at nothing in their attempt to roll our most important environmental protection laws into the ground.

It's an outrage. But, as Connelly points out, it's time to act:
It's time for this state to cultivate -- quickly -- an image of menace toward this renewed threat.


Environmental groups -- particularly the once-ruthless Sierra Club -- need to get focused. The Sound is our issue. Alliances with billionaire George Soros and down-on-luck labor unions can be put on hold.

Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., will hold forth in opposition. But he's in the minority party. What of our three GOP House members?

Rep. Cathy McMorris, R-Wash., is marked as a comer in both Washingtons. She's from Eastern Washington, but most voters live over here. McMorris won't help her party if she becomes an agent of Barton and House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo.

Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., plays it cagey. Last week he voted against gutting the Endangered Species Act. Big deal, if the House lets oil companies have their way with Puget Sound.

And there's Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., who sits on the House Rules Committee. Inslee and Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., are going to ask the rules panel to allow debate on the Magnuson deletion.

It'll be a test: Is Doc our state's congressman, or Tom DeLay's doxy?

The last laugh may be on House GOP leaders. Any repeal of the Magnuson Amendment must go through the Senate.

That would set up Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell for the political role of a lifetime as defender and advocate of Puget Sound.
We must fight to stop the Magnuson Amendment from being repealed. But should it pass the House, Republicans will be handing Senator Maria Cantwell a giftwrapped opportunity to shine as an environmental defender.

Cantwell's record on the environment is excellent. There's a reason why she earned the first endorsement of the League of Conservation Voters for the 2006 election cycle. An opportunity to defend the Sound against supertankers?

If the Republicans give Cantwell the chance, she must seize it and make it a theme in her campaign.

We'd bet House Republicans will find a way to pass the legislation killing the Magnuson Amendment. Senator Elizabeth Dole, NRSC chairwoman, might want to call up Rep. Barton and his cohorts and give them a dressing down. Unless she wants to allow these clowns to hand Cantwell a weapon she can make great use of in her Senate race.

We dare the House Republicans to try. We'll fight you every step of the way. If the legislation passes the House, we carry our fight on to the Senate - and we'll look for Cantwell to lead the opposition there.

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