Who speaks for the environment?

Listening to pundits and some Republican advocates, I keep hearing the opinion that big money authorized by the Citizens United Supreme Court decision will not really make a difference in politics. When I hear this, I am reminded of a common saying I’ve heard for many years: “Money talks and BS walks.”

The axiom, though crudely stated, could never be truer. All we need to do in order to tell the power of money is to look around at what is happening today. A recent example of how big money can affect relatively smaller offices is the case of Texas state Rep. “Tuffy” Hamilton. Tuffy was not defeated because of superior intellect, experience or representation of constituents. He was drowned by money. Television ads, which are very expensive, were run sometimes three times, back to back in prime time. This example is further proof of what Adolf Hitler’s propaganda minister once said. If you tell a lie big enough, loud enough and enough times, eventually people will start to believe it. What he could have added was that if you are able to promote the lie on the media with unlimited funds, too many people will begin to believe the lie.

The power of money has been amply displayed, along with its effectiveness, by the public relations program put on by British Petroleum. There are a constant series of ads touting how well Gulf Coast states are doing since the terrible oil spill of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. Slick and beautiful TV ads claim that never before have Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama done better than they have since the disastrous oil spill. Unfortunately, it’s a one-sided fight. Advocates of the ecology do not have the wherewithal to compete with such a well-orchestrated and well-funded public relations program. No one is telling the story of how many estuaries and hatching grounds for sea life have been destroyed or what impact the residual chemicals placed in the Gulf of Mexico will have on supplies of seafood, game fish or recreation well into the future.

Another example of a one-sided fight is the constant TV ads now being run condemning the Environmental Protection Agency for overbearing and job-killing regulations that the ads claim are holding the price of electrical power hostage. The ads begin with the phrase that clean coal is being picked on by an over-aggressive environmental agency that has put in place overbearing, unnecessary regulations concerning air emissions.

How soon we forget! I recall when the entire family of one of my first cousins needed to move from Port Arthur because they would periodically be beset with life threatening asthmatic attacks. I had the misfortune of having to witness some of these attacks when I thought surely my cousins would die as they lay gasping for air unable to breathe. Science has told us since that it was because of the unregulated and incessant emissions from the refineries that made a living for so many of us. How soon have people my age forgotten the insidious odors of pogie plants and refinery emissions that have all but disappeared because of government regulation.

Unfortunately, the power of money probably can sell the concept of clean coal and cause more animosity to the regulators than to the polluters. No one will be there with the funds to buy equal time to remind us of cancers, leukemia, breathing problems and a multitude of other health hazards that are prevented by decent and reasonable regulations concerning emissions into the air we breathe, the water we drink and the soil upon which we walk.

Carl Parker has practiced law in Port Arthur since 1958. He is a 1958 graduate of the University of Texas School of Law. Elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1962 and the Senate in 1976, Parker continued to practice law while writing and sponsoring hundreds of bills that became laws relating to every aspect of life in Texas, including many regarding consumer safety. His e-mail is cap1934 [at] aol [dot] com.